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Why Not Smoking Weed On A Regular Basis Is Something You Should Consider (If You Do)

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Marijuana has been the subject of intense debate over these last few years. Now legal in multiple states in the U.S. and authorized for medicinal purposes in even more, an increasing number of people are recognizing how arbitrary the line is between legal substances, like alcohol and cigarettes, and illegal ones, like pot — particularly since both alcohol and cigarettes have been shown to be extremely detrimental to the human body, while marijuana has not.

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But what’s the reason for that? Getting marijuana to study has proven to be incredibly difficult for many researchers and therefore getting study results has been tough. [2]

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So given that this natural substance is being used incredibly regularly, and yet doesn’t have a full scope of research behind it, we wanted to balance the scales and bring awareness to the fact that we should really think twice before using this substance daily for long periods of time and thinking it’s completely safe. Unless of course you have been prescribed the substance, but even at that, it’s good to be in the know.[2]

This article came in response to a recent article pointing out the sheer benefits of smoking cannabis without mentioning the other side of the coin. We feel any research that takes this approach is simply not beneficial to public awareness.

To be clear, we’re not saying this plant should be illegal. It’s a plant, but we don’t know as much about its safety in daily and long term use as we’d like.

We Can’t Blindly View It As Safe

The massive support for the legalization of marijuana does have its drawbacks, as it leads people to believe that smoking marijuana is completely harmless, and even good for you. While it can be quite therapeutic for dulling pain or alleviating anxiety, so can alcohol and even prescription drugs. It seems like people are willing to see the downsides of those substances but not cannabis. [1]

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In reality, research shows that smoking cannabis on a regular basis may still be hazardous. Many forget that the plant’s medicinal benefits are most readily taken advantage of when it is ingested, not smoked.

It is admittedly encouraging to see all of the support for the legalization of marijuana, and all of the evidence emerging that smoking it is not as harmful as it was originally said to be. The legalization of marijuana threatens many industries, so perhaps this is why it has taken so long to get the ball rolling.

That being said, more of a balance is needed: with so much support out there for marijuana, many people, especially young people, think there are no health consequences of smoking it. This is why we’ve decided to put together a list of 7 reasons why you should really consider not smoking marijuana on a regular basis.

We are very well aware of the other side of cannabis (articles). For example, we recently published an article showing how cannabis helped cure a girl from cancer. She is one of many examples of people who have benefited immensely from cannabis, and it’s important to raise awareness about how paediatric cannabis is saving lives. You can read that article here.

We have also published a number of articles on why marijuana should be legal, as well as reported on the dozens of health benefits it boasts, from helping people with pain and epilepsy to replacing prescription drugs and more.

A number of studies have been published that show cannabis completely annihilates cancer. We are talking about decades of research (a simple google search for scholarly articles on cannabis and cancer will show you this). Despite this fact, no human clinical trials have been conducted. Here is an article of a molecular biologist explaining how THC kills cancer.

It’s also important to mention that we are not against smoking weed, but based on the science, smoking weed regularly on a daily basis for a period that lasts more than a year could be harmful to your health.

“Really, the way to do these things, is to do them rarely so that your whole system can reassert itself and come to equilibrium. . . I think the real way to do cannabis is like, once a week. . . . ” — Terrence McKenna (source)

1. Most of the Medicinal Benefits of Marijuana Come From Different Methods of Ingestion, Not Smoking

Cannabinoids are any group of related compounds that include cannabinol and the active constituents of cannabis. They activate cannabinoid receptors that already exist in our body, and our bodies themselves actually produce compounds called endocannabinoids.  These play a vital role in the human body, helping to create a healthy environment. Cannabinoids themselves also play an important role in immune system regeneration. Studies have shown that multiple constituents of cannabis can kill cancer cells, repair damaged brain cells, and more.[3] The medical potential of this plant is truly miraculous, and it’s a shame that despite decades of research showing undeniable results, like its ability to completely annihilate cancer, human clinical trials are only n0w commencing, and only in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs.

It’s about being balanced and informed. Exploring the upsides and downsides to cannabis.

We’ve reported a ton on the benefits of cannabis and its potential in medical applications, but what about the other side of the coin? Is it fair to say cannabis comes with no downsides? When treating people and seeing positive benefits, what negative effects might also come?

It’s important to know that contrary to popular belief, smoking cannabis does not assist a great deal in treating disease within the body, as therapeutic levels cannot be reached through smoking. Creating oil from the plant or eating the plant is the best way to absorb cannabinoids. Smoking also alters the plant molecules; when cannabis is heated and burnt it changes the chemical structure and acidity of the THC, which in turn negates its therapeutic value. The smoke from marijuana is toxic to the body, just as the smoke from any other substance would be. (I will discuss this further on in the article.) Furthermore, anytime you burn something and inhale it, you create oxidation within the body, which is unhealthy and can lead to many issues.

None of the health benefits of marijuana come from smoking it. When one says “cannabis cures cancer,” that doesn’t mean smoking it.

2. Heavy Marijuana Use Is Linked To Lower Dopamine Levels In The Brain

Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University have found that heavy smokers of marijuana could have a compromised dopamine system. When studying heavy smokers, they discovered lower dopamine release in one region of the brain, the striatum, which is the part of the brain that’s involved in working memory, impulsive behaviour, and attention. Several other studies have shown that addiction to other drugs can have similar effects on dopamine release, but this is the first evidence of its kind linking it to smoking cannabis.[4]

The study examined 11 adults between the ages of 21 and 40 who were heavily dependent on cannabis against 12 healthy control subjects. 16 was the average age these individuals started smoking, and they had not stopped since.

Their press release outlines how the study was conducted, and the methods used:

Using positron emission tomography (PET) to track a radiolabelled molecule that binds to dopamine receptors in the brain, the scientists measured dopamine release in the striatum and its subregions, as well as in several brain regions outside the striatum, including the thalamus, midbrain, and globus pallidus. The cannabis users in this study stayed in the hospital for a week of abstinence to ensure that the PET scans were not measuring the acute effects of the drug. Participants were scanned before and after being given oral amphetamine to elicit dopamine release. The percent change in the binding of the radiotracer was taken as an indicator of capacity for dopamine release.

Compared with the controls, the cannabis users had significantly lower dopamine release in the striatum, including subregions involved in associative and sensorimotor learning, and in the globus pallidus. (source)(source)

Anissa Abi-Dargham, MD, a professor of psychiatry (in radiology) at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and a lead author of the paper, said that “the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behaviour.” She also went on to emphasize that “these findings add to the growing body of research demonstrating the potentially adverse effects of cannabis, particularly in youth, at the same time that government policies and laws are increasing access and use.” (source)

Here is another study that was done two years ago that examines the same thing.

We all know correlation does not mean causation, but we all know that it doesn’t either. You have to make your own judgements, use the Bradford Hill Criteria, and look at a number of different studies from both sides.

Based on everything I’ve looked at, in my opinion, marijuana smoking does have some sort of effect on the brain in multiple ways, differing from person to person. Whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I’m not sure.

3. Smoking Marijuana Linked To Schizophrenia, But It’s Complicated

A number of studies have linked smoking cannabis to schizophrenia and psychosis.[5] For example, a fairly recent study found that schizophrenia plays a role in a person’s likelihood of smoking weed. The study showed that genetic variants predicting schizophrenia  can also be used to predict a person’s tendency to smoke pot. The study showed that the same genes that predispose people to enjoying smoking cannabis might also predispose some to develop schizophrenia.

Lead author of the study, Robert Power, a genetic psychiatrist at King’s College London stated that “there is a well-established link between people who use cannabis and schizophrenia.” (source)

Based on the scientific literature, it’s quite clear that there is a link, and at the same time, it seems to be clear that there isn’t. Mathew Hill, a cell biologist at the University of Calgary, tells us “the relationship is an ongoing debate in the scientific world — at least what the nature of the association is.” He also told us that “there is little evidence that, at a population level, cannabis use during adolescence is a primary contributing factor in the development of psychiatric illness. (source)

Just because some studies show an associative link does not mean there is one. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that there’s not one. This is the key! Some studies have shown that people who are in the early stages of schizophrenia that also smoke weed experience much larger brain modifications, like changes in white matter, compared to those who are not susceptible to schizophrenia.

What is clear is that people who already show signs of psychotic illness do experience adverse effects from smoking marijuana.

“There is definitely some kind of genetic basis to increased vulnerability to these adverse effects (in people with schizophrenia) that go beyond the correlational association.” — Mathew Hill (source)

Again, it’s well-known that marijuana smoking by people with schizophrenia only worsens the disease, and a number of studies have shown that smoking marijuana actually increases the development of schizophrenia in those who might be genetically predisposed to it. So, if you have a family history of psychotic illness, smoking weed is something you might not want to partake in, or if you suffer from any other ailment that’s classified as a mental illness for that matter.

One thing seems to be certain: cannabis smoking does affect the brain in various ways, especially at crucial stages of brain development in adolescents.

Below is a great publication and a good summary to find out more information about this topic and why it’s so confusing. Again, this connection (between schizophrenia and marijuana smoking) is still up for debate in the scientific world, and there are conflicting studies that continue to contradict each other every single year. This suggests that we simply don’t know enough and therefore should be careful with our habits.

So, next time someone tells you that there is a link between schizophrenia and marijuana smoking, they’re wrong, and next time someone tells you there is no link, they are also wrong! The best way to avoid any risk is to just avoid smoking marijuana all together.

Clearing the smoke: What do we know about adolescent cannabis use and schizophrenia?

4. Smoking Marijuana Changes Your Brain

One recent study found that using marijuana daily for at least four years or longer can create certain anatomical changes in the brain. In this particular study, researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine the brains of approximately 50 adults who were chronic marijuana users, compared to more than 60 people who didn’t use marijuana at all.

Researchers found that the people who had been smoking daily for at least four years had a smaller volume of gray matter in their orbitofrontal cortex, which is usually associated with addiction.

Lead author of the study, Francesca Filbey, an Associate Professor in the School of Behavioural Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas said, “not only is there a change in structure but there tends to be a change reflected in connectivity…all we can say is that we do see these [differences].” (source)

This is concerning, especially given the fact that grey matter is a major component of the central nervous system. Not only is it associated with addiction, it’s also associated with muscle control, sensory perception, memory, emotions, speech, decision making and self-control. A smaller amount of grey matter has also been implicated in a number of psychiatric disorders, including depression. There is a widespread reduction of gray matter in people who suffer depression, and yes, smoking marijuana may give temporary relief from depression, but when one doesn’t have it, they might feel depressed.  Marijuana could contribute to depression, and the fact that one feels better when one smokes it might make them think that it helps with their depression. This could be dangerous as they could be constantly depleting their gray matter.

Again, there are a number of studies that show smoking marijuana recently can drastically change the brain, and also disrupt brain development.

Another recent study also found that marijuana smokers showed signs of damage in the corpus callous, which is a major white matter tract that connects the left side of the brain to the right side. However, the study did mention that the people examined could have had deviant brain structures prior to their use.

A study published a few years ago showed that people who constantly smoke marijuana have abnormal brain structures, but multiple studies have also shown that marijuana smokers show no difference in brain structure.

The list goes on and on, but one thing is for certain: the effects on the brain are unclear. Further research is needed to identify what smoking marijuana does to the brain because there are still a number of studies that are contradictory. That being said, there is no doubt that it does something, but the way it interacts with our biology can vary for each individual.

5. Smoking Harms The Lungs

Regardless of what you are smoking, smoke is harmful to lung health; this is a no-brainer. Whether it’s burning wood, tobacco or marijuana, toxins and carcinogens are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke from marijuana combustion is no different. According to the American Lung Association:

Smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung. Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis and marijuana smoke has been shown to injure the cell linings of the large airways, which could explain why smoking marijuana leads to symptoms such as chronic cough, phlegm production, wheeze and acute bronchitis. 

Again, marijuana smoke contains a similar range of harmful chemicals to that of tobacco smoke, and there is no shortage of research suggesting that long-term marijuana smoking is associated with an increased risk of some respiratory problems. Despite this proven correlation, there is no association between smoking marijuana and lung cancer.

There are other alternatives to smoking marijuana, such as vaporizing or eating it.

6. Smoking Marijuana Can Increase Your Risk of Serious Cardiovascular Disorders

Multiple studies have connected smoking marijuana with potential cardiovascular disorders. One recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association noted that:

Several striking cardiovascular complications following cannabis use raised the issue of possible implications of cannabis in cardiovascular outcomes…The rate of cannabis-related cardiovascular complications reported steadily rose during the past 5 years.  Cardiovascular disorders represented 2 percent of the reports related to cannabis, classified into cardiac, cerebral, and peripheral arteriopathies. This result is consistent with previous findings and strengthens the idea that cannabis may be responsible for serious complications, in particular on the cardiovascular system. (source)

Another recent study, published last year concluded that:

The evidence reported in this article point toward an undisputed linkage between cannabis consumption and potentially lethal cardiovascular complications. (source)

Something to Consider:

Trouble Living Life Without Smoking

As with so many of our other favourite habits, smoking is a vice, and many people who smoke weed have difficulty stopping. Life often feels boring without it; smoking becomes a need and almost a mental addiction (we know there is no physical addiction involved.) And this is obviously problematic. It is rare to find someone who will be able to smoke a joint a couple of times a month, which is the amount many experts in the field of “mind-altering”‘ drugs propose. It’s a substance that is abused and not given the respect it deserves, often being used as an escape — helping the person avoid asking themselves why they feel the need to alter their state so often. If you are a regular smoker and notice that without smoking for a night or two you become bored, anxious, or depressed, or have certain feelings come up because you don’t have a joint in your hand, it may be time to consider reducing your usage, and perhaps facing those negative feelings head-on.

If you have a hard time going without smoking a joint, that in itself is a problem. Alternatively, if you are a regular marijuana smoker but can easily stop for weeks at a time, without any desire to smoke, perhaps you don’t have a problem. The main point here is that smoking shouldn’t be used to escape one’s problems because it just prolongs the process of facing them.

How Is It Grown?

These days, it’s hard to find ‘pure weed.’ Most people are not aware of the original source, and marijuana can be grown with harmful pesticides. In fact, it wasn’t after the legalization of marijuana in Colorado when authorities found dangers pesticides in most of the marijuana that was being sold. You can read more about that here.

Where do the seeds come from? When Big Pharma takes over, what type of seeds will they be, and how will it be grown? Are they genetically modified? There are still many questions to be asked.

Concluding Comments

So what can you take from all of this? We simply don’t know enough about this plant and smoking it to do it everyday and expect nothing bad will happen. There has been a very misleading culture spread about how safe this is to use in all forms and that simply isn’t the case.

Many natural substances are harmful to you if you have too much of it and too regularly. Even natural medicinal botanicals are things like this are not meant to be used everyday.

Again, we hope this helps to clear up the negative stigma around marijuana and also the blind-faithed positive stigma around it. Balance is important in this case and what we strive to convey in this report.

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Lebanese Hospital Becomes The World’s First To Go 100 Percent Vegan (Food)

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A hospital in Lebanon has become the first in the world to adopt a completely vegan menu.

  • Reflect On:

    Are people aware of the physical and emotional torture the majority animals we eat go through? Are people aware that a diet free of animal products can be very beneficial for human health. Are people aware that animal agriculture is destroying Earth?

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At the beginning of March, Hayek Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon became the first hospital in the world to serve 100 percent vegan only meals. Prior to this change, patients had a choice between animal based meals and vegan meals, and included with that was information about the health benefits of choosing plant-based foods versus the dangers of consuming animal products. The hospital made the announcement via their Instagram page, stating that “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs…the very food(s) that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.”

When the World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a group 1A carcinogenic (causes cancer) same group as tobacco and red meat as group 2A carcinogenic, then serving meat in the hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital. When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) declare that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious disease comes from animals. When adopting a plant based exclusive diet has been successfully proven not only to stop the evolution of certain diseases but it can also reverse them. We then, have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions. Taking the courage to look at the elephant in in the eye.

Their various statements also point to the role that animal agriculture plays in spawning infectious diseases, citing the Centers for Disease Control’s estimate that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals. “We believe it’s well about time to tackle the root cause of diseases and pandemics, not just treat symptoms,” they note.

This was a great statement. The modern day medical industry only seems to be focused on medications, and only medications that can turn a hefty profit, to treat and cure disease instead of addressing root causes. It’s good to see things changing, but a big problem remains. If a plant that grows in abundance, for example, has the potential to cure a disease, will we ever hear about it? Will the medical industry be interested in it? Probably not, but when a drug is made and patented from that plant in a specific way, that’s when we will. This is not to say that modern day medicine is useless, but today now more than ever a big problem exists, and this problem may be killing more people than it’s helping.

Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), a Harvard professor of medicine and also a former Editor-in-Chief of NEMJ, was frustrated that “the medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” (source)

According to Forks Over Knives,

While Hayek is the first hospital to completely purge animal products from its menu, a number of hospitals have begun offering more plant-based options in recent years. Both New York and California have enacted laws requiring hospitals to offer a plant-based option with every meal. In 2018 NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue launched the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program to help patients transition to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution in 2017 calling on U.S. hospitals to provide healthful plant-based meals to promote better health in patients, staff, and visitors. The American College of Cardiology has issued similar recommendations.

In my opinion, “veganism is a very fine form of nutrition” (Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, heart surgeon), and as mentioned above, there is plenty of science to back up that statement.  I’ve written about it many times before from a health perspective.

Here’s an article that goes into more detail and science if you’re interested, it also addresses history, and how our teeth and guts are designed and more. Here’s another one regarding a study that found a strong association between eating animal protein and a premature death from all causes, including multiple cancers and type 2 diabetes.

The studies cited in that article note that meat eating is strongly associated with up to a 75 percent increased chance of early mortality, and that protein from animals may cause harm, while protein from plants may help reverse disease and have a protective effect.

There are hundreds of these studies, and the ones I cite are just a few examples.

This is obviously a very controversial topic in the eyes of many, and it’s not hard at all to find conflicting information on the subject. I am no doubt bias in my beliefs and opinions here.

One thing is for certain, the way we treat animals on this planet is extremely heartbreaking and unnecessary. Animals are separated from their families, raised for slaughter and are kept in torturous conditions on a daily basis. It’s truly unbelievable and horrific. It’s the biggest genocide and example of both physical and emotional torture the world has ever seen. I don’t think anybody can witness what really goes on in most slaughterhouses can come out not being impacted.

On top of this, animal agriculture is one of, if not the greatest contributer to environmental degradation and pollution on our planet. Animal agriculture is actually the leading cause of deforestation. Every single day, close to 100 plant/animal/insect species are lost because of this practice.

Final Thoughts: At the end of the day it seems that, from a health perspective, processed meats, and other meats are no doubt harmful to human health. People can make the argument that other animal products may not be and that we are meant to consume them. People can also make the complete opposite argument. One thing that can’t be argued is, again, the torture, physical and emotional abuse that comprise the source of where animal products come from for the majority of people who eat them.

There is a big split, as with many other topics, amongst people on this issue. There are even vegan influencers who are creating splits within the ‘vegan community’ itself, which is unfortunate. I personally believe that, from a health perspective, animal products are not at all required for anybody and are again, overall, harmful to human health.

The more pressing issue, again, is the treatment of our animal brothers and sisters, and how we are constantly using and abusing them. It’s indicative of world that lacks empathy, compassion, understanding and love, as well as our inability to see ourselves in another. This can be seen in many aspects of the current human experience, be it war, human trafficking and more. That being said, it’s great to see human consciousness shifting towards a more compassionate, empathetic type of awareness. This is evident by the “vegan” movement alone, as it’s become quite large over the past few years and will continue to grow. Some of the biggest animal food producers have already gone out of business, and it’s great to see more people in the health community as well recognize that it’s a win for health, a win for environment, and most importantly, a win for the very emotional, intelligent, animals, who are similar to us in so many ways. We have so much to learn from them.

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Caloric Restriction vs. Fasting: Why One Can Result In Weight Gain While The Other Helps Burn Fat

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CE Staff Writer 3 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In the video below, Dr. Jason Fung explains the difference between caloric restriction and sending the body into "starvation" mode compared to fasting.

  • Reflect On:

    Fasting has been used as a health intervention for thousands of years, and is being used today by doctors who are educated on the topic. Why is it completely ignored by mainstream medicine? Is it because "big pharma" can't make any money off of it?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Some would say that the best solution to weight gain is eating right and exercising. I couldn’t agree more. Obesity is one of the deadliest problems humanity faces today, and just as important as diet and exercise is for addressing this issue, even more important are the emotional and personal reasons as to why so many people damage themselves and make themselves more prone to serious disease.

Apart from diet and exercise, initiating a proper fasting regimen can have tremendous health outcomes, especially for overweight people. It wasn’t but a decade ago when fasting to lose weight was considered unhealthy and dangerous. Today, we have a tremendous amount of science that’s been published clearly showing that fasting can be an effective health intervention for people of all body types, especially for people who are overweight and suffer from certain diseases. It’s an excellent way to help your body burn fat. Fasting has been used and is currently being used as an intervention for type two diabetes, cancer and more. Fasting has been shown to trigger stem cell regeneration, autophagy, which in turn can help clear out toxins and damaged cells, repair DNA, improve metabolism, lower blood sugar, boost brain function, reduce the risk of age related disease, lessen inflammation which improves a wide range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma and more. It’s no wonder why so many ancient cultures from different parts of the world used fasting as medicine and as a health intervention.

As shown in the science, fasting is generally safe for everybody. This many not be true if you already have underlying health conditions or are taking certain medications. This is why it’s important to consult a health professional about it, but the issue is, the majority of health professionals are not well educated in fasting interventions. Those who have educated themselves have been treating their patients with fasting and are drawn to it due to its ability to provide so many benefits.

One of these doctors is Dr. Jason Fung, who on his blog and his YouTube channel, as well as the books he’s written provides a wealth of information and science regarding fasting. I often refer people to the work of Fung, or others like Dr. Valter Longo if they want to begin their own research about fasting. Again, there is a wealth of science and “scholarly” articles available on the subject for anybody who wants to search for it as well. It’s not heard to find.

In the video below, Fung explains why fasting is much different from caloric restriction or having your body go into “starvation mode.”  You can also check out his article, “The difference between calorie restriction and fasting” for some great information as well.

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Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

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The Deeper Questions Behind The “Lab Origins” Debate

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    It is being slowly accepted that SARS-COV2 originated in a laboratory. The delay in this admission has not been due to media "spin" alone but from scientists themselves.

  • Reflect On:

    How can we "trust the science" if the scientists are being disingenuous?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

As the majority of Americans gather around the prevailing voice of our trusted medical institutions, those opposing it seem to be digging in their heels as well. Why is this happening? After all, we are not arguing over religion or political ideology (or at least we shouldn’t be). This pandemic and its management falls squarely in the realm of science, something that should be objective and indisputable. How is the layperson supposed to make sense of the growing polarity concerning this issue? Unless one has related training in virology, epidemiology, statistics and a decent understanding of the history and the sequence of investigations that have led scientific opinion to consensus positions before this pandemic, there is no way to be “scientific”. How are we to know whether the edicts coming from our leaders are reasonable and founded? This puts us in a difficult position, one that we are unable or unwilling to acknowledge: we have to trust someone else. The question is, whom?

Mainstream Media is beginning to acknowledge that SARS-COV2 originated in a lab

There has recently been a shift in the mainstream narrative. Some of these mainstream sources have been willing to take a hard look at where this virus came from: the “lab origins” thesis. In this recent interview with evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, popular satirist and political commentator Bill Maher admits that “it would almost be a conspiracy theory to think it didn’t start in a lab.” The reasons for this are clear to anyone who has looked beyond the veil of simplistic statements and abjectly poor investigative journalism coming from mainstream sources. Gain of Function studies on SARS viruses were being conducted in publicly funded laboratories in this country for years prior to 2014. One could argue this was part of bioterrorism research just as easily as it was part of a pandemic preparedness effort. It is not so hard to see that in order to be prepared to combat a highly contagious and virulent pathogen we must be able to study the pathogen itself. Pandemic preparedness and bioterrorism research are basically the same thing.

As the story unfolds in the mainstream narrative, it is becoming apparent that the wet market hypothesis will soon be jettisoned for its sheer implausibility. Is it likely that this virus could survive in a bat or pangolin for generations while mutating in such a way that it could not only immediately survive in a human body but be so virulent as well? What are the factors that would be involved in allowing this new strain to behave unlike previous SARS viruses in terms of its copious presence in our nasopharyngeal cavities, apparent transmissibility in the asymptomatic and enduring pathogenicity when floating around in the air or lurking on surfaces? The answer is far more than one, making this wet market to global pandemic story all the more unacceptable.

As establishment science comes to its senses, we are left with the reality that the pandemic has most probably been the consequence of a laboratory research that got out of control. It may not be excusable or forgivable but at least we can take comfort that our attention has been refocused on what is plausible. However simply acknowledging the high probability of lab origins and moving forward with all the same initiatives to combat this virus is not enough. There are more questions that need to be posed first.

How did some Scientists “spin” the science?

This argument over SARS-COV2 origin is not new at all. It was being hotly debated a year ago for some of the same reasons I mentioned above. The lab origin thesis was effectively (and prematurely) purged from “acceptable” discussions when a paper entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-COV2” (KG Anderson et al) appeared in Nature Medicine (March 17, 2020). This piece served as the foundation of a wall of scientific opinion that was rapidly erected to contain the dangerous “conspiracy theory” that the virus was a product of human intention and ingenuity. If you were to read the piece it would be hard to not end up shrugging your shoulders and going along with the authors’ thesis. The authors are well-respected and published scientists that include W. Ian Lipkin, pathologist, neurobiologist and epidemiologist at Columbia University,  internationally recognized for his work around W. Nile Virus and SARS. They are assured in their conclusions and offer the reader, among other things, a comparative study of the peptide structure and genetic sequence of this virus and closely related variants. 

I am a physician and was led to this piece months ago in my research into this topic. I admit that I was left scratching my head. It wasn’t until I tuned in to a blog surrounding this and other issues hosted by Dr. Meryl Nass, a respected and dutiful researcher of pandemics and bioterrorism, that l was able to grasp where the misdirection was introduced. Dr. Nass correctly points out that it may not be possible to irrefutably prove that the virus was of lab origin or not, however it is the erroneous assumptions and unsound logic the authors of the Nature Medicine article use that point to the obscuration of the facts in a manner we could reasonably deem as deliberate.

After presenting us with a thorough description of the structure of SARS-COV-2 and analysis of its means of entering human cell lines via the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, the authors introduce their challenge to the lab origins position. The authors state:

“While the analyses above suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may bind human ACE2 with high affinity, computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.”

Anderson et al are presenting their first line of attack on the Lab Origins hypothesis. Because their computational analysis predicts that a different and more “optimal” receptor-binding domain (RBD) portion of the spike protein on SARS-COV-2 could have been built, they say, it must have arisen naturally. The authors are assuming that if the virus was the product of bioterrorists they would have designed it differently. Is this sound logic? It is not. First, the authors are presupposing that their computational method is the only one available for use. Second, there is no reason to assume that a bioterrorist would choose the genetic solution that was “optimal”. Moreover, picking a “solution” identical to a computationally derived genetic sequence would leave an obvious clue that human hands were involved. This is in fact what the authors are correctly pointing out. 

This line of reasoning sheds light upon their foundational assumptions about the sophistication and intentions of would-be bioterrorists. Are they experimenters in laboratories building a novel coronavirus to a computer model’s specs to study it? Or are they true bioterrorists seeking to design a bioweapon that has no trace of human manipulation? Obviously one cannot know. Making either assumption cannot be part of any rigorous forensic analysis.

The authors go on:

“It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. As noted above, the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone.”

Here the authors are introducing yet another unfounded assumption: If the virus was designed as a biological weapon, why would a known coronavirus backbone necessarily be used as a basis for genetic manipulation? Certainly that option would be entertained by a team of bioterrorism researchers, but it is illogical to begin with that assumption. There are undoubtedly coronavirus backbones that have been genetically manipulated and remain behind closed doors and outside of public databases, i.e. unknown. It is equally logical to conclude that because no known backbone was used the virus was purposefully manipulated.  

In any case, genetic manipulation is not the only way to create a backbone of a virus. The oldest way is to use passage, a laboratory technique where a virus is cultured through a series of cell lines from different species resulting in a viable product that will survive in the target species. Other techniques are also readily available: exposing a known virus to mutagenic factors, collecting those that survive and repeating the process or simply mixing related viruses together to see what recombinant products result. None of these methods will result in a “solution” that would be in any way predictable at the outset. Indeed, that is the advantage of using such techniques. This is a fact that is well known to virologists, making the authors’ analysis all the more suspicious.

It is undeniable that the authors were using poor logic and unfounded assumptions to make unsound conclusions. This should have been obvious to the scientific community at that time, and this paper should not have made it through the editorial process of such a respected publication as Nature Medicine. The disquieting thing is that quite the opposite occurred. The article instead served as the seminal piece to squelch all arguments for the lab origin hypothesis once a flurry of subsequent publications cited it. Who should be held accountable for this? The authors? The editorial committee of Nature Medicine? The cadre of scientists that chose to use this publication to “manufacture consensus”? The mainstream media for failing in their responsibility to offer a balanced view of the debate around this article? None can be held solely responsible and all were required to perpetuate the distortion. The implications here are very serious and impossible to ignore.

Who can we rely upon to faithfully report “the science”?

Are there no stops to the dissemination of baseless “scientific” opinion? This is a question that rarely gets asked because we tend to assume that in the end, scientific consensus will be reached without the need for oversight. We are talking about science and scientists here, not policy makers or private industrialists with conflicts of interest and personal gains that hang in the balance. Yet the lines between science, industry and policy-making are blurrier the closer we look. In any case, who can we rely upon to ensure that the scientists are doing their job in formulating sound approaches to the problems at hand? There isn’t anyone, other than the scientists themselves. So what went wrong here? How did the Anderson paper end up deftly hamstringing a viable theory about the origins of SARS-COV2 a year ago using specious logic and unnecessary assumptions? Why didn’t anyone say anything? Despite what is generally known, many did.

Here’s where things get hopeful, depending on how you look at them. It would be wrong to dismiss all virologists, epidemiologists and researchers as slaves to corporate funded research institutions and group-think. Behind the veil of headlines that tout the rigor of the data and fuel the “trust the science” mantra there are collections of perspicacious and tireless researchers and journalists that have been pushing back against the established opinion and raising valid concerns about the hijacking of the narrative by members of their own ilk. Notably RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense and Dr. Joseph Mercola have published an excellent paper that comprehensively summarized the ongoing work of Dr. Alina Chan of MIT’s Broad Institute who has documented the timeline and significance of how the spin has been manufactured by the scientific community themselves. Of course, many are familiar with Mr. Kennedy and Dr. Mercola not because of what they are bringing to complex discussions but because of their stigmatization as purveyors of “anti-vax” and “pseudoscience” opinions. Once so marked they are felled by the mainstream media machine with all the efficiency and discrimination of a logger’s chainsaw in an old-growth forest.

There are others that are broadcasting the same signal of reason. DRASTIC (Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating Covid-19) is a group of independent scientists, journalists and researchers that have been bringing attention to the suspicious ways that the debate surrounding the origin of SARS-COV2 has been marginalized within the scientific community itself (more about their work here). For example, “A Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals and medical professionals of China combatting Covid-19” appeared in the correspondence section of the esteemed medical journal Lancet in March of 2020. In this letter the authors explicitly characterize any dissent to the natural origins hypothesis as “rumour, disinformation and conspiracy theories”. 

What are we to make of such accusations leveled against scientists by scientists? This sort of rhetoric has no place in any scientific discussion of any kind and should be a matter of real concern for everyone. Has science been corrupted by the same forces that are undeniably turning investigative journalism into a means of promulgating propaganda in some instances? If that were the case, how then are we to “trust the science”?

The Predicament that we are in

We are in an uncomfortable situation. Unless we can independently dismantle the arguments like those in the Anderson paper, or can understand the significance of the appearance of a mysterious 12 nucleotide sequence in the SARS-COV2 genome that confers the virus with a polybasic furin cleavage site (resulting in a substantial increase in virulence described here), or can appreciate the implications of a situation where scientific journals publish papers without requiring authors to supply the raw data required for independent genomic confirmation, we are stuck. If the science is being spun or misrepresented or poorly reported, there would be no way to know it.

Determining the origin of SARS-COV2 is an important question that still needs to be answered definitively. Attempting to answer this question has brought light to more disturbing questions. We cannot expect the layperson to comprehend the scientific studies that underpin our approach to this pandemic, let alone critique the logic and assumptions made by the authors of these papers. Expecting that a news correspondent, mainstream or otherwise, is anymore capable of dissecting such information is not realistic either. Until we come to grips with this we will not be able to grasp the enormity of the crisis we are facing.

The Takeaway

An honest examination into the origin of SARS-COV2 suggests a danger more pernicious than the virus itself. How much of scientific opinion is dictated by non-scientific interests? How many other “consensus” positions are rooted in inexcusably poor reasoning and assumptions? If we can only rely on independent researchers to bring clarity to these topics, who is going to give them a voice? If there is a fact that can be extracted from this debate it would be that “trusting the science” and trusting what a media source says about “the science” can be two very different things. 

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