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A Closer Look At The Relationship Between Mercury & Cardiovascular Disease

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Mercury’s toxic properties have been apparent for centuries. Nonetheless, from the time of the first Emperor of China on, doctors have been fascinated with the metal’s purported curative properties. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, health practitioners blithely used mercury as a medical treatment for everything from syphilis to teething discomfort to dysentery.

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As early as the 1820s, some healers began to object to the practice of “giving poison as medicine,” but, in many branches of medicine, physicians remained enthusiastic. In the late 1890s, for example, the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet published case studies broadcasting doctors’ seemingly successful use of mercury for the treatment of heart disease. Referring to a mercurous chloride compound called calomel (also called the “blue pill”), Dr. Arthur Foxwell in Birmingham praised, in September 1895, mercury’s “unique” virtues as a cardiac tonic capable of “freeing” a sluggish heart of “half its labour.”

Although many researchers have focused heavily on mercury’s neurotoxicity in children, others acknowledge that, in adults, the cardiovascular system may be exquisitely vulnerable to mercury’s toxic effects.

Over a century later, the medical perspective on mercury and heart disease has come to look quite different. Although many researchers have focused heavily on mercury’s neurotoxicity in children, others acknowledge that, in adults, the cardiovascular system may be exquisitely vulnerable to mercury’s toxic effects. A simple search using the terms “mercury” and “heart disease” in PubMed (the National Institutes of Health database) pulls up ample documentation detailing a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease in individuals who have higher blood levels of mercury. Mercury damages the cardiovascular system even at low concentrations of exposure.

Effects of Mercury on the Heart

Researchers who acknowledge that mercury exposure increases cardiovascular risk often profess ignorance about the underlying cellular mechanisms of harm. However, a trio of relatively recent articles makes it apparent that scientists actually know quite a bit about how mercury exerts its cardiotoxic effects. Two of the reports, published in 2011 in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension and in 2014 in the Journal of Cardiovascular Diseases & Diagnosis, are authored by Vanderbilt University professor and hypertension expert Mark Houston, who has published extensively on hypertension and heart disease since the 1980s. Dr. Houston began turning his attention to the ramifications of mercury exposure for heart disease a decade ago. A newer study, a review by Italian researcher Giuseppe Genchi and colleagues that appeared in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2017, also reviews mercury’s overall toxicity and specific cardiovascular effects.

…the clinical consequences of these and other pathophysiologic mechanisms explain the wide variety of cardiovascular diseases caused by mercury.”

It should not be surprising that many of the biological mechanisms that explain mercury’s deleterious impacts on the brain (recently summarized here by World Mercury Project) likewise create problems for the heart. Dr. Houston’s two articles list 22 different vascular biological effects of mercury that he further distills into the eight categories shown in the table below. According to Houston, “the clinical consequences of these and other pathophysiologic mechanisms explain the wide variety of cardiovascular diseases caused by mercury.” These conditions include: hypertension, diastolic dysfunction, generalized atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, cardiac arrhythmias, reduced heart rate variability, sudden cardiac death, cerebrovascular accidents, carotid artery obstruction and left ventricular hypertrophy.

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Vascular Biologic Effects of Mercury

Increased oxidative stress
Vascular inflammation
Thrombosis
Vascular smooth muscle proliferation and migration
Endothelial dysfunction
Dyslipidemia (oxidation of high-density lipoprotein and paraxonase)
Immune dysfunction
Mitochondrial dysfunction

SOURCES: Houston 2011 and Houston 2014

Increased oxidative stress: Mercury prompts increased production of free radicals (a type of reactive oxygen species or ROS) and also inactivates antioxidant defenses, including compromising the activity of the important antioxidant glutathione. “Oxidative stress” is the term used to describe these disturbances in ROS equilibrium. As Genchi and coauthors observe, “Glutathione…is the most potent intracellular and mitochondrial antioxidant for protecting against oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular diseases.” In fact, clinicians consider increased oxidative stress as a predictive biomarkerfor cardiac pathology: “When the finely regulated signaling pathways of [ROS] molecules become uninhibited, it may lead to the initiation and progression of atherosclerotic disease.”

Vascular inflammation: Among its many inflammatory effects, mercury alters arachidonic acid metabolism. Arachidonic acid metabolites are a type of fatty acid compound. With mercury-induced inflammation, these metabolites make the vascular endothelium—which plays a central role in vascular homeostasis—more “leaky.”

Thrombosis: Mercury induces thrombosis (blood clotting), in part, by promoting abnormal coagulation and clumping of platelets as well as changes in platelet shape. Back in 1946, clinicians who tested the suitability of mercury-containing gelatin solutions as “plasma substitutes” in 39 patients initially were baffled to observe thrombosis of the injected veins as a significant and frequent “untoward effect.” The physicians stated, “Because of the high incidence and considerable extent of venous thrombosis it seemed likely that the [gelatin] solutions contained a thrombosing substance”; they ultimately concluded that the mercurial preservatives in the gelatin solutions were the “probable cause.”

Changes in vascular smooth muscle cells: Mercury stimulates proliferation and changes in the size of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), versatile cells that line the walls of arteries and veins. VSMCs play a role “in all the physiological functions in the vascular wall,” including regulation of blood pressure. VSMCs are also “the main cellular determinants of arterial wall pathology.” Genchi et al. point out that exposure to mercury compounds correlates strongly with hypertension. Mercury’s effects on VSMCs have prompted calls to explicitly consider mercury as an “environmental risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

Endothelial dysfunction: The vascular endothelium is “indispensable for the regulation of vascular tone and the maintenance of vascular homeostasis.” Even at very low levels of exposure, mercury promotes endothelial dysfunction. When the vascular endothelium stops working properly, it loses its ability to regulate vascular tone and perform other essential jobs. Clinicians consider endothelial dysfunction as an independent predictor of cardiac events because it represents a “key early step in the development of atherosclerosis and…plaque progression and the occurrence of atherosclerotic complications.”

Dyslipidemia: Heart disease experts have long viewed dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid profiles) as closely related to coronary heart disease as well as metabolic syndrome. Recent studies have confirmed that chronic exposure to organic mercury induces dyslipidemia and contributes to the development of atherosclerotic plaques. According to Dr. Houston and Genchi’s team, mercury disrupts lipids, in part, by inactivating paraoxonase, an antioxidative enzyme that plays an important role in preventing cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Paraoxonase is a major component of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and mercury-induced inactivation of paraoxonase, makes HDL cholesterol dysfunctional.

Immune dysfunction: Macrophages (a type of immune system cell called phagocytes) play a key role in innate immunity by swallowing, killing and digesting invaders. Exposure to mercury lowers immune function in part by reducing phagocytic activity. Where cardiovascular disease is concerned, macrophages play a role “in both the progression and regression of inflammation” in atherosclerotic lesions. Researchers recently have noted the importance of understanding how pathological factors such as mercury exposure affect macrophage activity so as to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes. A 2016 study by a group of European researchers, which found an association between a heart condition called Takotsubo syndrome (TS) and “hypersensitivity” to mercury and other metals, noted that TS patients displayed “pathological immune reactivity.”

Mitochondrial dysfunction: Scientists have extensively documented mercury’s adverse effects on the mitochondria. Toxicologists have shown that normal human brain cells, for example, preferentially take up organic ethylmercury, damaging the cells’ mitochondria and setting off a cascade that leads to cell death. The maladaptive mitochondrial responses triggered by mercury also play a major role in the development of abnormalities related to cardiovascular disease, including dyslipidemia, hypertension and various cardiac pathologies.

Chelation Therapy: At the close of their article, Genchi and coauthors recommend chelation therapy as a strategy to get rid of mercury and thereby “avoid further distribution and penetration [of mercury] in tissues.” Chelating agents bind to unwanted metals and minerals in the blood and enable urinary excretion. Clinicians started trying out the synthetic amino acid EDTA for the treatment of angina and other forms of atherosclerotic disease beginning in the 1950s, after they observed that EDTA not only chelated lead effectively but also improved and stabilized cardiovascular function.

From 2003–2012, the National Institutes of Health funded the first large-scale study of EDTA chelation therapy—the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy (TACT)—to examine its safety and efficacy in individuals who had experienced prior heart attacks. Using a rigorous randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind study design, TACT found that EDTA infusions safely reduced the risk of subsequent cardiac events, with particularly pronounced therapeutic benefits in individuals with diabetes. Commenting on what made the TACT study unique, investigators noted that whereas “the association of metals with cardiovascular disease is not new…this knowledge has been held in [discipline-specific] silos…[that] the cardiologist does not often visit.” They added that the TACT results “have unveiled an exciting area of new…research with the underlying concept that xenobiotic metals may be a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

The evidence base for EDTA is most substantial for lead and cadmium. Genchi and coauthors describe other synthetic chelating agents, including DMSA and DMPS, that can chelate and immobilize organic and inorganic forms of mercury, specifically. However, dental expert Dr. Hal Huggins and cardiologist Dr. Thomas Levy (who coauthored the book Uninformed Consent: The Hidden Dangers in Dental Care) discourage use of DMPS, which they describe as a “sledge hammer to the immune system.” On the other hand, Huggins and Levy view oral DMSA as acceptable, if used appropriately.

Studies have reported that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) also can benefit from DMSA chelation therapy, which is not surprising given mercury’s role in contributing to ASD. One study carried out with 65 ASD children in the U.S. found that a single round of DMSA had significant behavioral effects that correlated with increased excretion of mercury and other toxic metals as well as changes in glutathione status. Another studyinvolving 44 Egyptian children with ASD generated similar results. Some autism expertshave urged caution in using overly aggressive synthetic chelation agents, however.

Taking Mercury Seriously

Dr. Houston and Genchi’s team both comment on the sizeable body burden of mercury that is accumulating in humans of our time (13 milligrams in the average 165-pound individual). In light of the myriad “intake pathways” of mercury (via air, water, food, vaccines, other pharmaceuticals and cosmetics), it behooves the public health community to take seriously the relationship between mercury exposure and cardiovascular disease risks, particularly because cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. and around the world. At a minimum, it is vital that clinicians evaluate mercury toxicity “in any patient with hypertension, coronary heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, or other vascular diseases and in patients who have a clinical history of exposure or clinical evidence on examination of mercury overload.”

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Johnson & Johnson Found To Have Knowingly Allowed Asbestos In Their Baby Powder

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Johnson and Johnson have recently lost lawsuits for negligence in knowingly allowing carcinogenic substances in their talc-based hygiene products.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we starting to turn the page on an era where human health and safety are not the prime considerations in the manufacturing of consumer products?

We are starting to awaken to the fact that it seems to be the rule, and not the exception, that large Western corporations put profits above human health considerations. The only time they seem to give any regard to human health concerns is when their forecasts of potential lawsuits down the road would likely exceed the cost measures needed to ensure the safety of their product.

Johnson & Johnson is just one of a long line of corporate perpetrators who believed that covering up and lying about known health concerns would make better business sense than taking the time and resources to actually address those health concerns within their products.

Contaminated Baby Powder: The Height Of Indignity

One would think, regardless of an understanding that the bottom line is a priority for most private companies, that the health and safety of a nursing mother and her newborn child would be sacrosanct for any industry. The reality is that this is simply not the case, even though J&J could have mitigated this problem from the start.

Companies that mine talc are required to take extra steps to ensure the absence of asbestos in their talc. Instead, J&J allegedly went to great lengths to fake it.

Not only did the company know about the asbestos contamination, evidence suggests, but J&J also failed to warn its customers about the link between Baby Powder and cancer or replace its talc with a safer alternative. As a result, J&J guaranteed its customers’ exposure to asbestos.

And regardless of their size or numbers, asbestos fibers are lethal at any capacity. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed repeatedly, there is no safe level of exposure. (source)

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The Testimony of Scientist James Webber

Baby Powder’s contamination with asbestos (a mineral that naturally occurs near talc) has long been the subject of lawsuits. But only in recent years has evidence begun to unravel J&J’s defense – that the company had no idea – and threatened its success in lawsuits to come.

In March, a California jury awarded $29 million to Terry Leavitt, a woman who said that asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s talcum-powder-based products caused her terminal mesothelioma. Environmental scientist James Webber testified in her high-profile California trial and made these observations:

During several hours on the stand, Webber explained how he ran tests that showed “clear” evidence of asbestos contamination in the mines from which J&J sourced talc.

“The testing I have seen [shows] that it was present at least as early as 1971 and up through the late 1990s,” said Webber, who ran an asbestos laboratory in New York state.

Despite denying it publicly, J&J had observed this contamination in internal memos. Its notes dismissed the amount of asbestos in its talc as “but a trace,” Webber alleged. But that was just an optimistic interpretation of superficial testing, he said: the tests used methods too weak to detect microscopic asbestos fibers. Webber insisted the actual tests results revealed there could be millions of asbestos fibers per gram of talc.

And J&J’s inaccurate reports were allegedly only the tip of the iceberg. In some instances, Webber said, photos attached to J&J’s reports revealed that “they had been seeing it and not reporting it.”  (source)

And It’s Getting Worse

The $29 million verdict, in California Superior Court in Oakland, was the latest defeat for the healthcare conglomerate facing more than 13,000 talc-related lawsuits nationwide. And things may be getting even worse for J&J, according to ZeroHedge:

Johnson & Johnson shares are down over 5% after Bloomberg reports that, according to people with knowledge of the matter, the U.S. Justice Department is pursuing a criminal investigation into whether Johnson & Johnson lied to the public about the possible cancer risks of its talcum powder…

Now, a grand jury in Washington is examining documents related to what company officials knew about any carcinogens in their products, the people said.

The Takeaway

It seems as though corporations have long been willing to take the calculated risk of short-cuts and denials instead of ensuring that their products are safe for public use. My suspicion is that a part of our collective awakening process will be issuing in a new business paradigm in which human health and safety become paramount.

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Prescription Infant Formulas Found To Be Contaminated With Aluminum

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Multiple brands of prescription infant formula were found to contain high levels of aluminum.

  • Reflect On:

    Should we be questioning the quality of products that come from pharmaceutical production? Do we veer away from natural methods of raising children more than we should? At what cost?

You may not think aluminum is a big deal, but it is. For anybody who has looked into aluminum toxicology, it’s quite clear and apparent that it has no place inside of any living biological organism. Putting it simply, it wreaks havoc on our biology. High amounts of aluminum have been found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, with experts in the field believing that aluminum brain accumulation may be one of the main causes of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s also been discovered within the brains of MS patients, and some of the highest aluminum content ever recorded in brain tissue has also been discovered in people with autism. Aluminum is associated with several diseases. But an adult body can do a great job of flushing out aluminum.

Despite the fact that aluminum has no place within earth’s biota, it’s still present in many of our medications, our food, and even in the water that we drink due to contamination since the industrial revolution. Aluminum inside the body is a new phenomenon and still understudied. Again, there is a threshold, and aluminum that is injected via vaccines doesn’t exit the body–there is strong evidence that it remains inside the body and ends up in distant organs and eventually inside of the brain. If you want to access more studies on that topic, you can read this article I published that provides them and goes into more detail. You can also watch this interview with Christopher Exley, where he also points to that fact.

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health has shown that multiple popular infant prescriptions are contaminated with aluminum. You may be asking how much aluminum, but the authors make it a point to stress that there are no safe amounts of aluminum levels that can be inside of a human body, let alone a newborn baby. That being said, the amounts found are listed within the abstract of the study:

Historical and recent data demonstrate that off-the-shelf infant formulas are heavily contaminated with aluminium. The origin of this contamination remains to be elucidated though may be imported via ingredients, packaging and processing. Specialised infant formulas exist to address health issues, such as low birth weight, allergy or intolerance and medical conditions, such as renal insufficiency. The aluminium content of these prescription infant formulas is measured here for the first time. We obtained 24 prescription infant formulas through a paediatric clinic and measured their total aluminium content by transversely heated graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry following microwave assisted acid/peroxide digestion. The aluminium content of ready-to-drink formulas ranged from 49.9 (33.7) to 1956.3 (111.0) μg/L. The most heavily contaminated products were those designed as nutritional supplements for infants struggling to gain weight. The aluminium content of powdered formulas ranged from 0.27 (0.04) to 3.27 (0.19) μg/g. The most heavily contaminated products tended to be those addressing allergies and intolerance. Prescription infant formulas are contaminated with aluminium.

Another very important point made right off the bat by the authors:

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Human exposure to aluminium is a serious health concern. Aluminium exposure in infants is understandably a burgeoning issue. While infant exposure to aluminium continues to be documented, its consequences, immediate and in the future, have received only scant attention and research is required to understand the biological availability of aluminium through formula feeding. For example, how much aluminium is absorbed across the neonate gut and its subsequent fate, including excretion.

There is already too much aluminium in infant formulas and herein we have measured its content in a large number of prescription formulas, products which are fed to vulnerable infants in their first months of life. Many of these products are heavily contaminated with aluminium.

As for the specific infant formulas, you can refer to the study. The researchers obtained 24 prescription infant formulas via the Paediatric Clinic of Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, United Kingdom. The ready-to-drink and powdered products were new, ready-to-be used and unopened samples. These formulas are for babies with some sort of growth restriction, like for preterm infants or infants who have poor weight gain. There were also powdered formulas for allergies and intolerances and powdered formulas with additional amino acids.

The authors contacted each manufacturer and expressed that they denied knowing that there was any aluminum in their products, which means it’s still a mystery as to their source. The authors hypothesize on a number of ways that aluminum could be entering into the formulas.

In their conclusion, the authors emphasize that:

Where possible, breast milk feeding should be prioritised, as the aluminium content of breast milk is invariably an order of magnitude lower than in formula feeds. Where infant formulas are the only source of nutrition for many infants in their first weeks and months of life, aluminium ingested in formula feeds will be the major contributor to their body burden of aluminium. The last thing that vulnerable infants fed specialised formulas for their specific nutritional/medicinal need is additional aluminium in their diet.

Detoxing

There is a lot of information out there on how a person can detox from aluminum and other heavy metals. There are multiple studies, and based on what I’ve looked into, water with high amounts of Silica are effective in draining aluminum out of your body and brain. Herbs like cilantro and substances like chlorella and spirulina are also great for removing some metals. The information is out there, so be sure to do your research.

The Takeaway

It’s concerning to think about what these corporations are doing. Again, aluminum should hold no place in our society, it should’ve remained well below our surface as part of the Earth’s crust for a reason. It wasn’t until humans began digging it out and using it for a number of things, irresponsibly I might add, that we started to see the health implications which still go largely ignored by the medical community.

In fact, heavy metal accumulation and detoxification of aluminum haven’t been addressed at all, which is odd given the fact that heavy metal accumulation is linked to a variety of diseases.

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9 Studies You Should Be Aware of Before Trying The Ketogenic Diet

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The Ketogenic diet is a popular fad diet that promotes quick weight loss and symptom management for bodies that are dealing with poor lymph, kidney and digestion health.

  • Reflect On:

    Based on the studies that are emerging, is our desire for quick weight loss more important than living a long and healthy life? Are we learning about these diets primarily through those with strong ties to upholding these diets?

The ketogenic diet has popped up as a popular approach to weight loss in the last few years. Is it successful at that? Sure, it is. I’ve experimented with the diet myself years ago when I was looking to lose some belly fat. I was entering into ketosis in a different way than most, as I was not eating any animal products, but it does in fact work.

But like any animal product based diet, what are the consequences of eating so much food that does not truly jive with our human bodies? Not only that, is fast weight loss more important than keeping our morality rate down?

In the last few years, we’ve reported a lot on the Keto diet and the various ways it can be done. We have explored the studies, the results and in some ways, we supported it. But lately, I have been thinking about how supporting this could actually be encouraging people to jump into these diets, including the paleo diet, when in reality these diets increase mortality rates and are not healthy for the human body.

It became a thought in the back of my mind, I have always strived to put the best information out that I can through this platform to promote good health. And so we must look at that, even if that means upsetting some people who currently are on paleo or keto and are seeing some good weight loss or symptom management. The truth is, like the many people I’ve seen crash on these diets after a few years, I want people to know the truth of what’s going on out there. And how we can get beyond diets that symptom manage, and instead get onto diets that truly heal.

Anytime we have fad diets, which paleo and keto are, we see products and bias pop up all over the place to support the continuation of these trends. It becomes less about health and more about upholding an identity or a business.

So as I recently looked into what experts are saying about these diets, I came upon two important videos I think everyone should check out. Both have been embedded below. Remember, it’s not that I care what you choose in your own life, or that I feel there is a right or wrong, it’s that I believe we should be informed and I wish to use this platform to promote as best a message as I can.

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The Videos

Thanks to Plant-Based News for creating such a good channel and resource of information on YouTube.

In this video, several plant-based health experts talk through 9 nutrition studies that would be of interest to low carb keto diet proponents. To read the 9 studies, click here.

Next up, Dr. Kim Williams (past President of the American College of Cardiology) shares his insights about the ketogenic.

Related Articles

Diabetic Shares Why He Quit ‘The Ketogenic Diet’

Doctor Explains Why She Never Recommends The ‘Ketogenic Diet’

The Biggest Misconception About The ‘Ketogenic Diet’…You Don’t Actually Have To Follow It

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