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Diabetic Shares Why He Quit ‘The Ketogenic Diet’

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A ketogenic diet might not be as safe and effective in the long term as a balanced whole foods diet, and fasting is a more hazard-free way of promoting fat-burning ketosis in the body.

  • Reflect On:

    Many people are adopting the ketogenic diet for various reasons, completely cutting or drastically reducing their carb intake. But is this safe in all cases?

The ketogenic diet is becoming quite popular. However, many people are promoting it without acknowledging the fact that it might not be safe for everybody. I’m specifically referring to a diet that’s high in fat and low in carbs. Don’t get me wrong, these types of diets are proving to be great interventions for people with cancer, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative disorders. While there is no doubt that this type of diet might be quite an effective health intervention for some, that’s not true for all health issues, and we still have a long way to go with regards to the research to get the full picture.

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I’ve written multiple articles about the benefits of ketones (what your blood produces when your body switches from burning glucose to burning fat). However it must be noted that promoting this fat burning state long term by only consuming fat, and no carbs, can in certain cases have negative health consequences.

I’ve always been a supporter of  the body producing ketones by going into fat-burning mode. If we are constantly eating, especially carbs, we’re always going to be burning glucose and never really deplete those reserves so we can start burning our fat, much of which is the main cause of a variety of diseases.

Fasting

The difference here is that I’ve promoted fasting as a way to reap the benefits of ketones instead of a low fat, high carb diet. If one fasts a couple times a month for a few days, your body will go into ketosis and experience autophagy. You can completely regenerate your immune system, repair damaged DNA, and even kill cancer when you practice fasting. This does not mean you should eat high fats and no carbs when you break your fasts, you should simply eat a healthy diet full of whole foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables–at least that’s what I believe based on my research.

Fasting (which produces ketones) is what is showing huge promise for cancer patients, as well as people who suffer from diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Combining fasting here and there, or even intermittent fasting here and there with a plant-based whole foods diet, which includes carbs, is extremely healthy. The prolonged state of ketosis might be necessary for cancer patients, but again, there are still a lot of questions unanswered.

Carbs are not the enemy, and this has been shown by multiple studies. A keto diet may cause short term weight loss, obviously (fasting would do the same thing, it’s the same as a keto diet without having to constantly eat high fats and no carbs). However, this may come at a serious price. A 2010 review found that low-carb, animal-based diets increased cardiovascular death by 14%, cancer death by 28%, & all-cause mortality by 23%- trends confirmed in other large studies.

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Animal Proteins The Problem?

This however might not be due to not eating carbs, but simply from the protein found in animal products. Dr. Colin Campbell, is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University and an American biochemist who specializes in the effect of nutrition on long term health. Through his “China study” and other work, he found that over-consumption of animal protein actually “turned on cancer.”  Protein from plants, however, had the opposite effect.

That being said, as mentioned earlier, the ketogenic diet may be used for treatment of various diseases. For example, a study titled “The Ketogenic Diet & Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Prolong Survival in Mice with Systemic Metastatic Cancer” explains how it’s already known that the ketogenic diet elevates blood ketones and has been shown to slow cancer progression in both animals and humans. The study also revealed that the ketogenic diet “significantly decreased blood glucose, slowed tumor growth, and increased mean survival time by 56.8 percent in mice with systemic metastatic cancer.”

Just to re-iterate, fasting has the same effect on tumor growth. So why utilize a ketogenic diet when one can utilize fasting instead which also elevates blood ketone levels and slows/kills the progression of cancer? Something to think about. Is it really that healthy to prolong a state of ketosis for so long and completely deprive your body of the nutrients found in many whole foods and plant foods?

Keto diet research is in its infancy, focusing on short-term blood results & body weight – not actual rates of disease or death. And some findings are concerning. LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise (or at best, stay the same) on keto diets. An overwhelming wealth of research shows that the higher the LDL, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 A keto diet is low in refined grains & added sugar, which is great. But it also can be low in phytonutrients, antioxidants, & fiber, all of which have profound benefits, and it forbids some of the most powerfully health-promoting foods on earth – whole grains, legumes, & many fruits. To me, that’s just not good medicine. – Michelle McMacken, internal medicine physician

The truth is, you can still be on a ‘ketogenic diet’ and eat a whole foods plant based diet. If you throw in fasting periods you are going to get the benefits of burning your fat stores and producing blood ketones anyway. There is no reason to go so strict as to deprive your body of carbohydrates unless you are using it as an intervention for a specific disease, and those interventions still have a lot of science and examination to go.

Dr. Mark Mattson,  Chief of the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute on Aging and  professor of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, explains what fasting does to the brain in this great TED talk. Not once does he mention a high fat ketogenic diet, he is only referring to fasting. Here’s a great quote from that talk:

Why is it that the normal diet is three meals a day plus snacks? It isn’t that it’s the healthiest eating pattern, now that’s my opinion but I think there is a lot of evidence to support that. There are a lot of pressures to have that eating pattern, there’s a lot of money involved. The food industry — are they going to make money from skipping breakfast like I did today? No, they’re going to lose money. If people fast, the food industry loses money. What about the pharmaceutical industries? What if people do some intermittent fasting, exercise periodically and are very healthy, is the pharmaceutical industry going to make any money on healthy people?

Recent Study

If we take a look at a recent study from 2014, published in the journal Trends In Molecular Medicineit outlines and confirms what several studies before it have already done:

  • Caloric restriction (diet high in nutrients but low in calories) and its mimetics (CR) improve lifespan and reduce cancer incidence
  • CR and CR mimetics sensitize cancer cells to chemotherapy
  • CR and CR mimetics combined with chemotherapy enhance anticancer immune responses

According to the study:

Caloric restriction (CR) is currently the most robust environmental intervention known to increase healthy life and prolong lifespan in several models, from yeast to mice. Although the protective effect of CR on the incidence of cancer is well established, its impact on tumor cell responses to chemotherapeutic treatment is currently being investigated. Interestingly, the molecular mechanisms required to extend lifespan upon reduced food intake are being evaluated, and these mechanisms may offer new opportunities for therapeutic intervention. In addition, new findings suggest a beneficial effect of CR in enhancing the efficiency of tumor cell killing by chemotherapeutic drugs and inducing an anticancer immune response.

None of these studies mention adopting a ketogenic diet.

That being said, in 2010, a case report was conducted on a 65-year-old woman who had a brain tumor causing numerous neurological deficits. In addition to standard care, she was put on a ketogenic diet. After two months, she experienced a complete remission of her tumor, yet when the diet was suspended, the tumor returned. We’ve also seen similar results on cancer growth with just pure fasting.

My way is to just eat healthy, and do a little fasting if you want to experience the health benefits of ketosis. You can eat a plant-based whole foods diet and still deplete your glucose reserves with intermittent fasting if you are looking to lose weight.

Man Shares Why He Quit

I came across this post via Forks Over Knives (a great resource), and while it’s just onme perspective, I thought it was important to share because the best knowledge comes from experience.

Keep in mind I have written about fasting as a tool to manage and even reverse diabetes. You can read that here.

Exercise physiologist and diabetes educator Drew Harrisberg has been amazed at the improvements to his health within a month of going from keto to plant-based. We’ll continue to check in with Drew throughout his WFPB journey, so stay tuned here for updates.

If you’re reading this story in the hope of seeing drastic before and after photos, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. However, if I could wear my body inside-out, I think you’d find my transformation pretty damn impressive (if I say so myself)! My story is about how a drastic change in my nutritional approach—going from keto to plant-based—allowed me to regain control of my insulin and blood sugar levels and, ultimately, to thrive again.

Health-Conscious History

I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Drew Harrisberg. I’m an exercise physiologist, diabetes educator, sport scientist, and most importantly, I’m a happy and healthy guy thriving with type 1 diabetes. I’ve not only accepted living with it; I’ve learned to love it and manage it so that it doesn’t manage me.

The diagnosis came unexpectedly when I was 22 years old. It was a moment that changed my life forever. I remember making a conscious decision that I would become an expert in managing my disease and that I would share everything I discovered with the world. So the journey began. I went back to university and completed my second degree to add to my exercise physiology title, this time in diabetes education and management.

Since being diagnosed with diabetes, my life has been one big self-experiment. The cool thing is, I’ve been the subject and the lead scientist. I’ve made countless mistakes and discovered just as many solutions.

My first nutritional triumph came very soon after my diagnosis, when I transitioned from the conventional food pyramid to a mostly plant-based, low carb (50-150 grams per day), Paleo approach. About 70 percent of my diet consisted of low-carb, non-starchy vegetables; nuts; and seeds. Animal foods (meat, fish, eggs, and dairy) made up only about 30 percent of my diet, but I had some animal products with every meal. I ate very minimal fruit (just berries) and almost no grains, legumes, or nightshades. I followed this way of eating for the first seven years of my diabetes journey, and it did help me to achieve some great results: My insulin requirements dropped significantly, my blood sugar levels were tightly controlled, and some physical ailments, such as chronic sinusitis and shin splints, disappeared and never came back. My overall health improved.

Recently, my desire for personal development led me down an entirely different road. All the buzz about the ketogenic diet had me interested, so I decided to try it out in the hope that I could further reduce my insulin requirements and achieve even better blood sugar control.

One Step Forward, 10 Steps Back

Initially, that’s exactly what happened. After two months on a ketogenic diet, I was lean, fit, had great focus and concentration, could go long hours without eating, had stable blood sugar levels, and had lower insulin requirements. At this point, it seemed like keto was a magic bullet, and I was a huge proponent of this way of eating. But after two months, everything took a horrible turn for the worse. I became the most insulin resistant I have ever been. I lost all metabolic flexibility. Sure, I was a very efficient fat- and ketone-burner, but it was at the expense of the ability to tolerate any glucose whatsoever. Not only could I no longer eat the smallest amount of carbs without a massive blood sugar spike but also I was resistant to the insulin that was meant to bring my levels back into the normal range. It would have been easy to blame my high blood sugar levels on the tiny amounts of carbs I was eating, but that would have been a mistake. Here’s why: Even if I didn’t eat anything and my liver dumped glucose into my bloodstream, I couldn’t fix my high blood sugar levels, because I was resistant to the insulin that I was injecting. It felt like I was on my way to developing type 2 diabetes (type 1 is more than enough, thank you). It was a very frightening reality and a huge wake-up call.

I came to an eye-opening realization: The ketogenic diet is a short-term, Band-Aid solution. By removing carbs from the diet, you’re simply removing a trigger that leads to symptoms (hyperglycemia) without addressing the actual cause. Then when you add carbs back in, your body can’t tolerate them, which makes it seem like carbs are “bad” for you, but really they’re the victim of something else. After spending hours and hours down a rabbit hole of research, it turns out that high amounts of intramyocellular fat accumulation cause the cell to become dysfunctional, leading to insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance. I’ve seen numerous keto advocates demonizing carbs because they personally can’t tolerate them. Once again, it may seem like the banana caused your blood sugar to go up, but what it really did was trigger a symptom that was caused by a much deeper problem. After becoming aware that the large amounts of saturated fat I was eating (from eggs, chicken, meat, and full-fat dairy, and coconut oil) was making me insulin resistant, I knew I had to make a change.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Having made the connection between poor health outcomes and saturated fats, I was hesitant to return to a Paleo diet. I realized that perhaps when I’d previously done well on Paleo, I was just “getting away with it” because of the healthy plant foods that I was eating. Were my positive results on Paleo due to the 30 percent of my diet that was animal products or the 70 percent that was plants? I suspected it was the latter. The only way to truly find out was to start a strictly plant-based approach and track the changes.

So, I decided to embark on a journey to see if removing those foods altogether and eating more carb-rich plant foods would reverse the metabolic damage I had caused. I immediately embarked on a strictly whole-food-plant-based journey.

I dropped my fat intake from 75 percent of daily energy to less than 20 percent. I removed all animal foods and oils. Rather, I focused on getting healthy fats from avocados, nuts, and seeds. I also added whole grains and legumes back into my diet (both of which I hadn’t eaten in nearly seven years since following a paleo approach) and an abundance of all types of fruit. Within 48 hours my insulin sensitivity started to return to normal. Within 1 week my carbohydrate intake was the highest it had been since being diagnosed with diabetes, and my insulin intake was reducing day by day.

As I write this story, I’ve been strictly plant-based for 30 days and the results have been astonishing. I’ve achieved my best ever insulin-to-carb ratio, and it feels like I’ve regained control of my health. What started as a plant-based journey toward personal development and health has turned into something so much bigger. The positive impact I’m having on myself, the people around me, the environment, and animals gives me so much fulfillment and joy. I cannot wait to see where this journey takes me over the long-term.

The Takeaway

Interesting discoveries and findings are often turned into fads. It’s important to really do the research, and listen to what your body needs. Everybody has different requirements, and at the end of the day, completely eliminating carbs from your diet doesn’t seem to be the healthiest choice. Fasting, on the other hand, if done correctly, has shown no adverse health effects and nothing but benefits for the body.

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Health

Acetaminophen—Not Worth the Risk

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Acetaminophen has been around for over a century and is the most widely used drug compound in the world. In the U.S., acetaminophen (also called paracetamol or APAP) is present as an active ingredient in over 600 prescription and over-the-counter medications marketed to relieve pain or reduce fever, including Tylenol. Every week, nearly one in four Americans takes an acetaminophen-containing medication, and pediatricians routinely recommend acetaminophen as the treatment of choice for fever in children.

Despite its ubiquity, acetaminophen also has many critics. These argue that the drug’s path to prominence has been littered with errors, false assumptions and undue complacency about risks. Documented problems include life-threatening liver damage in individuals who consume acetaminophen in “excess amounts”—something that is all too easy to do, given the drug’s different aliases and the sheer number of products in which it is present—as well as cardiovascular disease and renal injury risks associated with long-term use. In the critics’ view, these and other problems make acetaminophen “one of the most dangerous compounds in medical use.”

In the U.S., roughly 500 deaths are attributable to acetaminophen each year, as well as 100,000 poison control calls, 50,000 emergency room visits and 10,000 hospitalizations. Most acetaminophen-related emergency department visits are in young children (under age 5), adolescents or young adults. The problem of accidental (or intentional) overdoses is worrisome enough, but there are other reasons to be concerned about acetaminophen use in young people—notably, the drug’s association with asthma and developmental disorders such as autismThe research linking acetaminophen to these epidemic-level chronic conditions suggests that the drug’s automatic inclusion in the childhood medicine cabinet ought to be reconsidered.

… two different studies found that acetaminophen use in the first year of life predicted asthma at age three and at six to seven years of age, respectively.

Acetaminophen and atopic conditions

Numerous studies link acetaminophen use during pregnancy with increased asthma risks in offspring. Research also points to an association between use in infancy and asthma later on. For example, two different studies found that acetaminophen use in the first year of life predicted asthma at age three and at six to seven years of age, respectively.

The associations hold true not just for asthma but also for allergies and eczema. Polish researchers reported “a significant dose-dependent increase” in the risk of asthma, allergy and eczema symptoms in three age groups who used acetaminophen in the previous 12 months: children (ages 6-7), adolescents (ages 13-14) and adults (ages 20-44). A multi-center European study found that the drug was “strongly positively associated with asthma” in 20- to 45-year-old adults taking acetaminophen on a weekly basis, compared with less frequent users.

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Taking stock of the size and consistency of the evidence, Spanish researchers—while stopping short of recommending an outright acetaminophen ban—have advocated for a significant rollback on its use:

“It is absolutely clear that the scientific literature is sending a large and consistent signal that challenges the traditional excellent safety profile of acetaminophen in children. […] A widespread, professional-based recommendation of limiting acetaminophen use to those cases in which ibuprofen cannot be administered would reduce the childhood population exposure to a minimum and would provide a good opportunity to minimize the detrimental effect of acetaminophen.”

… the authors note that the long-term effects of acetaminophen exposure on neural development have never been evaluated in humans and point out that even at very low doses, acetaminophen triggers immune system activation and oxidative stress responses—both of which are hallmarks of autism.

Autism and developmental disorders

In addition to asthma, research has linked prenatal acetaminophen use to “lower performance intelligence quotient (IQ), …autism spectrum disorder, neurodevelopmental problems (gross motor development, communication), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, poorer attention and executive function, and behavioral problems in childhood.”For example, a longitudinal study that looked at language development in two-and-a-half year-olds whose mothers had taken acetaminophen during the first trimester of pregnancy found a significant association between prenatal acetaminophen use and language delays, particularly in boys. The researchers concluded, “Given…the importance of language development, these findings…would suggest that pregnant women should limit their use of this analgesic during pregnancy.”

There is especially compelling research tying acetaminophen use to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In a 2017 study (written by a “who’s who” of autism researchers at Duke, Harvard and the University of Colorado), the authors note that “the long-term effects of acetaminophen exposure on neural development have never been evaluated in humans” and point out that even at very low doses, acetaminophen “triggers immune system activation and oxidative stress responses”—both of which are hallmarks of autism. They also assemble evidence for both prenatal and postnatal associations between acetaminophen use and neurological problems in children, including mentioning a reported link between circumcision-related acetaminophen use and increased autism prevalence.

Many parents report witnessing the onset of regressive autism following their child’s concurrent receipt of acetaminophen and vaccines.

Impaired detoxification

Studies published in 2018 propose that acetaminophen may function as an ASD risk factor in combination with other pharmaceutical and environmental toxins. For example, researchers speculate that acetaminophen magnifies the damage done by antibiotics and glyphosate because it impairs sulfate metabolism and depletes the master antioxidant—glutathione—that the body needs in order to engage in effective detoxification.

Many parents report witnessing the onset of regressive autism following their child’s concurrent receipt of acetaminophen and vaccines. However, researchers desirous of keeping the focus on acetaminophen tend to avoid discussing possible vaccine-related synergistic effects. This is somewhat puzzling, given vaccines’ aluminum content and aluminum’s capacity to impair detoxification in much the same way as acetaminophen. In fact, there are multiple mechanisms “whereby significant quantities of aluminium introduced via immunisation could produce chronic neuropathology in genetically susceptible children,” including oxidative stress, glutathione depletion and increased inflammation. The “synchronicity…between the onset of the autism epidemic and the surge in acetaminophen use” is undeniable, but so is the synchronicity between autism and the ever-expanding childhood vaccine schedule.

No more candy

For years, health providers and parents have handed out acetaminophen-containing products like candy, heedless of the compound’s documented toxicity. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol and one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, has been only too happy to continue encouraging perceptions of a “favorable safety profile”; however, recurrent lawsuits and recalls and the abundant literature describing toxic outcomes suggest that it may be time for acetaminophen’s glory days to come to a close.


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US House of Representatives Investigating if the Government Created Lyme Disease As A Bioweapon

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A New Jersey lawmaker suggests the government turned ticks and insects into bioweapons to spread disease, and possibly released them. He is not the only one who believes so.

  • Reflect On:

    This is not the only example of supposed human experimentation on mass populations by the government

There are a number of subjects that were once considered ‘conspiracy theories,’ which are now no longer in that realm. ‘Conspiracy theories’ usually, in my opinion, arise from credible evidence. The implications, however, are so grand and so mind-altering that many may experience some sort of cognitive dissonance as a result. One of the topics often deemed a ‘conspiracy theory’ is weaponized diseases, and the latest example comes from an approved amendment that was proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey. His name is Chris Smith, and he instructed the Department of Defence’s Inspector General to conduct a review on whether or not the US “experimented with ticks and insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975” and “whether any ticks or insects used in such experiment were released outside of any laboratory by accident or experiment design.”

The fact that Smith brought this up shows that any intelligent person who actually looks into this has reason to believe it’s a possibility, yet mainstream media outlets are ridiculing the idea, calling it a conspiracy instead of actually bringing up the points that caused Smith to demand the review.

The fact that the amendment was approved by a vote in the House speaks volumes. Smith said that the amendment was inspired by “a number of books and articles suggesting that significant research had been done at US government facilities including Fort Detrick, Maryland, and Plum Island, New York, to turn ticks and insects into bioweapons”.

Most people don’t know that the US government has experimented on its own citizens a number of times. All of this is justified for “national security” purposes. National security has always been a term used as an excuse to prolong secrecy, justify the government’s lack of transparency, and create black budget programs that have absolutely no oversight from Congress.

For example, on September 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s famous fog. The military was apparently testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city.The people of San Francisco had absolutely no idea. The Navy continued the tests for seven days, and multiple people died as a result. It was apparently one of the first large-scale biological weapon trials that would be conducted under a “germ warfare testing program” that went on for 20 years from 1949 to 1969. The goal “was to deter [the use of biological weapons] against the United States and its allies and to retaliate if deterrence failed,” the government later explained. Then again, that’s if you trust the explanation coming from the government.

This could fall under the category of human subject research. It’s still happening! A dozen classified programs that involved research on human subjects were underway last year at the Department of Energy. Human subject research refers broadly to the collection of scientific data from human subjects. This could involve performing physical procedures on the subjects or simply conducting interviews and having other forms of interaction with them. It could even involve procedures performed on entire populations, apparently without their consent.

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Human subjects research erupted into national controversy 25 years ago with reporting by Eileen Welsome of the Albuquerque Tribune on human radiation experiments that had been conducted by the Atomic Energy Commission, many of which were performed without the consent of the subjects. A presidential advisory committee was convened to document the record and to recommend appropriate policy responses.

When it comes to Lyme disease, the Guardian points out that:

A new book published in May by a Stanford University science writer and former Lyme sufferer, Kris Newby, has raised questions about the origins of the disease, which affects 400,000 Americans each year.

Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons, cites the Swiss-born discoverer of the Lyme pathogen, Willy Burgdorfer, as saying that the Lyme epidemic was a military experiment that had gone wrong.

Burgdorfer, who died in 2014, worked as a bioweapons researcher for the US military and said he was tasked with breeding fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects, and infecting them with pathogens that cause human diseases.

According to the book, there were programs to drop “weaponised” ticks and other bugs from the air, and that uninfected bugs were released in residential areas in the US to trace how they spread. It suggests that such a scheme could have gone awry and led to the eruption of Lyme disease in the US in the 1960s.

This is concerning. It’s a story that, for some reason, instantly reminded me of the MK ultra program, where human subjects were used for mind control research.

If things like this occurred in the past, it’s hard to understand why someone would deem the possibility of this happening again a ‘conspiracy theory.’ What makes one think this wouldn’t be happening again, especially given the fact that there is sufficient evidence suggesting it is?

Lyme disease is also very strange. If you did get it, you probably wouldn’t know immediately – unless you’re one of the chronic sufferers that have had to visit over 30 doctors to get a proper diagnosis. Lyme disease tests are highly inaccurateoften inconclusive or indicating false negatives.

Why? Because this clever bacteria has found a way to dumb down the immune system and white blood cells so that it’s not detectable until treatment is initiated. To diagnose Lyme disease properly you must see a “Lyme Literate MD (LLMD).” However, more and more doctors are turning their backs on patients due to sheer fear of losing their practices! Insurance companies and the CDC will do whatever it takes to stop Chronic Lyme Disease from being diagnosed, treated, or widely recognized as an increasingly common issue.

You can read more about that here.

The Takeaway

It’s becoming more apparent that our government as well as our federal health regulatory agencies are extremely corrupt. There are a number of examples to choose from throughout history proving this. The fact that something like this doesn’t seem believable to the public is ridiculous and further enhances and prolongs the ability for the powerful elite and the government to continue conducting these activities. Awareness is key.

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The Medical Journals’ Sell-Out—Getting Paid to Play

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[Note: This is Part IX in a series of articles adapted from the second Children’s Health Defense eBook: Conflicts of Interest Undermine Children’s Health. The first eBook, The Sickest Generation: The Facts Behind the Children’s Health Crisis and Why It Needs to End, described how children’s health began to worsen dramatically in the late 1980s following fateful changes in the childhood vaccine schedule.]

The vaccine industry and its government and scientific partners routinely block meaningful science and fabricate misleading studies about vaccines. They could not do so, however, without having enticed medical journals into a mutually beneficial bargain. Pharmaceutical companies supply journals with needed income, and in return, journals play a key role in suppressing studies that raise critical questions about vaccine risks—which would endanger profits.

Journals are willing to accept even the most highly misleading advertisements. The FDA has flagged numerous instances of advertising violations, including ads that overstated a drug’s effectiveness or minimized its risks.

An exclusive and dependent relationship

Advertising is one of the most obviously beneficial ways that medical journals’ “exclusive and dependent relationship” with the pharmaceutical industry plays out. According to a 2006 analysis in PLOS Medicinedrugs and medical devices are the only products for which medical journals accept advertisements. Studies show that journal advertising generates “the highest return on investment of all promotional strategies employed by pharmaceutical companies.” The pharmaceutical industry puts a particularly “high value on advertising its products in print journals” because journals reach doctors—the “gatekeeper between drug companies and patients.” Almost nine in ten drug advertising dollars are directed at physicians.

In the U.S. in 2012, drug companies spent $24 billion marketing to physicians, with only $3 billion spent on direct-to-consumer advertising. By 2015, however, consumer-targeted advertising had jumped to $5.2 billion, a 60% increase that has reaped bountiful rewards. In 2015, Pfizer’s Prevnar-13 vaccine was the nation’s eighth most heavily advertised drug; after the launch of the intensive advertising campaign, Prevnar “awareness” increased by over 1,500% in eight months, and “44% of targeted consumers were talking to their physicians about getting vaccinated specifically with Prevnar.” Slick ad campaigns have also helped boost uptake of “unpopular” vaccines like Gardasil.

Advertising is such an established part of journals’ modus operandi that high-end journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) boldly invite medical marketers to “make NEJM the cornerstone of their advertising programs,” promising “no greater assurance that your ad will be seen, read, and acted upon.” In addition, medical journals benefit from pharmaceutical companies’ bulk purchases of thousands of journal reprints and industry’s sponsorship of journal subscriptions and journal supplements.

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In 2003, an editor at The BMJ wrote about the numerous ways in which drug company advertising can bias medical journals (and the practice of medicine)—all of which still hold true today. For example:

  • Advertising monies enable prestigious journals to get thousands of copies into doctors’ hands for free, which “almost certainly” goes on to affect prescribing.
  • Journals are willing to accept even the most highly misleading advertisements. The FDA has flagged numerous instances of advertising violations, including ads that overstated a drug’s effectiveness or minimized its risks.
  • Journals will guarantee favorable editorial mentions of a product in order to earn a company’s advertising dollars.
  • Journals can earn substantial fees for publishing supplements even when they are written by “paid industry hacks”—and the more favorable the supplement content is to the company that is funding it, the bigger the profit for the journal.

Discussing clinical trials, the BMJ editor added: “Major trials are very good for journals in that doctors around the world want to see them and so are more likely to subscribe to journals that publish them. Such trials also create lots of publicity, and journals like publicity. Finally, companies purchase large numbers of reprints of these trials…and the profit margin to the publisher is huge. These reprints are then used to market the drugs to doctors, and the journal’s name on the reprint is a vital part of that sell.”

… however, even these poor-quality studies—when funded by the pharmaceutical industry—got far more attention than equivalent studies not funded by industry.

Industry-funded bias

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), nearly three-fourths of all funding for clinical trials in the U.S.—presumably including vaccine trials—came from corporate sponsors as of the early 2000s. The pharmaceutical industry’s funding of studies (and investigators) is a factor that helps determine which studies get published, and where. As a Johns Hopkins University researcher has acknowledged, funding can lead to bias—and while the potential exists for governmental or departmental funding to produce bias, “the worst source of bias is industry-funded.”

In 2009, researchers published a systematic review of several hundred influenza vaccine trials. Noting “growing doubts about the validity of the scientific evidence underpinning [influenza vaccine] policy recommendations,” the authors showed that the vaccine-favorable studies were “of significantly lower methodological quality”; however, even these poor-quality studies—when funded by the pharmaceutical industry—got far more attention than equivalent studies not funded by industry. The authors commented:

[Studies] sponsored by industry had greater visibility as they were more likely to be published by high impact factor journals and were likely to be given higher prominence by the international scientific and lay media, despite their apparent equivalent methodological quality and size compared with studies with other funders.

In their discussion, the authors also described how the industry’s vast resources enable lavish and strategic dissemination of favorable results. For example, companies often distribute “expensively bound” abstracts and reprints (translated into various languages) to “decision makers, their advisors, and local researchers,” while also systematically plugging their studies at symposia and conferences.

The World Health Organization’s standards describe reporting of clinical trial results as a “scientific, ethical, and moral responsibility.” However, it appears that as many as half of all clinical trial results go unreported—particularly when their results are negative. A European official involved in drug assessment has described the problem as “widespread,” citing as an example GSK’s suppression of results from four clinical trials for an anti-anxiety drug when those results showed a possible increased risk of suicide in children and adolescents. Experts warn that “unreported studies leave an incomplete and potentially misleading picture of the risks and benefits of treatments.”

Many vaccine studies flagrantly illustrate biases and selective reporting that produce skewed write-ups that are more marketing than science.

Debased and biased results

The “significant association between funding sources and pro-industry conclusions” can play out in many different ways, notably through methodological bias and debasement of study designs and analytic strategies. Bias may be present in the form of inadequate sample sizes, short follow-up periods, inappropriate placebos or comparisons, use of improper surrogate endpoints, unsuitable statistical analyses or “misleading presentation of data.”

Occasionally, high-level journal insiders blow the whistle on the corruption of published science. In a widely circulated quote, Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of NEJM, acknowledged that “It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines.” Dr. Angell added that she “[took] no pleasure in this conclusion, which [she] reached slowly and reluctantly” over two decades at the prestigious journal.

Many vaccine studies flagrantly illustrate biases and selective reporting that produce skewed write-ups that are more marketing than science. In formulaic articles that medical journals are only too happy to publish, the conclusion is almost always the same, no matter the vaccine: “We did not identify any new or unexpected safety concerns.” As an example of the use of inappropriate statistical techniques to exaggerate vaccine benefits, an influenza vaccine study reported a “69% efficacy rate” even though the vaccine failed “nearly all who [took] it.” As explained by Dr. David Brownstein, the study’s authors used a technique called relative risk analysis to derive their 69% statistic because it can make “a poorly performing drug or therapy look better than it actually is.” However, the absolute risk difference between the vaccine and the placebo group was 2.27%, meaning that the vaccine “was nearly 98% ineffective in preventing the flu.”

… the reviewers had done an incomplete job and had ignored important evidence of bias.

Trusted evidence?

In 2018, the Cochrane Collaboration—which bills its systematic reviews as the international gold standard for high-quality, “trusted” evidence—furnished conclusions about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that clearly signaled industry bias. In May of that year, Cochrane’s highly favorable review improbably declared the vaccine to have no increased risk of serious adverse effects and judged deaths observed in HPV studies “not to be related to the vaccine.” Cochrane claims to be free of conflicts of interest, but its roster of funders includes national governmental bodies and international organizations pushing for HPV vaccine mandates as well as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—both of which are staunch funders and supporters of HPV vaccination. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s president is a former top CDC official who served as acting CDC director during the H1N1 “false pandemic” in 2009 that ensured millions in windfall profits for vaccine manufacturers.

Two months after publication of Cochrane’s HPV review, researchers affiliated with the Nordic Cochrane Centre (one of Cochrane’s member centers) published an exhaustive critique, declaring that the reviewers had done an incomplete job and had “ignored important evidence of bias.” The critics itemized numerous methodological and ethical missteps on the part of the Cochrane reviewers, including failure to count nearly half of the eligible HPV vaccine trials, incomplete assessment of serious and systemic adverse events and failure to note that many of the reviewed studies were industry-funded. They also upbraided the Cochrane reviewers for not paying attention to key design flaws in the original clinical trials, including the failure to use true placebos and the use of surrogate outcomes for cervical cancer.

In response to the criticisms, the editor-in-chief of the Cochrane Library initially stated that a team of editors would investigate the claims “as a matter of urgency.” Instead, however, Cochrane’s Governing Board quickly expelled one of the critique’s authors, Danish physician-researcher Peter Gøtzsche, who helped found Cochrane and was the head of the Nordic Cochrane Centre. Gøtzsche has been a vocal critic of Cochrane’s “increasingly commercial business model,” which he suggests is resulting in “stronger and stronger resistance to say anything that could bother pharmaceutical industry interests.” Adding insult to injury, Gøtzsche’s direct employer, the Rigshospitalet hospital in Denmark, then fired Gøtzsche. In response, Dr. Gøtzsche stated, “Firing me sends the unfortunate signal that if your research results are inconvenient and cause public turmoil, or threaten the pharmaceutical industry’s earnings, …you will be sacked.” In March 2019, Gøtzsche launched an independent Institute for Scientific Freedom.

In 2019, the editor-in-chief and research editor of BMJ Evidence Based Medicine—the journal that published the critique of Cochrane’s biased review—jointly defended the critique as having “provoke[d] healthy debate and pose[d] important questions,” affirming the value of publishing articles that “hold organisations to account.” They added that “Academic freedom means communicating ideas, facts and criticism without being censored, targeted or reprimanded” and urged publishers not to “shrink from offering criticisms that may be considered inconvenient.”

In recent years, a number of journals have invented bogus excuses to withdraw or retract articles critical of risky vaccine ingredients, even when written by top international scientists.

The censorship tsunami

Another favored tactic is to keep vaccine-critical studies out of medical journals altogether, either by refusing to publish them (even if peer reviewers recommend their publication) or by concocting excuses to pull articles after publication. In recent years, a number of journals have invented bogus excuses to withdraw or retract articles critical of risky vaccine ingredients, even when written by top international scientists. To cite just three examples:

  • The journal Vaccine withdrew a study that questioned the safety of the aluminum adjuvantused in Gardasil.
  • The journal Science and Engineering Ethics retracted an article that made a case for greater transparency regarding the link between mercury and autism.
  • Pharmacological Research withdrew a published veterinary article that implicated aluminum-containing vaccines in a mystery illness decimating sheep, citing “concerns” from an anonymous reader.

Elsevier, which publishes two of these journals, has a track record of setting up fake journals to market Merck’s drugs, and Springer, which publishes the third journal as well as influential publications like Nature and Scientific American, has been only too willing to accommodate censorship requests. However, even these forms of censorship may soon seem quaint in comparison to the censorship of vaccine-critical information now being implemented across social media and other platforms. This concerted campaign to prevent dissemination of vaccine content that does not toe the party line will make it harder than ever for American families to do their due diligence with regard to vaccine risks and benefits.


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