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Juice Fasts: Hype-Driven Fad or Evidence-Based Health Habit?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    This article was originally written and published at Greenmedinfo.com, written by the GreenMedInfo Research Group and posted here with permission.

  • Reflect On:

    Juice fasts, formerly relegated to groups on the fringes of society, are now embraced by mainstream culture. Once only a ritual rite of passage for those embedded in natural medicine circles, juice fasts have now become ubiquitous, marketed by health gurus, infomercials, and integrative medical doctors alike.

Juice fasts, formerly relegated to groups on the fringes of society, are now embraced by mainstream culture. Once only a ritual rite of passage for those embedded in natural medicine circles, juice fasts have now become ubiquitous, marketed by health gurus, infomercials, and integrative medical doctors alike.

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Despite an abundance of anecdotal evidence and the testimonies of countless juicing enthusiasts, well-designed controlled studies on the subject have remained scant (1).

Gut Microbiota: The Gateway to Good Health

The gut microbiota, or the one hundred trillion commensal bacteria that inhabit our gastrointestinal tracts, may be the vehicle through which juice fasts elicit their beneficial effects. Not only is a disturbed microbiota implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity and metabolic disorders, but weight reduction has been reported to engender improvements in levels of bacterial species that contribute to inflammatory processes (2). In particular, “Obesity is associated with lower bacterial diversity, phylum and genus-level changes, and altered representation of bacterial genes and metabolic pathways involved in nutrient harvest” (2, p. 394).

One study performed by Remely and colleagues (2015) examined the effects of a traditional diet in an Austrian monastery, comprised of small amounts of soup, cereal, fruit and vegetable juices, and herbal teas (2). This intervention, implemented in obese subjects, significantly increased microbial diversity as well as numbers of Bifidobacteria, Akkermansia, and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii. Mucin-degrading Akkermansia, which have high mucosal adherence and are correlated with a healthy gut microbial community, are depleted in inflammatory disorders such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (3, 4).

The researchers also reported that populations of Enterobacteria and Lactobacilli associated with inflammation declined after the intervention (2). The authors concluded, “Our results show that caloric restriction affects the gut microbiota by proliferating mucin-degrading microbial subpopulations,” demonstrating that juice fasts may operate through this mechanism (p. 394). Other models of caloric restriction have similarly yielded decreases in Streptococcacae, which incite mild inflammation, and increases in Lactobacillus species, which competitively inhibit pathogens and produce declines in inflammatory cytokine levels (5).

Polyphenol-Induced Microbiome Changes Favorably Influence Health

Fruits and vegetables represent the richest reservoir of phenolic compounds, which resist absorption in the small intestine and instead are metabolized by the colonic bacteria into compounds which modulate populations of gut flora. Researchers speculate that the microbiota may be a previously under-recognized avenue through which polyphenols promote health, improve metabolic parameters, and mitigate inflammation (6).

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For instance, when rats are given quercetin, a flavonoid found in plant foods such as apples and onions, microbial dysbiosis induced by a high-fat high-sucrose diet is inhibited (7, 8). The rats in this experiment likewise exhibited suppressed growth of bacterial species correlated with diet-induced obesity, such as Erysipelotrichaceae, Eubacterium cylindroides, and Bacillus, alongside an attenuated ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes (7). Further, when administered in concert, quercetin and trans-resveratrol prevented weight gain in a rodent model, whereas individually, they each improved insulin resistance (7). In isolation, supplementation with trans-resveratrol also modified expression of tight-junction proteins and inflammatory gene profiles, influencing intestinal permeability in ways likely mediated by the microbiota (7).

In another study, mice receiving Concord grape polyphenols with a high-fat diet exhibited improved profiles of glucose tolerance, adiposity, and weight gain, and had enhanced expression of fasting-induced adipocyte factor, which restricts triglyceride storage (6). The mice receiving grape polyphenols similarly displayed reduced levels of inflammatory markers, such as the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-6, the endotoxin released from gram-negative bacteria called lipopolysaccharide (LPS), and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) (6). In addition, grape polyphenols improved intestinal barrier function by up-regulating the genes for occludin and proglucagon, the former of which is a tight junction architectural protein, and the latter of which is a precursor to proteins that maintain mucosal barrier integrity and promote insulin production (6).

Importantly, grape polyphenols induced dramatic alterations in the community of commensal microbes. This botanical reduced the ratio of Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, which is significant since an increased ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes, which is induced by a high-fat, high sugar diet, has been shown to increase host adiposity when transplanted into germ-free mice (9, 10, 11). The grape polyphenols also significantly augmented populations of Akkermansia muciniphila, an obligate anaerobic species which blooms after gastric bypass surgery and promotes weight loss when transplanted into germ-free recipients (11, 12). In addition, cross-sectional studies have underscored that higher levels of A. municiphila appear in lean individuals relative to obese individuals (13). Because A. muciniphila is vulnerable to reactive oxygen species, the free radical scavenging capacity of grape polyphenols can create a more hospitable environment for this species and other obligate anaerobes that benefit health (6).

Likewise, cranberry polyphenols induced similar anti-diabetic effects in mice fed a high-fat, high sucrose (HFHS) diet (14). Administration of cranberry extract improved insulin sensitivity and glucose handling, lowering intestinal, plasma, and hepatic triglyceride levels, and reduced intestinal and hepatic inflammation and oxidative stress (14). Cranberry extract similarly attenuated circulating levels of LPS, effectively preventing the HFHS-induced metabolic endotoxemia that contributes to the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease (14). Moreover, like grape polyphenols, treatment with cranberry extract led to dramatic elevations in A. muciniphila, which confers protection against metabolic syndrome features (14).

Other studies have elucidated that dealcoholized red wine polyphenols and cocoa-derived flavanols elicit similar effects on the gut microbiota (15). Collectively, polyphenols “modulate the human gut microbiota by decreasing the abundance of Firmicutes and increasing Bifidobacteria, Lactobacillus and Verrucomicrobia, which is also a key difference in the gut microbiota found in obese and lean individuals” (15, p.1).

Based on the aforementioned findings, researchers suggest that myriad distinct polyphenols and bioactive compounds may exert similar effects, both directly and indirectly, on the gut microbiome. They propose that diverse classes of dietary antioxidants may engender health benefits by conferring a survival advantage for certain commensal species (6). According to Roopchand and colleagues (2015), “We propose that this altered gut microbiota is, in part, responsible for the altered intestinal gene expression, epithelial integrity, and inflammatory markers, which then leads to decreased fat deposition and glucose absorption, along with increased insulin secretion” (6, p. 2857).

Changes in Gut Microbiota After a Juice Fast

Based on the premise that changes in microbial composition influence health, researchers designed a study to examine whether a three-day juice fast, followed by reversion to a customary diet for two weeks, would favorably influence the microbiota composition of twenty healthy subjects with low fruit and vegetable consumption (15). A root juice mix was blended from beet, apple, ginger, and lemon, whereas a citrus juice mix consisted of apple, pineapple, mint, and lemon, and the green juice mixes contained romaine lettuce, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon, and small fractions of kale, parsley, and spinach (15). Also included was a mix consisting of filtered water, lemon, cayenne, almond, vanilla bean, dates, and sea salt (15).

Whereas proportions of certain intestinal bacteria, such as Fusobacteria, Actinobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Proteobacteria remained consistent, a significant decrease in Firmicutes and increases in both Cyanobacteria and Bacteroidetes were observed in subjects undergoing the juice fast compared to baseline (15). Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes represent the two most abundant bacterial phyla in human populations, representing 40-60% and 20-40% of the microbiota, respectively (16).

Increased Firmicutes in relation to Bacteroidetes has been correlated with obesity and body mass index (BMI) in some human studies (17). According to researchers, “Comparisons of the distal gut microbiota of genetically obese mice and their lean littermates, as well as those of obese and lean human volunteers have revealed that obesity is associated with changes in the relative abundance of the two dominant bacterial divisions, the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes” (18, p.1027). The microbiome characteristic of the obese phenotype, in turn, has been correlated with increased harvesting of energy from the diet, and produces obesity when germ-free mice are colonized with the obese microbiota (18).

This trend, which has been supported by some studies and refuted by others, was reinforced by the present juice fast, where a significant positive correlation between weight at day four and Firmicutes proportion, and a significant negative correlation between weight at day four and Bacteroidetes proportion was observed (13, 15, 18). These changes in microbiota may mitigate or perpetuate metabolic syndrome features by regulating gut barrier function, as animal models have confirmed that a compromised gut barrier enables translocation of bacteria and antigens, which evokes inflammation from the gut-associated sub-mucosal lymphoid system (13).

In addition, Bacteroides species such as B. ovatus, B. thetaiotaomicron, and B. uniformis can ferment a wide array of indigestible complex polysaccharides, such as fruit- and vegetable-based xylan and pectin (19). These carbohydrates serve as fermentable substrates or prebiotics, which are metabolized into health promoting, gut sealing, cardioprotective short chain fatty acids. According to Flint and colleagues (2012), “Certain dominant species, notably among the Bacteroidetes, are known to possess very large numbers of genes that encode carbohydrate active enzymes and can switch readily between different energy sources in the gut depending on availability” (19, p. 289). The enrichment in Bacteroides species after the juice fast reinforces the prebiotic effects of juice, since similar increases in Bacteroides species such as B. acidifaciens, B. ovatus, and B. xylanisolvens were witnessed in studies of subjects with metabolic syndrome who included resistant starch in their diets (20).

In one particular study, flourishing of Bacteroides species was accompanied by significant decreases in fasting glucose, glycosylated hemoglobin, cholesterol levels, body fat, waist circumference, and pro-inflammatory markers, which speaks to the metabolic benefits incurred with strategies that augment Bacteroides populations (20). In addition, another rodent study showed that B. thetaiotaomicron combined with probiotics decreased mean body weight and reduced levels of postprandial triglycerides in rats fed a high fat diet, further illustrating the benefit of these specific microbes (21).

After the juice fast, populations of Bacteroides, Odoribacteri, Paraprevotella, Barnesiella, and Halospirulina were all enhanced at day four compared to baseline, whereas Eisenbergiella, Dialister, Ruminiclostridium, Subdoligranulum, and Streptococcus were all suppressed at day four compared to baseline, illuminating the immediate and dramatic effect that fruit and vegetable polyphenols can elicit on the microbiota (15). These other genera, however, besides Streptococcus, returned to baseline levels at day seventeen, indicating the need for regular polyphenol consumption to maintain favorable microbiome changes (15).

Effect of a Juice Fast on Inflammation

Although plasma antioxidant capacity remained unchanged after the juice fast, lipid peroxidation, as measured by urine malondialdehyde (MDA), significantly decreased by 40% at day four compared to baseline (15). The researchers attribute this to either the low-fat nature of the juice fast, such that fewer lipids are available for oxidative degradation, or the antioxidant protection conferred by juice polyphenols for lipids during digestion (15).

This latter hypothesis is supported by research demonstrating that polyphenol-rich juices containing cyanidin glycosides and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) supplemented for two weeks led to decreases in plasma MDA (22). In addition, red wine polyphenols have been shown to completely prevent the rise in plasma MDA that occurs due to oxidized fats (23). Similarly, rosmarinic acid, a polyphenol in oregano, significantly reduces MDA concentration in plasma and urine after burger consumption (24). Thus, the high polyphenol content in juices may protect against the carcinogenic and atherosclerotic effects of lipid peroxidation.

In addition, after the juice fast, day four nitric oxide (NO) concentrations were increased by five-fold and three-fold, in urine and plasma, respectively, compared to baseline, indicating the vasodilatory effect of fruit and vegetable nitrate content (15). Optimizing NO levels may prevent cardiovascular disease, since disturbed activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is implicated in the pathophysiology of endothelial dysfunction, impaired arterial compliance, and hypertension. This is consistent with prior work which elucidated that nitrate-rich beet juice improves vascular function in hypercholesterolemic patients, as illustrated by increases in flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) and aortic pulse wave velocity and by decreases in platelet-monocyte aggregates compared to placebo (25). These changes may also be mediated by the microbiome, and nitrate-reducing bacteria specifically, since in one study, nitrate treatment modified the proportions of 78 bacterial taxa in the salivary microbiome compared to placebo (25).

Lastly, during the juice intervention, significant decreases in body weight and body mass index (BMI) occurred which persisted after the two-week follow-up period (15). Well-being scores remained consistent with baseline at day three, but there was a significant increase in well-being at the conclusion of the study (15). However, both NO and MDA concentrations returned to initial baseline values at day seventeen, suggesting that continued consumption of polyphenols is required to maintain anti-inflammatory benefits (15).

Although the fiber is largely removed from juice, this study highlights that juicing still elicits a prebiotic effect due to its polyphenol content, and that it can therefore favorably modify the microbiome by selectively stimulating the growth of beneficial commensal bacteria. Thus, juicing, with an emphasis on lower glycemic vegetables, may be both a prudent adjunctive strategy for people with gastrointestinal distress who cannot tolerate large quantities of fiber, and for individuals with metabolic derangements.

References

1. Horne, B.D., Muhlestein, J.B., & Anderson, J.L. (2015). Health effects of intermittent fasting: hormesis or harm? A systematic review. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102, 464–470, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.109553  (2015).

2. Remely, M. et al. (2015). Increased gut microbiota diversity and abundance of Faecalibacterium prausnitzii and Akkermansia after fasting: a pilot study. Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, 127, 394–398, doi: 10.1007/s00508-015-0755-1

3. Png, C.W. et al. (2010). Mucolytic bacteria with increased prevalence in IBD mucosa augment in vitro utilization of mucin by other bacteria. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 105(11), 2420-2428.

4. Belzer, C., & de Vos, W.M. (2012). Microbes inside-from diversity to function: the case of Akkermansia. International Society of Microbial Ecology Journal, 8(8), 1449-1458.

5. Zhang, C. et al. (2013). Structural modulation of gut microbiota in life-long calorie-restricted mice. Natural Communications, 4, 2163.

6. Roopchand, D. E. et al. (2015). Dietary Polyphenols Promote Growth of the Gut Bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila and Attenuate High-Fat Diet-Induced Metabolic Syndrome. Diabetes 64, 2847–2858, doi: 10.2337/db14-1916

7. Etxeberria, U. et al. (2015). Reshaping faecal gut microbiota composition by the intake of trans-resveratrol and quercetin in high-fat sucrose diet-fed rats. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 26(6), 651-660. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2015.01.002. 41-46.

8. Lee, J., & Mitchell, A.E. (2012). Pharmacokinetics of quercetin absorption from apples and onions in healthy humans. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 60, 3874-3881.

9. Carmody, R.N. et al. (2015). Diet dominates host genotype in shaping the murine gut micorbiota. Cell Host Microbe, 2015, 72-84.

10. Turnbaugh, P.J. et al. (2008). Diet-induced obesity is linked to marked but reversible alterations in the mouse distal gut microbiome. Cell Host Microbe, 3, 213-223.

11. Liou, A.P. et al. (2013). Conserved shifts in the gut microbiota due to gastric bypass reduce host weight and adiposity. Science of Translational Medicine, 5, 178ra141.

12. Zhang, H. et al. (2009). Human gut microbiota in obesity and after gastric bypass. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 106, 2365-2370.

13. Stenman, L. K., Burcelin, R. & Lahtinen, S. Establishing a causal link between gut microbes, body weight gain and glucose metabolism in humans – towards treatment with probiotics. Beneficial microbes 1–12, doi:10.3920/BM2015.0069 (2015).

14. Anhê, F.F. et al. (2015). A polyphenol-rich cranberry extract protects from diet-induced obesity, insulin resistance and intestinal inflammation in association with increased Akkermansia spp. population in the gut microbiota of mice. Gut, 64, 872-883.

15. Henning, S.M., et al. (2017). Health benefit of vegetable/fruit juice-based diet: Role of microbiome. Scientific Reports, 7. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02200-6

16. Million, M. et al. (2013). Gut bacterial microbiota and obesity. Clinical microbiology and infection: the official publication of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 19, 305–313, doi: 10.1111/1469-0691.12172

17. Koliada, A. et al. (2017). Association between body mass index and Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in an adult Ukrainian population. BioMed Central Microbiology. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12866-017-1027-1

18. Turnbaugh, P.J. et al. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 444, 1027–1031, doi:10.1038/nature05414

19. Flint, H.J. et al. (2012). Microbial degradation of complex carbohydrates in the gut. Gut Microbes, 3(4), 289-306.

20. Upadhyaya, B. et al. (2016). Impact of dietary resistant starch type 4 on human gut microbiota and immunometabolic functions. Scientific Reports, 6, 28797, doi: 10.1038/srep28797  (2016).

21. Olli, K. et al. (2016). Independent and Combined Effects of Lactitol, Polydextrose, and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron on Postprandial Metabolism and Body Weight in Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet. Frontiers in Nutrition, 3, 15, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00015

22. Bub, A. et al. (2003). Fruit juice consumption modulates antioxidative status, immune status and DNA damage. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 14(2), 90-98.

23. Gorelik, S. et al. (2007). A novel function of red wine polyphenols in humans: prevention of absorption of cytotoxic lipid peroxidation products. The Official Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 22(1).

24. Li, Z. et al. (2010). Antioxidant-rich spice added to hamburger meat during cooking results in reduced meat, plasma, and urine malondialdehyde concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91, 1180–1184. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28526

25. Velmurugan, S. et al. (2016). Dietary nitrate improves vascular function in patients with hypercholesterolemia: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103, 25–38, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.116244

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Japan Leads the Way: No Vaccine Mandates and No MMR Vaccine = Healthier Children

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    This article was written By Kristina Kristen, Guest Writer, for Children's Health Defense, posted here with permission.

  • Reflect On:

    How much do pharmaceutical companies really care about our health? Why is important information on vaccines never acknowledged and countered by the mainstream?

In the United States, many legislators and public health officials are busy trying to make vaccines de facto compulsory—either by removing parental/personal choice given by existing vaccine exemptions or by imposing undue quarantines and fines on those who do not comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) vaccine edicts. Officials in California are seeking to override medical opinion about fitness for vaccination, while those in New York are mandating the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine for 6-12-month-old infants for whom its safety and effectiveness “have not been established.”

The U.S. has the very highest infant mortality rate of all industrialized countries, with more American children dying at birth and in their first year than in any other comparable nation—and more than half of those who survive develop at least one chronic illness.

American children would be better served if these officials—before imposing questionable and draconian measures—studied child health outcomes in Japan. With a population of 127 million, Japan has the healthiest children and the very highest “healthy life expectancy” in the world—and the least vaccinated children of any developed country. The U.S., in contrast, has the developed world’s most aggressive vaccination schedule in number and timing, starting at pregnancy, at birth and in the first two years of life. Does this make U.S. children healthier? The clear answer is no. The U.S. has the very highest infant mortality rate of all industrialized countries, with more American children dying at birth and in their first year than in any other comparable nation—and more than half of those who survive develop at least one chronic illness. Analysis of real-world infant mortality and health results shows that U.S. vaccine policy does not add up to a win for American children.

Japan and the U.S.; Two Different Vaccine Policies

In 1994, Japan transitioned away from mandated vaccination in public health centers to voluntary vaccination in doctors’ offices, guided by “the concept that it is better that vaccinations are performed by children’s family doctors who are familiar with their health conditions.” The country created two categories of non-compulsory vaccines: “routine” vaccines that the government covers and “strongly recommends” but does not mandate, and additional “voluntary” vaccines, generally paid for out-of-pocket. Unlike in the U.S., Japan has no vaccine requirements for children entering preschool or elementary school.

Japan also banned the MMR vaccine in the same time frame, due to thousands of serious injuriesover a four-year period—producing an injury rate of one in 900 children that was “over 2,000 times higher than the expected rate.” It initially offered separate measles and rubella vaccines following its abandonment of the MMR vaccine; Japan now recommends a combined measles-rubella (MR) vaccine for routine use but still shuns the MMR. The mumps vaccine is in the “voluntary” category.

Here are key differences between the Japanese and U.S. vaccine programs:

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  • Japan has no vaccine mandates, instead recommending vaccines that (as discussed above) are either “routine” (covered by insurance) or “voluntary” (self-pay).
  • Japan does not vaccinate newborns with the hepatitis B (HepB) vaccine, unless the mother is hepatitis B positive.
  • Japan does not vaccinate pregnant mothers with the tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccine.
  • Japan does not give flu shots to pregnant mothers or to six-month-old infants.
  • Japan does not give the MMR vaccine, instead recommending an MR vaccine.
  • Japan does not require the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

No other developed country administers as many vaccine doses in the first two years of life.

In contrast, the U.S. vaccine schedule (see Table 1) prescribes routine vaccination during pregnancy, calls for the first HepB vaccine dose within 24 hours of birth—even though 99.9% of pregnant women, upon testing, are hepatitis B negative, and follows up with 20 to 22 vaccine doses in the first year alone. No other developed country administers as many vaccine doses in the first two years of life.

The HepB vaccine injects a newborn with a 250-microgram load of aluminum, a neurotoxic and immune-toxic adjuvant used to provoke an immune response. There are no studies to back up the safety of exposing infants to such high levels of the injected metal. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) upper limit for aluminum in intravenous (IV) fluids for newborns is far lower at five micrograms per kilogram per day (mcg/kg/day)—and even at these levels, researchers have documented the potential for impaired neurologic development. For an average newborn weighing 7.5 pounds, the HepB vaccine has over 15 times more aluminum than the FDA’s upper limit for IV solutions.

Unlike Japan, the U.S. administers flu and Tdap vaccines to pregnant women (during any trimester) and babies receive flu shots at six months of age, continuing every single year thereafter. Manufacturers have never tested the safety of flu shots administered during pregnancy, and the FDA has never formally licensed any vaccines “specifically for use during pregnancy to protect the infant.”

Japan initially recommended the HPV vaccine but stopped doing so in 2013 after serious health problems prompted numerous lawsuits. Japanese researchers have since confirmed a temporal relationship between HPV vaccination and recipients’ development of symptoms.

U.S. vaccine proponents claim the U.S. vaccine schedule is similar to schedules in other developed countries, but this claim is inaccurate upon scrutiny. Most other countries do not recommend vaccination during pregnancy, and very few vaccinate on the first day of life. This is important because the number, type and timing of exposure to vaccines can greatly influence their adverse impact on developing fetuses and newborns, who are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures and early immune activation. Studies show that activation of pregnant women’s immune systems can cause developmental problems in their offspring. Why are pregnant women in the U.S. advised to protect their developing fetuses by avoiding alcohol and mercury-containing tuna fish, but actively prompted to receive immune-activating Tdap and flu vaccines, which still contain mercury (in multi-dose vials) and other untested substances?

Japan initially recommended the HPV vaccine but stopped doing so in 2013 after serious health problems prompted numerous lawsuits. Japanese researchers have since confirmed a temporal relationship between HPV vaccination and recipients’ development of symptoms. U.S. regulators have ignored these and similar reports and not only continue to aggressively promote and even mandate the formerly optional HPV vaccine beginning in preadolescence but are now pushing it in adulthood. The Merck-manufactured HPV vaccine received fast-tracked approval from the FDA despite half of all clinical trial subjects reporting serious medical conditions within seven months.

Best and Worst: Two Different Infant Mortality Results

The CDC views infant mortality as one of the most important indicators of a society’s overall health. The agency should take note of Japan’s rate, which, at 2 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, is the second lowest in the world, second only to the Principality of Monaco. In comparison, almost three times as many American infants die (5.8 per 1,000 live births), despite massive per capita spending on health care for children (see Table 2). U.S. infant mortality ranks behind 55 other countries and is worse than the rate in Latvia, Slovakia or Cuba.

If vaccines save lives, why are American children dying at a faster rate, and…dying younger compared to children in 19 other wealthy countries—translating into a 57 percent greater risk of death before reaching adulthood?

To reiterate, the U.S. has the most aggressive vaccine schedule of developed countries (administering the most vaccines the earliest). If vaccines save lives, why are American children “dying at a faster rate, and…dying younger” compared to children in 19 other wealthy countries—translating into a “57 percent greater risk of death before reaching adulthood”? Japanese children, who receive the fewest vaccines—with no government mandates for vaccination—grow up to enjoy “long and vigorous” lives. International infant mortality and health statistics and their correlation to vaccination protocols show results that government and health officials are ignoring at our children’s great peril.

Among the 20 countries with the world’s best infant mortality outcomes, only three countries (Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore) automatically administer the HepB vaccine to all newborns—governed by the rationale that hepatitis B infection is highly endemic in these countries. Most of the other 17 top-ranking countries—including Japan—give the HepB vaccine at birth only if the mother is hepatitis B positive (Table 1). The U.S., with its disgraceful #56 infant mortality ranking, gives the HepB vaccine to all four million babies born annually despite a low incidence of hepatitis B.

Is the U.S. Sacrificing Children’s Health for Profits? 

Merck, the MMR vaccine’s manufacturer, is in court over MMR-related fraud. Whistleblowers allege the pharmaceutical giant rigged its efficacy data for the vaccine’s mumps component to ensure its continued market monopoly. The whistleblower evidence has given rise to two separate court cases. In addition, a CDC whistleblower has alleged the MMR vaccine increases autism risks in some children. Others have reported that the potential risk of permanent injuryfrom the MMR vaccine dwarfs the risks of getting measles.

Why do the FDA and CDC continue to endorse the problematic MMR vaccine despite Merck’s implication in fraud over the vaccine’s safety and efficacy? Why do U.S. legislators and government officials not demand a better alternative, as Japan did over two decades ago? Why are U.S. cities and states forcing Merck’s MMR vaccine on American children? Is the U.S. government protecting children, or Merck? Why are U.S. officials ignoring Japan’s exemplary model, which proves that the most measured vaccination program in the industrialized world and “first-class sanitation and levels of nutrition” can produce optimal child health outcomes that are leading the world?

A central tenet of a free and democratic society is the freedom to make informed decisions about medical interventions that carry serious potential risks. This includes the right to be apprised of benefits and risks—and the ability to say no. The Nuremberg Code of ethics established the necessity of informed consent without “any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion.” Forcing the MMR vaccine, or any other vaccine, on those who are uninformed or who do not consent represents nothing less than medical tyranny.


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Health

The Powerful Aspirin Alternative Your Doctor Never Told You About

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    This article was written by Sayer Ji, Founder of Greenmedinfo,com where it was originally posted. Published here with permission.

  • Reflect On:

    Given the newly released cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines recommending against daily low-dose aspirin use, natural, safe and effective alternatives are needed now more than ever.

In a previous article titled “The Evidence Against Aspirin and For Natural Alternatives,” we discussed the clear and present danger linked with the use of aspirin as well as several clinically proven alternatives that feature significant side benefits as opposed to aspirin’s many known side effects.

Since writing this article, even more evidence has accumulated indicating that aspirin’s risks outweigh its benefits. Most notably, a 15-year Dutch study published in the journal Heart found that among 27,939 healthy female health professionals (average age 54) randomized to receive either 100 mg of aspirin every day or a placebo the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding outweighed the benefit of the intervention for colorectal cancer and cardiovascular disease prevention in those under 65 years of age. Most recently, last month, new cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines submitted jointly by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Associated and published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, earlier this year, contradict decades of routine medical advice by explicitly advising against the daily use of low-dose or baby aspirin (75-100 mg) as a preventive health strategy against stroke or heart attack, in most cases.

Of course, aspirin is not alone as far as dangerous side effects are concerned. The entire non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) category of prescription and over-the-counter drugs is fraught with serious danger. Ibuprofen, for instance, is known to kill thousands each year, and is believed no less dangerous than Merck’s COX-2 inhibitor NSAID drug Vioxx which caused between 88,000-140,000 cases of serious heart disease in the five years it was on the market (1999-2004). Tylenol is so profoundly toxic to the liver that contributing writer Dr. Michael Murray recently asked in his Op-Ed piece, “Is it Time for the FDA to Remove Tylenol From the Market?” Just as serious are tylenol’s empathy destroying properties that were only identified four years ago.

Given the dire state of affairs associated with pharmaceutical intervention for chronic pain issues, what can folks do who don’t want to kill themselves along with their pain?

Pine Bark Extract (Pycnogenol) Puts Aspirin To Shame

When it comes to aspirin alternatives, one promising contender is pycnogenol, a powerful antioxidant extracted from French maritime pine bark, backed by over 40 years of research, the most compelling of which we have aggregated on GreenMedInfo.com here: Pycnogenol Research. Amazingly, you will find research indexed there showing it may have value for over 80 health conditions.

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In 1999, a remarkable study published in the journal Thrombotic Research found that pycnogenol was superior (i.e. effective at a lower dosage) to aspirin at inhibiting smoking-induced clotting, without the significant (and potentially life-threatening) increase in bleeding time associated with aspirin use. The abstract is well worth reading in its entirety:

“The effects of a bioflavonoid mixture, Pycnogenol, were assessed on platelet function in humans. Cigarette smoking increased heart rate and blood pressure. These increases were not influenced by oral consumption of Pycnogenol or Aspirin just before smoking. However, increased platelet reactivity yielding aggregation 2 hours after smoking was prevented by 500 mg Aspirin or 100 mg Pycnogenol in 22 German heavy smokers. In a group of 16 American smokers, blood pressure increased after smoking. It was unchanged after intake of 500 mg Aspirin or 125 mg Pycnogenol. In another group of 19 American smokers, increased platelet aggregation was more significantly reduced by 200 than either 150 mg or 100 mg Pycnogenol supplementation. This study showed that a single, high dose, 200 mg Pycnogenol, remained effective for over 6 days against smoking-induced platelet aggregation. Smoking increased platelet aggregation that was prevented after administration of 500 mg Aspirin and 125 mg Pycnogenol. Thus, smoking-induced enhanced platelet aggregation was inhibited by 500 mg Aspirin as well as by a lower range of 100-125 mg Pycnogenol. Aspirin significantly (p<0.001) increased bleeding time from 167 to 236 seconds while Pycnogenol did not. These observations suggest an advantageous risk-benefit ratio for Pycnogenol.” [emphasis added]

As emphasized in bold above, pycnogenol unlike aspirin did not significantly increase bleeding time. This has profound implications, as aspirin’s potent anti-platelet/’blood thinning’ properties can also cause life-threatening hemorrhagic events. If this study is accurate and pycnogenol is more effective at decreasing pathologic platelet aggregation at a lower dose without causing the increased bleeding linked to aspirin, then it is clearly a superior natural alternative worthy of far more attention by the conventional medical establishment and research community than it presently receives.

Not Just A Drug Alternative

Pycnogenol, like so many other natural interventions, has a wide range of side benefits that may confer significant advantage when it comes to reducing cardiovascular disease risk. For instance, pycnogenol is also:

  • Blood Pressure Reducing/Endothelial Function Enhancer: A number of clinical studies indicate that pycnogenol is therapeutic for those suffering with hypertension. Pycnogenol actually addresses a root cause of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in general, namely, endothelial dysfunction (the inability of the inner lining of the blood vessels to function correctly, e.g. fully dilate).[1] It has been shown to prevent damage in microcirculation in hypertensive patients, as well as reducing the dose of blood pressure drugs in hypertensive patients,[2]including hypertensive diabetic patients.[3] It has even been found to reduce intraocular hypertension found in glaucoma patients.[4]
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: There is a growing appreciation among the medical community that inflammation contributes to cardiovascular disease. Several markers, including C-reactive protein are now being fore grounded as being at least as important in determining cardiovascular disease risk as various blood lipids and/or their ratios, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Pycnogenol has been found to reduce C-reactive protein in hypertensive patients.[5] Pycnogenol has been found to rapidly modulate downward (inhibit) both Cox-1 and Cox-2 enzyme activity in human subjects, resulting in reduced expression of these inflammation-promoting enzymes within 30 minutes post-ingestion.[6] Another observed anti-inflammatory effect of pycnogenol is its ability to down-regulate the class of inflammatory enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).[7] Pycnogenol has also been found to significantly inhibit NF-kappaB activation, a key body-wide regulator of inflammation levels whose overexpression and/or dysregulation may result in pathologic cardiovascular manifestations.[8] Finally, pycnogenol has been found to reduce fibrinogen levels, a glycoprotein that contributes to the formation of blood clots; fibrinogen has been identified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.[9]
  • The Ideal Air Travel Companion: In a previous article entitled, “How Pine Bark Extract Could Save Air Travelers Lives,” we delve into a compelling body of research that indicates pycnogenol may be the perfect preventive remedy for preventing flight-associated thrombosis, edema, and concerns related to radiotoxicity and immune suppression.

Given the evidence for pycnogenol’s pleotrophic cardioprotective properties, we hope that pycnogenol will become more commonly recommended by health care practitioners as the medical paradigm continues to evolve past its reliance on synthetic chemicals, eventually (we hope) returning to natural, increasingly evidence-based interventions. However, it is important that we don’t fall prey to the one-disease-one-pill model, convincing ourselves to focus on popping pills – this time natural ones – as simply countermeasures or ‘insurance’ against the well-known harms associated with the standard American diet, lack of exercise and uncontrolled stress. The ultimate goal is to remove the need for pills altogether, focusing on preventing cardiovascular disease from the ground up and inside out, e.g. letting high quality food, clean water and air, and a healthy attitude nourish and sustain your health and well-being.


References

[1] Ximing Liu, Junping Wei, Fengsen Tan, Shengming Zhou, Gudrun Würthwein, Peter Rohdewald. Pycnogenol, French maritime pine bark extract, improves endothelial function of hypertensive patients. Life Sci. 2004 Jan 2;74(7):855-62. PMID: 14659974

[2] Gianni Belcaro, Maria Rosaria Cesarone, Andrea Ricci, Umberto Cornelli, Peter Rodhewald, Andrea Ledda, Andrea Di Renzo, Stefano Stuard, Marisa Cacchio, Giulia Vinciguerra, Giuseppe Gizzi, Luciano Pellegrini, Mark Dugall, Filiberto Fano. Control of edema in hypertensive subjects treated with calcium antagonist (nifedipine) or angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors with Pycnogenol. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2006 Oct;12(4):440-4. PMID: 17000888

[3] Sherma Zibadi, Peter J Rohdewald, Danna Park, Ronald Ross Watson. Reduction of cardiovascular risk factors in subjects with type 2 diabetes by Pycnogenol supplementation. Nutr Res. 2008 May;28(5):315-20. PMID: 19083426

[4] Robert D Steigerwalt, Belcaro Gianni, Morazzoni Paolo, Ezio Bombardelli, Carolina Burki, Frank Schönlau. Effects of Mirtogenol on ocular blood flow and intraocular hypertension in asymptomatic subjects. Mol Vis. 2008;14:1288-92. Epub 2008 Jul 10. PMID: 18618008

[5] Maria Rosaria Cesarone, Gianni Belcaro, Stefano Stuard, Frank Schönlau, Andrea Di Renzo, Maria Giovanna Grossi, Mark Dugall, Umberto Cornelli, Marisa Cacchio, Giuseppe Gizzi, Luciano Pellegrini. Kidney flow and function in hypertension: protective effects of pycnogenol in hypertensive participants–a controlled study. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol Ther. 2010 Mar;15(1):41-6. Epub 2010 Jan 22. PMID: 20097689

[6] Angelika Schäfer, Zuzana Chovanová, Jana Muchová, Katarína Sumegová, Anna Liptáková, Zdenka Duracková, Petra Högger. Inhibition of COX-1 and COX-2 activity by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of French maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). Biomed Pharmacother. 2006 Jan;60(1):5-9. Epub 2005 Oct 26. PMID: 16330178

[7] Tanja Grimm, Angelika Schäfer, Petra Högger. Antioxidant activity and inhibition of matrix metalloproteinases by metabolites of maritime pine bark extract (pycnogenol). Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2011 Jan;40(1):103-6. PMID: 14990359

[8] Tanja Grimm, Zuzana Chovanová, Jana Muchová, Katarína Sumegová, Anna Liptáková, Zdenka Duracková, Petra Högger. Inhibition of NF-kappaB activation and MMP-9 secretion by plasma of human volunteers after ingestion of maritime pine bark extract (Pycnogenol). J Inflamm (Lond). 2006;3:1. Epub 2006 Jan 27. PMID: 16441890

[9] G Belcaro, M R Cesarone, S Errichi, C Zulli, B M Errichi, G Vinciguerra, A Ledda, A Di Renzo, S Stuard, M Dugall, L Pellegrini, G Gizzi, E Ippolito, A Ricci, M Cacchio, G Cipollone, I Ruffini, F Fano, M Hosoi, P Rohdewald. Variations in C-reactive protein, plasma free radicals and fibrinogen values in patients with osteoarthritis treated with Pycnogenol. Redox Rep. 2008;13(6):271-6. PMID: 19017467

Originally published: 2017-07-23

Article updated: 2019-04-11


Link to original article


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Long-Term Consequences of Mumps Vaccination: Many Unanswered Questions

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This is Part II of a two-part series on mumps. Part I discussed how mumps vaccination and the flawed mumps component of Merck’s MMR vaccine are fostering dangerous mumps outbreaks in adolescents and young adults.

It has been about five decades since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Merck’s first mumps vaccine. The company began launching combination MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccines in the 1970s. Coincidentally—or not—an infertility crisis has been brewing over roughly the same time period, with dramatic declines in sperm counts and record-lowfertility levels. However, few investigators seem interested in assessing whether mumps outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations of teens and young adults could be having long-termeffects on fertility or other health indicators.

As described in Part I, childhood MMR vaccination has been an unmitigated disaster where mumps is concerned, deferring mumps infection to older ages and leaving adolescents and young adults vulnerable to serious reproductive complications. Public health reports show that the vast majority of mumps cases and outbreaks occur in youth who have been fully vaccinatedwith the prescribed two-dose MMR series, supporting a hypothesis of “waning immunity after the second dose.” FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials even admitthat mumps outbreaks in the post-vaccination era “typically involve young adults,” and that vaccination is failing to protect those who are college-age and above.

Myopically, many vaccine experts have called for a third MMR dose—or even “booster dosing throughout adulthood”—even though the FDA’s and CDC’s own research shows that MMR boosters in college-age youth barely last one year. As alleged in whistleblower lawsuits wending their way through the courts over the past eight years, Merck presented the FDA with a “falsely inflated efficacy rate” for the MMR’s mumps component, using animal antibodies and other fraudulent tactics to fool FDA—and the public—into believing that the vaccine was effective.

When infection arises after puberty, however, mumps is no laughing matter, presenting an increased risk of complications such as hearing loss, encephalitis and inflammation of the reproductive organs.

Mumps after puberty is no laughing matter

Around the time that the first mumps vaccine came on the market, the 1967 children’s classic The Great Brain humorously depicted mumps infection in childhood as a mere nuisance. The book’s young protagonist goes out of his way to intentionally infect himself with mumps so that he can beat his two brothers to the recovery finish line—and he experiences no adverse consequences other than his siblings’ annoyance.

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When infection arises after puberty, however, mumps is no laughing matter, presenting an increased risk of complications such as hearing loss, encephalitis and inflammation of the reproductive organs. About one in three postpubertal men with mumps develops orchitis(inflammation of the testes), which can damage sperm, affect testosterone production and contribute to subfertility and infertility. During a mumps outbreak in England in the mid-2000s, mumps orchitis accounted for 42% of all hospitalized mumps cases; the researchers attributed this outcome—which was the most common reason for hospitalization—to “the high attack rates in adolescents and young adults” that occurred “despite high coverage with two-dose MMR.” An analysis of a 2006 mumps outbreak in the U.S. reported that male patients were over three times more likely than female patients to experience complications, “due primarily to orchitis.”

An estimated 5% to 10% of postpubertal women will develop oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) following mumps infection. Oophoritis is associated with premature menopause and infertility, but mumps-related oophoritis has garnered little notice.

Mumps infections are often asymptomatic or produce nonspecific symptoms such as fever, while cases of orchitis may present with no other mumps symptoms. Nonetheless, public health officials advise clinicians that orchitis is an instant cue to test for mumps virus, and testing often reveals elevated mumps antibodies. In a case report of MMR failure, British clinicians isolated a novel genetic strain of mumps virus from the patient’s semen two weeks after the onset of orchitis and found mumps RNA in the semen 40 days later; they also noted “the appearance of anti-sperm antibodies,” with “potential long-term adverse effects on the patient’s fertility.”

In 2017, researchers who reviewed 185 studies conducted in Western nations found that sperm counts had plummeted by 50% to 60% between 1973 and 2011—an average decrease of 1.4% annually. Commenting on this work, one analyst estimated that 20% to 30% of young men in Europe and North America have sperm concentrations associated with a reduced ability to father a child. Given estimates that as much as 40% of reproductive problems have to do with the male partner, there is agreement on the importance of “finding and eliminating [the] hidden culprits in the environment” that most researchers believe are to blame.

An estimated 5% to 10% of postpubertal women will develop oophoritis (swelling of the ovaries) following mumps infection. Oophoritis is associated with premature menopause and infertility, but mumps-related oophoritis has garnered little notice.

MMR’s and MMRV’s potential to impair fertility never studied

Merck has not evaluated either of its two MMR vaccines—the MMR-II and the MMR-plus-varicella (MMRV) vaccine—for their potential to impair fertility. Whether such testing would unearth direct effects on fertility (as appears to be possible with HPV vaccination in women) is thus unknown. However, mumps vaccination undeniably increases reproductive-age individuals’ risk of mumps infection and, in the process, increases the risk of fertility-altering complications. These facts alone should be attracting far more attention.

Unfortunately, because clinicians already tend to underdiagnose mumps infection and underestimate mumps complications, it is likely that they are failing to recognize possible vaccine-induced reproductive health consequences of mumps infection in their adolescent and young adult patients. In one university outbreak, “most physicians…did not suspect mumps,” and even when they became aware of the outbreak, “diagnosing mumps was not always straightforward.” Moreover, although differentiating between vaccine strains of mumps virus and wild types could provide valuable information, few clinicians have the capacity or inclination to perform testing of this type. A Japanese study of cerebrospinal fluid and saliva from patients with mumps complications found vaccine strain in nearly all of the samples and noted the information’s importance in helping determine whether the complications were vaccine-related.

Those who have sought to understand mumps vaccines’ poor performance point to a mixture of explanatory factors. These include waning immunity, the high population density and close quarters encountered in settings such as college campuses, incomplete vaccine-induced immunity to wild virus as well as viral evolution such that “the vaccine triggers a less potent reaction against today’s mumps viruses than those of 50 years ago.” However, some also quietly admit that individuals with “mild vaccine-modified disease” could be perpetuating the chain of transmission. This latter point ought to be raising questions about the logic and wisdom of administering further rounds of MMR boosters during outbreaks while ignoring the problems created by the doses already given.

… some individuals respond poorly to mumps vaccination and vaccine-induced antibody levels correlate poorly with protection from mumps infection, irrespective of the number of additional doses of mumps-containing vaccine they receive.

Most scientists appear to be either resigned to ongoing mumps outbreaks in vaccinated populations or actually accept periodic outbreaks as the cost of doing business. Publications by FDA and CDC researchers reveal these agencies’ awareness that some individuals respond poorly to mumps vaccination and that vaccine-induced antibody levels correlate poorly with protection from mumps infection, “irrespective of the number of additional doses of mumps-containing vaccine they receive.” Considering the effects on fertility, the generally abysmal track record of mumps vaccination and Merck’s fraudulent claims about efficacy, it is hard to fathom medical and public health experts’ complacency about current mumps vaccines and vaccine policies.


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

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