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The lessons learned from the ongoing saga of thimerosal are significant to all who care about vaccine safety, want justice for the injured, and to prevent future harm. The government has said they corrected the thimerosal issue and want us to believe the case is closed. But has the public been fooled with swapping one heavy metal toxicity for another? While thimerosal is still in some flu shots and is especially harmful to pregnant women, infants and children, there are increasing amounts of aluminum exposures from vaccines as more shots are added to the schedule. Like early reports about mercury, now children’s toxic profiles show alarming amounts of aluminum. And the problems don’t end with heavy metals. There are other vaccine contaminants that can cause harm, like retroviruses, formaldehyde, and aborted human fetal tissue. In short, we are in desperate need of an agency that can protect our citizens, especially children, from vaccine injuries. How can the controversy and handling of thimerosal-containing vaccines instruct us as we move forward for real reform?

Thimerosal is the infamous mercury-containing preservative in use, to this day, in some vaccines and also in dozens of other pharmaceutical products approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1-3 Public health agencies, government regulators and medical trade groups have repeatedly declared thimerosal to be safe,4,5 but the published peer-reviewed science argues that nothing could be further from the truth. For anyone who bothers to investigate thimerosal’s appalling record, there is a vast, still accumulating and compelling body of research that contradicts the public health establishment’s deceptive safety claims.

Thimerosal is almost 50 percent ethylmercury by weight. Ethylmercury is an organic mercury compound with toxicity mechanisms similar to methylmercury6 (the hazardous type of mercury in seafood). The danger posed by both types of mercury was evident in earlier eras when fungicides containing either ethyl- or methylmercury poisoned farmers, sometimes on a large scale, from the 1950s through the 1970s.7,8 Of the two compounds, the ethylmercury in vaccines is far more toxic to and persistent in the brain, where it has a propensity to accumulate as inorganic mercury,9,10 with an estimated half-life of as long as twenty-seven years.11

HISTORY OF THIMEROSAL

Before the invention of modern antibiotics and antiseptics, physicians experimented with mercury-containing compounds to try to stave off microbial pathogens. Thimerosal was born of those efforts. Dr. Morris Kharasch, a university chemist and Eli Lilly fellow, developed thimerosal and filed for a patent in June, 1929, describing thimerosal as an “alkyl mercuric sulfur compound” with antibacterial properties. Eli Lilly and Company registered thimerosal under the trade name Merthiolate later that year.

Eli Lilly researchers reported in 1931 that animals seemed to tolerate high doses of thimerosal. However, many of those animals died of evident mercury poisoning just days after the study ended. Also noteworthy is the fact that in early animal toxicity studies and many later research efforts, researchers did not assess socialization behaviors or perform cognition tests. In other words, they did not consider the possibility of mercury-induced brain damage.

During this same time period, the Eli Lilly researchers reported on the first injections of thimerosal into humans. The unlucky recipients of large doses of Merthiolate were twenty-two patients hospitalized during a 1929 epidemic of meningococcal meningitis in Indianapolis. The thimerosal had no apparent therapeutic benefit, and all twenty-two patients died—seven of them within one day of thimerosal administration. The researchers nevertheless described the experiment as a success, and a published paper stated that “these large doses did not produce any anaphylactoid or shock symptoms” (neither of which is associated with toxic mercury exposure). However, the clinician who treated the meningitis patients apparently was not convinced of thimerosal’s efficacy, stating, “Beneficial effects of the drug were not definitely proven.” Moreover, any short-term neurological or other deleterious effects of the thimerosal would likely have been masked by or attributed to the patients’ meningitis infections.

For decades, Eli Lilly promoted its confident version of the Indianapolis results as evidence of thimerosal’s safety, paving the way for thimerosal’s inclusion in various antiseptic products, including nasal sprays, eyewashes, vaginal spermicides and diaper rash treatments. This escalation of thimerosal use in consumer products occurred despite numerous studies from the 1930s showing that thimerosal was not, in fact, “highly germicidal” and actually was more effective at destroying human cells than killing pathogens. Thimerosal never measured up to its supposed raison d’être of safely preventing microbial contamination, and studies continued to chalk up clear and unequivocal evidence that thimerosal was deadly to human cells.

THIMEROSAL IN VACCINES

Nonetheless, starting in the 1930s, pharmaceutical companies began to use thimerosal in multidose vials of vaccine to extend shelf life and lessen the risk of bacterial and fungal contamination that arises when several doses are drawn from the same vial. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines allow health providers to administer extra doses from multidose vials up until the printed expiration date “if the vial has been stored correctly and the vaccine is not visibly contaminated.”12 (The CDC does not say what to do about contamination that may not be “visible.”)

Through the 1970s and 1980s, children in the U.S. generally received eight injections of three types of vaccines—oral polio, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccine—in their first eighteen months. The DTP vaccine contained fifty micrograms of thimerosal per shot, translating into one hundred micrograms of mercury exposure by eighteen months. In 1986, after more and more people began suing vaccine manufacturers for serious vaccine injuries primarily related to the DTP vaccine, Congress took the unprecedented step of granting vaccine manufacturers full immunity from lawsuits. The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 established a compensation program “as an alternative remedy to judicial action for specified vaccine-related injuries.”13 By making it impossible for vaccine-injured plaintiffs to sue pharmaceutical companies, the result—whether intended or unintended—was to eliminate any financial incentive to make vaccine safety a priority.

Beginning in 1989, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) began steadily increasing the types and total number of vaccines required for school attendance, including thimerosal-containing vaccines. By 1999, the expanded vaccine schedule called for children to receive nineteen vaccine injections by age two, eleven of which contained thimerosal. Children born in the 1990s could be injected, therefore, with up to 237.5 micrograms of mercury by their second birthday, and as much as 62.5 micrograms at a single doctor’s visit.

In my book, Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak,14 I quote school nurse Patti White, who noticed, early on, the vaccine-induced mercury overload in young children. In 1999, White testified before Congress about the thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine administered to newborns:

The elementary grades are overwhelmed with children who have symptoms of neurological and/or immune system damage: epilepsy, seizure disorders, various kinds of palsies, autism, mental retardation, learning disabilities, juvenile-onset diabetes, asthma, vision/hearing loss, and a multitude of new conduct/behavior disorders. We [school nurses] have come to believe the hepatitis B vaccine is an assault on a newborn’s developing neurological and immune system. Vaccines are supposed to be making us healthier. However, in twenty-five years of nursing I have never seen so many damaged, sick kids. Something very, very wrong is happening to our children.

School nurses were not the only ones to call attention to the mounting evidence that thimerosal-containing vaccines were having neurotoxic effects. In response to pressure from Congress and the public, the FDA conducted a review in the late 1990s that found that the amount of mercury in the childhood vaccine schedule surpassed some federal safety guidelines. Accordingly, the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a lukewarm statement in 1999 about thimerosal’s potential risks. The statement’s authors called for the phase-out of thimerosal-containing vaccines “as expeditiously as possible,“ while still avowing that “the large risks of not vaccinating children far outweigh the unknown and probably much smaller risk, if any, of cumulative exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines over the first 6 months of life.”15

THE SIMPSONWOOD CABAL

A year later (June 7-8, 2000), the CDC convened a secret scientific review panel of over fifty experts who began backpedaling from the AAP-USPHS pronouncement.16 The group that met at the Simpsonwood Retreat Center near Atlanta included high-ranking CDC and FDA representatives, state and international public health officials, vaccine company representatives and others. At the outset, the meeting’s chair, immunologist Richard Johnston, expressed regret that the group had not met to consider the data sooner, “in advance of…the public health decisions [to phase out thimerosal] that were made last summer.” Further betraying his preconceptions, Johnston stated that there was “no evidence of a problem, only a theoretical concern that young infants’ developing brains were being exposed to an organomercurial.”

The group then heard a presentation by Thomas Verstraeten, a research fellow at CDC who subsequently went on to a decade-long career at GlaxoSmithKline. Verstraeten had been working up a study using data from the Vaccine Safety Datalink (established by the CDC in 1990 to study rare and serious vaccine adverse events), scrutinizing data from roughly one hundred and ten thousand children born between 1992 and 1997 and enrolled at U.S. health maintenance organizations. The study sought to assess the relationship between thimerosal exposure (at one, two, three and six months of age) and neurological damage. After the initial findings showed a possible causal link, Verstraeten reworked the study design and analyses several times prior to Simpsonwood.

Despite these apparent attempts to make the association “go away,” Verstraeten was obligated to present the troublesome finding of linear and statistically significant dose-related relationships between thimerosal exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders to the group assembled at Simpsonwood.

Although differing viewpoints emerged, many of the Simpsonwood attendees were less than persuaded by Verstraeten’s results. Some, such as John Clements of the World Health Organization’s Expanded Program on Immunization, focused more on the public relations implications. Clements stated:

I hear the majority of the consultants say…that they are not convinced there is a causality direct link between Thimerosal and various neurological outcomes. …The research results have to be handled, and even if this committee decides that there is no association…through freedom of information that will be taken by others and will be used in other ways beyond the control of this group. […] My mandate…is to make sure…that 100,000,000 are immunized with DTP, Hepatitis B and if possible Hib, this year, next year and for many years to come, and that will have to be with Thimerosal-containing vaccines unless a miracle occurs and an alternative is found quickly and is tried and found to be safe. […] How will it be presented to a public and a media that is hungry for selecting the information they want to use for whatever means they have in store for them? …I wonder how on earth you are going to handle it from here.

Despite the clear association between thimerosal exposure and neurodevelopmental disorders demonstrated by the Verstraeten study, many of the industry and public health scientists present tried to minimize the implications by voting them away. When polled at the end of the day’s discussion, most of them voted to rate the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders as “weak.” In his summary comments as meeting rapporteur, Paul Stehr-Green described Verstraeten’s results as being only weakly indicative of a safety signal—defined as “information on a new or known adverse event that may be caused by a medicine.”17 While acknowledging that the signal “deserved further investigation and…raised some perhaps disquieting possibilities,” Stehr-Green concluded that “there was not anything close to sufficient evidence to support a finding of a causal relationship.”

Pediatrician William Weil observed that “the number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before.”

Attendee William Weil (a pediatrician representing the AAP) noted that even accepting Stehr-Green’s assertion that Verstraeten hadn’t proven a link to neurodevelopmental disorders, it was alarming that he hadn’t disproven it, and there was insufficient evidence, he pointed out, to reject a possible causal relationship. He stated that “the possibility that the associations could be causal has major significance for public and professional acceptance of thimerosal-containing vaccines.” Weil also observed that “the number of kids getting help in special education is growing nationally and state by state at a rate we have not seen before.” Another of his observations was that thimerosal in vaccines represented “repeated acute exposures” and that “the earlier you work with the central nervous system, the more likely you are to run into a sensitive period for one of these [neurodevelopmental] effects.” Finally, Weil pointed out the limitations of epidemiological studies, calling for further indepth animal and developmental neurotoxicity studies and stating: “Some of the really gutsy questions from a person who is very concerned about neurodevelopment cannot be answered out of this.” At the same time, Weil cautioned others not to overly minimize or “play with” the VSD data. Weil was the only reviewer present to rate the association between thimerosal and the neurodevelopmental outcomes as strong, giving it a four on a scale of one to six (where one was weakest).

The groupthink on display at Simpsonwood primarily illustrates that most public health and medical experts were itching to exonerate thimerosal, regardless of the science, and continue with business as usual. Following the Simpsonwood meeting, CDC moved aggressively to hastily gin up five poorly designed epidemiological studies18-22 to disprove the link between thimerosal and neurodevelopmental disorders. Written by industry scientists, the published studies focused solely on one injury (autism), and four out of the five were done on foreign populations with minimal exposure to thimerosal. Three of the five studies were published in a compromised journal, Pediatrics, which receives a significant portion of its revenue from vaccine-makers. In 2002, the AAP dutifully “retired” its 1999 joint statement on thimerosal.23 In January 2013, the AAP went even further in several articles in Pediatrics, going on record in favor of exempting thimerosal from an international treaty on the elimination of avoidable mercury exposures.24

THE FALLACY OF TRACE AMOUNTS

Even when vaccines do not contain thimerosal as a preservative, manufacturers use it in some single-dose and multidose vaccines to impede bacterial growth during the manufacturing process.5 The CDC states that “when thimerosal is used this way, it is removed later in the process” and only “trace amounts” remain (no more than one microgram per dose).25

The notion that “trace amounts” of a substance as highly toxic as mercury might be benign is exceedingly misleading. In a seminal 2014 publication in the prestigious journal Lancet Neurology, toxicology experts Philippe Grandjean and Philip Landrigan observed that the developing human brain is uniquely vulnerable to mercury and other neurotoxins, often “at much lower exposure levels than had previously been thought to be safe.”26

Discussing methylmercury, the Lancet authors also noted that developmental neurotoxicity occurs at far lower exposure levels than “the concentrations that affect adult brain function.” Other investigators have argued that there may be no meaningful safety threshold for methylmercury.27 Given the body of research indicating that ethylmercury is more toxic than methylmercury and that both have comparable mechanisms of toxicity, it stands to reason that warnings about the risks of lower exposure levels would also apply to ethylmercury.

A 2012 Italian study showed that ethylmercury-containing thimerosal diminished the viability of human cells in the lab at a concentration one-fiftieth that of methylmercury.28Although thimerosal’s apologists like to state that ethylmercury disappears from the bloodstream more quickly than methylmercury, this is no evidence that it has cleared the body. Ethylmercury migrates more rapidly to and then lingers in the organs.29

A study that analyzed hair samples from babies’ first haircuts found that children with autism who had received thimerosal-preserved vaccines excreted lower levels of mercury into their hair as infants compared with normal, same-aged children also receiving these vaccines, suggesting that the mercury had lodged in the autistic children’s brains and was hindering neurological development.30

OPEN SEASON ON PREGNANT WOMEN

Thimerosal passes more easily from a mother’s bloodstream through the placenta than does methylmercury.31 Fetal cord blood mercury levels are typically about double the mother’s mercury blood levels.32 This is cause for concern for developing babies in light of the CDC’s 2004 recommendation that all pregnant women in any trimester get flu shots. By 2012–2013, uptake of flu shots during pregnancy had steadily increased to approximately 50 percent.33 Manufacturers still preserve millions of flu shots with massive bolus doses of thimerosal (about thirty-six million flu shots containing twenty-five micrograms of mercury in the 2017-2018 flu season),34 meaning that children born since 2004 have been increasingly likely to be exposed to thimerosal in utero.

A 2017 CDC study reviewing data from the 2010–11 and 2011–2012 flu seasons linked spontaneous abortions to flu vaccines, finding that women vaccinated with the inactivated influenza vaccine had 3.7-fold greater odds of spontaneous abortion within twenty-three days than women not receiving the vaccine.35 For women who received the H1N1 vaccine in both seasons covered in the study, the odds of spontaneous abortion in the month after receiving a flu vaccine were 7.7 times greater. The vast majority of flu vaccines available during the seasons studied were multidose formulations containing twenty-five micrograms of mercury.

THIMEROSAL WORLDWIDE

While the thimerosal debate has carried on in the United States, children around the world have never stopped receiving thimerosal-containing vaccines. The mindset revealed by Simpsonwood attendee John Clements of the WHO—who described a “mandate” to vaccinate one hundred million children “this year, next year and for many years to come” with thimerosal-containing vaccines—has not changed. In fact, the medical community continues to argue that the benefits of keeping thimerosal in vaccines outweigh the risks and that thimerosal is “critical” for low-resource countries that rely on multidose vials as the most affordable option.36 One of the AAP’s former presidents has asserted that, for the good of the global community, the Academy’s pro-thimerosal position is a “no-brainer.”37 The WHO’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety states that “no additional studies of the safety of [thimerosal] in vaccines are warranted.”38

The global health authorities making cavalier and single-minded pronouncements on “life-saving vaccines” should consider the bigger health picture. For example, exposure to toxic metals such as mercury can contribute to malnutrition and, conversely, malnutrition may also increase susceptibility to mercury toxicity.39,40 Mercury is also a potent immunosuppressant, which has implications in low-resource settings where children already face numerous other health challenges and environmental pollutants.41

THE TIME IS NOW

The medical establishment’s defense of thimerosal’s safety has proven highly successful in tamping down deeper investigation into thimerosal and the vaccine industry. Perhaps because major pharmaceutical companies (the makers of vaccines) are among the biggest advertisers in the U.S., the mainstream press has accepted these government orthodoxies and ignored the ample evidence showing that thimerosal is toxic. In fact, the thimerosal saga illustrates the aggressive, knee-jerk rejection by the press, the medical community and allied financial interests of any scientific information suggesting that established medical practices are harming public health. Nevertheless, continuing to wait for more research is not a reasonable public policy option. Thimerosal is dangerous to human health and should immediately be removed from all vaccines (as well as other pharmaceutical and cosmetic products), both in the U.S. and globally.

 

REFERENCES
1. Geier DA, Sykes LK, Geier MR. A review of thimerosal (Merthiolate) and its ethylmercury breakdown product: specific historical considerations regarding safety and effectiveness. J Toxicol Environ Health B 2007;10:575-596.
2. Food and Drug Administration. “Mercury in drug and biologic products.” https://worldmercuryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/MercuryinDrugsandBiologicsFDAupdated_2009.pdf.
3. World Mercury Project. “Mercury in medicine.” https://worldmercuryproject.org/mercury-facts/mercury-in-medicine/.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Thimerosal in vaccines.” https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/index.html.
5. Food and Drug Administration. “Thimerosal and vaccines.” Last updated Jan. 5, 2018. https://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228.
6. Risher JF, Tucker P. Alkyl mercury-induced toxicity: multiple mechanisms of action. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 2017;240:105-149.
7. Al-Tikriti K, Al-Mufti AW. An outbreak of organomercury poisoning among Iraqi farmers. Bull World Health Organ 1976;53(Suppl):15-21.
8. Hilmy MI, Rahim SA, Abbas AH. Normal and lethal mercury levels in human beings. Toxicol 1976;6:155-159.
9. Burbacher TM, Shen DD, Liberato N, Grant KS, Cernichiari E, Clarkson T. Comparison of blood and brain mercury levels in infant monkeys exposed to methymercury or vaccines containing thimerosal. Environ Health Perspect 2005;113(8):1015-1021.
10. Dórea JG. Integrating experimental (in vitro and in vivo) neurotoxicity studies of low-dose thimerosal relevant to vaccines. Neurochem Res 2011;36(6):927-938.
11. Rooney JP. The retention time of inorganic mercury in the brain—a systematic review of the evidence. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 2014;274(3):425-435.
12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General recommendations on immunization: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 2011;60(2).
13. National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986. https://www.congress.gov/bill/99th-congress/house-bill/5546.
14. Kennedy, RF Jr. Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing; 2015.
15. Joint statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). Pediatrics 1999;104(3).
16. Scientific review of Vaccine Safety Datalink information. Simpsonwood Retreat Center, Norcross, GA; June 7-8, 2000. Available at: https://worldmercuryproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/The-Simpsonwood-Documents.pdf.
17. European Medicines Agency. “Signal management.” http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/regulation/general/general_content_000587.jsp&mid=WC0b01ac0580727d1b.
18. Verstraeten T, Davis RL, DeStefano F et al. Safety of thimerosal-containing vaccines: a two-phased study of computerized health maintenance organization databases. Pediatrics 2003;112:1039-1048.
19. Stehr-Green P, Tull P, Stellfeld M, Mortenson PB, Simpson D. Autism and thimerosal-containing vaccines: lack of consistent evidence for an association. Am J Prev Med2003;25:101-106.
20. Hviid A, Stellfeld M, Wohlfahrt J, Melbye M. Association between thimerosal-containing vaccine and autism. JAMA 2003;290:1763-1766.
21. Madsen KM, Lauritsen MB, Pedersen CB et al. Thimerosal and the occurrence of autism: negative ecological evidence from Danish population-based data. Pediatrics2003;112:604-606.
22. Andrews N, Miller E, Grant A, Stowe J, Osborne V, Taylor B. Thimerosal exposure in infants and developmental disorders: a retrospective cohort study in the United Kingdom does not support a causal association. Pediatrics 2004;114:584-591.
23. Orenstein WA, Paulson JA, Brady MT, Cooper LZ, Seib K. Global vaccination recommendations and thimerosal. Pediatrics 2013;131(1).
24. Cooper LZ, Katz SL. Ban on thimerosal in draft treaty on mercury: why the AAP’s position in 2012 is so important. Pediatrics 2013;131(1).
25. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Understanding thimerosal, mercury, and vaccine safety.” Last reviewed Feb. 2013. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-thimerosal-color-office.pdf.
26. Grandjean P, Landrigan PJ. Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. Lancet Neurol 2014;13: 330-338.
27. Rice DC. The U.S. EPA reference dose for methylmercury: sources of uncertainty. Environ Res 2004;95:406-413.
28. Guzzi G, Pigatto PD, Spadari F, La Porta CA. Effect of thimerosal, methylmercury, and mercuric chloride in Jurkat T Cell Line. Interdiscip Toxicol 2012;5(3):159-161.
29. Harry GJ, Harris MW, Burka LT. Mercury concentrations in brain and kidney following ethylmercury, methylmercury, and Thimerosal administration to neonatal mice. Toxicol Lett 2004;154(3):183-189.
30. Holmes AS, Blaxill MF, Haley BE. Reduced levels of mercury in first baby haircuts of autistic children. Int J Toxicol 2003;22(4):277-285.
31. Leonard A, Jacquet P, Lauwerys RR. Mutagenicity and teratogenicity of mercury compounds. Mutat Res 1983;114(1):1-18.
32. Stern AH, Smith AE. An assessment of the cord blood: maternal blood methylmercury ratio: implications for risk assessment. Environ Health Perspect 2003;111(12):1465-1470.
33. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Influenza vaccination coverage among pregnant women—United States, 2012-13 influenza season. MMWR 2013;62(38):787-792.
34. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonal influenza vaccine supply for the U.S. 2017-2018 influenza season. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaxsupply.htm.
35. Donahue JG, Kieke BA, King JP, et al. Association of spontaneous abortion with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine containing H1N1pdm09 in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Vaccine2017;35(40):5314-5322.
36. Sifferlin A. Experts argue to keep thimerosal in some vaccines. TIME, Dec. 27, 2012.
37. Tavernise S. Vaccine rule is said to hurt health efforts. The New York Times, Dec. 17, 2012.
38. World Health Organization. “Thiomersal in vaccines.” http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/committee/topics/thiomersal/Jun_2012/en/.
39. Anetor GO. Waste dumps in local communities in developing countries and hidden danger to health. Perspect Public Health 2016;136(4):245-251.
40. Chakrabarti SK, Bai C. Effects of protein-deficient nutrition during rat pregnancy and development on developmental hindlimb crossing due to methylmercury intoxication. Arch Toxicol 2000;74(4-5):196-202.
41. Tsai MS, Chen MH, Lin CC, et al. Children’s environmental health based on birth cohort studies of Asia. Sci Total Environ 2017;609:396-409.

This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2018.

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Could corporate action help boost ‘flexitarianism’?

Earlier this week, when I wrote about Ikea’s impressive new sustainability push, I noted that it was cool to see a commitment to more plant-centric eating among the more traditional clean energy, efficiency and waste goals we are used to from corporate responsibility efforts.

What’s interesting, however, is that Ikea are not alone. From Sonic’s half-beef, half-mushroom burger to White Castle’s Impossible Slider, a growing number of companies appear to be recognizing the goal of reducing meat consumption as being just another logical action point in a quest for more sustainable practices.

A few more examples that recently caught my eye:

Alongside promoting a ‘climate positive’ burger—complete with ambitious offsets that stretch beyond ‘net zero’—Fast Company reports that Swedish burger chain Max Burger is also committed to growing its plant-based food options> In fact, sales have increased 900% in the past two years. (The chain is also on track to ensure that every other meal will be made from something other than beef by 2022.)

The Guardian reports that UK supermarket Sainsbury’s is also looking to reach beyond the committed vegans, by selling realistic meat analogs (specifically burgers and ground ‘beef’ from Danish supplier Naturli) in the chiller right alongside actual animal-based meats. While it may seem like a small step, I do think there’s something to be said about not separating plant-based options into their own, specialist niche—they are, after all, a suitable and more healthy option for all of us consumers, whether or not we are ready to go 100% vegan.

And finally, KFC’s UK arm is, apparently, also experimenting with a plant-based version of its famous fried chicken recipe. No word about if or when it’s likely to come to the States though. Also no word on what this mystery ‘chicken’ will be made of.

None of these initiatives are, by themselves, going to change the world. But if cutting out meat and dairy really is the single biggest thing we can do for a more sustainable planet, then we need as many people as possible starting down that path. Call me a cynic, but I think we have a lot more hope—at least initially—of convincing the general public to eat less meat and dairy, than we do of an overnight switch to living 100% vegan. Meeting people where they are—especially in fast food eateries with highly processed meat—seems like a winning scenario for beginning to cut back on society’s excessive consumption of animal products.

Source Article from https://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/could-corporate-action-help-boost-flexitarianism.html

Nutritionists find a way to boost the nutritional profile of maize tortillas naturally


Image: Nutritionists find a way to boost the nutritional profile of maize tortillas naturally

(Natural News)
Tortillas are an important food for Mexicans and their neighbors, but maize lacks vital proteins. Looking for natural ways of fortifying the grain, researchers chose flour made from nontoxic Jatropha curcas (J. curcas) plants. The resulting fortified maize tortillas looked, felt, and tasted like ordinary ones while also packing more proteins.

Maize is rich in calories, but it lacks lysine and trytophan. It also lacks micronutrients like iron, zinc, and various important vitamins.

The combination of poverty and burgeoning population forced many Mexicans to adopt less healthy diets that rely on tortillas. To fix this, maize dough was fortified with flours from more nutritious crops.

Jatropha curcas is a widespread plant that originated in Central America. Its seeds are rich in protein and oil that are used for biofuels. (Related: Adding ginger powder to wheat pasta found to boost nutrition.)

The production process leaves behind cake residues that retain more than half of its protein. The cake from the nontoxic ecotype is safe for use by humans and is easily digested.

Furthermore, J. curcas meal contains all the essential amino acids except for lysine. Its amino acid levels are close to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/ World Health Organization (WHO) requirements.

Earlier studies have looked at soybean and amaranth flours to fortify maize flour and improve the protein content and quality of tortillas. But there are no earlier studies about the use of J. curcas flour in fortified foods.

Jatropha curcas flour improves most characteristics of maize flour

The researchers acquired the seeds of nontoxic Jatropha curcas plants, milled them into flour, and removed the oil through a defattening process. The maize flour was a commercial brand. The two flours were mixed with J. curcas flour constituting five percent, 10 percent, 15 percent, or 20 percent of the total amount. Pure maize flour was set aside as a control.

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The research team measured the protein, ash, moisture, and fiber in all flours and tortillas. The team also analyzed the dough textures and the quality, characteristics, color, and taste of the tortillas.

They reported that maize flour contained more moisture than either J. curcas flours. The former also had far fewer proteins, especially when compared to defatted J. curcas flour.

Fortified tortillas have slightly more lipids than pure maize ones, looked smoother, and lasted longer. Defatted J. curcas meal contained high levels of ash rich in minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and iron.

The dough made from the different flour mixtures showed altered properties. Adding J. curcas flour made the dough softer, less sticky, and stretchier.

The higher protein levels may have increased moisture content. However, the levels are acceptable and in the same range as tortillas fortified with white beans in earlier studies.

Adding J. curcas flour makes tortillas healthier without changing taste, looks

The mixture with 20 percent J. curcas flour showed the best protein increase. It matched mixtures with four percent soybean or five-20 percent whole chia seeds. Increases in ash and minerals are comparable to 20 percent amaranth flour.

Fiber went down with defatted J. curcas. However, it still matched mixtures with four percent soybean flour. The researchers concluded that the best percentage for boosting the nutritional value of tortillas is 20 percent.

Tortillas made from flour with 15 percent J. curcas flour are softer, easier to roll, inflate less, and break more often. While amaranth and bean flour-fortified tortillas have darker colors, J. curcas flour tortillas are only slightly more yellow.

People who inspected and tasted the tortillas could barely tell the difference between fortified ones and pure maize ones. They looked at the color and smell and didn’t notice any change in taste.

In sum, fortifying maize flour with nontoxic Jatropha curcas flour made the tortillas much healthier while barely affecting the food’s appearance or taste.

Sources include:

Science.news

TAndFOnline.com

PDFs.SemanticScholar.org [PDF]

AgricultureJournals.cz [PDF]

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Source Article from http://www.naturalnews.com/2018-06-12-nutritionists-find-a-way-to-boost-the-nutritional-profile-of-maize-tortillas-naturally.html

Researchers create memory prosthesis that can boost recall in humans by around 40 percent


Image: Researchers create memory prosthesis that can boost recall in humans by around 40 percent

(Natural News)
The human brain holds many mysteries, among which are the specifics of how exactly memories work. There are a lot of different theories as to how the brain operates as far as memory as a function is concerned, but now researchers have finally made some real progress towards a better understanding of it.

To be more specific, a group of scientists from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California (USC) have managed to develop a new kind of “prosthetic system” which is said to use an individual’s memory patterns to tap into the brain’s natural ability to encode and recall memory.

The researchers shared the details of their method in a paper titled, “Developing a hippocampal neural prosthetic to facilitate human memory encoding and recall,” which was published recently in the Journal of Neural Engineering. Their study looked at the short-term memory of the participants, which ended up showing significant improvement – about 35 to 37 percent – over the baseline measurements by the end of all tests and experiments.

According to Dr. Robert Hampson, a professor at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the lead author of the study, the method they used to artificially boost the short-term memory performance of study participants is something that has never been done before. “This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better,” he explained, “an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss.” (Related: Want to improve your memory or ability to concentrate? Lutein in avocados shown to boost eye and brain health.)

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The study focused on improving episodic memory in the participants, and it was chosen because it’s currently the most common type of memory loss in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, head injury, and stroke. Episodic memory is defined as entirely new information that is new and useful for short periods of time to individuals, such as where you left your keys after getting home from work. In contrast, reference memory is information that gets stored in your brain for long periods of time, like most of the things you learned in school while you were growing up.

Researching memory

The researchers performed a couple of different tests on their test subjects, epilepsy patients at Wake Forest Baptist, to get the results of their study. First, the participants performed a simple computerized memory task and their neural patterns or “codes” were recorded. Afterward, a second test was conducted, where the participants were shown a “highly distinctive photographic image” that was followed by a short delay.

The participants were then asked to identify the photo out of a selection of four or five. While all of this was going on, the researchers were keeping tabs on the neural codes of the participants, and later used these same codes on the patients themselves. The researchers found that stimulating the participants with the correct-answer codes – gathered during the times that the participants got the correct answers in earlier tests – helped them achieve better results by almost 40 percent.

Hampson noted that their results are clear evidence that it’s possible to “tap into a patient’s own memory content, reinforce it and feed it back to the patient.” He also added that even while a person’s memory is impaired, it’s possible to identify the neural patterns that signify correct memory formation, and from this, eliminate all the incorrect patterns.

“To date we’ve been trying to determine whether we can improve the memory skill people still have,” Hampson remarked. “In the future, we hope to be able to help people hold onto specific memories, such as where they live or what their grandkids look like, when their overall memory begins to fail.”

There’s no telling when exactly that kind of thing will be possible, but it’s surely something to look forward to.

Read more about how the human mind works in Brain.news.

Sources include:

IOPScience.IOP.org

ScienceDaily.com

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Source Article from http://www.naturalnews.com/2018-05-09-researchers-create-memory-prosthesis-that-can-boost-recall-in-humans-by-around-40-percent.html

Trump planning to Boost Exports of Lethal Drones to More U.S. Allies at Israel’s Expense

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Source Article from https://theuglytruth.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/trump-planning-to-boost-exports-of-lethal-drones-to-more-u-s-allies-at-israels-expense/

Benefits of Beets: How Can They Boost Your Health?

Dr Group–When it comes to healthy foods, it’s hard to beat beets. The nutrition facts for beets don’t lie. They are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are great for your health—antioxidants and fiber just to name two. Beets support heart health, liver detoxification, brain health, and much more. If it’s been a while since you tried some fresh beets or energy-boosting beet juice, then it’s time to get back in the habit of enjoying the many health benefits of this colorful vegetable.

What Are Beets?

Beets come from the roots of beetroot plants (Beta vulgaris). All parts of the plant are edible, and many people enjoy young beet greens in salads. Even though most Americans automatically think of the richly colored red beet, there are countless other varieties including sugar beets, golden beets, and many others, each with a unique culinary profile.

What Vitamins & Minerals Do Beets Have?

Whatever kind of beet you choose, it will be packed full of health-promoting compounds and phytonutrients. Beets are rich in immune system boosting vitamins like vitamin C and have plenty of essential minerals like potassium, manganese, and iron. Beets are also a great source of lysine, an essential amino acid that your body can’t produce on its own. Beets support overall wellness, too. They provide a delicious serving of fiber and antioxidants with every bite.

Here is the nutritional breakdown for one cup of raw beets according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Nutrient Database.[1]

The Top Health Benefits of Beets

As one of the oldest known vegetables, humans have used beets for a variety of health concerns since ancient times. While they remain a staple in some diets, beets’ health benefits are not as well known as they once were. However, modern research suggests that there are incredible uses for beets. Here are some of the most recent, verifiable ways beets can support your health.

Great Source of Antioxidants

Beets, like many other fruits and veggies, are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help promote good health for many of your organs, including your heart, by protecting against free radical damage at a cellular level. Free radicals are at the root of dozens of health concerns, including some types of cancer.[2] Frequently eating foods that are rich in antioxidants, like beets, will give you the antioxidants your body needs to promote sustained wellness. They can even act as anti-inflammatories to help protect against some forms of light inflammation.[3]

Supports Cardiovascular Health

Beets contain naturally occurring nitrates. These compounds convert into nitric oxide inside your blood and can help promote cardiovascular health. Nitric oxide can widen blood vessels, which increases oxygen efficiency to the heart and other vital organs. Some of these effects are almost immediate. Drinking beet juice, for example, seems to lower blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, within 24 hours of consumption.[4]

Beets also contain fiber and betaine, both of which support a healthy heart. Fiber helps promote healthy cholesterol levels, while betaine can reduce homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that has been shown to contribute to heart disease.[5,6]

Boosts Exercise & Performance

Those same nitrates that are good for your heart also benefit your endurance, stamina, and muscle health. As nitrates increase blood flow, it can help athletes improve their performance and increase their stamina, giving them longer lasting energy for competition day.[78] Similarly, beets can help athletes with muscle strength and recovery, again due in part to increased blood flow and oxygen efficiency.[9]

Encourages Brain Health

Beets promote a healthy mind and mood. While those nitrates are stimulating blood flow to your heart and lungs, your brain gets more blood, too. This can help your mind feel more focused and clear.[10] Likewise, fresh beets contain brain-supporting compounds, including antioxidants, magnesium, vitamin C, and betaine. One animal study also found that mice experienced reduced stress and anxiety when given beetroot leaf extracts.[11]

Promotes Strong Bones

Beets are filled with nutrients that help build strong, healthy bones. These nutrients include bone supporting minerals like copper, folate, and magnesium. Beets also contain silica, a mineral that promotes healthy levels of calcium absorption in your body.[12]

Stimulates Detoxification

Beets are one of the best vegetables around for supporting your body’s natural detox mechanisms. The pigment that gives beets their unique coloring, betalain, also helps expel toxins from the body.[13] Betalains work with your body’s natural defense mechanisms to help bind and eliminate toxins.[14]

Vitalizes Liver & Kidney Health

These natural betalain compounds also help promote liver and kidney health, which are the two primary detoxifying organs in the body. Betanins are one type of betalain compound found in beets. Betanins help create enzymes that promote detoxification and antioxidant activity inside your liver.[15] On a side note, beet juice and beet soup are two of my favorite liver cleansing foods.

Supports Digestive Health

Beets are high in fiber and vitamin B-9. Together, these compounds help promote proper digestion. Fiber helps with healthy bowel movements and helps prevent constipation. It’s also an excellent prebiotic, which helps feed healthy probiotic bacteria in your gut. Vitamin B-9, or folate, is an essential vitamin that promotes a healthy colon and gastrointestinal health. Consuming beets is a great way to allow these two forces to work together at the same time—helping maintain a healthy metabolism and digestive system.[16]

Beets also have betaine hydrochloride. This organic compound helps the stomach break down fat and proteins in your food, and can be a powerful digestive aid.

Adding Beets to Your Diet

While pickled or canned beets are standard, there are far more, and better, ways to add beets to your daily diet. Fresh beets can be a great addition to many drinks and salads.

For a delicious beet juice, juice the following ingredients (if you don’t have a juicer, blend them with 1 or 2 cups of water).

Beet Juice Ingredients:

  • 3 Organic carrots (peeled and washed)
  • 1 Organic beet (peeled and washed)
  • 2 Organic red apples (washed and cut)
  • 6 Organic kale leaves
  • ½ Inch of ginger root
  • ½ Organic lemon, peeled

While there are countless beet salad recipes out there, this goji berry wild rice salad with beets is one of my absolute favorites.

If eating or drinking beets just isn’t for you, then beet extracts and powders are becoming more and more common. Because beets are becoming increasingly popular among athletes, you can now easily find beet supplements that contain nitric oxides and other compounds derived from beets to promote endurance and physical performance.

Beet Side Effects & Precautions

While there are no serious health concerns when it comes to eating beets, they do have one unique property that could cause false alarm—the pigments that give red beets that unusual color will give your stool a reddish-purple tint. If this happens to you, don’t be alarmed. While some people mistake this red coloring for blood in their stool, it’s not. This temporary change in coloring is harmless and should go away completely after one or two bowel movements.

And the Beet Goes On

Beets are great for your health, and I always recommend adding them to your regular diet for the way they support the liver and kidneys. However, if you are looking to cleanse your liver of toxic buildup completely, beets should be part of a larger solution. Performing a regular liver cleanse does far more than beets could do on their own. Regular liver cleansingcan improve how your entire body looks and feels. As toxins get pushed out, your body can better absorb the good stuff.

One essential part of my recommended liver cleanse includes a powerful liver cleanse soup, with beets as one of the main ingredients. For this recipe and more liver cleansing tips, check out my Liver Cleanse Kit.

Have you tried beets to improve your health? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

References (16)
  1. United States Department of Agriculture. “National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release.” Web. 2017.
  2. Ninfali, P., et al. “C-Glycosyl Flavonoids from Beta vulgaris Cicla and Betalains from Beta vulgaris rubra: Antioxidant, Anticancer and Antiinflammatory Activities-A Review.” Phytother Res. (2017): 871-884.
  3. Thudnatkorn, J., Rui, H. “Antioxidant Activity of Processed Table Beets (Beta vulgaris var, conditiva) and Green Beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.)” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. (2004): 2659-2670.
  4. Hobbs, D., et al. “Blood pressure-lowering effects of beetroot juice and novel beetroot-enriched bread products in normotensive male subjects.” Br J Nutr. (2012): 2066-2074.
  5. Brown, L., Rosner, B., Willett, W., Sacks, F. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis.” Am J Clin Nutr. (1999): 30-42.
  6. McRae, Marc P. “Betaine Supplementation Decreases Plasma Homocysteine in Healthy Adult Participants: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Chiropractic Medicine12.1 (2013): 20–25.
  7. Cermak, N., Gibala, M., Van loon, L. “Nitrate supplementation’s improvement of 10-km time-trial performance in trained cyclists.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2012): 64-71.
  8. Nyakayiru, J., et al. “Beetroot Juice Supplementation Improves High-Intensity Intermittent Type Exercise Performance in Trained Soccer Players.” Nutrients. (2017).
  9. Coggan, Andrew R., et al. “Acute Dietary Nitrate Intake Improves Muscle Contractile Function in Patients With Heart FailureCLINICAL PERSPECTIVE.” Circulation: Heart Failure, vol. 8, no. 5, (2015): 914–920.
  10. Presley, T., Morgan, A., Bechtold, E., et al. “Acute effect of a high nitrate diet on brain perfusion in older adults.” Nitric Oxide. (2011): 34-42.
  11. Sulakhiya, K., et al. “Effect of Beta vulgaris Linn. Leaves Extract on Anxiety- and Depressive-like Behavior and Oxidative Stress in Mice after Acute Restraint Stress.” Pharmacognosy Res. (2016): 1-7.
  12. Jugdaohsingh, R. “Silicon and Bone Health.” The journal of nutrition, health & aging 11.2 (2007): 99–110.
  13. Clifford, T., et al. “The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease.” Nutrients 7.4 (2015): 2801–2822.
  14. Telford, J., et al. “Toxicologic studies with lambs fed sugar beets grown on municipal sludge-amended soil: lowered relative hemoglobin in red blood cells and mutagens in blood and excreta.” Am J Vet Res. (1984): 2490-2494.
  15. Krajka-kuźniak, V., Paluszczak, J., Szaefer, H., Baer-dubowska, W. “Betanin, a beetroot component, induces nuclear factor erythroid-2-related factor 2-mediated expression of detoxifying/antioxidant enzymes in human liver cell lines.” Br J Nutr. (2013): 2138-2149.
  16. Ponziani, F., et al. “Folate in gastrointestinal health and disease.” Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. (2012): 376-385.

Source Article from http://govtslaves.info/2018/03/benefits-of-beets-how-can-they-boost-your-health/