- 1 Amazon.com, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy —and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood
- 2, 15, 18, 19 The Atlantic September 2017
- 3, 5, 7 Youtube.com CBC News November 3, 2017
- 4, 8 CBC News November 3, 2017
- 6 Moment app
- 9 Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking 2014;17(12):755
- 10 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, World Drug Report 2014, Page 1, Figure 1 (PDF)
- 11 Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2016; 7:175
- 12 Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(2):99-116
- 13 Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy September 2016; 75 Part B: 43-51
- 14 EMFs.info, EMF and Depression Abstracts
- 16 Teen Mental Health, Keegan Targeman, Psy.D. (PDF)
- 17 Childmind.org Smartphones and Social Media, The Bad
- 20 Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking 2014 Dec 1; 17(12): 755–760, Introduction
- 21, 22, 23 Psycom.net, Internet Addiction Disorder
- 24 Social Psychology 2014, DOI: 10.1027/1864-9335/a000216 (PDF)
- 25 Time, December 4, 2014
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Reproduced from original article:
- The primary danger of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) — and what drives the processes of chronic disease — is the mitochondrial damage triggered by peroxynitrites
- Peroxynitrites are potent reactive nitrogen species associated with systemic inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction, and are thought to be a root cause for many of today’s chronic diseases
- You cannot see, hear or smell EMF, and most do not feel it. Still, biological effects are taking place whether you’re able to sense it or not
- The number of people reporting pathological hypersensitivity to EMFs is rising. Between 1994 and 2008, prevalence of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome in Austria rose from 2% to 3.5%. In 2011, Taiwan reported an incidence rate of 13.3%
- The possibility of large portions of the population being unable to work or live as free individuals due to incessant, elevated exposure to EMF is a very real threat to society as we know it. There are very few EMF-free zones left on the planet, and such zones will further shrink with the global implementation of 5G
Over the past decade, I’ve written many articles discussing the evidence of biological harm from nonionizing electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation.
While the wireless industry is built on the premise that the only type of radiation capable of causing harm is ionizing — X-rays being one example — researchers have for a long time warned that even nonionizing and non-heating radiation can jeopardize your health. This includes not only human health, but also that of plants and animals.
Over time, I became so convinced of the deleterious effects of EMF, I took three years to write “EMF*D,” which is slated to be released in February 2020. In it, I review the now overwhelming evidence showing EMFs are a hidden health hazard that simply cannot be ignored any longer, especially seeing how the rollout of 5G will exponentially increase exposures.
Scientists Now Understand How EMFs Impact Your Health
Over the years, I’ve interviewed several experts who have shared their in-depth knowledge about the poorly understood mechanisms behind EMF harm. Among them:
•Martin Pall, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of biochemistry and basic medical sciences at Washington State University, has published research1,2,3,4 showing that the primary danger of EMFs — and what drives the processes of chronic disease — is the mitochondrial damage triggered by peroxynitrites, one of the most damaging types of reactive nitrogen species.
Low-frequency microwave radiation activates the voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) in the outer membrane of your cells, causing them to open, thus allowing an abnormal influx of calcium ions. This activates nitric oxide, which is a precursor for peroxynitrite.5
These potent reactive nitrogen species are associated with an increased level of systemic inflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction, and are thought to be a root cause for many of today’s chronic diseases.
For an in-depth understanding of peroxynitrites and the harm they inflict, see “Nitric Oxide and Peroxynitrite in Health and Disease”6 by Dr. Pal Pacher, Joseph Beckman and Dr. Lucas Liaudet. It’s one of the best reviews I’ve ever read and free to download.
One of its most significant downsides of peroxynitrite is that it damages DNA. While your body has the capacity to repair that damage through a family of enzymes collectively known as poly ADP ribose polymerases (PARP), PARP require NAD+ for fuel, and when they run out of NAD+ they stop repairing your DNA, which can lead to premature cell death.
•Dr. Sam Milham, a physician and epidemiologist, wrote the book, “Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization.” In his interview, he explains the biological mechanisms of high-frequency electric transients (electromagnetic interference patterns), and details some of the lesser-known household sources of this “dirty electricity.”
•Magda Havas, Ph.D., associate professor at Trent University in Canada, has written research including the effects dirty electricity can have on children’s behavior, and helpful remediation techniques.
EMF Pollution Is Likely Taking a Hidden Toll on Your Health
The problem with EMF radiation is that you cannot see it, hear it or smell it, and most do not feel it. Still, researchers assure us that biological effects are taking place whether you’re able to sense it or not. For most, it’s simply a matter of time and overall exposure load.
Here, it’s important to realize that we’re not just talking about radiation from your cellphone. The electromagnetic frequencies emitted from your Wi-Fi router, computer, home appliances, all manner of wireless “smart” technology, and even the wiring inside your walls are all capable of inflicting serious biological harm to your body and mind. And with 5G, it’s bound to get far worse.
Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome Is on the Rise
For some, the effects of EMFs are unmistakable and undeniable, and the number of people reporting pathological hypersensitivity to EMFs is rising. In 2008, an Austrian study7 noted that actual prevalence of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome in Austria had risen by 1.5% since 1994, from 2% to 3.5%.
In 2006, Germany had an electrosensitivity incidence rate of 9%, and Taiwan reported an incidence rate of 13.3% in 2011.8 The RT documentary “Wi-Fi Refugees,” featured in “Documentary Explore Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome,” investigates the struggles reported by these “canaries in the coal mine.”
While symptoms may vary from one individual to another, commonly reported symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome include:
- Skin itch/rash/flushing/burning and/or tingling — Many describe a “burning pins and needles” kind of pain, especially in the head and chest area
- Confusion/poor concentration and/or memory loss
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Chest pain and heart problems
Other reported symptoms include:
|Ear pain||Panic attacks|
|Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)||Feeling a vibration in the body|
One 2015 study9 pointed out that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is becoming an increasing challenge to the medical profession, which has yet to fully understand its implications, let alone its remedies.
Still, the complaints of modern-day hypersensitivities match those reported in the 1970s and ’80s by those working with radio and radar equipment and cathode ray tube monitors, which tells us that this is not a brand-new phenomenon. According to the authors:10
“In population-based surveys, the prevalence of EHS has ranged from 1.5% in Sweden to 13.3% in Taiwan. Provocation studies on EMF have yielded different results, ranging from where people with EHS cannot discriminate between an active RF signal and placebo, to objectively observed changes following exposure in reactions of the pupil, changes in heart rhythm, damage to erythrocytes, and disturbed glucose metabolism in the brain.”
As early as 2005, the World Health Organization warned that people have “for some time” reported health problems attributed to EMF exposure, and that some are “so severely affected that they cease work and change their entire lifestyle.”11
The possibility of large portions of the population being unable to work or live as free individuals due to incessant, elevated exposure to EMF is a very real threat to society as we know it. The reality is that there are very few EMF-free zones left on the planet, and such zones will further shrink with the global implementation of 5G.
I believe EMF exposure is one of the greatest challenges to public health facing us today. If we go back in time to the end of World War I, around 1918 or so, and use that timeframe as a baseline of EMF exposure among the general public, you come to the astonishing conclusion that EMF exposure has increased about 1 quintillion times over the past 100 years.
Knowing the impact EMFs can have, it’s completely irrational to assume that this radical increase won’t have adverse effects. My new book, “EMF*D,” is an attempt to inform you about the hidden harms of EMF and what you need to do to protect yourself and those you love. In it, you’ll learn:
- How EMFs are impacting your body and mind
- Where you can find them in your daily life
- How they can cause disease and speed up aging
- How to repair the damage done by EMFs at the cellular level
- Practical strategies to protect yourself and your loved ones from EMFs
In my book, I also reveal the reasons why you’ve been left in the dark about this serious health threat. “EMF*D” comes out February 18, 2020, but you don’t need to wait. Preorder your copy today and receive these five bonus gifts immediately:
- Early access to a chapter from the book
- $10 discount on a Mercola order
- 30-page Sneak Peak PDF Book
- 7 strategies to help reduce EMF exposure
- 5 tips to minimize your cellphone risk (SMS exclusive bonus)
Brain Cancer Is Not the Only, Nor the Major, Concern
While a number of studies have shown that cellphone radiation can trigger brain cancer this is not the greatest cause for concern. Your brain does have a far greater density of VGCCs than other organs, but so does your nervous system and heart, as well as male testes.
As a result of the elevated density of VGCCs in these areas, EMFs are likely to contribute to neurological and neuropsychiatric problems,12 as well as heart and reproductive problems, including but not limited to cardiac arrhythmias, anxiety, depression, autism, Alzheimer’s and infertility13,14 and miscarriage15,16,17,18 — and these conditions are far more prevalent than brain cancer.
That said, studies have also linked radiofrequency radiation equivalent to that emitted by 2G and 3G cellphones to other forms of cancer, including heart tumors. This includes U.S. government-funded animal studies19 published in 2018 that were further corroborated by the Ramazzini Institute that same year.20
As early as 2011, the evidence was strong enough for the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer research arm of the WHO, to declare cellphones a Group 2B “possible carcinogen.”21
I’ve already mentioned one of the primary mechanisms by which EMFs harm your biology — i.e., the creation of peroxynitrites, which are potent oxidant stressors — but EMFs also damage your health in other ways.
For example, the enzyme ATP synthase — which passes currents of protons into the mitochondrial intermembrane space, similar to current passing through a wire — powers the generation energy of the creation of ATP from ADP, using this flow of protons.
Magnetic fields can change the transparency of the flow of protons to the mitochondrial intermembrane space, thereby reducing the current. As a result, you get less ATP, which can have system wide consequences, from promoting chronic disease and infertility to lowering intelligence.
EMFs may also alter your microbiome, turning what might otherwise be beneficial microbes pathogenic or toxic. This too can have far-ranging health effects, since we now know your microbiome plays an important role in health.
5G Rollout Will Significantly Magnify Health Risks
Any and all health ramifications attributed to previous generations of wireless technologies will be exponentially magnified with the rollout of 5G, which is simply being added on top of the already existing wireless infrastructure. This 5th generation technology may also present additional health risks.
A main concern with 5G is that it relies primarily on the bandwidth of the millimeter wave (MMW), which is known to penetrate 1 to 2 millimeters of human skin tissue.22 There’s also evidence suggesting sweat ducts in human skin act as antennae when they come in contact with MMWs.23
Many can feel the impact of MMWs as a burning sensation and/or pain, which is precisely why it’s used in nonlethal crowd control weapons.24 MMW has also been linked to eye problems, suppressed immune function and altered heart rate variability (an indicator of stress) and arrhythmias.25
In 2015, more than 230 scientists engaged in the study of biological and health effects of nonionizing EMFs in 41 nations signed an international appeal to the United Nations, calling for protection from nonionizing EMF exposure due to evidence of health effects even at low levels.26
Two years later, more than 180 doctors and scientists from 35 countries signed a petition27 to enact a moratorium on the rollout of 5G due to the potential risks to wildlife and human health.
Dr. Mercola Answers Your EMF Questions
I believe that the risk of EMFs is so important that I’ve decided to answer your questions on this topic in an upcoming video. Please submit any EMF questions you may have by clicking on the button below.
The earlier I get the questions, the greater the likelihood I will have a chance to include them in my response. Looking forward to answering your questions!
Protect Yourself From Excessive EMF
There’s no doubt in my mind that EMF exposure is an important lifestyle component that needs to be addressed if you’re concerned about your health, which is why I spent three years writing “EMF*D.”
My aim was to create a comprehensive and informative guide, detailing not only the risks, but also what you can do to mitigate unavoidable exposures. To get you started, see the tips listed in my previous article, “Top 19 Tips to Reduce Your EMF Exposure.”
If you know or suspect you might already be developing a sensitivity to EMFs (full-blown hypersensitivity can often strike seemingly overnight), mitigating your exposures will be particularly paramount. Many sufferers become obsessed with finding solutions, as the effects can be severely crippling. My book can be a valuable resource in your quest for relief.
The EMF Experts website28 also lists EMF groups worldwide, to which you can turn with questions, concerns and support, and EMFsafehome.com29 lists a number of publications where you can learn more about the dangers of EMFs.
Should you need help remediating your home, consider hiring a trained building biologist to get it done right. A listing can be found on the International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology’s website.30
- 1 Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(2):99-116
- 2 International Journal of Innovative Research in Engineering and Management, September 2015; 2(5)
- 3 J Cell Mol Med. 2013 Aug;17(8):958-65
- 4 Current Chemical Biology 2016; 10(1): 74-82
- 5 American Journal of Physiology 1996 Nov;271(5 Pt 1):C1424-37
- 6 Physiol Rev. 2007 Jan; 87(1): 315–424
- 7 BMC Public Health 2008; 8: 310
- 8 Physicians for Safe Technology, Electrohypersensitivity Overview, Prevalence of Electrosensitivity
- 9 Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(4):209-15
- 10 Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(4):209-15, Results
- 11 World Health Organization December 2005
- 12 Journal of Chemical Neuroanatomy 2016 Sep;75(Pt B):43-51
- 13 Environ Int. 2014 Sep; 70C:106-112
- 14 Central European Journal of Urology 2014; 67(1): 65–71
- 15 Scientific Reports 2017; 7 Article number 17541
- 16 American Journal of Epidemiology 1992 Nov 1;136(9):1041-51
- 17 Bioelectromagnetics 1993;14(3):229-36
- 18 PLoS ONE 8(12): e82113
- 19 National Toxicology Program, Cellphone Radio Frequency Radiation Final Report
- 20 Environmental Research March 7, 2018
- 21 World Health Organization, Fact Sheet #193, October 2014
- 22 Telecom Power Grab, 5G Fact Sheet
- 23 Phys Med Biol. 2011 Mar 7;56(5):1329-39
- 24 Environmental Health Trust 20 Facts About 5G Wireless
- 25 Electric Sense May 12, 2017
- 26 EMFScientist.org International Appeal to the UN May 11, 2015, updated January 1, 2019
- 27 Scientists Warn of Potential Serious Health Effects of 5G, September 13, 2017
- 28 EMF-experts.com, EMF Groups Worldwide
- 29 EMFsafehome.com, Publications
- 30 International Institute for Building-Biology & Ecology, Find an Expert
- The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,” goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof
- Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction
- The “Moment” app tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away
- Silicon Valley companies use artificial intelligence and neuroscience to create more engaging and persuasive apps, maximizing the addictive potential of your smartphone
- Commonly used habit-forming tools include pleasure hooks, variable awards, “the infinite scroll” and loss aversion techniques
This article will focus on the social addiction issue of cellphone use and does nothing to address the electromagnetic field (EMF) exposures, which I cover carefully in my next book “EMF’d,” slated for publication in early 2020.
As a lover of technology, it pains me to see what technological advancements are doing to the psychological health of so many, especially our youth. Children today cannot even fathom a life pre-internet — a life where school work involved library visits and phone calls required you to stay in one spot (since the telephone was attached to the wall).
Children and parents alike now spend an inordinate amount of time on their smartphones, communicating with friends (and possibly strangers) via text, on Twitter and Facebook, and work to keep up their Snapstreaks on Snapchat.
Even many toddlers are proficient in navigating their way around a wireless tablet these days. Smartphones have changed the way people interact socially, especially teens, and this has significant ramifications for their psychological health.
This is a topic covered in-depth in Jean Twenge’s book “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy — and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood — and What That Means for the Rest of Us.”1
A majority of teens’ social life is carried out in the solitude of their bedroom via their smartphones, Twenge points out in a 2017 article2 adaptation of her book, published in The Atlantic, and this lack of face-to-face interaction has a steep psychological price: loneliness. Internet addiction — the inability to unplug — has also been shown to take a toll on cognition and focus, as it’s a constant source of distraction.
Your cellphone — A necessity or a convenience?
The featured CBC Marketplace program, “Why You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone,”3 goes behind the scenes, talking to tech insiders about how cellphone addiction is manufactured, and the effects thereof.
According to Marketplace, people use their cellphones for an average of three hours a day, and as shown in the footage, many are in the habit of perusing their cellphones while walking — completely oblivious to their surroundings.
Over their lifetime, teens will spend “nearly a decade of their life staring at a smartphone,” CBC reporter Virginia Smart writes in an accompanying article.4 If you frequently feel you don’t have enough time in the day to get more productive things done, perhaps your cellphone usage is part of the problem, siphoning off valuable time from each day.
Still, most agree their phone has become a “necessity” rather than a convenience. Forgetting their phone at home, or losing it, is frequently described as a disaster.
“My entire life is on my phone,” one man says.5 “I don’t know where I’d be [without it].” Just how did we get to this point? “It’s part of a plan you didn’t even know you signed up for,” CBC correspondent David Common says.
Variable rewards and other mind tricks
To investigate real-world usage, CBC Marketplace enlists an Ontario family of five in an experiment: An app on their phone will track each family member’s usage over a two-month period. The app, called “Moment,”6 tracks the amount of time you spend on any given app, allowing you to see just how much of your life you’re frittering away.
Tracking the usage of all users, everywhere, is also being done by Silicon Valley companies in an effort to figure out how to make us use their apps even more. One of them is Dopamine Labs, founded by Ramsay Brown, which uses “artificial intelligence and neuroscience to track your usage, loyalty and revenue.”7
As explained by Brown, they use AI and the science of the mind to “make apps more engaging and persuasive.” In other words, they use science to maximize the addictive potential of your smartphone.
The secret is rather simple. Apps that trigger pleasure become addictive. As noted by CBC Marketplace, it’s rather telling that the two leading creators of the smartphone revolution, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, both admitted limiting their children’s use of their revolutionary devices — probably because they knew something the rest of us didn’t.
We’re not really designing software anymore,” Brown says. “We’re designing minds.” Just how is this done? Some of the most commonly used habit-forming tools include:8
•Pleasure hooks — This could be a notification of “Congrats!” or “Good job!” or a high-five icon after you’ve completed an action, for example. On social media platforms, getting “Likes” accomplishes the same thing. The ability to collect followers is yet another hook.
•Variable rewards — As explained by Marketplace, a key method used to trick your mind into addictive behavior is known as “variable rewards.” In a nutshell, it means you’re never sure what you’re going to get. How many “Likes” will your post garner? How many followers or points can you get? How long can you maintain a streak?
As with other types of gambling, this uncertainty coupled with the prospect of a pleasure reward is what feeds the compulsion to keep going.
•The infinite scroll — Another “hook” perfected by social media is that never-ending stream of content and commentary that can keep you going indefinitely.
•Loss aversion — While starting out as a pleasurable activity, at a certain point, your continued usage morphs into a prison of your own making — you “can’t” stop using the app, or you’ll experience let-down and disappointment. Snapchat’s snapstreak is a perfect example of how apps cash in on loss aversion.
“Brain hacking” techniques such as these have led to 6% of the global population now struggling with internet addiction, according to a 2014 study,9 rivaling that of illicit drug use.10
The problems with overuse and abuse of cellphones lead to sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress and depression,11 as well as an increased exposure to electromagnetic field radiation, which also places your health12,13 and mental14 well-being at risk.
Internet addiction is on the rise
Marketplace interviews Lisa Pont, a social worker at the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where people are now coming into the program because their smartphone usage has become a problem.
“Research is starting to show that technology has an impact on memory, concentration, mood, [causing] anxiety and depression; it has an impact on sleep, it has an impact on overall well-being,” Pont says.
Children, Pont stresses, are particularly vulnerable due to their innate lack of self-control, and really need parental guidance and limits on their device usage. “It’s too tempting at that age to mitigate their own use,” Pont says, pointing out that children’s brains are not fully developed, hence they lack impulse control and the ability to foresee the consequences of their behavior.
Cellphone use and depression
As noted by Twenge in her article15 “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” rates of teen depression and suicide have dramatically risen since 2011, and data suggest spending three hours or more each day on electronic devices can raise a teen’s suicide risk by as much as 35%.16
Spending 10 or more hours on social media each week is also associated with a 56% higher risk of feeling unhappy, compared to those who use social media less, and heavy social media users have a 27% higher risk of depression.17
“It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” Twenge writes,18 adding that “Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones …
There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives — and making them seriously unhappy.”
How much time are you spending on your phone?
After tracking Jackson, age 8, for two months, his average daily screen time came out to five hours and 32 minutes, but on some days, he spends nearly 11 hours on his tablet — basically the whole entire day. At his current pace, his projected lifetime screen time amounts to a whopping 15 years.
His mother admits being worries about her young son’s screen time, especially as she’s noticed he typically prefers spending time on his tablet over all other social interactions and activities. Meanwhile, the family’s 16-year old, Emily, trades her sleep for social media. She admits getting caught up in the infinite scroll; before she knows it, hours may have passed.
As noted by in Twenge’s Atlantic article,19 sleep deprivation among teenagers rose by 57% between 1991 and 2015. Many do not even get seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, while science reveals they need a minimum of eight and as much as 10 hours to maintain their health. Twenge writes about the habits of the teens she interviewed:
“Their phone was the last thing they saw before they went to sleep and the first thing they saw when they woke up … Some used the language of addiction.
‘I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help it,’ one said about looking at her phone while in bed. Others saw their phone as an extension of their body — or even like a lover: ‘Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.’”
Emily is no different, admitting that checking her phone is part of her morning and evening routines. It’s the first thing she does upon waking, and the last thing she does before bed. For Emily, a large part of her day revolves around Snapchat. She uses the app continuously to keep in touch with her friends — even when they’re sitting right next to her.
As mentioned, Snapchat uses a technique known as “loss aversion” to keep their users using. Emily has a Snapchat streak that has been going for nearly two years, and now she feels compelled to not break it, which is what loss aversion is all about.
On many days, Emily’s phone stays in use for nearly 7.5 hours. The Moment app clocked her picking up her phone up to 100 times a day during the monitoring period. On average, she spends 30% of her waking hours on her phone. Her parents are not far behind, each averaging about 21%.
Symptoms of internet addiction
Symptoms of internet or cellphone addiction are similar to other types of addiction, but are more socially acceptable. As noted in one study, internet addiction (IA) is:20
“[G]enerally regarded as a disorder of concern because the neural abnormalities (e.g., atrophies in dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and cognitive dysfunctions (e.g., impaired working memory) associated with IA mimic those related to substance and behavioral addiction. Moreover, IA is often comorbid with mental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression.”
According to Psycom.net, conditions that can increase your risk of internet addiction or compulsion include anxiety, depression, other addictions and social isolation or awkwardness.21 Common emotional symptoms of internet addiction include:22
|Boredom with routine tasks||Dishonesty and defensiveness||Feelings of guilt, fear or anxiety; mood swings|
|Experiencing euphoria while online||Procrastination; inability to prioritize tasks or keep schedules||Avoidance of work|
Physical symptoms of internet addiction disorder can include:23
|Backache, headache, neck pain||Carpal tunnel syndrome||Dry eyes and other vision problems|
|Insomnia||Poor nutrition; weight gain or weight loss||Poor personal hygiene|
Notifications take a significant toll on your cognition
If you’re like most, you probably have an array of notifications set on your phone. According to Marketplace, these notifications concern experts, who warn the constant pinging, beeping and buzzing actually has significant consequences for your cognition.
Marketplace correspondent Commons visits Western University, where a lot of cognition research is being conducted. He participates in a test to evaluate his ability to focus, and to see how distractions from his phone affects his attention and cognition.
First, Commons performs the attention test without his phone. For the next round of testing, his phone is left on, nearby. And, while he can’t see it, he can hear it — incoming phone calls, texts and the pinging of incoming social media notifications.
For the third part of the test, Commons has to recall numbers being texted to him. “It reflects how we normally interact with our phones,” the researcher explains. You might text details to a coworker, for example, or your spouse might ask you to buy milk on the way home.
Commons admits the distractions caused by his phone significantly interfere with his ability to concentrate on the task at hand. Even vibration without sound causes problems. Just how big of a problem? Commons’ verbal comprehension declined by nearly 20% when phone distractions were allowed.
One simple step that can eliminate many of these distractions is to simply turn off all notifications. Still, simply having your phone nearby can be enough to take your mind off what you’re doing.
A study24,25 using a group of more than 50 college students found that performance in complex tasks was worse when the participant could see a cellphone present, whether it was the study leader’s phone or their own, as compared to the performance of tasks when no cellphone was visible.
As noted by Brown, smartphones are here to stay, and app developers are getting increasingly sophisticated at capturing your attention. Smartphone users therefore need to become savvier, and learn to make conscious choices about how they use their devices.
The question is, “Who do we want to be?” Brown says. Modern technology really requires you to shape yourself (or be shaped by software developers), and to use your devices in a way that helps you rather than hinders you from living your best life.
Video not available at this location. To view, go to original article:
- Functional genetics looks at the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) of genes
- When you have SNPs (genetic variants or defects on the genes), enzymes may not be working effectively, or the gene may be upregulated or downregulated
- While traditional genetics often looks for potential disease states, functional genetics looks for potential impairment of function and helps find the best nutritional intervention to bring your body back into balance
- People with genetic weaknesses that hamper detoxification who are exposed to high amounts of environmental toxins can be struggling with health due to their limited ability to detoxify
- NutriGenetic Research Institute is devoted to functional genomic testing, training health professionals to help people understand the results and how to apply it to improve their health
Functional genomics is a gene testing modality with enormous value that many are completely unaware of. Bob Miller1 is a certified traditional naturopath specializing in genetic-specific nutrition. He’s the founder of the NutriGenetic Research Institute,2 devoted to testing and helping people understand the results of their functional genetic testing and how to apply it to improve their health.
“As a traditional naturopath, we’re not licensed medical doctors, so we don’t diagnose, treat or prescribe,” Miller explains. “We look at the functional approach of, ‘How is the terrain off in the body?’ … [W]hen the body is toxic or inflamed, that’s when pathogens have a better opportunity to thrive.
Many years ago, I learned about how homocysteine has pathways that clear it that may be impaired by genetic variants. I became very fascinated by it. I started looking at the enzymes that clear it, and then the genetics behind it.
My whole naturopathic and holistic practice is [now] dedicated to helping clients measure their functional genomics, which is quite a bit different than traditional genetics that looks for disease patterns, and trying to find out how we can make interventions to bring the body back into balance …
Our goal is to be able to make a contribution to functional practitioners, so they can do their job a lot better and improve the lives of those who are suffering with some of those things that nobody can seem to figure out …
To sum up what we’re finding is that those with genetic weakness in detox pathways are exposed to environmental factors we weren’t dealing with 50 to 75 years ago; their ability to detox is overwhelmed. I think this is a whole new paradigm that we have to look at in wellness.
Those who don’t have a specific disease, so to speak, but are just totally overwhelmed by all of the epigenetic factors, such as pesticides, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) … excess iron … plastics … mold … [and] sometimes even oversupplementation with things like folate and glutamine … that no matter what they try, it doesn’t work …
That’s why we need to move to personalized care, based upon the individual. Fortunately, we now have tools to do that.”
What Is Functional Genetics?
Certain genes are known to predispose you to, or raise your risk of, certain diseases. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Functional genetics looks at the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) of genes related to function.
You’ve probably seen representations of the DNA ladder. On the end of each rung is a molecule from each of your parents. These molecules can either make your DNA optimal or, if you have a SNP, meaning a defect, that gene will not work at optimal efficiency. Miller explains:
“To make this simple, we eat fats, carbohydrates and proteins. We drink water, breathe air and are exposed to sunlight. What an absolute miracle it is that all of that turns into us: our blood, our skin, our nails, our organs and our thought processes. All of that is one enzymatic process after another.
So, an enzyme takes substance A; pulls in what we call cofactors and makes substance B. That continually happens throughout your body — one process after another. It’s your genetic makeup that [provides] the instructions on how to make these enzymes.
When we have genetic variants, SNPs, on the genes, sometimes those enzymes either aren’t as effective … or might be upregulated or downregulated. Therefore, that substance A to substance B [conversion] may not occur as it should.
Now, people get all excited about whether they have genetic variants or not, but there’s something else just as important. That’s the cofactor. Remember, substance A plus cofactors turns into substance B. You could have absolutely perfect genetics, that enzyme is made perfectly, but if you’re missing the cofactors, that A to B [conversion] is not going to work …
Where people really get hit hard is when they’ve got genetic weakness and cofactor weakness. Then there’s a third piece. Sometimes there are things that interfere. For example, lead, mercury and other things may suppress that enzymatic function …
Now, interestingly, we have all kinds of backups. One pathway may not be working, but another one might kick in. But what we’re observing … is that those who are struggling usually have multiple pathways blocked. Plus, they get multiple epigenetic exposures … When you get those epigenetic and genetic factors going together, that’s when things really start going awry.”
The Relationship Between mTOR Pathway and Autophagy
Autophagy means “self-eating” and refers to your body’s process of eliminating damaged and defective cellular parts that are targeted for lysosome, which then digests them. The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) is a molecular signaling pathway responsible for either growth or repair, depending on whether it is stimulated or inhibited.
I’ve often stated that to upregulate maintenance and repair (which will boost longevity and reduce your risk for cancer), you need to suppress the mTOR pathway. One of the most efficient ways to do this is to limit your protein intake, but it’s not the only way. Autophagy and mTOR are two processes that work together, but are inverse to each other. Miller likens mTOR to a construction crew, whereas autophagy refers to the cleanup crew.
“One of the ways you can tell if your autophagy is not working is when you get those age spots, sun spots, liver spots, whatever you’d like to call them,” Miller says. “That’s when the old cell is not cleared away and it becomes oxidized, it becomes senescent. It actually becomes a free radical-giving reactive oxygen species.
Now, we need a balance between [mTOR and autophagy]. We need a time to build and we need a time to clean. One of the things our research institute [found] in some of our studies on those with chronic Lyme disease [is] that we are being exposed to more epigenetic environmental factors that stimulate mTOR … ”
Factors That Activate mTOR Versus Those That Support Autophagy
Examples of environmental factors that activate mTOR include:
|Xenoestrogens (chemicals in plastic)||EMFs|
|Excess iron||Excess folic acid, folate or methyl folate|
|Excess glutamate||Amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine and valine|
When mTOR is activated, it inhibits autophagy and, according to Miller, many of the health challenges people face these days appear to be related to excess mTOR activation.
This is also one way by which a cyclical ketogenic diet helps improve your health, as it inhibits mTOR and activates autophagy. When mTOR is chronically activated, it will not only inhibit autophagy but also impair apoptosis (cell death), and if that’s impaired, your risk for cancer will significantly increase as well.
“We have identified the genes that are involved with autophagy,” Miller says. “They’re called Unc-51 like autophagy activating kinase 1 (ULK1), serine/threonine-protein kinase (ULK2), 5’ AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and AuTophaGy related 1 (ATG1).
Those all stimulate autophagy. We’re finding that when people have a lot of genetic variants, especially when they inherit it from both parents, this is where their autophagy’s weakened. They’re 45 years old and covered with age spots. They can’t detox.
Ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting and nutrients [such as] lithium and berberine support autophagy. Resveratrol and curcumin slow down mTOR.
When you put the three together — the caloric restriction mimetics (CRM) [editor’s note: supplements that mimic the antiaging effects of calorie restriction] … along with the keto diet, along with some form of intermittent fasting — you’re able to bring balance to mTOR and autophagy.”
If Ketogenic Diet or Intermittent Fasting Fails for You, This Could Be Why
While intermittent fasting is an excellent strategy for a majority of people, it doesn’t work as expected for everyone. As explained by Miller, members of his research team have discovered having a functional heme pathway is extremely important when you’re on a ketogenic diet and/or intermittently fasting.
Heme protein is created through an eight-step process beginning with succinyl coenzyme A (succinyl CoA), glycine and amino acids. Heme protein in turn is a component of hemoglobin, but it’s also involved in the making of nitric oxide, catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and sulfite oxidase (SUOX), which is your sulfide to sulfate conversion.
“It’s involved in so many processes that I didn’t even realize until we started to research,” Miller says. “This [heme] pathway may be impaired by … glyphosate [which impacts glycine] … lead … and genetic variants in the heme pathway.
If any of those happen, you don’t make adequate heme, so you’re going to be a very poor detoxer. Now, what’s interesting … [is that] if porphyrins [glycoproteins responsible for pore formation in cell membranes] are not transferred one to another, they will block the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor sites. GABA is the ‘Don’t worry. Be happy. Sleep. Relax’ [neurotransmitter]. Clearly, there are problems with anxiety in the world today.
If this heme pathway gets disturbed, people oftentimes crave carbohydrates. If they try to go keto, it doesn’t work. If they try to do intermittent fasting, it doesn’t work … It’s a small amount of people, but for some individuals who just crave carbohydrates, they’ll get hangry if they don’t have their carbohydrates. They’re actually feeding that heme pathway.
If someone’s ever tried keto and is like, ‘This just does not work for me,’ there’s a potential that the heme pathway could be impaired. You have to keep those carbohydrates coming in on a regular basis to feed it, or else you feel horrible. I remember in the past people telling me, ‘Whenever I try to eat healthy, I feel horrible. When I eat junk, I feel better.’
I used to think, ‘Yeah. I’m not sure I buy that.’ But now that you understand this heme pathway and how carbohydrates and simple sugars can feed it, it starts to make sense that that is a potential scenario for some people.”
Even if You’re Anemic, You May Be Overabsorbing Iron
As mentioned earlier, iron stimulates mTOR. Clearly, iron is crucial for optimal health. Without sufficient amounts of iron, you cannot make sufficient amounts of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen through your body. However, in excess, iron is incredibly destructive.
“Here’s one of the interesting things we found through our research. There are many people who have genetic predisposition to overabsorbing iron, yet they’re told all their life they’re anemic. It just seems like such a dichotomy; how can you be anemic if you’re overabsorbing iron?
One of the things that we … find in many who are struggling and can’t get answers anywhere else is that they overabsorb iron. There’s an enzyme called ferroportin, [which] is what takes iron out of the cells. SNPs there, or genetic defects, inhibit the removal of the iron. Through something called the Fenton reaction … iron may combine with hydrogen peroxide to make hydroxyl radicals.
This can then go on to make another nasty free radical called peroxynitrite. Consequently, the person is anemic because they are measuring what’s in the blood, but the iron can be in excess and inside the cells, causing massive inflammation.
As that iron bangs around inside the cell, it creates fatigue, because the mitochondria are having a hard time making energy. These are the people who if someone gives them iron, many times, they feel considerably worse, because they’ve just fed the fire.
In our consulting, one of the things we probably do the most is identifying the Fenton reaction going on and taking remedial action to, for example, help turn the hydrogen peroxide into water through an enzyme called catalase; supporting enzymes and antioxidants called glutathione and thioredoxin that turn the hydrogen peroxide into water, [and] using homeopathics to make the iron behave itself.”
Hydrogen water can be helpful here, Miller notes, because it helps decrease the excess hydroxyl radicals. “Quite simply, H2O2 plus iron equals hydroxyl free radical (OH-), which is one of the most highly reactive and damaging free radicals,” Miller explains.
I’ve previously interviewed Tyler LeBaron, one of the leading experts on molecular hydrogen, and he believes the benefits may be related more to the upregulation of antioxidant pathways, such as the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). Either way, whatever the mechanism, it seems clear hydrogen water has the ability to neutralize free radicals.
Situations in Which NAC or Methyl Folate May Backfire
I’ve previously written about the benefits of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), the rate-limiting factor for glutathione, which is a master antioxidant made by your body. However, in order for this to work, you must have the required enzymes. What’s more, if you have an iron problem, the cysteine you take can combine with the iron to create hydroxyl radicals — essentially worsening your situation.
“It goes back to the fact that we’ve got to get away from the cookie cutter, ‘Oh, you’re inflamed. Take NAC.’ NAC can be the perfect thing for you, or it can make you worse, depending on your genomic make up,” Miller says.
Miller has developed a hierarchical pyramid of different variables and his approach to treating them. Interestingly, many who superficially look at functional genomics think that the methylation defect is one of the most important. It is important, but according to Miller there are many others that supersede it in terms of importance.
“[Methylation] is about how we take folic acid or folate from our diet and turn it into methyl folate, which is a very important molecule. For a woman who’s pregnant, you’ve got to have it for a good pregnancy. We’re not saying it’s not a good thing … Now, one of the interesting things about methyl folate is you need it for pregnancy because it supports mTOR.
If someone’s already in mTOR dominance and they take methyl folate, they’re going to get more anxious and more inflamed. I’ve talked to so many people who’ve said, ‘Oh, yeah. I have MTHFR. Somebody put me on methyl B12, methyl folate. I felt great for two weeks, and then I crashed.’
The reason they may have crashed is because they started to stimulate mTOR, weakening their autophagy even more, driving more inflammation … As we dug deeper, we realized that methyl folate is important, but it has to be done at the right time. That’s why I developed my pyramid.
At the very bottom we have things we have to address first, such as, is iron becoming a free radical? Is hydrogen peroxide not being cleared? Is there nitric oxide synthase (NOS) uncoupling? — where rather than making nitric oxide, we make more peroxynitrite.
And then we look at how we’re making antioxidants. How’s our glutathione pathways? How’s our superoxide dismutase? How are we making NADPH? … For the most part, I believe that when people are massively inflamed, you need to address that first.
If someone is massively inflamed, if their iron is creating hydroxyl radicals, if they have weakness in their antioxidants … and you throw methyl folate in there … there’s a very good chance it will make the situation worse.
By and large, if someone’s massively inflamed, I’d like to think about methyl folate six to eight months down the road, two to three days a week. We tend to think, ‘If a little’s good for us, a lot must be good for us.’ I’m now thinking need to be pulsing things.”
I totally agree pulsing is a key component that should not be overlooked, whether you’re taking supplements, fasting or doing a ketogenic diet. It’s important to go through cycles of buildup and tear-down.
For example, during a partial fast, you’re stimulating autophagy through caloric restriction. At that time, you would not want to take anything that stimulates mTOR (such as methyl folate or any of the other items listed above), as by stimulating mTOR you effectively interrupt the autophagy process.
Mast Cells Could Be Wreaking Havoc With Your Health
Glutathione rapidly loses electrons, making it useless unless recharged by nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate hydrogen (NADPH). As explained by Miller, the “NADPH steal,” a term he coined, may also be at play in many of the health issues people face today.
It’s becoming more widely known that you can have excess mast cells. Miller estimates about 80 percent of his clients have excess mast cell activation triggering histamine reactions. One of the signs of this is redness of the face due to heat intolerance. Sensitivity to touch is another, as are frequent, red, raised rashes.
Mast cells are white blood cells that come to the rescue when there’s a pathogen or a foreign invader that needs to be eliminated. While overfiring mast cells can cause problems, they’re not inherently bad, and strategies that inhibit them can backfire. Instead, Miller recommends determining why your mast cells are overactive.
His team presented research at the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society’s 19th Annual Conference in November last year, identifying epigenetic factors that stimulate mast cells. He explains the relationships between mast cells, NADPH, NOX and glutathione:
“In simple terms, glutathione … has one chance to give a free radical an electron. Once it does that, it becomes oxidized. Then we need to donate that electron back. There’s this substance called NADPH that donates that electron back.3 It takes that oxidized glutathione and turns it back into reduced. That’s a good thing.
Now, NADPH has a dual role. There’s also an enzyme called NOX (NADPH oxidase). Its only purpose is to take this NADPH and turn it into a free radical … Now, they’ve done studies on animals. When they knock out that NOX enzyme, the animal dies from infection because it doesn’t have the ability to kill the pathogen.
Again, NOX and free radicals are not bad. But there are multiple factors that are now overstimulating NOX. One of them is sulfite. Sulfite needs to turn into sulfates. If we have deficiency of heme, we may not turn sulfites in sulfates … If sulfites don’t turn into sulfates, the sulfites may tell the NOX enzyme, ‘You need to make inflammation.’
Dopamine stimulates it [NOX], so stress will cause it. Glutamate stimulates it. Iron stimulates the NOX enzyme, and so does excessive mTOR … The NADPH steal is when NADPH gets stolen away from recycling glutathione, recycling thriodoxine, making nitric oxide, and potentially making excess mast cells.
There are a lot of people struggling with excess mast cells firing. They’re really sick. They don’t know what to do … Mold will also stimulate mast cells …
To sum it up, NADPH is critical for recycling your antioxidants. I believe the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) and the NADPH are some of the most important things we can have adequate levels of for longevity and good health. We’re using up a lot of it because we’re exposed to so many toxic substances. Then, if another set of substances are stealing it to stimulate NOX to make mast cells, then we’ve just doubled the problem.”
Molecular hydrogen serves a role here as well, as studies have shown molecular hydrogen is an effective inhibitor of NOX,4 and can increase your concentration of NADPH. Curcumin also inhibits NOX, as does luteolin, apigenin and olive leaf. Aldosterone, on the other hand, stimulates NOX, Miller says.
This interview is quite loaded with information, not all of which has been covered in this article. For even more side notes and fascinating tangents, I recommend listening to the interview in its entirety.
Health practitioners interested in learning more about functional genomic analysis and how to apply it in your own practice, see the NutriGenetic Research Institute’s website, where you can sign up for their 30-hour, 14-module online certification course to become a nutritional genetic consultant.
Webinars for health practitioners are held every other Thursday. They also hold an annual conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The next one is scheduled for November 2019. In September, they’re also holding a seminar on environmental toxicity, detoxification and methylation mapping.
Patients interested in more information are directed to the yourgenomicresource.com which includes a listing of doctors who have completed the training and are qualified to provide nutritional guidance based on your SNPs. Up until last year, Miller could guide patients based on the genetic data provided by companies such as 23andMe. Now, he has developed his own DNA testing, which is capable of identifying some 300,000 SNPs.
Importantly, NutriGenetic Research Institute will never sell your private DNA or health data to anyone, which is one of the reasons why 23andMe is so inexpensive — they make their money by selling your DNA results to drug companies.
“I have pledged to everyone in writing that this data will never be sold to anyone. The other thing people can do, if they’re still worried, you can just change your name. Just come up with a fake name. It doesn’t matter. We don’t care. You just have to remember what it is,” Miller says.
“The [DNA] data from Brooks at Rutgers gets loaded into my software, which is in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania — a huge database. Then it crunches the data and gives a report, including the pyramid …
If you’re sick, you’ve been everywhere and you’re not getting better, this is certainly an option … Our whole goal is to help people get well. And to make a little bit of a dent in functional medicine — to help functional practitioners have tools that they can help, because functional medicine doctors see the tough cases. We want to give them some tools so that they can do a better job …
One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Genetics is never a diagnosis, but it tells you where to start looking.’ It’s like shining a light. ‘Think about looking here. Investigate whether this is a problem.’ Sometimes the SNPs show a problem, sometimes they don’t, but it can really give you clues to look where you may never have thought to look before.”
- A recent case report of 100 patients diagnosed with cognitive decline using the ReCODE protocol show both subjective and objective improvements in all participants
- The ReCODE protocol, which involves identifying the drivers of cognitive decline (such as pathogens, toxins and metabolic changes), then targeting those in a personalized program that includes dietary and lifestyle changes, allows your brain to create and maintain synapses again, thereby treating the root of the problem
- A hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s is that proteins are aggregated and are typically misfolded
- By inducing ketosis, improving insulin sensitivity and supporting the mitochondria, you can often regain the ability to refold or proteolyze misfolded proteins
- Electromagnetic field exposures, such as that from cellphones and Wi-Fi, may play an important role in Alzheimer’s, as it triggers high amounts of oxidative stress and damage to proteins and DNA
Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia, eventually leads to the inability to carry out even the most basic of bodily functions, such as swallowing or walking. It is ultimately fatal, as conventional treatment options are few and universally ineffective.
Like autism among children, Alzheimer’s among seniors has reached epidemic proportions, with no slowdown in sight. On the contrary, evidence suggests the trend is worsening.
At present, Alzheimer’s affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans,1 and projections suggest the disease will affect 1 in 4 Americans within the next two decades. By 2050, Alzheimer’s diagnoses are projected to triple.2,3
And, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists the disease as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.,4,5 statistics published in the journal Neurology in 2014 revealed Alzheimer’s is vastly underreported on death certificates. In reality, the disease likely killed 503,400 American seniors in 2010,6 making it the third leading cause of death, right behind heart disease and cancer.7
The good news is that contrary to conventional claims, there are ways to prevent and even treat this tragic disease — not by drugs, but by diet and other lifestyle changes.
Dr. Dale Bredesen, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, and author of “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline,” has identified a number of molecular mechanisms at work in Alzheimer’s, and created a novel program called ReCODE to treat and reverse it.8
100-patient case report sheds light on treatment options
Bredesen’s most recent publication is a case report9,10 of 100 patients using the ReCODE protocol. He has previously published three case reports, each involving just 10 patients. This fourth case report contains 100 patients treated at 15 different clinics across the U.S., all of which have documented pre- and post-cognitive testing.
Not only did all show improvement in symptoms, some of them also showed improvement in their quantitative electroencephalographs (EEGs). Others who underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with volumetrics also showed objective improvement.
“By all the criteria, these people showed improvement, subjective and objective,” Bredesen says. This is no small thing, as there is no conventional treatment that can reverse Alzheimer’s. There have been many drug trials to date, but all have failed to reverse the disease. As noted by Bredesen:
“There are a couple of medications, Aricept, Namenda … but these have a very, very modest impact. The most important thing is their improvement is not sustained. They don’t change the outcome of the disease. You get a little bump in improvement, then you go right back to declining.
The most important part of the [ReCODE] protocol … is that the improvement is sustained. You’re actually going after the root cause of what is causing the cognitive decline. That’s a big difference.”
Alzheimer’s is a protective response to inflammation
If one were to summarize Bredesen’s approach in one sentence, it would be “to improve the ratio between synaptoblastic and synaptoclastic activity, which is the brain’s ability to create new synapses versus destroying them.” In other words, the treatment allows your brain to create and maintain synapses again. Bredesen explains:
“The molecular biology of this disease shows that what we call Alzheimer’s disease is actually a protective response. It’s essentially a scorched-earth retreat.
You’re pulling back and saying, ‘We’re not going to let this insult kill us, so we’re going to scorch the earth so it (whether it’s bacteria or something else) cannot take advantage … of what’s there.’ You’re literally downsizing [your synapses]. As long as those insults are going on, you will be downsized.”
Beta-amyloid is a protein that is highly correlated with Alzheimer’s. However, all attempts at removing it have failed to improve the condition. Clearly, beta-amyloid in and of itself is not the primary cause, so simply getting rid of it is not the answer.
In Bredesen’s paper, he discusses the role of beta-amyloid as an antimicrobial peptide (AMP). Importantly, AMPs are critically important for host immunity. They target organisms such as bacteria, mycobacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. He explains:
“Here is the trick. It turns out amyloid beta is really part of the innate immune system. Its antimicrobial effect was first discovered and published by professor Robert Moir and professor Rudy Tanzi at Harvard.
This thing actually has, again, a protective response. Not only is it an AMP, but it also binds some toxins. For example, mercury, other divalent metals like iron and things like that. [Amyloid beta] has multiple effects. It is part of your response to insult.
When you take that into account, you realize it’s fine to remove amyloid, but please don’t do it before you remove all the insults. We’ve seen numerous people now who have had the amyloid reduced and gotten worse because the ongoing insults are still there.”
Most recently, the drug company Biogen halted its Phase II clinical trial for aducanumab, a drug designed to remove beta-amyloid, and this is the typical story for these kinds of drugs. And then a major trial of yet another approach to amyloid removal, the BACE inhibitor CNP520, was halted because the drug was associated with increased cognitive decline and brain atrophy.11
The protein refolding process is impaired in Alzheimer’s
About one-third of the proteins your body makes on any given day are misfolded. Thankfully, your body has a mechanism by which those misfolded proteins are refolded. Heat-shock proteins play a central role in this process, and if the misfolding is too severe, the heat-shock proteins help remove them altogether.
In fact, heat-shock proteins are a corollary of autophagy, the process by which your body cleans out damaged organelles. This relates to Alzheimer’s, because the refolding process is one of several factors that need to work in order for your brain to function. As noted by Bredesen:
“In all of these different neurodegenerative diseases, whether you’re talking about Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or Lewy body, they all feature proteins that are aggregated and that are typically misfolded. They are not degraded appropriately.
You lose not only the ability to fold but the ability to degrade these proteins. That is a critical piece. In fact, just recently, an article came out on a common neurodegenerative condition, newly described, which is called LATE, which is limbic-predominant, age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy.
In other words, this is a little bit like Alzheimer’s … [LATE] features TDP-43, which is a protein that is involved in numerous things, including protein folding … We lose that [protein-folding] ability as we start to downsize [synapses], as you don’t have an appropriate energy, you don’t have the appropriate trophic support.
You don’t have the appropriate hormonal and nutritional support … When we target ketosis, when we target insulin sensitivity, when we target mitochondrial support, that typically allows you to generate the appropriate ability to refold misfolded proteins …
You can induce the heat-shock response … by doing this combination of sauna and then [going] into the cold and then back to the sauna and then back to the cold …
You are recurrently activating this critical response [by doing that]. There’s no question it is going to be important, especially in ALS, but likely in all of the neurodegenerative conditions.”
The link between protein folding and cell death
As noted by Bredesen, there are three kinds of autophagy: macro-autophagy, micro-autophagy and chaperone-mediated autophagy. Each offers a slightly different way to repair, remove or recycle damaged organelles within the cell.
Specific proteins, for example, can be targeted for chaperone-mediated autophagy. Bredesen recounts findings of research he did to ascertain the linkage between protein folding and programmed cell death (apoptosis, where the entire cell is killed off and removed):
“If you fail to reform these [misfolded proteins], you literally activate an entire system that initially stops producing more protein. It’s basically saying, ‘We’re not keeping up with this. We’re going to shut this down.’ It attempts to refold. Then it attempts to destroy the proteins if it can’t refold them.
Then ultimately, if it cannot … keep up … it literally activates programmed cell death through specific caspases … This is something where you want to intervene upstream; understand why this is happening. And then if you’re unable to keep up with this, now, at least increase your heat-shock proteins so that you can refold. In this case, you prevent the induction of programmed cell death.”
Unfortunately, a vast majority of people do not have well-functioning autophagy, for the simple reason that they’re insulin-resistant. If you’re insulin-resistant, you cannot increase your adenosine 5’ monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) level, which prevents the inhibition of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), and mTOR inhibition is one of the primary drivers of autophagy.
The case for cyclical fasting
While autophagy is clearly of critical importance, you don’t want to be in continuous autophagy. You also need to cycle through the rebuilding phase. One of the ways in which you can control this is through cyclical fasting. Bredesen typically recommends an intermittent fasting approach.
“You want to use appropriate fasting and an appropriate diet to activate this autophagy,” Bredesen says. “We recommend … 12 to 14 hours [of fasting] if you are apolipoprotein E4-negative (ApoE4-negative) … If you are ApoE4-positive, you’d want to go longer — 14 to 16 hours. There’s nothing wrong with doing a longer fast …
The reason we suggest longer for the ApoE4-positives [is because] if you are ApoE4-positive, you are better at absorbing fat. It tends to take longer to enter autophagy …
Typically, we recommend it about once a week. But again, a longer fast once a month is a good idea. It depends a lot on your body mass index (BMI). What we found is people who have higher BMIs respond better to this fasting early on. They’re able to generate the ketones.
If you lose both the carbohydrates and the ketones, you end up [feeling] completely out of energy … We are very careful when people are down below 20 on their BMI, especially the ones 18 or below. We want to be very careful to make sure to cycle them [in and out of ketosis] once or twice a week …
These are the ones where, often, exogenous ketones can be very helpful early on … Measure your ketones. It’s simple to do. We want to get you into, ultimately, the 1.5 to 4.0 millimolar [range for] betahydroxybutyrate. That is the goal.”
Test your ketones
So, to recap, while dementia patients with excess weight tend to respond favorably to cyclical fasting, at least initially, underweight patients may experience cognitive decline, as they’re simply too underweight to produce ketones in response to the fasting. For those who are underweight, Bredesen recommends using a ketone supplement such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil.
If that doesn’t bring you into the desired ketone level (1.5 to 4.0 mmol), or if it’s adversely affecting your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particle number, he might recommend exogenous ketones — either ketone esters or salts. “We’d like to look at your LDL particle number and use that to titrate, to make sure that your LDL particle number is not too high,” he says.
To test your ketones, I recommend KetoCoachX.12 It’s one of the least expensive testing devices on the market right now. Another good one is KetoMojo. KetoCoach, however, is less expensive, the strips are individually packed and the device is about half as thick as KetoMojo’s, making it easier to travel with.
Energy demands are not met in neurodegenerative diseases
Nutritional ketosis, in which your body produces endogenous ketones (water-soluble fats), is important for all neurodegenerative diseases, but it’s not a complete cure-all. Bredesen explains:
“What we’ve come to realize from the research over the years is that neurodegenerative diseases, whether Alzheimer’s … macular degeneration … Lewy body, Parkinson’s or ALS, they all have one thing in common. They are related to specific subdomains of the nervous system.
Each of these has a unique requirement for nutrients, hormones, trophic factors, et cetera … In each case, there is a mismatch between the supply and the demand. For most of your life, you’re keeping up with that demand. With all of these diseases, you have a repeated or a chronic mismatch between the support and the requirement.
In Parkinson’s disease, it’s quite clear. You can create Parkinson’s disease simply by inhibiting mitochondrial Complex I. That specific subdomain of motor modulation, which is what Parkinson’s is all about, is the thing that is the most sensitive to reductions in mitochondrial Complex I support.
Therefore, when people have this, you need to bring the supply back in line with the demand. A critical way to do that is to supply the appropriate ketosis — the appropriate energy.
Now, if the person is continuing to be exposed to whatever chemicals are inhibiting Complex I — and it’s typically … mold-related biotoxins or organic toxins such as paraquat or glyphosate — as long as these are ongoing, you’re going to get very temporary relief.
The goal here is both to get rid of what is inhibiting Complex I and to flood the system, to help the system by giving appropriate support for the energetics … With Alzheimer’s, we’re really talking about a mismatch in trophic support. You’ve got this ongoing need as you’re making neuroplasticity.”
Why late-night eating is ill advised
Although I am not ApoE4-positive, I prefer fasting for 16 hours a day, essentially narrowing my eating window to just four to six hours. I also make sure to eat my last meal three to six hours before bedtime. One of the reasons for this advice is because avoiding late-night eating will increase your nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) levels, which are important for a variety of bodily functions.
Importantly, it will also reduce nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH), which is essentially the true cellular battery of your cell and has the reductive potential to recharge your antioxidants. The largest consumer of NADPH is the creation of fatty acids.
If you’re eating close to bedtime, then you’re not going to be able to use the NADPH to burn those calories as energy. Instead, they must be stored some way. To store them, you have to create fat, so you’re basically radically lowering your NADPH levels when you eat late at night because they are being consumed to store your extra calories by creating fat.
Bredesen’s protocol includes this strategy as well. He calls his approach “KetoFlex 12/3,” because it generates mild ketosis and is flexible diet-wise. It can be done whether you’re a vegetarian or not. The 12/3 stands for a 12-hour minimum fast each day, and eating the last meal three hours before bedtime.
“Sirtuin-1 (SIRT1) was identified as a critical molecule, both for longevity and has been studied extensively for its effects on longevity, but also for its effects on Alzheimer’s disease …
ApoE4 actually enters the nucleus and downregulates the production of this critical molecule, so you can see one of its many effects on Alzheimer’s disease. Well, when SIRT1 is made, it is actually made in an autoinhibitory fashion. It’s just like having a gun in a holster. It’s not active … NAD activates the SIRT1.
So does resveratrol. This is why people take resveratrol [or] nicotinamide riboside. These are both activating this program, which is moving you from … more of a pro-inflammatory approach to a longevity approach — a change in your metabolic pattern. That includes activating things like autophagy and also having an anti-Alzheimer’s and a pro-longevity effect …
[Q]uercetin also has an interesting impact on senescent cells … I think that that’s going to turn out to be an important way to impact a number of age-related conditions, including neurodegeneration.”
The drawback, and the reason you cannot rely on supplements alone, is that the bioabsorption of these polyphenols, like quercetin for example, is quite low. Oftentimes, you cannot absorb enough to get the full benefits.
Limit electromagnetic field exposures
There’s also convincing evidence showing electromagnetic field exposures (EMFs) such as that from cellphones and Wi-Fi play an important role. Bredesen agrees, and recommends his patients limit such exposures. In summary, EMFs activate your voltage-gated calcium channels, allowing the release of excess nitric oxide and superoxide in the cell, resulting in the creation of peroxynitrite.
Peroxynitrite causes similar damage to your DNA as ionizing radiation. It also damages your stem cells, mitochondria, proteins and cell membranes. Poly-ADP ribose polymerase helps repair DNA damage by extracting an adenosine diphosphate (ADP) molecule from NAD. Approximately 100 to 150 NAD are required to repair a single DNA break.
While this process works quite well, problems arise when continuous DNA damage requiring continuous PARP activation occurs, as this ends up decimating your NAD+ level. Bredesen adds:
“This is a critical area. The big problem we’ve had with this so far is that we can measure your NF-κB activation; we can measure your status of hormones, nutrients, magnesium, on and on and on. Typically, with our approach, we measure 150 different variables.
There is no simple way to measure the effect of EMF on a given person’s nervous system. I look forward to the day when we can do a test and say, ‘Aha. This person has 27.2 on their effects on their voltage-gated calcium channels because of EMFs.’ Because then we’ll really be able to alter that.
For now, the best we can say is — just as we go after biotoxins and chemotoxins — [EMF] is a physical toxin. The best we can say is, ‘Minimize that to the extent you can.’ You can certainly measure the exposure. We just don’t have a good way yet to measure its effect on your brain.”
There’s no decline in sight for Alzheimer’s, at least in the foreseeable future, so it would behoove most people to just assume you’re headed for it and take action now, regardless of your age, to prevent it. When it comes to Alzheimer’s, prevention is surely far easier than trying to treat it once it has set in. As noted by Bredesen:
“This is all about prevention and early reversal. Those are the people where we see virtually 100% response. This is why I think there needs to be a global effort to decrease the burden of dementia. We’re just now starting a clinical trial. We’ve been trying to get institutional review board (IRB) approval for years …
It has finally been approved, so we’re starting a trial with Dr. Ann Hathaway, Dr. Deborah Gordon and Dr. Kat Toups, who are all seeing patients. We’re very excited to see what the trial will show with this approach. Because certainly, anecdotally, we’re hearing it all the time.
As you mentioned, we just published a paper a few months ago on 100 patients who showed documented improvement … I’m convinced we could, today, if everyone got an appropriate prevention, make this a very rare disease.”
Bredesen’s case report13 is open access, so you can download and read the full study. To learn more about Bredesen’s ReCODE protocol, see our previous interview, featured in “ReCODE: The reversal of cognitive decline.” In it, he reviews the various subtypes of Alzheimer’s, based on metabolic profiling, the influence of genetics, recommended screening tests and much more.
His book, “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline,” also provides the details, and would be a valuable reference in anyone’s health library.
You can also learn more about Bredesen and his work by following him on Facebook, Twitter or visit his website, drbredesen.com. Last but not least, keep an eye out for his latest book, “The First Survivors of Alzheimer’s.” This book, scheduled to come out toward the end of 2019, will feature first-person accounts from patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who beat the odds and improved.
- 1, 5 Alz.org, 2019 Disease Facts and Figures
- 2 CNN June 8, 2015
- 3 Nature 2014: 20; 415-418
- 4, 7 CDC.gov Leading causes of death in the US
- 6 Neurology March 5, 2014; 82(12)
- 8 AHNP Precision Health ReCODE, The Bredesen Protocol
- 9, 13 Journal of Alzheimers Disease & Parkinsonism 2018; 8(5): 450
- 10 Rezilir Health LLC, 100 Case reports for the reversal of cognitive decline
- 11 Alzforum July 12, 2019
- 12 KetoCoachX.com