The world of health is an ever-changing tapestry of new research and fascinating developments, both scientific and social. Every now and then, it becomes so much that it warrants a post covering a several different topics. Today’s update? Research into weight gain, more unsavory business practices from Monsanto, the debate rages on over salt consumption and the politics of opioids. Let’s jump right in.
Weight gain in middle-aged women
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City have made a fascinating discovery that helps answer the question: Why do women tend to gain weight in middle age, even if they keep on top of their health?
By manipulating a single hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in mice, researchers found they could control whether the mice lost or gained weight. As women approach menopause, FSH tends to increase. When this happens, you burn calories more slowly, accumulate more fat in the abdomen and lose bone density. By blocking the hormone, the opposite occurred.
Now, of course, the medical community has already begun to devise ways to manipulate this phenomenon chemically with antibodies and hormone blockers. But what sort of domino effect will that have on other systems? The AskDrErnst solution? Intermittent fasting, healthy fats, moderate exercise and little-to-no carbs and sugar. This is the (admittedly simplified) formula for hormone balance.
The Monsanto saga continues to unfold
Court-ordered discovery of thousands of internal documents from the agri-business giant Monsanto have shed light into the company’s disregard for human health.
For the most part, Monsanto’s ventures into hazardous pesticides and GMO crops have been explained away by either ignorance or a concerted effort to buy research that refutes any claims of dangers to human health.
This time, it would appear Monsanto knew full well that their use of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls), a highly carcinogenic compound used as a coolant and lubricator in electrical equipment, was highly dangerous to the human population being exposed to it. They continued to use PCBs anyway. I’d give you more analysis, but the Attorney General of the State of Washington, Bill Sherman, (who is suing Monsanto for billions) said it as well as I ever could:
If authentic, these records confirm that Monsanto knew that their PCBs were harmful and pervasive in the environment, and kept selling them in spite of that fact. They knew the dangers, but hid them from the public in order to profit.
A debate over the health of salt where both sides are absolutely correct
An American scientist by the name of James DiNicolantonio has released a book called The Salt Fix, in which he defends salt as a health food. He says that low-salt diets are encouraging weight loss (by inadvertently getting us to eat more sugar), causing brittle bones, memory loss and more. More salt, according to DiNicolantonio, would fight diabetes, help weight loss, boost brain function and strengthen bones.
Of course, this isn’t without some controversy. Health officials in the United Kingdom are condemning the book, claiming that it encourages poor health practices. One official, Prof Louis Levy, says:
By advocating a high-salt diet this book is putting the health of many at risk and it undermines internationally recognised evidence that shows a diet high in salt is linked to high blood pressure, a known risk for heart disease.
For many, this is just more fodder for the nutrition wars, where nobody knows what to do? More salt? Less salt? Coffee? Red wine? Carbs? Fat? We’re paralyzed by debate.
Well, not really. Here’s the deal.
Table salt, which is bleached and processed to where it’s nothing more than a chemical compound (sodium chloride), is indeed terrible for you. All the nighmare stories you hear about salt causing heart disease, stroke, etc. are true when we’re talking about sodium chloride.
When we are talking about REAL salt, sea salt–like Himalayan or Celtic sea salts–then we’re talking about a real mineral that has countless health benefits.
For comprehensive coverage of those benefits, have a look at a previous post where I expound upon the miracle that is sea salt.
How are opioids not a national crisis?
Now this is just interesting, even if it is a bit speculative. You may have heard about our current opioid crisis. Every day in America, 1,000 people go to the emergency room because of an opioid overdose. 20,000 die every year from prescription opioid overdoses. In some states (interestingly, more in the Southeast than any other U.S. region), there are more active opioid prescriptions than there are people. How does that even work?
The problem has been exacerbated by the drug, fentanyl, a prescription painkiller more powerful than heroin.
Now, some organizations are declaring this an “epidemic” or an “emergency.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has dubbed it an epidemic and released a statement saying,
Opioid abuse is a serious public health issue. Drug overdose deaths are the leading cause of injury death in the United States.
But despite the HHS and other organization’s (including New Jersey governor Chris Christie) recommendations to President Trump to declare a health emergency, the White House has thus far declined. Why?
According to HHS director, Tom Price, it’s a matter of resources. If the opioid epidemic were declared a national emergency, that’s effectively saying that it would become the nation’s number 1 priority. Funds and resources would flow into the problem, and with so many other issues our nation faces, it simply isn’t priority one. Understandable, I suppose. Nevertheless, when put in the context of drug and prescription drug deaths (52,000 annually =/-), it’s more than war by a long shot. Maybe we could just raise it’s priority level?
That’s it for today! Stay tuned for more updates.