How Much Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

How much do I need to eat

Have you ever wondered exactly how many calories you need to eat daily to maintain your weight?  There are some general guidelines , but her is a simple calculation you can almost do in your head:

First determine your Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR). Go to this site, get your BMR, then come back Click Here to Calculate BMR

Basic Metabolic Rate Calculation

The BMR is how many calories you need at total rest, not digesting anything, well rested, no stress, etc.  As soon as you get up to move you start burning more calories.  So based on your typical daily activity levels do one of the following calculations; multiply your BMR from above by the appropriate activity factor, as follows:

  • If you are sedentary (little or no exercise) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
  • If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
  • If you are moderatetely active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
  • If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
  • If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training) : Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9


If you are a 38 year old woman, 5’7″, 135 pounds your BMR is 1,325 calories per day. If you are lightly active then multiply 1,325 X 1.375 = 1,822 calories per day.

So if this woman eats 1,822 calories, of good food, then she should stay at the same weight.  If she wants to lose weight then consume fewer calories. There is an old number that one pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories. So excepting many variables, if you reduce your food intake and increase exercise for every pound of fat you lose it is the result of 3,500 fewer calories eaten.

This 3,500 calories per pound is for just fat. In reality you’ll also lose water, and lean muscle mass. If you are exercising you would increase muscle mass and lose fat. So many variables but if you eat less than you burn, you will lose weight, exactly how much is hard to calculate.


They type of foods you eat make a difference too if you’re trying to lose weight. If you eat high glycemic foods, it will be difficult to lose weight. high glycemic foods are those that cause your blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise. When your blood glucose levels rise your body releases insulin, the fat storage hormone, to quickly move the extra glucose into your fat stores. So when your blood glucose levels are high it is almost impossible to lose weight from fat. You may lose more muscle than fat.  What are high glycemic foods? Of course foods with added sugar: pastries, candy, candy bars, sodas, sweet coffee drinks, etc.  Other high glycemic foods are more processed foods. flour and startch turns quickly into glucose, so bread, pancakes, pasta, rice, potatoes, and even some fruits like ripe bananas

Foods that won’t spike your blood sugar are lean meats, fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some fruit.

So if your diet is free of high glycemic foods and you eat fewer calories than you burn, then it is easier to lose fat and you’ll be on your your way to your goals.

There is an App for that

Knowing how much to eat is easy, tracking what you actually eat is much tougher. There are many phone and web apps that let you track the foods you eat daily plus add in the exercise you do, so you have an idea of where you stand in your daily goals. Personally I like the MyFitnessPal app. It has many foods plus you can scan the barcode on a package and pull that food into your daily diet. It also remembers what foods you’ve eaten, so it is easy to find foods your eat often. You can also create recipies, so put in how many servings, add the ingredients, then save it. It also syncs up with many activity trackers, so if you have your FitBit on and go for or use another phone app for tracking your runs, it will pull those calories in as well.

Good luck.



GMOs Can Probably Cause Cancer

The World Health Organization (WHO) today said that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, or Glyphosate, can probably cause cancer. Here is a Reuters article.

First what is Roundup, or glyphosate?  It is a very powerful herbicide that is used to kill weeds and just about anything which grows. If you went to Home Depot and bought a bottle of Roundup and sprayed it on your vegetable garden, you’d have a dead garden in a day or two. It is very potent.

So what does this have to do with Genetically Modified foods (GMOs)? Monsanto and other seed companies have modified corn, soy, canola, and other crops to be resistant to Roundup. By doing this the farmers can save money by not having to remove weeds from the fields by hand, now they can spray the fields with Roundup, it will kill the weeds, but it won’t kill the genetically modified crop.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Well read on.

When the field is sprayed the Roundup lands on the corn, soy, etc. The weeds, and the soil.  The corn for example will absorb the Roundup just as the weeds do, but it won’t kill the corn. The Roundup just stays in the corn, soy, etc and every part of the plant has Roundup in it.

When you eat a GMO food, or foods made form GMO foods, you are getting a small dose of Roundup with every bite.  Even baby formula has GMO ingredients in it.  Here are the top 10 GMO containing foods:

  • Canned soups
  • Frozen foods sweetened with HFCS
  • Baby Formula
  • Juices and dried fruit sweetened with HFCS
  • Many cereals
  • Vegetable and Canola oils
  • Tofu & Soy Milk
  • Meats – Cattle, pigs, chickens, and farm raised fish are fed GMO corn & Soy
  • Milk – Dairy cattle are fed GMO corn and soy
  • Soft Drinks – sweetened with HFCS

How do you keep GMOs and Roundup off of your families kitchen table? Simple, look for Certified Organic foods or those that bear the Certified Non-GMO Project Verified label.



Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans

Reuters article.

Daily Finance – 10 foods you’ll have to give up to avoid eating GMOs

Feds to Withdraw Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Warnings

You’ve probably seen the news – the US Government is soon to remove all warnings about dietary cholesterol and saturated fat being harmful. Does that mean you can have eggs and bacon for breakfast every day and steak for dinner? Yes, sort of, if you chose your eggs, bacon, and beef properly.

Why was cholesterol demonized?

Lets take a look back at history.  Researchers back 40 years ago found that the plaque in arteries, which could cause a heart attack, had LDL cholesterol in them. So the conclusion was made that the LDL cholesterol is what caused plaque and heart attacks.  Then came Pfizer’s Lipitor and other statin drugs to reduce cholesterol and 40 years of cholesterol phobia.

Looking at just one little fact raised my doubts about this logic many years ago – That is over 50% of those people admitted to the ER for heart attacks had normal or low cholesterol levels.  So if high cholesterol caused heart attacks, then you should see very few people with low cholesterol levels having heart attacks, but that really had little to do with it.

If you also look at where the source of cholesterol in your body comes from, it isn’t so much the food you eat, but what your body makes. Cholesterol is a critical molecule in your body and if you reduced cholesterol too low you’d die.  Cholesterol is what most of your hormones, vitamin D, CoQ10, and other necessary compounds are made of.

The real culprit, which was never communicated to the public nor doctors was that it was inflammation in the arteries which oxidized, and damaged, the LDL cholesterol and made it sticky. (Oxidation is what causes a car to rust or an apple to turn brown) When it became damaged and sticky that caused it to form the plaque. So what causes inflammation? simple rule of thumb is almost anything white, so sugar, flour, rice, potatoes, etc. These foods are very quickly converted to glucose in the blood stream and this increased glucose causes the oxidation. One way to identify the bad foods is too look up their glycemic index. This is measure which indicates how quickly a food will raise your blood sugar. 0 means it doesn’t raise blood sugar at all and 100 is eating pure table sugar.  You want to stick to the low glycemic foods which which have a GI of less than 55. (an apple is 39 but a banana is 62. A baked potato is 111). This doesn’t mean that  there are a number of websites which list the GI of different foods. Here is one

Saturated Fat was Demonized too.

Another dietary change which took place a few decades ago also was the reduction of fat in foods. When you reduce or eliminate fat,  sugar was added to make it palatable.  We know sugar isn’t good, but if you tasted a fat free yogurt without sugar, you’d probably never buy it again. People were looking for that “Fat Free” banner on the label, they bought it, and it tasted good, but few turned the carton around and read the ingredients and saw how much sugar was added to make it taste good.

Healthy Omega 6 vs Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (EFA) Ratio

You also need the right balance of Omega 6 and 3 fats in your diet. The ideal ratio is 1:1. In the typical western diet that ratio 16:1 so far too much omega 6 EFA. This excess is oxidizing and causes the same oxidation of cholesterol as too much sugar.  Some people will take fish oil, or eat fish to get the healthy omega 3 EFAs, but nobody looks at omega 6.  So where does that excess of omega 6 come from?

Corn and Soy beans cause an excess of omega 6 when fed to animals (including us). So you say “Great I don’t eat corn or soy that often, so I’m good!”  Not so fast. You don’t have to eat the corn and soy, it can also come from what you eat or drink eats. Chickens, cattle, pigs, farm raised salmon, tilapia, shrimp and other farmed animals are fed a diet very high in corn and soy meal. When a cow eats this commercial diet it causes an unhealthy excess of omega 6 EFA in their flesh and milk.

When you eat that steak, egg, or drink a glass of milk you are getting a very unhealthy level of inflammatory omega 6 essential fatty acids. So eating that plate of eggs and bacon or a nice juicy steak is oxidizing that cholesterol and setting you up for a heart attack.  If you buy that Atlantic salmon fillet, look at the ingredients. It will say Salmon & food color added to the feed. Why? Because farm raised salmon, which is fed corn and soy meal, is white, not pink. Does that mean you have to go back to a kale and quinoa diet?  No. Read on.

Where to find Healthy Beef, Fish, Eggs, and Milk

So how do you find beef, fish, eggs, and milk that has a healthy 1:1 ratio of omega 3 & 6 EFAs?  Simple, go to the farm or hop on a boat.  When animals eat what they’ve eaten for thousands of years they’re healthy and when they are healthy you are healthy.  If you lived on a farm you’re cattle would graze on grass in the pasture. Chickens would scratch iStock_000002536169_ExtraSmallthe ground for seeds, grubs, insects, and anything else they can get. Pigs would eat what they could find too.  You could also hop in your boat and head out to sea, or to the lake. Salmon eat krill which gives them their natural pink color, same with other common fish, and shrimp.

Next time you go to the store look for the grass fed beef, milk from grass fed cows, wild caught fish and shrimp, and pasture raised chickens and eggs. Don’t fall for the “Free Range” label on the eggs. They are still fed corn and soy meal, but have access to the outside, but no natural foods there. They are more expensive, but it is worth the price to get real food that is good for you vs cheap unhealthy meats.

Blood Tests for Oxidation

The level of oxidation in your body can change daily based on what you eat and do. There are two tests though which can measure a couple markers of inflammation:

  • CRP – C-Reactive Protein. You want this to be less than 1.0.  They’ll say normal is 1.0 to 3.0, but that is what the average of the population, you want to be better than average!
  • Homocysteine – This is a highly reactive molecule which tears into the artery walls like sandpaper, then if you have oxidized LDL cholesterol it will take hold in these tears. You want this to be less than 9.0 and ideally less than 7.0. B12 and Folate help to lower homocysteine.

Don’t Buy Organic

Well, do buy organic produce, but organic milk, beef, eggs, etc are just fed organic soy and corn. Yes they won’t have hormones  and other additives and far superior to conventionally raised, but they will have far too much of the inflammatory omega 6 EFA and will lead to the oxidation of cholesterol.  Sometimes you can find organic grass fed beef and pasture raised eggs and chickens, then that is the best of the best, but if cattle are roaming the open fields eating the naturally growing grasses, and the fields aren’t being sprayed with pesticides, then you are good. When in season try to find locally raised beef, chicken, and pork where you know the farmer and see the fields.


There is nothing harmful with cholesterol, it is the oxidation of that harmless cholesterol which makes it deadly. To live a healthy life you can ignore the cholesterol levels, but you must reduce those foods which lead to the oxidation of the cholesterol. So eliminate sugar, flour, rice, bread, potatoes, etc and eat only grass fed beef and milk, pasture raised chickens and eggs, and only fresh caught fish.



Medical Daily
Washington Post
Omega 3 vs 6 fatty acids

Why All The Ads Against Labeling GMOs

If you live in Colorado or Oregon I’m sure you’ve had enough of the political ads against GMO labeling, but why all the fuss?

First, what are GMOs? GMO is Genetically modified Organism.  Companies like Monsanto, Dow, and others have modified the DMA of corn, soy, and other crops to benefit the growers so they can grow more with less labor. So that sounds good right?  If you planted GMO corn in your back yard next to conventional corn you probably couldn’t tell the difference and there may be no real difference when it is on the table.  The danger comes when it is commercially grown.

There are two basic types of genetic modifications they’ve made to the corn, soy, and other plants.

Herbicide Tolerant plants

Can you imagine growing thousands of acres of corn or soy and having to manually weed the crop? Thousands of man hours of grueling work walking up and down rows pulling weeds. So one type of genetic modification is to make the plant resistant to herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. So now rather than pulling weeds they can spray the fields with toxic herbicides like Roundup and kill the weeds, but the GMO corn/soy won’t be affected by the poison.  Still doesn’t sound that bad. But when you look at the crop that has been doused with poison it doesn’t kill the corn/soy, but it takes it in and absorbs it. So when they harvest the corn/soy all that Roundup is in each kernel or bean and it ends up in the food you eat.

Go to Home Depot and pick up a bottle of RoundUp and read the precautions label. That is in your corn on the cob and in your kids breakfast cereal, and in the foods sweetened with corn syrup.

Just recently the FDA approved another GMO crop which can withstand a combination of Roundup and Agent Orange. If you remember the Vietnam war, Agent Orange was sprayed on the jungle to kill the foliage. It also had severe health impacts on the troops on the ground. A good friend was a helicopter pilot there and is now a type1 diabetic because of the agent orange.

Insect Resistant

The other type of genetic modification is to have the plant produce its own insecticide. So rather than having to spray the corps with bug kilers, the plant produces its own and kills the bugs when they eat the plant.  So eat the crop and you’re eating insecticide.

The one ad here in Colorado says there are already Organic and Non-GMO Labeling laws, but these are voluntary.  Only if a company wants to say their food is GMO they can – which no company will.

So why are the major food producers, growers, and chemical companies spending billions to fight GMO labeling? Because if they had to admit what is in their foods, then many people would switch to non-GMO products. Now you can’t tell. Even if it says No GMOs, or Non GMO, or All Natural, it still has GMOs. Look at a very recent Consumers Reports study where they found that virtually everything includes GMOs unless it has the Organic Seal or the Certified Non-GMO seal.

So please research the facts and really understand the truth behind GMO labeling, then cast your vote.

In Colorado is it Prop 105 –  Please vote Yes.

In Oregon it is Measure 92 – Please vote Yes.


Below are several references where you can read more about GMO produce, what it is and what it isn’t

Non GMO Project. This is the organization which provides Non-GMO verification for food products so they can bear the Non-GMO logo. This has pages on describing the types of GMO produce.

Earth Open Source – This has a good paper you can download which reviews much of the safety research on GMO foods.

Roundup Ready Controversy – This is published by MIT. It is factual and fairly neutral.

Environmental Sciences Europe – This is 2 year rat study which is what Monsanto published to get GMOs approved, but monsanto only ran the study for 90 days vs 2 years. In the conclusion they list the ailments seen in the rats – in general a two to three fold increase in mortality.

Food & Water Watch – Agent Orange Ready Corn – This lists the dangers of Agent Orange.

GMO Answers – To give fair balance, this is an industry site (Monsanto, food manufactures, etc) so the information is very pro GMO. – This is a news outlet for the manufacturing industry, including foods. They have a good writeup on who is funding the anti-GMO labeling campaigns in Colorado and Oregon and why.

Graphic of who has contributed to each side of the GMO labeling campaigns – This is a great graphic by the Cornucopia Institute of which companies and organizations have contributed how much to both sides of the GMO labeling campaigns in Colorado and Oregon.

Can You Get All Your Nutrition Only From Food?

All your life you’ve eaten a “healthy” diet. You’ve followed the USDA Food Pyramid from the beginning, and were always told supplements were unnecessary as long as you ate a balanced diet.

Maybe you’re wiser now, and are following a higher nutrient diet. Either way, one of the most repeated beliefs among health conscious people is that you can – and should – get all of your nutrients from food. With over half of the nation consuming a multivitamin, this isn’t a universal belief. However, multivitamins often make people think they can eat even worse, which isn’t exactly productive.

I have the running argument with my in-laws – They are 86 and 92 say they are perfectly healthy, and they never took supplements. Perfect health is debatable, they have the degenerative diseases which are “Normal” for their age. The real difference is that they grew up in a time when their food was grown by the local farmer and cows ate grass, pigs foraged for what they could, chickens scratched for seeds and grubs, and produce was fertilized with manure.  They walked 6 miles to school and work through the snow. They played outside.  farmers didn’t have herbicides and pesticides. They tended the crop by hand pulling weeds and removing sick plants. The nutrient content of their food then was far superior to what we buy in the local grocery store.

If you’re under 50 though, your childhood and young adult diet was far inferior to my in-laws unless you grew up on a farm or in a Greek fishing village.

10 Reasons You Must Take Supplements

1. You Eat The Standard American Diet

Grains, farm raised meats, and processed foods are not food. The purpose of consuming food is to nourish the body and mind. These foods do the opposite.
First of all, grains, legumes, and conventional dairy are nutrient deficient (or void). They contain extremely small amounts of nutrients, most of which are poorly absorbed.

Grains and legumes deplete nutrient stores and interfere with nutrient absorption. They are toxins in themselves, which increases your nutrient needs. Grains and legumes both cause intestinal damage which further decreases your ability to absorb nutrients. Even if you’ve stopped eating these foods, you may be in nutrient debt or have lingering intestinal damage which is interfering with nutrient absorption.

Due to inflammation caused by other foods toxins, farm raised protein is often inflammatory. Conventional dairy also contains mycotoxins which are extremely damaging.

2. Soil Depletion

Vitamins and MineralsImproper farming practices deplete the soil of nutrients. When plants are repeatedly grown on the same land, the soil loses nutrients faster than they can be replaced. Over time, the plants have fewer nutrients to grow. Fertilizer contains just enough nutrition for the plant to survive and grow large until harvesting, but not enough to support human health. This results in plants that have 75% fewer micronutrients. In addition, most plants are not harvested fresh. They sit on trucks, shelves, and counters for weeks before being eaten. Over time, the nutrient content of these plants decreases.

Most modern fruits and vegetables are grown to increase their sugar content and weight (water), not their nutrient value. As a result, most of the common fruits and vegetables are artificially high in fructose and sugar and lower in key nutrients.

When plants contain fewer nutrients, the animals that eat these plants are also malnourished. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Health found copper levels in the UK have dropped by 90% in dairy, 55% in meat, and 76% in vegetables. Selenium is another one. In many areas of the world the solid is totally devoid of selenium.  If the nutrient isn’t in the soul it won’t get into the plant, your not going to get it when you eat it, or an animal that ate from that depleted soil.

Fertilizer is routinely applied to crops, but most fertilizer contains only nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These are key nutrients to plant health and growth (Nitrogen for leaves, phosphorus for strong roots, and potassium for overall cell wall strength.)  So they grow lush healthy looking produce, but aside from these three nutrients, they are seriously lacking the other 40+ vitamins and minerals we need to support our life.

3. Water Depletion

Water is also depleted of minerals due to modern production methods. There is a huge variation in the mineral content of bottled and tap water, with tap water generally having more. Water filters remove important minerals such as magnesium, which was a main source of magnesium for early humans. If you don’t use a filter and you don’t have a well, it’s likely you’re consuming dangerous amounts of fluoride and/or are deficient in magnesium. This could explain why people who drink water higher in calcium than magnesium develop more myocardial infarcts and ischemic heart disease.

4. Low Calorie Diets Are Low Nutrient Diets

I know this is a crazy idea, but starving yourself is bad. Consuming a low calorie diet means you’re consuming fewer total micronutrients. Humans are designed to consume a large amount of calories, and it doesn’t make you fat. When you eat less (as everyone says you should), it’s easy to become malnourished. When you’re consuming low quality foods, you have to eat even more to obtain the right amounts of nutrition. This is one more example of why food quality matters.

I see people go on diets and obsess over calories. They’ll eat a 100 calorie snack of rice cakes, crackers, etc. They might as well just eat 100 calories of sugar. They replace avocados, fruits, and nuts with nutrient void foods to “reduce” calories.

What do we mean by low calorie? Most diets require over 22,000 calories to supply all the essential micronutrients. If you’re eating less than that, and are following something like the USDA diet or the South Beach Diet, you’re deficient in nutrients.

Farm raised animals are fed primarily corn and soy. These are calorie rich grains which fatten up the animals quickly, but they are low in nutrients. They also cause a dangerous imbalance in the essential Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

Pesticide-treated vegetables are lower in phenolics than organic ones. This is because polyphenols are produced as a defense against bugs and pathogens. When there is no reason to defend themselves, the plant stops producing polyphenols.

There is pesticides. This is despite sometimes being contaminated anyway. It should be mentioned that many studies show organic foods are not higher in nutrients. However, that’s going by the USDA definition of organic – not “organic” that you would find in your back yard. Fresh fruits and vegetables grown at home in well fertilized soil are going to be higher in nutrients than USDA organic versions.

GMO foods (primarily corn and soy) are resistant to glyphosate – the RoundUp herbicide. So these crops are heavily sprayed with glyphosate to kill the weeds. Glyphosate chelates minerals in crops on which it is sprayed. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this effect has, but it’s safe to avoid GMO foods for a variety of other reasons.

Unfortunately, organic is not always possible due to financial or logistical reasons. Even when you can find organic foods, they aren’t necessarily better.

5. Grain-fed Meat, Farmed Seafood, and Conventional Dairy

Salmon fillet
Wild Caught Salmon fillet

Compared to grass-fed meat, grain-fed meat is abysmally low in antioxidants, micronutrients, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. Grains are not a food for humans or herbivorous animals. When herbivores are fed grains, they become malnourished, just like humans. Grain-fed meat and farmed seafood can also serve as a carrier for more toxins, which increases nutrient needs. If it isn’t labeled Organic meat, then it has been fed GMO grain. But even organic meat just means the animals were fed organic corn and soy, so only slightly better than conventional.  Look for the grass fed means, range fed chickens, wild caught fish, etc.

If you eat salmon, which you should, look at the ingredients on a farmed salmon, often called Atlantic Salmon.  It will say salmon and food coloring, or food collaring added to the feed.  This is because salmon fed grains is white, not pink. So they add food coloring to the salmons feed to turn it pink. Worse yet, like land animals, farm raised salmon have very little of the protective omega 3 oils and high levels of the oxidizing omega 6.  So the benefit of salmon, the rich omega 3 oils is lacking in farm raised salmon. This applies to tilapia, shrimp, etc.

The majority of nutrients in milk are found in the fat (cream). When you remove or reduce the fat, you are removing and reducing the nutrient content. Pasteurization destroys some of the nutrients in both skim and full fat milk. Conventional dairy is also high in aflatoxin and other mycotoxins that were in the cattle’s feed.
If you eat grain-fed meat or conventional dairy – supplementation is a good idea.

6. Toxin Exposure

Your body needs nutrients to deal with toxins. When more toxins are present, you need more nutrients. If you’re living in a cave or the garden of Eden, this will be less of a concern. If you’re like the rest of us mortals – you’re exposed to a litany of toxins on a daily basis.

Here are just some of the things your body has to contend with:

  • Xenoestrogens (plastics, BPA, some molds, petroleum products).
  • Industrial solvents and cleaners
  • Unnatural lighting.
  • Food toxins
  • Stress and lack of sleep.
  • Radiation (natural radiation plus electro magnetic radiation from all of our electronic devices)

Our bodies weren’t designed to deal with these toxins using only nutrition from food.  So if you plan to get your nutrition only from food, you should plan to avoid all toxins. Good luck with that.

7. Nutrient Absorption Declines With Age

Several studies have shown kids need more nutrients to support growth, and older people need more nutrients due to malabsorption. As people age, they often begin taking medications which can interfere with nutrient absorption. This means you need to take more nutrients in the most absorbable form possible.

8. Exercise Increases Nutrient Needs

Athletes often think tons of exercise is the key to a long and healthy life. Professional athletes and their trainers are among the first to denounce supplementation as risky because of the risk of contaminated or adulterated supplements.  I don’t advocate high amounts of exercise, but this is an important point. If you’re doing enough exercise to substantially deplete energy reserves, you’re also using more nutrients for energy production and recovery. As a result, athletes are at an even higher risk of nutrient deficiencies. Since many athletes eat a low nutrient, high toxin diet – this is a serious concern.

9. Supplementation May Help You Live Longer

Aging is a natural process, but it’s not fun. If there are supplements than can delay this process, why not take them? As long as there isn’t an undue risk of harm, it’s hard to justify avoiding a substance simply because our ancestors didn’t have access to it. There is good reason to believe a higher intake of nutrients may prolong life. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors may have been malnourished at certain times which is not beneficial. If supplements can buy you a few more years of quality life, why not take them?

10. Expense & Health

Whether we like it or not, sometimes supplements are cheaper than real food. In the case of something like salmon, it may be better for you to supplement with a high quality fish or krill oil than to settle for a farmed variety. Farmed salmon is low in omega-3s and high in toxins.

Farmed salmon are higher in parasites and bacteria. In order to hide the sickly appearance of farmed salmon meat, the fish are fed a pink pigment to change their tissue color. Farmed salmon contains 16 times more PCB’s and pesticides than wild. Wild salmon is often more expensive than grass-fed beef, and presents more of a health risk than benefit. Grass-fed beef has enough omega-3’s by itself, but supplementation may be a good idea for some people (like kids).

We live in a stressful, toxic world, and it’s a normal, healthy, optimized human behavior to understand the toxins and counteract them whenever possible. Hiding your head in Paleo-sand won’t make the effects of these toxins go away. Neither will eating some vegetables.

The idea that you can get all your nutrients from food is fine in theory, but virtually impossible in practice. Soil and water depletion, food and environmental toxins, poor absorption, pesticides, exercise, and lack of calories can all cause nutrient deficiencies. There is evidence that consuming nutrients from food is more beneficial than supplements, which is why you should focus on a nutrient rich diet first. However, it’s rarely enough.

Do you think supplementation is necessary for optimal health?

Does an Apple a day keep the doctor away?

girl eating a apple

An apple a day did keep the doctor away, but not any more unless it comes from a tree grown in healthy organic soil. (An organic commercially grown apple can come from depleted soil.)

According to Australian soil scientist Christine Jones, as reported by Courtney White in his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, apples have lost 80 percent of their vitamin C.

And that orange you just ate to help ward off a cold? It’s entirely possible that it contains no vitamin C at all.

A study looking at vegetables from 1930 to 1980, found that iron levels had decreased by 22 percent, and calcium content by 19 percent. In the United Kingdom, from 1940 to 1990, copper content in vegetables fell by 76 percent, and calcium by 46 percent. The mineral content in meat was also significantly reduced.

Food forms the building blocks of our bodies and health. Soil forms the basis for healthy food. Unhealthy soil grows poor quality food. And poor quality food means poor health.

Commercially grown produce is typically fertilized with only potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorus. This is all that is needed to grow large plump produce, and since fruits and vegetables are sold by the pound, this makes financial sense to the farmer and retailer.  These are the key minerals to form the plant cells, but the calcium, selenium, iron, boron, copper, etc are depleted from the soil with each growing season and they aren’t replaced.

Just one piece of evidence pointing to the need to supplement your diet with a high quality multivitamin.  So still enjoy a good organic apple, but you’ll need help more help to keep the doctor away.

Organic vs. Natural. Whats the difference

USDA Organic SealWalk down the grocery aisle and you’ll see all sorts of clams, Natural, All Natural, Organic, 100% Organic, and more. So what is the real difference between these. The USDA has very strict requirements on what can be labeled Organic, but the requirements for Natural are minimal. There are actually three levels of Organic which are listed below, then there is a table which lists the difference between Organic and Natural in multiple categories.

Natural vs. Organic

100% Organic

Products containing only organically produced ingredients
Products may display the USDA organic seal


Products consisting of ingredients that are at least 95% organically grown
Products can display the USDA organic seal

Made with Organic

Products consisting of ingredients that are 70 – 95% organically grown
Products cannot display the USDA organic seal


Products produced without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives




Toxic persistent Pesticides allowed Not Allowed Allowed
GMOs Not Allowed Allowed
Antibiotics Not Allowed Allowed
Growth Hormones Not Allowed Allowed
Sludge & Irridation Not Allowed Allowed
Animal Welfare Requirements Yes No
Cows required to be on pasture for pasture season Yes No
Audit trail from farm to table Yes No
Certification Required, including inspections Yes No
Legal restrictions on allowable materials Yes No


So now you know the difference, so the next time you pick up that box that says “All Natural” realize that it is just marketing and really means very little.

GMO vs Non-GMO Corn – What are the differences.

GMO CornIn the quest for cheaper food many farmers, have switched to Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn seeds. What Monsanto did to the corn was modify its genetics so that the weed killer and herbicide, Roundup, won’t kill the corn. This enables the farmers to spray the corn crops with high amounts of roundup to kill the weeds so that they don’t have to hand till each row. So a huge labor savings resulting in lower production costs, and cheaper food.  Concept is great, because we all want lower cost foods.

The problem is though that that Roundup weed killer, and its active ingredient glyphosate, is absorbed by the corn plant through the plant and the soil and is incorporated into the plant. Without the genetic modification the corn would be quickly killed, but it lives on.  All that glyphosate ends up in the corn we eat and all the foods derived from corn like corn syrup, HFCS, beef, milk, eggs, and hundreds of other food products.

What has also been found is that, as can be expected, there are high levels of glyphosate in the corn, more than 18 times than what is allowed in the US water supply and 65 times more than what is allowed in Europe. Worse yet is the glyphosate level in corn is 130 times higher than what has been shown to cause organ damage.  So what are you putting on your families table?

Not only are the levels of glyphosate extremely high, but also very high levels of formaldehyde and surprisingly the levels of many minerals are much lower in the GMO corn vs conventionally grown.

Below is a table listing the differences in toxins and minerals from two adjacent midwest US fields, one genetically modified corn and the other non-GM

Parts per million (ppm)
Ingredient GM corn Non-GM corn

Glyphosate 13 0
Formaldehyde 200 0
Nitrogen 7 46
Phosphorus 3 44
Potassium 7 113
Calcium 14 6130
Magnesium 2 113
Sulphur 3 42
Manganese 2 14
Iron 2 14
Zinc 2.3 14.3
Copper 2.6 16
Molybdenum 0.2 1.5
Boron 0.2 1.5
Selenium 0.6 0.3
Cobalt 0.2 1.5

Even though the GM crops weren’t sprayed with formaldehyde as the  glyphosate breaks down one of the by-products is formaldehyde.  You don’t want formaldehyde in your body until you’re laid to rest.

The easiest way to make sure you aren’t poisoning your family with GM corn is to buy only organic corn or grow the corn yourself.  But you’ll still get glyphosate and formaldehyde onto your dinner table. Corn and Soy (which is also genetically modified and sprayed with Roundup) are the primary grains fed to cattle, pigs, chickens, and farm raised salmon, shrimp, catfish and others.  So if a cow is fed an diet rich in GM corn and soy, then the toxins will be in the meat and the milk. For chickens it will also be in the eggs.  If you buy organic meats, milk, and eggs, then they must be fed non-GM foods so those are the sure bet for your families safety.

There are many genetically modified foods besides corn:

  • Soybeans – Most is GM
  • Corn – Most is GM
  • Wheat – non is allowed in the US yet but it is found in Europe for non-foods and for animal feed.
  • Rapeseed and Canola oil
  • Sugar Beet
  • Potato – These have been modified to increase the amount of starch.
  • Cotton – This not only is used for clothing, but also for animal feed.
  • Paypaya – Modified to be more disease resistance.
  • Apples – Apples may soon show up in the GM column. Not for herbicide resistance but to keep them from browning.

Some plans have been genetically modified to product their own toxins that will kill insects that eat the plant. This does save spraying the crops with insecticides, but they make their own which can’t be good for us.

Yes, organic foods are more expensive, but go to Home Depot and take a look at a bottle of Roundup and read the cautions. Just picture spraying that on your food as you cook it or mixing into the kids cereal in the morning.  Read the label, you’ll shop organic.

Sources: Permaculture Institute, Mercola, and GMO Compass

Love Your Kids? Don’t feed them these foods which are banned in other countries

Toxic fumesIf you love your family and yourself you’d be wise to avoid these very common foods which are probably in your kitchen now. These are foods which are legal in the US, but banned in other, more enlightened countries around the world.

The US FDA is supposed to protect the citizens of the US, but the FDA is also run by many retired executives of food and drug companies, and are heavily lobbied by the same food and drug companies. So to get something banned by the FDA it has to be very dangerous, or a threat to the food and drug companies.  As an example the FDA only prohibits 6 ingredients in skin care. Canada has over 600 forbidden chemicals on their skin care list. So why is a chemical considered safe in the US, but step over the border and it is forbidden? Are Canadians more sensitive than those standing on US soil? Nope.

As you read the list below and think about each, consider this – the reason these foods are on this list is because they are cheaper to produce than conventional organic, wild raised, etc type of foods.  So it boils down to the old saying:

“You get what you pay for”

If you continue to buy the cheapest food then you promote the continuation of the dangerous practices listed below. If you buy quality, then the economic viability of the foods below will fade away – it is all about economics.

So here is the list:

  1. Milk and Diary products containing rBGH – rGBH is the largest selling dairy animal drug in the US. It is a synthetic growth hormone engeinered by Monsanto. It is injected into cows to increase milk production. It is banned in 30+other countries because of its dangers which include increased risk of colorectal, prostate, and brest cancer. Even the cows which are given the drug suffer high rates of cancers, some of which contaminate the milk with pus and antibiotics.  What can you do? buy only milk which is labeled rBGH-free or No rGBH, or Organic
  2. Genetically Engineered Papaya – Most of the Hawaiian papaya is now GMO to resist ring-spot virus. Research is now showing that animals fed GMO foods are suffering many maladies including intestinal damage, organ damage, tumors, birth defects, premature death, and complete sterility by the third generation of offspring.  GMO papaya is banned in the European Union.
  3. Ractopamine Tainted Meat – This is a chemical/drug which increases protein synthesis. This was a drug developed for asthma but they found it made the test mice more muscular. it also reduces the overall fat content of the meat. This can be found in 45% of us pork and 30% of the conventionally fed (grain) cattle, and unknown number of turkeys. Upto 20% of the drug remains in the meat you buy. It is banned across Europe, Russia, China, and Taiwan.  If China bans it it must be bad!
  4. Flame Retardant Drinks –  Do you love Mountain Dew and other citrus flavored sodas and sports drinks? Well you’re then getting a healthy dose of brominated vegetable oil (BVO). This was originally patented as a flame retardant.  BVO accumulates in your body and breast milk. It has been found to cause reproductive and behavioral problems in large doses. Bromine is chemically similar to chlorine, fluorine, and iodine. The first two are toxic and it can displace iodine causing problems with iodine deficiency. it is banned in the European Union and Japan.
  5. Artificial Food Colors and Dyes – Look at a box or jar of food and look for the popular Red 40, yellow 5, yellow6, or blue 2. These are the commonly used artificals colors used in foods like kids Mac & Cheese, Jell-O, and many kids foods. Research has shown that these can cause behavioral problems as well as cancer, birth defects and other problems in animals. They are banned in Norway and Austria. the UK has advised companies to stop using them by the end of the year. the EU requires warning labels.
  6. Arsenic Laced Chicken – Everyone should know that Arsenic is a poison, then why is it allowed in chickens? because it makes the animals grow quicker and makes the meat appear pinker, so it looks fresh when it may not be. The arsenic fed the chickens also ends up in chicken manure, which is then sold to farmers to fertilize crops, then it ends up in what ever grows in it. In 2011 Pfizer voluntarily stopped selling the arsenic based feed additive, but other companies continue to produce it.  I met with a major chicken producer who said they pump their chicks full of drugs and they grow to full size in 8 weeks. A normal barn yard chicken will take 6 months to reach full size.  So they can get a chicken to slaughter weight in 1/3 the natural time, that means they can produce three times the chickens from the same space.  It is banned in the European Union arsenic laced feeds have never been approved.
  7. Bread with Potassium Bromate – This is found in almost all commercially produced breads and flours and contribues to the overload of bromide in western cultures.  Why do they add potassium bromate? Because it makes the dough more elastic. Look for packages labeled “unbromated flour” Bromide has been linked to kidney, thyroid, GI and nervous system problems and cancer. It is banned in Canada, China, and the European Union.
  8. Olestra/Olean – this is a calorie and cholesterol free fat substitute used in fat free snacks. Why is it in foods? Because they can make tasty fat free snacks that taste like they are fried. It can cause various GI problems and interferes with the absorption of fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. It is banned in the UK and Canada.
  9. Preservatives BHA and BHT – These preservatives are often found in cereals, nuts, gum, butter spreads,  meats, potato products and even beer. BHA is know to cause cancer in rats and may cause cancer in us! It is banned in the UK in infant foods and also banned in the EU and Japan.
  10. Farm Raised Salmon – Wild salmon live in the ocean and the krill they consume contain astaxanthin which gives salmon its pink color and also its high amount of beneficial omega 3 essential fatty acids.  Farm raised salmon are fed an un-natural diet of GMO corn, GMO soy, and other unnatural foods.  Farm raised salmon is gray in color, so they add pink food coloring to the feed to make them pink. Look at the label on that Atlantic Salmon in the store, you’ll see “Ingredients: Salmon, food coloring”. Also without the natural diet, farm raised salmon is very low in beneficial omega 3 oils and much higher in the inflammatory omega 6 oils. The same applies to other farm raised fish and shrimp. To be safe only buy seafood labeled “Wild Caught”. Farm raised salmon is banned in Australia and New Zealand.

You probably see a theme in these 10 foods – Food companies use dangerous ingredients or practices to increase the production of the food and keep the costs down. It is our demand for cheap food which taste good, but the general public is sadly unconcerned with what they put on their families table. They will buy the bargain food with no regard to what is in it or what it will do to them and their family.

Many expect the FDA to oversee the food supply so that if it is on the shelf or in the freezer, then it is safe. Sadly though in the US the FDA is more concerned about making sure there are minimal insect and rat fur in the product than is it health and not harmful.  Remember the FDA is really controlled by the food an pharmaceutical companies, so that is like asking the fox to watch the hen house.

So what can you do?  first look at what you put in the shopping cart. If you habitually reach for the lowest priced option, then you are getting what you pay for.  You can throw a big fat steak in the cart for a few bucks, but seek out the organic grass fed beef and you’ll pay twice the price per pound – And be amazed at the taste. So rather than plopping a 16 oz steak on your plate, go for the much healthier option and choose the 6 oz grass fed organic steak, then fill the rest of the plate with organic fresh vegetables, at little sweet potato, and you’ll feel much better in the morning, will lose weight, and you’re cardiologist will love you.

Better yet, save the meat for the once a week meal. There are many other protein rich foods which are very heart healthy and diet friendly. Legumes, tofu, Quinoa, and others.


Source: List of 10 foods from and Mercola

Want to look better and feel better? Drink water

Drink water for your healthAnyone who’s attempted to improve their health has heard the golden rule: drink more water.

That sounds easy, right?

Even right now, I’ve got my trusty  water bottle sitting at my desk. Halfway through the day, and I’ve already refilled it three times to stay properly hydrated, because apparently, this is key to my health. But why?

After digging through some research, I can tell you exactly why keeping your H2O levels in check is so important for your health.

Now grab a fresh glass of water and drink it down as we explore how you’re helping your body in more ways than you thought.

Why Water?

Water makes up about 60 percent of your total body weight, meaning your body really depends on the stuff. Actually, pretty much every system in your body relies on water to keep things running smoothly.

These functions include regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, protecting and moistening body organs and tissues, regulating digestion, carrying nutrients and oxygen to cells, and dissolving nutrients and minerals to make them accessible to the body.

Maybe the most important function of water is helping out your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste in and out of cells, and the main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in your urine.

So drinking water regularly helps to flush out these toxins and lighten the workload for your kidneys. Without sufficient water intake, you’re not doing your kidneys any favors and actually putting yourself at a higher risk for kidney stones as a result of extended dehydration.

Speaking of dehydration, it’s something you really want to avoid. Obviously, it will diminish the processes mentioned above, but it can also throw off your electrolyte levels. This may cause muscle weakness or heart rhythm disturbances due to overly low or high levels of important chemicals like potassium and sodium.

How Much is Enough?

OK, you get it: water is super important. Now let’s talk about how much is enough.

You’ve probably heard the commonly used recommendation of eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. It’s not the worst guideline to stick with, but it might not be the best, either. Things like height, weight, food consumption, outside temperature, and physical activity all play into how much water an individual should consume.

The best way to determine your hydration level is to pay attention to your body. First of all, if you feel thirsty, that’s your body telling you it needs water, and you shouldn’t ignore it. Be mindful that if you’re always waiting until you feel thirsty, your body might already be partly dehydrated, so always try to address your thirst before you feel it.

Next, take a look at your urine. I know, it sounds a little gross, but it’s a really great indicator to tell if you’re sufficiently hydrated. When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color, and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.

Ways to Drink More

Many of you might already know most of this information, but you still aren’t drinking enough water. Maybe you think the taste is boring or you’re forgetful. Heck, you might just be a little lazy.

When it comes down to it, these are all just excuses. Drinking water is vital to your health, and it’s an easy, inexpensive habit to adapt.

Take a look at some of these helpful tips to incorporate more water into your diet.

  • Before your morning coffee or tea, drink a glass of water right when you wake up to help replace fluids lost during your sleep.
  • Keep a water bottle with you throughout your day so that you have something tangible in front of you to remind you to keep sipping on water.
  • Add some natural flavor to your water with a slice of lime, lemon, or whatever your favorite fruit is.
  • Try to drink a glass of water before each meal to help keep you from overeating and help with the digestion of your food.
  • Most importantly, make a goal to replace soda, juice, and coffee with water whenever possible. Many times, these drinks are loaded with calories and sugar and can often dehydrate you. If you simply can’t go without, try to limit yourself to one non-water beverage each day.


Probiotic yogurt doesn’t increase good bacteria

bigstock-Medical-Imaging--Male-Organs--44008690Here is an interesting study finding that Probiotic yogurt does not alter overall microbiota makeup.”
You want to take probiotics to increase the good bacteria and decrease the bad bacteria, but if the mix doesn’t change then it doesn’t help much.

Reason this could be is that many probiotic bacteria can’t survive the trip through your stomach acid, only a few strains can survive in numbers large enough to impact gut bacteria levels. Another cause can be that probiotic yogurts active bacteria start dying off as soon as it is packaged. So if you eat it fresh vs a week later it can make a big difference.

It is important to your health to have lots of the good bacteria. The good gut bacteria do much of work of digesting your food. 70% of your immune system is dependent on the good bacteria in your gut.  The so called bad, or non-benifical, gut bacteria do just the opposite – they don’t help digest your food and can cause GI problems and it can leave you more susceptible to infection.

I take my probiotics as a dry powder. Add it to a little water, and drink it down first thing in the morning. By doing this there isn’t a lot of acid in my stomach since it is empty and the probiotics can quickly pass though the harsh stomach acid and  get into the intestines where it can flourish.

Most interesting part of this study is that it was funded by a Canadian yogurt maker! Usually if a company funds a study they usually find that their products are effective, but not in this case.

Here is the study:

Health Benefits of Garlic

Health Benefits of GarlicIf you’re like me and love garlic, then you can enjoy both a great taste and great health benefits. Garlic has been regarded as nature’s wonder medicine for thousands of years. This is because of its natural antibiotic properties and antioxidants. It is also a potent anti-cancer agent.

Garlic has been considered as one of the oldest medicinal herb. It has properties that can cure many ailments. There are thousands of research papers which have been published showing the health benefits of garlic.

Here are some Health Benefits of Garlic :

  • You can treat the common cold with it. You can consume raw, fresh, crushed garlic to give boost to your natural defence system in your body. Just let it sit in the air for at least 10 minutes after you crush it. This will greatly enhance its immune boosting properties.
  • It helps in lowering cholesterol level in our body.
  • It helps to relieve acidity and gas.
  • It can lower your High Blood Pressure by 5 to 10 percent. 2-3 garlic cloves a day is all it takes.
  • It increases hearth health and minimizes the risks of heart attack or stroke.
  • It helps to lessen allergie symptoms since.
  • It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
  • It can prevent and cure skin problems.
  • It thins the blood and helps prevent blood clots.
  • Regular intake of garlic, as well as many spices, helps to lower the risk of colon cancer.
  • It regulate the blood sugar levels and can reduce the insulin needs of diabetics.
  • It anti-inflammatory properties can reduce inflammation  in Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
  • It is rich in Vitamin B6.
  • Can help to expel intestinal parasites & worms from our body.

Nutritional Value of Garlic :

  1. High in Manganese, Vitamin B6 and C.
  2. Low in saturated fat, Sugar and Sodium.
  3. High in Calcium, Phosphorus and Selenium

With all of garlics great benefits, aside from tasting great, it really isn’t practical to eat it several times a day every day – You’ll lose a lot of friends. So garlic  supplements are an alternative.

For more information on the health benifits of garlic, here is a link to the Linus Pauling Institute.

What a dog can teach us about Nutrition


Meet Brandy,  my son’s 4 year old Golden Retriever. My son just relocated from Southern California to take a job here in Denver. So he and Brandy moved in with us for a few weeks until he gets moved into his new place.

He said Brandy has had a persistnat problem with ear infections. He’d just get it cleared up with ear washes and antibiotic ointments, then it would come right back.

Brandy, like most retrievers, loves to eat. Well she stole a bit of our dogs food and refused to eat her food anymore. So we switched her to the food our dog Tucker, a 6 year old Lab Great Dane mix, has been eating for years. Guess what happened after only a week? Her ear infection went away and hasn’t come back!

Now lets see what happened. Brandy had been eating an expensive dog food, but it was primarily grains. Chicken was the first ingredient, but followed immediately by four different types of grain. Tucker’s food is grain free. First  ingredients are bison, lamb, fish, eggs, sweet potatoes, peas, etc.

Grains cause the blood sugar to spike and that in turn sets off inflammation throughout  a dogs body.  Between these it make an ear infection very easy to take hold and not clear up.  The grain free food though does just the opposite, it does not cause the blood sugar to spike and does not set off an avalanche of inflammation. So if an ear infection does pop up, the body can quickly deal with it, and it is gone before you notice it.

High grain diets can also promote weight gain because of all the carbs, grain free diets don’t have this problem. Increased inflammation in the dogs body can lead to a long list of other problems like arthritis, cancers, allergies, and many other problems.

So what can we learn about nutrition from this that improves our health? Simple, when we eat a diet high in refined grains we can suffer the same ailments.


Diabetes, cancers, heart problems, stokes, arthritis, and many more of the modern degenerative diseases. The rapid improvement in Brandy’s ear health is a outward manifestation of the positive changes on the inside.  We can realize the same sort of health improvements by changing our diet from highly refined foods to whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean naturally raised meats (grass fed beef/bison, wild caught fish, etc.)

Drinking Green Tea improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity

A new meta-analysis indicates that green tea intakes may have a favorable effect on glucose control and insulin sensitivity, especially in individuals at risk for metabolic syndrome.

Although there are a few published reports regarding the effect of green tea on insulin sensitivity and glucose control in humans, the results have been inconsistent.

In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers aimed to more accurately quantify the effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

Researchers completed a thorough literature search to find all randomized controlled trials that included information on the effects of green tea and green tea extracts on insulin sensitivity and glucose control in humans.

There were 17 trials, including a total of 1,133 subjects that met the criteria and were included in this meta-analysis. The studies were mostly of a short duration, and 7 of the studies were considered of high quality.

Overall, green tea consumption significantly reduced fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a long-term measure of blood glucose control). These results were more significant in studies including subjects at risk for metabolic syndrome, and in subject with higher catechin (a compound in green tea) intakes. When only the high quality studies were included, green tea significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations.

The results of this meta-analysis suggest that green tea intake may lower fasting glucose, insulin and HbA1c concentrations, especially in people at risk for metabolic syndrome. Researchers noted that long-term randomly controlled trials of higher quality should be conducted to further confirm these findings.

In plain English, if a person is pre-diabetic, or diabetic, then drinking green tea daily can help improve the condition. I take a supplement twice a day which includes green tea extract which may have the same effect, but that has to be studied.

Kai Liu et al. Effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trial. First published June 26, 2013, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052746 Am J Clin Nutr August 2013 ajcn.052746.

Recent Omega-3 Fish Oil and Prostate Cancer Study is Seriously Flawed.

Earlier this week every major news media was running a report claiming that a recent study proved that high intakes of fish oil supplements caused a 71% increase in prostate cancer. Then they usually brought on their resident MD who confirmed that yes this appeared to be true and they should stop taking all fish oil supplements. The problem is I doubt any of them read the study, they just repeated the headline.

Over the years there have been over 2,000 studies which have looked at fish oil and cancer. Most found that fish oil lowers the risk and death rate for many types of cancer, including prostate. So lets take a closer look at the study and you’ll quickly see how flawed it is and really seems to just an error filled attempt to slander the fish oil supplement industry.

The study they pulled data from was the abandoned SELECT trail that ran between 2001 and 2004 looking at the effects of selenium and Vitamin E on cancer prevention. The study was not designed to look at omega 3 levels,  so the study was not looking at fish oil in relation to prostate cancer, but they pulled data from this study anyways.

Here is a summary of the errors they made.

  • The participates in the study had their blood lipid (fat) levels checked when they signed up for the study. It was the one and only test the 834 participates had of their blood lipid and omega-3 levels.
  • The study included sick and healthy people, but no indication of who may be taking fish oil supplement. It is common to find that when someone becomes ill that then they will start trying different alternative treatments, like fish oil, to help combat their disease.
  • Every man in this study already had prostate cancer
  • The study jumps to the conclusion that since fish oil supplements are so commonly taken that they could have contributed to the increase, yet no data to support that
  • The test only measured the percentage of omega-3 oil compared to total blood lipids. They never looked at the actual amount of omega-3 fats in the blood.
  • There were no questions about dietary or supplement use. Nor were there questions of when the last piece of fish was eaten or fish oil, krill oil, or flax seed oil supplement was taken. This makes sense as the original study wasn’t looking at omega-3, but only selenium and vitamin-E
  • the difference between the blood levels of omega-3 was only 0.2% between the high and the low.  This is statistically an insignificant difference in omega-3 levels. (High was 4.66% vs 4.48% for the low)
  • If the findings of the study were true, then you should find epidemic prostate cancer in countries and areas where fatty fish consumption is high like the Scandinavian countries, Japan and much of Asia, but prostrate cancer is low in these areas.
  • The statistical model they used (Cox proportional hazards) doesn’t apply to a single measurement vs a later outcome. This statistical model is designed to look at a long term daily use of a drug, food, supplement vs the outcome. Had an appropriate statistical method been used the outcome could have been completely different.
  • Even with the statical model they used, the difference between the omega-3 fatty acids was NOT statistically significant.
  • The same researcher, Brasky, had another study in 2011 which didn’t show any correlation between omega-3 and prostate cancer.
  • They cited another study by Chavarro in 2007 that showed a very strong benefit of fish oil sources of omega-3 in protecting against prostate cancer.
  • There was no control group in this study. The original study which was abandoned did have a control group, but none in the data they pulled.
  • The overall levels of fish oil found were low, so it’s likely they were NOT supplementing.
  • It is known that fat is the fuel of prostate cancer, and since this study was done in the U.K. where a lot of fish and chips are eaten is it possible that the fish oil was coming from fried fish and that those people with prostate cancer had higher fats in their diet and that that was the true link to prostate cancer- but none of this information is available in the study data.

Other factors to consider:

  • A recent study my Szymanski in 2010 showed a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.
  • Several other studies, Lietzman, 2004 and Terry 2001, showed in large populations that increased omega-3 consumption correlated to a reduction in prostate cancer.
  • A recent study by Zheng in 2013 looking at over 500,000 participants and 16,000 incidence of breast cancer found that each 0.1g increase in omega-3 daily consumption correlated to a 5% decrease in risk of breast cancer.  So the average fish oil supplement is 1,000 mg, or 1.0 g, so that would be a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Many will argue this, but the pharmaceutical and health care industry can not afford a cure for cancer. It is a multi billion dollar industry and if cancer were cured think of the drug companies, hospitals, oncologist, etc who would be out of business. So the health care industries and especially the pharmaceutical companies will fund studies which are geared to discredit what does work, but they can’t make money on.

In summary, this study should never have been published and should have been rejected. I suspect though that as quickly and powerfully that it came out in the media that there was a real PR push behind it – Someone wanted to damage the supplement industry and they jumped to the conclusion that fish oil supplements were the cause when the study never even disclosed if a single person even took supplments of any kind, at fatty fish, etc.

Here is the study which is making the headlines

Download the full study here Fatty acids and prostate cancer JNCI Brasky July 2013.pdf

Here is a critical critique by a professor of Radiation Oncology department at the Harvard Medical School Click Here



Mars is producing GMO Chocolate

I just saw a report in Confectionary News that  Mars Inc. is developing a strain of GMO chocolate to increase yields by increasing its pest resistance.  Doesn’t sound bad does it? Well they way they typically genetically engineer a plant to resist pests is they insert a bit of DNA into the plant which causes it to produce its own pesticide. So when an insect dines on the plant it kills it. When you eat the plant, you also ingest the pesticide. No it won’t kill you, but lab tests with GMO corn and soy have found that mice will grow certain tumors. So I’ll stick to only organic chocolate. click here for the full story.

How is your food made? What do the labels hide?

In my line of business I do consulting to pharmaceutical, nutriceutical, food, and beverage companies to help them improve their manufacturing operations and improved their new product development process. So I’ve seen a lot of plants and R&D labs.

So focusing this time on foods, there are some good companies out there who really want to produce good nutritious food, but they are the exception. Most strive to use the lowest cost ingredients, no matter how they are grown or the source and to produce a product which is tasty, looks good, and smells good. Of course how do you make something taste better? Add fat, sugar, and/or salt – None of which is healthy, but they sure taste good. You can also add some food coloring to brighten up under ripe foods, or make them look more appealing.

Very often the brand name is simply just marketing. I’ve seen frozen meals which touted healthy claims all over the box and it was really no more than a conventional frozen meal just a smaller portion, but at a premium price. When you pick up a package in the grocery store assume that what is inside is the cheapest ingredients available and optimized to meet minimal requirements at the lowest cost.  I’m sure many times that more development costs go into the packaging and artwork than into the recipe.

I’ll call out one company as an example of doing it as it should be done – Amy’s Kitchen. They source the best ingredients, even to the extent of controlling the raising of the crops. They insure the ingredients are top quality, all organic, and their first concern is for the quality, purity, and then the taste – of course they are very tasty.

You’d think that you could just look at the labels on the box, bottle, or bag and know if it was good or bad. Sadly all the FDA regulates is the nutrition fact panel and the Ingredient Statement, but they can still play games there.

Lets start with the front of the package.  Aside from the USDA Organic logo and a couple other official logos they can put anything they want, that is theirs space for marketing and it doesn’t have to have any connection to the truth. For example I was looking for some healthy tortillas. the store I was at didn’t have my usual brand so I found one that had a hugh letters on the front saying “16 grams of Fiber” and “100% Whole Wheat” Ok that sounded good, but looking at the fact panel it said the serving size was 1 tortilla. So OK. Then it it said the amount of fiber per serving was 2 grams.  So looking at the front you’d be led to believe that each tortilla had 16g of fiber. Then their 100% whole wheat claim, again looking at the back the ingredient statement started “Whole Wheat, ……”  so they didn’t use 100% whole wheat, but really said that 100% of the wheat they use is Whole Wheat – quite different.

While I’m on the whole wheat there are three levels:

  1. Wheat flour – this can be bleached or unbleached, but it is the highly refined flour that hits your blood stream like sugar and has no food value and almost no fiber. Avoid this except for your once a year birthday cake.
  2. Whole Wheat flour – This only has to be 51% or more of 100% whole wheat flour, the rest is plain old wheat flour. Better, but still not good.
  3. 100% whole wheat flour – this is what you want to look for. This is the whole wheat kernel, bran, wheat germ, etc milled into a flour. It has all the nutrients and fiber still in it.
Ok, so you’ve learned to look at the Nutrient Fact Panel and the list of ingredients. Yes these are under FDA control and there are very complex rules and regulations about what they can display here, but the FDA is very good friends of the food and drug industries, so they bend the rules to their favor. So on the fact panel there are rounding rules. So in a nutshell they can round down the bad things and round up the good things. So if there are 75 calories, they can call if 70 calories. If there are 2.5g of fiber, they can call it 3g per serving.  That is the other key, look at the serving size. It may be a can of energy drink that everyone will drink as a serving, but on the back it says serving size is 2/3rds of a can. Look at some candy and what most would consider one bar, may be 4 or 6 servings. So you look and see that it only has 50 calories, and think that isn’t bad, but when you eat that bar you really just ate 300 calories.
The most extreem I’ve seen was a mint type of candy, small little pea size bites. Huge text on the front “0 calories, 0 fat, 0 sugar….”  the serving size was one piece so using the rounding down rules they could round down to zero, ever though there were calories, fat, and sugar.  When you look at what a normal person would eat in one serving it was no different than eating a candy bar. So pay close attention to the serving size and keep the potential rousing rules in mind that zero isn’t necessarily zero.
The last official piece of labeling is the Ingredient Statement. This is a list of all ingredients listed in descending order by weight. That should be straight forward right? Nope. Some of the creative things allowed are:
  • Combining ingredients. you can for example combine different types of sweeteners into one name, so corn syrup, HFCS, sugar, etc. could be combined and just called sugar or sweetener. In practice though they will keep these separate so they are further downy he list, but they could take different kinds of protein, group them together as “Protein Blend” so that several different types would come together and move higher up the list. For example you may see this like “Protein Blend(pea protein, whey, soy protein)” so the groups position would be based not eh combined weight of the three different proteins. Then within the (…) those ingredients are in defending order, os pea, then whey, then soy.
  • Split ingredients. they can take and ingredients and “Reconstitute” other ingredients. So where water may be the #1 ingredient, you may not want to pay that much for a jar of water so using the grouping like the protein above they can burry the water in different things. Like “Tomato sauce(Tomato puree, water, salt, etc), Noodles(wheat flour, water, eggs), Meatballs(beef, spices, salt, water).  so you may see water occurring multiple times in the label. If they pulled all the water together it may be the #1 ingredient, but using grouping they can keep it away from the top.
  • Omitting ingredients. Yes, they can omit ingredients. Some are legitimate, like say alcohol if it is baked out of a rum cake. There are other ingredients more chemical in nature which in theory bake out, or don’t make it into the final product. But if an ingredient just comes with the raw ingrient, and they didn’t specify it, they don’t have to declare it. For example, Genetically modified corn or soy.  they can just call it corn or soy. plants are typically genetically modified to make them immune to weed killers so that the fields can be sprayed with herbicides to kill the weeds, but the crop isn’t affected. Doesn’t sound bad, but that week killer, usually Monsanto’s RoundUp, is absorbed by the plant and is present in the grain. So do a chemical analysis on that bowl of corn flakes and you’ll find RoundUp, but they don’t list it, or any other chemicals on the label because they purchased corn and didn’t purchase corn with RoundUp.  The one way to insure you aren’t feeding your family pesticides and herbicides is to buy only Organic products.  It is safe to assume that any product with corn or soy is Genetically Modified and has herbicide and pesticide residues in it.
I hope this helps a bit. I’m not a food scientist so I can’t deep into the rules of the FDA labels, but bottom line, read the nutrition fact panel and the ingredient statements, then read between the lines.  Best is to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from known local sources, or best your back yard.

Is there any nutritional difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish? Is one type better for me than the other?

From the The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world. www.whfoods,com


From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:
  • Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
  • Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.
  • Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.(Krkosek M, Lewis MA. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.)

Nutritional Differences

Omega 3 Fat Content
FDA statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that:
  • The fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high–30-35% by weight.
  • Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon.
  • Farm-raised fish contain much higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats than wild fish.
These unfortunate statistics are confirmed in a recent (1988-1990) study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to compare the nutrient profiles of the leading species of wild and cultivated fish and shellfish. Three species of fish that contain beneficial omega 3 fats were included: catfish, rainbow trout, and coho salmon.
Farm-raised Fish are Fattier
In all three species, the farm-raised fish were fattier. Not surprising since farm-raised fish do not spend their lives vigorously swimming through cold ocean waters or leaping up rocky streams. Marine couch potatoes, they circle lazily in crowded pens fattening up on pellets of fish chow.
In each of the species evaluated by the USDA, the farm-raised fish were found to contain more total fat than their wild counterparts. For rainbow trout, the difference in total fat (5.4g/100g in wild trout vs. 4.6 g/100g in cultivated trout) was the smallest, while cultivated catfish had nearly five times as much fat as wild (11.3g/100 g in cultivated vs. 2.3 g/100g in wild). Farm-raised coho salmon had approximately 2.7 times the total fat as wild samples.
Cultivated catfish were the worst, with 5 times the fat content of their wild counterparts. Plus, although the farm-raised catfish, rainbow trout and coho salmon contained as much or even more omega-3 fatty acids as their wild equivalents, in proportion to the amount of omega-6 fats they also contained, they actually provided less usable omega-3s.
Farm-raised Fish Provide Less Usable Omega-3 Fats
The reason for this apparent discrepancy is that both omega 3 and omega 6 fats use the same enzymes for conversion into the forms in which they are active in the body. The same elongase and desaturase enzymes that convert omega-3 fats into their beneficial anti-inflammatory forms (the series 3 prostaglandins and the less inflammatory thromboxanesand leukotriennes) also convert omega-6 fats into their pro-inflammatory forms (the series 2 prostaglandins and the pro-inflammatory thromboxanes and leukotrienes). So, when a food is eaten that contains high amounts of omega 6s in proportion to its content of omega 3s, the omega-6 fats use up the available conversion enzymes to produce pro-inflammatory compounds while preventing the manufacture of anti-inflammatory substances from omega-3s, even when these beneficial fats are present.
Farm-raised Fish Contain More Pro-inflammatory Omega-6 Fats
In all three types of fish, the amount of omega 6 fats was substantially higher in farm-raised compared to wild fish. Cultivated trout, in particular, had much higher levels of one type of omega 6 fat called linoleic acid than wild trout (14% in farm-raised compared to 5% in wild samples). The total of all types of omega 6 fats found in cultivated fish was twice the level found in the wild samples (14% vs 7%, respectively).
Wild Fish Provide More Omega-3 Fats
In all three species evaluated, the wild fish were found to have a higher proportion of omega-3 fats in comparison to omega 6 fats than the cultivated fish. The wild coho were not only much lower in overall fat content, but also were found to have 33% more omega 3 fatty acids than their farm-raised counterparts. Omega 3s accounted for 29% of the fats in wild coho versus 19% of the fats in cultivated coho. Rainbow trout showed similar proportions in fatty acid content; wild trout contained approximately 33% more omega 3s than cultivated trout, however both cultivated and wild trout did have much lower amounts of omega 6 fats than the other types of fish.
Antibiotic and Pesticide Use
Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed oceanic feedlots. To survive, farmed fish are vaccinated as small fry. Later, they are given antibiotics or pesticides to ward off infection.
Sea lice, in particular, are a problem. In a recent L.A. Times story, Alexandra Morton, an independent biologist and critic of salmon farms, is quoted as beginning to see sea lice in 2001 when a fisherman brought her two baby pink salmon covered with them. Examining more than 700 baby pink salmon around farms, she found that 78 percent were covered with a fatal load of sea lice while juvenile salmon she netted farther from the farms were largely lice-free.
While salmon farmers have discounted Morton’s concerns saying that sea lice are also found in the wild, at the first sign of an outbreak, they add the pesticide emamectin benzoate to the feed. According to officials, the use of pesticides should pose no problem for consumers since Canadian rules demand that pesticide use be stopped 25 days before harvest to ensure all residues are flushed from the fish.
Scientists in the United States are far more concerned about two preliminary studies-one in British Columbia and one in Great Britain-both of which showed farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing PCBs and toxic dioxins than wild salmon.
The reason for this pesticide concentration is the salmon feed. Pesticides, including those now outlawed in the United States, have circulated into the ocean where they are absorbed by marine life and accumulate in their fat, which is distilled into the concentrated fish oil that is a major ingredient in salmon feed. Salmon feed contains higher concentrations of fish oil-extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish-than wild salmon normally consume. Scientists in the U.S. are currently trying to determine the extent of the pesticide contamination in farmed salmon and what levels are safe for human consumption.
Research on this issue published July 30, 2003, by the Environmental Working Group, indicates that levels of carcinogenic chemicals called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) found in farmed salmon purchased from U.S. grocery stores are so much higher than levels of PCBs found in wild salmon that they pose an increased risk for cancer. PCBs have been banned in the US for use in all but completely closed areas since 1979, but they persist in the environment and end up in animal fat.
When farmed salmon from U.S. grocery stores was tested, the farmed salmon, which contains up to twice the fat of wild salmon, was found to contain 16 times the PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels found in other seafood. Other studies done in Canada, Ireland and Britain have produced similar findings.(September 8, 2003)

Flame Retardants: Another Reason to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Flame-retardant additives used widely in electronics and furniture are appearing in increasing amounts in fish, and farmed salmon contain significantly higher levels of these polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) compounds than wild salmon, according to research published in the August 11, 2004 issue of Environmental Science and Technology.

PBDEs are endocrine disrupters that have been shown to have reproductive toxicity, and are also suspected to play a role in cancer formation. As with other toxins, it is thought that farm-raised salmon contain higher PBDE levels than wild due to the “salmon chow,” a mixture of ground fish and oil, they are fed.

The authors of this new study, Ronald Hites of Indiana University and colleagues, analyzed the same group of 700 wild and farmed salmon collected from around the world from which the data was drawn for their initial research on other contaminants in salmon, which was published in Science in January 2004.

As was the case with the 14 contaminants described in the earlier report-which included pesticides such as toxaphene and dieldrin-the researchers found the highest levels of PBDEs, on average, in farm-raised salmon from Europe. But while European farmed salmon had the highest levels, farmed North American salmon came next with significantly higher amounts of PBDEs than were found in farmed salmon from Chile, which, in turn, were higher than the average levels seen in wild salmon.

In both farmed and wild salmon, approximately 50% of the total PBDEs were in the form of one compound: brominated diphenyl ether (BDE) 47. This chemical is associated with the Penta formulation used in polyurethane foam in furniture, which, together with another formulation known as Octa, has been banned in Europe and is being discontinued in the United States. Unfortunately, (BDE) 47 can also be derived from the breakdown of the Deca formulation, which is extensively used in Europe with no plans to discontinue its use either there or in the U.S.

Researchers both in Europe and the U.S. think the problem is not just in the “salmon chow”, but the environment as a whole and that PBDEs are probably reaching the open ocean and getting into the marine food web through atmospheric deposition.

To underscore this point, Ake Bergman of Stockholm University’s department of environmental chemistry, one of the first scientists to present evidence that PBDEs were bioaccumulating in humans, says he has found the PBDE levels in wild European salmon are on a par with those Hites has reported for farmed European salmon.

And the environmental contamination is not limited to Europe. Wild chinook salmon from British Columbia were found to have the highest levels of PBDE contamination of any of the salmon Hites tested. He thinks this may be due to the chinooks’ tendency to feed higher in the food chain throughout their adult life, eating mainly fish, unlike other salmon species that tend to consume more invertebrates and plankton.

On the other hand, wild Alaskan Chinook tested in Hites’ study contained significantly lower PBDE levels, suggesting that the waters the wild chinook inhabit are more contaminated.

Surprisingly, the PBDE content patterns seen in the world’s salmon do not match up with the levels found in people; samples of blood and fat from North Americans contain levels 10 times higher, on average, than Europeans, another reason to think some other source of exposure is also at work. Bergman thinks the high U.S. levels are due to inhalation of these substances.

What you can do: Beginning September 2004, U.S. supermarkets are required to label salmon as farmed or wild. We suggest that you choose wild, rather than farmed salmon, and if purchasing chinook salmon, choose Alaskan chinook.(October 10, 2004)

Synthetic Pigment Colors Flesh Pink
In the wild, salmon absorb carotenoids from eating pink krill. On the aquafarm, their rich pink hue is supplied by canthaxanthin, a synthetic pigment manufactured by Hoffman-La Roche. Fish farmers can choose just what shade of peach their fish will display from the pharmaceutical company’s trademarked SalmoFan, a color swatch similar to those you’d find in a paint store. Without help from Hoffman LaRoche, the flesh of farmed salmon would be a pale halibut grey.
European health officials have debated whether the canthaxanthin added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue poses any human health risk. Canthaxanthin was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill, leading the British to ban its use as a tanning agent. (In the U.S., it’s still available.)
As for its use in animal feed, European health officials have debated whether the canthaxanthin added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue poses any human health risk. The European Commission Scientific Committee on Animal Nutrition (SCAN) issued a warning several years ago about the pigment and urged the industry to find an alternative. In 2002, SCAN reviewed the maximum levels of canthaxanthin in fish feeds and determined that the allowable level of 80 milligrams of canthaxanthin per kilogram in feed was too high, and that consumers who ate large amounts of salmon were likely to exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake of 0.03 milligrams per kilogram human body weight. In 1997, the EU’s Scientific Committee on Food recognized a link between canthaxanthin intake and retinal problems, so in April 2002, SCAN suggested lowering the level of canthaxanthin to 25 milligrams per kilogram in feed for salmonids (baby salmon). To date, no government has banned canthaxanthin from animal feed.
Canthaxanthin was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill, leading the British to ban its use as a tanning agent. (In the U.S., it’s still available.) Consumed In high amounts, canthaxanthin can produce an accumulation of pigments in the retina of the eye and adversely affect sight.

Environmental Impact of Farm-raised Fish

A Threat to Small Commercial Fisheries
Salmon farmed in open pen nets are now the source of 50% of the world’s salmon (hatchery fish account for about 30%, and wild fish provide the remaining 20%). Flooding the market with fish-farm salmon has resulted in a drop in the fisherman’s asking price for wild salmon-a price decrease that has forced many small fishing boats off the water.
Polluting the Immediate Environment
Aquafarms, called “floating pig farms,” by Daniel Pauly, professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, put a significant strain upon their surrounding environment. According to Pauly, “They consume a tremendous amount of highly concentrated protein pellets and they make a terrific mess.”
Uneaten feed and fish waste blankets the sea floor beneath these farms, a breeding ground for bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures. A good sized salmon farm produces an amount of excrement equivalent to the sewage of a city of 10,000 people.
Polluting the Food Chain
Sulfa drugs and tetracycline are used to prevent infectious disease epidemics in the dense aquafarm populations are added to food pellet mixes along with, in farm-raised salmon, the orange dye canthaxanthin, to color their otherwise grey flesh. These food additives drift to the ocean bottom below the open net pens where they are invariably recycled into our food stream.
A Threat to Wild Fish
Pesticides fed to the fish and toxic copper sulfate used to keep nets free of algae are building up in sea-floor sediments. Antibiotic use has resulted in the development of resistant strains that can infect not only farm-raised but wild fish as they swim past. Sea lice that infest captive fish beset wild salmon as they swim past on their migration to the ocean.
Perhaps the most serious concern is a problem fish farms were meant to alleviate: the depletion of marine life from over-fishing. Salmon aquafarming increases the depletion because captive salmon, unlike vegetarian catfish which thrive on grains, are carnivores and must be fed fish during the 2-3 year period when they are raised to a marketable size. To produce one pound of farmed salmon, 2.4 to 4 pounds of wild sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish must be ground up to render the oil and meal that is compressed into pellets of salmon chow.
Similar to the raising of cattle, farming fish creates a problematic redistribution of protein in the food system. Removing such immense amounts of small prey fish from an ecosystem can significantly upset its balance. According to Rosamond L. Naylor, an agricultural economist at Stanford’s Center for Environmental Science and Policy, “We are not taking strain off wild fisheries. We are adding to it. This cannot be sustained forever.”
Salmon Farms Kill Wild Salmon

New research, conducted by PhD. student Martin Krkosek and colleagues from the University of Alberta, Canada, has established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.

Adult salmon are the primary hosts of sea lice. In natural conditions, adults are located far offshore when the juveniles are migrating out to sea, but fish farms put adult salmon in pens along the migration routes of juveniles, producing a cloud of sea lice through which the juveniles must migrate. Since juveniles are only one to two inches long, it takes just one or two sea lice to kill a juvenile pink or chum salmon.

The University of Alberta team concentrated on 3 migration routes along the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia, counting sea lice on 14,000 juvenile salmon as they migrated past 7 farms along the 80 km route, and conducted mortality experiments with more than 3,000 fish.

They found an increasing number of salmon were killed over the migration season, from 9% in early spring when the sea lice population was low to 95% cent in late spring when the sea lice population was higher.

“The work is of an impeccably high standard, and will be very difficult to refute,” said Dr. Andy Dobson, a Princeton University epidemiologist specializing in wildlife diseases.
“Everyone knows that only a small fraction of juvenile salmon survive to return as adults,” said study co-author Dr. Mark Lewis. “The fish-farm sea lice are reducing that fraction even more.”

The study’s implications may be severe for wild salmon. “Even the best case scenario of an additional 10% mortality from farm-origin sea lice could push a fish stock into the red zone,” said biologist Dr. John Volpe, a study co-author at the University of Victoria.
“The debate is over,” said study co-author Alexandra Morton, a biologist with the Raincoast Research Society. “This paper brings our understanding of farm-origin sea lice and Pacific wild salmon to the point where we know there is a clear severe impact.”
Although the study was conducted in British Columbia, the results apply globally. “This study really raises the question of whether we can have native salmon and large scale aquaculture — as it is currently practiced — in the same place,” said Dr. Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist at Dalhousie University. The Alberta scientists are concerned that many people may be consuming farmed fish under the false impression that they are conserving wild fish, which they say is not the case.

A Threat to Other Marine Life
Other reported environmental impacts from salmon aquaculture include seabirds ensnared in protective netting and sea lions shot for preying on penned fish. Penned salmon also directly threaten their wild counterparts, preying on migrating smolts (immature wild salmon) as they journey to the sea and competing for the krill and herring that nourish wild fish before their final journey home to their spawning grounds. Escapes of farm fish also create problems by competing with wild fish for habitat, spawning grounds and food sources. (About 1 million Atlantic’s have escaped through holes in nets from storm-wracked farms in the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound)
A Threat to Biodiversity
The interbreeding of wild and farm stocks also poses a threat of dilution to the wild salmon gene pool.
Biologists fear these invaders will out-compete Pacific salmon and trout for food and territory, hastening the demise of the native fish. An Atlantic salmon takeover could knock nature’s balance out of whack and turn a healthy, diverse marine habitat into one dominated by a single invasive species.
Recently, Aqua Bounty Farms Inc., of Waltham, Mass., has begun seeking U.S. and Canadian approval to alter genes to produce a growth hormone that could shave a year off the usual 2.5 to three years it takes to raise a market-size fish. The prospect of genetically modified salmon that can grow six times faster than normal fish has heightened anxiety that these “frankenfish” will escape and pose an even greater danger to native species than do the Atlantic salmon.
A Possible Contributor to Antibiotic Resistance
Rearing fish in such high densities present problems. Infectious disease outbreaks pose financial threats to operators so vaccines and antibiotics are often used to prevent potential epidemics. Sulfa drugs and tetracycline are often added to food pellet mixes as well as canthaxanthin (an orange dye) to impart a rich red-orange color to an otherwise pale gray flesh. Antibiotics are also given to speed growth and increase profits.
In some of the more progressive salmon-rearing operations, fish farmers are raising their Chinook and other species in closed, floating pens so that antibiotics and other wastes can be filtered from the water before it’s released back into the environment.
In the majority of aquafarms, however, these drugs and additives, which quickly build up in the sediment, -will invariably find their way into our food stream. In a paper published in 2002, Bent Halling-Sørensen and his colleagues at the Royal Danish School of Pharmacy noted that one such growth-promoting antibiotic-oxytetracycline-has been found in the sediment of fish-farming sites at concentrations of up to 4.9 milligrams per kilogram. These scientists are concerned that “Antibiotic resistance in sediment bacteria are often found in locations with fish farms”-and may play a growing role in the development of antibiotic resistant germs generally. Should their fears be true, aquafaming may be eroding the efficacy of life-saving drugs, argues Stuart Levy, the director of the Center for Adaptation Genetics and Drug Resistance at the Tufts Medical School in Boston.
Which type of wild salmon should I purchase? Which is best, both for me and for the environment?
When buying salmon, we suggest that you ask for line-caught Alaskan fish first. The healthiest populations and habitats exist in Alaska. In fact, due to the successful efforts of conserving and protecting wild salmon habitats, the Alaska Salmon Fishery recently received the Marine Stewardship Council’s label for sustainability.
Fresh-caught, wild salmon is available nearly eight months of the year, with high quality “frozen at sea” (FAS) line-caught fish available during the interim. The Marine Stewardship Council’s labels are designed to guide consumers to species that are not being over-harvested.
Plus, in a recent blind taste test hosted by Chefs Collaborative in May 2000, at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, wild Alaskan Coho salmon, frozen at sea, ranked first in flavor, texture and aroma.. Wild Oregon Chinook (also called King) salmon, fresh, came in a close second.
One caveat: Fresh “Atlantic” salmon is generally farm-raised-the name refers to the species, not the fish’s origin.

Essential Fatty Acid Ratios in Wild and Farmed Fish

100 grams (3.5 ounces fresh filet of: Total Omega 3 Fats Total Omega 6 Fats Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 Fats*
Wild Coho Salmon 0.92 grams .06 grams 15.3
Farmed Coho Salmon 1.42 grams 0.46 grams 3.1
Wild Rainbow Trout .77 grams .33 grams 2.3
Farmed Rainbow Trout 1.00 grams .71 grams 1.4
Wild Channel Catfish .29 grams .24 grams 1.2
Farmed Channel Catfish .37 grams 1.56 grams .2
*The higher the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6 fats, the more able the body is to use the omega 3 fats. A lower ratio means that the enzymes that convert these fats into the forms in which they are active in the body are more likely to be used up by the omega 6 fats.
Table Reference:
Nettleton JA. (2000). Fatty Acids in Cultivated and Wild Fish. Presented paper, International Institute of Fisheries, Economics and Trade (IIFET), IIFET 2000 Conference: Microbehavior and Macroresults. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, July 10-14, 2000.
Some Differences in Pesticides and Toxic Chemicals between Wild and Farmed and Fish
Contaminant Farmed Wild Type of Fish
Tributyltin (pesticide, used to keep barnacles and algae off the paint used on hulls of ships 39 micrograms 28 micrograms mussels
Dibutyltin 26 micrograms (maximum observed amount) 4 micrograms (maximum observed amount mussels
PCBs (symthetic coolants 146-460 ppb salmon
Table References:
Amodio-Cocchieri, R.; Cirillo, T.; Amorena, M.; Cavaliere, M.; Lucisano, A., and Del Prete, U. Alkyltins in farmed fish and shellfish. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2000 May; 51(3):147-51.
Jacobs, M. N.; Covaci, A., and Schepens, P. Investigation of selected persistent organic pollutants in farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), salmon aquaculture feed, and fish oil components of the feed. Environ Sci Technol 2002 Jul 1; 36(13):2797-805.
Rueda, F. M.; Hernandez, M. D.; Egea, M. A.; Aguado, F.; Garcia, B., and Martinez, F. J. Differences in tissue fatty acid composition between reared and wild sharpsnout sea bream, Diplodus puntazzo (Cetti, 1777). Br J Nutr. 2001 Nov; 86(5):617-22.
Adler J. The Great Salmon Debate, Newsweek, October 28, 2002
Nettleton JA. (2000). Fatty Acids in Cultivated and Wild Fish. Presented paper, International Institute of Fisheries, Economics and Trade (IIFET), IIFET 2000 Conference: Microbehavior and Macroresults. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, July 10-14, 2000.
Analysis of PCBs in Farmed versus Wild Salmon. Environmental Working Group, July 30, 2003.
Betts K. Salmon flame retardant research raises new questions.Science News Environmental Science and Technology, August 11, 2004.
Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services, Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2000.
George R, Bhopal R. Fat composition of free living and farmed sea species: implications for human diet and sea-farming techniques, Br. Food J. 97:19-22, 1995.
Harvey D., Aquaculture outlook, in Aquaculture Outlook, Economic Research Service, U.S. Dept. Agriculture: Washington, DC, October, 1999.
Hites RA, Foran JA, Carpenter DO, Hamilton MC, Knuth BA, Schwager SJ. Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon. Science. 2004 Jan 9;303(5655):226-9.
Krkosek M, Lewis MA, Morton A, Frazer LN, Volpe JP. Epizootics of wild fish induced by farm fish. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Oct 17;103(42):15506-10. Epub 2006 Oct 4.
Nettleton, J.A. and Exler, J., Nutrients in wild and farmed fish and shellfish, J. Food Sci. 57: 257-260, 1992.
Simopoulos, A.P., Leaf, A. and Salem, N. Jr., Essentiality of and Recommended Dietary Intakes for Omega-6 and Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Ann. Nutr. Metab. 43:127-130, 1999.
van Vliet T. and Katan M.B., Lower ratio of n-3 to n-6 fatty acids in cultured than wild fish, Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 51:1-2, 1990.
Weiss K. Fish farms become feedlots of the sea. L. A. Times, Dec. 9, 2002.

Organic No More Nutritional than Conventional Foods

Researchers say, when it comes to nutrition, there’s no difference whether patients consume organic or conventionally produced foods.

A review of more than 50 studies found no difference in nutrient content — including vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and zinc — between the types of food, Alan Dangour, PhD, of the London School of Hygiene & Topical Medicine, and colleagues reported.

The study appears in the September 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, an expert on nutrition and food studies at New York University, disputed the scope of the findings.

“Plenty of studies have shown organics to have higher levels of nutrients,” she said. “Nutrient levels ought to be higher in plants grown on better soils.”

The “organic” label is reserved for farms that limit pesticide and herbicide use in crops and drug use in livestock.

Organic foods are typically more expensive, but sales have been booming because of the perception that they’re healthier than conventionally produced foods.

So, to determine whether there is a difference in nutritional benefits, the researchers conducted a review of 55 studies published between Jan. 1, 1958 and Feb. 29, 2008.

They evaluated foods’ nutrient content, including vitamin C, phenolic compounds, magnesium, potassium, calcium, zinc, copper, and total soluble solids.

They found no evidence of a difference between organic and conventional crops in terms of eight of those nutrient categories.

Conventional crops contained more nitrogen, while organics had more phosphorus and greater acidity.

The researchers said the differences were likely due to differences in fertilizer use and ripeness of fruits and vegetables at harvest.

But they said it’s “unlikely that consumption of these nutrients at the levels reported in organic foods in this study provide any health benefit.”

Nor did the researchers find nutritional differences with regard to animal-source foods — although they noted that there were far fewer studies on these foods compared with produce. That made analysis was more limited, they said.

Also, the researchers did not include an analysis of contaminants or chemical residues used in the food products.

Chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides may also affect the chemical content of foods, they said, and the organic foods may have an advantage because of their controlled use of chemicals and medicines. That warrants further study, the researchers said.

Niyati Parekh, PhD, professor of nutrition at New York University who was not involved in the study, said the findings regarding nutritional content are not surprising. The larger concern with organic versus nonorganic foods is chemical content.

“The person who spends the extra $5 to buy organic is not doing it for the nutrients,” Dr. Parekh said. “They’re concerned with the chemicals.”

She said there is not a large body of literature on the chemical content of organic versus nonorganic food because organic labeling is still a “gray area.”

“No one has defined what organic is,” Dr. Parekh said. “Until we do that, it’s hard to study.”

Maria Romano, MS, RD, clinical nutritionist for adult oncology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said that even though they’re difficult to design and execute, studies comparing organic and nonorganic products are important.

“We know pesticides pose a risk to human health even in small doses, or those considered safe by industry,” she said. “They can have toxic effects and in the long term can contribute to cancer.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Nestle emphasized that “organics aren’t about nutrients. They are about cleaner and more sustainable production methods,” including “lower levels of pesticides and herbicides, which seems like a good idea.”

The authors noted the possibility of reporting bias, which is a potential limitation of systematic reviews.

The study was supported by the UK Food Standards Agency.

The researchers reported no conflicts of interest.

Primary source: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Source reference:
Dangour AD, et al “Nutritional quality of organic foods: A systematic review” Am J Clin Nutr 2009; DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28041.