The Giant Loophole in Your Doctor’s Prescription Pad

When you doctor gives you a prescription, you probably assume a few things.

First, you assume the prescribed drug was intended to treat your health problem. Second, you assume the drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat your problem. And third, you would probably assume that if either of the first two weren’t true, your doctor would tell you.

The problem here is you may be assuming wrong on all counts. And it’s all perfectly legal.

That’s right. There’s a loophole in your doctor’s prescription pad so big you could drive a freight train through it. It’s called “off-label use.” And as I said, it’s completely legal.

Off-Label Uses Are Rampant

Off-label prescribing has been around for a long time. Basically, it’s when a doctor gives you a drug that is either…

  • Not intended to treat your specific health condition
  • Prescribed in a dose that hasn’t been FDA-approved
  • Given to a patient it’s not intended for (as in an adult drug given to a child).

Here’s where that loophole comes in. The FDA regulates drugs and drug companies… but they have no regulatory authority over doctors. So, if a doctor wants to prescribe an adult antidepressant to a child, he or she can.

And doctors do prescribe off-label. A lot. A 2006 study looked at 160 top drugs. The researchers found doctors prescribed those drugs off-label 21% of the time.

According to a review from the Mayo Clinic, another study found 78.9% of the children leaving pediatric hospitals received off-label prescriptions!

Why Do They Do It?

There are a several reasons – both good and bad – that your doctor may prescribe a drug off-label.

In a few cases, off-label use has actually become the standard of care. Aspirin is the classic example. Aspirin isn’t approved for preventing heart disease in diabetics, but it’s written right into the guidelines.

In other cases, it may be a “Hail Mary” pass for a dying patient. Nothing else has worked… and what have you got to lose?

Patient class is a common reason drugs are prescribed off-label. For example, many drugs haven’t been tested on children and pregnant women… for obvious reasons. But they’re prescribed for them anyway.

Ignorance is surprisingly common. Doctors often don’t realize they’re prescribing a drug for an unapproved use. Especially when it’s commonly prescribed off-label, as many anti-psychotics are.

These are just a few of the reasons your doctor may prescribe a drug off-label. But there can be consequences… mostly for the patient.

Throwing Good Money After Bad

In theory, the FDA approves a drug when it’s proven safe and effective for a specific condition. There’s pretty much no such thing as an off-label use that’s been proven safe and effective in studies. Because the drug companies would apply for approval if they’d gone through the studies for that use.

Which may explain why researchers have found 73% of off-label drug uses have little or no scientific support.

So, before you fill that prescription, talk to your doctor. If he or she is prescribing off-label, ask why. If your doctor doesn’t know, talk to your pharmacist. You can even look it up yourself at DailyMed (www.dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/). This website lists drug information – including approved uses.

Here are three good reasons to protect yourself this way:

  • The drug may be ineffective for your condition, and a waste of money
  • All drugs have side effects… and you don’t need to wind up with any extra health issues
  • If it’s an off-label use, your insurance company may not pay for it.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


Wittich, C.M., et al, “Ten Common Questions (and Their Answers) About Off-label Drug Use,” Mayo Clin Proc. Oct 2012; 87(10): 982–990.

Radley, D.C., et al, “Off-label Prescribing Among Office-Based Physicians,” Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166(9): 1021-1026.

Buppert, C., “The Perils of Off-Label Prescribing,” Journal for Nurse Practitioners. 2012; 8(7): 567-568

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When It Comes to Weight Loss, “Zero” Doesn’t Always Mean Zero

I’m not a fan of fad diets. They’re usually tailor-made to lighten your wallet more than you frame. And some can come across as downright deceptive.

That’s the way the latest diet fad – the so-called “zero sugar” diet – comes across to me. Why? Because it’s clearly not zero sugar. And it’s being sold with promises that long experience says are highly unlikely.

Here are a few things you should consider before you buy into this deceptive diet.

A Healthy Idea Gone Bad

The diet itself isn’t as bad as some others. But the name is deceptive. And there are those unlikely promises. Especially because one is absolutely unhealthy.

To begin with, the diet isn’t zero sugar. If you follow it closely, you’ll avoid added sugars. Which is great, but you don’t need to buy a book to tell you that. I’ve been saying the same thing for years: Stay away from packaged and processed foods. That’s how to avoid added sugars.

It’s not exactly brain surgery… you’ve known this – for free – for years… and you certainly don’t need to spend your hard-earned money on a book that’s apparently not much more than an expansion on this simple advice.

If you focus on fresh, organic foods, you won’t get zero sugar. But you will get wholesome nutrition without the price of a book you probably don’t need.

But that’s not what bothers me the most. It’s that the “zero sugar” advocates push an absolutely unhealthy goal.

Lose Weight, Not Your Health

Let’s take a look at rapid weight loss, because the zero sugar people say you can lose 14 pounds in 14 days. Not only is that promise unlikely, it’s unhealthy.

If you do manage to lose significant weight rapidly on this plan, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. That’s because rapid weight-loss plans usually rely on you losing water… that you’ll gain back in a fairly short time.

Maybe that’s why these diets don’t say, “Lose a pound of fat a day.”

To begin with, if you want to lose more than water, you have to burn off 3,500 calories more than you eat per pound. Which means you’ll either have to starve yourself or exercise for hours. Otherwise, what you lose won’t be a pound of actual body mass.

If you try to drop a pound a day by starving yourself, you won’t just drop fat. You’ll lose muscle mass, too. Your body will literally consume your muscles for the protein it needs. And that’s not healthy.

The zero sugar folks also seem to claim you can flatten your belly in those same 14 days on their plan. But that’s just not realistic for the average overweight American. And no diet alone can give you taut abs. That takes exercise. Avoiding added sugars just won’t get the job done.

Even worse, the “3,500-calorie rule” itself is deceptive.

Why Fad Diets Only Promise Rapid Weight Loss in the Short Term

Your body is a wonder. Without your even thinking about it, it begins to adapt to the demands you make on it.

So, for example, if you take up jogging, you may barely make it around the block on your first day. But if you repeat the demand, your body will build muscle and stamina. Jogging further and further gets easier. You may start by jogging a single block, but wind up running a marathon.

The same holds true when you try to lose weight. If you cut your food intake, your body will respond to the demand. You tell it to get by on fewer calories, and it does. By slowing your metabolism.

In other words, your body figures out how to do the same amount of work with less energy. And your weight loss slows down.

That’s why you may be able to lose weight quickly when you first start dieting. But the weight loss slows as you go along. Your body adapts to fewer calories.

Your body also adapts to exercise… by becoming more efficient. If you jog a mile every morning, you’ll burn more calories in the first weeks than you will at the same distance after six months.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t burn through fat or flatten your belly. It just means you probably shouldn’t rely on some fad diet to do it for you in no time flat. Smoke and mirrors rarely produce meaningful results.

Lose Fat Instead of Just Weight… and Do It the Safe Way

Sustainable weight loss only comes from developing good habits. And the zero sugar folks start out on the right track. Avoiding the added sugars of packaged and processed foods is a good place to start.

But it’s just a start. Calorie restriction alone costs you muscle mass. And you want to lose fat, not muscle. That’s because, if you cut calories, your body will look to replace any nutrients it misses.

That’s why you should replace the carbs you cut – including sugars – with a little extra protein. For most people, swapping out a serving of potatoes or rice for an n extra serving of lean protein daily will do the trick.

A serving of protein is just 3 ounces. So go from 3 servings a day to 4. The easiest way to do that is to eat an extra ounce of lean protein at every meal. This extra protein helps your body retain muscle mass during weight loss. You’ll drop more fat and less muscle.

Next, actively build muscle through physically activity. Regular activity puts stress on your muscles and triggers muscle building. That turns your body into a better calorie-burning machine. Muscle burns calories, even at rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn.

Finally, make that burn – if your doctor will allow – short periods of high-intensity exercise. Plus, ramp up your level of effort on a regular basis. By increasing the effort, your body can’t adapt to the exercise as well… and you’ll burn even more calories.

Fad diets may sound good. And they sometimes contain some solid advice. But if someone’s promising unbelievable results in just days, chances are you’ll be sorely disappointed.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


© Copyright 2017 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Nature’s Overlooked “Miracle Cure”

Cutting through the alternative health hype is a full-time job these days. It seems like a new fad crops up almost every week. And the only thing they have in common is not living up to the hype. Well here’s something that does.

In fact, it offers benefits nobody even dreamed of when it first came on the scene as a folk remedy. I don’t think I’ve ever used the words “miracle cure” before… but this substance sure comes close.

Henry VIII Would Have Showered You in Gold for This Simple Secret

England’s Henry VIII was a lot of things. He was an empire-builder… and avid sportsman… a wily politician… and a schemer extraordinaire. He was also a man who suffered with gout.

Gout is a painful form of arthritis that often attacks the toes, feet and ankles… though your hands, wrists, and elbows aren’t immune. A gout attack can leave you immobilized for days – or even weeks.

Imagine trying to run a country, establish a dynasty, and battle the most powerful man on Earth – the Pope – all at once. And with your foot in excruciating pain. Every step is agony. Every twist and turn of your body a reminder of just how mortal you really are.

If you had given Henry this secret, you can bet he’d have made it worth your while. You’d probably have a title… land… and plenty of gold. You’d be part of the king’s court. His inner circle.

Alas, that chance is gone. But you and your loved ones can still benefit from one of the most effective folk remedies ever.

Tart cherry.

Tackling Gout, Arthritis, and More

For decades, “true believers” used tart cherries to battle gout. The medical mainstream called them kooks. Laughed at them. Ridiculed them.

And then the studies started to come in…

Gout is an extremely painful form of arthritis that’s triggered by an over-abundance of uric acid. Well, guess what tart cherry juice does?

In a 2012 study, gout sufferers who drank tart cherry juice cut their risk of another gout attack by 35%. If they were on medication at the same time, their risk of a recurrence plummeted by 75%.

A study from Arizona State University shows tart cherries do much more. Tart cherry juiced cut uric acid levels in 70% of the volunteers in this study – even though they had “normal” uric acid levels.

Volunteers taking tart cherry juice also saw their very low-density (vLDL) cholesterol levels drop… triglycerides (blood fats) go down… and their overall cholesterol levels improve. Plus blood markers of inflammation – a warning sign for gout – dropped as well.

In fact, many of their risk factors for heart disease improved. All while cutting their risk of gout. That’s not bad for a folk remedy.

And we’re just getting started.

Overall Arthritis Relief

If tart cherry is effective against gout, how does it fare with “ordinary” arthritis?

In 2012, researchers looked at women with osteoarthritis. A group of volunteers either drank tart cherry juice or a placebo for 21 days.

The tart cherry group showed a much lower level of CRP – C-reactive protein, a sign of inflammation. But the placebo group didn’t.

Tart cherry juice didn’t just offer relief from a cause of joint pain… CRP is also linked to a higher risk of heart disease. So the tart cherry group also cut their heart risk.

In a somewhat confusing 2013 study, doctors found tart cherry produced significant results – far better than a placebo.

WOMAC (Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis Index) scores, they said, dropped significantly with tart cherry… but not with a placebo. That means patients found serious relief taking tart cherry. But those who took a placebo didn’t.

The tart cherry group also saw a significant drop in their CRP levels – which the placebo group didn’t. While the authors called these two measures “significant,” they also said the results weren’t significant.

WOMAC measures various levels of pain, stiffness, and physical functioning. So when a treatment shows “significant” improvement on this scale, I’d say that’s… well, significant.

If you know anyone suffering with osteoarthritis – or suffer yourself – I’d bet you’d agree.

But tart cherries won’t make any drug company rich. So maybe that’s why significant improvements on this scale weren’t considered “significant.” I really can’t say…

But what I can say is tart cherries sure seem to bust pain.

Overall Effective Pain Relief

One of the hallmarks of aging is an increase in pain. I’m sure you know what I mean. Maybe a parent has more back pain than in the past… you may notice you ache more after exercise… or joints you never noticed start “singing” to you.

Researchers at Texas Woman’s University noticed this and tested tart cherry juice against pain.

In their review, they found tart cherries were effective against recurrences of gout, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and muscle damage due to exercise.

Their bottom line? Mature adults with any number of painful conditions may benefit from tart cherry.

But what about younger – or more active – people. Not to worry. Tart cherry has you covered.

An Ideal Recovery Strategy

In 2006, scientists in Vermont tested tart cherry. They compared how drinking tart cherry juice helped recovery after physical exertion vs. a placebo.

First, half the group drank tart cherry juice after exercising strenuously.  The other half drank a placebo. After a “washout,” the groups switched.

The comparison showed drinking tart cherry juice after exercise helped preserve strength to a far high degree than the placebo.

How high? Well, four days after the placebo, the volunteers had lost an average of 22% of their strength… but for the tart cherry juice, the loss was only 6%!

And that’s hardly the only proof. In a 2010 study, British researchers found tart cherry juice improved recovery after a marathon.

And in 2011, scientists in the United Kingdom discovered tart cherry had a similar effect on recovery from strength training workouts.

Finally, there’s one more advantage I’d like to share about tart cherry.

Sleep Like a Baby Again

With all the benefits we’ve already reviewed, one more may seem like overkill. But I did say “miracle.” And I don’t want you to think tart cherry is just a lot of hype. So…

Wouldn’t it be great if tart cherry – and tart cherry juice – could help you beat gout… ease the pain of arthritis… beat other causes of pain… recover faster from your workouts… and help you get the sleep you need?

Well, it can.

A study at the University of Rochester Medical Center showed tart cherry was as effective as valerian in promoting better sleep… and almost beat melatonin.

The reason it may not quite beat melatonin for promoting sleep is because… that’s how it works.

Tart cherry has a high melatonin content… and this makes it a natural sleep-promoter. In fact, studies on tart cherry juice show it helps boost time spent in bed, time asleep, and quality of sleep.

The bottom line is this overlooked fruit could help you beat pain, stiffness, inflammation, and even sleep problems.

I usually don’t recommend drinking fruit juices because of their high sugar content. But if you don’t have a non-juice source of tart cherry available… this is the one exception I’ll make.

Tart cherry juice is available year-round… and it offers benefits you may not find anywhere else. It’s Nature’s overlooked “miracle cure.”

And whether or not you suffer with gout, it’s probably worth the extra calories.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


Zhang, Y., et al, “Cherry consumption and decreased risk of recurrent gout attacks,” Arthritis & Rheumatology. Dec 12, 2012; 64(12): 4004–4011.

Martin, K.R., et al, “The effect of 100% tart cherry juice on serum uric acid levels, biomarkers of inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk factors,” The FASEB Journal. Apr 2011; 25910; S339.2.

Kuehl, K.S., et al, “Efficacy of Tart Cherry Juice to Reduce Inflammation Biomarkers among Women with Inflammatory Osteoarthritis (OA),” Journal of Food Studies. 2012; 1(1).

Schumacher, H.R., et al, “Randomized double-blind crossover study of the efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee,” Osteoarthritis Cartilage. Aug 2013; v21(8):v1035-1041.

Tiernan, C., et al., “Tart cherry in amelioration of pain in the elderly,” Nutrition and Aging. 2015; 3(2-4): 203-217.

Connolly, D.A., et al, “Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage,” Br J Sports Med. Aug 2006; 40(8): 679-683.

Howatson, G., et al, “Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running,” Scand J Med Sci Sports. Dec 2010; 20(6)843-852.

Bowtell. J.L., et al, “Montmorency cherry juice reduces muscle damage caused by intensive strength exercise,” Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug 2011; 43(8): 1544-1551.

Pigeon, W.R., “Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study,” J Med Food. Jun 2010; 13(3): 579-583.

Howatson, G., et al, “Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality,” European Journal of Nutrition. Dec 2012; 51(8): 909–916.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Sleeping Pills Give New Meaning to the Phrase “Rest In Peace”

You may remember Patrick Kennedy’s car crash back in 2006. The Rhode Island Congressman appeared at first to be drunk – staggering and somewhat confused. But it turned out he was under a different influence… sleeping pills.

Sleeping pills are a multi-billion dollar business. But they can have serious side effects. From “sleep-eating” bizarre food combinations… to dangerous activities like “sleep-driving”… to raising your risk of early death.

Yes, death. Sleeping pills can give new meaning to the phrase “Rest in peace.”  Before you resort to these dangerous drugs, here are some facts the drug companies don’t want you to know about their favorite cash cow.

Raising Your Risk of Auto Accidents – After Just One Pill

Taking sleeping pills can raise your risk of a car accident by 75% or more.

In a 9-year study, Taiwanese scientists discovered taking popular benzodiazepine sleeping pills raised the risk of having a car accident 88% after taking the pills for just one day.

Risks remained high over a week and a month… and were also high for so-called “z-drugs,” which have a similar action.

Together, these drugs make up a significant percentage of all the sleeping pills prescribed. And could leave you – like Congressman Kennedy – in a dazed state, trying to explain to the police you weren’t drunk when you crashed your car.

That’s the good news. Here’s where it starts to get scary.

How Your Heart Specialist May Prescribe Death

Some drugs are lifesavers. Penicillin, for instance, has cancelled countless funerals. But not all drugs are like penicillin. In 2014, Japanese doctors reported sleeping pills fall into that category.

At the Heart Failure Congress in Athens that year, they released staggering news. The sleeping pills often prescribed to heart failure patients might be killing them.

They followed 111 heart failure patients for 180 days after being discharged from the hospital. Those who were given sleeping pills were eight times more likely to wind up back in the hospital… or dead.

In this study, more than a third of those given sleeping pills were readmitted or died.

The researchers called for larger studies to confirm their results. But they also called for doctors to watch their patients carefully. The numbers were just too high to ignore.

The bad news doesn’t stop there, either.

Are These “Killer Pills” Worth the Risk?

Here are just a few of the other studies revealing the harsh effects of sleeping pills…

  • A 2013 British study found people taking sleeping pills are 54% more likely to suffer with pneumonia. And have a 22% higher risk of death from pneumonia within 30 days.
  • U.S. researchers found taking benzoadepine sleeping pills for more than 180 days doubled the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A 2016 study found taking sleeping pills raised the risk of hip fracture by 40% – 60%.
  • Doctors at the Scripps Clinic discovered obesity and sleeping pills don’t mix. Obese people who use sleeping pills double their risk of early death. Even if they take fewer than 18 pills a year.
  • A 2014 British study of nearly 70,000 revealed regular sleeping pill use more than triples your risk of early death.
  • A 2012 U.S. study had similar results… but also found the heaviest sleeping pill users also had an increased risk of cancer.

Of course, you have to weigh these risks against the benefits. So, how well do sleeping pills work?

Big Risks… Small Payoffs

You’d expect drugs with so many risks to yield big benefits. But, apparently, sleeping pills don’t.

In 2012, an international team (including researchers from Harvard Medical School) reviewed 13 studies of so-called Z-drugs. The studies revealed only a very small sleep benefit over placebo.

And a brand-new review from the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) recommends avoiding benzodiazepines altogether… at least for mature adults. The VA scientists suggest using cognitive behavioral therapy instead of drugs.

If you have trouble sleeping, try setting definite times to go to bed and get up. This helps “train” your body to sleep at certain hours.

Avoid blue light – such as from a television or computer for a couple of hours before bed. Blue light blocks the release of melatonin, your body’s master sleep hormone.

You can also try chamomile tea, low-dose melatonin, or valerian to help you get to sleep. All are safe, 100% natural, and proven to improve sleep.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


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Weich, S., et al, “Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study,” BMJ. 2014; 348: g1996.

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Schroeck, J.L., et al, “Review of Safety and Efficacy of Sleep Medicines in Older Adults,” Clin Ther. Nov 2016; 38(11): 2340-2372.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Is This The New Cancer Killer?

In 2014, researchers grew breast cancer tumors in a group of lab mice. Then they exposed the tumors to a powerful anti-inflammatory. Growth slowed. Cancer cells began to die off. The tumors shrank.

The compound the researchers used has no side serious effects – even in large doses. It’s proven safe in thousands of animal and human studies. It’s cheap, easy to find, and 100% natural.

So what is this miraculous cancer killer?

It’s curcumin. That name may not sound familiar. But this one probably will: turmeric. Curcumin gives turmeric its yellow color. It does a lot more, too.

For centuries, Ayurvedic healers in India used turmeric for inflammatory diseases. New studies show it may also be one of the most effective anti-cancer agents ever discovered.

Power Against Dozens of Cancers

Curcumin has been tested against all sorts of cancers – in the lab, in animals, and even in humans. As an anti-inflammatory, curcumin affects cancer development in several different ways.

Curcumin interferes with pro-cancer enzymes. It blocks inflammatory molecules. It inhibits growth factors. And it triggers apoptosis – or “programmed cell death” – in cancer cells

Here are just some cancers curcumin fights:

  • Blood cancers, cancers of the digestive and urinary tracts, genital cancers, breast and ovarian cancers, neurological cancer, skin cancers, lung cancer, and cancers of connective tissue.
  • Lymphatic (thymus), brain and bone cancers.
  • Prostate and pancreatic cancers, colon cancer, and cancers of the head and neck.

Some studies show curcumin alone is effective. Others show it boosts the effectiveness of other natural cancer fighters. It can even make drugs more effective.

And it doesn’t just fight existing cancers.

Powerful Cancer Prevention… and More

Researchers say curcumin can prevent cancer, too.

  • As an antioxidant, it sops up free radicals that can damage DNA and lead to replication of defective cells.
  • It reduces pro-cancer inflammation.
  • It triggers defective cells to “self-destruct.”

Curcumin is the multi-tool of cancer fighters. It has properties of all three types of chemo drug. It blocks cancer-promoting compounds… neutralizes free radicals… and fights the multiplication of “rogue” cells.

Plus, curcumin also appears to keep cancerous stem cells from developing into full-blown cancers.

Curcumin has just one drawback…

Amplifying Curcumin’s Cancer Fighting Power

Curcumin isn’t highly bioavailable. That is, your body doesn’t absorb it well.

If your culture eats a lot of turmeric, you’ll get more than the average American. But you’d have to eat an awful lot of curry to raise the level of curcumin in your blood.

But there’s good news.

Scientists have been working on ways to make curcumin more bioavailable. According to The AAPS Journal, labs are working with many different forms of curcumin. And some show promise…

  • Nanoparticles – Extremely tiny particles to slip through barriers.
  • Liposomes – Two-layer “bubbles” that act as a delivery system.
  • Piperine – An extract from black pepper that enhances absorption.

One study found taking curcumin with piperine boosted absorption by an incredible 2,000%.  Plus, the levels of curcumin in people’s blood shot up faster and stayed higher longer with piperine.

Turmeric is available in supplement form, but don’t waste time and money taking plain turmeric. Turmeric with piperine is safe, natural, affordable… and a whole lot more effective.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


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How Modern Medicine Helped Reverse Health Gains By 100 Years

One hundred years ago, modern medical practice was barely in its infancy. Patent medicines – aka “snake oil” – were all the rage. Kerosene and radium treatments were common. And cigarettes were considered a good way to ease stress.

We’ve come a long way since then. Many diseases that were common then have been all but wiped out. But a few have been making a comeback. And one – childhood rickets – is due, at least in part, to “modern” medical advice.

Rickets is a painful, deforming condition caused by poor bone development. (A similar condition in adults – osteomalacia – is also on the rise.) The disease was common in the Victorian era, but was nearly wiped out in the developed world in the 2nd half of the last century.

Then something went insanely wrong. About 10 years ago, doctors across Europe and the U.S. began to see rickets making a comeback.

Modern Medicine Makes a Bad Situation Worse

A generation or so ago, parents encouraged their kids to play outside whenever the weather allowed. They dosed them with cod liver oil. And sunscreen was unheard of.

This all boosted their children’s vitamin D levels. And vitamin D prevents rickets. Governments got in the act, too. Since few foods are high in vitamin D, anti-rickets campaigns led to adding D to Key foods.

But cod liver oil fell out of fashion. Children started spending more time indoors. And when they do go outside, doctors now warn they should avoid sun exposure. Even though the sun is our #1 source of vitamin D.

Rickets – which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more – has come roaring back. And doctors are still telling us to stay out of the sun at all costs.

Low Vitamin D Is the New Winter Scourge

Study after study shows huge numbers of adults (and children) don’t get enough vitamin D. Half of all adults in Britain are vitamin D deficient in the winter.

In Korea, wintertime vitamin D is low in 73.0% of men and 88.9% of women. A 2006 study found even young adults in Northern Ireland were generally low on vitamin D. In sunny Portugal, almost three-quarters of adults suffer with low vitamin D during the winter months.

Conditions are the same south of the equator, too. In New Zealand, vitamin D deficiency hits 73% of women and 39% of men. In Australia, barely a quarter of adults get enough D in the winter.

Studies on adults in India, Ireland, Germany, and the U.S. all yielded similar results. A significant number of people simply don’t get enough vitamin D – especially in winter.

And here’s why that should concern you…

Low vitamin D levels are linked to myriad health problems. Low D could lead to falls, fractures, colon and breast cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, other autoimmune diseases, and more.

And here’s the kicker: The current guidelines for vitamin D (50 nmol/L – or 20 ng/ml) are probably too low to begin with.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

The current adult RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) per day. Or 800 IU if you’re over 70. It’s hard to get that much from your diet – unless you eat a lot of oily fish. So you need daily sun exposure or a supplement.

To complicate matters, the winter sun in most of the U.S. is too weak to trigger vitamin D production in your skin. So a supplement is the way to go if you live roughly north of Atlanta.

Many experts now say 800 IU is too low for the best health benefit. They say you need enough to raise your levels to 75 nmol/L… instead of the current guideline of 50 nmol/L.

Don’t worry about the technical lingo here. “nmol/L” stands for nanomole per liter. It’s a measure of the serum level of a substance – in our case, vitamin D. This doesn’t directly tell you how much vitamin D to take.

Both the International Osteoporosis Foundation and the Endocrine Society suggest the 75 nmol/L guideline. A University of Toronto expert also notes you need to reach this higher level for the maximum benefit to your bones.

A group of researchers from universities and hospitals around the world also suggest shooting for the 75 nmol/L target. To get there, they recommend getting at least 200 IU units more vitamin D than the current guidelines.

And with a safe upper limit of 10,000 IU, you should be fine taking 1,000 IU daily year-round – even if it’s just for insurance.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


“Rickets makes comeback among computer generation,” telegraph.co.uk. Jan 21, 2010.

Yu, H.J., et al, “Analysis of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D Status According to Age, Gender, and Seasonal Variation,” J Clin Lab Anal. Nov 2016; 30(6): 905-911.

Barnes, M.S., et al, “Effect of vitamin D supplementation on vitamin D status and bone turnover markers in young adults,” Eur J Clin Nutr. Jun 2006; 60(6): 727-733.

Bettencourt, A., et al, “Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels in a healthy population from the North of Portugal,” J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. Nov 5, 2016. pii: S0960-0760(16)30298-9.

Bolland, M.J., et al, “The effects of seasonal variation of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and fat mass on a diagnosis of vitamin D sufficiency,” Am J Clin Nutr. Oct 2007; 86(4): 959-964.

Kimlin, M., et al, “Are the current Australian sun exposure guidelines effective in maintaining adequate levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D?” J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. Jan 2016; 155(Pt B): 264-270.

Carlsson, M., et al, “Older Swedish Adults with High Self-Perceived Health Show Optimal 25- Hydroxyvitamin D Levels Whereas Vitamin D Status Is Low in Patients with High Disease Burden,” Nutrients. Nov 11, 2016; 8(11). pii: E717.

Vieth, R., “What is the optimal vitamin D status for health?” Prog Biophys Mol Bio. Sep 2006; 92(1): 26–32.

Dawson-Hughes, B., et al, “Estimates of optimal vitamin D status,” Osteoporosis International. Jul 2005; 16(7): 713–716.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Vitamins

The Cholesterol Psychosis

Since 1988, mainstream medicine has adjusted the guidelines for cholesterol over and over. Each time, they don’t get the results they want. So they adjust again… and again. 1988… 1993… 2001… 2004… 2013… Each guideline falls short of the goal. So they try again.

As the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. It’s a psychosis: A mental disorder so severe, the link with reality is severed.

And that’s exactly what seems to be happening with cholesterol. And with Big Pharma’s #1 cholesterol fighter, statin drugs.

Statin Use… For Health or Money

Each time mainstream medicine has set cholesterol limits, statin use has expanded. Previous efforts to lower cholesterol were successful. But they lowered cholesterol levels more than heart disease.

Obviously, the thinking went, we haven’t lowered guidelines enough. So they’d lower the numbers again… and expand the number of people who “need” statins.

The 2001 cholesterol guidelines tripled the number who “should” be taking statins – from 13 million to 36 million. And 65 million Americans – a third of the adult population – suddenly needed to make lifestyle changes to meet the guidelines.

Surely, tripling the number of people taking statins would solve the cholesterol problem. This broad expansion would certainly erase heart disease.

Except it didn’t.

In fact, a study published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, found pretty much the opposite. It found statins were overused in 69% of those on a primary prevention plan.

Because statin use is typically a life sentence, this is bad news for patients. But it’s great news for Big Pharma, which is making money hand-over-fist.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Or, more accurately, scary…

Doubling Down on Stupidity – at Your Expense

Remember how I mentioned the definition of insanity? In 2009, we saw an incredible example of this idea in action.

A large study looked at 135,905 patients in 541 hospitals across the country. That’s almost 136,000 patients admitted for heart attacks.

The study found one little problem. Three-quarters of these heart attack patients had healthy levels of “bad” cholesterol. And nearly half of them had ideal cholesterol levels.
That’s right. Almost half the patients admitted for heart attacks had LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels ranked as “ideal.” Another quarter had healthy levels.

In other words, cholesterol appeared to be a risk factor in only 25% of these heart attacks.

Now, logic would question whether LDL levels were linked to heart attacks. But that’s not what the “experts” decided. They decided this proved we hadn’t set cholesterol levels low enough.

But, as I’ve written to you many times, cholesterol is necessary for life. For example, cholesterol is a key element of your cell walls. You can only lower levels of LDL levels so far before you risk damage.

Besides, statins cause problems of their own.

  • Fatigue, muscle soreness, and breakdown of muscles
  • Raised levels of liver enzymes and liver damage
  • Rashes, flushing
  • Memory loss
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood sugar and Type II diabetes

Ironically, Type II diabetes is a risk factor for heart attack. So the solution could actually increase your risk of the problem!

Cholesterol Control: Insanity Reigns

The mainstream finally abandoned cholesterol numbers in 2013. But new guidelines opened up millions more adults to “needing” statins.

Instead of focusing on lowering cholesterol to specific numbers, the 2013 guidelines focused on general risk factors.

Now, keep in mind that statins are designed to lower cholesterol… not to treat other factors involved in heart disease risk. But the new guidelines still focused on prescribing statins, even though they were no longer looking at cholesterol levels as a primary outcome!

If this sounds a little crazy, don’t worry. It’s not you.
According to a report from the American College of Cardiology, the new guidelines called for statin use based not on “a specific dose of statins.” Instead patients should be given the drugs “regardless of how the medication impacts their cholesterol levels.”

Specific cholesterol targets were dumped. Good enough became good enough. If you were close, there was no point in trying to reach specific targets, the new argument went. That would take other drugs with no proven benefit.

The targets the mainstream had been chasing since 1988 were dropped, seemingly without a second thought.

The new approach meant millions more “should” be taking statins. Anyone with a 7.5% risk of developing atherosclerotic disease – clogged arteries – within 10 years was a prospect for statin drugs.

One writer, facing the “need” to start statins, questioned the guidelines. He found studies show high blood pressure as the biggest risk factor for heart attack… and the famous Framingham Heart Study found dietary cholesterol has almost no effect on cholesterol levels.

The Mainstream Ups the Ante… Again

Apparently, Big Pharma isn’t happy with the millions already taking statin drugs – in spite of their health risks. Because we have a new set of guidelines. Guidelines even crazier than before.

Now the mainstream wants everyone from age 40 evaluated for statin use. Yes everyone!

The chairman of the newest task force claimed, “People with no signs, symptoms, or history of cardiovascular disease can still be at risk for having a heart attack or stroke.”

Which sounds suspiciously like, “Give everyone these drugs… just in case.”

In other words, 100% of the population over 40 is now a candidate for these drugs. Drugs which not only put your health at risk… They can kill you.

Should You Take Statins?

Lowering cholesterol didn’t work. So, after two decades, the mainstream changed the ground rules. Now everyone – even if they have normal blood pressure, healthy cholesterol, and no signs of heart problems – should be considered for statin use?

Statins may help some people control high cholesterol… but so do many natural options. And cholesterol’s link to heart risk is sketchy at best. As the 2009 study showed, cutting cholesterol doesn’t necessarily lead to cutting heart attack risk.

Chances are, your doctor only hears the mainstream story. So don’t be afraid to bring up questions. The best studies seem to indicate blood pressure is a far more important factor than cholesterol.

Regular exercise and losing weight can usually lower blood pressure. Changes to your diet can lower blood fat levels without drugs. And all the side effects of these natural actions are positive.

Do you need statins? Probably not. Can you lower your cholesterol without them? Almost certainly. Before you accept a life sentence to these dangerous drugs, explore your options. Chances are you can achieve heart health without making Big Pharma any richer.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


Paxton, A., “One year later, cholesterol guidelines sinking in,” CAP Today. Jul 2002.

Abookire, S.A., et al, “Use and Monitoring of “Statin” Lipid-Lowering Drugs Compared With Guidelines,” Arch Intern Med. 2001; 161: 53-58.

Champeau, R., “Most heart attack patients’ cholesterol levels did not indicate cardiac risk,” UCLA Newsroom. Jan 12, 2009.

Dennis, B. and Bernstein, L., “New guidelines could have far more Americans taking statin drugs for cholesterol,” The Washington Post. Nov 12, 2013.

“Changes in Statin-Use Based on New Guidelines,” American College of Cardiology. Aug 18, 2014.

O’Riordan, M., “New Cholesterol Guidelines Abandon LDL Targets,” Nov 14, 2013.

Petranek, S., “Huge New Change in Cholesterol Guidelines — Do You Need Statins Anymore?” The Daily Reckoning. Feb 2, 2015.

Cha, A.E., “New statin guidelines: Everyone 40 and older should be considered for the drug therapy,” The Washington Post. Nov 13, 2016.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Heart

The Awful Price of a Good Night’s Sleep

The 2016 election season delivered plenty of surprises. Winners and losers aside, there’s one surprise nobody saw coming. Doctors across the country reported a jump in the number of patients complaining of stress.

The American Psychological Association reports more than half the population says this election cycle was a source of significant stress. And for folks on social media sites, it’s been especially bad.

One of the side effects of stress is sleeplessness. And millions turn to sleeping pills for relief. What they don’t know is some of these pills can cost a lot more than the price of a prescription.

Studies suggest some of the most common sleeping pills could also cost you your life…

Peaceful Rest or Rest in Peace?

Whether it’s election anxiety, relentless demands at work, or just the pressures of keeping up with home and family, stress is very real. It leaves you lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Or restlessly tossing and turning. And all the while, your brain is racing at a million miles an hour.

It’s pretty easy to understand why you’d want something – anything – to help you get some sleep. And sleeping pills seem to offer the perfect answer. Because one type of sleeping pill is tailor-made to calm a racing mind.

Benzodiazepines (BZPs) fall into the broad category of “hypnotics.” They’re often used for anxiety and insomnia. That’s because they’re designed to boost levels of GABA in your brain.

GABA – Gamma-amino butyric acid – is your body’s top calming neurotransmitter. It’s the chemical your brain normally releases when it’s time to sleep. GABA slows racing thoughts, calms your mind, and lets you slow down, relax, and drift off into peaceful rest.

BZPs are designed to trigger the release of GABA. And they do. But, like virtually all drugs, BZPs may have a few “minor” side effects. Side effects like raising your risk of an early death…

Out of the Frying Pan…

BZPs are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in the country. But the side effects have been piling up in recent years. Side effects you shouldn’t ignore.

  • 2012 – A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns BZPs alter brain function. Studies show these drugs raise your risk of car accidents.
  • 2012 – The Scripps Clinic finds BZP users are more likely to die from cancer – and from all causes – than non-users. Even people taking BZPs less than 18 times per year tripled their risk of early death.
  • 2013 – A study published in Thorax reveals BZP users are over 50% more likely to suffer with pneumonia than non-users – and have a 19% – 22% higher risk of death.
  • 2014 – A study of people taking BZPs showed they were almost 3.5 times more likely to die from any cause than non-users over the 7.6 years of the study.
  • 2014 – Heart failure victims often have problems sleeping. BZPs are often prescribed to heart failure victims to help them sleep. A Japanese study shows heart failure victims taking BZPs are 8 times more likely to die than those not using the drugs.
  • 2014 – BZP use is linked to a 50% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Regular use over about half a year doubled the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • 2015 – A Finnish study – backed by data from the CDC – shows BZP users are more likely to commit homicide than non-users. 

If you’re thinking, “This seems like an awfully steep price for a good night’s sleep,” you’re right.

Now, most of these studies just show a relationship. They don’t prove cause and effect. But here’s the thing: Do you want to take the risk when so many studies show a “relationship”? At some point, it’s just not worth that risk.

Boost GABA Without Dangerous Drugs

BZPs include some pretty familiar drugs. Like Diazepam, Xanax, Librium, and Valium.  Generic names include alprazolam, diazepam, clonazepam, and clorazepate.

One name you won’t find on these lists is lemon balm. This common herb has the advantage of supporting the activity of GABA without side effects.

This calming herb has been studied for its effect on GABA activity. These studies have found lemon balm boosts GABA levels.  It also blocks a key enzyme that lowers GABA levels.

So, before you try a drug with dangerous side effects to ease your sleep problems… maybe have a cup of lemon balm tea. Or take one of the many available lemon balm supplements.

They can help you get a good night’s sleep… without risking your life and health.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


“APA Survey Reveals 2016 Presidential Election Source of Significant Stress for More Than Half of Americans,” American Psychological Association. Oct 13, 2016.

Moore, A., “Do Not Drive Under the Influence of These Prescription Medications: Anxiety, Depression and Sleep Pills Increase Accident Risk,” Medical Daily. Sep 13, 2012.

Kripke, D.F., et al, “Hypnotics’ association with mortality or cancer: a matched cohort study,” BMJ Open. 2012; 2: e000850.

Obiora, E., et al, “The impact of benzodiazepines on occurrence of pneumonia and mortality from pneumonia: a nested case-control and survival analysis in a population-based cohort,” Thorax. 2013; 68: 163-170.

Weich, S., et al, “Effect of anxiolytic and hypnotic drug prescriptions on mortality hazards: retrospective cohort study,” BMJ. 2014; 348: g1996.

Preidt, R., et al, “Sleeping Pill Use Tied to Poorer Survival for Heart Failure Patients,” HealthDay. May 17, 2014.

de Gage, S.B., et al, “Benzodiazepine use and risk of Alzheimer’s disease: A case-control study,” BMJ. 2014; 349: g5205.

Tiihonen, J., et al, “Psychotropic drugs and homicide: A prospective cohort study from Finland,” World Psychiatry. Jun 4, 2015; 14(2): 245–247.

Yoo, D.Y., et al, “Effects of Melissa officinalis L. (lemon balm) extract on neurogenesis associated with serum corticosterone and GABA in the mouse dentate gyrus,” Neurochem Res. Feb 2011; 36(2): 250-257.

Awad, R., et al, “Bioassay-guided fractionation of lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) using an in vitro measure of GABA transaminase activity,” Phytother Res. Aug 2009; 23(8): 1075-1081.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Anxiety, Stress

AMPK – The Overlooked Longevity Secret

For years, resveratrol looked to be the big longevity breakthrough. In simple creatures, it mimics calorie restriction, which extends life span. But we haven’t yet seen the same reaction in humans

Now pterostilbene – a close relative of resveratrol – is all the rage. Its effects are like resveratrol’s, but your body absorbs it more readily. So it’s more potent. Still, no one’s proven it extends human life yet.

But there’s another substance already in your body that’s being overlooked. It mimics the effects of calorie restriction. And in at least one study, it resulted in a 15% longer life.

So what is this substance? It’s the enzyme AMPK – adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase. And it could be the easiest way to boost your chances of living a longer, healthier life.

The “Miracle” Hidden in Every Cell

Every cell in your body contains AMPK. Inside those cells, one of its main jobs is to balance energy levels. Here’s what I mean…

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) fuels your cells. Burning ATP creates a waste product called AMP. When a cell has too little ATP on hand – and too much AMP – AMPK kicks in to reestablish balance.

  • AMPK tells the cell to make more mitochondria, your cells’ “energy factories.”
  • It switches cells to burning more fat, to make up for the shortage of ATP.
  • AMPK signals for fat storage – and the generation of fat cells – to stop.
  • It also calls for waste to be transported out of the cell.

These are just a few of AMPK’s jobs. But you can already see how it could boost your health.

First, having more mitochondria makes cells function more like young cells. (Young cells have more mitochondria than old cells. They’re also more energy efficient.)

Then there’s the burning of fat. And shutting down fat storage and production. These actions promote a slimmer, healthier body.

Plus, AMPK improves glucose (sugar) transport, lowers insulin resistance, lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers levels of fat in your liver.

Activating AMPK is almost like turning the clock back on your health. Of course, the question then becomes, how do you activate AMPK?

Simple Ways to Ramp Up AMPK Levels

Researchers at McMaster University tested AMPK levels in a group of cyclists. They took samples from their volunteers before and after a short, intense “interval” workout.

The workout itself consisted of 4 30-second sprints on a cycle, with 4 minutes of rest after each sprint.

At the end of this brief workout, the volunteers’ AMPK were much higher. And even though the workout was very short, it was enough to trigger fat burning and a jump in the number of mitochondria in muscle cells.

In animal studies, tiliroside – a compound found naturally in strawberries, raspberries and rose hips – also activates AMPK.

Japanese scientists gave tiliroside to a group of overweight mice suffering with diabetes for 21 days. The subjects’ triglyceride (blood fat) and insulin levels dropped… fat build-up in their muscles and liver was blocked… and their levels of AMPK went up.

A recent Chinese animal study also found tiliroside leads to improved glucose metabolism and cholesterol levels. The changes were triggered by AMPK activation.

The herb Gynostemma pentaphyllum may also activate AMPK. And this herb – also called jiaogulan – has been tested on humans.

In one study, obese adults took 500 mg of G. pentaphyllum extract for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the volunteers showed big drops in belly fat, all fat, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. A matched placebo group showed very little change over the 12 weeks.

Getting Your Own AMPK Boost

Studies prove short bouts of high-intensity exercise activate AMPK. So using interval-style workouts is your surest bet for taking advantage of AMPK’s benefits. As the McMaster study shows, the workouts don’t have to be long to get the process started.

But you need more than 2 minutes of activity to get the most overall benefit… so don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all the activity your body needs. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days per week… and do interval-style workouts on at least 2 days.

As far as tiliroside goes, I haven’t seen any human studies… yet. But, unless you have a berry allergy, eating more strawberries and raspberries can’t hurt. With all their other health benefits, they’re already solid anti-aging foods.

G. pentaphyllum is available in supplement form. I’ve seen both 250 mg and 500 mg options online. The study above used 500 mg. So the larger dose is fairly close to what’s proven to work well.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


Gibala, M.J., et al, “Brief intense interval exercise activates AMPK and p38 MAPK signaling and increases the expression of PGC-1alpha in human skeletal muscle,” J Appl Physiol (1985). Mar 2009; 106(3): 929-934.

Goto, T., et al, “Tiliroside, a glycosidic flavonoid, ameliorates obesity-induced metabolic disorders via activation of adiponectin signaling followed by enhancement of fatty acid oxidation in liver and skeletal muscle in obese-diabetic mice,” J Nutr Biochem. Jul 2012; 23(7): 768-776.

Chen, Y., et al, “Flavonoid derivative exerts an antidiabetic effect via AMPK activation in diet-induced obesity mice,” Nat Prod Res. Sep 2016; 30(17): 1988-1992.

Park, S.H., et al, “Antiobesity effect of Gynostemma pentaphyllum extract (actiponin): A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial,” Obesity. Jan 2014; 22(1): 63-71.


© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Herbs

It’s Not Just Exploding Cell Phones

Thanks to the Galaxy Note 7, batteries are back in the news. Lithium-ion batteries, to be exact. Defective batteries have caused a number of Samsung’s flagship cell phones to burst into flames or explode. But it’s just phones, right?

Not by a long shot. Remember all those hoverboards that burst into flames last year? Lithium-ion batteries. And the many reports of e-cigarettes exploding in people’s pockets and mouths? Lithium-ion batteries.

How about the millions of laptops Dell had to recall in 2006? You guessed it: Faulty lithium-ion batteries.

How does Tesla power its super-sleek electric sports cars? With lithium-ion batteries, of course. At least four have burst into flames so far: two in the U.S. and one each in Mexico and France.

And who could forget the recent Boeing Dreamliner fiasco? The entire fleet was grounded because of overheating lithium-ion batteries.

Billions of these batteries are in use. They’re in our cell phones and cameras… tablets and laptops…  e-cigarettes and toys… and in our power tools, too. They’re everywhere.

So how safe are lithium-ion batteries? Why do they explode? And how can you avoid becoming the next accident statistic?

Lithium-Ion Batteries – Victims of Their Own Success

Lithium-ion – or L-I – batteries are popular because they’re light. You can pack about twice the charge in an L-I battery as you can in an alkaline battery of the same size. Even then, there’s tremendous pressure to make even L-I batteries smaller and lighter. Which can also make them more dangerous.

L-I batteries are built much like any other battery. They have negative and positive electrodes surrounded in an electrolyte solution. In the case of L-I batteries, the electrolyte contains lithium salts.

A very thin sheet of polyethylene separates the electrodes. It’s so thin, it’s measured in microns – or millionths of a meter. Any damage to this sheet can lead to an internal short-circuit. The short, in turn produces heat and pressure builds up. Which can then cause the battery to burst into flames or explode.

Most manufacturers buy batteries from quality sources. But as we saw with the rash of hoverboard fires, not all do. Sometimes, even batteries from reliable suppliers may be defective. As with the Galaxy Note 7.

The chances of your brand-name product going up in flames are slim. But it does happen. So here are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe…

First and Foremost, Monitor Heat

Heat is the most common warning sign that something is wrong with a L-I battery. If your cell phone or other device grows unusually warm, shut it off. Excess heat may signal battery failure.

Don’t expose any device with a L-I battery to excessive heat. That is, keep it away from stoves for example. External heat – if it’s high enough – could also cause the battery to explode.

Don’t charge your L-I batteries in direct sun or near heat sources. This may activate or break a battery’s built-in protection circuits. If activated, the battery won’t charge. If broken, it may overheat.

Only use the proper charger and AC adapter for your battery. Using the wrong adapter or charger could result in overheating.

If you carry spare batteries – such as for a camera or quad-copter – be sure the terminals can’t connect. For example, don’t store the batteries with metal objects. If the battery came with a plastic snap-on cap, use it.

Impacts – such as from dropping a phone or tablet – may damage your battery’s protection circuits, making overheating more likely. Always replace a dented or deformed battery immediately.

There have been plenty of news stories of exploding hoverboards, e-cigarettes, and cell phones. But your risk of injury from an exploding battery is still fairly small. These simple precautions will make that risk even smaller.

About the Author: Jason Kennedy is a celebrated investigative health writer and the author of The X-Factor Revolution and Beyond the Blue Zone. With over 10 years of experience working with today’s leading alternative and anti-aging doctors, Jason shares his insider status and access to the latest breakthroughs with thousands of readers from around world.


 

© Copyright 2016 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Uncategorized

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