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Why Cancer Needs To Be Treated as a Metabolic Disease

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In the featured podcast, Dr. Peter Attia interviews professor Thomas Seyfried, Ph.D., recipient of our Game Changer Award in 2016 for his work on cancer as a metabolic disease, which is also the title of Seyfried’s book1 on this topic. His work is also heavily featured in Travis Christofferson’s excellent book, “Tripping Over the Truth: The Metabolic Theory of Cancer.”

Seyfried, in my view, is simply the best cancer biologist in the world. The featured interview2 goes into great technical detail that can be challenging for some, but if you’re interested in understanding the mechanics of cancer, I highly recommend taking the time to listen to it in its entirety, especially toward the end.

Without a doubt, it is one of the finest detailed discussions about why cancer cells grow and how conventional medicine has it mostly wrong when it comes to treatment, especially radiation and chemo. Without a doubt, it is one of the best interviews Seyfried has ever done. Although Attia is a Harvard trained physician with oncology training, he frequently disagrees with Seyfried, who schools him in the basics.

I have listened to the entire interview twice and learned even more the second time. Now I have a fairly good background on this topic so if you are new to it and have a loved one who needs this information you may need to listen a few times. Toward the end of the interview Seyfried gets into some very important principles in cancer treatment, such as:

  • Being careful to avoid biopsies if at all possible as they are strongly related to allowing the cancer to metastasize.
  • Surgical therapy can be a useful intervention but it should be delayed as long as possible while the patient is on metabolic therapy so the tumor will shrink and allow the margins to be more well defined so it can be removed more easily.
  • Avoid radiation and chemotherapy at all costs as they typically impair the immune system that is ultimately responsible for resolving the tumor.
  • More than 1,600 people die from cancer every DAY in the U.S., but 8,100 die from cancer every day in China, where the problem is far worse. Remember these are deaths per day, not cancer diagnosis.
  • It is vital to understand that more people die from cancer treatment than the cancer itself.

Introduction to Cancer as a Metabolic Disease

The established dogma that cancer is a genetic disease currently rules everything, from the research that receives funding to the treatment you can expect from an oncologist. Indeed, this dogma is what fuels the entire cancer industry. Unfortunately, it’s not leading to any significant breakthroughs in treatment, let alone prevention.

Seyfried and others have been able to advance the theory that cancer is primarily the result of defective energy metabolism in and damage to the cells’ mitochondria. Simply put, genetic mutations are not the primary cause of cancer but are rather a downstream effect of the defective energy metabolism. As long as your mitochondria remain healthy and functional, your chances of developing cancer are actually slim.

According to Seyfried, while it’s still poorly understood how a ketogenic diet works to subdue epileptic seizures, the mechanism of action on cancer cells is really clear, and is based on the pioneering findings of Dr. Otto Warburg, a classically trained biochemist who in 1931 received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme cytochrome C oxidase.3

Warburg’s work shows how cells obtain energy from respiration, and how cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells (see section on Warburg Effect below).

Following in Warburg’s footsteps, research by Seyfried and others show that cancer is primarily a metabolic disease involving disturbances in energy production through respiration and fermentation in the cells. Studies have actually shown that cancer is suppressed when the nucleus from a tumor cell is transferred to cytoplasm of normal cells with normal mitochondria.

What this tells us is that normal mitochondria suppress cancer growth, and in order for cancer cells to proliferate, you must have dysfunctional mitochondria.

Seyfried’s research has shown that cancer growth and progression can be managed following a whole-body transition from fermentable metabolites, such as glucose and glutamine, to respiratory metabolites, primarily ketone bodies that are formed when you follow a ketogenic diet. This transition reduces tumor vascularity and inflammation while enhancing tumor cell death.

cancer as a mitochondrial metabolic disease

Source: peterattiamd.com. Image credit: Thomas Seyfried

The Warburg Effect

Warburg discovered that even in the presence of oxygen, cancer cells derive energy from the ancient process of anaerobic fermentation (sometimes called glycolysis), which causes an overproduction of lactic acid. This is known as the Warburg Effect:

  • Aerobically, in the mitochondria
  • Anaerobically, in the cytoplasm, which generates lactic acid, a toxic byproduct in high concentrations

Aerobic respiration is far more efficient, capable of generating more than 30 times more adenosine triphosphate (ATP) than anaerobic energy generation. As explained in the featured interview, normal, healthy cells will produce very minimal amounts of lactic acid in the presence of oxygen. Cancer cells, on the other hand, behave very differently.

Cancer cells continue to produce massive amounts of lactic acid, even in a 100-percent oxygen environment, which caused Warburg to conclude that the primary cause of cancer is that the respiratory system of cancer cells is defective, causing the cells to revert from healthy aerobic energy generation to unhealthy anaerobic fermentation. You can read Warburg’s 1956 paper4On the Origin of Cancer Cells” here.

Please note that respiratory system in this context does not refer to the lungs but rather to the processing of oxygen from the lungs in the electron transport chain of the mitochondria that ultimately passes the electrons from your food to oxygen to create water and ATP.

So, in a nutshell, what Warburg discovered is that cancer cells have dysfunctional mitochondria — hence the claim that cancer is a metabolic disease rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction.

Different Types of Mitochondrial Abnormalities Are Found in Cancer Cells

One of the primary reasons why modern researchers have failed to realize that all cancer cells have impaired respiration is because they started researching cancer using cell cultures, and when you separate the cells from the tissue and grow it in a medium, it causes them to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t when in the animal or human.

Hence many researchers have claimed that cancer cell respiration is normal, when in fact it is not. According to Seyfried, during in vitro or culture research, it looks like cancer cells consume a lot of oxygen, even when producing lactic acid, which creates confusion.

He does point out that while all cancer cells have defective mitochondria, how that defect came about will vary from one cancer to another. In some cancers, there’s simply a lack of mitochondria, meaning the cell does not have enough organelles to generate energy through respiration and therefore falls back on fermentation as a source of energy production.

In other cancers, the cells appear to have plenty of mitochondria, but the organelles are structurally abnormal. As noted by Seyfried, “structure dictates function,” so if the structure of the mitochondria is abnormal, its function will also be abnormal. However, all cancer cells use fermentation for energy production. Seyfried has not found a single cancer with normal respiration.

In order to grow and spread, cancer cells also need ample building blocks, which Seyfried says they get from the pentose phosphate pathway, the glycolytic pathway and from glutamine. “Between glucose and glutamine, you’re getting all the building blocks you need for rapid cell division,” he says.

Cancer Is Not a Gene-Driven Disease

Seyfried also stresses that in his research, no genetic abnormalities were found in cancer cells at all, which firmly disputes the genetic theory which postulates that cancer is driven by genetic mutations. Sadly, Attia is still convinced that the gene theory of cancer is true. It’s quite sad that such a brilliant and innovative physician fails to appreciate the depth of beauty of Seyfried’s work.

Overall, an estimated 5 percent of cancers are caused by germline mutations, such as BRCA1, an inherited genetic risk factor known to raise your risk for breast cancer, or BRCA2, which raises your risk for ovarian cancer.

But as noted by Seyfried, “They’re not deterministic.” A certain gene mutation may raise your risk, but it’s no guarantee you will actually develop the cancer in question, and it is ultimately not the true cause if you do get cancer. An exception is if the mutation damages the mitochondria’s respiratory system; then cancer is a very real possibility.

Warburg’s Missing Link

The featured interview also delves into the details of mitochondrial substrate level phosphorylation (mSLP) — the missing link in Warburg’s cancer theory. When mitochondria are damaged, causing them to revert to such an inefficient form of energy production, how is it that they have enough energy to massively reproduce and grow?

For years, Seyfried suspected glucose fermentation wasn’t the whole story, and his research shows cancer cells can in fact ferment not only glucose but also glutamine, and the majority of the energy for cancer formation actually comes from the glutamine.

Glutamine is fermented via mSLP in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle — also known as the Krebs cycle — of the mitochondria. The TCA or Krebs cycle is a series of chemical reactions catalyzed by enzymes that form a key part of aerobic respiration. Seyfried explains:

“mSLP is the production of ATP when you move a phosphate group from an organic substrate onto an ADP molecule, so it’s an ancient way of generating energy. In other words, it’s an organic molecule that is an electron acceptor rather than oxygen …

You’re moving phosphate groups from an organic substrate onto the ADP as the acceptor, and you can generate massive amounts of energy from this process which can replace the level of lost energy from the damaged mitochondria …

In the normal cell, you’re making most of your ATP from oxidative phosphorylation, but in the cancer cell you’re making most of it from mSLP inside the same organelle [i.e., the mitochondria].”

energy metabolism in normal cells

Source: peterattiamd.com. Image credit: Thomas Seyfried

energy metabolism in cancer cells

Source: peterattiamd.com. Image credit: Thomas Seyfried

Why Cancer Cells Don’t Self-Destruct

Another question of import is “Why don’t cancer cells die through the apoptotic mechanisms?” meaning the mechanism that triggers cellular suicide when the cell is damaged or malfunctioning. In short, because the mitochondria that actually controls that self-destruct “switch” is dysfunctional.

“The cell bypasses the normal control of life and death — apoptosis of the cell — because the very organelle that dictates that is [the mitochondria], is now defective,” Seyfried says. As a consequence, the cell reverts back “to the way it existed before oxygen came into the atmosphere on the planet.”

Healthy Mitochondrial Respiration Prevents Cancer Formation

The take-home message here is that as long as your mitochondrial respiration remains healthy, cancer will not develop. “That goes back to prevention,” Seyfried says. “How do you prevent cancer? You prevent it by keeping your mitochondria healthy.”

And how do you keep your mitochondria healthy? Primarily by avoiding toxic environmental factors and implementing healthy lifestyle strategies. This is in fact the sole focus of the metabolic mitochondrial therapy program detailed in my book “Fat for Fuel.” Topping my list of strategies to optimize mitochondrial health — which you can learn more about in my book — are:







Cyclical nutritional ketosis — The divergence from our ancestral diet — this massive prevalence of processed, unnatural foods and excessive amounts of added sugars, net carbs and industrial fats — is responsible for a majority of the damage to your mitochondria.

High-carb, processed food diets prevent your body from efficiently burning fat as its primary fuel, and burning fats and ketones is far more efficient, inducing far less oxidative stress, than burning carbs. So, a foundational dietary strategy to optimize your mitochondrial health is to eat the right fuel. Once you become an efficient fat burner, you minimize the oxidative stress placed on your mitochondria, which is key.

Calorie restriction — Another extremely effective strategy for reducing mitochondrial free radical production is to limit the amount of fuel you feed your body. This is a noncontroversial position as calorie restriction has consistently shown many therapeutic benefits.

Meal timing — Meal timing is also important. Specifically, eating too late in the evening, when your body doesn’t need the energy, is one of the worst things you can do to your mitochondria, as it creates a buildup of ATP that is not being used.

As a result, it’s not being broken down into ADP, causing ATP synthase to shut down. At that point, the entire electron transport chain backs up, causing excessive amounts of free radicals to spill out and damage the mitochondrial DNA.5

Normalizing your iron level — Iron also plays an important role in mitochondrial function, and contrary to popular belief, excessive iron levels are far more prevalent than iron deficiency. Virtually all men over the age of 16 and post-menopausal women are at risk of high iron.

Menstruating women are protected since they lose blood, and hence iron, each month. While most people damage their mitochondria by eating a high-carb, low-fat diet and/or excessive protein, elevated iron levels can cause profound mitochondrial damage as well.

When you have high iron levels in your mitochondria, it enhances oxidation, creating high levels of damaging reactive oxygen species and free radicals. Fortunately, high iron is easy to address. Simply check your iron level with a serum ferritin test, and if your level is high, donate blood two or three times a year to maintain a healthy level.

An ideal iron ferritin level is between 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Below 20 ng/mL is a deficiency state, and you definitely do not want to be above 60 or 80 ng/mL.

An important side note to this is that excess carbohydrates in particular, when eaten late at night, result in a backup of electrons, causing the production of superoxide. While not a pernicious free radical in and of itself, if you have high iron levels combined with high superoxide, it produces hydroxyl free radicals, which is one of the most harmful.

The chemical reaction that creates these hydroxyl free radicals is known as the Fenton reaction. While you certainly need enough iron, having too high an iron level can cause severe damage, and this is one way in which it does that.

Exercise — Exercise upregulates PGC-1 alpha and Nrf2 — genes that promote mitochondrial efficiency, helping them grow and divide so that you actually have more mitochondria.

In simple terms, by placing an increased energy demand on your cells through physical activity, free radicals signal that you need more mitochondria to meet the energy demand. As a result, your body adapts to your level of activity by creating more mitochondria and making them work more efficiently.

Interestingly, in his book “Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine,” Dr. Lee Know, a naturopathic physician, explains how some people need more exercise to maintain mitochondrial health.6 When hydrogen ions flow back through ATP synthase, energy is created. But in some cases, and in certain tissues, such as in brown adipose tissue, this process can become uncoupled.

Instead of the hydrogen ions flowing back through ATP synthase, they flow through a different channel, creating heat rather than energy. A benefit of this is that it allows the electron transport chain to continue to operate even though you’re not using up energy. The hydrogen gradient is being dissipated through the generation of heat instead.

If your genetic heritage stems from equatorial regions and/or if you have very dark skin, you will tend to have less brown fat, and hence less mitochondrial uncoupling, which raises your risk of chronic disease. To counteract this, you will need to exercise regularly. Also, be mindful of your vitamin D level, and consider cold thermogenesis (cryotherapy) to build brown and beige adipose tissue.

Nutritional supplements — The following nutrients and cofactors are also needed for mitochondrial enzymes to function properly:

  • CoQ10 or ubiquinol (the reduced form)
  • L-Carnitine, which shuttles fatty acids to the mitochondria
  • D-ribose, which is raw material for the ATP molecule
  • Magnesium
  • Marine-based omega-3
  • All B vitamins, including riboflavin, thiamine and B6
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)

How Metabolic Therapy Can Improve Cancer Treatment

Seyfried is not alone in his strong belief in the metabolic origins of cancer. Dr. Abdul Slocum, a physician from Turkey, is already using this information in his clinical practice, where he treats many end-stage cancer patients. A significant number of his patients have pancreatic cancer, which has one of the worst prognoses of any cancer.

Over 90 percent of pancreatic cancer patients die within five years. When they enter his clinic, patients are immediately placed on a ketogenic diet and remain on it throughout their treatment.

Remarkably, Slocum is able to save many of these “hopeless” patients. What’s more, his treatment protocols are nontoxic. By harnessing your body’s ability to fight the tumor naturally, through the implementation of nutritional ketosis and other strategies, any chemotherapy agents used can be applied in the lowest possible dose. Slocum’s practice reveals the very real benefits of treating cancer as a metabolic disease.

Support Cutting Edge Metabolic Therapies That Address the True Cause of Cancer: Defective Mitochondria

Seyfried is conducting preclinical research at Boston College, exploring a cocktail of metabolic therapies in a metastatic mouse model, including the combination of:




Ketogenic diet

Glycolytic inhibitors

Oxygen therapy

Glutamine inhibitors

Exogenous ketones

Other metabolic targeting therapies

The goal of this advanced research is to develop a nontoxic diet/drug therapeutic cocktail that can resolve both primary tumor growth and secondary tumor metastatic lesions in a range of preclinical models of cancer. For more information, you can read through his team’s paper,7 “Press-Pulse: A Novel Therapeutic Strategy for the Metabolic Management of Cancer,” published in 2017 in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.

To further this project, Travis Christofferson founded the nonprofit Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies (formerly Single Cause Single Cure Foundation8). I encourage you to make a donation to this incredible research project, as the possibilities of it actually saving lives are far greater than most other cancer organizations, which exist solely to support the slash, poison and burn paradigm.

I am working with Christofferson to have Seyfried’s metabolic therapies available for use as a primary intervention in a few cancer clinics and will have that information posted when they are available.

Importantly, while other organizations will take a large percentage of your donations for administrative expenses, 100 percent of donations to Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies will go to fund Seyfried’s research. You can make a tax-deductible donation online or by mailing in a check:

  • Send a check of any amount made out to and mailed to The Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies, 3213 West Main Street #256, Rapid City, SD 57702
  • Donate online at Foundation for Metabolic Cancer Therapies. You can make a one-time donation or set up recurring contributions.

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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