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Top 9 Nutrients for Better Brain Health

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Like autism among children, Alzheimer’s among seniors has reached epidemic proportions, with no slowdown in sight. On the contrary, evidence suggests the trend is worsening. At present, Alzheimer’s affects about 5.4 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.1 The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050, 1 in 6 adults will be living with dementia.

It’s important to realize that dementia is a lifestyle-predicated disease, and there are many strategies that will help prevent this kind of neurodegeneration. In essence, anything that will help optimize your mitochondria will also help prevent Alzheimer’s. You can learn more about these Alzheimer’s prevention strategies in this previous article.

Here, the focus is on specific nutrients shown to play an important role in brain health and cognition, starting with marine-based omega-3, which contains two long-chained fatty acids that are vital for brain health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

1. Marine-Based Omega-3 Fat: DHA

The influence of marine-based omega-3 fats on physical and mental health has been the subject of intense research for decades, and there’s compelling evidence they can help ameliorate a variety of psychiatric illnesses and degenerative brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

In my new book, “Superfuel,” cowritten with James DiNicolantonio, Pharm. D., we expain how DHA is an essential structural component of your brain, and is found in high levels in your neurons, the cells of your central nervous system. When your omega-3 intake is inadequate, your nerve cells become stiff and more prone to inflammation as the missing omega-3 fats are substituted with omega-6 instead.


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Once your nerve cells become rigid and inflamed, proper neurotransmission from cell to cell and within cells become compromised. Low DHA levels have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, and some studies suggest degenerative brain diseases may potentially be reversible with sufficient DHA.

For example, in one study,2 elderly volunteers suffering from memory deficits saw significant improvement after taking 900 milligrams (mg) of DHA per day for 24 weeks, compared to controls. Another study3 found significant improvement in verbal fluency scores after taking 800 mg of DHA per day for four months, compared with placebo. Furthermore, memory and rate of learning were significantly improved when DHA was combined with 12 mg of lutein per day.

I never previously realized this but DHA also stimulates one of the most important transcription factors that regulates cellular oxidation and reduction, and aids in detoxification, the Nrf2 pathway.4 Additionally, it also increases heme oxygenase 15 (a protein produced in response to oxidative stress) and upregulates antioxidant enzymes — all of which are important for brain health.

In addition, DHA is a precursor for the signaling molecule protectin, which is synthesized in response to oxidative stress. (When found in your central nervous system it’s referred to as neuroprotectin, or NPD1.) As explained in a 2011 paper in the journal Nutrients:6

“NPD1 induces nerve regeneration, reduce leukocyte infiltration and maintains homeostasis through ageing by reducing pro-apoptotic and pro-inflammatory signaling. NPDI is induced by oxidative stress and protects retinal and neuronal cells from oxidative stress-induced apoptosis.

Many mechanisms have been implicated, including suppression of the IL-1β induced stimulation of COX. The discovery of NPD1 offers new therapeutic opportunities for a range of neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides an exciting potential for DHA in helping to delay or minimize the ‘normal’ cognitive decline during ageing.”

2. Marine-Based Omega-3 Fat: EPA

EPA, meanwhile, appears to be particularly beneficial in the treatment of depression,7 as it helps lower levels of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1 beta and prostaglandin E2 — three immune chemicals that tend to be elevated in those with depression.

A stumbling block has been to get sufficiently large amounts into your brain. To raise your brain level of EPA, you’d need to consume impractically large amounts of fish oil, for example. One theory is that degradation by pancreatic enzymes renders the EPA incapable of passing the blood-brain-barrier.8

However, recent research9 has discovered something really interesting. By using a lysophospholipid form of EPA (LPC-EPA), they were able to increase the EPA level in the brain of mice 100fold. Even more remarkable, LPC-EPA also doubled the DHA level in the brain, whereas free EPA had no effect on DHA levels. The authors further noted that:

“Only LPC-EPA increased EPA and DHA in retina, and expression of BDNF, CREB and 5-HT1A receptor in the brain. These novel results show that brain EPA can be increased through diet. Because LPC-EPA increased both EPA and DHA in the brain, it may help treat depression as well as neuroinflammatory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”

Papasani Subbaiah, professor of medicine and biochemistry and molecular genetics in the UIC College of Medicine and corresponding author, told MedicalXpress:10

“It seems that there is a transporter at the blood-brain barrier that EPA must pass through in order to get into the brain, but EPA in fish oil can’t get through, whereas LPC-EPA can. You don’t have to consume all that much LPC- EPA to have significant increases of EPA show up in the brain, so this could be a way to do rigorous studies on the effects of EPA in humans.”

The Importance of Phospholipid-Bound Omega-3

There are a number of drawbacks to fish oil, and the lack of phospholipids is one of them. DHA and EPA are water insoluble and therefore cannot be transported in their free form in your blood. They must be packaged into lipoprotein vehicles such as phospholipids. This is primarily why the bioavailability of krill oil is so much higher than fish oil, because in fish oil, the DHA and EPA are bound to triglycerides.

When you consume fish oil, your liver has to attach it to phosphatidylcholine in order for it to be efficiently utilized by your body and brain. Phospholipids are also one of the principal compounds in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), which you want more of, and by allowing your cells to maintain structural integrity, phospholipids help your cells function optimally.

Importantly, your brain cannot readily absorb DHA unless it’s bound to phosphatidylcholine, and while krill oil contains phosphatidylcholine naturally, fish oil does not. As the name implies, phosphatidylcholine is composed partly of choline, the precursor for the vital neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which sends nerve signals to your brain, and choline itself is crucial for brain development, learning and memory, as you’ll see in the next section.

Recent research11 by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., also highlights the value of DHA bound to phospholipids, showing this form may actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in those with the apolipoprotein E4 (APOE4) gene, which lowers the typical age of onset of this degenerative brain disorder.

Two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s are amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles, both of which impair normal brain functioning. Alzheimer’s patients also have reduced glucose transport into their brains, and this is one of the reasons why plaque and tangles form and accumulate in the first place. According to Patrick,12 DHA encourages your brain’s uptake of glucose by regulating the structure and function of glucose transporters, proteins located at your blood-brain barrier.

While eating DHA-rich fish has been shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s in APOE4 carriers, taking fish oil has not demonstrated the same efficacy. According to Patrick, this variation in response appears to be related to the different ways in which the two forms of DHA are metabolized and ultimately transported into your brain.

When the triglyceride form of DHA is metabolized, most of it turns into nonesterified DHA, while the phospholipid form is metabolized primarily into DHA-lysophosphatidylcholine (DHA-lysoPC). While both of these forms can cross the blood-brain barrier to reach your brain, the phospholipid form does so far more efficiently.

According to Patrick, people with APOE4 have a faulty nonesterified DHA transport system, and this may be why they’re at increased risk for Alzheimer’s. The good news is that DHA-lysoPC can bypass the tight junctions, thereby improving DHA transport, and for those with one or two APOE4 variants, taking the phospholipid form of DHA may therefore lower their risk of Alzheimer’s more effectively.

3. Choline Helps Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

Other recent research13 demonstrates the importance of choline for brain health and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter required for the proper function of your brain and nervous system, playing a role in fetal brain development, memory, muscle control, mood and gene expression. As reported by Science Daily:14

“The study focuses on mice bred to display AD-like symptoms. Results showed that when these mice are given high choline in their diet, their offspring show improvements in spatial memory, compared with those receiving a normal choline regimen in the womb.

Remarkably, the beneficial effects of choline supplementation appear to be transgenerational, not only protecting mice receiving choline supplementation during gestation and lactation, but also the subsequent offspring of these mice. While this second generation received no direct choline supplementation, they nevertheless reaped the benefits of treatment, likely due to inherited modifications in their genes.”

Choline helps protect against Alzheimer’s by:

  • Reducing your homocysteine level, an amino acid that has been shown to cause neurodegeneration and is involved in the formation of amyloid plaques, two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s. Choline converts homocysteine into methionine, which has a number of beneficial effects.
  • Inhibiting microglia activation. Microglia cells clear debris from your brain, and while this is a crucial function, in Alzheimer’s the microglia have a tendency to become overactivated, causing inflammation in the brain that can result in the death of neurons. By reducing activation of microglia, choline can help protect Alzheimer’s patients from further brain damage.

4. Phosphatidylserine Boosts Cognitive Function

Phosphatidylserine is another supplement that can help improve cognitive function15 and protect against Alzheimer’s disease.16 Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid derivative that is highly prevalent in neural tissue and plays an important role in the cellular function in your brain.

While your body can synthesize it on its own, you can also get it through food (such as mackerel, cod, egg yolks and organ meats) and/or a phosphatidylserine complex supplement.17 Phosphatidylserine has a unique structure that makes it both hydrophilic, meaning it’s attracted to water and hydrophobic, or repelled by water.

With this structure, phospholipids are able to arrange themselves into a phospholipid bilayer — two parallel layers that form a major component of the human cell membranes. In brain cell membranes, the phospholipid bilayer acts as a “gatekeeper,” regulating the entry beneficial substances, basically nutrients, water and oxygen, while eliminating metabolic waste.18

In one study,19 supplementing with 400 mg of phosphatidylserine increased the speed of calculations done in short-term memory by 20 percent in a group of healthy adults. In another, it improved cognitive function of geriatric patients at a dosage of 300 mg per day for six months.20

Taken with DHA, it’s also been shown to improve behavior and short-term auditory memory in children with ADHD.21 In patients with Alzheimer’s, phosphatidylserine helps inhibit amyloid beta and interferon-gamma-induced microglial activation.22

5. Acetyl-L-Carnitine Protects Against Neurotoxic Insults

Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) has many beneficial effects on brain metabolism, protects against neurotoxic insults, and has been shown to benefit certain forms of depression. In one study,23 healthy mice given ALCAR for 25 days at a dose of about half a gram per kilo, were found to have increased levels of the neurotransmitters noradrenaline and serotonin. According to the authors, this is “consistent with ALCAR’s potential efficacy for depressive symptoms.”

In another study,24 ALCAR was found to improve the clinical condition of patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia (a condition resulting in the loss of control of bodily movements). According to the authors, “statistically significant improvement of some symptoms and a slow progression of the disease in both groups of patients” were observed.

6. Vitamin D Protects Against Memory Loss

Activated vitamin D receptors increase nerve growth in your brain, and researchers have also located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the hippocampus and cerebellum, areas involved in planning, information processing and memory formation.

According to research25 published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, low vitamin D is associated with poorer brain function, and increasing levels may help keep older adults mentally fit. Vitamin D has also been shown to improve a number of brain disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.26

In one six-year study,27 those with severe vitamin D deficiency were more than twice as likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s than those with higher levels. Even those with moderate deficiency had a 53 percent increased risk for all forms of dementia, and 69 percent increased risk for Alzheimer’s specifically. According to the authors, “Our results confirm that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a substantially increased risk of all-cause dementia and Alzheimer disease.”

The findings also suggest there’s a threshold level of circulating vitamin D, below which your risk for dementia increases. This threshold was found to be right around 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L). Higher levels were associated with good brain health.

I recommend getting your vitamin D level tested twice a year, and taking whatever dosage required to achieve and maintain a vitamin D level between 60 and 80 ng/mL (150 and 200 nmol/L). Ideally, you’d want to raise your level by getting sensible sun exposure, but if you cannot, consider an oral vitamin D3 supplement balanced with magnesium and vitamin K2.

7. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Wreaks Havoc on Cognitive Function

Vitamin B12 is another important player. Research28 shows people with high levels of markers for vitamin B12 deficiency are more likely to score lower on cognitive tests and have a smaller total brain volume, which suggests a lack of B12 may contribute to brain shrinkage.

Mental fogginess and problems with memory are two of the top warning signs that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, and this is indicative of its importance for your brain health.

Finnish researchers have also found that people who consume foods rich in B12 may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s in their later years.29 For each unit increase in the marker for vitamin B12 (holotranscobalamin) the risk of developing Alzheimer’s was reduced by 2 percent. Another study30 found that supplementing with B vitamins, including B12, helps to slow brain atrophy in elderly people with mild cognitive impairment.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread and many have trouble absorbing this nutrient properly from food sources. Blood tests for vitamin B12 are not always a reliable indicator of B12 status, so watching for symptoms of deficiency and increasing your dietary and supplemental intake is a practical alternative to blood testing.

B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources such as seafood, beef, chicken, pork, milk and eggs. If you rarely or never consume these animal products, you’re at particularly high risk of B12 deficiency.

The good news is vitamin B12 supplementation is completely nontoxic and inexpensive, especially when compared to the cost of laboratory testing. I recommend an under-the-tongue fine mist spray, as this technology helps you absorb the vitamin into the fine capillaries under your tongue.

8. MCT Oil Boosts Brain Performance

One of the primary fuels your brain needs is glucose, which is converted into energy. Your brain actually manufactures its own insulin to convert glucose in your bloodstream into the food it needs to survive.

If your brain’s production of insulin decreases, your brain literally begins to starve, as it’s deprived of the glucose-converted energy it needs to function normally. This is what happens to Alzheimer’s patients — portions of their brain start to atrophy, or starve, leading to impaired functioning and eventual loss of memory, speech, movement and personality.

In effect, your brain can begin to atrophy from starvation if it becomes insulin resistant and loses its ability to convert glucose into energy. Fortunately, your brain is able to run on more than one type of energy supply. It can run on both glucose and ketones, and ketones are actually better.

Ketones are what your body produces when it converts fat as opposed to glucose) into energy, and a primary source of ketone bodies are medium chain triglycerides (MCT). While coconut oil is one healthy option, MCT oil is a more concentrated source of ketones, so it tends to be more appropriate for clinical uses.

Most commercial brands of MCT oil contain a 50/50 combination of C8 and C10 fats (the “C number” stands for the carbon length of the MCT). My personal preference is straight C8 (caprylic acid), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than do C10 fats, and will give you higher levels of ketones.

You can learn more about MCTs and the differences between them in my previous article, “The Many Health Benefits of MCT Oil.” Ketones appear to be the preferred source of energy for the brain in people affected by diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and maybe even ALS, because in these diseases, certain neurons have become insulin resistant or have lost the ability to efficiently utilize glucose. As a result, neurons slowly die off.

The introduction of ketones may rescue these neurons and they may still be able to survive and thrive. In multiple studies, ketones have been shown to be both neurotherapeutic and neuroprotective. They also appear to lower markers of systemic inflammation. As noted by Mental Health Daily:31

“In small scale human trials,32 MCT supplementation boosted cognition in individuals with cognitive impairment and mild forms of Alzheimer’s disease after just a single dose. While not everyone improved from the MCT treatment, those with certain genetics experienced notable improvement.”

9. Probiotics Feed Your Second Brain

As your “second brain,” the state of your gut also plays an important role in your neurological and psychological health. Probiotics have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and decrease pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, including amyloid plaques and tangles. In one study,33 the probiotic strain L. plantarumMTCC1325 was identified as having these “anti-Alzheimer’s properties.”

In another study,34 published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 60 elderly patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s received either a placebo or a probiotic milk products containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Lactobacillus fermentum for 12 weeks.

At the beginning and end of the study, participants underwent a standardized cognitive assessment and a highly sensitive c-reactive protein test, which is a powerful marker of inflammation. As reported by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter:35

“The results of the study were stunning. The placebo group showed an increase in hs-CRP, the inflammation marker, by an impressive 45 percent. In the group taking the probiotic, on the other hand, hs-CRP didn’t just stay the same, but actually declined by 18 percent, indicating a dramatic reduction in inflammation.

But here’s the truly exciting news. Over the 12 weeks, the patients in the placebo continued to decline mentally, as you might expect. Their MMSE score dropped from 8.47 to 8.00, a substantial reduction.

But the group on the inflammation reducing probiotics actually demonstrated, not a decline in brain function, but an actual improvement, with their MMSE scores going from 8.67 up to 10.57, and that’s a huge improvement. Again, not only was their mental decline stopped in its tracks, these individuals regained brain function!

The message here is that inflammation is directly determined by the health and diversity of our gut bacteria, and this has major implications in terms of brain health, function and disease resistance.”

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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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