Winter is upon us and so is the risk of vitamin D deficiency and infections. Vitamin D, which is made in our skin following sunlight exposure and also found in oily fish (mackerel, tuna and sardines), mushrooms and fortified dairy and nondairy substitutes, is essential for good health. Humans need vitamin D to keep healthy and to fight infections. The irony is that in winter, when people need vitamin D the most, most of us are not getting enough. So how much should we take? Should we take supplements? How do we get more? And, who needs it most?
Where to Get Your Vitamin D<p>Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin since it is made in the skin after exposure to sun. The same UVB rays that cause a sunburn also make vitamin D. Sunscreen, darker skin pigmentation, clothing and reduced daylight in winter diminish the skin's ability to make vitamin D. The people who experience the biggest seasonal swings in vitamin D levels are fair-skinned individuals <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10040457" target="_blank">living in the northern regions</a> of the U.S. and at <a href="https://doi.org/10.3945/an.117.015578" target="_blank">higher latitudes around the globe</a> where there is very little daylight in winter.</p><p>But those most at risk for low vitamin D levels are people of color and people living at higher latitudes. Dark-skinned individuals are more likely than fair-skinned individuals to be low for vitamin D year-round because the darker skin blocks the UVB rays from producing vitamin D. However, even in dark skinned individuals, vitamin D is lowest in the winter.</p><p>In the winter, in addition to high vitamin D food, adults should take additional vitamin D from foods and/or supplements to <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en1" target="_blank">get at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D.</a> People who have dark skin or avoid sunshine should eat more vitamin D year-round.</p>
Vitamin D's Importance for Bones and Microbes<p>Originally, doctors thought that vitamin D was only important for bone health. This was because the vitamin D deficiency caused bone diseases like <a href="http://doi.org/10.1172/JCI29449" target="_blank">rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults</a>. However, in the 1980s scientists discovered that <a href="https://www.jci.org/articles/view/111557" target="_blank">immune cells</a> <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/224/4656/1438" target="_blank">had receptors for vitamin D</a>.</p><p>My group's research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/10409238.2019.1611734" target="_blank">maintaining health in the gastrointestinal tract</a>. <a href="https://iai.asm.org/content/84/11/3094" target="_blank">Higher levels of vitamin D</a> reduce <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tem.2019.04.005" target="_blank">susceptibility to inflammatory bowel disease</a> and <a href="http://doi.org/10.1038/ajg.2016.53" target="_blank">Crohn's disease</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00001" target="_blank">gut</a> and <a href="http://doi.org/10.1128/IAI.00679-16" target="_blank">lung infections</a> in animals and people.</p><p>My colleagues and I have discovered that one of the ways vitamin D functions is by keeping the microbes in the gut healthy and happy. Vitamin D <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/1535370214523890" target="_blank">increases the number and diversity of microbes</a> living in the gut, which together reduce inflammation throughout the body.</p><p>Low vitamin D levels are <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/nrgastro.2015.34" target="_blank">associated with inflammatory bowel disease</a> in humans. Researchers have found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007%2Fs00535-017-1313-6" target="_blank">inflammatory bowel disease patients in Japan</a> have more symptoms in winter than during other seasons.</p>
Why is vitamin D more important in winter?<p>In the winter, humans are exposed to more infections and spend less time outside. Exactly how much vitamin D healthy adults should have is debated. Some authorities recommend from <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nrendo.2017.31" target="_blank">200 IU per day to 2,000 IU per day</a>. In the U.S., the <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">Institutes of Medicine</a> recommends 600-800 IU per day for adults, while the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1210/jcem.96.12.zeg3908" target="_blank">Endocrine Society states that optimal vitamin D status</a> may require 1500-2,000 IU per day. In the winter, people have a reduced ability to make vitamin D when they go outside, so amounts of at least 600 IU per day of vitamin D from food or supplements would help maintain vitamin D status at summer levels.</p><p>But, just like many things, <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">too much vitamin D can be harmful</a>. Vitamin D toxicity does not result from too much sun or food. Because of the risk of skin cancer, dermatologists and other health professionals do not recommend unprotected sun exposure to boost your vitamin D. Instead they suggest supplements. But vitamin D toxicity can occur if an individual takes too many.</p><p>The experts that set the national intakes of vitamin D for the U.S. recommend that adult individuals take <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/" target="_blank">no more than 4,000 IU per day of vitamin D</a> to avoid toxic side effects. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium from your diet, but when vitamin D is too high, calcium levels in the blood go up and that can lead to kidney disease.</p><p>By consuming more vitamin D during the winter your gut microbes will be healthier and you'll be more resistant to infection and inflammation year-round.</p>
By Roz Plater
It's 2020 and another year of health-related topics awaits us.
Medicare<p>Medicare is front and center as we kick off 2020.</p><p>That's in part because "<a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-medicare-for-all-would-look-like-in-america" target="_blank">Medicare for All</a>" is the single payer option health plan being touted by two of the top Democratic presidential candidates.</p><p><a href="https://www.forrester.com/Jeff-Becker" target="_blank">Jeff Becker</a>, the senior analyst for healthcare strategy at Forrester Research says there are also a number of bills in Congress looking to expand access to Medicare as a public option.</p><p>"When you look at the polling numbers, our call is that Medicare for All will die in the court of public opinion and become Medicare Advantage for more," Becker told Healthline.</p>
Affordable Care Act<p>The <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/consumer-healthcare-guide/pros-and-cons-obamacare" target="_blank">Affordable Care Act (ACA)</a>, often referred to as Obamacare, will be in the courts again this year.</p><p>In December, a federal appeals court <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/18/-.html" target="_blank">ruled</a> that the health insurance law's individual mandate provision was unconstitutional.</p><p>However, the justices sent back to a federal district court in Texas the issue of whether other parts of the law could continue to exist without the mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance.</p><p>Look for some sort of Obamacare case to wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court this year.</p><p>"Our call is whether or not it goes to the Supreme Court, the ACA will survive because the individual mandate is severable," Becker told Healthline.</p>
Price Transparency<p>Experts say you'll hear a lot of debate about price transparency, a move designed to increase competition and lower costs.</p><p>President Trump <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2019/11/15/trump-administration-announces-historic-price-transparency-and-lower-healthcare-costs-for-all-americans.html?amp" target="_blank">signed an executive order</a> in November that requires hospitals and insurers to publish their confidential, negotiated rates for treatments.</p><p>"The reason this would be important is you'd be able to figure out what your out-of-pocket expenses would be" said Becker.</p><p>But a coalition of hospital groups has <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-us-hospitals/hospital-groups-file-lawsuit-to-block-trumps-price-transparency-rule-idUSKBN1Y81YY" target="_blank">filed a lawsuit</a> to block the rule. They argue that the public disclosure of negotiated charges would create confusion about consumers' out-of-pocket costs.</p><p>The order is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2021.</p>
Lower Prescription Drug Prices<p>"The thing about pharmaceuticals is, if you can't afford them, they don't work," Mosley said.</p><p>He predicts the move to lower the costs of prescription drugs will again be on the front burner of the healthcare debate in 2020.</p><p>"The problem is Medicare and Medicaid can't negotiate prices with these drug companies," Mosley told Healthline.</p><p>The House of Representatives has <a href="https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2019/house-passes-drug-price-bill.html" target="_blank">approved a bill</a> that would do just that. The legislation also caps out-of-pocket expenses for people enrolled in Medicare Part D.</p><p>However, the prognosis for this bill becoming law isn't good.</p><p>Political observers say the legislation won't go anywhere in the Senate, and the White House has indicated the president would veto it.</p><p>Republicans in the Senate have <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2019/11/11/mcconnell-pelosi-clash-over-drug-price-bill-congress-act/2558426001/" target="_blank">crafted</a> their own prescription drug price plan. The president has indicated he would sign this bill, but it would need to be approved by the Democrat-controlled House.</p>
Access to Health Services<p>"One of the cross-cutting issues we see as a priority in 2020 is the social determinants in health disparities in our patients," said <a href="https://www.aafp.org/media-center/releases-statements/all/2013/amy-mullins-medical-director.html" target="_blank">Amy Mullins</a>, MD, FAAFP, medical director for quality improvement for the American Academy of Family Physicians.</p><p>"Patients need more than just access to a physician," she told Healthline. "They need access to good food, safe places to live, to exercise, transportation, community resources, access to medication."</p><p>"If you don't address those, it's really difficult to treat your patients effectively," she added.</p><p>Mullins says her group has an internal division called the Center for Diversity and Health Equity whose mission is to look at healthcare through that lens.</p>
Vaccine Hesitancy<p>Mullins also says the issue of vaccine myths is one you'll continue to hear about in 2020.</p><p>"We want to do more to counter the misinformation that's out there around vaccines that may be holding some people back from getting what they need," said Mullins.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X1931446X?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">recent study</a> concluded that a lot of the false information is being spread on social media by a handful of anti-vaccine ad buyers.</p><p>"We're promoting vaccine education to physicians, their healthcare teams, patients, and communities" Mullins said.</p><p>A <a href="https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20191212.484779/full/" target="_blank">2020 National Vaccine Plan</a> is currently being developed by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy.</p>
Vaping<p>"Another of the big priorities for health providers in 2020 is vaping and e-cigarettes," Mullins said.</p><p>"We really applaud and support the work the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration is doing to try and get a handle on this crisis," she said. "But these products target adolescents and we think the marketing needs more regulation."</p><p>A <a href="https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2019/12/vaping-marijuana-rise-among-teens" target="_blank">study</a> released last month from the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that more teens are vaping marijuana.</p><p>That's despite a lung illness linked to vaping that's killed <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html" target="_blank">more than 50 people</a> nationwide.</p>
Virtual Care Visits<p>On the digital front, Becker predicts there will be aggressive growth in virtual care visits.</p><p>That's where you interact with your doctor via text, video, or phone call.</p><p>Becker's group crunched the numbers after looking at outpatient visit data as well as talking to virtual vendors and tracking healthcare investments.</p><p>"The result was 36 million net new virtual care visits in 2020," he said.</p><p>He points to how employers and insurers are already embracing the concept. Amazon recently launched a pilot program called "<a href="https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2019/09/24/amazon-launches-employee-health-clinic-amazon-care.html" target="_blank">Amazon Care</a>," a virtual clinic for its employees in Seattle.</p><p>Walmart recently expanded its <a href="https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/walmart-expands-telehealth-services-for-employees-in-3-states" target="_blank">telehealth services</a> to workers in Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin with $4 online or video care visits.</p><p>Humana has <a href="https://medcitynews.com/2019/04/humana-and-doctor-on-demand-launch-new-virtual-primary-care-health-plan/" target="_blank">teamed up</a> with "Doctor on Demand" to offer a virtual primary care plan at significantly lower monthly premiums.</p><p>"Everybody is moving toward a model where we're not using high-cost care centers like emergency rooms," Becker said.</p><p>"And consumers are demanding more cost effective services, too," he added. "In 2018, consumers took out <a href="http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/04/americans-borrowed-usd88-billion-for-health-expenses-in-2018.html" target="_blank">$88 billion</a> in personal loans just to pay for out-of-pocket medical costs."</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD
What you choose to eat has profound effects on your overall health.
How Food Nourishes and Protects Your Body<p>Many nutrients in food promote health and protect your body from disease.</p><p>Eating whole, nutritious foods is important because their unique substances work synergistically to create an effect that can't be replicated by taking a supplement.</p><p><strong>Vitamins and Minerals</strong></p><p>Although your body only needs small amounts of vitamins and minerals, they're vital for your health.</p><p>However, Western diets — high in processed foods and low in whole foods like fresh produce — are typically deficient in vitamins and minerals. Such <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-common-nutrient-deficiencies" target="_blank">deficiencies</a> can substantially increase your risk of disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK235010/" target="_blank">1Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>For example, insufficient intakes of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-c-foods" target="_blank">vitamin C</a>, vitamin D, and folate may harm your heart, cause immune dysfunction, and increase your risk of certain cancers, respectively (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/" target="_blank">2Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6132377/" target="_blank">3Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5000725/" target="_blank">4Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Beneficial Plant Compounds</strong></p><p>Nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains, boast numerous beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/antioxidants-explained" target="_blank">Antioxidants</a> protect cells from damage that may otherwise lead to disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021739/" target="_blank">5Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>In fact, studies demonstrate that people whose diets are rich in polyphenol antioxidants have lower rates of depression, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/prevent-diabetes" target="_blank">diabetes</a>, dementia, and heart disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29695122" target="_blank">6Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5565930/" target="_blank">7Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29703769" target="_blank">8Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28713488" target="_blank">9Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Fiber</strong></p><p>Fiber is an essential part of a healthy diet. It not only promotes proper digestion and elimination but also feeds the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-microbiome-and-health" target="_blank">beneficial bacteria in your gut</a> (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6104162/" target="_blank">10Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Thus, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/22-high-fiber-foods" target="_blank">high-fiber foods</a> like vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits help protect against disease, decrease inflammation, and boost your immune system (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6312100/" target="_blank">11Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>On the other hand, low-fiber diets are associated with an increased risk of illnesses, including colon cancer and stroke (<a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZBuevazhPsUzC_OgfmRbpz3rAlRzKycA3juis918JSE/edit" target="_blank">12</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4588743/" target="_blank">13Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6454960/" target="_blank">14Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23430035" target="_blank">15Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Protein and Healthy Fats</strong></p><p>The protein and fat in whole, nutritious foods play various critical roles in your body.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/essential-amino-acids" target="_blank">Amino acids</a> — the building blocks of protein — aid immune function, muscle synthesis, metabolism, and growth, while fats provide fuel and help absorb nutrients (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26797090" target="_blank">16Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5577766/" target="_blank">17Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/omega-3-guide" target="_blank">Omega-3 fatty acids</a>, which are found in foods like fatty fish, help regulate inflammation and are linked to improved heart and immune health (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24860193" target="_blank">18Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Whole, nutritious foods boast vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and fat, all of which promote health and are key to optimal bodily function.</p>
A Healthy Diet Can Decrease Disease Risk<p>Notably, nutritious foods may decrease your risk of disease — while the opposite is true for highly processed foods.</p><p><strong>Unhealthy Food Choices Can Increase Disease Risk</strong></p><p>Unhealthy diets high in sugary drinks, fast food, and refined grains are a main contributor to conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.</p><p>These processed foods harm your gut bacteria and promote insulin resistance, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-foods-that-cause-inflammation" target="_blank">chronic inflammation</a>, and overall disease risk (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4531228/" target="_blank">19Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>A study in over 100,000 people found that every 10% increase in ultra-processed food intake resulted in a 12% increase in cancer risk (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5811844/" target="_blank">20Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Additionally, a study on worldwide <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-habits-linked-to-a-long-life" target="_blank">mortality</a> and disease showed that in 2017, 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were likely due to poor diet (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30954305" target="_blank">21Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>DALYs measure the burden of disease, with one unit representing the loss of one year of full health (<a href="https://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/daly_rates/text/en/" target="_blank">22Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Nutritious Diets Protect Against Disease</strong></p><p>On the other hand, research indicates that diets abundant in plant foods and low in processed products strengthen your health.</p><p>For instance, the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in healthy fats, whole grains, and vegetables, is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, neurodegenerative conditions, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29244059" target="_blank">23Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537789/" target="_blank">24Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29039967" target="_blank">25Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Other eating patterns shown to safeguard against disease include plant-based, whole-food-based, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/paleo-diet-meal-plan-and-menu" target="_blank">paleo</a> diets (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29659968" target="_blank">26Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482457/" target="_blank">27Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>In fact, some diets may reverse certain conditions.</p><p>For example, plant-based diets have been found to reverse coronary artery disease while very-low-carb lifestyles may help eliminate type 2 diabetes in some people (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29417495" target="_blank">28Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30593389" target="_blank">29Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>What's more, nutritious eating patterns like the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mediterranean-diet-meal-plan" target="_blank">Mediterranean diet</a> are tied to better self-reported quality of life and lower rates of depression than typical Western diets — and may even boost your longevity (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30050006" target="_blank">30Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29031185" target="_blank">31Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5902736/" target="_blank">32Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Such findings prove that robust diets indeed function as preventative medicine.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Following a healthy diet can increase longevity, protect against disease, and improve your overall quality of life.</p>
Can Food Treat Disease?<p>While some dietary choices can either prevent or increase your disease risk, not all diseases can be prevented or treated through diet alone.</p><p><strong>Many Other Factors Affect Your Health and Disease Risk</strong></p><p>Disease risk is quite complex. Although a poor diet can cause or contribute to illnesses, many other factors need to be considered.</p><p>Genetics, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/16-ways-relieve-stress-anxiety" target="_blank">stress</a>, pollution, age, infections, occupational hazards, and lifestyle choices — such as lack of exercise, smoking, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol use</a> — also have an effect (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341916/" target="_blank">33Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5732407/" target="_blank">34Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK115561/" target="_blank">35Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53017/" target="_blank">36Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Food cannot compensate for poor lifestyle choices, genetic disposition, or other factors related to disease development.</p><p><strong>Food Should Not Be Used as a Replacement for Medicine</strong></p><p>Though shifting to a healthier dietary pattern can indeed prevent disease, it's critical to understand that food cannot and should not replace pharmaceutical drugs.</p><p>Medicine was developed to save lives and treat diseases. While it may be overprescribed or used as an easy fix for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-graphs-that-show-what-is-wrong-with-modern-diet" target="_blank">dietary and lifestyle problems</a>, it's oftentimes invaluable.</p><p>As healing does not hinge solely on diet or lifestyle, choosing to forgo a potentially life-saving medical treatment to focus on diet alone can be dangerous or even fatal.</p><p><strong>Beware of False Advertising</strong></p><p>While scientific evidence shows that food can aid various health conditions, anecdotal claims of curing or treating diseases through extreme dieting, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/4-supplements-as-powerful-as-drugs" target="_blank">supplements</a>, or other methods are often false.</p><p>For example, diets advertised to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cancer-and-diet" target="_blank">cure cancer</a> or other serious conditions are typically not backed by research and often prohibitively expensive.</p><p>Eschewing conventional treatments like chemotherapy for alternative, unproven diets can worsen diseases or lead to death (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528553/" target="_blank">37Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0104-cancer-treatment-scams" target="_blank">38</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4332115/" target="_blank">39Trusted Source</a>).</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Although many foods have strong disease-fighting benefits, diet should not be considered a replacement for conventional medicine.</p>
Foods With Powerful Medicinal Properties<p>Transitioning to a diet based on whole foods can improve your health in countless ways. Foods that offer particularly powerful benefits include:</p><ul><li><strong>Berries.</strong> Numerous studies have found that nutrients and plant compounds in berries combat disease. In fact, diets rich in <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-healthy-berries" target="_blank">berries</a> may protect against chronic conditions, including certain cancers (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5187535/" target="_blank">40Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Cruciferous vegetables. </strong>Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and kale contain a wide array of antioxidants. High intake of these vegetables may decrease your risk of heart disease and promote longevity (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21593509" target="_blank">41Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Fatty fish.</strong> Salmon, sardines, and other fatty fish fight inflammation due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which also protect against heart disease (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6073188/" target="_blank">42Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Mushrooms.</strong> Compounds in mushrooms, types of which include maitake and reishi, have been shown to boost your immune system, heart, and brain (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4320875/" target="_blank">43Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Spices.</strong> Turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and other spices are packed with beneficial plant compounds. For example, studies note that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric" target="_blank">turmeric</a> helps treat arthritis and metabolic syndrome (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618098/" target="_blank">44Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664031/" target="_blank">45Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Herbs.</strong> Herbs like parsley, oregano, rosemary, and sage not only provide natural flavor to dishes but also boast many health-promoting compounds (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618098/" target="_blank">44Trusted Source</a>).</li><li><strong>Green tea.</strong> Green tea has been thoroughly researched for its impressive benefits, which may include reduced inflammation and lower disease risk (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370896" target="_blank">46Trusted Source</a>).</li></ul><p>Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, honey, seaweed, and fermented foods are just a few of the many other foods studied for their medicinal properties (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748761/" target="_blank">47Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/" target="_blank">48Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/" target="_blank">49Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28945458" target="_blank">50Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931196/" target="_blank">51Trusted Source</a>, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23638933" target="_blank">52Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Simply transitioning to a diet rich in whole foods like fruits and vegetables is the simplest way to reap the medicinal benefits of food.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Berries, cruciferous vegetables, fatty fish, and mushrooms are just a selection of the foods that offer powerful medicinal properties.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Food not only provides energy but may also act as medicine.</p><p>A nutrient-dense diet of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/21-reasons-to-eat-real-food" target="_blank">whole foods</a> has been shown to prevent and even treat or reverse many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/heart-healthy-foods" target="_blank">heart disease</a>.</p><p>Keep in mind that you should not rely on food to replace traditional medicine.</p>
The World Health Organization (WHO) approved the inclusion of traditional Chinese medicine in the revision of its influential International Classification of Diseases for the first time on May 25, touching off worries that the move could drive up demand for body parts of wild animals.
Panthera, EIA and Wildlife Conservation Trust<p>"Any recognition of traditional Chinese medicine from an entity of the World Health Organisation's stature will be perceived by the global community as a stamp of approval from the United Nations on the overall practice, which includes the use of remedies utilising wild animal parts," John Goodrich, chief scientist and director of Panthera's tiger program, said in the statement. "Failure to specifically condemn the use of traditional Chinese medicine utilising wild animal parts is egregiously negligent and irresponsible.</p><p>"Taken with China's recent proliferation of traditional Chinese medicine around the globe, WHO's decision could contribute to the end of many species on the brink of extinction, like the tiger," Goodrich added.</p>
A white rhino in South Africa.
Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay<p>Only about 4,000 tigers (<em>Panthera tigris</em>) remain, and along with habitat loss, hunting them for their bones, teeth and other parts, which are used in a variety of remedies, has slashed their numbers. Panthera said no scientific evidence exists to support most of the claimed benefits of using wildlife-derived ingredients in treatments.</p><p>For its part, the WHO said that including traditional Chinese medicine — TCM, for short — in the disease guide doesn't mean it condones the harvest of wild animals protected by international law.</p><p>"WHO recommends the enforcement of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which protects rhinos, tigers, and other species," WHO spokesman Tarik Jašarević told <a href="https://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFKCN1R90D3" target="_blank">Reuters</a>.</p>
Confiscated pangolin scales, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, are incinerated in Cameroon.
- Conservation 'Game-Changer': China Removes Pangolin Scales From Traditional Medicine List - EcoWatch ›
By Gigen Mammoser
Soft lighting. Comfortable furniture. Art decorating the walls.
To the untrained eye, this setting appears to be a living room. But it's not. It's a research facility specially designed to evoke comfort and ease.
A psilocybin therapy session is taking place.
The State of Psilocybin Research<p>Research has shown psilocybin to have potential to treat a range of psychiatric and behavioral disorders, although it's yet to receive FDA approval for anything.</p><p><a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329398607_Classic_Psychedelics_An_integrative_review_of_epidemiology_mystical_experience_brain_network_function_and_therapeutics" target="_blank">Its potential indications</a> include depression, <a href="https://arizona.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/safety-tolerability-and-efficacy-of-psilocybin-in-9-patients-with" target="_blank">obsessive-compulsive disorder</a>, quitting smoking, alcohol addiction, cocaine addiction, <a href="https://harmreductionjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12954-017-0186-6" target="_blank">cluster headaches</a>, and cancer-related or other end-of-life psychological distress.</p><p>High-profile <a href="https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/kzvp73/magic-mushrooms-are-inching-closer-to-decriminalization-in-denver-and-oregon" target="_blank">initiatives have also popped up</a> in recent months in Denver, Colorado, and Oregon to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms.</p><p>However, experts say they're unlikely to pass.</p><p>Psilocybin mushrooms remain <a href="https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling" target="_blank">a Schedule I drug</a> according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, meaning they're classified as having "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."</p><p>Other Schedule I drugs include marijuana, MDMA, and LSD.</p><p>Yet, despite social stigma and legal red tape, researchers are forging ahead with clinical trials for FDA approval.</p><p>Dr. George R. Greer, co-founder and president of the <a href="https://heffter.org/" target="_blank">Heffter Research Institute</a>, a non-profit research center that focuses on the therapeutic uses of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin, explains his motivations:</p><p>"Our mission is two-fold: one to do research that helps us understand the mind, the brain, how all that works, and number two, to help reduce suffering through therapeutic use of psychedelics."</p><p>The institute is currently focused on two main areas of psilocybin research: addiction and cancer-related psychiatric disorders. Cancer-related psilocybin therapy is considered one of the <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513" target="_blank">most promising areas of research</a> for the drug.</p><p>However, considering the vast number of potential indications for psilocybin, it's important to keep in mind that the amount of research also varies widely, from single pilot studies to phase II or III approval trials by the FDA.</p><p>Here's what the current research says about psilocybin treatment for some potential indications.</p><p><strong>Depression</strong></p><p>Depression is among the most researched indications for psilocybin therapy. As <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/fda-looking-at-magic-mushroom-ingredient-to-treat-depression" target="_blank">Healthline previously reported</a> last year, psilocybin therapy was given "breakthrough therapy" designation (a review fast track) by the FDA for the treatment of depression.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.usonaclinicaltrials.org/" target="_blank">Usona Institute</a>, a psychedelic research center, is currently in the planning stages of their phase III trial, which will likely begin this year.</p><p><strong>Smoking Cessation and Other Addictions</strong></p><p>In a small <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641975/" target="_blank">pilot study from Johns Hopkins University</a>, researchers found that psilocybin therapy significantly improved abstaining from smoking over a 12-month follow-up period.</p><p><a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/profiles/results/directory/profile/0800020/matthew-johnson" target="_blank">Matthew Johnson, PhD</a>, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, led that study.</p><p>According to him, psilocybin also has potential to treat other substance use disorders, including alcohol and cocaine addiction.</p><p>"The general idea is that the nature of these disorders is a narrowed mental and behavioral repertoire," he told Healthline. "So, [psilocybin] in well-orchestrated sessions [has] the ability to essentially shake someone out of their routine to give a glimpse of a larger picture and create a mental plasticity with which people can step outside of those problems."</p><p>In fact, a small <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25586396" target="_blank">open-label study</a> on psilocybin and alcohol dependence found that following treatment, both drinking and heavy drinking declined.</p><p>Researchers in Alabama are also currently <a href="https://www.uab.edu/news/research/item/9565-study-can-taking-a-hallucinogen-curb-cocaine-use" target="_blank">conducting trials</a> for psilocybin therapy on cocaine addiction.</p><p><strong>Cancer-Related Psychological Distress</strong></p><p>"There've been some promising preliminary results in such areas such as the treatment of overwhelming existential anxiety in people who are facing the end of life,who have diagnoses of advanced-stage cancer," <a href="https://labiomed.org/charles-grob-md" target="_blank">Dr. Charles Grob</a>, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, told Healthline.</p><p>Grob, who's also affiliated with the Heffter Research Institute, has studied psilocybin extensively and authored research on the subject, including, among other things, <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/210962?FIRSTINDEX=0&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=Charle%20S.%20Grob&hits=10&maxtoshow=&resourcetype=HWCIT&searchid=1" target="_blank">a pilot study</a> in 2011 on psilocybin treatment for anxiety in people with cancer.</p><p>A randomized, double-blind <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0269881116675513" target="_blank">trial</a> from Johns Hopkins in 2016 found that a single dose of psilocybin substantially improved quality of life and decreased depression and anxiety in people with life-threatening cancer diagnoses.</p><p>"The thing that we have the most evidence for is cancer-related depression and anxiety. That seems really strong, and I'd be surprised if those results didn't hold up," Johnson said, who was part of that research.</p>
Will Psilocybin Ever Be Approved by the FDA?<p>Despite promising research, there's no realistic timeline for when, or if, psilocybin will ever be approved by the FDA.</p><p>All three experts interviewed by Healthline stress that the substance can be dangerous for a host of different reasons if administered incorrectly.</p><p>"It will only be administered in a clinic by specially trained and certified therapists, physicians. It's never gonna be available out on the street where people can sell it or take too much, or take too many of their pills from a prescription," Greer said.</p><p>Psilocybin affects the cardiovascular system and can lead to increased blood pressure or irregular heartbeat.</p><p>It also has the potential to cause serious and permanent psychological problems.</p><p>"Psilocybin is a lot more psychologically dangerous than cannabis, and it's especially dangerous for a small percentage of the population who have had an episode of psychosis or mania, manic episode, or even, say, a close family member whose had those problems, because it can trigger a psychosis or manic episode in a person who is vulnerable to that," Greer said.</p><p>And there's always the chance of a "bad trip," or negative experience while taking the drug. There are rare but documented cases of individuals <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1556-4029.13982" target="_blank">jumping to their deaths</a> or otherwise behaving erratically in such a way that endangers themselves or those around them.</p><p>As Grob puts it: "Taken in uncontrolled settings, honestly, all bets are off. You don't know what you're gonna get."</p><p>But psilocybin therapy is nothing like taking shrooms at a party. It's meant to be a meticulously controlled environment to ensure that nothing unexpected happens.</p><p>"You name the risk, and we have really good mechanisms for addressing it," Johnson said.</p><p>He further explained, "There are risks, but they are dramatically reduced in medical research and potentially in approved medical use, and I would argue that those risks and our ability to address them fairs very reasonably compared to many procedures that are routinely used in medicine."</p><p>Nonetheless, the safety and efficacy of psilocybin treatment must still be satisfactorily proved to the FDA, which, thus far, it has not.</p><p>While some are optimistic that psilocybin may follow in the footsteps of MDMA therapy and potentially even have approval within the next 5 to 10 years, its pathway is far from clear and very uncertain.</p><p>When asked if there's a realistic timeline for approval, Grob told Healthline, "I don't think so. Even though the research we're talking about has by and large been very positive and encouraging, there hasn't been enough research."</p><p>"There needs to be more FDA-approved clinical research with psychedelics," he added, "exploring both how to optimize their therapeutic potential but also trying to get a better understanding of the range of medical effects, which may be problematic … There's still some questions that need to be answered."</p>
By C. Michael White
On Jan. 4, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole memo, a 2013 document that limits federal enforcement of marijuana laws.
This opens the door for a crackdown in the nine states with legal recreational marijuana.
By Kali Holloway
Some horror movie tropes just come off as unbelievable, they're so ridiculous and overused. Like, "Girl who falls down for no apparent reason while being chased by a killer." Or, "Group of friends that decides to split up when it's obvious being alone will get you murdered." And then there's this one: "Science laboratory creates horrible disease that will inevitably escape and kill all of humanity," which might be the most unbelievable, since it defies both logic and actual laws. Or rather, it did until Tuesday, when the U.S. government announced it was lifting a three-year ban on federal funding for experiments that alter viruses to make them even deadlier.
The Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Linda Birnbaum, PhD, is being criticized by some Republicans for authoring an article that describes linkages between endocrine disrupting chemicals and the onset of disease, as well as the need to understand and monitor the effects of these chemicals. Instead of encouraging efforts for greater understanding of these chemicals, the members of Congress instead blasted the article as a potential breach of National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy. NIEHS, a program of NIH, seeks to reduce the burden of human illness and disability by understanding how the environment influences the development and progression of human disease.
The short article, When Environmental Chemicals Act Like Uncontrolled Medicine, published online May 7 in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, lays out the case that environmental chemicals can produce unwanted endocrine effects, leading to an increase in certain diseases.
“In the same way as physicians endeavor to understand and monitor the effect of medicines on endocrine pathways, we ought to achieve the same understanding and control of the effects on environmental chemicals,” states Dr. Birnbaum in her article.
“The proliferation of inadequately tested chemicals in commerce may be contributing to the skyrocketing rates of disease ... A new protocol to detect endocrine disruption in early stages of chemical design may provide a useful tool to remove hazards from future chemicals ... [and] A population-based, public health approach may provide the best perspective in understanding the effect of this problem.”
Endocrine disruptors can change the function(s) of the body’s hormonal system, increasing the risk of adverse health effects. Chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties linked to disease outcomes in laboratory studies have been identified. Many pesticides, industrial solvents, flame retardants and other chemicals found in electronics, personal care products and cosmetics have been identified as endocrine disruptors.
Dr. Birnbaum’s article echoes that of a 2013 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that also identifies endocrine disrupting chemicals as having significant health implications for the global population and calls for more research and collaboration. This UN report, which is the most comprehensive report on endocrine disruption to date, highlights some association between exposure to endocrine disruptors and health problems, including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit/hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.
However, in a surprising attack on Director Birnbaum, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) and Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN) target her article as a potential breach of NIH policy.
In a letter sent to NIH Director Francis Collins, they argue that Dr. Birnbaum should attach a disclaimer to the article clarifying that it expresses her personal views and not those of the administration. They write, "[S]ome of Dr. Birnbaum’s statements sound less like a presentation of scientific data and more like an opinion—which may be construed as a position of NIH.”
Rep. Broun is chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. In their letter, Reps. Broun and Bucshon argue that Dr. Birnbaum’s recent article makes “broad and general statements” that are opinion, not fact. Her assertion that chemicals are inadequately tested, they write, implies that NIH does not think U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing its job. The lawmakers also say that the lack of a disclaimer on Dr. Birnbaum’s article calls into question NIH’s commitment to transparency. “We expect Dr. Birnbaum to be accurate and transparent in the presentation of scientific data and in describing peer reviewed studies.”
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
However, what these representatives fail to recognize is that while EPA is mandated to screen chemicals for potential endocrine disrupting effects, the agency has yet to finalize its screening and testing procedures since mandated by Congress to do so in 1996. The tests to be used by EPA were first recommended in 1998, but since then the science has made progress and become more sophisticated, while EPA’s toxicological testing protocol has not been updated, according to some critics.
Unlike the European Union, which as a matter of precaution categorizes chemicals for endocrine disrupting potential, the U.S. has failed to do so. Therefore, Dr. Birnbaum is correct in stating that many chemicals in use today in the U.S. are “inadequately tested” for endocrine disruption. Dr. Birnbaum's article not only echoes the call by the UNEP and WHO for greater understanding of how these chemicals impact the human body, but also suggests a need for preventative action to control the onset of disease.
Similarly, a 2012 study from a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause certain human disorders, highlighting various epidemiological studies that show that environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals are associated with human diseases and disabilities. The authors here conclude that the effects of low doses cannot be predicted by the effects observed at high doses, and therefore recommend fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination to protect human health.
Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Disease Database features a wealth of studies that have linked pesticide exposures to adverse impacts on the endocrine system. These studies explore outcomes and mechanisms for several health effect endpoints including cancer, developmental and learning disorders, Parkinson’s disease and reproductive health.
For more on endocrine disrupting chemicals, Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticides and Endocrine Disruption brochure is available for download, or read Beyond Pesticides special report, Pesticides That Disrupt Endocrine System Still Unregulated by EPA.