Junk Food Companies Responsible for COVID-19 Susceptibility

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com


  • Processed foods, junk foods, and soft drinks are key culprits in the rise of obesity and chronic diseases that have a key role to play in COVID-19 deaths
  • Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, multinational food and beverage corporations are interfering with public policy and influencing the development of dietary guidelines
  • More than half of those appointed to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a junk food industry front group
  • Junk food giants are thoroughly intertwined with public health recommendations pertaining to food and nutrition — to the detriment of public health
  • Eating nutritious foods could help you lose weight, but Type 2 diabetes into remission and improve your health considerably, so you’ll have a much better chance of survival should you contract COVID-19

Underlying health conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes have emerged as key factors in fatalities due to novel coronavirus, COVID-19. In one study, more than 99% of COVID-19 fatalities occurred among people who had underlying medical conditions.1,2

Among the fatalities, 76.1% had high blood pressure, 35.5% had diabetes and 33% had heart disease.3 What’s more, another study revealed that among 18- to 49-year-olds hospitalized due to COVID-19, obesity was the most prevalent underlying condition, just ahead of hypertension.4 Chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity have a lot in common, including the fact that they’re often fueled by poor diet. Hence we need to improve our relationship with food.

Processed foods, junk foods, and soft drinks are key culprits in the rise of such chronic diseases, and therefore have a key role to play in COVID-19 deaths. Yet, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, multinational food, and beverage corporations are interfering with public policy and influencing the development of dietary guidelines.

In order to protect public health, this conflicted influence must be curbed, according to a report published by the campaign group Corporate Accountability.5 Meanwhile, health experts are calling out ultra-processed foods as key players in COVID-19 deaths and calling on public health guidelines to warn the public of their risks.6

Junk Food Giants Stymying Public Nutrition Policies

According to Corporate Accountability’s report, more than half of those appointed to the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) has ties to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a not-for-profit organization established by a Coca-Cola executive 40 years ago.7

DGAC is supposed to be an independent committee, which reviews scientific evidence and provides a report to help develop the next set of dietary guidelines for Americans (2020 to 2025). However, its extensive ties to ILSI all but ensures the committee is anything but independent.

ILSI has been exposed as a shill for the junk food industry, and internal documents have revealed ILSI embedded itself in public health panels across Europe and the United Nations in an effort to promote its own industry-focused agenda to raise profits at the expense of public health worldwide.8

The Corporate Accountability report further examined ILSI’s “revolving doors and conflicts of interest” with critical government policy processes, including not only formulating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) but also updating national food composition databases. It explains:9

“The report also chronicles the front group’s deep connections with industry, its ties to research it has helped produce, and to individuals it has relationships with. The picture it paints makes a compelling case for Big Food to abandon ILSI and similar front groups in the interest not only of public health, but also a less deceitful relationship with its investors.”

DGA is essentially the go-to source for nutrition advice in the U.S., directing what more than 30 million U.S. schoolchildren eat at school and driving the nutritional advice given to new mothers, seniors, veterans, and other beneficiaries of nutritional education and meals offered by the federal government.

“But the DGA’s mandate is even broader,” Corporate Accountability noted in their report. “It aims to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help all U.S. residents reach and maintain a healthy weight.”10 Yet, by partnering with junk food corporations, it ends up doing the opposite:11

“Seventy-five percent of the individuals involved in formulating the U.S. government’s official dietary guidance have food industry ties. Fifty-five percent have ties to ILSI, which was founded by a former Coca-Cola executive and is funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, General Mills, Cargill, Monsanto, the National Dairy Council, the International Tree Nut Council and a host of other global purveyors of junk food and drink.”

Junk Food Corporations Control Academia, Nutrition Guidelines

The Corporate Accountability report presents several key findings that highlight ILSI’s concerning ties with industry, and how its research, government interference, and other activities are negatively affecting public health policy. Among them:12

ILSI’s journal, Nutrition Reviews, does not always disclose ILSI affiliations and conflicts of interest. Further, nearly 40% of ILSI North America’s publications from 2013 to 2017 received support or funding from ILSI but did not disclose it. Of the approximately 60% of publications that did contain a disclosure statement, “no conflict of interest” was still sometimes declared
The DGAC chairs and vice-chairs of the Pregnancy and Lactation Subcommittee are affiliated with ILSI
ILSI claims that it doesn’t lobby, but it gave direct guidance to the Argentine government regarding updates to its National Food Composition Database
ILSI India produced a study in partnership with government research institutions that disparaged and misrepresented health effects of traditional foods instead of focusing on the adverse health effects of soda and processed foods
ILSI North America’s board of trustees violates Principle 1 of its conflict of interest policy, as more than 50% of its board holds an affiliation with the private sector
Rather than dismantling ILSI Mexico after it violated the group’s code of ethics under a Coca-Cola executive’s leadership, it was absorbed by ILSI Mesoamerica in 2019, which is also under the leadership of a Coca-Cola executive

One example given of lack of disclosures in Nutrition Reviews was a 2017 review titled “What is the Appropriate Upper Limit for Added Sugars Consumption?”13

The researchers looked into the “significant restrictions on upper limits of sugars consumption” put forth by scientific organizations like the World Health Organization and American Heart Association, concluding that their findings “should inject a note of caution into restrictive guidelines” and noting that “the scientific basis for restrictive guidelines is far from settled.”14

One of the review’s co-authors, however, failed to disclose an important conflict of interest. James Rippe was affiliated with ILSI Mexico, leading a forum titled “Current Evidence on Sweeteners and Health,” which received $10 million in funding from the U.S. Corn Refiners Association to establish that sugar consumption had no impact on heart health.15

Another glaring example was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study, “The Scientific Basis of Guideline Recommendations on Sugar Intake,” was funded by ILSI and concluded, “Guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence. Public health officials (when promulgating these recommendations) and their public audience (when considering dietary behavior) should be aware of these limitations.”16

Although the journal did reveal that ILSI was the primary funding source for the study, according to Corporate Accountability:17

“Its findings were so self-serving, it prompted criticism from candy-maker Mars (then an ILSI member). Co-author, and 2010 DGAC member, Joanne Slavin did not disclose her financial ties with Big Food and Beverage, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestlé.”

Report: Governments, Academics Should Part Ways With ILSI

ILSI has been a key piece in how the junk food industry has grown and expanded globally, giving the junk food industry an in with policymakers and prestigious universities under the guise of scientific advancement.

While funding scientific research designed to support its own agenda, ILSI regularly fails to disclose conflicts of interest. “This lack of transparency has allowed industry’s ILSI a social license to produce and promote junk science the world over,” the report notes.18 Meanwhile, while claiming to be a non-lobbying organization, they play a role in policymaking processes regarding nutrition in the U.S., India, Argentina, Mexico, and Taiwan.

Now that ILSI is being exposed, even junk food giants themselves, namely Mars and Nestlé, have cut ties with the organization. Corporate Accountability is calling on other corporations to do the same and demands academic institutions to sever all ties with ILSI, including ILSI Research Foundation and ILSI’s Nutrition Reviews.

For governments, the report recommends prohibiting those with ties to ILSI from participating on the DGAC and publically disclosing direct interactions with ILSI with agencies such as the USDA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.19

As it stands, however, junk food giants are thoroughly intertwined with public health recommendations pertaining to food and nutrition — to the detriment of public health. “Even in times of crisis, such as today’s COVID-19 pandemic, ILSI’s backers feel no scruples lobbying for the bottom line,” Corporate Accountability stated, adding:20

“In India, despite potential consequences to the health and well-being of workers and the community, corporations including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé, have submitted letters to the government requesting food and beverage manufacturing be exempt from the lockdown, and be considered an ‘essential service.’

Not providing immune-suppressing sugar-sweetened beverages during this time may also prove the more essential service these corporations can provide in this time and beyond.”

How Americans Got Hooked on Processed Foods

According to investigative reporter Michael Moss, much of the responsibility for Americans’ increased consumption of junk food lies with the processed food industry. In addition to targeting kids who are “especially hardwired for sweet taste,” sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats are the top three substances making processed foods so addictive.

Moss’ four-year investigation culminated in the book “Salt Sugar Fat,” which details how food scientists formulate products with just the right combination of sugar, fat, and salt to pique your taste buds just enough, without overwhelming them, thereby overriding your brain’s inclination to say “enough.” He uses the example of potato chips, which combine salt and fat for instantaneous pleasure, along with the sugar in the starch of the potato itself, as the perfect addictive food.

Beyond the addictive potential of the foods is marketing, which further entices Americans to buy and consume more processed foods. This includes things like positioning junk foods at eye level on grocery store displays. In an interview with U.S. News & World Report, Moss revealed the food industry secrets that are most surprising, including that food execs may avoid junk food for the sake of their own health:21

“One, on a personal level, many food company executives don’t eat their own products for health reasons. And two, the companies themselves are more hooked on salt, sugar and fat than we are because they’re miracle ingredients that enable them to preserve and keep the products low cost along with being utterly tasty. The depth of the industry’s own dependence was really surprising to me.”

Junk Food Causing Increased COVID-19 Deaths

London-based cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra is among those warning that poor diet can increase your risk of dying from COVID-19. He tweeted, “The government and public health England are ignorant and grossly negligent for not telling the public they need to change their diet now.”22

He told BBC that ultra-processed foods make up more than half the calories consumed by the British, and if you suffer from obesityType 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — all of which are linked to poor diet — your risk of mortality from COVID-19 increases tenfold.

On the brighter side, he also states that eating nutritious foods for even one month could help you lose weight, but Type 2 diabetes into remission and improve your health considerably, so you’ll have a much better chance of survival should you contract COVID-19.23 Malhotra also told the food industry to “stop mass-marketing and selling ultra-processed food.”

Dr. Robert Lustig, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, further stated:

“I’ve heard COVID-19 referred to a beast, because it doesn’t distinguish. In point of fact, it doesn’t distinguish who it infects. But it does distinguish who it kills. Other than the elderly, it’s those who are Black, obese, and/or have pre-existing conditions. What distinguished these three demographics?

Ultra-processed food. Because ultra-processed food sets you up for inflammation, which COVID-19 is happy to exploit. Just another way processed food kills. Time to rethink your menu.”

If you’re interested in eating better, I recommend adopting a cyclical ketogenic diet, which involves radically limiting carbs (replacing them with healthy fats and moderate amounts of protein) until you’re close to or at your ideal weight, ultimately allowing your body to burn fat — not carbohydrates — as its primary fuel.

This includes avoiding all ultra-processed foods and also limiting added sugars to a maximum of 25 grams per day (15 grams a day if you’re insulin resistant or diabetic). This will improve your health in multiple ways and in so doing you may significantly reduce your risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Highly Processed Fast Food Shrinks Your Brain

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com


  • People today are consuming about 650 kilocalories more daily than they were in the 1970s, an amount equivalent to a fast-food meal consisting of a burger, fries and soft drink
  • Poor diet and lack of activity may lead to normal but elevated blood glucose levels, even in people without Type 2 diabetes, contributing to neurodegenerative processes
  • “High normal” blood sugar levels may progress to impaired fasting glucose and, eventually, Type 2 diabetes; impaired glucose metabolism is then associated with neurodegeneration that impairs cognitive function
  • The authors of the featured study suggested that you may begin to lose neurons and neuron function early in life if you eat poorly, and such changes may be difficult, if not impossible, to counteract once the damage is done; the sooner you start focusing your diet on whole, unprocessed foods, the better

Eating fast food — the epitome of highly processed “fake” foods — can have lasting ramifications on your brain health, so much so that researchers at Australian National University suggested you can cause “irreversible” damage by the time you reach middle age, just by eating a fast-food diet and not staying active.1

If you are middle-aged and haven’t been eating the best, don’t panic — you can start making healthier changes starting today. However, the new study is eye-opening, once again hitting home the importance of healthy eating when it comes to keeping your mind strong as you age.

Fast-food increases risk of Type 2 diabetes, neurodegeneration

In a review by the scientists in the featured study,2 they stated that people today are consuming about 650 Kilocalories more daily than they were in the 1970s — an amount equivalent to a fast-food meal consisting of a burger, fries and soft drink. (A Kilocalorie, or Kcal, is equal to 1 Calorie, with a capital “C,” while 1,000 calories with a lowercase “c” equal 1 Kilocalorie.) This amount is about one-quarter of the recommended daily food energy needs for men and just under one-third for women.3

“The extra amount of energy that people consume daily compared to 50 years ago means that many people have an unhealthy diet,” ANU professor Nicolas Cherbuin, lead author of the study, said in a news release, adding:4

“People eating too much of the wrong kind of food, particularly fast food, is the other big worry. As a society, we need to stop asking, ‘do you want fries with that?’, and the mindset that comes with it. If we don’t, then expect to see more overweight and obese people suffering from serious diseases.”

The review5 focused on “how normal but elevated blood glucose levels in individuals without T2D [Type 2 diabetes] contribute to neurodegenerative processes, and how the main risk factors for T2D diabetes, including obesity, lack of physical activity and poor diet, modulate these effects.” Often, “high normal” blood sugar levels progress to impaired fasting glucose and, eventually, Type 2 diabetes.

Impaired glucose metabolism is then associated with neurodegeneration that impairs cognitive function. What’s more, these factors begin not in old age but much earlier, such that following a healthy lifestyle in young adulthood may be protective against cognitive decline later. According to the study:6

“The notion that T2D is associated with neurodegeneration, cognitive impairment, dementia, and mortality is not new. However, these associations are often thought to be most relevant in old age despite the availability of substantial evidence indicating that the pathological processes at play are initiated in mid-adulthood or before.

… It is of particular concern that the pathological cascade leading to higher FBG and ultimately T2D typically begins decades before and starts impacting cerebral health and cognition from its onset.”

Ultra-processed foods lead to insulin resistance, neurodegeneration

Dr. Suzanne De La Monte of Brown University has also conducted research showing that systemic insulin resistance diseases linked to obesity and Type 2 diabetes promote neurodegeneration. She wrote in the journal Panminerva Medica:7

“Insulin resistance diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD), obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and metabolic syndrome are prevalent in modern high tech societies, and they are costly because they consume large percentages of healthcare budgets, lead to disability, and cause premature death.

The unrelenting appetite for highly processed, high starch, high fat, and high caloric content foods is literally eroding health status across all age groups in the United States. Thanks to the robust domestic and international research efforts over the past decade, it is now clear that insulin resistance can afflict any organ and tissue in the body.

The consequences include deficits in energy metabolism, increased inflammation and oxidative stress, and proneness to cellular degeneration and death. No thanks to commercial luring of the uninformed who seek the comfortable lifestyles of the West, insulin resistance diseases are quickly spreading throughout the world and beginning to bear their tolls on global health.”

A poor diet may shrink your brain

Worldwide, about 30% of the population is overweight or obese, but this percentage goes even higher in developed areas like Europe and the Americas, where prevalence is 50% to 60%.8 According to the featured study, “Diet and physical activity are the main determinants of adiposity [being overweight or obese].”9 Obesity, in turn, is associated with negative changes in your brain. The researchers noted:10

“As a whole the body of evidence presented … strongly suggests that persistently elevated FBG [fasting blood glucose] are associated with brain shrinkage, progressive loss of function across several cognitive domains, the development of dementia, and ultimately, premature death.

It is also clear that T2D’s main risk factors contribute in a major way to these effects and that clinical T2D represents the greatest risk to cerebral health.”

Both diabetes and higher fasting glucose levels are linked with lower total brain volume.11 Research published in Radiology also found that obesity may lead to alterations in brain structure, shrinking certain regions.12 Among men, higher total body fat percentage was linked to lower brain gray matter volume. Specifically, 5.5% greater total body fat percentage was associated with 3,162 mm3 lower gray matter volume.

Gray matter is the outer layer of the brain associated with high-level brain functions such as problem-solving, language, memory, personality, planning and judgment. In a study reported by Sci News,13among men, 5.5% greater total body fat was also associated with 27 mm3 smaller globus pallidus volume, an association also seen in women.

In women, 6.6% greater total body fat percentage was associated with 11.2 mm3 smaller globus pallidus volume. According to Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, the globus pallidus is a brain region that plays a role in supporting a range of functions, including motivation, cognition, and action.14 Obesity has also been associated with changes in white matter microstructure, which may be related to cognitive function.15

Researchers at Loughborough University in England have also revealed that carrying excess weight around your midsection may affect your brain health, even leading to a concerning decline in brain volume.16

This study involved 9,652 participants with an average age of 55.4, plus or minus 7.5 years, who received scores for both body mass index (BMI), a flawed formula that divides your weight by the square of your height, and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). (I believe your waist-to-hip ratio is a more reliable indicator of your future disease risk than BMI because a higher ratio suggests you have more visceral fat — a measure BMI tells you nothing about.)

As explained in Science Alert,17 participants with a BMI and WHR in a healthy range had an average gray matter brain volume of 798 cubic centimeters, but this dropped to 786 cubic centimeters among those with a high BMI and high WHR.

Eating sugar for breakfast could make you hungrier later

If you tend to start your day with a bowl of sugary cereal, a doughnut or a pastry, you could be further set yourself up for a day of unhealthy eating. That’s because research suggests consuming a large amount of sugar in the morning could leave you feeling hungrier before lunch and dinner, as well as prompt you to eat more at these meals.18

What’s more, people who consumed greater amounts of snacks, desserts, fast food, and candy bars are more likely to struggle with food addiction. Among those who ate fast food, in particular, the odds of food addiction were highest among study participants who consumed five or more servings of hamburgers, french fries and pizza a week.19

In the longer term, Health Promotion Perspectives found that frequent fast-food consumption is linked to a host of problems, even beyond your brain health, including: 20

  • Overweight and abdominal fat gain
  • Impaired insulin and glucose homeostasis
  • Lipid and lipoprotein disorders
  • Induction of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Increased risk of developing diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease

Eating fast food three or more times a week is even linked to an increased risk of severe asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in adolescents and children.21

The sooner you start eating healthy, the better

It’s never too late to make positive changes to your diet. That being said, the sooner you start focusing your diet on whole, unprocessed foods, the better. The authors of the featured study even suggested that you may begin to lose neurons and neuron function early in life if you eat poorly, and such changes may be difficult, if not impossible, to counteract once the damage is done.

According to Cherbuin, “The damage done is pretty much irreversible once a person reaches midlife, so we urge everyone to eat healthily and get in shape as early as possible — preferably in childhood but certainly by early adulthood.”22 He continued:

“What has become really apparent in our investigation is that advice for people to reduce their risk of brain problems, including their risk of getting dementia, is most commonly given in their 60s or later when the ‘timely prevention’ horse has already bolted.

Many people who have dementia and other signs of cognitive dysfunction, including shrinking brains, have increased their risk throughout life by eating too much bad food and not exercising enough. One of the best chances people have of avoiding preventable brain problems down the track is to eat well and exercise from a young age.”

What type of diet is best for your brain?

Just as processed fast foods can damage your brain, nutrient-dense whole foods can protect it. Even in terms of mental health, a good-quality diet is linked with better outcomes, whereas increased consumption of processed food increases the risk of anxiety and depression.23 As further noted in Nature Reviews, Neuroscience:24

“We now know that particular nutrients influence cognition by acting on molecular systems or cellular processes that are vital for maintaining cognitive function. This raises the exciting possibility that dietary manipulations are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities and protecting the brain from damage, promoting repair and counteracting the effects of aging.

Emerging research indicates that the effects of diet on the brain are integrated with the actions of other lifestyle modalities, such as exercise and sleep.”

While reducing your intake of processed foods and eliminating added sugars is essential, I recommend going a step further and adopting a ketogenic diet for protecting your brain health. When your body burns fat as its primary fuel, ketones are created, which not only burn very efficiently and are a superior fuel for your brain, but also generate fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) and less free radical damage.

A type of ketone called beta-hydroxybutyrate is also an important epigenetic player, having significant effects on DNA expression, increasing detoxification pathways and your body’s own antioxidant production. Beta-hydroxybutyrate also stimulates specific receptors on cells called g-proteins.

When these receptors are tagged by this beta-hydroxybutyrate during mild ketosis, it helps reduce the activation of pathways that lead to inflammation, and inflammation is a driver in almost all chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease.

For the best results, however, combine nutritional ketosis with intermittent fasting. The ketogenic diet provides many of the same health benefits associated with fasting and intermittent fasting, but when done together, most people will experience significant improvements in their health.

The details are provided in my book “Fat for Fuel,” but here is a summary of how to implement these two strategies as a cohesive health program. The Ultimate Ketogenic Diet Beginner’s Guide is also excellent reading if you’re new to this way of eating. In addition, individual nutrients and foods such as animal-based omega-3 fats, pastured organic egg yolks, coconut oil, and blueberries are also excellent brain-boosting foods.

It’s been found that people with cognitive impairments who improved their diet and exercised three times a week were able to improve their brain function after just six months.25 So, no matter what you’ve been eating up until now, it’s a great time to start eating better and get active — your brain will thank you for it.

Read more great articles at mercola.com

New Reality: Healthy Seismic Shift In American Food Industry

HK Kln Bay Telford Plaza McDonalds Restaurant food French fries

IT’S easy to make fun of people in big cities for their obsession with gluten, or chia seeds, or cleanses.

But urbanites are not the only ones turning away from the products created by big food companies. Eating habits are changing across the country and food companies are struggling to keep up.

General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft declared it was dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey’s will begin to move away from ingredients such as the emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to “simple and easy-to-understand ingredients” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar.”

Related Article (Must Watch Video!) : Doctor Makes Epic, Hilarious and Damning Indictment Of Processed Food Industry

Those announcements reflect a new reality: Consumers are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Big food manufacturers are reacting by cleaning up their ingredient labels, acquiring healthier brands and coming out with a prodigious array of new products. Last year, General Mills purchased the organic pasta maker Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million — a price that was over four times the company’s revenues, likening it to valuations more often seen in Silicon Valley. The company also introduced more than 200 new products, ranging from Cheerios Protein to Betty Crocker gluten-free cookie mix, to capitalize on the latest consumer fads.

Food companies are moving in the right direction, but it won’t be enough to save them. If they are to survive changes in eating habits, they need a fundamental shift in their approach.

The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape. Chains like Sweetgreen, a salad purveyor, are grabbing market share from traditional fast food companies. Brands such as Amy’s Kitchen, with its organic products, and Kind bars are taking some of the space on shelves once consumed by Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine and Mars.

Related Article: How Billions In Tax Dollars Subsidize The Junk Food Industry

For the large established food companies, this is having disastrous consequences. Per capita soda sales are down 25 percent since 1998, mostly replaced by water. Orange juice, a drink once seen as an important part of a healthy breakfast, has seen per capita consumption drop 45 percent in the same period. It is now more correctly considered a serious carrier of free sugar, stripped of its natural fibers. Sales of packaged cereals, also heavily sugar-laden, are down over 25 percent since 2000, with yogurt and granola taking their place. Frozen dinner sales are down nearly 12 percent from 2007 to 2013. Sales per outlet at McDonald’s have been on a downward spiral for nearly three years, with no end in sight.

Read the rest of the article…

Dr. Mercola Says Mediterranean Diet Is Linked to Having a Healthier Brain

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com

Video Source: The Jama Report

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes fresh vegetables, nuts, and healthy fats, particularly olive oil, while downplaying processed foods.

This combination is undoubtedly part of its many health benefits, which includes the reversal of metabolic syndrome, improving body composition, and normalizing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Extra virgin olive oil is clearly one of the “good fats” that should be included in your diet. Just keep in mind that it should not be used to cook with, as it is highly susceptible to oxidative damage when heated. Instead, it should be added cold to salads and other dishes.

Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat whose health benefits stem from it being unrefined and unheated. It also contains vitamin E and A, chlorophyll, magnesium, squalene, and a host of other cardio-protective nutrients.

In addition, it doesn’t upset the critical omega 6:3 ratio, as most of the fatty acids in olive oil are actually omega-9.

Studies have shown that extra virgin olive oil can reduce some cancers, reduce LDL cholesterol levels, and improve rheumatoid arthritis; the same or similar benefits touted by the Mediterranean diet.

Recent research also suggests a Mediterranean-style diet rich in nuts and olive oil can help boost memory and cognition in older adults.1,2

Mediterranean Diet May Boost Memory and Cognition

Previous research has suggested a Mediterranean diet may lower your odds of Alzheimer’s disease, but it wasn’t clear whether the diet was responsible, or if people who eat this way also make many other healthier lifestyle choices that decrease their risk.

In an effort to shed more light on the potential links between diet and cognition, the researchers3 randomly assigned nearly 450 seniors with risk factors for cardiovascular disease—such as overweight, high blood pressure, and/or high cholesterol—to follow one of three diets:

  1. A Mediterranean diet supplemented with one liter of extra virgin olive oil per week
  2. A Mediterranean diet supplemented with 30 grams of nuts a day
  3. A low-fat diet

As reported by Reuters:4

“Based on the brain function tests done before and after the study, the group eating low-fat foods had a significant decrease in memory and cognitive function. 

The group following a Mediterranean diet with supplemental nuts had significant improvements in memory, while the group adding extra virgin olive oil experienced significantly better cognitive function.” 

Your Brain and Body Need Healthy Fats

Results such as these certainly make sense when you consider how important healthy fats are for your brain function. After all, your brain is composed of at least 60 percent fat.

Other diets shown to be particularly beneficial for brain health include the DASH and the MIND diets,5 the latter of which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and berries, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, beans, poultry, and fish, while limiting red meat, cheese, butter, sweets, and fried foods.

What these three diets have in common is an emphasis on whole foods, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, and at least some healthy fats. Unfortunately, all of them generally recommend limiting saturated fats, such as those found in red meats and eggs.

Saturated fats, however, have been falsely vilified for the epidemics of heart disease and obesity. In reality, animal fats promote optimal health. Omega-3 fat is also crucial for optimal brain function, but it’s important to be careful when choosing your sources.

Very few fish are low in mercury while being high in healthy fat, so just eating more fish may be counterproductive, as mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants surely will not do your health any favors.

Good choices include smaller fatty fish like sardines and anchovies, and wild-caught Alaskan salmon. Another option to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 is to take a high-quality supplement such as krill oil.

The Importance of Omega-3 Fat for Psychological Health

Speaking of omega-3, recent research6 found that omega-3 supplementation helped improve attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and cognitive control in children.

Crazy enough, the omega-3 was given in the form of EPA- and DHA-enriched margarine, which is some of the worst fat you could possibly eat. It would be interesting to see how much better these children might have fared had they not counteracted the beneficial effects of the omega-3 with a processed trans fat…

Here, those who received the EPA/DHA-enriched margarine experienced no benefit in terms of cognitive control, but I would argue that the results may have been adversely affected because of the margarine.

Other recent research7,8,9 suggests animal-based omega-3 in combination with vitamin D can improve cognitive function and behavior associated with certain psychiatric conditions—including ADHD, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—by regulating your brain’s serotonin levels.

The omega-3 fatty acid EPA reduces inflammatory signaling molecules in your brain that inhibit serotonin release from presynaptic neurons, thereby boosting your serotonin levels. DHA also has a beneficial influence on serotonin receptors, by increasing their access to serotonin.

Deemphasize Whole Grains for Optimal Brain Health

Another potential pitfall of these diets is their emphasis on whole grains. Along with processed vegetable oils and sugars, excessive grain consumption—even if they’re organic whole grains—contributes to disease and obesity for the simple fact that your body still converts them to sugar.

As noted by neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the book, Grain Braingluten sensitivity appears to be involved in most chronic disease, including Alzheimer’s, and non-vegetable carbohydrates can have a powerfully toxic effect on your brain.

According to Dr. Perlmutter:

“This ‘whole grain goodness,’ as the US Department of Agriculture is trying to convince us we should focus on in terms of our dietary choices, is the cornerstone of our most devastating diseases… Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and obviously, diabetes… It’s the getting away from fat and the substitution with wheat- and corn-based carbohydrate (high-fructose corn syrup) that really, in my opinion, explains this huge explosion of degenerative conditions that are crippling us…

But the quality of the fat we consume is absolutely fundamental. When we’re saying high-fat diet, we’re not talking about prepared foods on the Twinkie aisle at the grocery store that contain modified trans fats. Hydrogenated fats that are clearly coffin nails. They’re a great risk for brain disorders, heart disorders, diabetes, etc. We’re talking about these beautiful, natural fats that we have been consuming for more than two million years.” 

Dr. Perlmutter also cites research from the Mayo Clinic, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showing that diets rich in carbohydrates are associated with an 89 percent increased risk for dementia, while high-fat diets are associated with a 44 percent reduced risk.

Examples of beneficial fats that your body—and your brain in particular—needs for optimal function include organic grass-fed raw butter, clarified butter called ghee, olives, organic virgin olive oil, and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado.

With regards to nuts, one recent study10 found that daily nut consumption translated into an extra two years of longevity, and cut death rates of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease. As reported by Nutrition Facts, “nut consumers lived significantly longer whether they were older or younger, fat or skinny, whether they exercised more, smoked, drank, or ate other foods that may affect mortality.” They also busted the myth that nuts’ high fat content will make you gain weight.

Link Between Diet and Memory Confirmed

In related news, another study11,12,13 published in the journal Neurology looking at the correlation between diet and memory loss found that eating a “healthy balanced diet” appears to reduce your risk of cognitive decline. As reported by CNN:14

“Unlike previous findings relating specific diets to improvements in cognitive function, this new study suggests that improving overall diet quality is an important factor for lowering the risk of memory and thinking loss. Researchers defined a ‘healthy diet’ as one containing lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts, fish, moderate alcohol use, and minimal red meat.”

The study, which ran for nearly five years, involved nearly 28,000 people from 40 different countries. Rather than focusing on any specific set of diets, the researchers analyzed the risk for cognitive decline among those who consumed “what most organizations would consider a healthy diet,” lead author Dr. Andrew Smyth said.

“Accounting for regional differences (but not country-specific variation), participants in the study were asked about the overall servings they consumed of different types of foods in both the healthy and unhealthy categories for which they received a corresponding point score,” CNN reports.15

“‘For example, if participants consumed the standard dietary recommendations for fruits and vegetables per day, they would get a high score in that category. The reverse happens for unhealthy food choices,’ said Smyth.”

Cognitive tests were administered at the outset of the study, and again after two and five years. Overall, those scoring highest in terms of following “healthy diet” recommendations were 24 percent less likely to experience cognitive decline, compared to those with the least healthy eating habits. Overall, healthy eaters were also more active, smoked less, and had lower body mass index (BMI).

Protect Your Brain with Wise Lifestyle Choices

A number of simple lifestyle strategies can help optimize your brain health. This includes exercise, especially high-intensity interval training, calorie restriction (intermittent fasting appears to have many of the same benefits while being easier to comply with), and reducing non-vegetable carbohydrate (especially grains and sugars). According to Dr. Perlmutter, a low-carb diet high in healthy fats is a key component of Alzheimer’s prevention. Gluten appears to be particularly problematic for brain health.

You also need plenty of high-quality omega-3 fats. I prefer krill oil to fish oil, as krill oil also contains astaxanthin, which is particularly beneficial for your brain. Astaxanthin is a carotenoid that’s very good for reducing free radical-mediated damage to fat—and your brain is 60 or 70 percent fat. Two other nutrients that play important roles in your brain health are vitamin D and choline.

Researchers have located metabolic pathways for vitamin D in the brain’s hippocampus and cerebellum; areas that are involved in planning, information processing, and memory formation. In older adults, research has shown that low vitamin D levels are associated with poorer brain function.

Choline also reduces inflammation and plays a role in nerve communication. Eggs and meat are two of the best dietary sources of choline. If you do not consume animal foods, you may be at risk of a deficiency and want to consider supplementation. The state of your gut is another important consideration that can have a significant influence on your brain function. Your gut is quite literally your “second brain.”

Just as you have neurons in your brain, you also have neurons in your gut, and gut bacteria transmit information from your GI tract to your brain via your vagus nerve. Abnormal gut flora has been associated with abnormal brain development, and may be an overlooked culprit in many cases of depression. In addition to avoiding sugar, one of the best ways to support gut health is to consume fermented vegetables, which are loaded with beneficial bacteria.

Last but not least, it is crucial to fully appreciate the importance of sleep. The latest sleep guidelines, based on 300 studies looking at the health effects of sleep, confirm that most adults need right around eight hours of sleep for optimal health.

It’s particularly important for brain health, because the only time your brain can detoxify is during deep sleep, which is why poor sleepers are more prone to developing neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s. So truly, if you want your brain to function optimally, be sure to address any sleep problems you may have.

For all the sources, see the original article here on Dr. Mercola’s website.