According to the latest statistics, 57 percent of Americans drink alcohol at least once a month.  Alcohol consumption is a controversial issue. Some studies suggest “moderate” consumption is harmless; others propose it may even have some health benefits.

For instance, research shows people who have one to two drinks a day may have a significantly reduced risk of death from heart disease and “all causes” compared to those who never drink alcohol.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans also notes that “moderate consumption of alcohol [is a component] of a beneficial dietary pattern in most studies.” That said, “moderation” can be a moving target, depending on your age, height, weight, gender, health status, emotional state and more.

And, while some studies show benefits, others show alcohol consumption increases your risk of chronic diseases such as cancer — even at moderate intake levels. Moreover, when compared to other recreational drugs, such as tobacco and marijuana, alcohol is the deadliest.

In the Big Scheme of Things, Less Alcohol Is Better

I generally define “moderate” alcohol intake (which is allowed in the beginner phase of my nutrition plan) as a 5-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce beer or 1 ounce of hard liquor, with a meal, per day.

As you progress further in the nutrition plan, I recommend eliminating all forms of alcohol. Even if it provides some benefit, it’s unlikely that alcohol will add much to an otherwise healthy diet and lifestyle.

That said, if you’re currently a drinker — whether your consumption is moderate or you tend to overdo it — research suggests exercise can go a long way toward mitigating the health risks, including reducing your risk for heart disease.

This makes sense when you consider the fact that exercise may be one of the most effective strategies for protecting and strengthening your heart. So much so, research shows regular exercise can significantly lower your health care costs if you have heart disease.

In one study, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, five times per week, resulted in annual health care savings of more than $2,500 per person.

Acute Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol depresses your central nervous system, which slows down the communication between your brain cells. Your limbic system, which controls emotions, is also affected. This is why alcohol consumption lowers your inhibitions.

Your prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with reasoning and judgment, also slows in response to alcohol, leading to more impulsive behavior and poor judgment. At higher doses, your cerebellum, which plays a role in muscle activity, will also be impacted, leading to dizziness and loss of balance.

High doses can also result in alcohol poisoning, which can shut down areas of your brain that control basic life-support functions like breathing and heart rate, leading to death. Women are more vulnerable to alcohol poisoning, in part because they have lower percentage of water in their bodies than men.

Women also have less dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme designed to break down alcohol. Women can get themselves into serious trouble if they consume four or more drinks in a two-hour period; men if they consume more than five. Telltale signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Cold, clammy hands and bluish skin due to hypothermia
  • Vomiting repeatedly and/or uncontrollably
  • Irregular or slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute or more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Seizures
  • Confusion, unconsciousness, stupor (conscious but unresponsive) and sometimes coma
  • Long-Term Ramifications of Chronic Alcohol Consumption

In the long-term, alcohol consumption promotes weight gain and fatty liver disease. As with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) — which can occur in people who are overweight or obese even if they consume little or no alcohol, thanks to the similarities between fructose and alcohol metabolism — the problem can be reversed by making the appropriate lifestyle changes.

If your fatty liver disease is related to alcohol consumption, cutting out alcohol will be part of your treatment program. In addition, you’ll want to limit your total fructose consumption to less than 15 grams per day (same as those with NAFLD).

Fructose is actually, in many ways, very similar to alcohol in the damage that it can do to your body — and your liver. Eating right and exercising can often prevent this condition and may even reverse it in its early stages, in part because it encourages weight loss.

In one study, patients who had advanced fatty liver disease who followed a diet and exercise program for one year reported significant benefits; 90 percent of those who lost 10 percent or more of their body weight resolved their condition while 45 percent had regression of fibrosis (scarring).

Chronic alcohol consumption also disrupts your gut microbes, which can have a significant impact on your physical health and mental well-being. It’s well known that altering the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract can weaken your immune system, making you more prone to inflammation and disease. So when considering the decision to drink alcohol on a regular basis, consider not only your liver health but also the risk to your microbiome.

Exercise May Mitigate Risks of Alcohol Consumption

Exercise is a foundational aspect of good health, but may be even more important if you drink alcohol on a regular basis. According to recent research, chronic drinkers who exercise five hours a week have the same rate of mortality as those who never drink alcohol, in large part by counteracting the inflammation caused by alcohol.

The study looked at data from 36,370 British and Scottish adults — 85 percent of whom drank “occasionally” or “often.” Thirteen percent of them were heavy drinkers, consuming 14 or more units of alcohol per week.

Interestingly, those who got at least 2.5 hours a week of moderately intense exercise significantly reduced the biological impact of their drinking. Those who exercised for five hours a week had the same mortality risk as teetotalers, even if they were heavy drinkers. The only ones who could not cancel out the harms of their alcohol consumption were those who drank dangerous levels of alcohol each week (20 or more standard drinks for women and 28 or more for men). As reported by The Daily Mail

“[The study concluded:] ‘Our results provide an additional argument for the role of physical activity as a means to promote the health of the population even in the presence of other less healthy behaviors.’ Professor Matt Field, from the U.K. Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Liverpool said: ‘This is a rigorous piece of research with some clear conclusions.

The relationship between drinking alcohol to excess and increased risk of death is significantly weaker in people who are physically active. Therefore, it appears that physical activity may partially offset some of the harmful effects of drinking, particularly alcohol-attributable cancers.'”

Exercise Also Protects Your Brain, and Diminishes Risk of Alcohol Abuse

Previous research has also found that long-time drinkers who exercise regularly have less damaged white matter in their brains compared to those who rarely or never exercise. The white matter is considered the “wiring” of your brain’s communication system, and is known to decline in quality with age and heavy alcohol consumption.

In addition to helping protect your brain, if you know you’re prone to alcohol abuse or have a family history of alcohol addiction, exercising regularly can also reduce your risk of becoming dependent. The cravings for alcohol can become all-consuming, and eventually an alcoholic does not feel “normal” until they’ve had a drink. The alcohol abuse inevitably throws off your circadian rhythm — the normal times you eat, sleep and wake up — as well, leading to a downward spiral of health and emotional effects.

Drinking alcohol chemically alters your brain to release dopamine, a chemical your brain associates with rewarding behaviors. Exercise also triggers the release of dopamine, along with other feel-good chemicals, which means you can get the same “buzz” from working out that you can get from a six-pack of beer, but with far better outcomes for your health.

Exercise is also beneficial for those who are already addicted, and may actually help to lessen cravings. In one study,15 hamsters that ran the most consumed less alcohol, while less active hamsters had greater cravings for and consumption of alcohol. By replacing drinking with exercise, you may find that the rewarding feeling you get from exercise provides you with a suitable alternative to the rewarding feeling you previously got from alcohol.

Helpful Protocol to Minimize Damage of Alcohol

While I don’t recommend drinking alcohol, if you know you’ll be having a few drinks, taking this natural protocol beforehand can help “pre-tox” your body, thereby minimizing the damage associated with alcohol consumption. Just beware that this protocol will NOT make you less susceptible to alcohol poisoning or other acute adverse events associated with binge drinking, so please use common sense and drink responsibly.

1. N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. It is known to help increase glutathione and reduce acetaldehyde toxicity that causes many hangover symptoms. Try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before you drink to help lessen the alcohol’s toxic effects.

If you’re wondering just how powerful NAC can be, consider that, like alcohol, one way that Tylenol causes damage to your liver is by depleting glutathione. If you keep your glutathione levels up, the damage from the acetaminophen may be largely preventable. This is why anyone who overdoses on Tylenol receives large doses of NAC in the emergency room — to increase glutathione.

2. B Vitamins: NAC is thought to work even better when combined with vitamin B1 (thiamine). Vitamin B6 may also help to lessen hangover symptoms. Since alcohol depletes B vitamin in your body, and the B vitamins are required to help eliminate alcohol from your body, a B vitamin supplement taken beforehand, as well as the next day, may help.

3. Milk Thistle: Milk thistle contains silymarin and silybin, antioxidants known to help protect your liver from toxins, including the effects of alcohol. Not only has silymarin been found to increase glutathione, but it also may help to regenerate liver cells. A milk thistle supplement may be most useful when taken regularly, especially if you know you’ll be having cocktails on more than one occasion.

4. Vitamin C: Alcohol may deplete your body of vitamin C, which is important for reducing alcohol-induced oxidative stress in your liver. Interestingly, one animal study showed vitamin C was even more protective to the liver than silymarin (milk thistle) after exposure to alcohol.

Making sure you’re getting enough vitamin C, either via supplements or food, is another trick to use prior to indulging in alcoholic beverages. Vitamin C is actually such a powerful detoxifier that if you take large doses prior to receiving dental anesthesia, the anesthesia will be significantly weakened and may not work.

5. Magnesium: Magnesium is another nutrient depleted by alcohol, and it’s one that many are already deficient in. Plus, magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce some hangover symptoms. If you don’t eat a lot of magnesium-rich foods, taking a magnesium supplement before an evening involving drinking may be helpful.

Chronic Alcohol Use Diminishes Your Fitness

While it’s certainly good to know you can mitigate the effects of alcohol by exercising more, I would be remiss were I not to mention that chronic alcohol consumption tends to impede your fitness goals.

Not only are you less inclined to exercise if you don’t feel well from the night before, but alcohol also contributes to dehydration and weight gain, and in higher doses can affect testosterone production, muscle protein synthesis and leucine oxidation, thereby reducing your chances of improving your fitness and building muscle mass.

So, as long as you continue drinking, your exercise merely ends up serving as a stop-gap of sorts, to prevent more serious health problems from developing. And, if you’re making all that effort, wouldn’t it make more sense to maximize your payout by cutting out the booze?

By Dr. Mercola


Causes of Algae Bloom

Toxic Algae Takes Over Florida Coastlines

In the middle of summer vacation — what should be the busiest tourist season for many parts of Florida — popular beaches are being shut down and people told to stay out of the water. It’s not a shark; it’s toxic green algae stretching for miles along Florida’s coastline.

algae bloom in florida

“Enjoy your vacation on Playa Guacamole,” the Miami Herald quipped, as in some areas the algae is more than thick enough to dip a chip — not that you’d want to. “It smells like death on a cracker,” one Florida resident told the Tampa Bay Times. And it’s not only the smell that’s a problem.

Blue-Green Algae Is Dangerous to People, Pets and the Environment

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Diet soda is falling out of favor due to the growing unpopularity of artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose (Splenda). PepsiCo even replaced the aspartame in Diet Pepsi with Splenda in 2015 in an effort to win back customers who’ve become wary of aspartame’s health effects — but it clearly didn’t work.

At the time, PepsiCo said the No. 1 request by its customers was to remove aspartame from Diet Pepsi.  Senior vice president of Pepsi’s flavors unit, Seth Kaufman, noted, “Diet cola drinkers in the U.S. told us they wanted aspartame-free Diet Pepsi.”

However, annual per capita consumption of carbonated soft drinks in 2015 was 650 eight-ounce servings, the lowest rate since 1985, according to a report from industry-tracking group Beverage Digest.

PepsiCo had the steepest decline — a 3.1 percent volume loss — and their Diet Pepsi product was particularly hit hard with a nearly 6 percent drop. In the first quarter of 2016, Diet Pepsi sales fell even more, declining 10.6 percent, according to Beverage Digest.4

To save their slumping sales, and please customers who apparently disliked the taste of the aspartame-free Diet Pepsi, the company is reintroducing “Diet Pepsi Classic Sweetener Blend” — i.e., Diet Pepsi sweetened with aspartame — to the market.

2 of 3 Diet Pepsi Varieties to Contain Aspartame

Classic Diet Pepsi is slated to come back to the market in September 2016, featuring a light blue can. In a silver can will be regular Diet Pepsi, sweetened with Splenda.

There’s also Pepsi MAX, which comes in a black can and is going to be reintroduced in the U.S. as Pepsi Zero Sugar. This, too, will contain aspartame. Crystal Pepsi, which first made its debut in the ‘90s, will also be making a comeback in 2016, at least temporarily.

The clear soda does not contain caffeine or phosphoric acid and is perceived to be healthier than typical dark-colored sodas. Its limited reintroduction, timed not coincidently amidst dropping sales, is likely an attempt to test the market to see if more health-conscious consumers will take the crystal-clear bait.

Unfortunately, all of this relabeling and reintroducing is missing the point, which is not only that soda is detrimental to your health — no matter what shade, flavor or color — but also that diet soda by any name is likely even worse.

Aspartame May Lead to Glucose Intolerance and Diabetes

Many people who are overweight or obese also struggle with pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, and consequently choose artificial sweeteners over sugar, believing the former to be a healthier choice.

Yet, studies have found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may lead to weight gain and glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.

Unbeknownst to many, aspartame has been found to increase hunger ratings compared to glucose or water and is associated with heightened motivation to eat (even more so than other artificial sweeteners like saccharin or acesulfame potassium).

For a substance often used in “diet” products, the fact that aspartame may actually increase weight gain is incredibly misleading.

A recent study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism also found that consuming aspartame may be associated with greater glucose intolerance, particularly for people who are obese. According to the study:

“This study provides evidence that consumption of aspartame may be associated with greater diabetes risk in individuals with higher adiposity. Aspartame is reported to be associated with changes in gut microbiota that are associated with impairments in insulin resistance in lean and obese rodents.

We observe that aspartame was related to significantly greater impairments in glucose tolerance for individuals with obesity … ”

It’s Not Only Aspartame That’s the Problem

This is far from the first time artificial sweeteners have been linked to metabolic problems. According to separate research published in PLOS ONE:

Regular consumption of artificially sweetened soft drinks is associated with disorders of the metabolic syndrome, including abdominal obesity, insulin resistance and/or impaired glucose tolerance, dyslipidemia and high blood pressure.

In particular, daily diet soda consumption (primarily sweetened with N-a-L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanine methyl ester, aspartame … ), is reported to increase the relative risk of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome by 67 percent and 36 percent respectively.”

Yet, it’s not only aspartame that’s linked to health problems, so if you’re thinking that sticking with PepsiCo’s Splenda-sweetened diet soda is smarter, you’re being misled. Like aspartame, Splenda affects your body’s insulin response.

When study participants drank a Splenda-sweetened beverage, their insulin levels rose about 20 percent higher than when they consumed only water prior to taking a glucose-challenge test.

Blood sugar levels also peaked at a higher level, “So the artificial sweetener was related to an enhanced blood insulin and glucose response,” researchers noted, adding:

“Although we found that sucralose affects the glucose and insulin response to glucose ingestion, we don’t know the mechanism responsible. We have shown that sucralose is having an effect.

In obese people without diabetes, we have shown sucralose is more than just something sweet that you put into your mouth with no other consequences. What these all mean for daily life scenarios is still unknown, but our findings are stressing the need for more studies.”

Don’t Be Misled: Diet Soda Is Not a Healthy Choice

PepsiCo is desperately trying to grab a corner of the market it currently misses — health-conscious consumers. Reformulating its diet soda is just one of its plans toward this end.

Ironically, the company, which spent more than Monsanto to defeat legislation calling for mandatory state and federal labeling of products containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, even has plans to release a GMO-free line of its Tropicana juices.

But make no mistake. In the case of Diet Pepsi, they can call it whatever they want and put it in any color can they can possibly imagine, but it won’t change the fact that it’s among the worst beverages you can consume for your health.

Aspartame May Cause Brain Damage and Other Health Effects

Ninety-two percent of independently funded studies found aspartame may cause adverse effects, including depression and headaches. A study also found the administration of aspartame to rats resulted in detectable methanol even after 24 hours, which might be responsible for inducing oxidative stress in the brain.

Aspartame is made up of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. But the phenylalanine has been synthetically modified to carry a methyl group, which provides the majority of the sweetness.

That phenylalanine methyl bond, called a methyl ester, is very weak, which allows the methyl group on the phenylalanine to easily break off and form methanol.

When aspartame is in liquid form, it breaks down into methyl alcohol, or methanol, which is then converted into formaldehyde and represents the root of the problem with aspartame.

In short, both animals and humans have small structures called peroxisomes in each cell. There are a couple of hundred in every cell of your body, which are designed to detoxify a variety of chemicals.

Humans have the same number of peroxisomes in comparable cells as non-human animals, but human peroxisomes cannot convert the toxic formaldehyde into harmless formic acid. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that causes retinal damage, interferes with DNA replication and may cause birth defects.

Diet Soda May Make You Want to Eat More Junk Food

Diet soda is a scam of the worst kind, because those who drink it typically believe they’re doing their body a favor by cutting out some calories.

But research shows diet soda drinkers may later “compensate” for the calories they didn’t consume in their soda by eating more high-sugar, high-sodium and high-in-unhealthy-fats foods later in the day. They may also feel compelled to eat more junk food because the diet beverage didn’t satisfy their craving or desire for calories.

Obese adults were affected the most and had the highest incremental daily calorie intake from unhealthy foods associated with diet beverages, which again shows that the people most likely to consume artificial sweeteners are also among those most likely to be harmed by them.

Are You Ready to Ditch Aspartame and Other Artificial Sweeteners?

First, I highly recommend trying an energy psychology technique called Turbo Tapping, which has helped many “soda addicts” kick their habit, and it should work for any type of craving (including diet soda cravings) you may have. If you still have cravings after trying Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step manner.

Your best, most cost-effective, choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. Seltzer or mineral water is another option, especially if you’re missing the fizz of soda.

Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime is one way to add some flavor and variety, and many soda drinkers find it easier to ditch soda when replacing it with some sparkling water. Unsweetened tea and coffee can also be healthy and can add some variety to your beverage choices without ruining your health.

By Dr. Mercola /

Ramen Noodles

Instant noodles are a popular go-to lunch or dinner for those who are strapped for time (or cash), like college students. While you probably don’t consider them a health food, you may think they’re not that bad, or, at least, not as bad as eating a burger and fries or a fast-food burrito.

In a first-of-its-kind experiment, however, Dr. Braden Kuo of Massachusetts General Hospital may make you reconsider your love of instant noodles (assuming you have one).

He used a pill-sized camera to see what happens inside your stomach and digestive tract after you eat ramen noodles, one common type of instant noodles. The results were astonishing…

Ramen Noodles Don’t Break Down After Hours of Digestion

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High Fructose Corn Syrup

High Fructose Corn Syrup is the enemy of healthy living. It’s in almost everything yet there is nothing worse for you. Try to eliminate this from your diet.

Corn is frequently turned into high fructose corn syrup, which is extracted from corn to use as a cheap sweetener. It is worse than table sugar and is a cause of obesity, as well as having a negative impact on your blood sugar levels. It is found in many artificially sweetened foods and syrups.