‘Primal Fitness’ Tips That Can Transform Your Health

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

The secret to lifelong health and peak performance is modeling the lifestyle behaviors of our hunter gatherer ancestors — the so-called Paleolithic approach. Mark Sisson, founder of the popular website Mark’s Daily Apple and a leader in the paleo movement, was one of the first to help me understand the importance of burning fat for fuel. This is also the topic of his book, “The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever.”

Mark is an accomplished elite athlete, and has been featured on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine three times. In the past, it was widely believed that the more aerobic activity (such as long-distance running) you did, the better it was for your heart. The aerobic trend — which captured both Mark and me — was largely catalyzed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s book “Aerobics,” published in 1968.

In more recent years, fitness researchers have largely demolished this idea, showing this kind of exercise may actually do more harm than good, especially to your heart, and that intense but short, intermittent bursts of exercise are not only safer but actually far more effective.  

Fit as a Fiddle, Yet Falling Apart

Mark became an accomplished runner early in life, placing fifth in the U.S. National Championships in 1980. He also qualified for the Olympic trials marathon that same year. When overtraining led to injury, he transitioned over to triathlons, and for a couple of years was one of the top triathletes in the U.S., placing fourth at Iron Man in Hawaii in 1982. At that point, his body had taken a significant beating, not just from overtraining but also from excess carbohydrate consumption.

“I was so beat up from the diet that was required to fuel all those miles,” he says. [W]hen Robert Haas’s book ‘Eat to Win’ came out … it was all about the carbohydrates. There wasn’t a carbohydrate I did not love and slam down, from pizza and pasta to beer and cakes. I was falling apart.

I was a picture of fitness on the outside … but on the inside, I had arthritis, I had tendonitis throughout my body, I had overuse injuries, I had irritable bowel syndrome that ran my life. I had upper respiratory tract infections six or eight times a year. It was like, ‘Wait a minute. Cooper said I was going to be healthy doing all this stuff, and now I’m literally falling apart.’

I retired … I was over all the pain and suffering I was putting myself through, just to be able to say I won a medal at a race, and ‘Oh by the way, I’m still not very healthy,’ and dedicated the rest of my life to researching ways in which to be strong and lean and fit and healthy with the least amount of pain, suffering, sacrifice, discipline, calorie counting, portion control, and all that other stuff that we talk about.”

What Does It Take to Get Fit?

All of that research and experimentation eventually resulted in the creation of Mark’s Daily Apple, along with eight books on fitness and diet, starting with “The Primal Blueprint.” Today, Mark favors fitness routines that mimic ancestral movement patterns, such as high-intensity interval training. Ultimate Frisbee is a favorite pastime, as is paddle boarding. Mark also stresses the importance of exercise recovery, saying:

“If you’re into this for the performance, then you must of necessity recognize that the less time you spend injured, the better … You must recognize that it is the rest period where all the gains come. The tendency is to … over train in endurance activities …

I put in over 100 miles a week for seven years … [T]he endorphin rush — that true runner’s high that people get — it exists. It is a morphine-like substance your body produces. Unfortunately, it’s because your body thinks you’re killing yourself that it produces this.

[So] be very specific about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to build aerobic capacity, you don’t do that by running your heart rate at 80 to 85 percent of your max every single day … If you want to build aerobic capacity, you have to be good at burning fat, which means lower level aerobic activity …

A heart rate of 180 minus your age would be your maximum heart rate for training in the aerobic zone, which is much lower than people assumed even 10 years ago, let alone 20 or 30 years ago when I was running …

[T]hat’s the [heart] rate at which you burn the most amount of fat and tap into your glycogen the least. To develop that scale of burning fat aerobically, you have to keep a limit on it for a while, while the body increases the mitochondria, increases the capillary profusion to feed the mitochondria. That’s one of the things that I would really [advise you to] pay attention to …

[Y]ou wouldn’t go to the gym and do 300 sets of 50 pound curls every single day just because you wanted bigger biceps. You recognize you have to give your arms rest [and recovery].

That same principle applies to the cardiac muscle … I wrote a book called ‘Primal Endurance,’ which is about how to train for endurance activities; understanding the physiology of the cardiac muscle and mitochondria and so on, and taking advantage of the methods that are optimal for achieving an increase in performance.”

The Importance of Strength Training

At 65 years of age, Mark is formidably fit with a physique far younger men would envy. He’s a living testament to the fact that his strategies work, and they do not include long-distance running. In fact, he stopped running altogether 15 years ago.

“I weigh 28 pounds more now than when I was a runner,” he says. “I have the same body fat level; I just have more muscle mass, because I only lift [weights] and I only sprint.” In other words, he converted from being a predominantly endurance athlete to a predominantly strength and speed athlete, and his physique reflects this.

“The issue for people as they age isn’t a loss of aerobic capacity, it’s a loss of metabolic capacity and metabolic flexibility that comes with lean muscle mass. The best thing that somebody over 45 can do is start lifting weights rather than choosing to run. Ideally, you do both, but the standard incremental loss of aerobic capacity on a year to year basis after the age of 35 is 1 percent a year.

The standard loss of strength is 2 percent a year if you don’t do anything about it. You have much more to lose if you don’t work out in terms of losing vital capacity … People don’t really die of old age. They die of organ failure …

When you build muscle … the fact that you’re doing the work causes your heart to pump harder, causes your lungs to breathe in more fully … causes your liver to create more substrate and clear more toxins, causes all of these other organs to have to function to keep up with the demands of having this metabolically challenging tissue that is burning calories.

To the extent that you maintain that muscle mass and maintain some mobility, your bones stay stronger, your heart stays stronger, your lungs stay stronger. Conversely, if you stop, atrophy sets in.”

Mark’s Fitness Regimen

As for his own fitness regimen, Mark:

Goes to the gym twice a week, where he does bodyweight exercises such as pullups, pushups, dips, squats and lunges.

Rides on a stationary bike once a week for 30 to 40 minutes, maintaining his max heart rate of 115 (180 minus 65).

Plays Ultimate Frisbee once a week for two hours, which he calls “the highlight” of his week. He’s been doing it for 14 years. “It’s the greatest game ever invented,” he says. “Any school that lost their funding for PE, if they could invest $10 in a Frisbee and have a grassy place, it’s the perfect game and learning experience for any kid in terms of camaraderie, sportsmanship and … hand-eye coordination.”

You’re also moving and reaching your body in all directions, which only becomes more important with age. If you’re interested in giving this a go, do an online search for “Ultimate Frisbee groups” in your local area, or start your own group. “It’s just running and catching. It’s easy to learn, and it’s fun to play at all levels,” Mark says.

Does cold thermogenesis on a nightly basis. After soaking in his Jacuzzi, he’ll spend about two minutes in his pool where the water temperature is in the high 40s to low 50s. He does this just before bedtime, which helps him “sleep like a baby.”

Maintaining Mobility Is Key for Healthy Aging

Maintaining your mobility is of paramount importance as you age. When you lose your ability to move around unaided, it’s all downhill from there. Tai Chi and Qigong can be particularly helpful if you’re elderly and cannot run around catching Frisbees. Mark also recommends collagen supplementation to keep your tendons, ligaments, cartilage and joints strong and supple. “It’s all the stuff that doesn’t have a blood supply that we don’t necessarily feed well,” he says.

“We don’t give the body the raw materials to rebuild from a stressful event. I’ve become the world’s biggest fan of collagen supplementation. I do 20 to 30 grams a day.” Bear in mind that many collagen supplements are sourced from animals raised in concentrated animal feeding operations, which raises the likelihood of it containing unwanted contaminants, so make sure the product you’re buying is certified organic and grass fed.

Like me, he’s also a proponent of exercising in a fasted state, but on days when he’s doing a strenuous weight-bearing workout, he will take a collagen supplement beforehand.

“What we’re trying to do when we’re fasted is to go into that workout promoting fat burning. The main thing we’re trying to do, especially if we’re doing a hard workout in the gym, is to increase human growth hormone and testosterone … That is what gets blunted by drinking a post-workout carbohydrate replenishment drink.

I do like to go into my workouts [fasted], and most of [the time] I don’t take the supplement beforehand. If I’m going to do a bike ride, I don’t need to do the supplement beforehand. If it’s a lifting workout or … a paddling workout where I’m really going to dig hard and stress my shoulders, I want to have those peptides there for reconstruction — not for energy.”

Healthy Lifestyle Basics

Oftentimes, some of the easiest, most basic lifestyle strategies are the most powerful. Two of Mark’s top tips include optimizing your vitamin D and intermittently fasting. Aside from drinking a cup of black coffee in the morning, Mark eats just two meals a day, between 1 and 7 p.m. “It’s uncanny how little food it takes to keep me thriving,” he says. “That’s been my biggest epiphany over the past five years.”

Indeed, most people simply eat too much, and too often, and an overriding reason for this is because they’ve lost the metabolic flexibility to efficiently burn fat for fuel, and are running on carbs all the time. Since carbohydrates burn much faster than fat, you have to continuously keep eating. As noted by Mark:

When you achieve this metabolic flexibility [of being able to burn fat for fuel], which is the end goal of any true beneficial eating strategy … you can extract energy from any substrate that’s available. It could be fat on your plate, it could be fat on your body. Could be carbohydrates on your plate, could by glycogen in your muscles. Could be glucose in your bloodstream. Could be ketones produced by your liver.

As a last resort, it could be amino acids because there’s nothing left, but you can combust those as well. When you become truly metabolically flexible, then your body has this increased ability to draw on, and never really run out of energy, and never really send a signal to the brain that says, ‘We must eat.’

The end result of this metabolic flexibility — which comes largely from restricting carbohydrates and training your body to become really good at burning fat — you get more energy throughout the day and you don’t get hungry … If I do get a little bit hungry, my snack would be handful of macadamia nuts, or 2 tablespoons of coconut butter. It takes the edge off and I’m ready to go, no problem.”

He also agrees with multiple day water fasting, which I now believe is one of the most profound metabolic interventions you can do to radically improve your health, as it allows your body to upregulate autophagy and mitophagy to remove damaged senescent cells in your body, including premalignant cells. It’s also an extremely effective way to shed excess weight and extend your life span.

More Information

To learn more, check out Mark’s blog on There you can also find his books, which include “The Primal Blueprint,” “The Primal Connection,” Primal Endurance” and “The 21-Day Total Body Transformation.” If you subscribe to his newsletter you get a free copy if his fitness e-book. His latest book, “The Keto Reset Diet,” is available on Amazon and

Mark also sells mayonnaise and salad dressings made with avocado oil, available on Amazon and “We’re the best-selling mayonnaise on Amazon,” he says. “It’s been a fun project, because our mission is to make healthy eating fun and exciting again. I feel like we’re achieving that.”

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Keep Your Health in Check With Cinnamon

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

There are some scents that remind us of the comforts of home and can soothe our bodies in the process. Case in point: the sweet and warm smell of cinnamon. This spice is derived from the stems of the cinnamomum tree. The inner bark is then extracted, and the woody parts are removed and left to dry. This results in the formation of strips that eventually curl into the cinnamon sticks known today.

These strips can also then be ground to form cinnamon powder.1 The spice is native to the Caribbean, South America and Southeast Asia.2 There are two known types of cinnamon: Ceylon cinnamon and cassia cinnamon. Also known as Cinnamomum verum, Ceylon cinnamon is considered to be “true cinnamon,”3 and is produced in Sri Lanka, India, Madagascar, Brazil and the Caribbean.

Cassia cinnamon or Cinnamomum aromaticum, on the other hand, is the variety that’s more commonly used nowadays4 because it is less expensive compared to the former.5 This type of cinnamon is grown in China, Vietnam and Indonesia. The first recorded use of cinnamon dates back to circa 2800 B.C. by Emperor Shen Nung, known as the Father of Chinese Medicine.6 Cinnamon was also utilized in ancient Egyptian society to mummify the dead.

This spice became highly prized,7 and since cinnamon was rare and valuable, it was regarded as a gift fit for kings.8 In medieval times, doctors used cinnamon to treat ailments such as coughs, sore throat and arthritis. Nowadays, cinnamon is ranked as the second most popular spice in the U.S. next to black pepper.9 Even more important, recent research has proven that cinnamon is loaded with nutrients that your body will greatly benefit from.

Choose Cinnamon for Its Amazing Health Benefits

There is more to this spice than its comforting smell. Cinnamon has high amounts of calcium, fiber and manganese, as well as antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral and antioxidant properties. It’s highly useful for:

Enhancing antioxidant defenses: Polyphenols in cinnamon10 can help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Exhibiting anti-inflammatory properties: Cinnamaldehyde, an oily compound responsible for cinnamon’s aroma and flavor,11 can help alleviate inflammation.12

A study revealed that cinnamon can target inflammatory pathways and assist in preventing neurodegenerative illnesses.13

Enhancing cognitive function: One study proved that the smell of cinnamon worked better than peppermint and jasmine in boosting cognitive function.

Study participants reported better scores on tasks that involved attentional processes, virtual recognition memory, working memory and visual-motor response speed after they smelled cinnamon or chewed cinnamon-flavored gum.14

Improving brain health: Two compounds in cinnamon, cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin, were shown to inhibit the aggregation of a protein called tau.

Tau plays a big role in the structure and function of neurons.

Although this protein is normal in cell structures, if tau accumulates, it can develop “neurofibrillary tangles,” a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.15

Cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin were proven to protect tau from oxidative damage that can lead to dysfunction.16

Supporting weight loss: Cinnamon was proven to be effective in regulating postprandial glucose response, or the amount of blood sugar found in your blood after a meal.17

Helping soothe sore throat and/or coughs: A water-soluble fiber called mucilage is created when you soak cinnamon sticks in water.

Mucilage then coats and soothes the throat when you drink this infusion. The antibacterial properties of the spice also help treat these ailments.

Increased blood flow and blood oxygen levels (that can assist in fighting infections) could also occur because of cinnamon’s warming properties.

Keeping cancer at bay: Cinnamaldehyde was proven to thwart colon cancer cells18 and may be effective versus human liver cancer cells.19

Preventing heart disease:20 Not only does cinnamon help stabilize HDL cholesterol levels, but it can reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well.

Alleviating ADHD symptoms:21,22 Research has shown that cinnamon was able to help enhance motivation and performance and reduce anxiety and frustration while driving.23

Further, the spice assists in counteracting oxidative stress’ effects that typically manifest in kids with ADHD.24

Helping diabetes patients: Cinnamon helps lower blood sugar levels, boost insulin sensitivity and slow down the emptying of the stomach to reduce sharp blood sugar rises after a meal.

Cinnamon was also proven to improve glycemic status, especially in the levels of fasting blood glucose among type 2 diabetes patients.25

The body’s glucose metabolism is also increased by about 20 times, helping enhance the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.

Lastly, cinnamon exhibited potential in becoming an insulin substitute for Type 2 diabetes patients because of the presence of a bioactive component with insulin-like effects.26

How Is Cinnamon Typically Used?

Most people know cinnamon because it’s a popular ingredient in pastry.27 Did you know, however, that cinnamon can be utilized for medicinal purposes as well? This spice is known to help in treating muscle spasms, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, appetite loss, erectile dysfunctions and colds,28 as well as help prevent ailments such as urinary tract infections, tooth decay and gum disease. Here are other brilliant ways to use cinnamon:

Athlete’s foot solution: Soaking your feet in cinnamon tea aids in killing athlete’s foot-causing fungus. Mother Earth Living suggests boiling water first and then adding a few cinnamon sticks after.

Once the mixture is ready, soak your feet in the warm water for a few minutes per night.29

Nausea relief: When ingested, cinnamon tea works well in helping relieve nausea because of the catechins in the spice. Boil 1 teaspoon of cinnamon bark in a cup of water for about 10 minutes, strain the liquid and drink.

However, if you’re pregnant, do not drink this mixture.30

Hair mask: If you want to help avoid hair loss and promote hair growth, a hair mask mixed with cinnamon can lessen your worries.

Start by warming half a cup of olive oil in a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of both cinnamon powder and honey, and stir. Work this mixture onto your scalp, leave on for 15 minutes and wash hair.

Make sure to consult your physician first before applying this hair mask, especially if you’re already treating this problem.31

Natural bronzer: Ditch the typical bronzers that are loaded with harsh chemicals — you can make your own with three ingredients only.

Combine cinnamon powder, cocoa powder and cornstarch until the color suits your skin. Simply add more cocoa powder if you want a darker hue or more cornstarch if you want a lighter shade.

Once you get the color you wanted, mix it with plain and unscented lotion and store in a clean jar with a lid.32

Massage or baths: Combine one-half teaspoon of ground cinnamon, one-half cup of almond or sesame oil and one-half teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Before using, shake the oil gently.33

Ant repellent: If ants have become a recurring problem in your home, sprinkle powdered cinnamon along the windowsills to help prevent these insects from coming in, as they have an aversion to cinnamon. Just be sure to replace the powder when it gets wet.34

Holiday home décor: Should you feel like your home needs extra decorating, especially during the holidays, you can use cinnamon sticks to make a wreath.

You will need about 80 to 120 cinnamon sticks and a wooden wreath ring from a local craft store. Using a hot glue gun, stick the cinnamon sticks onto the frame.

Finish off the wreath by attaching a seasonal ribbon or other embellishments.35

Grow Cinnamon in Your Garden

While cinnamon isn’t typically grown in home settings, it can be easy to grow. Cinnamon typically blooms during spring to summer. It grows best when the soil is kept slightly dry, since it allows the plant to thrive for years in a pot without special care. A well-drained and acidic potting mix works best. Cinnamon plants need full to partial sun, a minimum indoor temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and adequate protection from frost.36

Last but not the least, you will need cinnamon seeds. According to Laurelynn and Byron Martin, authors of the book “Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere,” Ceylon cinnamon can be grown from either seeds, vegetative cuttings or grafts, but it’s more difficult to propagate vegetatively than Cassia cinnamon.

Cinnamon plants, on some occasions, also produce seeds that can be picked and planted. Just make sure to get seeds when they’re ripe and black in color and plant them as soon as possible.37

To ensure proper growth, fertilize the plants either weekly or biweekly only during active growth in the late winter until fall. These plants stay as small as 3 feet if you prune them regularly, but you can allow them to reach up to 8 feet tall when you repot the plant over time into a 12- to 14-inch pot.38

To know when the plant has developed, check the leaves. Matured leaves often appear green or light green (when kept in high light). The cinnamon plant also allows the development of small white flowers, as well as purplish and black berries, although they are inedible.39

Delicious Cinnamon Recipes

Although the two cinnamon types look and smell almost the same, this does not guarantee that both will give you the full health benefits the spice has to offer.

As noted by Authority Nutrition, the commonly used Cassia cinnamon contains high amounts of a compound called coumarin. Large doses of coumarin could be harmful and may lead to a higher risk of liver damage,40 loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea or blurred vision, to name a few.41,42 You’re better off using Ceylon cinnamon. Studies have shown that this type of cinnamon has lower coumarin content.43 If you want to tell Ceylon cinnamon apart from Cassia cinnamon, take note of these pointers, especially if you want to buy the spice in stick form:44

Ceylon cinnamon Cassia cinnamon
More expensive, as the price may spike 10 times more than Cassia cinnamon Commonly available and very cheap
Tan brown color Reddish, dark brown color
Thin and paper-like textured bark that forms multiple layers when rolled up Uneven and thick bark that forms only a few layers when rolled up
Fragile and easily broken Tough, and difficult, if not impossible, to grind to a powder
Delicate and sweet scent with subtle notes of clove Pungent and full-bodied taste

To maintain the spice’s freshness and taste, store it in a glass container in a cool and dark place. Ground cinnamon will last about six months, while cinnamon sticks remain fresh for at least one year. You can also extend the shelf life by storing it in the refrigerator.45

You can use cinnamon to flavor sweet dishes such as this Healthy Carrot Cake Protein Ball Recipe and Dr. Mercola’s Breakfast Recipe. However, cinnamon can also enhance the taste of savory dishes. Examples include Almond Crusted Salmon with Steamed Broccoli and Sweet Potato Hash Brown Recipe, Flavorful Butternut Squash Breakfast Bowl Recipe and Healthy, Creamy Eggplant Moussaka Recipe. Feel free to sprinkle cinnamon on raw, grass-fed yogurt or kefir too, or add to hot water to make a potent but delicious tea.

Try Cinnamon Essential Oil Too

Apart from utilizing cinnamon in either stick or powdered form, you can also make use of cinnamon leaf oil or cinnamon essential oil. This is typically extracted from the leaves of the Ceylon cinnamon tree via steam distillation46 and can be used for the following purposes:47

Soap additive

Flavoring for seasonings

Ingredient in products such as creams, lotions or shampoos

Aromatherapy (try mixing 20 to 25 drops of this essential oil with one-fourth cup of almond or olive oil and place the finished blend in a glass container with a narrow opening)

Disinfectant to clean surfaces like kitchen counters, toilets and chopping boards, appliances such as microwaves and refrigerators and even sneakers

Odor eliminator by combining with a few drops of water

There are a variety of ways that you can benefit from cinnamon essential oil. If you’re feeling stressed or drowsy, or need an energy boost or pick-me-up, sniff this oil. You can also help soothe sore muscles and joints, or relieve pain from muscular aches, sprains, rheumatism and arthritis. The warm and antispasmodic capability of the oil is responsible for this feat.

This essential oil also has medicinal benefits. It aids in preventing viral infections such as coughs and colds from spreading and in fighting staph infection-causing bacteria and germs in the gallbladder. Respiratory conditions such as chest congestion and bronchitis can also be relieved using this essential oil, especially when diffused in a vaporizer or burner.

Lastly, cinnamon essential oil was found to help enhance your blood by helping remove impurities and improving blood circulation. This ensures that the body’s cells get enough oxygen,48 assists in promoting metabolic activity and helps lower risk for heart attacks.

Although food with ground cinnamon or cinnamon infusions can be consumed, the same cannot be said for cinnamon essential oil. Never take this oil internally. Instead, blend with a safe carrier oil, such as coconut, olive or almond oil, or other spice oils such as black pepper, cardamom clove and ginger oils and use topically only.

Before using this essential oil, consult your physician first and take a skin patch test to see if the oil triggers allergies. Generally, cinnamon essential oil is not advised for pregnant women, since it has emmenagogue effects that can cause menstruation. It is recommended that young children avoid using this essential oil too. Once you get the go signal to use cinnamon essential oil, always remember to properly dilute it and use in moderation. Convulsions may occur if you ingest high amounts of the oil. Cinnamon essential oil has also been linked to:

Skin irritation

Mouth sores




Irritation in the urinary tract, intestines and stomach lining (when taken internally)

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How Alcohol Damages Your DNA

Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal

By Dr. Mercola

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, just over 26 percent of people over 18 reported binge drinking in the previous 30 days of the study when it was performed in 2015.1 Another 7 percent reported heavy alcohol use. This is congruent with the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report showing that substance abuse in the U.S. is skyrocketing, including alcohol abuse.2

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol poisoning kills six people every day.3 These are deaths related to short-term consumption of toxic amounts of alcohol that leads to central nervous system depression and shutdown in critical areas of the brain controlling breathing, heart rate and body temperature, ultimately resulting in death.4 This statistic does not address other negative effects alcohol has on your health.

In addition to being a central nervous system depressant, alcohol is a carbohydrate lacking in real nutritional value. Nearly one-third of Americans are obese and according to the CDC, in 2014 there was no state in the U.S. with a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent.5

Although scientists have found associations between alcohol consumption and negative health conditions such as pancreatitis and stomach cancer, what has been missing is the precise nature in which alcohol damages your body. New research shows that as your body processes alcohol, a transient toxic compound is produced that attacks DNA.6

Alcohol Damages DNA and Increases Risk for Cancer

The research7 demonstrated the effect alcohol had on blood stem cells in mice. The researchers gave ethanol to mice and then used chromosome analysis and DNA sequencing to study genetic damage on the body by acetaldehyde, produced during the metabolic processing of alcohol.

The researchers from Cambridge University’s MRS Laboratory of Molecular Biology found a buildup of acetaldehyde happened when there is too much for the body to break down, or when mechanisms to reduce acetaldehyde function poorly.8

While previous research had pinpointed acetaldehyde as the culprit that caused DNA damage, those studies were performed on cell cultures and not on a living body. However, the evidence was strong enough to prompt the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify alcohol as a Group 1 carcinogen, their highest risk category.9 The researchers chose to study blood stem cells since they quickly replicate and readily spread genetic damage throughout the body.10 

Lead author Dr. Ketan Patel commented on the extent of the damage their data revealed, saying:11 “We saw huge amounts of DNA damage in these cells. Bits of DNA were deleted, bits were broken and we even saw parts of chromosomes being moved about and rearranged.”

The researchers found acetaldehyde breaks and damages DNA in blood cell stem cells, leading to rearranged chromosomes and permanently altering DNA sequences.12 This DNA damage increases your risk for seven types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer. Patel explained:13

“Some cancers develop due to DNA damage in stem cells. While some damage occurs by chance, our findings suggest that drinking alcohol can increase the risk of this damage.”

The study also examined the body’s ability to protect itself from acetaldehyde and identified a family of enzymes that break the compound down into acetate, which your cells can use for energy. However, millions of people, especially those of Southeast Asian descent, either don’t have these enzymes, or the enzymes are faulty.14 This increases their risk of acetaldehyde accumulation, triggering greater DNA damage and a flushed face.

A second line of defense is a repair mechanism that helps repair DNA. However, Patel has found this doesn’t always work, and some individuals carry mutations in the mechanism.15 Data has revealed the number of deaths related to alcohol consumption and cancer has increased 62 percent in 12 years, rising from 3.6 percent in 2003 to 5.8 percent of deaths worldwide in 2015.16 Patel went on to say:17

“Our study highlights that not being able to process alcohol effectively can lead to an even higher risk of alcohol-related DNA damage and therefore certain cancers. But it’s important to remember that alcohol clearance and DNA repair systems are not perfect and alcohol can still cause cancer in different ways, even in people whose defense mechanisms are intact.”

Factors That Influence Your Tolerance to Alcohol

There are several ways alcohol may influence your risk of developing cancer. The American Cancer Society warns just a few drinks each week can increase your risk of breast cancer.18 The risk is higher in women who have low folate levels. Alcohol affects your hormones and an increased estrogen level triggered by alcohol is linked to breast cancer. Hormone levels are also affected in men, which can lead to infertility.19

Alcohol’s effect on your body is influenced by your body weight, ratio of muscle to fat, and how much and what kind of food you’ve recently eaten. Alcohol is one of the more addictive substances, and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence estimates 1 in 12 Americans abuse alcohol or are dependent on the drug.20

Alcoholism is the third leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the U.S. and up to 40 percent of hospital beds are used to treat alcohol related conditions, with the exception of maternity and ICU beds.

Your pattern of consumption doesn’t appear to make a difference in the severity of your symptoms.21 Those who binge drink every week or two suffer some of the same conditions as those who drink daily. Dr. Alex Wodak, emeritus consultant at the Alcohol and Drug Service in Sydney Australia’s St. Vincent Hospital, describes the differences:22

“I’ve been in France early in morning and people, generally men, order a coffee and have a nip of brandy or whiskey, and they top up regularly during the day. They’re never intoxicated but there’s a formidable physical toll from all of that.

In the north of Europe, that kind of drinking style is very uncommon and what’s more common is for people to have two-thirds of a bottle of spirits once a week and they set fire to a soccer stadium or slash train seats or belt their wife up or someone in the street they don’t like the look of.”

Since alcohol is a carbohydrate, it not only damages your liver and raises levels of DNA-damaging acetaldehyde, but it also increases your risk of obesity. Health care costs tied to overconsumption of sugar account for at least one-third of health care costs spent each year in America.23 This equates to nearly $1 trillion each year. An increase in weight is linked to osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and gout, just to name a few.

Alcohol Affects More Than DNA

Alcohol triggers changes in more than your DNA, affecting nearly every cell and organ system in your body. In your brain, alcohol affects your limbic system that controls your emotions, which is why alcohol 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. Chronically, in as little as one month, you may experience:24,25,26

  • Increased liver stiffness, which increases your risk of liver cirrhosis.
  • Diminished memory formation due to ethanol buildup in the brain. This is why you may not remember what you did while you were drunk. Alcohol also causes your hippocampus to shrink, which affects memory and learning.
  • Systemic inflammation. Alcohol significantly increases five inflammatory markers.27 Studies have shown even a single binge causes a dramatic rise in inflammation. In other words, your body reacts to alcohol in the same way as it reacts to injury or infection.
  • Increased stress on your heart, raising your risk for cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and stroke. Blood alcohol levels spike two to three hours after your last drink, which means it may occur in the middle of the night during sleep. This raises your risk of accidental death due to choking on your own vomit and/or suffering cardiac failure or stroke while sleeping.
  • Significantly increased endotoxin levels. Alcohol causes gut damage, allowing bacteria to escape from your gut into your bloodstream. Regular consumption also leads to elevated endotoxin levels,28 suggesting “sensible” drinking limits likely need to be much lower than the current 14 to 21 units current recommended in the U.K.29 How low is still unclear.

Less Is Always Better

Alcohol is a known cancer risk factor that contributes to cancer deaths. In research published by the American Cancer Society, scientists analyzed cancer diagnosis and death data compiled from the CDC and National Cancer Institute. They found 42 percent of cancer diagnoses and 45 percent of cancer deaths could be attributed to preventable or modifiable risk factors.30 Those factors included smoking, excess weight, alcohol intake, low consumption of fruits, vegetables, fiber and calcium, and lack of physical activity.

The researchers analyzed over 1.5 million cases of cancer and over 600,000 cancer deaths to evaluate whether a link existed between these modifiable factors and cancer. They found that lung and colorectal cancers had the highest number of diagnoses and deaths that could be attributed to preventable factors.31

Cigarette smoking was responsible for the greatest number of cases of cancer diagnosed, while obesity and being overweight was responsible for the second greatest number. Although alcohol related cancers ranked third on the list, alcohol is a contributing factor to obesity.

A combination of two of these modifiable factors, smoking and alcohol intake, are also related to the development of visible age-related signs.32 While most people are concerned with external appearance, it’s important to remember that damage done to your skin by these toxins is likewise being done to your internal cells and organ systems.

If you currently are a drinker, it is vital to consider how this impacts your overall health and increases your risk for several different health conditions. Research suggests that reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake and raising your exercise level will help reduce your risk of cardiovascular 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 that research shows regular exercise can significantly lower your health care costs if you have heart disease. According to one study, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, five times per week, could result in annual health care savings of more than $2,500 per person.33

Exercise and Supplements May Reduce the Negative Effect on Your Body

Exercise is a foundational pillar to good health and may also help counteract inflammation in your body caused by alcohol.34,35 The data demonstrated those who got 2.5 hours of moderate activity a week reduced the biological impact of drinking, while those who got five hours or more of moderate activity experienced the same mortality as those who never drank.

Other research has demonstrated that long time drinkers who exercise regularly have less damage to white matter in their brains than those who exercise very little or not at all.36 Exercise may also reduce your risk of becoming dependent. Just like alcohol, exercise releases dopamine, a brain chemical associated with rewarding behaviors. Experiencing this feel good chemical may reduce your desire for alcohol and may help those who are dependent to lessen their cravings.37

Although this may help in the short run, alcohol impedes your desire for physical fitness and reduces your testosterone production, making it more difficult to build muscle. While I don’t recommend drinking, if you know you’ll be having a few drinks, using one of the following natural protocols prior to drinking may help minimize the damage to your body. However, this will not reduce your susceptibility to alcohol poisoning or other adverse events associated with binge drinking. So, please, use common sense and drink responsibly.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC): NAC is a form of the amino acid cysteine. Many of its benefits relate back to the fact that it helps boost production of glutathione, an important antioxidant your body produces naturally that helps reduce free radical damage and plays a role in the detoxification of heavy metals and other harmful substances. It also reduces acetaldehyde toxicity that causes many hangover symptoms.38

Try taking NAC (at least 200 milligrams) 30 minutes before you drink to help lessen the alcohol’s toxic effects. NAC is both safe and inexpensive, and has been commercially available for a long time. It’s also generally well-tolerated and has no known serious side effects.

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.

B vitamins: NAC is thought to work even better when combined with vitamin B1 (thiamine).39 Vitamin B6 may also help to lessen hangover symptoms. Since alcohol depletes B vitamin in your body, and 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.

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.40 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.

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.41

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.

Magnesium: Magnesium is another nutrient depleted by alcohol, and it’s one that many are already deficient in.42 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.

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Article Source: Health And Fitness Journal
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