Atrial fibrillation – How I went from a small graze to an ongoing heart problem

A few days before I left for my short holiday to Fiji, I tripped on uneven paving where I grazed my elbow, and twisted my knee. These slight injuries were annoying but not enough to alter my plans – or should they have been? I could never have guessed that a small ‘graze’ might lead to atrial fibrillation!

I went to a Pharmacy the next day to buy some larger ‘band-aids’ to cover my elbow but otherwise prepared for my trip as usual. My flight was a few days later and I travelled to the airport by public transport. My knee bothered me a little but not enough to need any help with my luggage – I used a walking pole for some extra support.

My arrival in Fiji was uneventful and I caught a boat to the ‘island’, which was to be my ‘paradise home’ for seven days. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that the warm tropical water inflamed the graze on my elbow so for most of the time I avoided exposing it to sea water. I could still paddle with my arm held above the water and I was rigorous about cleaning and re-dressing the graze. For this I had the advice of a (holidaying) medical practitioner and the first aid officer. There was little change in seven days – the graze became neither any worse nor any better.

Sunset from the verandah of my Bure at Barefoot Manta Island

The day after I left the island for home, I spent one day at Denarau. I went to the Pharmacy to get more ‘band aids’ but the pharmacist suggested that I should apply a cream to the graze. This seemed to be absorbed extremely rapidly and I later found out that this same cream has been previously associated with Atrial Fibrillation. But did the cream somehow cause my later problems or was it just the heat?

Within about 30 minutes of applying the cream, my arm was noticeably swollen and within a couple of hours I had obvious cellulitis, which became very severe (see Photo below). I went to the Fijian Emergency Medical Service where I was given antibiotics but possibly too low a dose?

In hospital with my arm, swollen and red with Cellulitis

The following morning, I had an early flight back to Sydney. I made it home and rested till the next day, when I had an appointment with my General Practitioner. My GP immediately referred me to the Emergency Department at the local hospital for intravenous antibiotics but when I arrived, they admitted me straight away because my pulse was extremely high, and my heart was in Atrial Fibrillation (AFib). So, I came home from hospital four days later, having become a ‘Cardiac Patient’. I had a Cardioversion operation but unfortunately, the normal rhythms didn’t remain, and I am now on heart medications for (probably) the long-term.

Incidentally, the IV antibiotics cleared the Cellulitis quite quickly and no one seemed the least bit interested in that!

As I knew nothing about AFib before my recent ‘adventure’, I thought I’d write a little about it. Apparently AFib is extremely common as we age and is a major cause of stroke.  

Atrial Fibrillation in an apparently healthy person

Diagnosing atrial fibrillation (AFib) in a healthy person can be challenging since AFib is typically associated with certain risk factors and medical conditions. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that can increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. It is more commonly observed in older individuals and those with underlying heart conditions or other risk factors. Infection can cause atrial fibrillation (AFib) through several mechanisms, though the exact reasons may vary depending on the type and severity of the infection. AFib triggered by infection is often referred to as “secondary” or (sometimes) “postoperative” AFib, as it may occur as a complication of an underlying infection or a surgical procedure. Some of the common ways infections can lead to AFib include:

  1. Inflammation and Electrical Disturbances: Infections can cause a significant inflammatory response in the body. The release of inflammatory substances can disrupt the normal electrical signals in the heart, leading to abnormal heart rhythms, including AFib.
  2. Autonomic Nervous System Imbalance: Infections can affect the autonomic nervous system, which controls the heart’s rate and rhythm. Imbalances in the autonomic nervous system due to infection may promote the development of AFib.
  3. Fluid and Electrolyte Imbalance: Severe infections, especially those affecting the respiratory system, can lead to dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes (e.g., potassium, magnesium). These imbalances can directly influence the heart’s electrical activity and contribute to AFib.
  4. Increased Sympathetic Nervous System Activity: Some infections can increase sympathetic nervous system activity, leading to an increased heart rate and potential arrhythmias, including AFib.
  5. Ischemia and Myocarditis: Certain infections can cause inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) or lead to reduced blood flow to the heart (ischemia). These conditions can disrupt the heart’s electrical conduction system, potentially leading to AFib.
  6. Medications and Treatment: Some medications used to treat infections, such as antibiotics and antivirals, can have side effects that affect the heart’s rhythm and increase the risk of AFib.

It’s essential to recognize that not all infections will cause AFib, and the risk of developing AFib due to an infection can vary among individuals based on their overall health, existing heart conditions, and other risk factors. Infections that are severe, widespread, or affect vital organs are more likely to increase the risk of AFib and unfortunately the AFib is likely to remain. In a healthy person without any known heart conditions or risk factors, diagnosing AFib may require detecting its presence during routine health checkups or through an incidental finding during an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) for another unrelated issue.

In my case, I am fairly sure I didn’t have AFib before this apparent infection. I say ‘apparent’ because I did not have a fever and the laboratory did not identify any infectious ‘agent’. Unfortunately there are no lifestyle modifications I can make other than giving up my glass of wine at night – and I’m not sure that I need to do that! As you probably know, I have written books about healthy ageing and cancer prevention, I don’t smoke, I have an excellent diet, I’m fairly relaxed, and I exercise regularly – so I guess I have to live with it (and the medicines) – although I would appreciate any realistic suggestions.


The Goldilocks concept of trace elements, healthy aging and dementia

The Goldilocks Trace element principle of Healthy Aging: not too much, not too little but just right!

Until relatively recently, Medicine has largely ignored trace elements and it has especially overlooked their importance in healthy aging. My recent search of the Medical Literature using the term ‘trace elements’, and ‘aging’ revealed that between 1951 and 1960 only 42 scientific papers were published on this subject while in contrast, 2,171 papers were published between 2013 and 2022. Nevertheless, many of the recent 2,171 papers discuss the lack of knowledge on this critical subject rather than contribute to the solution!

My own interest in trace elements and aging started when during my research for my book “Why We Age”, I started trying to make sense of the huge differences in the rates of deaths from specific causes between different 184 countries of the world as shown on the website world life expectancy.com https://worldlifeexpectancy.com. From my analyses I concluded that the relatively high content of Manganese in Maple Syrup might be protecting Canadians from Stroke (Canada has the world’s lowest rate of death from Stroke) and that the extraordinarily high regulation of plumbing, might be protecting Singaporeans from Copper in their water supply and hence from developing Alzheimer’s?

Let me say here that these associations of Manganese and Copper are supported by extensive medical literature and whilst probably correct, are not proven.

Metals in blood of nonagenarians and centenarians living in Sardinia

A study[i] undertaken in 2014 examined the levels of three metals Calcium, Iron and Magnesium and four trace elements Cobalt, Copper, Manganese and Selenium in the blood of 76 people aged about 90 (average 89 and range plus or minus 6.3 years), 64 centenarians (average age 100 plus of minus one year) and 24 people in their sixties. In both groups of older people, the levels of Calcium, Cobalt, Iron, Manganese and Iron had dropped significantly. Iron and Selenium were most affected by aging and the same results were found in both males and females. This implies that these minerals and trace elements are being used up by the aging process. Neither Magnesium nor Copper changed.

Do higher levels of some trace elements assist healthy aging?

A study that used a slightly different approach to the one above, drew attention to the same minerals and trace elements but examined the relationship with age-related diseases. Alis and his cohorts[ii][1] analyzed the blood levels of Chromium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium and Zinc in centenarians (men and women) who were free from major age-related diseases) and compared them with a group of younger elderly people. In this study the healthy centenarians had statistically significantly lower levels of Copper but much higher levels of Iron and Selenium than the controls. Their statistical analysis identified that having both lower levels of Copper and higher levels of Selenium were independent variables associated with healthy aging.

It is well known that we have several critical enzymes that are concerned with scavenging and control of cellular damage. These depend on having low, but critical levels of trace elements for their function. The three most important groups of enzymes are the Selenoproteins, the Superoxide Dismutases and the Glutathiones.

My own ‘little’ Selenium story!

(n.b. these are not MY gums!)

I only realized the critical importance of Selenium to healthy aging a couple of years ago. Like many people, I knew it was an essential micronutrient, but I assumed that I would have had sufficient in my normal diet. Nevertheless, I had suffered from inflamed gums from the time I was pregnant with my first child and even though I cleaned and flossed my teeth every day, the inflammation had persisted for over forty years.

Not related to my gums but after reading that many centenarians had higher intakes of Selenium than most people, I decided to find a Selenium-rich food and consume it regularly. I soon found that the richest source of Selenium is Brazil Nuts and so I started and continued to eat up to five Brazil Nuts every day (more could be excessive).

So, here’s the story: I went for a dental check-up a couple of days before starting the Brazil Nut snack and as usual had gum inflammation. The dentist decided that there were a couple of old fillings that needed replacing so I made an appointment for six weeks’ time. When I attended the second appointment, the dentist exclaimed at the improved state of my gums …the inflammation had gone!

Micronutrients, aging and dementia

There are many scientific publications that show that trace elements are disturbed in the brains of people with dementia. At this stage it isn’t clear that excesses of Copper, and some other elements cause dementia but it is clear that metal and chemical exposures are involved in some if not all cases. To avoid unplanned exposures, it is important to monitor air and water quality and filtering all drinking water is an easy way to reduce some of the risk.

Eating enough but not too much of foods that are rich in trace elements is important to healthy aging. Fortunately, you can get most of what you need from dark chocolate and Brazil nuts!


[i] Forte G et al (2014) Metals in plasma of nonagenarians and centenarians living in a key area of longevity. Exp Gerontol 2014.10.016: 197-206

[ii] [ii] Alis R et al (2016) Trace elements levels in centenarian ‘dodgers’ J. Trace Elem Med Biol. 35:103-106


Healthy Oleic Acid in Olive Oil and Sesame Oil

Olives & Olive Oil – Essentials of Mediterranean Diet

Olive oil is consumed in all Mediterranean diets but American researchers overlooked this critical food! Oleic acid in Olive oil slows the aging process by reducing inflammation.

Good research but bad result – Why?

A large number of people in many countries of the world have really poor health. Some of this has occurred because potentially good research results were misinterpreted!

In 1958 an American researcher called Ancel Keys commenced a huge research study called the ‘Seven Countries Study’. In this, Keys and his colleagues tried to identify the dietary nutrients that increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in most countries and a major underlying factor is inflammation. Key’s research team made one critical observation that people of the Mediterranean region had much lower rates of cardiovascular illnesses than Americans and Northern Europeans. Furthermore, many people lived beyond the age of 100.

The diet that promised to slow the aging process was named the ‘Mediterranean Diet‘. But here the good research ended. Many investigators have now shown that this early public health data was viewed through what I will call a ‘skewed lens’. Unfortunately, the researchers failed to look at all the evidence objectively.

Keys and his colleagues became obsessed with with cholesterol because their research found that in six countries, blood serum cholesterol levels correlated with the risk of heart attacks. Unfortunately, and against all scientific principles, the data from another 15 countries where this relationship was not so clear, were excluded! The researchers also failed to notice that people living in Mediterranean countries consumed rather large quantities of Olive Oil.

Is there a Mediterranean Diet? Which dietary factor do all Mediterranean Countries have in common?

In Italy, you always have a dipping saucer of Olive Oil

If you have travelled through many of the Mediterranean countries and even in the different regions of each country, you will know that the diets are quite variable. Each region has its own specialties. These are generally locally grown or readily available produce, especially the fruits, vegetables, fish, and meat. However, the one notable custom that all these regions have in common is their extensive use of Olive Oil.

Olive trees have been growing the region for thousands of years and since olive oil is very easily produced by mechanical processing of hand-picked olives, it is not surprising that the oil became a staple of the region. A Mediterranean Diet is typically rich in local, fresh produce (whatever that might be) with large lashings of Olive Oil!

Why is Olive Oil so good for you?

Good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) has many health benefits. EVOO that has been produced from ripe, undamaged healthy olives has high concentrations of:

  • Oleic acid (that greatly reduces age-related inflammation)
  • Squaline (that protects the heart)
  • Phytosterols and Polyphenols (that have many beneficial effects)
  • Vitamin E and βeta carotene
  • Magnesium
  • More than 100 ‘volatile’ compounds that are lost if the oil is heated.

Despite the loss of volatile compounds with heating, oil that is heated is still beneficial (though not as beneficial) because the most important component of EVOO is the high (55 to 83) % content of Oleic Acid.

Oleic acid is the most important component of all our cellular membranes and our ability to produce it through our metabolism, is greatly decreased with age.

Once we are over age 40, our ability to convert other fatty acids to Oleic acid greatly declines, and when we are over 60, this ability undergoes a further dramatic decline[1]. This decline is associated with increasing inflammation, which can be significantly decreased by consuming Oleic Acid[2].

Long-lived populations of people throughout the world

People who live in Sardinia, Ikaria and Okinawa are reported to be amongst the longest living and healthiest people on the planet. These regions are known as Blue Zones. The longevity probably has a great deal to do with their hard-working and simple (not modern) lifestyle but their intake of fresh local foods and quality oils is almost certainly critical. The Sardinians and Ikarians live in islands in the Mediterranean and have a diet that includes Olive Oil. However, the Okinawans, who live in an archipelago about 580 kms off the coast of Japan don’t eat Olive Oil. Instead, they consume a diet rich in Sesame Oil.

Sesame Oil has a composition that is reasonably like that of Olive Oil. Sesame Oil does not have as much Oleic Acid (average about 49% versus 69%) and more Linoleic Acid (35% versus 12.5%). It has similarly low amounts of the saturated fatty acids Palmitic (8.5% versus 10.4%) and Stearic acid (6.5% versus 2.8%). My own published research has shown why these two saturated fatty acids need to be low.

Is either Canola Oil or Safflower Oil a good substitute for Olive Oil?

Canola was originally grown in Canada (hence its name) to produce feed for dairy, livestock, and poultry. The oil was derived from the somewhat toxic Rapeseed by reducing the toxic element Erucic Acid.

Canola crops were introduced into the USA in 1988. Based on the fatty acid content alone, Canola Oil seems to be a reasonable alternative to Oleic and Sesame Oils. It has an average content of 61% Oleic Acid and 21% Linoleic Acid. However Canola Oil must undergoe a great deal of processing. It is never ‘fresh’ and published research shows that although it has several of the benefits of Olive Oil, EVOO is superior.

Safflower Oil on the other hand is not at all similar. It does contain about 12% Oleic acid but is about 80% Linoleic Acid, which is probably highly undesirable!

Buying high quality Olive Oil

When I was researching this topic, I was alarmed to find that there are many fraudulent practices relating to the production and supply of the world’s Olive Oil. Fortunately, both in Australia and in the USA, there are strict guidelines controlling the industry, so our locally manufactured Olive Oil is reliable. Nevertheless, it seems that quite a large proportion of the Oil labelled as Olive Oil produced elsewhere in the world, and including some coming from Europe, is not what it purports to be.

This is not a reason to avoid consuming Olive Oil but just a reminder to check the label on the bottle very carefully

How much Olive Oil should you consume each day?

No study has been undertaken to determine this but if you go to Italy you will find a dipping bowl of Olive Oil on the table at every meal. I think a good rule is to have at least one tablespoon of room temperature EVOO every day. My own preference is to pour it over my hot or cold vegetables each night. It is good to have this with some Balsamic Vinegar although I personally prefer a brewed Soy Sauce. The important message here is to eat your Olive Oil ‘raw’ so that you can the benefits of the volatile compounds as well as the Oleic Acid.

Daily EVOO will significantly reduce inflammation throughout your body!

[1] Bolton-Smith C et al (1997) Evidence for age-related differences in the fatty acid composition of human adipose tissue, independent of diet. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 51: 619-624

[2] Ford JH (2019) Why We Age – Solving the Puzzle of Aging. Published by Expert Genetic Services – available from this website https://drjudyford.com


Dark chocolate – Jeanne Calment’s secret of Longevity?

When I read that in her last years, Jeanne Calment, the oldest woman to ever live ate a kilogram of chocolate, or more, each week, I wondered whether eating chocolate is the secret of longevity? Jeanne also doused her food in olive oil as well as using olive oil on her skin and if you have read my books or heard my talks, you will know why consuming high quality olive (or sesame) oil daily is critical for healthy ageing.

Is chocolate healthy? How much should we eat?

In 2009, a Swedish study assessed death from heart attacks in a particularly high-risk group of people. These were all nondiabetics who had been hospitalized with a first heart attack who volunteered to keep a food diary for the next five to ten years. The results surprised the researchers who found that after an average of 8.5 years, the patients who reported eating chocolate twice or more per week were 66% less likely to suffer a cardiac death compared to those who reported never eating chocolate. These results were adjusted for possible differences in demographic and socioeconomic variables, consumption of coffee and confectionary and there was a strong inverse relationship between chocolate consumption and death from heart attacks. These researchers did find, however, that total mortality was not associated with chocolate consumption!

So why is eating chocolate so good for you?

There could be several reasons. One might be the high content of ‘phenolics’ but the other might be that chocolate is rich in iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, zinc and selenium, most of which are needed for the function of several of our key ‘defence’ ‘superoxide dismutase enzymes.

One 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains:
  • 11 grams of fibre
  • 67% of the RDI for iron
  • 58% of the RDI for magnesium
  • 89% of the RDI for copper
  • 98% of the RDI for manganese
  • It also has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium

The fatty acid profile of cocoa and dark chocolate is also excellent. The fats are mostly saturated and monounsaturated, with small amounts of polyunsaturated fat.

In addition to these easily identified elements, Cocoa contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. There are a range of organic compounds called flavonoids that include sub-types called catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins. Each of these have been shown to play important roles as antioxidants. The complex tricyclic (3 carbon ring) structure of the flavonoids determines antioxidant effects that scavenge reactive oxygen species. They also bind the iron and copper ions Fe2+ and Cu+, inhibit several enzymes, and upregulate antioxidant defences.

Cocoa is the richest known source of a chemical called Epicatechin, which is also found in Green Tea.

Epicatechin benefits: To date there have been several studies on the benefits of Epicatechin but there need to be more studies undertaken. To date, the benefits have been listed as:

  • It enhances muscle growth and strength naturally
  • Because it Increases nitric oxide production, it improves vascular function including blood flow
  • It improves insulin sensitivity, regulates blood sugar levels and stimulates muscle protein synthesis
  • Through Its natural antioxidant properties, it reduces cholesterol
  • It improves both brain and heart health

Other beneficial cardiovascular effects of chocolate are mediated through the anti-inflammatory effects of various cocoa polyphenols. These antioxidant effects of cocoa may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes.

In addition, cocoa consumption may stimulate changes in various pathways involved in gene expression and the immune response. Cocoa also protects nerves from injury and inflammation.

Possibly even more importantly than its wonderful physiological effects, there are several studies that show that dark chocolate can improve our brain function as well as making us feel happier!

How much should we eat?

While the research supports that dark chocolate, especially 85% and higher has many beneficial health effects, I would suggest that you wait till you are over 100 before you consume a kilogram a week! Nevertheless, it is clear that a few pieces of dark chocolate is a very healthy snack and besides the fact that I love it, it’s the reason I have some every day!


Vitamin D Deficiency – A Modern World Epidemic with Huge Consequences

Nature intended that enough Vitamin D is produced by exposure of skin to sunlight

Vitamin D is critical to good health

Many of us know that our bodies can make Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight and in a previous blog, I discussed how human migration has been a major factor in our current epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency.

Here, I’m going to discuss some of the critical roles of Vitamin D and why we should all make sure that we are making or taking enough.

What is enough Vitamin D?

Oops! Unfortunately, the answer to this question is that no-one knows that answer!

In a recent publication called ‘Trends in Vitamin D Status around the World’[1] the authors noted that although guidelines for Vitamin D levels have been published by the Institute of Medicine, the Endocrine Society, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Calcified Tissue Society, there was no consensus between these august bodies on what constitutes Vitamin D deficiency.

Moreover, a recent publication[2] entitled ‘The big Vitamin D mistake’ refers to two other major findings: (a) There has been a major statistical error in the calculation of the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin D and that 8895 IU/day are needed for 97.5% of individuals to achieve values of more than or equal to 50 nmol/L. (b) Levels of less than 75 nmol/L (which are commonly regarded as above average) may be too low for safety and may be associated with high ‘all cause’ mortality! The new suggested target Vitamin D level for optimal health is given as 100 nmol/L

Dietary Sources

Unfortunately, there are few foods that contain much Vitamin D. Significant amounts are only present in fatty fish (especially wild fish) and fish liver oils. There are small amounts in beef liver, some cheeses and egg yolks. Some foods are fortified with Vitamin D to attempt to counteract this.

Vitamin D Deficiency, Illness and Mortality

Vitamin D plays critical roles in almost every one of our organs, including our SKIN and our BRAINS.

SKIN: Vitamin D deficiency is associated with many inflammatory skin diseases and this big topic is discussed in detail in an article titled ‘Vitamin D and the Pathophysiology of Inflammatory Skin Diseases’[3]. This article explains the very important functions that Vitamin D plays in the skin, and I recommend that anyone with skin problems downloads it and shows it to their doctor!

BRAINS: In our brains, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with depression and brain cancer.

HEART AND BLOOD VESSELS: In our cardiovascular system, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with strokes and ANY heart disease!

IMMUNE CELLS: Our immune function is highly dependent on Vitamin D and Vitamin D deficiency is thought to be the cause of many if not all the now commonly diagnosed autoimmune diseases. The strongest evidence is for Multiple Sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes!

Although not an autoimmune disease, Type 2 Diabetes is also associated with lowered levels of Vitamin D.

CANCER: Almost all CANCERS are associated with Vitamin D deficiency, but the evidence is strongest for BREAST CANCER, OVARIAN CANCER, COLON CANCER, PROSTATE CANCER, PANCREATIC CANCER and as mentioned earlier brain cancer.

Vitamin D deficiency is also very strongly associated with INFECTIOUS DISEASES, especially COVID 19!

MUSCLES & BONE: Finally, there is a strong association between low Vitamin D and loss of muscle strength but only a slight relationship with bone health – which is the major reason Vitamin D is given as a supplement! For bone health, Vitamin D is only proven to have an effect when it is taken in conjunction with Calcium.

Indoors, Covering-up, Sunscreens and

Vitamin D deficiency

For us to synthesize our own Vitamin D, our skin needs to be exposed to sunshine! This should be very easy in countries with sufficient sunshine but modern ‘indoor lifestyles’, shift work, religious rituals of covering up and over-zealous protection against sunburn with the goal of preventing skin cancer – have all contributed to Vitamin D deficiency.

Most sunscreens still allow enough exposure to sunlight for us to produce Vitamin D, but it is important to allow yourself enough but not too much exposure to sunlight. For most of us it might be easier to either focus on eating more fatty fish, sipping cod liver oil (ugh) or taking a Vitamin D supplement.

[1] Lips P, de Jongh RT, van Schoor NM 2021: Trends in Vitamin D Status around the world JBMR Plus (Special Issue) 1-6

[2] Papadimitriou DT 2017: The Big Vitamin D Mistake, J of Preventative Medicine & Public Health. 50:278-281

[3] Umar M et al (2018) Vitamin D and the Pathophysiology of inflammatory skin diseases. Skin Pharmacology & Physiology 31: 74-86


Seven reasons why the world still hasn’t beaten COVID-19

The poor of the world have no chance to escape the ravages of a pandemic

1. Human factor 1: Vaccines have been given as a priority in wealthy countries when spread is likely to be greatest amongst the poor

It is well recognized that the world does not treat its inhabitants equally. There are of course many different factors underlying this including wars and corruption not to mention uncontrollable factors like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods. Nevertheless, it should be obvious to everyone that the poorest and most destitute people have the most squalid living conditions, the smallest personal space, inadequate nutrition and the most liklihood of contracting and passing on an infectious disease.

Crowding itself is a major risk factor so we should always expect that a new virus (one to which the population doesn’t already have high levels of immunity) will both INFECT more people and as a result, MUTATE faster in crowded living spaces than in regions with more dispersed populations.

Crowding is usually associated with poor living conditions and each independently and especially the two together ensure that diseases will spread rapidly. In the case of viruses, where the ‘virus’s life’ depends on spreading to a host, there will be both high rates of infection and viral evolution.

2. Human Factor 2: Vaccines have been given as a priority to the old first instead of the young
Our incorrect strategies are allowing the virus to ‘play’ with world health

There is no doubt that older people usually have less robust immune systems than younger people. This is a natural side-effect of the ageing process itself[1] but older people are also far less mobile and, generally have personal habits that are far more restrained than those of younger people!

Vaccines have not been given to children in the first instance because of fears about vaccine safety but children are usually avid spreaders of viruses and recently published medical journal articles have shown that Covid 19 is NOT an exception. Yet, here in Sydney, most adults are doubly vaccinated and constantly masked while the children are free to run around ready to SPREAD any new form of the virus!

Children generally do NOT know how to wash their hands effectively and have no sense of ‘personal space’ and yet, governments have decided to prioritize immunization to those 70 year and older!

3. Human factor 3: ‘Unequal manufacturing advantage’ by giant pharmaceutical companies.

There are many other anti-Covid vaccines that have been developed by reputable scientific laboratories that the pharmaceutical ‘cartels’ (often government regulated) have excluded from the ‘marketplace’. We have no way of knowing what the possibilities may have been had appropriate competition been allowed.

4. Human factor 4: People who have access to vaccines are not necessarily adopting them.

Some of the people who have chosen not to be vaccinated are the so-called ‘anti-vaxxers’, but some people who are not usually averse to vaccination have been seriously concerned by the huge publicity given to very rare but serious reactions to vaccines. It is of course possible that the people who reacted to the vaccines might have had extremely adverse reactions to the virus itself should they have been infected but this area of news-reporting has tended to be unbalanced and irresponsible. Some journalists (and even some politicians) urgently need to attend a course in basic statistics!

Vaccination is the proven way to prevent (most) pandemics
5. Virus factor 1: The mutations (changes) that occur in the COVID-19 RNA immediately affect their host.

Unlike flu virus that needs to translate another strand of RNA to have impact on the host, COVID-19 infects with its ‘sense’ strand. This is a bit complicated, but this is a characteristic that makes COVID-19 extremely infectious. The common cold virus also works in this way.

6. Virus factor 2: Mutations are random and can’t be predicted and many can occur simultaneously. A virus has no plan, and its apparently random behavior defeats our planned attacks.

When we fight viruses, we are essentially fighting a war where we can’t predict the enemy’s movements with any confidence. This is especially true of COVID-19, which when compared to influenza (for example) is a very big virus. This means it has many more ‘genes’ that it can mutate, and these can’t all be anticipated by the scientists who are designing vaccines.

For now, the vaccines seem to be coping quite well with the mutations, but time will tell whether we can ever control this virus.

7. Virus factor 3: A virus can only survive in another’s animal or human’s body but until we control the human factors, the virus will continue to infect and evolve. We must have world-wide unified response or the virus will WIN!

Because a virus relies on the host’s genes for its replication and metabolism, it cannot function outside a host organism. It some senses they can be regarded as non-living however outside a person, animal or plant’s body, the viral genetic material is wrapped up as an independent particle called a ‘virion’. These can remain independently in the environment for variable periods of time: for several days indoors on several surfaces, including skin but they die almost immediately when exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, respirator and surgical masks, which are both porous are associated with some of the longest survival times! However, cleaning most surfaces with soap or detergent will control the spread.

Most of the world is reacting to the latest cases of the OMRICON COVID variant by shutting their borders for at least one or two weeks but if we want to win this war, we need to vaccinate the world’s poorest people, especially including young people and children as soon as possible. I would also like to see the results of testing of several of the other vaccines that have thus far been suppressed by unfair trade practices.

[1] ‘Why We Age’, J.H. Ford (2019) – available from geneslifestyle.com or Amazon


Vitamin D Deficiency: A Major Health Side effect of Human Migration

More than just bones!

pile of human skulls
Photo by Felipe Hueb on Pexels.com

Vitamin D may be our most important ‘vitamin’. Although it has long been known that Vitamin D plays a critical role in the body’s ability to absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus, which are both critical for the formation of bone, recent research has now revealed that Vitamin D plays critical roles in the control of infections, in mental health and in the reduction or perhaps prevention of cancer.

I personally became aware of the probable role of Vitamin D in mental health when I noticed that several of our darker-skinned Indian students were becoming seriously depressed during South Australian winters. When I discovered this, I suggested that they took some Vitamin D rather than the anti-depressive drugs they had been prescribed but I didn’t realize then that Vitamin D deficiency might be associated with major depressive and anxiety disorders.

People migrating

Major increase in worldwide Vitamin D deficiency caused by modern lifestyles and migration

Vitamin D deficiency is present in millions of people throughout the world. Some of this is due to changes in lifestyle where people spend a great deal more time indoors than they ever did before. This overall alteration in behavior has many causes that include loss of traditional types of work, innovation, and mechanization of transport such that walking is less of a necessity, modifications in buildings that encourage more time to be spent indoors and general loss of traditional lifestyles


Under our most natural environments, that is living in the region of the world where our ancestors evolved, our skin color should be adapted to allow it to synthesize adequate amounts of Vitamin D, when it is exposed to sunlight. Those of us whose ancestors lived far away from the equator generally have pale skin with low amounts of the pigment melanin whilst those who evolved to live near the equator have much darker skin, with higher concentrations of melanin.

One apparent exception to this is the Eskimos or Inuits. This race of people initially originated in Asia from where they migrated. In their new home Alaska in the frozen north, they adopted a diet of raw fish and sea animals, the meat of which is exceptionally high in Vitamin D. Their practice of eating the food raw also insured that they had sufficient intake of Vitamin C.

Skin Cancer

White skinned people moving to latitudes with higher amounts of sunshine, can do well in terms of producing Vitamin D in the sun but there is a significant trade-off in the form of sunburn and skin cancer. The good news is that the studies that have been undertaken on sunscreens to date do NOT show that wearing sunscreens prevents our skin from manufacturing Vitamin D. However – be cautious – studies have not yet been undertaken on the sunscreens offering very high levels of protection!

People with black skin can still develop Melanoma but not too surprisingly, white-skinned people are 25 times more likely to suffer from it. But Melanoma is relatively rare compared to other types of Skin Cancer of which there are well in excess of a million diagnoses each year worldwide, mostly in people with lighter skin.

Dark-skinned people living in countries with less sunlight

‘Pre-vitamin D’ or its full name 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) is a chemical that has been conserved through animal evolution. It is produced as part of the synthesis of cholesterol and with the help of sunlight it is converted to Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in the skin. Vitamin D should probably be regarded as a pro-hormone rather than a ‘vitamin’ because of its diverse biological roles and its evolutionary role in insect metamorphosis.

Vitamin D synthesis is highly influenced by the concentration of melanin in the skin. Melanin actually absorbs and then scatters the Ultra Violet (UV) ‘B’ rays and the this results in far less efficient conversion of pre-vitamin D to D3. Consequently, dark-skinned people synthesize vitamin D far more slowly than lighter-skinned people and need more time in the sun to produce equivalent amounts of this critical vitamin.

Ageing reduces Vitamin D production

Thin aged skin and joint deformity – common signs of aging

Not surprisingly, clothing inhibits the production of Vitamin D in the same way that it protects against sunburn but what is not so well known is that ageing also decreases our ability to produce Vitamin D. Aging affects the production in two ways. It both reduces the synthesis through the skin in sunlight by about half and then there is probably a further decline in the renal production of the active hormone! So, as you age, you either need to spend a lot more time in the sun making your Vitamin D or you need to eat Vitamin D rich foods or take a supplement.

If you have sufficient intake of Vitamin D, you can expect to have stronger bones, heightened immunity, less risk of cancer as well as feeling much happier. But this might not be all the advantages? The fact that almost all cells in our bodies have what are called Vitamin D ‘receptors’. This means that Vitamin D plays at least some role in all our cells!

You might also enjoy watching my YouTube video for some more information about Vitamin D: Vitamin D and 14 health benefits


Can eating Seaweed prevent Breast Cancer?

asia carrot chopsticks delicious

In Japan, seaweed is a common dietary component which gives Japanese adults an average daily intake of 5280 micrograms (µg) of Iodine each day. This is very different to the rest of the world where the average intake of Iodine is only about 209 µg/day. Now there are obviously other dietary differences between traditional Japanese people and the rest of the world, not to mention many lifestyle and cultural differences, but could eating seaweed, and in particular consuming relatively high amounts of Iodine, be an important protective factor against breast cancer?

You can see in the following figure whose data has been taken from a collaborative study between Australian and Japanese researchers, published in 2020[i] that although the rate of breast cancer has increased dramatically in both countries between 2006 and 2015, that the age-specific rates are approximately double in Australia when compared with Japan.

Breast Cancer rates in Japan & Australia in 2006 and 2015

It’s likely that you know about the importance of Iodine to the health of the Thyroid gland. You might even be aware of the pioneering work in public health performed by the Australian Dr Basil Hetzel (1922-2017), who improved thyroid health worldwide through the addition of Iodine to household salt. I was lucky enough to know Basil as a colleague and friend and I’m sure he would have been extremely excited to know that Iodine’s critical roles are not just limited to the thyroid but that it also has important roles outside the thyroid gland as an ANTIOXIDANT, DIFFERENTIATION FACTOR AND IMMUNE MODULATOR [ii]  However, there is a major difference in the chemical form of Iodine that is critical to thyroid function with that in cancer prevention: The thyroid gland uses ‘Iodide’ salts whereas cancer suppression occurs with ‘elemental Iodine’. In fact, elemental Iodine probably plays a preventative role against all cancers, but few have been studied. Nevertheless, there are several well-controlled scientific studies that demonstrate Iodine’s role in controlling breast cancer.

The studies on Iodine and cancer prevention are mostly very new and it will probably be a long time, if ever, before we see Iodine being recommended as a ‘cancer cure’. Furthermore, there is other strong evidence that Iodine itself is not enough! For example, in a well-designed ‘prospective’ Italian study, the researchers found that Iodine intake alone did not reduce breast cancer risk and that Iodine needed to be combined with adequate Selenium to be effective. Indeed, women who had intakes of each of Iodine and Selenium that were above average, reduced their breast cancer risk by at least 25%. This supports an hypothesis linking Iodine and Selenium to cancer prevention that was first proposed in 2000[iii].

The study result fits with the protection offered against breast cancer by dietary seaweed because seaweed is high in both Iodine and Selenium, and it also fits what is known about the biochemistry of Iodine in the breast in that it requires the activity of Selenium-dependent enzymes for its function. Selenium is indeed a very important trace element that is essential to the function of several of our critical ‘defense enzymes’ in most cells. But – a WARNING – it must always be remembered that Selenium is a ‘trace element’ and too much is as bad as or worse than too little! 

Another nutrient that is strongly associated with breast cancer is Vitamin D. Almost all studies show that higher levels of Vitamin D confer a lower risk of breast cancer and you’ve probably guessed that seaweed is a nutritional source of Vitamin D – although you probably need more than you will consume in your seaweed! You can synthesize your own Vitamin D very effectively from sunshine (when your skin is exposed to it) but nowadays because of the number of hours most of us spend indoors together with our use of sunscreen and clothing to protect ourselves against skin cancer, most of us are deficient in Vitamin D (for some or all the year). Having a dietary source of Vitamin D or taking a supplement is thus often necessary.

How does Vitamin D intake fit with Iodine and Selenium? Well, without going into the details there is plenty of biochemical evidence to show that Vitamin D plays a role in ‘up-regulating’ the Selenium-dependent enzymes that are involved in many defense and scavenging activities in our cells. So, although there is some Vitamin D in seaweed, sufficient Vitamin D is important to in addition to the protection offered by Iodine and Selenium.


Take-home message! Either eat seaweed on a regular basis or find other reliable sources of Iodine and Selenium and make sure your intake of Vitamin D is sufficient. I strongly suggest that if you are intending to eat seaweed on a regular basis that you research your seaweeds carefully. Different seaweeds contain very different amounts of Iodine and Selenium and you do want to make sure you have the ‘goldilocks’ amounts – not too little and just as importantly not too much!

[i] Mizukoshi MM et al (2020) Comparative analyses of breast cancer incidence rates between Australia and Japan. Asian Pacific J of Cancer Prevention 7: 2123-2129

[ii] Acerves C et al (2021) Molecular Iodine has extrathyroidal effects as an Antioxidant, Differentiator and Immunomodulator. Intl J of Molecular Sciences 22: 1228-1243

[iii] Cann SA et al (2000) Hypothesis: iodine, selenium and the development of breast cancer. Cancer Causes Control 11: 121-127


Our genes and our diet

Vegetarian, omnivore, carnivore, pescatarian – which is the correct diet and what does logic, our genes and our anatomy tell us?

Suppose you came across an object you’d never seen before, and you wanted to work out its purpose? What would you do? I think most people would look at its general construction and ask questions such as:

  • How is this object constructed and of what materials?
  • What are its major parts?
  • What are its most likely functions?
  • Where in the world did it originate? If its location is/has been changed, does it need or has it needed some special adaptations to adapt to its new location?

If we applied these questions to ourselves, we might more readily understand how to differentiate between the accurate and vastly inaccurate so-called ‘health information’ that is readily available today. Clearly this is an enormous topic so to start I just want to focus on the most basic elements of diet and on the role of the head. I will address many specific sub-topics in the coming weeks.

Today’s question: What can we learn about our diet from our heads?

The construct of the HEAD

ONE HEAD has the five major organs brain, ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. The most notable moving parts are the eyes, which allow us to see food and the jaw which allows us to bite and chew food.

Each organ of our entire body, and the head is no exception, is composed of nerve, blood, bone, and skin cells (of which some are external and some internal). There are also specialized structures in the mouth called teeth, which are composed of enamel and unlike bone, do not contain living (potentially replacement) cells as bone does. The mouth also contains another specialized muscular organ, the tongue, that is vital for taste, chewing and swallowing as well as creating sounds, especially speech.

From an evolutionary perspective, almost every part of the head has played an essential role in nutrition. The eyes, ears and nose have allowed us to detect the presence of potential food and after we hunted or gathered our tasty morsels, our tongue and teeth then allowed us to eat it. However, since relatively few of us have been involved in food gathering and/or production for some generations, our teeth may be our foremost guide to the foods that best suit us today.

Our incisors (eight – four in the upper and four in the lower jaw) are in the middle of the front of our mouths and each has a flat edge that is adapted for shearing and cutting food. Being in such a prominent position, this may be the most important function.

Our canines or cuspids (four – one on the jaw side of each pair of incisors) have a sharp edge and are for tearing food.

Our pre-molars (eight – two pairs in the upper and lower jaw on each side) have flat surfaces with ridges for crushing and grinding food into smaller pieces to make it easier to swallow.

Our molars (twelve – three pairs, upper and lower on each side of the jaw) have a large surface that helps them to grind food.

What our HEADS would lead us to conclude about our diet?

It’s not necessarily logical to conclude that because we have such a high proportion of our teeth adapted for crushing and grinding food that crushing and grinding should be our primary dental activity. Nevertheless, I think that the very large number of grinding teeth attests to the fact that some types of plant-based diet has been consumed by humans over most if not all their ancestry. Furthermore, the high proportion of this type of tooth strongly supports this ancestry and plants should form a major proportion of our diets.

Nevertheless, the presence of canine teeth, which are in a very prominent position strongly suggest that cutting and tearing teeth are still required by humans and that foods, such as animal flesh that require cutting and tearing should also be part of our healthy diets.

Chimpanzee and Human Diets

Our DNA is only 1.2% dissimilar to the Chimpanzee and it’s logical to think that our dietary adaptations might be similar. Chimpanzee in the wild have a diet that is mostly vegetable/fruit and not surprisingly always those that are in season! They are now known to dig up small crustaceans from mud, to eat insects and to hunt and kill smaller monkeys, whose flesh they eat. So, meat forms only about 3% of their diet in the wild and is eaten on only about 9 days each year.

Taken together these facts suggest that humans have evolved to eat some meat and crustaceans but mostly a diet of fruit and vegetables. However, these facts don’t tell us which dietary proportions are optimal and in the coming blogs we are going to move past the head to try to piece the facts together!

So, till next time ……….

My (super-healthy) daily afternoon snack of Brazil Nuts and Dark Chocolate

If you, like me, get ‘peckish’ in the middle of the afternoon and have the urge to have a snack, then a really healthy snack you could choose is my regular: ‘Brazil Nuts and Dark Chocolate’.

I’m not suggesting that you eat too much but about three Brazil Nuts (depending on their size) and two or three squares of chocolate should be about the right amount. Each of these snacks is highly nutritious and should benefit both your health and longevity.

So, why eat Brazil Nuts? Well, here are several health benefits from eating these nutrient-rich nuts -they are

  1. High in Selenium: Brazil nuts are one of the best natural sources of selenium, a mineral that acts as a powerful antioxidant. Selenium supports immune function, helps regulate thyroid hormones, and plays a role in DNA synthesis. Just a few Brazil nuts can provide your daily recommended intake of selenium which plays a critical role in healthy aging and the prevention of age-related diseases (e.g. Bjorklund et al., 2022).
  2. Antioxidant activity: Brazil nuts contain antioxidants like vitamin E, which help protect our cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Antioxidants play a crucial role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
  3. Heart health: The healthy fats found in Brazil nuts, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can help reduce bad cholesterol levels (LDL cholesterol) while increasing good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). This balance is important for maintaining heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  4. Brain function: Brazil nuts are a good source of essential nutrients for brain health, such as vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium. These nutrients contribute to cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health.
  5. Rich in minerals: Besides selenium, Brazil nuts are also a good source of other minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc. These minerals are essential for various bodily functions, including bone health, energy production, and immune system support.
  6. Thyroid function: As discussed in reference 1, Selenium is also crucial for thyroid health. It helps regulate thyroid hormone production and metabolism. Adequate selenium intake from foods like Brazil nuts may help maintain optimal thyroid function.
  7. Anti-inflammatory properties: As well as Selenium (which is also anti-inflammatory), Brazil nuts contain various other anti-inflammatory compounds including polyphenols. Polyphenols help reduce inflammation that is associated with chronic diseases like arthritis, heart disease, and certain cancers.
  8. Sufficient intake of Selenium is important however it is one of the nutrients known as ‘trace elements’ and while each of these elements are all critical to our survival, TOO MUCH is toxic and is as dangerous as too little.

Excessive selenium intake can be harmful. So, generally, it is recommended to limit your Brazil nut consumption to a few nuts per day to maintain a healthy balance.

Will it benefit us to add dark chocolate to our Brazil nut snack?

Yes, yes, yes! The great news is that this delicious treat can benefit our health!

Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation and in its purest form, provides a range of health benefits. The reference (below) suggests that some healthy additives might make it even more nutritious!

Here are some of the health benefits associated with dark chocolate:

  1. Rich in antioxidants: Dark chocolate contains high levels of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids and polyphenols. These antioxidants help neutralize free radicals in the body, reducing oxidative stress and protecting cells from damage. The higher the cocoa content, the greater the antioxidant content.
  2. Heart health: Several studies have suggested that consuming dark chocolate in moderation may have a positive impact on heart health. The flavonoids in dark chocolate can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL cholesterol oxidation, and promote the health of blood vessels. These effects contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease.
  3. Mood enhancement: Dark chocolate contains compounds that can improve mood and promote a sense of well-being. It stimulates the release of endorphins, the brain’s natural “feel-good” chemicals, and contains small amounts of theobromine and caffeine, which can provide a mild stimulant effect.
  4. Cognitive function: The flavonoids and antioxidants in dark chocolate may have positive effects on brain health and cognitive function. Research suggests that regular consumption of dark chocolate may improve blood flow to the brain, enhance memory and attention, and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
  5. Reduced inflammation: Dark chocolate has anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its high flavonoid content. By reducing inflammation in the body, dark chocolate may help lower the risk of chronic diseases associated with inflammation, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
  6. Nutrient-rich: Dark chocolate is a good source of various minerals, including iron, magnesium, copper*, and manganese*. These minerals play essential roles in numerous bodily functions, including energy production, bone health, and immune system function.

Like Selenium, Copper and Manganese are also “trace elements” so again, we should enjoy our daily chocolate but moderate our intake!

  1. Skin health: The antioxidants in dark chocolate can help protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and UV radiation. Additionally, some studies suggest that regular consumption of dark chocolate may improve skin hydration, thickness, and overall appearance.

It’s important to note that these benefits are primarily associated with dark chocolate with a high cocoa content (70% or higher) and minimal added sugar. Milk chocolate and other chocolate products with lower cocoa content and higher sugar content may not provide many (or any) health benefits.

Moderation in intake is key, as dark chocolate is still high in calories and trace elements and so should be consumed as part of a balanced diet.

General comments:

I have only chosen two recent References from the medico-scientific literature but please note that there are hundreds of references on this topic and these were chosen for their relevance to this blog:


Selenium: An Antioxidant with a Critical Role in Anti-Aging

Geir Bjørklund,1,* Mariia Shanaida,2 Roman Lysiuk,3,4 Halyna Antonyak,5 Ivan Klishch,2 Volodymyr Shanaida,6 and Massimiliano Peana7

Molecules. 2022 Oct; 27(19): 6613.

Published online 2022 Oct 5. doi: 10.3390/molecules27196613

Dark chocolate: An overview of its biological activity, processing, and fortification approaches

Sharmistha Samanta,a,1 Tanmay Sarkar,b,1 Runu Chakraborty,a,∗∗ Maksim Rebezov,c,d,e Mohammad Ali Shariati,d,e Muthu Thiruvengadam,f and Kannan R.R. Rengasamyg,

Curr Res Food Sci. 2022; 5: 1916–1943.

Published online 2022 Oct 15. doi: 10.1016/j.crfs.2022.10.017

Parkinson’s Disease and the Modern World: Uncovering the Chemical Causes

Parkinson’s Disease is becoming more prevalent.

The incidence of Parkinson’s disease is increasing globally. PD is more prevalent in males than females and some racial groups are at higher risks than others. For example, studies in the United States have found that the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease is higher among ‘White’ populations than among African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian populations. Nevertheless, it is present in all groups.

Several factors may be contributing to the observed increase, including an aging population, changes in lifestyle and environmental exposures. As the population ages, the number of individuals at risk for Parkinson’s disease increases. Furthermore, improvements in medical diagnosis, awareness of Parkinson’s disease and better reporting is increasing the numbers. Nevertheless, it is most likely that changes in one or more lifestyle factors is making a major impact on the observable increasing incidence of the disease.

It is important to note that while the incidence of Parkinson’s disease is increasing, the number of individuals living with the disease at a given time (the prevalence) is also increasing. This is likely due to improvements in medical treatment and management of the disease, which allow individuals with Parkinson’s disease to live longer and better-quality lives.

What is Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. Parkinson’s has four main symptoms:

  • Tremor in the hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
  • Muscle stiffness including extended contraction
  • Slowness of movement
  • Impaired balance and coordination. This can sometimes lead to a fall

Other symptoms may include:

  • Depression and other emotional changes
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, and speaking
  • Urinary problems and/or constipation
  • Skin problems

The symptoms of Parkinson’s and the rate of progression differ among individuals. Early symptoms can be very subtle. The symptoms may commence on one side of the body and even though they progress to both sides, one side might be more affected.

The medical description is that there is a gradual loss of dopamine-producing brain cells in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra. The decrease in dopamine production leads to a range of symptoms, including tremors, stiffness, slowed movement, and difficulty with balance and coordination.

Parkinson’s disease is progressive, meaning that the symptoms worsen over time, and there is currently no known cure. However, there are treatments available that can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Which chemical exposures are associated with Parkinson’s disease?

There is compelling evidence to suggest that exposures to certain chemicals are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Workers in some professions are at higher risk. These include:

  1. Agricultural work: Farmers and agricultural workers who are exposed to pesticides and herbicides, such as paraquat and rotenone, have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Welding and metal work: Welders and other metal workers who are exposed to metals such as manganese have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Industrial chemical manufacturing: Workers in industries that manufacture chemicals such as solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PERC), are at increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.
  4. Healthcare: Healthcare workers, particularly those who work with anaesthetics, and certain cleaning agents, are at increased risk for Parkinson’s disease.
  5. Teaching: Studies have found that teachers may have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, possibly due to exposure to certain chemicals in the classroom environment.

Which chemicals should the general Community be aware of?

  1. Pesticides: Studies have shown that exposure to certain pesticides, including paraquat and rotenone, increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease. You might be exposed to paraquat, which is a commonly used herbicide. You could be exposed through your skin or through contaminated foods and beverages. In many countries there are regulations controlling the use of paraquat, but it is still widely used in agriculture and unless you only consume organically grown food, you could be exposed.
  2. Herbicides: Exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War, has been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. It isn’t quite clear that Agent Orange is the cause as Vietnam Veterans were exposed to several other herbicides as well as AO.
  3. Solvents: Exposure to certain solvents, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PERC), are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. TCE is commonly used as a degreaser and as a stain remover (especially in dry cleaning). In the USA, studies have shown that up to 10% of people may have detectable levels of TCE in their blood. PERC is widely used in industrial and dry-cleaning operations. PERC gets into both indoor and outdoor air by evaporation and is very common where chemical wastes are stored or disposed of.
  4. Metals: Exposure to certain metals, including manganese and lead, has been linked to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. In recent decades, exposure to lead has decreased markedly as the lead content of paint, petrol and other consumer goods has been reduced. Manganese exposures most commonly occurs after exposure to welding fumes.
  5. Carbon monoxide: Exposure to carbon monoxide, which is produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, is also associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  6. Phosphates in drinks (see next section).

It’s important to note that while these chemicals have been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease, not everyone who is exposed to them will develop the disease. Other factors, especially genetics, also play a role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Which genes are associated with a risk for Parkinson’s disease?

Several genes have been identified that are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. The most well-known of these genes is called SNCA, which codes for alpha-synuclein, a protein that is abundant in the brain and is a major component of Lewy bodies, which are characteristic of Parkinson’s disease. Mutations in the SNCA gene can cause the protein to clump together and form Lewy bodies, leading to the death of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

There are several other genes that are associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. It’s important to note that while mutations in these genes can increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, not everyone with a mutation will develop the disease. Parkinson’s disease is likely caused by a complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors.

There is growing evidence that Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) and Parkinson’s Disease share a ‘pathogenic pathway’. Both of these diseases seem to be increased by the consumption of certain ‘soft drinks’. For T2DM, this is sugar-sweetened beverages, but soft drinks have also been shown to increase the risk of Parkinson’s.  Researchers propose that the risk for Parkinson’s is increased by phosphates or phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid is found in many soft drinks, especially colas, but it can also be found in dairy products, cereal bars, flavoured waters, and processed meats.

Are there any nutrients that reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease?

There is some evidence to suggest that certain nutrients may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease. These nutrients include:

  1. Vitamin D: Several studies have found an association between low levels of vitamin D and an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, more research is needed to determine whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of the disease.
  2. Caffeine: Studies have suggested that caffeine intake may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, possibly due to its effects on dopamine production in the brain.
  1. Antioxidants: Some studies have suggested that diets high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids: Some studies have suggested that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel, may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  3. Coenzyme Q10: Some studies have suggested that the dietary supplement coenzyme Q10 may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

It’s important to note that while these nutrients may be associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, more research is needed to confirm these findings and determine the optimal levels of intake.

7 Tips on How to Give an Inspiring Talk and Wow Your Audience

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition – Engineering student showing passion for his topic

Introduction: What Makes an Inspiring Talk?

Inspiring talks leave a lasting impression on your audience. They have the power to motivate and inspire people, who sometimes take actions to change the course of their lives! But what makes a talk truly inspiring? It’s not just about great content – it’s also about the connection you make with your audience, by telling stories, and creating an emotional connection.

Once you understand how to craft an inspiring talk, you can become a powerful speaker who can deliver engaging and memorable presentations.

In addition to following the tips in this article, you can enrol for my very inexpensive online course that will take you through the detailed process of creating your own highly effective talks. The course expands on many of the topics covered here, gives you more solutions and shows you how to WOW your audiences.

I also give one on one or group coaching.

Today’s Tips are:

1. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is essential for your success. Before you prepare your talk, you need to research your audience and the venue in which you will be speaking. A talk you give in a small venue will usually be quite different to one you give in a large auditorium!

It’s important to understand the needs, interests, and preferences of each audience in order to create effective content that resonates with them. By understanding their specific wants and needs, you can create content that speaks to them directly. You can then tailor your message so that it appeals to their specific interests and preferences, and this will help you build a strong connection with them. It will also make it more likely that they will take some actions as a result of your talk.

Researching the venue is also critical. Just a few of the questions you need to ask are: How big is the room? Where will the audience be sitting? Will you be able to see everyone? Will you have a microphone? Is the screen large enough for the room? Should you prepare any handouts? What is the dress code?

2. Research and Prepare Thoroughly

Preparing for a speech or talk can be daunting, but with the right research and preparation, you can make sure that your presentation is engaging and effective. Researching thoroughly is key to making sure that you have all the information you need to deliver a successful talk.

Your research is likely to involve looking into the topic in detail, understanding it from different perspectives, exploring related topics, and gathering reliable sources of information.

It should also include finding out what your audience already knows about this topic so that you can tailor your presentation accordingly. Additionally, researching helps you identify any potential objections or counterarguments that may come up during the talk or at question time.

3. Craft a Powerful Introduction

A powerful introduction can make or break your presentation. It is the first thing that your audience will experience, and it sets the tone for the rest of the presentation. Crafting a powerful introduction is an art in itself. When you start with a captivating story, an intriguing fact or a thought-provoking question, you will quickly engage your audience.

4. Use Visual Aids Effectively

Visual aids are critical for most talks and can be used to illustrate complex topics, making them easier to understand. They can help you capture the attention of your audience and make your presentation more effective.

It is critical that you learn how to use visual aids effectively. If you are using a program like Powerpoint, you need to learn how to modify the templates and to change all the suggested visuals so that they convey your message is the most effective way. (You can learn this in my course).

In my experience, most speakers put far too much information on each slide, use far too much text and make poor choices with colour! Your colour choices need to be modified for each venue, the lighting in the venue (and time of day) and whether yours is a single talk or part of a conference.

5. Speak in a Clear and Confident Manner

Speaking in a clear and confident manner is an important skill. It is essential for delivering speeches, presentations, and other forms of communication. Being able to project your voice clearly and confidently is the key to making sure that your message is heard by the audience. If you are giving a talk in English and it is not your first language, it is wise to have all the important words on your slides to avoid possible misunderstandings.

Whatever you do, you must spend most of your time looking at the audience and connecting with them with both your eyes and voice.

6. Design your Message Strategically

Designing your message strategically is an essential skill for any public speaker. This involves crafting stories that are powerful and engaging, as well as ensuring that the message resonates with each unique audience. Use storytelling and craft messages that are tailored to your specific audience.

7. Finish Strong with A Call to Action or Story

Call to actions are an integral part of your talk. A well-crafted call to action should be persuasive and direct, giving clear instructions on what the audience members need to do next!

The range of options is huge and will depend on the type of talk and whether it is part of a conference. Nevertheless, your ending is as important as the beginning and the audience should leave, feeling changed and ready to take on some new ventures.

Redefining Valentine’s Day:

Celebrate the start of a Healthy Lifetime of Love

Introduction: What is a Healthy Valentine’s Day and How will you celebrate it?

Valentine’s Day, the traditional day of love, can also be the start of enduring good health. Show your love of yourself and your others by exploring these ideas outlines here.

For couples who are hoping to conceive, or couples whose intimate relationships have become dull, I suggest you read my book Making Love & Babies for help and/or plenty of good ideas.

A healthy Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in many ways, but the main focus should be on spending quality time with loved ones while, at the same time, taking care of one’s physical and mental well-being. Some ideas for a healthy Valentine’s Day celebration include:

  • A romantic hike or nature walk: Enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors while getting some exercise and enjoying the scenery.
  • A healthy cooking class: Cook a nutritious meal together with your significant other and learn some new recipes.
  • A spa day: Treat yourself to a relaxing massage or facial or perhaps take a soothing bath together.
  • A picnic in the park: Pack a healthy picnic basket filled with fresh fruit, sandwiches, and drinks, and enjoy a relaxing day in nature.
  • A healthy cocktail night: Make your own healthy cocktails using fresh juices and herbs and enjoy a night of relaxed conversation.

Remember, the most important aspect of a healthy Valentine’s Day is spending time with the people you love, and making meaningful connections with others.

For those who are more energetic, your Valentine’s Day might include Easy, Loving Workouts to Get Fit Together

Here are some easy and fun workout options for couples to try on Valentine’s Day:

  • Couple’s yoga: Practicing yoga together can be a great way to connect and strengthen your relationship. For the more energetic, a yoga or fitness class might have more appeal. You could start the day with a yoga session or a fitness class to energize your bodies and minds.
  • Partner stretching: Take turns stretching each other’s muscles and promoting relaxation.
  • Dancing: Turn up the music and dance together in your living room.
  • Bike ride: Rent bikes and go for a ride together.
  • Couple’s workout challenge: Come up with a fun workout challenge, such as a plank or push-up competition.
  • Swimming: Take a dip in the pool or go for a swim at the beach.
  • Rock climbing: Try indoor rock climbing and support each other as you reach new heights.

Remember, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Choose a workout that you both enjoy and that challenges you to be your best.

Healthy Food Choices to Make for Valentine’s Day

When it comes to celebrating a healthy Valentine’s Day, there are many delicious and nutritious food options that you can enjoy. Healthy eating does not have to be boring!

Some suggestions include:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: Start the day with a nutritious smoothie or a fruit salad.
  • Lean proteins: Opt for lean proteins like grilled chicken or fish, or plant-based options like tofu or tempeh.
  • Nuts and seeds: Incorporate healthy fats into your diet with a handful of nuts or seeds.
  • Dark chocolate: Satisfy yourselves with some dark chocolate, which has many health benefits such as being high in antioxidants and trace elements.
  • Herbs and spices: Add flavour to your food with herbs and spices instead of high-fat or high-sodium seasonings.
  • Red wine: If you choose to have alcohol, enjoy a glass of red wine, which contains resveratrol, some antioxidants and may have heart-healthy benefits in moderation.

Gift Ideas that Focus on Health and Wellness

Here are some gift ideas that focus on health and wellness:

  • Fitness gear: Give the gift of fitness with workout clothes, a fitness tracker, or a gym membership.
  • Essential oils and diffuser: Help someone relax and unwind with a set of essential oils and a diffuser.
  • Yoga mats and props: Give the gift of yoga with a new yoga mat, blocks, and straps.
  • Health and wellness books: Give a book on healthy eating, mindfulness, or stress management.
  • Healthy snacks: Put together a basket of healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts, and granola.
  • Massage or spa day: Give the gift of relaxation with a massage, spa day, or a couples’ spa package.
  • Meditation and mindfulness apps: Give the gift of mindfulness with a subscription to a meditation or mindfulness app.
  • Water bottles: Encourage hydration with a reusable water bottle with a built-in filter.
  • Air purifier: Help improve indoor air quality with an air purifier.

These gifts can help encourage a healthy lifestyle and promote overall well-being.

Valentine’s Day for New Relationships

If you’ve just met someone and want to send them a Valentine’s message without frightening them off, it’s important to be mindful of their feelings and boundaries. Here are some tips for sending a thoughtful and appropriate Valentine’s message:

  1. Keep it simple: Start with a simple and sweet message that expresses your appreciation for meeting them and getting to know them.
  2. Avoid being too forward: Don’t be overly romantic or suggestive, as this may come across as overwhelming or creepy.
  3. Focus on friendship: Emphasize the positive aspects of your relationship, such as the fact that you enjoy spending time with them or that you find them to be a great conversationalist.
  4. Show your appreciation: Express gratitude for the time you’ve spent together and how much you’re looking forward to getting to know them better.
  5. Be sincere: Be honest and authentic in your message and avoid using clichéd or generic language.

Remember, the key is to be respectful of their feelings and to take things slow. If they’re not comfortable with a Valentine’s message, they’ll let you know. Respect their boundaries and take the time to get to know each other better before taking any further steps.

Think of Others who are Less Fortunate

Finally, on this day of love, think of others who are less fortunate. You might have time to volunteer or otherwise send some money or a worthwhile gift. There is always someone who needs your help and support.

The Importance of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) in Human Health: A Supplement steeped in Controversy

The seeds of Evening Primrose (left) and Borage (right) are rich sources of GLA and have been used by indigenous people for many centuries.

What is GLA and why is it controversial?

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that is found naturally in certain plants and foods. It has a wide range of health benefits, including improved skin health, reduced inflammation and pain relief. GLA is also believed to help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Additionally, it may help improve mood and cognitive function, as well as boost immunity. For these reasons, GLA supplements are becoming increasingly popular among people looking to improve their overall health.

The main reason that taking GLA is controversial goes back to the 1980’s. Then, a highly qualified researcher, David Horrobin, became so excited by the possible benefits of GLA, he decided to set up a private company (Scotia Holdings) to promote GLA in the form of Evening Primrose Oil. He was subsequently accused (in the USA) of selling Evening Primrose Oil without legally demonstrating its safety and efficacy. He was also accused of research fraud. Although his reputation never completely recovered, Horrobin went on to focus on Omega 3 fatty acids and for a very long time, the ’world’ largely ignored GLA.

How does my Age affect my need for GLA?

As far as I am aware, there has only ever been one detailed study of fatty acids in a population of normal people. This study was undertaken in Dundee, Scotland in the 1980’s and 1990’s is known as the Scottish Heart Study. The study involved 10,359 men and women between the ages of 40 and 59, from 22 districts. In the analysis of fatty acids, the levels of individual fatty acids were found to change with age. I have produced the following Table of Gamma Linolenic Acid levels from the publication referenced below[i].

Table: Average levels of Gamma Linolenic Acid in Adipose Tissue in a large, normal Scottish Population(reference to full publication below)


It is easy to see that within these age groups, the level of GLA decreases with age and that the effect is more dramatic in females, who have lower levels to start with. The reasons for these changes in fatty acids are clearly outlined in my book ‘Why We Age[ii] but everything we know about the changes that occur with ageing, would lead us to expect that this decline in GLA levels will continue until we die!

The males in the Scottish study have higher levels GLA at all ages but as yet there appears to be no research that explains these differences.

GLA metabolism to DGLA and its importance

Arachidonic Acid, AA, is a long chain fatty acid that is found in high amounts in red meat. Whilst small amounts of AA are necessary for good health, too much is associated with inflammation. Because GLA is part of the same metabolic pathway as AA, many practitioners were concerned that GLA would be converted into AA and advised against GLA supplementation. However, several studies have now proven that whilst GLA supplements are converted into DGLA, the DGLA is not converted further into AA.

DGLA (dihomo-g-linolenic acid) is a ‘GOOD FATTY ACID’. It has both anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties and is a great adjunct to healthy ageing. Moreover, as we age, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to convert plant-based fatty acids (mostly from nuts and seeds) through to DGLA. Although DGLA is only found in trace amounts in some animal-based foods, GLA is readily converted into DGLA, which then reduces ageing and age-related inflammation.

In a recent study published in the journal Nutrients[iii], serum levels of DGLA were found to be inversely associated with death in elderly patients who had suffered from a recent myocardial infarction. This was a large study of 1002 patients, aged between 70 and 82, who were followed up for two years and those with the lowest levels of DGLA were nearly 1.5 times as likely to die.

What are the Health Benefits of Consuming a GLA supplement?

There are few or no studies that adequately test the benefits of ‘disease-free’ adults consuming GLA. There are some studies that show benefits for women with menstrual problems and there are high quality studies showing that GLA supplementation has beneficial effects on the course of diabetic neuropathy[iv].

Do any Foods contain high levels of GLA? where do I get it?

The answer is that apart from the oils of the plant seeds of evening primrose oil (7-10 gm GLA/100 gm); borage oil (18-26 gm/100 gm) and blackcurrant oil (15-20 gm/100 gm), GLA is only found in human milk and in small quantities in foods such as organ meats.  

Should everyone take a GLA supplement and is Evening Primrose Oil as good as Borage Oil?

Because of the lack of controlled research in people of different age groups, it is difficult to give clear advice on taking a GLA supplement. Based on the data presented here – namely (a) the reduction in GLA levels with age, (b) the knowledge that GLA does not lead to increased levels of arachidonic acid (generally regarded as a bad fat) and (c) its established benefits in diabetics and (d) the importance of DGLA levels in older people who suffer from myocardial infarctions, I think that most people aged 60 and older would benefit from taking a GLA supplement.

I don’t think there is any evidence at this stage to suggest that one supplement (e.g. Evening Primrose Oil or Borage Oil) is better than another but borage oil and blackcurrant have about twice the concentration as EPO and this should be considered.

[i] Bolton-Smith C et al (1997) Evidence for age-related differences in the fatty acid composition of human adipose tissue, independent of diet. Eur J Clin Nutr 51:619–624.

[ii]  Dr Judy Ford (2019) Why We Age, Solving the Puzzle of Ageing.

[iii] Nilsen DWT et al (2021) Serum levels of DGLA are inversely associated with LA and total death in elderly patients with a recent myocardial infarction. Nutrients 13: 3475

[iv] The γ-linolenic acid multicenter trial group (1993) Treatment of diabetic neuropathy with γ-linolenic acid. Diabetes Care 16 (1): 8-15

Your New Year’s Resolution: NO SHOES INDOORS


Wearing shoes in the house is just plain gross. The verdict from scientists who study indoor contaminants

A selection of ‘average’ shoes – but WHAT IS UNDERNEATH THEM?

Mark Patrick Taylor, Macquarie University and Gabriel Filippelli, IUPUI

You probably clean your shoes if you step in something muddy or disgusting (please pick up after your dog!). But when you get home, do you always de-shoe at the door?

Plenty of Australians don’t. For many, what you drag in on the bottom of your shoes is the last thing on the mind as one gets home.

We are environmental chemists who have spent a decade examining the indoor environment and the contaminants people are exposed to in their own homes. Although our examination of the indoor environment, via our DustSafe program, is far from complete, on the question of whether to shoe or de-shoe in the home, the science leans toward the latter.

It is best to leave your filth outside the door.

A woman removes shoes at the front door.
Leave pesticides, herbicides and general ‘filth’, outside your door.

What contaminants are in your home, and how did they get there?

People spend up to 90% of their time indoors, so the question of whether or not to wear shoes in the house is not a trivial one.

The policy focus is typically on the outdoor environment for soil, air quality and environmental public health risks. However, there is growing regulatory interest in the question of indoor air quality.

The matter building up inside your home includes not just dust and dirt from people and pets shedding hair and skin.

About a third of it is from outside, either blown in or tramped in on those offensive shoe bottoms.

Some of the microorganisms present on shoes and floors are drug-resistant pathogens, including hospital-associated infectious agents (germs) that are very difficult to treat.

Add in cancer-causing toxins from asphalt road residue and endocrine-disrupting lawn chemicals, and you might view the filth on your shoes in a new light.

A woman rests her feet on the couch
Please don’t do this. Shutterstock

A roll-call of indoor nasties

Our work has involved the measurement and assessment of exposure to a range of harmful substances found inside homes including:

A strong focus of our work has involved assessing levels of potentially toxic metals (such as arsenic, cadmium and lead) inside homes across 35 nations (including Australia).

These contaminants – and most importantly the dangerous neurotoxin lead – are odourless and colourless. So there is no way of knowing whether the dangers of lead exposure are only in your soils or your water pipes, or if they are also on your living room floor.

The science suggests a very strong connection between the lead inside your home and that in your yard soil.

The most likely reason for this connection is dirt blown in from your yard or trodden in on your shoes, and on the furry paws of your adorable pets.

This connection speaks to the priority of making sure matter from your outdoor environment stays exactly there (we have tips here).

A recent Wall Street Journal article argued shoes in the home aren’t so bad. The author made the point that E. coli – dangerous bacteria that develop in the intestines of many mammals, including humans – is so widely distributed that it’s pretty much everywhere. So it should be no surprise it can be swabbed on shoe bottoms (96% of shoe bottoms, as the article pointed out).

But let’s be clear. Although it’s nice to be scientific and stick with the term E. coli, this stuff is, put more simply, the bacteria associated with poo.

Whether it is ours or Fido’s, it has the potential to make us very sick if we are exposed at high levels. And let’s face it – it is just plain gross.

Why walk it around inside your house if you have a very simple alternative – to take your shoes off at the door?

Why walk muck around inside your house if you have a very simple alternative – to take your shoes off at the door? Shutterstock

On balance, shoeless wins

So are there disadvantages to having a shoe-free household?

Beyond the occasional stubbed toe, from an environmental health standpoint there aren’t many downsides to having a shoe-free house. Leaving your shoes at the entry mat also leaves potentially harmful pathogens there as well.

We all know prevention is far better than treatment and taking shoes off at the door is a basic and easy prevention activity for many of us.

Need shoes for foot support? Easy – just have some “indoor shoes” that never get worn outside.

There remains the issue of the “sterile house syndrome,” which refers to increased rates of allergies among children. Some argue it’s related to overly sterile households.

Indeed, some dirt is probably beneficial as studies have indicated it helps develop your immune system and reduce allergy risk.

But there are better and less gross ways to do that than walking around inside with your filthy shoes on. Get outside, go for a bushwalk, enjoy the great outdoors.

Just don’t bring the muckier parts of it inside to build up and contaminate our homes.

Mark Patrick Taylor, Chief Environmental Scientist, EPA Victoria; Honorary Professor, Macquarie University and Gabriel Filippelli, Chancellor’s Professor of Earth Sciences and Executive Director, Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, IUPUI

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Environmental chemicals, mental health & dementia

Chemicals and Mental Health

Early life exposure to heavy metals and ‘environmental chemicals’ may not only reduce IQ but also cause schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. It is now recognised that these also cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Changes in the brain with Alzheimer’s Disease

Psychological studies have suggested that cognitive decline may well have been cast at the dawn of the industrial age! Early studies showed that significant personality differences were found in people living in regions where large numbers of men were employed in coal-based industries from 1813 to 1820. This was the time when the Industrial Revolution was peaking. Neuroticism (for example) was, on average, 33% higher in these areas compared with the rest of the country. But mental diseases continue to increase, and the rate of age-related dementia has already reached epidemic levels.

In the late 1990’s my genetics laboratory performed many studies on the chromosomes of men and women who had been exposed to high levels of agricultural and industrial chemicals. We found that all those with documented exposures had cells with broken chromosomes and we suggested that this probably gave them an increased risk of developing cancer. However, it was also obvious that most of these people had high levels of anxiety and some degree of mental instability but we didn’t understand that it was ‘cause and effect’. Indeed, the mental instability that was caused by the exposures, probably led to some of their claims being ignored by conventional medicine.

Heavy metals, IQ and mental disorders

Exposure to heavy metals, especially lead, is well known to reduce IQ in children. Populations in towns with lead smelters, such as Port Pirie in South Australia, are regularly monitored to evaluate these effects. The effect on intelligence (IQ) is well established but what isn’t well known is that exposure to metals early in life can also cause schizophrenia[i] and other serious mental and behavioural disturbances. Lead exposure in early life also causes autism[ii].

Several of the studies that are now demonstrating these clear associations are using ‘baby teeth’ to measure the levels of heavy metals and these have the advantage of evaluating exposures over time. Although there is also a genetic predisposition to most mental disorders, heavy metals – especially lead, clearly cause serious mental problems.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Age-related dementia has now reached epidemic levels. People who already have autism are 2.6 times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s but we don’t need to have earlier mental problem to develop Alzheimer’s as we age.

There is considerable research relating the development of Alzheimer’s to exposure to heavy metals, especially lead and copper. Finland has by far the highest rates of death from Alzheimer’s at 54.65 deaths/100,000 whereas Singapore has the lowest rate at 0.43 deaths/100,000.

In my book Why We Age[iii] I argue that much of the increase in the rate of Alzheimer’s is related to the introduction of copper pipes in plumbing. Finland’s extremely high rate of Alzheimer’s may be at least partially explained by the problems they have with pipes in their extreme weather conditions. In contrast, Singapore’s very low rate of Alzheimer’s may be associated with NOT using copper in their pipes and having extraordinary vigilance in their plumbing regulations.

While copper could be a major cause of Alzheimer’s and other serious mental decline, there are many other chemicals and metals that are also known to have effects. I have adapted the table found in the table published by Genius & Kelln (2015)[iv] and although some of these substances are still only ‘strong suspects’, it is easily seen that we are all frequently at risk of exposure to many of these chemicals.

MetalsLead; Mercury; Copper; Arsenic; Aluminium; Zinc or Manganese overload; Tin
PesticidesDDE; Aldrin; Chlordane; Heptachlor; Rotenone; Dieldrin; Methyl parathion; Organophosphates; Maneb; Paraquat; Pyrethroids
Flame retardantsHexabromocyclododecane; Tetrabromobisphenol-A; Brominated Decabromodiphenyl ether; Chlorinated 2,2,4,4,tetachloromodiphenyl; 6-hydroxy-2,2,4,4 tetabromodiphenyl ether; Trichloroethylene; Carbon disulphide
SolventsToluene; Perchloroethylene.
PharmaceuticalsAnaesthetics; Benzodiazepines
Air PollutionAir Pollution: Particulate matter; Ozone; Nitrogen dioxide; Cigarette Smoke; Carbon monoxide
PlasticizersPhthalate esters Bisphenol A
OthersPFOS and PFOA Organochlorine compounds Acrylamide Dioxins Formaldehyde Methanol
Exposures that are potentially associated with nuerodegenerative diseases. Data from Genius & Kelln (2015)
There is chemical contamination everywhere but especially in our food and in beautiful environments like golf courses

Is it too late? Are there any actions we can take?

There is a great deal written about healthy foods and there is little doubt that an everyday diet that incorporates a wide range of fruit, vegetables, high quality protein, nuts and seeds will supply most of the minerals and nutrients we need. We must make sure that we also consume enough of the ‘trace elements’ that are necessary to support all our detoxification systems and these are discussed in Why We Age.

Beyond eating a healthy diet and exercising, we need to try to avoid pollutants in both indoor and outdoor air. Apart from avoiding the use of chemicals that are in the list above, our most accessible defences against pollutants are indoor and outdoor plants. If we live in an area where the outdoor air is polluted, we need to protect our home by growing leafy plants at least around the borders of our property. But indoor plants are also strong weapons against indoor pollutants. Don’t have them in your bedroom at night because they will compete with you for oxygen but use them in all your living areas.

NASA has undertaken extensive experiments that demonstrate the value of indoor plants in removing pollutants. If your indoor plants die, they might well be saving your life and your future sanity!

Indoor plants but especially the Peace Lilly (which is not shown here) can remove indoor pollutants that are constantly outgassed from furniture, furnishing and building products

[i] Modabbernia A et al (2016) Early Life metal exposure and schizophrenia. Eur Psychiatry 36: 1-6.

[ii] Arora M, Reichenberg A, et al 2017. Fetal and postnatal metal dysregulation in autism. Nat Commun; doi: 10.1038/NCOMMS15493

[iii] Ford JH (2019) Why We Age (Solving the Puzzle of Aging) – available from this website or from Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082KPSFR2.

[iv] Genius SJ & Kelln KL (2015) Toxicant Exposure and Bioaccumulation: A Common and Potentially Reversible Cause of Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia. Behavioural Neurology http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/620143

Magnesium-Critical roles in all body organs

Magnesium supplementation can cure many ‘illnesses’ but you may need to supplement every day. From your muscles to your brain, magnesium can improve your health and vitality.

Magnesium crystal (needs to be converted into an appropriate salt before consumption!)

Adequate intake of Magnesium is critical to good health and can cure many ‘illnesses’. On the other hand, inadequate intake of Magnesium can lead to problems of the nervous system, cramping muscles, migraines, and depression as well as serious cardiovascular and metabolic problems. A search of the medical literature on the terms ‘magnesium deficiency’ found 7,440 publications and there are also thousands of publications that demonstrate that Magnesium supplementation usually has beneficial effects.

If you experience any of the problems listed below, I wonder why your doctor hasn’t mentioned Magnesium supplementation to you? Taking Magnesium might be a simple and inexpensive cure for your health problem.

I have used the publication by Kostov & Halacheva (2018) to provide the critical information in the following Table. The Table summarizes the large number of negative health symptoms that can be caused by Magnesium deficiency and might be cured by simple supplementation.

General problems  Anxiety, agitation, irritability, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea
Muscles  Muscle spasms, tetany
Nervous System & Brain  Migraine, depression, poor memory, nervousness, low stress tolerance, tremor, seizures  
Cardiovascular System  Hypertension, cardiac arrhythmia, coronary spasm, atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, arterial calcification and/or stiffness, vascular aging, increased platelet aggregation.  
Electrolytes  Sodium (and fluid) retention, low potassium, low calcium
Metabolism  Insulin resistance, decreased glucose tolerance, increased risk of Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes, Disorders of Vitamin D metabolism, Osteoporosis, Resistance to Parathyroid Hormone.  
Pregnancy & Reproductive  Pregnancy complications including eclampsia; Reproductive problems including polycystic ovarian syndrome (POCS).
Gastrointestinal tract  Constipation
Table: Health Effects of Magnesium Deficiency

Why are we becoming deficient in Magnesium?

Soft water

Water with low mineral content is easier to lather and probably better for our pipes but it doesn’t supply as many minerals as harder water and so we are more likely to become mineral deficient.

Deficiency in soils

Chorophyll requires magnesium so magnesium deficiency causes yellowing.
Yellowing of leaves typical of Magnesium deficiency

Many soils are deficient in nutrients. A magnesium deficiency should be obvious because it is a key component of green chlorophyll. Magnesium deficiencies are most common in sandy soils but is also caused by the over-use of potassium fertilizers. If the soil pH is not correct, then magnesium might not be available to the plants. This problem can occur in both hydroponic and soil nurseries.

Eating the wrong foods

All green vegetables are rich sources of magnesium as are cereals, nuts, and legumes. There are also moderate amounts of magnesium in chocolate, fruits, meat, and fish.

Over-cooking and processing of foods can destroy magnesium.


Women: Epidermal growth factor (an important stimulator of cellular growth) and Estrogen are both described as ‘magnesiotropic’ i.e. they regulate levels of magnesium in the blood and brain. This means that lowered estrogen levels in postmenopausal women can lead to increased loss of magnesium from the body and consequently, any of the problems listed in the table.

Age itself can lead to reduced absorption of magnesium from the intestine in both men and women. Find out much more about ageing here.

Gastrointestinal malabsorption and/or Caffeine

Any of the conditions that affect intestinal nutrient absorption can affect magnesium absorption so if you have sensitivity to gluten, fructose, or any other food, you are likely to have reduced absorption of magnesium.

Consuming caffeine also reduces your absorption of magnesium!


Alcohol comes in many forms but all have the same health consequences.
Drinking alcohol depletes Magnesium

There are many medical publications that discuss magnesium and other nutrient deficiencies in alcoholics but it’s likely that even regular light drinking can lead to lowered levels of magnesium and other electrolytes in many people.

Sport and Sweating

Leg cramps are usually caused by magnesium deficiency.
Soccer player experiencing leg cramp

Any activity that makes you sweat will deplete your electrolytes. This will be obvious in anyone who works out with high intensity but it’s also a problem in less energetic, prolonged activities such as golf. If this is you, you are likely to need to supplement your Magnesium and other electrolytes.

Medicinal drugs

A variety of drugs including antibiotics, chemotherapeutic agents, diuretics, and proton-pump inhibitors can cause magnesium loss and hypomagnesemia

Types of Magnesium Supplements

There are many Magnesium supplements available on the market and to date, the research on the efficacy of the different formulations is sparce. One thing that is sure is that both magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide have significant laxative effects! Be careful that these haven’t been added to other formulations.

Most of the research undertaken on Magnesium supplementation has been performed on rodents. These might be applicable to humans but there’s no doubt that the average rodent’s diet and lifestyle is less complex than the average human! Nevertheless, there are a great many physiological similarities.

In general, the research suggests that organic forms of magnesium are more effective than inorganic, and the three best supplements are (1) magnesium acetyl taurate, (2) magnesium malate and (3) magnesium glycinate.

It’s likely that the different forms of magnesium might be absorbed differently by our various organs and at this stage the research suggests that magnesium acetyl taurate might be taken up by the brain more efficiently than the other forms. It seems that despite magnesium being so important to our overall health, the research on effective supplementation needs a great deal more work.

Magnesium supplements can overcome deficiencies.
Magnesium supplements may be helpful but take care which one you take.

In general

A high proportion of people who exercise, who are older, who drink alcohol and/or who have any type of food malabsorption will find that they benefit from taking a magnesium supplement. However, not all supplements are equally effective and many – especially magnesium oxide and magnesium citrate cause diarrhea or loose bowel motions in a high proportion of people. I suggest that you choose a highly reputable brand and test the three listed organic types to see which one suits you best.

Kostov K & Halacheva L (2018) Role of Magnesium deficiency in promoting atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction and arterial stiffening as risk factors for hypertension. Int J Mol Sc 2018, 19: 1724

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