Tribute to Shiv Chopra

Shiv Chopra

A champion of truth, integrity and food safety (1934 – 2018)

by Helke Ferrie

Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the state becomes lawless or corrupt. The first step to fighting injustice is to make it visible. – Mahatma Gandhi

Shiv Chopra was born in India. He was 13 years old when independence from Britain was achieved amidst the blood bath of ‘Partition’ and Gandhi’s assassination. After obtaining his degree in veterinary medicine in India, he also received a Ph.D. in microbiology from McGill in the 60s and became a drug and vaccine evaluator for Health Canada in 1969, joining its veterinary division in 1987. There, he observed with increasing alarm the systemic corruption of Canada’s health policy as the federal government put increasing pressure on him to approve drugs that were already known to be harmful. Yet he stubbornly insisted on the safety studies and tests that Canadian law requires before he would approve these veterinary drugs.

These antibiotics and growth hormones, used to increase the weight and size of food animals to increase profit, are not metabolized/detoxed out of the animal, but instead wind up being ingested by people who eat this meat. Because consumers cannot metabolize them either, their health is compromised and drug residues end up passing through their urine and into the public water supply. They also contribute to antibiotic resistance.

After observing the corrupt drug approval process present in his department, Dr. Chopra decided not to keep quiet and he began to blow the whistle: That’s when Canada received a hefty dose of Gandhi’s political philosophy. Gandhi summed it up in the Sanskrit word satyagraha (grounding in truth). Not only corruption is infectious, but satyagraha is too. Shiv received support not only from his immediate colleagues, Drs. Margret Haydon, Gerard Lambert, and others, but more than 200 Health Canada scientists wrote to then Health Minister Alan Rock in September 1999, demanding that the government stop serving corporate interests and return instead to serving the public interest.

During these years, Dr. Chopra and his colleagues were supported by PIPSC, the 36,000-member strong Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. “PIPSC scientists don’t squeak, they roar!,” their information pamphlet asserted, objecting to the pressures put onto Health Canada scientists to do the bidding of corporations and ignore the law. They also pointed to the increasing deregulation designed to accommodate corporate profits and undermine public safety. PIPSC expressed its outrage at gag orders imposed on Health Canada staffers, which even forbade them to publish in scientific journals. A precedent setting legal case in federal court occurred in September 2000 when Justice D. Tremblay-Lamer ruled that Health Canada could not place gag orders on scientists because a civil servant is responsible to the public, not the government of the day. Equally helpful were the media whose relentless exposés exasperated many politicians of the day.

Fierce defenders of food safety

The government’s aim, regardless of which party was in power, was to move Health Canada away from risk assessment and towards risk management (the US model), but they did not expect such resistance. To this day, Big Pharma works along the lines of managing harm and death as part of doing business, not preventing harm. For example, in his book, Corrupt to the Core, Shiv commented that, in 2001, Bayer lobbyists, in the presence of Diane Kirkpatrick (then the Director General of the Veterinary Drugs Directorate), opined: “The risk of one in one million people dying due to the use of any products, including veterinary drugs, pesticides, etc., was considered to be manageable. I disagreed, saying that this was not so according to the Canadian Food and Drugs Act. I stressed that if Canada were to apply this definition to risk and knowingly allow even one person to die, someone else above my head will have to make that decision.”

Kirkpatrick, unwilling to accept Dr. Chopra’s refusal to approve the highly toxic antibiotic Baytril for use in food animals, “spoke as if on behalf of Bayer,” asking Shiv “to explain why it should not be allowed … in Canada while the USFDA [U.S. Federal Drug Administration] raised no objection to it. My response … was that I couldn’t care less about what the USFDA did and that I must apply due diligence to my job description under the Food and Drugs Act of Canada.”

With the above in mind, it’s no surprise that an internal 1992 government memo stated that the reason Dr. Chopra was consistently passed over for promotion was because he could not “be groomed into a senior management position”; that he was not “a team player”; that he appeared unable to understand “the North American way of doing business.” These “deficiencies [were due to] his racial and cultural background.”

The conflict between assessment and management is the key which ultimately led to Chopra, Haydon and Lambert being fired on July 14, 2004 for “insubordination.” In a nutshell: if health policy is governed by management instead of risk, abnormal drug test findings can be ignored. Drug assessment requires investigating how the liver, especially in rats, reacts to a new chemical compound. If liver enzyme production signals toxicity, the proposed drug is too dangerous. Rats are endowed by nature to metabolize/detox tremendously harmful compounds which other test animals, such as mice whose enzyme system is virtually identical to humans, can never survive.

Dr. Haydon, for example, delayed the Bovine Growth Hormone application by nine years because Monsanto would not provide the legally mandated rat studies. Since Dr. Haydon already had some proof from scientific literature that this synthetic hormone not only caused mastitis in cows, but also birth defects in calves, this evidence would have been amplified had Monsanto complied with the mandatory rat studies. In 1994, her office was broken into and all her files were stolen. This event eventually led to a Senate investigation chaired by the late Eugene Whelan, starting on October 22, 1998. In an attempt to stop the truth on Bovine Growth Hormone from coming out, and knowing that a Senate’s subpoena to testify must be obeyed, the government “coached” Shiv and his colleagues on what to say at the hearing and ordered him to testify from a two-thirds blacked-out version of his own official report.

When Dr. Chopra was sworn in at the Senate, he asked, “Which oath takes precedence? The one I just made to God or the one I made as an employee of the ministry?” Senator Eugene Whelan told him to “go with God” and the whole rotten story came out. That is why Canada does not currently allow the use of Bovine Growth Hormone, a proven carcinogen and endocrine disruptor. And that is why the European Union and other jurisdictions banned it too.

Shiv Chopra and Margaret Haydon did not get the Order of Canada for stopping Bovine Growth Hormone’s release into the Canadian food supply; they were fired instead. Being fired was a family affair at the Chopras. His wife, Dr. Nirmala Chopra, was head of the Pre-Marketing Review Section at Health Canada’s Bureau of Medical Devices from 1979 to 1993. She insisted on checking out immunological reactions to breast implants, but that legally-required satyagraha approach was inconvenient and she was fired. Today, about 300,000 women receive such implants annually in the US. Nirmala’s Health Canada story was documented in Nicholas Regush’s 1993 book Safety Last.

Canadian Government no longer oversees drug safety

Today, Dr. Kelsey [who saved American women from the drug Thalidomide in the 1950s] would probably also be fired because in 1995 the US passed “cost recovery” legislation. On January 6, 1996, Canada adopted the same, without parliamentary debate, in secret, through an Order in Council. This transferred the responsibility for drug safety and efficacy from Health Canada civil servants (mandated to act in the public interest) to the manufacturers of those drugs, thereby removing all independent oversight. Health Canada employees were informed that now their “client” was not the Canadian public “but the companies” applying for drug approval documentation. To safeguard against another Margaret Haydon, time limits were placed on regulators reviewing drug applications.

This regulatory abomination is still in place and was followed up in 2003 with the so-called ‘Report on Plans and Priorities’ which absurdly opined that the Food and Drugs Act has “too narrow a focus on safety … and does not allow for taking into account considerations other than safety in managing health risk.” What was needed, said this report, was “to unleash business energies and reduce the regulatory burden on business.” Adding insult to injury, this report was followed up by “Health and Safety First,” the government’s plan describing “a higher level of protection” by revamping the Food and Drugs Act such that drug manufacturers would be completely protected against all possible liability once their products passed into the market. Prime Minister Harper tried to make this happen with the infamous Bill C-51 in 2008. This enraged me so much that I published a book entitled What Part of No! Don’t They Understand? The first two copies, hot off the press, were personally handed to Harper. Then Shiv and I lectured on that proposed Bill in many venues, helping to put the breaks on it – for awhile.

In the January 11, 2018, issue of Toronto Star, Dr. Joel Lexchin, a public policy expert from U of T, informed us that, last October, Health Canada proposed increasing drug companies’ cost recovery fees to 90% in exchange for even faster reviews. But Dr. Lexchin stated that research shows that, if a review is mandated to be complete within 300 days, there is a one in five chance of serious post-marketing harm to people. If the review period is only 180 days, the incidence of adverse events rises to one in three. Dr. Lexchin proposes a “return to complete funding” by parliament ensuring responsibility only to Canadians. (That would be acting according to satyagraha. Don’t hold your breath.)

During the time that Shiv and his colleagues were fighting to protect us from cancer- causing, hormone-disrupting and antibiotic resistance-producing drugs, other scandals hit the world scene. For example, in 2004, FDA regulator Dr. David Graham started blowing the whistle about hundreds of thousands of deaths from Vioxx. And University of Toronto’s Dr. Nancy Olivieri refused to obey Apotex’s order to exclude “known liver failure” from patient medication consent forms. In 2017, the United Nations declared antibiotic resistance to be the greatest unfolding global health disaster, mainly due to antibiotic overuse in food-producing animals.

I am proud to have been Shiv’s friend for almost two decades and the publisher of his fantastic account of speaking truth to power: Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower (2008). Having grown up in India myself, my visits to Shiv and Nirmala were always a bit like coming home. While Shiv cracked open cardamom pods for our chai, I took notes on background for upcoming events in courts and before Senate committees as the battle for safe drugs and food progressed.

Shiv gave us the perfect blueprint on how to achieve food safety because he said, “It is our divine right … to eat and feed our families the food that the earth produces naturally.” His “Five Pillars of Food Safety” demand: 1) No pesticides; 2) No GMOs; 3) No animal hormones; 4) No animal antibiotics; 5) No rendered animal protein feeds.

All of us who eat owe a big debt of gratitude to Shiv Chopra for his scientific rigour and personal integrity.

Originally published in Vitality Magazine (vitalitymagzine.com) by Helke Ferrie, helkeferrie@gmail.com Reprinted with permission, helkeferrie.com Support Democracy Watch, Council of Canadians, and shivchopra.com initiatives. Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower by Shiv Chopra (Kos 2009) available on disk at shivchopra.com. Shiv Chopra inspired the Canadian Council on Food Safety Health at www.foodsovereigntycanada.com/

Calling All Coffee Lovers

Level Ground Trading

“We have one goal: to alleviate poverty through trade.”
– Stacey Toews, co-founder of Level Ground Trading

It all started in 1997. Four families in Victoria, BC came together with the idea of improving the lives of disadvantaged farmers through trade. They were inspired by groups like Ten Thousand Villages and set out to be fair and direct with small-scale producers of everyday consumables.

Their first relationship was with small-scale coffee farmers in Colombia. The social impact portion of their purchase price has been funding education for farmers’ children since Level Ground’s inception. For them, it’s been rewarding to see children go to school, become educated, and return to their communities to work as Doctors, Agronomists, and Social Workers. Level Ground’s work didn’t stop there: soon other Fair Trade relationships followed. Today, they import the annual harvest of 5000 farmers in 10 countries trading coffee, tea, dried fruit, sugar, spices, rice, vanilla beans and coconut oil.

Storytelling has always been foundational for Level Ground. Their stories start right on the package. On each package, you will find a farmer face and name. Each farmer is paid for the use of their photo. For Level Ground, it’s one more way they can provide transparency.

But, what does this practice of Fair Trade mean for consumers? It’s simple: quality. When you pay farmers a fair price, they save the best for you. Level Ground goes directly to the source, cultivates relationships, and receives the highest quality products in return.

Level Ground is proud to celebrate 20 years of partnering with small-scale farmers in developing countries. It is their mission to trade fairly and directly, offering consumers ethical choices. To learn more about Level Ground, its products and farmers, or purchase online, visit levelground.com

Visit us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/LevelGroundTrading/

Rick Hanson: grow your core of calm, strength & happiness

An interview by Fiona Douglas-Crampton

Rick Stanton Hanson
Rick Stanton Hanson

The holiday season often brings additional stress. The days are getting shorter and colder and we have to cope with multiple demands to make our loved ones happy: Christmas shopping, parties, cooking, cleaning and more. Add a growing sense of helplessness in the face of climate change and negative world news and it can seem an impossible task to maintain a sense of personal happiness, well-being and calmness. Negativity and stress take over.

Psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Rick Hanson became aware of unhappiness in his family and in the world at a young age. Now a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at UC, Hanson turned to psychology and brain science for answers and realized that if you can change your brain, you can change your life. In his new book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness (co-authored with Forrest Hanson, release March 2018), the author of Hardwiring Happiness and Buddha’s Brain draws on 40 years of experience of working with people to offer practical ways to grow the 12 essential strengths of resilient well-being.

Hanson shares insights into what people can do now to build lasting well-being in their daily lives and replace a sense of deficit and disturbance with fullness and balance.

Fiona Douglas-Crampton: What inspired you to focus your work on happiness and neuroplasticity?

Rick Stanton Hanson: I had a sense as a young child that there was a lot of unnecessary unhappiness in my school, my family and out in the world. But I didn’t know what to do about it. Then as I got older and learned about psychology, brain science and contemplative wisdom, I became excited about the practical tools they offered for using the mind alone to change the brain for the better.

The brain is the final common pathway of all the causes streaming through us to make us happy or sad, loving or hateful, effective or helpless, so if you can change your brain, you can change your life. I have personally gained from these methods – my wife of 35 years says I have become nicer, which could be the toughest test! – and have seen many others get many benefits as well.

FD-C: What are the specific challenges we face today in a world that require us to build a core of inner strength?

RH: There are big problems in the world, plus ordinary life is full of stressors, losses, conflicts and illnesses. To deal with adversity and pursue opportunities in the face of challenges, we need to be resilient, able to endure, bounce back and keep on going.

Methods in self-help, positive psychology, transformation, new age, human potential and spiritual practice are often framed as a kind of magic carpet ride: just do X (e.g., be grateful, compassionate, meditative) and you’ll be whisked to happiness. But it’s just not true.

Any kind of lasting well-being requires coping with the hard things in life. Want to be happy? Be resilient.

Resilience is usually presented as something we need for trauma, combat, etc. True enough, but that is an inaccurate and overly narrow view. Resilience is for every day of your life, not just for surviving the worst day of your life.

FD-C: How do we get started?

RH: Resilience comes from having inner strengths such as grit, motivation and love. These are the resources we draw on to deal with hassles and setbacks, manage frustration and disappointment, ride waves of pain and face inevitable aging and death.

Resilience is not static. Actually, it is something you can develop over time. Most research and interventions related to resilience focus on just identifying and using inner strengths. This is good, but it misses the key question: where do these inner resources come from and how can we get more of them?

This is where the neuropsychology of learning comes in. To grow more empathy, mindfulness, self-worth or any other psychological resource, first you must have an experience of it or a related factor. Second, that passing experience must be installed as a durable change in neural structure or function.

Experiencing alone does not equal learning. Think about all the times we experience something useful – a moment of satisfaction at finishing a task, an insight into how to be more skillful in a relationship – and we zip along to the next experience so that first experience is wasted on the brain. Besides the impact on everyday life, this is the weakness of much psychotherapy, coaching, human resources programs and spiritual training.

This general problem is worsened by the brain’s evolved “negativity bias,” which makes it like Velcro for bad experiences but Teflon for good ones. We overlearn from stress, worry, irritation, sadness and hurt, while underlearning from moments of confidence, determination, calming, kindness and realization.

Here are two practical suggestions a person can use every day:

1) Half a dozen times a day, focus on and stay with a useful, usually enjoyable, experience for a breath or longer. Feel it in your body and notice what feels good or meaningful about it. This will help the experience be more consolidated and installed in long-term memory systems. In effect, you can make it “stick to your (mental) ribs.”

2) Pick an inner strength that would really help to have more of. Perhaps greater calm, gladness or the sense that your own needs matter, too. Then look for opportunities to experience this strength each day and take these experiences into yourself.

You’ll notice that most experiences of inner resources are enjoyable – an aspect of well-being. Resilience promotes well-being and as you take in experiences of well-being – including experiences of inner resources – that will make you more resilient. Resilience fosters well-being and well-being fosters resilience, in a wonderful upward spiral!

FD-C: What are some things you do to take care of yourself?

RH: Firstly, I try to frame taking care of myself in a larger context of service to others. Second, I try to take care of myself by having many little moments in the day in which I take in whatever might be calming, soothing, wholesome, beautiful, loving or happy.

Fiona Douglas-Crampton is the president and CEO of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, a charitable organization focused on “Heart-Mind Well-Being.” dalailamacenter.org

EVENT

February 23-24: Rick Hanson, Ph.D will be speaking on resilient well-being at the next Heart-Mind Conference hosted by the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Langley. For information and to register for Heart-Mind 2018: Take Care of Yourself – the Science and Practice of Well-Being, visit www.dalailamacenter.org/conference/heart-mind-2018-take-care-yourself

The influence of gender on disease

gender symbols

Over the centuries, scientists have argued that men’s brains must be more powerful because they are larger than women’s brains. But does size matter? Newer studies have found that the differences between men and women are much more complicated than the size of the brain. Sex is not related to a particular type of brain and we are not born with brains stamped male or female, containing little pink or blue – or grey – cells. Although expert opinion varies in terms of what makes male and female brains different – not better or worse, just different – the overall consensus is that the brain contains a mix of both male and female characteristics as unique as our individual fingerprints.

The differences between men and women are determined by very complex interactions at the cellular level, including differences in brain structure, gene expression on X and Y chromosomes, a higher percentage of body fat in women, hormones, gut physiology, social experiences, and more. According to the Institute of Medicine, every cell in the body has a sex, which means that women and men are different even down to the cellular level. This also means that diseases, treatments and chemicals will affect the sexes differently.

These differences not only influence personality traits, but also the prevalence and response to treatment of particular diseases that are likely to ail men and women. For instance, sex and gender differences in cardiovascular diseases are well-investigated and there is strong evidence that men and women face different risk factors and have different treatment outcomes.

According to the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, women’s heart attacks may have different underlying causes, symptoms and outcomes than men’s. Despite some improvements in the rate of cardiovascular deaths over the last decade, women still fare worse than men after a heart attack and heart disease in women remains underdiagnosed and undertreated.

Of course, cardiovascular diseases are by no means the only area in which men and women differ in their susceptibility to, and survival of, disease. Because gender affects a wide range of physiological functions, it has an impact on a wide range of diseases and conditions. In addition to “women only” health conditions, three times as many women suffer from autoimmune diseases as men and women are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, diabetes, anxiety and depression, urinary tract disorders, irritable bowel syndrome and eating disorders. However, despite the wealth of data on differences, medical practice does not sufficiently take gender into account in diagnosis, treatment or disease management.

Also contributing to the disease gender gap is the medical research gender gap. Excluding women from clinical trials is negatively affecting women’s health. Today, even with mounting evidence of the gender differences in disease, women are still being ignored when it comes to health research. In a 2014 report, researchers at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston stated:

“The science that informs medicine – including the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease – routinely fails to consider the crucial impact of sex and gender. This happens in the earliest stages of research when females are excluded from animal and human studies or the sex of the animals isn’t stated in the published results. Once clinical trials begin, researchers frequently do not enroll adequate numbers of women or, when they do, fail to analyze or report data separately by sex. This hampers our ability to identify important differences that could benefit the health of all.”

Clinical trials designed to study the safety and effectiveness of drugs and other medical treatments are primarily done with men and historically women have been treated as “small men.” Even in diseases typical to women, generally the research is done with men. Can we apply what we learn from male rats or humans to a women’s physiology? No, we cannot. So why, even today, are men the primary test subjects in clinical trials?

The answer is both practical and political, without malicious intent. The practical reason is that men are easier to study because they do not have menstrual cycles and they do not get pregnant. As a result, research data are easier to analyze. The political reason for excluding women from clinical trials is also historical. In the 1950s, the drug thalidomide caused pregnant women to give birth to babies with missing limbs, and in the 1970s, DES, an estrogen-like drug prescribed to prevent miscarriages, increased the risk that female babies would develop rare vaginal cancers later in life. As a result, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States banned all women who could become pregnant from participating in early-stage clinical trials. However, the ban ended up also including all women who were not sexually active, who used contraception or who were homosexual, as well as other minority groups. This law was upheld until 1993, even though in 1987 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) encouraged scientists seeking funding to include women and minorities in their clinical research.

Researchers surveyed papers published between 2011 and 2012 in five major surgical journals and found that in studies involving animals, 80 percent included only male subjects. In cell research, male cells were used 71 percent of the time, and in pre-clinical studies, the disparity was even more pronounced and skewed overwhelmingly male.

Millions of women and men are prescribed the same drugs every day, yet women are more likely than men to experience adverse drug reactions. In fact, 80 percent of prescription drugs pulled from the US market from 1997 to 2001 caused more side effects in women. Metabolic differences determine how drugs are released and excreted, leading to additional risk factors for women. Women are not just men with “boobs and tubes.” Lower body surface in women, as well as differences in kidney function, drug resorption and metabolism cause significant differences in how the body uses and excretes drugs. In addition, the gut transit time of medications, food or anything else women ingest takes two times longer than men and, as a result, these substances stay in the body for longer periods of time.

Major sex and gender differences have been reported for the efficacy and adverse effects of heart drugs, analgesics, psychiatric drugs, anticancer and cardiovascular drugs, as well as antidepressants, anti-inflammatory and antiviral drugs. These differences are related to the appropriate dosage for each gender. It would seem obvious, therefore, that many drugs require different dosing to achieve optimal effects. However, a 2005 analysis of 300 new drug applications between 1995 and 2000 found that even the drugs that showed substantial differences in how they were absorbed, metabolized and excreted by men and women had no sex-specific dosage recommendations on their labels. This might be one reason why women are 1.5–2 times more likely to develop an adverse reaction to prescription drugs than men.

In 1993, the US Congress passed an act requiring that all NIH-funded Phase 3 clinical trials include women, however the male-centric tendency still exists. According to a 2006 study in the Journal of Women’s Health, women made up less than one-quarter of all patients enrolled in 46 examined clinical trials completed in 2004. And although heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined, a 2008 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported that women comprised only 10-47 percent of each subject pool in 19 heart-related clinical trials.

As a result, the question is if you are only studying males, how do you know the therapy will work or have the same effects or risk factors on women? Simple answer: You don’t! Dr. Jerilynn Prior, a professor of endocrinology at the University of British Columbia, says men are not adequate replacements for women in research. “It is not scientifically correct. Period. Full stop.” Women deserve to be studied to the same intensity and standards.

Many health care practitioners are not aware of the gender bias in clinical studies and the implications for women’s health. As a result, it becomes a bottom-up situation, requiring education of the public, and women in particular.

In health care, as in any area of life, it is crucial to understand what it is we are trying to achieve: the best level of health with the least degree of harm. Armed with a greater level of knowledge, a person is in a better position to more readily assess the ability of different medical approaches, based as they are on distinct philosophies, to meet individual needs. It also allows for greater participation in discussions with health care practitioners when making informed choices regarding health promotion and disease prevention, treatment and management.

It is always important to address the underlying causes of any condition when possible. There are times when treating symptoms of a disease with drugs or surgery is absolutely necessary, so it is important to be informed about the gender differences in treatment outcomes.

Medicine is both a science and an art. It is a science as it presents facts and evolves principles; it is an art as it applies these principles to suit the needs of individual patients. Practising the art of medicine requires active and careful listening. Unfortunately, we live in a world where studies and statistics take priority and many doctors have lost the art of listening to their patients. Gender remains an independent and important risk factor and sex and gender differences in common diseases must be considered in order to improve health and quality of health care for both women and men.

As an individual, you have choices: You can take the proactive approach by making health care choices that promote greater health and vitality and that are specifically intended to prevent disease from occurring. Should symptoms of disease strike, you can be prepared with a basic knowledge of what treatments are available to you which ones are the safest and most effective. Ask questions and learn to listen to your own body.

Karen JensenExcerpted from Women’s Health Matters: The influence of Gender on Disease by Dr. Karen Jensen, ND, www.mindpublishing.com

Karen Jensen received her degree in naturopathic medicine from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in 1988. She is a well-known author and lecturer.

Fish farming

photo of Vesanto Melina

NUTRISPEAK
by Vesanto Melina

Last month, we explored the cruelty and environmental damage inherent in commercial fishing. This month, we look at aquaculture. Today, approximately half the fish consumed are reared in crowded enclosures whether on land or in water. Globally, between 40-120 billion farmed fish are slaughtered for food each year.

The goal in fish farming is the same as in agri-business: to generate the most meat for the least money. Fish farms maintain a density of animals never seen in the wild. Growth accelerators are used to speed weight gain and antibiotics are used to contain the spread of disease. The consequences of these intensive operations are widespread and severe.

Fish welfare: Poor conditions in aquaculture operations include crowding, polluted water and disease outbreaks, causing stress, fear and pain in these animals.

Pressure on wild fish stocks: One argument used to justify fish farming is the protection of wild fish. Yet many of the farmed fish, such as salmon, are carnivorous. Seventy percent of salmon on the market is farmed. It can take 2.5-5 pounds of wild fish to yield one pound of farmed carnivorous fish. Farmed fish that manage to escape can transfer serious diseases, sea lice and other parasites to wild fish stocks; they can devastate native fish populations.

Environmental damage: Ecologically sensitive areas, such as mangroves, coastal estuaries and salmon migration routes, may be seriously threatened by fish-farm outputs, including nitrogenous waste (mainly from fish feces), food pellets and drug residues. This untreated waste released into the ocean affects water quality and other sea life and also fuels a proliferation of toxin-producing algae that can cause massive die-offs of fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds and animals that consume them.

Proponents argue that eating farmed fish is better than eating beef in terms of greenhouse emissions while admitting that, on average, the environmental footprint is somewhat higher than for chicken and pork.

Risk to human health: Frequent use of antibiotics in aquaculture allows disease microbes to become resistant to antibiotic treatments, making it more difficult to treat human disease.

Fish life: Scientists now confirm fish demonstrate myriad complex behaviours and skills; they form relationships, recognize other individuals, pass on knowledge and skills, have long-term memories, solve problems, collaborate in food finding, experience fear and distress and avoid risky situations. They have neurotransmitters and feel pain.

Death as a farmed fish: Until the 90s, there was little scientific agreement that fish could feel. Since then, studies have made us rethink these beliefs. Scientific thinking can be strange; even as a child, the one time I went fishing, it was obvious the fish was not comfortable having a hook through its cheek.

While farmed fish do not get the hook, out of water, their gills collapse leading to a slow, stressful death by asphyxiation. Other commercial methods of killing include being clubbed to death, gill cutting and being allowed to bleed to death, carbon dioxide stunning, spiking the brain and live chilling.

Alternatives? If you like the flavour of seafood, try vegan alternatives such as Sophie’s or Gardein’s fishless filets. Check out www.vegan supply.ca, Whole Foods and Choices.

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian and co-author of the award winning Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition and other books. www.nutrispeak.com See www.meetup.com/MeatlessMeetup/events/239422374/

Mass murderers and SSRIs

Connecting the dots

DRUG BUST
by Alan Cassels

I write this as the US is wallowing in another round of hand-wringing from another mass shooting. The carnage in Las Vegas featured a guy with a dozen or so probably legally obtained rifles raining bullets on the crowd attending an outdoor concert. His actions resulted in nearly 60 dead and 500 or so wounded. News reports say the police continue to probe the shooter’s motives. After all, don’t we all want to know the ‘why’ of what seems like a senseless act of violence? Maybe if we understood what happened, we could prevent such events in the future, right?

Yet as his motives are hypothesized, dissected and discussed, most of us just wonder if the guy was ‘crazy’ and what made him so. The killer’s background, his childhood, his links to terrorists organizations and his state of mental health will be extensively probed. But here’s one dominant theory that won’t get much airtime, but which has been circulating for at least two decades: maybe it’s the drugs.

Even before the 1999 horror of the Columbine High School shootings, theories about the effects of psychiatric drugs had been proffered. We know that one of the Columbine shooters, a boy named Eric Harris, was taking the SSRI Luvox. Psychiatrist Peter Breggin, author of Toxic Psychiatry and Talking Back to Prozac has written extensively about violence in association with taking SSRI antidepressants. He wrote that Eric Harris was probably suffering a “drug-induced manic reaction caused by Luvox,” adding, “The phenomenon of drug-induced manic reactions caused by antidepressants is so widely recognized that it is discussed several times in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association.”

It could be that taking any number of psychiatric drugs may be like putting a match to a powder keg of an angst-ridden and suicidal person, who is heavily armed. We have long known that the most commonly-prescribed antidepressants – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – sold as Prozac, Paxil, Effexor, Celexa, Luvox and Zoloft, can trigger impulses that lead to suicide or homicide. While these drugs are prescribed for depression and mood disorders, they have carried FDA black-box warnings since 2004 and are associated with “a risk of suicidal thinking, feeling and behaviour in young people.” Whether or not this association happens in adults has been roundly debated for years, yet there are other adverse effects related to SSRIs that can be equally deadly.

Akathisia – a reason for suicide?

All of the SSRIs can cause akathisia in some patients. Akathisia has been described as “subjective distress,” a state of unbearable discomfort where the person suffers extreme restlessness and agitation. It is an emotionally turbulent state that some say can lead to a sort of ‘out-of-body’ feeling. One expert witness in a lawsuit involving Zoloft described it this way: “It may be less of a question of patients experiencing [SSRI]-induced suicidal ideation than patients feeling that death is a welcome result when the acutely discomforting symptoms of akathisia are experienced on top of already distressing disorders.” He went on to say that “akathisia has the potential, when it is severe, of contributing to suicidality and aggression.”

The numbers of people taking SSRIs in our society are huge, yet the rates of those who commit violent acts of rage are, thankfully, small. Or are they? It’s likely those data aren’t collected, but there seems to be growing evidence these drugs sometimes play a role in the commission of violent acts. The website SSRI Stories (www.ssristories.org) describes itself as containing “over 6,000 stories that have appeared in the media – newspapers, TV, scientific journals – in which prescription drugs were mentioned and in which the drugs may be linked to a variety of adverse outcomes including violence.”

Some might debate these ‘data,’ saying it is always ‘crazy’ or deranged people who commit these violent crimes. In fact, the lawyers defending the drug companies in hundreds of class action lawsuits almost always point out that, if people commit suicide or other acts of violence while on their drugs, it is because those people are severely depressed and that it’s not the fault of the drug. At the same time, it is well known that stopping, starting or altering doses of SSRI medications can cause terrible, adverse effects in some people.

One such incredibly heartbreaking story concerns a man in Ontario who suffered one of the rare, but more serious, adverse effects related to SSRIs: severe psychosis and delusions. In 2004, David Carmichael, suffering from psychosis, killed his 11-year-old son, Ian. He was taking the antidepressant Paxil at the time and was immediately charged with first degree murder. Later judged to be “not criminally responsible” for murdering Ian on account of a mental disorder and freed from jail, David Carmichael has a different take on what was actually going on. He carefully documents his story on the website www.davidcarmichael.com and has become a bit of a local champion in terms of publicizing the many scandals around the SSRI antidepressants.

Carmichael writes that, according to Andy Vickery, a trial lawyer from Houston, “Big chemical drug pharmaceutical companies argue in wrongful death claims involving SSRIs that suicides and/or homicides are triggered by the ‘disease’ (e.g., major depression), not the ‘drug.”

He adds, “The evidence that my lawyer collected immediately after I killed Ian contradicts this argument. My ‘psychosis’ was not triggered by my ‘major depression.’ Results from the psychometric tests indicate that I was not in a major depression at the time of the killing. It appears that Paxil shot me out of my depression into a severe psychotic state within three weeks of starting the drug and within two weeks of increasing my dosage from 40 to 60mg a day.”

This observation is backed up by a psychiatric assessment. In his PDF-available book entitled Killer Side Effects, Carmichael writes that a forensic psychiatrist at the Brockville Mental Health Centre told him that, while he was in a severe state of depression, it was Paxil that “likely triggered the psychotic episode that caused me to kill my 11-year-old son Ian on July 31, 2004, not my major depression.”

Prescripticide

David Carmichael is articulate in describing what he thinks killed his son and has coined a word to describe it: “prescripticide.” He writes, “Adverse reactions to SSRIs are causing people to commit suicide and homicide and, in fact, adverse reactions to prescription drugs are the 4th leading cause of death in Canada after cancer, heart disease and stroke.” He came up with a single word to explain what is happening: “prescripticide.” (See https://rxisk.org/three-weeks-to-prescripticide/)

Is “prescripticide” really a ‘thing’? Are widely used prescription drugs facilitating behaviour that may sometimes lead to murder? Maybe it’s best to look at what the manufacturers themselves are required to say: as of 2004, all labels for SSRI antidepressants are required to list the following adverse effects: anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity and akathisia.

It might be too early to tell what drug the killer in Las Vegas was taking, if anything, but you can be sure there will be other mass killings and likely other mass murderers who were acting under the influence of an SSRI. People worry about the uncontrolled gun culture in the US, but perhaps most worrisome is that we’ve also got an uncontrolled population of millions of people taking psychiatric drugs as well and the two are a potentially toxic combination.

When David Carmichael says, “If I’m not criminally responsible for murdering Ian, maybe someone else is,” I think there is a whole range of possible suspects, many who, unfortunately, will still be getting away with murder.

Alan Cassels is a writer and former drug policy researcher. His latest book is The Cochrane Collaboration: Medicine’s Best Kept Secret. @AKECassels

Pure water is a lifeline to good health

pure clean water

by Dr. Allen E. Banik

The secret of longevity

There are at least nine different kinds of water. Some kinds can harden your arteries, form gall stones and kidney stones, bring on early senility… Other kinds of water work in reverse. What one type of water carries into the system, the other carries out. Let me classify these nine kinds of water. They are hard water, raw water, boiled water, soft water, rain water, snow water, filtered water, de-ionized water and distilled water. All are kinds of water, but remember this; only one of these nine kinds of water is good for you: distilled water.

Distilled water is water which has been turned into vapour so that virtually all its impurities are left behind. Then, by condensing, it is turned back to “pure” water. Distillation is the single most effective method of water purification. It is God’s water for the human race. In a manner of speaking, distillation is nature’s way. The weather of the world is created in the tropics where half the heat reaching the Earth falls on land and water masses. Here, heat energy is stored within water vapour through the process of evaporation, nature’s distillery. When the jet streams return ocean water to inland areas, they do so without sea salts and minerals, all of which have been left behind.

Nature’s natural distilling plant

Distilling water turns it into vapour and then through condensation back again into pure water. Rising vapour cannot carry minerals and other dissolved solids; it will not carry disease germs, dead or alive. The secret is that the vapour rises between all the suspended particles and chemicals in the air. When this condensation occurs as falling rain, it picks up airborne pollutants. Not so in a vented distiller where most of them are eliminated. If pure distilled water is boiled in a teakettle, no calcium or minerals of any kind will collect to coat the inside of the kettle even though you used the same kettle for 10 years.

Distilled water, then, is water of the purest kind. It is odourless, colourless and tasteless.

In the human body, water fills similar functions. It regulates the temperature of the body by helping take off extra heat resulting from an intake of some 3,000 calories of food each day. Water keeps the body from burning up. It carries waste products from the body. Distilled water acts as a solvent in the body. It dissolves food substances so they can be assimilated and taken into every cell. It dissolves inorganic mineral substances lodged in tissues of the body so that such substances can be eliminated in the process of purifying the body. Distilled water is the greatest solvent on Earth… By its continued use, it is possible to dissolve inorganic minerals, acid crystals and all the other waste products of the body without injuring tissues.

For purification, distilled water is the solvent of choice. Remember that great scientists now not only admit, but assert, that all old age, and even death – unless by accident – is due to waste poisons not washed out of the body. The legendary Dr. Alexis Carrel made heart tissue apparently immortal by regularly washing away the wastes of the cells.

Excerpted from The Choice Is Clear by Dr. Allen E. Banik, an optometrist who caught the attention of Art Linkletter for his insatiable quest for knowledge and an intense desire to trace all chronic and fatal diseases to a common cause. Dr. Banik’s life spanned 1901-1992 (91-years-young).

photo copyright Maxim Blinkov

The Daisy Project

One woman’s inspiring journey through BC’s mental health system maze

DRUG BUST
by Alan Cassels

When you spend as much time as I do reading medical literature, parsing studies and thinking about their statistically significant ‘findings,’ you get a certain view of medicine. Research is not created equal and there is a strict hierarchy of evidence where randomized trials are considered superior forms of evidence in evaluating treatments. Better yet are those meta-analyses; the combined summaries and syntheses of many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are considered the gold standard in determining if there is ‘proof’ of a treatment’s benefits. At the other end of the spectrum are ‘case studies’ that may be just the observations of one or several patients. Then there are personal stories which tend to be ignored, dismissed as ‘anecdotal’ and said to be of limited usefulness.

While I am all for good-quality meta-analyses, I also think we have a lot to learn by reading case studies and personal stories. They are really important and can be very illuminating, often revealing, in excruciating detail, how our health system works in the real world to help sort out peoples’ health problems.

Over the last 20 years or so, I have been contacted by hundreds of people, all with a story to tell, often with an altruistic motive which says, “I don’t want others to suffer the way I have.” Among those who have called me, those taking statins often ask if their muscle weakness could be due to those cholesterol-lowering drugs. “Likely,” I say. Others wonder if their mother’s anti-alzheimer’s pill could be causing her to feel nauseous. “Probably, yes.” Others question the prescription for an amphetamine for their 10-year-old boy who can’t sit still (sheesh). These people all have stories to tell and they are rich and rewarding.

What many of these people have in common is that they have been harmed by the treatment they’ve been prescribed. But what isn’t common are those who have gone through terrible medical experiences yet can move beyond the trauma to meaningfully communicate it to others.

Over the last 30 years or so, Daisy Anderson has seen 18 different psychiatrists, been prescribed more than 30 different medications, was given electric shock treatments, been hospitalized repeatedly and faced the stings of rejection and isolation. With an admittedly difficult childhood, marred by various types of abuse, she documents her slow journey through BC’s mental health system in incredible detail. Her story, just published in the book, The Daisy Project: Escaping Psychiatry and Rediscovering Love, speaks to those who find themselves navigating what passes for mental health care in BC.

I asked her why she wrote such a book, painfully recalling and documenting her struggles in what seemed like an incredibly uncaring, hostile system. Her answer was simple: she wanted to tell the world when she got better. She didn’t like the way she was being treated and she wanted her life back.

The problem, of course, is being diagnosed with a mental illness and trying to get well when it seems everything – including your family, the medical system and even the lawyers – might be working against you. It means negotiating for yourself and being your own advocate. As Daisy writes, “Disability was about letters, forms and proving that I was extremely ill. It also meant having to ask a hotheaded psychiatrist to write a letter and sign his name.”

Thankfully, she did find people along the way, particularly a psychologist, and others who were able to help her. As she writes, “I sought solace from anyone who would listen.” A switch happened when she admitted to her very helpful psychologist that “psychiatry may have harmed me.” For her, “it felt like a turning point, a sign of my transformation from an indoctrinated psychiatric patient into a strong independent woman.”

Many of the people who end up in the mental health system are there not because they have a ‘brain disease,’ but because they may have ended up with a diagnosis of ‘anxiety’ or ‘depression,’ which started them down a cascade of anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants. Daisy’s life might be a testament to what happens to adults who have been through childhood abuse, yet it was the abuse by the mental health system that really slowed her recovery. But Daisy survived the dismissive psychiatrists and their armamentarium of toxic drugs and thrived in spite of them, refusing to accept the view that others had of her. Thankfully, she found a psychologist who “really listened,” helping immensely. Unfortunately, psychological help can be very expensive and not readily available for people on limited means. As to the ‘secret’ of her survival, she told me, “I just had to tell my story.” Being a natural documentarian where her diary was her “release,” her pages and pages of records and copious notes all helped her advocate for herself based on the facts of her own case.

As for getting off drugs, she comments on the system I know about, in which people take prescriptions with very limited ‘informed’ consent. As for all the drugs, she told me, “You need to know a lot and you need to be given time to think about it. You need to be given alternatives and you need to know the problems you will face on the drugs.” For example, you can develop diabetes with the newer antipsychotics, but nobody is typically informed of this or really understands what the full ramifications are of getting a ‘new’ disease. The drugs, she says, are “complicating things immeasurably because the doctors don’t see the side effects or underestimate their effects on one’s day to day living.”

Most people might not know that stopping many psychiatric drugs involves a “withdrawal effect,” which can make them terribly ill. Unfortunately, tapering patients is not a speciality of most doctors and, for Daisy, stopping her benzodiazepines (drugs prescribed for anxiety or sleeping) was difficult. Along the way, she had to research the best ways to do so (discovering the Ashton Protocol) and take information to her doctors so they could reduce her drugs slowly and safely.

Above all, Daisy’s “project” is a plea for people to be “listened to.” She shows that to improve the care of people with mental health difficulties, the system needs to be adaptive. “Not everyone will benefit from counselling, medication or cognitive behavioural therapy,” she says, but people should be offered these options. “There has to be far fewer medications” and most importantly, she says, people with mental health problems need “someone who can listen and understand.” What also helped her return to health was many of those other things that generally increase our enjoyment in life: yoga, walking, being in nature, belonging to art and craft groups and spiritual practice. “Basically, being in a community of people who accept you as you are.”

I asked Daisy what is causing the growing sense of mental ill health in society and she responded immediately, “Lots of people go through tough times. But when you lose your husband, etc, you may need support, but you don’t need medication.” She adds, “Sometimes, we get blamed for being sick when, in fact, society is doing it to us.” For her, the solutions are complex, but she emphasizes going to the root: “The first thing we need to do is care for our children… but don’t blame parents.”

The new NDP government created a new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions to deal with the issues. According to the Ministry, “One in five British Columbians will be affected by a mental health and/or substance use problem this year.” Minister Judy Darcy received a ‘mandate’ letter from the new premier which stated that her job, in part, was to ”guide the transformation of BC’s mental-health-care system” and to “focus on improving access, investing in early prevention and youth mental health.”

I’m hoping Judy Darcy will have people like Daisy Anderson advising her.

EVENT

September 14, 7PM: Vancouver book launch of The Daisy Project: Escaping Psychiatry and Rediscovering Love. At the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 949 West 49th Ave. All are welcome. Free.

Alan Cassels writes about pharmaceutical policy in Victoria and is the author of Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. www.alancassels.com

Something fishy

photo of Vesanto Melina

NUTRISPEAK
by Vesanto Melina

Fish has long been viewed as an ideal protein source and the significant source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA. Health authorities have sometimes advised people to consume at least two servings of fish per week.

Globally, an estimated one trillion fish are caught each year, excluding illegal catches and bycatch. About half of the commercial fishing industry targets wild fish and other aquatic animals and half relies on “farms.” Concerns about both sectors grow each year. This article features wild sea life. Next month’s topic is fish farming.

Overfishing is rapidly devastating marine ecosystems. Experts predict that, if current trends continue, by 2048 there will be a global collapse of all stocks currently fished. Sea lice and other infections from farmed salmon have an impact on numbers and global warming is changing habitat; for example, aquatic temperatures in the Strait of Georgia and Fraser River are one and a half degrees warmer than 50 years ago.

Bottom-trawling – dragging huge nets with metal plates and metal wheels – along the ocean floor is the underwater equivalent of clear-cutting. It is like bulldozing entire communities and it is wasteful. For example, shrimp trawlers kill up to 20 pounds of non-target marine life for every pound of shrimp plucked from the trawling net. The creatures trapped inside the nets are dragged upward, along with rocks, coral and other fragments of ocean habitat. They experience rapid decompression, causing vital organs to rupture. This bycatch, including sea turtles, dolphins, sharks and numerous other species, is commonly tossed overboard.

Long-lining uses one or more main lines from which dangle short branch lines with hooks at the ends. Lines can be as long as 75 miles and hold hundreds or thousands of baited hooks, set at varying depths depending on target species. In addition, other animals are hooked. This industry is notorious for the deaths of millions of birds, dolphins, sharks and turtles, all of which (along with the fish) can be dragged behind a boat for hours or days.

Gill-netting uses huge floating nets with mesh, sized to snare the target species. Targeted fish become trapped by their gills and nets are often left unmonitored for long periods so trapped fish can slowly suffocate.

Purse-seining also employs a large net like a purse with a giant drawstring rope that is hauled to the surface. Dolphins are commonly trapped and can drown. Fish are often still alive and conscious when they’re pulled on deck to be gutted.

Fortunately, those who like the flavour of seafood can still enjoy it without supporting environmental damage and cruelty. Products similar to breaded filets and crab cakes are now made from pea or soy protein and the textures and flavours are good. Examples include Sophie’s Breaded Vegan Fish Fillets, Toona and crab cakes and Gardein’s Golden Fishless Filet, available at www.vegan supply.ca (250 East Pender St. in Vancouver). Whole Foods and Choices carry Gardein’s Fishless Filets. And you can get DHA (in supplement form) from the same source that fish use to get their DHA: microalgae. Just Google “Vegan DHA.”

EVENT

September 29, 7:15: A presentation by Nic Waller about aquatic animals and what options we have. A shared evening of snacks and great company. Check out www.meetup.com/MeatlessMeetup/events/242482062/

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian and co-author of the award winning Becoming Vegan: Comprehensive Edition and other books. www.nutrispeak.com

 

The Weekend Warrior recovery ritual

Lemon water

by Dai Manuel

I work hard but I play harder. I am a weekend warrior – HOO-rah!

I live for competition; my entrenched desire to defeat an opponent fuels me and many others just like me. My body takes a beating but my mind keeps on craving more, but there comes a point when the body catches up with the mind and simply answers with “enough is enough.”

This is when progress grinds to a halt.Nagging little injuries and strains start to appear and the realization starts to set in that something has to be done. This is what used to happen to me until I implemented a “recovery ritual,” which now has me faster, stronger and more energetic than ever.

My weekend warrior recovery ritual

The first thing I do upon waking every morning is drink a full 0.5 to 1 L of water; the body is naturally in a state of detoxification in the morning and this helps to expedite the process while also giving my muscles and digestive system what they need to fully absorb the nutrients that I’m about to consume.

I also add the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon to my water. Lemons and limes contain a phytonutrient known as d-limonene, which helps to cleanse the liver and kidneys while also alkalizing the body as a whole; neutralizing your body’s acidity levels is a crucial aspect of recovery.

Around 10 to 20 minutes later, I consume the following: 5 to 10g BCAA (Branched chain amino acids and creatine). This helps with muscle protein breakdown and kickstarts protein synthesis in the body, while also providing the essential amino acids valine, isoleucine and, most importantly, leucine. Containing around 3g of leucine per 5g serving, BCAA is perhaps one of the single most important recovery supplements on the market today.

Four key features to note about BCAA, creatine and glutamine:

  1. Increase lean muscle mass.
  2. Improve strength and power.
  3. Assist in cell muscle repair.
  4. Prevent muscle catabolism.

5g glutamine

Glutamine is what is known as a conditionally essential amino acid and as a weekend warrior I know that giving my immune system a helping hand is incredibly important to speed up recovery and stem the tide of flu and other illness throughout the year.

One serving of a greens powder

A decent greens or superfood powder will provide a host of phytonutrients, antioxidants and/or probiotics. This not only helps to further alkalize the body and protect against the oxidative cell damage that can result from hard and heavy training, it will also boost your digestive system so you can absorb more of the nutrients from the whole foods you eat and recover even faster.

1 – 2g vitamin C

Since adding higher doses of vitamin C to my recovery ritual, I have noticed that my morning anxiety levels have all but disappeared. Vitamin C helps to control rather than suppress the stress hormone cortisol, a hormone which can be highly catabolic and lead to muscle wasting so it provides a natural way of keeping stress levels down while also giving my immune system a further boost. Remember that vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin so be sure to get plenty of water in first thing.

At age 15, Dai Manuel, aka “The Moose,” made a decision to lead a life of inspiring others about the benefits of living life to the fullest through a health and fitness orientated lifestyle. He is the co-founder and former COO of Fitness Town Inc., a keynote speaker, published author of the Whole Life Fitness Manifesto, a CrossFit athlete and coach (and he loves to #GetAfterIt). In 2010, he created “The Moose is Loose,” successfully combining multiple genres to create an information rich resource blog. He lives with his wife and two children in Vancouver. daimanuel.com