Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for subscribers like you, who help, support and share our vision for a naturally healthier, happier world, every day of the year.
Google recently announced the top health searches for 2018.1,2,3 Ketogenic diet and keto dishes were popular, although top billing still went to junk food items, with unicorn cake coming in at No. 1. Below, I’ll review the Top 10 internal Mercola.com searches for 2018 — the articles and information people have turned to again and again.
Below each search term heading, the most popular article of the year is hyperlinked; just click on it to read the full article.
No. 1 — High Blood Pressure
A blood pressure reading of 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) is considered healthy. High blood pressure (hypertension) is typically considered anything over 140/90 mmHg, although the latest guidelines4 from the American Heart Association now have 130/80 mmHg as the cutoff for a diagnosis of hypertension. In the U.S., an estimated 1 in 3 have high blood pressure, and another 1 in 3 have prehypertension.5
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, stroke and dementia,6 adding further weight to recommendations to get your blood pressure under control in order to protect not only your heart but also your long-term cognitive health.
“High Blood Pressure Linked to Increased Risk of Dementia” reviews the latest research linking hypertension with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease; factors that can affect your blood pressure reading; common causes for high blood pressure; and, natural ways to normalize your blood pressure without drugs.
Beet juice, for example, has been found to have a beneficial effect on blood pressure.7 The beneficial effects are related to the nitrate found in beetroot juice. Your body converts the nitrate into bioactive nitrite followed by nitric oxide (NO), the latter of which helps relax and dilate your blood vessels. High-intensity exercise such as the Nitric Oxide Dump will also trigger NO production in your body.
A number of essential oils can also be helpful, including lavender, ylang-ylang, marjoram, bergamot, rose, frankincense, rosemary, lemon balm and clary sage.8 More information can be found in the popular article “Essential Oils Lower Blood Pressure.”
Salt-related hypertension is also a concern for many. In “Why a Low-Sodium Diet Might Wreck Your Health,” I interview James DiNicolantonio, Pharm.D., about his book, “The Salt Fix: Why the Experts Got It All Wrong — and How Eating More Might Save Your Life.”
A key take-home message here is that processed foods and sugars may have a far greater impact on your blood pressure than salt, and that your sodium-to-potassium ratio is far more important a factor than the amount of salt you eat.
No. 2 — Ketogenic Diet
Many of the disease epidemics facing us today — including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and dementia — could be turned around by educating people about the benefits of a cyclical ketogenic diet, i.e., a diet high in healthy fats, moderate in protein and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber).
“Burn Fat for Fuel” details how burning fat for fuel improves mitochondrial function, and why cycling in and out of nutritional ketosis is recommended once your body is able to efficiently burn fat. In this article, I also review the benefits of intermittent fasting and longer water fasts, as well as the fats to eat more of and which ones to avoid.
No. 3 — Beets
Beets have gotten loads of beneficial press in the past year, as research demonstrates the beneficial impact of plant-based nitrates on your heart health. In “Why Some Nitrates Are Healthy While Others Are Harmful,” I review the ins and outs of healthy versus unhealthy nitrates.
Your microbiome converts the nitrates found naturally in plant foods into beneficial nitric oxide, while the nitrates in cured and processed meats raise your risk of cancer by being converted into carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds due to the presence of proteins and heme in the meat.
No. 4 — Vitamin D
We’re continually learning more and more about the benefits of vitamin D — and how vitamin D works with other nutrients to optimize health. “Without Magnesium, Vitamin D Supplementation May Backfire” explains why optimizing your magnesium level is so important for effectively raising your vitamin D level.
Like vitamin K2 and calcium, magnesium is a crucial cofactor when trying to raise your vitamin D, as it’s required for the activation of vitamin D. Without sufficient amounts of magnesium, your body cannot properly utilize the vitamin D3 you’re taking, and research shows improving your magnesium status can actually allow you to raise your vitamin D level while taking lower doses.
To assess your magnesium level, check your RBC magnesium level and track signs and symptoms of magnesium insufficiency to determine how much magnesium you need. Low potassium and calcium are also common laboratory signs indicating magnesium deficiency.
Remember that the only way to determine how much sun exposure is enough and/or how much vitamin D3 you need to take is to measure your vitamin D level, ideally twice a year. According to the latest research, a level between 60 and 80 ng/mL appears to be ideal for optimal health and disease prevention.
No. 5 — Intermittent Fasting
Fasting upregulates autophagy and mitophagy — natural cleansing processes necessary for optimal cellular renewal and function — and triggers the generation of stem cells. The cyclical abstinence from food followed by refeeding also massively stimulates mitochondrial biosynthesis. All of this is needed for optimal health and disease prevention, which is why fasting has such a powerful regenerative effect.
Research shows fasting is a powerful lifestyle tool for combating obesity, insulin resistance and related health problems, including cancer. There’s even evidence to suggest fasting can help prevent or even reverse dementia, as it helps your body clean out toxic debris.
While water-only fasting is the most effective, it can also be the most problematic, as it forces fat-soluble toxins out of your fat cells. If you’re highly toxic and your detoxification pathways aren’t working well, this could actually be dangerous.
Fortunately, research has confirmed that similar results (albeit not as profound) can be achieved through intermittent fasting, i.e., following a meal-timing schedule where you’re fasting for at least 16 hours every day and eating all of your meals within eight consecutive hours.
While some intermittent fasting plans place no restrictions on the foods you eat (only when and/or the number of calories), recent evidence suggests intermittent fasting is far more effective when combined with a ketogenic diet.
This makes sense considering both strategies improve your fat burning ability and have similar rejuvenating and regenerating effects. All of this is reviewed in the popular article “Why Intermittent Fasting Is More Effective Combined With Ketogenic Diet.”
No. 6 — Flu Shot Facts
Flu protection is a common yearly concern, online search data reveal. Two of the most-read articles for 2018 were “The Big Bad Flu Data — What You Need to Know About Vaccine Effectiveness and Alternatives,” and “New York City to Require Flu Shots for Preschoolers and California Moves to Eliminate Vaccine Exemptions for the Poor.”
As noted in “The Big Bad Flu Data,” the vaccine effectiveness against influenza for the 2017/2018 seasonal flu vaccines was just 36 percent, meaning for a vast majority of people, it offered no protection at all. What’s more, research shows the flu vaccine does not result in significantly fewer or lessened symptoms should you contract the flu.
In fact, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting flu vaccinations render you more susceptible to illness, both in that season and the following one. The article also provides the details of research showing vitamin D optimization would protect far more people than flu vaccinations.
The second article discusses the ongoing concern of mandatory flu vaccinations for school-aged children, and the elimination of vaccine exemptions. It also reviews a number of studies questioning the validity of annual flu vaccination as a public health measure.
No. 7 — Sucralose (Splenda)
Sucralose (sold under the brand name Splenda) is one of the main competitors to aspartame, and both of these artificial sweeteners can have serious health consequences, raising your risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic health problems. One of sucralose’s mechanisms of harm is the destruction of beneficial gut bacteria.
“New Splenda Studies Confirm Its Dangers” reviews research showing sucralose is not a biologically inert compound; it is in fact metabolized, and accumulates in fat cells — something that the industry has long denied — and has toxic effects in your liver. The article also lists commonly reported side effects, and other scientific findings that question its overall safety in the long term.
I also review how to determine whether you might be having a reaction to artificial sweeteners, and how to file an adverse reaction report with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
No. 8 — Probiotics
More attention than ever is being put on your gut health, and understandably so because 70 to 80 percent of your immune function resides within your gastrointestinal tract. Your gut bacteria can also influence your behavior and gene expression, and have been shown to play a role in a variety of diseases, including obesity, diabetes, autism and Parkinson’s disease.
While fermented foods and a healthy low-sugar, high-fiber diet are foundational for gut health, probiotic supplements can also be beneficial. In “Go With Your Gut,” I review the influence of your gut microbiome on your health, and how to identify a high-quality probiotic supplement.
I also discuss the benefits of sporebiotics, which in some ways are superior to conventional probiotic supplements, especially if you’re taking them concurrently with an antibiotic, or to reseed your gut following a course of antibiotics. Sporebiotics do not contain any live bacillus strains, only its spores — the protective shell around the DNA and the working mechanism of that DNA — which means they are not affected by antibiotics.
No. 9 — Berberine
A number of new supplements have gained recognition in the past year, with berberine, a powerful AMPK activator, being among the most popular and most-searched-for.
AMPK is an enzyme that plays an important role in body fat composition, inflammation, blood lipids, mitophagy (mitochondrial autophagy) and mitochondrial biogenesis. It also stimulates five other critically important pathways: insulin, leptin, mTOR, IGF-1 and PGC-1α.
In “PQQ, Berberine and Other Mitochondrial Enhancers,” I interview Dr. Michael Murray, a naturopathic physician and author of several books, about the benefits and action of berberine. For example, berberine has been shown to protect against oxidative stress associated with Parkinson’s disease, and has many of the same benefits as the diabetic drug metformin, but without the side effects.
No. 10 — Cancer
As you’d expect, cancer is also on the list of most-searched-for health concerns. Clearly, prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to cancer, and while diet is paramount (with cyclical keto and fasting topping the list of all-natural cancer prevention strategies), specific nutrients and supplements show great promise as well, curcumin being one of the most potent and most well-studied.
When it comes to cancer treatment, more people than ever before are forgoing conventional chemotherapy and are starting to take control of their own cancer treatment and care. Overall, years of research supports the sanity of this trend, as studies have repeatedly shown chemo is nowhere near as effective as most people think, and actually hastens death when given to severely ill patients.
The remarkable benefits of nutritional ketosis and fasting as adjuncts to conventional cancer treatment are also detailed in “Metabolically Supported Therapies for the Improvement of Cancer Treatment,” which features an interview with Dr. Abdul Slocum and Travis Christofferson, author of “Tripping Over the Truth: How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms.”