From a conversation recorded in Feb 2016 by Hilda Labrada Gore, for the Wise Traditions Podcast. Stephanie Sennett is a senior research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from MIT in biology with a minor in food and nutrition and a PhD from MIT in computer science. A health crisis in her own family precipitated her interest in nutrition and she has found that dietary deficiencies and environmental toxins can explain many modern diseases and conditions.
It’s a story that you might imagine is true for many people, which is I was touched personally. My husband was very… We were very surprised. He was diagnosed with heart disease very suddenly and put very quickly under the probe to find that he had a blocked artery, he got a stent inserted. It was a complete shock to us; we thought he was fine before that and, all of a sudden, he had this problem. They put them on a high dose statin, four times the normal dosage, the doctor said he had to take that high just statin for the rest of his life. Of course, he immediately started getting nasty symptoms.
We didn’t know much about heart disease at that point; this was eight years ago. I got very interested in both heart disease and statin drugs. Having a degree in biology with MIT, an undergraduate degree, I was equipped to go ahead and read the research literature and search the doctor database. Very interested in finding out exactly what the statins do, how does it affect the body, exactly what is heart disease, how are they explaining it. The more I dug, the more I realized that they didn’t understand what heart disease was and that the statin drugs were not the appropriate treatment.
What I was reading was correct; I was digging into the research literature, some of it from quite far back actually, 1960s if you can imagine. I was finding that, back then, they recognized that heart disease was linked to sulfur deficiency and there were experiments that were done in the 60s, for example on monkeys, and they knew that if you fed these monkeys a high-fat, high cholesterol diet, you could induce something that looked like heart disease. But if you also give them sulfur containing amino acids, they didn’t get heart disease. So that gave me a huge hint that maybe sulfur had something to do with it.
Of course seafood is a very good choice and also eggs, both the whites and the yolks contain sulfur. Eggs are extremely healthy for you; especially of course, it has to be organic, healthy chickens. In terms of vegetables, it’s the cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and then also onions and garlic. Garlic is a great one and we eat lots of garlic in my family. Garlic is a terrific source.
So back to the research. I think in the 70s, when they figured out they had this drug that could make cholesterol go down, I think they saw dollar signs in their eyes and the thought, “If we can just convince people that cholesterol is the problem, we’ve got gold.” Cynically speaking, that’s what I believe. The literature on the sulfur connection pretty much shut down at that point. Even they had done studies in the 60s on humans and they showed that people who had heart disease and the particular arteries where the heart disease was, where the cholesterol was building up, those particular arteries were producing lots of sulfate in the artery wall in those people compared to the other arteries everywhere else in the body, and compared to younger people. In other words, when the artery is diseased, in the sense that it’s got cholesterol and fat buildup in it, it’s producing lots of sulfate. That is absolutely critical because the disease region of the artery is producing a product that the heart desperately needs.
The Doctors and Medical Contacts
Of course we had a battle with his doctor. I was fiercely studying, I printed out all these papers, I took them with me, we went to the doctor’s office and I had them ready to show him. All the papers showing the damage that statin drugs do, because there’s a lot of stuff on statin damage; you’d be surprised. There’s a lot of literature on that. A lot of it is in the more obscure journals; it’s not in the mainstream, but it’s there and it’s very clear. I wanted my husband off the statin and the doctor, of course, said that if he takes any less… He said right out in that meeting, “If he takes it less than four times the normal dosage, I will no longer be his doctor.” He played hardball and I said, “Would you like to see these documents?” he said, “That won’t be necessary.” He already knew statins were perfect, they’re going to solve your husband’s problem, just forget about it. Take the statin and don’t argue with me. If you search the database of every doctor in the united states, anyways, we fired him, so he did stop but not on his choice, on our choice. We got a new doctor, the new doctor, of course, was also handing out statin like candy, but he said, “If you’re not going to take it, that’s okay with me. I’m not going to force you,” so my husband got off the statin and he has been statin free for seven years. He’s doing fantastically well, he’s on a high cholesterol, high-fat, high sulfur diet.
Now he’s doing great. In fact, every time he goes to the doctor, the doctor is amazed at how well he’s doing and he’s the only one in the waiting room that isn’t crippled. These people show up in wheelchairs, they’ve got canes; they’re being destroyed by the statin. The statin destroys your muscles, it destroys your bones, it’s really horrible. It causes huge numbers of side effects related to getting older – cataracts, diabetes, hair loss, arthritis, all these problems related to aging. In fact, a wonderful paper that just came out recently explained how statins make you grow older faster and that’s exactly the phrase they used. I had been using that phrase for quite some time, statins make you grow older faster, because I saw all of these conditions that are related to growing old that statins were causing. They said the reason was because, and they showed it in the paper, that they disrupt the ability of stem cells to evolve into functioning cells, which is really important because the stem cells come in from the bone marrow and they replace cells that are worn out even in your heart. So your heart can’t renew itself because of the statin drug, so they actually cause heart failure.
They keep saying more and more people need to be on these statin drugs, they’re handing them out to everybody, even children which is really shocking because children desperately need the cholesterol for their development, for their brain. It’s amazing to me that they don’t think that’s a problem, to just give a child a statin drug. It’s just a horrendous idea in my opinion.
Every individual only grows old once; they don’t know how the aging process is supposed to play out. They’re getting old fast and they’re thinking, “I’m just getting old,” that’s very logical. They don’t think it’s the statin drug that’s causing it. It’s very insidious; it’s horrible. I was at the airport, of course, and there were all of these wheelchairs. As I was getting on board, there were like three or four wheelchairs in the group, people in wheelchairs waiting to get on. I see more and more wheelchairs and, of course, you come off the flight, there’s a big line of wheelchairs waiting for people to get off. People are getting crippled on this stuff.
It’s not normal, all of these wheelchairs. I bet if you just looked at how many wheelchairs airports are buying over time, you would find a tremendous increase in step with increased use of statin drugs. I bet.
I think that the really key, underlying problem to the sulfur deficiency in this country is the food and, in fact, it’s the toxic chemicals in the food, and in particular, it’s one toxic chemical in the food, which is glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pervasive herbicide Roundup which kills all plants except for those that have been genetically engineered through a bacterial gene insertion to be resistant.
Our Food Today
They are using it on a massive and increasing scale and it has been an incredible increase in the amount of Roundup that has been put on our core crops since 1995, 1996 when they first introduced. This is a wonderful solution – you have the corn, the soy, the canola, the sugar beets, these are all the core crops of the process food industry. The candy bars and the protein bars and all the drinks, the Coca-Cola, all of those things come out of these crops. They claimed that it would allow them to use less herbicide, but in fact it did the exact opposite. Every year that these Roundup Ready crops were grown, they needed more glyphosate to kill the weeds because the weeds got resistant. The weeds adopted resistance in the presence of the resistant crops.
The pesticide has been soaked up into the actual food so you can’t wash it off. It’s inside the food. We’re not completely unaware of it. Most of us are, most of us have never heard of glyphosate. I had never heard of glyphosate, actually, until just a few years ago. So if it wasn’t what I figured out initially with respect to my husband, now we’re on a very strict organic right diet. This has been another increasingly important… It’s a critical piece of the puzzle and he got even better once we went on the organic diet. He started cutting back on his diabetes medication, his blood pressure is better, he’s very, very healthy on the organic diet. So now we buy everything organic at Whole Foods or the farmer’s market. We even ask, “Is it organic?” and if it isn’t, we won’t buy it for our own eating at home.
That’s a way to avoid this glyphosate, which is affecting our sulfur levels. Glyphosate is actually an incredibly interesting molecule and I’m absolutely fascinated by it. It gives you a real window into human physiology because it’s such a train wreck. It really messes up so much of your metabolism, it’s really amazing. A crucial thing that it messes up is sulfate. It messes up your body’s ability to synthesize sulfate, it messes up your body’s ability to transport sulfate, and it increases your body’s exporting of sulfate through the urine; it causes you to lose sulfate through the urine.
Sulfate is absolutely essential in the brain for the neurotransmission. In fact, Alzheimer’s patients have low levels of a particular sulfate, a modified fat, in their brain and autistic kids have very low levels of sulfate in their cerebral spinal fluid I think. I think that sulfate deficiency is also linked very definitely to autism and to Alzheimer’s disease as well as to heart disease.
There’s another thing in terms of eating is to eat saturated fats, which is, of course, the opposite to what they recommended. Eat a lot of saturated fat, coconut oil is very good and also lard. We use lard as our oil for cooking. People typically will buy one of these seed oils, like a soybean oil or a corn oil or sunflower oil; these are all really bad oils. In part they’re bad because of glyphosate and glyphosate is the soy bean and the corn oil, of course, because those are GMO Roundup Ready. But I was really shocked to find out that even sunflowers are sprayed with glyphosate right before the harvest. The glyphosate gets soaked up into the seed and the seed gets turned into oil, so you’re going to have oil in crops that are even not Roundup Ready, which are sprayed right before the harvest and in order to kill the plant and also to get a head start on next year’s weeds. They do that also for wheat and for sugarcane, and those are core crops of the processed food industry.
Gluten intolerance is a very complex condition with a lot of related things that are wrong and you can find all of those things that are linked to gluten intolerance and then you can go to glyphosate and say, “Could it cause this?” and you can find a plausible pathway. So you can basically explain all the features of an intolerance through glyphosate poisoning, including especially the one that makes them die young, which is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They have an increased risk to cancer, and particularly non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has been linked to glyphosate; glyphosate is a causal factor, along with other toxic pesticides, in non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
I think pretty much all of the health issues that we face today, I can find connections to glyphosate in all of them. And if you look at correlation statistics, because I’m a computer scientist and I look at a lot of number type stuff, and you can look at the increased rate of various diseases over time and you find that Alzheimer’s and autism are both going up dramatically over time. I’m very disturbed with this latest announcement, I don’t know if you heard, 1 in 45. This year, that just came out, 1 out of 45, more than 2% of our kids are on the spectrum and the government is always like, “That’s not a problem. Of course, we’re just reporting it more.” I just get very disturbed when I hear that because that is such a way to just excuse the problem and not face it. I think we’re probably diagnosing it less because the school systems are under a tremendous burden to pay for the extra cost for the education of these kids. Once they say you’re on the autism spectrum, they’re obligated to give them the special treatment that’s going to be very expensive and it’s going to bankrupt the school system.
They prefer to say, “We’re just going to kick you down the road because you don’t really have autism. I know you’re a little weird, but it’s fine.” They don’t want to spend that money I would guess. And I can’t believe that they think they can just keep saying, “We’re just diagnosing it more,” and people won’t notice. I’ve got an autistic child on my street and I’ve got people at work who have children with autism. I never saw autism when I was a child, never. And children who can’t talk, children who are so sick they are nonverbal, you would notice that back then, wouldn’t you?
Glyphosate was first introduced on the market around mid-1970s, around 1975 and, initially, it was only used in small amounts. It really kicked off around 1998, when they started really getting the GMO Roundup Ready crops going. Once they did that, it stated skyrocketing and it has been going up dramatically. I think it’s several hundred fold over what was there just 20 years ago and it keeps going up every year. And the government is spending very little money even testing whether it’s in the food, so we have very little specific knowledge of whether it’s in the food. But people like Moms Across America have taken the initiative to get people tested and they found glyphosate in the breast milk.
It’s very shocking and it’s probably worse if your child is taking a soy formula; you’re going to for sure have glyphosate because that is the GMO Roundup Ready soy. It’s not labeled, so you can’t even know whether it is or not.
On the other hand they’re making such a good profit out of this. Of course, it’s a major factor, I think, in the transition to an industrialized nation. You see countries like China, which had an agricultural economy and now they’ve transitioned into this so-called industrial economy. All of a sudden, they don’t need farmers anymore; they just buy GMO Roundup Ready soy from the West so then their farmers are all disenfranchised and the farmers are in bad shape. But meanwhile, they were able to work towards technology and bring themselves up to the first world and all of this great stuff. The fact is we have a very few of our population who are farmers today because farming has become so easy, all you have to do is just spray the poison all over the cops and you’re done, basically. It’s not that simple, but it’s just that you can have these massive farms, with very few people actually involved in farming, and produce huge amounts of food. That seems like a really good deal. All you have to do is just poison the entire population; that’s the price you pay. They think that price is fine.
The crops soak up the pesticides, and of course, it disrupts the crop as well, so the sulfur deficiency comes right from the food because the food can’t get the sulfur because of the glyphosate. So you’re eating sulfur deficient food on top of the fact that the poison is also affecting your ability to manage the sulfur in your body appropriately, which is why you get all of this sulfate deficiency.
In fact, the high cholesterol is also very, very interesting in terms of the Roundup, an additional component of the Roundup, in addition to the glyphosate, there’s these additives that they add to it to make it much more toxic to the plant, which of course also makes it much more toxic to us. Interestingly, they don’t have to test that. When they test to get past the regulatory process, they test the active ingredient in isolation and then they use it in conjunction with things that can make it 1000 times more toxic to the plant, to the weed, and also to us. And that’s fine; they don’t have to test that. It’s really pretty remarkable.
That was a big digression there, but we get back to the glyphosate, the Roundup. Roundup disrupts a protein called star, it has a complicated name that I won’t give you, but protein allows the cholesterol to get into the mitochondria, where it’s needed to make the bile acid. When that protein is blocked, the liver has a hard time making bile acids. Usually, the liver would ship a lot of cholesterol out through the bile acids and eventually that would make its way to the body and it would distribute the cholesterol in a different way, in a helpful way, in a good way. Along with the sulfate, by the way, because that cholesterol that gets converted with the star is able to be sulfated and then it ships out the sulfate in the bile acids as well, which helps to distribute the sulfate over the whole system, cholesterol as cholesterol sulfate. When you can’t do that because of the glyphosate, and there’s other poisons that cause that too, then the liver is stuck either with building up fatty liver, and fatty liver is a total epidemic right now, fatty liver disease. A good address list of medical professionals, physicians and nurses would agree.
The fatty liver disease is supposed to be an alcoholic thing but not anymore. In fact, they now say fructose causes fatty liver and I can explain why in a moment. But basically, you get the fatty liver or you ship out LDL, the so-called bad guy cholesterol. The liver has to get rid of it, has to distribute the cholesterol some way, has to distribute it to the body because cholesterol is essential to the body, so since it can’t produce the bile acids, it just ships it out as LDL particles packaged inside these lipid particles because, without the sulfate, the cholesterol is not water-soluble. You have that high LDL because you have the sulfate deficiency.
The Cholesterol Story
It’s like cholesterol has a nice little partnership with the sulfate and they’re friends and when they get separated – this is my simple little illustration – when they get separated, then something bad is going to happen to the liver, the place where it’s all processed, or to the lonely little cholesterol traveling without it’s friend. In fact, the sulfate traveling without its friend too; that’s the most amazing thing. They are soul mates and when they are separated, both of them are highly distressed because the sulfate also can’t be just shipped. It gets a partnership with cholesterol that allows it to be shipped without doing damage. They both are extremely important molecules for many different, important biological processes.
And glyphosate is dividing them up and it’s not working in the way it’s supposed to work. Getting back to the fructose, and in fact, I think there’s been a lot of publicity, there have been people who have talked about fructose being really bad for you and causing fatty liver disease.
The problem with fructose is glyphosate. Glyphosate actually messes up the gut microbe’s ability to process fructose correctly. Fructose is usually converted into something called phosphoenolpyruvic, PEP, and that molecule is the input to the biological pathway that produces some essential amino acids, that aromatic amino acids. The microbes use the fructose to make the aromatic amino acids normally, but the glyphosate blocks that. So what happens is the PEP piles up because it can’t go through that pathway, and when the PEP piles up, it disrupts the way fructose is managed. What happens is that fructose is converted into very nasty glycating agents, things like methylglyoxal and glyoxilate. These things are much worse than glucose in terms of causing glycation damage, which is basically the damage you get from high sugar.
The fructose that’s really bad is high fructose corn syrup, and that’s the cheap sugar that they use in a lot of the processed food, liking Coca-Cola for example. In America, you have high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup, of course, comes from corn, comes from GMO Roundup Ready corn, so it’s got glyphosate in it and I think that’s what’s making Coke so toxic and people are realizing that Coke is toxic. The Coke industry is really hurting right now, people are getting that message – Coke is bad. I think that, again, glyphosate is a major reason why Coke is bad for you.
When you look at sugar, we’ve got a lot of talk now about sugar is bad for you and we’re getting that message out, which is probably good although sugar is not really that bad for you. Sugar is a really easy energy usually. In a normal system that’s working, sugar is a great fuel. The mitochondria totally know how to turn sugar into energy, that’s what we’re best at really. So it’s very weird that sugar is bad for you. In the old days, you used to make all of these wonderful desserts with the fruit pies and everything and they were delicious, back in the 1900s before glyphosate. But now, if you look at the sugars, you’ve got high fructose corn syrup from GMO Roundup Ready corn, you got beet sugar, GMO Roundup Ready beets, and you’ve got cane sugar, which is not Roundup Ready but sugarcane is one of those crops that is sprayed with glyphosate right before the harvest. So all of the sugars are going to be contaminated with glyphosate.
It’s very scary and you can’t avoid it. It’s in the water too. A study in Kentucky showed that it was in something like over 80% of the rain water that they tested had glyphosate in it. It’s just all over the place. If you live near an agricultural field, you’re in even worse shape. So you can’t avoid it, but I think you can do a lot.
What Can We Do
First of all, don’t buy it and use it on your lawn, obviously. Tell your neighbors not to use it if you can convince them, and buy organic. I think buying organic is really huge and my feeling is that if we can get enough people to hear this message and to spread this word to their friends, buy organic, we can do this through the market. If we just say, “We will not buy your poisoned food,” it will be a market-driven response by the farmers and I think, eventually, it will take time, organic prices will drop. Because there’s so much more demand, people will figure out how to do organic more cheaply and that’s what we need to do. We need to throw away all those poisons that are being used, not just the glyphosate. We can’t just replace it with 24-D. Right now, because of the resistant weeds, now they’re developing GMO crops engineered to be resistant to other toxic chemicals that are supposed to be much worse than Roundup – 24-D, dicamba. 24-D is a component of Agent Orange.
They already have products now that have been approved, the EPA says, “No problem,” they are sleeping on the job, “That’s fine.” Looking at the kids with autism, “That’s fine too.” What is the matter with our country that we can’t wake up and see what’s happening to us? I don’t understand that.
But if you convert your family to organic, you will see improvements in their health and you will save money in the long run on those medical bills that you don’t have for that cancer down the road or that heart disease or that autism. Those things are really expensive, let alone, of course, the disturbance of having to deal with a member of your family that’s sick. You are saving money and you are making your life much better by eating organic.
It’s a savings in the end because you’re saving money on healthcare costs. I understand, in the US, people spend less on food and more on healthcare and in other countries, people spend more on food and less on healthcare. We have, by far, the cheapest food. When you look at the per capita income and the percentage we spend on food, we are the cheapest in the world pretty much. And when you look at the percentage spent on healthcare, we are absolutely, by far, the most expensive in the world in terms of our healthcare. That’s because we’re sick. We are really sick in this country and we are just in an amazing state of denial. I don’t understand how people can just see all the problems kids are having today and not think that this is not normal – the asthma, the eczema, all the food allergies, the food intolerances, lots of picky eaters, all kinds of gut problems. And then, of course, ADHD, autism. It’s amazing what we’re putting up with. The poor parents. I feel really bad for parents today that their kids are facing so many health issues that I think could be greatly improved by just eating organic.