Fat rats, slow sperm, and unhealthy bacteria

I spent a recent weekend in a Children’s Environmental Health Symposium sponsored in part by the Hawaii Department of Health. One of their topics was “fat lab rats.” The New York Times last week also had an interesting article on slow, ill-shaped sperm, and Seattle Children’s Hospital has been doing some fascinating research on two potentially very serious diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

What interests me is that these studies are looking at three very different conditions and finding a common thread.

The common thread is a growing concern and growing scientific basis for believing that our food and toxins in the environment are making us ill.

The clues are these:

1. We have all become very aware of the obesity epidemic which is found everywhere that modern food is eaten. There is still debate over the cause of this epidemic. The scientists are saying more and more that sugar plays a very large role. The sugar industry maintains that our sedentary, screen-watching lifestyle is the main culprit. The lab rats may be pointing to yet another direction. Scientists who work with rats have noticed that the average lab rat is also getting substantially fatter. What is curious about this is that the average rat is not eating more sugar and is having the same amount of running around as his great-grandfather had. What may be different, though, is the quality of the food and the plastic containers that it is stored in. A new scientific theory which is gaining in acceptance is that we have allowed our food and our environment to be contaminated with chemicals which screw up our hormones. These substances are called endocrine disrupters. On the list of potentially dangerous substances are pesticides and also chemicals such as BPA, cosmetics and flame-retardants.

2. The New York Times published a story March 11, 2017 entitled, Is your Sperm in Trouble? They are saying that up to 90 percent of American men and 80 percent of the men in China have misshapen sperm that are also “pathetic swimmers.” They now swim like they are drunk. And the suspected cause is again endocrine disrupters and the same suspects are on the list: pesticides, flame-retardants, plasticizers and cosmetics.

3. The third clue is the amazing cures they are seeing in Seattle Children’s Hospital for two very serious conditions, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. These two diseases are examples of the body fighting itself and the result is that the intestines become very ill.

And what is the amazing cure? It is simply putting the affected children on a diet that has no grains, no sugar except honey, no dairy (except special yogurts), no processed food, and is organic whenever possible. The researchers attribute the success of their treatment to the theory that the bacteria in our intestines have been adversely affected by the modern American diet. Their diet of “non-processed, organic-whenever-possible” food seems to help the children repopulate their intestines with healthy bacteria and this actually promotes healing of the intestinal wall. They are not sure why this diet is working so well to repopulate the intestines with healthy bacteria. They speculate that it is possible that avoiding our processed food and eating organic food avoids the antibiotics and pesticides in our food. It should be noted that one of the pesticides which is in our non-organic soy and corn and in much of our bread is Roundup (glyphosate). Glyphosate is patented as an antibiotic and as an herbicide and has been shown to affect our intestinal bacteria.

Bottom line for all of us: Store your food in glass containers, stop buying water in plastic bottles and eat organic whenever possible. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has become concerned enough about environmental toxins, including pesticides in our food, that they are officially recommending that pregnant women eat pesticide-free produce.

We have become the fattest nation in the history of the world, our life expectancy is going down for the first time in recent history, and it is estimated that up to 50 percent of our adult population has some type of chronic medical condition. The clues to the causes of our ill health keep mounting and unfortunately “poisoning” is probably not an overstatement of the problem.


Dr. Lee Evslin is a retired physician. He has lived and practiced on Kauai since 1979. He also served as the CEO of Kauai Medical Clinic and Wilcox Hospital. He provides a regular column for TGI. His goal is to present new ideas on health-related issues.


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