• Arsenic & Old Chickens

    Posted November 3, 2014: by Bill Sardi

    In the stage play Arsenic & Old Lace two very kind, thoughtful and sweet old ladies murder lonely old men by slowly poisoning them with arsenic.

    Well, the latest scientific study suggests that mortal result may be only limited to the men in the stage play, not humans in real life.   In fact, small amounts of arsenic in drinking water have now been found to cut the risk of death from breast cancer in half.

    The data obtained from analysis of arsenic in drinking water in the 1970s in a region in Chile was even more pronounced among women under age 60 with breast cancer mortality rates reduced by 70%.   Researchers call the results “astonishing.” [UC Berkeley News Center Oct 28, 2014]

    Here is how the e-Biomedicine report said it:

    In 1958, the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta switched to a geothermal water source originating in the Andes Mountains. Years later, it was discovered that the water sources contained more than 800 micrograms per liter of arsenic, 80 times higher than the levels recommended by the World Health Organization. [e-biomedicine Oct 2014]

    Investigators added that there is “no satisfactory explanation” for this finding and that the results were so demonstrative that they cannot be attributed to chance. In fact, when an arsenic-removal plant had begun operation, breast cancer mortality rates began to increase!

    While the geographic area in Chile under study has a high arsenic level in soil and drinking water, the effects of arsenic on human breast cancer cells in a lab dish start in a few days at very low doses.

    The researchers went on to suggest that the evidence “is sufficient to consider proceeding with a clinical trial of patients with advanced breast cancer.” High doses of arsenic sometimes used in the treatment of a form of leukemia would not be needed.

    This striking report written by researchers at UC Berkeley and published in the latest volume of e-biomedicine should have been anticipated.   Arsenic has been used therapeutically for over 2400 years for different conditions. [Oncologist 2001]

    With so many public health agencies involved in the scrutiny and establishment of exposure guidelines for arsenic, many which extrapolate low-dose risk from high-dose data (there is no count of dead bodies), the regulation of arsenic is not uniform between the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agency For Toxic Substances, The Food & Drug Administration, the US Geographical Survey water quality section, the National Drinking Water Council and the National Research Council. You can read and decipher their recommendations online. [Environmental Health Perspectives May 2014] These agencies are going to have a hard time buying into the idea that arsenic treats or prevents cancer. It’s their job to protect the public from environmental toxins like arsenic.

    In this world of protective health agencies it may be difficult for health–minded, environmentally conscious readers to fathom that the US Food & Drug Administration until recently allowed the use of arsenic as an additive in chicken feed to growth and health of young chicks.

    As recent as 2010 up to 88% of all 9 billion chickens raised in the US annually for human consumption were given the arsenic-based drug Roxarsone. The practice of adding arsenic to chicken feed began in the 1940s. The increased cancer risk from this practice was recently calculated at 124 new cases of cancer per year.   Out of 1,665,540 new cancers diagnosed annually in the U.S. That amounts to 7/1000ths of one-percent increase. [American Cancer Society] Yawn.

    One critical article called the practice of adding arsenic to chicken feed “total insanity.” [Gracelinks.org May 11, 2013] That same report also said: “the FDA has no legitimate justification for its ongoing failure to prohibit arsenicals from food animal production.”

    Yet another report suggests the problem of arsenic in animal feed poses a cumulative environmental problem. Broiler chickens fed arsenic-laced feed are reported to excrete 150 milligrams of arsenic in their waste which results in tons of arsenic “added to the environment” each year (?&?). [Academia.edu] Granted, it is in a more concentrated form but it has been returned to the earth from whence it came.

    Boy is arsenic going to become a schizophrenic health issue now.

    If alarmed and confused and you want to play it safe, be aware organic chicken has been tested and found to have zero arsenic.   [Environmental Health Perspectives July 2013]

    Arsenic: poisonous or therapeutic?

    So is arsenic a poison or a therapeutic agent? Well, frankly, it just might be the next anti-aging pill, at least for chickens (forget humans, entrenched forces in the practice of medicine will never let that happen, politicians aren’t ready to pay out pension checks for longer periods of time and preachers still have to have the threat of imminent death to urge people to make peace with God).

    The problem is, we don’t have any longevity studies involving chickens given arsenic-laced feed because we slay all 9-billion of them we produce when they reach a certain age.

    But there was a study published in 1967 that compared the survival of mice given various minerals including arsenic. A comparison was made between animals given low-dose arsenic in their diet with higher (more soluble) levels in drinking water. The mice given arsenic didn’t live near as long as animals given tin. However, spontaneous tumors in arsenic-fed mice were 11 of 108 versus 55 of among 108 control animals! Good God, they had a magnanimous cancer cure there! [Journal Nutrition June 1967] The same striking results UC Berkeley researchers just reported in Chile.

    The kicker is a recent study published just last year.   Researchers combined an experimental anti-aging drug Sirolimus (Rapamycin) that inhibits a gene called mTOR (target of rapamycin) and this combination was significantly more effective at inhibiting tumor growth than the individual molecules. [PLoS One Dec 31, 2013]

    None of the health risk reports involving arsenic that have been drafted by scientists with public health agencies discuss the well-known Nrf2 effect. Nrf2 is a gene transcription factor that activates internal enzymatic antioxidant defenses (glutathione, catalase, superoxide dismutase). Mild biological toxins set off this defensive Nrf2 effect.

    Arsenic has been cited to cause the most severe cytotoxic (cell toxic) effects among four heavy metals (mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic). [International Journal Environmental Research Public Health Oct 21, 2013] Arsenic is obviously a toxic poison but it can also be a trigger to activate internal (endogenous) antioxidant defenses via the Nrf2 gene switch. [Archives Toxicology Feb 2013; Oxidative Medicine Cell Longevity 2013; Journal Biochemistry Molecular Toxicology Feb 2013]

    This low-dose arsenic toxicity = cellular antioxidant defense has been recently demonstrated among zebrafish. [Ecotoxicology Environmental Safety Sept 2014]

    Another dynamic aspect of arsenic is how it works in tandem with other Nrf2 activators such as resveratrol from grapes, curcumin from turmeric spice, silibinin from milk thistle, sulforaphane from broccoli and low-dose organically bound selenium such as from Brazil nuts. [Nutrition Research Practice April 2014; Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine 2013; Food & Chemical Toxicology Sept 2013; Food & Chemical Toxicology July 2014; FEBS Letters March 2006; Cardiovascular Toxicology March 2014; Environment International Aug 2014]

    Another often-overlooked aspect of arsenic is that non-organically bound arsenic is potentially more harmful than organic protein-bound arsenic. And it is that more soluble and toxic non-organically bound arsenic provided in tap water that produced the stupendous reduction in breast cancer!

    It is interesting to note that these so-called biological toxins like arsenic, when administered in low-doses that activate internal antioxidants via the Nrf2 switch, may do more to promote health than oral antioxidants.   When the sulfur-based oral antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is given with arsenic, NAC completely negates the beneficial arsenic effect. [Molecular Cancer Therapy May 2009; Journal Cell Biochemistry June 1, 2009]

    The bottom-line lesson is that the more toxic a molecule given in a mild dose the greater the protective internal antioxidant effect.

    Chickens might think of rallying to demand a return to the good old days when they were given arsenic in their feed (which unfortunately was the protein-bound form of arsenic). Maybe those old ladies in Arsenic & Old Lace will come by and sprinkle inorganic arsenic into their drinking water. Then all they need do is escape their pens to live a long and happy life. ©2014 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc.

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