Brain In The News: Are Our Skulls Out-Evolving Us?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

It’s time for “Brain in the News,” our weekly brain health news roundup, where Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen go over all the latest news in brain health from the Amen angle. This week’s stories include recent findings of cancer risk in tap water, a spike in suicides in the military, usage of St. John’s Wort to help treat symptoms of menopause, and a fascinating scientific claim that human skulls are evolving in a way that could ultimately be detrimental to our health.

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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. In our podcast, we provide you with the tools you need to become a warrior for the health of your brain and body.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we have been transforming lives for 30 years, using tools like brain SPECT imaging to personalize treatment to your brain. For more information, visit
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceuticals to support the health of your brain and body. To learn more, go to
Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. In this podcast, we're going to do Brain in the News and look at what's in the news related to brain function, but before we do, I want to read a review. I recently came across your work on YouTube and I've absolutely enjoyed your talks and interviews. I've ordered your new book this week. Thank you so much. I admire your mission. I've made several health changes recently, and I am feeling great. I've known for years the right way to eat and take care of myself. It wasn't until I saw the brain scans that it became real to me what I've been doing to myself. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and keep it up please. Well, from Joe, thank you Joe so much. All right, so in Brain in the News, we look at what are the news articles that we think are important that you should know about in the news this week. And Tana, you have one.
Tana Amen: I do. So we've known that tap water's not great for a long time like we all have, not all of us, but most of us have reverse osmosis systems. We've got a water softener. But did you know it could cause cancer? So new study, let's see, it says, "Can you get cancer from tap water?" A new study says even safe drinking water poses a risk. So according to a new study from the environmental working group, and this was in USA Today, a report came out that says watchdog group cautions that carcinogenic products in tap water may all together increase cancer risk for thousands of U.S. residents over a lifetime. They found 22 carcinogens commonly found in tap water, including arsenic, byproducts of water disinfectants, radionuclides such as uranium, radium, and they could cumulatively result in over a 100,000 cancer cases over the span of a lifetime. Although most tap water meets legal standards set by the federal government, EWG researchers found that contaminants present in tap water create a measurable risk for cancer. Is that crazy?
Dr. Daniel Amen: That means drink clean water.
Tana Amen: Yeah. I mean, you've got to have a really good system.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And all plastic bottles are not the same and many of them-
Tana Amen: Plastic in general.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Are not safe for you. So you want to make sure you understand the vehicles that you're drinking water out of.
Tana Amen: So it says even though the vast majority of community water systems meet legal standards, yet the latest research shows that contaminants present in the water at those concentrations perfectly legal can still harm human health. EPA plans to regulate cancer causing chemicals found in America's drinking water. An earlier study found that a cumulative analysis of contaminants in California tap water found a heightened risk of cancer for 15,000, let's see, yeah this has been a debate going on for decades. So tap water's not as safe as you think. The study funded by the Park Foundation compiled a list of 22 contaminants, which is what we already said, in 48,363 community water systems they tested.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Wow.
Tana Amen: That's just crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: This is like a really extensive study.
Tana Amen: And estimates that serves about 86% of the U.S. population. This wasn't small. It's pretty crazy.
Dr. Daniel Amen: It's an evil rule or strategy.
Tana Amen: So you want to be paying attention.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So another study, another article out this week, suicide among troops spiked in 2018 to the highest rate in five years according to the Pentagon. So the suicide rate among military troops, I mean it's just heartbreaking.
Tana Amen: It's terrible.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Active duty troops was 24.8 per 100,000 in 2018, five years ago was 18.5 per 100,000 service members. They've seen it across all the different services, and part of it is related to the chronic stress. It's also related to the loneliness of leaving your family. I was in the Army for 10 years, so part of it is the terrible food and really the lack of brain health education. Now what the Army will do or the government will do is they'll increase mental health services as they have been typically done in the military.
But I remember after Sandy Hook happened and President Obama said we need more money for mental health. Yeah. All of the school shooters had seen mental health professionals. We don't need more money for more psychiatric drugs. What we need is a revolution in brain health. Otherwise, this disturbing trend is going to continue.
Tana Amen: It's like we're letting them down.
Dr. Daniel Amen: We are letting our society down by not getting serious about brain health. I mean just the water you drink, the milk you drink.
Tana Amen: The stuff we put on our bodies.
Dr. Daniel Amen: The stuff, the toxins you put on your body, all of this matters. Why don't you do this one?
Tana Amen: RCT supports efficacy of St. John's wort for post menopausal symptoms of depression.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I wanted you to read that. RCT stands for randomized controlled trial.
Tana Amen: Why did you want me to read that? I'm not in menopause supposedly.
Dr. Daniel Amen: I know, but you're 51 this year and I'm just protecting myself.
Tana Amen: You're just upset because I have the house at subzero temperatures.
Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh my God, I'm wearing like the winter robe around the house.
Tana Amen: I even got checked for menopause to see if I was in menopause, but they say I'm not so I don't know. Supplements, St. John's wort may help reduce the incidence of hot flashes and help depression in postmenopausal women, says a new study. According to the recent report from the American Botanical Council, sales of St. John's wort were at 5.77 million in U.S. Mainstream multi outlet channel in 2018. St. John's wort is most commonly used for depression, but there's a strong scientific evidence that it's effective for mild to moderate depression. The new study published in the complimentary therapies in medicine indicated that the herb may also be good for menopausal symptoms in addition to further supporting the potential for antidepressive activity. So interesting because there are also other herbs that they say really help.
Dr. Daniel Amen: So, but it's the first time I've read that St. John's wort is actually helpful for hot flashes and menopausal symptoms.
Tana Amen: I know black cohosh is supposed to be in certain, like there's a few.
Dr. Daniel Amen: And so when I first started doing scans in 1991 and realized some of the meds I was taught to prescribe were just toxic for brain function, I started studying supplements and one of my favorite ones over the years was St. John's wort. Now BrainMD actually doesn't carry St. John's wort because there's problems with it that it can decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills. It can decrease the effectiveness of antiviral medication. So we chose not to include it in our line, but I still use it. I still like it for people who were worriers, people who hold on to negative thoughts, people who struggle with depression, but they don't want to take an antidepressant and head to head against St. John's wort and Zoloft, they're equally effective and so there dramatically fewer side effects with St. John's wort versus most SSRIs. For me, I really like 5-HTP and saffron. That's what we have in our serotonin mood support. But St. John's wort is an option for people, especially if they're struggling with hot flashes. But say for example, they have breast cancer and they can't take estrogen.
Tana Amen: Well, since you put this in my hands, and I didn't know what you were putting in my hands, things like, I've not tried them, but I do know from some of my classes supposedly things like Dong Quai and black cohosh, and there's a few things like that that supposedly also help with.
Dr. Daniel Amen: But see, what I like about this, it's a randomized controlled trial. That's was you want. All right, one more, and this one is going to blow your mind. Our skulls are out evolving us. Scientists argue that our ever shrinking skulls are wreaking havoc on our wellbeing. And they talk about a case of a mother whose child was just struggling with sleep and breathing problems. And the normal cheerful baby had transformed into withdrawn, ornery, uncooperative five-year-old. And the mom knew there was something in the matter and took Micah all over the place and nothing was working. But they found a doctor who said the problem was actually the bones in Micah's face, and science suggests that crooked teeth, overbites, narrow jaws, crimped nasal airway passages are a modern phenomenon, that skeletal remains show that just 300 years ago, humans commonly displayed straight, perfectly aligned teeth, wide jaws, flat palettes, and large nasal passages that signal habitual healthy breathing.
But more recently, our faces have begun to deform. Today, our skulls are marked by high narrow palates, shorter lower jaws, and often insufficient space. When children drop their baby teeth, there's typically inadequate room for their adult teeth, which leads to crowding and misalignment. Worst of all, this anatomy encourages mouth breathing, which can turn lead to under the radar sleep difficulties and a whole array of problems ranging from behavioral challenges, anxiety, depression to cognitive issues, and these conditions cost thousands of dollars to correct through orthodontics, dentistry, therapy, and even surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids.
If you Google, if you want to learn more about this, our skulls are out evolving us. It is so interesting, so fascinating that, I mean your brain is in a closed space, and if that space is closing in on you, that might be one of the causes of mental health challenges that nobody knows about. All right, we're out of time for Brain in the News. We hope you like our new segment. If there's something you learned, please post it on any of your social media sites and hashtag Brain Warrior's Way podcast. Also, leave a review, leave your questions. We're going to answer them next on Stay with us.
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