Foods Linked to ALS

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As explored in my video ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease): Fishing for Answers, there may be a link between the consumption of the neurotoxin BMAA, produced by algae blooms, and increased risk of ALS. It now appears that BMAA could be found in high concentrations in aquatic animals in many areas of the world.

This could explain ALS clustering around lakes in New Hampshire—up to 25 times the expected rate of ALS with some families eating fish several times a week. Or in Wisconsin, where the most significant ALS risk factor was the past consumption of fish out of Lake Michigan. Or clustering in Finland’s Lakeland district, or seafood eaters in France, or around the Baltic sea, building up particularly in fishes, mussels and oysters.

When I think of algae blooms I think of the Chesapeake bay near where I live, that gets choked off thanks in part to the poultry industry pollution. And indeed, there was a recent report linking BMAA exposure to ALS in Maryland. The ALS victims, all of whom ate Chesapeake Bay blue crabs every week, lived within a half mile of each other, which raised some eyebrows at the Johns Hopkins ALS center. And so, researchers tested a few crabs, and two out of three tested positive for BMAA, indicating that the neurotoxin is present in the aquatic food chain of the Chesapeake Bay and is a potential route for human exposure.

To bring the story full circle, things in Guam, where the link between BMAA consumption and ALS was first discovered, are looking up. The ALS epidemic there may have been triggered by their acquisition of guns. Now though, the epidemic appears to be over thanks to near-extinction due to over-hunting of the fruit bats they were eating. But while the rates decline in Guam, neurodegenerative diseases like ALS around the rest of the world are on the rise.

It’s plausible that humans have been exposed to some level of BMAA throughout their evolutionary history, but the increase in algae blooms as a result of human activities is probably increasing this exposure. There is a general consensus that harmful algal blooms are increasing worldwide thanks in part to industrialized agriculture (as shown in my video Diet & Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis-ALS). More people means more sewage, fertilizer, and manure, which can mean more algae, which may mean more exposure to this neurotoxin, leading to a possible increased incidence of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS.

BMAA is considered a strong contender as the cause of, or at least a major contributor to, both endemic and sporadic ALS and Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly conferring risk for Parkinson’s diseases as well. The ramifications of this discovery are enormous.

As researchers from Australia stated, “With substantial and ever growing evidence that BMAA does play a role in the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases, the most important question is, what mode of activity does BMAA exert?” Huh? That’s not the most important question we should be asking. The most important question is “How can we reduce our risk?”

We know that the presence of BMAA in aquatic food chains could be a significant human health hazard. There may even be a synergistic toxicity between mercury and BMAA, making human consumption of certain species of fishes even riskier. Until more is known about the possible link of BMAA to Alzheimer’s and ALS, it may be prudent to limit exposure of BMAA in the human diet.

For other neurotoxins found in the food supply, see Amnesic Seafood Poisoning, Essential Tremor and Diet, Ciguatera Poisoning & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Other toxic substances can also build up in the aquatic food chain, for example:

  • Food Sources of Flame Retardant Chemicals
  • Food Sources of Perfluorochemicals
  • Pollutants in Salmon and Our Own Fat
  • Dioxins in U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish 

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

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02/24/2017 |

Nature’s Sunshine Products to Announce Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2016 Financial Results and to Host Conference Call on Tuesday, March 7th

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LEHI, Utah, Feb. 21, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nature’s Sunshine Products (NATR) a leading natural health and wellness company engaged in the manufacture and direct selling of nutritional and personal care products, today announced that it will report its fourth quarter and full year 2016 financial results for the period ended December 31, 2016, on Tuesday, March 7, 2017, after the market close. Members of Nature’s Sunshine Products’ senior management team will host a conference call that same day at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The call will be broadcast live over the Internet hosted on the Investor’s Events section of the Company’s website at

Nature’s Sunshine Products’ Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2016 Conference Call Details

Date: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Time: 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time
2:30 p.m. Mountain Time
4:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Dial-In: 1-877-423-9813 (domestic)
1-201-689-8573 (international)
Conference ID: 13656293
Webcast: Investor section of the Company’s website at

For those unable to participate during the live broadcast, a replay of the call will also be available beginning that same day at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time, until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, on Tuesday, March 21, 2017, by dialing 1-844-512-2921 (domestic) or 1-412-317-6671 (international) and entering the replay pin number: 13656293. The webcast will remain on the Investor’s Events section of Nature’s Sunshine Products’ website at: for 90 days.

02/24/2017 |

USANA Health Sciences’ China Subsidiary, BabyCare Ltd., Becomes an Official Sponsor of China’s General Administration of Sports Training Bureau

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SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — USANA Health Sciences, a global nutritional company, announced today that its China subsidiary BabyCare Ltd. has become an official sponsor of China’s General Administration of Sports Training Bureau. Through the partnership, BabyCare will provide nearly 1,300 elite athletes with its China Anti-Doping Agency tested nutritional products through the upcoming 2018 Asian Games, 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and several World Championships.

“We are excited to partner with BabyCare and know that our athletes will benefit greatly from BabyCare’s high-quality nutritional supplements,” said an official from the National Sports Training Bureau.

The National Sports Training Bureau was established in December 1951 as the earliest and largest competitive sports training base in the history of new China. The bureau provides training, accommodations, medical, transportation and cultural education for national athletes.

Currently 14 of China’s national Olympic teams train and live at the bureau, including its badminton, weightlifting, table tennis, gymnastics, volleyball, synchronized swimming, diving, swimming, track and basketball squads and more. Through the 2016 Rio Games, the bureau has secured more than 1,190 world champion titles, 186 of which are Olympic gold.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to partner with the National Sports Training Bureau and supply these elite athletes with sports-approved nutritional products,” said USANA Executive Vice President of China Brent Neidig. “This partnership is one that we hope will continue to strengthen our presence in China as a leader in nutrition, while providing the country’s top competitors with the supplements they need to feel their best. We look forward to being a part of these teams’ journeys as they prepare for Tokyo.”

“Here at USANA, we pride ourselves on the fact that thousands of elite and professional athletes from around the world trust their health to USANA and its NSF and LGC tested nutritional supplements,” said USANA Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Dan Macuga. “To be able to partner with an elite organization such as China’s National Sports Training Bureau, speaks volumes to the research and development we put into each and every one of our products. We are excited to expand our Team USANA family to include such an accomplished and talented group of Chinese athletes as they being to prepare for Tokyo and beyond.”

Learn more about the thousands of elite athletes around the world who trust their health to USANA products at

*The mentioned athletes are either distributors or dedicated USANA product users who have received compensation and/or complimentary USANA products for their partnership with BabyCare.

02/24/2017 |

SHOP.COM Sees Soaring Results and Returns on Emails with Maropost

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TORONTO, ON–(Marketwired – February 21, 2017) – Maropost, a Canadian software company, is proud to announce the exceptional success of ecommerce powerhouse SHOP.COM. Using Maropost Marketing Cloud, SHOP.COM has seen soaring results and returns on their emails and communications and firmly established themselves as industry leaders and innovators when it comes to the digital customer experience.

“SHOP.COM has always pushed the limits of innovation when it comes to providing the best and most integrated shopping experience possible. Naturally, this extends to our email communications,” says Peter Gold, Chief Digital Marketing Officer of SHOP.COM. “We’ve been partnered with Maropost for less than a year now and we’ve already reached a whole new level. Our email KPIs are consistently 50% higher than the retail industry’s most competitive benchmarks — and they keep going up with every new campaign as we continue to perfect and refine our strategy.”

Maropost Marketing Cloud offers the world’s most advanced personalization and segmentation options. SHOP.COM currently runs over 250 segments per campaign to generate content based on individual recipients’ past activity, engagement, and history. SHOP.COM further leverages Maropost’s web and email tracking to construct the optimal email schedules and structures.

“Our results and returns have completely exceeded all expectations in terms of both revenue and customer engagement,” says Gold. “We gained three-quarters of a million new subscribers with one campaign last month. Consumers are clearly responding to SHOP.COM’s superior shopping experience and Maropost’s unparalleled personalization features.”

“SHOP.COM and Maropost both place customer experience first, which is why our partnership has been such a huge success,” says Ross Andrew Paquette, CEO and Chairman of Maropost. “Our commitment to providing the best and most relevant emails means we’ll always be the gold standard that everyone else measures themselves against.”

Maropost is the fastest growing company in Toronto and among the fastest growing companies in North America. In 2016, Maropost was ranked 4th in Deloitte’s Canadian Technology Fast 50, 7th in the annual PROFIT 500 of Canada’s fastest-growing companies, and 37th in the North America-wide Deloitte Fast 500.

02/23/2017 |

Beachbody Performance Announces “Make Me an IRONMAN” Participants

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After a nationwide campaign that drew more than 2,000 entries, IRONMAN partner Beachbody Performance has selected six contestants to begin their journey toward becoming an IRONMAN.

“Make Me an IRONMAN,” created by Beachbody Performance in conjunction with IRONMAN and other endurance brands, is designed to make the world’s most challenging race accessible and achievable for everyday athletes.

The participants will be given a full suite of support on their journey, including an entry to an IRONMAN-owned race in North America in 2017, coaching through an IRONMAN U Certified Coach, as well as specialized equipment and Beachbody Performance premium sports nutrition supplements throughout the training period.

The participants comprise an array of inspiring life stories, like that of Zach Boivin, 30-years-old, of Castleton, New York. Boivin was clinically obese at 330 lbs when he watched the 2015 IRONMAN Lake Placid triathlon. Inspired by the athletes he saw that day, he lost 130 lbs, and hopes to finish his own IRONMAN race to cap a remarkable weight loss journey.

Anne Parkhurst was, at 56-years-old, nearly 200 pounds, and struggling with poor health while supporting her ailing parents. A few encouraging words from her triathlete-doctor led her to a healthier lifestyle, and four years later, the Goodyear, Arizona resident is a happier, healthier person. Just a few years after having lived an inactive lifestyle, she is now eager to take on an IRONMAN challenge.

Cynthia Rozyla, from Hayden, Idaho, is no stranger to endurance sports, being a member of local triathlon and running clubs. But the bubbly 63-year-old has an aching history with the brutal 140.6 distance, having not one, but two, “DNFs” (did not finish) in her history—a blemish she hopes to overcome with the additional support of “Make Me an IRONMAN.”

Jason Glazier of Santa Rosa, California, also powered through dramatic weight loss. Not long ago he found it hard, at 270 lbs, even to tie his own shoelaces. And running was simply too painful. The 43-year-old used a little more than firm resolve to stop giving up when things got tough, and is now much slimmer and an endurance athlete looking to take on an IRONMAN triathlon.

Cassandra Harmon of Louisville, Kentucky is no stranger to hard work. This single mom works tirelessly to provide for her son. Formerly overweight, the 28-year-old now has training as her passion, is an avid swimmer and obstacle racer.

Heather Sonley of Madison, Wisconsin has made giving back her whole life’s work. As a race organizer for Susan G Komen events, this active 27-year-old is finally getting the chance to get something back for herself, and is looking forward to achieving her IRONMAN dreams in her hometown.

“For most people finishing an IRONMAN race is an impossible dream,” said Jon Congdon, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Beachbody LLC.  “Running a marathon alone is an extraordinary physical feat, but in an IRONMAN triathlon, you’re tacking on a marathon after a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride. We believe that the unique formulas in Beachbody Performance supplements will help people to realize that dream. Beachbody Performance combines the best of nature and the latest in exercise physiology and sports science to help athletes maximize their training. ‘Make Me an IRONMAN’ brings together enthusiastic participants with Beachbody Performance and other tools for the life accomplishment of finishing an IRONMAN race.”

For more information, visit 
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02/23/2017 |

Amway partners with ArtPrize to encourage student artists

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Combining two of West Michigan’s most successful entities, Amway has teamed up with ArtPrize to inspire young artists from Grand Rapids Public Schools.

As you scan the halls of Amway World Headquarters in Ada, the colors, shapes and designs featured in hundreds of works of art created by local students will catch your eye. Spend a little longer studying the pieces and you’ll find the inspiration.

“What does freedom mean to you? What does hope mean to you? And this is what we came out with,” explained David Madiol from Amway Community Relations.

Freedom, family, hope and reward — Amway’s core values. The company asked 400 GRPS students what those words mean to them.

“We got them all down to ArtPrize to really check it out, learn about art, spent the day there and then we talked to them about our four founders’ fundamentals,” Madiol said.

The artists are students at Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, Coit Creative Arts Academy, Cezar Chavez (via Cooks Arts Center), Grand Rapids Museum School and Grand Rapids Montessori.

Tuesday, the student artists and their parents were invited to Amway World Headquarters to unveil the new artwork.

The pieces line a hallway on the second floor, directly across from the offices of Chairman Steve Van Andel and President Doug DeVos.

“All these distributors, business owners that will be coming down these hallways, they’re all in communities around the world. So hopefully we spark an idea from here at World Headquarters to go out to our communities around the world,” Madiol said.

ArtPrize was co-founded by Amway co-founder Rich DeVos’s grandson, Rick DeVos, who was scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s unveiling ceremony.

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02/23/2017 |

How I View Competition

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How I View Competition

People respond differently to competition in Network Marketing. Some people view competition as a negation, and they don’t want to engage in it at all. Other people, I would say most in Network Marketing, are highly driven by competition. They want to win, create an advantage, and measure themselves. I view competition as market share.

Inside your company, you have a certain market share. My goal would not be to compete against somebody who started before me or has more influence than me. My goal would be to figure out what my market share was in the company and then grow that.
So, if I’m 1% of the productivity in the city that I’m involved in, I want to grow that to 3%, 5%, 10%, and onwards until I ultimately dominate that local landscape with my distributors. If the company comes out with a new product and only have a limited amount, then I want my team to have the majority of that product when they do that launch. I’m going to engage in activities that try to maximize those product purchases within my network so that I have a competitive advantage.

If the company holds a convention with a capacity of 10,000 people, I want to grow the percentage of people at that convention who are on my team from convention to convention. If it’s at 1%, then the next time I’ll have 3%, and so on and so forth. I’m going to continue to try to maximize. If the company expands the size of their convention, then I have to come up with strategies so that my team gets as many of those tickets as possible the day they announce the event. Then I can get up to 10% or 15%.

Again, for me, competition is about market share. It’s about market share with products, product growth, customers, the number of people, and the percentage of rank advancements within my team. I measure market share by the growth from event to event or milestone to milestone. This is just how I think. I think as an entrepreneur in relation to market share on everything: tickets to conventions, rank advancement, new product orders, customers, local domination within a certain geographic area, and domination in different cities represented in the company. I drive everything on market share.

Even if you’re brand new to Network Marketing, start thinking about market share. It will be difficult to measure right now because it’s small, but understand that the next time, the market share should just creep a little higher. Measure yourself against yourself. Your market share should increase a little every time. Make it your goal to have that number always going in a positive direction. Market share is how I view competition in every way when it comes to business.

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02/23/2017 |

Amway’s 2016 sales hit $8.8 billion despite softening Chinese market

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Direct Selling company Amway said its sales reached $8.8 billion last year, despite the softening of the Chinese market.

“Across the world, Amway did well in 2016,” Amway Chairman Steve Van Andel said, despite the company’s posting a decline of 7 percent when compared to 2015 figures.

He said the company recorded increased sales in seven of their top 10 markets, saw double-digit percentage growth in nine additional markets, and continued to evolve the business in China, as they leverage on the shifting market conditions and achieve its long-term growth potential.

“Above all, we are pleased to see the continued and growing relevance of the direct-selling model in today’s marketplace, as people place real value on personal recommendations and technology enables our distributors to connect with customers at any place at any time,” he said.

For the year ending December 31, 2016, sales by product category was led by nutrition at 49 percent (+3 percent from 2015); beauty and personal care, 25 percent (same as 2015); durable products, 15 percent (-1 percent from 2015); home care, 7 percent (same as 2015); others, 4 percent (-2 percent from 2015).

The top 10 nations for Amway were China, the United States, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Malaysia, Russia and Hong Kong.

Nine of Amway’s markets experienced double-digit percentage growth in 2016, compared to the figures two years ago.

Major products launched last year included the Truvivity by Nutrilite skin-hydration line; Artistry Flora Chic, the first premium fragrance from Artistry; and the continued rollout of Artistry Supreme LX, luxury, antiaging face and eye creams.

The latter is exceeding sales estimates and distributors have found success in pairing it with premium skin-care lines, such as Artistry Hydra-V.

Meanwhile, Amway’s BodyKey by Nutrilite weight-management program has found success in Southeast Asia, as quality products are combined with a community-based program focused on weight loss and healthy eating.

In fact, over 70,000 people in the region participate in these programs and involvement continues to grow.

Following Amway’s acquisition in 2015, the XS brand of energy drinks, snacks and sports nutrition products is expanding rapidly, achieving a 40-percent sales growth this past year.

It is now available in nearly 50 countries and its launch of sports nutrition products in 2016 exceeded sales goals.

Amway sees great opportunity in 2017, as it becomes more optimistic about entrepreneurship and member-sellers envision themselves as business owners.

The 2016 Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report (Ager) showed 77 percent of people expressed positivity about entrepreneurship, 43 percent could imagine starting a business of their own and 52 percent of millennials could imagine themselves starting an enterprise.

Another factor is the direct-selling business model continues to become attractive since it has grown by 20 percent globally, according to available figures over the last four years. The same data in 2015 from the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations pegs annual sales for the industry at $183.7 billion.

“We believe that in a world where people have more choices than ever before—specifically in how they make money, where they find products and who provides them with tips and insights—that we’re well positioned to help individuals meet their varying needs through the choice of an Amway product or Amway business opportunity,” said Doug DeVos, Amway president and chairman of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations.

“Nearly 60 years after we opened for business by helping others open for business, many things have changed—but the value of a business opportunity that is open to everyone isn’t one of them,” he said.

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02/23/2017 |

Key Takeaways From Avon’s Q4 2016 Earnings

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  • Though Avon’s performance faltered in Q4, the year 2016 ended on a much hopeful note when compared to the prior year.
  • Avon’s fourth quarter constant currency revenue growth remained flat at $1.6 billion and its active representative count declined by 2% y-o-y mostly due to declines in markets including Malaysia, Colombia, Turkey, and Italy.
  • 2016 was the first year of Avon’s three-year Transformation Plan and the company is well on track with its progress.

Avon (NYSE:AVP) is progressing with its three-year Transformation Plan at a better than expected pace and that helped the company in the revival of its 2016 financial performance. Though the company’s performance faltered in Q4, the year 2016 ended on a much hopeful note when compared to the prior year. Avon’s net sales declined by 7% y-o-y in 2016 compared to a 19% decline in 2015. Avon’s current strategy is to focus on its top ten markets (that accounted for 70% of its revenues in 2016) and its top 40 brands. It has segregated its brands under three tiers: Upper Mass, Mass, and Value. The ten markets in order of importance are: Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Philippines, UK, Argentina, Colombia, Turkey, Poland, and South Africa. The growth of these markets surpassed the overall growth of the company driven by a higher average order growth and a higher growth of active representatives. Eight of these top ten markets grew in terms of constant dollars in 2016, with the exceptions being Colombia and Turkey.

Avon’s fourth quarter constant currency revenue growth remained flat at $1.6 billion and its active representative count declined by 2% y-o-y mostly due to declines in markets including Malaysia, Colombia, Turkey, and Italy. Also, Avon’s cost cutting initiatives were dampened in Q4 due to an increase in bad debt by around $35 million, mainly in the Brazil business. The slow performance in the fourth quarter was primarily due to the active representative decline. However, for the full year 2016, Avon’s revenues grew by 3% y-o-y in constant dollar terms to reach $5.7 million. The average order for the year rose by 4% y-o-y due to the company’s revision of its product mix and pricing. Avon’s active representative base declined by 1% y-o-y in 2016. The company’s profitability improved during the year with an expansion of its operating margin by 80 basis points y-o-y to 6.5% even after a 310 basis point erosion due to negative foreign exchange impact. It achieved a $120 million cost savings in 2016 which was above its original target of $90 million.

Below we present Avon’s top line performance in terms of US dollars.

2016 year end perf

Avon’s Performance In Its Top Three Markets:

  • Brazil

In Q4, Brazil’s top line grew by 7% in terms of constant currency mainly due to higher average order. During the course of last year, Brazil has continued with its recovery and gained market share despite its economic and political weaknesses. It is noteworthy to mention here that Latin America accounts for over 50% of Avon’s revenues and Brazil is Avon’s most important market.

In Q4, Avon gained market share in color, fragrance, and skincare. This was boosted by its innovative product launches in the Upper Mass category including Avon Life (created with designer Kenzo Takada) and the Avon Attraction fragrance. The Beauty For A Purpose brand marketing helped in the company’s sales growth.

However, the region was still under the impact of bad debt in the second half of 2016 mainly due to Brazil’s poor economic climate at present. The consumers’ inability to pay and the adjusting of credit terms by the Brazil team in order to hire new representatives were the reasons behind the debt.

A new digital platform was launched in Q3 in order to facilitate the representatives’ ease of doing business with Avon. The platform included features like mobile responsiveness, a better system for the placement of orders, integration of social media, training videos, credit and data management, upsell and cross sell capabilities, and an easy returns and exchange option. The platform will be fully integrated by the first quarter of this year. For the full year, Brazil grew by 2% y-o-y in constant currency terms and the company expects a stronger performance from the region in 2017.

  • Mexico

Mexico grew by 2% y-o-y in Q4 in terms of constant currency mainly due to the increase in average order. The Beauty segment was especially successful in Mexico bolstered by innovations in the color, skincare, and personal care categories with products such as Avon True and Avon Care.

Mexico’s revenue grew by 5% y-o-y in constant currency terms for 2016 and the company expects a low to moderate growth from this geography this year due to its geopolitical turmoil that might adversely impact consumer spending.

  • Russia

Though Russia performed well in the first half of 2016, its Q4 performance had been very weak with a 3% decline in revenue in terms of constant currency due to a decline in average order and active representatives. The pricing changes made in the country were out of sync with its economic condition and that might have led to this slowdown. The pricing strategy is being reviewed for improvements in the future. For the full year, Russia grew by 9% in terms of constant currency.

The Company Progressed Well With Its Three-Year Plan

2016 was the first year of Avon’s three-year Transformation Plan and the company is well on track with its progress. The aim of the transformation plan is to help Avon achieve its long run goal of a low double digit operating margin along with a mid single-digit constant dollar growth. All the three pillars of the growth plan, (i.e., investing in growth, improving cost structure, and improving financial resilience) showed significant progress in 2016:

  • Avon planned to invest around $350 million into the business over the three years starting 2016. Out of this amount, $150 million would be invested in media and social selling and $200 million on information technology, mainly capital expenditures to improve the working experience of its representatives. Avon plans on undertaking this investment over time with a focus on digital media and its top ten markets.
  • Out of its targeted $350 million savings in cost, $120 million estimated cost savings was achieved in 2016 itself.
  • With an aim to improve its balance sheet, Avon has planned on reducing debt by $250 million in 2016. In reality, it reduced debt by $260 million and extended its maturity profile with no long term debt due till 2019.

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02/23/2017 |

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