Dr. Allan Spreen, MD

  1. The FDA plans to approve genetically engineered salmon

    Say NO to frankenfish

    While you were still recovering from your Christmas holiday and ramping up for your New Year's celebration, the FDA made a quiet announcement. Cleverly dropped right into the middle of the holidays, we can only guess that they were counting on no one taking any notice.

    But the joke's on them...I DID notice.

    The FDA announced on December 26th that it's prepared to give genetically engineered salmon (transgenic salmon) a final approval. Yup, despite the fact that the vast majority of Americans don't want to eat GMO foods...despite 400,000 public comments opposing the GE salmon....and despite the unknown risk to human health, the FDA says it's full steam ahead with the frankenfish, consequences be damned.

    The good news is that it's not too late to add your voice to the many opposing this potential ecological and health disaster. As a US citizen, you have the right to submit a comment to the FDA.

    Click here to submit your comment electronically. In the "Organization Name" field simply type in the word "Citizen."

    For more information (including a sample letter) and details on how to submit a comment by postal mail click here. Your comments must be submitted by February 25, 2013.

  2. Low levels of vitamin D may lead to headaches

    Help for headaches

    If you suffer with occasional headaches you may have low levels of vitamin D. I'm seriously beginning to wonder if there's anything that this vitamin isn't good for. A recent study, published in the journal Headache, has found a link between low levels of vitamin D and non-migraine headaches.

    The Norwegian Tromsø Study has tracked 11,614 volunteers since 1974. Over the years researchers have surveyed participants on various health issues and the latest round of surveys revealed an interesting association between non-migraine headaches and D.

    Volunteers with the lowest levels of vitamin D had 20 percent more headaches. If your D levels are low raising them may be just the trick you need to say goodbye once and for all to the headache pain.

  3. Vitamin D supplements lower risk of upper respiratory infection

    Superstar vitamin drives down respiratory infections

    One billion... it's one of those numbers that's so big it's hard to wrap your head around it. That's how many upper respiratory infections and colds occur every single year in the United States alone. Since the U.S. population is hovering around 315 million right now that means every single one of us could suffer through three colds a year and still not have reached the total number of these annual infections. That adds up to a whole lot of sniffles, sneezes, and coughs. Not to mention a slew of missed school and work days. And if you're not in the best health, are very young, or happen to be a senior these infections are...well, if you'll pardon the pun, nothing to sneeze at. Serious upper respiratory infections account for a staggering 100 million emergency room visits every year. Yet, despite all those visits to the E.R., mainstream medicine still can do very little to prevent these infections, and has nothing to offer when it comes to the common cold. That is until some scientists got the bright idea to borrow a page from the naturopath's handbook. They finally decided to take a good look at vitamin D.

    Visiting the Department of "D"uh

    The recent study published in the British Medical Journal confirmed what many of us have said for years (and years, and years), vitamin D can slash your risk of upper respiratory infections. But the researchers from the Karolinska Institute and Karolinska University Hospital wanted to find out more than just if vitamin D could help prevent and relieve respiratory infections. They wondered what kind of effect the vitamin would have on people who were prone to these kinds of infections. After all, those of us who slog through the most colds and infections naturally need the most help, right? So they conducted a double-blind randomized controlled trial (that's the really good kind) with 140 volunteers who had been suffering with respiratory tract symptoms for at least six weeks in the year prior to the study. The divided them up randomly into two groups.

    "High" dose of D is actually low

    The one group received 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily for a year. Now 4000 IU is what the researchers refer to as a "high" dose, but I call a little on the low side. Keep in mind that your own body produces about 10,000 IUs of this stuff in just 30 minutes of sun exposure. I usually recommend starting at 5,000 IUs. And for some...like the elderly or those who live far from the equator...that still may be too low. The second (unlucky) group got a daily placebo instead. The results were striking. Especially when you consider that the mainstream typically says there's nothing much you can do for these kinds of infections beyond throwing antibiotics at them (which, of course, won't do a darn thing in the case of viral infections anyway).

    D slashes infections by 25%

    The volunteers who lucked out and got the daily D3 had their respiratory symptoms plummet by 25 percent! Even more exciting, they slashed their antibiotic use by almost half. In the end, the vitamin group spent 16 days during the study period taking antibiotics for their upper respiratory infections. But the placebo takers spent a full 33 days downing the tummy-troubling drugs. And, overall, the D3 group was 63.5 percent less likely to need antibiotics. Talk about powerful results! Oh, and if you're thinking that this "D for respiratory infections" experiment sounds a tad familiar, you're right. A group of New Zealand researchers recently announced the results of a study in which they claimed that D failed the test and didn't reduce the severity or number of infections. Don't let those results confuse you. Their study was full of holes.

    A flawed study gives flawed results

    First of all the D was given to volunteers who were already perfectly healthy and who had normal D levels to begin with. Let's face it, you're certainly not going to see dramatic results when you give supplements to already healthy people. And while the New Zealand scientists had the right idea when it came to amounts...they used much higher doses of D....they totally blew it when it came to execution. They skipped over the whole daily dose thing giving the D much less often. Since research has found that taking vitamins every day is most effective I'm honestly not surprised that they didn't see any significant results. To bump up your vitamin D levels I recommend spending more time out in the sun. However, realistically many of us can't get all the D we need from sunshine alone. And of course in the winter months it becomes even more of a challenge to keep those levels up, so a vitamin D supplement is often a good idea. But don't just start downing bottles of D on your own. It's best to work with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to determine the right dose of D for you. After all, everyone's needs are going to be a bit different. P.S. -- Keep reading below for more on vitamin D levels and their link to headaches.
  4. CoQ10 and omega 3s could lower PSA levels

    It's good to know...

    If you're a guy and you haven't already experienced some prostate problems or worried about having lower PSA levels, you will one day. No, I don't have a crystal ball, but that doesn't prevent me from predicting the future from time to time. Besides, in this case it's an easy prediction since the majority of men have some sort of prostate complaints during their lifetime. But if elevated PSA levels are the issue you're facing, a new study on ways to lower PSA levels published in the British Journal of Nutrition, might help make that a problem in your past. According to the research, the nutrients omega-3...like those found in fish oils...and coenzyme Q10 may both be able to significantly reduce PSA levels. In a randomized, double-blind trial omega-3 users had 30 percent lower PSA levels, and CoQ10 users saw a 33 percent drop in their PSA levels.
  5. Stay healthy by raising your low levels of vitamin D

    Low D linked to daytime sleepiness and more

    Some things are worth repeating. Other things are worth shouting from the rooftops. The importance of vitamin D is both of those things. That's why I've been repeating my pro-D message for years now, encouraging readers to raise their low levels of vitamin D. In fact, long before the mainstream had picked up on just how important this vital vitamin is, we were telling Guide to Good Health readers to top up their low levels of vitamin D. Over three years ago I advised my female readers to get out into the sun more when I warned you about an association between breast cancer and low levels of vitamin D. I revealed the surprising link between vitamin D and type II diabetes years before the mainstream caught on, when we told you about a study that found that those with the highest D levels had the lowest incidence of the disease. And as a GTGH reader you learned about a potential link between death from heart disease and low levels of vitamin D all the way back in 2009. Those, of course, are just a couple of examples of how important maintaining your vitamin-D levels is to your health. (For dozens more just visit my online archives here.) So you probably won't be very surprised to learn that new research is once again spotlighting the importance of D. In fact, the vitamin is being touted by three different teams of researchers for three very different reasons.

    61 percent lower risk of MS

    A group of Swedish researchers found that high vitamin-D levels during pregnancy may protect women against the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS). The Swedish team reviewed blood samples collected since 1975 for around 291,500 people. When they looked at vitamin-D levels an interesting pattern began to emerge. Pregnant women with the highest levels of D had an impressive 61 percent lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis when compared to women with the lowest levels of vitamin D. Of course, very few of the people tested had high levels of the vitamin to begin with. Not surprising since, as I've explained before, vitamin-D levels have been plummeting over the last decade as we spend less and less time out in the sunshine. And when we do venture out we do so under layers of sunblock and "protective" clothing.

    Moms to be check your D

    It turns out that keeping your D levels up during pregnancy can do more than just protect mom from MS, they could help give baby a good start in life as well. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, low vitamin-D levels are associated with low birth rates. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh followed the births of 2,146 babies whose moms had their vitamin-D levels measured at 26 weeks or less. The babies' birth weight, head circumference, and placental mass were all measured. The scientists found that moms who were vitamin-D deficient gave birth to babies that were, on average, 46 grams lighter than the other babies. In fact, if mom was vitamin-D deficient during her first trimester she was twice as likely to have a lower birth weight baby.

    Sleep like a baby with D?

    Those are two impressive feats we can add to vitamin D's already sensational resume, but--believe it, or not--I'm not even done with D yet. According to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, getting enough vitamin D could be the key to curing your daytime sleepiness.

    Researchers in Louisiana looked at the cases of 81 sleep-study patients who were having trouble keeping their eyes open during the day, and who were complaining of general pain. It turns out that the sleepier the patient was during the day the lower his or her vitamin-D levels tended to be. Although these findings don't yet prove a cause and effect relationship...more study is needed to do that...they do strongly suggest that there's a link between vitamin-D deficiency and daytime sleepiness. And they are, of course, yet one more good reason to make sure that you're getting the vitamin D you need to stay healthy. You can get more vitamin D in your diet by increasing the amount of fatty fish and fresh organic meats and eggs you eat. Fish oil is an excellent way to supplement your D levels. And, of course, my number one recommendation for topping up your D is to step out into the sunshine for a good 20 minutes a day without sunscreen.

  6. Lose weight and lower diabetes risk

    Fat, bloated, and at risk after the holidays

    Hello, piper. Do you take checks? Yes, it's that time again; time to pay the piper for all of your holiday snacking. Now if you've packed on  an extra pound or two of holiday weight, you might want to consider ways to lose weight and lower diabetes risk in the new year. Now that kind of gain isn't such a big deal if you shed them this month. But studies show that holiday gainers tend to never take those extra pounds back off. And the picture is even less rosy if you're already overweight. It turns out that if you normally carry around some extra weight, those one or two pounds can easily balloon to five or more. But, the truth is, most American's have a much bigger problem than a couple of extra pounds of holiday weight. Weight gain is raging out of control and conservative estimates are that least 8.3 percent of the U.S. population also has blood sugar concerns, with a future outlook that's not too bright. But you don't have to lie down and resign yourself to being a statistic. If you've put on some pounds...heck, even if you're already overweight and have blood sugar concerns...there are things you can do to avoid further weight gain, drop the extra pounds, lower diabetes risk, and reverse the trend. Let's start with...

    A diet do-over in 2013

    To be blunt, if your diet is dominated by simple carbohydrates, a.k.a. simple sugars, you're dancing with the diabetes devil. You know the kinds of foods I'm talking about. We call them "comfort foods" when we want to feel ok about eating them and "junk foods" when we're being honest. And they're pretty much high in almost everything (but what our bodies actually need, of course). I've warned you about the dangers of simple carbs before. Besides sending your risks for obesity and diabetes skyrocketing, these bad news compounds can really do a number on your noggin, sending you down the path to cognitive decline. So it's time for a diet do-over. Slash the simple sugars out of your diet and lower diabetes risk by tossing the chips, pitching the sodas, and chucking the white "Marshmallow" bread. And if you see High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) on the label just don't put it in your mouth. But don't be fooled into thinking other sugars are ok. Instead learn to think of all refined sugars as the enemy, and foods with unrefined sugars as "sometimes" foods. To spot hidden sugars on a food label just keep your eyes peeled for ingredients ending in the letters "ose" including fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are a different animal altogether. They're usually made up of a chain of three or more sugars, and they tend to be packed with the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients your body craves. Foods like beans, 100 percent whole wheat bread (if you're not gluten intolerant, of course), steel-cut oats, broccoli, and even citrus fruits are all good examples of complex carbs. Complex carbs take longer for your body to process, so they don't cause your blood sugar to spike like their simple cousins can. Instead, they act as fuel for your body giving you the energy you need to function. Along with a moderate amount of good-for-you complex carbs, be sure that you're also getting lots of healthy protein, including organic grass fed meats. Yes, despite what you may have heard from the mainstream media a good steak can actually help you keep the pounds off. And to start whittling away those extra holiday pounds I've got a simple little trick that can bring big rewards. According to a Cornell University Study, cutting down on portion size on just one meal a day could help you drop 1.1 pounds in just two weeks. Meaning that by the end of this month you could be back down to your fighting weight!

    Support healthy blood sugar and weight

    Now that you've given your diet a makeover, you should consider getting some extra support from supplements. Chromium, biotin, cinnamon, vitamin D-3, magnesium, Gymnema sylvestre, and berberine are all great natural choices for supporting healthy blood sugar to lower diabetes risk and cholesterol levels. And don't forget about Garcinia cambogia. I told you all about this powerful fruit extract in a recent issue of the Guide to Good Health. Garcinia is emerging as a powerhouse when it comes to weight-loss support. In fact, one popular TV show doctor called it "...the most exciting weight-loss breakthrough discovered to date." Garcinia could help you say goodbye to diet-sabotaging munchies, while at the same time supporting your metabolism and promoting your body's own ability to burn fat. That's why we made it one of the key ingredients in our Weight Guard Plus formula.
  7. Dogs can identify C. diff superbug infections

    Barking up the superbug tree

    According to a new study published in the journal BMJ, man's best friend...the dog... could be a powerful new tool in our fight against superbug infections.

    Researchers in the Netherlands trained Cliff, a two-year old male beagle, to spot the distinctive tell-tale smell of a Clostridium difficile infection. After just two months of training, Cliff was able to correctly identify C. diff infected stool samples with 100 percent accuracy.

    In a real-life hospital setting Cliff correctly identified 25 out of 30 infected patients in just 10 minutes flat...an impressive 83 percent accuracy rate.

    Early detection is the key to stopping the spread of superbugs in healthcare settings. And since testing can be costly and time consuming, having a bug-detecting canine on call could be the furry wave of the future.

  8. Inflamed gums linked to causes of ED

    Taking a bite out of bedroom bliss

    Having trouble in the bedroom? Quick, grab a mirror and check your gums. According to a new study of causes of ED published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, men with inflamed gums caused by severe periodontal disease were three times as likely to experience erection problems. Researchers compared 80 men between the ages of 30 and 40 who had erection troubles with a control group of 82 men without bedroom issues. It turns out that over half of the men with erection troubles had inflamed gums. But only 23 percent of the men in the control group had gum problems. Even after making adjustments for things like income, education level, age, and body mass index, gum disease was still linked to causes of ED. Other studies have linked troubles in your mouth to troubles with your heart and vascular system. The moral of this story? If you're a guy, for goodness sake take care of your teeth and gums! And if you're just married to one, then you might want to seriously consider giving the gift of a good electric toothbrush this year. There are 12 Days of Christmas, after all.
  9. Five foods that can help you relieve a hangover fast

    Top 5 food cures to get rid of your hangover fast

    It's that time of year again.

    No, I'm not referring to your New Year's Resolutions. I'm talking about the dreaded New Year's Day Hangover.

    Even if you're a teetotaler the rest of the year, you might just decide to indulge in some bubbly on New Year's Eve. And if you end up tipping a glass or two too many, you could be paying the price with a pounding headache and a queasy stomach come next Tuesday morning.

    Now, you may already know that many of your hangover symptoms are actually caused by dehydration. To put it simply...when you drink a lot you pee a lot. And since alcohol is a diuretic...meaning it forces you to make even more potty runs...you have set the stage for a killer hangover.

    But what you may not realize is that with all that peeing you're not just losing liquid - you're also losing nutrients. So not only do you wake up dehydrated the morning after a night of making merry, you're also waking up running low on the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to keep you feeling your best.

    The easiest way to cure a hangover, of course, is to avoid getting one in the first place. But there's no need to worry, I'm not going to ask you to skip the celebratory glass of bubbly. Instead, taking a few pre-party precautions could be the difference between you waking up on New Year's Day feeling fit as a fiddle or sick as a dog.

    The best defense is a good offense

    Start with several glasses of water to make sure you're well hydrated. Eat a small protein-packed snack. (A handful of walnuts or a piece of tuna or salmon are great choices. I'll explain why later.) And be sure to down a good multi-vitamin along with some fish-oil (and vitamin E for balance) before heading out.

    Once you get to the party, remember to sip on a glass of water between every alcoholic drink. This will not only keep you hydrated it will also keep you from mindlessly downing a few too many.

    But what if all your precautions don't work? Or, what if you're reading this for the first time on New Year's Day and you're already suffering with a hangover? The good news is that there are some remedies you may already have on hand that could help you speed your way to recovery.

    (And no, "the hair of the dog that bit you" is not one of them.)

    Homemade hangover cures

    Number One -- Pick the right protein: Earlier I mentioned that a handful of walnuts or a couple slices of tuna both make good pre-party snack choices. The reason for this is that they're both rich in omega-3 fatty acids and omega-3s are superstars when it comes to putting the brakes on a speeding hangover.

    You see, while dehydration is at the root of a lot of those hangover woes, hormone-like substances called prostaglandins also play a part. Prostaglandins, which are often elevated when you have a hangover, can cause inflammation that contributes to your throbbing headache. And, as I've told you many times before, Omega-3s are natural anti-inflammatories.

    Number Two -- Eggs are an excellent choice: When your liver goes to work metabolizing the alcohol you drink, a byproduct of that process is a toxin called acetaldehyde. This stuff is not only hard to pronounce, it's also bad news. And your body reacts to this invader by attacking the substance with an enzyme and cysteine-rich glutathione.

    But you only have a limited supply of glutathione on hand, and when it runs out your body has to go to work making more. Meanwhile that nasty old acetaldehyde is hanging out making you feel like death warmed over. This is when cysteine-rich eggs could become your new best friend by helping soak up some of the remaining toxins, and easing your nausea and vomiting to make you feel better fast.

    Number Three -- Seek out some salt: It might seem strange, but your dehydrated body may not only be calling out for water, it could also be begging you for some salt. It turns out that along with all those vitamins and minerals that were flushed down the toilet there was a whole lot of sodium too.

    Now the last thing you want to do is load up on tons of salt when you're already dehydrated. But a snack with a little extra salt in it could be just what your body ordered. A couple of pickles...which are also rich in other nutrients including potassium, vitamin A, calcium, and manganese...could help ease headache pain. If you're lucky enough to have some unrefined sea salt on hand, even better.

    And a serving of sauerkraut will not only help restore your sodium levels it may also help with your tummy troubles. Sauerkraut contains the healthy bacteria Lactobacilli plantarum and lactic acid, both of which can help kick start your digestion.

    Number Four -- Ask for asparagus: A study published in the Journal of Food Science a few years back confirmed that asparagus is a winner when it comes to beating hangovers. Those green stalks are packed with some of the minerals and vitamins that you've likely lost. And, according to researchers, the veggie can help reverse hangover symptoms and appears to have the ability to protect liver cells from the toxins left behind by alcohol.

    Number Five -- Grab some ginger: Turns out that mom was right all along, real ginger ale or ginger tea can ease nausea and calm an unhappy tummy. Gingerol, the active part of ginger, is a powerful antioxidant that goes right to the root cause of your stomachache...oxidative stress.

    But the spice's hangover-fighting powers don't end there. Ginger also plugs the serotonin receptors in your stomach blocking more of the hormone from slipping in and causing nausea.

    Of course, the number one item in your kitchen for curing a hangover is the first thing I recommended today, and that's water. Water can drive away your pounding headache, soothe your irritated belly, and help flush lingering toxins out of your system.

    Cheers to a happy, healthy, and hangover-free New Year!

  10. Don't forget your supplements this holiday season

    My "prescription" for a Merry Christmas

    With just five days until Christmas...and the shopping season in full swing...I think it's high time I offer up a bit of my best holiday advice. But don't worry, my "prescription" is a simple one: slow down, take a deep breath, and for goodness sake lighten up!

    Yup, that's it.

    It's so easy to get caught up in the chaos that sometimes we need to be reminded to just relax and enjoy this wonderful time of year. And let's face it, running at full steam for weeks on end, worrying about finding "the perfect gift," and stressing about family and work obligations can set you up for a crash right in the middle of cold and flu season.

    So take some time out to enjoy the lights. Watch a sappy Christmas movie. Or just take a nap. And if anyone questions you just say, "Hey, it's doctor's orders!"

    And while you're at it don't forget to take your vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and garlic to help shore up your immune system before you go visiting family and friends. (You'll find lot's more immune-building advice in the Guide to Good Health archives here.) Oh, and one last thing. Don't fret about having that Christmas cookie or an extra glass of holiday cheer. It's Christmas after all, and an occasional holiday indulgence never hurt anyone.

    I wish you a happy, healthy, and very merry Christmas!

  11. Pesticides in your drinking water linked to allergies

    Food allergies on tap

    Pure. Healthy. Refreshing.

    Those are the kinds of words that spring to mind when you think of a tall, cool glass of drinking water. Well, that is unless you're thinking about the third world, and then you might opt for ones like contaminated, chemical-filled, and polluted instead.

    But what if I told you that those third-world labels for drinking water may be a fitting description for the water that comes out of the tap in your own home?

    This isn't the first time I've warned you about pesticides, or even the first time I've warned you about pesticides in your drinking water. And sadly, it probably won't be the last time, either. But, I have to admit that this new twist on an old enemy surprised even me.

    I'll tell you all about that new twist in just a moment. But first, let me remind you about some of the dangers that pesticides pose to your health.

    Pesticides on parade

    The fungicide tolylfluanid, which has now been banned for use on crops grown in the U.S., was found to cause insulin resistance in lab tests. Insulin resistance, of course, is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to diabetes. The condition can show up sometimes years before full-blown diabetes takes hold.

    But that's not even what got the endocrine-disrupting chemical banned here. It was tolylfluanid's links to thyroid tumors and kidney damage in animal tests that had us hanging up the 'unwelcome' sign. In fact, the EPA has even classified the chemical as a likely carcinogen.

    And, as I warned you earlier this year, crops doused in this dangerous, so-called "banned" pesticide are still making it across our borders...and into our bodies... thanks to an EPA loophole.

    But it's not just banned pesticides that are a problem. In a fourteen-year study conducted at Duke University, researchers found that exposure to the common food-crop pesticides organophosphates and organochlorines may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's by 53 percent.

    Several studies have linked organophosphates to lower IQs in children. And in a new comprehensive review, published in the journal Critical Reviews of Toxicology, researchers confirmed that the organophosphates found in some pesticides can indeed cause lasting harm to the brain. According to their analysis of 14 separate studies, even at low levels the chemicals can reduce your memory, as well as curb your ability to process information quickly.

    Drinking water disaster

    This brings me back to that surprising new twist on pesticides that I mentioned earlier. A new study, published in the December issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, has linked pesticides in our drinking water to food allergies.

    That's right, what's in your drinking glass could lead to you having trouble with what's on your dinner plate.

    According to the study, high levels of the chemicals dichlorophenols... commonly used in pesticides and found in tap water... are associated with food allergies. Researchers say that the chemicals may weaken food tolerance in some people. And this could be at least partially to blame for some common food allergies such as to milk, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat.

    And are you ready for an "aha!" moment? Because when you match these findings up with the 18 percent rise in food allergies in the last 10 years, you've certainly got one.

    Now while it's true that you can't totally avoid pesticides, there are some things you can do to drastically reduce your exposure to them. First of all, the most obvious is to never use artificial insect or weed-control products in your own garden.

    Next, whenever they're available (and no matter what Dr. Oz says!), choose organic fruits and vegetables at the grocery store...or head to your local farmers market. If you can't afford, or find, organic produce check out the Environmental Working Group's Clean 15 for the fruits and veggies that are safest to eat.

    And finally, to help with tap-water contamination, consider installing a reverse osmosis filter in your home. Although it won't remove 100 percent of all contaminants, it will do a good job of removing both organic and inorganic compounds...including pesticides... from your water.

    And it certainly beats the heck out of those super-market filters, which won't do a thing to reduce your pesticide exposure.

  12. Mammograms risk over diagnosis and unnecessary treatments

    The great mammogram myth

    If you've been following me for any length of time you probably already know how I feel about mammograms and mammogram risk. But if you're a new reader you might be surprised when I tell you I'm not a fan. Don't be. I have several very good reasons why I think the things should be done away with, starting with radiation exposure and ending with over-diagnosis. (In fact, a couple of years ago I shared four great reasons to skip your next mammogram with you.) Worst of all, I've never believed that mammograms do a darn thing to reduce cancer deaths. Now a new study of mammogram risk, published in the New England Journal of Medicine is, once again, proving my point. According to the study, a staggering 1.3 million U.S. women were over-diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 30 years...and suffered the consequences including surgeries, chemotherapy, and more radiation. Researchers say that although fewer women are dying from breast cancer, it's better treatments and not mammography that get the credit for the drop. In fact, the worst cases of cancer are not decreasing. But, meanwhile, early cancers...which if left alone may never become a problem...are being diagnosed and treated at a much higher rate. Thanks to NEJM for confirming what I already knew. And despite the FDA's continued insistence that mammograms are the way to go...regardless of the stacks of evidence to the contrary...my suggestion to skip the annual mammogram still stands. Instead talk with your doctor about alternatives, including thermography, in order to avoid mammogram risk.
  13. Flame retardants in furniture may harm your child

    Hidden household chemicals can cause harm

    If you're a parent or grandparent, you've experienced the "joys" of baby-proofing your house. You've covered up electrical outlets, put up baby gates, and tightly latched any cabinets that contain chemicals that could harm a curious toddler.

    But it turns out that one of the biggest dangers to your child or grandchild might be literally lurking right under your feet (or your fanny), and you never even knew it.

    A new study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives last month, has linked exposure to the chemicals found in some carpets and furniture to physical and mental impairments in children.

    The chemical culprits, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, are flame retardants that were first added to furniture, carpets, and other household items in the 1970's.

    And although this danger to our children is just being confirmed now, we've already known that the chemicals were bad news for years. In fact, studies have found that PBDEs are endocrine disruptors that can potentially wreak havoc with our hormones leading to health problems including reproductive issues, thyroid problems, and even cancer.

    Now it looks like we may be able to add "damages children's development" to that list.

    Toxic dust may stunt development

    The United States and the European Union have banned two forms of PBDEs...Penta and Octa...since 2004. And many U.S. States have enacted their own bans on PBDEs over the years. But those bans came only after decades of exposure, and to this day 97 percent of U.S. residents still have traces of the chemicals in their blood.

    It gets worse. If you have any carpets or furniture (and even electronics) in your home that were manufactured prior to 2004 you, and your loved ones, are likely still being exposed.

    Although bans on these chemicals didn't take place until 2004, red flags about their potential to cause health problems were already popping up for years before that. In fact, the launch of this current study stretches all the way back to 1999.

    Researchers wanted to find out how PBDEs were affecting children, so they started by drawing blood on almost 280 moms who were either pregnant or who had just given birth. Then, when their children turned seven years old, the researchers took samples from them as well.

    While the CDC analyzed the blood samples, the researchers put the kids through a battery of tests. The children's verbal, reasoning, attention, and memory skills were all measured. Their behavior was monitored, and their moms were asked to report on their child's behavior as well. They were even tested for physical coordination.

    Surprisingly, the blood tests revealed that the mom's PBDE levels were relatively low when compared to the U.S. population as a whole. But the kid's levels, on the other hand, were off the charts. It appears that they continued to absorb the nasty chemicals after birth simply through being exposed to it in their homes.

    And I bet you can see where this is going.

    It turns out that the tests revealed that the kid's with the higher blood levels of PBDEs were also the ones most likely to suffer from attention deficits, lower IQs, and fine motor skill problems. Frighteningly, although more studies need to be done, the researchers pointed out that there's also an association between the chemicals and brain development.

    How to reduce exposure

    While I'm tempted to tell you to toss out any sofas and chairs in your home that were made between the 70's and as recently as ten years ago...and rip up any old carpets while you are at it....I know that this isn't realistic for many of us.

    The next best thing is to seal up any tears in old furniture and become best friends with your mop and vacuum cleaner. Experts say staying ahead of dust in the home...and making hand washing a regular habit...can reduce your child or grandchild's exposure to PCBEs.

    And if you don't have any old carpets or furniture in your house, you're not off the hook. Another disturbing new study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology tested for 49 different flame retardant chemicals in household dust and found that 44 of them were present. And this isn't an isolated problem either...36 of them were in 50 percent of the samples!

    The chemicals the researchers found the most of were chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, which can potentially cause cancer and are listed as carcinogens under California's Proposition 65.

    And, of course, the ones most at risk for being exposed to these toxic chemicals are babies and small children that spend a lot of time crawling around on the floor.

    The bottom line is there's no current federal requirement that flame retardants be tested for safety. So, until there is, the advice remains the same whether you have old or new furnishings...and that is treat dust like the enemy.

    For more information on flame retardants, and other toxic chemicals that are harming your family's health, you can visit the Environmental Working group at ewg.org. And while you're there you can read about the Safe Chemicals Act which would require chemical manufacturers to prove their products are safe before putting them on the market.

  14. Fight depression with B vitamins--B12 and folate

    Say bye to the blues with Bs

    Are you, or a friend, feeling a bit blue? Skip the potentially dangerous--and likely useless--drugs and head for the vitamin aisle instead. According to a new study on depression and B vitamins, taking vitamin B12 and folate for depression could be the key to driving the disease away. I've told you before about the ability of B vitamins to support brain health and drive away the blues. Now Finnish researchers have linked low levels of folate and vitamin B12 in the diet to typical depressive symptoms. In fact, among 3,000 farmers, the men with the highest amounts of these important vitamins in their diets were 50 percent less likely to suffer from depression. You can get more of both these B vitamins in foods such as liver and eggs, as well as in supplements.
  15. Small change in portion equals big change in weight loss

    Recently, researchers at Cornell University demonstrated that just a small change in portion size for one meal a day can add up to big weight loss rewards.

    Over five weeks the food intake for 17 volunteers was carefully monitored. For the first week the whole group was allowed to choose all their meals and snacks from an open buffet.

    For the next two weeks half of the volunteers continued to chow down at the buffet for lunch, but the other half was given pre-packaged portion controlled food that added up to approximately 200 calories. And finally after two weeks the buffet group traded places with the calorie-controlled group for the last two weeks.

    It turns out that when the volunteers ate the portion-controlled meals they didn't make up for the lower-calorie lunch at other meals or at snack times throughout the day. That approximate 250-calorie reduction in food intake resulted in an average weight loss of 1.1 pounds for each of the volunteers during the two weeks.

    Now of course I don't recommend eating a pre-packaged meal that's likely loaded with health-destroying sugar and refined carbs. But if you're looking to lose a few pounds I do recommend making a conscious choice to cut back just a little at lunch.

  16. The link between obesity, poor sleep and diabetes

    A new twist on sick and tired

    I've been warning you for years about the dangers of not getting enough sleep. I raised the red flag way back in 2008 about what a lack of good quality sleep could do to your health...causing your weight to balloon and your cholesterol levels to skyrocket. Less than a year later I revealed the link between poor sleep and diabetes risk. And then earlier this year I just flat out told you that your lack of sleep could be making you fat. Now scientists from the University of Chicago are confirming what I've been saying all along...poor sleep can make you not only tired, but fat and sick to boot. In a study of obesity, sleep, and diabetes published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers confirmed that not spending enough time with Mr. Sandman wreaks havoc with your fat cells. In fact, the impact on your fat cells is so big that their ability to respond to insulin plummets by 30 percent! And you know what that means: obesity and type-2 diabetes could be lurking just around the corner. The solution is simple: commit to getting more shut eye and soon you can wave goodbye to all those elevated risks as if they were nothing but a bad dream.
  17. The link between knee arthritis and soda

    Is there a link between your knee arthritis and soda?

    I'm convinced that whoever writes the public statements for the American Beverage Association (ABA) should start a second career as a stand-up comedian. Sure the humor is unintentional, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't have them rolling in the aisles. A study of the link between knee arthritis and soda presented at the American College of Rheumatology's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this month had the American Beverage Association (ABA) taking their comedic stylings out for another spin. I'll tell you what the ABA had to say in just a moment. But first, let me tell you about that study. Bing Lu, MD, DrPh from Harvard Medical School and his team analyzed the records of 2,149 volunteers with knee osteoarthritis who had participated in a large arthritis study. Volunteers completed a detailed questionnaire on their diet including how many sugar-packed soft drinks they were gulping down every week. For four years the progress of their disease was tracked by measuring the growing spaces between their knee joints...the greater the space the less shock absorbing cartilage there is, and the worse the condition is. Each volunteer had their Body Mass Index (BMI) measured as well.

    Soda linked to osteoarthritis in the knee

    In the men, a troubling link between the most severe cases of knee arthritis and soda soon emerged. (Interestingly, the same link didn't show up for the women.) The researchers suspected that the link they were seeing was connected to excess weight. After all, if you're tossing back a bunch of sodas every week you're also swallowing a lot of extra calories. To find out if the link between knee arthritis and soda was really there, Lu and his team carefully adjusted for BMI and other risk factors including obesity. Then, to truly rule out if it was added pounds causing the extra knee damage, they divided the men into an obese and non-obese group. Much to the researcher's surprise, the link stubbornly remained. In fact, the worse knee damage showed up ONLY in the non-obese men! And we're not talking about a small effect here. It turns out that the men who drank five or more soft drinks a week had DOUBLE the loss of cartilage as the men who didn't drink any sodas. Researchers aren't certain why soda may have this effect. The leading theory is that some of the ingredients in soda... including phosphoric acid, the chemicals used in the artificial colors or sweeteners, and even caffeine...could play a role by affecting the bone's ability to absorb calcium. More research has to be done since, as I always remind you, a link doesn't prove a cause. And this study of knee arthritis and soda still has to go through the normal peer review process before it gets published. But the findings remain pretty shocking.

    Sidestepping the real soft drink story

    Naturally, the American Beverage Association weighed in. In a statement the ABA said, "The authors' 'novel findings' -- as they call them -- suggest only a possible association of soft drink consumption with osteoarthritis in knees..." Nice bit of maneuvering there ABA. Since it's just a "possible association" you don't even have to deny it and you're still in the clear. That bit of verbal gymnastics might already have caused you to chuckle, but wait, there's even more slight-of-word to come. Get ready to yuk it up. The ABA statement continues, "...this presentation fails to establish that drinking soft drinks causes any negative health outcomes or even that they are linked to negative health outcomes." Ha, good one ABA! Yes, welcome to the hilarious new world of the American Beverage Association where gulping down sugary sodas doesn't cause any "negative outcomes." After all, no one can prove that they're bad for you, right? Wrong. It turns out that robbing your bones of cartilage isn't the only potential problem with sugary sodas. In fact, soft drinks have already been linked with heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. The acids in sodas can wear away tooth enamel. And the cans themselves are lined with endocrine-disrupting BPA. Heck, a couple of months ago I even told you about the apparent (mouse) "bone-dissolving"power of Mountain Dew. Not to mention how all those extra sugary calories you're dumping down your throat are liable to have you packing on the pounds, and potentially raising your risk for diabetes while you're at it. The obvious thing to do here is to go cold turkey on the sodas. Regardless if you're a man or a woman nothing good can come from drinking them. Try switching to antioxidant–rich green tea instead. Just add a dash of all-natural stevia if you still need to satisfy a sweet tooth.
  18. Garcinia weight loss breakthrough

    South Asian Garcinia fruitweight loss secret

    "Garcini-what?" That's the reaction I usually get when I mention this remarkable South Asian secret to weight loss that, quite literally, grows on trees. But I expect that to change very soon...and I'll explain why in just a moment. The small sour Garcinia cambogia fruit resembles a miniature pumpkin in shape. It's a staple ingredient in many of the curry dishes you will get in Southeast Asian countries. And, in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, the fruit has long been recognized for its ability to aid with digestion and to make meals feel more filling. Although most American's have never even heard of garcinia... and I wouldn't expect to see it anytime soon in the produce aisle at your local grocery store... you will likely be hearing a lot more about it in the months ahead. And that's because Dr. Oz, who recently referred to it as a "revolutionary fat buster" on an episode of his popular TV show, is a real cheerleader for garcinia as a weight loss breakthrough. In fact, Dr. Oz couldn't say enough good things about garcinia , even referring to it as "the holy grail" and saying that garcinia might be "...the most exciting weight-loss breakthrough discovered to date." Now I've told you before that, despite the fact that Dr. Oz began his career fully dedicated to mainstream medicine, I rather like the guy. I think he has some good things to say, and when it comes to natural medicine you can see he tries to keep an open mind and he usually does his homework. And in this case, he got it right. And garcinia weight loss is indeed a breakthrough. That's because it packs a one-two punch both supporting your metabolism so your body can effectively burn fat, and helping you to feel full so you can avoid the dreaded diet-sabotaging munchies. If you're interested in giving garcinia extract a try you can find a supplement in your local health food store or in your favorite online supplement shop. Garcinia comes both as a stand-alone extract as well as an ingredient in some more comprehensive weight loss formulas.
  19. Resveratrol benefits people with heart disease and more

    Unless you've been living under a rock for the last couple of years I'm sure you've heard about the benefits of resveratrol, the powerful anti-aging “red wine antioxidant”.  In fact, I've written a lot about heart-friendly resveratrol’s benefits. You've probably also read about the so called "French Paradox" that allows our friends in France to eat a diet that's heavy in red meats, carbs, fats, and rich sauces and yet, still maintain slim physiques. Not to mention an impressively low incidence of heart disease. I've shared the news about the exciting anti-aging potential locked inside this grape skin extract. And I've told you how resveratrol benefits may help in the fight against pancreatic cancer. In one study, it appeared to increase the effectiveness of chemo against cancerous cells, while at the same time offering protection to the healthy ones. A number of studies have even found that resveratrol is a good candidate for helping with insulin regulation, high blood pressure, and cholesterol control. And one study even found that the supplement can increase blood flow to the brain, likely improving cognitive performance. To put it simply, this stuff is impressive. Or...is it? That's the question on many people's minds after a rash of recent headlines questioned the extracts' reputation. Critics point to the results of a recent study as evidence that resveratrol doesn't improve insulin sensitivity or help with cholesterol control. Confused yet? Don't be. Their claims simply don't hold much water, and I'll explain why.

    Finding the flaw

    The study that the mainstream media has seized upon was published in October in the journal Cell Metabolism. And, if you listen to the mainstream reports, it concluded that there were no significant improvements in insulin sensitivity or cholesterol in women given the extract when compared to a control group. And they're right...technically. But the results don't tell the complete story. Not by a long shot. In fact, there's a truck-sized flaw running right through the middle of their argument. You see, the fifteen women who participated in this study (you read that right -- not fifteen thousand or fifteen hundred...just FIFTEEN women) were completely healthy to begin with. They didn't even have any insulin sensitivity or cholesterol problems to correct! No, sadly, I'm not joking. It turns out that none of them even had a history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease. In fact, all of the women underwent a complete medical evaluation at the start of the study and, well, let's just say the phrase healthy as a herd of horses springs to mind.

    Tallying up the resveratrol benefits

    So, did three months of a resveratrol supplement significantly improve perfectly healthy, non-obese women's already healthy metabolic function? Well, no. And does this matter to any of us? Well, no. Let's face it, a stack of research has already shown us the many things this powerful antioxidant can do for our health. Heck, even the researchers in this study that the mainstream is crowing about acknowledge that resveratrol has shown benefits for people with heart disease, pre-diabetes, diabetes, and cholesterol problems. You know, people like most of the rest of us. (Frankly, what puzzles me...well, beyond why they would test resveratrol on women who are already healthy, of course... is where these researchers even managed to find fifteen post-menopausal women in their fifty's that were so darn healthy anyway.) The bottom line is, this new study doesn't reveal anything new about the resveratrol benefits. And it doesn't tell us a thing about its potential for helping to prevent future problems, either. But when you weigh all of the evidence my money is still squarely on resveratrol. However, unlike the too-low 75 mg dosage that was used in this study, I generally recommend 200 mg a day (or 100 mg if it's part of a comprehensive anti-aging or heart formula). Check with your own naturopathic doctor to find out what's the best choice for you. P.S. -- When you sit down at your Thanksgiving table today go ahead and serve yourself a healthy helping of cranberries. It turns out this holiday favorite is packed with resveratrol. Just be sure you're reaching for the real thing and not that canned variety, which is chock-full of preservatives, processed sugar, and BPA. Happy Thanksgiving!
  20. Curcumin for heart health

    The benefits of exercise in a spice bottle?

    I've told you before about the healing properties of the powerful Indian spice turmeric. Or rather the extract from the spice known as curcumin that gives turmeric its bright yellow color. Turns out, curcumin is great for your heart as well as your brain. Curcumin has shown great promise, standing up to the rigors of a variety of scientific testing that have found the spice extract to be a good candidate for protecting the brain, helping to rebuild brain cells after a stroke, and fighting the plaques and tangles that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. The spice apparently works this little bit of "brain magic" by targeting inflammation and oxidative stress. And it's these same actions that also make it an excellent candidate for reducing joint pain, preventing insulin resistance, and even fighting cancer. And let's face it, if curcumin's healing promise stopped there that would already be an incredibly impressive resume...and more than enough for it to earn a spot in our top must-have supplements. But, it turns out the extract has at least one more trick up its golden-yellow sleeve.

    Blood vessel benefits

    According to a Japanese study of curcumin and heart health, published in the American journal Nutrition Research, curcumin could very well be a heart-healthy powerhouse, too. Researchers from the University of Tsukuba...backed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (important to note because this means there wasn't a turmeric product maker bankrolling it and causing a conflict of interest)...recruited thirty two women who had already gone through menopause. The volunteers were divided into three groups...a control, an aerobic exercise group, and a curcumin supplement group. For eight weeks the "group two" women kept up their aerobic exercises and the "group three" women took their 25 milligrams of curcumin. The researchers then took a common measurement of vascular heart health called flow-mediated dilation (FMD) in all of the volunteers. Surprisingly, the supplement takers saw improvements in FMD that were exactly on par with the exercisers. In just eight short weeks both the exercisers and the supplement takers had increased their FMD by about 1.5% while the control group saw no changes. Now, I know you're probably thinking that 1.5% doesn't seem like all that much of an improvement. But the number is more significant than you might imagine. And another recent study of curcumin, heart health and FMD, this one in the British Journal of Nutrition, illustrated just how significant. According to the findings of that BJN study, a 1.5 percent decrease in FMD would be associated with about an 18 percent increase in risk. And since FMD is a predictor of future heart problems, when you flip that figure and see that you're looking at a potential 18 percent decrease in risk in just 8 weeks, it suddenly becomes crystal clear just how incredible curcumin's heart-protecting potential is.

    Powerful health protection

    The Japanese research team isn't sure yet why curcumin appears to improve blood vessel function. They believe it has something to do with the same anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions that make the extract a friend to your brain and joints, as well as a potential tool for fighting insulin resistance and cancer. The team is calling for more research to confirm their educated hunch. But there's really no reason to wait for those results to come in. With so much power packed into this spice why not make it a part of your routine now? Turmeric is delicious, and I encourage you to add more of it to your favorite dishes. But to get the real impact that was seen in this study, unless you're a huge curry fanatic, you're likely going to need to take a heart-healthy curcumin supplement too.

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