Dr. Allan Spreen, MD

  1. Will drinking white wine help shrink your pant size?

    By now, most of us have heard about the cardiovascular benefits of drinking red wine. But white wines—like Chardonnay—have always taken a backseat to their healthier counterparts. Until now, that is.

    Actually, drinking a glass of Chardonnay isn’t going to do much for your overall health. But eating the seeds from the Chardonnay grape just might.

    Let me explain…

    Chardonnay grape seeds contain powerful polyphenols. These substances basically patrol your body, zapping any free radicals they find. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause disease, especially cancer, in the body. (In January 15, 2009’s Guide to Good Health, we discussed how grape seed extract can zap 76 percent of leukemia cells literally overnight. To read that article, simply visit this link: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/article_list.php?docs_id=91.)

    Naturally boost your metabolism

    Turns out the polyphenols in Chardonnay grape seeds may also help the body regulate its metabolism, even prevent obesity.

    In recent lab testing, scientists at the University of Montpellier wanted to see if grape seed extract could prevent weight gain in hamsters. Test subjects were divided into three groups:

    1. Subjects fed a normal diet
    2. Subjects fed a high-fat diet
    3. Subjects fed a high-fat diet but supplemented with the grape seed extract

    Not surprisingly, after 12 weeks the test subjects fed a normal diet maintained a healthy weight. Subjects on the high-fat diet gained abdominal fat. These hamsters also experienced spikes in blood sugar, triglycerides, insulin and insulin resistance.

    And what about the grape seed group? Could they keep off the fat?

    The grape seed group did keep off the fat! Despite receiving a high-fat diet, they did not increase their abdominal fat.

    So, how did they eat more fat without gaining, you ask?

    It appears that Chardonnay grape seeds somehow “turned off” the body’s “switch” to retain fat. In fact, the high-fat/grape seed hamsters had 61 percent more adiponectin in their blood than their high-fat alone counterparts. Adiponectin is inversely related to body fat. The more adiponectin your body produces, the less fat you collect.

    Plus, the news just kept getting better for the grape seed group. They experienced improvements in several key markers of good health.

    Insulinemia (abnormally high insulin in the blood) decreased by 16.5 percent in the high-fat/grape seed group. Leptinemia (a marker for diabetes) decreased by 45 percent. The researchers also noted lowered glycemia and insulin resistance values among the high-fat/grape seed group.

    Lastly, the high-fat/grape seed group experienced significant drops in two measures of oxidative stress. (Oxidative stress contributes directly to the formation of free radicals in the body.)

    But as an antioxidant, the grape seed extract seems to counteract oxidative stress in the test subjects. Production of NAD(P)H dropped by 30 percent and superoxide anion dropped by a whopping 74 percent.

    This is good news, as unchecked oxidative stress has been linked to everything from premature aging to cancer to Alzheimer’s disease.

    Stay the course

    Now—I’m not saying that this study gives you carte blanche to eat a high fat-diet. From my point of view, it’s just another tool to put into your toolbox if you’re concerned about maintaining a healthy weight.

    And remember—so far it’s only been shown to work on hamsters. Scientists have a long way to go before proving this stuff works on you and me. But if you want to give it a try (under the care of a naturopath, of course), I would recommend taking 200 mg per day. It’s pretty easy (and cheap) to find.

    If you want to shrink your pant size, give some grape seed extract a try. Not only is it a great antioxidant, it just may help you lose a pound or two.

  2. Reading between the lines

    As an M.D., I’m required to complete continuing education classes to keep my license. The idea is to keep us docs up-to-date with current medical procedures. I’m a bit of a research junkie, so I usually exceed the recommended hours in no time.

    Well, last week I took a quiz in the clinical journal American Family Physician. This journal is kind of like the Ford Taurus of medical journals. It‘s true mainstream medicine.

    Nevertheless, I need to subscribe to it. And taking their darned quiz earned me a couple of continuing ed hours. The questions are based on articles published in the journal. This month’s quiz covered all the general topics, such as splints and casts as well as heart disease and diabetes.

    Testing bias hiding on every page?

    The quiz was going along smoothly enough. I was feeling pretty confident in my “Ford Taurus” medical knowledge, I have to say. But then I got to question #4 and hit a road block. The question was about diabetes. Of course, diabetes has been on my mind a lot lately.

    In last week’s Guide to Good Health, we looked at a new study showing that people with the highest intake of vitamin D and calcium have a 64 percent lower prevalence of ever getting the disease. Here’s the link: http://www.northstarnutritionals.com/article_list.php?docs_id=111 if you want a refresher.

    In any case, the question asked, “Which one of the following medications has been shown to reduce mortality rates in patients with type 2 diabetes?”

    a. Sitagliptin (Januvia)
    b. Rosiglitazone (Avandia)
    c. Exenatide
    d. Metformin (Glucophage)

    Getting answers from mainstream medicine

    Any guesses which drug is the “correct” answer? Oh, pardon me. I mean which drug is the “correct” answer according to the good folks at American Family Physician?

    I’ll tell you that in a moment. But first, let me point out what had me scratching my head.

    You see, in my opinion, there is no right answer when the question is all wrong! The real way to reduce mortality rates in diabetics is to cure the disease, not control the symptoms with a drug.

    It’s a bum question. One that makes the American Family Physician’s apparent bias toward drug solutions stick out like a sore thumb.

    Well, should I have been surprised? This “scholarly” medical journal is filled cover to cover with ads for drugs. Of course their question only offers four drug answers.

    Trading one problem for another

    The all-mighty quiz writers tell us the correct answer is “D: Glucophage (or Metformin).
    This wildly popular drug is often used as a first-line of defense for people with pre-diabetes or for people with mild diabetes. And yes—it will modestly bring your blood sugar under control. But it’s not without its downfalls.

    In one clinical trial over 50 percent of the patients who took Metformin reported diarrhea as a side effect. And more than 25 percent reported nausea and/or vomiting in the same trial. Lastly, long-term use has been linked to increased homocysteine levels and malabsorption of vitamin B12.

    No biggie, right?

    Wrong. High homocysteine is not a small problem.

    High homocysteine has been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. So basically you‘re just trading one problem for another. Yes, Glucophage may help control your blood sugar. But at what cost?

    The solution that works

    Here’s some good news, folks. You can conquer diabetes. There are non-drug options that work.

    A recent study out of Duke University examined the effects of a low-carb diet on blood sugar in diabetics. They found that 95 percent of patients who followed a low-carb diet either reduced their need for insulin or discontinued it all together after 24 weeks.

    This means you’ll need to cut out all the sugar and simple carbohydrates (such as white bread, white rice, even most pasta and crackers) in your diet. Complex carbs may be okay if you’ve got pre-diabetes. But only in moderation.

    Complex carbs take longer to digest and will help keep your blood sugar under control. These include whole grain/whole wheat bread, dehulled barley, millet, brown rice, quinoa, and oats. Pasta is okay as long as you go with spinach, artichoke, whole wheat, or brown rice varieties. (Make sure it’s 100% whole wheat or brown rice. Sometimes, the packaging can be confusing.)

    Also, I’d try adding chromium, vanadium, B-complex and vitamin C to your daily regimen if you’ve already got type 2 diabetes or think you’re at risk for developing it.

  3. Defeating Diabetes with more D

    The good news about vitamin D just keeps coming, folks. It seems that every week a new study surfaces about the benefits of adding this building block to your regimen. Last week, I came across an article in Nutra-Ingredients USA about how increased vitamin D and calcium may protect you from type II diabetes. In fact, researchers have found that people with the highest intake of vitamin D, calcium or dairy intake have a 64 percent lower prevalence of the disease. 64% decreased prevalence of type II diabetes With this type of razor sharp data (some of it from Harvard researchers, no less), every family doc in the nation should be handing out vitamin D and calcium by the bucketful! If only they’d stop pushing their pens across the script pad and practice some preventative medicine for a change!
  4. Update on HPV vaccines

    Gardasil is used to protect young girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a cause of cervical cancer and genital warts. But it’s way too soon to give any stamp of approval to this so-called “cancer” vaccine. Here’s why… Last week I told you that a batch of Gardasil had been pulled off the market in Spain due to bad reactions in two young girls. I raised serious concerns about the safety and effectiveness of this so-called “cancer vaccine.” Upon further research, it seems that Charlotte J. Haug, M.D., Ph.D. of the New England Journal of Medicine has similar concerns. In a paper published in the Journal last year, she asked, “Since most HPV infections are easily cleared by the immune system, how will vaccination affect natural immunity against HPV, and with what implications?” In other words, why are we giving a vaccine for something the body naturally clears up on its own? Furthermore, how will it affect a girl’s immune system if we’re giving a vaccine for something the body is supposed to do itself? Will the immune system go into overdrive…or will it stop working altogether? Haug also points out that it may take decades to know if Gardasil (or GlaxoSmithKlein‘s Cervarix) can really prevent cervical cancer. Why, you ask? Well, you see, it takes many years for cervical cancer to develop in a woman. There’s no way to determine if the vaccines are really effective at preventing cervical cancer because they simply haven’t been around that long. Gardasil and Cervarix went through a few years of clinical testing. And, yes, they have been on the market for another couple of years. But that isn’t enough time to determine their effectiveness in preventing a disease that may take 10 years to develop. In fact, Haug believes we won’t know the truth about Gardasil for “decades.” In the meantime, here’s a link to her report, in case you or anyone you know is interested in further reading: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe0804638
  5. Fake it until you make it

    Dr. Scott Reuben, a well-respected anesthesiologist from New England, was accused this week of faking data in 21 different medical studies. These studies -- allegedly full of complete malarkey -- supported the effectiveness of nearly half a dozen popular drugs on the market. Much of the bogus research got published in various medical journals between 1996 and 2008. Dr. Reuben’s work -- or should I say “scam” -- has been influential in the use of these drugs as pain killers for patients recovering from common procedures such as knee and hip replacements. In a moment, I’ll tell you which drugs Dr. Reuben allegedly lied about. But first, a bit about the “wise and noble” Dr. Reuben… The Paris Hilton of the medical world An anesthesiologist at Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts and a professor at Tufts University, Dr. Reuben was basically what I like to call a “doctor for hire.” Big Pharma sniffs out these guys in medical school and recruits them to become “public speakers” on behalf of their drugs. In fact, Reuben took home a hefty paycheck from Pfizer Inc., working as a public speaker for their drugs. Pfizer also funded some of his so-called “research.” But Reuben’s character flaws -- I believe -- go way beyond greed. Apparently, he even faked research for quite a few drugs he had no monetary connection to whatsoever. That’s what’s got many of us scratching our heads. If not for the money, why risk it? Basically, this guy likes to see his name in lights. It’s all about vanity. He fabricates great results for popular drugs, gets the results published everywhere, and voila, he’s an instant “medical celebrity.” Basically, Reuben reported effective results using at least five different drugs as pain killers. These include Pfizer’s Bextra, Celebrex, and Lyrica. The hospital says he also fudged results for Merck’s Vioxx as well as data supporting the use of Wyeth’s antidepressant Effexor XR as a pain killer. Reuben promoted using certain drugs “off label,” which means using them to treat conditions other than what they got FDA approval for. For example, Effexor XR is an antidepressant. But Reuben reported it had positive results as a pain killer too. Celebrex is approved to treat arthritis pain, but not for post-operative pain, as Reuben suggested using it. Reuben also went so far as to write the FDA, pleading with them not to restrict the use of these painkillers, citing his own positive findings as proof of their “off label” safety and effectiveness. Fixing 10 years of lies Reuben’s work over the past 10 years has been very influential in extending use of these drugs to include treating acute post-operative pain. Now, anesthesiologists everywhere are saying a big “whoops!” In an editorial in the journal Anesthesiology, editor James C. Eisenach stated that the discovery of Reuben’s false data “clearly raise the possibility that we might be heading in wrong directions or toward blind ends in attempts to improve pain therapy." You think? Who’s going to believe that Celebrex treats acute pain…much less helps anyone over the long haul in treating arthritis? Dr. Steve Shafer, the editor in chief of the medical journal Anesthesia & Analgesia, which published many of falsified papers, told the New York Times that Reuben “was one of the most prolific investigators in the area of postoperative pain management.” He went on to say that Reuben’s scam “sets back our knowledge in the field tremendously.” So what’s going to happen now? Now, of course, the man is a pariah. Even Pfizer is keeping its distance and released this statement: “It is very disappointing to learn about Dr. Scott Reuben‘s alleged actions. When we decided to support Dr. Reuben‘s research, he worked for a credible academic medical center and appeared to be a reputable investigator." Unfortunately, I doubt this will have any ramifications in the grand scheme of things. Doctors will still prescribe Celebrex and Effexor XR. They may just think twice about using them for post-operative pain. The FDA probably won’t blink an eye. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, when this story broke, the FDA wasn’t even aware of the matter. I believe it is high-time to crack down on “off label” use of prescription drugs. Celebrex and Effexor, I believe, are dangerous enough when used as originally intended. I cringe to think of the ramifications if we continue to “cross-pollinate” our drugs. A word to the wise, if your doctor suggests using one of these drugs for post-operative pain, make sure you raise a stink. Chances are, he hasn’t been told that the data was faked by good old Dr. Reuben.
  6. Goodbye Gardasil?

    Gardasil—-the vaccine targeted at protecting teenage girls against the human papillomavirus (HPV)—is in the news again. This time, officials in Spain have yanked it off the shelves. And rightly so. The vaccine is designed to prevent the most common types of HPV, a common virus spread through sexual contact that can cause cervical cancer. But Gardasil is bad news. It’s been linked to 29 deaths over three years. Plus, it’s been linked to serious long-term side effects, such as seizures and strokes. In Spain last month, a batch of nearly 76,000 doses of Gardasil was withdrawn from the market after two girls fell seriously ill just hours after having received the vaccine. Thankfully, they’re now stable. But the news just keeps getting worse about this vaccine, folks. Merck now wants the FDA to approve Gardasil for boys. That means twice as many potential vaccinations for Merck. My recommendation? Stay clear of this vaccine at all costs. If you want more unbiased information about Gardasil, I recommend visiting this website: http://www.nvic.org/. It will give you or anyone you know who’s considering giving a teenager this vaccine the facts before making a decision.
  7. Sugar: The white villain in your diet

    Even if you avoid most sweets, the food industry sneaks sugar in to just about everything on the shelves these days. Just take a look at your favorite whole wheat bread. Chances are, it’s got high fructose corn syrup in it. (This stuff is still sugar. I think of it as sugar on steroids.) Sugar is bad news, no matter how you slice it. When it enters your blood stream, your body goes into overdrive trying to get rid of the stuff. Your pancreas releases insulin to help get rid of it. Eventually, it’s converted into glucose and used up by the body as energy (or stored as fat). But when you eat lots of refined sugar (or carbs)—such as a white bagel, a soda, or a bowl of cereal—your body goes into overdrive. It starts releasing lots and lots of insulin to deal with the sugar. As a result, your blood sugar drops way too fast and goes way too low. By this point, you may start to feel low after your sugar “high” (headaches, fatigue, etc). Plus, because your blood sugar dropped so low, so fast, you may feel cravings for more sugar. Over time, your body gets addicted. The ticking time bomb Say it’s your birthday and you treat yourself to a big slice of chocolate cake. But you’ve already spent years honing quite a sweet tooth. When your body receives the signal to respond to the chocolate cake, the party’s already over. Your pancreas has called it quits. It doesn’t produce the insulin (or can’t produce enough). So your blood sugar stays high…and voila…you have type II diabetes. But you’re not alone. Today, almost 24 million Americans have got it. Reversing the damage The good news is…you can prevent and even reverse type II diabetes. The key is to control your sugar and carb (which turns into sugar in the body) intake. In 2003, researchers at Duke University Medical Center examined the effects of a low-carb diet on blood sugar in diabetics. They found that 95 percent of patients who followed a low-carb diet either reduced their need for insulin or discontinued it all together after 24 weeks. I recently read another study about how you can help your body cope with type II diabetes. Researchers at Harvard studied the effects of taking the mineral zinc on women between the ages 33 and 60. A trace mineral found in the body, zinc helps maintain a healthy immune system. It keeps your skin and hair glowing. And it also influences your cognitive and muscle functioning. Researchers analyzed nutritional data documenting the women’s zinc intake over a 24-year period. They found that high amounts of zinc reduced a woman’s likelihood of developing diabetes by up to 28 percent. This is a pretty recent study, so I’m sure one with men is probably in the works. I would gamble that zinc performs equally well for men, if not better given the male metabolism. Unfortunately, the scientists could not zero in on the mechanism that caused this drop in diabetes risk. More research is needed here as well. But the data certainly makes the case for getting more zinc into your diet if you’re at risk for developing type II diabetes. (Interestingly, though not surprisingly, we know that sugar uses up all the zinc stored in our tissues. So if you’ve got a lot of sugar in your diet, it’s not surprising that you’d have low zinc stores as well. And since zinc is vital for healthy skin, it’s also not surprising that a sugar junkie probably doesn’t have a healthy glow.) Getting more zinc You’ve got to get rid of the straight sugar in your diet. That’s a no brainer. But whole grains may still work for anyone who’s yet to develop full-fledged diabetes. Here’s why… Whole grain foods contain lots of good nutrients, like zinc. And, whole grains get metabolized much slower than refined flour products. So you’re much less likely to incite an insulin invasion. My advice? Throw out all the refined flour products in your cabinet. (Refined flour products remove all the healthy nutrients, including zinc.) Keep only the real whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, and cereals. You’ll have to become a serious reader of the ingredients list. Look for whole grains such as “wheat” as the first ingredient. And make sure the products don’t contain “high-fructose corn syrup.” As a final note, you’ll find zinc in any good multivitamin. But I’d also recommend taking 50 to 100 additional mg of zinc per day, especially if you’re concerned about your blood sugar. Go for zinc in the chelated form or as zinc picolinate. Also, zinc can deplete your stores of copper. So you’ll also want to take roughly 1 milligram of copper for every 15 milligrams of zinc as a precaution. But don’t get carried away. Zinc by itself is nontoxic within these limits. But one study that I know of has linked high doses of zinc over 10 years to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
  8. It‘s good to know...

    Can‘t put down the sweets? A study conducted by University of Toronto shows it‘s not your fault. It turns out they‘ve identified a gene, aptly named glucose transporter type 2, or GLUT2, that plays a key role in sugar intake. And people with a particular variation of this gene are significantly more likely to consume sugar than others. Although it‘s not an excuse for throwing all dietary caution to the wind, those of us who find it tough to turn down a dessert, can stop beating ourselves up for lack of will power...it‘s simply part our genetic code!
  9. Tea for type 2...

    New hope for type 2 diabetics may be found lurking in both teacups and wine glasses alike. A University of Massachusetts study found that the polyphenols found in both wine and tea have a beneficial effect on alpha-glucosidase-an enzyme responsible for the absorption of glucose in the small intestine. For the study, researchers looked at four kinds of red and white wine and four types of tea (black, green, white and oolong). Results showed that red wine inhibited alpha-glucosidase by almost 100 percent. White wine showed only a 20 percent reduction while black tea, the most active of the four teas tested, came in at over 90 percent. White tea and oolong tea came in at a close second and third with 87 and 80 percent respectively. Many of the more common diabetes treatments are designed to inhibit alpha-glucosidase production, so these findings show great promise for developing a natural solution for people with type 2 diabetes. Neither wine nor tea had any effect (or only minimal effects) on alpha-amylase levels. Alpha-amylase is an enzyme used in the small intestine to break down starches and is usually inhibited along with alpha-glucosidase by a lot of the more conventional medications. Another key point in favor of this natural approach. Although these findings are both significant and promising, one obvious limitation is that the study was done in vitro. And although animal and human clinical studies are on the horizon, it‘ll be quite some time before your doctor prescribes a bottle of merlot to help treat your diabetes. In the mean time, both tea and red wine get to add another feather in their respective caps for yet another fantastic health benefit!
  10. How many fast food restaurants are in your neighborhood?

    If you’ve got a lot of fast food restaurants in your neighborhood, you’re at greater risk for suffering a stroke. That’s according to new research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2009. Men and women who live in neighborhoods with the highest number of fast food restaurants have a 13 percent higher risk of suffering an ischemic stroke than those living in areas with few restaurants. In fact, your risk increases by 1 percent for each fast-food chain in your neighborhood. While there’s a definite correlation, researchers don’t know what came first…the chicken or the egg. Are fast food junkies drawn to communities with three McDonalds in a 10-mile radius or do they become fast food junkies because the restaurants are on every corner? Whatever the answer, just make sure you’re not a victim of a Big Mac attack. Avoid these places at all costs. You can always pick up a quick dinner (with just steamed veggies and chicken) at your favorite Chinese restaurant. They’ll put the sauce (ask for no MSG) in a container for you.
  11. Land mines down every aisle

    Most of the foods found on the shelves at your local supermarket are loaded with artificial flavors and chemicals. In the United States, food manufacturers can legally add more than 3,000 different substances to our foods for the purpose of preservation, coloring, texture, flavor and more. Nowadays, it’s hard to find foods that haven’t been altered. So this week, I wanted to give you a primer on how to avoid some of the land mines found down every aisle of your supermarket. 1-2-3 food coloring for you and me! Did you ever consider that watermelon-flavored gum isn’t naturally pink? Or that your mint chocolate chip ice cream isn’t naturally green? These foods are dyed to make them look more like watermelon or mint. Many foods on the market today—especially snack foods, drinks, and gum—are filled with artificial colors. When you see an ingredient such as yellow 6 on the food label, it stands for a dye. This means the ingredients are literally “painted” with the color yellow 6 to make them look more appealing. It’s best to avoid any product containing artificial colors. Besides paint, these products often contain other chemicals, such as “stay fresh” preservatives. Stay away from “stay fresh” chemicals Some of the chemicals added to food have no color. You may pick up a loaf of bread made with whole grains and think that it’s natural. But chances are, it contains preservatives. In fact, preservatives are added to most products found on the interior shelves of the grocery store. Preservatives extend a product’s “shelf life.” Basically, this allows food to continue to look fresh long after you would ever consider putting it in your mouth. Some commonly used preservatives include:
    • Nitrates
    • Nitrites
    • Sulfites
    • Bisulfate
    • Sulfur dioxide
    • Propyll Gallate
    • BPA and BHT
    • Potassium bromate (banned everywhere in the world but the U.S. and Japan)
    You’ll want to avoid products containing these chemicals at all costs. Nitrites and nitrates are especially dangerous. They are used to cure meat and prevent the growth of bacteria. They’re mostly found in processed meats such as hot dogs, lunch meat, and bacon. But these chemicals are also known carcinogens. According to one study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, eating processed meats significantly increases your risk of developing cancer. In once recent study, Swedish researchers reviewed the eating habits of 4,700 people. They found that eating just 1 ounce of processed meat a day (that’s probably just a slice of ham or two slices of bacon) increased the risk of developing stomach cancer by up to 38 percent. So stay away from most deli meats in your grocery store. If you can find it, Hormel does make a line of additive-free lunch meat. Of course, you’ll also find additive-free meat at organic grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. Now, let’s consider the problem with milk… Did you know homogenized milk is a processed food? You probably all know that Cheez-Its and Twinkies are processed foods. But did you ever consider that the pasteurized, homogenized milk you buy is processed? You see, back in the 1920s, Americans could buy fresh, raw milk. It was delivered daily from a local farmer. The cream would separate from the milk (more cream meant a higher quality of milk), so Mom would shake up the bottle before pouring it in your glass. But some years ago the dairy industry realized that farm fresh milk wasn’t a very convenient product to sell to consumers. First of all, they wanted to get rid of the cream line. They didn’t want consumers to have to shake their milk. Plus, they wanted all consumers to get the same amount of cream. So—viola—they created “homogenized” milk. When milk is homogenized, the cream molecules become so fine, they will not separate from the milk. As a result, homogenization allows for small particles to cross the gut wall that previously were too big to cross. This contributes to the all too common “leaky gut” syndrome. (Normally, your intestinal tract pushes waste and toxins out of the body. But for people with leaky gut, larger—and sometimes toxic—molecules “leak” into the body, causing a whole slew of problems.) The problem with pasteurization Most milk has been pasteurized since the 1920s. This process slows the growth of bacteria in the milk. As a result, pasteurization extends the shelf life of milk. But this process also kills many of the beneficial nutrients found in milk. Besides destroying part of the vitamin C contained in raw milk and encouraging growth of harmful bacteria, pasteurization turns the sugar of milk, known as lactose, into beta-lactose. Beta-lactose is far more soluble and more rapidly absorbed into your body. The lactose found in raw milk, on the other hand, is more slowly absorbed into the body. So you stay fuller, longer. So, if you have access to raw milk (it’s becoming more available), go for it. Here’s a link to help you find raw milk suppliers in your state: https://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/ Otherwise, it’s best to minimize any dairy products in your diet. You just don’t need them and they’re probably filled with antibiotics and hormones. If you want to learn more about raw milk, I’d suggest picking up a copy of Dr. William Campbell Douglass’s excellent book on the subject. It’s called The Truth About Raw Milk. Here’s a link to learn more about it: https://www.web-purchases.com/640SRRTM/E6NSK2XH/landing.html And now a final word about additives… The harmful effects of chemicals and processed foods don’t show up immediately. It may take years or even decades for the consequences to become known. Overall, the best bet is to focus on adding more natural foods to your diet. You’ll hardly miss the junk. You’ll find most of these fresh foods around the perimeter of the grocery store. Make sure your diet is filled with 100% whole grains (bread, brown rice, pasta), and plenty of fruits and vegetables (organic, of course). Strive to eat fresh, wild fish several times a week. Some red meat is okay (organic, 3 times a week or less). Butter is far better than margarine (which is filled with artificial ingredients). For snacks, go for fresh nuts and seeds. They give just the right amount of crunch for any true snacker like me. And don’t get discouraged. It’s okay to slip up and have a little junk food once in a while. Just don’t let it become a habit.
  12. Take more time for tea

    Women who regularly drink tea reduce their risk of breast cancer by 37 percent. That’s according to a new study out analyzing drinking habits of nearly 5,000 U.S. women between the ages 20 and 74. Women younger than 50 who drank three cups of tea or more per day reaped the most benefits. How does it work? Tea (especially green tea and black tea) contains powerful flavonoids and antioxidants. These compounds work to purify the body and eliminate free radicals. Over time, unchecked free radicals can cause serious damage to the body. But flavonoids and antioxidants neutralize the free radicals and can slow down the body’s aging process. In addition, tea promotes a kind of cell death called “apoptosis.” By promoting a natural turnover of cells, it blocks the uncontrolled growth and spread of cancer cells
  13. When yogurt’s not enough

    How does anyone who’s got ulcerative colitis go fishing on a friend’s boat in the summertime…backpack along the foot hills of the Smokey Mountains with grandkids…sit through an important three-hour lunch meeting? The answer is, they probably don’t. For anyone with full-blown ulcerative colitis (or UC), life is tied to the bathroom. A UC patient spends much of the day managing symptoms like chronic diarrhea (with bloody stools sometimes up to 10-20 times a day), bloating, intestinal pain, and even fever. That’s why new research out of Japan this week caught my eye. It showed that by restoring the gut’s “natural balance” of good bacteria, UC sufferers significantly improve their quality of life. Going from bad to worse A form of “irritable bowel disease,” UC often first appears in early adulthood. Patients go through periods of flare-ups, searching everywhere for answers. Over time, the symptoms can get worse and more serious. Because their body doesn’t properly digest food, the UC patient doesn’t get the nutrients needed to fight off disease. As the years pass with no cure, UC patients become increasingly at risk for developing anemia, autoimmune disorders, and even colon cancer. Many family doctors just don’t know how to help their patients live with—much less overcome—this insufferable disease. While it’s common to prescribe drugs to help relieve the symptoms, these provide little relief (not to mention serious side effects). But the new Japanese study has shown there is a possible natural solution. It’s really nothing new…but now there’s more hard scientific data to back up what nutritionists have been preaching for years. Start getting more “good bacteria” In the Guide to Good Health, I’ve talked often about maintaining “good bacteria” (also known as intestinal flora) in your gut. These tiny microorganisms help you digest food. They also defend against toxins and keep your digestive tract running smoothly. It’s also your first line of defense against disease. Normally, your digestive tract is lined with billions of good bacteria. But antibiotics or diarrhea (experienced chronically by UC patients) can wipe out these healthy bugs. The good news is, you can replenish your body’s natural supply with probiotic supplements. Why not just eat yogurt? Probiotic supplements contain billions of units of good bacteria. Two common types are called acidophilus or bifidobacterium longum (known as BIFI). There’s also a lesser-known microorganism—called a prebiotic—that helps the probiotic work better. Prebiotics (such as fructo-oligo-saccharides and psyllium) are carbohydrates that support the growth and activity of probiotics. When you take probiotics and prebiotics together, it’s called “synbiotics.” Some people think eating “active culture” yogurt like Activia gives you all that you need. But unfortunately, these products only contain a fraction of the good bacteria your body needs on a daily basis. Plus—they usually contain so much sugar, it’s not worth the bother. Divide and conquer Japanese researchers wanted to see if supplementing with these beneficial microorganisms would improve symptoms for about 120 UC sufferers. Patients were divided into three groups and given: 1. prebiotic psyllium (8 grams) 2. probiotic bifidobacterium longum (2 billion colony forming units) 3. synbiotic (meaning the patients got both the prebiotic and probiotic) Each patient followed the regiment for four weeks. Researchers found that patients taking just a prebiotic or probiotic alone did not significantly improve their quality of life. On the other hand, patients following the synbiotic approach (meaning they received both types of microorganisms) experienced a significant boost in quality of life. Their bowel function improved and their emotional health improved as well. Interestingly, the researchers also noted decreases in the levels of a protein associated with inflammation called C-reactive protein (CRP) in the synbiotic group. If you try it, keep me posted Now—this study certainly has its short-comings. For instance, there was no group receiving a placebo (or sugar pill) to compare against. Also, the researchers based their findings on patient questionnaires rather than an endoscopy (which would have measured the actual physical outcome in the colon and intestine). Questionnaires can be unreliable for obvious reasons. But overall, there is definitely hope that anyone suffering from UC can find relief by naturally restoring more “good bacteria” in their digestive tract. If you want to try a probiotic for yourself, I would recommend L. acidophilus in a capsule or powder. You can even find these in Walmart nowadays. Get the strongest dosage possible (in the billions of units or CFSs). You’ll also want to make sure to take these supplements before meals and at bedtime. And don’t worry…you can’t overdose of probiotics. Any unused amounts are just flushed out of your system. For a prebiotic, go for 8 grams of psyllium daily (just like in the Japanese study). Lastly, I would also recommend taking aloe juice, as it has a long history of calming bowel problems. Give yourself at least 2-4 weeks to notice a difference. And if you do get results—good or bad—make sure to e-mail me and let me know how it’s going.
  14. Vitamin D = girl power!

    Following up on last week’s Guide to Good Health, I thought I’d mention another new study out this month highlighting the importance of good ole vitamin D, especially for young girls. A research team from England measured vitamin D levels in 99 girls between the ages 12 and 14. Turns out that almost 75 percent of the young girls were deficient in vitamin D. The remaining 25 percent had adequate levels. The researchers then put all the girls through a series of tests to measure their muscle strength and stamina. Not surprisingly, the girls with low vitamin D performed badly on the tests. On the other hand, the girls getting enough vitamin D did great. They demonstrated significantly greater muscle strength and stamina than their counterparts. Just imagine the next 50 years for these young girls, already vitamin D deficient, already physically impaired. It’s not hard to connect the dots and see how a lifetime of deficiency can lead to major problems. If you have a young girl in the family, do her a favor…make sure she spends 30 minutes a day in the sun (without sunblock). She’ll get 10,000 IUs of vitamin D from it. Plus, she’ll certainly have more natural “girl power”!
  15. The art of misdirection

    I’m not a salesman. In fact, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t sell water in the Sahara. But there’s one thing I do know about sales: the glossier the sales pitch, the shoddier the product. That’s certainly true of antidepressants on the market today. These slick ad campaigns pull you in and get you thinking, “Maybe I do need a pick-me-up.” Just take one little pill and you’ll turn into a happy, bouncing, smiley face again. It’s called the art of misdirection. Magicians have used it for centuries. They get your attention with a flourish of their right hand, so you won’t see what’s in the left. Drug makers know their antidepressant doesn’t work much better than a placebo, but golly those ads are so darn cute. Plus, drug makers now have a new tactic: once you get FDA approval, just throw away any data that doesn’t support your product. In essence that’s what drug makers did for about a third of all the data they collected during clinical trials of many different antidepressant drugs. That’s according to a report out in last month’s Journal of American Medicine analyzing data for 12 different drugs in 74 clinical trials. I wanna know what’s in Big Pharma‘s trashcan I know, you’re wondering how can 1/3 of the data just—poof—disappear. Well, it’s much easier than you think. Let me explain… If you review all the published data on antidepressants, you’ll see that about 60 percent of people taking them experience significant relief from depression. About 40 percent of people taking a placebo start to feel better. Not bad, right? The drugs work about 20 percent better than a sugar pill. Well, it turns out, that’s not the whole story. Drug makers must conduct dozens of clinical trials before getting FDA approval. Some of the results get published in medical journals and some just get filed away in a cabinet, never to be seen again. Any guesses which studies get filed away? You got it, the ones that don’t make you “happy.” In fact, according to the JAMA report, 94 percent of studies showing positive results for antidepressants got published. Meanwhile, just 14 percent of those with disappointing or uncertain results got published. So when you take the negative results into account, antidepressants sound far less appealing. The drugs still outperform placebos, but by a far more modest margin. To be honest, I doubt the integrity of most of the data on antidepressants (published or unpublished!). Drug companies certainly are masters of “misdirection,” but don’t be fooled. You can overcome depression without drugs. Ideally, depression can be averted by following a nutritious diet. One of the best ways to maintain your mood and sense of well-being on a day to day basis is to get more omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, according to a new study published in the journal Nutrition, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduce their depression by nearly 30 percent! When you consider that many popular SSRI antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) barely outperform sugar pills in clinical testing, a regimen of omega-3 fatty acids might be a better alternative, especially for someone suffering from mild or moderate depression. We talked about fatty acids in the Guide to Good Health from two weeks ago. Fish oil is the best source. But most of us don’t eat enough fish to really boost omega-3s, so I usually recommend a high-quality fish oil supplement. But, remember fatty acids increase free radicals in your body. Unchecked, these molecules can cause cancer and disease in the body. So always take some extra antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium along with the fish oil to neutralize the free radicals. What about supplements? If depression‘s really got a hold of you, you must get help from a qualified physician. However, there are non-prescription alternatives that can be most helpful, such as taking St. John’s Wort. Ignore the naysayers because there’s plenty of hard data showing that it does give you a boost. I’d go for 300 mg of a 0.3% standardized extract three times a day. Avoid amino acid supplements and extended sun exposure during the trial, as these may lessen the therapeutic effect. Unlike antidepressant drugs, which can take 30 days to take effect, St. John’s Wort starts working in a few days. You could also try the amino acid SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine) at 400 to 1200 mg/per day. It’s more expensive than St. John’s Wort, but highly effective and has been used a lot in Europe to naturally correct depression. Some nutritionists believe it’s best suited to treat depression expressed as low energy and low motivation unrelated to anxiety. Tryptophan and DLPA (dl-phenylalanine) are two more amino acids that can be effective in improving depression if taken between meals (but not along with the other efforts). Given the safety issues and efficacy questions for most prescription drugs on the market, you’re much smarter to give these natural options a try first. In my opinion, they’re just as effective—and much safer—than any RX solutions.
  16. More problems with mammograms

    Turns out that mammograms are so uncomfortable, some women resort to applying topical anesthetic to their breasts before the procedure. Well, that’s got to stop, according to the FDA. Last week, this laughable government bastion of public health issued a statement advising women to tough it out. Topical anesthetics (like lidocaine, tetracaine, benzocaine, and prilocaine) when applied over the skin can “cause serious and life-threatening adverse effects when used under certain conditions.” Evidently, two women died in 2007 from applying lidocaine to their skin before a laser hair removal session. So wait a minute…isn’t a “topical” anesthetic supposed to be applied to the skin? There goes the so-called secret to a “gentler” mammogram. Turns out there’s no such thing…unless you want to risk “life-threatening adverse effects.” So what’s a girl to do? Back in 12-11-08’s Guide to Good Health, I told you about a safer, highly accurate, and certainly less painful test to detect breast cancer. It’s called thermography and it works like an ultrasound. If you can find one in your area, thank your lucky stars. They’re hard to find. But definitely worth a drive. And definitely worth a little research on your end. Here’s the link again: http://www.breastthermography.com/find-a-center.htm Remember, many professionals estimate that thermograms detect the “potential” to develop breast cancer up to 10 years before conventional methods find a lump. And no topical anesthetic required!
  17. More beach vacations for cardiac patients?

    Last week’s deluge of snow, ice and cold weather has got me thinking again about the “sunshine” vitamin (otherwise known as vitamin D)…and how most of us aren’t getting enough of it this winter. As frequently noted in the Guide to Good Health, the best source of vitamin D is the sun. You can get up to 10,000 IUs a day just by spending 30 minutes in the sun. But during the winter, many of us just scurry back and forth from the house to the car. Spending time in the sun just doesn’t happen. That’s not good, especially when you start looking at all the diseases that vitamin D has been shown to help prevent. It’s not just about osteoporosis Most of us know vitamin D is good for the bones. But it’s actually much more versatile than that. In fact, some nutritionists and scientists now believe vitamin D can protect you against:
    • cognitive decline
    • depression
    • heart failure
    • back pain
    • cancer
    • insulin resistance
    • pre-eclampsia during pregnancy
    • impaired immunity
    • macular degeneration
    • weight gain
    It’s food for your brain In addition to building strong bones, vitamin D seems to help prevent dementia and support brain function for older adults. In a study published in December 2008, researchers assessed the cognitive levels of almost 2,000 adults aged 65 and older. Scientists found that patients with the highest levels of serum vitamin D3 (an overall indicator of vitamin D levels in the body) also had the best cognitive functioning. By contrast, those with the lowest levels of D3 were four times as likely to have cognitive impairment. But that’s not all the vitamin D can do. It’s also one of nature’s best antidepressants Vitamin D helps to regulate melatonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain that give you a sense of well-being. Without enough of it, you’re at risk of feeling low. For instance, in a study published two years ago in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, vitamin D3 was identified as a factor in regulating mood in older adults. Researchers found that patients with a D3 deficiency experienced depression. Some scientists also believe vitamin D is helpful in alleviating “seasonal affective disorder.” Not surprisingly, this condition is common up north where folks spend much of the year under snowy skies. They simply don’t get enough sunlight, their bodies lack vitamin D, and they become susceptible to the winter blues. But that’s not all. Recent studies suggest vitamin D also plays a role in heart health. Sunshine for your heart
    A few months back, one research team from the University of Michigan showed that vitamin D can protect against heart failure in rats. For 13 weeks, rats in a Michigan lab were divided into four groups: 1. Rats given high-salt diet (designed to simulate a “fast food” diet) 2. Rats on a high-salt diet given vitamin D 3. Rats on a healthy diet 4. Rats on a healthy diet given vitamin D At the end of the study, researchers found that rats on the fast food diet + vitamin D regimen faired much better than their counter parts receiving just the fast food diet. After just 13 weeks, the vitamin D treated rats had a lower heart weight. (This was really big news because an enlarged heart—known as “hypertrophy”—is all too common in heart failure patients. When hypertrophy happens in men and women, it makes the heart work harder to pump blood through the body. Your blood pressure rises. Even a simple walk to the mailbox becomes too much.) The treated rats’ hearts also worked less for each beat. They also maintained normal blood pressure. According to the study’s lead researcher, University of Michigan pharmacologist Robert U. Simpson, Ph.D., "Heart failure will progress despite the best medications. We think vitamin D retards that progression and protects the heart." Simpson has studied vitamin D’s effects on the heart for more than 20 years. At first, his ideas were thought of as far-fetched and improbable. Now—his research is starting to bear fruit. I’m sure there’s more to come on the heart + vitamin D link… Even for Oprah and Vogue readers?
    There’s much more to learn about vitamin D, from its role in preventing cancer to stabilizing blood sugar to improving autoimmune disorders. It seems like even some mainstream news junkies are starting to catch on. A colleague told me that Vogue magazine ran a bit on it this month. And evidently, even Oprah’s spoken publically about being vitamin D deficient. You too may be deficient in this important vitamin. Many of us don’t spend much time outside (even in good weather). And many of us dutifully follow the marching orders to lather up the sun block before setting foot outdoors. Sun screen blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D. Or perhaps you’re of Latino or African-American descent and your skin contains lots of melanin (Just like sun screen, melanin blocks the rays that help your body make vitamin D.) Some scientists believe that anyone living above New York City’s line of latitude NEVER absorbs enough vitamin D through their skin, even in the summertime. Whatever the reason why, I’m convinced most of us need more vitamin D. You can get a simple blood test if you think you might have a deficiency. Optimal levels are between 50-70 ng/mL. For anyone not getting regular sun exposure, I usually recommend taking 2000 IUs of vitamin D daily. In winter months, I’d go for 4000 IUs daily. (Remember, exposure of your full body to the sun for 30 minutes will give you 10,000 IUs or more of vitamin D. So there’s little risk of reaching an upper limit with this supplement.) You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks), liver, and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines).
    Keep up the good work and get some sunshine if you can.
  18. The melamine scandal continues

    In November’s Guide to Good Health, we talked about the dangers of melamine in infant formula. I just wanted to update you on that story. The whole mess started in China, where thousands of babies got sick because they drank formula tainted with melamine (a type of plastic used to make countertops). Apparently, it was purposefully added in China to artificially boost protein content in infant formula. Since this whole story broke, the FDA has found trace amounts of melamine in several brands of U.S.-manufactured infant formula. Companies here have been scrambling to ease the minds of parents and get rid of the melamine (even though the FDA says trace amounts are safe). But the fallout in China has been tremendous. There’s nothing like a major worldwide PR scandal to make the Communist Party really angry. Government officials have been stripped of their power, production plants have closed, and thousands have lost their jobs. In December, 17 of the men charged with producing, selling, buying and adding melamine to the infant formula were put on trial. Last week two of these men were sentenced to death. During the sentencing, one of the men knelt on the courtroom floor and pleaded for forgiveness from the victim’s families. The only bright spot in this whole tragedy is that maybe the U.S. will actually start taking a closer look at products imported from China. Well, we can always dream, can’t we? In the meantime, folks, buy organic. Buy local. And breastfeed your babies whenever possible!  
  19. New hope for the parents of preemies

    Omega-3 fatty acids spur brain development in preemie girls Premature babies need more fish oil in their diet. Sounds odd, I know. But according to a new study out last week, a key ingredient in fish oil might help prevent severe developmental delays, even mental retardation in premature babies. So why is fish oil so good for babies? Fish oil (found only in certain types, like salmon, tuna, sardines, and cod) is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids on earth. These natural wonders protect you against a long list of ailments, such as arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease. We also know that omega-3s play a role in brain development (hence, the new study with preemies). But here’s the kicker… Your body doesn’t make omega-3 fatty acids. You must get them from the foods you eat. Very few of us eat enough fish to get adequate omega-3s. Plus, heat tends to destroy most of the good stuff. The best solution for anyone is really to take a fish oil capsule daily. So how does a newborn baby get fish oil, you ask? A pregnant mother passes on many essential fatty acids to her unborn child in the final weeks before giving birth. But premature babies often miss out on this period of development. They’re born lacking adequate levels of omega-3s. Breast milk and infant formula do contain some omega-3s, but some scientists believe it doesn’t contain enough for a preemie whose brain is still developing. In fact, some believe low DHA (one crucial type of omega-3) directly contributes to an increased risk of delayed cognitive development in preemies. This got a small group of researchers in Australia to start thinking.

    What if we could get more DHA to preemies?

    That’s just what researchers at the Women & Children’s Hospital in Adelaide, Australia did. They docs came up with the brilliant idea of giving nursing mothers (and formula fed babies) much more DHA and see what happened. It certainly couldn’t hurt as DHA is something all mommies and babies need anyway. Researchers divided the preemies into four groups: 1. Breastfed babies whose mothers received 3,000 mg per day of DHA in the form of tuna oil capsules. 2. Breastfed babies whose mothers received a placebo 3. Bottle-fed babies given DHA-enriched formula 4. Bottle-fed babies given regular formula DHA supplementation (for groups #1 and #3) began at birth and continued until the preterm baby reached his or her expected due date. Then, at 18 months of age (based on their full-term due date), all the children were given a series of cognitive and behavioral tests. The babies’ alertness, curiosity, and ability to perform simple tasks were rated according to a standard mental development index. The results were quite surprising, especially for a skeptic like me.
    Good news for preemie girls…
    Developmental delays are all too common for premature babies. But getting enough DHA worked miracles during the course of this study. In fact, the girls in the DHA groups had a 57 percent decreased risk of suffering a “mild” delay in mental development. In addition, girls in the DHA group were 83 percent less likely to suffer “significant” mental delays, opposed to the girls in the standard group. Overall, the preemie girls given extra DHA scored nearly as well as full-term babies in all the cognitive testing.
    But what about preemie boys?
    Interestingly, DHA supplementation appears not to have any significant impact on preterm boys. Why not, I wondered? Well, according to Maria Makrides, the study’s lead author and a nutritionist, “The higher metabolic rate in boys may mean that they utilize much of the DHA they receive into energy. Also, boys may have a higher requirement of DHA.” Hopefully, Dr. Makrides will continue her studies with DHA and preemie boys. It would be interesting to see if larger doses of DHA will make any difference in helping to prevent cognitive delays in those little guys.
    Watch out for the free radicals
    As a final note, it’s worth mentioning that DHA (and other fatty acids) increase the amount of free radicals in your body. (Free radicals are harmful molecules that can cause cancer and disease in the body.)
    So it’s important to remember, if you begin to supplement with any omega-3 fatty acid (or omega-6s), make sure to add some vitamin E and selenium to your regimen. These antioxidants will help neutralize the free radicals. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know gives birth to a baby prematurely, make sure to take a close look at this study. It was published in the January 14, 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Any good neonatologist should have seen it, but you never know.  
  20. Urgent Warning for Alzheimer Families

    If you have a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you know it’s not just a memory disorder. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes major behavior and mood disturbances. According to doctors, less than 10 percent of Alzheimer’s patients remained free from symptoms of “psychopathology” during the course of their disease. In other words, agitation, aggression, depression, anxiety, paranoid delusions, and insomnia are very much the norm for AD patients. As a result, today’s Alzheimer’s patient is all too often prescribed some type of antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. Thioridazine, chlorpromazine, haloperidol, trifluoperazine, or risperidone all belong to this class of drugs.

    Limited options for Alzheimer’s patients

    A new study to be published in Lancet Neurology, the respected British medical journal, confirms what one might guess about AD patients prescribed antipsychotics: the drugs shorten their lives. In fact, a patient taking an antipsychotic drug only has a 46 percent survival rate at 24 months (as compared to 71 percent for a patient taking a placebo). Moreover, only 30 percent of AD patients were alive at 36 months after having begun treatment with antipsychotics (as opposed to 59 percent taking a placebo). Bottom line here: if you’ve got a loved one with AD, think long and hard about using an antipsychotic drug to control their behavior. If you’ve run out of options, authors of the study suggest using the drugs for a limited time (3 months or less) to see if behavior improves.

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