Herbs & Supplements

The variety of vitamins and natural supplements available today can be confusing and overwhelming. The NorthStar blog on herbs and supplements provides the latest updates on what's out there, what works, what doesn't and why.

  1. Vitamin D builds immunities

    If you had been watching me wade through my daily stack of research reading the other day, you’d have spotted me do one heck of a double take.

    Wondering what the line that caught my eye was?

    “Our data suggest vitamin D may be involved in maintaining the health of the immune system as well as the skeletal system.”  This remarkable “confession” was spoken by Dr. Mary Ward, one of the author’s on a new study on D that’s been accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

    Now, there’s no denying the importance of vitamin D. There’s even a stack of research proving the critical role it plays in our health from fighting off respiratory infections to keeping you out of a nursing home… if you know where to look for it, of course. (Hint, it’s not in the mainstream media, but you can start with a search in the NorthStar Blog’s archives.)

    Be sure to get your D!

    But it’s still quite rare to see such a straightforward conclusion about the significance a vitamin plays in keeping us healthy, from such a mainstream, source.

    In this case, Irish researchers completed an observational study on 957 adults who were at least 60 years old. They found that those volunteers who were vitamin D deficient had significantly higher biomarkers for inflammation.

    And that’s important, because these biomarkers are linked to heart disease and other inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

    So what does this all mean to you and me? I’ll let Dr. Ward explain, “The results indicate immune function may be compromised in older individuals with vitamin D deficiency.”

    In other words, be sure to get your D!

    To raise your vitamin D levels, I recommend spending more time outside. But since many of us can’t—or don’t—get all the D we need from sunshine alone I also generally recommend taking up to 5000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. A blood test can help you, and your doc, figure out what’s right for you.

  2. “Break-proofing” your hips against hip fractures

    She broke her hip, ended up in a nursing home, and never came out again.

    It’s a devastating story we’ve all heard before. But once you reach a certain age, it can quickly go from a sad tale to a frightening one. Because when you enter your golden years you start to fear that it could one day be your own story.

    Let’s face it; there are few things as frightening as the prospect of losing your independence. And while I don’t want to scare you even more, I must admit that the fear is justified. In the US alone, over 300,000 of us a year will fall victim to that bane of graceful aging, a hip fracture.

    But “break-proofing” your bones is probably much easier than you think. And while there aren’t, of course, any guarantees that you’ll never suffer from a painful and debilitating hip fracture, a few common supplements could go a long way towards making it highly unlikely.

    Now if I were to ask you what vitamins you should take for bone health, I bet you would respond with “calcium.” And you would be absolutely right. There’s no question that bone-friendly calcium should be in your “break-proofing” kit. But there are a couple of other nutrients that are essential for bone-health that you might not be aware of.

    To give your bones everything they need, you should make sure you’re getting enough of these four key nutrients…

    1. Calcium
    2. Vitamin D
    3. Vitamin K
    4. Magnesium

    Raising your levels of these nutrients by choosing the right foods is an excellent first step. Then, rounding them out with supplements can complete the picture.

    You can up your calcium intake by eating more canned sardines and salmon, both of which have soft calcium rich bones. And dairy products are another good choice.

    Fish is also a great food to turn to when you want to raise you vitamin D levels. Both the flesh and oil of fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish are naturally rich in D. Egg yolks, and beef will also provide some D. And don’t forget to spend a little time out in the sunshine every day for another natural boost of this vital vitamin.

    Vitamin K is often overlooked when it comes to bone health, but it’s an important player in keeping your bones healthy.  K can be found in leafy greens like kale and spinach, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, olive oil, meat, egg yolk, yogurt and green tea.

    We already knew that the final nutrient in that “break-proofing” kit of yours, magnesium, was a bone-health hero. But a new study out of Norway drives the point home.

    Norway has MORE than their fair share of hip fractures every year, and researchers wanted to know why. It turns out that the water in certain regions of Norway is super low in magnesium, and in those areas hip fractures tend to sky-rocket.

    To raise your own magnesium levels, eat more pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, sesame seeds, black beans, quinoa, cashews, and sunflower seeds.

  3. Intravenous vitamin C kills cancer cells and extends lives

    A group of brave researchers at the University of Kentucky Medical Center just dropped a bomb on the medical mainstream. They announced that common vitamin C can kill cancer cells, and that some cancer patients can benefit from high-dose intravenous vitamin C therapy. Not only that, the researchers say that the antioxidant appears to also reduce some of the most devastating and toxic side effects of conventional chemotherapy drugs. As you can imagine, the mainstream is reeling from the news. After all, in their view, nutrition-based therapies like vitamin C may as well be Voodoo. Now to be fair, the Kentucky-based scientist’s announcement really shouldn’t have been that much of a bomb, since their findings are right in line with an ever-growing stack of small, but strong, pro-C studies over the years. In fact, you’ve read about some of them right here in the Guide to Good Health. Not to mention there’s a virtual ton of first hand experiences by doctors who have been using intravenous vitamin C to treat their cancer patients since the 70s, as well as the cancer-patients who have reaped the benefits.

    Vitamin C was blacklisted based on bogus trials

    But mainstream medicine is kind of like a spoiled child with his fingers stuck firmly in his ears. Tell a conventional medicine doc that vitamin C has the potential to kill cancer cells and he’ll respond with, “What’s that? Sorry I can’t hear you. My fingers are in my ears.” But wait, all those doctors must have a good reason for refusing to give this life-saving therapy a try, right? Sadly, that’s just not the case. And wait until you hear what the actual reason is. Incredibly, intravenous vitamin C was blacklisted based on some unsuccessful clinical trials on ORAL vitamin C. Yes, countless people have suffered through (and perhaps even lost) their fights with cancer while the mainstream has turned its back on a perfectly safe, and potentially life-saving therapy, based on irrelevant clinical trials! Even a child could tell you that vitamin C sent directly into a vein is not the same thing as swallowing a pill. Oral doses of the water soluble vitamin could NEVER reach the same concentrations as an intravenous dose can.

    Cancer patients lived longer and better with vitamin C

    Thankfully, the University of Kentucky researchers must have smelled something rotten in Denmark. Despite the blacklisting, they felt intravenous vitamin C was still worth another look. In the lab, they were able to prove that the vitamin does indeed kill human cancer cells. Next they showed that high doses of intravenous vitamin C inhibited the growth of tumors… and in some cases even shrank them… in mice with ovarian cancer. And then it was on to that all-important human trial. The clinical trial tracked 27 volunteers who had just been diagnosed with stage-III or stage-IV ovarian cancer.  Each of the patients received either one of two conventional chemotherapy drugs.  But some of the volunteers were also given high doses of intravenous vitamin C. And the results were stunning. Well, stunning, that is, to the mainstream, anyway. For the rest of us they were impressive, but entirely expected. Those volunteers who had received the intravenous vitamin C experienced significantly less of the notoriously nasty side effects of chemo. There was less toxicity to the brain, bone marrow, and major organs. Not only that, the volunteers who got the intravenous vitamin C also lived nearly 9 months longer than those who didn’t get the therapy! In other words, they lived both better AND longer. So it’s official. Intravenous vitamin C helps kill cancer cells, and we even know why. According to study co-author Dr. Jeanne Drisko, “Vitamin C in the bloodstream helps kill cancer cells because it chemically converts into hydrogen peroxide when it interacts with tumors.” When you raise your C levels up high enough—as you do with intravenous therapy—the vitamin slips into the spaces around the cancer cells and does essentially what your white blood cells typically do… beat the cancer into submission. And unlike harsh chemo drugs it leaves the healthy cells unharmed.
    Are you listening mainstream? It’s time to take those fingers out of your ears!
  4. Probiotic health benefits: May help women lose twice the weight

    Since you’re a Guide to Good Health reader, I’m guessing I probably don’t need to tell you how important a bellyful of good bacteria is. As you know, your gut is the center of your entire immune system. And keeping your intestinal flora balanced can help keep you healthy. The trouble is, in today’s world it can be tough to do that. An on-the-go diet that’s way too high in junk and way too low in fresh healthy organic foods, stress and even medications like antibiotics all act like bulls on the loose in a china shop, shattering the balance of your gut flora making you vulnerable to getting sick. The health benefits of probiotics can quickly get you back on track, replenishing the good bacteria in your digestive tract. And what a difference it can make! One UK study I told you about a few years ago, found one of the health benefits of probiotics is that they could boost your immunities by an astounding fifty percent, in some cases. And it almost goes without saying that probiotics are some of the best protection you can get against antibiotic-resistant superbugs. In fact, because of the amazing health benefits of probiotics, I think they are a “must take” supplement that everyone should be including in their daily routine.

    Lower your body fat with belly bugs

    Good belly bugs do a lot more for you than just fight off the common cold or the flu. And we’re learning more about their effects every day. Just last year I told you about an exciting mouse study that revealed a connection between gut flora and diabetes. Researchers found that gut bacteria produce biochemicals and hormones that can literally stop diabetes from ever developing! But as I read the latest issue of the British Journal of Nutrition it wasn’t that diabetes study that came to mind, but rather an earlier one that I had shared with my readers years ago. I’ll get back to that new probiotic research in BJN in just a moment, but first let me refresh your memory about that earlier study. In 2009, Finnish researchers concluded that certain probiotics can help women manage their weight after a pregnancy.  They divided 256 pregnant women into three groups. The first group received dietary counseling and a daily probiotic. The second group got the same counseling, but received a placebo. And the third group didn’t get any dietary counseling, but got the placebo. The women continued with whichever regimen they were assigned to throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. Once they stopped breastfeeding they were brought in for measurements of weight and waist circumference. The women who took the probiotic came out on top. A year after having their babies they were sporting the best post-baby bodies, with the lowest body fat percentages. And just as exciting, the women taking the probiotic ended up carting around less fat around their midsections than the other two groups.

    Drop more pounds with probiotics

    Now, Canadian researchers have more exciting news for us about probiotic health benefits and weight. And this time it could lead to you taking your belt in a few extra notches. Scientists recruited 125 overweight men and women. For 12 weeks all of the volunteers followed a prescribed weight loss plan. That was followed with another 12 weeks of weight maintenance. During the study half of the group was given a probiotic (in this case from the Lactobacillus rhamnous family), and the other half was given a placebo. The women who got probiotics lost more weight than the placebo takers during the diet phase—an average of 1.8 kg more. That’s almost 4 extra pounds. And during the maintenance period the probiotic takers continued to lose weight, eventually dropping a total of 5.2 kilograms or about 11.5 pound each! In other words, the women in the probiotic group lost twice the weight. And the only difference between the two groups was the probiotic. Unfortunately, the guys in the study didn’t see the same results. The researchers aren’t positive why that is. The study may simply not have gone on long enough, or the dosages might need adjusting for the men. But there’s no reason to think that probiotics can’t have similar effects on weight for men, too.
    For their immune and digestion health benefits alone, probiotics should be on YOUR daily menu. And if they also happen to help you beat the battle of the bulge, that’s just very welcome icing on an already delicious cake.
  5. The key to keeping colds at bay

    This time of year it can start to feel like the warm weather and sunshiny skies will never return. And it’s also prime time for that last cold of the season to sneak up on you, kicking you when you’re down.

    And with all the cold prevention advice I’ve given over the years there is one tried-and-true method that always tops my list. It happens to also be the simplest of all, and that’s frequently washing your hands.

    I know it’s not very exciting, but I can tell you from experience it works. And now a new review in the Canadian Medical Association Journal is backing me up.

    A look at 67 randomized controlled trials found that simple hand washing couldn’t be beaten for warding off the sniffles and sneezes.

    Add some zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and a quality probiotic to the mix and you might just be able to skate right on through to spring without having to suffer through one last cold.

  6. Try vitamin E to protect against memory loss

    It happens to all of us from time to time. You forget a friend’s birthday, flake out on an important appointment, or blank on where you parked your car.

    Sure, brain burps might be common, but that doesn’t make them any less troubling when they happen. It’s hard to not wonder if those little memory slips aren’t the first sign of something far more serious down the road.

    Just a couple of weeks ago I sang the praises of vitamin E as a weapon against Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers showed that the simple vitamin worked better than a popular Alzheimer’s’ drug at preserving people’s ability to perform everyday life tasks longer. If you missed that issue, click here to catch up.

    Well, when it comes to supporting our brains, it turns out that vitamin E doesn’t quit there. According to a new study, published in the journal Experimental Gerontology, if you’re a senior you now have another reason to get more of the vital vitamin into your diet.

    For eight years Finnish scientists followed 140 volunteers who were over 65, and who had no memory impairment at the start of the study. It turns out that the seniors who had high serum vitamin E levels were less likely to suffer from memory disorders than their peers with lower levels.

    You can get more vitamin E in your diet by eating almonds, sunflower seeds, and leafy greens like spinach, chard, and turnip greens. But to really boost your levels consider taking a supplement. Other memory supporting nutrients you might want to add to the mix are Ginkgo Biloba, vitamin B-12, Vinpocentine, DMAE, and inositol.

  7. Sleeping pill risks--Could your sleeping pill kill you?

    You can’t sleep. You’re lying awake staring at the ceiling. And frankly, as the minutes tick by you’re starting to feel a little desperate to get some shut eye before the sun comes up. What do you do? If you said reach for a sleeping pill, you’re not alone. In fact, millions of Americans—or one in four—take a sleep aid every year. But could you be trading in a night of tossing and turning for a dangerous, or even deadly, heart attack? As bizarre as it sounds, if you take prescription sleeping pills a shocking new study on the risks of sleeping pills finds that you very well may be doing just that. Researchers have linked the multi-billion-dollar sleep drug Ambien to a staggering fifty-percent increase in heart-attack risk. And while this is the first time the drug has been directly linked to heart problems, it isn’t the first time Ambien has come under fire. In fact, it was nearly a year ago that I first warned you about a bizarre new side effect linked to the drug—next day impairment. Some Ambien users who took the drug to sleep at night were unknowingly driving high, and doing other everyday activities, all while still under the influence of the drug the next morning. The reports were so shocking that the typically complacent FDA even arose from its slumber and spoke up. The usually drug-friendly organization issued a warning of their own, and forced the manufacturer to slash their recommended dosage of Ambien in half for women, and strongly encouraged changes for men, too. And another earlier study found that sleeping pill users (including those taking Ambien) are more likely to develop cancer than non-users. Even worse, they’re five times more likely to die young!

    Heart-attack risk skyrocketed!

    But now Taiwanese scientists say, if you take the drug on a regular basis, downing the equivalent of 60 of the pills in a year (not at all difficult for a chronic insomniac), you could unwittingly send your heart-attack risk shooting through the roof—causing it to skyrocket by as much as 50 percent. And if you’re a more moderate user, don’t start celebrating yet. Just four standard-dose pills could cause your risk to soar by around 20 percent, according to the study. Researchers compared 5,000 heart attack victims to 20,000 healthy adults. And to everyone’s surprise, they found a significantly higher rate of heart attacks in people who were taking zolpidem, the generic name for the active ingredient in Ambien.

    Shocking sleeping pill risks and side effects

    But potential sleep-drug-side-effects don’t stop there, not by a long shot. In one study, zolpidem was shown to increase a healthy adult’s fall risk by 27 percent. And if you’re a senior taking the drug, your fall risk could shoot up by 58 percent, according to the same study. Sleeping pills risks have also been linked to a 50 percent increase in dementia in seniors. And perhaps most bizarrely of all, they’ve been linked to eating, sleeping, driving, and even having sex, all while, technically, still slumbering.

    Natural shut eye tricks

    Now for the good news—you don’t need to fall into the prescription-sleep-pill trap. You can start with the most obvious change, which is to simply reduce or eliminate stimulants like coffee, soda and caffeinated teas from your diet. Next turn your bedroom into a sleep haven. Remove the TV, adjust the temperature (slightly cooler temps are usually best for sleep), try adding a white noise machine and ban stimulating backlit devices like iPads and cell phones. Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible. Blackout shades can keep bothersome outside light from getting in. And get rid of any sneaky light sources like digital alarm clocks or blinking electronic equipment. Supplements of l-tryptophan, GABA, 5-HTP, chamomile, valerian or the hormone melatonin can be helpful, too. And, surprisingly, just 500 milligrams of simple magnesium can help a lot of people with sleep issues get some much-needed shut eye. Talk with a doctor skilled in natural medicine for advice on the best combination of natural sleep aids for your own situation. Give the natural approach a try and before you know it you’ll be slipping off to sleep without having to face the potentially devastating and deadly side effects of a sleeping pill.
  8. Vitamin E beats Alzheimer’s drug memantine in major study

    I couldn’t believe my eyes. But there it was in black and white in The Journal of the American Medical Association study on vitamin E and Alzheimer’s. An admission by the medical establishment that plain old vitamin E—one that you can pick up for mere pennies a day—works where a mainstream drug flat out fails! A vitamin beating the socks off of a drug is not so surprising, of course. But a study that confirms it actually ever seeing the light of day—and in a major mainstream medical journal, no less—well, that’s just unheard of. According to the study on vitamin E and Alzheimer’s published in a recent edition of JAMA, vitamin E can put the brakes on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This is HUGE news—big enough, in fact, that you may have even heard some rumblings about it in the mainstream press. But what most of those reports failed to make clear is that the billion dollar dementia drug memantine failed miserably. Even worse, vitamin E’s apparent ability to fight off devastating Alzheimer’s symptoms was canceled out by the drug!

    Dementia drug fizzled while E sizzled

    When volunteers were given both vitamin E and memantine there was no improvement. In other words, they didn’t get the same exciting benefits as those lucky volunteers who got vitamin E alone. A total of 613 veteran volunteers, mostly men, were divided into four groups. The first group was given a large dose of vitamin E, 2,000 I.U.’s, daily. The second group got the dementia drug memantine, and the third group got both the vitamin E and drug. The final group was given a placebo. The researchers hoped that combining the vitamin with the drug would result in double the benefits. But they were shocked to find that this wasn’t the case. And the bad news didn’t end there. While the veterans who got the vitamin E alone were enjoying the benefits of the vitamin—the coveted ability to perform daily functions longer—neither the group getting the drug alone, nor the group getting the combination, saw any benefits at all. That’s right. Although the researchers didn’t bother to comment on it… and the press glossed right over it… the widely prescribed Alzheimer’s drug memantine appears to have destroyed the nutrient’s proven benefits! So the drug is worse than useless; it actually appears to be detrimental. Ah, but it gets even better… or perhaps I should say worse.

    Researchers fail by using fake vitamin E

    The clueless cretins performing the study not only failed to use a mixed tocopherol vitamin E, they didn’t even bother to use a NATURAL form of the vitamin! Yep, when you dig deeper into the study you will find that they actually admit to using synthetic d,l-alpha E. We may never know what benefits were missed out on when they made this idiotic choice, but I’m willing to bet you dimes to doughnuts that they would have been tremendous. As I’ve explained before, not just any vitamin E will do. Real vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant made up of eight distinct molecules, divided into two groups: alpha, beta, and delta tocopherols, and alpha, beta, and gamma tocotrienols. And although we don’t yet know a whole lot about each of the individual molecules, we do know that nature combined them together into these two distinct groups for a good reason. You will find vitamin E in nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, and certain oils. But getting enough E from diet alone can be challenging. And getting the levels used in this study from food is, of course, likely impossible (more on that, including a caution, in just a moment).

    Skip synthetics and go natural instead

    When you choose a vitamin E supplement, pick a “mixed tocopherol” version. And be sure you’re getting a natural vitamin E. A couple of years ago on the Guide to Good Health blog I shared a super-simple trick for spotting a cheap synthetic. Click here to learn what it is (look under “Getting to know the vitamin E family”). And now, let’s get back to the levels of vitamin E used in this Alzheimer’s study. I typically recommend a 400 I.U supplement of a natural mixed tocopherol vitamin E daily. I’ve always said higher amounts of the NATURAL version of the vitamin are perfectly safe and may be desirable for fighting certain diseases. And this study has even confirmed the safety and benefits of significantly higher dosages, despite using a poor synthetic version. But if someone you care about is suffering from early Alzheimer’s or dementia, don’t try vitamin E therapy on your own. Instead, seek out the help of an experienced naturopathic doctor. Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease and a naturopath will be able to tailor a personalized treatment plan for your loved one, so that he will get the most benefits possible.
  9. Compound found in grape seed extract kills cancer cells

    One of my favorite fruits is making health headlines again. Or at least its seeds are. A study on grape seed extract for cancer published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer found that an active component in grape seed extract can kill cancer cells on contact. If you’re a long time NorthStar blog or Guide to Guide Health reader you may recall that way back in 2009 I told you about grape seed extract’s ability to clobber cancer cells. That exciting research was done by University of Kansas researchers, and this new study comes to us from the University of Colorado. By far, the most active component in grape seeds is the compound called B2G2. So, not surprisingly, it’s B2G2 that the scientists focused on. They found that the compound blew away prostate cancer cells by causing them to essentially commit suicide. And, unlike sickening mainstream meds, the B2G2 left the healthy cells alone! The researchers say a human clinical trial is in the future.  Unfortunately, they will be using a synthesized version of the compound for that trial. But you can take the natural whole-food approach yourself, starting today, simply by adding more grapes to your diet. Just be sure you are choosing a seeded variety. Or you can try a real grape-seed extract, which can be found both as a stand-alone supplement and as part of a number of comprehensive anti-aging or multivitamin formulas.
  10. Are your vitamins and minerals REALLY useless?

    When is a study not a study? Give up? When it’s an editorial based on a mish-mash of three cherry-picked studies, with a lead author who’s done none of the actual research himself. You’ve no doubt seen the excited flurry of headlines that hit right prior to the holidays. In huge screaming fonts they deemed multivitamins and minerals “useless,” “a waste of money” and even, possibly “harmful.” And of course the mainstream media just LOVES a controversy, so they jumped on this one with both feet. There’s just one problem, there’s actually no controversy to begin with. (Okay, there are actually MANY problems… but let’s just start with this one). Who in the world would ever make the claim that by popping a single multivitamin it’s guaranteed that you’ll never experience cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer or really any chronic disease at all? No legitimate doctor, nutritionist, or researcher… regardless if they’re holistically-minded or not… would ever make such an outlandish claim. In fact, the only people I can even think of that would propose that you can simply pop a pill and be guaranteed to stay disease free are drug company execs—and the marketers that work for them, of course. Yes, what we have here is the very definition of a non-controversy.

    The brain surprise that wasn’t

    Now let’s get back to those studies on vitamins and minerals that the lead editorial writer didn’t have a blessed thing to do with. No, instead, he swooped in to ride some apparently irresistible coattails when the Annals of Internal Medicine kindly covered three studies in a single issue that found that the vitamins they used didn’t prevent certain diseases. The first study found that taking a multivitamin didn’t prevent cognitive decline in men. Yeah, that’s it. To which I reply, “Uh, no, duh.” While a good multi can certainly help top off some of the vitamins and minerals that are missing in your diet, who in their right mind would ever think it was some kind of magic bullet that gives you an invincible brain? If only good health were that simple. However, along with a healthy (organic when you can) diet, avoiding nasty chemicals and toxins, and getting up and moving, nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, and herbs) can absolutely play a critical role in your brain health. And any so-called “expert” who tells you different is just blowing hot air.

    B’s are good for your brain

    As I’ve told you many times before, B vitamins could be your brain’s best friend. In fact, earlier this year a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that high dose B vitamins may be able to stop Alzheimer’s disease in its tracks. You can up some of your B’s by eating certain foods like shellfish and spinach—and I encourage you to do just that—but, realistically you’re not likely to get enough to make a sizable dent in your Alzheimer’s risk. For that, a supplement might be your best bet. And the way those B vitamins accomplish this cognition-preserving feat has nothing to do with a magic bullet. B’s naturally fight the homocysteine build up in your body that leads to brain shrinkage and atrophy as you age. In fact, Oxford researchers found that B vitamins can slash your homocysteine levels up to an incredible 50 percent! And just a couple of weeks ago I explained how the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil could drive down your risk of common brain lesions that lead to cognitive decline. (If you missed that issue, catch up by clicking here to read it on the NorthStar Blog).

    Closing the case on nutrient bashing

    The second study mentioned in the editorial was actually just a review of material from earlier studies, not new research. The authors said that, according to the data they looked at, vitamin and mineral supplements don’t prevent heart disease or cancer. At the risk of repeating myself my response is, once again, “Duh.” Taking an isolated vitamin or mineral will NEVER be a guarantee that you won’t get a chronic disease. Nutrients can only help reduce your risk by filling in holes in your diet—and combined with a healthy lifestyle they can help you stay healthy… no magic bullets needed. Besides, there’s a stack of studies showing how certain supplements may indeed reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer. For example, there’s the study that showed how omega-3’s are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, the one that linked nickel and selenium to lower cancer risk, and the two studies showing that resveratrol can help fight both heart problems and cancer, to name just a few. Heck, I could fill up an entire website with evidence of the important role vitamins minerals, and herbs can play in our health—and, in fact, I have. My advice is to ignore this ridiculous vendetta against vitamins and nutrients and visit my NorthStar Blog for the real scoop, instead.
  11. Magnesium benefits: A happy heart and a longer life

    Heart troubles? Make sure you know about the benefits of magnesium … it could save your life. Now you may already know that magnesium is important for your heart health. Without enough of it in your system you may suffer with an irregular heartbeat, chest pain, hardening of the arteries or high blood pressure. But magnesium benefits other aspects of your health also and is, in fact, a key player in over 300 chemical processes that keep your body in tip top shape. (Magnesium is critical for maintaining healthy blood sugar too.) And now a new review of studies dating all the way back to 1937 has confirmed what I’ve been telling you all along, and that is that cholesterol and saturated fat are not the big bad villains they’ve been made out to be when it comes to heart disease. According to researchers low magnesium is the real culprit. And in another recent study, Spanish researchers demonstrated just how critical magnesium benefits are for those suffering with heart problems. In a study of 7,216 volunteers between the ages of 55 and 80, people with the highest dietary intakes of magnesium had a 34 percent less chance of dying from heart disease or cancer. In fact, those who got the most magnesium (442 mg a day) had a 59 percent drop in their risk of dying from a stroke, heart attack or heart disease when compared to those with the lowest intakes of magnesium. It’s easy to add more magnesium benefits to your diet simply by eating more almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, black beans and avocados. You also may want to consider a magnesium supplement, but be sure to talk with your own doc about what’s best for your specific situation.
  12. Omega 3 for brain health: Why fish may be your brain’s best friend

    They’re small and painless. You don’t even know they’re there, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t feeling their effects. I’m talking about little lesions that can form in your brain called brain infarcts. Brain infarcts can cause your thinking skills to head south; they can lead to dementia and, at their worst, they could even cause a stroke. These lesions can only be detected in a brain scan, and they’re found lurking in the brains of about 20 percent of otherwise healthy seniors. That’s the bad news, but now for the good news. One small change could slash your risk of these silent brain bugaboos by up to an astounding 40 percent! Even better, if you’ve been following my advice you may already have taken this noggin-protecting step.

    Protect your memories with omega 3 for brain health

    According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association omega-3 fatty acids… like the kind found in fatty fish or a fish oil supplement… could dramatically lower your risk for brain infarcts and other brain abnormalities. In the study, 3,660 volunteers aged 65 and older underwent brain scans to detect brain infarcts. Scans were then performed again five years later on 2,313 of the volunteers. (I shudder to think what kind of damage zapping those volunteer’s brains with massive amounts of cancer-causing radiation—not even just once, but twice—may have done. That’s like subjecting their poor brains to at least 100 x-rays PER sitting. That’s practically criminal! But I suppose that’s a topic for another day.) Researchers found that volunteers who had a high level of omega 3’s in their blood had a 40 percent lower risk of having brain infarcts compared to those who had low levels of the fatty acid. And the good news about omega 3 for brain health didn’t stop there. The group with high omega-3 levels also had fewer changes in the white matter of their brains. This is critical because healthy white matter is vital to good brain function. Your brain relies on white matter to transmit signals between different parts of your brain. If that process is interrupted, thinking problems and even dementia can follow.

    Slow brain shrink with fish oil

    Of course, we’ve known for years that fish is good for your thinker. Heck, your mom or grandma probably even told you to eat your fish because it’s brain food. (Oh, and for the record, she was absolutely right. In fact, a study earlier this year confirmed that increasing the omega 3’s in your child’s diet could help him do better in school.) But you don’t have to be a tyke for fish oil to give your brain a boost. Another study, published in the journal Neurology last year, found that seniors low in omega 3’s had lower brain volumes than volunteers with higher levels of the fatty acid. That’s important because although our brains naturally shrink a bit as we age, the faster the shrink happens the more we see the negative effects. In fact, shockingly, the brains of the volunteers with the lowest omega 3 levels appeared to be about two years older than the brains of their counterparts with the highest levels. And that faster shrink had real-world consequences too, with the omega-3-deficient seniors scoring lower on tests of visual memory, problem solving, multi-tasking and abstract thinking. Omega 3’s benefits don’t stop with the brain, either. As I’ve explained before, researchers now believe that low-grade systemic inflammation could be at the heart of a host of devastating illnesses, ranging from heart disease to Alzheimer’s. And it looks like omega-3-rich fish oil—a natural inflammation fighter—could play a critical role in beating those illnesses. (Click here to visit the NorthStar Blog to learn more about beating back inflammation with fish oil.) To give your brain and your body the support they need, boost the omega 3’s in your diet. Sardines, halibut, salmon, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts are all terrific (and delicious) sources of omega 3’s. A fish oil supplement is another easy way to up your omega 3 levels. And add in a mixed tocopherol and tocotrienol vitamin E to zap any free-radicals that pop up while you’re at it.
  13. Health benefits of resveratrol: Going grape to fight cancer

    The health benefits of resveratrol, the so-called “red wine nutrient,” are back in the news again. Of course, we’ve been talking about this grape-based anti-aging miracle for years now. This powerful antioxidant could help with everything from hearing loss to heart disease to diabetes. Studies have been stacking up for years that have found that resveratrol may help with insulin regulation, cholesterol control, high blood pressure and even cognitive performance. In other words, it’s good stuff. Now researchers from the University of Missouri studying the health benefits of resveratrol say the grape extract could become an important player in the fight against cancer. In the recent study scientists showed that resveratrol can make certain tumor cells more susceptible to radiation treatment. This study focused on melanoma cells, and a previous similar study showed the same effectiveness against prostate cancer. This means, of course, that shorter, more effective and less damaging treatments could be in the future for cancer patients. But if you’re interested in battling cancer sooner rather than later, resveratrol could already be an important weapon in your arsenal. We know that the grape extract is a natural inflammation fighter, and since inflammation plays an important role in the development of cancer (as well as many other diseases) resveratrol is a no-brainer. In fact, earlier studies on the health benefits of resveratrol have already shown that the extract can kill pancreatic cancer cells, increasing the effectiveness of cancer treatments. And, even better, the resveratrol appeared to protect healthy cells at the same time. I generally recommend 200 mg a day (or around 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.
  14. Vitamin D benefits for your brain and memory

    If you’re not already a D-devotee, a new University of Kentucky (UK) study on vitamin D benefits may very well change your mind. Well, that’s if you don’t end up losing it first. Let me explain. You, of course, already know that D is essential for healthy muscles and bones. In fact, maintaining your levels may even be the key to keeping you out of a nursing home. Click here to learn more on the NorthStar Blog. And as a NorthStar Blog reader you also know about this essential vitamin’s vital role in cancer and diabetes prevention, blood pressure maintenance and heart health.

    This is your brain without D

    I’ve even told you about vitamin D benefits for brain health. The sunshine vitamin may play an important part in warding off Alzheimer’s disease. Deficiencies of D have been linked to Parkinson’s disease. And if you’ve ever experienced the winter blahs you sure don’t need me to tell you how important D is to warding off depression. But now, researchers say the vitamin’s role in brain health could be even stronger than we ever imagined. The animal study, published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, found that rats that were fed a low D diet for several months developed free-radical brain damage. That’s important because free radicals in your brain can lead to oxidation, memory loss, and even Alzheimer’s disease.

    Low D led to memory and learning problems

    And, in fact, the poor critters in the study did suffer a significant drop in their cognitive performance on memory and learning tests. According to the UK scientists, a number of different brain proteins were damaged by the lack of D. And there’s every reason to believe that something similar happens in our own brains when our D levels drop too low. With some experts saying that up to 90 percent of people are walking around with less than optimal D levels and that means the vast majority of us may be in serious danger of low-D brain damage. But, while experts tend to disagree on just how many of us are D deficient, one thing they DO agree on is that D deficiency is wide-spread among seniors. This means, of course, that those of us who are starting to go gray need to be extra careful about keeping our levels up in order to reap the vitamin D benefits. Now, of course, I’ve been preaching about vitamin D benefits for many years now, but it looks like the mainstream is finally catching on, too. According to Allan Butterfield—lead author on this new study and professor in the UK Department of Chemistry—we need to maintain adequate vitamin D levels to prevent free radical damage in our brains. Welcome to the vitamin D fan club, Dr. Butterfield. I would also add to your solid D advice that maintaining those healthy D levels could also help us avoid Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and more.

    Top off your D levels

    Pretty impressive for a vitamin you can get for free simply by spending 15 minutes or so outside in the sunshine every day. And if cold weather, a busy schedule or disability is keeping you indoors you can always top of your D levels by eating a D-rich diet (fish and fish oil are great sources), or by taking a supplement. I generally recommend taking 2,000 to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. Try to take your D with a meal containing healthy fats, such as olive oil or a serving of fatty fish (a fish oil supplement will work too) to help your body better absorb the vital nutrient.
    To find out if you’re D deficient, talk with your doctor. He can run a simple blood test to check your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.
  15. Omega 7 benefits finally being covered by mainstream

    They say things are better late than never. And I reluctantly agree. However, when a bullheaded refusal to accept the facts that are staring you in the face means a delay in helping even one person back to good health, I must admit I get a little testy. And this has been the case with one emerging heart-health superstar. I first told you about the benefits of omega 7’s… kissing cousin to the well-known omega 3’s … well over a year ago now. As I explained then, this overlooked miracle oil is showing great promise as a natural cholesterol buster. Research has found that omega 7 benefits may be able to help your body maintain a healthy inflammatory response and could even be the KEY to keeping your cholesterol healthy. Well, it looks like mainstream medicine is finally starting to catch on. Coverage of this life-saver is starting to pick up. In fact, if the latest buzz is correct, one of America’s top TV docs may even reveal some news about omega 7 benefits soon. Of course if that does happen, I should warn you that omega 7 is liable to start flying off the shelf so fast it will make your head spin. So if you’re interested in trying an omega 7 supplement to support your own heart health I would suggest you place an order for it fast. Just make sure your omega 7’s come from a fish oil source, like the kind used in the studies. Sea Buckthorn, another common source, is high in an unhealthy saturated fat called Palmitic acid. We already know it’s better late than never, but let’s just hope the mainstream coverage on omega 7’s doesn’t turn out to be too little too late.
  16. Polyphenols may reduce death risk by 30%

    Cheat death with polyphenols micronutrient magic

    Slowing down the hands of time is not only possible; it’s so much easier than you could ever imagine. And the key to performing this incredible anti-aging feat lies, as it so often does, in nature. Now you’ve probably heard of polyphenols before. And you might even know that they’re supposed to be good for you. But, if you’re like most folks, you probably don’t know much else about them… and for good reason. You see, the truth is, scientists and nutritionists didn’t know a whole heck of a lot about them, either, until less than 10 years ago. And that’s because there’s such a wide variety of them (over 8000!), and their chemical structure is incredibly complex.

    “Slow down time” with polyphenols

    Polyphenols are micronutrients that we obtain through our diet. Plants produce them naturally as a defense against ultraviolet radiation or aggressive pathogens. And we now know that they can protect us as well. They act as antioxidants in our bodies, shielding us against the damaging free radicals and inflammation that can lead to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, osteoporosis and more. In other words, they essentially help us slow down time by sidestepping the devastating diseases of aging that send us hurtling faster and faster towards our own demise. Polyphenols are found in abundance in fruits, vegetables, tea, coffee and red wine. And if you’re eating a lot of those foods you may be getting enough of these important nutrients to slow aging down until it’s practically creeping along like molasses in January. (For more on the polyphenols found in tea, and how they could help you avoid diabetes click here to go to the NorthStar blog.) But the problem is, until very recently, we really didn’t know just how much “enough” actually was. And worse, as a result we had no way of knowing if people were getting anywhere near what they needed. (Although judging by the average American’s junk-food-based diet I think we can safely say that it’s not likely.) Heck, we didn’t even know how much the average person was taking in. So, as you can imagine, that made it tough to “prove” just how valuable polyphenols actually are.

    Slash premature death risk by 30%!

    But that’s when some brilliant researchers stepped in to save the day. A multinational team of scientists recently proved that polyphenols could slash your risk of a premature death by a mind-blowing 30 percent! The long-term study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, tracked 807 seniors for up to twelve years. Using urine tests, the researchers were able to pinpoint how many polyphenols their volunteers were eating. And using that data they were able to figure out exactly how many polyphenols are needed to have your best chance of cheating Father Time. It turns out the magic number is at least 650 milligrams of polyphenols every day. The problem, of course, is figuring out if you’re getting enough of these micronutrients… and the right kinds of them… in your daily diet. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of tea, coffee and red wine is a great start. But if you don’t… or can’t… always make the right dietary choices, getting enough polyphenols from what you eat can be a real challenge… or even impossible. That’s when a quality polyphenol-rich antioxidant supplement can come in handy.
    Look for supplements that say “anti-aging” on the label, or in the description, and ones that list fruits or vegetables in the ingredient list.  And if the bottle contains words like green tea, grape seed, Resveratrol and Astaxanthin, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve got your hands on a strong antioxidant formula.
  17. Flexanol’s multi action formula is tops for joint comfort

    It never fails. When the holidays get close, my inner kid suddenly emerges. It seems no matter how many years I manage to put under my belt, I still can’t help getting excited about the holidays like… well, like a kid at Christmas. And with visions of turkeys and Christmas trees dancing through my head, the only thing that could keep me from dancing right along with them are what I like to call uncomfortable “winter joints.” The fact is, very few of us are getting everything we need to keep our joints feeling smooth and comfortable. And as the temperatures drop, and the mad dash through the holidays starts, feeling stiff after an evening of merry-making is a very real possibility. But you can beat “winter joints,” sidestepping them altogether by giving your joints the soothing support they need. The Flexanol formula, combining the best joint-supporting breakthroughs of the last three decades, was essentially thirty years in the making. Because hey, let’s face it, you just don’t rush perfection! From joint-lubricating chondroitin to a triple shot of targeted joint-friendly vitamins, Flexanol supports your joints from all angles. Don’t face the holidays and “winter joints” unprepared.
  18. Boost your bedroom bliss with herbs for sexual health

    Let’s talk about sex, shall we? I know, it’s one of those subjects practically guaranteed to make you squirm in embarrassment, no matter your gender, and no matter your age. But it’s also one of the number one things people ask me about when I put on my doctor’s cap; and for good reason, since people generally know very little about sexual health and they typically avoid talking about it like it’s the plague. Well, that is until a problem pops up in the bedroom, of course. And that’s a darn shame, because a fulfilling sex life is every bit as important for leading a healthy, happy life as looking out for your ticker, brain and joints. Look, let’s face facts. As we age our bodies go through a lot of changes, both inside and out, and some of those changes are bound to affect our sexuality as well. But it’s important to remember that it’s natural, and not something to feel embarrassed about. After all, we’re ALL in the same boat here… so just relax (which, incidentally, is not bad advice for the bedroom, too.) Now you know that I’m a fan of the natural approach, and luckily Mother Nature hasn’t let us down one bit when it comes to getting our sex lives back on track. In fact, there are three herbs for sexual health that have a great record for reigniting the sparks in many a love life.

    Make out more with Maca

    Let’s start with Maca, which comes to us originally from Peru. This is an incredible herb for sexual health. Maca has been reported to boost libido, energy, stamina, and strength. It’s thought to work this little bit of magic by helping to stabilize the sex-related hormones testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen. This means, of course, that Maca is good for both the guys and the gals. Plus Maca is a natural stress buster, which could help you leave behind your day’s troubles and focus on the pleasant task at hand.

    Get it on with Ginkgo

    When it comes to sex, Ginkgo Biloba is another natural winner as far as herbs for sexual health. This Asian herb has been used for literally thousands of years in Chinese medicine, and its success boils down to its ability to boost blood flow. As we age, gunked-up arteries can become a problem slowing the blood flow through our entire system. For the guys this, of course, means that blood flow to the penis can be interrupted, resulting in erectile issues. Ginkgo’s proven ability to improve blood flow may be able to help reverse this effect, leading to stronger and easier to achieve erections. And ladies, blood flow is just as important for you. Gingko reportedly stimulates the flow of blood through capillaries that are right below the surface of the skin which can increase sensitivity and sensation… definitely a plus between the sheets! I should mention that if you are on a blood thinner you need to be cautious with Ginkgo, since it works on blood flow as well. Check with your doc before trying this one out.

    ALL night lovemaking with Ashwaganda

    Ashwaganda completes our titillating trifecta of herbs for sexual health. Often used in Ayurvedic healing for restoring vitality, in Sanskrit the name literally translates to “the smell of a horse”… referring to the herb’s reported ability to impart the strength of a stallion to those who take it. Vitality and strength are obvious benefits when it comes to lovemaking and, as you might expect, Ashwaganda has long been used to enhance the sex lives of both men and women. But the herb’s abilities don’t stop there. Earlier I mentioned the importance of relaxation when it comes to the bedroom. Let’s face it, “performance anxiety” is a heck of a mood killer. If you’re feeling worried about the ability to get an erection if you’re a guy… or the ability to relax and enjoy yourself if you’re a gal… having a good time is probably not on the evening’s menu. But Ashwaganda comes to the rescue here too. The herb is believed to naturally reduce anxiety and ward off the effects of stress, making it one of the perfect herbs for sexual health. Oh, and whatever you do don’t fall into the Viagra trap. There’s nothing “natural” about how that stuff works. And don’t even get me started on the potential side effects of prescription penis pills. We’re talking everything from a stuffy nose (sounds real sexy doesn’t it?) to sudden vision loss. Visit the NorthStar blog to get the rest of the scoop. Look, these are the best years of your life. You’ve earned them! So don’t let the natural changes in your body put a damper on things. A little intervention with herbs for sexual health could be the key to getting your love life back on track. Why not heat it up in the bedroom by giving one (or all three) of these herbs a try? Just be sure to watch out for the fireworks!
  19. Even MORE health benefits of green tea

    Green tea has proven itself to be aces at multi-tasking. I could swear that every time I turn around, there’s yet another health benefit of green tea being confirmed. Brimming with antioxidants, green tea and green tea extract reportedly may... And Korean researchers say it looks like we can officially add “reduces high blood pressure and insulin resistance” to that already impressive list of health benefits of green tea. To find out how a green tea extract affects blood pressure and insulin resistance, scientists divided twenty rats into an extract group and a control group. At the end of the study, the extract group had significantly lower blood pressure, plasma glucose and insulin levels. And that means that green tea could be a natural for fighting metabolic syndrome… the precursor to full-blown diabetes. Now the naysayers will say you have to wait for human studies, but they’re full of hot air. We already know that green tea is great for us, so there’s really no reason at all to wait for more studies on the health benefits of green tea to give the green light to get started. A delicious daily cup of green tea… or a supplement that contains green tree extract… is just what the doctor ordered.
  20. Protect yourself from the flu -- naturally

    With flu season right around the corner, and the lies about the so-called flu vaccine finally exposed you’re probably wondering how to protect yourself from the flu without risky shots or drugs. I’ve got the answer to that question. It’s time to “Flu Proof” yourself, of course. And my simple Flu Fighting Formula is just what the doctor ordered. You see, the key to protect yourself from flu is simply to shore up your immune system so it’s fired up and ready to fight off any ugly bugs that come your way. And you can help it do just that with a few easy-to-find and affordable supplements (you’re probably already taking a few of them anyway:
    • Vitamin D
    • Vitamin C
    • Vitamin E
    • Zinc
    • Selenium
    • Garlic
    • A probiotic
    Stock up on these immune boosters to protect yourself from the flu before the flu season is in full swing, and they could help you make it all the way through the winter with barely a sniffle.

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