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. Natural arthritis relief options

    If you‘ve got arthritis and take 1200 mg of ibuprofen every day, I have some safe and natural arthritis relief options for you to consider. You see, NSAIDs are rife with problems. Take one for too long and you‘re setting yourself up for gastrointestinal problems, high blood pressure, liver problems, kidney disorders, or even heart attack and stroke. In fact, widespread use of NSAIDs results in 107,000 hospitalizations (mostly due to bleeding in the GI tract) and 16,500 deaths in arthritis patients each year.

    But there are natural arthritis relief options you can try so you don‘t wind up taking an NSAID for the rest of your life. First off, a new small study found that a natural plant extract might help relieve your pain as well as ibuprofen.

    Passion fruit peel extract is not exactly well-known in nutritional circles to treat arthritis, but previous studies show that it does reduce overall inflammation in the body. And that‘s probably why it appears to work against joint pain as well.

    For the recent study, scientists recruited 33 men and women with osteoarthritis in the knee and gave them a test to assess the severity of their arthritis symptoms. Then, the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into two groups. One group received 150 mg of passion fruit peel extract each day for two months. The other group received a placebo.

    At the end of two months, researchers checked back in the volunteers and again assessed the severity of their symptoms. The researchers found that the passion fruit group improved their overall arthritis scores by 20 percent. Plus, their pain, stiffness, and physical function scores also rose by about 20 percent. On the other hand, the group taking the placebo reported no improvements.

    According to the researchers, "The passion fruit peel extract supplementation should help patients to reduce their reliance upon NSAIDs that may have undesirable side effects in the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms."

    Now, based on this small study, I‘m not convinced that passion fruit peel extract will magically make your joint pain completely disappear. But it may help...and you may be able to back off your other meds.

    Plus, over the years, I treated arthritis pain a number of different ways...

    Ease joint pain and stiffness without drugs

    Firstly, another natural arthritis relief option is B3 or B6.  If you are lucky, you may respond to a short trial of either B3 or B6. I say you‘re "lucky" because there are types of arthritis that will respond to this kind of vitamin treatment within a mere week or two. First I‘d try 250 mg of B3 (or niacin) two to three times a day. Taking B3 at this dose can cause flushing of the skin, so look for inositol hexanicotinate. It is considered a ‘no-flush‘ type of niacin.

    If that doesn‘t work after two weeks of steady supplementation, try 100-200 mg of B6. Don‘t go higher than 400 mg per day. Some nutritionists worry about neuropathy at B6 levels higher than 400 mg, but I personally think it‘s very rare. Also, magnesium helps with B6 absorption. So make sure to get 400-500 mg per day of that as well.

    Secondly, I‘d definitely look for a supplement that contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support the growth of cartilage in your joints.

    But worn cartilage isn‘t the cause of all types of joint pain. And if that‘s your story, I have another suggestion. You see, there is a sticky, thick substance called synovial fluid that oils and lubes your joints. But when you don‘t have enough, your hips, knees, shoulders, and elbows ache, throb, and grind. And most of us over 50 don‘t have enough synovial fluid.

    But you can improve your synovial fluid with hyaluronic acid (HA). You see, HA is the main building block of synovial fluid. In fact, the more HA you have, the richer your synovial fluid.

    HA is naturally found in miso, beans, and radishes. You can also get it by injection. And recently, a few companies now offer it as a supplement. But make sure to do your homework. A lot of companies offer a synthetic form of HA that uses bacteria fermentation. Natural HA, on the other hand, is the way to go as it‘s stronger.

    Lastly, I‘d take a look at a substance called CMO (Cetyl-Myristoleate). It‘s a substance produced by certain animals that do not get (and cannot be induced to get) arthritis. This is harder to find and more expensive, so I only recommend it when all else fails. I‘ve gotten a lot of feed back about CMO...and it seems to either work wonders for you or not a wink. There‘s no grey area.

    One last word about arthritis pain...

    Even though I‘m a nutritionist, there‘s one last natural arthritis relief method I need to tell you about arthritis: Get moving and you‘ll feel better! Sure, the last thing you feel like doing if you‘ve got arthritis in both hips is to exercise, but it‘s exactly what your body needs. In fact, the less you use the joint that‘s stiff and painful, the worse it becomes.

    Exercise is critical. First and foremost, it stimulates your circulatory system. This distributes healing nutrients to the joint that‘s causing you problems. Plus, remember the synovial fluid found in all your joints? When you don‘t exercise, that fluid gets thick and gunky.

    But when you exercise, your synovial fluid thins out and lubricates your joints properly. Plus, exercise keeps your cartilage healthy. You see, when you work out, the cartilage between your joints takes a pounding. But with each pounding, it also absorbs the nutrient-rich synovial fluid like a sponge and actually gets stronger.

    So what‘s the best exercise for you? For someone with arthritis, I always recommend walking, swimming, or bouncing on a trampoline. All three are gentle forms of exercise. You don‘t even need to break a sweat (though that‘s always good too). Just get going enough to raise your pulse and get the blood flowing throughout the body.

    Sure, tackling arthritis is not a quick-fix. You didn‘t get it in a week and you‘re not going to get rid of it that fast either. But there are natural arthritis relief options that can help you feel a little better each and every day.

  2. Vitamins may reduce the risk of heart attacks in women

    Taking a multivitamin is one of the foundations of good health, especially if you‘re a woman. In fact, researchers recently found that taking multivitamins daily may significantly reduce the risk of hearts attacks in women. And the longer you take one, the better.

    For the study, a team of Swedish researchers followed about 30,000 women for 10 years. At the outset of the study, most of the women were healthy, with no history of heart disease and ranged in age from 49 to 83. And about 60 percent of them regularly took multivitamins.

    Over the next 10 years, about 1,100 women suffered heart attacks. But taking a multivitamin clearly lowered the risk of heart attacks in women.

    In fact, women with no history of heart problems who took a daily multivitamin for five years reduced their heart attack risk by almost 20 percent. Plus, taking multivitamin for 10 years, lowered the risk of heart in women by 41 percent compared to non-vitamin takers.

    So when looking for a good multivitamin, here are a few tips:

    1. Skip the grocery store brands. These only contain 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). And the RDA just doesn‘t cut it. As I‘ve said before, look for a high-quality multi that will give you 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6.

    2. Skip any the once-a-day brands. I know you like the convenience of an "all-in- one" daily vitamin. But all the good stuff can‘t fit into one single capsule. A good multivitamin usually consists of 3 to 6 capsules that you take throughout the day.

    3. Look for a multi that contains digestive enzymes like amylase, lipase, and protease. These make your capsules bigger, but they‘re really important. They help support proper digestion and ensure the best possible absorption of vital nutrients in your multi.

  3. Vitamin D use skyrockets in U.S.

    This week, I read that 27 percent of Americans now take vitamin D. That‘s up from 16 percent just last year. And while I‘d like to hear that every American takes 5,000 IU of vitamin D, I‘m glad to hear that at least we‘re making progress. Vitamin D is critically important to your health. In fact, recent research suggests that vitamin D affects more than 200 of your genes. Over the years I‘ve written about it plenty as it relates to:
    • Stronger muscles
    • Decreased Parkinson‘s disease risk
    • Stronger immune health
    • Younger bones
    • Lowered risk of type-2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, as well as colon and breast cancer
    • Fewer urinary tract infections
    • Improved digestion
    • Happier moods
    So if you haven‘t yet joined the vitamin D bandwagon, now‘s the time to hop on. Go for up to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 (the form of vitamin D most readily absorbed by the body). You can also get vitamin D into your diet by eating more eggs (naturally found in yolks) and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. Lastly, make sure to have your vitamin D levels checked with your annual blood work. Ideally, you want your levels between 50-70 ng/mL.
  4. These immune system boosters can protect you against winter’s worst germs

    Think your digestion has nothing to do with how well you fight off a cold? Well, think again. A new study finds that a natural digestive aid may be your ticket to a healthier winter with fewer colds. In the Guide to Good Health, I‘ve talked often about the "good bacteria" (also known as intestinal flora) in your gut. These tiny microorganisms help you digest food. They also defend against toxins and germs. In fact, your digestive tract is your first line of defense against disease and the common cold. Normally, billions of these good bacteria line your digestive tract. But a poor diet, antibiotics, and other drugs can wipe out these healthy bugs. Also, as you get older, your body‘s supply of good bacteria falls off. The good news is, you can replenish your body‘s supply of these natural immune boosters with probiotic supplements. These supplements contain billions of units of good bacteria. (As a comparison, yogurt only contains a few million active bacteria by the time you eat it. And that‘s hardly enough protection against today‘s resilient germs.)

    Boost your immunity this winter with probiotics

    Scientists recently put probiotics to the test against the common cold. They recruited 272 healthy volunteers to take part in this double-blind placebo- controlled study (the gold standard in scientific circles). They gave half of the volunteers a daily probiotic that contained billions of units of healthy bacteria. The other volunteers received a placebo. After 12 weeks, the volunteers who took probiotics had a clear edge. In fact:
    • The probiotic group got 12 percent fewer colds.
    • The probiotic group also got over their colds 30 percent FASTER than the placebo group.
    • Lastly, the probiotic group‘s symptoms were LESS SEVERE than the placebo group.
    Not bad for a digestive aid that you‘re hopefully already taking! Plus, while we‘re talking about cold and flu season, don‘t forget about vitamin D.

    Tiny vitamin packs a wallop against flu...

    In addition to probiotics, Vitamin D also helps to boost your natural defense. It kicks your T cells into action. And these cells track down and kill foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Plus, a recent study showed that vitamin D also packs a wallop against the flu. For this study, scientists divided healthy patients into two groups. One group received 1200 IU of D3 (the most active form of D) each day for four months. The other group received a placebo. During the four-month period, 40 percent fewer participants taking D3 got the flu compared to the placebo group. Plus, the patients going into the study with the lowest levels of D got the biggest protection. These patients experienced a 74 percent reduction in the incidence of the flu. And these results only stem from a period of four months! I have a feeling that these results would have been even greater had the participants taken vitamin D supplements all year long. You see, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets absorbed into your body through your intestinal tract. Plus, your body can store it for up to 60 days. So even though it‘s not quite flu and cold season, now‘s the time to kick your immune system into high gear. I recommend taking up to 5,000 IU of D3 a day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country. In addition, load up on the probiotics. Look for a capsule that contains billions of units from many different strains of bacteria.
  5. Benefits of cranberries for men may include better prostate function

    Cranberry juice isn‘t just for women anymore. A new study finds that cranberries also help men improve their prostate and urinary function. For the study, Czech researchers recruited 42 men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). LUTS is a common problem that affects about 40 percent of older men. Symptoms include slow flow, dribbling, hesitancy, and incomplete voiding. The men in the study also had benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH), elevated PSA levels, and non-bacterial prostatitis. The researchers wanted to see if taking a cranberry extract would improve urinary function in men with these pre-existing conditions. So they gave half of the men 1,500 mg per day of dried cranberry extract for six months. The other men received a placebo during the same timeframe. According to published research, the men taking the cranberry supplement showed significant improvements in six different areas:
    • Healthier scores on the International Prostate Symptom test
    • Increased urinary flow
    • Decrease in the amount of urine left in bladder after voiding
    • Increase in total volume of urine
    • Reduced PSA levels
    • Overall improvement in quality of life
    In addition, the men taking the cranberry extract reported zero side effects. (That‘s an important factor, when you consider the serious side effects associated with most prescription drugs used to treat BPH.) On the other hand, the men taking the placebo experienced no improvements in urinary or prostate function.

    Seven steps to a healthier prostate

    Last May, I talked about six steps to follow for a healthier prostate. And based on the results of the Czech research, you may want to consider adding a seventh step and take some cranberry extract every day...especially if you‘re over 50 and suffer from BPH or urinary problems. Dried cranberry extract is pretty easy to find. It comes in capsule form. Just make sure to give it some time before you expect to see any results. It may even take six months of steady supplementation before you experience any improvements in urinary flow.
  6. Watercress benefits – may protect against breast cancer

    If you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make sure you eat watercress as often as you can. It may just protect you against the cancer ever making a comeback. In fact, according to a new study, this tart leafy green starves out breast cancer cells and interferes with a major cancer pathway.

    Leafy green superfood protects DNA

    Watercress is a delicate leafy green that grows in spring water. It looks a lot like lettuce, but it actually belongs to the cabbage family. It‘s plentiful in iron, calcium, vitamin A and C and for thousands of years people have eaten it to stay healthy. In fact, ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans enjoyed watercress with their meals. I‘ve even read that Hippocrates -- the father of medicine -- built his first hospital next to a spring so that he‘d have easy access to fresh watercress. A few years back, scientists found that watercress has a lot of anti-cancer potential. In fact, in one study, men and women who ate a serving of watercress each day for eight weeks increased antioxidant levels in their blood. This is important because antioxidants remove cancer-causing free radicals from the body. Plus, these folks decreased the DNA damage to their white blood cells by almost 25 percent. And why is that significant? Well, according to Professor Ian Rowland, the study‘s lead researcher, "Blood cell DNA damage is an indicator of whole body cancer risk." So, the more DNA damage there is to your white blood cells, the higher your cancer risk. But eating watercress seems to lower your overall risk. And, apparently, this is especially beneficial for women...

    Watercress "shuts down" breast cancer delivery system

    The latest study looked specifically at how breast cancer cells respond to watercress. As you probably know, breast cancer tumors (like most malignant tumors) survive on nutrients delivered by your blood vessels. And as the tumor grows bigger, it needs access to more and more blood vessels. To solve this dilemma, the tumor sends a signal for your body to release a protein called HIF. This protein tells normal tissue to redirect their blood vessels into the hungry tumor. As a result, the tumor grows and spreads with nutrients delivered by the "stolen" blood vessels. But there‘s a plant compound proven to block the release of HIF and put a stop to all the frantic blood vessel growth...and that plant compound is found in abundance in watercress!

    Breast cancer survivors load up on watercress

    For the study, UK scientists recruited a small group of breast cancer survivors. The women agreed to eat 80 grams of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then give blood samples over a period of 24 hours. The research team discovered two things by analyzing the participants‘ blood samples. First, remember that helpful plant compound that blocks new blood vessel group? Well, after eating watercress, the women had lots of that compound in their blood. And that‘s not all... Remember that harmful protein -- called HIF -- that signals the body to send healthy blood vessels into malignant tumors? Well, the scientists found that HIF levels significantly dropped after the women ate the watercress. This means that any tumors trying to regain toe-hold in the body had another thing comin‘ after the women ate watercress. So, without a doubt, if you‘re a breast cancer survivor, make watercress a part of your weekly (if not daily) regimen. I hear that in Britain that‘s their favorite type of green vegetable. Look for it in the refrigerated aisle of the produce section, near the lettuce. It‘s got a small, delicate leaf that almost looks like a flower. Put it on sandwiches. Use it in salads. Or add it to soups, quiches, omelets, sauces and dips. You can find tons of recipes on www.watercress.com.
  7. Vitamin slows brain atrophy by 50 percent

    Brain atrophy -- or brain shrinkage -- is very common in adults over the age of 60. It occurs when neurons in your brain die or lose their connection to other neurons. The average brain shrinks at a rate of .5 percent a year once you hit 60. And some of this "shrinkage" explains why you may not feel as sharp as you did when you were 20. For some, brain atrophy occurs at an accelerated pace. We call this "mild cognitive impairment" and it describes they type of memory loss that goes beyond the "normal" aging brain. People with this kind of mild cognitive impairment lose brain mass at a rate of 1 percent a year. And those with Alzheimer‘s disease experience a loss rate of 2.5 percent per year. For many decades, nutritionists have talked about one factor that plays a role in how quickly your brain shrinks: Your homocysteine level. Homocysteine is an amino acid implicated for its role in many different diseases, especially heart disease. It‘s also a major risk factor in whether or not you develop dementia and Alzheimer‘s. Basically, the more homocysteine in your blood, the higher your risk of experiencing serious cognitive decline. But, here‘s the good news...

    One vitamin significantly lowers your homocysteine levels

    It‘s well-documented that members of the vitamin B-complex family can significantly lower homocysteine levels. In fact, recent studies show that taking vitamin B every day can lower your homocysteine by 25 to 50 percent. And scientists from the University of Oxford recently took this premise one step further. Since we know that vitamin B decreases homocysteine, can we assume that it also slows brain shrinkage? And even more importantly, can it work for men and women who already show signs of memory loss? To answer these questions, the Oxford scientists recruited 271 healthy men and women over the age of 70 with mild cognitive impairment. The participants all scored below average on tests that assessed word recall and fluency. In addition, they all expressed concern over memory loss but had not been formally diagnosed with dementia. Next, each of the participants were given MRI scans to determine the amount of atrophy in their brain. In the next step the scientists divided the volunteers into two groups. One group took vitamin B supplements each day for two years. The tablets contained three components of the B family of vitamins: .8 mg of folic acid, .5 mg of B12, and 20 mg of B6. The other group received a placebo for two years; and to keep things honest, the participants weren‘t told whether they received the real vitamin or the placebo.

    Vitamin B group shows major improvements

    After two years, the participants got another set of MRIs and another round of blood work. The scientists then analyzed the data and here‘s what they found: 1. The vitamin B group lowered their homocysteine levels by an average of 23 percent. 2. Homocysteine levels of the placebo group increased by 8 percent. 3. Overall, the vitamin B group experienced 30 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. 4. Lastly, people with the most homocysteine at the outset of the study benefitted the most. They experienced 50 percent less brain shrinkage compared to the placebo group. According to Professor David Smith and lead scientist from the Oxford team, "We have shown that treatment for two years with B vitamins markedly slows the accelerated rate of atrophy in people with mild cognitive impairment." He went on to say, "It‘s a bigger effect than anyone could have predicted and it‘s telling us something biological. These vitamins are doing something to the brain structure – they‘re protecting it, and that‘s very important because we need to protect the brain to prevent Alzheimer‘s." Gee, I couldn‘t have said it better myself!

    Get on the vitamin B bandwagon!

    There are lots of things you can do to protect your brain against shrinkage. First off, make sure you‘re taking a quality multivitamin. It should contain at least 25 mg of B6. Next, think about adding .8 mg folic acid and .5 mg B12 into your regimen. You‘ll need to take them separately to get to the dosage used in the study. Folic acid is easy to find. And B12 isn‘t too bad either, really. You‘ll just need to take the sub-lingual form. This means it comes as a liquid and you use a dropper to place it under your tongue. There‘s also a dissolvable, under-the-tongue pill form that‘s popular.
  8. More benefits of green tea – it protects your DNA

    Green tea protects your DNA. That‘s now a proven scientific fact, thanks to the work of Professor Iris Benzie. And her powerful new discovery helps explain why green tea drinkers seem to avoid weight gain, depression, cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer‘s disease.

    Three reasons to drink green tea

    We already knew that drinking green tea is good for you in a number of ways. First, it purifies the body by eliminating free radicals. Free radicals are those unstable molecules that cause disease and age your body. Secondly, drinking green tea promotes the healthy turnover of cells in your body. Technically, it‘s called "apoptosis." And it prompts old cells to die off so that new, healthy cells can take their place. Apoptosis also prevents cancer by blocking the uncontrolled growth and spread of damaged cells. And lastly, we now know that green tea also protects your DNA, the tiny building blocks found inside nearly every cell in your body. Many scientists compare DNA to an elaborate set of blueprints or instructions. Think of your DNA as "ground zero" for good health. It all starts in the tiniest building blocks of your cells.

    So what damages your DNA?

    Radiation, UV rays, toxins, chemicals, free radicals, and unhealthy diet can all -- over time -- damage your DNA. Fortunately, your body finds and repairs most damage on its own. In fact, special proteins -- I like to think of them as DNA "watch dogs" -- tirelessly scour your body looking for problems. When they find a damaged strand, they immediately tell the cell to stop dividing, so the problem won‘t pass on to the next generation of cells. And then your body goes to work repairing the DNA. This ensures that you will go on to live a long, healthy life. But sometimes the DNA cops miss a strand. And these damaged strands can cause problems down the road, such as premature aging and disease. The good news is green tea can help prevent problems from even occurring in your DNA in the first place.

    Green tea protects your DNA

    Iris Benzie and her team of researchers recruited 18 healthy volunteers to participate in a study examining the effects of green tea on DNA. They divided the volunteers into two groups. One group drank two cups of one percent green tea (longjing green tea or screw-shaped green tea) every day for four weeks. The other group drank water every day for four weeks. Researchers took samples of the participants‘ blood and urine before and after the month-long study. Their analysis showed that the group who drank green tea reduced their DNA damage by 20 percent. And that was after just 30 days of drinking green tea! Imagine how good your DNA would look if you drank it for one whole year or five years or 20 years! Plus...

    Why stop at one cup, when three is better?

    Research from earlier this year shows that drinking three cups of green tea every day may significantly increase your lifespan. This time, scientists compared the length of telomeres among green tea drinkers. (Telomeres are DNA sequences at the end of your chromosomes. They shorten as your cells replicate and age. So the longer your telomeres are, the "younger" your cells.) Scientist found that men and women who drank an average of three cups of green tea per day had a big advantage over one-cuppers. In fact, their telomeres were 4.6 kilobases longer, which translates into about five years of life. So go ahead and have that second (or third) cup of green tea today. It may just add five years to your life! Just make sure to drink the real stuff, made by you with tea bags. Don‘t fall for the sweetened kind found in bottles. These only contain a fraction of the antioxidants found in real green tea. Instead, it‘s mostly sugar and water.
  9. Benefits of vitamin C—happier hospital stays

    Ideally, you'll never have to spend even a single night in a hospital bed. But if you happen to wind up there, even if it's just for one night, make sure to take along your vitamins. One vitamin in particular--required for tissue repair in the body--is a MUST. Plus, a new study shows that this vitamin may also help keep your mood afloat during your hospital stay. Of course, I'm talking about the almighty vitamin C. You see, vitamin C is the essential vitamin REQUIRED for all new growth or repair in the body. In fact, it boosts collagen production. And collagen is the main protein responsible for repair in the body. It repairs your tissues, tendons, bones, muscles, organs and even your brain. Want your post-op scar to heal faster? Make sure you've got plenty of vitamin C...because without it, your body can't repair anything. Secondly, vitamin C is critical to your immune system. It boosts the production of interferon, a protein that helps shut down the growth and spread of bacteria, viruses, or tumors. And it's exactly what you need to have in abundance when you're entering the hospital and fighting infection at every turn. Thirdly, as it turns out, vitamin C makes for a happier hospital stay. That's what surgeons from Montreal's Jewish Medical Hospital just discovered. Can more vitamin C make you happier? Canadian physicians selected 32 hospital patients to take part in this study. (Granted, that's a miniscule number. But for a hospital to dispense anything other than Percocet or Prilosec, it's a pretty big deal and essentially unheard of in 2010!) First off, the doctors divided the patients into two groups. One group would receive 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day for up to 10 days. The other group would receive 1,000 IU of vitamin D (as a placebo) twice a day for up to 10 days. The doctors also measured blood levels of vitamin C before and after treatment. Unfortunately, they found that 60 percent of the patients were vitamin C deficient at the study's outset. Next, the doctors asked their patients to answer questionnaires about their mood before vitamin treatment began and after at least five days of taking the vitamins. Here's what they found:
    • First off, in the group taking vitamin C, their blood levels of vitamin C more than tripled.
    • In addition, the vitamin C group experienced a 34 percent average reduction in mood disturbance.
    • In the vitamin D patients, their blood serum levels of D rose as well.
    • But the vitamin D patients experienced no improvement in mood.
    Clearly, vitamin C gave patients a nice boost in mood during their stay. In their report, the doctors didn't make any guesses why the vitamin C group fared so much better. But I've got an explanation: Vitamin C makes everything better. You see, when you're under stress--physical or mental (such as during a hospital stay)--your body's need for vitamin C increases exponentially. In addition, inflammation following surgery or illness depletes your body's absorption of vitamin C. So by giving your body more of what it needs, you heal faster and you're happier. Add vitamin C to the top of your "To Pack" list There's no doubt vitamin C will help you recover from any hospital visit. Not only will it boost your mood, but it will also help you thwart infection. And we all know that's a huge concern even in the best hospitals. Plus, vitamin C helps flush out any drugs or anesthesia you may have received during your hospital stay. Bottom line? Prevent potential problems and supplement with extra vitamin C before you enter the hospital. And definitely pack a bottle of it during your hospital stay. Just don't count on your nurse to add it to your little cup of pills. In fact, you may have to sneak it in between hospital rounds. (I've done that a few times myself!) If you're recovering from an illness or preparing surgery, take 1,000 mg of C three times a day. That's quite a bit more than the Canadians used in their study. But if you're recovering from an illness or surgery, you'll need it. It's essential as your body repairs itself and returns to optimal health. Plus, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, so any extra your body doesn't need will get flushed. For normal vitamin C maintenance, take 1,000 mg of C twice a day. But don't go for time-released preparations as these are a waste of money. Vitamin C only stays in your body for a few hours at a time.
  10. GlaxoSmithKline execs slammed for touting resveratrol

    One thing I don't like is a bully. And that's what GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is, when it comes down to it. Last month, GSK forced two of it's execs to stop their volunteer work with a non-profit called Healthy Lifespan Institute. According to its website, Healthy Lifespan is "dedicated to extending the healthy lifespan by studying, educating, and testing the rapid advances in the science and medicine of aging." (Sounds like my kind of organization!) So why exactly did the GSK execs get yanked from the non-profit? Did they spend too much time volunteering for the Institute? No. Did they divert GSK profits to Healthy Lifespan Institute? No. They forced the execs off the non-profit's board simply because the Institute sold resveratrol supplements...at cost. So what's so bad about that? Well, turns out GSK is trying to develop a resveratrol prescription drug that they can patent and make billions off of. As you'll recall from last week's Guide to Good Health, resveratrolis an antioxidant superstar that may help prevent any number of diseases...from Alzheimer's to cancer. I'll tell you what...I actually loved reading about this story. It shows that resveratrol is the real deal if it threatens even a big gun bully like GSK. Plus, every time you take your resveratrol, you're keeping a bully in its place!
  11. Resveratrol benefits… could it be the “fountain of youth”?

    I'm a research junkie. I'll admit it. So I just about jumped out of my seat when I read that someone had finally tested resveratrol--the antioxidant superstar found in red wine and grapes--on actual human beings! Yes, nutritionists have known about resveratrol for decades. It helps tame inflammation and prevent oxidative stress. This is significant because unchecked inflammation and oxidative stress can lead to heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Even the mainstream press picked up on resveratrol a few years back when scientists proved it could extend the lifespan of mice by 20 percent! They dubbed it the "fountain of youth." But until last month, there was one giant problem with this antioxidant phenom: Zero clinical proof actually existed that it works on humans. (And I mean, ZERO.) There was plenty of data showing that it can increase the lifespan of roundworms, fruit flies, mice, and yeast. But nothing on humans...until last month. Will the antioxidant superstar work on humans? You may be wondering, why all the fuss? If resveratrol is found in red wine...doesn't everyone know that drinking a glass of red wine is good for your health? And yes, that's true. But this study digs much deeper. In fact, it's the first- ever study showing why resveratrol may be a legit "fountain of youth" for humans after all. Specifically, scientists from the University of Buffalo wanted to see if resveratrol could decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in healthy men and women. So the scientists recruited 20 healthy men and women and took samples of their blood. Then, they split the participants into two groups. One group received 40 mg of resveratrol each day for six weeks. And the other group received a placebo. And here's what they found...

    Anti-aging extract scores off the charts!

    Resveratrol performed just as we all had hoped. First off, it blocked the formation of free radicals (reactive oxygen species or ROS). These harmful, unstable molecules cause damage to healthy cells. Over time, widespread free radical damage can harm your DNA and lead to a disease like cancer. But the participants who took resveratrol for six weeks significantly lowered their ROS levels. Secondly, the resveratrol group also lowered their TNF levels. TNF (or tumor necrosis factor) is a harmful protein that creates inflammation throughout the body. A few weeks ago, we talked about this harmful protein and the role it plays in rheumatoid arthritis. But TNF doesn't just harm rheumatoid arthritis patients. It causes widespread inflammation that can affect your blood vessels, your organs, your skin, and even your brain. It also messes with your body's insulin production. In fact, endocrinologists believe that lowering TNF levels will improve insulin resistance in diabetics.

    Small study, big impact

    Now, unfortunately this study is terribly small in scope with just 20 participants. Nevertheless, I think that it will have a big impact in the years to come. First off, it proves that resveratrol can help control inflammation in humans. And that's huge! Inflammation is the underlying, biological cause of so many different uncured diseases -- from rheumatoid arthritis to Alzheimer's disease. Plus, it just builds more momentum for this superstar antioxidant. It will be interesting to see if one day scientists prove that resveratrol can extend your lifespan, as they proved with mice a few years back. So if you're not already taking something with resveratrol, now's definitely the time start! (Especially if you're over 50 or have an inflammatory disease.) And yes, you'll find resveratrol in red wine and grapes. But you'd have to drink gallons of wine (or eat bushels of grapes) to get 100 mg of resveratrol. That's the amount you'll find in any quality resveratrol supplement. Most of these are derived from the Japanese knotweed herb. So take action now to keep feeling and looking young.
  12. Can calcium supplements really give you a heart attack?

    A major new study announced that taking a calcium supplement may raise your heart attack or stroke risk by as much at 30 percent. I know what you're thinking: "Is this really true? Could the pill I take for my bones really be that bad for me?" And the answer is: Yes, calcium can cause serious health problems when taken alone. But I could also argue that shaving your beard is bad for you health because you could cut the carotid artery in your neck. Or walking the dog is bad for your health because you could get hit by a car. Basically, you do anything the wrong way and you can get hurt. So go ahead and shave your beard, walk the dog, and take calcium. Just do it the RIGHT way. Study misses one major fact... Professor Ian Reid and his team from the University of Auckland analyzed data from 15 different randomized trials conducted over the last 20 years. They found that men and women who took calcium supplements did increase their risk of heart attack or stroke by about 30 percent. But to tell you the truth, that stat didn't surprise me. And neither did his other big "discovery": Men and women with high dietary intakes of calcium did not see the same increased risk. In interviews, Reid and his team seem to scratch their heads to explain this conundrum. Why does a calcium supplement appear to raise risk and not a high- calcium meal? They theorize that calcium supplements cause the mineral to collect in your blood...and high-calcium meals do not. And, again, that's true. Taking 500 mg of calcium alone isn't a good thing. Your body can't handle it. In fact, in addition to cardiovascular problems, it can cause problems with your kidneys, GI tract, nervous system, and even your brain! But there's one sure-fire way to solve the calcium problem: Take magnesium with it. And that's the one huge, gigantic, obvious missing piece from Reid's analysis. You see, calcium cannot work in the body without magnesium. Crack the calcium puzzle You body can NOT handle high amounts of calcium on its own. It gets stuck in your blood, soft tissues, and in your kidneys. It also causes hardening of the arterial walls...and eventually cardiovascular events as Reid's meta-analysis showed. That's why I've always recommended taking one part magnesium for every two parts calcium. Magnesium helps your body absorb the calcium so it doesn't collect in your kidneys and soft tissues. By the way, this is taught in every Nutrition 101 course, in nearly every community college across the country. (Clearly, Professor Reid slept through that course.) And truthfully, I'm not sure why manufacturers even sell supplements that only contain calcium. If you've got a bottle, throw it out. Calcium and magnesium naturally work together So...now can you figure out why people from Reid's meta-analysis with a high- calcium diet didn't increase their cardiovascular events risk? You got it: They were also eating a high-magnesium diet. In natural foods, calcium is always paired with magnesium. It's just nature's way of providing us with exactly what we need to stay healthy. Just look up high-calcium foods like broccoli or kale. These foods also contain magnesium. In fact, nature doesn't make a calcium-rich food that doesn't contain magnesium. That is unless it's "fortified with calcium" like homogenized milk and most dairy products on the shelves. So don't get fooled into thinking these products are natural! Professor Reid goes down swinging In interviews, Professor Reid isn't content just bashing calcium. He goes after all supplements: "We have tended to focus on just the benefits of supplements without really looking at their safety. In the future I think we need to look at both the efficacy and the safety of supplements." Well, truthfully, I have to agree with that last thought...but for a different reason. Just because something is natural doesn't mean that it can't also do harm. Supplements are powerful tools and you must learn to use them the right way...in the right amount and combination. That's why it's important to work with a qualified naturopath and keep reading my Guide to Good Health. I'll make sure to point out the landmines and steer you clear of Professor Reids of the world.
  13. Fish oil supplements may help post-menopausal women slash breast cancer risk

    Be persistent and consistent with your fish oil supplement. It will be worth all the effort, especially if you're a woman. That's because a new study found that women who take fish oil for at least 10 years have a much lower risk of getting breast cancer. U.S. researchers asked 35,000 healthy, post-menopausal women about their supplement use. They found that many of women took specialty supplements as black cohosh, ginseng, and fish oil. Ten years later, 880 of the women developed breast cancer. But the women who took fish oil supplements for at least 10 years cut their risk of breast cancer by an impressive 32 percent! Researchers believe fish oil is helpful to women because it reduces inflammation, a key factor in the growth of breast cancer. As far as I can see, there's only one thing missing from this fantastic study: Vitamin E. You always need to take vitamin E along with any fish oil supplement. As I've said numerous times over the years, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil produce free radicals. But the antioxidants in vitamin E will zap any free radicals before they can cause any harm.
  14. Natural ways to lower blood sugar without dangerous drugs

    How much does a heart attack cost? Five hundred thousand dollars? A million dollars? Two million? Truth is, it doesn't really matter. GlaxoSmithKline will pay it. And they'll pay it willingly a thousand times over just to keep you taking their diabetes drug Avandia. That's because even after the billions spent on lawsuits, damage control, and cover-ups, Avandia is still worth it for them. It makes a profit. Yes, Avandia appears to raise your heart attack risk. (And yes GSK knew about it and tried hard to cover it up).But you do have other options. And I'm not talking about taking one of those "safe" Avandia-replacement drugs advertised just about everywhere these days. I'm talking about non-drug options. Safe, effective options for diabetes patients Without a doubt, you can lower your blood sugar without taking drugs. But it's not a quick, easy fix. It will take commitment. But I promise you; it's worth all the effort. You'll safely lower your blood sugar and you'll probably lower your risk of heart attack as well (instead of raise it, like Avandia does). Here's where you've got to start:

    STEP 1: Get off the sugar. And that includes throwing out any refined and processed flour products, such as white bread, rice, cookies, pancakes etc. The good news is that complex carbs such as 100 percent whole wheat, de-hulled barley, bran, and oats are all okay. Pasta is fine as long as it's made from spinach, artichoke, brown rice, or 100 percent whole wheat. It's heavy, so try angel hair pasta and don't serve as much. You won't need it.

    STEP 2: Fortify your overall health by taking a good multi vitamin that contains at least 25 mg of B3. I'd also double up on vitamin C to help detoxify your system. Go for 1,000 mg three to four times a day. If you start to experience diarrhea, back off by 1,000 mg increments.

    STEP 3: Then, I'd start looking at some natural ways to lower your blood sugar. First off, I'd think about adding chromium to your daily regimen. Go for either chromium picolinate, or preferably chromium GTF (Glucose Tolerance Factor). This trace mineral helps to support your body's overall metabolism. It also helps to balance blood sugar levels and convert glucose into energy.

    I'd also considering adding to the mix 400 to 800 mg of the Indian herb Gymnema Sylvestre (GS). It too helps support healthy blood sugar levels and glucose metabolism. Plus, some research suggests that GS even repairs special cells in the pancreas called beta cells. These cells are vital because they produce insulin and help control how much sugar gets dumped into your blood. But in diabetics, up to 80 percent of their beta cells aren't working. (In type-1 diabetes, none of their beta cells work.) In fact, these little cells are so critical to your health, scientists are even investigating ways to replace damaged beta cells in diabetics. Scientists from India actually just wrapped up the first-ever human trial using Gymnema Sylvestre with diabetics. It was a small trial using a patented version of GS, but the results look promising. After just 60 days of taking 500 mg of GS, 10 out 11 patients significantly lowered their fasting blood sugar levels. The patients also increased their insulin and c-peptide levels. If you are dealing with full-blown diabetes, I'd also suggest looking into taking small doses of vanadium (or vanadyl sulfate). This mineral has been shown in limited studies to improve how diabetics process sugar. But there's also some concern that high amounts of vanadium (far higher than 5 mg) may cause harmful oxidative stress in the body. So the question becomes: How much can you safely take? Unfortunately, there's no standard protocol here. So I'd only try vanadium under the careful guidance of a qualified naturopath. Safely lower blood sugar by 20 percent Cinnamon is another powerful, yet safe blood-sugar solution. Sprinkle it on apples, oatmeal, whole-wheat pancakes, or yogurt. This tasty spice improves how your body processes sugar. In fact, in one recent study, cinnamon significantly lowered blood sugar among diabetics. For the study, U.S. researchers divided diabetics into two groups. One group received one, three, or six grams cinnamon each day. The other group received a placebo. And the results--after just 40 days – were astounding! All three groups taking cinnamon made big improvements all around. They lowered their fasting blood glucose levels by 18 to 29 percent, slashed triglycerides by 23 to 30 percent, and cut total cholesterol 12 to 26 percent. So even taking just ¼ to ½ teaspoonfuls each day made quite a difference. But it's important to keep it going because when the patients stopped taking the spice, their blood sugar levels rebounded. Not surprisingly, the patients who received the placebo didn't experience any improvements in the markers of their disease. But be careful what you wish for... There's no doubt in my mind that if you follow this regimen, along with a little exercise, your blood sugar will come down. But just be careful. These natural efforts can be so effective that you MUST seek the guidance of a good naturopath or enlightened physician. In fact, it's possible to push your blood sugar down so far that you become hypoglycemic. So it's important that your doctor monitors your medications very closely and lowers them as your diet and supplements take effect.
  15. Reading the vitamin E bottle -- the right way

    Last week, in an article about the benefits of taking vitamin E, I sounded about as sharp as a bowling ball. I intended to give you some helpful hints in scouring the vitamin aisles. But a mistake occurred in the editing process and my directions didn't make much sense. In any case, here's what you should look for on the bottle, when buying vitamin E: Look for a gel capsule that contains 400 IU of 100 percent natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols. This will provide will provide balanced antioxidant protection. At the very least, the bottle should say it contains d-alpha or D-alpha. Skip any bottle that says it contains Dl-alpha (note the different "Dl" prefix). This means it's a synthetic, cheap imitation of vitamin E.
  16. Nutrient-vitamin combo slows genetic vision loss

    Retinitis pigmentosa is a disease that affects the retina. Over time, the disease leads to the loss of peripheral vision. But a new study says that lutein and vitamin A may block the progression of this inherited disease. For the study, researchers recruited 225 healthy men and women between the ages 18 and 60 with retinitis pigmentosa. They randomly divided the participants into two groups. One group received 15,000 IU of vitamin A daily for four years. The other group received the same amount of vitamin A, plus 12 mg of lutein each day for four years. Then, at the end of the study, each of the participants took a vision test. Vitamin A and lutein adds 10 years of vision Researchers found that the patients who took vitamin A plus lutein didn't lose their peripheral vision nearly as fast as the control group did. In fact, the data suggested that a 40 year old who took vitamin A plus lutein would not lose peripheral vision until the age of 61. That's a significant improvement, when you consider that same 40 year old would normally lose most peripheral vision by age 51. And even though this isn't a cure for the disease, it's a big step in the right direction. Plus, it's completely non-toxic. You'll find vitamin A, the powerhouse for your eyes, in lots of bright, colourful vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables and eggs and is also taken to reduce the risk of macular degeneration. So you can easily stock up on this important combo, simply by making yourself a delicious summer salad.
  17. Support immune function naturally by taking spirulina for anemia in older adults

    If you're anemic, a new study should interest you. Scientists found that taking spirulina for anemia could help. Spirulina is a form of blue-green algae found in fresh and salt water. You can also take it as a tablet. It's rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as essential minerals, like iron and potassium. For this study, scientists recruited 40 seniors with anemia to take 3,000 mg of spirulina for 12 weeks. According to Nutra-Ingredients USA, "The objective was to determine if the supplements could be effective in countering two conditions that frequently impact the health of older people: anemia and declining immune function." After 12 weeks, scientists ran CBCs (complete blood counts) on the volunteers. First off, the volunteers had higher white blood cell counts. These cells are your front-line defense against viruses, bacteria, and toxins. The volunteers also had more haemoglobin in their red blood cells. (Low corpuscular haemoglobin -- on the other hand -- means you're anemic.) Researchers also noted that older women responded particularly well to taking spirulina for anemia. Plus, this isn't the first time scientists used spirulina to improve anemia. A previous study showed that malnourished children and children with HIV who took spirulina improved their anemia and gained weight. As you'll recall from last week, you need to be careful when choosing your sources of iron. That's because inorganic forms -- like those found in most multivitamins -- can increase free radical formation. But organic iron doesn't. That's why spirulina is the perfect choice for your extra iron. Most of spirulina tablets sold on the market contain organic iron. Just check the label to be sure.
  18. Vitamin E "rescues" brain after stroke

    Last week, we talked about vitamin E and bladder cancer. But, really, we just scratched the surface. There's so much more to learn about this powerful antioxidant. According to a new study, vitamin E may protect you against brain damage following a stroke. Scientists say they've never seen anything like it. Even small amounts of the vitamin appear to protect precious brain cells following a stroke. Too much of a good thing... A stroke occurs when a blood vessel leading to your brain gets blocked or ruptures. Your body wants to repair the damage. But it overreacts and causes more harm than good. In fact, following a stroke, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called glutamate. In normal amounts, glutamate helps with learning and memory. But too much glutamate sets off a chain reaction that kills brain cells. And this sudden loss of brain cells is what's to blame for most of the long-term damage from a stroke. This is also why time is of the essence when responding to a stroke. The faster you remove the blockage, the less glutamate flooding into the brain, the fewer brain cells killed. But scientists from the Ohio State University (OSU) have recently found another way to block the damage caused by excess glutamate in stroke victims' brains. You got it: vitamin E. Not just any vitamin E will do... As you'll recall, vitamin E is a collection of eight different molecules. We don't know a lot about the roles each of these molecules play in human health. And we probably know the least about the one fraction of vitamin E called alpha- tocotrienol. And that's exactly the fraction that OSU scientists used in their recent stroke experiments... First, OSU scientists divided lab mice into two groups. The first group of mice got no vitamin supplementation. The second group of mice received a daily regimen of alpha-tocotrienol. (But they didn't get a lot. In humans, it would be like cutting your vitamin E supplement into 10 pieces. If you took just 1 piece of it each day, you'd get the equivalent of what the second group of mice received.) Next, the scientists injected all the mice with glutamate (to simulate what occurs in the brain following a stroke). In the non-vitamin group, the glutamate triggered the release of a toxic enzyme called cPLA2. This toxic enzyme poisoned the animals' brain cells, causing massive brain cell death. But how did the mice given alpha-tocotrienol do? Saving brain cells...without a drug in sight The glutamate injection still triggered the release of cPLA2 in the second group of mice. But it caused much less damage. In fact, the mice who took alpha- tocotrienol reduced their glutamate and cPLA2 levels by 60 percent following the stroke. As a result, these mice saved four times as many brain cells than the group without alpha-tocotrienol. Just think about that...four times as many brain cells saved! In humans, would that make all the difference in saving your ability to speak? Or being able to feed yourself? Here's how the study's lead researcher summed up their results: "Our research suggests that the different forms of natural vitamin E have distinct functions. The relatively poorly studied tocotrienol form of natural vitamin E targets specific pathways to protect against neural cell death and rescues the brain after stroke injury...So what we have here is a naturally-derived nutrient, rather than a drug, that provides this beneficial impact." Imagine that! A mainstream scientist going on record that a vitamin, not a drug, can protect you against brain damage following a stroke. And believe it or not the National Institutes of Health funded the study! Maybe we are starting to make small inroads into mainstream medicine, after all? Now, if only we could get rid of all that garbage on TV during football season telling you to take a drug to lower your risk of stroke! Keeping it natural Sure, we've still got a long way to go before proving vitamin E does the exact same thing in humans. But believe it or not, mice and human have a lot in common. Our brains react in the exact same way when exposed to glutamate. Plus, OSU scientists believe that vitamin E will protect human brains in the same way it helped the mice. Now... As you'll recall from last week, it's pretty tough to get enough vitamin E from your food sources. You'd have to eat a lot of almonds and wheat germ oil to get what you'll find in just one vitamin E supplement. I recommend finding a high-quality gel cap that contains all eight molecules. On the label, look for a blend of "mixed" tocopherols and tocotrienols. (They should be listed on the bottle as: alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocopherol; and alpha, beta, delta, and gamma tocotrienol.) You'll also want to make sure only to take the natural forms of vitamin E, not synthetic. There's a little trick I can teach you for spotting a synthetic. Just look back at last year's Guide to Good Health.
  19. Muscle damage: More reasons to avoid statin drugs

    It's not uncommon to hear someone who takes a statin drug (like Crestor, Lipitor or Zocor) complain of muscle aches and pains. But that's a fairly benign trade-off, right? After all, these drugs help lower your cholesterol. Well, not so fast. Statin drugs are far more dangerous than Big Pharma wants you to know. In fact, even those "benign" aches and pains could be much more serious than you think. According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, statin drugs may actually cause structural damage to your muscles. Plus -- the damage may be irreversible. So even if you stop taking the drug, the muscle pain and weakness doesn't go away. Defining muscle pain Here's the deal. About 10 to 15 percent of people taking statin drugs reportedly experience minor muscle aches and weakness called myalgia. A smaller percentage of people taking statins experience severe weakness or pain that doesn't go away. This is called myopathy. You're more likely to suffer from myopathy if you take a statin drug and:
    • You're over 65
    • You take certain types of prescription drugs
    • You follow a rigorous exercise regimen
    Oh yes -- and you're more likely to suffer from muscle pain or weakness by taking higher doses of statin drugs. Connecting the dots The authors of recent study wanted to see if this type of statin-induced muscle pain was an indication of a bigger problem. They biopsied muscle samples from 44 men and women who suffered from statin-induced myopathy. Prior to the biopsy, the patients had been taking a variety of different statin drugs, including: Zocor, Pravachol, Lipitor, Lescol, and Crestor. According to the results, almost 57 percent of the biopsied samples (in 25 out of 44 patients) had confirmed structural damage to the muscle fibers. And in case you're wondering -- their muscles didn't necessarily repair themselves once they stopped taking the statin. In fact, the study included several samples from patients who had stopped taking their statin drug at least three weeks prior to the study. So even though these patients no longer had statins in their blood stream, their tissues still reflected structural damage. This led the researchers to conclude that not only could statin drugs cause damage, but in some patients they may also inhibit the body's ability to repair damaged muscles. Predictable results… So why do the results of this study not surprise me? Well, you may recall that in 2001 the statin drug Baycol was pulled off the market. Any guess why? You got it. It caused muscle damage. In fact, Baycol was linked to 52 deaths due to rhabdomyolysis, a rapid deterioration of muscle tissue. It's no small stretch to assume that the other statin drugs on the market (which perform similar chemical actions in the body) would cause similar -- perhaps not fatal -- damage to your muscle tissue. Now onto kids… The results of this latest study have me particularly angry, especially when I think of all the kids who may suffer irreparable muscle damage. As you'll recall, last year the American Association of Pediatricians (the most ill-informed docs on the planet, in my opinion) recommended that children as young as 8 years old get screened for high cholesterol. If their numbers are high, their pediatrician should get them on a statin, according to the AAP. But if these drugs can cause irreversible damage to adult muscles, imagine what they might do to young children with growing muscles! Healthy tickers without statins There's plenty you can do to prevent a heart attack without taking a statin drug for the rest of your life. The first step is to stop smoking (if you smoke). The second step is to give your diet an overhaul. Cutting out processed and fried foods is a must. The third step is to get moving. Just a 10 minute walk every day that raises your pulse will make a big difference. Lastly, in additional to a quality daily vitamin, consider adding these heart-wise supplements to your regimen: 1. 1,000 mg L-Carnitine 2. 100 mg Coenzyme Q10 3. 500 to 800 mg Magnesium 4. 400 to 800 IU Vitamin E (as mixed tocopherols) In closing, if you currently take a statin drug and experience muscle pain, I seriously hope you'll reconsider your options. Seek the advice of a qualified naturopath to help you map out a personalized plan that doesn't include a statin drug.
  20. The Vitamin A Secret Known for 30 Years

    Every man I know worries about getting prostate cancer. And that's understandable. According to the National Cancer Institute, it's the second most common cancer among men. Almost 200,000 men this year alone will learn they have prostate cancer. And nearly 30,000 men a year will die of it. In most men with prostate cancer, the disease progresses very slowly. Watchful waiting is often the prescribed treatment. But in some men, the disease is much more aggressive. Treatment options for this group -- ranging from radical prostatectomy to radiation therapy -- often come with life-changing side effects which can include incontinence and sexual impairment. Even with so-called "nerve-sparing" techniques commonly used today, up to 60 percent of men will experience devastating sexual problems following their prostatectomy. Wouldn't it be great to avoid prostate cancer all together? That's why a new study out this month caught my attention. Scientists found that a man's vitamin A intake may play a role in preventing the aggressive type of prostate cancer that's often treated by removing the prostate gland. In this study, scientists looked at levels of retinol (an active form of vitamin A found in the blood) in 692 men who had prostate cancer and compared it to 844 men who didn't have the disease. While high concentrations of retinol didn't reduce a man's overall risk of developing prostate cancer, it did provide protection against the deadliest forms of the disease. In fact, the men with the highest concentrations of retinol in their blood had a 42 percent reduced risk of "aggressive prostate cancer" compared to the subjects with the lowest levels of retinol in their blood. Translation? Well, the men with the most vitamin A were 42 percent less likely to suffer from really aggressive prostate cancer. And that's huge, especially when you consider the type of treatment you're often facing when they discover your cancer is a fast-growing type. Interestingly, the study authors wrapped up their conclusions with this statement: "Our results suggest that higher circulating concentrations of retinol are associated with a decreased risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Further research is needed to better understand the significance of elevations in serum retinol concentrations and the possible biological mechanisms through which retinol affects prostate cancer." Why scientists don't make good historians Of course, I had to laugh when I read this. The authors made it sound like they are the first to ever determine that vitamin A can reduce a man's risk of getting prostate cancer. The truth is, we've known for at least 30 years (maybe even 80 years) that vitamin A can be a man's best friend in preventing prostate cancer. According to Robert E. Willner, M.D., Ph.D. in his authoritative book The Cancer Solution, "Shortly after its discovery in 1922, Vitamin A was found to be effective in the prevention of cancer." Dr. Willner also reminds us of a massive vitamin A study conducted in 1974 by the National Cancer Institute. Scientists followed 25,000 men over the age of 50 for ten years to see if they developed prostate cancer. (Yes…25,000 men! That's a huge study with results you just can't ignore.) Surprise, surprise... they found a direct correlation between vitamin A intake and prostate cancer. In fact, the scientists at the NCI confirmed that the lower the level of vitamin A in the blood, the higher the risk of prostate cancer. And that was more than 30 years ago! Isn't anyone listening? In 1974 scientists knew that low vitamin A could put you at risk for prostate cancer. But this month scientists put out a study that "suggests" a connection between vitamin A and cancer? So what gives? Why isn't anyone listening? How many times do we need to turn up the same results before someone starts to listen? Heck, 2,000 years ago Hippocrates said: "Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food." If we all just followed his advice, there certainly would be fewer cases of prostate cancer today. Urologists should be handing out vitamin A, well, like candy! In any case, to get more vitamin A in your diet (and you should if you're a man who'd like to lower his risk of prostate cancer and possible prostatectomy), here are some good food sources:
    • Carrots (keep a cup of them out on your countertop; fill the bottom with a ½ inch of water to keep them fresh)
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Beef & chicken (another reason to keep some organic meat and poultry in your diet)
    • Kale
    • Spinach
    • Cantaloupe
    • Winter squash
    • Egg yolks
    Supplementing safely with Vitamin A Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and protects your cells against abnormalities. There are four things to be aware of when supplementing with vitamin A. First, you can technically get too much, though it's very rare. The symptoms of excess vitamin A aren't hard to spot: dry hair, headaches, etc. But I've found if you're supplementing with vitamin A in conjunction with vitamin C (at least 1,000 mgs 2x per day), you won't run into any problems. Secondly, beware of synthetic vitamin A. All the hype about vitamin A toxicity was due to synthetic A, which you should never take. Also, don't assume beta-carotene is the same as vitamin A. Go for natural fish oil vitamin A. Thirdly, the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin A is too low, in my opinion. Many good supplements will include 10,000 IUs of A. But that's probably not enough if you're looking to treat a specific problem. Believe it or not, the starting threshold for the therapeutic use of vitamin A for acne, for example, is 50,000 IUs daily. (I usually recommend trying 100,000 IU for two to three months and if the acne improves, go lower.) Some practitioners who use vitamin A therapy with their cancer patients prescribe in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 IU per day (yep, a million). Lastly, there is a definite risk of birth defects due to high-dose A use during conception and the first trimester. So if you're a young woman of childbearing years, I would recommend exercising caution and, of course, working closely with your obstetrician or naturopath. I take 50,000-75,000 IUs a day of vitamin A and have for decades. It's just another safeguard we as men can -- and should -- take to protect ourselves against this all too common form of cancer.

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