Memory & Brain Support

Keeping our brains healthy and sharp is just as important as physical fitness. The NorthStar blog on memory and brain support gives you breaking news on memory, cognitive health, and how to keep your brain sharp as a tack.

  1. Tai chi fights depression and helps improve your mood

    Experts say that more than 30 percent of adults 65 and over suffer from depression; however, whatever the cause, depression isn‘t normal at any age. You can and should seek treatment. But when you're over 65, this is a lot tougher than it sounds. In fact, more often that not, traditional drug treatments don't work with depressed seniors. But certain Chinese exercise called tia chi helps fight depression.

    Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor of psychiatry, agrees. She says, "We know that nearly two-thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication."

    That's why Dr. Lavretsky encourages her patients to learn a 2,000 year-old form of martial arts.

    Tai chi fights depression; helps body and mind

    The Chinese have practiced tai chi (pronounced tie-chee) for thousands of years. It‘s a low-impact form of exercise where one position flows into the next.

    When you think of tai chi, you probably think it‘s a stress reliever. And you‘re right. Some people call it meditation in motion. It can have a profound effect on your mind. Plus, it‘s ideal for seniors because it:

    • lowers your heart rate
    • improves balance & coordination
    • helps to relieve chronic pain
    • reduces blood pressures
    • improves sleep & sense of well being
    • builds muscle strength

    But can tai chi fight depression?

    You betcha!

    In fact, Dr. Lavrestsky recently sent 73 of her toughest depression cases to tai chi classes and got some amazing results.

    UCLA study underscores limits of drugs, benefits of tai chi

    For this study, Dr. Lavretsky wanted to examine if tia chi fights depression, so she recruited 112 seniors with depression. She treated each of them with the drug Lexapro (escitalopram) for about four weeks. Lexapro is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) commonly used to treat depression and anxiety.

    Seventy-three of the patients showed partial improvement in their symptoms. The other 39 showed no improvement whatsoever.

    You see, depression can be very tricky to treat. And very often, the first drug you try doesn't get rid of all your symptoms. That's why some folks resort to a drug like Abilify. Big Pharma markets this drug as an "add on" depression drug. They give it to folks who don‘t get results using traditional SSRIs.

    Thankfully, Dr. Lavretsky didn‘t take this route. Instead, she sent half the patients to tai chi classes for 10 weeks. The other half went to health education classes. (Sounds riveting, doesn‘t it?)

    This routine went on for 10 weeks.

    At the end of 10 weeks, Dr. Lavretsky evaluated each of the patients based on their levels of:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Resilience
    • Health-related quality of life
    • Cognition
    • Immune system inflammation

    She also evaluated their depression. She used the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, a questionnaire that gauges severity of your symptoms. If you score 10/11, you are clinically depressed.

    Here‘s what the researchers found...

    Seniors achieve remission with tai chi

    After taking tai chi, 94 of the seniors scored less than 10 on the Hamilton scale. In addition, 65 percent of them scored six or less. Clinicians consider this a remission of their depression!

    Now, to be perfectly honest, the men and women who took health education classes got a boost as well. About ¾ of them scored less than 10 on the Hamilton scale. In addition, about half of them achieved remission.

    I have to admit, these numbers are pretty darn good too. Although, not nearly as good as the tai chi numbers. Plus, I doubt a health education class confers all the same other benefits as tai chi. And lastly, taking a "health education class" just sounds downright grim, if you ask me. It‘s just about the last thing I‘d be apt to take if I were depressed.

    Dr. Lavretsky appears to feel the same way.

    She said "This study shows that adding a mind-body exercise like tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, co-existing medical conditions, or cognitive impairment. With tai chi we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications."

    Wow, a doctor who doesn't want to put her patients on more medications?  Who is prescribing tia chi to fight depression? What a novel idea. In any case, if you‘re over 60 and suffer from depression, think about taking tai chi. It may help you get back to feeling like your old self again!

    P.S. Natural supplements can do a lot to help with mild to moderate depression.For ideas about what to try, reread my Guide to Good Health from last summer called "Seniors find safe answers against depression with superstar vitamin."

  2. Benefits of green tea extract: Boost your mental focus in 16 weeks

    Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) sounds pretty harmless.

    But it‘s not. And research indicated that individuals can improve cognitive function by the benefits of green tea extract with L-theanine.

    MCI means you have memory or language problems beyond those attributed to normal aging. Your friends and family may notice your lapses in memory. But it doesn‘t interfere with your day-to-day life. However, most experts agree that having MCI raises your risk of developing Alzheimer‘s disease.

    Currently, there is no mainstream treatment for mild cognitive impairment. But you know I‘m not a mainstream guy. A new study found that men and women with mild cognitive impairment significantly improved their "mental focus" without taking a single drug. Instead, researchers found that the benefits of green tea extract helped improve memory.

    For the study, Korean scientists recruited 90 men and women with mild cognitive impairment. They divided the volunteers into two groups. One group received a placebo and the other group received 1,680 mg of green tea extract with L-theanine. (According to NutraIngredients USA, L-theanine "is an amino acid found in tea leaves thought to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve the quality of sleep.")

    The volunteers followed this regimen for 16 weeks. Then, they took a battery of tests. The green tea group showed "significant" improvement in memory and recall. Plus, 24 volunteers took EEG scans of their brains. Again, the green tea drinkers showed improvements in specific areas of the brain associated with mental alertness. (I‘d also throw some ginkgo biloba and phosphatidylserine in there, but that‘s another story.)

    Bottom line?

    Even if you don‘t have mild cognitive impairment, the benefits of green tea extract with L-theanine are significant for cognition. Plus, you may want to look back at my Guide to Good Health from last year. I talked about one antioxidant proven to slash your Alzheimer‘s risk by a whopping 54 percent.

  3. Benzedrine and Dexadrine linked to Parkinson’s disease

    Two drugs used to treat behavior disorders in children might increase Parkinson‘s disease risk. That‘s according to new research presented at last month‘s meeting of American neurologists. For this study, researchers looked at data for 66,000 men and women living in California. During the 30-year study, 1,154 people developed Parkinson‘s disease. Researchers uncovered a strong link between the drugs Benzedrine and Dexadrine and Parkinson‘s disease. In fact, volunteers who took these drugs were 60 percent more likely to develop Parkinson‘s (compared to those who didn‘t take the drugs). Benzedrine and Dexadrine are components in drugs used to treat ADHD, narcolepsy, and brain injuries. The researchers call for more research into the problem. But clearly, there‘s a connection. So before anyone puts their kid on an amphetamine for ADHD, I suggest looking at artificial food additives instead. Two weeks ago, I told you about a study that connected hyperactivity in children with artificial food coloring. As always, investigate all your options before resorting to risky drug treatments.
  4. Vitamin D conspiracy leads straight to Big Pharma

    You've probably heard about the bad rap vitamin D has been getting lately. The argument goes something like this...the vitamin D crisis isn't as bad as we thought. You probably don't need as much of it as we thought. But it's a free country. So go ahead and take 400 IU of it per day, if you want. That's more than enough. Just don't go over 4,000 IU per day. "High doses" like that can increase your risk for "harm." These new guidelines come from the U.S. Institute of Medicine (or IOM), a powerful non-profit agency that advises the nation of matters of health. But here's the problem: Their report is pure propaganda. In fact, I believe these low doses of vitamin D are a deliberate attempt to keep the American public needing more drugs until the day they die. (I'll admit,that sounds a tad paranoid. But I'll explain why my paranoia is well-founded in a moment.) First, let's look at the three major problems with the IOM research.

    Leave it to the IOM to redefine "majority"

    First off, the IOM report states that the "majority" of adults living in the U.S. get enough vitamin D...and that's just nonsense. As you'll recall, last week I told you about a major CDC study that found almost 80 percent of Americans don't get enough vitamin D. Plus, another major study published late last year by researchers from the University of Tennessee came up with similar results. In fact, this time researchers found that 87 percent of the general population is mildly to severely deficient in vitamin D. Even the most conservative estimates put vitamin D deficiencies at about 50 percent of the population. So how the IOM can confidently claim the "majority" of Americans get enough vitamin D, I have no idea!

    Spend a minute in the sun each day

    The IOM report also states that "North Americans need on average 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day. People age 71 and older may require as much as 800 IUs per day because of potential changes in people's bodies as they age." Again, this is pure nonsense. But before I go any further, here's a quick biochemistry primer... The IOM says you only need 400 IU of vitamin D. But they actually mean 400 IU of vitamin D3 (or cholecalciferol). Your skin makes this natural form of vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. In fact, spending just 30 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, your skin will produce anywhere from 10,000 IU to 50,000 IU of D3! Plus, you can also take D3 as a supplement. Next... Vitamin D3 passes through your liver and it turns into a pre-hormone called 25-hydroxycholecalciferol. This is abbreviated as 25(OH)D. When you get a vitamin D blood test, we really want to see how much 25(OH)D is in your blood. We measure 25(OH)D in nanomoles per liter or nmol/l. Now, stick with me, because here's where it gets interesting... According to the IOM report, taking just 400 IU of vitamin D3 per day will give 97 percent of us a blood serum level of 50 nmol/l. And that level will protect us from fractures. Sounds okay, I guess. But let me put this another way to show you just how silly the IOM recommendation really is... Let's assume that your body makes 10,000 IU of D3 for every 30 minutes spent in the sun without sunscreen. (Most experts say you make at least twice that much...but let's not get picky.) So, how long does it take for your body to make 400 IU of D3? Hurray! Just 1.2 minutes in the sun! That's all you need to keep your bones strong. Is it me, or does that just sound wrong? Well, here's the good news. It isn't just me. It is wrong. And there's some solid scientific proof to back me up...

    IOM gets their numbers wrong

    Two major meta-analysis' from 2009 found that 50 nmol/l of 25(OH)D in your blood isn't enough to protect you from a fracture or a fall. In fact, 28 separate studies found that 50 nmol/l isn't enough! Plus, the International Osteoporosis Foundation recommends men and women have 75 nmol/l of 25(OH)D. This is what it takes to protect you from accidental falls and fractures. Lastly, numerous studies over the years show that the more 25(0H)D in your blood, the greater your bone density. But to get up to those higher levels of 25(OH)D, you need more D3. Plus, here's another interesting twist. The authors of the IOM report most likely knew about all this research...they just chose to ignore it. You see, before publishing the new vitamin D guidelines, the IOM board consulted with Dr. Walter Willet. The board even thanked Dr. Willet at the end of their report. So who's Dr. Willet? He's a vitamin D expert and Chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard. He also co-wrote one of the 2009 reports on vitamin D I mentioned earlier. The IOM, however, ignored his findings. But don't feel bad, Dr. Willet. Yours isn't the only research the IOM ignored...

    IOM report ignores research on vitamin D and disease

    Remember how I told you the IOM said 400 IU of D3 is enough to protect you against osteoporosis? Well, what about everything cancer and heart disease? In a press conference, IOM chair Dr. Catherine Ross said "We could not find solid evidence that consuming more [vitamin D] would protect the public from chronic disease ranging from cancer to diabetes to improved immune function." And with that simple statement, Dr. Ross lost all credibility. Here are some of the best studies linking vitamin D and major diseases: Breast cancer: Women with vitamin D blood serum levels less than 50 nmol/mL are eight times more likely to develop an aggressive form of breast cancer. Colon cancer: Men and women with the highest vitamin D levels cut their colon cancer risk by 40 percent. Heart Disease & Stroke: Men and women with low vitamin D double their heart attack or stroke risk. Cognitive decline: Older women with low vitamin D are twice as likely to suffer cognitive impairment. Diabetes: A whopping 91 percent of diabetics have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Plus, the less vitamin D in their blood, the greater their blood sugar problems. And I'm just scratching the surface here! If you want to look at all the scientific data on vitamin D, the Vitamin D Council is a good place to start. They list the studies by disease, so you can see the all scientific data Dr. Catherine Ross and her colleagues missed. In closing, there's one last reason why the IOM report has the pungent smell of propaganda...

    There's a rat in the house

    Glenville Jones, PhD is one of the authors of the IOM report. He's a scientist and also the co-inventor of drug made by a company called Cytochroma. This drug is still in development....but what condition will they treat with their top-secret drug? You got it. Vitamin D deficiencies! (I'm not making this stuff up. You can see the patent for yourself at the U.S. Patent Office website.) Dr. Jones also sits on the scientific advisory board of a drug company called Receptor Therapeutics. These guys also made a synthetic vitamin D treatment for fact THREE synthetic vitamin D treatments for cancer. (Drug companies use synthetic vitamin D because they can patent it and make a huge profit. You can't patent natural vitamin D.) Well, isn't that so thoughtful... You don't need to take vitamin D. But if you do happen to get cancer...guess who plans to have a vitamin D drug you can take? Here's the bottom line for you: Ignore anything published by the IOM. Take up to 5,000 IU of natural vitamin D3 each day. And avoid anything made by Cytochroma and Receptor Therapeutics. Want more facts about vitamin D? Look back at all the Guide to Good Health reports by following this link. In the search box, type "vitamin D" and you'll find 40 articles.
  5. Supercharge your memory in 12 weeks with blueberries

    ‘Dirty’ fruit supercharges your memory in 12 weeks Scientists have found that one ‘dirty’ fruit could hold the key to supercharging your memory. Just one little fruit could stop -- or even reverse -- years of cognitive decline. So instead of drawing a blank when you run into a long-lost friend at the grocery store, her name will pop into your brain instantly. You see, this ‘dirty’ fruit contains special substances that help your brain cells send and receive information faster. Much faster. Plus, according to the new research, it doesn’t take long for your brain to start working lightening fast…just 12 weeks. Berry blocks natural brain aging Over the years, lots of studies have shown that this fruit reduces your risk of vision loss, weight gain, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. That’s nothing new. But very recently, scientists have also found that it also protects your brain from aging. I’m talking about blueberries, which contain two special kinds of antioxidants called anthocyanins and flavanols. They are special because they can cross the blood-brain barrier. Very few nutrients on Earth can do this. Once there, they scrub your brain cells and get rid of harmful free radicals. And that’s important…because free radicals in the brain can lead to oxidation, memory loss, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But that’s not all… Blueberries also help existing nerve cells in the brain to communicate with each other better. They even appear to encourage the growth of new nerve cells in the brain. That’s huge. Can you imagine, just for a moment, if Big Pharma came up with a drug that could grow new nerve cells in the brain. Not that it could (or would) ever happen, but can you imagine the headlines: “Grow New Brain Cells with Our Miracle Drug!!!!!” Sure, there would be the occasional side-effects, like your head exploding. But that’s a small risk. Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for Big Pharma’s next wonder drug. Blueberries can improve your brain function right now…and they’re a whole lot safer than any drug I’ve ever run across.

    Boost your learning capacity

    For the latest study, researchers fed aging rats a blueberry-enriched diet for one or two months. They also sent the rats through a series of mazes to test their cognitive ability. The faster the rat got through the maze, the better its score. The first time the aging rats ran through the maze, they scored badly. But after eating a diet filled with blueberries they all performed better, even the rats who were fed blueberries for just one month. In fact, in just one month’s time, they scored just as well as the young rats in the study. On the other hand, the aging rats fed a normal diet performed worse on later tests. In addition, the aging rats fed blueberries for at least two months kept their young brains. What does that mean? Well, these rats continued to perform like young rats even months after they stopped eating the blueberries. So it appears that eating blueberries has a lasting affect on the brain. According to Dr. David Malin, PhD, the team’s lead researcher, “The present results suggest that even a relatively brief blueberry diet might produce measurable benefits. Second, the benefits of several months of the diet might be maintained for a considerable period after the diet is interrupted. Third, blueberry supplementation might possibly reverse some degree of memory impairment that has already developed. This raises the possibility that this sort of nutritional intervention might still be beneficial even after certain memory deficiencies have become evident.” In other words, eating blueberries can really help your memory…even if you already show signs of mental decline. Plus, once you start eating blueberries, the results seem to be long-lasting. Now, I know these results came from testing rats. And the research has to come a long way before we can say with certainty that we’ll get the same results on humans. But the emerging data looks really positive. In fact, last year researchers from the University of Cincinnati found that men and women who drank about 500 mL of blueberry juice improved their learning and word list recall in just 12 weeks! They also significantly improved their depressive symptoms.

    So why do I call blueberries ‘dirty’?

    Yes, it’s true. These delicious brain-boosters are one of the ‘dirtiest’ fruits on Earth. In fact, each year the Environmental Working Group ranks fruits and vegetables according to their pesticide residue. And last year blueberries ranked fifth ‘dirtiest.’ This means that most blueberries on the shelves at your local grocery store are covered in pesticides. So is there such a thing as a ‘clean’ blueberry? The truth is, washing fruits and vegetables with soap and water (or even the specialty washes) does very little to remove pesticides. The only safe way around the problem is to avoid commercially grown produce. Choose organic instead. Another great option is to look for a supplement that contains blueberry extract.
  6. Tis the season of Tamiflu

    Even if you get the flu this January, don’t take Tamiflu. Launched in 1999 by the drug company Roche, Tamiflu is an antiviral drug that is supposed to shorten the duration of the flu by a day or so. But according to the FDA, ‘there have been reports (mostly from Japan) since Tamiflu became available of patients causing self-injury or experiencing delirium (confusion, hallucinations, speech problems) while using Tamiflu.‘ Great. Hallucinations and delirium. That’s just what you need when you’re trying to get over the flu! Plus, I find it very interesting that the FDA cites Japan as the source of the reports. It sounds like they’re trying to downplay the validity of adverse events. But it makes perfect sense to me. You see, Roche sells most of its Tamiflu -- by far -- to Japanese customers. Docs there prescribe it for every cough or sniffle or snort. No wonder they have a lot of reports over there. That’s where most of the people take it! So if you ask me, I’d skip the Tamiflu altogether. And if you have some of it lurking in your cabinet, make sure you don’t throw it down the drain or into the garbage. This stuff isn’t readily biodegradable and it could eventually end up in your water supply. Plus, according to a 2007 Swedish report, most waste water treatment systems can’t flush the Tamiflu out of the public water supply. As a result, in countries where Tamiflu is heavily prescribed (like Japan), they’re at risk of contaminating natural spring water. Just think of it…whole segments of the animal and human populations could be getting hefty doses of Tamiflu without even knowing it! Is it any wonder, then, that the so-called “bird flus” keep getting stronger and stronger? So put your unused Tamiflu in some kitty litter or coffee grounds before throwing it out. Or, see if your pharmacy will take it back. Also, when it comes to the flu, focus on prevention. It really does work. During the next few months, add some extra vitamin C, D, and beta 1,3 glucan to your regimen. And if you do come down with the flu, Echinacea, astragalus, or Elderberry extract can help to shorten the duration just as well…without the risk of crazy side effects.
  7. Simple tips on how to exercise your brain

    Yes, our brain shrinks as we age. And vitamin B can help. But it‘s also important to remember that your brain is like a muscle. It needs exercise. And as with everything else, if you don‘t use it, you‘ll lose it. So here are some suggestions for keeping your brain in tip-top shape:
    • Try reading books on topics that are unfamiliar to you.
    • Join a book club or cooking class.
    • Play Brain Age on the DS gaming system.
    • Take up crossword puzzles, solitaire, Soduku, or jigsaw puzzles.
    • Start a collection of teacups, shells, postcards, or vintage toys.
    • Use your non-dominant hand for everyday tasks, such as guiding the mouse on the computer or brushing your teeth.
    • Start walking (yes, studies show physical exercise improves memory!)
    •‘s amazing how much you‘ll learn by visiting a new place.
    • Take a foreign language class at the community college.
    • Take up meditation.
    • Rearrange all the drawers at home or at your office.
    • Try to learn one "new" word a day.
    • Use cash to pay for your purchases.
    • Put together a scrapbook.
    • Memorize a new song or poem.
    • Volunteer at an elementary school library.
    All these activities help to rebuild neural connections in your brain. And keep reading my Guide to Good Health. That‘s always a winner for your brain!
  8. 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.
  9. 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 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!
  10. 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.
  11. 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 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 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.
  12. Get all your future Ivy Leaguers on multivitamins!

    Kids taking multivitamins get a cognitive boost on tests. That’s according to a new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. This good news comes from researchers in England and Australia who studied the effects of taking a multivitamin on school children for 12 weeks. Scientists measured the children’s cognitive abilities three times during the study: once before supplementation began; another time several hours after taking the vitamin; and, one last time, after 12 weeks of daily supplementation. Any guesses on how well the kids responded? They did great. In fact…

    The kids showed an immediate and quantifiable boost in attention by taking vitamins.

    Not only did the kids perform better on cognitive and attention tests… they performed better right away. That’s right. The researchers noticed an immediate improvement in the children’s performance just three hours after the first dose on the first day. With such clear cut, positive proof that vitamins boost kids’ performance, we should make daily vitamins part of the school lunch program. Forget about mandatory milk. Give every child his or her multivitamin at lunch time (for maximum absorption, of course). In any case, make sure all the kids you know are getting their multis every day. It might just give them a mental edge.

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