NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

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  1. New approach to preventing and reversing skin cancer

    It is believed that a mutation in the p53 gene is the cause behind both sun-related skin damage and skin cancer. The p53 gene is called the “guardian of the genome” for its role in repairing DNA in cells, cell division, and the disposal of unhealthy cells.

    For this reason, researchers have been looking for a way to protect and restore the functioning and activity of p53...and it looks like they may have found it.

    Pharmaceutical researchers at Pfizer found a compound, called CP-31398, which appears to restore normal activity to mutated p53 proteins in cell cultures.

    Biochemistry researchers at University of Alabama, Birmingham, went on to test the compound on mice...with some rather remarkable results.

    The compound, suspended in a cream, was used on a batch of hairless mice that were then exposed to UV (ultra-violet) lights twice a week for 35 weeks. Those using the compound developed an average of seven tumors while the untreated mice grew an average of 16.

    What’s more, not only did the treated mice develop less than half the average number of tumors, the tumors that did grow tended to be about one sixth the size of the tumors seen in the untreated group. The compound also seemed to slow the growth of existing tumors.

    Safety and efficacy tests will need to be conducted before CP-31398 can be used on humans, but it shows significant promise for use in a cancer and skin-damage preventative in the not too distant future!

  2. The Problem with Placebo

    Whenever you hear ads for pharmaceuticals, there’s inevitably a disclaimer at the end pertaining to the incidence of side effects. And one of the last things you typically hear is, “…in studies these symptoms were mild and similar to placebo.”

    What they’re trying to impart is that there really aren’t any side effects to their new drug. And that any side-effects that were experienced over the course of the study couldn’t possibly have come from their drug since the placebo group experienced the same things.

    What they don’t tell you is that there are no standardized rules nor an accepted “recipe” for placebos. There’s no independent placebo-making company, no giant bucket of placebos and no placebo bank from which study researchers can withdraw from.

    More often than not, the placebos used in a study are produced by the pharmaceutical company conducting the study. And just as often, they contain trace amounts of the drug being tested.

    Why? So that when they run their prime time television commercials, they can say that side-effects of their drug were similar to those of the placebo.

  3. Mr. Scrooge remembers Christmas

    As I’m sitting here writing this week’s Guide to Good Health, I found myself starting to stew about all the bad news I’ve read lately… the FDA flunkies… the melamine-tainted infant formula… and now we hear about a major drug company that hired ghost writers to pen fake stories about Prempro and actually got them published in major medical journals! I was definitely starting to feel like Mr. Scrooge. Bah, Humbug.

    But then I remembered it’s the holidays.

    I tried to think about all the good there is in life to enjoy. I remembered my family’s healthy traditions, like my mom making delicious whole wheat stuffing every year during the holidays. And so, now that I’ve overcome my ‘Bah, Humbug’ moment, I figured it’s time to remind you of all the things you can do to have a healthy and happy 2009 :
    • Eat all the fresh fruits & veggies you want. Go for organic or unsprayed. And get lots of different colors.
    • Drink lots of water, including herbal teas (you can sweeten teas with 100 percent fruit juice or the herb stevia).
    • Eat fish weekly (strive for 3 times a week). Got to get those omega fatty acids that benefit everything from brain function to your skin.
    • Beef and chicken are okay too (always organic) to get your L-carnitine. (Remember, from the 11-6-08 Guide to Good Health, the amount of L-carnitine in your body is directly related to your energy level. It’s a key player in helping your body turn fat into energy.)
    • Go ahead and enjoy eggs for breakfast! But go for organic, free-range, of course. And keep the yolk intact while cooking as it retains more nutrients this way.
    • Breads that say 100 percent stone ground wheat (or other whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats) are all good sources of fiber. This will help clear out unwanted toxins from your system.
    • Pasta is fine (go for spinach, artichoke, or 100% whole wheat). Again, a diet high in fiber will help keep your system clear of any toxins or preservatives that may have snuck into your diet.
    • Extra virgin olive oil is great for cooking.
    • For a sweet treat, try frozen fruit juice popsicles. Make your own! Natural popcorn also makes a great snack.

    Now—on to the things you’ll want to avoid.

    I do have a little of Mr. Scrooge still in me, I guess. Here’s a quick list of the kinds of foods you’ll want to avoid in 2009:
    • Soy products (it’s hardly a ‘health’ food and can be especially bad for children)
    • Toss all the margarine products and go for the butter instead. Margarine and partially hydrogenated foods (such as baked goods, cookies, candy, chips, etc.) change into chemicals in the body. This contributes to the formation of free radicals.
    • Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine (this one’s obvious)
    • Fried foods or processed lunch meat (or any nitrate product) as these foods also allow more free radicals to roam in your body.
    • Artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and splenda) because no matter how much you dress them up, they’re still chemicals and don’t belong in your body.
    • Milk (it contains trace antibiotics. It’s tough to digest. And it’s linked to a whole slew of diseases). Rice, soy, almond, or oat milk are healthier alternatives if you can find them.
    • Canned foods (especially aluminum…it leaches into your food!)
    • Chlorinated water (Go for natural spring water instead.)
    As a general note, avoid mixing proteins with sugars, fruit or starches in the same meal. This is tough to do all the time. But it helps aid in your digestion and you’ll absorb more nutrients from your food. As a final note…

    I’m all for New Year’s Resolutions… but don’t go cold turkey

    It won’t work. Diet programs make their money by telling you it’s all or nothing. You’re either counting calories or you aren’t. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Real change takes time. Trying to go cold turkey and give up your caffeine or sugar habit in one day will probably lead to failure. So, take your time. Give yourself a few weeks to implement these healthy changes. Even if you have the occasional slip, don’t give up. In just a few months, you’ll feel better and you’ll be far more likely to stick to the plan. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2009!
  4. Get more bang for your buck with a few key supplements

    Most of you are probably already taking a daily supplement. But in the New Year, make sure it’s a good one. Unfortunately, most store brands only contain the minimum U.S. RDA. As a result, these are pretty worthless. To find a high quality multi, look for one that has as many minerals as possible and gives you the option of no iron. Unless you are anemic, you don’t need the iron. It causes constipation and promotes free radicals. Remember, this is the foundation of your good health. Once you get a good multi capsule, then add in a 1,000 mg capsules of vitamin C twice a daily.

    You may also want to consider adding some digestive enzymes to your regimen.

    Most adults don’t make enough of these digestive aids. You’ll want to make sure the enzymes are full spectrum (containing proteolytic, lipolytic, and amylolytic fractions). Start with just one capsule taken immediately after meals. If you can handle this without any stomach upset, you might try increasing it to two capsules after meals. As a side note: always take your vitamins in capsule form and with food. Also, only introduce one new supplement every couple of days so if any bad reaction occurs, you know what caused it. Lastly, the best reference book to help you create a tailored supplement program is Prescription For Nutritional Healing by Balch & Balch.
  5. Sixth sense a reality?

    According to a report published in the British Journal of Psychology, the answer may very well be “yes!” Have you ever just known something? Had a gut feeling about a person or a place? You couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was…you just know you had a feeling, good or bad. Well, Professor Gerard Hodgkinson, of the Centre for Organisational Strategy, Learning and Change, at Leeds University Business School, says those gut feelings may be very accurate, very real and are not to be taken lightly. According to Hodgkinson and his research team, these gut feelings come from a collaboration of past experiences, external cues -- even on a subconscious level -- and very basic decision making skills. Hodgkinson also says that these kinds of snap decisions tend to occur most frequently when people are under time constraints, a lot of pressure or are in imminent danger. For example, he cites a Formula One racecar driver who hit the brakes while coming into a hairpin turn…for no apparent reason. As it turns out, there was a huge pile-up of cars waiting for him around that turn, and hitting the brakes probably saved his life. In a post-incident analysis, the driver was made to watch a video so that he could mentally “relive” the moment. As it turns out, although he didn’t realize it at the time, a crowd that would have ordinarily cheered him on, was actually transfixed on the pile-up waiting just around the corner. He picked up on that cue subconsciously and made the snap decision to hit the brakes. “Humans clearly need both conscious and non-conscious thought processes, but it’s likely neither is intrinsically better than the other,” says Hodgkinson. He plans to look deeper into the phenomenon with a focus on understanding how business executives, managers, etc. claim to “go with their gut” when it comes to making decisions on the fly. Meanwhile, the next time your gut sends you a message, don’t just chalk it up to a “funny feeling.” There just might be a pile-up waiting for you around the next corner.
  6. The Importance of a Healthy Gut

    As you know, your gut is filled with billions of "friendly" bacteria that are essential to healthy digestion. In fact, it‘s estimated that most people have more bacteria in their gut than they have cells in their body. In our modern society, if someone‘s gut flora were to die or get purged as a result of surgery or illnesses like cholera, it‘s pretty simple to repopulate that flora with certain foods, like yogurt, or from the germs you pick up from other people. But flash back a few thousand, or even a few hundred, years ago. Populations were far more sparse and widespread illness was far more common. That‘s where the long-assumed-superfluous appendix came into play. Surgeons and immunologists at Duke University believe the appendix‘s job was to provide a steady supply of healthy bacteria to the gut. Had your appendix removed? No worries. You‘re probably well-populated thanks to other folks sharing their germs with you. And you can get some of what you need from your diet. But if you want to be absolutely certain that your gut has all it needs, whether or not you still have your appendix, a good probiotic well help keep your digestive health running at the top of its game.
  7. Somebody Warn Sally Fields!

    Now in her 60s, Sally Fields still looks pretty darn good. I’m sure the big shots at Roche Laboratories thought so too when they picked her as their spokesperson for Boniva, the latest and greatest osteoporosis wonder drug. But after reading new research about Boniva, it makes me think good old Gidget doesn’t really have a clue about the drug she’s endorsing.
    Somebody Oughta Warn Gidget, because…
    New research shows that popular osteoporosis drugs like Fosamax and Boniva (they belong to a class of drugs called bisphosphonates) may actually weaken bones and slow their ability to heal. Isn’t this exactly what the darn drugs are supposed to prevent? I sure thought so, but doctors from New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center uncovered something quite different when they analyzed the cases of 70 women admitted to the hospital for thigh bone fractures. The doctors looked closely at their fracture patient cases. They noted that 20 women suffered serious stress fractures due to very little or even no trauma. This means they suffered a fracture from something as simple as bumping into a table. And guess what? Of these 20 women, 19 of them were taking Fosamax…the very drug that’s supposed to protect them from fractures! On average, these women had been taking Fosamax for almost 7 years. They thought they were safe from this kind of freak fracture. But they weren’t. Instead, the very drug that was supposed to protect them actually contributed to their injury. In addition… While the Cornell report only involved women taking Fosamax, researchers believe all bisphosphonate drugs could eventually cause problems for women. Other bisphosphonate drugs like Boniva are just as risky, they say. It’s just that they haven’t been on the market as long, so the effects haven’t had time to surface. In the Cornell report, researcher Dean G. Lorich didn’t mince words when he stated: “We believe long-term use of these drugs may suppress the ability of bones to heal in some patients. As a consequence, patients with routine stress fractures are unable to properly heal, and minor damage can worsen until a serious fracture occurs.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Fosamax and Boniva were two train wrecks waiting to happen… Most of us think of bones as static structures. But they’re not. They’re actually in constant flux: breaking down calcium, sending it into the blood, absorbing new calcium, and building new bone. But bisphosphonate drugs like Boniva and Fosamax block the activity of osteoclasts, which break down bones in order to transfer calcium into the blood. Drug makers figure if they could block the osteoclasts, the bones would retain more calcium. When a woman starts taking Boniva or Fosamax, the osteoclasts stop working. And, yes, bones never lose their calcium. But they never absorb the new calcium either. In fact, bone turnover completely stops and the whole natural cycle of regeneration grinds to a halt. So, after about seven years on the stuff, you get old, brittle bones. And a women who thinks she’s safe, breaks her thigh bone doing something as simple as bumping into a table. There’s no quickie, one tablet approach for preventing osteoporosis. But there are steps you can take that are non-toxic and won’t cause your bones to break! For anyone serious about preventing osteoporosis, calcium alone won‘t do it (and never did). You also need:
    • Magnesium (food sources include: green leafy vegetables, whole grains, bananas, apricots, meats, beans, and nuts), manganese, boron, silica, and strontium.
    • Vitamin D: It builds your bone density by helping your body absorb calcium. Strive for 30 minutes a day in the sun, without sunscreen, and you’ll get up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D!
    • Digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride: These will help improve absorption of vital nutrients.
    • Avoid caffeine & alcohol: These rob your body of nutrients.
    • Exercise: Low estrogen combined with low exercise is an osteoporotic situation waiting to happen. Weight bearing exercises are best, three times a week. Bones are meant to bear weight. That’s why astronauts who spend a lot of time in zero gravity conditions actually lose bone mass.
    If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis, try the hormonal approach. I treated my own mother with natural progesterone when she was diagnosed as ‘severely osteoporotic.’ You apply progesterone (also known as bioidentical progesterone) directly to the skin. My mother responded quickly to this treatment. With each bone density reading over a three year period, she just kept improving. The docs said the first scan must have been wrong because they never see this kind of improvement. The natural progesterone solution comes from the late John R. Lee, M.D.. He pioneered this effective non-drug treatment to osteoporosis. Here’s his web site to learn more: http://www.johnleemd.com/ If all else fails, check your testosterone. Yes, women need it too! For some women, blood testing can show low serum levels of testosterone (you can order a saliva test from John Lee’s web site). This could be the root cause of your osteoporosis. If you find you’re low in testosterone, look for bioidentical testosterone treatments. I think you’ll see improvements. As always, the body has all the tools it needs to heal itself. So be wary of any drug like Fosamax or Boniva that messes with your body’s natural healing process.
  8. The More Melamine the Merrier!

    In my Guide to Good Health on 12-4-08 I warned about the looming melamine crisis hitting the U.S. infant formula market. Here’s a quick follow-up: The World Health Organization has come to the rescue and set a new ‘safe’ standard level of melamine in foods. It’s considered safe at a level of .2 mg per kilogram of body weight. This means a 150-pound person can safely eat 13.6 mg of melamine a day without harm. That’s a ton of melamine. Just as a point of reference, the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B6 is just 1.1 mg per day! Imagine taking almost 13 times that in melamine a day…and that’s considered safe?

    Any guesses who’s doing cartwheels over this news?

    China, of course, where this whole mess started. Back in September, more than 50,000 babies got sick and four died from melamine poisoning. According to the newspaper China Daily, “The country‘s existing limits for melamine in baby milk food and other dairy products need not be changed going by the latest World Health Organization (WHO) guideline.” Whew. Thank goodness the WHO came to China’s rescue. Otherwise, who knows just how many cans of perfectly-safe melamine-tainted baby formula would have gone to waste. Just think about it.
  9. Tart and tangy virus killers!

    The cure to the common cold has eluded us for centuries, in part, because science has yet to find a substance, outside the human body, that does a proper job of destroying a virus. And since most strains of the common cold are viral, our bodies are tasked with the job of taking care of the job on its own. While we can only offer it soup, rest and something to quell the symptoms. But where science has failed, nature may have a solution. Researchers from St. Francis College, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and New York University found that plain old cranberry juice successfully wiped out three different viral strains. As you may already know, people have been using cranberry juice to promote urinary health for some time now. And with good reason. It packs a potent dose of vitamin C, a known immune system booster. Plus it‘s been shown to help prevent bacteria from adhering to the inner wall of the bladder. In fact, in 2004, France became the first country to approve a health claim for the cranberry. It states that cranberries can, "help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls." But getting back to the viral side of things. In studies, typical grocery store cranberry juice successfully protected against three different viruses using concentrations of as little as 20 percent (more dilute solutions were not as effective). Were any of these virus strains the culprit behind the common cold? Well, no. And since the viruses were exposed directly to the cranberry juice, animal studies will need to be conducted in order to see its "real life" effectiveness. But with cold season right around the corner...it might not be a bad idea to stock up on some cranberry.
  10. Beware of mammograms

    Back during my pathology residency, we examined cancerous breast tissue under the microscope. It was quite shocking to see, but many times I found a track of cancer cells extending out from the main tumor in a straight line. I came to find out this track of cancer cells was actually from a previous needle biopsy!

    Most surgeons would deny it ever happens, but…

    Biopsies can actually disturb a tumor on a molecular level, pulling cancer cells into healthy breast tissue. I always felt a mammogram could do the same thing. A mammogram creates such intense pressure to the breast tissue (not to mention the radiation showered on the breast), it’s possible that cancer cells could become dislodged. Well, a new study published in the Journal of American Medicine seems to raise the possibility that my mammogram theory is correct. Researchers in Norway studied more than 119,472 women (age 50 to 64) between 1996 and 2001 as part of a national breast screening program. These women were given a mammogram three times over a six year period. Another control group of women (109,784 of the same age range) were followed over another six year period. These women did not receive bi-annual mammograms. Instead, they received a single screening mammogram at the end of the six year period. Here’s where things got interesting. Believe it or not…

    Cancer rates were 22 percent higher among the women given regular mammograms!

    In fact, at every age, the group of women who received regular mammograms had a greater chance of having breast cancer. Did the mammogram itself actually increase the rate of breast cancer? Based on my experience in pathology, I believe this is a strong possibility. The other possibility here—and one promoted by the Norwegian team—is that some of the cancers detected by mammography would have spontaneously disappeared if they had not been discovered and treated. According to the authors of the report, this study raises the possibility that the natural course of some screen-detected invasive breast cancers is to spontaneously regress.’

    Spontaneously regress! How’s that for a proof positive the human body can and does naturally heal itself?

    The report went on to say, ‘Although many clinicians may be skeptical of the idea, the excess incidence associated with repeated mammography demands that spontaneous regression be considered carefully.’ That’s my favorite part of the report. The authors knew this data would be so shocking to regular old MDs…they even included it the report. Unfortunately, these skeptics are the ones who write orders everyday for their patients to get another mammogram. (Even though some data suggests every mammogram raises a woman’s breast cancer risk by 1%. Over a lifetime, annual mammograms could raise a woman’s risk by 30-40%!) On the bright side... I see it as a good sign that the study got published in JAMA. Maybe gynecologists over here will actually pay attention to the problems with mammograms. Maybe they’ll start believing again in the human body’s ability to heal itself. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think women shouldn’t get screened for breast cancer. There’s no doubt early detection boosts a woman’s survival rate.

    But there’s a much better, safer, and more accurate alternative out there.

    It’s called breast thermography. It’s a noninvasive test that uses infrared light to detect excess estrogen in the breast, the single greatest factor in the development of breast cancer (especially in young women under 50). If a woman‘s thermogram suggests a progesterone deficiency (estrogen dominance), she can look for ways to balance her hormones and prevent cancer from developing. In fact, because these tests measure hormone levels, they can actually help a woman stop cancer from ever developing. According to some data I’ve seen, thermograms warn a women of potential cancer up to 10 years before the typical mammogram, which can only identify actual cancer tumors that have reached a certain size.

    In my opinion, this is a much more valuable tool for women in preventing the disease before it takes hold.

    Additionally, according to some data I’ve seen, thermograms are 90% effective in identifying breast cancer cells. (Mammograms claim to be 80% effective in women over 50. But it drops to 60% in women under 50.)

    The problem is…there aren’t a lot of places in the U.S. that offer thermograms.

    Why’s that, you ask? Well, thermograms are cheap. And mammography is a billion dollar industry. Plus, what would we do with all the very expensive mammography equipment (not to mention all the highly trained techs)? And what about all the unnecessary biopsies that keep surgeons in business? In any case, make sure next time you or a loved one sees their gynecologist, you ask about thermography as an alternative for the run-of-the-mill mammogram. You may have to travel a bit to find a qualified doc who offers thermography. Here’s a link to find one in your area: http://www.breastthermography.com/find-a-center.htm If there’s not one in your area, make sure to put the pressure on your gynecologist to check it out.
  11. Preventing Breast Cancer with More Sleep

    A new Japanese study of 24,000 women found that lack of sleep can significantly increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Conversely, women who get the most z’s at night seem to actually lower their risk of breast cancer. This exciting study analyzed the sleeping habits of Japanese women over an 8-year period from 1995 to 2003.

    So—how much sleep does a woman need?

    Well, if you’re only getting 6 hours a night, that’s not enough. According to the data, women who slept 6 hours or less each night had a 62 percent increased risk of developing breast cancer. On the other hand, women who slept 9 or more hours (up to 12 hours) per night lowered their risk of getting breast cancer by a whopping 28%! That’s right. A woman seems to be able to cut her risk of breast cancer by more than a ¼ simply by getting more sleep! Isn’t that a small wonder? Well, it’s really no surprise to me, as during sleep your body gets the rest it needs to heal itself. In any case, go ahead and hit that snooze button as much as you like. It’s good for your health!
  12. Relax your way to better cholesterol levels

    You‘ve no-doubt heard the term, "stress is a killer." The reality is that stress, in and of itself, isn‘t the killer. But long-term exposure to stress and anxiety raises hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to potentially harmful levels. Elevated levels of these hormones, over time, can wreak havoc on your body. Causing weight gain, poor sleep, adrenal fatigue, among other less-than-desirable side-effects. So, learning to effectively manage stress and anxiety are key to keeping these hormones within normal ranges. And new research shows there are even more benefits to staying calm, cool and collected. A recent study looked at 700 men with an average age of 65. They were surveyed to gauge how well they managed stress and anxiety. They were then given blood tests to measure their cholesterol levels. As you know, lipid profiles are divided into three main categories: high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or good cholesterol), low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (which are considered very low-density lipoproteins, VLDL or really bad cholesterol). It is believed that HDLs act as dense little bullets, helping to keep arteries clear of LDLs and VLDLs. And, as such, it‘s considered important to keep your HDL levels as high as possible while keeping your LDLs and VLDLs as low as possible. When researchers analyzed the results of the study, they found that those who had the best coping skills, tended to have the highest HDL levels. While those who showed the poorest ability to manage stress, had the lowest HDL levels. Much to their surprise, however, stress seemed to have no effect on LDL or VLDL levels. Given the comparatively small sample, more research will need to be done with respect to age, gender and ethnic differences.
  13. Acids in your drinks

    The acids in the beverages you drink are actually worse for your teeth than the sugar. And while most would assume that soda tops the list of tooth-rotting drinks -- there‘s that rumor about leaving a tooth in a glass of Coke overnight -- sport drinks are actually far worse. Sodas typically contain phosphoric and citric acids, which can damage the enamel on your teeth. But sport drinks have anywhere from three to 11 times the amount of acid found in soda. Other highly acidic drinks include orange juice (any citrus juices really), tea, coffee, wine and anything with a lot of added sugar. However, contrary to what would seem logical, you don‘t want to brush your teeth right after drinking an acidic beverage. Because the acids break down the enamel, brushing right after can actually do more harm than good. Instead, wait 20-30 minutes before brushing. It‘s a good idea, however, to drink a glass of water or chew some sugarless gum after drinking anything acidic. Water helps wash away the acids, while the gum helps activate saliva which not only helps neutralize the acids, but it helps regenerate the natural enamel on your teeth.
  14. Ban the hairspray when you are expecting

    We’ve talked quite a bit about the health risks associated with certain personal care products on the market. Now a new study makes it shockingly clear just how serious these problems can be. European researchers have linked a pregnant woman’s exposure to hairspray during her first trimester with a two to three-fold increase in having a son with hypospadias (one of the most common birth defects of the male genitalia, where the urinary opening is displaced to the underside of the penis). The study suggests that particularly stringent chemicals called phthalates contained in hairspray may throw a woman’s hormonal system out of wack and even affect reproductive development. So if you’re pregnant, avoid the hairspray. And to further protect your child, increase your intake of folic acid. Folic acid should not only protect any unborn child from spina bifida, it should also protect against hypospadias as well. In fact, taking folic acid during the first three months of pregnancy can reduce the risk of having a son with this condition by 36 percent. Just another reminder to keep your personal care products pure and simple, especially if you are pregnant or may become pregnant.
  15. Don't hire an electrician to fix a toilet

    According to a new study published in the respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), 500 milligrams a day of vitamin C does not prevent heart disease. My reaction to the study: why did they hire an electrician to fix a toilet? This study was doomed to fail before it even began. In fact, I believe it was designed to fail. You see, most large, corporate funded medical research today (research that gets published in places like JAMA) doesn’t start with a hypothesis. It’s not like high school chemistry 101, where you form an ‘educated guess’ as to the outcome of your experiment and then conduct the experiment to see if your hypothesis was correct. On the contrary, today’s medical research usually begins with an outcome. Then researchers develop a study to support that conclusion. So, say a research scientist wants to disprove the fact that vitamins can support heart health. What do you do? Do you test any one of the top 5 nutrients known to help the heart? Of course not.

    Instead, you choose vitamin C. It’s a super vitamin for sure. But does it help the heart?

    Not so much. You see, it’s like hiring an electrician to do the work of a plumber. The electrician is a highly skilled worker, but he’s not equipped to fix toilets. Vitamin C is a very important nutrient. It supercharges your immune system, it fights free radicals, and it’s critical to preventing diseases like cancer. But it’s not meant to fight heart disease. It doesn’t even rank in the top-five known nutrients to help prevent heart disease. Now, guess what else these researchers had up their sleeves?

    Not only did they hire the electrician to fix the toilet. They didn’t even give him the right tools for the job.

    What do I mean by that? Well, participants in the study were prescribed 500 mg of vitamin C a day. In my opinion, this isn’t even enough vitamin C to fight off a cold, much less prevent heart disease. By prescribing such a ridiculously low dosage, they basically insured the vitamin’s defeat. You see, when you have tons of money at your disposal you want to make certain you get the desired result! So you pick the wrong vitamin for the job and you prescribe it at such a dusting of a dosage, it will be sure to fail. As a reminder, I urge even the healthiest of individuals get at the very minimum 2,000 mg (1,000 mg 2x daily) of vitamin C.

    So why did the researchers even pick vitamin C in the first place?

    The only thing I can figure is that they wanted to steer people away from believing that diet and good nutrition has any affect on heart health. And this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Today, heart disease is the #1 killer in the United States. By far, it accounts for more deaths than cancer, accidents, and homicides combined. So, would it surprise you to learn that 100 years ago heart disease barely existed? In fact, the first mention of a heart attack appeared in JAMA in 1908. Before that, doctors didn’t even write about it. Heart disease just wasn’t a common problem. So what has changed between then and now? The answer, of course, is our diet. We’ve got to clean it up by cutting out the refined carbs and sugar. Add more fruits and vegetables. Keep eating the lean meats (organic, of course) and fish. And if heart disease is a concern, here’s a successful primer for what you should be taking daily to help prevent problems:
    • L-Carnitine: 1,000 mg
    • Coenzyme Q10: 100 mg
    • Magnesium: 500 to 800 mg
    • Vitamin E: 400 to 800 IU (as mixed tocopherols)
    For more aggressive treatment, try adding the amino acid taurine to your regimen. It can be as effective as coenzyme Q10 for cardiac output, congestive heart failure, edema (swelling), and palpitations. Three grams per day may be necessary. It’s best taken between meals for optimal absorption. I’ll continue to write about real ways to combat heart disease, including my recommendations for readers at the highest risk for heart attack. Until then, keep taking your vitamin C and choose wisely when creating a regimen to prevent heart disease.
  16. 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.
  17. Preventing Alzheimers Disease with B3

    Alzheimer’s disease is becoming a modern day epidemic. Today, it affects roughly 26 million people worldwide. But by the year 2050, this number is expected to quadruple! What has changed in the human experience over the last hundred years to make a ‘new’ disease like Alzheimer’s spiral out of control? Is it faulty genes? Is it evolution? Is it bad Karma? There’s no simple answer, but drug makers have certainly tried their best to create a miracle drug that will cure this baffling disease. Unfortunately, the three major drugs on the market today don’t offer much hope to families with loved ones suffering through ‘the long goodbye.’ Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for some miracle drug that will probably never appear. I’m convinced, now more than ever, that…

    Alzheimer’s disease is directly related to our modern diet.

    While some genetic predisposition cannot be ignored, there are things you can do to counteract the effects of the modern diet and prevent this epidemic from ever crossing your doorstep. Here are a few proactive steps you can take right now to protect yourself:

    STEP #1: CUT OUT THE ALUMINUM

    In several studies since the 1980s, scientists have found a link between aluminum and Alzheimer’s disease. It seems that aluminum builds up in our system over time and can contribute to the formation of plagues and tangles in the brain, two of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. In my opinion, you should avoid any kind of product containing aluminum. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Aluminum is found in cooking utensils, antiperspirants, snack bags, baking powder, buffered aspirin, antacids, toothpaste, tap water, and—of course—soda cans. If a senior is already showing signs of Alzheimer’s, I would recommend getting a hair test. If the results come back high in aluminum, one detox remedy worth trying is homeopathic Ipecac. Take it at 6x the normal strength. For the rest of us, stay away from aluminum personal care and consumable products. Avoid using antiperspirants. Check the ingredients in your toothpaste. And ban the soda cans from your house!

    STEP #2: TAKE YOUR VITAMINS, ESPECIALLY VITAMIN B

    Besides following a super-smart diet (rich in fruits and vegetables; low in refined sugar and flour; no processed foods or additives; organic meats only), adequate vitamin intake can give you added protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Start by choosing a high quality multivitamin. You also may want to consider adding a vitamin B complex to your regimen. In most cases, 25 mg of vitamin B is enough. (The B complex includes 8 different water-soluble vitamins that must get replenished daily.) But if you’re really concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests it may be essential to up your intake of B3.

    Common vitamin B3 prevents memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s

    B3 is a powerful vitamin. In my experience, I’ve seen great success in treating arthritis with B3. Plus, a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that vitamin B3 supplements boosted the cognitive function of mice with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine added nicotinamide (a form of vitamin B3) to the drinking water given to mice with Alzheimer‘s disease. They discovered that B3 lowered levels of a harmful protein that leads to the development of tangles, one of two brain lesions associated with Alzheimer‘s disease. The vitamin also helped to keep neurons alive that carry information to the brain. In Alzheimer’s patients, these neurons typically die and the patient experiences cognitive decline. Scientists tested the rodents’ short-term and long-term memory over time using mazes and object-recognition tasks. Following the B3 treatments, the Alzheimer‘s mice performed as well as normal mice on these tests. Untreated Alzheimer‘s mice experienced memory loss.

    Interestingly (though not surprisingly to us nutritionists), normal mice not afflicted with Alzheimer’s got a mental boost from the B3.

    According to Professor Frank LaFerla, a scientist for the study: "…Not only is it good for Alzheimer‘s disease, but if normal people take it, some aspects of their memory might improve." Dr. LaFerla is right on target. But, once again—like most lab scientists—he’s a little late coming to the party. Nutritionists have been talking about the B3-memory link for literally decades. Pioneering nutritionists Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., talked about vitamin B’s role in preventing Alzheimer’s in the 1950s! Imagine if we as a culture had started taking his advice back then! If you are going to add B3 to your regimen—and you should—be sure to consult first with your doctor for proper dosages. Too much of certain forms of B-3 can cause nausea and vomiting in sensitive individuals.

    STEP 3: DRINK MORE WATER

    In addition to upping B3, Dr. Hoffer taught us that drinking more water is a vital step in fighting Alzheimer’s disease. It will help your body naturally flush away any unwanted aluminum and other toxins. But all water isn’t created equal. Always strive to drink filtered water only. If you install a water purifier to filter your drinking water, make sure it’s the highest quality possible. The best filters should remove nearly all the aluminum and fluoride. If you must drink bottled water, look for natural spring water with the most milligrams (mg) of magnesium in it. This will indicate the water comes from a deep source in the ground. I obviously don’t work for a water company, but I’ve found that Evian™ Spring Water is the purest. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most expensive. Drinking plenty of water is sure to help flush toxins from any senior’s system, but it’s probably not enough. That leads me to STEP 4.

    STEP 4: DETOXIFY WITH VITAMIN C

    One simple way to start cleansing your system is to take more vitamin C. We all need more of it, and this is a gentle solution for seniors at risk for Alzheimer’s. Immediately start taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C (in capsule form) at least two times a day. This will help your body flush out toxins and repair any cell damage that’s already occurred.

    So why isn’t vitamin B, water, and a healthy diet prescribed for people with or at risk for Alzheimer’s?

    One clear reason is the lack of knowledge. Most folks I talk to don’t really know the facts about how to prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s with good nutrition. Instead, they’re duped into buying the garbage that Big Pharma puts out there. If it’s on TV or in a magazine with a big glossy ad and the FDA approves the drug, it’s got to work, right? Wrong. The top three Alzheimer’s drugs on the market haven’t been proven to slow the progression of this disease one iota. Not one iota! In fact, one independent study in the UK showed that patients taking the drug Aricept had virtually the same timeline for decline as patients taking a placebo (43% taking Aricept ended up in an institution after 3 years, versus 44% taking the placebo). I still scratch my head as to why doctors continue to prescribe those drugs. The better option is to prevent the disease altogether and take your health into your own hands. As a final note, there’s a new human clinical trial underway studying the effect of B3 for Alzheimer’s patients at UC Irvine. If you or a family member is interested in learning more, call Beatriz Yanez at 949-824-5733 or visit http://www.uci.edu/uci/features/feature_nicotinamide_081104.php.
  18. L-carnitine: The Case for Red Meat

    You may assume because I’m known as the ‘nutrition physician’ that I’m against red meat. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. Red meat (lean, organic, and antibiotic-free) can actually benefit your health. Here’s why… Red meat contains the highest concentrations of a vital nutrient called L-carnitine. It’s got about 94 mg of L-carnitine in every serving. By comparison, secondary sources like cheese and milk only contain about 3 mg per serving.

    Why is L-carnitine important?

    The amount of L-carnitine in your body is directly related to your energy level. It’s a key player in helping your body turn fat into energy. According to the late Dr. Brian Liebovitz, a good friend and L-carnitine pioneer, L-carnitine is literally the ‘energy nutrient.’ Most people have the ability to produce their own carnitine. (That’s why it’s not technically called a vitamin.) But—in order to produce it, your body has to have adequate levels of 6 other nutrients: lysine, methionine, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and iron. If you’re lacking in any one of those areas, guess what? You’re probably not producing enough L-carnitine either.

    What happens without enough L-carnitine?

    Without this vital nutrient, you can feel lethargic and even gain weight. (Many vegetarians unknowingly are L-carnitine deficient.) You’re also at greater risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, liver disorders, and kidney diseases. Chances are, your immune system’s compromised as well. The good news is…

    A new study out last week proves that L-carnitine can help prevent and even reverse the slowing of your metabolism due to the aging process.

    As we get older, we are all prone to a sluggish metabolism. But what scientists in France have shown is that by getting adequate levels of L-carnitine, this process can be halted, or even reversed! Imagine yourself at age 65 having the metabolism of a 35-year-old. It’s possible! And here’s proof… Scientists at the University of Dijon studied the muscles of young and old rats. Older rats had 34% lower L-carnitine levels than the younger rats. So—they fed the elderly rats a diet supplemented with L-carnitine (30 mg) for 12 weeks. This lead to a 55% improvement in the oxidative capacity in the muscles of the older rats. (This is a key indicator in how well an animal’s metabolism is working.) Plus, while no dietary changes were made, the rats experienced a decrease in abdominal fat. In other words, because their muscles were working harder (55% harder), the rats turned the fat into energy instead of keeping it in the form of belly fat. (As a side note: oxidative muscle capacity also directly relates to how well your body responds to insulin. So diabetics may want to look closely at keeping up adequate L-carnitine levels.)

    Well, that’s great news, but what can L-carnitine do for humans?

    The truth is, L-carnitine is critically important to humans, especially as we get older. One study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effect of L-carnitine on 66 subjects over 100 years of age. During this study, the patients were either given a placebo or a daily dose of L-carnitine for six months. Compared to the placebo group, the L-carnitine group experienced across the board improvements, including:
    • Greater reductions in fat mass
    • Increased total muscle mass
    • Reduced fatigue (as measured after a 6 minute walking test)
    • Improved cognitive performance
    • Less mental fatigue

    Now—I’m not saying to start eating hamburgers every night of the week.

    Instead, I recommend trying to get 2-3 servings a week of lean, organic, antibiotic-free meat. Even the chain grocery stores have started carrying this type of high quality red meat. Laura’s organic beef is one brand I found at my grocery store. On the other hand, if you feel better without red meat in your diet, you can always supplement L-carnitine. (As another side note: your body doesn’t need acetyl-l-carnitine. That’s a patented, for-profit supplement you can do without!) Men usually require more L-carnitine than women, due to their larger body mass. I usually recommend 500-1000 mg for women and 1000-2000 mg for men.

    Science catches up to good nutrition

    As I mentioned earlier, my friend Dr. Liebovitz was the pioneer advocate of L-carnitine… he was just about the only PhD I knew writing about it 15 years ago. And it’s great to see that the laboratory scientists are actually starting to catch on. It is often the case that so-called laboratory science is behind the curve in ‘proving’ concepts that we nutritionists have been preaching for years! So the next time you’re out, don’t second guess picking up a nice lean cut of meat (organic and steroid-free, of course!). And tell your neighbors, your nutritionist said it’s good for you!
  19. Vitamin C Helps Prevent Bone Loss in Men

    We all know that vitamin C is perhaps the world’s greatest multi-tasker. It defends us against a slew of proven enemies: from the common cold, to cancer (intravenously), to heart disease. Now there’s new evidence that vitamin C can even help prevent loss of bone mass in men. Over a four-year period, researchers at Tufts University studied the bone density of men and women 75 years and older who take anywhere from no vitamin C to 520 milligrams daily. They found that men with the highest levels of vitamin C maintained their bone density. While men with lowest levels of vitamin C experienced bone density loss. (Interestingly, high vitamin C intake seemed to provide some protection for women, but it wasn’t ‘statistically significant.’ Maybe more research here is needed.)

    The RDA of vitamin C is laughable (and surely negligent) at 90 mg per day for men and 75 mg for women.

    In my opinion, everyone over the age of 10 should get at least 1,000 mg of vitamin C twice a day. Natural sources include: citrus fruits, broccoli - red peppers, brussel sprouts, parsley, and strawberries. Very few ‘multi’ vitamins contain enough of it, however. Your best bet is to find 1,000 mg capsules and take one twice a day at a minimum. Don’t take them all at once. And stay away from any so-called ‘time release’ capsules. Vitamin C only stays in your system for a few hours, so ‘time release’ is really a waste. (There are some rare exceptions, so check with your health provider to make sure this is a safe quantity for you.)
  20. Watch out for the Wolf in Sheeps Clothing

    As you well know, I believe in good nutrition and preventing disease. Nevertheless, I’m always on the lookout for good, hard-hitting developments in the world of mainstream medicine. So—with that in mind—I signed up to receive WebMD’s e-mails written especially for doctors. Last week, WebMD sent me an e-mail proclaiming: ‘Breast Cancer: The leading cause of cancer death in US women aged 40-59 years.’ And then under this headline, it read ‘Learn more about risk factors that influence the development of breast cancer, and effective assessment tools for breast cancer screening.’ Mind you, this is an e-mail sent only to doctors. So—what groundbreaking tool had WebMD (one of the most trusted companies on the web) uncovered for us docs?

    I clicked on the link, but guess what I found?

    A big, slick advertisement for the drug Evista by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. Talk about a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing!

    The e-mail looked like an urgent editorial update sent by WebMD. But it was nothing more than an ad for a drug that’s been around since 1997! Not only was this new ‘tool’ not groundbreaking, it’s also in my opinion one of the most dangerous drugs out there.

    Evista’s just about as bad as it gets.

    In a comprehensive study published originally in the New England Journal of Medicine, Evista was shown to help prevent breast cancer. But it also increases your risk of suffering a potentially fatal stroke by 49%!

    The drug’s packaging even contains a ‘black box’ warning of fatal strokes.

    So why would anyone take a drug that helps prevent breast cancer, but could cause a fatal stroke? It’s like throwing out the baby with the bath water!

    Yet 10 years later, Evista is still on the market and getting marketed to doctors as a new ‘tool’ in the fight against breast cancer.

    But it doesn’t end there…

    Here’s another wrinkle in the story of WebMD.

    I was curious if I could find any new evidence against Evista. So—I ran a quick Google search of ‘Evista Risks.’ The first article that popped up was titled ‘Evista Can Raise Stroke, Blood Clot Risk.’

    The article basically summarizes what we‘ve known from the beginning about this drug. Yes, it cuts your risk of developing breast cancer, but significantly inreases your risk of dying from a stroke. It also ups your chances of getting a potentially dangerous blood clot.

    And guess who wrote the article?

    Salynn Boyle for WebMD.

    Okay…so WebMD will tell you the truth if you look hard enough. But—how am I as a doctor (or you as a concerned reader!) ever to trust WebMD again? Do they just drop everything they know about a drug when their corporate sponsor offers up the big bucks?

    The good news is, there are alternatives to Evista if you’re really serious about preventing breast cancer. Start with good nutrition. A great book to get you going is: Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide by the Burton Goldberg Group. It’s a terrific resource.

    In the end, my advice is to stay clear of Evista. Always do your homework before taking any new drugs. And be careful who you trust concerning your health.