NorthStar Nutritionals Blog

Join the conversation and stay up to date on all your natural health news. Plus, discover solutions to everything from arthritis to blood sugar.

  1. Another missing piece to Parkinsons puzzle

    A few months ago, I told you about two new studies linking Parkinson's disease with a common vitamin deficiency. In both studies, men and women with low levels of B6 in their blood turned out to be about 50 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's disease.

    Well, this month, scientists from Finland found another missing piece to the puzzle. Turns out that vitamin D also plays a huge role in whether or not you develop Parkinson's disease.

    In this major study that spanned 30 years, scientists followed 3,173 Finnish men and women. During that time, 50 patients developed Parkinson's. And lack of vitamin D stood out as a major factor. In fact, men and women with the lowest levels were three times more likely to get sick compared to the group with the highest levels of vitamin D.

    Put another way, men and women who got with plenty of the "sunshine vitamin" over the 30-year-period reduced their risk of developing Parkinson's by an impressive 67 percent.

    Scientists believe that vitamin D is particularly important to the substantia nigra, an area of the brain most affected by Parkinson's disease. This area also contains a high concentration of vitamin D receptors.

    So while there's still no cure for Parkinson's disease, we've now got three major studies showing the important role nutrition plays. The bottom line? Make sure to take a B-complex and D3 supplement every day! Not only will you chop away at your Parkinson's risk, you'll also boost your overall health!

  2. Combat cardiovascular risk with four-antioxidant combo

    We just learned that vitamin E plays a major role in preventing Alzheimer's disease. But vitamin E is hardly a one-trick pony. In fact, another study out this week shows that vitamin E, along with three other antioxidants, can help combat cardiovascular disease.

    For this study, Israeli scientists recruited 70 patients who had at least two of the following risk factors:

        • high blood pressure
        • diabetes

    low HDL cholesterol (or "good" cholesterol)

      • smoked cigarettes

    Scientists divided participants into two random groups. The first group received 1000 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 200 mcg of selenium, and 120 mg of coenzyme Q10 each day. The second group received a placebo. The participants continued this regimen for six months.

    After six months, researchers found that the antioxidant group experienced some major changes in their overall health.

    First off, the patients' HDL -- or "good" -- cholesterol increased. They also lowered their blood pressure. And their blood sugar levels came down as well. And best of all, the researchers noted an improvement in overall arterial elasticity in the antioxidant patients. And that's a biggie, because stiff arteries lead to heart attacks and strokes.

    On the other hand, the group receiving just the placebo for six months didn't experience any of these improvements. Their numbers all stayed the same. What's the take home message here, folks? There's always plenty you can do to improve your overall health...even if you've already been diagnosed with hypertension or diabetes.

    Now, of course, I would make a few tweaks to the Israeli regimen. First off, instead of taking 1,000 mg of vitamin C once a day, take that amount twice a day. (That's my minimum recommended level for healthy adults.)

    In addition, you can take 400 IU of vitamin E twice a day as well. I would also make sure to add magnesium to the mix for anyone with a heart condition or diabetes. Go for 500 to 800 mg of it per day. Magnesium helps to relax your blood vessels and normalize your blood pressure. And lastly, I would also add 1,000 mg of l-carnitine. This nutrient helps you turn fat into energy.

  3. Common sweetener spikes hypertension risk by 77 percent

    Doctors always tell you to cut back on your salt intake if you've got high blood pressure. But there's something far more dangerous: a common sweetener found in most snack foods. In fact, U.S. researchers found that consuming even modest amounts of this potent sweetener could increase your risk of high blood pressure by as much as 77 percent. How can something so sweet be so bad? On average, American men and women consume 22 teaspoons (or 90 grams) of sugar each day. And that's too much...about 22 teaspoons too much. You see, aside from the obvious concerns about diabetes, sugar also messes with your heart function. In fact, it robs your body of magnesium. And without enough magnesium, your blood vessels constrict. So your heart has to pump harder to get the same volume of blood through narrower blood vessels, which results in high blood pressure. HFCS--The worst of the bunch High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the worst culprit when it comes to sweeteners. It's a super-sweet, super-potent, and super-addictive form of sugar. (Take it from me, a former sugar addict.) Manufacturers use HFCS to sweeten just about every packaged food product on grocery store shelves these days. You'll find it in bread, crackers, cereal, cookies, yogurt, ketchup, and even tomato soup! Of course, it's also used to sweeten soda and fruit juice. It's become increasingly prevalent since the 1980s for three reasons. First off, it's cheaper than sugar. Secondly, it extends a product's shelf life. And, lastly, did I mention that it's addicting? No wonder we keep buying it! Not surprisingly, it also seems to fast-track your weight gain. A recent study by Princeton scientists found that mice given a diet high in HFCS gained more weight than mice given the equivalent amount of sugar. Plus, there's the small problem of high blood pressure... U.S. scientists uncover hypertension-sweetener link Scientists from the University of Colorado examined nutritional data for 4,500 adults with no history of hypertension. They found that men and women who consumed 74 grams of HFCS each day (that's less than the average daily intake in the U.S.), significantly increased their risk of high blood pressure. In fact, eating just 74 grams of high-fructose corn syrup each day resulted in a:
    • 26 percent increased risk of prehypertension (135/85 mmHg)
    • 30 percent increased risk of Stage 1 hypertension (140/90 mmHg)
    • 77 percent increased risk of Stage 2 hypertension (160/100 mmHg)
    To put it in simpler terms, this means that drinking two and a half cans of soda a day will almost guarantee that one day you'll develop seriously high blood pressure. And that day may be a lot closer than you think. According to major study from last year, men who consumed a diet high in fructose experienced a spike in blood pressure after just TWO weeks! Yes, after just 14 days of eating foods filled with sugar, many of the men had serious blood pressure issues. Yet, when the men eliminated the fructose from their diets, their blood pressure returned to normal. What's it all mean for you? Eliminating all sugar from your diet will be difficult. As a former sugar-addict trying hard to stay "on the wagon," I know first-hand. But once you get past the initial cravings, I guarantee you'll start to feel and look better. It usually takes 21 days for the cravings to go away. Plus, now we know, you'll lower your hypertension risk as well. Just remember, manufacturers sneak sugar into just about all packaged food products so you have to be very careful reading labels so you don't miss it. And if you really want to make an impact on your health, you'll need to throw out processed white flour products as well, since your body treats them just like sugar. In terms of sweeteners, stay away from anything artificial, such as aspartame, sucralose, or saccharin. I could devote a whole article warning you against these products and that still wouldn't cover it all. Aspartame is by far the worst offender. It turns toxic in the body and can cause serious illnesses. The only sweetener I use on occasion is stevia. Derived from the stevia leaf, it's all natural and 300 times sweeter than sugar. So you only need a drop or two in your coffee. And best of all, unlike sugar, stevia has been shown to lower blood pressure in a recent clinical study!
  4. Prevent breast cancer by eating a nice summer salad?

    Can eating a nice salad every night with dinner prevent you from ever developing breast cancer?

    You bet it can.

    You just have to make sure to sprinkle it with olive oil. Yes, I know olive oil is full of fat. And many women over a certain age would no sooner use olive oil than dye their hair blue. But here's the difference: Olive oil contains mono-unsaturated fats that are healthy -- even vital -- for you. And if you're a woman, it may even protect you against breast cancer.

    Truthfully, the fact that olive oil is good for you is nothing new. But here's what IS new: Now we know why. Recently, Spanish researchers uncovered the mechanism in olive oil that makes it so good for us: It blocks the activity of p21Ras.

    What's p21Ras?

    It's a gene that stimulates the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. So by "turning off" this gene, you block the cancer cells from ever taking hold. And olive oil does just that.

    Plus, researchers also discovered that olive oil protects the DNA in the cell nucleus. And this is really where cancer begins. It occurs when one tiny cell nucleus gets damaged. And then, instead of dying, this damaged cell multiplies. But olive oil protects the nucleus of your cells from ever mutating.

    So make sure you get a little olive oil every day. Your cells will thank you.

  5. All salmon are not created equal

    I can't be any more clear: Farm-raised salmon is bad for you. It's full of mercury, PCBs, dioxin, and other really bad stuff. But I recently read about "genetically-altered" salmon in the New York Times that makes farm-raised salmon look about as dangerous as a poof chair.

    All kidding aside, there's much to worry about here, folks. The FDA is very close to approving the sale of this super-salmon that grows two times faster than normal salmon.

    Apparently, regular old non-genetically-altered salmon don't grow fast enough. They only produce growth hormones in warm weather. So during the winter, they stop growing. But entrepreneur Ronald L. Stotish and his AquaBounty have found a way to fix that.

    They can now "turn on" a salmon's growth switch, forcing it to grow all year long. As a result, the fish are ready for market in just 18 months instead of three years.

    According to the article, if the FDA approves this super-salmon, the genetically- altered fish could hit your grocery store in just three short years. Let's pray the FDA has a sliver of common sense and blocks the sale. Though, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    If I were you, I'd stick with the wild-caught salmon. You can now find it in lots of grocery stores. Plus, for a little background reading, you may want to check out the Environmental Working Group's web site. It has an excellent report on farm-raised versus wild-caught salmon, so you can understand the difference it makes. You'll also learn why it's important to avoid all mercury, PCBs, dioxins, and all the other really bad stuff that's in farm-raised salmon. To learn more go to http://www.ewg.org/reports/farmedpcbs.

  6. Hearing loss risk spikes 34 percent without key vitamin

    Think that age-related hearing loss is more of a nuisance than a health issue? Think that everyone over 60 suffers from some degree of hearing loss? Think it's no big deal when you have to turn up the TV louder and louder to hear your favorite news program? Well, think again. A new study links hearing loss to low vitamin intake. Hearing loss tied to overall health In many cases, age-related hearing loss is linked to an amino acid called homocysteine. In fact, it could mean your homocysteine levels are too high. And that's never a good thing...because too much homocysteine in your blood is also an indicator for heart disease, stroke, and dementia. In addition, excess homocysteine messes with blood flow to your inner ear, increasing the likelihood that you'll have trouble hearing your spouse at a crowded dinner party. But researchers have found a simple but powerful way to block homocysteine from soaring out of control and thereby prevent (or slow) age-related hearing loss. Just take more folic acid. Most folks associate folic acid with fetal development. It's the nutrient that all newly pregnant (or soon-to-be pregnant) women should take to prevent neural tube defects. But it also helps the body break down homocysteine. And that made all the difference to a group of men and women from Sydney, Australia who wanted to keep their hearing intact. Let me explain... Folic acid's good for more than just fetuses Researchers from the University of Sydney examined blood levels of nearly 3,000 men and women over 50. The found that men and women with low folate (the natural form of folic acid in the body) were nearly 35 percent more likely to suffer from age-related hearing loss. Researchers also checked the participants' blood for homocysteine. They found that men and women with high homocysteine were a whopping 65 percent more likely to suffer from hearing loss! But this isn't the first time researchers have tied folic acid to hearing loss. Far from it, in fact. In 2007, scientists from the Netherlands found that taking folic acid may help prevent hearing loss. For this study, scientists divided 728 men and women between the ages 50 and 70 into two groups. Once group took 800 mcg of folic acid every day for three years. The other group took a placebo. Scientists found that both groups suffered some hearing loss after three years. But the group taking folic acid didn't lose as much. In fact, the folic acid group could hear a much greater range of sounds than the group taking the placebo. Plus, just one year ago, a group of U.S. researchers looked at nutritional data for 50,000 men over the age of 60. They found that men with high folate levels cut their risk of developing hearing loss by a solid 20 percent. The do's and don'ts about folic acid As you may remember, folic acid is part of the B vitamin family. You can increase your intake by eating beans, citrus fruits, whole grains, and dark green leafy vegetables like kale. I also recommend taking a quality b-complex supplement. Most of these contain 400 mcg of folic acid. If hearing loss is a concern of yours, you can add another 400 mcg per day on top of that. And remember, all the B-vitamins are water-soluble. So anything your body can't use just gets excretedand there's no concern about getting "too much." Take your folic acid along with 1,000 mcg of B12 to maximize its effectiveness. Lastly, I know there's been a lot of hype lately in the press bashing folic acid's role in preventing heart disease. But here's the thing: The latest JAMA study is truly the exception to the rule. Dozens of studies from the last 10 years alone show folic acid does indeed play a role in preventing stroke and heart attack. Just take a look back at last year's Guide to Good Health about a group of women who took folic acid for just 21 days and significantly lowered their blood pressure and homocysteine levels.
  7. Eczema is more than just a skin problem

    Eczema's a big problem for babies. And most parents worry about applying steroid creams to their child's red, itchy skin. But that's the only option you'll hear about from most pediatricians. And that's a crying shame, because eczema's more than just a skin problem. And to cure it, you need to address it from the inside out. First off, I always suspect food allergies in children (or adults!) with eczema. The most common food allergies are dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, egg, and artificial additives (like coloring and preservatives). Start an elimination diet to uncover the culprit. Plus, Russian researchers recently discovered that children with eczema given daily probiotics dramatically improve their condition in just four weeks. For the study, researchers divided children with eczema into groups. One group received 10 billion units of lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis each day. The other group received a placebo. After just four weeks, the children taking the probiotics improved their eczema by 35 percent. The next step, researchers say, is to find out whether adults respond to similar treatments. I have a hunch that your skin will respond to probiotics, even if you're out of diapers. So if your skin gets dry and irritated this summer, make sure to add a daily probiotic to your regimen that contains billions of units of friendly bacteria. It just may make all the difference!
  8. Blood pressure drugs that cause cancer?

    Alarming new research predicts that one out of every 105 people taking a specific type of blood pressure drug could end up with cancer. But drug reps shrug off the new discovery published in Lancet Oncology. They argue the risk is minimal for anyone taking their drugs. But here's the problem: Millions of men and women take these drugs worldwide. And this easily translates into 10,000 unnecessary cancer patients for every million men and women taking the drug. Now, here's the good news: There is a lot you can do to improve or prevent hypertension without taking a drug that will give you cancer. More on that in a moment, but first consider this... Big Pharma's got big problems Researchers analyzed the medical histories of 60,000 patients with high blood pressure. They found that about 85 percent of the men and women who got cancer took a drug called Micardis. It's a kind of drug called an ARB (or angiotensin- receptor blockers). Men and women who can't tolerate ACE inhibitors generally take ARBs. Diabetics also take ARBs to prevent kidney damage. The drugs -- which have been on the market for about 10 years --block a hormone that increases your blood pressure. However, researchers also found that taking an ARB increases a patient's risk for prostate, breast, and lung cancer. They aren't exactly sure why ARBs cause such a sharp spike in cancer risk, although they have a theory. In lab tests, these drugs encouraged the growth of new blood vessels. In humans, this could allow cancer to grow and spread more rapidly than normal as well. You see, cancer cells need access to blood vessels to survive. If fact, they pull in neighboring blood vessels and devour nutrients that are supposed to get delivered to other places. Technically, it's called angiogenesis. In fact, some of the drugs used to treat cancer, work by shutting off blood supply to tumors. This helps to drain the cancer cells of nutrients and causes them to stop multiplying. Plus, here's another big problem... According to the new research, you only have to take the drug for four years to increase your risk. But most men and women don't take these drugs for short stints. Blood pressure patients usually take them for 10, 15, even 20 years. According to lead author of the study, Dr. Ilke Sipahi, this causes a much greater impact that one would think. "When you look at it from the population level, millions and millions of people are on these drugs and it can cause a lot of excess cancer worldwide." So I want to know, if you take these drugs for longer than four years, does your cancer risk increase even more? Unfortunately, the researchers couldn't determine that...nor could they tell whether your risk normalizes once you stop taking the drug. Clearly, there are a lot of unanswered questions out there for folks taking ARBs. But here's the bottom line: Why would you take a drug that may give you cancer when there are so many other ways to control high blood pressure? Control hypertension naturally I promised you some good news in this whole mess and here it is: There is a lot you can do to prevent (and even control) hypertension without resorting to drugs. First thing I'd do is to get off all the stimulants such as caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. That means no soda, coffee, tea, or chocolate. You'll also want to check your meds for caffeine. Many over-the-counter products contain it. Next, you'll need to get off all sugar. And I mean all of it. That means you'll also need to give up refined starches like white rice, processed cereals, and processed breads. These just turn immediately into sugar in the body. Besides adding unwanted calories, all this sugar plays games with your body's natural processes, including your heart function. Then, I'd like to see you add certain heart-healthy nutrients to your regimen... Start with magnesium. It's probably the most important mineral for hypertension as it relaxes blood vessels. This is important because when blood vessels constrict, the heart has to work harder to push blood through the body. As a result your blood pressure spikes. So start with 400 mg of magnesium twice a day. If your stools become loose, you can back off a bit. I'd also like to see you add in a complete multi-mineral supplement that contains calcium and potassium. In numerous studies, scientists link hypertension to deficiencies in these minerals. Coenzyme Q10 is another great nutrient for the heart. Studies have shown it improves heart function and can lower your blood pressure by 5 to 10 points when you take 100 mg per day. Essential fatty acids can additionally help chip away at high blood pressure. So if you aren't already taking fish oil, now's the time to start. Just make sure to add vitamin E to the mix to help fight off the free radicals. As I told you a few weeks ago, look for a gel capsule that contains 400 IU of 100 percent natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols. And lastly, some brutal honestly: To really chip away at high blood pressure, you've got to maintain a healthy weight and exercise. All the nutrients (or cancer-causing blood pressure drugs) in the world won't make a lick of difference if you don't keep the weight down and break a sweat a few times a week.
  9. New hope for RA patients taking multiple drugs

    Safe, natural, and effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are hard to come by. That's why a recent study caught my eye. Scientists found that one common vitamin might help reduce inflammation and lighten the drug burden for RA patients. And for patients taking two, three, even four meds a day, that's a huge step in the right direction. RA patients on drug overload Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the lining of your joints. Over time, it can cause bone erosion and joint deformity. To avoid this, doctors aggressively treat RA patients with a dangerous cocktail of drugs, that includes:
    • NSAIDs: Drugs like ibuprofen help to relieve acute pain and reduce inflammation. But long-term use is a major problem. Side effects include heart, liver, and kidney problems. Plus, they can put a major strain on your digestive system. In fact, long-term NSAIDs use causes more than 100,000 hospitalizations each year due serious GI problems such as stomach bleeding. The drugs also contribute to 16,500 deaths each year.
    • Steroids: Corticosteroids also help to reduce acute pain and inflammation. But like NSAIDs, you can only use them for short periods. And even then, you run a risk of developing high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, and diabetes. Steroids also depress your immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections.
    • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): This is the main group of drugs used to slow the progress of RA. But we know very little about how your body will react if you actually have to take one for 20 years. In fact, a very common drug called Arava has recently come under fire for contributing to a major health concern. Last month, the FDA announced a "black box" warning to people taking Arava about the risk of severe liver injury. Since coming onto the market in 2002, this drug has caused 14 documented cases of fatal liver injury.
    • TNF-alpha inhibitors: TNF-alpha is a protein that ignites your body's defenses against infection or cancer. But if your body produces too much of it, your immune system kicks into overdrive and attacks healthy tissues. TNF-alpha inhibitors aim to protect your joints by shutting down this mechanism. They're only given to RA patients who haven't responded to DMARDs. That's because they can cause some very serious side effects, ranging from congestive heart failure to lymphoma.
    Drugs aren't the only answer... Now, don't get me wrong. I fully realize that many--if not most--rheumatoid arthritis patients could not live a normal life without some type of medical intervention. But according to a new study, drugs aren't the only answer. In fact, scientists from Taiwan have found that RA patients who took B6 improved the markers of their disease. Taiwanese scientists recruited 35 men and women with rheumatoid arthritis and divided them into two groups. One group received 5 mg of folic acid each day for 12 weeks. The other group received 5 mg of folic acid plus 100 mg of B6. After 12-weeks, the scientists ran tests on each of the patients. They found that men and women taking folic acid plus B6 significantly reduced their levels of TNF-alpha. The folic acid group didn't experience any reduction in TNF-alpha. Vitamin lowers inflammation without side effects The patients taking folic acid plus B6 also lowered their IL-6 levels. What's IL- 6, you ask? It's is another protein--similar to TNF-alpha--that causes joint damage in RA patients. In fact, the latest RA drug called Actemra works by blocking IL-6 in the body. But Actemra is given to RA patients as a last resort, when all the other drugs have failed...and for good reason too, because the side effects are downright frightening. According to the company's website, "Some people have serious infections while taking ACTEMRA, including tuberculosis (TB), and infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses that can spread throughout the body. Some people have died from these infections. Other serious side effects of ACTEMRA include tears (perforation) of the stomach and intestines, changes in blood test results, hepatitis B infection in those already carrying the virus, nervous system problems, and serious allergic reactions." On the other hand, in this small, but significant study B6 lowered IL-6 levels in RA patients without any serious side effects. In fact, you don't get much safer than vitamin B, especially at this dosage. It's like the Walton family of vitamins. Plus, it's water-soluble. So anything your body can't use just gets flushed out at the end of each day. If you've got RA, definitely consider adding a B-complex vitamin (that contains at least 100 mg of B6) to your regimen. In my own practice, I saw major improvements using B6 to treat carpal tunnel syndrome. I suspect the same mechanism is at work here with RA. Give it three months of steady supplementation though to see if you notice any improvements. And make sure to keep your rheumatologist apprised of your progress. If you feel markedly better, ask to have your markers re-tested. And if the results look (and feel) good, you may just be able to stop taking so many risky drugs.
  10. Slash your cancer risk by cooking your burger the right way

    Cooking on the grill is as American as it gets. And who doesn't enjoy a nice juicy steak hot off the grill? But did you know that cooking your meat this way might increase your risk of colorectal, stomach, lung, pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers? That's because beef, chicken, fish, and pork cooked at high temperatures (or until it's "well done") releases a type of carcinogen called an HCA (heterocyclic amines). According to the National Cancer Institute, "HCAs form when amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) and creatine (a chemical found in muscles) react at high cooking temperatures." And of all the meats, ground beef tends to release the most HCAs. That's one reason why it's a better choice to leave your steak and burgers a little pink on the inside. It will lower your HCA exposure. Here's another way to lower HCA exposure, without having to give up the grill: use herbs. A recent study found that adding certain herbs to your meat could lower HCAs by up to 40 percent! The research team tried adding cumin, coriander seeds, galangal, fingerroot, rosemary and turmeric to beef patties. They found that all the herbs and spices blocked HCAs from forming, even when they cooked the meat at high temperatures. One of my favorite herbs -- rosemary -- lowered HCAs the most. Scientists believe that these herbs and spices contain potent antioxidants that disable many of the HCAs before the cooking begins. So next time you fire up the grill, add some chopped rosemary to your burgers. And if you're eating steak, chicken, or fish, make a garlic-rosemary marinade. Just add chopped garlic, rosemary, olive oil, vinegar, and soy sauce to a Ziploc bag with your meat and marinate for 6-8 hours. This will block nearly half of the HCAs in the meat from ever forming. And if you want to lower HCAs even more, pre- cook your meat on a low setting for a few minutes in the microwave before hitting the grill. According to the NCI, this alone zaps almost 90 percent of HCAs!
  11. Seniors find safe answers against depression with superstar vitamin

    If you're over 65 and prone to depression, here's a bit of good news: You may be able to control your symptoms without resorting to drugs. In fact, a new study links a highly-versatile vitamin to a decreased risk of depression among seniors. And I'm all for finding a nutritional solution to the occasional bout of depression. That's because taking a prescription drug -- even a low-dose antidepressant -- always comes with a truck-load of baggage. In fact, did you know that if you're over 65 and take an antidepressant that you're more than 50 percent more likely to suffer a serious fall compared to other older adults? (Actually, that statistic holds true if you're over 65 and take ANY antidepressant known as an SSRI or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The researchers for this study didn't explain why seniors suffered more falls, but I assume it's because drowsiness and dizziness are both common side effect of most SSRIs.) Thankfully, there are natural solutions to depression -- that won't increase your risk of falling. The new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed 3,500 Chicago residents for seven years. At the outset of the study, participants filled out surveys to determine nutritional intake through diet and supplements. The participants also filled out a standardized test used to evaluate depression. The researchers found a clear connection between vitamin B and depression. In fact, participants with the most B6 and B12 intake had the fewest episodes of depression. And to be more specific, the researchers found that for every 10 milligram increase of B6 and for every 10 microgram increase of B12, the risk of depression dropped by two percent. How does this affect your daily routine? Clearly, good nutrition can play a role in keeping the occasion bout of depression at bay. Here are a few guidelines to follow: Take a good B-complex vitamin everyday. Clearly, the seniors in the study got some added protection against depression by getting plenty of Bs. And it's important to remember that any good B-complex will include all eight of the different B vitamins. Plus, look for a brand that contains at least 25 mg of B1, B2, and B6. On top of the B-complex, you may want to add in some additional B6. Your body needs B6 to kick the "feel good" neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) into high gear. I'd start by adding 100 mg per day of B6. You can go as high as 400 mg per day with B6. Some people start to worry about pyridoxine neuropathy with anything higher than 400 mg. However, based on my experience, this is extremely rare. Further more, B6 always works better with magnesium. So make sure you get 400-500 mg of that per day as well. Now onto vitamin B12... You probably already know that B12 is the "energy vitamin" and every cell in your body uses it. Like B6, it also appears to play a role in your body's synthesis of neurotransmitters. The current recommended intake of B12 is just 2.4 mcg (micrograms). But I'd go for much, much more, especially if you are looking to support your mental health. Go for at least 80 mcg per day of B12. I know that probably sounds high (when compared to the recommended amount), but remember, all the B vitamins are water- soluble. This means that your body can't stockpile it. Anything you can't use, your body flushes out, so you don't have to worry about overdosing on this vitamin. I personally take 500 to 1,000 mcg daily. More nutritional ways to boost your mood Another thing to remember with depression is that sometimes (even with natural solutions) you don't hit the target on the first try. So here are a few more options to try: Omega-3 fatty acids play a huge role in regulating your mood and sense of well- being. In fact, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition, women who have the highest intake of omega-3 fatty acids reduce their depression by nearly 30 percent! In addition, the evidence supporting St. John's Wort is hard to ignore. There's plenty of hard data showing that it does give you a significant boost. I'd go for 300 mg of a 0.3% standardized extract three times a day. Just be patient. It can take two to four weeks to feel an improvement. Just avoid amino acid supplements and extended sun exposure while taking St. John's Wort, as these may lessen the therapeutic effect. If St. John's Wort doesn't cut it, you could also try the amino acid SAMe (s- adenosylmethionine) at 400 to 1200 mg/per day. It's more expensive than St. John's Wort, but highly effective and has been used a lot in Europe to naturally correct depression. Some nutritionists believe it's best suited to treat depression expressed as low energy and low motivation unrelated to anxiety. Tryptophan and DLPA (dl-phenylalanine) are two more amino acids that can be effective in improving depression if taken between meals (but not along with the other efforts). In closing, it's important to remember that depression is a whole-body disorder. And for some people, good nutrition alone isn't enough to keep the dark clouds away. But for others with mild to moderate depression, nutritional support can help. And it's certainly much safer than taking a prescription drug that increases your risk of falling and brings so many more serious side effects with it. In either case, I encourage you to seek the care of a trusted physician who will work with you to develop a safe and effective wellness plan.
  12. Slash Alzheimers risk by 54 percent with powerful antioxidant

    As much as it may puzzle conventional researchers, Alzheimer's disease is a modern problem stemming from our modern diet. Over the years, I've told you about preventing Alzheimers Disease with B3. And now, a new study from Sweden shows that adding just one powerful antioxidant to your regimen may cut your Alzheimer's risk by more than half. Unravelling the mystery of Alzheimer's disease The overt signs of Alzheimer's disease don't usually appear until after the age of 60. But we now know that damage to the brain begins much earlier, often up to 20 years earlier. The disease begins when abnormal bits of protein called plaques and tangles begin to form in the brain. As a result, a person with Alzheimer's appears more forgetful or has trouble completing complex tasks, like handling money or paying bills. As the plagues and tangles take root, more healthy neurons in the brain begin to die. Eventually, the carnage spreads to the hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for building and storing memories. By the final stages, damage is so widespread that even basic functions -- such as speaking or swallowing -- become impossible. Unfortunately, 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 (42% 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 when they clearly don't work. The better option obviously would be to prevent the disease altogether. And the new study out of Sweden proves that preventing AD naturally is entirely possible. Seniors cut Alzheimer's risk by up to 54 percent Scientists from Sweden began their study with a hunch...a hunch that a powerful antioxidant could protect the brain against Alzheimer's disease. The scientists recruited 232 patients over the age of 80 with no signs of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They took samples of the patients' blood to check for vitamin E, an antioxidant typically associated with supporting the heart and immune system. Then, the scientists checked back in with their patients six years later. During that time, 57 of them developed Alzheimer's. But the patients who had plenty of vitamin E in their blood at the outset of the study had a clear advantage. In fact, these patients had a 54 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's. That's right. One simple vitamin cut their risk by more than half! So exactly how does vitamin E protect the brain? Well, scientists have no definitive answer. But generally, they think that it simply helps to gobble up free radicals that contribute to nerve damage in the brain. It also seems to play a role in preventing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is bad, no matter where it happens in the body. But in the brain, it can lead to the build-up of protein. And as you'll recall, protein in the hippocampus causes the early, overt signs of Alzheimer's disease. The person becomes more forgetful or has trouble handling money or paying bills. The good news, it seems that good 'ole E seems to help prevent all this. Vitamin E: More than just the sum of its parts With all the positive effects it has on your overall health and well-being, there's never been a better time to add vitamin E to your regimen. As this study showed, even men and women in their 80s benefited from this powerful antioxidant. Just remember, there are eight different naturally occurring forms of vitamin E. They all play a different role in the body. In fact, the participants in the study who garnered the most protection against AD had all eight forms of the in their blood. So if Alzheimer's is a concern of yours, make sure to look for an all-natural gel cap that contains all eight fractions of vitamin E.
  13. Post-menopausal women lower breast cancer risk by following simple dietary guidelines

    According to a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition eating lignans may modestly cut your risk of breast cancer, especially if you're a post-menopausal woman. Sounds great, right? But what's a lignan? Well, it's a nutrient found in whole grains, berries, fruits, and veggies. By far, flax seeds are the richest source of plant lignans. And a new meta-analysis (a giant mega-study that combines results from 21 different published studies) found that post-menopausal women who eat plenty of lignans cut their breast cancer risk by about 15 percent. So, for those of you already eating whole grains, fruits and veggies, think of it as an added bonus that you're probably lowering your breast cancer risk as well! And for those of you who aren't eating enough whole grains, fruits, and veggies - - this is just more reason to get going. Start by sprinkling a handful of ground flax seed on your Greek yogurt in the afternoon. Not only is it great for your immune system, it's an added safeguard against breast cancer.
  14. Reading the vitamin E bottle -- the right way

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

    This month the FDA announced that taking proton pump inhibitors like Nexium or the latest to hit the market—Zegerid—to reduce stomach acid may increase your risk of hip, wrist, and even spine fractures. You're especially at risk if you're over 50 or if you have been taking a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) for more than a year. Taking a high dose of a PPI especially increases your risk for these fractures. Now, I'm sure the FDA announcement will take some by surprise. After all, what does a proton pump inhibitor have to do with bone fractures? But consider this... Proton pump inhibitors reduce stomach acid. And that acid in your stomach is there for a reason: Not only does it help break down the protein in the foods you eat; it plays a major role in how your body absorbs calcium. Is it really any surprise then, after years of taking a PPI (and not absorbing calcium and other nutrients critical for tissue repair and overall health) that you fracture your hip getting out of the car? But that's not all... Once you start taking a PPI, it's hard to stop Here's another big problem with PPIs: In my opinion, they're addictive...meaning once you start one, you can't get off it. Just last year, I told you about a clinical trial that proved why it's so hard to wean yourself off of a PPI. The study's authors called it a "rebound" effect... Here's how it works: Say you go on vacation. You eat terrible and have a bad bout of indigestion. You start taking a PPI to resolve your issues. After a few weeks, you think you have the problem under control and you stop taking the drug. But your body goes into withdrawal and your stomach starts to produce too much stomach acid to make up for the loss. As a result, the reflux returns. So you go back on the drug and just like that, the drug company has a lifelong user. In my book, that's the definition of an addictive drug. Plus, you can now get several PPIs without a prescription. So instead of getting a 14-day prescription for the drug, you can pick it up at the drug store and take it for as long as you want. And that's a huge problem because your fracture risk increases once you take a PPI longer than a year. Getting to the truth about stomach acid The truth is, most people who complain of acid reflux or heartburn actually have TOO LITTLE stomach acid. You see, as the body ages, it produces less digestive enzymes and stomach acid. As a result, your stomach doesn't break down food all the way and you begin to feel some of it gurgle back up. Then, you compound the problem even further by taking an acid reducer. So then, with even fewer digestive juices flowing, you pretty much guarantee that your body won't properly break down food. Vital nutrients never get absorbed. They're just sent down the drain undigested. The good news is you can combat reflux, heartburn, and other nagging GI problems without resorting to harmful drugs that rob your body of essential nutrients. The goal is to create an environment in your stomach where GI problems can't occur. How? Take digestive enzymes. Natural enzymes jumpstart your motor The body, of course, is supposed to make its own enzymes and stomach acid for proper digestion. But as we age, our bodies produce less and less of it. Plus, years of antacids, PPIs, antibiotics, and even poor eating habits tend to aggravate stomach problems. The solution is to give your body the natural enzymes it's missing to jumpstart your motor. And you can find these almost anywhere these days, even the grocery store. Basically, you want to look for digestive enzyme capsules that say FULL SPECTRUM. These will help you break down and digest all three types of food groups: proteins, fats, and carbs. If the words FULL SPECTRUM don't appear on the label, just make sure capsules contain all three types of enzymes:
    • Proteolytic (proteo means protein)
    • Lipolytic (lipo means fat)
    • Amylolytic (amylo means carbohydrate)
    You also want to make sure your digestive enzyme supplement contains betaine hydrochloride (or HCl). It's a plant-based substitute for hydrochloric acid (the type of acid I mentioned earlier that helps your body absorb calcium). The bottle will probably suggest you take your enzymes before meals. But that's a mistake. In most cases, it's best to take digestive enzyme immediately after meals (or toward the end of your meal, if your symptoms are really severe). This will ensure you just augment--not replace--the body's manufacture of its own enzymes. Create a healthy digestive tract Besides digestive enzymes, you'll also want to make sure that you're taking a probiotic that contains billions of units of active cultures of "friendly" bacteria. And for anyone suffering upper GI problems, I recommend you pour the capsule contents down your throat. Let your natural saliva wash it down. This way, all the friendly bacteria coat your throat and esophagus. It will also aid in your overall digestion. Following this two-part regimen, you should notice an improvement in about a week, if not days. For really tough cases, try DGL. It's a form of licorice that has one component removed that helps your digestive system. Chew or suck on it 20 minutes before eating. You'll also want to avoid known triggers such as spicy and acidic foods, flour products, sugar, and alcohol so you won't trigger your symptoms even more. In closing, I know the new commercials with the guy painting on his stomach are pretty nifty. And the promised benefit of immediate relief sounds appealing. But don't buy into the hype. Zegerid – even with the nifty stomach paint – is still a proton pump inhibitor. Don't fall for the short-term fix, but work on your long- term solution that will also keep your bones intact. Until next time, Allan Spreen, M.D. NorthStar Nutritionals
  16. If you are not taking this vitamin yet...what are you waiting for?!

    A new study proves that Vitamin E may help supercharge your body's immune function and boost your body's response time to infection. I've been recommending for years that you take 400 IU of vitamin E along with your fish oil supplement, as it's alsoone powerful antioxidant...

    Vitamin E supercharges white blood cells

    In the most recent study, a group of scientists from Tufts University fed older mice dietary supplements containing alpha-tocotrienols (a form of vitamin E) for six weeks. Older mice fed the supplement increased their bodies' response to infection. In fact, their white blood cells went into overdrive, responding to infection much quicker than the mice not given vitamin E.

    Plus, the older mice given vitamin E also had higher levels of interleukin-1 beta (IL-1) in their blood. IL-1 is a powerful protein produced by your white blood cells that helps your body fight infection. IL1 is so powerful in fact that scientists have tried to artificially replicate it in the lab and use it to treat cancer.

    The good news is; you can probably boost your IL-1 just by taking an all-natural vitamin E supplement. (Yes, the study was conducted with mice, but solid evidence abounds connecting vitamin E with immune function in humans.

    However...

    Look closely before you buy

    Vitamin E is a family of eight different molecules. Look for a gel capsule that contains 400 IU of 100 percent natural vitamin E with both tocopherols and tocotrienols. This will provide balanced antioxidant protection. Just skip any bottle that says it contains D1-alpha. This means it's a synthetic, cheap imitation of vitamin E. Instead, look for a bottle that says it contains d-alpha or D-alpha.

    One last word of caution: Vitamin E is a natural anticoagulant. So if you're on blood-thinners, make sure to check with your doctor before taking a vitamin E supplement.

  17. Pesticide exposure linked to 53 percent increased risk for Alzheimers disease

    It's hard to protect yourself against pesticide exposure, even if you're diligent. These harmful toxins are everywhere...on your produce, in cosmetic products, and even in your drinking water. In fact, just last month, EPA officials discovered that a type of pesticide called DDT had polluted all the wells in a small Michigan community (even though DDT has been banned in agriculture use in the U.S. for 30 years!). The unfortunate truth is, over a lifetime, most of us are bombarded by pesticides. And a new study has just discovered that repeated exposure to pesticides may increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease by 53 percent. The good news is, there are simple steps you can take to drastically reduce your pesticide exposure...and hopefully lower your associated AD risk. I'll tell you all about them in a moment. Alzheimer's risk skyrockets for farmers in Utah In recent study, Duke University scientist Kathleen M. Hayden, PhD and her team followed 3,000 elderly men and women living in rural Utah for 14 years. At the outset of the study, the scientists asked each of the participants detailed questions to determine exposure to many different types of pesticides. In addition, the scientists measured the participants' cognitive levels three times over the course of the study. They found that about 600 participants had some pesticide exposure. In fact, most of them had been exposed to two kinds of pesticides commonly used to spray food crops, called organophosphates and organochlorines. Of the 600 participants exposed to these pesticides, an astounding 500 developed "incident dementia" over the course of the study. In addition, 433 developed Alzheimer's disease. Put another way, this means that almost 70 percent of the men and women with repeated pesticide exposure over their lifetime developed Alzheimer's disease! According to the Duke researchers, these pesticides appear to wreak havoc on the central nervous system. Specifically, pesticides reduce a person's acetycholine (a type of neurotransmitter responsible for learning, memory, and concentration). And low acetycholine is also a common characteristic of Alzheimer's patients. In fact, three out of the four drugs on the market work by increasing acetycholine levels. Who's most at-risk? It's important to note that many of the participants were farmers, with routine physical contact with pesticides. Now, I'm not a farmer. But I do eat foods grown on a farm. Does eating foods treated with pesticides increase my risk of Alzheimer's disease? The study's authors didn't specify, but consider this... Another recent study published in the medical journal Pediatrics links ADHD in children with pesticide exposure. In fact, kids with high pesticide exposure are more than twice as likely to have ADHD. And how are these kids getting exposed to pesticides? You got it. By eating fruits and veggies treated with pesticides. My hunch is that these kids also have similar disruptions in acetycholine (that neurotransmitter I talked about earlier that's responsible for learning, memory, and concentration). How can you reduce your pesticide exposure? Avoiding all pesticide exposure could easily become a full-time job. And I know most of us can't go to such extreme lengths. Nevertheless, here are some good rules to follow to decrease your pesticide load: 1. Buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. The Environmental Working Group puts out a great "dirty dozen" list of the produce that you should always buy organic. There's also a list of "clean 15" that are always safe to eat. 2. Use a quality water filter. Many of these pesticides (as residents of the Michigan town will tell you) leach into your drinking water. If possible, install a filter on your showerhead as well. 3. If you live near farmland, make contact with the farmer to learn if he or she uses pesticides on crops. 4. Most lawn care services use organophosphate pesticides. If yours does, never walk on your lawn after it's been sprayed. Ideally, stay away from the house for a few hours after your lawn's been treated. Ideally, I'd recommend skipping the lawn service all together or find one that offers "natural" products for your lawn care. 5. Avoid using insecticides in and around your home. There are lots of non- toxic ways to control pests. For instance, start by building outside barriers against pests, such as mulch or caulk. If ants are invading your house, sprinkle baby powder on problem spots. The smell of talc deters them. I've also heard that cinnamon and vinegar deters them as well. In closing, pesticide use is a bigger problem that anyone in the mainstream press is willing to admit. And it's just getting bigger. I guarantee the pesticide- Alzheimer's disease link is just the tip of the iceberg. So don't be a victim and educate yourself. Visit www.ewg.org to learn more common-sense ways to safeguard your health and decrease exposure to these toxins.
  18. Diabetics: One whole grain may reduce your cardiovascular risk by up to 64 percent

    If you've got diabetes, eating just this one type of whole grain every day may add years to your life. In fact, in a recent analysis, women who ate the most of this whole grain significantly reduced their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease (compared to women who ate none of it). It's no secret that cardiovascular disease is a huge problem for men and women with diabetes. In fact, if you've got diabetes, you run two to three times the risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death compared to the general population. But one whole grain can help. And that's bran. According to the recent study, women who ate at least 10 grams of bran every day reduced their risk of death (from all causes) by 55 percent compared to non-bran eaters. They also reduced their risk of cardiovascular death by 64 percent (again, compared to non-bran eaters). Bottom line? Whole grains are good. But bran's the best, when it comes to diabetics. So make sure to get plenty of it into your diet if you suffer from high blood sugar. Sprinkle whole bran flakes onto your yogurt. Eat breads made with whole bran. Add bran to your favorite whole wheat pancakes. You can even throw it into your favorite fruit smoothie! Just make sure to get 10 grams of it a day. Lastly, if you want to learn about 10 drug-free ways to beat diabetes, just click on this link for your FREE REPORT. It's a must-see for anyone with blood sugar issues!
  19. Are you getting enough protein to prevent a hip fracture?

    In last year's Guide to Good Health titled Somebody Warn Sally Field, I covered how drugs like Fosamax and Boniva, two of the pharmaceutical "answers" for bone loss, may actually weaken bones and slow their ability to heal. Well, now I have another good tip for Sally Field: If you really want to prevent hip fractures, skip the Boniva and eat more steak! Scientists from Harvard Medical School have found that just eating more steak may cut your risk of hip fractures by 50 percent! Steak dinner for stronger hips? Well, to be honest, it's not just steak that's going to protect you from hip fractures. So will eggs and fish. And chicken and lentils. And raw milk and almonds. In fact, Harvard researchers have found that just about anything that contains PROTEIN can help you prevent hip fractures. You just have to make sure you're getting plenty of it. But unfortunately, most seniors don't get enough. In fact, if you're over 60, your daily meal plan may look a little like this: Breakfast: Coffee and a whole-wheat bagel Lunch: Turkey sandwich and a pear Dinner: Salmon, rice, and broccoli Sure, this meal plan looks relatively healthy. But it only boasts about 30 grams of protein. And if you eat like this day after day, year after year, you're just asking for a hip fracture. So how much protein do you need to prevent fractures? A group of Boston scientists recently figured it out... High protein diets result in fewer fractures Scientists analyzed the daily protein intake of 946 seniors enrolled in the Framingham Osteoporosis Study. They found that men and women with the lowest protein intake had 50 percent MORE hip fractures than participants with normal intakes. On the other hand, men and women who consumed adequate protein had higher bone mineral density and the fewest fractures. You see, the drug industry wants you to believe that the ONLY way to prevent fractures is to take a drug to build thicker bones. But clearly there's another way: Just don't fall. And how do you prevent falls? You build stronger muscles. And what's a key component to stronger muscles? You got it: Protein! In fact, Marian T. Hannan, lead author for the study, says women over 65 need at least 46 grams of protein per day and men need 56 grams. Sounds easy? Well it is. You just have to make a few adjustments to your meal plan, and you'll feel the difference in no time. Build protein into your diet The meal plan I mentioned earlier is a good start. But here's the biggest problem: there's not enough breakfast protein! The easiest way to get more protein in the morning is to skip the bagel and eat an egg (or two). Just one egg contains almost seven grams of protein. Plus, they're rich in other important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and choline. Just make sure to go for organic, free-range brown eggs. Get them from a local farmer, if you can! You'll know these eggs are the real deal if they have dark (almost orange) yolks and hard shells. And let me just say this to anyone's who's been brain-washed to believe that eating eggs will raise your cholesterol: It won't. Even if you eat 10 eggs a day, it won't make a lick of difference. You see, there are a limited number of receptor sites for cholesterol in your gut, so there's a limit to how much you can absorb from the foods you eat. And here's the real kicker: even if you believe high cholesterol in your blood is a factor for heart disease (which I don't), there is ZERO correlation between oral intake of cholesterol and blood serum levels. Yep. We've been had folks. So go ahead and eat an egg (or two) for breakfast, unless your doctor resolutely forbids it. (And if that's the case, I would still avoid the egg-substitutes with a 10-foot pole and opt to get your protein elsewhere.) Another easy way to add more protein into your day is to sprinkle nuts over a salad or yogurt. Just a handful of almonds alone contain 6 grams of protein! And if you use Greek yogurt, you'll get 15 to 20 grams of protein from one serving right there! Plus, it has a super creamy texture and is a real treat for your pallet. In closing, this week take the protein test. Write down everything you eat in a given day and add up all the protein. Remember, for women, your total should add up to at least 46 grams, and for men it should be 56 grams. If you don't cross that threshold, look for ways to up your protein. It just may lower your risk of hip fracture by up to 50 percent!
  20. Vegetable extract kills breast cancer stem cells

    For anyone serious about preventing cancer, broccoli should be a staple at the dinner table. That's because broccoli--besides being high in fiber and vitamin C--contains a nutrient called sulforaphane. In recent lab tests, scientists discovered that this nutrient targets and kills breast cancer stem cells (or CSCs). Why are CSCs such a big deal? Well, they're the dirtiest and nastiest of all cancer cells. In fact, they're the brains behind the whole operation. So by killing off CSCs, you don't only shrink existing cancer cells, but you also prevent new tumors from forming. In recent lab tests, scientists injected sulforaphane into human breast cancer cells. And amazingly, this powerful nutrient killed up to 80 percent of the malignant cells and in addition, prevented cancer cells from returning. Now, here's the challenge... For the study, the amount of sulforaphane the scientists used was much higher than what you can get just by eating a serving of broccoli. But don't lose hope. You can find sulforaphane supplements on the market. But beware; their concentrations widely vary so you have to be careful about where you buy them. On a positive note, researchers are starting to conduct clinical trials with concentrated sulforaphane, where they will give sulforaphane to real live human beings to see if it really can prevent cancer altogether. And, you can bet, once those results come in, I'll be the first to tell you about it.