1. "Blacklisted" vitamin may decrease your risk of lung and prostate cancer by up to 60 percent

    This week, I want to talk about one of the world's least understood vitamins: vitamin K. Discovered in 1929 by a Danish scientist, this vitamin plays a role in helping your blood to clot.

    But try to use the three words "vitamin" + "blood" + "clot" together in a sentence and it's like screaming the word "FIRE" in a crowded movie theater. It sets off panic, especially for anyone worried about having a stroke or heart attack. No one wants to take a vitamin known for helping your blood to clot. For this reason, most manufacturers omit it from their multivitamins (except the most high-end formulas).

    Nevertheless, vitamin K is essential to good health. It may even protect you against cancer. In fact, a new study has found that this once-blacklisted vitamin may decrease your risk of lung and prostate cancer by up to 60 percent.

    The many uses of vitamin K

    Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps our blood to clot. To be more precise, it helps your body clot exactly the right amount. And, yes, you do need your blood to clot in certain instances, like when you get a cut or following surgery.

    On the other hand, no one wants his or her blood to clot too easily, as that could put you at risk for a stroke or heart attack. To prevent blood clots, some people are prescribed aspirin or blood-thinning drugs like Coumadin. These drugs prevent clots by destroying any vitamin K stored in your body. But taking these drugs often sets the stage for the opposite problem: blood that doesn't clot ENOUGH. And when this happens (and it actually happens fairly often) doctors try to add vitamin K back into your system.

    Additionally, recent research has found that vitamin K is important to bone health. Naturopath docs also use vitamin K to fight tooth decay, varicose veins, and menstrual problems (especially when blood clots are involved).

    Most recently, vitamin K has been found to have a role in stimulating the immune system (though probably not as much as D). I suspect that this is how scientists, in the most recent study, stumbled upon the connection between vitamin K and cancer.

    New cancer research on vitamin K...

    In recent lab tests, vitamin K has already been shown to block cancer cell growth. The vitamin does this by setting off a chemical reaction called "apoptosis." So instead of multiplying wildly -- as cancer cells normally would do -- the cells exposed to vitamin K die off.

    With that lab research in mind, German scientists wanted to see if people with high vitamin K intake would have some added protection against cancer.

    They enrolled nearly 25,000 healthy men and women ages 35 to 64 and asked them to complete dietary questionnaires. Then, they analyzed the food diaries to gauge the participants' intake of vitamin K.

    Over the next decade, 1,755 of the men and women from the study got cancer. But when the team examined which participants got cancer, they found a powerful connection to vitamin K.

    In fact, men and women with the highest intake of vitamin K2 (a form of vitamin K) developed 50 percent fewer cases of lung cancer (compared to those with the lowest intake). Plus, men with the highest intake of K2 developed nearly 60 percent fewer cases of prostate cancer (compared to men with low K2).

    A little bit goes a long way

    There are two natural forms of vitamin K. The first -- K1 -- is found in green leafy vegetables, like spinach. The second -- K2 -- is found in meat, cheese, and natto (Japanese fermented soybeans). But if you follow a vegan or carb- heavy diet, it's very easy to become deficient in K2. And that's unfortunate. Because -- as you'll recall -- K2 is what the German scientists found protected the men and women from cancer.

    But you don't need a ton of it. In fact, the men and women from the study with the most vitamin K in their diets actually came in slightly under the recommended daily intake (120 mcg for men and 90 mcg for women). So this just goes to show, you don't need mega-doses of the vitamin to reap the benefits.

    In most cases, I don't recommend taking a separate vitamin K supplement. Sometimes you'll find a dusting of K2 in the highest quality anti-aging nutritional formulas. When you take this kind of mega multivitamin, it's actually quite safe and beneficial to get a little extra K2. That is, unless you're prone to blood clots. So make sure to check with your doctor if that's a concern.

    For most people, I recommend focusing on eating K-rich foods. You'll get plenty of K1 by eating green leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale. You'll get K2 by eating fermented cheese (like feta), butter, sauerkraut, organ meats, and egg yolks. Just remember, always eat eggs poached, over-easy, or hard-boiled to leave the yolk intact. This way, the yolks will actually retain all their nutritional value.

  2. Take more time for tea

    Women who regularly drink tea reduce their risk of breast cancer by 37 percent. That’s according to a new study out analyzing drinking habits of nearly 5,000 U.S. women between the ages 20 and 74. Women younger than 50 who drank three cups of tea or more per day reaped the most benefits.

    How does it work?

    Tea (especially green tea and black tea) contains powerful flavonoids and antioxidants. These compounds work to purify the body and eliminate free radicals. Over time, unchecked free radicals can cause serious damage to the body. But flavonoids and antioxidants neutralize the free radicals and can slow down the body’s aging process.

    In addition, tea promotes a kind of cell death called “apoptosis.” By promoting a natural turnover of cells, it blocks the uncontrolled growth and spread of cancer cells

  3. Glorious grapes!

    The other day, reading through my ‘Inbox,’ I came across an e-mail about an all-natural grape seed treatment for leukemia. The gist of the article claimed that grape seeds could kill 76 percent of diseased cells overnight. Being the skeptic that I am, I thought this sounded way too good to be true. Where did these results come from, I wondered? It had to be a fluke, concocted by some backward scientist in Slovakia. How could an all-natural remedy really kill 76 percent of leukemia cells overnight? However, after checking into the research myself, I found that the study was conducted at the University of Kentucky. (No, it wasn’t Harvard, but a big university laboratory nevertheless.) I also found that the results got published in the highly-respected, peer-reviewed medical journal Clinical Cancer Research. Okay, these little grape seeds had my attention. Now what? How do they destroy leukemia cells so quickly? First, let’s back up. I probably should explain a little bit about leukemia so you can truly appreciate how promising this study could be in the years to come for any family touched by this brutal disease. It’s the goliath of cancer Leukemia is a vicious type of cancer that attacks the lifeline of your body: your blood. Normally, blood cells start out as stem cells made in the bone marrow. Then they mature into:
    • White blood cells (which help fight infection)
    • Red blood cells (deliver oxygen to vital organs and tissues in your body)
    • Platelets (help form blood clots when you get a cut or injury)
    In healthy individuals, blood cells have a life cycle. When this happens, the old cells get replaced by new, healthy cells that are made in the bone marrow. It’s this natural turnover that helps keep you free from disease. But in leukemia patients, this natural system has gone awry. The bone marrow begins to produce abnormal white blood cells that don’t die. Over time, the abnormal cells crowd out the healthy blood cells. As a result, diseased cells take over the blood stream. Leukemia patients can become prone to infection, grow tired easily, and become anemic. Plus, sometimes the treatment’s worse than the disease Treatment depends on the type of leukemia (there are four main types). Most mainstream routes involve some type of rigorous chemotherapy regimen, steroids, radiation, or even bone marrow transplants. The road is far from easy for a leukemia patient. That’s why a proven and effective non-toxic treatment like grape seed extract is such welcome news. What led scientists to test grape seeds? The majority of research into grape seed extract has focused on promoting heart health. But recent studies have shown that grape seeds also seem to protect you against cancer. Grape seeds contain loads of proanthocyanidin, an antioxidant thought to be 20 times more powerful than vitamin C. These antioxidants seem to neutralize roaming free radicals in your body that can cause cancer and disease. In recent lab tests, grape seed extract has been shown to work against cancers of the breast, lung, and prostate. As recently as 2006, a very promising study funded by the US National Cancer Institute showed that grape seed extract could control the spread of colon cancer in mice. Up until now, however, scientists dared not even dream that the natural extract could touch a disease as complex as leukemia. A quick end for abnormal cells In a new in vitro experiment (which means the work was conducted in test tubes with human cells, not animal cells), grape seed extract caused 76 percent of leukemia cells to literally ‘commit cell suicide.’ And, this mass drop-off (a process known as apoptosis) occurred within 24 hours. Plus, unlike chemotherapy, which kills all replicating cells (even hair cells), the grape seed extract left healthy cells alone. Send those leukemia cells packing Researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered that grape seed extract activates JNK, a protein that regulates the apoptosis pathway. So the extract literally sends the leukemia cells packing, never to be seen again. According to the study’s lead author Xianglin Shi, PhD, Professor in the Graduate Center for Toxicology at the University of Kentucky: "These results could have implications for the incorporation of agents such as grape seed extract into prevention or treatment of hematological malignancies and possibly other cancers." While this treatment has only been proven in the lab, not on human patients, the results are extremely promising. Check out your local health food store Grape seed extract is actually pretty easy to come by. And it’s cheap too. For preventative measures, I would recommend 200 mg per day (under the care of a naturopath, of course). If you’ve got leukemia and would like to add grape seed extract to your regimen, check with your doctor or hematologist first. There hasn’t been a lot of research into how grape seed interacts with other drugs or supplements you may be taking. I’d use caution and probably stick pretty close to 200 mg a day. (As a side note: In a 12-month study, rats were given 100 mg of grape seed extract and they safely tolerated that dosage. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume 200 mg is a safe dosage for humans.) Also, buyers beware that grape seed extract is sometimes shortened to "GSE.” But that acronym is also sometimes used as an acronym for grapefruit seed extract. As research into this promising, non-toxic leukemia treatment continues, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.

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