What a dog can teach us about Nutrition

Brandy
Brandy

Meet Brandy,  my son’s 4 year old Golden Retriever. My son just relocated from Southern California to take a job here in Denver. So he and Brandy moved in with us for a few weeks until he gets moved into his new place.

He said Brandy has had a persistnat problem with ear infections. He’d just get it cleared up with ear washes and antibiotic ointments, then it would come right back.

Brandy, like most retrievers, loves to eat. Well she stole a bit of our dogs food and refused to eat her food anymore. So we switched her to the food our dog Tucker, a 6 year old Lab Great Dane mix, has been eating for years. Guess what happened after only a week? Her ear infection went away and hasn’t come back!

Now lets see what happened. Brandy had been eating an expensive dog food, but it was primarily grains. Chicken was the first ingredient, but followed immediately by four different types of grain. Tucker’s food is grain free. First  ingredients are bison, lamb, fish, eggs, sweet potatoes, peas, etc.

Grains cause the blood sugar to spike and that in turn sets off inflammation throughout  a dogs body.  Between these it make an ear infection very easy to take hold and not clear up.  The grain free food though does just the opposite, it does not cause the blood sugar to spike and does not set off an avalanche of inflammation. So if an ear infection does pop up, the body can quickly deal with it, and it is gone before you notice it.

High grain diets can also promote weight gain because of all the carbs, grain free diets don’t have this problem. Increased inflammation in the dogs body can lead to a long list of other problems like arthritis, cancers, allergies, and many other problems.

So what can we learn about nutrition from this that improves our health? Simple, when we eat a diet high in refined grains we can suffer the same ailments.

Tucker
Tucker

Diabetes, cancers, heart problems, stokes, arthritis, and many more of the modern degenerative diseases. The rapid improvement in Brandy’s ear health is a outward manifestation of the positive changes on the inside.  We can realize the same sort of health improvements by changing our diet from highly refined foods to whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables, and lean naturally raised meats (grass fed beef/bison, wild caught fish, etc.)

Drinking Green Tea improves glucose control and insulin sensitivity

A new meta-analysis indicates that green tea intakes may have a favorable effect on glucose control and insulin sensitivity, especially in individuals at risk for metabolic syndrome.

Although there are a few published reports regarding the effect of green tea on insulin sensitivity and glucose control in humans, the results have been inconsistent.

In a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers aimed to more accurately quantify the effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity.

Researchers completed a thorough literature search to find all randomized controlled trials that included information on the effects of green tea and green tea extracts on insulin sensitivity and glucose control in humans.

There were 17 trials, including a total of 1,133 subjects that met the criteria and were included in this meta-analysis. The studies were mostly of a short duration, and 7 of the studies were considered of high quality.

Overall, green tea consumption significantly reduced fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a long-term measure of blood glucose control). These results were more significant in studies including subjects at risk for metabolic syndrome, and in subject with higher catechin (a compound in green tea) intakes. When only the high quality studies were included, green tea significantly reduced fasting insulin concentrations.

The results of this meta-analysis suggest that green tea intake may lower fasting glucose, insulin and HbA1c concentrations, especially in people at risk for metabolic syndrome. Researchers noted that long-term randomly controlled trials of higher quality should be conducted to further confirm these findings.

In plain English, if a person is pre-diabetic, or diabetic, then drinking green tea daily can help improve the condition. I take a supplement twice a day which includes green tea extract which may have the same effect, but that has to be studied.

Kai Liu et al. Effect of green tea on glucose control and insulin sensitivity: a meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trial. First published June 26, 2013, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.052746 Am J Clin Nutr August 2013 ajcn.052746.

All Supplements aren’t made to the same Quality Standards.

Why does quality matter

If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’ll know I always stress taking only very high quality supplements. In this post I’ll explain why that is and the difference between low quality and high quality supplements. For many products though, quality is pretty easy to see, high quality foods look nice, aren’t moldy, smell and taste good, and don’t make you sick.  Supplements though are different. They all look the same – you don’t taste them and it is hard to tell what is in them.

So you have to trust that the manufacture took care in manufacturing the supplement and followed the proper manufacturing and quality procedures. Each month though ConsumerLabs.com tests a group similar products. It is very common for 15% to 35% to fail because of too little or too much of an ingredient or for undeclared contaminates like lead, arsenic, or mercury.

Doesn’t the FDA inspect product quality?

Many people assume that the FDA insures the product quality and inspects the products. Sadly, like for food, the FDA is primarily concerned about product safety and inspects facilities to insure that they are following proper cleaning procedures, that there isn’t bacteria like listeria or salmonella present in the equipment, that there are rodents present, etc.  What they don’t do is inspect the product to insure that what is supposed to be in the product is in three and nothing else.

They also don’t regulate or inspect that they are using the best form of the ingredients. More about that in other posts, but for say magnesium or vitamin E there are cheap, but poorly absorbable forms, and there are much more absorbable forms, but usually they are much more expensive. So if they say it contains magnesium or vitamin E, the FDA doesn’t care which form, as long as it is properly labeled if they do say which from.

Different types of quality requirements

The basic FDA quality requirement is like discussed in the section above, just insure that the plant is sanitary, safe, and the products aren’t contaminated, and that the product is properly labeled. These guidelines are called cGMP, or Current Good Manufacturing Practices. This is very similar to the food requirements. The FDA doesn’t care if the pizza has an a few extra, or fewer pepperonis, as long as it has some pepperonis and it isn’t moldy.

Prescription pharmaceutical drugs are different though since the active ingredient in each tablet could be just a few milligrams – so a spec of salt possibly. In this case the FDA has much stricter requirements to insure that if a drug should contain 2mg of the active ingredient, that every tablet contains exactly 2mg – not 3mg in one and 1 in another, even though it averages out to 2mg/tablet. There are also much stricter requirements on sanitation to insure that there isn’t cross contamination between different production lines in the same area. You’ll see warnings on foods that they were manufactured in a plant that also processes peanuts. You don’t see a warning label on a drug that it is manufactured in a plant that also makes viagra. There are much stricter requirements that the exact quantity of every ingredient is in each tablet (or capsule, bottle, etc.). There are also very strict documentation requirements.  These much stricter standards are called Pharmaceutical GMP, or Pharmaceutical Good Manufacturing Practices.

The huge majority of the supplement manufactures follow the less stringent cGMP requirements – it is easier, insures basic safety, and is much cheaper to adhere to.  Only a few will follow the much more costly Pharmaceutical GMPs.

Different areas of product qualtiy inspection

If you were to walk through two different plants, one cGMP and the other following Pharmaceutical GMPs below are some of the differences you’d see. I didn’t make these up, in the few examples in both columns these are from actual plants I’ve visited and toured.

Area cGMP Pharmaceutical GMP
Receiving Only some lots of incoming raw materials may be tested. It is optional Multiple samples from every lot are tested to insure that what is supposed to be in the shipment is actually there. Will also test for bacteria and contaminants. A typical ingredient may be subjected to more than a dozen different tests.
Warehouse Optional, but expiration dates will be respected. Expiration dates will be respected plus if the material is prone to break down and lose potency then it will be periodically retested to adjust for the loss of potency.
Measuring out Ingredients Can be done in the open. One person will typically weigh out an ingredient and add to the batch and check it off the sheet. – Measuring will take place in air tight rooms to insure there isn’t any contamination when the containers are open.- Two workers will be present. They will verify the item number, lot number, weight it out and the two of them will double check that every thing is correct and sign off on it.- The dispensing room will be thoroughly cleaned before the next ingredient is brought in and opened.
Manufacturing tablets will be pressed or capsules filled. May be some visual testing that the product looks OK, but probably no in-process testing. At set intervals, typically 30 minutes tablets will be checked for weight, hardness, dissolve-ability, and chemical/biological testing. If there is a problem, production is stopped.
Post Manufacturing Optional, but once a month they may test the finished product to make sure there aren’t any biological contaminants and may test the amount of key ingredients. Every production batch will be fully tested to insure that every ingredient is present in the exact amount and that there aren’t any heavy metal contaminants and no bacterial contamination.There will also be 100% visual inspection of every tablet to insure there aren’t any broken or chipped tablets.
Paperwork The Batch Ticket may be one or two pages long and is filed and retained. The batch ticket may be over 100 pages long with hundreds or thousands of signatures. Quality Control will review the entire document making sure every entry was correct. If where notes of a production problem, then that will be investigated and its potential impact on the product assessed.
General production environment. – Hair nets required- Facility can be a regular warehouse.- Entry allowed by anyone through regular doors.- I’ve actually witnessed dogs running around the production area in one plant and people smoking. (were the owners pets) – Hair/beard nets, gloves, booties, sterile outer garments.- Sealed manufacturing area with positive pressure HEPA filtered air.- Only authorized personnel are allowed inside of the manufacturing area.- Entry is through an air-lock to insure no outside air enters.

– In general the production area will be cleaner than a hospital operating room.

FDA Inspection Periodic to insure it is sanitary. In fact the one with the dogs running around and people smoking passed their FDA inspection a week prior to my visit. If the facility is registered as a Pharmaceutical Facility then the FDA will validate all their procedures and make sure that every written procedure is followed and adheres to the Pharmaceutical GMP requirements. FDA will also inspect the facility for cleanness and sanitation

Conclusion

There are two mindsets of supplement manufactures:

  1. Make the product safe, but at the lowest possible cost. They know the consumers don’t know how to tell one product from another, so put cheap tablets in the bottle and wrap it with lots of hype and slick advertising.
  2. Never compromise on product quality. Use only the best ingredients and insure the quality is perfect for every tablet in every batch. Those who register their facilities as an pharmaceutical drug company with the FDA are then inviting the FDA to audit them to the much stricter Pharmaceutical GMPs.

As a footnote many companies don’t manufacture their own products but will use contract manufactures to do the actual manufacturing and put the burden of quality on them, but the contract manufacture’s charge for the service provided. so you can get a product made with no inspection at all, or they can pay many thousands of dollars more per batch to have the inspection done.  Some companies will say they use contract manufactures who meet pharmaceutical GMP requirements. The reality is that the company may meet those requirements, but they will only follow those procedures if you pay for it – so a deceptive play on words.

Bottom line, you can guess which products I use. It is registered with the FDA as a drug establishment and strictly adheres to pharmaceutical GMPs and has had their compliance verified by NSF, an independent 3rd party certification organization. I spent two full days auditing their manufacturing quality procedures and they are better than many of the biotech and pharmaceutical drug companies I’ve worked with.

Recent Omega-3 Fish Oil and Prostate Cancer Study is Seriously Flawed.

Earlier this week every major news media was running a report claiming that a recent study proved that high intakes of fish oil supplements caused a 71% increase in prostate cancer. Then they usually brought on their resident MD who confirmed that yes this appeared to be true and they should stop taking all fish oil supplements. The problem is I doubt any of them read the study, they just repeated the headline.

Over the years there have been over 2,000 studies which have looked at fish oil and cancer. Most found that fish oil lowers the risk and death rate for many types of cancer, including prostate. So lets take a closer look at the study and you’ll quickly see how flawed it is and really seems to just an error filled attempt to slander the fish oil supplement industry.

The study they pulled data from was the abandoned SELECT trail that ran between 2001 and 2004 looking at the effects of selenium and Vitamin E on cancer prevention. The study was not designed to look at omega 3 levels,  so the study was not looking at fish oil in relation to prostate cancer, but they pulled data from this study anyways.

Here is a summary of the errors they made.

  • The participates in the study had their blood lipid (fat) levels checked when they signed up for the study. It was the one and only test the 834 participates had of their blood lipid and omega-3 levels.
  • The study included sick and healthy people, but no indication of who may be taking fish oil supplement. It is common to find that when someone becomes ill that then they will start trying different alternative treatments, like fish oil, to help combat their disease.
  • Every man in this study already had prostate cancer
  • The study jumps to the conclusion that since fish oil supplements are so commonly taken that they could have contributed to the increase, yet no data to support that
  • The test only measured the percentage of omega-3 oil compared to total blood lipids. They never looked at the actual amount of omega-3 fats in the blood.
  • There were no questions about dietary or supplement use. Nor were there questions of when the last piece of fish was eaten or fish oil, krill oil, or flax seed oil supplement was taken. This makes sense as the original study wasn’t looking at omega-3, but only selenium and vitamin-E
  • the difference between the blood levels of omega-3 was only 0.2% between the high and the low.  This is statistically an insignificant difference in omega-3 levels. (High was 4.66% vs 4.48% for the low)
  • If the findings of the study were true, then you should find epidemic prostate cancer in countries and areas where fatty fish consumption is high like the Scandinavian countries, Japan and much of Asia, but prostrate cancer is low in these areas.
  • The statistical model they used (Cox proportional hazards) doesn’t apply to a single measurement vs a later outcome. This statistical model is designed to look at a long term daily use of a drug, food, supplement vs the outcome. Had an appropriate statistical method been used the outcome could have been completely different.
  • Even with the statical model they used, the difference between the omega-3 fatty acids was NOT statistically significant.
  • The same researcher, Brasky, had another study in 2011 which didn’t show any correlation between omega-3 and prostate cancer.
  • They cited another study by Chavarro in 2007 that showed a very strong benefit of fish oil sources of omega-3 in protecting against prostate cancer.
  • There was no control group in this study. The original study which was abandoned did have a control group, but none in the data they pulled.
  • The overall levels of fish oil found were low, so it’s likely they were NOT supplementing.
  • It is known that fat is the fuel of prostate cancer, and since this study was done in the U.K. where a lot of fish and chips are eaten is it possible that the fish oil was coming from fried fish and that those people with prostate cancer had higher fats in their diet and that that was the true link to prostate cancer- but none of this information is available in the study data.

Other factors to consider:

  • A recent study my Szymanski in 2010 showed a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.
  • Several other studies, Lietzman, 2004 and Terry 2001, showed in large populations that increased omega-3 consumption correlated to a reduction in prostate cancer.
  • A recent study by Zheng in 2013 looking at over 500,000 participants and 16,000 incidence of breast cancer found that each 0.1g increase in omega-3 daily consumption correlated to a 5% decrease in risk of breast cancer.  So the average fish oil supplement is 1,000 mg, or 1.0 g, so that would be a 50% reduction in breast cancer risk.
  • The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute. Many will argue this, but the pharmaceutical and health care industry can not afford a cure for cancer. It is a multi billion dollar industry and if cancer were cured think of the drug companies, hospitals, oncologist, etc who would be out of business. So the health care industries and especially the pharmaceutical companies will fund studies which are geared to discredit what does work, but they can’t make money on.

In summary, this study should never have been published and should have been rejected. I suspect though that as quickly and powerfully that it came out in the media that there was a real PR push behind it – Someone wanted to damage the supplement industry and they jumped to the conclusion that fish oil supplements were the cause when the study never even disclosed if a single person even took supplments of any kind, at fatty fish, etc.

Here is the study which is making the headlines  http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.abstract

Download the full study here Fatty acids and prostate cancer JNCI Brasky July 2013.pdf

Here is a critical critique by a professor of Radiation Oncology department at the Harvard Medical School Click Here

 

 

Want to reduce your risk of Melanoma? Then get out in the sun.

Get your sunshine Vitamin DWe’ve been told for years to not go out in the sun without being slathered with sunscreen, and to reapply it regularly. Sure this prevents a painful sunburn, but it also blocks your vitamin D production. More and more research is coming out showing the cancer preventive effects of vitamin D. Unfortunately our vitamin D levels have plummeted as we’ve been scared sunless.

Vitamin D affects your biological function by influencing nearly 3,000 of your genes through vitamin D receptors. In fact, vitamin D receptors are found throughout your body, which should come as no surprise, given we humans evolved in the sun.

A research study involving 10,000 individuals showed that correcting a vitamin D deficiency can cut your risk of dying in half. Sun exposure also increases nitric oxide production which is great for  lowering blood pressure and increasing heart health and the benefits more than outweighs the risk of skin cancer.

If you’ve been avoiding the sun like the plague, you’ll be relieved to know that melanoma is not caused by sun exposure. Although the reported number of new cases of melanoma in the US has been reportedly increasing for more than 30 years, a landmark study in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests this apparent increase is a result of non-cancerous lesions being misclassified as “stage 1 melanoma.” In other words, people are being diagnosed with melanoma even when they have only a minimal, non-cancerous lesion, and these diagnoses are significantly skewing cancer statistics. The sun is nothing more than a scapegoat in this phenomenon of “increased melanoma.”

The medical journal, The Lancet, wrote“Paradoxically, outdoor workers have a decreased risk of melanoma compared with indoor workers, suggesting that chronic sunlight exposure can have a protective effect.”  Melanoma also does not predominantly appear on sun exposed skin, but can appear anyplace on your body.

Increased UV exposure can increase the risk of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are fairly benign by comparison, The risks associated with insufficient vitamin D are far greater.

Vitamin D’s protective effect against cancer works in multiple ways, including:

  • Increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer)
  • Reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells
  • Causing cells to become fully differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation)
  • Reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous.

Many actually did double harm to themselves by slathering on the sunscreen. Sunscreen typically only block the UVB rays, these are the burning rays, but it is also UVB which stimulates the production of vitamin D. By blocking the UVB rays they didn’t burn as rapidly, so they stayed in the sun longer, but the UVA rays still penetrated deep into the skin which causes skin aging, wrinkles, etc.

So, this summer, get outside, enjoy the sun, just don’t get burned.  15-30 minutes of midday sun can give you a good dose of vitamin D, then put on a sun screen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

If you are confined to an office indoors and can’t get some mid day summer sun, then be sure to supplement with vitamin D and get your blood serum levels of vitamin D tested. It is hard to overdose on vitamin D, but a vitamin D deficiency can be deadly.

Happy Independance Day!

Wishing everyone a happy 4th of July celebration. Also please remember all of those fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and independence.

You Fertilize your Lawn and Garden, don’t you? Amazing what added nutrients will do.

green and red healthy foodWhen you look at your lawn and has lost its lush green what do you do?  When your roses aren’t as beautiful as they could be, what do you do? When your vegetable garden isn’t producing like it should, what do you do? Of course, you fertilize it. We all know you’ll see great results a few days, or weeks, after applying a good fertilizer.

When you look at a fertilizer it is basic nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other minerals. Isn’t fertilizer like a multivitamin for your plants?

I talk to many people who say they get all the nutrients from the food they eat. Isn’t that like your lawn and garden? Shouldn’t they be able to get all the nutrients they need from the soil? Many people walk around like your garden. The plants are still growing. They are still producing flowers and fruit, so they are doing OK, but you know with some good fertilizer they’ll do much better.

We can easily get enough nutrients from a good healthy diet to prevent the diseases of deficiency   like beri beri, scurvy, pellagra, rickets, etc., but, like your garden, you can be much healthier.

So how does better nutrition and health manifest in us?  We aren’t plants, but imagine every cell of your body, every organ, every skin cell, your eyes, etc. having all the nutrients they need to operate at their best. Here are some ways:

  • If you’re immune system can do its best possible job, would you get sick less?
  • If your brand new skin cells have every nutrient they need when they are formed, how would they look when they become your “Skin” we see a month or two later?
  • If your skeletal system had all the nutrients it needs and in the right proportions to build stronger bones, would it?
  • What about that one cell that mutates and becomes a cancer cell, how could your immune system and the rest of your body deal with it? Could it stop it from growing larger, or at least greatly slow it down?
  • How much better could your organs function? Brain, heart, liver, eyes, kidney, etc,

You are like your garden, you may be doing OK, but how much better could you feel if you had all the nutrients you needed to be at your absolute best health. That is what a very high quality multivitamin and other phytonutrients can do for your body. You’ve heard the term a “Healthy Glow” that is what you’ll see on the outside, and if you could look inside, you’d see every organ with a healthy glow.

 

Is a Once a Day Vitamin OK?

woman with vitamin EMany popular multivitamin products tout that you only need to take one a day. Sure makes it easy, but is that effective?  Think of this, how many times do you eat a day? What if you only ate breakfast and nothing else for the rest of the day? How would you feel at bedtime?  Starving.  Your supplementation  should follow your eating schedule.

To get more specific, water soluble vitamins like the B complex vitamins and vitamin C are quickly eliminated from the body. For example all the vitamin C you take is out of your system in 8-12 hours.  So instead of taking your vitamins just in the morning it is much better to take them twice a day with breakfast and dinner, or even 3 times a day if you can.

What if your vitamin of choice is only a once a day product?  Oh well, you’re out of luck.

So look for a product which consists of an AM and a PM dose vs just a once a day so your body gets these very important vitamins all day and all night long.

Here is a link from Colorado State University which goes into details about all the water soluble vitamins.

Is Organic Skin Care Better?

bigstock-Beautiful-smiling-blond-woman--15958400Walk the beauty counter or do a google search for skin care and you’ll see hundreds of products touting the benefits of “Organic, No harmful chemicals, all natural, etc.”  Sounds great, but is it?

  • First the term Organic does not officially apply to skin care, only to food. So no agency will care or verify that their ingredients truly are organic.
  • Natural also has no legal meaning, so again, just advertising like new and improved, just words with no definition behind them.
  • Natural, non chemical, is best.  Is it?  The implication that anything naturally grown is good and anything processed, or with a chemical sounding name is bad.  Poison ivy, hemlock, rattle snake venom, etc are all natural, but you do not want them on or near you.
  • Preservative methods – many skin care lines are advertising that they are paraben free. This is good, but they still must preserve the product otherwise it will have the shelf life of a jar of mayonnaise and must be refrigerated. So how do they preserve the product?
    • Formaldehyde releasing agents. These will have chemical names but their evilness comes from the fact that when the molecule breaks down it releases formaldehyde.
    • Oils – Many will use various oils like grapefruit oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, etc.  These are no unhealthy at all, but they are drying and irritating. So they do safely preserve the product, but you don’t want to put something on your skin which is drying and/or irritating.
    • Refrigeration – Some lines are truly all natural and un preserved, but they have very short shelf lives and you must keep them refrigerated. so not convenient.
    • Self Preserving – One line has a unique patented process where they use several processes to make it difficult for bacterial to get a hold, one property is they encapsulate some of the ingredients in micro capsules so that are released when you apply it to your skin.
  • All chemicals are not bad, like all things natural aren’t always good. Every substance has its common name and its chemical name. So weather it is listed by its common name or its chemical name doesn’t change it.  Chemicals are only bad if they are bad for you.

So if your looking for an organic skin care line, maybe look deeper and look instead for harmful or irritating ingredients instead.

 

Mars is producing GMO Chocolate

I just saw a report in Confectionary News that  Mars Inc. is developing a strain of GMO chocolate to increase yields by increasing its pest resistance.  Doesn’t sound bad does it? Well they way they typically genetically engineer a plant to resist pests is they insert a bit of DNA into the plant which causes it to produce its own pesticide. So when an insect dines on the plant it kills it. When you eat the plant, you also ingest the pesticide. No it won’t kill you, but lab tests with GMO corn and soy have found that mice will grow certain tumors. So I’ll stick to only organic chocolate. click here for the full story.

Vitamin and antioxidant use after breast cancer diagnosis may improve survival

woman with vitamin EVitamin supplement use after diagnosis of breast cancer is common, but less is known about potential long-term effects on recurrence and survival. A new article published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment reports that vitamin and antioxidant supplementation after treatment for breast cancer is safe and may even improve survival.

Researchers from Harvard University analyzed data from over 12,000 breast cancer survivors in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project, a collection of 4 cohort studies of breast cancer survivors from the United States and China.  The analysis examined the post diagnosis use of supplements (vitamins A, B, C, D, E and multivitamins) for 1-5 years.  Sixty percent of the women reported using supplements during the 5 years after diagnosis. Breast cancer accounted for 65% of the total of 1,298 deaths that occurred during the follow-up period.

After adjusting for interactions with smoking, treatment and hormonal status, the use of any antioxidant supplement, categorized in this study as vitamins C, E or a multivitamin, was associated with a 16% lower risk of dying from any cause over follow-up, and for those who used all three supplements, the risk was 21% lower. Vitamin C supplementation was associated with a 19% lower risk of death and a 10% reduction in the risk of breast cancer occurrence, and vitamin E use reduced all-cause mortality by 15% and the recurrence of breast cancer by 12%. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with a 36% reduction in recurrence among women with estrogen receptor-positive tumors (ER+), but not in women with estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) tumors.

In this large group of breast cancer survivors, use of vitamin or antioxidant supplements was not associated with an increased risk of recurrence or death, but instead was associated with improved survival. Consideration of ER status and the use of antioxidants may be clinically relevant when evaluating associations with cancer and mortality risk.

Poole EM et al. Postdiagnosis supplement use and breast cancer prognosis in the After Breast Cancer Pooling Project. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Seen the headlines that Vitamin E is Dangerous? Here is the truth

According to a new published review of vitamin E, researchers reporting adverse consequences of high dose vitamin E supplementation likely have misinterpreted the data. The body has efficient mechanisms to excrete and utilize excess vitamin E, rendering it essentially non-toxic. On the other hand, the majority of adults in the U.S. do not get enough vitamin E in their diet.

 

woman with vitamin E

Over the past several years, a few studies have alleged that there are adverse consequences from vitamin E supplementation. Dr. Maret Traber, a vitamin E expert and a Professor at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences, believes that these studies may have misinterpreted the data.

In a review published online on March 15, 2013 in the Journal of Lipid Research, it is noted that unlike vitamins A and D, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) does not accumulate to toxic levels in the liver or other tissues. The body has an innate ability to excrete excessive amounts, so consuming too much should not be a real concern.

There are two systems in the liver that control the level of vitamin E in the body, both of which remove excessive amounts. The vitamin is then secreted into the plasma for uptake by the body’s tissues, where it is harmless. In fact, in searching for evidence of adverse effects of excessive vitamin E, the only consistent finding by toxicologists is that at high levels it tends to cause increased bleeding tendencies.
Unlike most vitamins and minerals, vitamin E is not known to play a role as a cofactor, or nuclear receptor ligand, or as an essential component of any enzymatic system. Out of the likely hundreds of antioxidants present in a typical diet, only vitamin E is a vitamin. Vitamin E plays a unique role in preventing peroxidation of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). It is thought that vitamin E specifically protects very important fats such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) that may be essential to life. Alpha-tocopherol is the most efficient and safest of the vitamin E forms, since even the alpha-tocopheroxyl radical can be simply reduced back to alpha-tocopherol by water soluble antioxidants such as ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
Based on the unique nature of vitamin E metabolism and function, excessive intake should be of little concern, whereas more than 90% of the U.S. population obtains inadequate levels from their diet.

Maret G. Traber, Ph.D. Mechanisms for the Prevention of Vitamin E Excess.  First Published on March 15, 2013, doi: 10.1194/jlr.R032946 The Journal of Lipid Research.

Weight Loss and Supplementation

The basic facts of weight loss is that you must consumer fewer calories and increase exercise. If you rely on your food to provide the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients you need, then when you reduce your food intake you are reducing your nutrient intake. If you are also increasing exercise and building more muscle mass then you need more nutrients, not less.

So it becomes necessary to supplement your diet with high quality nutritional supplements especially when you are dieting.

Why Most Doctors Don’t Know About Nutritionals

You hear all the time that before starting any supplement that you should check with your doctor, even if you aren’t on medications.  If you’ve done this your doctor has probably advised you to not take them that they don’t work and you’ll waste your money.

Have you ever gone to your doctor with a problem and had him prescribe a nutritional supplement? Probably not.  Aside from a very few exceptions like Vitamin D and Fish Oil, your doctor will write you a prescription for a drug.

I’ve you’ve been following this blog you’ve seen the results of many scientific studies have shown that nutritionals of various sorts are effective treatment or prevention for many ailments, but why doesn’t your doctor know this?

To understand why we need to go back to 1910. Then there were hundreds of medical schools in the US teaching all sorts of different types of medicine, homeopathic, osteopathic, etc.  There was little regulation and they were more like for profit trade schools that churned out doctors in two years.  The Carnegie Foundation (one of the pharmaceutical drug companies of the day) commissioned Abraham Flexner to go out and interview all 155 medical schools of the day. He came back with the famous Flexner report which identified which schools followed a curriculum using proven scientific methods (i.e. drugs an surgery) and which didn’t.

The result was that many, if not all of the alternative schools lost funding from the fledgling drug companies and closed. So what remained were the schools which taught doctors that drugs are the scientifically proven way to treat a disease or ailment.

Fast forward over the past century and the pharmaceutical drug companies provide millions of dollars to help support the medical schools. So a newly graduated doctor knows all the drugs that are available to treat every known disease.

You would think that medical school students would receive eduction in nutrition, vitamins, minerals, etc – Sadly they don’t, or it is a few hours.  Only a small percentage of medical schools even have a single class in nutrition.  As one doctor explained it to me: They taught that if you are overweigh, reduce calories, if you are diabetic, reduce sugar, if you have high blood pressure, reduce salt, and that was about the extent of it.

Doctors then attend conferences, sponsored by drug companies. They have cute young pharmaceutical sales reps bringing them lunch almost every day, and their medical magazines are heavily funded by drug companies.  No nutriceutical company can afford to send out an army of sales people to call on doctors or spend millions on advertising. So if a doctor is to learn about nutriceuticals, they have to do it on their own time – which most have very little of.

There is also the real reputation of the supplement industry that they are unregulated and you don’t know what is actually in the tablet. This is very true and unless the company is certified as an FDA Pharmaceutical facility and manufactures to pharmaceutical good manufacturing practices (GMP) then you really don’t know what is in the tablet. Visit www.ConsumerLabs.com and you’ll see many studies of classes of supplements an it is not uncommon for 30% or more to fail.

So before you ask your doctor if it is OK to take a certain supplement, first find out if he/she has any eduction that covered supplementation or have they studied this independently. The answer will sadly probably be no, if they will admit to it.

Fortunately there is a lot of good information on line, if you look to credible sources. If you click the “Links” tab a the top of this page there are some good sources there.

Helping Your Heart

In case you weren’t aware, February is American Heart Health Month — 28 days dedicated to taking a closer look at the hardest working muscle in your body.
Did you know that your heart can pump up to 2,500 gallons of blood each day, or that your heart has the ability to beat more than three billion times throughout your life? Yeah, you might say the heart does its fair share of work.
And because the heart does so much for your body, return the favor by brushing up on the best, scientifically proven ways to keep your heart protected.

Value in Vitamin C

In a recent report titled Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University say that the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 75 milligrams of vitamin C for women and 90 milligrams for men isn’t sufficient.
“We believe solid research shows the RDA should be increased,” says Dr. Balz Frei, director of LPI. “A 200 milligram intake of vitamin C on a daily basis poses absolutely no risk, but there is strong evidence it would provide multiple, substantial health benefits.”
The report notes that, “Higher levels of vitamin C could help reduce the chronic diseases that today kill most people in the developed world — heart disease, stroke, cancer, and the underlying issues that lead to them, such as high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, poor immune response, and atherosclerosis.”

Fiber is Your Friend

Most of us know that fiber is associated with numerous health benefits, but certain research suggests how, over time, fiber can be used as a preventative measure for certain cardiovascular diseases.
In an article published online at PLOSone.org, a group of researchers examined, among other things, the association between the intake of dietary fiber and the prevalence of ischemic cardiovascular disease (iCVD) in both men and women. Information was collected from thousands of participants in a wide range of ages, and scientists followed up with them after a mean of 13.5 years. Results of the study concluded that, “High fiber intakes were associated with lower incidence rates of iCVD in women and of ischemic stroke in men.”

The Power of Flavonoids

Flavonoids, or bioflavonoids, are plant-based compounds with powerful antioxidant properties, which means they reduce inflammation, promote healthy arteries, and help fight aging by preventing — and repairing — cellular damage. Flavonoids may also protect against cardiovascular disease.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined the relationship between flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease (CVD). After following 38,180 men and 60,289 women over a seven-year period, the researchers concluded that, “Flavonoid consumption was associated with lower risk of death from CVD. … suggesting that even relatively small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods may be beneficial.”
Foods that are rich in flavonoids include apples, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, onions, strawberries, red grapes, red wine and tea.

Explore for Yourself

There’s plenty of research on the topic of heart health. But it doesn’t do any good if it’s not studied and shared by healthy individuals like you.
American Heart Health Month is intended to get you thinking and remind you of the importance of a healthy heart. So don’t hold back — hop on the computer and research to your heart’s desire.

The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

You’d hope that when you pick up a jar or box of food off the shelf at the grocery store that the company and the people who designed this food gave it all the love and care your mother gave your meals that she put on the dinner table. Sadly this isn’t the case.  Aside from a very few companies they create a food which has an addictive taste (more sugar, more fat, etc) and using the cheapest ingredients possible. Saddest of all, more attention goes into the packaging and claims on the box than what goes into it.

Here is a great article from the New York Times which is long, but reveals how corrupt this process is
<nyt_headline type=” ” version=”1.0″>The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food

I’ve worked in this industry and what this article exposes is very accurate and not exaggerated.   Here are some things you may not realize:

  • On the nutritional fact panel the nutritional values shown arent the exact values. FDA allows good things like fiber, protein, etc to be rounded up.  Bad things like fat, calories, etc, can be rounded down.
  • There are programs companies use to find the optimal mix of ingredients to maintain the taste they want and utilizing the cheapest ingredients to obtain the lowest overall cost.
  • That ingredient statement which shows what is in the package – There are many tactics which can legally be used to move bad ingredients further down the list and bring more positive ingredients further up the list.
  • Did you know there are in depth nutritional requirements for pet food but not for the food we eat?
  • There is a tremendous amount of science and psychology in how they can get you to buy more and eat more.

Isn’t it a pyramid scheme?

The other day a friend asked my opinion about some product her friend was telling her about. She said the product was XXXXX, but from its website it seemed like one of those pyramid schemes.

Her “Pyramid scheme” comment wasn’t about the product itself, but about the company. So lets explore this. First, what is a pyramid scheme?

Pyramid Scheme

  • The FTC and states Attorney Generals define a pyramid scheme as a business where people join an organization and are paid a commission for bringing other people into the organization with the motivation of making money.
  • These are illegal in all states and most countries.
  • In these pyramid schemes the company or organizer doesn’t have any legitimate products they are selling, it is just all about getting new people to join, pay their signup, or entry fee, and those before them make a percentage of that person’s sign up fee.
  • In these pyramids you’ll often see a worthless product being “Sold” like an ebook you just copy and send on and they copy it and send it to others.  I saw one of these and it was a “Business Building guidebook” it was 3-4 pages long and basically said copy this ebook and sell it, but the price for this worthless product was several hundred dollars.

Thinly Veiled Pyramids

Obviously this product she asked me to look at appeared to be something of value. So lets look at the next level of what could be called a pyramid scheme, thinly veiled pyramids. What are these and how can you spot them?

  • There will be a product you can use, drink, eat, etc.
  • There will usually be a lot of hype and claims about it being a new seceret discovery, A juice from an exotic fruit, etc.  There may be claims of scientific proof, a doctor’s glowing endorsement, claims of patented products, etc.
  • There may be amazing testimonials of those who have used the product.
  • If you dig into their claims and alleged research you’ll begin to see the holes in the claims.
  • It will sound almost too good to be true.
  • There will be lots of emphasis on how much money you can make and this will be the overriding message.
  • The product will probably be pretty expensive.
These companies make all attempts to have a real product of value, but there is a strong pressure to sign up, and you must buy $XXX dollars worth of the stuff a month, and if you recruit several more people, then you’ll get yours for free and start to make money.  The product will appear legitimate, with lots of good marketing, but if it really is a lot of hype, then run.
One of my favorite categories in this area are some of the exotic juices.  They are never blueberry juice, but some exotic tropical fruit. Now many of these fruits are very good, like any dark colored berry, but when you look at what is really in the bottle and the price they charge, then it becomes suspicious.  I sat in the executive board room of one of these companies their juice sold for nice price, but they said you could basically buy the same thing at Whole Foods for 1/10th the price.  Why did they charge 10 times more than Whole Foods? That fueled the huge commissions. If they sold it for a competitive price they business, the pyramid, would collapse. Their real mission isn’t to get a quality product to consumers at a reasonable price, it is to pump up the dollars flowing through the network.
Here is a link to a Men’s Health article which deflates the claims of some of these trendy exotic juices. Click Here
I’ve picked on the juices, but ask yourself if any juice, which isn’t from the French Bordeaux region is worth $30 or $40 a bottle? Is salt water worth that much? You’ll also find very inexpensive products being sold for high prices.Supplements are harder to tell, but if you really know how to read the label and analyze what is there and the company you can start to sort the good from the bad.

  • Here is an article that explains how to decipher an supplement label Click Here
  • Here is an article that explains how to dig into a supplement and its maker to see if it really is worth the money. Click Here
So bottom line, if the product is way over priced, or not something which a knowledgeable consumer would purchase and use then it may well be a thinly veiled pyramid. This is a FTC term and they ask these sorts of questions. Unfortunately many of these companies are very well designed and they do their best to appear legitimate.

Legitimate Company, Legitimate Product

Ok, finally to the good guys.  There are several legitimate terms you’ll hear: Direct selling, Network Marketing, and Multi-level marketing (MLM).  These legitimate companies have withstood the test of time and crudity of the FTC, SEC, and other regulatory bodies. Unfortunately the previous two groups of companies/schemes, which far outnumber the legitimate companies, give the whole industry a bad name.
What sets these companies apart is that they have a legitimate product sold at a competitive price and often sought out by consumers.  Many of these are household names: Avon, Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, and others. Some may argue that these, and other companies, products may not be the best, but they are good and comparable to much of the competition.
These legitimate companies have solid products. you should be able to find substantial 3rd party accolades and positive reviews of their products and the companies. Because they do get lumped into the above two categories you may occasionally see some legal action brought against them, but they weather it well and life goes on. Like Amway in the 1980s, USANA Health Sciences 5 years ago, or Herbalife now. In the case of the last two two individuals shorted their stock, then wrote a completely false manifesto and released it to the press. The result were lots of headlines and the stock price plummeted, the author then executed his stock transaction and make millions when the stock price dropped.
So If these are good companies and products, then why don’t they just put their products on store shelves?
  • Often the product is unique and its unique properties can’t be explained in a 30 second TV spot, and magazine ad, or a label on a store shelf. This is where the face to face explanation comes in.
  • A new company with a unique or good product often can’t afford to launch a multi million dollar advertising campaign.
  • Or the multiple levels of markups added to a product would make it prohibitively expensive by the time it hit the store shelf after manufactures reps, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers add their markups.  Plus the multiple times the product is handled and transported from the manufacture to the consumer.
If you are looking at a supplement, run it through the tests in the last two links of the previous section. If it passes then it is good.
Let me give you an example of a company I’m familiar with. The founder wanted to get a new product to market. He developed it to be the absolutely best and highest quality available without compromise. He approached retailers with the product and the lowest price he could sell it for. They said after all the markups it would be too expensive. They would put it on the shelf for no more than $XX, which going backwards meant his company would have to sell it well below cost. The retailers and distributors said “Well then make it cheaper, because that is what we’ll give you for it.”  After many efforts he was reluctantly entered the Direct Selling, Network Marketing arena to reduce all the middlemen and get the product to the public.
That was 20 years ago. It is now a $600 million publicly traded company and has received many praises from Wall Street, hundreds of Olympic Athletes use the products, and has received many Best Of awards, and the products have passed every test in my one link in the previous section, and a,re highly ranked.
For these legitimate Network Marketing companies their focus is on the product, its quality, design, effectiveness, etc. Inside the four walls of the company it like any other company, it is only the sales and marketing departments which are different. Rather than having an Executive VP of sales, with several regional VPs under him, and those with a number of directors, who have managers under them, and finally hundreds or thousands of salespeople on the street, all receiving a salary these network marketing companies have the same structure with multiple levels of leadership in the sales organization, but each is an individual with their own business who doesn’t receive a salary, but works for 100% commission.

Summary

At any one time there are about 4,000 companies which fall under the Network Marketing umbrella. Every year about 1,500 go out of business and they are replaced.  A large number are thinly veiled pyramids, some more thinly veiled than others. Of what is left these are stable and solid companies with good products and you should have no fears of buying and using their products, but just remember to do your due-diligence. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Quality Concerns with some popular Calcium supplements.

ConsumerLabs.com just published a detailed report where they analyzed 29 different calcium supplements. What they tested for was:

  • Did the supplement contain the labeled amount of the ingredients.
  • Purity – Did it contain any contaminants
  • Ability to break apart in a timely manner so it could be absorbed. The standard is 30 minutes. if it takes longer than this, then it won’t be absorbed into your intestines.
Most of the products passed these tests, but several failed.
  • Trader Joe’s Calcium Citrate
    • Didn’t contain the labeled amount of Vitamin D
    • Didn’t dissolve in 30 minutes and even after 60 minutes it still hand’t dissolved.
  • Melaleuca Vitality Calcium
    • Didn’t dissolve in 30 minutes (took over 55 minutes)
  • Viactive Calcium Plus D
    • Didn’t contain the labeled amount of Vitamin D
  • Pure Essence Labs
    • Found excessive lead contamination.
Supplement manufactures are only required to manufacture to food grade Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).  Food grade GMP are designed to insure basic food safety, so free from eColi, salmonella, metal fragments, not to exceed set limits for insect parts, rodent fur, etc. So think of a frozen pizza. It shouldn’t make you sick, but if there is a little extra or less cheese, or an extra pepperoni, nobody cares.
Quality supplement manufactures will voluntarily manufacture to pharmaceutical grade GMP. These FDA requirements go far beyond what is legally required. Pharmaceutical GMP insure that the amount of each ingredient is exactly what it should be for every single tablet, no more and not less. It also insures that there are no contaminants, so through biological and chemical tests are performed frequently throughout production.
NSF is an independent non profit certification organization which tests certifies that companies products  do actually meet the labeled amounts. Of literally thousands of supplement manufactures (including protein drinks, bars, etc) only 53 companies can meet their tests and have been certified. What they don’t test or certify is that the ingredients used are the best form nor that there are optimal amounts of the ingredients, only that what is on the label is in the bottle.

What Do Statin Drugs Really Do? What do you do?

Millions of people are prescribe a range of cholesterol lowering statin drugs such as Crestor, Zocor, Lipitor, Simvatain, and other drugs, and the herbal supplement red rice yeast. These do indeed reduce the levels of cholesterol. There is a whole discussion about whether cholesterol causes heart disease or not, but I won’t address that here. Let’s take a look at how these drugs work.

These statin drugs don’t directly lower cholesterol levels, what they do is disrupt the metabolic pathwah which ultimatly produces cholesterol. ( HMG-CoA reductase pathway).  The statin drugs block one of the enzymes 27 steps before cholesterol production. At each step of this chain of chemical reactions there are other beneficial chemicals produced by the many branches.

One of the very important products of this metabolic pathway is CoEnzyme Q10 (CoQ10). So Statins not only hamper the production of cholesterol, but also CoQ10.   CoQ10 is an important mitochondrial cofactor (Mitochondria are the cells’ energy-producing organelles.).  When you deprive every muscle cell in your body of CoQ10, you lose strength and may experience muscle pain.  Guess which muscle has the most mitochondria and produces the most energy? Your heart. When your heart can’t produce enough energy to pump blood efficiently you experience congestive heart failure. This disease has drastically increased since statin drugs were introduced.

Cholesterol itself is the precursor to some very important and critical vitamins as well – Cholesterol in your skin is converted to Vitamin D by sunlight.  So if you take statin drugs to lower cholesterol then you also reduce your ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight. People trying to reduce tehir cholesterol will also probably reduce the amount of cholesterol rich foods, which just so happen to be the foods highest in vitamin D.

So what do you do? First consider if you really need to take statin drugs.  Consider this, over half of all people who are brought to the emergency room with heart attacks have normal or low cholesterol. Not what you’d expect.  So, if you are going to stay on statin drugs then you must supplement with CoEnzyme Q10 and Vitamin D.

Below is a recent study which was published which looked at the incidence of muscle pain in statin taking patients compared to non statin taking individuals.

The January, 2013 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published the finding of Danish researchers of reductions in glucose tolerance and coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) levels in men treated with simvastatin, one of several statin drugs commonly prescribed to lower high cholesterol.

Staying Healthy – The Hard Part

Eating right. Exercising. Remembering to take those supplements. In my mind, these are the three things I have to do every day to stay healthy.

It seems simple, and it is. But “simple” doesn’t always mean “easy.”

So, what’s the hardest part of staying healthy? Here’s my thought process and how I overcome my mental blocks.

The Hard Part: Starting a Routine

Starting a routine is definitely the hardest part of staying healthy. Stop living in the past and instead think about what you want for your life tomorrow.
Starting a routine is definitely the hardest part of staying healthy. If you’ve been eating poorly and haven’t been working out regularly for the past few months, then skipping the gym today and going out to eat tonight won’t hurt, right?

This mentality gets a lot of us in trouble.

Once we’re out of a healthy routine for a while, bad habits become the norm, and we end up putting on a few pounds, feeling tired from everyday stresses, and not having the energy to work out. Even worse, at this stage, desserts and other tempting foods seem to sneak into our homes and our mouths without our knowledge.

How to Get Over It:

It’s time to stop living in the past. Instead of focusing on what you did (or didn’t do) yesterday, think about what you want for your life tomorrow. If you’re going to want to work out tomorrow, eat right tomorrow, and take all your supplements tomorrow (it’s always tomorrow, right?), then do those things today, too.

Forget yesterday — it’s old news. Start changing today, even if it means baby steps. If you can’t complete a workout like you used to, do half. Just a little sweat will remind your body of how good it feels to be active, and you can start rebuilding your will power to pass on dessert, down more water during the day, and get back on that treadmill for good.

The Hard Part: Continuing a Routine

Continuing your healthy routine is totally the hardest part of staying healthy. If you’ve been good for months, why do you have to work out today, too? Why do you have to skip dessert today, too? Working out just isn’t as fun or exciting as it was when you first started, and maybe you don’t feel like you’re getting the same results you did when you first started. What’s the point?

How to Get Over It:

When you’re in the middle of pursuing a goal, like you’re halfway to losing 20 pounds or you can run five miles but you want to run 10, it’s important to remind yourself how far you’ve come.

Remember: You’re pursuing your goals, not the goals of someone else. Judge yourself against yourself.
Just because you can “only run a mile” while others run 26.2 in one morning doesn’t mean a thing. Think back to when you couldn’t run a mile at all. Or think about all the people who don’t run at all — one of the phrases I’ve seen lately is, “No matter how slow you’re moving, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.” The sentiment is true. You’re pursuing your goals. Judge yourself against yourself and no one else.

And remember that every day you eat right and exercise, you’re one step closer to your ultimate goal…although…

The Hard Part: Reaching Your Goals

The hardest part of being healthy is after you’ve done the work and reached your goals. What now? Your blood, sweat, and tears have all paid off and you’ve dropped the weight, run the race, or got your blood pressure or cholesterol levels down. There’s no motivation to continue, and you’re afraid you’ll fall back into your old ways.

How to Get Over It:

Make a new goal. Find a new challenge. Reaching your goals doesn’t mean giving up — it means you have a chance to find an even loftier ideal to strive for.

The point is, no matter where you are in your life or what your health goals are, it’s all going to be difficult, and there will always be challenges. But ask yourself this: Is giving up ever really an option? My vote is no. This is your life. Make it what you want it to be, every day.