Calcium supplementation isn’t related to an increased risk of heart disease

Chelated MineralsIf you’ve watched the news lately you may have seen a story that claims that taking calcium can lead to increased risk of heart disease. Sadly as we’ve often see these are based on very poor, or biased studies.

Calcium is an essential nutrient for skeletal health. However, a couple of recent studies have suggested that supplemental calcium may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, possibly by increasing carotid artery thickness.

A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research reports that supplementing with calcium may decrease carotid artery thickness and heart disease risk. Australian researchers evaluated data from 1,103 older women that took part in the Calcium Intake Fracture Outcome Study, a 5 year (1998-2003) randomized controlled study. The participants were randomized to take either a 1,200 mg calcium carbonate supplement daily or a placebo. Common carotid artery intimal media thickness (an indicator of atherosclerosis) was measured at the beginning and after 3 years.

The women who took calcium supplements during the trial did not have an increase in carotid artery thickness compared to the placebo group. In fact, the presence of atherosclerosis was found in 46.7% of women taking the calcium compared to 54.7% of the women in the placebo group. The women whose total calcium intake from diet and supplements was in the top one-third of subjects had a 33% lower risk of carotid artery atherosclerosis than those whose total calcium intake was in the lowest third.

The conclusion of this study refutes the finding of recent studies showing a negative association between calcium supplementation and heart disease. Higher calcium intake through supplementation and diet may actually reduce carotid artery atherosclerosis.

One key with calcium supplementation is that you need more than calcium alone. You must also take magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K, and boron. With all these taken to together, in the right ratios the maximum calcium will be ushered into the bone matrix. Magnesium should be half the amount of calcium. So if you take 800 mg of calcium, it should contain 400 mg of magnesium.

Key also is the vitamin D because most Americans are deficient in vitamin D. So if you’re taking pure calcium alone, switch and find a good supplement which has all the above vitamins and minerals.

Lewis JR, Zhu K, Thompson PL, Prince RL. The Effects of 3 Years of Calcium Supplementation on Common Carotid Artery Intimal Medial Thickness and Carotid Atherosclerosis in Older Women: An Ancillary Study of the CAIFOS Randomized Controlled Trial. J Bone Miner Res. 2013 Oct 23. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.2117.

You thought melatonin was to help you sleep, but it has many anti aging factors

Melatonin has long been though of as a hormone you can take just to help you get a better nights sleep. It is one of the regulators of your circadian rhythm, but beyond making you sleepy when the sun goes down, it does much more.

Melatonin production declines as we age. Researchers  believe that this may contribute to the aging process and the general decline in health.  So popping a melatonin before you go to sleep may help you sleep better and turn back the clock. 
Below are seven key benefits of melatonin:
  1. Antioxidant Defense – Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant. It is 200% more powerful than vitamin E and is superior to vitamin C.  In post menopausal women melatonin has been found to inhibit lipid per oxidation which in turn helps prevent heart disease.
  2. Fights Heart Disease – There is research showing that melatonin can protect the heart muscle from oxidative damage and decreasing the levels of LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol. It also helps with blood sugar management. Tame these and you’ve greatly reduced your risk of heart disease.
  3. Cancer Prevention – Melatonin has been shown to exhibit anti-carcinogenic properties and can also induce cancer cell death – apoptosis. For those undergoing conventional cancer therapy it has been shown to slow the cancer progression and lessen the side effects of the chemotherapy.
  4. Diabetes – Diabetes like cancer and heart disease all have one thing in common – Free radicals. These free radicals can cause damage to the cells, damage to your DNA, oxidation of lipids, and many other cellular defects. The high blood levels in diabetics causes a hire rise in oxidative stress and the release of free radicals. Melatonin comes to the rescue by quenching many of these damaging free radicals. Melatonin has also been shown to protect the pancreatic beta cells, kidney’s, eyes, and heart from the damages caused by the side effects of diabetes.
  5. Alzheimers – Another unique property of melatonin is that it can cross the blood-brain barrier. It not only crosses the blood brain barrier, but has also been shown to protect it. Melatonin has been shown to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and protecting delicate internal cellular structures. Melatonin also exhibits profound neruoprotective effects against the beta amyloid plaque, one of the suspected causes of Alzheimer’s.
  6. Combat Obesity – Obesity has been found to be correlated with stress, emotional eating, and sleep deprivation, and hormonal changes later in life. Melatonin’s basic function of aiding in sleep can reduce stress, cortisol, and emotional eating – We all know how much better we feel after a good nights sleep.
  7. Osteoporosis – Research has also found that melatonin has beneficial effects on bone repair and rebuilding. In a recent double-blind placebo controlled study with peri-meanopausal women found that melatonin improved sleep and increased the bio markers of indicating bone formation and decreased the levels of makers indicating bone depleting.  Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of bone depletion exceeds the rate of bone formation.
So with all these benefits is there any reason you shouldn’t be taking extra melatonin?  Melatonin has been shown to be safe with no side effects when taken in consistent dosages of less than 10 mg/day.
We all make melatonin naturally, but as we age we produce less and less. Also our life does all it can to combat melatonin production.
Melatonin is produced primarily in the pineal gland in the brain and in the retinas of the eyes. remember when you were out camping. The sun goes down and the sky and gets more red. It is that shift from the bluish bright day light to the reddish dusk light that starts the melatonin production. When it is finally dark melatonin production is at its height and you fall asleep.  Then when the sun comes up in the morning your eyes see the light and the light, especially more more blueish morning light quickly shuts down melatonin production and flushes the melatonin in your system out. 
So knowing now melatonin production works, now look at our typical life. When the light goes down we flip on the lights. When we finally go to bed, we are looking at our phones, iPads, and watching TV. All are bright bluish light. Then when the light is finally off you have an assortment of little lights on your chargers, phones, alarm clocks, etc. You also have street lights shining through the window. So without total darkness, you don’t sleep well because you are sabotaging your melatonin production.
So leave the TV in the bedroom off, cover all the little blinking lights, and close the blinds. That will help, but pop a very inexpensive melatonin tablet under your tongue and hour before you go to sleep and enjoy better sleep and better health.
One word of caution, not all melatonin is created equal. Most of what you’ll find on the store shelves comes from the pineal glands and eyes of cattle. It is very difficult to purify and live viruses from the cows brain, like mad cow disease, can survive intact in the tablets. This is why many countries have outlawed melatonin sales.  The product I use and recommend is pure 100% bio-identical melatonin, but synthesized in a lab so that there is no risk of viral contamination. So chose your melatonin wisely.

Is Calcium Really Dangerous Like We’ve Seen on the News?

There have been several news reports and studies lately saying that calcium supplements lead to an increase in heart disease and that even calcium plus low dose vitamin D leads to an increase in heart disease. In addition they claimed it showed no, or minimal improvement in osteoporosis.   Most are relying on a study published online May 23rd in the journal Heart.

I saw one report in a daily email targeted to doctors that prescribing calcium and vitamin D doesn’t help osteoporosis and leads to increased heart disease, so they are better off to make sure their patients aren’t taking them and they should stay on their prescription drugs for osteoporosis.

So with these kinds of headlines, is it safe to take Calcium and or Vitamin D supplements?  Yes it is, but you need to take a critical look at these studies and understand the basis of how calcium is used in our bodies.

First, Calcium alone can lead to the problems above due to the calcification of soft tissues, like hardening of the arteries and atherosclerotic plaque. What these studies failed to do was provide adequate amounts of magnesium along with calcium. When you eat a well balanced diet you are receiving both calcium and magnesium, unfortunately according to the USDA 57% of americans suffer from inadequate magnesium. Magnesium is a key ingredient to reduce the risk of heart disease because it is a calcium channel blocker.

Second these studies omitted adding vitamin K to the supplements. Studies have shown numerous times that we receive far too little vitamin K in our diets and that once vitamin K levels are raised that there is a 57% reduction from dying from cardiovascular disease  and most of those with blocked arteries and heart valve damage show low vitamin K status.  Furthermore, women taking vitamin K have reduced fractures by 81%.  So vitamin K both helps increase circulatory health and reduces fractures.

So these studies which have looked at just calcium or calcium and vitamin D omitted two other key nutrients which would have completely reversed the outcome of the studies – Magnesium and Vitamin K.

Now if we look beyond just cardiovascular health and also look at skeletal health and avoidance of osteoporosis, which is why most people take calcium in the first place, then three other nutrients are critical to enable your body to move calcium into the bone matrix:

  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D, the new wonder nutrient, enhances calcium absorption in the small intestine and calcium utilization in bone formation. Vitamin D also influences the utilization of phosphorus, another mineral that is important for strong bones.
  • Silicon – This gives stability to all the connective tissues of the body and is essential for proper calcium utilization. Silicone is key to the calcium mineralization of the bone matrix.
  • Boron – Boron reduces calcium excretion and increases the deposition of calcium in the bone.
So if you’re taking calcium supplement for bone health, make sure it also has magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin D, silicon, and boron. The omission of any of these key nutrients will reduce the effectiveness in the prevention of osteoporosis.
The proportions of these nutrients in your supplement and diet are also important. Ideally the amount of calcium should be twice the amount of magnesium. In the the case of the supplement we use and recommend, it has 800 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium  per serving. (proper dosage is 2 servings per day, so twice the above amounts.)
As always just because the label says it has certain amounts of certain nutrients isn’t necessarily a guarantee that it does. ConsumerLabs has found far too often that supplements are lacking in stated nutrients and often, contain lead as well. Inexpensive super market, big box, and drug store brands often use minerals as found in the earth which brings along lead and other undesirable elements.  High quality supplement will use primarily chelated minerals. That means they are bound to organic amino acids, just like they are when you obtain them from fruits and vegetables.

A Decadent Way to Prevent Heart Disease – Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate may be an inexpensive way to help prevent cardiovascular disease in patients at risk for heart disease, researchers found.
A modeling study predicts that patients with metabolic syndrome who eat dark chocolate every day could have 85 fewer events per 10,000 population over 10 years.
For only a few dollars per year, treatment with dark chocolate falls into an acceptable category of cost-effectiveness. This could save $50,000 per year that your life is extended.
“Chocolate benefits from being by and large a pleasant, and hence sustainable, treatment option,” they wrote. “Evidence to date suggests that the chocolate would need to be dark and of at least 60% to 70% cocoa, or formulated to be enriched with polyphenols.”
Several recent studies have suggested that eating dark chocolate has blood-pressure and lipid-lowering effects. To assess whether it could be an effective and cost-effective treatment option in patients potentially at risk for cardiovascular disease, the researchers looked at data from patients in the Australian Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle study.
The investigators also used risk-prediction algorithms and population life tables to determine the probability of patients developing or dying from heart disease or other noncardiovascular causes each year.
Data on the blood-pressure-lowering effects of dark chocolate were taken from a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials, and lipid-lowering effects from a meta-analysis of eight short-term trials.
Costs were taken from a review of the costs of cardiovascular complications in a healthy population, and included the direct costs of heart attack and stroke.
They calculated the number of deaths prevented by determining the difference in the number of deaths between those consuming and not consuming dark chocolate.
With 100% compliance, which isn’t hard if all you have to do is eat chocolate, treatment would prevent 70 non-fatal and 15 fatal cardiovascular events per 10,000 population over that time. 
When compliance was reduced to 90%, the number of preventable non-fatal and fatal events fell to 60 and 10, respectively, and at a compliance of 80%, was reduced to 55 and 10, respectively. Even at these levels, however, daily dark chocolate was still considered an effective and cost-effective intervention strategy, they wrote.
So go out and grab that bar of dark chocolate and enjoy adding years to your life. My advice though is to find the darkest you can tolerate. 60% or 70% chocolate still has a lot of sugar and other calorie packed ingredients. try an 85% or 90%. I personally have a few squares of Lindt 99% dark chocolate each evening (image to the right).  It is hard to find in the US but readily available in Europe and mail order from Lindt.com. The Lindt 90% can easily be found here though.
Finally something that tastes so good is actually good for you too!

Fish Oil found to reduce the risk of death more than statin drugs

In April 2005 a paper was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reviewed the effects of various fat lowering agents and heart disease. This data was pulled from 97 different clinical trials comparing cardiac death rates from the various methods used to treat high cholesterol. Mortality data involving 137,000 patients using different cholesterol lowering drugs vs mortality records from 139,000 patients who were not being treated for high cholesterol. The treatments used where cholesterol lowering statin drugs, high dose niacin, fish oil, and dietary change. 

The researchers found that the greatest benefit was obtained from fish oil which provided an overall 23% reduction in the risk of death. Conversely the costly statin drugs only provided a 13% reduction.  When the risk of death from heart disease alone was examined, Fish Oil lowered death rates by 32% compared to only 22% from statin drugs.

So simple fish oil was more effective at reducing the overall risk of death from all non-accidental causes of death, and in particular from heart disease.  Fish oil achieved these remarkable results even though it had almost no effect on cholesterol levels. This is further proof that heart disease is not caused by cholesterol.

Fish oil demonstrated no side effects as compared to the statin drugs which can cause organ damage, muscle pain, and congestive heart failure.

So before you run out and pick up a bottle of the lowest priced fish oil you can find, some fish oil products have their own dangers.  The fish oil I use and recommend is guaranteed to be free of all possible contaminants like mercury, dioxin, and PCB. This fish oil is sourced from small, young, cold water fish like sardines. These small fish have not spent years in the ocean so they have accumulated little of these dangerous contaminants. Then it goes through a double molecular distillation process to insure that it is nothing but pure fish oil.

Most commercial fish oils are sourced from the organs of larger fish which are caught for their meat like tuna, shark, cod, etc.  these fish are many years old and have accumulated much higher lives of mercury, dioxin, and PCB in their tissues. Several years ago the state of California brought a suite against six companies for not identifying that their products didn’t company with the states Prop 65 restrictions against high levels of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer or birth defects. These companies were:

  • CVS Pharmacy Inc 
  • Rite Aid Corp
  • General Nutrition Corp. (GNC)
  • NOW Health Group Inc.;
  • Omega Protein Inc.;
  • Pharmavite LLC (Nature Made brand);
  • Solgar Inc.
  • Twinlab Corp.
As you can see these are some major brands.

So do get some fish oil daily, but make sure it is from a safe source. For more information on the fish oil I use please contact me.