How to Achieve Oral Health Naturally

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Many scientists have suggested that our teeth play a vital role in our overall health. In the last couple of years, a number of studies have shown a link between poor oral health and the development of diseases.

For example, one study demonstrated that people with dental problems were more likely to get heart disease.1 A more recent study even linked poor oral health to an increased risk of cancer and death.2

Fortunately, nature has given us the tools we need to keep our mouths in good shape.

Not only can natural ingredients help us keep our teeth clean and healthy, in certain instances, they can be gentler and more effective than the typical ingredients found in your “everyday” dental products.

Now, “going natural” doesn’t mean you should discard your toothbrush and toothpaste (we wouldn’t want that). Instead, what it means is this: You can improve your teeth by eating right and by switching to dental products that contain natural ingredients.

Now that we know that oral health can be improved naturally, let’s look at some tips on how to do just that.

Natural Ingredients for Good Oral Hygiene

The foundation of oral health is brushing and flossing after every meal. So, let’s start there.

Here are some natural ingredients to look for when selecting a natural toothpaste:

  • Tea tree oil kills cavity-causing bacteria.3 It also stops gums from bleeding.4

  • CoQ10 can help heal inflamed gum tissue.5

  • Xylitol (a natural sugar found in several fruits) may prevent cavities. According to one study, it was more effective in preventing cavities than fluoride.6

  • Hydrogen peroxide blocks plaque development.7

Vitamins that Support Oral Health

Apart from brushing and flossing, getting the right nutrition is extremely important. Just like the rest of your body, your teeth also rely on vitamins and minerals to stay strong and disease-free.

Calcium and phosphorus are essential building blocks of teeth. But our teeth also require nutrients such as folic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin D.

These vitamins protect gums from plaque build-up8 and inflammation,9,10 which could otherwise lead to tooth decay.

Foods That are Good for Your Teeth

We tend to think that foods damage our teeth rather than preserve them. But some foods might actually protect your gums and teeth. Here are a few examples:

  • Cranberries keep bacteria from sticking to your teeth.11 This is important because bacteria first need to stick to teeth before they can form plaque and cavities.

  • Pomegranate eases gum inflammation12 and kills plaque causing bacteria.13

  • Green tea prevents bacteria from eating their preferred food source, sugar,14 and blocks the growth of plaque-causing bacteria.15

  • Results are mixed, but there is some research showing eating apples may reduce the amount of plaque on teeth.16

Healthy Alternatives to Store-Bought Mouthwashes

Mouthwashes can also be a helpful addition to your mouth care routine. Often skipped during our nightly teeth-cleaning rituals, using a mouthwash can help to kill bad bacteria and soothe inflamed gums.

However, a number of store-bought mouthwashes are harsh and have even been linked to cancer.17

Want a mouthwash with safe and effective ingredients? Make your own at home. Key ingredients to use include chamomile, propolis, aloe, grapefruit seed extract, clove, peppermint, tea tree oil, green tea, and even cinnamon.

Below is a homemade mouthwash recipe courtesy of Breath MD18:

Recipe: Baking Soda Mouthwash:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 4 drops of pure peppermint oil
  • 4 drops of tea tree oil
  • Mix ingredients

What You Need to Know

Remember — good health starts in your mouth. By taking care of your teeth, not only will you look better, but you could make a long-lasting impact on your overall health and prevent disease.

Practicing good oral hygiene and making appropriate dietary changes are the foundation to oral health. And you should always remember that the use of natural ingredients is a safe and effective way to protect your teeth.

References:

  1. J Am Dent Assoc. 1997 May;128(5):554.
  2. BMJ Open. 2012 Jun 11;2(3).
  3. Schweiz Monatsschr Zahnmed. 2000;110(11):125-30.
  4. Aust Dent J. 2004 Jun;49(2):78-83.
  5. Res Commun Chem Pathol Pharmacol. 1976 Aug;14(4):715-9.
  6. Am J Dent. 1995 Oct;8(5):231-5.
  7. J Clin Periodontol. 2001 Mar;28(3):270-6.
  8. J Periodontol. 1976 Nov;47(11):667-8.
  9. Proc Finn Dent Soc. 1993;89(1-2):51-9.
  10. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Sep;82(3):575-80.
  11. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2012 Apr;23(2):160-7.
  12. J Clin Periodontol. 2005;32(Suppl 6):57-71.
  13. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(2):79-92.
  14. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 1990 Mar;38(3):717-20.
  15. Int J Dent Hyg. 2011 May;9(2):110-6.
  16. Nahrung. 1986;30(9):907-12.
  17. Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Nov 15;166(10):1159-73.
  18. Available at: http://www.breathmd.com/homemade-mouthwash.php. Accessed August 23, 2012.

Can Caffeine Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system disorder affecting millions of older Americans. It can be very debilitating and greatly diminish a person’s quality of life.

That’s why when new findings are published using natural remedies, it seriously captures our attention. And that’s exactly what this latest study has done.

Researchers in Montreal recently discovered that caffeine can improve Parkinson’s symptoms.1 This is surprising to many, as we don’t typically think of caffeine as medicine.

If anything, many health enthusiasts have traditionally shied away from coffee because of its caffeine content. Perhaps they shouldn’t write it off so quickly.

Nerve Cells Like Caffeine

In the Montreal study, researchers split a group of Parkinson’s patients into two groups. One group took caffeine pills, equivalent to 2–4 cups of coffee, while the other group took a placebo.

The results were pretty amazing. The caffeine group improved significantly, characterized by more fluid, less rigid movement.1

Scientists aren’t exactly sure how caffeine helps. One theory is that caffeine protects specific brain cells destroyed in Parkinson’s disease.2

These brain cells are sensitive to dopamine, an important neurotransmitter for coordinated movement. When the dopamine brain cells are destroyed, movement becomes hard to control, rigid, and stiff.

Another theory involves caffeine’s support of the blood-brain barrier. The specialized blood vessels lining this barrier keep dangerous toxins out of your brain. Scientists suspect that a leaky blood brain barrier may be linked to the destruction of dopamine brain cells.3

Now that we know caffeine may protect the brain in multiple ways, let’s see how we can get it into our diet.

Where Do You Get Your Caffeine?

Most people get their caffeine from coffee, tea or sugary drinks. Of course, we’re not big fans of sugary drinks for many obvious reasons. However, coffee and tea can be healthy options — depending on what you add to them.

The Montreal study linking caffeine intake to an improvement in Parkinson’s disease symptoms had patients taking the amount of caffeine found in about 2–4 cups of coffee.

So if you’ve ever felt bad about your coffee habit, now you have an excuse to drink several cups.

It’s comforting to know strides are being made in the area of Parkinson’s disease. It’s even better when the research shows the foods we come across every day might make a difference.

Who knew a stimulating compound as readily available as caffeine could help?

References:

  1. Neurology. 2012 Aug 14;79(7):651-8. Epub 2012 Aug 1.
  2. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S205-20.
  3. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S127-41.

Can Apples Help Lower Blood Pressure?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Remember that old saying about an apple a day keeping the doctor away? Well, in Canada, scientists have discovered yet another reason to justify that premise. A recent experiment has revealed that apple peels may help to lower blood pressure.

As you probably know, keeping your blood pressure within an optimal range is essential for living a long, healthy life. Uncontrolled blood pressure can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, as well as shorten your life span.

Approximately 25% of Americans suffer from high blood pressure, which is defined as blood pressure readings consistently above 140/90. There is no cure for hypertension yet. This is why the results of this latest study are encouraging.

Apple Peel Flavonoids Help Control Blood Pressure

In the Canadian study, scientists extracted flavonoids (antioxidants) from apple peel and tested it against endothelial cells, which are blood pressure regulating cells. They found the flavonoids in apple peel inhibited ACE, which stands for angiotensin converting enzyme.1

ACE works with your endothelial cells to control your blood pressure. When ACE is inhibited, blood vessels relax and blood pressure decreases.

Of the flavonoids tested in the study, quercetin, which is found in apple peels, exhibited the most potent ACE inhibiting activity.

Apple Peel Extract – Coming to a Pharmacy Near You?

ACE inhibitors aren’t only found in nature — you can also find them in your local pharmacy. They lower blood pressure by inhibiting the same enzyme that’s blocked by apple peel extract.

In fact, if you have high blood pressure, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’re on an ACE inhibitor. They’re commonly prescribed by doctors.

If you’re on an ACE inhibitor, you may be wondering if you can just start taking an apple peel extract instead of your prescription medication. Well, we wouldn’t suggest this quite yet.

The Canadian study was done in vitro, meaning it was performed in a test tube and not on actual animals or people. Further studies need to be done before we know if apple peel would be a viable choice for controlling your blood pressure.

Nevertheless, quercetin, which is one of the key flavonoids pointed out in the study, has been investigated for its blood pressure lowering effects in humans.

In another study, hypertensive people who took quercetin supplements (730 mg/day) reduced their systolic (top number) blood pressure by approximately 7 units (mmHg) and diastolic (bottom number) pressure by 5 units (mmHg).2

So, if you’re looking for a helpful apple flavonoid, consider quercetin to maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Yes – Eat More Apples!

Could apples be a potential treatment for hypertension in the future? Could be, but we’re not 100% sure.

Based on the results of this Canadian study, you may want to consider including more apples in your diet (or you could supplement with it). And, most importantly, be sure to never ditch the peel!

Hypertension is a deadly disease that claims the lives of thousands of Americans each year. In fact, it’s even one of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Could apples eventually become a viable solution for lowering blood pressure? Only time will tell.

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814612011351. Accessed August 20, 2012.
  2. J Nutr. 2007 Nov;137(11):2405-11.

Can Creatine Supplements Help with Depression?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Although creatine offers an array of benefits, most people think of it simply as a supplement that bodybuilders and other athletes use to gain strength and muscle mass. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A substantial body of research has found that creatine may have a wide variety of uses. In fact, creatine is being studied as a supplement that may help with diseases affecting the neuromuscular system, such as muscular dystrophy (MD).1,2

And now, a new study shows that creatine actually improves the effectiveness of antidepressants and can improve mood in people who’ve been diagnosed with depression.

Creatine is an Energy Amino Acid

Creatine is an amino acid that is produced in the human liver, kidneys, and pancreas, but it’s also present in meat and fish. Creatine is directly related to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is formed in the powerhouses of the cell, the mitochondria.

ATP is often referred to as the "universal energy molecule" used by every cell in our bodies.

An increase in oxidative stress coupled with a cell's inability to produce essential energy molecules such as ATP is a hallmark of aging and is found in many diseases.

As a matter of fact, some of the most important factors in maintaining health are the ability to:

  • Prevent mitochondrial damage to DNA caused by oxidative stress
  • Prevent the decline in ATP synthesis
It would appear that maintaining antioxidant status (in particular intra-cellular glutathione) and ATP levels are essential in fighting the aging process. This seems to be how creatine helps people with depression as well.

Creatine Improves Mood

The American Journal of Psychiatry published findings showing that creatine enhanced the effectiveness of Lexapro, a common antidepressant. All test subjects clearly showed improvement on standard interview questions used in clinical studies for depression.3

The research team conducted an eight-week study involving 52 women with major depressive disorder. All of the participants were taking Lexapro during the study.

Both groups were interviewed at the beginning of the trial in order to establish a baseline rating of their depression. The researchers used the standard Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS). The interview process was repeated at two, four, and eight weeks.

The findings showed that the creatine test group significantly improved on the Hamilton Rating Scale at two weeks and four weeks when compared with those in the placebo group. At the end of the trial, 50% of those in the creatine group were free of depression compared with only one-quarter of those in the placebo group.3 Pretty impressive.

A Creatine Shake for Everyone

Creatine comes in many forms. It’s most commonly used as a powder. But it’s also available in chewable tablets, mixed into protein powders, protein bars, liquids, capsules, fruit-flavored chews, and drink mixes.

Here’s a tasty recipe for putting your creatine powder to good use:

  • Ice cubes
  • 12 oz. water
  • 2 scoops vanilla protein powder
  • 1 serving creatine powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple chunks
You can drink it “as is” or blend into a refreshing, slightly sweet tasting shake. If you prefer smoothies, just add some Greek yogurt or “no sugar added” vanilla ice cream and enjoy!

References:

  1. Neurology. 2000 May 9;54(9):1848-50.
  2. Neurology. 1999 Mar 10;52(4):854-7.
  3. Am J Psychiatry. 2012;:. 10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12010009 (http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=1306075)

Health Benefit Roundup: Vitamin D

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN


Chances are you’ve heard a lot about vitamin D lately. For the last couple of years, vitamin D has made its way into headline news on a regular basis.

Originally thought to be the “bone vitamin,” vitamin D is now recognized as a valuable nutrient for the prevention of a number of diseases.

Below is a roundup of the many health benefits that have recently been associated with it.

Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Many of us know about most of the traditional risk factors, but so far, there has been very little emphasis on vitamin D’s role in this condition.

Vitamin D protects against blood vessel inflammation and calcium buildup. It can also help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. In contrast, vitamin D deficiencies are associated with atherosclerosis.1

Consider these findings: A study released in 2008 showed that men with low vitamin D levels were more than twice as likely to suffer heart attacks.2

Also, heart attacks are more likely to occur in the winter when vitamin D deficiencies are most common.3

Vitamin D and Diabetes

Vitamin D supplementation has been found to lower blood sugar4 and may even help prevent the development of diabetes.

In one study, children who supplemented with 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily had a much lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes.5

Scientists are not exactly sure how vitamin D helps to prevent diabetes, but they have discovered that vitamin D limits the production of inflammatory compounds, which could damage the pancreas.6 The pancreas contains beta cells which make insulin.

Vitamin D and Depression

Growing evidence suggests that vitamin D and depression are interrelated. In a study of over 7,000 people, low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of developing the disease.7

Vitamin D supplementation may be helpful for people suffering depression. In a study of obese patients, high dose vitamin D supplementation (2,800–6,000 IU per day) for one year improved mood.8

Vitamin D and Cancer

Scientists are assessing vitamin D’s ability to reduce the risk of over 17 different cancers.

So far, research has shown optimal vitamin D levels are associated with fewer cancers of the colon,9 breast,10 bladder, esophagus, stomach, cervix, uterus, and pancreas.11

In addition, vitamin D may improve the survival rates of cancer patients. In one study, lung cancer patients who had higher intakes of vitamin D and their cancer surgery in the summer experienced better survival rates.12

Vitamin D and Respiratory Infections

People with higher vitamin D blood levels come down with fewer upper respiratory tract infections.13 This is not surprising, since vitamin D is a powerful regulator of the immune system.

Vitamin D works on many levels to launch an attack against viruses and bacteria that invade our bodies. It activates immune supporting genes14and prevents the uncomfortable symptoms associated with respiratory infections (pain, congestion, fever).15

Vitamin D and Stroke

Several studies indicate vitamin D-deficient diets increase the risk for stroke.16,17

In one study, more than 700 men and women were followed for up to 10 years. People with low blood levels of vitamin D had an increased risk for stroke, despite other factors such as age and smoking.18

Other research shows vitamin D deficiencies may increase the severity of strokes in animals.19

How to Get Your Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" because it’s the only vitamin that is produced when our bodies are exposed to sunlight. To increase your own production of vitamin D, you can simply go outside and catch some rays. However, this method might not be very practical for some of you.

Simply put, because of today’s indoor living and working arrangements, few people stay in the sun long enough to actually produce enough vitamin D.

Even those who live in sunny climates often have deficiencies. According to one study, residents in sunny Miami were found to be deficient for at least part of the year.20

So how else can you get enough vitamin D in your system? By taking a high quality vitamin D3 supplement.

How much should you take? Usually, somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily is a good range, but we suggest getting a vitamin D blood test to pinpoint your own blood level. This is the best way to accurately target the right daily dose for you.

In short, you need to take as much vitamin D as your body needs to hit an optimal vitamin D blood level of 50–80 ng/ml.

What You Need to Know

Researchers are starting to realize that vitamin D deficiencies play a pivotal role in the development of many diseases. So, if you haven’t been getting enough, now is probably a good time to make it a priority.

Have you had your own vitamin D blood level checked lately? If not, please consider it today!

References:

  1. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2006 Nov;65(5):593-7.
  2. Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jun 9;168(11):1174-80.
  3. J Am Coll Cardiol. 1998 May;31(6):1226-33.
  4. Diabetes Care. 2007 Apr;30(4):980-6. Epub 2007 Feb 2.
  5. Lancet. 2001 Nov 3;358(9292):1500-3.
  6. Endocrinology. 2005 Apr;146(4):1956-64.
  7. Am Heart J. 2010;159:1037-43.
  8. J Intern Med. 2008;264:599-609.
  9. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Oct;97(1-2):179-94.
  10. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Aug;14(8):1991-7.
  11. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Jun;10(2):94-111.
  12. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2005 Oct;14(10):2303-9.
  13. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Feb 23;169(4):384-90.
  14. J Immunol. 2004 Sep 1;173(5):2909-12.
  15. Blood. 2005 Dec 15;106(13):4351-8.16.
  16. Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2012 Aug;14(4):414-24.
  17. Stroke. 2012 Aug;43(8):2163-7. Epub 2012 May 24.
  18. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2005 Jun;15(3):188-97.
  19. Endocrinology. 2012 May;153(5):2420-35. Epub 2012 Mar 9.
  20. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;90(3):1557-62.

Can Supplementing with Chlorella Improve Immunity?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Chlorella is a species of algae, more commonly referred to as seaweed. They’re a very large and diverse group of simple organisms. They can be as small as a single cell or as large as the giant kelps that grow to 65 meters in length in temperate oceans.

Most algae, including chlorella, act like plants by creating energy from sunlight — a process called photosynthesis. But they’re still considered "simple" because their cells and tissues are not organized into the many distinct internal organs.

Naturally growing algae are an important source of food, especially in Asia. They provide many vitamins, including vitamin E,folate and vitamin C, and are also rich in iodine, potassium, iron, magnesium and calcium.

Some species are also a rich source of beta-carotene and B vitamins.1,2

Chlorella - An “Underground” Supplement

Chlorella was one of the first algae to be cultivated as food and formulated into supplements. Industrial production of chlorella products began in Korea and Japan following the Second World War.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, researchers were able to isolate many nutrients from chlorella, including amino acids, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants.

It's been somewhat of an “underground” supplement for nutritional enthusiasts, as it’s taken several decades to gain the attention of mainstream supplement users.

These days, it’s finally growing in popularity as an important immune booster.

Chlorella Improves Immune Parameters

Researchers from Yonsei Univeristy in Korea studied chlorella’s immune properties.

They recently completed a short-term study measuring changes in specific immune parameters during chlorella supplementation.3

The researchers recruited 51 healthy Koreans for their 8 week study. All participants were randomized into either a group receiving 5 grams a day of chlorella or a placebo group. The results were quite impressive. Here’s what they found:3

  • The activity of Natural Killer Cells, a type of immune cell, significantly increased in the chlorella group.
  • Two immune proteins involved in fighting viruses and bacteria, interferon-gamma and interleukin-1 beta, increased significantly in the chlorella group.
The main limitation of the study is that it was conducted in healthy people. The question now is this: Will chlorella show similar effects in sick people who really need this type of immune boost?

This can only be answered through additional research, which we look forward to.

Chlorella Boosts Your Built-in Cancer and Infection Fighting System

Supporting a robust immune system is really one of the key steps to living a longer life. Your immune system is responsible for fighting and destroying anything that is foreign to your own cells and tissues. That includes not only bacteria and viruses and yeast, but also cancer cells.

As such, consider adding chlorella to your list of immune boosters. Many of us already take vitamins C and D and other immune nutrients, like selenium and bitter herbs.

Adding chlorella to this list may very well be a good idea if strengthening immunity is important to you!

References:

  1. J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Dec 12;55(25):10470-5. Epub 2007 Nov 10.
  2. Arch Microbiol. 1977 Feb 4;112(1):57-9.
  3. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:53 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-53 (http://www.nutritionj.com/content/11/1/53/abstract)

How Healthy is That Smoothie?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Chances are you’ve probably drank a delicious smoothie at one point during your life. They’re everywhere — from your fancy organic health stores to the fast food restaurant lining our neighborhood street corners.

Whether they deserve it or not, they are often perceived as healthy.

It’s true … smoothies do have some health merits. They’re rich in antioxidants provided by all of the tasty fruits they contain. They’re also fast, convenient, and relatively easy to make.

For many people on the go, smoothies seem like an obvious, healthy choice. But just how healthy are they?

Most Smoothies Aren’t as Healthy as You’d Think

As part of an anti-aging program, we should monitor the amount of sugar we eat on a daily basis. A sugar-rich diet can spike our blood sugar levels and increase our risk for numerous diseases, including cancer and metabolic syndrome.

One study has even linked the consumption of sugary drinks to cardiovascular disease.1

Smoothies, depending on how they’re made, can sometimes contain more sugar than a can of soda. For example, a popular 20 ounce can of soda has about 69 grams of sugar,2 compared to up to 133 grams in a similar sized smoothie.3

Since some fruits contain more sugar than others, watch out for smoothies that contain watermelon, pineapple, and mangoes. These fruits contain a high amount of sugar and are more likely to increase your blood sugar levels.

Generally speaking, your best bet is to order a smoothie that contains berries, since berries have a lower impact on blood glucose.

Be sure to also investigate the other ingredients that are added to your smoothies. Many places add sorbet, table sugar, and syrups which contain high fructose corn syrup.

Obviously, it’s best to skip these unnecessary additions whenever possible.

Smoothies Aren’t as “Lite” as You Probably Think

A smoothie can contain more calories than a dessert. We looked at the calorie count of different smoothies at a popular smoothie joint.

The calories ranged between 250 to 590.4 Contrast that with a typical serving of vanilla ice cream (not light) — 144.7 calories.5

Ask for the nutrition facts at your local smoothie bar. There may be lighter options on their menu.

A Healthier Way to Make Smoothies

It’s actually healthier to eat fruit in its natural state, but we know just how addictive smoothies can be. So, instead of giving them up altogether, consider making them yourself at home. Here are some ways to make them healthier:

  • Pick a better “base”. Many smoothies use apple or banana juice as the “base”. Opt for low calorie almond milk instead. Some almond milk brands contain 40 calories per cup. Low calorie soy milk is available as well.
  • Substitute veggies for fruit. Veggies tend to contain less sugar than fruits. There are certain vegetables such as spinach, chard, and kale which give a nice kick to your smoothies without making them taste like vegetables. Go easy on the carrots - they're packed with natural sugars.
  • Protein blunts the sugar spike that may occur when eating carbs. Protein signals the body to secrete hormones which keep your appetite at bay. You can add extra protein to your smoothie by including hemp, whey, spirulina, soy, or vegetable protein powders.
  • Add fiber in the form of flax seeds, chia seeds, rolled oats, or wheat germ. The fiber slows down the absorption of glucose in your digestive tract. And it fills you up.
  • Fat is filling and guards against blood sugar peaks. Consider avocado as a healthy source of fat in your smoothies. Flax seed and olive oil may also be added.
We need to be careful about the “health foods” we select. Next time you go to your favorite smoothie place, rethink that smoothie or make your own healthier version at home!

Recipe: Avocado Berry Smoothie

Here’s a smoothie recipe, courtesy of choosingraw.com. The beauty of this recipe is that it is not heavy on the sugars. Notice it contains healthy fat from avocado and fiber from berries, hemp seeds, and spinach. Use a low 40-calorie almond milk brand.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 small avocado
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 1/3 cup almond milk
Blend all ingredients until they’re smooth, serve and enjoy!

References

  1. Circulation. 2012 Apr 10;125(14):1735-41, S1. Epub 2012 Mar 12.
  2. Available at: http://www.pepsicobeveragefacts.com/infobyproduct.php?prod_type=1026&prod_size=20&brand_fam_id=1051&brand_id=1000&product=Pepsi. Accessed August 13, 2012.
  3. Available at: http://www.smoothieking.com/smoothies/nutritional-chart.php. Accessed August 13, 2012.
  4. Available at: http://www.jambajuice.com/component/nutfacts/type/11 . Accessed August 13, 2012.
  5. Available at: http://calorielab.com/foods/ice-cream-and-frozen/115. Accessed August 13, 2012.

Exploring the Latest in Vitamin D Research

By Michael A. Smith, MD

The explosive scientific interest in the broad-spectrum benefits of vitamin D has produced numerous published studies within the past few years. The result of all of that research is clear: Vitamin D is critical to your health.

The lead organization creating awareness about vitamin D research says this, “Vitamin D is critically important for the development, growth, and maintenance of a healthy body, beginning with gestation in the womb and continuing throughout our lives.”1

Below we’ll take a look at three impressive associations recently made between vitamin D and common health issues.

Vitamin D Deficiency is Linked to Arterial Disease

Vitamin D status was assessed in patients with occlusive arterial disease — more commonly known as “narrowed” arteries or plaques.

Researchers from Erasmus University in the Netherlands recruited 490 people for their study. The study participants were categorized into one of four groups:2

  • Severe vitamin D deficiency
  • Moderate vitamin D deficiency
  • Vitamin D insufficient (or mild deficiency)
  • Vitamin D sufficient
Overall, 45% of the enrolled participants were categorized as either moderately or severely deficient in vitamin D.

The researchers uncovered an association between moderate and severe deficiency and known consequences of occluded arterial diseases — like congestive heart failure and cerebral vascular disease.2

Vitamin D Reduces Fracture Risk

A meta-analysis published in The New England Journal of Medicine reports that higher doses of vitamin D do in fact decrease the risk of fracture in older adults.3

This is extremely important. Fractures in older adults, especially involving the femur and hip, have high mortality rates. This means that preventing fractures ultimately prevents deaths.

Test subjects with the highest vitamin D intake (between 800 and 2,000 IU) had a 30% decrease in the risk of hip fractures and a 14% drop in the risk of other fractures, like of the femur.

The authors concluded that vitamin D may be an effective fracture-prevention strategy.3

Vitamin D Helps Kids with Asthma

Watching an asthmatic child struggle to breathe is scary. And unfortunately, asthma is affecting more and more kids today than ever before. But vitamin D offers simple, affordable support.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, over 1,000 kids with persistent asthma who were using a steroid inhaler were tested for vitamin D blood levels.

After organizing the kids into three groups (sufficient, insufficient, and deficient vitamin D levels), the researchers then tested lung function by measuring lung volume while exhaling — a standard test for asthma patients.

They found that kids with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have worse lung function than kids in the other two groups.

The lead author of the study concluded, “Our study is the first to suggest that vitamin D sufficiency in asthmatic children treated with inhaled corticosteroids is associated with improved lung function.”

Vitamin D: Test it and Take it

Yes, your body can make vitamin D from sun exposure. But even here in sunny South Florida, as we get older, we still don’t produce enough. This is why it’s so important to test your vitamin D blood level and then supplement your diet with an appropriate dose.

The optimal blood level is between 50 and 80 ng/ml. Many people can achieve and maintain this range by taking between 2,000 and 7,000 IU of vitamin D a day.

Our suggestion? Demand that your doctor include a vitamin D test with your normal yearly work-up or order one yourself.

Once you get your results, speak with one of our health advisors who can help you pinpoint the right daily dose for you. They can be reached directly (and free of charge) at 1-800-226-2370!

References:

  1. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/what-is-vitamin-d/
  2. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2012 Jul 25. 9
    (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22841360)
  3. N Engl J Med. 2012 Jul 5;367(1):40-9.
  4. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012 Jul 12. PMID:22798322

How to Stay Healthy and Productive at Your Desk Job

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Do you drag yourself to work every morning only to find yourself sleepy and disoriented at the workplace?

Does your brain feel fried at the end of the workday? You’re not alone.

In fact, if you’re like the majority of us, you’re probably asking yourself the following question: How can I feel better and boost my productivity at work?

Below are some suggestions designed to make your workday more enjoyable and productive.

Poor Quality Sleep Doesn't Help

A productive workday can hinge on how well you’ve slept the night before. If you sleep well, you’re less likely to be tired, crabby, and non-productive at work.

So how do you set the mood for sleep at night? Practicing good sleep habits like these will help:

  • Take a warm bath an hour before going to bed. This changes your body temperature and prepares your brain for sleep.
  • Dim the lights 2 hours before bedtime; this helps to produce melatonin, your “sleep hormone.” Also, avoid e-mails, computer screens, or any type of electronics before bed.
  • Turn your TV off. Exciting television programs spike cortisol levels, leaving you wide awake.

Eat Right, Feel Right … at Work

We all know that we have to eat breakfast. Make sure to include protein and consider skipping the cereals in the morning. Most of them are loaded with simple sugars and high fructose corn syrup. If you must have cereal, stick with whole or sprouted grain brands.

Egg white omelets with veggies, whey protein smoothies, sprouted grain bread with peanut butter — or other nut spreads — are also healthy choices to consider.

And don’t forget: If you’re hungry eat a healthy snack. They prevent dips in blood sugar, which can zap your creativity and send you straight into a brain fog. So, keeping a supply of healthy snacks at work is always a good idea.

Try this suggestion from the Life Extension® health advisors. Split your lunch in half. Eat half in the mid-day, and the other half in the afternoon. This helps to keep your blood sugar stable.

Finally, consider bringing your own lunch to work. Lean proteins, like fish and poultry, and fresh veggies are probably your best bet.

Exercise Your Brain with Physical Activity

Get up and out of your seat as much as you can. Take a walk around the office and visit friends (just don’t get in trouble). If it’s a nice day, go outside and walk around the office building — several times if you can.

Walking for fifteen minutes, twice a day will make a big difference in your work performance. Studies show that walking increases blood flow to the brain, enhances alertness, and improves utilization of dietary sugars by your brain.

Also, consider keeping resistance bands at your desk. These nifty devices might look intimidating, but they’re easier to use than free weights and easy to keep nearby. Resistance bands increase tension on your muscles, giving them a solid workout wherever you may be.

With them, you can perform different exercises such as triceps and bicep curls along with leg lifts — all from the comfort of your own desk. Exercise bands are a great way to keep your mind sharp and your muscles toned. Try them!

Use Supplements to Charge your Brain

Did you know there are a variety of supplements that may enhance your ability to problem solve and concentrate?

  • In a clinical trial, individuals who took 100 mg of rhodiola extract a day (for 20 days) experienced significant improvements in physical work capacity and general well-being, along with less mental fatigue and situational anxiety.1

  • A study involving 60 adults revealed supplementation with 2 grams L-carnitine reduced physical and mental fatigue and improved cognitive function scores. 2

  • Phosphatidylserine, a component of the human brain, has been found to improve memory,3 concentration, and attention span.4

In Conclusion…

Here’s what we know: Successful workers don’t fall asleep on the job. Making smart, healthy changes can really help you stay in the “productivity zone” your entire day.

Not only that, but you’ll be able to concentrate easier, maintain a more positive outlook, and who knows … it might even get you a bonus if you’re lucky!

References:

  1. Phytomedicine. 2000 Apr;7(2):85-9.
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Dec;86(6):1738-44.
  3. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Jun;4(3):144-61.
  4. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Oct;5(5):402-28.

Is That a Mole or Melanoma?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Juliana really enjoyed going to tanning salons. She went often to bronze her porcelain skin. She thought her dark tan accentuated her green eyes.

And then she noticed a mole. A dermatologist friend thought the mole looked “slightly suspicious” and suggested Juliana schedule a doctor’s visit as soon as possible.

Her dermatologist took a biopsy of the mole and sent it in for testing. Juliana never expected the results to be anything serious. But weeks later, she got unexpected news. To the shock of those around her, she was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, the most advanced and dangerous form of skin cancer.

Juliana couldn’t believe the news. She never had any symptoms or felt ill. She was in tip-top shape; you might have even called her a gym rat.

Unfortunately, her cancer therapy did not stop the cancer. It spread to vital organs, and she died several months after her diagnosis. She was only 42.

Melanoma Doesn’t Have to Kill

Juliana’s story is true and represents a growing reality: Many young people die of melanoma each year. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that approximately 9,000 people will die from it in the United States in 2012 alone.1

Fortunately, melanoma is one of the most curable forms of cancer. When caught early, it is virtually 100% curable.2 Melanoma is caused by changes in skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin, which pigments the skin.

Melanoma affects people of all races, but is more common among fair skinned individuals. However, this deadly disease does not show favoritism - it kills indiscriminately.

To reverse these deadly trends, the focus first must be on prevention.

Stopping Melanoma Before it Starts

Check your skin … regularly. Get familiar with your skin and note any unusual changes. Pay attention to your moles. Have they gotten any darker, changed shape or grown within the last year?

Women tend to develop melanoma on their legs and men on their back. But don’t forget to also check the soles of your feet, your nails, and the space between your toes. Women need to check between their breasts as well.

Remember your ABCDs. It’s an acronym to help the screening process. Let’s take a look at each one:

  • Asymmetry of a mole: Does one half of the mole look like the other?
  • Border: Inspect the mole for ragged, blotched or blurred edges.
  • Color: Be aware of black or multicolored moles. Has your mole changed color over time?
  • Diameter: Pay particular attention to moles greater than 6 mm wide.
A suspicious looking mole requires a visit to the dermatologist. Unless, of course, you’re at higher risk for melanoma — things like family history of melanoma and several irregular moles, tons of sun exposure with sunburns and, you may not like this, use of tanning beds. In these cases, yearly screenings are essential.

How Else Can You Protect Against Melanoma?

Apart from using sunscreen, avoiding sunlight in the afternoon, and wearing protective clothing, consider the following foods or dietary supplements:

  1. Polypodium leucotomos, a fern from Central America, has been shown to protect the skin from UV ray damage. According to clinical studies, supplementing with the herb may decrease your risk of sunburn.3
  2. Vitamin D research is showing it may help to protect against the development and recurrence of melanoma.4,5
  3. Green tea inhibits melanoma cell proliferation in cell culture and animal studies.6,7
  4. Vitamin E forms part of the skin’s natural barrier, kind of like built-in sunscreen.8
We can no longer afford to ignore melanoma. Since the 1980’s, melanoma rates have tripled and will probably continue to grow. This is especially true today because of the growing trend of sun-worshipping.

Perhaps instead of trying to fit in with the crowd, we should just embrace our natural skin color? After all, every skin shade is beautiful and taking measures to protect your skin should be a top priority.

Risking your life to fit into a fleeting model of beauty which may be null in 20 years is probably a bad idea. As always, your health is more important!

References:

  1. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma
  2. Available at: http://ow.ly/cXEO7 
  3. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2004 Dec;51(6):910-8.
  4. J Clin Oncol. 2009 Nov 10;27(32):5439-44.
  5. Anticancer Res. 2006 Jul-Aug;26(4A):2551-6.
  6. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25224. Epub 2011 Oct 13.
  7. Biol Pharm Bull. 2010 Jan;33(1):117-21.
  8. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 1997;6(1):63-7.

Warning Signs of Cardiac Arrest in Young Athletes

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Summertime is definitely the best season of the year for teenagers. No school. No homework. They love sleeping until noon and spending long days with friends at the beach or mall or wherever — the actual place doesn’t seem to matter all that much for teens.

But summer also means high school football and those dreaded two-per-day practices. And unfortunately, nearly every year, we hear about a young athlete succumbing to sudden cardiac death. It’s a horrible tragedy that saddens and scares us all.

When we hear about it, we start to question everyone involved. Were the coaches working them too hard? Should teenagers even have two-per-day practices in the middle of summer? Did the family doctor miss something during a physical?

These are all legitimate questions and probably should be investigated.

But as a medical doctor, I always think to myself, “Did this child ever have symptoms indicating a heart problem?” A great way to answer this question is to investigate cases where the young athletes were successfully resuscitated and are alive today.

Identifying the warning signs and symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest could help parents and doctors recognize a potentially life threatening heart condition.

And that’s exactly what researchers at several U.S. medical centers did last year. Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Let’s take a look at what they discovered about sudden cardiac arrest in young athletes.

Are the Warning Symptoms of Cardiac Arrest Detectable?

Here’s the researchers’ hypothesis: “Young adults with undiagnosed cardiovascular disorders at risk for sudden death may have warning symptoms or significant family history that is detectable through screening.”1

Their objective was to determine the prevalence of warning symptoms by looking into the histories of children and young adults who suffered sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). They conducted a retrospective survey investigating the study subjects’ past medical and family history for anything that might indicate a serious heart condition.1

Eighty-seven of 146 families completed the survey. The average age of the kids who suffered SCA was 16 years old and 69% were boys, and 68% white. Seventy-two percent of SCA victims were reported by their parents to have a least one cardiovascular symptom within 2 ½ years of suffering sudden cardiac arrest. The most common cardiovascular symptoms reported were:1

  • Generalized fatigue — 44%
  • Lightheadedness — 30%
  • Family history of SCA before age 50 — 27%
  • One or more episodes of passing out or unexplained seizure — 24%
Amazingly, 41% of the families brought the symptoms to the attention of their doctors. Now this makes me wonder: What testing, if any, did the kids undergo? Honestly, probably not much. Remember, young athletes are supposed to be healthy.

What You Need to Know

The authors concluded: “Many children and young adults who suffered SCA are reported to have cardiac symptoms or a family history of premature cardiac death. Syncope [passing out] and unexplained seizure activity are distinct events but often go unrecognized as ominous signs of underlying cardiovascular disease.”

What we’ve learned from this study is that warning symptoms precede SCA and there’s usually a family history. Generalized cardiovascular screening for all young athletes is probably not necessary if parents, coaches and doctors simply ask specific, probing questions for symptoms of fatigue and lightheadedness. Parents should investigate family histories for premature deaths as well.

If you suspect something is wrong, speak with your doctor. Maybe a cardiac stress test is warranted; maybe nothing needs to be done.

But the point we're making is this: Sudden cardiac arrest is often not so “sudden” in terms of warning symptoms. We just need to ask the right questions and run the right tests, if necessary.

References:

  1. J Am Board Fam Med. 2012; 25(4):408-15.
    (http://reference.medscape.com/medline/abstract/22773708?src=nlbest)

How PQQ Helps To Generate Cellular Energy

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Mitochondria are amazing cellular compartments that create energy from the food we eat and the air we breathe. They convert fats and sugars from foods we consume into cellular energy. This energy generated by the mitochondria runs every process the body needs to stay young and healthy.

In a healthy five-year-old child, nearly 100% of the mitochondria, or what many people call the “power plants,” are working well.

But as we age, free radicals and other age-related forces destroy many of our mitochondria — and leave the ones that remain working at less than optimum efficiency.

As a matter of fact, it’s been estimated that 95% of the mitochondria in a typical 90-year-old person are damaged! Additional statistics show that people over age 70 had 50% more mitochondrial damage than middle-aged persons.1

So what happens when our mitochondria become damaged and begin to malfunction? Well, first off, we become tired. Generalized fatigue is a top complaint of aging Americans. The reason for this is quite simple: If your cells lose mitochondria, there’s not enough energy to support all the things you want to do.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction Leaves You Tired and Diseased

When you’re fatigued, if your body doesn't have enough energy to maintain and repair itself, you become more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, memory loss, and other health problems.

And since we all desire to live healthy, long lives, we suggest a two-fold approach to maintaining healthy mitochondria.

First, we can get our existing mitochondria to work better by increasing our intake of antioxidants, which we can get from a healthy diet and from supplements.

Antioxidants have been shown to help protect or at least delay our mitochondria from degrading and sustaining damage. However, antioxidants cannot completely stop this process.

The antioxidants we suggest include:

  • acetyl-l-carnitine
  • lipoic acid
  • ubiquinol coenzyme Q10
A daily dose of these nutrients will go a long way in helping to reverse fatigue and fight against age-related diseases.

Second, and this is the really exciting part, we can actually get our bodies to make new mitochondria.

Making New Mitochondria with PQQ

Generating new mitochondria traditionally could only occur as a result of strenuous exercise and extreme calorie restriction … until now, that is. Discovered during the 1970’s, an essential nutrient called pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ plays a critical role across a range of basic life functions.

As an ultra-potent antioxidant, it provides extraordinary defense against mitochondrial decay. As a matter of fact, PQQ’s chemical structure enables it to withstand exposure to oxidation up to 5,000 times greater than vitamin C.2

But the most exciting revelation about PQQ emerged early in 2010 when researchers found it not only protected mitochondria from oxidative damage, it also stimulated the growth of new mitochondria!3

PQQ has been shown to be a potent growth factor in plants, bacteria, and higher organisms. Pre-clinical studies reveal that when deprived of dietary PQQ, animals exhibit stunted growth, compromised immunity, impaired reproductive capability, and, most importantly, fewer mitochondria in their cells.4

When PQQ is re-introduced into the diet, it reverses these effects, restoring systemic function while simultaneously increasing mitochondrial number and energy efficiency.5

Taking between 10–20 mg/day of PQQ may help generate new mitochondria and round out a nutritional strategy for supporting existing mitochondria.

And remember - the more mitochondria you have, the more cell energy you’ll have and the better you’ll likely feel for many years to come.

References:

  1. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 20;854:202-13.
  2. Altern Med Rev. 2009 Sep;14(3):268-77.
  3. J Biol Chem. 2010 Jan 1;285:142-52.
  4. Life Extension Magazine® Super Sale Edition 2010/2011.
  5. J Nutr. 2000 Apr;130(4):719-27.

Two Healthy Snacks that Actually Satisfy

By Michael A. Smith, MD

If you’re hungry, you should eat. You just have to be conscious of how much and what you’re eating.

Many experts believe that it’s not the big meals of the day that tip us over into calorie excess, but it’s those mid-morning and mid-day snacks that are the true culprits.

So the secret to eating less throughout your day is to snack on foods that satisfy without overloading you with calories.

Below are two healthy snacks that we think accomplish exactly that — they satisfy hunger without busting your waist size. Give them a try!

Lightly Salted, Roasted Soybeans

Boiled young soybeans are called Edamame in Japanese. These tasty little pods or individual beans are loaded with protein and fiber, but they have much less fat or simple sugars.

What makes them so satisfying is their protein content - they pack a whopping 17 grams of protein in just a couple of handfuls.

Edamame provide less than 200 satisfying calories in a simple, perfect little snack. The key point here is that they fill you up. About a half a cup and you’ll probably be all set until your next big meal, two or three hours later.

Here’s a label with the nutritional facts of frozen, unprepared edamame:


Hummus on Sprouted Grain Bread

The soybean’s nutritional cousin is the chickpea. Grind a few handfuls in a food processor with olive oil, salt, crushed garlic and a squeeze of lemon. Include some lemon zest to enhance the flavors and voila … hummus! That’s really all you need.

Some chefs like to add tahini, which is sesame seed paste, for added flavor, but we’ll leave that choice to you.

The nutritional content of a chickpea is very similar to that of soybeans, except that everything including calories and sugar content is slightly higher. But keep in mind that the total number of calories and total amount of sugar is for a full serving. You will only use about half of a serving to spread on bread.

Just take a look at the label below and compare to the one above:



One of the most nutritious “vehicles” for eating hummus is sprouted grain bread. What is that? Sprouted-grain bread is made from wheat kernels, often called wheat berries, which are allowed to sprout and then are ground up and baked into bread. Because the kernels are not ground into flour, such breads are often referred to as "flourless."

Sprouted-grain bread is very nutritious and provides higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber than most other types of bread. Sprouts can be made from an array of grains and legumes, which can provide a complete set of amino acids — the building blocks of protein.

One slice of sprouted-grain bread will add about 100 calories, 2 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, and 3 to 5 grams of fiber to your prepared hummus spread. This snack will definitely satisfy without significantly increasing your daily calorie intake.



Will you give these satisfying snacks a try? Do you have a favorite snack you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

Can Omega Fats Help Kids with ADHD?

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Children with ADHD struggle with inattention, impulsiveness, and problems with learning. And nowhere does their struggle become more apparent than in the classroom.

This is why, as the new school year approaches, parents with children suffering from ADHD should be developing a plan with teachers and doctors for better behavioral management during the school year.

Currently, the conventional approach to treating ADHD relies on prescription medications. For some kids, this is necessary, but for many it is not.

We're actually learning more and more about the role that diet plays in ADHD. And a recent report sheds some light on important essential fats required by the brain for learning and development.

The Brain, Dietary Fats, and ADHD

Dietary fats influence brain development, especially in kids. In particular, the omega fats seem to hold the most promise for helping kids with ADHD. The two omega fats important to our discussion in this post are:

  • Omega-6 Fats — These fats come from plant-based sources like seeds, nuts, and legumes. They are also found in animal protein like beef and poultry.
  • Omega-3 Fats — Of the three main omega fats, the omega-3s have been extensively researched. They come in short-, medium- and long-chain varieties, with the long-chain EPA and DHA probably the most beneficial to humans. They can be found in plants, grass-fed animals, and fish.
The problem is this: Kids in developed countries eat predominantly dairy, beef, and poultry, which means they ingest high amounts of saturated and omega-6 fats but not enough omega-3s.

This inevitably creates an imbalance between dietary fats, which is implicated in attention-deficient and hyperactivity disorders. Re-establishing a healthy ratio of these important fats may help kids with ADHD.

Research on Omega Fats and ADHD

Past research has shown the potential benefit of combining omega-3 and omega-6 fats for managing ADHD. However, because the number of subjects in the randomized control studies were low, any results cannot be considered conclusive.

However, a new randomized, placebo-controlled study1 is bringing us a little closer to making a definitive conclusion. The researchers recruited 94 children with ADHD between 6 and 12 years old. All of them were taking Ritalin, a common ADHD drug, with little effect.

The researchers were interested in seeing if supplementing the children’s diet with omega-3 and omega-6 fats improved the effectiveness of the conventional medication.

The kids were randomized into two groups. One group received a placebo while the other group received a daily supplement providing 295 mg of omega-3s from fish and 180 mg of omega-6s from primrose oil. The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat was 1.6 to 1 — which would be a major improvement over the typical American diet.

After the children received six months of treatment, teachers and parents noted significant improvements with inattention, impulsiveness, and cooperation. However, both groups remained easily distracted during a normal classroom day.

Regardless, this is a major find and a big step in the right direction — not having to increase the child’s dose of Ritalin.

The researchers were very excited about the results, noting the improvements are very encouraging. As a matter of fact, they concluded, “It is possible to infer from the results that the participants of the study may have benefitted further if treatment with omega-3 and omega-6 had been continued.”

Please note: This study was conducted in Sri-Lanka, where a typical child’s diet consists of less saturated fat and a better balance of omega-3 to omega-6 than a typical American child’s diet. Nevertheless, the results are significant and encouraging.

Your Kid’s Diet Makes a Difference

Balancing your child’s diet with fish and grass-fed animal protein is a great place to start. But we know that many kids don’t like fish.

If this is the case, giving them a daily Omega-3 supplement may be your only option. If you need help finding a “kid-friendly omega fat supplement, speak with your doctor or call one of our advisors at 1-800-226-2370 and they can help you find one.

ADHD is proving to be manageable with diet alone or with a combination of diet and medicine, potentially at lower and lower doses. This is a good thing because a lower dose of Ritalin will likely have fewer side effects.

Something else that may help is our article covering a dietary approach for autism. Some of the suggestions there may apply to ADHD as well.

References:

  1. J Child Neurol. 2012;27(6):747-753.
    (http://jcn.sagepub.com/content/27/6/747.abstract)

How to Lower Blood Pressure with Exercise

By Michael A. Smith, MD


Out of the 17 heart disease risk factors that Life Extension® identifies, high blood pressure could be the worst one.

For instance, a hike in your blood pressure during middle age significantly raises the risk of having a heart attack or stroke during your lifetime, according to a 2011 study conducted at Northwestern Medical Center. What’s the take-home message? Maintain healthy blood pressure.

In the past, we’ve discussed nutrients that can lower blood pressure, like this trinity of nutrients consisting of pomegranate, grape seeds and milk peptides. If you’re struggling with high blood pressure, these nutrients can be very helpful. You should definitely speak with your doctor about them.

But we all know that the first things we need to focus on are diet and exercise. If blood pressure is an issue for you, eating foods rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, while lower in sodium would be helpful.

And now, new research shows that exercising in shorter sessions throughout your day is actually better for your blood pressure than one long session.

Reduce Blood Pressure with Three 10-Minute Exercise Sessions

Researchers from Arizona State University compared short exercise sessions to one long session and measured the effects on blood pressure within 24 hours. They recruited 11 healthy prehypertensive participants who underwent three randomly assigned exercise regimens, reaching 75% of their resting heart rates each time:

  • Three 10-minute aerobic sessions
  • One continuous 30-minute aerobic session
  • A non-exercise control session
The average systolic pressure (the top number) was significantly lower during the shorter sessions when compared to the other two groups. The reason for this difference is unknown; however, it might have to do with the positive effects on the endothelial cells and vasodilation from increased nitric oxide production with shorter workout sessions.

The researchers concluded, “In prehypertensive individuals, fractionized exercise (three 10-minute sessions) reduces systolic pressure more than one single workout session. Fractionized exercise may be a viable and effective exercise alternative to continuous exercise for cardiovascular risk reduction.”

Circuit Training is an Advanced Option

Circuit training is a tough workout. But a modified circuit, utilizing 10-minute sessions is something more manageable for most of us. We like circuit training because it’s a form of aerobic and resistance exercises, engaging all major muscle groups.

The end result of circuit training is cardiovascular conditioning and improved muscle strength and endurance. And, according to the latest research findings, a modified circuit consisting of three 10-minute sessions can reduce blood pressure as well.

A typical circuit consists of eight stations. For our modified approach, let’s cut that in half to four stations. If you plan on exercising for two minutes per station with 30 seconds allotted for transitioning to the next station, the circuit will take you just about 10 minutes to complete.

Here are the stations we suggest:

  • 10-20 Squat thrusts x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • 10-20 Walking push-ups x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • 10-20 Stability balls crunches x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • Jogging in place – 2 minutes
  • Recover time
Repeat the circuit two more times, ideally throughout your day. If at all possible, you could perform one 10-minute circuit in the morning, a second one at mid-day and the last one at night.

We suggest following the circuit three times a week. Your goal is to reach at least 70%–75% of your maximum heart rate.

Here’s how to calculate 70% of your maximum heart rate:
(220 – Age) x 0.75 = 70% maximum heart rate

If all of this seems like too much, that’s okay. Keep it simple. Three 10-minute sessions on a treadmill, bike (stationary or not) or an elliptical trainer will also work just fine.

Please note: Do not start any exercise program without your doctor’s approval. This is especially true for circuit training which can be physically demanding.

Your Blood Pressure Lowering Plan

So when you consider that a hike in your blood pressure during middle age significantly increases your risk of a heart attack or a stroke, we need to do everything in our power to prevent it. So we think the following steps will get you started:

  1. Eat calcium, magnesium and potassium rich foods and watch your sodium intake — no more than 2.4 grams a day.
  2. Exercise using the three 10-minute sessions, three times a week.
  3. Consider supplementing with pomegranate, grape seeds and milk proteins.
Good luck!

References:

  1. Circulation. 2012;125:37-44 published online before print December 19 2011, doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.002774
  2. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul 6. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22776874)

Antioxidants Found to Reduce Pancreatic Cancer Risk

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Pancreatic cancer is a silent disease. This is because many times the signs and symptoms can go unnoticed until the cancer is in the advanced stage. And even when there are early signs and symptoms, they can often be vague and easily attributed to something else.

Since pancreatic cancer often lacks these early warning signs and there aren’t any effective screening tests, it’s rarely discovered early. Many times the diagnosis is not made until the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

Unfortunately, symptoms of pancreatic cancer often do not appear until the tumor has grown large enough to interfere with the function of nearby organs or exert pressure on the spine. When early symptoms do occur, they are often vague and nonspecific. All of these symptoms can be caused by medical conditions other than pancreatic cancer.

Possible early symptoms that should be evaluated by your physician are:

  • Pain in the upper or middle abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anorexia, weight loss and muscle loss
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes, called jaundice
In the United States, cancer of the pancreas is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women. In 2008, about 38,000 patients were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Almost all patients with pancreatic cancer are older than 55 years and more than 70 percent are older than 65 years.

Bottom line: Prevention is our best bet for not succumbing to this horrible disease. And there’s good news. A recent study shows that dietary antioxidants could significantly reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

EPIC Study Shows Pancreatic Cancer Risk Reduction

The researchers from University of East Anglia in the UK, studied lifestyle and dietary habits associated with pancreatic cancer. Their research included 24,000 people from the Norfolk area. All of the participants completed detailed food diaries, which are more extensive than simple food frequency questionnaires used in other population studies.1

During their follow-up, 49 people developed pancreatic cancer within 10 years. This increased to 86 people within 17 years of starting the study. The researchers than compared the people with pancreatic cancer to 4,000 healthy participants in order to identify any dietary differences.1

Here’s what they found:

  • Those in the top 25% of selenium intake had half the risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those in the lowest 25% of intake.
  • People with the highest intake of vitamins C, E and selenium were 67% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than people with the lowest intake.
A word of caution though — one single population study using food diaries is far from conclusive. But the researchers believe that we should at least consider certain vitamins and antioxidants to be protective. More studies are definitely warranted.

What You Need to Know

Pancreatic cancer is a killer because it’s often diagnosed too late. Usually by the time someone knows they have it, it has already spread throughout the body. This is why the prognosis and outcome of treatment is so poor. Prevention is really our only hope at this time.

So, based on the results of the EPIC trial, selenium seems pretty important. Here’s a list of selenium-rich foods to consider adding into your diet:

  • Brazil Nuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Fish (tuna, halibut, sardines, flounder, salmon)
  • Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
  • Meat (beef, liver, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey) and Eggs
  • Mushrooms (button, crimini, shiitake)
  • Grains (wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats)
  • Onions & Garlic
Keep in mind that the upper limit of selenium intake is around 600 to 800 mcg per day — that includes both dietary and supplement sources.

So, if you plan on supplementing with selenium, have your doctor check a liver function test first and periodically re-check to make sure your liver is unaffected by higher doses.

References:

  1. Gut 23 July 2012. Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2011-301908 (http://gut.bmj.com/content/early/2012/06/28/gutjnl-2011-301908)

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