January 16, 2017

403 Humic & Fulvic Acids [16 Jan 2017]

I have a rather unique supplement on my shelves that I wanted to learn more about so chose it for my topic this week. Humic and fulvic acids are organic compounds found in soil, peat, and water sediments. A particularly rich deposit in New Mexico dating from the Cretaceous Period (100mya) is mined to create a supplement for human use.

The main ingredients are humic and fulvic acids. The supplement also contains traces of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, plant enzymes and other organic compounds (organic in the chemical sense meaning that it contains carbon).

Humic and fulvic acids are known to benefit human health in many ways:
• Source of trace minerals in a readily available organic form
• Stimulates mitochondrial production of ATP
• Protects mitochondrial membranes from oxidative damage
• Reduces loss of ATP and CoQ10 levels during heavy exercise
• Acts as prebiotic feeding good bacteria in the gut
• Reduces pain and inflammation
• Improves immunity by increasing T-lymphocytes and neutrophils
• Inhibits viral infections including rhinoviruses, influenza and Herpes simplex
• Increases elimination of toxic heavy metals while improving absorption of nutritional metals like iron and zinc
• Blocks stress hormones
• Increases oxygenation of the blood

Here are how these benefits are experienced by users:
• Relief from joint pain and stiffness
• Reduced soreness and faster recovery from work or sports activity
• Increased energy & stamina
• Improved immunity from colds and flu
• Improved mood, reduced anxiety, increased alertness
• Most people noticed the benefits in 1 or 2 weeks

In over 10 years of research, humic and fulvic acid supplements have been found to be completely safe and do not interfere with any medications.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. Find this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

January 9, 2017

402 Curcumin Formulas [9 January 2017]

I have written about curcumin in each of the last three years: #294 Curcumin – Nature’s Painkiller (Nov 2014); #329 Curcumin & Cancer (July 2015) and #384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s (Aug 2016).

Curcumin is the powerful extract from the spice turmeric with documented benefits of reducing inflammation, providing cellular antioxidant protection, and reducing risk factors for chronic degenerate diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. A major problem with curcumin is its low bioavailability, meaning poor absorption from the intestines and short retention time in the blood. Scientists have developed four curcumin formulas with enhanced bioavailability: BCM-95, Meriva, Longvida and Theracurmin.

The BCM-95 formula combines curcumin extract with turmeric essential oils and claims to be 7 times more bioavailable than regular turmeric extract. I wrote about BCM-95s anti-inflammatory and pain-killing effect in #294.

Curcumin in the Meriva formula is combined with phosphatidylcholine from lecithin and claims to be 29 times more bioavailable than regular curcumin extract.

Longvida was developed at UCLA using what the developers called Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle Technology. It delivers “free curcumin” into the bloodstream, which is the most effective form. Longvida claims to be a whopping 95 times more bioavailable than regular turmeric extracts. Longvida also has the distinction of being the only patented curcumin extract proven to cross the blood-brain barrier which makes it the preferred choice for people with dementia or depression.

Theracurmin’s particles are super fine and mixed with a vegetable gum which forms a colloid suspension in water. Theracurmin claims to be an amazing 300 times more bioavailable than regular curcumin powder.

Black pepper, Boswellia and olive leaf extracts are often added to curcumin formulas. Black pepper makes the curcumin better absorbed. Boswellia is related to frankincense and has anti-inflammatory properties which works well with curcumin. Olive leaf extract is a natural antibiotic and antifungal which assists your immune system in fighting and preventing illness.

Any one of these curcumin formulas will work well. Which will work best for you will depend on your purpose for taking it.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 2, 2017

401 Sulforaphane [2 January 2017]

Sulforaphane is a beneficial compound found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. I just learned about it watching a 46 minute video by Dr. Rhonda Patrick titled “Sulforaphane and its Effects on Cancer, Mortality, Aging, Brain and Behavior, Heart Disease and More”.

I mentioned the health benefits of broccoli in my very first column back in March 2009 [#001]; recommended eating your broccoli raw in September 2012 [#184]; and encouraged chewing your broccoli to produce sulforaphane in November 2014 [#293]. This column adds information from recent research on the beneficial compounds found in cruciferous vegetables.

Studies show that risk of death from all causes (other than accidents) is reduced by 16% in those eating more vegetables of all kinds, and by 22% for those eating more cruciferous vegetables. The life-saving ingredient in the vegetables is believed to be a group of compounds called isothiocyanates of which sulforaphane is the best known. Sulforaphane indirectly regulates over 200 genes responsible for increasing antioxidant activity and reducing inflammation, important with all chronic degenerative disease. This translates into reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and aging, and improved brain function.

For example, studies have found that sulforaphane reduces the risk of prostate cancer by 41%, bladder cancer by 51%, lung cancer in smokers by 55%, and breast cancer by 20-40%. And if you already have cancer, taking sulforaphane will slow the progression of the disease. Sulforaphane also aids in the detoxification and excretion of carcinogens such as benzene (from auto exhaust and tobacco smoke).

Most of the all-cause mortality reduction found in the cruciferous study was due to fewer cardiovascular deaths. Sulforaphane reduced triglycerides and oxidized blood lipids, lowering the atherogenic index (risk of plaque formation) by 52%.

Sulforaphane crosses the blood-brain barrier where it reduces inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain, implicated in most neurodegenerative diseases and in traumatic brain injury. Sulforaphane has been shown to improve behavior with autism and schizophrenia, and improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases, and shows promise for depression and anxiety.

All cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane but the best source is fresh broccoli sprouts. The vegetables and sprouts don’t actually contain sulforaphane – they contain its precursor glucoraphanin along with the enzyme myrosinase which converts it to sulforaphane. Crushing or chewing the food mixes the enzyme and glucoraphanin, initiating the conversion process. High heat, as in prolonged boiling, destroys the myrosinase enzyme.

Some glucoraphanin is converted, in the presence of epithiospecifier protein (ESP), to an inactive form of sulforaphane. ESP is inactivated by heating. To maximize the sulforaphane production you want to heat the food enough to destroy the ESP but not the myrosinase. This can be achieved by steaming vegetables for 3-4 minutes or by soaking the vegetables in hot water at 60C, or sprouts at 70C, for 10 minutes. Patrick demonstrates heating sprouts in this video.

Remember to chew the vegetables and sprouts well. About 100g of sprouts provides 40mg of sulforaphane, an optimal amount.

My NY’s resolution is to grow and eat broccoli sprouts. Want to join me?

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 19, 2016

400 Ahhh, Nuts! [19 Dec 2016]

Nuts get a bad rap. When something goes wrong, we say “Aw, nuts!” with the same meaning as “Aw, rats!”. To show nuts the respect and admiration they deserve, we should instead use the expression “Ahhh, nuts!”.

I previoiusly wrote about the nutritional benefits of nuts in December 2009 (#043) and December 2013 (#245).

Last week natural health author Leslie Beck reported for the Globe and Mail on the results of a large study published this month in BMC Medicine. The study was a meta-analysis of 20 prospective cohort studies from the United States, Europe, Asia and Australia with a total of nearly 820,000 participants. The study looked at nut intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes.

What they found is that nuts are even more beneficial than previously known. People eating 20 grams or more of nuts reduced their risk of dying by:
• 29% for coronary heart disease
• 21% for cardiovascular disease
• 39% for diabetes
• 15% for cancer (tree nuts only)
• 52% for respiratory disease, and
• 22% for premature death of all causes.

The study found peanuts were as protective as tree nuts for heart disease and all-cause mortality but not for cancer. A significant reduction in risk of stroke was found with peanuts (37%) but not with tree nuts (11%). Looking at the results another way, the authors estimated that 4.4 million premature deaths annually could be attributed to eating less than 20 grams of nuts daily.

Including nuts in your diet is an easy way to improve your health, especially if you substitute them for less healthy snacks. They are expensive but fortunately we don’t need much – 20 grams or about a handful a day is enough to provide most of the protective benefits found in this study.

Pass the nuts please. Delicious! Ahhh, nuts!

It’s hard to believe that this is my 400th column in nearly 8 years of writing. I hope to continue for at least another 100. Donna and I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy healthy new year.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner

December 12, 2016

399 Cheap Food and Fair Trade [12 Dec 2016]

Last week I discussed examples of food fraud from the 2016 book “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple. One of the factors leading to food fraud is the modern consumer’s unrealistic (the authors called it “delusional”) expectations of what food should cost.

The average American family spent 43% of their income on food in 1900 but a mere 13% in 2013. Most of this decrease in relative food cost can be attributed to the efficiency of conventional food systems (particularly for packaged processed foods). Consumer demand for the cheapest food puts pressure on the retailers, distributors, processors, and ultimately the producers to cut corners wherever possible, sometimes leading to food fraud. In the book’s Foreword, Prof. Chris Elliott of the U. Belfast reported “…a number of food-business operators have told me their biggest dilemma is to decide if they should cheat in the same way as their competitors, or go out of business.”

This effect of underpaying producers and other food-business workers is more serious in undeveloped (usually tropical or sub-tropical) countries where there are fewer options for work, no unions to negotiate for them, and no social safety nets to feed their families while unemployed. One answer to this problem is the fair trade movement.

Fair Trade can be simply defined as “trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries”. Production is free of forced labor, child labor, and unsafe working conditions. Crops are raised through sustainable methods. A floor price is established to protect small producers from market fluctuations. Small independent producers may join together to form co-operatives. To prevent fraudulent claims, fair trade certifiers ensure that standards are met and labeling is accurate. Foods commonly produced with free trade include: handicrafts, cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, coconut oil, bananas and flowers.

Learn more about fair trade at fairtrade.ca. And look for the fair trade symbol on items in your grocery store (if you don’t see any ask the manager). Yes these products will cost more. Yet it’s a small price to pay to share a little of the privilege we enjoy in this country with the workers that produce the food we eat.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

December 5, 2016

398 Food Fraud [5 Dec 2016]

I am reading a book called “Sorting the Beef from the Bull – the Science of Food Fraud Forensics” by Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple (April 2016). The problem of food fraud is much larger than I imagined, costing the food industry world-wide billions of dollars each year and sometimes having serious health, social and environmental effects. The sad truth is we don’t always know what we’re eating, and Canada and the natural health industry are not immune to fraud.

The book discusses various types of food fraud that have been documented, often well organized and on a large scale, and the efforts of scientists to uncover them. Here are some examples:
• Olive oil adulterated with commercial canola oil is blamed for 25,000 serious injuries and over 1,000 deaths in Spain (1981)
• Substitution of cheaper species of fish and shellfish
• Honey diluted with high fructose corn syrup or other cheaper sugars
• Manuka honey which sells at a high premium is often counterfeit
• Melamine added to infant formula in China (2008) resulted in 52,000 hospitalizations and 6 infant deaths (two of the men responsible were executed)
• Sick Irish horses slaughtered and mixed with ground beef in the UK (2013)
• Ground nuts added to spices in North America and Europe (2013)
Mucci Farms of Ontario from 2011-2013 relabelled Mexican bell peppers as “Product of Canada”

To combat this problem, government agencies test foods using sophisticated chemical analyses. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U. of Guelph pioneered the use of DNA analysis to identify species. (Deep budget cuts to CFIA in recent years are undermining this process.)

To be fair, the retailers and even the distributors are often unaware of the adulterations. Processed foods contain dozens of ingredients from many countries and it would be impossible to have them all tested.

One way to reduce the risk of food fraud is to buy local unprocessed foods. Unfortunately “real foods” tend to be more expensive and require more work to prepare at home. But even if the ingredients on processed food labels are accurate, it is still best to avoid them!

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 28, 2016

397 Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic? [28 Nov 2016]

With the evidence piling up that the RDA for vitamin D is too low and the concern about the increasing deficiencies of the world’s population (a 2010 article in International J of Health Sciences estimated 1 billion people worldwide), it was inevitable that there would be some pushback. It came earlier this month in a paper published in the NEJM “Vitamin D Deficiency – Is There Really a Pandemic?”

This paper argues that vitamin D deficiencies are overestimated because they are based on the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 600iu per day for ages 1-70 and 800iu for 70+ which correspond to a blood status of 20ng/ml (75 nmol/L in Canada). Instead (the authors argue) they should use the Estimated Average Intake (EAR) of 400iu and 600iu respectively, which brings half the population to 16 ng/ml, the minimum level to maintain adequate bone health.

A critique of this paper was published on the Vitamin D Council’s website November 18 by A. Tovey and Dr. J.J. Cannell. They made the following points:
• Even for bone health, the RDA is based on faulty statistics and is set too low
• Studies have shown that vitamin D provides many other benefits at much higher levels, so the RDA should be increased significantly
• A March 2013 paper in the Eur J Nutr concluded that vitamin D levels should be over 30 ng/ml to achieve the beneficial effect on chronic diseases.
• People living outdoors near the equator produce levels of 40-80 ng/ml which appears to be the optimum level for good health
• Blood levels of >40 ng/ml are associated with a 65% lower cancer risk
• A 2016 study found that raising blood levels of MS patients from 28 to 84 ng/ml by taking 10,000 iu per day resulted in significant improvements in quality of life scores
• Vitamin D supplementation of 6,400 iu/day safely supplied breast milk with adequate D for the nursing infant
• Raising D levels from 16 to 36 ng/ml improved depression in Swedish adolescents
• The latest data from the US shows that 70% of the population fails to meet even the very conservative 16 mg/ml.

So rather than being overestimated, the rates of vitamin D deficiencies are likely still highly underestimated. Do you know what your blood vitamin D level is?

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.