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.

November 21, 2016

396 Health Canada Myths & Facts [21 Nov 2016]

On October 3 (#389) I described the current system for regulating natural health products (NHPs) and mentioned that Health Canada is proposing a new system. The NHP industry has serious concerns about how this could impact the choice Canadian consumers now enjoy, and began a campaign to inform the public about the situation.

The consulting window with Health Canada is now closed so we are concentrating on contacting our MPs. I have personally met with Kelly Block about this issue, and still have postcards you can fill out to mail to her showing your concern.

In response to public concerns expressed during the brief consultation period, Health Canada has posted an information web page called “Myths and facts on proposed self-care product regulation”. I’m always suspicious of “myth-busters” – too often they just replace someone else’s myths with their own. The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) shares my distrust and did some fact-checking of their own resulting in the paper “Setting the Record Straight on the Self-Care Proposal”.

Here are a few of the points made by CHFA in response to Health Canada’s assurances that these proposals are for your benefit:
• Low risk products may get to market faster but will no longer be allowed to carry therapeutic claims, reducing the information available to consumers.
• Medium and high risk products which have been used safely and effectively for years in Canada and around the world will likely require prohibitively expensive (for non-patentable products) research, resulting in their removal from store shelves.
• Low risk products will be restricted to “structure function” claims which only apply to nutrients (vitamins, minerals, efa’s and amino acids), and “therapeutic claims” will not be allowed. Herbals and homeopathics are not nutrients so cannot make any claims.
• The premise - that consumers are confused about the safety and effectiveness of self-care health products - on which the proposed new regulations are designed is based on a single small survey which has many fundamental flaws. The current system is based on years of consultation and negotiations and is working well.

I encourage you to read both documents – follow the links in this article in my website: go to and click on the “Eagle Ad” link.

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 14, 2016

395 Macular Degeneration [14 Nov 2016]

I have written about this topic a few times over the years. In May 2009 [#010] I discussed age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. In July 2013 [#224] I listed 12 nutrients known to protect the eyes and improve vision. Then in May 2015 [#319] I added glutathione to that list. I am reprising this topic because last week I was diagnosed with early macular degeneration.

In the 2009 article I reported that the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) completed in 2001 found that a program of vitamin C (500mg), vitamin E (400iu), beta-carotene (25,000IU) and zinc (80mg) slowed the progression from intermediate to severe macular degeneration by 25%, but did not help those in the early stage of the disease. A second trial was then underway to test a lower level of zinc, eliminating beta-carotene, and adding lutein, zeaxanthin and omega 3s.

The second study, called AREDS-2, came out in May 2013. It found that omega-3, beta-carotene and extra zinc made no difference with macular degeneration (and beta-carotene increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers!), but adding lutein and zeaxanthin slowed the progression of AMD by a further 20% beyond that of the original formula. None of the supplements affected the progression rate of cataracts in this study.

The retina specialist that diagnosed my condition recommended two brands of eye supplements that follow the AREDS-2 formula – Vitalux and PreserVision. Two of the eye supplement formulas in my store have most of these ingredients, plus a lot more like blueberry & bilberry extracts, selenium, and certain B vitamins. I also have lutein, beta-carotene and another carotenoid antioxidant astaxanthin as separate supplements (note that beta-carotene should not be taken at the same time as lutein and zeaxanthin as they compete for absorption). A special high-absorption form of thiamin or B1 called Benfotiamine shows promise in protecting eye health and is also available as a separate supplement.

I’m already taking most of the nutrients on the list, but will now add Benfotiamine B1 and more lutein and zeaxanthin to the mix. I also plan to start using the special whey for increasing glutathione again. I’ll let you know the results of my follow-up examination next 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.

November 7, 2016

394 Many Benefits of Sunlight [7 Nov 2016]

This week we will explore the many health benefits of sunlight. A rather ironic topic since we are entering the season of lowest sunlight here in Saskatchewan. Sunlight provides us with a broad spectrum of radiation in the 300 – 2,000 nm wavelength range, of which only 400 – 780 nm is visible. And most of that range is proving to be beneficial, if not essential, to our health.

The most well-known and studied benefit of sunlight is vitamin D synthesis in the skin from ultraviolet B (UVB) wavelengths. I have written many times [#179, 328] on how to optimize vitamin D synthesis while minimizing risk of skin cancer.

Another benefit is in preventing and treating depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder [#041] caused by the shorter days of winter can be effectively treated with special sun lamps. Other types of depression also respond to light therapy [#347]. Lamps designed for this light therapy usually lack the UVB necessary for vitamin D synthesis – the only vitamin D lamp I am aware of is the Sperti Sun Lamp at $650.

Sunlight regulates our circadian rhythms, helping us to stay alert during the day and sleep at night. Blue wavelength light in the evening is especially bad for keeping us awake. Wearing orange tinted sunglasses in the evening, even in the house, should help you sleep better.

Full spectrum fluorescent lighting has been found to reduce stress hormones, improve behavior problems, and calm hyperactivity in school children. Workplaces installing full spectrum lighting report improved employee morale, greater productivity, reduced errors and decreased absenteeism [#012].

Recent research has shed light (pardon the pun) on the benefits of near infrared (IRA) light on our health. This is the light that is just beyond red – we can’t see it and do not feel it as heat (the far infrared IRB and IRC do produce heat). Infrared A is not produced by non-thermal light sources (fluorescents and LCDs) and is filtered out by window glass, so the only sources are incandescent lights, fire and, of course the sun. IRA penetrates through clothing and skin, deep into the tissue where it activates an enzyme, cytochrome C oxidase, in the mitochondria which increases ATP energy production. And who couldn’t use more energy? Unfortunately most infrared saunas emit the far IR and lack the beneficial IRA.

There is no substitute for sunlight. All artificial light sources are lacking in some vital spectra that we need for optimal health, referred to as “biological darkness”. Those of you who can go south for the winter can continue to obtain these benefits; the rest of us are left behind in the biological dark.

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

October 31, 2016

393 Vitamin D-Day [31 Oct 2016]

This Wednesday, November 2, is international Vitamin D Day (see It was created to highlight the estimated one third of the world (over 1 billion people!) that is deficient in this essential vitamin. This incredibly high deficiency rate is caused by two factors – people living in northern countries and people living a mostly indoor lifestyle.

It wasn’t stated but I suspect the date was chosen to reflect the beginning of the season where most Americans can no longer obtain any vitamin D from the sun. In Saskatchewan the date should be September 2. By mid-August we’d have to spend a half hour naked at noon to absorb enough UVB rays to synthesize sufficient vitamin D, so from September on we are dependent on supplements or sunlamps.

Why is vitamin D so important? Its role in calcium metabolism – essential for strong bones – is well known. More recently, research has shown that D deficiency is a risk factor for many different diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and infectious diseases like influenza. Vitamin D deficiency also makes some diseases more severe including respiratory diseases, and autoimmune diseases like MS and lupus. And researchers are finding that vitamin D can play an important role in the treatment of certain diseases including MS, cystic fibrosis, asthma and many more.

So vitamin D is probably the most important supplement you can take, and it’s inexpensive – about $.30 a day for 5,000 IU (if 5,000 seems like a high number, it’s really only 0.125 mg).

Ideally you should have your blood levels monitored, as people vary considerably in their ability to absorb and utilize the vitamin. Optimum levels are 100-150 nmol/L with anything below 75 considered deficient. If you don’t know your D levels, a supplement range of 5-10,000 IU daily should keep most people close to optimum. Make sure your vitamin D is the more effective D3 form.

There are two other options for winter vitamin D: holidays and sunlamps. A fun way to get your winter vitamin D is to spend several months down south where the sun is high enough. Remember to expose maximum skin at midday, without sunscreen, for 10 to 15 minutes, then cover up before the skin turns pink. The use of sunlamps for vitamin D synthesis will have to wait for another column.

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

October 24, 2016

392 Brain Supplements [24 Oct 2016]

I have written many times about brain function and memory. In August 2015 I listed 10 diet and lifestyle changes to help prevent loss of brain function [#333 Preventing Alzheimer’s]. To complement that list, this week I will list 5 supplements that support mental health. It’s based on an article in this month’s Vitality Magazine by Amanda Burke, CNP, called “Brain Food – My Five Favourite Supplements for Mental and Emotional Health”.

Amanda writes:
Thanks to great research in the area of nutritional medicine it is now known that good brain nourishment can not only prevent many of the health related issues associated with mental decline…and stack the odds in their favour for prevention of age-related, inherited, and environmentally-induced mental decline, but they can potentially reverse the brain’s biological age and access abilities like never before.
Her five favourite brain supplements are:
High dose Probiotic – a healthy gut microbiome is essential for good mental health [see #320 Our Gut Microbiome & Our Brain] and a good therapeutic-dose probiotic helps restore a healthy population of beneficial gut bacteria
Serrapeptase – reduces inflammation and helps heal leaky gut syndrome which can affect brain function [see #217 Serrapeptase]
Curcumin – protects the brain by reducing inflammation and blocking plaque formation [see #384 Curcumin & Alzheimer’s]
Magnesium L-Threonate – the magnesium that crosses the blood-brain barrier for optimal brain function [see #350 Magtein – Magnesium for the Brain]
B-Complex – B vitamins are essential for brain function (memory and clear thinking) [see #157 Vitamin B12 & Your Brain and #390 The B Vitamins]; a high dose coenzyme formula is most effective along with herbs like ashwagandha, rhodiola [see #39 Rhodiola rosea], and ginseng to help manage stress

To Amanda’s list I would add Vitamin D [see #336 Alzheimer’s & Vitamin D], an Omega 3 with high DHA [see #194 Fish Oil & Your Brain], and perhaps phosphatidyl serine [#248 Phosphatidyl Serine]. In developed cases of Alzheimer’s coconut oil or the concentrated MCT oil provides an alternative energy source for the brain when it can no longer utilize glucose [see #153 Alzheimer’s and Coconut Oil].

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