December 31, 2012

197 Bones & Belly Fat [31 December 2012]

If you were thinking of slimming down as a New Year’s resolution, here is another reason to lose that belly fat. Visceral obesity (fancy name for a big fat gut) is now associated with osteoporosis and increased fracture risk in men.

The Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study was designed to determine risk factors for osteoporosis in men. Their report in November 2012 to the 98th Scientific Assembly of the Radiological Society of North America included the surprising news that “…obesity in men does not protect against osteoporosis, as previously thought. And visceral fat is detrimental to bone strength.” This is considered surprising because it was believed that obese people would have stronger bones resulting from the additional stress load.

It shouldn’t have come as too big a surprise though. Visceral fat had previously been linked to osteoporosis in women, and another study found that adolescent girls with high visceral fat had reduced bone strength and mineral density. This was the first study looking at men.

Other health risks associated with visceral fat include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life. For more on the health risks of belly fat see my column #192 November 19, 2012.

So if you are carrying around a “spare tire” why not make slimming down your New Year’s resolution? We can help turn your dream weight into reality. The 35 dieters that have been on the Ideal Protein program at the Rosetown clinic to date have lost a total of 801 pounds. Stop in and ask for a free Body Composition Analysis (BCA) reading and discover what your body fat % and risk category are.

Sources: “Visceral Obesity May Increase Risk for Osteoporosis in Men” 30 Nov 2012; and “Belly Fat Bad for Men’s Bones” 15 Dec 2012.

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 17, 2012

196 Vitamin D and Cancer [17 Dec 2012]

I first wrote on this topic 3 years ago in Column #42, 14 December 2009. In that column I reviewed a study estimating that raising vitamin D levels could prevent 58,000 cases of breast cancer and 49,000 cases of colorectal cancer in the US and Canada each year and prevent 75% of the deaths from these two cancers alone. Another researcher listed 16 different cancers that vitamin D has been shown to reduce including pancreatic, lung, ovarian, prostate and skin cancers, and estimated that 30% of cancer deaths worldwide could be prevented with higher levels of vitamin D.

Professor John White and associates at McGill have recently discovered a possible mechanism for vitamin D’s protective effect on cancer. Vitamin D suppresses cMYC, an RNA protein that causes cell proliferation and is known to be more active in cancer cells (note: estrogens increase cMYC activity). It also enhances the expression of MXD1 a protein that is antagonistic to cMYC.

White was quoted in a report on the study by Nathan Gray in
“Our results show that vitamin D puts the brakes on cMYC function, suggesting that it may slow the progression of cells from premalignant to malignant states and keep their proliferation in check… We hope that our research will encourage people to maintain adequate vitamin D supplementation and will stimulate the development of large, well-controlled cancer chemoprevention trials to test the effects of adequate supplementation.”

So what is adequate supplementation? Some vitamin D researchers consider the optimal range to be 50 – 65 ng/ml with the most protection at the higher end of the range. Cancer treatment would fall in the 65 – 90 range. Levels over 100 are now considered high. To achieve the optimal range, the current recommendation for supplementation is 35 IU per pound of body weight. At 200 lbs I would need 7,000 IU per day. This value would vary with season, sun exposure and skin color.

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 10, 2012

195 GE Corn – the French Study [10 Dec 2012]

The first long term independent study for safety of a genetically engineered food crop was conducted in France and the results published this September in the peer-reviewed Food and Chemical Toxicology. The study followed rats fed a genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant corn (NK603) and/or glyphosate at 0.1ppb in water (the amount allowed in US drinking water) over two years. Control animals were fed conventional corn and pure water.

The results proved devastating to the industry’s claim that GE crops are not substantially different so safety tests are not necessary. Compared to the control animals, the rats fed the GE corn and or glyphosate water much more frequently developed massive tumors and kidney and liver damage. Female rats developed large mammary tumors earlier and more often and they died 2-3 times more often and much earlier. The pituitary gland was also frequently disabled. Males developed much higher rates of liver congestion and necrosis. Males also developed 4 times more large tumors and up to 300 days earlier. And by large I mean golf-ball size – in rats! Severe kidney damage occurred in much higher rates in both sexes. The gender differences can be explained by the known endocrine-disrupting effects of glyphosate.

Industry officials countered this by repeating that numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies confirmed the safety of biotech crops. But the longest feeding study prior to this one was stopped after only 3 months. Interestingly in the French study the tumors and liver and kidney damage began to show up at 4 months and peaked at 13 months. And while the biotech industry claims approval by some government regulatory agencies as evidence of safety, they decry governments who remain skeptical of biotech crop safety as pandering to the ignorant hysterical masses.

This study adds to the growing list of studies finding disturbing effects of GE crops and foods. You can see a summary of some of these studies here.

After reading about this study, would you feed GE corn to your livestock? Would you feed it to your children? Your livestock may not be eating it but you and your family are, without your knowledge. And no one is studying the effects it may be having on our health. Without labeling of GE foods and human studies we will never know to what extent they are responsible for the increase in cancer and other health issues in North America over the past decade. See Dr. Mercola's discussion of this topic for more information.

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 3, 2012

194 Fish Oil & Your Brain [3 December 2012]

The essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in fish oil are essential for brain development and function. Our brains are composed of 65% fat, mostly omega 3 EFAs. DHA, the most important of these for brain structure, makes up 40% of the EFAs in the brain and 60% in the retina of the eye. The ability to convert ALA (an omega 3 EFA from flax oil) to DHA and EPA (abundant in fish oil), is limited in infants and children, so supplementation is essential for optimal brain development.

Pregnancy and early childhood are critical for brain formation as 70% of the brain by weight is developed by birth and the remainder by age 5 or 6. Dr. Maharban Singh in a 2005 article published in the Indian Journal of Pediatrics recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers supplement with at least 2.6g of omega-3 fatty acids and 100-300 mg DHA daily. Infants of mothers supplemented with EFAs and DHA scored higher in mental and visual tests at age 4, had a lower incidence of ADHD, and had enhanced learning capability and academic performance. There are benefits for the mother too – depletion of DHA during pregnancy increases incidence of postpartum depression.

Two recent cases suggest another situation for significant potential benefit from fish oil supplementation – healing from traumatic brain injury. In 2006 Randal McLoy was the sole survivor from a coal mine disaster in W. Virginia. He was in a coma and barely alive, his brain injured from CO and methane poisoning. His medical team used hyperbaric oxygen and high doses of fish oil in their treatment. Randal’s recovery was dramatic and unexpected. In March of 2010 a Virginia high school student, Bobby Ghassemi, was in an auto accident that left him in a coma with little chance for survival. His parents persuaded his doctors to give him high doses of fish oil and he recovered sufficiently in time to attend his high school graduation. These two cases don’t provide conclusive proof, but at this time there is nothing else western medicine can offer to assist recovery from brain injury.

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 26, 2012

193 Baby’s Best Friend [26 November 2012]

Dogs may not be just man’s best friend – they could be baby’s best friend too. In addition to the emotional benefits of having a pet, there appears to be physical health benefits too. A recent study from Finland adds to the evidence that pets, particularly dogs, improve children’s health.

The study, published earlier this year in Pediatrics, followed 397 children from rural and suburban settings through their first year. Indoor contact with dogs and cats was correlated with frequency of childhood infections. The analyses took into account other factors: breastfeeding, birth weight, number of siblings, and parental health. The researchers found that children with indoor contact with dogs:
• had fewer incidents of fever, infections and colds
• were less likely to be given antibiotics
• had half as many inner ear infections, and
• were just generally more healthy.

The study also found that the more contact the children had with the dog and the more time the dog spent outside the house, the greater the benefits. Curiously cats didn't provide the same benefits, but did not cause any health problems either. This and other similar studies support the “hygiene hypothesis” – that increased exposure to microbes (germs) early in life boosts the infants’ immune systems, not only increasing resistance to respiratory infection but also reducing the risk of allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema.

There are many factors to consider by a family with young children in the decision to have an indoor pet. But fear of the children getting sick from the pet need not be one of 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 19, 2012

192 Belly Fat [19 Nov 2012]

A study by the Mayo Clinic presented at the 2012 European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich August 27, showed that normal weight people with belly fat have a higher risk of death than obese people. The study looked at the BMI (weight in kg / height in m squared) and waist/hip ratios of 12,785 adult Americans. Those with normal BMI but with central obesity (high waist/hip ratio) had the highest risk of cardiovascular death (2.75x) and of death from all causes (2.08x) compared with those with normal BMI and normal waist/hip ratios.

Why should this be? Visceral (belly) fat around the organs is associated with increased insulin resistance. And as I’ve discussed many times, insulin resistance is the common factor in the symptoms of metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and diabetes.

What this study shows is that while BMI is an important risk factor of cardiovascular death (think heart attacks), having a “beer belly” is even more significant. If you have a high BMI you need to do something about it – lose fat, gain muscle, or both. But even if your BMI is normal and you have a high waist/hip ratio, you still need to do something. What is considered a high waist-hip ratio? For men a ratio below 0.85 is considered “excellent” and over 0.95 “at risk”; for women it’s 0.75 and 0.86 respectively. See Dr. Mercola's article for a more detailed table and a height:waist table. I’m just finishing 9 weeks on the Ideal Protein Diet and my ratio is 0.86 (it was 0.94 before I started). My Body Fat %, as measured on the Body Composition Analyzer (a more accurate measurement than BMI), is 22.5 which puts me in the middle of the “Acceptable” range. To improve it further (the “Fitness” level for men is 14-18%) I now need to work at building muscle.

If you would like to know what your Body Fat % is, I am offering free readings at the Ideal Protein information meeting tonight (Monday November 19) starting at 7:00 pm. If you missed it, just stop in any time and ask for a free BCA reading.

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 12, 2012

191 Diet Soda & Cancer [12 November 2012]

An interesting flip-flop on a news item happened last month. A study was published in the Am J Clinical Nutrition on October 24, showing a higher risk of blood cancers with consumption of diet soda (and by implication aspartame). As is customary, copies were released to news media a few days before so their stories would come out on publication date. Then just half an hour before publication, a news release was sent out by the Harvard Brigham and Women’s University asking the media not to run the story because “the data is weak”.

The study was significant for several reasons. It followed 115,000 adults for 22 years looking at the relation between diet soda consumption and blood cancers. The long term is necessary to determine the effects of chronic exposure, and to enable detection of cancers (the longest previous human study on aspartame toxicity was only 19 weeks). It found that men (but not women) who consumed more than 1 diet soda per day had an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma, and that both men and women had an increased risk of leukemia. The gender difference can be explained by men producing more of the enzyme ADH that converts methanol from aspartame to formaldehyde. The risk increases are small but statistically significant, and in the authors’ view warrant further study.

So was the publication of the study premature? Or could there possibly be some industry pressure put on the university to recant? A 2006 New York Times article reported that all of the industry-funded studies on aspartame (to date) found it safe, while 92% of the independent studies found significant problems. The US FDA has had more adverse reports on aspartame than all other food additives combined. Another article on aspartame [The Defense of Diet Soda] listed some of the health problems linked by studies to diet sodas: heart attacks, strokes, cancers, osteoporosis, tooth decay, and nervous system disorders. And while some studies show improved weight loss for diet soda drinkers, there are many others that don’t or show the opposite – that diet sodas cause weight gain. So there are many reasons to avoid diet sodas and really no reason to drink them. The pulling of the news story reminds me of a line by Hamlet’s mother: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Two other online articles on this subject that I referred to were: "Study: Aspartame linked to blood cancers" by E. Hector Corsi, Digital Journal, 7 Nov 2012, and "Aspartame Associated with Increased Risk of Blood Cancers in Long-Term Human Study" by Dr. Joseph Mercola, 7 Nov 2012.

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 5, 2012

190 Risks of High Protein Diets [5 Nov 2012]

I’m just finishing a few months on the Ideal Protein diet program. A few friends have expressed concern about health risks of “high protein” diets, so I decided to see if there was any validity to their concerns.

First, the Ideal Protein program is not really a high protein diet. Yes, carbs are reduced and protein as a % of total calories is increased. But the total protein is within normal limits. Using the formula of 0.5g of protein daily per pound of lean body weight (usually the “goal” weight), I should consume 0.5 x 200 = 100g of protein daily. The program provides 54g from 3 of their high-quality protein foods and 56g from one 8oz lean meat meal for a total 110g.

A 2004 article in the J. Int Soc Sports Nutr evaluated the scientific validity of the American Heart Association statement:
“Individuals who follow [high-protein] diets are [at higher] risk for …potential cardiac, renal, bone and liver abnormalities…”
The author of the article, A H Manninen, found that:

• there is no scientific evidence that high-protein intake has adverse effects on liver function or damages healthy kidneys
• rather than promote osteoporosis as hypothesized, some studies show an increase in bone density with increased protein intake
• systolic and diastolic blood pressure are reduced with increased protein intake
• rather than increase cholesterol as hypothesized, blood lipid levels significantly improved
• recent findings suggest replacing carbs with protein may reduce ischemic heart disease (likely due to the improvement in blood lipid levels)
• fat mass is significantly reduced and lean mass increased with carbohydrate-restricted diets (this is the ultimate goal of a weight loss diet!)

The author concludes that the AHA statement “contains misleading and incorrect information [and is based on] unsubstantiated fears… the risks are minimal and must be balanced against the real and established risk of continued obesity.”

Some other concerns about high protein diets do not apply to Ideal Protein because of its temporary nature, low fat intake, and the careful use of supplements.

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 29, 2012

189 Antioxidants & Heart Disease [29 October 2012]

Antioxidants are certain vitamins, minerals and other molecules that protect the body from oxidative stress from highly charged molecules called free radicals, more technically called “reactive oxygen species”. Oxidative stress is believed to be a factor in the development of atherosclerosis – plaque formation in the arteries – and therefore heart disease, but is not generally accepted in North America. A recent study from Israel should increase the popularity of antioxidant therapy as an adjunct for the treatment of vascular heart disease.

The study, published in Nutrition & Metabolism in July 2010, followed 70 adults with at least two of these risk factors: smoking, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, low HDL cholesterol, or high triglycerides. They were examined after 3 and 6 months. Half of the participants received daily antioxidant supplements containing 1,000mg vitamin C, 400iu vitamin E, 120mg coenzyme Q10, and 200mcg selenium; the other half a placebo. Those taking the antioxidants, but not the control (placebo) group, had the following benefits:
• significant increase in elasticity of both large and small arteries
• significant increase in HDL-cholesterol (the good kind)
• a small decrease in triglycerides
• significant reduction in HbA1C (a measure of long term blood sugar levels)
• reduced blood pressure

Although the study was too small in number of participants and too short in duration to measure risk of heart disease, all of these improvements would be expected to prevent heart attacks and deaths. The authors conclude that the findings of the study “justify investigating the overall clinical impact of antioxidant treatment in [patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors]”. But if you have some of these risks, you don’t have to wait for more studies before using antioxidants to improve your own health. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can add these antioxidants to your current 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.

October 22, 2012

188 Vitamin D Window [22 Oct 2012]

The best way to get vitamin D is from the sun. The vitamin D synthesized in our skin in the presence of UVB rays is the sulfate form which is water soluble and therefore more physiologically active. But for most of the year in Saskatchewan unless you use a safe sunlamp or take a holiday in the tropics, supplementation is the only way to keep your D levels up.

The UVB rays necessary for vitamin D synthesis can only penetrate the atmosphere when the sun is at 50° or more above the horizon. I knew that our vitamin D season was short, but when I did the calculations (using a US Navy website) I was shocked. The last day we could make vitamin D was August 21 and the next day will be April 18. On those two days there is about a half hour “window” centered on 1:15 pm (which is the sun-noon for Rosetown’s longitude). For most of June the “window” extends from 11:00 am to 3:30 pm. On sunny days outside these time “windows”, and on cloudy days, you can still get a sunburn and increase your risk of skin cancer from UVA, but you can’t make any vitamin D.

A recent study from New Zealand published in JAMA in October found a small but statistically insignificant reduction in upper respiratory tract infections (colds & “flu”) in healthy adults with supplementation of 100,000iu D3 monthly (equivalent to 3,330 daily). The average vitamin D level of the test population was low but not severely deficient (likely due to sun exposure), which may explain the small difference. For example, two previous studies with children in Mongolia and in Japan who had severe D deficiencies, showed much more significant improvement with D supplementation. Other studies have found that people with lower levels of D had more frequent colds or missed more work due to colds, and that newborns with a D deficiency were more susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia. In any case there are many other good reasons to keep up your D levels – this is my 23rd column on this important vitamin.

To give credit where due, the New Zealand study appears to me to be well done. It was a fairly large controlled study with over 300 people. The dose was adequate - much closer to what some researchers are calling for. Having the subjects take their vitamin D dose monthly rather than daily seems unusual but since D is a fat soluble vitamin it's not unheard of (I recently heard a Naturopathic Doctor tell us that he takes his D once a month). It may not be the best way to keep one's level consistently up, though. And their conclusion, although disappointing, was not overstated. I quote:
In conclusion, we report that monthly administration of 100 000-IU doses of vitamin D3 did not reduce the incidence or severity of URTIs in healthy, predominantly European adults with near-normal vitamin D levels. Further research is required to clarify whether there is benefit from supplementation in other populations and with other dosing regimens.
Similarly, after my previous rants about reporters exaggerating the dangers of vitamins in their news reports, I was pleased to see the Globe & Mail article actually tell people not to quit taking D:
That doesn’t mean you should stop supplementing with vitamin D. Mounting evidence suggests vitamin D deficiency may be linked to a number of diseases, most notably cancer, and that supplementation could be an effective way to reduce the risk. Although humans produce vitamin D through exposure to the sun, countries like Canada, that have lengthy winters and limited sunshine during those months, are increasingly advised to take vitamin D supplements.
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 15, 2012

187 Vitamin E & Liver Cancer [15 October 2012]

Finally some good news about Vitamin E! It has been getting a lot of bad press lately, most of it undeservedly – like the study I wrote about a few months ago in column #176 which found that synthetic E raised the risk of prostate cancer.

Part of the Shanghai Men’s and Women’s Health Studies, run from 1997 to 2006 and published in July 2012 in J. National Cancer Inst., looked at liver cancer risk in middle-aged and older adults with differing vitamin intakes. They found that both dietary and supplementary vitamin E intake was inversely associated with liver cancer risk. This held true for participants both with, and without, existing liver disease or family history of liver cancer. And the results were dose dependent, meaning the more E ingested, the lower the risk. This finding agrees with previous studies which showed vitamin E is protective of the liver; it is even used as a treatment for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Disturbingly though, it also found that for those with an existing liver disease or family history of liver cancer, high intake of vitamin C from supplements (but not from food) increased the risk of liver cancer. This is a surprise because Vitamin C has long been thought to be protective from cancer. A 1991 review published in the Am. Soc. Clinical Nutrition found that in 33 of 46 studies examined, vitamin C provided a significant protection from various cancers. But a 10 year clinical trial – the Physicians Health Study II – published in 2008 found that 400iu of E or 500mg of C did not reduce the risk of cancers, but also did not cause any harm. I would consider both doses to be low, and the E was undoubtedly pure alpha-tocopherol with no gamma-tocopherol, known from another study to significantly reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Because of inconsistent study results like these medical scientists are reluctant to make dietary recommendations based on one or two studies.

Back to vitamin E. There are two families of E – four tocopherols and four tocotrienols – each with their own physiological functions. The best E supplement has all 8 vitamin Es, and uses the natural d not the synthetic dl forms. For more detail on this interesting vitamin family, see my December 2011 column #143.

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 9, 2012

186 Amino Acids & Mood Disorders [9 October 2012]

Customers at my store often ask for certain supplements – usually single amino acids or other neurotransmitter precursors – to help with mood disorders. For example: tryptophan and melatonin for insomnia; theanine and 5-HTP for anxiety; or tyrosine and glutamic acid for depression. These can be effective and safer than pharmaceuticals but still don’t get at the root cause of the problem.

Dr. Jonathan Wright in his website Nutrition and Healing recommends testing for amino acid levels and supplementing with a customized supplement that includes all eight essential aminos. This is preferable to just taking one or two because balance is critical with aminos. Then he takes it a step further and looks for possible causes of amino deficiencies. It may be a diet lacking high quality protein, low stomach acid, insufficient pancreatic enzymes, gluten sensitivity or food allergies. Another possible root cause is dysbiosis – a lack of beneficial bacteria in your intestines (see my column #147 “The Brain-Gut Connection”).

If you think you might benefit from amino acid supplementation, ask your doctor for an amino acid level test. If that is not possible, a compromise would be to take an amino complex along with one or two of the aminos you think would help you. Dr Wright recommends B12 & folic acid supplementation along with the aminos. Betaine hydrochloride and digestive enzymes will help with protein digestion. A good probiotic program will restore beneficial gut flora. A fish oil supplement would be another good addition to your mood enhancement program. For more ideas see my columns #24 “Food & Mood”; #74 “Depression”; #75 “Omega 3s & Depression”; and #167 “Zesty or Tranquil”. These are available from my website (see below). It may take several months for your body to build up the neurotransmitter levels back to normal, so don’t give up too soon.

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 1, 2012

185 Benefits of Organic – the Stanford Study

Eating organic foods is believed by many to be a healthier choice, but is it? A recent study put this question in doubt. A systematic review of 240 English language studies by researchers at the Stanford University was published September 4, 2012, in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The abstract concluded: “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

The Stanford University press release, titled “Little evidence of health benefits of organic foods, Stanford Study finds”, downplayed the positive findings. Mainstream news items with few exceptions repeated the negative tone. Two health writers that I follow - the Health Sciences Institute and Dr. Joseph Mercola - dug a little deeper into the study and discovered several benefits of organic foods that are not that insignificant:
• 30% less pesticide residue in organic produce
• 33% lower risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in organic meat
• higher levels of phenols and other antioxidants in organic chicken
• higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk

There are many other studies that weren’t included in the Stanford analysis that show greater benefits of organic farming. A University of Stuttgart study, for example, published in July 2012, found that organic fruits and vegetables averaged 180 times lower pesticide content than conventional produce. And a well controlled study at University of California-Davis found that kiwis grown organically had a higher mineral, vitamin C and antioxidant content.

I buy and eat organically grown food whenever possible, but realize that it is what foods we eat (and how much), rather than how they were grown, that has the biggest influence on our health.

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

September 24, 2012

184 Eat Your Broccoli Raw [24 Sept 2012]

Eating cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts – has been known to reduce cancer risk for years but studies were inconsistent. Only 69% of 55 large epidemiological studies looking at cruciferous vegetable consumption and cancer found a significantly lower risk. The reason may be that these studies did not consider whether the vegetables were eaten raw or cooked.

A 2008 study at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY, found a reduction in bladder cancer deaths of 40% for those who ate 3 or more servings of raw cruciferous vegetables per month! This was an average for both smokers and non-smokers; for non-smokers who ate the raw veggies compared to smokers who didn’t the reduction was 73%. There was no correlation in this study with cancer deaths and consumption of cooked cruciferous vegetables or of other fruits and vegetables cooked or raw.

The protective compounds in cruciferous vegetables are believed to be isothiocyanates, which are destroyed by cooking. These compounds are known to reduce the carcinogenic action of free radicals, preventing the formation of cancer cells. A recent study found that a particular isothiocyanate called PEITC can also kill existing cancer cells. This study, published in August 2012 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that PEITC reduced mammary tumors in susceptible mice by 56% by preventing the formation of new blood vessels (essential for tumor growth) and by apoptosis (cell death).

Another study found that PEITC was even more effective at slowing growth of prostate cancer when taken along with curcumin (from the spice turmeric). Other research has shown that PEITC reduces cancer risk by affecting the HER2 and mutant p53 genes associated with cancer growth.

The message is clear – broccoli and its cruciferous cousins are good for us, but for best protection they should be eaten raw at least once per week.

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

September 17, 2012

183 Two Unproven “Miracle” Fat-Burners [17 Sept 2012]

Two herbal weight loss products have been hot topics on the Dr. Oz show in the last few months: raspberry ketones and green coffee bean extract. How do these products work? Are they effective? Are they safe?

Lindsey Duncan, ND, CN, promoted the use of green coffee bean extract for its content of chlorogenic acid (CA) – not the caffeine, which is about 20 mg per serving compared to 100 mg for a cup of strong coffee. The roasting process destroys the CA so drinking coffee doesn’t have the same effect. A small controlled human trial at U. of Cranston in 2011 found that the green coffee bean extract increased fat loss with no significant changes to the diet and with no adverse effects reported. This result was considered consistent with previous animal and human studies. The mechanism for this effect is not well understood. Animal studies found that CA slows the absorption of fat from the small intestine and increases fat metabolism in the liver. CA may also inhibit the breakdown of starch to sugar in the small intestine as well as influence glucose metabolism.

“Fitness expert” Lisa Lyn promoted raspberry ketones (RK) on the Dr. Oz show where Dr. Oz called it a “miracle in a bottle to burn your fat”. Two small studies with mice found that RK appears to improve the fat-burning ability of the excitatory neurotransmitter norepinephrine and to increase levels of adiponectin, a hormone that improves the sensitivity of insulin (exercise is known to increase adiponectin). Since RK has not yet been tested on humans we don’t know how it works in people or what side effects and drug interactions they may have.

Despite the lack of research both products have been approved for sale in Canada and have been selling like hotcakes, mostly I suspect due to Dr. Oz’s “miracle in a bottle” hype. If you have already tried either, I’d like to hear your experience. If you aren’t happy with the results or are serious about losing weight, ask me about a medically sound safe and effective weight loss program that I can confidently recommend.

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

September 10, 2012

182 Boosting Nitric Oxide [10 Sept 2012]

In the last two columns I wrote about the health benefits of Nitric Oxide (NO) and why we need more as we age. This week let’s look at how to increase our levels.

L-arginine is a nitric oxide donor and supplementing with this amino acid has been touted as the best way to increase NO levels (see June 11 column #169). But there are problems with L-arginine – it shouldn’t be used by people who have had a heart attack or who have atherosclerosis. Also the chemical pathway to convert arginine to NO doesn’t work so well in people over 40 – the very ones who need it the most. Fortunately there are foods, and a new supplement, that use different enzyme pathways that are safer and more effective.

Certain vegetables, the dark leafy greens, are rich in nitrate and nitrite which the body can convert to NO. An analysis of the factors in the Mediterranean diet found that the most significant food was not olive oil, fish or beans but vegetables, particularly those high in nitrates. Vegetables which are highest in nitrates (in decreasing order) include spinach, kale, Swiss chard, chicory, bok choy, beets, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli. Other foods which promote the production of NO (but do not contain much nitrate) are apples, pomegranate juice, red wine, dark chocolate, black and green tea and fish oil. Watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid that converts to L-arginine in the body. Citrulline has been found to be safer and more effective at raising NO levels than arginine.

The new supplement for raising NO levels is called Neo40. It contains L-citrulline, vitamin C, beet root and hawthorn (beet root and hawthorn are very high in nitrates). Neo40 is mixed with saliva in the mouth to convert nitrates to nitrites. A recent study found Neo40 to be much more effective than L-arginine in raising blood levels of nitrite which is a biomarker for NO levels.

For more information on nitric oxide and Neo40 see and a book called “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” by Nathan S Bryan and Janet Zand, 2010. For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

August 30, 2012

181 Nitric Oxide & Cardiovascular Health [4 Sept. 2012]

Last week we looked at all the roles that nitric oxide (NO) plays in the body. The most important of these relate to cardiovascular health. Healthy blood vessels are smooth and flexible, allowing easy passage of blood. NO produced in the endothelium (inner lining) of these vessels tells the underlying layer of smooth muscle to relax, a process called vasodilation. With insufficient NO the arteries become inflexible, resulting in high blood pressure.

High blood pressure damages the artery walls initiating the formation of plaque. Insufficient NO allows platelets and macrophages (a type of white blood cell) to stick to the artery walls forming plaque, and causes proliferation of the smooth muscle cells of the vessels which contributes to the plaque. Low NO levels also increase chronic inflammation which contributes to cardiovascular disease. Constricted, inflexible vessel walls along with plaque formation restrict blood flow to the heart and the rest of the body. This in turn reduces the amount of NO produced, creating what’s known as a “vicious circle”. By age 40 production of NO is less than half of normal. Returning NO levels to normal will halt this process, possibly reverse the formation of arterial plaque, and restore healthy circulation.

Many recent studies have shown that NO plays a critical role in cardiovascular health. Endothelium dysfunction which results in low production of NO is a strong predictor for heart disease. Nearly every risk factor for heart disease either causes or is associated with low NO production: high blood pressure, high LDL and low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, smoking, inactivity, high homocysteine and aging. Vegetarian and Mediterranean diets, known for their lower risk of heart disease, promote the production of NO. Clinical trials of Neo40, a supplement that increases NO levels, resulted in reduced blood pressure, lower triglycerides, reduced anxiety and increased energy.

For more information on NO and Neo-40 see and a book called “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” by Nathan S Bryan and Janet Zand, 2010. For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

August 27, 2012

180 Nitric Oxide – Say “NO” to Disease [27 August 2012]

Nitric oxide (NO) is a simple molecule – just one atom of nitrogen and one of oxygen – but it plays some very important roles in the body. The discovery of NO’s role in cell communication won a 1998 Nobel Prize. I touched on the functions of NO in my June 11 article (#169) on the amino acid arginine. Here is more information on nitric oxide:

• NO lowers blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscles of the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) thus dilating the arteries. It also prevents or reverses arterial plaque, keeping the artery walls flexible.
• NO increases blood flow when partially blocked arteries to the heart cause angina pain (which is how nitroglycerine pills work).
• NO increases blood flow when partially blocked arteries to the leg muscles cause muscle pain called intermittent claudication.
• The increased circulation dramatically reduces nerve and joint inflammation, providing relief for arthritis sufferers and improves healing of wounds and diabetic foot ulcers.
• NO lowers cholesterol – a clinical trial found that increasing NO lowered triglycerides by 27% in 30 days, from an average 232 down to 168 (mg/dL).
• Insulin requires NO to function properly; low levels of NO result in insulin resistance which, as I’ve written on extensively in past articles, can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia and Type 2 Diabetes.
• Low NO levels are associated with depression; treatment with antidepressants increases NO.
• NO is essential for both short-term and long-term memory.
• NO is also essential for penile erection; a deficiency of NO is a common cause of erectile dysfunction in older men.
• As we age, NO production in our bodies decreases; most people over 40 don’t produce enough. A simple saliva test can tell you where your level is.

Until recently taking arginine has been the best way to increase NO, but a much more effective supplement called Neo40 is now available in Canada. For more information on NO and Neo-40 see and a book called “The Nitric Oxide (NO) Solution” by Nathan S Bryan and Janet Zand, 2010.

With all these functions of nitric oxide, and most of us over 40 having insufficient levels, Neo40 has tremendous potential for improving our health in many different ways. I’m excited to learn what it will do for me. How about you?

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

August 20, 2012

179 Vitamin D from the Sun [20 August 2012]

Vitamin D is synthesized in our skin from exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, but exposure to UV radiation is also associated with increased risk of skin cancer, particularly melanoma. Maintaining optimum levels of vitamin D is important for many reasons, including reducing deaths from many types of cancers. How can we take advantage of the last month of summer and get our vitamin D from sunshine without increasing the risk of skin cancer?

Here is what I’ve learned from the websites of the Vitamin D Council and Dr. Joseph Mercola:
• Both the UVB and the longer wavelength UVA will cause sunburn and increase risk of cancer, but only UVB can create vitamin D.
• Expose to sunlight only during peak UVB hours when the sun is at 50° above the horizon (your shadow is shorter than you). Cover up the rest of the time.
• Expose skin without SPF sunscreen and for a short time only (10-20 minutes). Stop exposure at or preferably before the first hint of pink to avoid sunburn.
• Use a hat and clothing to cover; don’t depend on sunscreen lotion which often blocks only the beneficial UVB and not the harmful UVA, and may contain harmful chemicals. Always protect the face with a hat or safe natural sunscreen.
• Don’t wash exposed skin with soap for 48 hours after exposure to allow the vitamin D to be absorbed (washing or showering with plain water is ok).
• Glass and clouds block UVB but not UVA so you can get a sunburn in your car or on a cloudy day but you can’t make vitamin D.
• Regular low intensity sun exposure does not increase the risk of melanoma and in some cases actually lowers the risk. Studies in the UK link higher exposure to UVB with lower rates of 20 different cancers.
• Optimum vitamin D levels, either from appropriate sun exposure or supplementation, also appear to protect against sunburn – many people report that since taking D supplements they don’t sunburn as easily.

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

August 13, 2012

178 Vitamin D & Fractures [13 August 2012]

Last week I critiqued a study that concluded that calcium and vitamin D were useless in preventing fractures. Among the many oversights of the study was the low dose of vitamin D used, averaging 400 IU daily. The critique suggested that 5,000 would be a better place to start. A new study has just confirmed the significance of dosage to vitamin D’s effect on fracture prevention.

The new study, published in the N Engl J Med in July, analyzed 11 controlled studies of oral vitamin D and hip fractures. Overall those taking vitamin D had a statistically insignificant 10% reduction in fractures, agreeing with the previous study which found no benefit. However, when analyzed by dosage, those taking the highest amount of D (800 or more) had a 30% reduction in fractures which is significant but not as good as it could be. While the researchers called this “high-dose vitamin D supplementation” many still consider it to be far below optimum.

As frustrating as it is to wait for research to be carried out in the optimum range of supplementation, at least these studies are contributing something to our nutritional knowledge. What really annoys me though is the news articles reporting on such studies. Seeking sensation rather than education, journalists jump to conclusions never intended by the researchers. For example one of the headlines for the story of the former analysis read: “Panel’s Thumbs Down to Calcium/Vitamin D supplements” [Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13, 2012]. A more accurate and helpful headline would have been: “RDAs of Calcium and Vitamin D Too Low to Prevent Fractures”.

Having established, once again, the importance of adequate vitamin D levels, how can we take advantage of the last month of summer sunshine and get our vitamin D without increasing the risk of skin cancer? In short, expose skin for a short time during peak UVB period, then cover up. Details next week.

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

August 6, 2012

177 Preventing Fractures [7 August 2012]

In last week’s column, I warned that when it comes to nutritional advice, not to believe everything you read in the news, and mentioned two items. I discussed a flaw in an otherwise excellent study that found that a synthetic form of vitamin E increases prostate cancer, but then concluded that high doses of all vitamin E should be avoided. Now let’s look at the other study in more detail.

In June 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a statement, reported in the New York Times that, based on their analysis of 137 studies, low doses (RDAs) of calcium (1,000mg) and vitamin D (400iu) do not prevent fractures in healthy post-menopausal women and are better avoided due to a slight increased risk of kidney stones.

Not so fast! There are several problems with this analysis, pointed out in a critique by Dr. Allan Spreen of Health Sciences Institute:
• the carbonate form of calcium used in the studies is poorly absorbed so the amount may be insufficient, especially if stomach acid is weak
• the amount of vitamin D is much less than the 5,000 – 10,000 iu that we now know is optimum, especially for the elderly
• magnesium is necessary for healthy bones in about 2:1 ratio of cal:mag
• vitamin K2 is essential to direct the calcium into the bones (and along with magnesium will reduce the risk of kidney stones)
• vitamin C and trace minerals manganese, silica, zinc, copper, strontium, molybdenum and boron are also necessary for healthy bones
• a natural progesterone supplement is recommended for post-menopausal women
• finally, weight bearing exercise is essential to build and maintain healthy bones

To this list I’ll add my own observation that preventing fractures is only one of many functions of calcium and vitamin D, and not the most important one either. So even if they don’t prevent fractures there are good reasons for taking optimum amounts of both nutrients. Another factor not mentioned is that of systemic acidity which leaches minerals from the bones to maintain a healthy pH. Eating more alkalizing foods and or taking alkalizing supplements in addition to calcium will help maintain strong bones.

The last word in the New York Times article is given to a member of USPSTF, Dr. Bibbins-Domingo, whose quote reveals her lack of nutritional knowledge: “For most people there is no need for these supplements and good reason for many not to take them. Vitamin D and calcium are part of a healthy diet. Most people can achieve sufficient doses with a healthy diet”. That might be true for calcium, but unless you regularly eat fish liver, you will never achieve a “sufficient dose” of vitamin D in your diet!

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

July 30, 2012

176 Nutrition in the News [30 July 2012]

When it comes to nutritional advice, don’t believe everything you read in the mainstream news. News reporters are seldom knowledgeable enough about nutrition to report results accurately (and have been known to jump to conclusions not intended by the studies’ authors) and reporters are certainly not competent enough to spot and question flaws in the studies. Also while medical experts are often interviewed to add caution to studies which show nutrient supplementation in a positive light, rarely are nutritional experts interviewed in a negative story. Here are two recent news stories that demonstrate these biases.

In December 2011 a study was published in JAMA that showed that vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer. A CBC report on the study quoted the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society (who was not involved in the study) advising men to avoid high doses of vitamin E, but then extended his warning to all vitamins: “…excessive use of vitamins has not been proven to be beneficial and may be the opposite”. A representative of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (a supplement manufacturers’ association) was generously given the last word, reassuring the readers of the benefits of vitamin E as an essential nutrient and suggested that many Americans don’t get enough. But even he missed the biggest flaw in the study, pointed out in a critique by Health Sciences Institute, that the vitamin E used in the study was the poorly utilized synthetic dl-alpha tocopherol acetate form instead of the natural d-alpha tocopherol form. Had they used natural vitamin E, I believe the results would have been much different. The only conclusion that can be made from this study is that synthetic vitamin E should be avoided.

Then in June 2012 the United States Preventive Services Task Force published a statement that low doses of calcium (1000mg) and vitamin D (400iu) do not prevent fractures in healthy postmenopausal women and are better avoided. The result is, I’m sure, quite accurate but the recommendation to avoid them is misguided at best. I’ll explain more about the flaws in this study in next week’s 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.

July 23, 2012

175 The GAPS Diet [23 July 2012]

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, offers hope of a natural treatment for a wide variety of disorders including autism, asthma, allergies, ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, and severe digestive disorders. If you think you or a family member might benefit from this program I recommend you get a copy of the book. You can see an outline of the program at, which I will further simplify here so you can get an idea of what all is involved.

There are three components to the program: diet, supplementation and detoxification. The GAPS diet is based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet promoted by Elaine Gottschall in her book Breaking the Vicious Cycle – Intestinal Health Through Diet. Grains, dairy and processed foods are eliminated; certain meats, vegetables and fruit allowed. There is an Introduction Diet recommended to start with before going on the full GAPS diet.

Supplements include, of course, a therapeutic strength probiotic. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kefir are also used to help re-establish healthy bacteria in the gut. For essential fatty acids use a good seed or nut oil and a high-EPA fish oil. Digestive enzymes and Betaine HCl are used to aid digestion. Vitamin A as cod liver oil is recommended. Specific nutrients that are determined to be deficient may be supplemented but other supplements are discouraged.

Eliminating toxin sources is the first and most important step towards detoxification by avoiding chemicals in food, household and cosmetic products. Juicing is recommended to help the body detoxify by providing concentrated nutrients in an easily absorbed form.

This may sound quite formidable but the book explains it well and makes it easier with tips and recipes. Certified practitioners who could assist you with the program are listed on the website – there are 3 in Alberta. Keep in mind that this program is temporary and becomes less strict as the digestive and immune systems improve, although some elements may have to be continued for life.

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

July 16, 2012

174 The Vaccine-Autism Controversy [16 July 2012]

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride devotes a chapter of her book “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” to the vaccine-autism controversy. I’ve been avoiding this topic for some time, but I like her balanced approach.

Autism is one of the neurological conditions (including allergies, asthma, eczema, ADD, ADHD, etc.) common in children with a compromised immune system. A child’s reaction to a vaccination depends on his or her immune health: with a healthy immune system the reaction should be normal; with a seriously compromised system it could trigger one of these conditions; with a moderately compromised system it could further weaken their immune system setting them up for some other trigger to “break the camel’s back”. On the other hand Dr. Campbell-McBride reports seeing many severely immune compromised children, who have not been vaccinated, develop one or more of these conditions. This range of reactions, I believe, explains why the connection between vaccination and autism remains controversial.

Dr. Campbell-McBride does not advocate abandoning vaccinations altogether – she recognizes that they have saved millions of children’s lives – but believes that with more and more children born with compromised immune systems, the ideal of vaccinating everyone could now be doing more harm than good. Instead she proposes a comprehensive immunological screening program – through a questionnaire and testing – to discover which children have compromised immune systems and are therefore at greater risk of severe reactions. Those most at risk* should not be vaccinated. Those with healthy parents and no particular health problems but showing some immune system abnormalities should wait until the tests improve. Only healthy infants with healthy parents and who show normal immune development should proceed with vaccinations. Even then Dr Campbell-McBride recommends single vaccines only, spaced 6 weeks apart, to reduce adverse effects.

See Dr. Campbell-McBride's website for more details. In the Resources tab to access articles on autism and vaccines.

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

* Dr. Campbell-McBride recommends no vaccinations for infants:
• with eczema, asthma, digestive problems or any other disorder which would indicate compromised gut flora and immunity;
• born to a mother with fibromyalgia, digestive problems, asthma, eczema, severe allergies, autoimmune disorders or neurological problems;
• or having older siblings with autism, severe eczema, asthma, allergies, ADHD, epilepsy or insulin dependant diabetes.
At a later age these children can be retested and, when they show no immune deficiencies, can be vaccinated using single vaccines spaced 6 weeks apart.

July 9, 2012

173 Gut Flora and our Immune System [9 July 2012]

Last week we looked at the benefits of gut flora. In this column I’ll concentrate on the effects of gut flora on our immune system. Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, in “Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Autism, ADHD, Dyspraxia, Depression and Schizophrenia”, explains how the immune systems of people with GAPS Syndrome (discussed last column) are out of balance, often attacking their own bodies including the brain and nervous system.

Beneficial bacteria coat the epithelial surface of the small intestine and stimulate production of lymphocytes which in turn produce immunoglobulins, especially IgA, and other immune system regulators such as cytokines and interferons. These are our body’s first line of defense against pathological microorganisms. Beneficial bacteria also enable neutrophils and macrophages to function better. Their job is to destroy and gobble up viruses, bacteria and toxins.

The health of our gut flora affects the immune system of the entire body, not just that in the digestive tract. When the first line of defense in the lining of the gut fails, pathogens and toxins enter the bloodstream and our second line of defense is activated. This includes several different interleukins and IgE, the antibody involved in allergic reactions. These are not as effective at fighting pathogens, often allowing chronic viral infections to persist. If these antibodies become overactive they can lead to allergic and auto-immune conditions including asthma, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome and neurological conditions like ADHD and autism.

Two additional effects of gut flora on the immune system are malnutrition and auto-intoxication. The nutrient deficiencies caused by a lack of beneficial bacteria (discussed last week) affect the immune system along with every other system of the body. And the unchecked growth of pathogens produces toxins like ethanol and acetaldehyde which depresses the immune system and attacks the nervous system.

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

July 2, 2012

172 Benefits of a Healthy Gut Flora [3 July 2012]

I wrote about GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) in January 2012 (Column #147). Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a Russian trained neurologist practicing in the UK, discovered that all of her young patients with allergic, neurological, and psychiatric disorders – asthma, eczema, autism, ADD/ADHD, dyspraxia, and dyslexia – also had digestive problems. These children tended to be fussy eaters, complained of abdominal discomfort and had abnormal stools. When the digestive disorders were treated with a special diet, probiotics, and detoxification, the allergy and neurological conditions improved dramatically or disappeared altogether.

What is the connection between our gut and neurological health? A large part of the answer has to do with our intestinal flora – the bacteria, fungi and viruses that live in our gut. A healthy population of good bacteria has many health benefits:
• protects us from pathological microorganisms which can cause disease
• absorbs and neutralizes toxins including heavy metals
• absorbs many carcinogens and suppresses development of cancer
• protects the gut wall from pathogens which cause inflammation (IBD)
• digests cellulose (fiber) and lactose (milk sugar)
• synthesizes vitamins K2, B1, B2, B6 and B12
• prevents toxins, microbes and partially digested proteins from entering the blood stream where they can trigger allergies and other health problems
• controls certain iron-loving bacteria which cause anemia (iron supplements only make these bacteria stronger)
• nourishes the endothelial cells of the gut wall which in turn digest and absorb nutrients from our food to nourish the rest of our body.

Dr McBride sums it up: “A well-functioning gut with healthy gut flora holds the roots of our health.” Her GAPS patients were commonly deficient in magnesium, zinc, selenium copper, calcium, manganese, sulfur, phosphorus, iron, potassium, sodium, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, C, A, D, folic acid, pantothenic acid, omega 3, 6 & 9 efas, taurine, glutathione, and others. Small wonder they also suffered from neurological and other conditions.

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

June 25, 2012

171 The Insect Repellent You Eat [25 June 2012]

Finally, a mosquito repellent that you eat! Doesn’t sound very appetizing, but that’s because we think of insect repellent as smelly, toxic creams or sprays. Xerion Dispensary Ltd, the developers of this remarkable new product they called Mozi-Q, insists it is safe with no known side effects. Health Canada must agree, as the product received approval for sale in Canada last month.

Xerion is a Calgary homeopathic clinic, the largest in western Canada. Mozi-Q is their first homeopathic product brought to market. A few years ago they discovered, in a textbook, a homeopathic remedy for keeping mosquitoes away and started to sell it in their clinic. Over four years of testing they improved the formula with four additional remedies. It worked so well they decided to manufacture it.

Mozi-Q works two ways: it greatly reduces the frequency of insect bites and also reduces your reaction should you get bitten anyway – no more itchy red bumps! It works on other bugs too besides mosquitoes – including flies, ticks, head lice and bed bugs.

Mozi-Q starts to work about 30 minutes after you take the first tablet, which is dissolved under the tongue. It lasts 3-5 hours before you need another one; there is no limit to how many you can take in a day. Because it is a homeopathic, it is non-toxic, has no contraindications for use, and does not react with any medication or herb. It is also safe for pregnancy, babies and children.

Now whenever mosquitoes start “bugging” you this summer, just pop a pill and they’ll leave you alone. Warning - always carry the box with you when you go out because your friends will want one too.

To learn more about Mozi-Q and Xerion Dispensary see
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

June 18, 2012

170 Lysine – the “Cold Sore Cure” [18 June 2012]

Lysine is one of the eight essential amino acids, meaning that we must obtain all our daily needs in our diet. That is usually not a problem as lysine is found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, pulses (lentils, beans and peas) and dairy. A vegan diet depending on grains for protein would be deficient in lysine, so it is commonly added to animal feed.

Lysine is an essential building block for all protein in the body, including hormones, enzymes and antibodies. It is important for increasing muscle and in the healing of wounds or surgery. Lysine plays a role in calcium absorption and is essential in the production of collagen, a protein found in skin, tendons and cartilage. Lysine also helps regulate serotonin, one of the anti-anxiety neurotransmitters I discussed in column #167.

Lysine is sometimes taken as a supplement to help fight infections of herpes simplex virus which causes cold sores. For this purpose, lysine is often taken in a formula along with zinc, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, and immune-supporting herbs like garlic, echinacea and goldenseal. Studies have found that a diet high in lysine and low in arginine reduces the frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks.

Lysine appears to inhibit herpes infections by suppressing arginine, the amino acid I wrote about last week, which is essential for the virus to replicate. Arginine and lysine compete with each other for absorption, so increasing lysine will create a relative deficiency of arginine. So if you are taking lysine for this purpose, you should avoid supplementing with arginine and temporarily reduce consumption of foods high in arginine (see list in last week’s column). Because arginine is also important to our health, long-term supplementation of lysine is not recommended.

Speaking of arginine, two functions that I missed mentioning last week are:
• arginine enhances the immune system by stimulating the thymus gland to increase production of B and T cells
• arginine stimulates the pituitary gland to produce human growth hormone (HGH)

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

June 11, 2012

169 Arginine – the NO Precursor [11 June 2012]

Arginine is an interesting amino acid. It is considered “essential” (meaning it is required in our diet) in infants and children whose synthesis pathways are undeveloped, and “conditionally essential” (meaning that some is required in our diet) in adults. Arginine is usually sufficient in our diets – it is found in meat, poultry, dairy, seafood, whole grains, nuts, seeds and even chocolate – but in certain situations is also taken as a supplement. As with all amino acids, look for the L-arginine form.
An important function of arginine is the production of the gas nitric oxide (NO). NO lowers blood pressure by relaxing the smooth muscles of the endothelium (lining of the blood vessels) thus dilating the arteries. This process increases blood flow when partially blocked arteries to the heart cause angina pain, or to the leg muscles cause intermittent claudication. Nitroglycerine works similarly in treating angina by releasing NO. NO is also essential for penile erections, so arginine is often used for erectile dysfunction.
Arginine has several other uses. Taken with RNA and the essential fatty acid EPA, arginine improves wound healing, especially bone injuries, and shortens post-surgery recovery time. Arginine is sometimes taken along with ibuprofen for migraine headaches. Arginine also plays an essential role in the detoxification and elimination of ammonia through the liver and kidneys.
There are several important cautions regarding arginine supplementation:
·         do not take arginine if you have had a recent heart attack
·         arginine may be helpful with congestive heart failure, but use with medical supervision.
·         take under medical supervision if you are on prescription drugs for high blood pressure or angina
·         stop two weeks before surgery, resume a few days after
·         women: avoid during pregnancy and breastfeeding
·         men: use caution if you take arginine along with sildenafil (Viagra) as the combination may lower blood pressure too far
·         avoid if you are subject to cold sores as arginine reduces the absorption of another amino acid, lysine, which is believed to play a role in combating herpes simplex infections.
Despite all the precautions, arginine supplementation can be safe and effective in certain conditions. I’ll explore more about lysine and its relationship with arginine next week.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. 

June 4, 2012

168 L-Carnitine – the Energy Booster [4 June 2012]

Continuing the series on amino acids, this week we will look at carnitine. Carnitine is synthesized in our livers from two other amino acids, lysine and methionine. It occurs in two forms, D- and L-, with L-carnitine being the biologically active form.
An important function of L-carnitine is to facilitate the breakdown and transport of long-chain fatty acids from the cell plasma into the mitochondria where they can be burned for fuel, creating energy in the form of ATP. Studies have also found that carnitine:
·           reduces fat mass and increases muscle mass
·           increases energy & endurance
·           reduces fatigue, including those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
·           reduces triglycerides and cholesterol levels
·           increases osteocalcin, the hormone responsible for building new bone
·           acts as a strong antioxidant protecting the brain and spinal cord
·           improves mental alertness, memory, and mood
·           improves insulin resistance
·           improves male fertility by increasing sperm count & motility
·           is often deficient in vegetarians
·           may need to be supplemented in pregnancy.
Carnitine is found in most muscle meats, but is particularly high in lamb and beef. It is a popular supplement for weight loss and body building. Carnitine has only recently (December 2011) been approved by Health Canada for sale in Canada without prescription. Caution: people on prescription blood thinners should only take carnitine under medical supervision.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. 

May 28, 2012

167 Zesty or Tranquil? [28 May 2012]

Two weeks ago I mentioned that one of the functions of amino acids is to act as precursors to neuropeptides (NPs) and neurotransmitters (NTs). Neuropeptides are short chains of amino acids found in neurons (nerve cells) that control many body functions including pain. One called Substance P transmits pain from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system; other NPs called endorphins block this transmission. Opiate drugs like morphine are similar to and work like endorphins.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells. They control our mood and certain physiological effects such as appetite, sleep, heart rate and temperature. NTs are divided into two classes depending on their effect on our mood – excitatory and inhibitory.

The main excitatory NTs are epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Released during high stress they prepare our bodies for “fight or flight”. The amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine are precursors to dopamine, another excitatory NT. In the right balance excitatory NTs elevate our mood, improve our memory and ability to focus, and increase energy and sex drive; they could be called the “Zesty Neurotransmitters”.

The main inhibitory NTs are GABA and serotonin. The amino acid taurine is a precursor to GABA, and L-theanine, an amino acid abundant in green tea, promotes the production of GABA. The amino acid tryptophan is converted in our bodies to 5HTP which in turn is a precursor to serotonin. The inhibitory NTs reduce tension and anxiety, calm and relax our mood, improve sleep, and enable us to handle stress; they could be called the “Tranquil Neurotransmitters”.

Optimum emotional health requires a balance of the “zesty” and “tranquil” NTs. Which do you need more of in your life? Caution: people with serious mood disorders (bipolar, severe depression) should not experiment with supplemental neurotransmitters without medical supervision.

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

May 21, 2012

166 Branched Chain Amino Acids [21 May 2012]

Last week we looked at amino acids as the building blocks (think Lego) of protein, and learned that nine are considered “essential”. Three of these form a special class – the branched chain amino acids (BCAA): leucine, isoleucine and valine. Their name comes from the shape of the molecule having a branched rather than linear form.

The BCAAs are the only amino acids that can be metabolized directly in muscle tissue; all the others require processing by the liver. This gives the BCAAs special nutritional properties in two rather different areas. For athletes, BCAA supplementation:
• increases muscle growth
• improves endurance
• speeds recovery from muscle damage due to intense training.

For the ill or elderly, BCAA supplementation can be used to:
• prevent muscle loss in elderly or ill (cancer, ALS) people with loss of appetite, without stressing the liver or kidneys
• maintain and rebuild muscle in people recovering from anorexia nervosa
• enhance healing of injuries including burns
• prevent muscle loss from prolonged fasting (e.g. the Master Cleanse).

Branched chain amino acids are available as a supplement in powder or capsule form. Research shows that L-Leucine is the most important of the three for protein synthesis and muscle building. reports no toxicity with BCAA supplementation.


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

May 10, 2012

165 Amino Acids [14 May 2012]

Amino acids are called the building blocks of protein. Our bodies use twenty different amino acids (AAs) in making protein. Nine are called “essential” meaning we must obtain them in our diet. The other eleven can be synthesized from others so are called “non-essential”. Some of these non-essential AAs, are considered “conditionally essential” because our ability to synthesize them is limited, so a dietary source may be required for them as well. Four of these - cysteine, taurine, tyrosine, and arginine - are essential in infants and children, whose synthesis pathways are still undeveloped.

These 20 amino acids are specific for each function, so if we are deficient in even one our health can suffer. In addition to the proteins that make up tissues like skin, hair, nerves, the brain, organs, muscles and even bones, amino acids are also an essential component of enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters.

Our dietary source of amino acids is protein, which is broken down in the acidic environment of the stomach into individual amino acids. If our stomach acid is insufficient, protein digestion may be incomplete resulting in amino acid deficiencies. Different proteins contain different amino acids and in different amounts; to ensure sufficient intake of all AAs, you should eat a variety of animal and plant protein foods. Amino acid supplements, in powder or capsule form, are available as complete formulas to ensure a balance of all the AAs, or as single amino acids for specific deficiencies or health problems.

Most amino acids come in two forms, called isomers, where one is a mirror image of the other. The L form is the natural one which works best for almost all functions; the D form is artificially synthesized and does not work as well. In choosing amino acid supplements, look for the L form, e.g. L-Lysine.

Watch for more columns on amino acids in the coming weeks. Next week – Branched Chain Amino Acids, beneficial for building and maintaining muscle in athletes and the elderly.

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

May 7, 2012

164 Autism & Vitamin D [7 May 2012]

I wrote about the vitamin D autism connection a year ago in column #116. Last month Dr. Eva Kocovska and colleagues from the University of Glasgow published a paper “Vitamin D and autism: Clinical review” in Res Dev Disabil. They reviewed 35 papers on the relationship between vitamin D and autism and called for “urgent research” on the subject. Here are some of their findings:
·        autistic children and/or their mothers have low levels (<30 ng/ml) of vitamin D. One study found Somali mothers with autistic children had average levels of only 6.7 ng/ml.
·        most autistic children do not meet vitamin D intake requirements
·        Several of the studies found a connection between low vitamin D levels and seizures in autistic children.
·        States with the highest rates of exclusive breastfeeding also had the highest rates of autism. Unless the breastfeeding mother is taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily and has a level > 40 ng/ml, her breast milk will contain negligible vitamin D.

The paper also discussed the many roles that vitamin D plays in brain development and function. Here are just a few:
·        cell differentiation
·        synaptic development
·        neurotransmitter synthesis
·        neurotransmission, both excitatory and inhibitory
·        control of the expression of genes involved in brain structure and metabolism.

None of this proves a causal relationship, and there have been few if any clinical studies of vitamin D treatment for autism. I agree with Kocovska that more research on this relationship is urgently needed.

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

April 30, 2012

163 You Can’t Beat Beets [30 April 2012]

We are often told that eating more vegetables will improve our health. One vegetable that we should eat a lot more of is beets. Besides being a good way to test bowel transit time, recent research has found that beets contain many unique nutrients with great health-giving properties.

The deep red color in the beet root comes from unique pigment compounds called betalains. Two of these, betanin and indicaxanthin are strong antioxidants. Another, vulgaxanthin [who makes up these names?], has anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties. These pigments have been shown in recent lab studies to slow tumour growth by reducing inflammatory enzymes and by increasing oxygen flow.

 Beets were first studied as a cancer treatment in the 1950s by Hungarian doctor Alexander Ferenczi. In 1974 he reported in the Hungarian Journal of Medicine on the success of his raw beet juice treatment on patients in the final (cachexic) stage of cancer. Other studies since then have supported his claim that beet juice is an effective addition to cancer treatment. For best results start early and stick with it. Even better, eat beets regularly (once or twice weekly) to help prevent cancer. The betalains are destroyed by heat so raw beet juice is the best source (caution: the juice is a powerful detoxifier so start slowly). Steaming for up to 15 minutes or roasting for less than an hour is acceptable.

 Beets have shown an even greater benefit in preventing heart disease. A beetroot extract has been developed that is more effective than L-Arginine in boosting nitric oxide (NO) in the blood vessels. NO is a vasodilator, relaxing blood vessels, lowering high blood pressure and reducing atherosclerosis. It is also a requirement for male erections, essential for a healthy sex life. Watch for more on this product, Neo40, in a future column.

 When it comes to healthful vegetables, you just can’t beat beets!

 Sources: "Beets: What's New and Beneficial About Beets" The World's Healthiest Foods; "Beetroot Therapy: Dr. A. Fenenci, MD." Annie Apple Seed Project; "Using Vegetables for Cancer Therapy — Beetroot Fights Disease and Even Cures Cancer." by Danica Collins; "Introducing Neo40®Daily."

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

April 23, 2012

162 Chia Seed [23 April 2012]

Chia (Salvia hispanica) is an ancient grain that formed a staple of the Aztec and Mayan diets. It has been rediscovered and is now considered a modern “super food” because of its high nutrient content.

Chia seeds contain 30-35% oil, mostly omega-3 and omega-6 efas. Over 60% of this oil is ALA (the same efa found in flax). I’ve previously written on the many benefits of Omega-3 EFAs. Chia also contains 16-22% of easily digested gluten-free protein, supplying all of the essential amino acids. Chia seeds are very high in fiber and absorb many times their weight in water forming a gel which absorbs toxins and helps to cleanse and regulate the colon. This gel also slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar, helping to maintain normal blood sugar levels and reducing the need for insulin in diabetics. It also reduces appetite and increases satiety, thus assisting with weight loss. Chia is also a significant source of vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, quercitin and other antioxidants.

Chia seeds were prized by the Mayans as an easily carried energy source for travel and war. It can be stored for long time because of its high antioxidant content and is soft enough to be chewed without grinding. Chia is easy to add to our modern diets – sprinkle on cereal (my favorite way to use it) or salad, add to smoothies, or simply eat by the spoonful. Whole or ground chia can be added to baking like cookies, muffins, pancakes or bread. Because it’s a food, there are no contraindications for eating it; it doesn’t interfere with any medication or supplement and it provides wonderful nutrition for pregnant moms and children.

The recommended amount of chia seed for an adult is one tablespoon per day. This provides 2.5 g of omega 3 efa; 2 g of protein; 5 g of fiber; 70 mg calcium; 35 mg magnesium; nearly 3 mg of iron, 6 mg vitamin C, plus many other nutrients.

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