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.

April 16, 2012

161 Wheat – Beyond Gluten

Two recent publications implicate modern wheat varieties in a wide range of human diseases: Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight by cardiologist Dr. William Davis (2011) and The Dark Side of Wheat by researcher Sayer Ji. Dr Mark Hyman summarizes their theories in an article in The Huffington Post called Three Hidden Ways Wheat Makes You Fat.

Gluten intolerance is well established as a problem for a small but growing population who react to a certain protein in wheat, barley and to a lesser extent oats. I wrote about it 2 years ago in column #60 Celiac Disease (26 April 2010).

The above publications argue that several factors in modern varieties of wheat, not just gluten, affect the health of everyone, contributing to our current high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, depression and many other modern diseases. Modern dwarf wheat varieties, with double the chromosomes of the ancient wheat species, have been bred for high yields and high levels of a special starch called amylopectin A. This starch makes beautiful bread and pastries but wreaks havoc with our blood sugar. According to Hyman this starch has a very high glycemic index (quickly converts to sugar) which contributes to obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and inflammation (and whole wheat is no better in this regard).

Modern wheat also contains a larger variety of proteins including the glutens most likely to cause celiac disease. This “super gluten” as Hyman calls it “…triggers severe inflammation throughout the body and has been linked to autoimmune diseases, mood disorders, autism, schizophrenia, dementia, digestive disorders, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, cancer and more.” Another compound in whole wheat is a glyco-protein called wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) which also increases inflammation.

Finally the proteins in wheat convert during digestion to exorphins, polypeptides which act on our brain like endorphins and morphine causing food cravings and addiction. As Hyman puts it “no one binges on broccoli”. So … there appears to be a lot more problems with wheat than simple gluten intolerance.

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 9, 2012

160 Vitamin D in Pregnancy [9 April 2012]

In December 1947 Dr. E Obermer wrote in the British Medical Journal: “Until further experimental evidence, adequate and incontrovertible, is made available, I submit that we should play for safety. In a climate like that of England every pregnant woman should be given a supplement of vitamin D in doses of not less than 10,000 IU per day in the first 7 months, and 20,000 IU during the 8th and 9th months.”

Nearly 60 years later, an important piece of that evidence has finally arrived. A randomized controlled trial conducted at the Medical University of South Carolina and published in December 2011 in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research divided 350 pregnant women into groups given 400, 2,000 and 4,000 IU of vitamin D daily. After the births, their babies were tested for blood vitamin D levels. The target was 20ng/ml, the minimum considered adequate for healthy fetal organ development by the U.S. Food & Nutrition Board. The 4,000 IU group came closest but still fell short of achieving the target in all cases. The study concluded “…vitamin D supplementation of 4,000 IU/d for pregnant women is safe and most effective in achieving sufficiency in all women and their neonates regardless of race, whereas the current estimated average requirement is ineffective at achieving adequate circulating 25(OH)D concentrations, especially in African Americans.”

Both the American FNB and Health Canada have set the RDI for vitamin D during pregnancy and lactation at 600 IU per day. Health Canada’s concern with higher intakes is that “too much vitamin D…can lead to calcification of the kidney and other soft tissues including the heart, lungs and blood vessels.” As I have discussed in previous columns, this problem is now known to be the result of insufficient vitamin K2. If the dietary regulators are still unconvinced, I would like to see the study repeated, this time with vitamin D intakes of 4,000 to 10,000 IU, and with the addition of sufficient K2. Perhaps Dr. Obermer, writing 59 years ago, wasn’t so far off the mark after all.

Source: Vitamin D Newsletter March 21, 2012, by John Cannell, Vitamin D Council.

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 2, 2012

159 Coenzyme Q10 [2 April 2012]

On looking over my 150+ Eagle columns, I was surprised to learn that I have not done one on coenzyme Q10. Two of the columns mention it in passing - #19 Cholesterol – Essential for Life (6 July 2009), and #29 Drug-Induced Nutritional Deficiencies (14 Sept 2009). These as well as all 159 columns are accessible through my website (see below).

Coenzyme Q10 is an enzyme essential for the production of ATP in the mitochondria of every cell in our body. ATP is the only fuel that our muscles (including the heart – arguably our most important muscle!) and the brain can use for energy. Other functions of CoQ10 include:
• It works as an antioxidant, protecting lipids and proteins from oxidation.
• It has the ability to regenerate vitamin E.
• It increases survival in patients with congestive heart failure from 25% (with conventional therapy) to 75% (with conventional therapy and coQ10).
• It provides effect relief for some migraine headaches.
• It can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
• It shows promise in treating periodontal disease and gingivitis.

Coenzyme Q10 is also known as ubiquinone (from the same root as ubiquitous) because it is found in every cell of the body. Our bodies’ ability to synthesize it decreases with age so supplementation is required to keep it at levels for optimum health. CoQ10 is fat soluble so supplements in an oil based gel cap are better absorbed. Our ability to convert the oxidized ubiquinone form to the active reduced ubiquinol form also decreases with age, so ubiquinol is the preferred form for everyone over 40.

CoQ10 supplementation is especially important for anyone taking a statin drug for cholesterol management. Statins work by blocking a liver enzyme that not only produces cholesterol but also coenzyme Q10 (which probably explains their common side effects of fatigue, muscle pain and weakness).

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