February 24, 2014

256 Sugar & Heart Disease [24 February 2014]

Did you catch the article on sugar in last week’s Sunday Phoenix newspaper? It reported on a recently published study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looking at sugar consumption and deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD).

The researchers followed approximately 11,000 American adults for nearly 15 years, measured their sugar consumption, and recorded their deaths from CVD. The results were statistically adjusted for known risk factors of CVD like age, sex, ethnicity, smoking, etc. Compared to those who consumed less than 10% of their calories as added sugar, the increased risk of death from CVD was 30% for those who consumed 10 – 25%, and 175% for those who consumed over 25%. The increased risk of 175% means that you are nearly three times as likely to have a fatal heart attack. This finding was independent of sugar’s contribution to obesity which is itself a risk factor for CVD, so applies to “skinny” as well as overweight people.

What does this mean in terms of our diet? The World Health Organization recommends we get less than 10% of our calories from added sugar. Americans consume on average 15.5%; Canadians are somewhat better at 10.7%. Average of course means that half of us consume more than 10% and half of us less. Which half are you in?

According to the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator for a “somewhat active” man of 200 lbs, I need about 2500 calories a day. Ten % of this would be 250 which translates into 67 grams or 15 teaspoons of sugar. I could get over 15 teaspoons from just one can of pop (6-8), a chocolate bar (5-11) and a chocolate chip muffin (4-5). And these are the obvious sources – sugar is also added to ketchup, cereals, and even some yogurt. Learn to read the labels! Remember, if you are shorter or less active than I am, your 10% would be less. And that 10% should be a maximum – there is no lower limit for sugar consumption. Less (sugar) is definitely more (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.

February 18, 2014

255 Luobuma – the Anti-Stress Tea [18 February 2014]

Two plants growing in a remote desert in central Asia have shown some remarkable properties for dealing with stress and other health problems. Apocynum venetum and its close relative Apocynum hendersonii grow in the Taklamakan desert in the Tarim Basin situated in western China. The leaves and flowers are picked during the hot summer months. Tea, or an aqueous extract of this herb, is known as Luobuma and is popular in China as a healthful beverage.

Luobuma has been used in Asia as a medicinal herb for over a thousand years. Modern research has found a high content of quercitin, an important antioxidant phytochemical known to reduce blood pressure, and many other phytochemical compounds some of which are similar to those in St. John’s Wort, and others which are unique to Luobuma.

Luobuma has been found to:
• Relieve stress and anxiety
• Relieve depression
• Improve sleep
• Reduce high blood pressure
• Relieve headache, dizziness and vertigo
• Reduce cholesterol
• Strengthen cardiac muscle
• Relax cardiac arrhythmia
• Protect the liver from chemical toxicity

Luobuma has a good safety record with no known adverse effects. It is available as a tea or in capsules. Specific formulas combining Luobuma with various other herbs are available for blood pressure, cholesterol, headaches, and dizziness/vertigo. I have tried the tea and it has a mild flavor, similar to chamomile or green tea.

See the website www.luobuma.ca 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.

February 10, 2014

254 Vitamin D & Breast Cancer [10 February 2014]

The recent visit to Rosetown of the snowmobilers raising money for breast cancer research inspired this week’s topic. While more research is always good, there is much that we have already learned from existing research that we aren’t taking full advantage of. One example is vitamin D’s role in breast cancer. Here are some recent study results gleaned from the Vitamin D Council’s website.

• A 2013 review from McGill University pooled data from 8 studies and found vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased recurrence of breast cancer and increased risk of death.
• A 2013 meta-analysis by Harvard researchers found a moderate reduction in risk of breast cancer with vitamin D levels in post-menopausal women but not in pre-menopausal women.
• A 2012 Mexican population-based case-control study found an inverse association between D levels and breast cancer risk (as D increases, risk decreases) in both pre and post menopausal women.
• Similar studies of women in Saudi Arabia (2013) and China (2013) also found an inverse association between vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk.

According to John Cannell MD of the Vitamin D Council, the difference in survival between women with low D levels (<20 ng/ml) vs. those with adequate levels (>30) are significant but not huge. Overall, the five-year survival rate increased from an average of 97.6% to 98.4% and the ten-year rate increased from 84.8% to 88.0%. Much of the ten-year increase in survival was from prevention of death from causes other than breast cancer, but the ten-year death rate specifically from breast cancer did fall from 8.3% to 4.5%.

Most of these were observational studies which do not prove a causal connection but there is no need to wait 10 years for more research before taking action. Whether you already have breast cancer or wish to prevent it, you don’t want to be vitamin D deficient! In the studies quoted above the benefits of D increased with increasing blood levels to about 35 ng/ml so you want to ensure your levels are at least that high. Cannell recommends maintaining 50 ng/ml for optimal 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.

February 3, 2014

253 How Vitamin D Prevents Falls [3 February 2014]

In a recent post to the Vitamin D Council website Dr. John Cannell wrote “to the best of my knowledge, all studies of daily OTC vitamin D3 in significant doses point to effective prevention of falls in the elderly”. He then refers to several examples that showed that vitamin D3:
• reduced falls by 46% in elderly women in a 2001 German study;
• with calcium reduced falls by 49% compared to calcium alone in a 2003 Swiss study;
• reduced falls by 27% and body sway by 28% in a 2009 German study of the elderly;
• at least 10 randomized controlled clinical trials have shown that daily D3 supplementation over 800 IU prevents falls while lower doses often do not.
• Meta-analyses of studies using 400 IU/day showed a range of reduction in falls from 13% to 24%; studies of 800 IU or more showed reductions above 24%.

I had assumed that vitamin D prevented falls by increasing bone strength (which it does) but was surprised to learn that it also works in other important ways:
• increases muscle fiber diameter and muscle strength (at 4,000 IU/day)
• improves balance and reduces body sway
• improves neuromuscular reaction time

These are all important factors in preventing falls, especially in the elderly. So if you are in that age bracket, or have family members who are, supplementation is critical. Then the question is how much. At least 800 IU, but is more better? The one study which showed increased muscle strength used 4,000 IU. The Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU for adults including seniors (which is what I take) while most government health organizations are more cautious. If you take much more than 5,000 you should have your blood levels [25(OH)D] tested every few months. Toxicity could occur if you were to take 40,000 IU daily for several months.

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