March 31, 2014

261 Reducing Cardiovascular Disease [31 March 2014]

One of the three medical journal articles mentioned in my March 17 column #259 deserves a closer look. Aseem Malhotra, a UK cardiologist, wrote in an October 2013 British Medical Journal editorial: “It’s time to bust the myth of the role of saturated fat in heart disease.”

Malhotra also points out that a pattern of blood lipids called atherogenic dyslipidemia is a more significant risk factor of cardiovascular disease than total cholesterol. This pattern of high LDL cholesterol, low HDL, and high triglycerides is commonly associated with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Atherogenic dyslipidemia responds well to a low carb diet but not to a low fat diet.

Dr. Malhotra claims that despite 60 million prescriptions annually for statin drugs in the UK there is no evidence that they have reduced cardiovascular deaths. He also observed that 66% of patients hospitalized with a heart attack have metabolic syndrome while only 25% have abnormal cholesterol.

Malhotra pointed out that statins are known to prevent second heart attacks when used at high doses, regardless of the patients’ cholesterol levels. This and the fact that no other cholesterol lowering drug reduces cardiac mortality, suggests to him that statins work by stabilizing plaque and reducing inflammation, rather than by lowering cholesterol. An interesting theory which, if found to be true, should prompt researchers to look for safer means to reduce inflammation. On the issue of safety, Malhotra reported a study which found that 20% of patients stopped taking statin drugs because of unacceptable side effects.

For prevention, Malhotra promotes the Mediterranean diet which he claims is more effective at reducing cardiovascular disease than a low fat diet or statin drugs. This diet is high in olive oil, fruit, nuts (especially walnuts), vegetables, and cereals; moderate in fish and poultry; and low in red and processed meats and dairy. Wine is used in moderation and only with meals.

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

March 24, 2014

260 Oil Pulling [24 March 2014]

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about a novel use for coconut oil called “oil pulling”. This old Ayurvedic folk remedy from India involves taking a spoonful of oil in your mouth, swishing it around for 15-20 minutes, alternately pushing and pulling it between your teeth (hence the name), then spitting it out and rinsing with warm salt water. Traditionally sesame oil was used but sunflower, olive, and coconut oils have also been recommended and almost any vegetable oil should work. It is best done first thing in the morning before eating, drinking or brushing your teeth. Some people like to do it while showering.

A 2008 book by Bruce Fife “Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing” popularized the technique in North America. I only found three scientific studies on the technique, all published in India by the same chief author between 2008 and 2011. The studies found that oil pulling was as effective as chlorhexidine (an antiseptic mouthwash ingredient) at reducing bacteria (Streptococcus mutans), halitosis, and plaque-induced gingivitis.

People using the technique report a variety of benefits:
• mouth feels clean, fresh and healthy
• teeth white and shiny
• plaque reduced
• gingivitis and gum bleeding reduced
• gum pockets improved
• teeth sensitivity reduced
• halitosis (bad breath) improved

Several dental hygienists commenting on the internet caution that oil pulling does not replace brushing and flossing (and many users agreed). I would add not to expect the miracle cures of chronic illnesses promised in the book. But it’s simple, inexpensive and safe so why not try it and see what it will do for 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.

March 17, 2014

259 Saturated Fats Found Not Guilty [17 March 2014]

Three recent medical articles published in the British Medical Journal clear saturated fats as the cause of heart disease. I am hopeful that this myth which has pervaded dietary advice for half a century is finally being laid to rest.

Dr. James DiNicolantonio, a New York clinical pharmacist, wrote in a March 5 2014 editorial that:
• The 1950s study by Ansel Keys on which the saturated fat - heart disease theory is based is flawed because Keys selected data from only 6 countries that fit his hypothesis, excluding 16 countries which didn’t.
• Study after study have failed to show that reducing saturated fats is protective from heart disease or stroke.
• Replacing saturated fats with polyunsaturated (PUFA) Omega 6 fats (e.g. canola, corn and safflower oil) increases risk of cancer and heart disease.
• Diets high in refined carbohydrates, not saturated fats, are responsible for rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

A study published in February 2013 took a new look at data from the 1966-73 Sydney Diet Heart Study and concluded:
• Reducing saturated fats showed no cardiovascular benefit.
• Substituting LA (linoleic acid, an Omega-6 PUFA) for saturated fats increased the rates of death from heart disease and all causes.
• Previous studies showing cardiovascular benefits can be explained by an increase in Omega-3, not a decrease in saturated fats or an increase in Omega 6.
• Reducing saturated fats reduced total cholesterol but did not reduce the risk of heart attacks and death, so the cholesterol-heart disease theory is not supported.

In October 2013 Aseem Malhotra, a UK cardiologist, wrote in an editorial: “recent prospective cohort studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk…instead, saturated fat has been found to be protective.”

In summary for cardiovascular health:
• saturated fats (animal fat, butter, coconut oil) are neutral or somewhat beneficial
• Omega-6 PUFAs (most vegetable oils) are harmful
• Omega-3 PUFAs (fish oils, flax oil) are beneficial
• trans fatty acids (shortening, hard margarines) are harmful
• monounsaturated fats like olive oil are beneficial (part of the famous Mediterranean 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.

March 10, 2014

258 Manuka Honey [10 March 2014]

Manuka honey is an example of a mono-floral honey – a honey made from a single type of flower. Manuka honey has a distinct flavor and a rich dark color, but its medicinal properties are what make this honey so special.

Manuka honey is made from the flowers of the Manuka shrub, Leptospermum scoparium, which grows in New Zealand and Australia. Leptospermum is related to the Australian Tea Tree from which Tea Tree Oil is made.

Some manuka honey, called Active Manuka Honey, has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties (in addition to the effect from hydrogen peroxide which is found in all honey). This property, unique to manuka honey, is called (surprise!) the Unique Manuka Factor (UMF). Manuka honey is graded on the basis of its antimicrobial strength using a standard which compares it to a phenol solution. For example a UMF of 10 is equivalent to a 10% phenol solution. Honey rated between 10 and 18 is ideal for therapeutic purposes.

Manuka honey can be eaten to treat esophageal, stomach, and duodenal ulcers and other internal infections. Some stubborn bacterial infections which have become resistant to antibiotics – including Staph and MRSA – have been effectively cleared up with manuka honey. Other conditions for which manuka honey has been successfully used internally include: periodontal disease; sinusitis, bronchitis & laryngitis; canker & cold sores; throat infections; heartburn & hiatal hernia; celiac disease; and colitis, IBS & Crohn’s.

Successful external uses include: animal bites; poison ivy rash; infected surgery scars; diabetic leg ulcers; bed sores; stubborn infectious wounds; acne, rashes & eczema; and burns. When used as a dressing for open wounds, manuka honey has been shown to clear and prevent infection, speed healing, and reduce scarring. It also reduces inflammation and pain.

Manuka honey from New Zealand is available in Canada. It is of course more expensive than regular honey, but think of it as a medicine, not just something to mix with peanut butter on your breakfast toast.

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

Ed. Note: this is a repeat of #59 from April 2010.

March 3, 2014

257 Vitamin B12 & Your Brain [3 March 2014]

Do you ever suffer from low energy, brain fog, or moodiness, have trouble sleeping or just feel “yucky”, there’s a good chance you have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

A Tufts university study found that B12 deficiency occurred in nearly 25% of people over 26 and about 50% of people over age 50. Symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
• low energy and weakness
• confusion or “brain fog”
• cognitive decline & memory loss
• sleep problems
• hearing and vision loss
• tingling in the fingers and toes
• dizziness
• irritability or depression
• weak immune system
• severe deficiency can lead to dementia.

An important role that B12 plays is to reduce levels of homocysteine which:
• damages arteries increasing risk of heart disease
• weakens bones
• can cause vision and hearing loss.

Factors contributing to B12 deficiency include:
• Over age 45
• Low stomach acid or use of antacids
• Vegetarianism (best food source of B12 is red meat)
• Consumption of alcohol.

The best form of B12 to take is sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) methylcobalamin. Many experts recommend 1,000 mcg daily for maintenance and up to 15,000 to restore optimum levels. B12 is very safe with no drug interactions or adverse effects, even at very high doses. If you want to think more clearly enjoy more energy, and just plain feel better, try supplementing with methylcobalamin.

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