Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Amazing Drug to Reduce Heart Disease Risk!

Imagine the billions in profits that would be earned if a company developed a drug that could to the following things for diabetic patients:

  • significantly lower blood glucose
  • significantly lower total cholesterol
  • significantly lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol
  • significantly lower CRP, an important risk factor for heart disease
  • significantly lower triglycerides
  • significantly lower VLDL (another type of "bad" cholesterol)
  • Significantly raise HDL ("good" cholesterol)
If a pharmaceutical could solidly claim even two or three of these benefits, it would be the top-selling drug in the world. 

Well, of course, there is something that has been found to do all of these things, but it isn't a drug. A study published in the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry has found that an extract of the herb Amla (Indian gooseberry) does all these things. People who like the details can read the whole study here

Unfortunately, our "health care system" will take very little notice of this study, because there are no opportunities for outrageous profits in this herb. But just because our medical system doesn't care for health very well, that doesn't mean that you can't.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hit Job

A recent study on antioxidants is a classic "hit job" on alternative medicine.

This study compared aspirin to a combination of antioxidants for their ability to prevent progression of arterial disease and diabetes. The study found that there was no difference in effectiveness between the two therapies. And without missing a beat, newspapers around the country proclaimed this new finding.

The dose of antioxidants used in this study is ridiculously low. For instance, this study used 100mg of vitamin C daily in their antioxidant supplement. While this is higher than the US RDA, it is somewhere between 1/5 and 1/20 the dose that is widely recognized to confer therapeutic benefits.

Likewise, 200mg of vitamin E was used, which is approximately 200IU (the units typically used to indicate vitamin E dosage). Virtually every study done on vitamin E finds benefits when the dose is between 800IU and 1200IU, or 4-6 times the dose used in this study.

The dose of vitamin B6, zinc, selenium and lecithin used in the study were all very very low.

The study states that "experts in antioxidants" were consulted to determine doses to use of each one. Apparently these experts are unfamiliar with both the research on antioxidants and with the clinical use of them. As a result, we have a study that tells us absolutely nothing about the effectiveness of antioxidants to prevent progression of arterial disease and diabetes.

Is it any wonder why alternative health care practitioners are skeptical of conventional research into the supplements they use?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Growing Smarter Kids

A Canadian study found that eating more fruits and vegetables was associated with better academic performance among high schoolers.

A second study looked at brain performance in children 6 to 14 years old before and after one year of taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement. The results are hardly surprising: there was a significant improvement on two different attention tasks than kids not taking the supplements.

Ironically, what are the most commonly prescribed medications for school aged children? Of course they are medications for attention deficit. How much more sensible would it be to supplement these kids with multivitamins than to "supplement" them with pharmaceuticals?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Respiratory Infections in Children

Children's cough/cold medicine has been shown to be more dangerous than helpful. But a recent study suggests that there are other kinds of therapies that will benefit kids with colds.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that school-aged children supplemented with fish oil experienced upper respiratory infections with less frequency. In addition, those who did get a cold had it for a shorter length of time when compared to kids not receiving the fish oil supplementation.

The general thought within the medical community is that, if there is no conventional therapy for a given problem, then there is no useful therapy. This is just one more example of a natural therapy that not only reduces illnesses in children, but will enhance their health overall.

Do we think that pediatricians across the country are going to start recommending fish oil supplements to children to prevent colds?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Children and the Flu Vaccination

The CDC's position on vaccinating children is straight-forward: all children ages 6 months to adult should get a vaccination every year.

Which is just great, except for the fact that there is no evidence vaccinating children prevents hospital visits or reduces trips to physicians. As if to add insult to injury, according to the CDC, "the majority of influenza vaccines distributed in the United States currently contain thimerosal [mercury] as a preservative."

Those looking for options that might actually reduce the risk of influenza in their children and themselves might want to contact their nearest naturopathic physician.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vitamin D Levels and Metabolic Syndrome

Do we still need reasons to supplement with vitamin D? A recent study
published in the European Journal of Endocrinology found that subjects
with the highest blood vitamin D levels had an astounding 73% reduced
risk of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a
collection of signs and symptoms that together indicate an increased
risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The syndrome includes
elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, abdominal obesity, high blood
pressure and low HDL ("good") cholesterol.

Another study, just published in the Archives of Internal Medicine,
found that men with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D had *2.5 times
the risk* of a heart attack as men with the highest levels of vitamin D.

Oh, vitamin D, is there no disease you can't protect against?

"Relation of 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Parathyroid Hormone Levels with
Metabolic Syndrome among US Adults," Reis J, Miller E, et al, Eur J
Endocrinol, 2008 Apr 21

"25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Men" Arch
Intern Med. 2008;168(11):1174-1180.

Physical Activity and Dementia in the Elderly

Want to cut the risk of dementia in elderly individuals by 50%? Get them
to move their bodies. In a study published in the Journal of
Gerontology, it was found that in elderly individuals with poor
physical functioning, increasing their physical activity and
functioning conferred a 50% reduced risk of dementia during the 6.1
years of follow-up. Given the millions of elderly with poor physical
functioning who are institutionalized all over the country, the savings
to the medical system through this intervention would be astounding.

"Physical activity, physical function, and incident dementia in elderly
men: the honolulu-Asia aging study," Taaffe DR, White LR, et al, J
Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2008; 63(5): 529-35.

Fish Intake and Colorectal Cancer

In a very large, long-term study of colorectal cancer, it was found
that intake of fish oil and dietary fish dramatically decreases the risk
of colorectal cancer. In this study, which monitored over 21,000
subjects for 22 years, it was found that those who consumed fish 5
times/week had a 40% reduction in colorectal cancer. In classic "let's
understate the benefits of natural therapies" fashion, the authors
concluded, "Our results ... suggest that intakes of fish and long-chain
omega-3 fatty acids from fish may decrease the risk for colorectal
cancer." If a drug had this kind of protective effect, we'd all be
forced to take it as a matter of national security.

"A 22-year Prospective Study of Fish, n-3 Fatty Acid Intake, and
Colorectal Cancer Risk in Men," Hall MN, Ma J, et al, Cancer Epidemiol
Biomarkers Prev, 2008; 17(5): 1136-43.

Black Tea and Ovarian Cancer Risk

In a hospital-based study involving 414 women with cancer, it was found
that women who drank 2 of more cups of black tea had a 30% reduced risk
of ovarian cancer. Consuming 2 or more cups of decaffeinated coffee has
had nearly a 30% reduction in risk (29%, actually). No protective effect
could be found for women who drank caffeinated coffee.

"Consumption of black tea or coffee and risk of ovarian cancer," Baker
JA, Boakye K, et al, Int J Gynecol Cancer, 2007; 17(1): 50-4.

Plant Sterols, Fish Oil and Cardiovascular Disease

A combination of two supplements can significantly improve total
cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL. Published in the Journal of
Nutrition, this study looked at 60 individuals with elevated lipids.
Those individuals who were given a combination of plant sterols and
omega-3 oils experienced a significant improvement in their lipid
profiles. Specifically, their total cholesterol dropped by over 13%,
their triglycerides fell by 25%, their LDL ("bad") cholesterol fell by
over 12% and their HDL ("good") cholesterol rose by over 8%.

These are precisely the changes that physicians want to see for
lowering an individual's risk of cardiovascular disease.

"The lipid-lowering effects of phytosterols and (n-3) polyunsaturated
fatty acids are synergistic and complementary in hyperlipidemic men and
women," Micallef MA, Garg ML, et al, J Nutr, 2008; 138(6): 1086-90.

Depression in the Elderly

A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry followed 521
people over the age of 65 for 2-3 years. At the beginning of the study
none of the subjects were depressed. However, at the end of the study it
was discovered that those people who had lower levels of vitamin B12 and
folate in their blood - and higher levels of a substance called
homocysteine - had a significantly higher risk of depression than other
people in the study.

"Predictive value of folate, vitamin B12 and homocysteine levels in
late-life depression," Kim JM, Stewart R, et al, Br J Psychiatry, 2008;
192(4): 268-74.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pycnogenol and Osteoporosis

A double-blind, placebo controlled trial involving 156 patients with osteoporosis found that supplementing with pycnogenol - an extract of pine bark - significantly reduced many of the symptoms associated with medications used to treat osteoporosis. Specifically, there was a 58% reduction in pain, there was increased walking distance on a treadmill test, decreased gastrointestinal complications (63% reduction), and decreased foot edema (79% reduction in the treatment group vs 1% in the placebo group).

The study used 100mg of pycnogenol daily for 3 months.

"Treatment of osteoarthritis with Pycnogenol(®). The SVOS (San Valentino osteo-arthrosis study). Evaluation of signs, symptoms, physical performance and vascular aspects," Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, et al, Phytotherapy Research, 2008; 22(4): 518-23.

Vitamin C and Exercise Recovery

For all you exercise fans, a study in the Journal of Sports
Medicine and Physical Fitness has shown that supplementing with 1
gram of vitamin C prior to exercise reduced the level of muscle
damage induced by the exercise. In addition, other important health
indicators such as antioxidant status and stress levels in the body were
lower in the vitamin C group than in the control group.

"Effect of vitamin C supplementation on lipid peroxidation, muscle
damage and inflammation after 30-min exercise at 75% v.o(2max),"
Nakhostin-Roohi B, Babaei P, et al, J Sports Med Phys Fitness, 2008;
48(2): 217-24.

DHA and reading comprehension

A study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics found that when 4-year old children were supplemented with a fatty acid known as
DHA, they had a statistically significant improvement in their listening comprehension and vocabulary acquisition. In the study, 175 children were assigned to receive either 400mg daily of DHA or a placebo. The best dietary sources of DHA are cold-water fish such as salmon and sardines. DHA is also found in seaweed and algae.

"Assessing the effect of docosahexaenoic Acid on cognitive functions in healthy, preschool children: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study," Ryan AS, Nelson EB, Clin Pediatr (Phila), 2008; 47(4): 355-62.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Vitamin D and Vascular Disease

Low levels of vitamin D have already been associated with everything from cancer to depression. A new study has found that low vitamin D levels lead to a significantly increased risk of peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

PVD covers a wide range of conditions, from atherosclerosis to embolisms. While only a small portion of individuals with PVD have been diagnosed, the complications of PVD include heart disease, stroke and many other serious medical problems.

It has already been shown that vitamin D could cut in half the risk of both colon and breast cancer. By adding PVD to the list, vitamin D alone has the potential to save millions of lives and billions of dollars each year in medical expenses.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Olive Oil and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States and around the world. One in three adults in the US, it is estimated, has some degree of cardiovascular disease (CVD).

A recent study found that individuals who consumed the most olive oil in their diets had the least amount of thickening of their arteries. More specifically, the highest consumption of olive oil had far less than half the risk of artery thickening.

In everyday terms, this means that olive oil consumption dramatically lowers the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a leading cause of CVD and death.

This one change in the US diet - a substantial increase in the use of olive oil - rather than less healthy corn or soybean oil, for example - could save billions of dollars currently spent to treat heart disease.