October 20th, 2014

6 Basic Steps To Get Started Exercising

Exercise is an important part of any health plan and an excellent way of keeping your immune system in shape as well. While most people know that staying active is essential if you want to live a healthy life, starting an exercise routine can be daunting for anyone who’s never done it and doesn’t know what to expect.

With that in mind, here’s a six-step plan that can help anyone start exercising, even if you never have before.

1. Realize the importance of physical exercise.

The first step is realizing just how important it is to get regular exercise. Regular exercise is vital to a healthy immune system. You must make regular exercise a top priority, especially as the seasons change and you’re increasingly indoors, where germs are spread easily. Think of small ways to get more exercise into your daily routine. Even small choices, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can make a big difference.

2. Consult your physician.

If you aren’t currently on a regular exercise program, get medical clearance if you have health problems or if you’re over 40 years of age. See a physician if you have heart disease or high blood pressure. Also consult your doctor if, when exercising, you experience extreme breathlessness, pain or pressure in the chest, arm, teeth, jaw, or neck, or dizziness, fainting, or abnormal heart action (palpitations or irregular heartbeat).

3. Select an activity you can enjoy.

Next, select an activity that you enjoy — such as bicycling, swimming, or racket sports. Make a commitment to do it daily for at least 20 minutes, preferably an hour. Make enjoyment your goal. Move your body enough to elevate your heart rate above its resting rate.

4. Monitor exercise intensity.

Exercise intensity is determined by measuring your heart rate (the number of times your heart beats per minute). While exercising, place the index and middle finger of one hand on the side of the neck just below the angle of the jaw or on the opposite wrist. Beginning with zero, count the number of heartbeats for six seconds. Simply add a zero to this number, and that’s your pulse.

For example, if you counted 14 beats, your heart rate would be 140. Would this be a good number? It depends upon your “training zone.” Your maximum training heart rate can be found simply by subtracting your age from 185. For example, if you are 40 years old your maximum heart rate would be 145. Your minimum training heart rate would be 20 less. In the case of a 40-year-old this would be 125.

So your training zone would be a heartbeat between 125 and 145 beats per minute. Having a heart rate of 140, then, would be pretty good — you’re working out at the upper end of your training zone. For maximum health benefits, stay in this range and never exceed it.

5. Do it often.

Exercise should be performed on a regular basis. A minimum of 15 to 20 minutes of exercising at your training heart rate at least three times a week is a necessity. Brisk walking (five miles an hour) for approximately 30 minutes may be the best form of exercise for weight loss, and the risks are extremely low.

6. Stay motivated.

Fire up your motivation by setting exercise goals, varying your routine, and keeping a record of your activities and progress. If at some point your enthusiasm wanes, skip one or two workouts. You’ll come back later with an even stronger commitment.

October 13th, 2014

Oral Magnesium Supplementation Improves the Metabolic Profile in Metabolically Obese, Normal-weight Individuals

Introduction:

Some normal weight individuals show obesity-related characteristics such as insulin resistance, elevated fasting blood sugar levels, high triglyceride levels, and high blood pressure. Although eating a high carbohydrate diet is linked to these findings, a new study shows that low magnesium status contributes to this disorder, and that magnesium supplementation can improve the metabolic profile in these subjects.

Background Data:

Magnesium is second only to potassium in terms of concentration within the individual cells of the body. The functions of magnesium primarily revolve around its ability to activate many enzymes. It is an essential cofactor in the enzymatic processes involved in energy production, insulin action, and the regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism, as well as in the regulation of blood pressure.

Magnesium deficiency is extremely common in Americans due to a lack of dietary magnesium. Deficiency is also often secondary to factors that reduce absorption or increase the excretion of magnesium such as: high calcium intake, alcohol, surgery, diuretics, liver disease, kidney disease, and oral contraceptive use.

A large body of clinical evidence derived from double-blind trials shows that oral magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity, triglyceride and cholesterol metabolism, improves glucose metabolism, and helps lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals

New Data:

A total of 47 subjects defined as metabolically obese, normal-weight (MONW) individuals with low magnesium status were enrolled in a randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. The metabolic abnormalities included the presence of fasting glucose levels ≥100 mg/dL, HOMA-Insulin Resistance index ≥3, triglyceride levels ≥150 mg/dL and/or systolic and diastolic blood pressure ≥140 and 90 mmHg. Low magnesium status was defined by serum magnesium concentration ≤1.8 mg/dL.

The treatment group received an oral supplement providing 382 mg of elemental magnesium per day for 4 months. At the beginning of the study there were no significant differences between groups. At the end of follow-up, the following parameters were significantly lower in the subjects who received magnesium compared with individuals in the placebo group: fasting glucose (-12.3 vs. -1.8% mg/dL, p <0.05); triglyceride levels (-47.4% vs. 10.1% mg/dL); HOMA-IR index (-46.5 vs. -5.4%,; and systolic (-2.1 vs. 3.9% mmHg) and diastolic (-3.8 vs. 7.5% mmHg) blood pressures.

These results show quite clearly that magnesium supplementation provides significant benefits in the regulation of metabolic disturbances and blood pressure whether someone is overweight or not.

Commentary:

Most Americans consume less than 50% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for magnesium indicating that a large segment of the population may benefit greatly from magnesium supplementation.

Magnesium supplements are available in several different forms. Absorption studies indicate that magnesium is most easily absorbed orally when it is bound to citrate, and presumably aspartate and other members of the Krebs cycle, such as malate, succinate, and fumarate. Inorganic forms of magnesium such as magnesium chloride, oxide, or carbonate are generally well absorbed, but are more likely to cause diarrhea at higher dosages.

Personally, even though I probably consume adequate amounts of magnesium from my diet, because I work out intensely and live in a hot climate (Arizona) I take a scoop of Magnesium Citrate drink mix (Natural Factors) providing 300 mg of elemental magnesium in a glass of water every night before I go to bed. In addition to providing my brain and body with this easily absorbable form of magnesium, there is data that shows that magnesium supplementation also greatly improves sleep quality.

Reference:

Rodríguez-Moran M, Guerrero-Romero F. Oral magnesium supplementation improves the metabolic profile of metabolically obese, normal-weight individuals: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Arch Med Res. 2014 Jul;45(5):388-93. doi: 10.1016/j.arcmed.2014.05.003.

October 7th, 2014

Fish Oils Improve Behavior Issues in Children 8-16 Years Old

Introduction:

The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish and fish oil supplements are absolutely critical to optimal brain function. A new study by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found that supplementation with 1,000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids daily, significantly improved antisocial and aggressive behavior in children between the ages of eight and sixteen.

Background Data:

A large body of research shows that a lack of the long chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA leads to impaired brain function and plays a major role in attention deficit disorder, depression, and other psychological disturbances in both children and adults. Not surprisingly, supplementation with fish oils rich in EPA+DHA have been shown to improve these very same conditions, as well improve behavioral issues associated with these disorders.

The importance of EPA+DHA to brain function relates to their role in the composition of nerve cell membranes. A relative deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in cellular membranes substantially impairs brain cell function.

Studies have shown that the EPA+DHA content in cell membranes in the brain directly influences neurotransmitter synthesis, signal transmission, uptake of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, neurotransmitter binding, and the activity of key enzymes that break down neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine.

EPA+DHA supplementation has also been shown to blunt the stress response.

All of these actions could have significant effects in helping easily stressed or depressed children (and adults) exert more appropriate behavior instead of acting out.

New Data:

In the study, 200 children were randomized into a treatment group or placebo control group. The children in the treatment group were given a fruit drink containing 1,000 mg of omega 3 fatty acids daily (300 mg DHA, 200 mg EPA, 400 mg alpha-linolenic acid [ALA], and 100 mg of docosapentaenoic acid [DPA]). Treatment lasted for 6 months, and all participants were followed for another 6 months after discontinuation of treatment.

Primary outcome measures were externalizing behavior problems that included acting out, being aggressive, and reactive. Secondary outcome measures looked at the impact on internalizing behavior (social withdrawal, feelings of loneliness or guilt, fearfulness, etc.). The children were assessed by the parents and researchers, as well as through a self-assessment questionnaire. The parents also completed a self-assessment questionnaire.

While the children themselves did not report improvement, the parents reported a significant improvement in children’s behavior in the treatment group for all behavioral issues. Specifically, omega-3 supplementation for 6 months resulted in a 41.6% reduction in parent-rated child externalizing behavior compared to the placebo group. This effect persisted 6 months after the treatment period had ended. An even larger reduction of 68.4% was seen for internalizing behavior.

There was also an unexpected finding, the parents whose children took omega-3s also showed significant reductions in their own external behavior. Further analysis of the findings indicated that while the omega-3s definitely had an effect on child behavior, the improvement in parental antisocial behavior accounted for 60% of the improvement in child behavior.

Commentary:

While it may be easy to conclude that the majority of the improvement was related to the change in the parents, I think that is the wrong answer. Here is my thinking: when a child with behavioral issues starts exhibiting improved behavior, it changes the parent-child dynamic. The parents feel less stress and that in turn helps push things in a more positive direction and the child will respond accordingly. It is a classic example of a positive feedback loop. In fact, I think the accurate conclusion from the study is that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation is important in starting the positive feedback cycle that exerts a tremendous effect in not only improving the behavior of the child, but also the family dynamics.

Reference:

Raine A, Portnoy J, Liu J, Mahoomed T, Hibbeln J. Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8-16 years: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug 22. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12314. [Epub ahead of print]

September 30th, 2014

New Study Shows Vitamin C Does Help Fight the Common Cold

Introduction:

It has been over 40 years since Linus Pauling wrote the book, Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Dr. Pauling based his opinion on several studies that showed vitamin C was very effective in reducing the severity of symptoms, as well as the duration of the common cold. Since that time, the research has been very controversial. A new study adds another strong argument that vitamin C supplementation does in fact, produce the results that Pauling promoted.

Background Data:

Over 30 clinical trials involving 11,350 study participants have been designed to judge the effectiveness of vitamin C in the prevention or treatment of the common cold. While the results from individual studies may be mixed, when the results from higher quality studies are pooled researchers have concluded that vitamin C can be quite beneficial in reducing the risk of developing a cold. This conclusion especially applies to individuals in high stress situations. Vitamin C supplementation may also reduce the duration of a cold by a day or so.

New Data:

In a randomized, double-blind, 8-week controlled trial conducted at Arizona State University, vitamin C supplementation was found to be associated with reductions in the incidence of the common cold and increases in physical activity levels.

The subjects, 28 men aged 18 to 35 years, received either 1,000 mg of vitamin C or a placebo, daily. The number of participants reporting cold episodes was just 7 in the vitamin C group, compared to 11 in the placebo group, during the 8 week trial representing a risk reduction of 45% in the vitamin C group. In addition, cold duration was significantly reduced in the vitamin C group (by 59%), as compared to the placebo group, as well. In the final 2 weeks of the trial, the physical activity score rose modestly (+39.6%) among subjects in the vitamin C group, compared to the placebo group after adjusting for baseline values.

The authors concluded: “These data suggest significant health advantages associated with vitamin supplementation in a population with adequate-to-low vitamin C status.”

Commentary:

Previous studies have shown that the benefits of vitamin C against the common cold may be particularly helpful when people are exposed to stress or cold weather. In six trials involving a total of 642 marathon runners, skiers, and soldiers on sub-arctic exercises, the risk of developing a cold was reduced by 50% in the vitamin C group, compared to a placebo. Vitamin C was also shown to reduce the duration of a cold slightly in these trials.

This new study provides an interesting wrinkle in that vitamin C was shown to be effective even in a warm weather location like Phoenix, Arizona.

Another interesting aspect of this study was vitamin C supplementation increasing physical activity. Several early studies showed that low levels of vitamin C are associated with fatigue and aversion to exercise. In addition, a couple of placebo-controlled intervention studies have showed that vitamin C supplementation educed perception of effort during exercise. The thought is that vitamin C in may be promoting physical activity via its antioxidant properties, since oxidative stress is definitely related to fatigue.

Reference:

Johnston CS, Barkyoumb GM, Schumacher SS. Vitamin C supplementation slightly improves physical activity levels and reduces cold incidence in men with marginal vitamin C status: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2014 Jul 9;6(7):2572-83.

September 26th, 2014

Finish 2014 Strong!

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In life, no matter what the goal it is critical to finish strong.

With 2014 nearly behind us, instead of waiting for New Year’s resolutions, it is time to get energized and motivated NOW.

In this dynamic webinar, Dr. Murray will share with you his secrets for completing the task, achieving health goals, and living with high energy and passion.  

Now is the time to get focused. The average American gains 7 to 10 pounds between now and the end of the year.

Don’t let that happen to you! In fact, go the other way and enjoy the process!

Join Dr. Murray on his upcoming live webinar: Finish 2014 Strong! on Wednesday, October 15th at 9pm EST.

 

September 23rd, 2014

Dark Chocolate Reduces Stress Hormones

Introduction:

Of all the foods available on planet Earth, those produced from the bean of the cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) are the most magical, interesting, and delectable. Our long- standing love for chocolate is now being matched by scientific research on its health benefits when consumed in the right form.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland has shown the consumption of dark chocolate can reduce the effects of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. This study provides another strong reason to eat a moderate amount of dark chocolate each day to promote better health.

Background Data:

One of the key areas of research into the benefits of chocolate consumption is its effect on cardiovascular disease. Much of the benefits are attributed to its high content of flavanols, a type of polyphenol – antioxidants found in foods like cocoa, tea, berries, and wine. A growing amount of recent research suggests that:

  • Chocolate flavanols are especially important in protecting against damage to cholesterol and the lining of the arteries.
  • Chocolate flavanols prevent the excessive clumping together of blood platelets that can cause blood clots.
  • Frequent chocolate consumption is associated with a nearly 40% reduced risk for heart disease and a 30% reduced risk for a stroke.

Another mechanism for chocolate flavanol consumption substantially lowering cardiovascular mortality may be its ability to dampen the stress response.

New Data:

To evaluate the effect of dark chocolate to impact the stress response, healthy, non-smoking men, not taking any medication (20 to 50 years of age) were assigned to the experimental dark chocolate group (n = 31) or the placebo control group (n = 34).

The dark chocolate used (“Noir 72%”; Chocolat Frey AG, Buchs/Aargau, Switzerland) contained 281 calories and 125 mg of the flavanol epicatechin per serving of 50 grams. The placebo looked and tasted identical, but was actually a flavanol-free white chocolate that was dyed and flavored to match the color, appearance, and smell of the dark chocolate.

Two hours after chocolate ingestion, both groups underwent an acute stressful situation (standardized psychosocial stress task combining public speaking and mental arithmetic). Measurements of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) were taken prior to chocolate ingestion, before and several times after the stressful task. Plasma levels of the flavanol epicatechin were also determined.

Results showed that the dark chocolate group showed a significantly blunted reactivity of the peripheral adrenal gland hormones cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline), as compared to the placebo group. The blunted reactivity of both these stress hormones related to higher plasma levels of epicatechin.

These results led the researchers to conclude that the flavanol-rich dark chocolate intake can help reduce the effects of stress on the body.

Commentary:

Without question, in the right form, chocolate is a true super food. I get my chocolate fix by having a big mug of hot cocoa nearly everyday by taking 3 tablespoons of organic Superfood Chocolate Hot Cacao Powder (click here) and 1 tablespoon of xylitol into my mug and then I add 12 ounces of decaffeinated coffee to it. I also regularly consume a small chunk of high flavanol content dark chocolate.

Reference:

Wirtz PH, von Känel R, Meister RE, et al. Dark chocolate intake buffers stress reactivity in humans. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Jun 3;63(21):2297-9.