Category Archives: Featured Articles

April 9th, 2013

The Best Nutrients for Your Eyes

eyesNutrients play an enormous role in preventing and treating the leading causes of impaired vision in North America–cataracts and macular degeneration. In both conditions, the eye’s normal protective mechanisms are unable to prevent damage to the lens and macula, respectively. Certain nutrients are essential in maintaining eye health, preventing these diseases, and improving visual function when these conditions do develop.

A diet high in richly colored fruits, particularly berries and grapes, and vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables, helps to lower your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. Initially it was believed that this protection was the result of increased intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. However, various “nonessential” food components, such as non-provitamin A carotenes like lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, and flavonoids, were later shown to be even more significant in protecting against cataracts and macular degeneration than traditional nutritional antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium.
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If you have any signs of visual impairment, you absolutely must be properly evaluated by a physician. I recommend that you get a baseline eye exam and then follow the program for a minimum of six months before getting retested. Success is achieved if the condition has not worsened or if there are signs of improvement.

Let’s look at some of the most important nutrients for improving eye health.

Lutein

Critical to the health of the macula are the carotenes lutein and zeaxathin. These carotenes function in preventing oxidative damage to the area of the retina responsible for fine vision, and play a central role in protecting against the development of macular degeneration. In one study, subjects with macular degeneration who took 10-15 mg of lutein daily showed significant improvements in several objective measurements of visual function, including glare recovery, contrast sensitivity, and visual acuity vs. those who took a placebo. Three large studies have shown that the intake of lutein was inversely associated with cataract surgery. In other words, the higher the intake of lutein, the less likely cataract surgery would take place. In addition to offering protection against cataract formation, lutein can also help improve visual function in people with cataracts.

Where to find Lutein: dark leafy greens, pistachios, peas, cucumber and celery

Nutritional Antioxidants

Nutritional antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, zinc, copper, and selenium are extremely important for eye health. While research has often focused on just one of these nutrients, studies conducted by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group (AREDS) confirm that a combination of these nutrients produces better results than any single nutrient alone. Yet, even something as simple as taking vitamin C or zinc can produce dramatic effects in preserving eye health. In one study, the use of vitamin C supplements for greater than 10 years was associated with a 77% lower rate of cataract formation compared to those who did not take a vitamin C supplement.

Zinc is perhaps the most important mineral for eye health, as it plays an essential role in the metabolism of the retina and the visual process. Levels of zinc have been shown to be greatly reduced in over 90% of cataract cases. Zinc is also involved in protecting against macular degeneration. A two-year double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 151 subjects demonstrated that the group taking a zinc supplement had significantly less visual loss than the placebo group.

Where to find Vitamin C: Bell peppers, kale, kiwi, papayas, oranges and clementines, strawberries

Where to find Zinc: Oysters, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, crab

Flavonoid-rich Extracts

Flavonoid-rich extracts of blueberry, bilberry, pine bark, or grape seed also offer valuable benefits in improving eye health as well as protecting against cataracts and macular degeneration. In addition to possessing excellent antioxidant activity, these extracts have been shown to exert positive effects on improving blood flow to the retina as well as improving visual processes–especially poor night vision. Take 150 to 300 mg of one of these flavonoid-rich extracts to support eye health.

Click here to find more foods rich in flavanoids

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and Acetyl-L-Carnitine

These two nutrients play a critical role in energy production. For example, the role of CoQ10 in our cells is very similar to the role of a spark plug in a car engine, while acetyl-L-carnitine functions as the fuel injection system. Just as the car cannot function without that initial spark, cells in our body cannot function properly without CoQ10 and carnitine. CoQ10 and carnitine perform their functions primarily in the mitochondria, the cell’s energy producing compartment. Although the body makes some of its own CoQ10 and carnitine, considerable research shows significant benefits with supplementation. The mitochondria within the retina are especially vulnerable to toxic byproducts of cell metabolism, making supplementation with acetyl-L-carnitine (a highly absorbable form of carnitine) and CoQ10 especially important. In one double-blind study, the combination of acetyl-L-carnitine (200 mg), omega-3 fatty acids (EPA 460 mg/DHA 320 mg) and CoQ10 (20 mg) was shown to improve visual function and macular alterations in the early stages of macular degeneration. In addition, it stopped the disease from progressing in 47 out of 48 cases.

Fish Oils

There is a strong relationship between hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and eye health. So, just as in atherosclerosis, omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils play an important role in prevention of eye conditions like macular degeneration. The recommended dosage of a fish oil supplement to support eye health is enough to provide approximately 1,000 mg of EPA+DHA, the two important omega-3 fatty acids.

April 2nd, 2013

How to Slow Down Your Genetic Clock

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There has been a great deal of study in recent years about what causes us to age, and whether it’s possible to slow down our genetic clock.

For many years it was thought that cells were immortal if given an ideal environment. This long-held belief was discarded in the early 1960s when Dr. Leonard Hayflick observed that human fibroblasts, a type of cell in tissue culture, would stop dividing after about fifty times, a phenomenon that became known as “the Hayflick limit.” As these cells approach fifty divisions, they begin looking old. They become larger and accumulate an increased amount of lipofuscin, the yellow pigment responsible for “age-spots”—those brownish spots that appear on the skin as the result of cellular debris and lipofuscin clumping together.

Your Genetic Clock Is Ticking
Based on the Hayflick limit, experts on aging have theorized that there is a genetic clock ticking away within each cell that determines when old age sets in. The latest, and most likely, theory of aging is the telomere-shortening theory. Telomeres are the end-cap segments of DNA (our genetic material).
Each time a cell replicates, a small piece of DNA is taken off the telomere and gets shorter. The shorter the telomere gets, the more it affects gene expression. The result is cellular aging.

In addition to serving as a clock for aging, the telomere is also involved in protecting the end of the chromosome from damage—controlling gene expression and aiding in the organization of the chromosome. In short, the telomere not only determines the aging of the cell, but our risk for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and other degenerative diseases associated with aging.

Factors that Slow Down Your Clock

The key to extending the human lifespan will ultimately involve preserving or restoring telomere length to the DNA. Until then, there are steps we can take now. It is well known that lifestyle and dietary factors that can slow down telomere shortening. Let’s look at these more closely.

Lifestyle Factors. The ideal lifestyle for prolonging the life of telomeres and cells includes:

  • Stress management.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep per night.
  • Maintaining ideal body weight. Perhaps the biggest cause of premature telomere shortening in North America is resistance to the hormone insulin that occurs in obesity, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes, as recent studies have documented that insulin resistance is associated with shorter telomeres. Achieving ideal body weight and utilizing strategies to increase the sensitivity of the body cells to insulin is a critical goal to preventing telomere shortening.  (See: 7 Tips to Tame Your Sweet Tooth)

Dietary Factors. Dietary factors that are known to slow down aging include:

  • Eating a low-glycemic diet. As mentioned above, the best easy to prevent insulin resistance that speeds up the aging process is to each foods that are low on the glycemic index. Type “low glycemic foods” into your search engine to learn the best foods to eat.
  • Consuming a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Taking a multiple vitamin and mineral formula. Research has shown that many nutrients help fight telomere shortening, especially B vitamins like folic acid, vitamin B12, and niacin; zinc; magnesium; and vitamins C and E. The best way to insure adequate intake of these and other nutrients to prevent telomere shortening is to take a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.

Nutritional Supplements. There have been lots of studies showing the positive effect of certain nutritional supplements on cell longevity. These include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and fish oil supplements—Higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA in the blood have been shown to reduce telomere shortening in a long-term study. The recommended dosage of fish oils is based upon providing a daily intake of 1,000 mg EPA+DHA.
  • Vitamin D— at least 2,000 IU daily. In one study, scientists studied the effects of vitamin D on the length of telomeres in white blood cells of 2,160 women aged 18 to 79 years. The higher the vitamin D levels, the longer the telomere length.
  • Polyphenols and flavonoids—from grape seed, pine bark, and green tea. These substances are not only associated with reducing markers of inflammation, but also preventing telomere shortening in experimental studies. The recommended dosage from extracts providing at least 90% polyphenols is 150 to 300 mg daily.

 

February 20th, 2013

Garlic — For Healthy Cholesterol and Immune Function

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Garlic has been used throughout history virtually all over the world as a medicine. Its use predates written history. Sanskrit records document the use of garlic remedies to approximately 5,000 years ago, while the Chinese have been using it for at least 3,000 years.The Codex Ebers, an Egyptian medical papyrus dating to about 1,550 B.C., mentions garlic as an effective remedy for a variety of ailments, including high blood pressure, headache, bites, worms, and tumors. Hippocrates, Aristotle and Pliny cited numerous therapeutic uses for garlic. Stories, verse, and folklore (such as its alleged ability to ward off vampires) also give historical documentation to the healing power of garlic. Sir John Harrington in The Englishman’s Doctor, written in 1609, summarized garlic’s virtues and faults:

Garlic then have power to save from death
Bear with it though it maketh unsavory breath,
And scorn not garlic like some that think
It only maketh men wink and drink and stink.

Another favorite saying about garlic is “Eat garlic and gain your health, but lose your friends.” Fortunately, there are now commercial preparations that provide all of the health benefits of garlic without the social consequences.

What are the scientifically confirmed effects of garlic?

Garlic has a wide range of well-documented effects including helping to fight infection and boosting immune function; preventing cancer, and the cardiovascular benefits of lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these beneficial effects of garlic are attributed to its sulfur-containing compounds: allicin, diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide, and others. Allicin is mainly responsible for the pungent odor of garlic. It is formed by the action of the enzyme alliinase on the compound alliin. The enzyme is activated by heat, oxygen, or water. This accounts for the fact that cooked garlic, as well as “aged garlic preparations,” and garlic oil products produce neither as strong an odor as raw garlic nor nearly as powerful medicinal effects.1

Do “odor controlled” or “odorless” garlic products contain allicin?

Some do and some do not. Since allicin is the component in garlic that is responsible for its easily identifiable odor, some manufacturers have developed highly sophisticated methods in an effort to provide the full benefits of garlic – they provide “odorless” garlic products concentrated for alliin because alliin is relatively “odorless” until it is converted to allicin in the body. Products concentrated for alliin and other sulfur components provide all of the benefits of fresh garlic if they are manufactured properly, but are more “socially acceptable.” Because alliin and alliinase are very stable when garlic is properly processed, there is a method to ensure that the allicin is not produced until the garlic powder mixes with the fluids of the intestinal tract. This method is referred to as “enteric-coating.” This method coats the specially prepared garlic in such a manner so that the tablet does not break down until after it has passed through the stomach. If a non-enteric coated garlic preparation is used, the stomach acid will destroy the majority of the formed allicin. So, these preparations are not likely to produce as good of results as a high quality, enteric-coated product. The same can be said for aged garlic and garlic oil products as these forms of garlic contain absolutely no allicin or allicin degradation products.

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Dr. Lawson discovered that there were basically two major problems. First of all, many of the garlic products contained little allinase activity. There was plenty of alliin, but since the activity of allinase was low, the level of allicin formed was also low. Next, Dr. Lawson found that many of the tablets contained excipients (e.g., binders and fillers) that actually inhibit allinase activity. The allinase activity in 63% of the brands was less than 10% of expected activity. The inability to release an effective dose of allicin would explain why so many of the studies with garlic supplements fail to show benefit in lowering cholesterol or blood pressure. 3

For example, studies done with one particular garlic supplement prior to 1993 were mostly positive. In fact, the results from these positive studies were the main reason garlic supplements have been allowed in Germany and in the U.S. to refer to cholesterol lowering activity. However, studies published since 1995 have failed to show a consistent effect in lowering cholesterol.4

While the authors of the negative studies on garlic have felt that the underlying reason for the results was a better-designed study, a more likely explanation is that they are due to a poorer quality tablet. Specifically, research conducted by Dr. Lawson has shown that tablets manufactured before 1993 were twice as resistant to disintegration in acid as tablets manufactured after 1993 and that the older tablets released three times the amount of allicin than the more recently manufactured tablets.3

Examination of the package labels shows several changes in tablet excipients between the pre- and post 1993 tablets. Again, these excipients are believed to block allinase activity.

Can garlic really lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

Yes, but there are some important caveats as mentioned above. The studies showing a positive effect of garlic and garlic preparations are those that deliver a sufficient dosage of allicin. The negative studies do not. In the positive doubleblind studies in patients with initial cholesterol levels greater than 200 mg/dl, supplementation with garlic preparations providing a daily dose of at least 10 mg allicin or a total allicin potential of 4,000 mcg total serum cholesterol levels dropped by about 10% to 12%, LDL cholesterol decreased by about 15%, HDL cholesterol levels usually increased by about 10%, and triglyceride levels dropped by 15%.4-9 Blood pressure readings also dropped with typical reductions of 11 mm Hg for the systolic and 5.0 in the diastolic within a one to three month period.10,11

What about aged garlic?

Since aged garlic does not contain allicin, it does not produce any significant benefits on either blood pressure or cholesterol levels.12 It may provide some other benefits on the cardiovascular system, but the significance of these effects has not been fully evaluated.

What brand do you recommend?

Based upon Dr. Lawson’s new research, as well as the research conducted by Natural Factors, I am now endorsing Garlic Factors. I feel that it gives a person the best chance of getting all the benefits of fresh garlic minus the odor.

How much garlic do I need?

Based on the results of the positive clinical trials, the dosage of a commercial garlic product should provide a daily dose of at least 10 mg alliin or a total allicin potential of 4,000 mcg. This dosage equates to roughly one to four cloves of fresh garlic. Each tablet of Garlic Factors provides 6,150 mcg of allicin, very high potency. But, the real advantage of Garlic Factors is the fact that it is manufactured by Natural Factors — the experts in effective natural products. As a result, you are assured that Garlic Factors has been designed to produce results consistently.

Is garlic safe?

Garlic preparations taken orally, even “odorless” products, can produce a garlic odor on the breath and through the skin. Gastrointestinal irritation and nausea are the most frequent side effects. Beware of the propaganda on the dangers of allicin. I do not argue that acute and prolonged feeding of large amounts of raw garlic to rats results in anemia, weight loss and failure to grow, and even death.13,14 However, the dosages of fresh garlic used in these studies to produce these toxic effects were incredibly high, e.g., 500 mg of fresh garlic per 100 g of body weight.

What about antimicrobial and immune enhancing effects?

Garlic does exert antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal activity.17 However, it may also work against some intestinal parasites. Garlic’s antibiotic activity is only roughly 1% the strength of penicillin, so it is certainly not a substitute for antibiotics. It is especially supportive against the overgrowth of the yeast candida albicans. Garlic appears to exert many positive effects on the
immune system and human population studies have shown that eating garlic regularly reduces the risk of many cancers.18 This is partly due to garlic’s ability to reduce the formation of carcinogenic compounds as well as its positive effects on the immune system.

Does garlic interact with any drugs?

Theoretically, garlic preparations may potentiate the effects of the blood thinning drug Coumadin® (warfarin) as well as enhance the antiplatelet effects of drugs like aspirin and Ticlid® (ticlopidine). If you are taking these drugs, please consult a physician before taking a garlic product.

Garlic may increase the effectiveness of drugs that lower blood sugar levels in the treatment of non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type 2 diabetes) such as glyburide (Diabeta, Micronase). Consult a physician to discuss proper monitoring of blood sugar levels before taking a garlic product.

References
1. Koch H and Lawson L (eds.): Garlic: The Science and Therapeutic Application of Allium Sativum L and Related Species, 2nd Edition.Williams &
Wilkins, Baltimore, MD, 1996.
2. Lawson LD and Wang ZJ.Tablet quality: A major problem in clinical trials with garlic supplements. Forsch Kmplmentaermed 7:45, 2000.
3. Lawson LD,Wang ZJ and Papdimitrou D. Allicin release under simulated gastrointestinal conditions from garlic powder tablets employed in clinical trials
on serum cholesterol.
Planta Medica 2001;67:13-18.
4. Stevinson C, Pittler MH and Erst E. Garlic for treating hypercholesterolemia: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Ann Intern Med 133:420-9,
2000.
5. Kleijnen J, et al.: Garlic, onions and cardiovascular risk factors: A review of the evidence from human experiments with emphasis on commercially
available preparations. Br J Clin Pharmacol 28:535-44, 1989.
6. Warshafsky S, Kamer RS and Sivak SL: Effect of garlic on total serum cholesterol. Ann Intern Med 119:599-605, 1993.
7. Jain AK, et al.: Can garlic reduce levels of serum lipids? A controlled clinical study. Am J Med 94:632-5, 1993.
8. Rotzch W, et al.: Postprandial lipaemia under treatment with Allium sativum. Controlled double-blind study in healthy volunteers with reduced HDL2-
cholesterol levels. Arzneim Forsch 42:1223-7, 1992.
9. Mader FH:Treatment of hyperlipidemia with garlic-powder tablets. Arzneim Forsch 40:1111-6, 1990.
10. Silagy CA and Neil HA: A meta-analysis of the effect of garlic on blood pressure. J Hypertens 12:463-8, 1994.
11. Reuter HD: Allium sativum and Allium ursinum: Part 2. Pharmacology and medicinal application. Phytomed 2:73-91, 1995.
12. Steiner M, et al.: A double-blind crossover study in moderately hypercholesterolemic men that compared the effect of aged garlic extract and placebo
administration on blood lipids. Am J Clin Nutr 64:866-70, 1996.
13. Nakagawa S, et al.: Effect of raw and extracted-aged garlic juice on growth of young rats and their organs after perioral administration. J Toxicol Sci
5:91-112, 1980.
14. Joseph PK, Rao KR and Sundaresh CS.Toxic effects of garlic extract and garlic oil in rats. Indian J Exp Biol 27:977-9, 1989.
15.Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK. Maternal diet alters the sensory qualities of human milk and the nursling’s behavior. Pediatr 1991;88:737–44.
16. Mennella JA, Beauchamp GK.The effects of repeated exposure to garlic-flavored milk on the nursling’s behavior. Pediatr Res 1993;34:805–8.
17. Hughes BG, Lawson LD. Antimicrobial effects of Allium sativum L. (garlic), Allium ampeloprasum L. (elephant garlic) and Allium cepa L. (onion), garlic
compounds and commercial garlic supplement products. Phytother Res 1991;5:154–8.
18. Dorant E, van der Brandt PA, et al. Garlic and its significance for the prevention of cancer in humans: A critical review. Br J Cancer 1993;67:424–9.

January 9th, 2013

How to “Beet” High Blood Pressure

More than 60 million Americans have high blood pressure (high BP) including more than half (54.3%) of all Americans age 65 to 74 years old and almost three quarters (71.8%) of all American blacks in the same age group. High BP is a major risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. In fact, it is generally regarded as the most significant risk factor for a stroke.

Recently, there have been several studies showing that drinking fresh beet juice can lead to clinically meaningful reductions in blood pressure.

Background Information:

Beet juice has been a popular folk remedy for centuries. The primary focus has been in disorders of the liver, but they have recently gained recognition for their anticancer and heart health promoting properties.

The pigment that gives beets their rich, purple-crimson color–betacyanin–is a powerful cancer-fighting agent while naturally occurring nitrates are thought to be responsible for its beneficial effects on the heart and vascular system. Previous studies have shown that:

  • Drinking just 16 ounces of fresh beet juice a day significantly reduced BP by up to 10 mm Hg in healthy subjects.
  • Beet juice lowered blood pressure within just an hour with a peak drop occurring 3 to 4 hours after ingestion.
  • The decrease in blood pressure is due to the chemical formation of nitrite from the dietary nitrates in the juice.
  • Once in the general circulation, nitrite can be converted to nitric oxide (NO) by the cells that line blood vessels. NO is a powerful dilator of blood vessels resulting in lower blood pressure.
  • Drinking beet juice is considerably more effective in raising blood nitrite levels than eating a very high intake of nitrate-rich foods.

New Data:

In a study conducted at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, 15 men and 15 women drank either 17.6-oz of a beet juice beverage containing 500 g of beet and apple juice (72% beet, 28 % apple) or a placebo. The participants had their blood pressure measured at baseline and at least hourly for 24 hours following juice consumption using an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This same procedure was repeated two weeks later, with those who drank the placebo on the first round receiving beet juice on the second and vice versa. The results were that drinking beet juice showed lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4 to 5 points after only 6 hours. Here is the significance of this effect; drinking beet juice would cut the rate of strokes and heart attacks by about 10%. In terms of lives, that would mean about 60,000 lives saved each year in the United States.

Reference:

Coles LT, Clifton PM. Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 2012;11:106 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-11-106