Monday, March 31, 2008

Norway is first to ban mercury in teeth

Mercury has been banned from all dental fillings in Norway. Dentists in the country had to start using safer alternatives as a matter of law from the beginning of this year. The metal has also been banned from all products, including measuring instruments.

The country had previously restricted the use of amalgam fillings, especially in children and pregnant and nursing women, but is the first in the world to enforce a complete ban.

Announcing the ban, Norway’s Minister of Environment and Development Erik Solheim said: “Mercury is among the most dangerous environmental toxins. Satisfactory alternatives to mercury in products are available, and it is therefore fitting to introduce a ban.”

Norway is concerned that mercury in our teeth and in the environment is extremely dangerous, and can harm the development of children.

Townsend Letter, 2008; 297: 33

Vytorin, Zetia should be drugs of last resort, panel urges

The blockbuster drugs Vytorin and Zetia should be used only after all other cholesterol-lowering drugs fail until research proves that the medications work, a panel of heart specialists recommended.The panel, convened by the American College of Cardiology, based its assessment on detailed evidence from a controversial study showing that Vytorin worked no better than a statin drug now sold as a cheap generic.

"There is absolutely no difference … between the two treatment groups," said lead investigator John Kastelein of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam at the group's annual scientific session.The panel's spokesman, Harlan Krumholz of Yale University, said: "Our strongest recommendation is that people need to go back to statins. … If you were put on this drug before you were fully treated on a statin, you should go back."The study's results also were released online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Both Zetia and Vytorin are made up of a drug, ezetimibe, that blocks the absorption of bad cholesterol, LDL, in the gut. Vytorin also contains the cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin. "It was a disastrous outcome for this drug," says Robert Califf of Duke University, co-leader of an 18,000-patient trial called Improve-It, which will be the first to measure whether ezetimibe prevents heart attacks and deaths. The results are due in 2011.Enrico Veltri, a Schering-Plough vice president, said the trial in "no way changes LDL as a primary target of cholesterol therapy based on medical guidelines. We need to have treatment options available."

In a second study in the New England Journal, Krumholz and his co-workers examined prescribing practices in the USA, where a $200-million-a-year consumer advertising campaign helped build Vytorin and Zetia into blockbusters, and Canada, where direct-to-consumer advertising is banned.The promotion effort helped the drug capture 15% of the market for cholesterol-lowering drugs vs. 3% in Canada, the study found.

Steve - this is a follow-up to the news that broke several months ago. What drove us to tag this story was the last paragraph having to do with consumer advertising campaigns for drugs. Before Zetia and Vytorin were ever truly deemed safe and truly effective in long-term studies, their manufacturers flooded the market with advertisements, turning them into blockbusters almost overnight. Not only do consumer drug campaigns push the envelope in portraying them as "miracle workers," but puts tremendous strain on doctors who have to defend not prescribing them to consumers who desire them after watching the ads. The government has talked about taking action against these practices, but have not followed up the talk with any action.

Mushrooms high in vitamin D2

An LA Times article on Sunday was lauding the benefits of mushrooms as the only natural fruit or vegetable source of vitamin D. However, the article did not mention that for many people with mold/fungus allergies, or yeast imbalance/overgrowth, mushrooms are poison.

High fevers in kids seem scarier than they usually are

Courtesy of Dr. Helen Minicotti of The Daily Herald.

Fevers can make kids and parents uncomfortable, but they are merely symptoms of infection, not diseases in and of themselves. While a high temperature can signal the presence of a significant illness, other factors help distinguish true disease severity.

When a parent calls to report that a child has a fever, it's also helpful to know how long it's lasted and whether the fever is increasing or decreasing. Other important information includes how alert the child is, whether he's eating or drinking, if the illness includes vomiting or diarrhea, or whether the child has a rash. Illnesses among family members or classmates can also give clues to what a sick child has been exposed to.

When your child comes down with a fever, start jotting down a few notes on a sheet of paper. If you don't and the illness lasts a few days, you'll find that the details quickly blur together. Tracking temperatures as well as the timing of fever reducers helps keep you from inadvertently overdosing your child and keeps your thoughts organized in case you need to seek medical care.

For children younger than 3, the American Academy of Pediatrics generally advises taking temperatures rectally to get a more accurate reading. Older children are unlikely to cooperate with rectal temperature taking, so using a thermometer in the mouth or under the arm are acceptable alternatives. Mercury thermometers should not even be in the household as mercury is considered an environmental toxin.

Though high fevers can be scary, experts at the National Institutes of Health stress that they actually serve a function in combating illness. A rise in body temperature helps kick a child's immune system into high gear to help fight off infection. Don't get hung up on the notion that a high temperature must be driven all the way down to normal. The real goal is to lower a child's temperature to keep him comfortable while he's sick.

That being said, if your child has a fever and you don't like the way the illness is progressing, put in a call to the doctor. Even when your sick child looks reasonably good, contact the pediatrician if you have an infant less than 3 months old with a rectal temperature of 100.2 or higher, or if you have a child of any age with a fever higher than 105 degrees.

As fevers are signs of infectious illness, children with rectal temperatures over 100.5 are considered contagious to others and should not attend school. A good rule of thumb is that a child should be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to the classroom. (And, no, it doesn't count if he's fever-free with the help of Tylenol or Motrin!).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Older women should eat plenty of protein.

As women's bodies age, they find it much harder than men to replace lost muscle. Differences in the way male and female bodies metabolize food means older women do not use protein as effectively. Women over 65 should eat foods like lean meat and eggs and do resistance exercise, researchers write in PLOS One. Researchers speculated that the inability of the female body to perform the same function as effectively was linked to the hormonal changes of the menopause.

Bonnie - the findings of this study are right on.

Prenatal omega-3 may aid babies' brain development

Expectant mothers who eat enough omega-3 fats late in pregnancy may give their babies a brain-power boost. Researchers found that among 109 Inuit infants they followed, those whose umbilical-cord blood was higher in docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 acid, at birth did better in tests of infant brain and eye development at the ages of 6 and 11 months. Because of the fat's vital role in brain development, experts have recommended that pregnant women get an average of 300 milligrams of DHA daily. The new findings, reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, highlight the particular importance of DHA in the mothers' diet during the third trimester, when fetal brain development accelerates. Pregnant and breast-feeding women are advised to avoid some fish, however, due to potentially high levels of mercury. These include shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tile fish.

Pesticide Parkinson's link strong

There is strong evidence that exposure to pesticides significantly increases the risk of Parkinson's disease. Another study, published in the BMC Neurology journal, has made the link to the neurological disease. The US researchers found those exposed to pesticides had a 1.6 times higher risk after studying 600 people. The US team, which involved scientists from Duke University, Miami University and the Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence, quizzed 319 patients about their pesticide use. The answers were compared to over 200 family members and other controls who did not have the disease. Related individuals were chosen as they would share many environmental and genetic backgrounds in a bid to isolate the impact of the pesticides. They found those exposed to pesticides had a 1.6 times greater risk of developing the disease. Heavy use, classed as over 200 days exposure over a lifetime, carried over double the risk. And the study also revealed herbicides and insecticides were the pesticides most likely to increase risk.

Apples may help ward off colon cancer

Apple pectin and polyphenol-rich apple have an anticarcinogenic effect on the colon, encouraging the production of suspected chemopreventative metabolite butyrate, say researchers. Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) that has been found to be a major factor contributing to healthy colon mucosa. The study, published in the April issue of Nutrition, looked at human faecal matter fermented with apple constituents and found a significantly increased yield of SCFA, most notably butyrate.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Children Whose Mothers Take Prescription Acid Blockers More Likely to Have Asthma

A review of data on nearly 30,000 children was presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), showing that those whose mothers took prescription acid-blocking drugs during pregnancy were 51% more likely to suffer from wheezing, breathing difficulties, and other symptoms of asthma.

The researchers looked only at heartburn drugs, including H2 blockers like Axid, Pepcid, Tagamet, and Zantac, and proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Aciphex, Protonix, and Nexium.

Elizabeth Yen, MD, a child health specialist at Harvard and Children’s Hospital Boston says the medications should only be taken "if you're having persistent heartburn that is interfering with your quality of life. And even then, always check with your doctor first."

Former AAAAI president William Busse, MD, head of the allergy section at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, says a link between the use of acid-blocking drugs in pregnancy and childhood asthma makes sense from a physiological point of view. "We know that some immune system regulation that protects us against asthma has its origins in the [acidic] GI tract," he says. "So one has to wonder that if you take drugs that suppress acid in the GI tract, you may be modifying the normal immune surveillance."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Low Inflation Diet

by Bonnie Minsky MA, MPH, LDN, CNS and Steve Minsky

Many believe that to eat healthy, the deck is stacked against us monetarily. While this may have been true as recently as 2006, it certainly is not now.

Last week, the USDA released a study showing that the cost of high-calorie, nutrient-empty foods are less likely to be affected by inflation and, on average, cost less than low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Showing yet again how behind the times they are, the USDA failed to mention that the study was performed using 2004 and 2006 retail prices, well before the cost of grain, corn and wheat in particular, have skyrocketed.

Thanks in large part to the increased demand for corn to make ethanol for fuel rather than food and feed, food prices are rising at twice the rate of inflation. In addition, high energy costs and reduced domestic commodities due to increased exports pushed US retail food prices up 4% in 2007, the highest gain in 17 years. The forecast for 2008 is a similar rise according to USDA Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum.

The biggest price gains in 2008 will be grain-based foods and oils (corn and soybean). Corn doubled in the past year. The price of wheat has more than tripled during the past 10 months, pushing the price of cereals and baked goods up nearly 9 percent higher over the same time last year. Milk and cheese are up 21% to its highest price since World War II.

One thing is for certain. On a dollar-per-nutrient basis, healthy food is not more expensive. Lab studies have shown that fruits and vegetables are also more satiating--they make you feel fuller than junk food even though they have fewer calories. Making these changes will ultimately save you thousands in future health care costs!

With a little no-how and careful planning, you can adhere to a Low Inflation Diet while improving your health and maybe even drop a few pounds!

Low Inflation Healthy Alternatives? Let's Compare Equivalent Foodstuffs.

Milk Alternative:
1 Liter Gerolsteiner Sparkling Mineral Water (rich in naturally-occurring calcium) at Trader Joes - $1.69
1 Quart Dean's Milk - $1.79

Ground Beef Alternative:
Tallgrass Grass-Fed Beef at Peapod - $4.24/pound
90% Lean Ground Sirloin at Jewel - $4.49/pound

Water (20oz.):
Filtered Tap Water (Brita) - $0.02
Dasani (Bottled Tap Water) - $0.99

Grain Carb Alternative:
One Fuji Apple on special at Dominick's - $0.33
One Bagel on special at Dominick's - $0.50

Vegetable Oil Alternative (48 oz.):
Mazola Canola Oil - $5.29
Wesson Vegetable (Soybean) Oil - $6.99 OR
Mazola Corn Oil - $5.29

Salty Snack Alternative:
Woodstock Farms Natural Sunflower Seeds Roasted No Salt 16 oz. - $3.79
Doritos Tortilla Chips Cool Ranch 12. 5oz. - $3.49

Soda Alternative:
Filtered Tap Water (288 oz.) - $0.29
24 pack Diet Coke Cans (288 total oz.) - $7.99

Tips to Avoid Inflation and Stabilize Your Food Costs
  1. Eat less.
  2. Limit corn and soybean vegetable oils.
  3. Limit wheat, corn, and soybean products.
  4. Choose grass-fed meat and flaxseed-fed poultry.
  5. Consume local fruits and vegetables at farmer's markets, co-ops, or at your grocery stores. Buy produce that's fresh and in season is less expensive.
  6. Drink filtered tap water instead of bottled water.
  7. Choose foods that satiate (nuts/seeds, fruits and vegetables) over foods that ravenate (translation: food that creates a ravenous state).
  8. Limit milk. Choose instead naturally-occurring calcium water or calcium-enriched nut milks.
  9. Skip Buying Sugary/Salty Snacks. They tend to be overpriced in proportion to the nutritional value they provide and don’t have much usability factor (they can’t be re-used in recipes).
  10. Make A Grocery List - And Stick To It. Don’t control your grocery list when shopping, let it direct you. Sticking to it will seriously guarantee that you buy less items that you don’t need. That’s what a grocery list is supposed to be after all, a list of things you NEED from the market. Not a list of things you feel like getting once you’re in the store and surrounded by tempting food. That leads into what I think is one of the most important rules for grocery shopping which is:
  11. DO NOT go grocery shopping on an empty stomach! If you are hungry, you will buy what you don’t need. If you are hungry, you will tend to buy in bulk because you really feel like eating it lots of it. If you’re hungry you’re going to tend to buy more snack items. If you’re hungry, you’re in a hurry so you’ll forget you have coupons. If you’re hungry, you will mentally throw your budget AND grocery list out the window.
  12. Eliminate Dessert foods (replace with fruit) and Sugary/Artificially Sweetened Drinks (replace with good old filtered water; flavor it with a little fresh lemon, lime, or juice).
  13. Replace one meat/poultry dinner weekly with beans.
  14. Use your freezer and get an extra one for storage. You can stock up on good deals on meats and other frozen items as well as accommodate doubling or tripling up on recipes!
  15. At health food stores, think private label products. Whole Foods 365 brand and Trader Joe's brands are often comparable to conventional grocery store equivalents.
If you have any other ideas to add, please type in the comments section!

Copyright 2008, Nutritional Concepts

Cod Liver oil 'cuts arthritis drug use'

A daily dose of cod liver oil can cut painkiller use in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Taking 10g of cod liver oil a day reduced the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by 30%, Dundee University researchers say. Concerns about side-effects of NSAIDs has prompted research into alternative. Rheumatologists said the study, in Rheumatology journal, was small but showed fish oil could benefit some patients. Patients in the trial were either given cod liver oil or placebo and after 12 weeks asked to gradually reduce their use of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen.

Almost 60 patients completed the nine-month trial which found 39% taking cod liver oil reduced their daily dose of NSAIDs compared with 10% taking a placebo. The reduction in drug use was not associated with any worsening of pain or the disease, the researchers reported. The research team at the University of Dundee, aided by colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, have now completed three studies which have all shown patients are able to cut down their NSAID use when taking cod liver oil. It is thought fatty acids in the fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties.

Bonnie - the dosage used in this study was the equivalent of 2.5 tsp. of the Carlson's Cod Liver Oil liquid I recommend.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Grocers call in the nutritionists

Excerpts from the Orange County Register

The Albertson's chain Healthy Eaters tour – a program launched this month, includes 44 markets in Orange County. The field trips are designed to educate children – and their parents – how to make healthier food choices. Last year, Albertson's hired the chain's first corporate nutritionist. "With the grocery store being one of the most visited destinations in our everyday lives, we have a tremendous opportunity to educate children and their families about nutrition," Diller says. Last year, Stater Bros. also hired its first corporate dietician to remind shoppers that good-for-you foods can be found at the chain. The move by both chains represents a seismic shift in strategy for traditional supermarkets, which are not commonly viewed as the No. 1 destination for health-conscious shoppers. But, with alternative stores such as Whole Foods Market, Henry's Farmers Market and Trader Joe's eating away at market share, industry experts say traditional markets are smart to offer free and easy nutritional advice for consumers.

Steve - this is all well and good as long as the shopper is getting the right advice. As we have seen in the past, a nutritionist/dietitian's knowledge varies greatly depending upon the individual.

More Vitamin D in Childhood Cuts Later Diabetes Risk

Children who take vitamin D supplements may be less likely to develop type 1 diabetes later in life. The researchers found that children who were given additional vitamin D were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than children who didn't receive vitamin D supplements. The evidence also indicated that the higher and more regular the dose of vitamin D, the lower the risk of developing diabetes. The findings were published online in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Steve - another ringing endorsement for supplementing with Cod Liver Oil!

Wal-Mart milk to have no artificial growth hormones

Wal-Mart Stores said that its private-label Great Value milk is now being sourced only from cows that have not been treated with artificial growth hormones, such as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST). The retailer said its Sam's Club chain also is offering milk selections from suppliers that have pledged not to treat cows with rbST. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said that milk from cows treated with rbST poses no risk to human health, Wal-Mart said it made the change in response to customer demand.

Steve - I wonder if Monsanto will try to take on Wal-Mart like they are all the little Mom and pop dairies.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Am J Clinical Nutrition Highlights

March 2008:
  • Bifidobacterium (beneficial strain of probiotic) levels in normal weight children were significantly higher than overweight/obese children. Further study should be performed for preventive and therapeutic applications in weight management.

  • Despite residing in a region with high chronic sun exposure, adults in southern Arizona are commonly deficient in vitamin D.

  • Alkaline diets, especially those rich in potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women.

  • Cruciferous vegetable intake may reduce breast cancer risk, especially in those with a GSTP1 genotype.

Less Prescribed Medicine Can Help Those With Dementia

When those with dementia act out, the most common treatment for prevention is prescribing strong antipsychotic drugs. This cavalier attitude toward antipsychotic drugs has made them one of the most paid for drug categories by Medicaid and are prescribed to at least 1/3 of those in nursing homes. Medicaid officials are alarmed at this improper use of antipsychotics. These prescribed drugs can worsen conditions of dementia. It could lead to more violent situations or cause those with dementia to become more confused.

Usually, dementia patients act out to communicate how they are feeling. There are now centers that advocate less use of prescribed drugs and focus more on why those with dementia behave alarmingly. And this approach seems to work. Most of the time, the patients in these centers are less agitated when they are off the drugs.

Caution regarding Chia Seeds

Bonnie - For our clientele especially, be wary of consuming chia. While it is a wonderful foodstuff for some, the fact that it is a salicylate (in the mint family) makes it intolerable for some. I have had numerous clients complain about gastrointestinal complaints due to chia consumption.

Diet Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Bonnie - Last week, Jane Brody of the New York Times wrote about the link between consumed foods and how it affects those with multiple sclerosis. She refers to a new book called the "MS Recovery Diet." In vulnerable people, some of the digested proteins stimulate an immune response that causes antibodies to mistakenly attack the myelin. The goal of this diet is to know which foods cause this reaction and to take it away from consumption. A reduction in the degeneration of myelin sheaths would result. Other foods that one with MS should look out for are grains with gluten, yeast, eggs, and other specific food sensitivities an individual may have.

Uh, Jane, this was discovered over 30 years ago! It is greatly unfortunate that MS doctors have not included this information in their medical libraries. However, it has been part of my protocol for MS patients for 23 years.

A Revolution In Depression Tests

Instead of waiting weeks before finding out whether the depression drug they take will work, many people may be able to find out within days. A study done at the University of Illinois of Chicago found a protein in the brain (called Gs alpha) that changes location in a cell membrane when the depression drug is working. The signaling protein is trapped in a viscous area of the cell membrane and therefore not effective in directing neurotransmitters. However, if the antidepressants worked, it moved the protein into another area of the cell where it could direct the chemicals that carried messages. If this research continues to pan out, one only needs to do a simple blood test in order to determine if the drug will give them relief.

Bonnie - this would finally offer a way to prevent depressed people from being guinea pigs. Confirming whether depression is really the issue is groundbreaking. But this begs the question, if an antidepressant is given for an off-label use (i.e. for menopausal symptoms) to a non-depressed person, why wouldn't it work? The answer is probably what we've seen in other studies...a placebo effect.

Antibiotics inefficient for common infection

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for sinusitis when the patient has been sick for seven to ten days. The reason why they wait after a certain amount days is because many doctors believe the longer illness duration, the greater the chance the patient has a viral infection. However, studies have shown that prescribing antibiotics based on how long a patient has been ill is not accurate. A Lancet study from Switzerland looked at the amount of time 2,600 people were ill before receiving antibiotics. Based on the evidence, the study showed that out of fifteen patients who were sick for ten days, only one would be cured with antibiotics. The researchers go on to say that not only are antibiotics not proven to help cure most people, they has side effects, high prices, and chances of resistance.

Chocolate Milk Isn’t Just For Snack Time

According to the US Milk Processor Education Program, many of the nutrients in low fat chocolate milk make it an ideal drink after exercise. Chocolate milk has the carbohydrates and protein that help renourish muscles and it has electrolytes to help rehydrate oneself. In one study, there were 9 endurance cyclists that were given chocolate milk, fluid replacement drink, and a carbohydrate replacement drink after the first exercise (and 2 hour rest interval.) It showed that chocolate milk delayed exhaustion and increased the amount of work done more than any other drink tested. A British study also compared sports drinks and water with low fat milk. All eleven subjects had a positive liquid balance during the recovery time while the other drinks had a negative liquid balance during recovery time.

From 3/14/2008

Steve - convincing data, eh? Not that the US Milk Processor Education Program is unbiased :)

The Link Between Allergies and Mood

From USA Today 3/16/2008

Your nose is not the only thing affected by allergies anymore. According to many studies, allergies also affect your moods. There was a study done that saw an association of positive moods and ragweed seasons. They followed patients who were allergic to ragweed for one year. During ragweed seasons, those with allergies became more depressed. In contrast, during the winter (when ragweed levels were down), their moods became more optimistic. A theory concludes that these mood changes are caused by the release of proteins by immune cells to protect against allergens that are present. The release of proteins (cytokines) discharges a chemical in the brain region that causes weakness, low moods, and a decrease in concentration.

Bonnie - I'd say this is a timely article given the nature of our recent Gut/Brain Connection piece. This is another reason why for those with allergies and intolerances must be extra vigilant in avoiding cross-reactors during the height of the allergy season.

Genotype Foods: Still a Pipe Dream

Recently, the 2008 Nutrigenomics conference met to discuss the future of food and the ethical, social, and legal sides of the technology used in the industry. In this conference, it was acknowledged that foods specifically tailored to genotypes are not going to appear on the shelves till decades later. The science of how food and nutrients influence the genome has progressed (nutrigenomics), but there is still much to be learned about it. According to the European Nutrigenomics Organization, nutrigenomics testing is not currently feasible. Instead, many tests are focused on nutrigenetics, which examine how a person’s genetics affect their response to diet, and also focused on changes to messenger RNA, changes in how the proteins control the transport of different nutrients, and changes to the substances that are produced or used in the biochemical pathway.

Bonnie - we agree with this assessment. The most current research has shown that while nutrigenomics has come a long way, finding single gene polymorphisms is not an accurate view of the "big picture." Hundreds or thousands of genes all work together in a way that must be figured out. Then, we can accurately advise an individual on the proper nutrigenomic path for them. In the meantime, we continue to focus on harmonizing the messages that get sent to our genes through reducing inflammation at the kinase hubs.

Prostate Cancer: Most men suffer diminished quality of life after surgery

According to a study in this week's issue of New England Journal of Medicine, most men suffer some deterioration in their quality of life after treatment for prostate cancer, a new study has discovered. Post-operative problems range from urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction, depression, and hormonal problems. The three standard surgical procedures for prostate cancer – prostatectomy, radiotherapy or brachytherapy – each comes with its own set of problems. The single biggest change occurs with prostatectomy, with more than half the patients complaining about sexual problems afterwards. Researchers from Harvard Medical School followed 1,201 patients after prostate cancer treatment. Generally, patients who have nerve-sparing procedures with the therapy seem to fare better.

Bonnie - what is unfortunate about this poorly constructed study is that they did not include all prostate therapies (only the big three), especially watchful waiting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Study links folate with healthier sperm

A new study has identified a possible link between men's intake of folate and reduced chromosomal abnormalities in sperm. The study, published today in the journal Human Reproduction, is claimed to be the first indication that paternal diet may play a role after conception.

Aneuploidy is the general term given to changes in the number of chromosomes. It is estimated that between 1 and 4 per cent of a healthy man's sperm have some form of aneuploidy.

Aneuploidy has been implicated in failure to conceive and miscarriages, as well as children born with conditions such as Down's syndrome, Turner's syndrome and Klinefelter's syndrome.

The study involved 89 healthy, non-smoking men who gave sperm samples and were questioned about their total intake of the nutrients zinc, folate, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene - both from food sources (such as green leafy vegetables, fruit and pulses) and from dietary supplements (folic acid, the synthetic form of the vitamin).

The researchers found that there was a statistically significant association between high folate intake and lower sperm aneuploidy.

Men in the upper 25th percentile, who had the highest folate intake of between 772 and 1150 micrograms per day, were seen to 20 to 30 per cent less sperm aneuploidy than those with the lowest folate intake.

Bonnie - a small study that warrants larger trials, but significant in its design and topic. As I have said for years, it is not just the woman that needs to focus and achieving optimal health for fertility, the man does as well!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Am J Clinical Nutrition Highlights

February 2008 -
  • The consumption of moderate amount of berries resulted in favorable changes in platelet function, HDL cholesterol, and blood pressure, indicating that regular consumption may play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

  • Low concentrations of vitamin B-6, vitamin C, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and vitamin E are prevalent in morbidly obese patients seeking weight-loss treatment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vegetable group contributes to lower breast cancer risk

Cruciferous vegetables may help lower the risk of developing breast cancer, particularly for women who carry a particular gene variant linked to the disease, a new study suggests. Researchers found that among more than 6,000 Chinese women, those with the highest intake of Chinese cabbage and white turnips had a somewhat lower risk of postmenopausal breast cancer than those with the lowest intake. The findings, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to evidence that compounds in cruciferous vegetables may help fight cancer. Chinese cabbage and white turnips are two cruciferous vegetables common in the Chinese diet; in Western diets, the most common cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower and kale. The vegetables contain certain compounds that the body converts into substances called isothiocyanates, which are thought to have anti-cancer effects, particularly in affecting a the GSTP1 gene. Among these women, those with the highest intake of any cruciferous vegetables had about half the risk of breast cancer as those who ate the fewest.

Steve - ahh, another reason to love cruciferous veggies! We always prefer eating the vegetables themselves, but for those who digestively cannot tolerate them, the supplement Maca Root (in the cruciferous family), is a wonderful alternative.

Gut/Brain Connection Update

Gut/Brain Connection Update
by Bonnie Minsky MA, MPH, CNS, LDN and Steve Minsky

Opening Remarks
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a label we now give 8.7% of children between the ages of 8 and 15 years. Over 1 in 10 children take stimulant medications. Autism affects 1 in 166 children. Major depression has a lifetime prevalence of 1 in 10. Alzheimer’s disease will affect 30% of people over 85 years old and is expected to rise three-fold by 2050. Psychiatric or psychotropic medications are the number two–selling class of prescription drugs. Taken as a whole, depression, bipolar disease, anxiety, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, psychoses, attention deficit disorder, autism, Alzheimer’s, and more pose a significant burden to society in terms of individual suffering, loss of optimal social functioning, and economic costs.

Could it be that we are looking in the wrong place for the answers to our epidemic of neurological and psychiatric disorders? Could it be that our psychotropic medications attempt to control the smoke while ignoring the fire? Could it be that these are, in fact, not primary brain disorders at all, but systemic disorders that affect the brain? And could it be that therapies primarily aimed at altering brain function through antidepressants, stimulants, anti-psychotics, and seizure medications may miss the primary mechanisms or disturbances that manifest as behavioral, mood, or neurologic symptoms? Aside from the fact that recent studies question the effectiveness of antidepressants, conventional medicine is becoming more convinced that the communication between the brain and the body is bi-directional and that although mind-body medicine has been studied and accepted as legitimate, it provides only a one dimensional view of the interaction between brain and body. (Excerpts from an editorial written by Mark Hyman, MD for the Nov/Dec 2007 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.)

Gut as the Second Brain: Thinking Out of the Box.
Our gastrointestinal tract acts as a "second brain." Think of the brain in our skull as the North and the enteric nervous system that hides in our gut as the South. The connection between the brains lies at the heart of myriad maladies, physical and psychiatric. Ailments such as anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers and Parkinson's disease manifest symptoms at the brain and the gut. British Journal of Hospital Medicine has gone so far to acknowledge the connection by calling recurrent abdominal pain, "the abdominal migraine."

Many doctors will admit that the majority of patients with anxiety and depression also have alterations of their GI function. The role of the South Brain is to manage every aspect of digestion, from the esophagus to the stomach, small intestine and colon. The South Brain accomplishes this with the same tools as the North Brain, a sophisticated nearly self-contained network of neural circuitry, neurotransmitters and proteins. Consequently both brains are affected by many of the same things.Where do the problems begin? Poor diet and psychological trauma for starters. Chronic gut disorders are integrally linked to poor dietary lifestyle and/or early childhood traumas like parents' divorces, chronic illnesses or parents' deaths. What happens early in life from a dietary and psychological standpoint, along with an individuals genetic background, programs how a person will respond for the rest of his or her life.

Research at a Glance: Psychological Burden of Gut-Brain Interaction
  • The Psyche and the Gut: Research on gut-brain interactions has increased over the last decade and appear with a frequency of 1% to 3% in leading gastroenterological journals. Increasing focus underlines the importance of enhancing our understanding on how the psyche and the brain communicate in order to better meet the needs of our patients. World Journal of Gastroenterology 7/07

  • The prevalence of headache is higher in people with gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, acid reflux, diarrhea, and constipation. Cephalalgia 2/08

  • Dietary influences on cognitive development and behavior in children: For children showing behavior problems such as hyperactivity the use of dietary manipulation tends to be a more acceptable approach to treatment than the use of drugs. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 2006

  • There now exists a substantial amount of evidence that depressed patients show signs of gut immune activation including increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines and the peptide leptin. Both can induce anhedonia, one of the cardinal symptoms of depression. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 2/07

  • The brains in women who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome may be unable to tamp down the pain response, leaving them more vulnerable to the intestinal discomfort that characterizes the disease. Journal Neuroscience 1/08

  • Beside its role as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system, serotonin appears to be a central physiologic mediator of many gastrointestinal (GI) functions and a mediator of the brain-gut connection. By acting directly and via modulation of the enteric nervous system, serotonin has numerous effects on the GI tract. Better understanding of the role of the serotonin receptor subtypes and serotonin mechanisms of action in the liver and gut may open new therapeutic strategies in hepato-gastrointestinal diseases. Cell Molecular Life Science 12/07

  • A robust relationship between psychosocial factors and atopic disorders exists. The major atopic disease assessed in these studies was asthma (90.7%) with allergic rhinitis, 4.7%; atopic dermatitis, 2.3%; and food allergies, 2.3%. The overall results exhibited a positive association between psychosocial factors and future atopic disorder as well as between atopic disorders and future poor mental health. Psychosomatic Medicine 1/08

  • It is important to acknowledge the complex interplay between body and mind: Adults and children suffering from food allergy show impaired quality of life and a higher level of stress and anxiety. World Journal of Gastroenterology 7/07

What You Can do to Help Yourself.
Pinpoint the Problem.

#1 - Screen for Food Intolerances/Allergies.
Most of us know if we have a true food allergy. These are immediate, catastrophic inflammatory responses to foreign proteins in foods or substances that we ingest (commonly known as anaphylaxis). It is estimated that 12 million Americans suffer from true food allergies.

However, many of us are unaware of what approximately 72 million Americans suffer from: food intolerance. If our practice is any indication, we think the number of Americans with food intolerance is much higher than estimated.

Food intolerances are most indicated in individuals with inflammatory bowel problems which can include eosinophilic esophagitis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, those with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, post-traumatic arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraines often have food intolerances.

Simply, when an intolerant food is presented to the digestive system, it has a toxic effect at the cellular level. Gluten intolerance is a perfect example of how a substance, in this case, the glue that holds grain together, attacks the cells in our digestive tract and creates a host of adverse effects. As the toxicity becomes more pronounced (cells begin to die or under perform), this is when we contract chronic conditions.

In our estimation, roughly 40% of our clientele have food intolerances. In most cases, if the food triggers are not discovered in the first few appointments, we run a Food Intolerance (Cytotoxic) blood test that covers 209 foods, spices, and preservatives. We have used the same lab, Biotrition in Rolling Meadows, for many years because their results are accurate and consistent. One of my colleagues, respected allergist Dr. Robert Boxer, has been using this test even longer.

A study that appeared in the January 2007 issue of journal Nutrition & Food Science followed 5,286 subjects reporting a wide range of chronic medical conditions, who had taken a food-specific IgG enzyme-linked blood test. Of patients who rigorously followed the diet, 75.8 per cent had a noticeable improvement in their condition. Of patients who benefited from following the recommendations 68.2 per cent felt the benefit within three weeks. Those who reported more than one condition were more likely to report noticeable improvement. 81.5 per cent of those that dieted rigorously and reported three or more co-morbidities showed noticeable improvement in their condition. For those who dieted rigorously and reported high benefit, 92.3 per cent noticed a return of symptoms on reintroduction of the offending foods. These data provide evidence for the use of elimination diet based on food-specific IgG blood test results as an aid to management of the symptoms of a range of chronic medical conditions.

In February of 2007, another study focusing on food intolerance was published. It was a resounding success and mirrored almost to the letter how Nutritional Concepts' treats food intolerance. Please read our analysis of 2/07 study.

Contact our office if you suspect that your neurological and/or gastrointestinal issue(s) may be related to food intolerance and would like to explore your options.

Research at a Glance: Link Between Food Intolerance/Allergy and GI Disorders
  • According to a recent study in the January 2008 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma Immunology, patients with allergies have a significantly greater incidence (over 20%) of Irritable Bowel Syndrome than those without allergies. The lead researcher of the study adds that identifying the allergic triggers, both inhaled and ingested, and applying the appropriate treatment can markedly improve the patients quality of life in controlling IBS.

  • Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome in the Intestinal Bowel Disorder outpatient, with emphasis on using a food and beverage intolerance, avoidance diet. The adverse effects of many foods and beverages are amount dependent and can be delayed, additive, and cumulative. The specific types of foods and beverages that can induce IBS symptoms include milk and milk containing products; caffeine containing products; alcoholic beverages; fruits; fruit juices; spices; seasonings; diet beverages; diet foods; diet candies; diet gum; fast foods; condiments; fried foods; fatty foods; multigrain breads; sourdough breads; bagels; salads; salad dressings; vegetables; beans; red meats; gravies; spaghetti sauce; stews; nuts; popcorn; high fiber; and cookies, crackers, pretzels, cakes, and pies. Journal inflammatory Bowel Disorders 1/07

#2 - Limit Additives/Preservatives/Medication Consumption.

Many of you are aware of the 'toxic potential' of additives and preservatives. While MSG (monosodium glutamate), food dyes/colorings, and sulfites are well-known, we are hearing more about the effects of artificial sweeteners, benzoates, mold and bacteria, antibiotics and other medications, vaccines, genetically modified foods, viral adulteration/irradiation of our food supply, etc. Please be vigilant about recognizing the connection between these substances and altered gut/brain function.

#3 - Screen and/or manage Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, and other GI diseases.
Screening for Gluten Intolerance/Celiac is becoming much more common with physicians, but is still frequently misdiagnosed or ignored. Additionally, those with celiac disease on a gluten-free diet may still have gastrointestinal symptoms. The cow's milk (CM) protein casein, in particular, seems to be involved in this reaction, according to the March 2007 issue of Clinical and Experimental Immunology.

For those who suspect other gastrointestinal conditions, see a GI specialist for proper diagnosis. Then see a licensed dietary professional for food modifications.

#4 - Screen for yeast imbalance.
A yeast overgrowth/imbalance throws off normal function of the GI tract. Detection of a yeast imbalance can be obtained through the Biotrition Food Intolerance test, or through a separate Candida test that can be ordered by your health professional.

#5 - Screen for Virulent Pathogens and Superbugs.
A stool culture can detect pathogens and superbugs that wreak havoc on the GI tract. Unfortunately, as they are becoming more and more resistant to current medication, the effects of E.Coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus, and Clostridium Difficile are often catastrophic.

#6 - Eliminate or prevent gastrointestinal reflux.
Long-term GER/GERD medication can be detrimental to the gut and brain.

What You Can do to Help Yourself.
Incorporate Positive Diet and Lifestyle Changes.

We always suggest working with your health professionals to seek the proper path for your individual needs.

The Healthy Gut/Brain Paradigm:

1. Create an optimal diet and nutrient lifestyle.
Emphasize the removal of sugar and food chemicals from your diet. Infuse your body with a nutrient regimen suited to your individual needs. Our best self-help diet is the Pain Relief Diet Action Plan. It removes many of the dietary triggers that cause GI distress and the two week menu allows the implementation of the Four Rs:

Relax - give the gut time to relax with no trigger foods.
Repair - the gut has a miraculous ability to heal itself if given the time and the right fuel.
Repopulate - infuse healthy flora with probiotics.
Resume - incorporate a less restrictive, balanced dietary lifestyle to fit your individual needs.

2. Apply stress reduction techniques.

3. Aim for optimal emotional balance through conventional, medication-free psychiatric counsel or, if needed, psychopharmacology.

4. Utilize complementary therapy such as Chiropractic or Acupuncture.

What You Can do to Help Yourself.
More Nutrient-Intensive Therapies at a Glance.

Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment.
Magnesium deficiency is well known to produce neuropathologies. Only 16% of the magnesium found in whole wheat remains in refined flour, and magnesium has been removed from most drinking water supplies, setting a stage for human magnesium deficiency. Magnesium ions regulate calcium ion flow in neuronal calcium channels, helping to regulate neuronal nitric oxide production. In magnesium deficiency, neuronal requirements for magnesium may not be met, causing neuronal damage which could manifest as depression. Magnesium treatment is hypothesized to be effective in treating major depression resulting from intraneuronal magnesium deficits. These magnesium ion neuronal deficits may be induced by stress hormones, excessive dietary calcium as well as dietary deficiencies of magnesium. Case histories are presented showing rapid recovery (less than 7 days) from major depression using 125–300mg of magnesium (as glycinate) with each meal and at bedtime. Magnesium was found usually effective for treatment of depression in general use. Related and accompanying mental illnesses in these case histories including traumatic brain injury, headache, suicidal ideation, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, postpartum depression, cocaine, alcohol and tobacco abuse, hypersensitivity to calcium, short-term memory loss and IQ loss were also benefited. Dietary deficiencies of magnesium, coupled with excess calcium and stress may cause many cases of other related symptoms including agitation, anxiety, irritability, confusion, asthenia, sleeplessness, headache, delirium, hallucinations and hyperexcitability, with each of these having been previously documented. The possibility that magnesium deficiency is the cause of most major depression and related mental health problems including IQ loss and addiction is enormously important to public health and is recommended for immediate further study. Medical Hypotheses 3/06

Cod Liver Oil Linked to Less Depression.
Regular and long-term intake of omega-3 fatty acid-rich cod liver oil may protect people from symptoms of depression, says a large study published in the June 2007 issue of Journal of Affective Disorders. In 21,835 Norwegian subjects aged between 40 and 49 and 70 and 74 years, the prevalence of depressive symptoms was 29 per cent lower in regular cod liver oil users than the rest of the population. "In this large population based cross-sectional study we found that daily use of cod liver oil was negatively associated with high levels of depressive symptoms and that the prevalence of such depressive symptoms decreased with the duration of cod liver oil use," wrote lead author Maria Baroy Raeder from Haukeland University Hospital. The length of regular cod liver oil supplementation was found to influence the prevalence of high levels of depressive symptoms - the longer the duration of supplementation, the lower the prevalence of symptoms of depression.

Mediterranean diet wards off asthma, allergy.
Children of women who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits and vegetables while pregnant are far less likely to develop asthma or allergies later in life. Eating vegetables more than eight times a week, fish more than three times a week and legumes more than once a week seems to boost the protection, the researchers said in the January 2008 issue of journal Thorax.

Role of probiotics in correcting abnormalities of colonic flora induced by stress.
Probiotics organize gut microflora for better regulation of the HPA axis not only in the early years but also during adulthood. It is suggested that daily environmental and emotional stressful life events contribute to the development and reactivation of intestinal inflammation in chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), to the clinical manifestations of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and to the development of food allergies by sensitization of intestinal tissue to oral antigens. Neuro-Gastroenterology and Nutrition Unit, Toulouse, France

What You Can do to Help Yourself.
Spring Allergy Season Tips.

Allergy season begins mid-April. Many of you see an exacerbation of neurological and digestive symptoms during this period. If you have environmental allergies, food allergies, and food intolerances, it would be a good idea to get into preventative mode now. You need to start thinking about foods that cross-react with environmental allergens.

According to the February 2008 issue of journal Current Opinion in Allergy & Clinical Immunology, immunologic cross-reactivity, which is important in many aspects of host defense and immune-mediated diseases, is a prominent feature of allergic disorders. Recent evidence suggests up to one-third of people with seasonal allergies may suffer oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which results from a cross-reactivity between seasonal airborne pollen proteins from weeds, grass and trees and similar proteins in some fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains leading to distinct clinical reactions. Common symptoms of OAS -- also known as pollen-food syndrome -- include: itchiness, tingling or swelling of the mouth, tongue and throat immediately after eating fresh fruits, vegetables and certain kinds of other foods, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. People with ragweed pollen allergies might experience symptoms if they eat foods such as bananas, cucumbers, melons, zucchini, sunflower seeds, chamomile tea and Echinacea. People with birch tree pollen allergies may experience OAS symptoms if they eat food such as peaches, apples, pears, cherries, carrots, hazelnuts, kiwi fruit or almonds.

Here are some quick tips:
  • Supplement with Probiotics - reduces intestinal inflammation related to allergic response.
  • Supplement with a quercetin-intensive antioxidant complex such as Allergy Fighters.
  • Supplement or consume inflammation-reducing omega-3 fish oil.
  • Supplement with magnesium for cellular health.
  • Reduce or eliminate all refined and added sugars, which suppress the immune system and degrades cell health.
  • Minimize consumption of your most common food allergens/intolerants.
  • Refer to our Food Allergy Handbook for the entire list of spring cross-reactors and much more.

We have seen it clinically time and again. If the South brain heals, the North brain follows suit. It is much more difficult to accomplish this the other way around.

But don't take it from us. As you have read, the conclusion from the science is irrefutable and must be heeded to effectively address the epidemic of “brain” diseases. Unless we focus on the metabolic, nutritional, and environmental influences that exert their effects on the brain through the body, we will not succeed in our efforts to promote mental and cognitive well-being. The new frontier is the delineation and analysis, as a whole, of all the aspects of “body” dysfunction or imbalance that lead to abnormal neurochemical signaling, altered behavior and mood, and neurodegeneration. The model incorporates understanding of the role of nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, inflammation, altered immunity, toxins, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, altered cell bioenergetics, and digestive dysfunction in altered behavior, mood, and brain function. It is only by teasing apart how each of these fundamental physiological processes alters brain function and studying how correcting them can restore normal function that a new model of psychiatry, neurology, and clinical neuroscience can emerge that provides more satisfactory answers than only partially effective pharmacologic treatments.

The paradox is that the answer will not be found in the detail of any one pattern or system of physiologic disturbance. It is only in the putting together of all the pieces of the puzzle, in the assessment and treatment of all disordered systems simultaneously that true advances can occur. (Excerpts from Nov/Dec 2007 Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine)

© 2007 Nutritional Concepts, Inc.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Artificial sweetener: diet aid or saboteur?

By Jill U. Adams
Excerpts taken from the LA Times

Artificial sweeteners recently got some bad press. In a study that has spurred discussion among scientists and on dieting blogs, researchers at Purdue University found that rats consuming saccharin-sweetened yogurt ate more food overall and put on more weight during a two-week period than rats consuming glucose-sweetened yogurt.

The rodent finding has led some to ask: Are artificial sweeteners really good for a diet? Or do they, in fact, undermine weight-loss efforts?

Some researchers, including authors of the rat study, say the answer is the latter. Zero- or very-low-calorie sweeteners such as saccharin and aspartame are charlatans, they say -- signaling sweetness without delivering the goods. As a result, the body's Pavlovian association of "sweet" with "calories" -- is weakened, upsetting the ability to balance how many calories are eaten against how many are used up.

The result? Weight control becomes more difficult.

"There's no reason to believe that humans don't do the same thing" as the rats, says Susan Swithers, lead author of the rat study and an associate professor of psychology at Purdue University.

Other nutrition researchers aren't convinced that the rat study applies to people and point to human studies with different results. They say that even if taste signals are weakened in humans consuming artificial sweeteners, any imbalance is likely to be dwarfed by other influences on eating -- including portion size, mindless munching and eating for self-comfort's sake.

"We don't quite know where this fits," said Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition and director of the Interdisciplinary Obesity Center at the University of North Carolina. "It's another part of the puzzle, the long- and short-term human effects of all the sweeteners that have been added to our diet -- both the caloric and diet -- over the last 20 to 30 years."

The rodent study, published last month in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, manipulated the signal that sweet taste sends. Rats ate yogurt (some days it was sweetened and other days it wasn't) in addition to their regular chow. Glucose was the sweetener in one group of rats, and saccharin was used in a second group.

The saccharin-eating rats ingested 5% to 10% more calories overall, gained 20% more weight and increased their percentage of body fat by more than 5%. Swithers and co-author Terry Davidson suggest that, by interfering with what sweet taste means, artificial sweeteners upset an ancient physiological system that evolved to regulate food intake and energy use.

In other words, just as artificial sweeteners trick our taste buds and satisfy our sweet tooth, they may confuse other systems involved in assessing calorie intake and controlling appetite.

The bottom line on the artificial sweetener imbroglio: a knotty tangle of data that screams "more research needed."

"I don't think we have the answer, and I don't think these authors are claiming that they have definitive evidence that this is causing the obesity epidemic in humans," says Richard Mattes, professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University.

But, he adds, "They are posing an interesting and testable question."

Bonnie - they me reiterate that "while more research is needed," artificial sweeteners are allowed to exist in our food supply. A scary proposition, as I have seen too many times with clients who have to come to see me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Leafy greens may halve lung cancer risk

According to a 617 subject study that appears in the journal Nutrition, consumption of at least one portion of green leafy vegetables daily was associated with a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing lung cancer than consumption of less than five times per week. The researchers postulate that the vitamin A, C, and flavanoids in the green leafy veggies are the primary cause for such a positive reduction.

Adolescents: skip breakfast, pack on the pounds

A University of Minnesota study that appears in the March issue of Pediatrics shows a significant association between how frequently kids report eating breakfast and how much weight they gain over time, even taking into account dietary factors and physical activity. The study also notes that kids who eat breakfast on a daily basis overall have a much better diet and are more physically active.

Steve - what a surprise! (snicker, snicker)

Heart-risk protein unaltered by daily psyllium

Daily fiber supplementation with psyllium does not reduce levels of C-Reactive Protein, an inflammatory protein connected to heart disease.

In a study lasting 3 months, King and colleagues at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston assigned 162 overweight or obese adults without heart disease to take psyllium supplements (7 or 14 grams daily) or no supplements.

Their objective was to see whether daily fiber supplementation would lower blood levels of CRP and other markers of inflammation. High CRP levels are a common feature of obesity and have been linked to diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and other risk factors for heart disease.

According to a report of the study in the current issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, changes in CRP levels or the other markers of inflammation were no different between the group that got psyllium fiber supplements and the no-supplement comparison group.

Bonnie - while this study is flawed in its belief that fiber could bring down CRP levels in these subjects, I am not surprised that psyllium itself did not even make a dent. Psyllium is very harsh on the gi tract and is highly allergenic, which could increase CRP. I'd like to see this study with pulverized flaxseed, guar gum, methylcellulose, or glucomannan.

Vitamin D supplements support diabetes prevention in kids

A study that appeared in the Archives of Disease showed that British children who took supplemental vitamin D3 were 30% less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those who did not. The higher the dose, the lower the likelihood of developing the disease.

The British Government recommends vitamin D supplementation for at least the first 2-5 years of a child's life.

Bonnie - of course this makes sense in a climate like the United Kingdom, where sunshine exposure is scarce. The obvious choice for vitamin D in children is Cod Liver Oil. The mechanism to which vitamin D promotes healthy blood sugar and insulin levels is in its kinase-harmonizing and anti-inflammatory action. Diabetes is an inflammatory disease.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Epigenetic control is an exciting new angle for breast cancer

Epigenetic regulation - the influence on which genes are expressed in a cell - is a key player in embryonic development and cancer formation. Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory have gained new insight into one crucial epigenetic mechanism and reveal that it acts much faster than assumed. Estrogen causes rapid epigenetic changes in breast cancer cells. The new findings impact upon our understanding of how cells interpret their DNA and suggest that epigenetic regulation can affect gene expression immediately and long-term.

The work, which was partly funded by the EU, is published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.

Until now, scientists had thought that DNA methylation was a long term process. However, this latest piece of research shows that in breast cancer cells, estrogen and certain drugs can cause rapid changes in methylation. The researchers suggest that understanding this process could be particularly useful given the role of methylation in controlling some estrogen-related promoters and the established links between breast cancer and estrogen.

Steve - if you have kept up with our blog and newsletters, you will know that methylation is a buzzword around here. The better we methylate, the healthier we are. Epigenetics can make it easier or more difficult to methylate depending on our diet, lifestyle, environment, and medication intake. What we like to do here is find every possible way to assure that our kinases, or epigenetic hubs, are in harmony so kinder, gentler messages flow to our genes. When the messages become aggravating and inflammatory, our genes act up, and sometimes, in a negative fashion.

The more we learn about epigenetics, the easier it is to understand why HRT, COX-2 Inhibitors, SSRI's, and other classes of drugs found have been found to cause adverse effects. When your goal is to "block" the epigenetic process, or "replace" natural substances with synthetic chemicals, in many cases your genetic messages become adverse.

Massage Therapy Aids Retired Nuns

Bonnie - what a touching story about a true faith healer. The piece really puts wellness in perspective and is a shining example of why I love what I do.

Bronx Nursing Home Finds Drug Alternative; 'Oh, This Is Heaven'
March 10, 2008; Wall Street Journal

BRONX, N.Y. -- Here at the Providence Rest nursing home, which caters mostly to retired nuns and devout Roman Catholics, Harold Packman has developed an important expertise: Giving massages to women who may have spent a lifetime shying away from this kind of physical contact. Women like Sister Mary Austin Cantwell. Recently, Sister Cantwell, 67 years old and wearing some traditional vestments, rolled in on her motorized scooter for an appointment. Mr. Packman gingerly lifted the hem of the nun's black skirt and started rubbing her arthritic knee. "Oh, this is heaven," Sister Cantwell exclaimed as he applied cream to her afflicted joint. "I am in heaven."

Sister Cantwell is a bit of an exception: She lets Mr. Packman make contact directly with her knee without any intervening garment. Many other patients are more vigilant, arriving in long dresses, support hose, and bulky long-sleeved sweaters that are not to be disturbed. Providence Rest hired Mr. Packman, a licensed massage therapist, as part of an unusual experiment to cut its use of antipsychotic drugs. These controversial drugs -- which are often used as "chemical restraints" to sedate agitated patients -- have set off a national debate over whether nursing homes are misusing them. Newer versions, known as "atypical" antipsychotics, can increase the risk of death in elderly people with Alzheimer's disease, the Food and Drug Administration has warned.

Providence Rest's alternative treatments sound like something from a pricey spa, not a nursing home in the Bronx. Instead of antipsychotics, it has developed regimens involving aromatherapy, long, soothing bubble baths, use of medicines thought to have fewer, less severe side-effects -- and Mr. Packman's rubdowns.

The results are startling. Nationwide, some 30% of nursing-home patients are put on antipsychotics, according to federal data, but Providence Rest has cut its own use down to 2% or 3%. That's the lowest rate of any nursing home in New York, and among the lowest in the country, according to the New York Association of Homes & Services for the Aging. "Harold is a very big factor" in that success, says Jocelyn Ronquillo, Providence Rest's medical director and leader of its anti-antipsychotics drive. When she arrived at the home, usage of antipsychotic drugs was at about 21%, Dr. Ronquillo says.

Mr. Packman's strongest weapon in persuading clients to acquiesce to his touch may be the fact that he's as old as -- or older than -- most of the women he treats. "There are advantages to looking like I do," says Mr. Packman, who is 85, although with his sprightly gait and shock of white hair doesn't look a day over 80. "Patients say, 'You have no idea how much pain I have,' and I say, 'Oh yes I do.' " Mr. Packman, who has been a massage therapist for nearly a half-century, insists he can get the job done while respecting the boundaries. To put patients at ease, he banters like a borscht-belt tummler, delivering a stream of corny old jokes. "What is such a rotten joint doing in a nice kid like you?" he says to Sister Cantwell's knee. She chuckles, even though she's heard that one before -- at her last massage.

Back when Providence Rest went looking for a massage therapist with a specialty in geriatrics, Mr. Packman was the only one it could find. He joined in 2002 as the home began testing its alternative approach to managing patient pain and agitation. Among other things, Providence Rest substitutes antidepressants and Alzheimer's drugs for antipsychotics, believing them to have fewer, less-drastic side-effects. On a typical day Mr. Packman, who works part time, might see as many as 12 to 15 patients.

"Rosa, buon giorno," he calls out as Rosa Rizzo, 93, arrives bundled up in a flowing dress and a woolen sweater that she won't remove. In fact, she won't let him so much as roll up her sleeves, despite severe pain in her arm and shoulder. The Italian-born widow is more typical of the women Mr. Packman works with. "She had a very formal upbringing, as an Italian girl in an Italian family," he explains. "Rosa, are you going to let me take off your sweater so I can work on your arm?" he asks. "No," she replies curtly, waving him away. Undaunted, Mr. Packman takes her arm -- woolen sleeve and all -- and proceeds to loosen the muscles. Then, he massages her fully clothed shoulders. "You don't want to take off your clothes? Fine. I go with it," he says. Anyway, he says, young people today are too quick to bare all. In his private practice, "a lot of them don't hesitate, they take their whole nightie off," he says. "I tell them, 'I don't need all that.' "

But at Providence Rest, he says, modesty is the last frontier. The elderly, even patients with dementia, finds ways to make it clear they don't want to be touched in certain areas. And some patients simply refuse to have a massage by a man, so he has trained female assistants to handle those cases. Still, there are a few patients who are willing to let their inhibitions, and perhaps an article of clothing, slip away. Among them is Helen Filardo, 89, who has been receiving regular treatment for soreness in her back, arms, legs, and even, lately, her hands. As she arrives, she cheerfully announces: "I have to strip." So with some gentle assistance from Mr. Packman, she peels off her sweater and lets him massage her bare shoulder and back.

Antioxidants can help blunt the damage of chemotherapy

By Dr. Patrick Massey | Daily Herald Columnist Published: 3/10/2008 12:08 AM

Can antioxidants improve outcomes for patients undergoing treatment for cancer? Although the medical research is far from conclusive, there is increasing evidence judicious use of antioxidants may improve outcomes and survival in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

One of the mechanisms by which chemotherapy kills cancer cells is believed to be through the production of very destructive molecules called free radicals. These free radicals can cause damage to the cell membrane as well as the DNA.

Unfortunately, chemotherapy is not specific enough to only attack cancer cells. Many healthy cells are also damaged or killed. Antioxidants help to protect against the damage caused by these free radicals.

It has been theorized that, during chemotherapy, the use of antioxidants may actually help to protect tumor cells as well as healthy cells. Although this may be theoretically valid, there have been very few studies to support this line of thinking. Over the past 20 years, there has been an increasing awareness within the medical community that the judicious use of antioxidants may actually be beneficial for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

A recent, published review of the medical literature on the use of antioxidants during chemotherapy yielded interesting results. This article, published in Cancer Treatment Reviews, was a collaborative effort spearheaded by Dr. Keith Block, a nationally recognized expert in cancer and alternative medicine, and researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the world-renowned M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The researchers reviewed 845 articles in the medical literature; 19 were found to be of good scientific and clinical quality and were included. The studies evaluated the effect of a number of antioxidants -- including vitamin C, vitamin E and N-acetylcysteine -- on several parameters of clinical success including survival and overall toxicity. None of the studies demonstrated that the use of antioxidants during cancer treatment had any negative consequences on the specific cancer therapy. Indeed, those who used antioxidants during their cancer therapy had overall increased survival, better response to the medical therapies and fewer side effects and toxicities.

Sometimes doctors must limit chemotherapy because the patient can't tolerate the side effects. The nausea, fatigue, bone marrow suppression, insomnia and bowel problems can be significant. Evidence suggests patients who complete an entire course of chemotherapy have significantly greater survival. Studies have also suggested that the use of antioxidants may reduce side effects and allow a patient to complete an entire course of chemotherapy. Some research even suggests that fish oil and resveratrol (a bioflavonoid from purple grapes) may actually improve the effectiveness of some types of chemotherapy.

There is much more research to be done, but there will come a day when specific antioxidants are given in conjunction with chemotherapy. Until that time, talk with your oncologist or consult a medical expert in this area. In Illinois, there are a number of local medical physicians with fellowship training in complementary and alternative medicine.

AP probe finds drugs in drinking water

Steve - this is a long article so we just highlighted specific excerpts.

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.

And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies — which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public — have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.

"We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal government doesn't require any testing and hasn't set safety limits for drugs in water. Of the 62 major water providers contacted, the drinking water for only 28 was tested. Among the 34 that haven't: Houston, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Phoenix, Boston and New York City's Department of Environmental Protection, which delivers water to 9 million people.

The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.

"People think that if they take a medication, their body absorbs it and it disappears, but of course that's not the case," said EPA scientist Christian Daughton, one of the first to draw attention to the issue of pharmaceuticals in water in the United States.

Some drugs, including widely used cholesterol fighters, tranquilizers and anti-epileptic medications, resist modern drinking water and wastewater treatment processes. Plus, the EPA says there are no sewage treatment systems specifically engineered to remove pharmaceuticals.

One technology, reverse osmosis, removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use and leaves several gallons of polluted water for every one that is made drinkable.

Another issue: There's evidence that adding chlorine, a common process in conventional drinking water treatment plants, makes some pharmaceuticals more toxic.

Ask the pharmaceutical industry whether the contamination of water supplies is a problem, and officials will tell you no. "Based on what we now know, I would say we find there's little or no risk from pharmaceuticals in the environment to human health," said microbiologist Thomas White, a consultant for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

But at a conference last summer, Mary Buzby — director of environmental technology for drug maker Merck & Co. Inc. — said: "There's no doubt about it, pharmaceuticals are being detected in the environment and there is genuine concern that these compounds, in the small concentrations that they're at, could be causing impacts to human health or to aquatic organisms."

Recent laboratory research has found that small amounts of medication have affected human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells and human breast cancer cells. The cancer cells proliferated too quickly; the kidney cells grew too slowly; and the blood cells showed biological activity associated with inflammation.

Also, pharmaceuticals in waterways are damaging wildlife across the nation and around the globe, research shows. Notably, male fish are being feminized, creating egg yolk proteins, a process usually restricted to females. Pharmaceuticals also are affecting sentinel species at the foundation of the pyramid of life — such as earth worms in the wild and zooplankton in the laboratory, studies show.

"We know we are being exposed to other people's drugs through our drinking water, and that can't be good," says Dr. David Carpenter, who directs the Institute for Health and the Environment of the State University of New York at Albany.

Steve - the AP did a fantastic job reporting on this issue because it will draw attention to something that has been overlooked for a long time now. Public Health professionals know that contaminants of all kinds exist in our drinking water: pesticides, heavy metals, fire retardants, rocket fuel, hormones, and of course, drugs taken by humans and animals. However, while many of these contaminants can be filtered, most medications are not. The long-term effects of low exposure is unknown. Although, I think a logical person can do the math. This is not good. So the question is, what can we do while we are waiting for our bang-up government to filter out these contaminants?

  1. Make sure you are methylating/detoxifying properly. You really need to work with your health professionals to assess this.
  2. Practice prevention to limit exposure. If you can use a reverse osmosis filter for your home drinking water supply, this will help. Make your environment and lifestyle cater to reducing overall toxic load.
  3. Supplement with specific nutrients that are safe and effective detoxifiers, such as a complete folate complex, brassica vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and maca root, the herb silymarin, the co-enzyme glutathione and its precursor N-Acetyl-Cysteine, chlorella, and more. Please consult with a health professional to assess your individual needs.

Probiotic hope for kidney stones

Treating patients with the healthy bacteria may be an effective way of reducing their risk of repeatedly developing painful kidney stones. People naturally carrying the bacterium Oxalobacter formigenes were found to be 70% less likely to have problems. Researchers at Boston University, in the US, are now investigating the possibility of using the bacteria as a "probiotic" treatment.

The study features in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Kidney stones are small, hard lumps formed of waste products contained in the urine. They normally range in size from a grain of sand to a pearl. Up to 80% of kidney stones are predominately composed of a compound called calcium oxalate.

Life without sugar - Bonnie quoted.

Chicago Tribune
Qualities of Life

Stop! Don't reach for that diet soda!

Julie Deardorff
March 9, 2008

Although we all would be healthier if we cut sugar and sweeteners out of our diet, it's a tall order. Humans are hard-wired for sweetness.

But since 1985, the annual per-person consumption of all added sugars -- everything from beet sugar to high-fructose corn syrup -- has climbed 30 pounds, from 128 pounds to 158 pounds. The result of this national sugar rush is an epidemic of inflammatory-related disorders, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

"Most Americans' taste buds are so completely out of whack that we don't know what tastes sweet," said Connie Bennett, author of "Sugar Shock" (Penguin, $14.95) "When you kick artificial sweeteners or sugar, your taste buds begin to change. Vegetables such as celery, jicama and sweet potatoes taste much better and more interesting."

Tapering down is your best bet, because stopping "cold turkey" may cause withdrawal symptoms, sometimes severe. Here are a few ways to get started.

* "Unless there's an overwhelming reason [such as diabetes] to cut sugar consumption quickly, begin by avoiding sugary snacks, foods and drinks until dinner," said nutritionist Bonnie Minsky of Nutritional Concepts in Chicago. "Eating protein three times daily and substituting sugary snacks with nuts/seeds/dried fruits will prevent blood-sugar lows. Look forward to one sugary 'treat' (dark chocolate) after a balanced dinner. Keep cookies, cakes, and candies out of the house."

* To wean yourself off diet soda, stick to two a day and don't drink it between meals to satisfy thirst, said Ann Louse Gittleman, whose book "Get the Sugar Out" (Random House, $13.95) contains 501 ways to reduce sugar consumption. "If you drink it with food, you might be tempted to have something more nutritious. But don't use [soda] as a stimulant to keep you going."

* Drink half your body weight in ounces of water; when you crave something sweet, eat something sour, such as a pickle. Also, suck on cinnamon sticks or cloves, Gittleman said.

* If you're a real sugarholic, substitute two pieces of dried fruit, a fig or date. "Eat a little of everything and a lot of nothing," Gittleman said. "And eat it after a full meal where you have fat and protein to prevent your blood sugar from dipping."

* Delay, distance and decode your craving, Bennett advised. "If you want diet soda, first get a glass of water. Then distance yourself from the tempting soda machine."

* Find an acceptable alternative. Gittleman recommends Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea and carbonated or regular water with a slice of lemon or orange.

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune


Your sweet tooth craves it, but your body doesn't need it.
Stevia is the latest alternative to ease you through withdrawal

Julie Deardorff
March 9, 2008

Sugar, sorry to say, can make us sick. The most popular alternative -- artificial sweeteners -- have long posed health concerns and may lead to weight gain.

Enter stevia, a calorie-free herb said to be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

In what will surely spice up the decades-long debate over sugar substitutes, companies as large as Coca-Cola and as obscure as Seattle-based Zevia say stevia's time has come. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration isn't about to make things easy for consumers worried about sugar intake and often confused by the options.

Stevia has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years in Paraguay and Brazil and has been added to soft drinks, ice cream, pickles, candies and breads in Japan since the 1970s.

But the FDA has not approved it as a food additive, citing safety concerns. The European Union and Canada also don't allow food companies to add stevia to products.

"Reports have raised concerns about control of blood sugar and the effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular and renal systems," the FDA wrote in a warning letter to Hain Celestial, which included stevia as an ingredient in one of its teas.

But stevia, also called stevioside, is widely available -- and perfectly legal -- in the U.S. when it's purchased as a dietary supplement. It often can be found just a few aisles away from Equal, tucked among the vitamins, minerals and herbs. The sweet-leafed herb, derived from the bushy South American stevia rebaudiana plant, also is easily obtained via the Internet.

Stevia proponents believe this nonsensical situation -- stevia is acceptable as a dietary supplement but not as an ingredient -- has kept Americans in the dark about the herb's candy-like leaves, which can have a menthol-like bitter aftertaste. When used in low amounts for sweetening, stevia has zero calories, is not carcinogenic -- on the contrary, it has been shown to reduce breast cancer in rats -- and does not accumulate in the body, proponents say.

The lethal dose is very high, according to Belgian researcher Jan Geuns, author of "Stevioside: A safe sweetener and possible new drug for treatment of the metabolic syndrome," a paper he presented at the 2006 American Chemical Society national meeting.

"Stevia is completely safe," he said.

What worries stevia critics is that Americans tend to have a problem with moderation. Stevia might be fine if it's used twice a day in a cup of tea. But "if stevia were marketed widely and used in diet sodas, it would be consumed by millions of people and that might pose a public health threat," said the consumer watchdog group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Regardless, Americans want a natural alternative. Nearly 7 of 10 U.S. adults say they want to cut down or avoid sugar completely, according to the market research firm The NPD Group, a concern that has driven up the use of artificial sweeteners. But two-thirds are concerned about the safety of sweeteners, according to another report.

The two leading chemical sweeteners, aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and sucralose (Splenda), have been approved by the FDA, but are still highly controversial.

Whole Foods says it won't carry products containing sucralose, which is made by chlorinating sugar, because it believes many of the safety studies were commissioned by those who had a financial interest in its approval. And the granddaddy of the group, saccharin (Sweet'n Low), is a petroleum derivative that has been banned in Germany and France for almost a century.

"I've seen a shift in consciousness" about sugar substitutes, said Ann Louise Gittleman, author of "Get the Sugar Out" (Random House, $13.95). Gittleman recently updated her 1996 book to include more information on high-fructose corn syrup as well as sugar's effect on aging and cancer.

"It's part of people becoming more aware of toxins in the environment on all levels," she said. "Try as we might, you can't trick the body or Mother Nature."

When we do try, by using no- or low-calorie artificial sweeteners, for example, it often backfires. A recent study by Purdue University researchers showed that artificial sweeteners can make you fat because the body is programmed to associate sweet tastes with calories consumed. When the natural connection is broken -- false sweetness isn't followed by lots of calories -- the metabolic system is confused and people may eat more, or expend less energy than they normally would, said study co-author Susan Swithers.

Cue stevia. For Jessica Newman, 37, the intensely sweet leaf that can be dropped in tea, coffee or oatmeal was exactly what she needed to break her daily habit of five Diet Cokes.

An attorney, mother of three and marathon runner in Seattle, she fueled herself on diet soda and Powerbars, but longed for a healthy alternative to artificial sweeteners.

When she found stevia, she became such a proponent that she, along with her husband, Derek, and their friend Ian Eisenberg, developed a stevia-based dietary supplement called Zevia. The five-calorie sugar-free beverage, which is essentially a soft drink but can't be labeled as such, has no artificial flavors, food dyes or phosphoric acid.

Demand has been brisk; Zevia is in a dozen states and within a month is expected to available at Sunset Foods stores in Chicago's north and northwest suburbs. Newman says they've received e-mail orders from every state and currently are offering a free six-pack to those willing to pay the shipping charges.

"Many of the people who are responding to Zevia already know about stevia and the dangers of artificial sweeteners," Newman said. "We think we're offering a choice to kick the diet soda habit. We call it 'nature's answer to diet soda.'"

Coke, meanwhile, has filed several dozen patent applications for the ingredient and teamed up with Cargill to develop its own stevia product called Rebiana. It plans to introduce Rebiana in countries where the ingredient is already approved and petition the FDA to allow stevia to be used as a food additive.

"Stevia is wonderful; it has no glycemic properties, actually enhances blood sugar balance, is high in soluble fiber, and full of antioxidants," said Chicago nutritionist Bonnie Minsky of Nutritional Concepts.

But not everyone wants to give up an occasional Diet Coke. Fifteen-year-old Christine Elizabeth Cauthen started a Facebook group called "I Drink Artificial Sweeteners and I'm Proud of It" after a friend planned to swear them off because studies have linked them to cancer.

"If you think about it, a lot of things in life cause cancer," Cauthen said in an e-mail. "I don't see anything wrong with having [Diet Coke] every once in a while."

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More choices to help you move away from sugar

Although sugar is still sugar, the following can be used in small amounts in place of artificial sweeteners until you're ready to give it up altogether. The products below are available at most health food stores and gourmet or specialty food stores. Online, visit Check Asian or Mediterranean grocery stores for ground date sugar. Prices listed are approximate

BROWN RICE SYRUP Amber colored, with a mild butterscotch or caramel-like flavor; it's about half as sweet as sugar and is gluten free, according to Connie Bennett, author of "Sugar Shock." The syrup is made by fermenting cooked brown rice with enzymes. After straining off the liquid, the process converts the rice starches into about 50 percent soluble complex carbohydrates, 45 percent maltose and 3 percent glucose.

Cost: $5 to $6 for 16 ounces.

Real maple syrup

A little drop goes a long way. It's made by boiling down maple sap and contains a full complement of minerals and is particularly rich in potassium and calcium, said Ann Louse Gittleman, author of "Get the Sugar Out."

Cost: $7 to $10 per pint.


Although it has more calories and raises the blood sugar even more than white sugar, Jonny Bowden lists raw, unfiltered honey in his book "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" (Fair Winds Press, $24.99) because it contains enzymes and phytonutrients and has some reported medicinal benefits. But it could cause allergic reactions to pollen-sensitive individuals.

Cost: $3.50 and up -- way up -- for 16 ounces.

Blackstrap molasses

Another Bowden favorite, molasses is the thick syrup that's left after sugar beets or cane is processed for table sugar. Blackstrap contains the lowest sugar content of the molasseses and has a bitter-tart flavor. It has good-for-you ingredients, but few consume enough of the strong-flavored syrup to benefit.

Cost: $5 to $6 for 16 ounces.

Sorghum syrup

The National Sweet Sorghum Producers and Processors Association makes this very clear: Sorghum syrup is not the same as molasses, a byproduct of the sugar-making process. Sorghum syrup comes from sorghum cane: Juices are extracted and then concentrated through evaporation. Genuine sorghum contains nutrients such as iron, calcium and potassium. The association recommends substituting sorghum cup for cup in any recipe or dish that calls for molasses, honey, corn syrup or maple syrup.

Cost: $8 to $12 for 16 ounces.

Date sugar

If you simply can't do without sugar, this is Gittleman's favorite stand-in. It's made from pulverized dried dates; although it has the consistency of sugar, it isn't refined like sugar. It also contains fiber and is high in many minerals. One tablespoon of date "sugar" is counted as one fruit exchange in the diabetic exchange system. Because it has an intense flavor, you might be inclined to use less.

Cost: $6 to $8 for 12 ounces.

---------- Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune