Friday, February 27, 2009

Antidepressant therapies to try before medication

For those determined to try something natural before going the traditional pharmaceutical route for the treatment of depression, here are a few of the best therapies. A complete list can be tailored to your needs by meeting with Bonnie or in our upcoming Action Plan on Anxiety/Stress.

Be aware that some therapies require more time and patience to bring results. You should always consult with a health professional to help guide decisions that are best for you as an individual.

There is increasingly strong evidence for its use as a treatment for depression. The antidepressant effect of regular physical exercise has been compared to potent antidepressants like Sertraline.

Heal the Gut
We have touched upon the Gut/Brain Connection (Update) in several of our eNewsletters. Unless the gut is functioning optimally, depressive symptoms are hard to kick. Address gastrointestinal disorders from the inside out, which starts with diet and lifestyle.

Balance Your Blood Sugar
Blood sugar imbalance creates an inflammatory state which alters neurotransmitter brain chemistry. Never eating a carbohydrate alone, limiting sugar intake, and loading up with antiinflammatory nutrients
will go far in ameliorating this issue.

Vitamin D, Magnesium, B-Complex, and EPA/DHA
Vitamin D is essential for mood regulation, especially during the fall and winter months. Magnesium is "nature's valium" and is a regulator for multiple neurological functions. B vitamins play a role in the production of certain neurotransmitters, which are important in regulating mood and other brain functions. Folic Acid, in men in particular, may be helpful for mood. EPA/DHA has significant research for helping women more so than men.

S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in all cells. SAMe plays a role in many biological reactions by transferring its methyl group to DNA, proteins, phospholipids and biogenic amines. This could result in SAMe indirectly influencing neurotransmitter metabolism and receptor function.

5-HTP and L-Tyrosine, the Safe Neurotransmitter Precursors
5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and L-Tyrosine are natural alternatives to traditional antidepressants. When the body sets about manufacturing serotonin, it first makes 5-HTP. When the body sets about manufacturing dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, it first makes L-Tyrosine. Supplementing with these precursors must be overseen by a licensed health professional with expertise in neurotransmitters because there are specific vitamins and minerals needed to accompany the precursors or the risk for severe deficiency may occur.

Diet drug Xenical (Orlistat) enourages poor eating habits

Orlistat is a lipase inhibitor that reduces the intestinal absorption of fat and may enhance the effects of dietary and behavioral therapy on weight loss and maintenance. The present study examined the effect of orlistat on dietary intake, especially fat intake, during long-term weight maintenance.

The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics study concluded that the use of orlistat compared with placebo in a lifestyle modification program does not appear to influence dietary intake and, in fact, worsened dietary habits. Subjects that chose to take orlistat after the end of the program did not comply with dietary recommendations and this may hamper the effect of the drug.

Steve - this is not surprising to see. For what little effect this drug has, it is completely wasted on those who think they can now eat whatever they want (similar to the statin drug effect).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

New study purports vitamin E, selenium may alter genes in prostate cancer

Selenium and vitamin E may offer protection against prostate cancer by changing the expression of certain genes in prostates linked to tumors, says a new study from Texas. Writing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, scientists from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston report that exposure of biopsy samples from people with cancer to vitamin E, selenium or both, expressed different genes, with the combined exposure producing results similar to that observed in people with no prostate cancer. “To the best of our knowledge, this study was the first detailed systematic pathological interrogation to be completed in preoperative patients with favorable risk prostate cancer,” wrote lead author Dimitra Tsavachidou.

A number of studies, most notably the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer study and the Alpha-tocopherol, Beta-carotene Cancer Prevention study, have reported that the nutrients, alone or in combination, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Despite great promise over vitamin E and selenium, recent results from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) reported no significant differences between any of the groups in relation to prostate cancer risk. The results were greeted with disappointment, while many in both academia and industry indicating that, given positive results from previous clinical trials and epidemiological studies, the design of SELECT, including the supplements used, may have undermined the results.

The new data from Texas adds to the debate and appears to indicate that, at a gene expression level at least, vitamin E and selenium do offer protection against prostate cancer. The door creaks open again Tsavachidou and her co-workers took prostate biopsy samples from surgically removed prostate after pre-operative treatment with vitamin supplements in order to investigate if there are any effects on gene expression. The researchers report that the expression of certain genes did differ between tumor samples from patients who had taken vitamin E (400 IU, all-rac-alpha-tocopherol), selenium (200 micrograms of L-selenomethionine), both supplements, or placebo.

So, where do we stand? In an insightful accompanying editorial in the JNCI, Eric Klein, MD, from the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute in Ohio, said the new study is “… noteworthy for demonstrating that even short-term exposure (i.e., 3 – 6 weeks) to these agents can affect expression of a majority of the genes interrogated and, in the robust demonstration of the utility of the preprostatectomy model, for deriving information on modulation of biomarkers.” “Certainly, the findings lend credence to the previous evidence that selenium and vitamin E might be active as cancer preventatives,” added Dr Klein. In an attempt to rationalize the differences between epidemiological and in vitro studies and randomized trials like SELECT, Klein said that randomized controlled trials “do not always validate what we believe biology indicates and that our model systems are imperfect measures of clinical outcomes in the real world”.

Prenatal vitamins lack enough iodine

Many brands of multivitamins for pregnant women may not contain all the iodine they claim, potentially putting babies at risk of poor brain development, a new study suggests. Tests on 60 brands that listed iodine as an ingredient on their labels found many fell short of the stated amount. The study was done by scientists at the Boston University Iodine Research Laboratory. Results were reported in a letter published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine. Pregnant and nursing women need 220 to 290 micrograms of iodine a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Expecting mothers who don't get enough can put their babies at greater risk of mental retardation and growth, hearing and speech problems. The American Thyroid Association recommends that pregnant women take a daily dose of prenatal multivitamins containing 150 micrograms of iodine, which is needed for proper thyroid function.

There is no law requiring vitamin makers to add iodine to prenatal multivitamins, which are available by prescription or bought over-the-counter as dietary supplements. Boston University scientists last year looked at 223 prenatal multivitamins available by prescription or sold over-the-counter in the United States. About half of them — 114 — listed iodine on their labels. Prescription prenatal vitamins face more stringent government scrutiny than their supplement counterparts, which do not have to be proven safe before they are sold. However, researchers found problems with both types when they tested iodine levels in 60 prescription and over-the-counter prenatal multivitamins.

Based on the study's findings, pregnant women should take prenatal multivitamins that contain potassium iodide instead of kelp, said Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, one of the researchers. Dr. Alex Stagnaro-Green, who specializes in pregnancy thyroid problems at the Touro University College of Medicine in New Jersey, said the findings point out a problem in vitamin marketing and urged the Food and Drug Administration to make iodine a mandatory ingredient in all prenatal multivitamins.

Bonnie - this is another reason why I only recommend the Metagenics Fem Prenatal and Wellness Essentials for Pregnancy. So many pregnancy multis are lacking in one or more nutrients. The two Metagenics products contain the ideal amount of every nutrient, including potassium iodide (175 mcg).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Drugs (other than statins) that deplete CoQ10

In February, we notified clients who take, or at one time, took statin medications (see email below). New research has shed light on the devastating effects that may occur if not supplementing with Co-Enzyme Q10 (Comprehensive Paper on Statins Adverse Effects Released and Cholesterol-Reducing Drugs May Lessen Brain Function).

What we forgot to mention is that there are medications other than statins that deplete CoQ10. Here is the list:

Amitryptyline (Elavil)
Beta Blockerss
Glipizide (Glucotrol)
Glyburide (Micronase)
Haloperidol (Haldol)
Imipramine (Tofranil)
Nortryptyline (Pamelor)
Tolazemide (Tolinase)
Trimipramine (Surmontil)
and of course, the entire class of Statins

Most Complete Review of Statin Safety Published.

You are receiving this email alert because our records show that you currently or may have at one time taken statin medication. If you are not taking statins, please ignore this alert unless you know a family member, friend, or co-worker who could benefit.

Find Bonnie's comments at the end of the article.
A paper co-authored by Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and director of UC San Diego's Statin Study group cites nearly 900 studies on the adverse effects of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) in American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs. The paper provides the most complete picture to date of reported side effects of statins, showing the state of evidence for each.

The paper also helps explain why certain individuals have an increased risk for such adverse effects. "Muscle problems are the best known of statin drugs' adverse side effects," said Golomb. "But cognitive problems and peripheral neuropathy, or pain or numbness in the extremities like fingers and toes, are also widely reported." A spectrum of other problems, ranging from blood glucose elevations to tendon problems, can also occur as side effects from statins. The paper cites clear evidence that higher statin doses or more powerful statins - those with a stronger ability to lower cholesterol - as well as certain genetic conditions, are linked to greater risk of developing side effects.

"Physician awareness of such side effects is reportedly low," Golomb said. "Being vigilant for adverse effects in their patients is necessary in order for doctors to provide informed treatment decisions and improved patient care." The paper also summarizes powerful evidence that statin-induced injury to the function of the body's energy-producing cells, called mitochondria, underlies many of the adverse effects that occur to patients taking statin drugs.

Coenzyme Q10 ("Q10") is a compound central to the process of making energy within mitochondria and quenching free radicals. However, statins lower Q10 levels because they work by blocking the pathway involved in cholesterol production - the same pathway by which Q10 is produced. Statins also reduce the blood cholesterol that transports Q10 and other fat-soluble antioxidants. "The loss of Q10 leads to loss of cell energy and increased free radicals which, in turn, can further damage mitochondrial DNA," said Golomb.

Because statins may cause more mitochondrial problems over time - and as these energy powerhouses tend to weaken with age-new adverse effects can also develop the longer a patient takes statin drugs. "The risk of adverse effects goes up as age goes up, and this helps explain why," said Golomb. "This also helps explain why statins' benefits have not been found to exceed their risks in those over 70 or 75 years old, even those with heart disease."

High blood pressure and diabetes are linked to higher rates of mitochondrial problems, so these conditions are also clearly linked to a higher risk of statin complications, according to Golomb and co-author Marcella A. Evans, of UC San Diego and UC Irvine Schools of Medicine.

Bonnie - how more does the cardiology community need to see? The least they can do is force the drug makers to put CoQ10 back into statins. The statin drug manufacturers had wanted to put CoQ10 in the original formula, but decided against it because they deemed it "too expensive." That decision may cost Big Pharma much more in injury litigation. If you are currently taking a statin and are not supplementing with at least 100 mg. of high quality CoQ10 that crosses the blood-brain barrier, I would highly recommend you doing so, even if you are not exhibiting symptoms. As this study reports, symptoms may not appear for a long time.

Cholesterol-reducing drugs may lessen brain function

Research by an Iowa State University scientist suggests that cholesterol-reducing drugs known as statins may lessen brain function.

Yeon-Kyun Shin, a biophysics professor in the department of biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology, says the results of his study show that drugs that inhibit the liver from making cholesterol may also keep the brain from making cholesterol, which is vital to efficient brain function.

"If you deprive cholesterol from the brain, then you directly affect the machinery that triggers the release of neurotransmitters," said Shin. "Neurotransmitters affect the data-processing and memory functions. In other words -- how smart you are and how well you remember things."

Shin's findings will be published in this February's edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

It is the function of reducing the synthesis of cholesterol that Shin's study shows may also harm brain function.

"If you try to lower the cholesterol by taking medicine that is attacking the machinery of cholesterol synthesis in the liver, that medicine goes to the brain too. And then it reduces the synthesis of cholesterol which is necessary in the brain," said Shin.

In his experiments, Shin tested the activity of the neurotransmitter-release machinery from brain cells without cholesterol present and measured how well the machinery functioned. He then included cholesterol in the system and again measured the protein function. Cholesterol increased protein function by five times.

"Our study shows there is a direct link between cholesterol and the neurotransmitter release," said Shin. "And we know exactly the molecular mechanics of what happens in the cells. Cholesterol changes the shape of the protein to stimulate thinking and memory."

While reducing the cholesterol in the brain may make you have less memory and cognitive skills, more cholesterol in the blood does not make people smarter. Because cholesterol in the blood cannot get across the blood brain barrier, there is no connection to the amount of cholesterol a person eats and brain function.

Bonnie - as many of you know, this is not the first time we have heard of this issue associated with statins.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Spring Allergy To-Do List

It is hard to think about spring in the Midwest right now. However, in order to make it through spring allergy season, regardless of where you live, you must prep your body now.

An exhilarating development regarding allergies has come from the unlikeliest of sources, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, one of the most revered allergy journals in the world. In a stunning acknowledgment, the journal describes the benefits of specific vitamins, minerals, and herbs that help reduce allergy symptoms. This is a gargantuan leap for the ultra-conservative allergy community. One of the main substances highlighted is quercetin, the bioflavanoid we have recommended for over 15 years in two specific products, Allergy Fighters and Quercetin + C. Before we share our Spring Allergy To-Do List, here are the reviews highlights.

Complementary and alternative medicine: herbs, phytochemicals, and vitamins and their immunologic effects. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, February 2009

Reducing Overall Allergic Symptoms
-Vitamin D, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols, not just alpha), and especially the bioflavanoid Quercetin, have shown to be positively associated with overall reduction of allergic symptoms.

-Direct quote from the study: "30% to 50% reduction in childhood asthma just by incorporating fish into a child's diet."
-A study of 4000 children showed subjects with asthma had significantly decreased levels of vitamin C.

Atopic Dermatitis
-Japanese Knotweed-derived Resveratrol may have a positive effect.
-Direct quote from the study: "one thing is clear: probiotics are vital to the healthy maturation of the immune system after birth, as has been demonstrated in patients with atopic dermatitis."

Allerghic Rhinitis
-Butterbur, Spirulina, Perilla Seed have shown improvement in symptoms.

Final Comment
-"Some Complementary and Alternative Medicine practices can favorably work in a complementary fashion in treating symptoms of allergic and immune disorders."

Bonnie - it is a major step for this incredibly conservative group of allergists to open up to Complementary and Alternative Medicine!

Spring Allergy To-Do List

Understanding That Food Cross-Reactors Play a Major Role

According to an American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology study in November 2008, 64% of the patients hospitalized due to severe atopic dermatitis demonstrate a clinically relevant allergy caused by pollen associated foods (otherwise known as a cross-reaction). The most frequent were to hazelnut, raw apple, almonds, walnuts, and carrots.

For those with pollen, grass, and mold allergies, you must be vigilant in limiting cross-reactors for a period of 4-6 weeks during the height of the season. There is a wonderful Chicago area website that presents the most accurate daily count of pollen, grass, and mold levels (starts tracking mid-March). If you live outside of the Chicagoland area, usually does a pretty good job of gauging pollen levels.

Foods and topical products to avoid or greatly minimize if tree pollen is an issue:

Almond, Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Carrot, Cherry, Coconut, Fennel, Hazelnut, Kiwi, Peach, Peanut, Pears, Plums, Tomato, Tree nuts, White potato. Completely eliminate Peanut, Tree nuts, and Tomato if symptomatic.

Foods and topical products to avoid or greatly minimize if grass is an issue:
Orange, Peanut, Tomato, and these members of the grass family:
Bamboo shoots, Barley, Corn, Hops, Kamut, Lemongrass, Millet, Molasses, Oats, Rye, Sorghum, Spelt, Sugar Cane, Triticale, Wheat, Wild rice, Alcohol (beer, Scotch whiskey, bourbon, rum), Grain vodkas, Barley malt

Foods and topical products to avoid or greatly minimize if mold is an issue:
Mushrooms, Peanut/Peanut Butter, Heavily Fermented or Moldy Foods (such as blue cheese), and Whole Wheat. Eliminate Peanut and Whole Wheat completely if mold is also an issue.

If you have diagnosed food allergies (IgE) and/or food intolerants (IgG) that do not appear above, they should be strictly avoided as well.

Avoiding sugar and excess carbohydrates will keep your immune system strong.

If your symptoms are mainly sinus-related, Nutribiotic (a natural antifungal), Neti-Pots, or thimerosal-free saline spray 1-2x daily have been found to be helpful.

If you suspect food intolerance is an issue, ask us about the Biotrition Cytotoxic Food Test that screens over 200 foods, spices, and food chemicals with one blood draw.

Several weeks before spring allergy season begins, start loading with the ideal allergic-support supplements for you. We can help individualize these supplements to meet your needs.

Does all of this seem like a daunting task? Let us tailor a special spring allergy season menu to help get you through.

Promising therapy for allergy in the future:
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, Immunotherapy (oral or sublingual) has shown to help at least for short term desensitization. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Low Vitamin D levels increases risk of common cold

The largest study of its kind to date shows that vitamin D can prevent the common cold or the flu.

The finding is based on an assessment of vitamin D levels, nutritional habits and respiratory infection rates among nearly 19,000 American men and women.

Study author Dr. Adit Ginde, an assistant professor of surgery in the division of emergency medicine at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine said "our study provides support that lower levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk for respiratory infections, such as the common cold and the flu. And people who have pre-existing respiratory disease -- like asthma an emphysema -- appear to be at an increased risk for this association."

Ginde's team, from Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston, reports its findings in the Feb. 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Participants were aged 12 and up -- with an average age of 38 -- and three-quarters were white. All completed nutritional and health surveys and had physical examinations. Blood samples were taken to measure levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, considered to be the optimal measure of vitamin D status.

The researchers found that those with less than 10 nanograms of vitamin D per milliliter of blood, considered low, were nearly 40 percent more likely to have had a respiratory infection than those with vitamin D levels of 30 ng or higher. The finding was consistent across all races and ages.

In particular, people who had a history of asthma or some form of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were even more likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiencies.

Asthma patients with the lowest vitamin D levels had five times the risk for respiratory infection, and vitamin D-deficient COPD patients had twice the risk.

Bonnie - what is most encouraging is that they used a young subject base that were not already sick or had preexisting diseases.

B-vitamins help reduce risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial including 5442 female health care professionals 40 years or older with preexisting cardiovascular disease or 3 or more cardiovascular disease risk factors indicate that daily supplementation with 2.5 mg folic acid, 50 mg. pyridoxine (B-6), and 1 mg. cyanocobalamin (B-12) may reduce the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Archives of Internal Medicine, February 2009

Steve - this is in addition to positive data found for the combination of vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, selenium, lutein, and zinc for AMD. Sounds like it is pretty close to a multivitamin, huh?? While not optimal, the researchers used fairly absorbable sources of B-vitamins.

Warning over child ear infections

The future health of thousands of UK children could be affected because their ear infections are not being treated properly. Deafness Research UK says that antibiotics are given routinely in many cases, but often do not work. Children whose hearing is regularly affected may suffer developmental problems, but many parents are unaware of what to do, it said.

Deafness Research UK Dr Ian Williamson, a senior lecturer in general practice at Southampton University, said that too many GPs turned to antibiotics to treat the condition. He said: "Ear conditions and their root causes are not necessarily best tackled by antibiotics. "We are concerned that time pressure on the NHS - combined with a deeply held cultural myth by the public that antibiotics are a cure-all - means that many children and parents aren't receiving the best advice possible on how to treat and prevent ear infections."

Instead, Dr Williamson is urging the NHS to take a more "holistic" approach, with children suffering recurrent infections identified quickly so that other treatments can be provided. The charity also warned that overuse of antibiotics could help breed resistant bacteria and kill "good bacteria" in the nose and throat which actually helped prevent infection taking hold.

Steve - where have we heard this before?

Childhood trauma has life-long effect on genes and the brain

McGill University and Douglas Institute scientists have discovered that childhood trauma can actually alter your DNA and shape the way your genes work. This confirms in humans earlier findings in rats, that maternal care plays a significant role in influencing the genes that control our stress response.

Using a sample of 36 brains; 12 suicide victims who were abused; 12 suicide victims who were not abused and 12 controls, the researchers discovered different epigenetic markings in the brains of the abused group. These markings influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function, a stress-response which increases the risk of suicide.

This research builds upon findings published last May that showed how child abuse can leave epigenetic marks on DNA. The all-McGill study is set to be published in the February 22, issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

“We know from clinical experience that a difficult childhood can have an impact on the course of a person’s life”, said Dr. Turecki.

“Now we are starting to understand the biological implications of such psychological abuse,” added Dr. Szyf.

“The function of our DNA is not as fixed as previously believed, said Dr. Meaney. “The interaction between the environment and the DNA plays a crucial role in determining our resistance to stress thus the risk for suicide. Epigenetic marks are the product of this interaction.”

The researchers discovered that maternal care influences hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function in the rat through epigenetic programming of certain receptors in the brain. In humans, child abuse alters HPA stress responses and increases the risk for suicide.

In previous studies in laboratory rats, the group proved that simple maternal behavior such as mothers who licked their pups during early childhood has a profound effect on the epigenetic marks on specific genes and effects on behavior in ways that are sustained throughout life. However, these effects on gene expression and stress responses can also be reversed in adult life through treatments known to affect the epigenetic mark known as DNA methylation.

The brain samples in the latest study came from the Quebec Suicide Brain Bank, administered by Dr. Turecki of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. Research carried out on brain tissue can help develop intervention and prevention programs to help people suffering mental distress and who are at risk of committing suicide.

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Development (USA).

Bonnie - once again, epigenetics is at the forefront of science. Harmonizing our epigenetic modifiers are becoming the major preventative key.

Hope over peanut allergy 'cure'

A group of children with peanut allergies have had their condition effectively cured, doctors believe. A team from Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital exposed four children to peanuts over a six-month period, gradually building up their tolerance. By the end the children were eating the equivalent of five peanuts a day. It is the first time a food allergy has been desensitized in such a way, although a longer-term follow up is now needed to confirm the findings.

John Collard Allergy UK The Cambridge team started the children on tiny 5mg daily doses of peanut flour before they trained their bodies up to cope regularly with 800mg - the equivalent to five whole peanuts. Kate Frost, the mother of a nine-year-old who was one of the four participants, said: "It's very hard to describe how much of a difference it's made - not just in Michael's life, but for all of us.

The concept of desensitizing people to allergies has been successfully done with bee and wasp stings and pollen allergies, but this is the first time it has been achieved with a food-related allergy. The team have now expanded the study to include another 18 children and say there is no reason why the technique would not work for adults. John Collard, the clinical director of Allergy UK, said it was "an important step forward". "This could make a real difference, but at this stage it is too early to tell whether it will work for everyone. We need to see it used on more people and over a long period of time."

Bonnie - we have been tracking this method and the results so far seem encouraging. However, much larger trials need to be performed before this can be accepted as standard treatment.

Vitamin D supplements necessary

by Patrick B. Massey M.D., Ph.D.
Daily Herald

Clinical medicine is beginning to realize the importance of good nutrition in health. Over the past month, I have given three lectures to physicians and health care providers in the Alexian Brothers Hospital Network on the importance of vitamin D for the treatment and prevention of many illnesses.

Vitamin D is not really a vitamin. Since our bodies can make it, it is actually a hormone. However, we need a specific frequency of sunlight, ultraviolet B rays (UVB), to make vitamin D. The intensity of UVB rays varies with the season and how far north you live. In Chicago, the UVB rays are too weak for 4 to 6 months of the year to make vitamin D. And even in the summer, many of us spend most of our time indoors, avoiding UVB altogether. Other factors that can reduce vitamin D production or absorption include age, obesity, wearing sun block with an SPF of 8 or more, and intestinal, liver and kidney disease.

Fish oils are a robust source of vitamin D. Milk may have vitamin D added, but is far from adequate as the only dietary source. Therefore, we have to use supplements, but how much is enough? Generally, 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D is recommended. However, studies show that much more is needed, especially for those who live in the northern latitudes, like Chicago. Vitamin D binds to every cell in the body and can directly regulate how genes are expressed. Higher vitamin D levels have been linked to a reduced risk of colon, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease, seasonal affective disorder, depression and even the muscle pain associated with the cholesterol lowering drugs called statins. There is no single dose of vitamin D that is best for everyone.

What's most important is the level of vitamin D in the blood, which can be measured by a simple blood test. However, the "normal" ranges set by most laboratories in this part of the country are wrong. They are too low. The body has an internal mechanism for detecting if vitamin D levels are low. It seems that the low end of the body's normal range is 35 ng/ml. To get to this level, some people may need robust amounts of vitamin D, daily. Vitamin D toxicities are rare. To my knowledge, no one has ever died from taking vitamin D. Most of my patients have their vitamin D levels checked to make sure they are taking the right amount.

Patrick B. Massey M.D., Ph.D., is medical director of complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network.

Steve - Dr. Massey does a very good job of explaining the importance of vitamin D. He contributes a very solid column to our local Daily Herald.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yoplait® products to be 100 percent free of rBST milk

General Mills announced today that it has made the commitment to eliminate by August 2009 milk sourced from cows treated with rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), a synthetic hormone also referred to as rBGH, in the production of its category-leading Yoplait® yogurts.

Steve - now if we can just get them to remove the sugar, artificial sweeteners, and artificial fillers.

Nutritional counseling helps increase antioxidant levels

According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, a nutritional counseling program is capable of improving plasma levels of antioxidants even in a health-conscious population. Researchers explored the effects of increasing fruit and vegetable intake in 112 volunteers (86 percent women) who underwent targeted dietary counseling for three months. Compared to baseline, especially the intake of fruits was significantly improved after three months of intervention and mean plasma levels of lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, alpha- and beta-carotene, retinol, alpha-tocopherol and vitamin C, B6 were increased.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More zinc may mean less diabetes in women

Increased intakes of zinc may decrease the risk of type-2 diabetes by 28 per cent, according to a new study from Harvard. The results are published in the journal Diabetes Care. Zinc, one of the most plentiful trace elements in the body, second only to iron, mediates many physiological functions. It is believed to be essential for maintaining a healthy immune system; recent science suggests the mineral could also influence memory, muscle strength and endurance in adults. Zinc nutrition in very young children has been related to motor, cognitive and psychosocial function. The Harvard study involved 82,297 women aged between 33 and 60 taking part in the Nurses' Health Study. Over the course of 24 years, 6,030 cases of type-2 diabetes were documented. Women with the highest average dietary intakes of the mineral were 10 per cent less likely to develop diabetes, while women with the highest average total intakes had their risk reduced by 8 per cent. Further number crunching by the researchers took into account other potentially confounding factors, and showed that increasing intakes of the mineral were associated with a reduction up to 28 per cent.

Bonnie - a large scale study showing the benefits of a mineral? Why didn't this make front page news?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Vitamin deficiencies lead to loss of taste

By Barbara Quinn
The Monterey County Herald

"You just have no idea what it's like not to taste your food," an elderly woman told me recently. "I'm 94 years old and I'm losing my taste buds," she explained. Fascinating how taste works: Food and beverages release tiny molecules that stimulate nerve cells in our nose, mouth and throat. These cells then send messages to our brain, which figures out what taste we have experienced: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, or savory (also known as "umami," which rhymes with "sunami"). Taste cells are concentrated in "taste buds" in our mouth, tongue and throat. Those little bumps on your tongue contain taste buds, for example.

Food "flavor" is determined not only by taste but texture, temperature (hot coffee has a different flavor than cold coffee), and odor. For instance, if you hold your nose and eat a piece of chocolate you can identify the taste as sweet or bitter but you may not be able to detect its full flavor.

The good news: Although our senses of taste and smell decline as we get older, there are other treatable reasons for a loss of taste.

The bad news: Finding those reasons is not always easy.

"The mouth reflects the culmination of multiple stressors over the years," says one resource "and as the mouth ages, it is less able to tolerate these stressors."

For example, certain medications such as antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs can affect taste sensations. So can cigarette smoking. Other taste disorders can result from dental surgery or radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. And any disease that affects the nervous system—such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's—may also be associated with taste disorders.

Nutrition deficiencies can also contribute to a reduced ability to taste food. Here are a few to note:

• Folic acid (or folate)—abundant in legumes and vegetables and green leafy "foliage"—helps in the formation of new cells within the body. Interestingly, a deficiency of this vitamin can show up as a smooth, red tongue and resulting loss of taste sensation. Blood tests can detect if a deficiency of this vitamin exists.

• Vitamin B-12—a vitamin found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin (meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk)—is closely related to folic acid. So a deficiency of one is often linked to a deficiency of the other. A deficiency of vitamin B-12 may affect the nerves that carry taste sensations to the brain. Best to cook meat and other B-12 containing foods by another method.

• Thiamin—a B-vitamin found primarily in whole grain or enriched grain products—occupies a special site on nerve cells. A deficiency of thiamin can therefore interfere with normal taste sensations.

• Zinc—a trace mineral found in high amounts in oysters, beef and crab—supports several processes in the body, including the perception of taste. A deficiency of zinc can cause changes in taste and appetite.

What's the big deal? Taste provides an important function. It helps us know if we are eating something good or something spoiled. It encourages us to eat a variety of foods with a variety of nutrients. When food doesn't taste the way it is supposed to taste, it becomes difficult to eat foods that sustain health and vitality. Any problem you have with altered taste is worth checking out.

The Acai Berry scam

This recently appeared in the Chicago Tribune

Q: How do I pronounce "acai"? And is this fruit really as good as Oprah Winfrey says?

A: She has distanced herself from acai weight-loss products because of predictable marketing scams. They work like this: Ads using celebrity endorsements or free trial offers lure in consumers. But once hooked, customers find it's very difficult to cancel the contract; they're getting stuck with automatic delivery of more acai products every month or membership fees of $39 to $100 a month, according to the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Read the fine print," advised BBB President Steve Bernas.

Reporter Julie Deardorff:
After reading about the Acai berry scam in Sunday's Smart section of the Chicago Tribune, many of you emailed to say you'd fallen for it. "I was so angry when the second bottle arrived and I found out I had to pay for both bottles," wrote Barbara. "I did call and cancel and also wrote a letter documenting the cancel and requesting a written response. Needless to say, I have not received a written response." Now she's wondering what to do. She can start by contacting Tom Joyce at the Better Business Bureau for help. He's at or 312.245.2643.Courtesy of Chicago Tribune

Steve - as we had warned our clients a few years ago, the acai is way overhyped and now customers are being taken to the cleaners. The same goes for the multi-level Monavie products.

Sprints may be best for diabetes prevention

A few minutes of intense exercise a week is just as good as a half-hour of moderate physical activity a day for reducing a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes -- and may actually be even more effective, new research hints.

"It is possible to gain significant health benefits from only 7.5 minutes of exercise each week -- if that is all that you find the time to do," Dr. James A. Timmons of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, one of the researchers on the study, told Reuters Health.

"This is a dramatically different view from current thinking," he admitted.

Timmons and his team found that young sedentary men who did just 15 minutes of all-out sprinting on an exercise bike spread out over two weeks substantially improved their ability to metabolize glucose (sugar). Traditional aerobic exercise programs can boost sensitivity to the key blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin. The high-intensity program did this too, but it also directly reduced the men's blood sugar levels -- something that standard exercise programs have not been shown to do.

Recommendations for high intensity, short duration exercise could one day replace current physical activity guidelines, Timmons said. "Only large scale trials could prove this," he said. "But there is mounting evidence that doing this new protocol will deliver the same reductions in risk factors. The key thing with exercise is the more routine you make it, the more likely you will benefit." And doing seven minutes of exercise a week, every week, he added, may be better than doing three hours a week just a few times a year.

Steve - now I won't feel so self-conscious when I end my weekly outdoor jog in my neighborhood with sprints!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Arthritis: Chondroitin stops joint damage

Chondroitin has for a long time been regarded as a supplement that can slow the progress of osteoarthritis - and a new study in Arthritis & Rheumatism has proved it.

Researchers have discovered that chondroitin can stop joint damage if it's taken regularly for two years or more. It also reduces the pain from osteoarthritis (OA).

A research team from the University of Paris Descartes in Paris made the discovery when they tested chondroitin on a group of 622 OA patients, who were either given chondroitin or a placebo. They tested the progress of the disease with x-rays and the patients were also assessed for symptoms and pain.

Following two years of treatment, the chondroitin group had suffered significantly less damage in their joints, and pain was much lower than in the placebo group. Pain relief was also faster in the chondroitin group.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kick the Craving Consults

Our client April said it perfectly: "Eat to fuel your body, not your cravings."

Many of you have expressed difficulty overcoming your food cravings. It makes losing weight difficult. We have brand new nutritional tools to help you overcome this.

Bonnie is now booking Kick the Cravings Consults.

It is so simple. Just schedule a thirty minute appointment with Bonnie. Incorporating newly discovered satiety and weight-loss data, Bonnie will individualize a quick and easy protocol that complements the dietary changes you have already made.

  • Kick the Craving Consults are available only to current clients. New clients must do our 90 minute wellness evaluation first.

  • Kick the Craving Consults can be done in-office or by phone.

  • Call 847-498-3422 to set up the appointment. Specify that you would like a Kick the Craving Consult.

Medicare Blow to Virtual Colonoscopies

Medicare has tentatively decided not to pay for virtual colonoscopies, dealing a setback to a technique that some medical experts recommend as a more tolerable alternative to conventional colonoscopy in screening for colon cancer. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a decision posted on its Web site that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that virtual colonoscopy “improves outcomes in Medicare beneficiaries.

Virtual colonoscopy, formally known as CT colonography, uses noninvasive CT scans, which depend on X-rays to get images of the inside of the colon for abnormal growths called polyps. Supporters of CT scans denounced the decision. “It seems to defy logic,” said Dr. Perry J. Pickhardt, associate professor of radiology at the University of Wisconsin, who has consulted for some makers of software used to analyze the CT scans. Dr. Pickhardt said the virtual colonoscopy was “better, safer, faster, cheaper” than conventional colonoscopy. Dr. Durado Brooks, director for colorectal and prostate cancer at the American Cancer Society, said the decision would reduce the choices available. “There are certainly some patients who may opt not to be screened because they don’t want to have a colonoscopy,” Dr. Brooks said.

Bonnie - after recent research has shown virtuals to be just as effective, this potential ruling is unconscionable.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bonnie on Biodenticals

As a certified menopause educator, I thought it prudent to comment after hearing about Oprah Winfrey's show on bioidentical hormones.

Logic dictates that human identical, bio-identical products are the only acceptable products when we are restoring hormones or nutrients. Why use a product that acts like the real thing when you can get the real thing? Oprah's show, as well as the latest research study linking synthetic hormones to a higher risk of breast cancer, brings to the forefront the discussion of what is safe for women (and men, although I rarely counsel men on hormone therapy issues).

Bio-identical Estradiol (E2) delivered through the skin has been shown to decrease clots and risk of stroke and heart attacks, as opposed to E1, delivered through the mouth (i.e. Oral PremarinTM used in WHI) which increases clot heart attack and stroke risk because of the first pass through the liver which makes clotting factors.

The FDA has over 20 bio-identical hormone products approved and on the market such as Climara® patch, Vivelle® dot, Evamist® spray, and Prometrium® capsules (progesterone). They can not patent the hormone, since it is a natural product, however they patent the delivery systems ( i.e patch, dot, spray, gel).

At times one needs a 25 mg dose of progesterone, which is only available at the compounding pharmacy. At times one needs 100 mg of progesterone, which is available at CVS® and Walgreens®. At times one needs Estradiol at .05 mcg available as Climara patch at CVS and Walgreens. At times one needs a lower dose available compounded.

When choosing a compounding pharmacy check credentials, certifications, quality checks, sterility processes and membership in PCCA and other national organizations that assess their quality standards and adherence to the principles of compounding medicine.

My opinion is that oral hormones are far more risky than topical because the liver has to process them. The only bioidenticals I would consider would be the lowest dose topical.

If you are fearful of getting higher dose products, whether from a compounder or an FDA approved prescription, I recommend very mild dosing from a standardized cream or gel, such as Bezwecken Ostaderm (natural estrogen with progesterone) or Progonol (natural progesterone alone). I have worked with this doctor-owned company for 18 years and their safety record is excellent. I have personally used Ostaderm for 14 years.

If the mild topicals are not enough, to stop menopausal symptoms, I often recommend the very safe, non-hormonal Black Cohosh, and/or vitamin E vaginal suppositories.

Quality of life is important. Safety is important as well. I hope this helps your quest.