Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Big Pharma gobbling up vitamin makers

Steve  and Bonnie: After Proctor & Gamble's recent purchase of vitamin maker New Chapter, Germany's Bayer is set to buy U.S. vitamin maker Schiff Nutrition International for $1.2 billion. What does this mean? It depends on who you speak with. Some say Big Pharma is seeking stable sources of growth to complement its more volatile prescription drugs business. We say that Big Pharma is positioning itself to take advantage of more stringent supplement legislation if it ever comes to pass. Big Pharma railroaded draconian EU legislation which severely limits what supplements Europeans now have access to (many of the low dose brands allowed are owned by Big Pharma). If they can accomplish similar legislation in the U.S., it will allow Big Pharma to monopolize vitamins brands and push more meds.

Support for yeast/candida sufferers

A colleague reminded us of this piece that appeared in The New York Times in 2010. It is unusual to see anything in the media about yeast, so we felt it important to bring you this story once again. Make sure to read some of the 135 comments as well.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flavonoids' impact on prostate, gastric cancers

A study published October 18th in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that total dietary flavonoid intake was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of gastric cancer in women. Of the 477,312 subjects aged 35–70 years from 10 European countries, during an average follow-up of 11 years, researchers found an inverse association between total flavonoid intake and gastric cancer risk in women.

In another study, high total intake of flavonoids, was inversely associated with the risk for highly aggressive prostate cancer, according to data presented at the AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

Using data from 920 African-American men and 977 European-American men who were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, researchers found that those with the highest total intake of flavonoids had a 25 percent lower risk for aggressive prostate cancer compared with those men with the lowest flavonoid intake. In the study, no individual subclass of flavonoids appeared to be protective independently, suggesting that it is important to consume a variety of plant-based foods in the diet, rather than to focus on one specific type of flavonoid or flavonoid-rich food.

However, another study presented at the conference did single out a specific flavonoid: green tea. Prostate patients scheduled for a prostatectomy reduced their levels of disease-associated inflammation by drinking six cups of brewed green tea per day in the weeks preceding the operation.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Risk of obscure cancer higher in formula-fed babies

The risk for developing pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia increased the longer a baby was fed formula and the longer solid foods were delayed. For every month that a child was fed formula, taking into account other feeding practices, researchers found that the risk for this type of cancer was higher. The findings of the epidemiological study, presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, proposed that if a baby is fed only formula, he or she will not be getting any immune factors from the mother, which could be leading to this greater risk.

284 controls and 142 children from the Texas Children's Cancer Center and the National Children's Study in Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas, who had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) were studied. Compared with controls, children diagnosed with ALL started solid foods significantly later, more of their mothers smoked during pregnancy and they had a longer duration of formula feeding. The risk for developing ALL increased by 16 percent for every month of formula feeding.

Soft drinks raise stroke risk in women

Researchers examined the association between soft drink intake and risk of CVD in 39,786 Japanese men and women aged 40–59 years from 1990 to 2008. Soft drink intake was positively associated with risk of total stroke and more specifically ischemic stroke for women in the highest soft drink intake (almost every day) category compared with the lowest intake (never or rarely). Conclusion: Soft drink intake is associated with higher risk of ischemic stroke for women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 10/18/2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sucralose appearing in water supply

Researchers continue to investigate the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in the beach waters of Presque Isle State Park of Lake Erie and have added a new one to their list: sucralose. A chlorinated form of sucrose found in artificial sweeteners, sucralose is used in an estimated 4,500 products ranging from Halloween candies to diet sodas.

Studies suggest that approximately 95 percent of ingested sucralose is not metabolized by the body and is excreted into the water supply, said Dr. Amy Parente, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Mercyhurst University.

Many chlorinated compounds have been found to be toxic to humans and, the long-term effects of exposure have yet to be determined. Common practices aimed at removing contaminants from wastewater have not been shown to be successful at reducing levels of sucralose.

Parente's preliminary research has identified detectable levels of sucralose in local Lake Erie waters, which may pose concerns for the environment.

Sucralose in the water can have repercussions like altered water taste and biological health effects. Another problem is that sucralose in the environment can provide a false signal for nutrient availability so organisms feeling that their food supply is adequate show decreased foraging behavior, which can ultimately affect their ability to survive.

Bonnie: Lovely, isn't it?

Halloween Tip: Dry Ice Safety

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

70% of Parents Prefer Healthy Alternatiives to Halloween Candy

High carb diet not good for cognition

A diet high in carbohydrates and sugar may raise the risk for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in the elderly, whereas a diet high in fat and protein may reduce this risk. An "optimal balance" in the proportions of daily calories derived from carbohydrates, fat, and protein may help maintain neuronal integrity and optimal cognitive function in the elderly, according to a study in Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The high-carbohydrate intake affects how glucose and insulin function in the brain. Some experts describe mild cognitive impairment as having diabetes in the brain because the sugar affects your brain in a way that is not good if you have too much of it, so with carbohydrate, the authors think that's what could be happening. Whereas high intake of fruits, vegetables, a Mediterranean-style diet, and several micronutrients, including vitamins B, C, E, have been found to have beneficial effects.

Steve: Optimal? Where you heard that word before?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Magnesium critical for good bones

Courtesy of United Press International

Magnesium is the fourth-most abundant mineral in the body -- half is in the bones -- yet many, especially seniors, do not get enough, a U.S. food expert says. Magnesium is critical because it is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body," Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, trend watcher and creator of, said in a statement. "It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, keeps bones strong, as well as helping regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis." In more functional terms, magnesium is beneficial for stress relief, staying regular, women's health, energy, sleep, cardiovascular health and more, Lempert said. 

National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys in 1999-2000 and 1988-94 suggested older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults. In addition, magnesium absorption decreases and renal excretion of magnesium increases in older adults. Seniors are also more likely to be taking drugs that interact with magnesium. Symptoms related to inadequate magnesium can include low energy, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, inability to sleep, abnormal heart rhythms and anxiety/nervousness. Foods high in magnesium include legumes, green vegetables, dark-green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, soy beans, sesame seeds, black beans, flax seeds, buckwheat, kidney beans and chocolate.

Long-term study finds multivitamins prevent cancer in men

Steve and Bonnie: We are shocked that JAMA actually published a study looking at long-term cancer prevention (11 years) in men taking daily multivitamins.

Published today in Journal of the American Medical Association, the authors concluded, "In this large-scale randomized trial of 14,641 middle-aged and older men, a daily multivitamin supplement significantly but modestly reduced the risk of total cancer during a mean of 11 years of treatment and follow-up. Although the main reason to take multivitamins is to prevent nutritional deficiency, these data provide support for the potential use of multivitamin supplements in the prevention of cancer in middle-aged and older men."

However, we must look at the results of this study with caution because it was sponsored by Pfizer, the makers of Centrum Silver, and BASF, who provides many of the raw materials to make Centrum Silver.

Do supermarkets set us up to fail dietarily?

An article from The Rand Corporation and UCLA published in the New England Journal of Medicine examined the role that impulse marketing and customer psychology in supermarkets contributes to obesity and related health problems. The authors discussed the role of placement and display of products in retail outlets, noting that goods placed in end-of-aisle locations account for about 30% of all supermarket sales. 

People who try to make healthy choices can find their ability to resist foods difficult because high fat and sugar items are placed in prominent locations, such as near the cash register. If distracted or stressed, this can cause mental processes that increase the likelihood of purchasing unhealthy foods that are convenient and eye-catching.

Steve: Will supermarkets limit unhealthy foods displayed in prominent locations? Some are trying. Hy-Vee introduced "Blue Zones" checkout lanes that replace sugary and fatty foods with healthy ones like fresh fruits and healthy snacks. Martin's Food Markets installed healthy-food checkout lanes in eight stores in the Richmond, Va., area.

This is a slippery slope because grocery store chains get paid a premium to place food in prominent locations. Big Food is front and center with this practice. Unless healthy food companies meet or exceed Big Food's payola, it will be difficult to see any change. Of course, the most effective way to change this practice is for customers to ignore the unhealthy items no matter where they are placed. Payola cannot make up for foods do not move off the shelf.

To avoid impulse buying, prepare your grocery list prior to visiting the supermarket. When shopping, do not deviate from your list. This will quell your "inner shopping demon".

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fish not to blame for ADHD

A study of children suggests that low-level prenatal mercury exposure may be associated with a greater risk of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)-related behaviors and that fish consumption during pregnancy may be associated with a lower risk of these behaviors, according to a report by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

"In this population-based prospective cohort study, hair mercury levels were consistently associated with ADHD-related behaviors, including inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. We also found that higher prenatal fish consumption was protective for these behaviors," the authors comment. There also appeared to be a "protective" (lower risk) association for fish consumption of greater than two servings per week with ADHD-related behaviors, particularly impulsive/hyperactive behaviors.

In a separate study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a team of researchers found that the health benefits of fish outweigh the negative impacts when consumers choose wisely. The joint study out of Sweden and Finland aimed to create a risk-benefit model that would shed light on the risk of mercury consumption, versus the value of omega-3 fatty acids. Even a small change in fish consumption was found to prevent 7 percent of heart attacks in men, as long as mercury levels remained low. The conclusion? Eat fish, but avoid large predatory species which contain a lot more mercury than smaller ones. The most commonly eaten types of seafood low in mercury are sardine, shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Healthy Halloween Tips

Do you cringe around Halloween time? Weeks of parties, school events, and trick-or-treating increase your child's (and sometimes your) candy/sweet consumption ten-fold over any other time of the year. Do you find your child's attention span off, emotional and physical highs and lows more pronounced? More immune-depressed than usual? All the excess sugar and chemicals help to create these symptoms.

Here are some ideas to make Halloween a bit healthier:

  • Trick-or-treating: what to do with all the candy! If you are an enterprising parent or child, turn that candy into cash! We have used the following method for two generations of Minsky children. Tell your child that for every piece of candy, they will receive a nickel or dime (your choice). When you explain to them what it can add up to, and they can use the $ to spend as they wish, they usually jump at the chance. Don't forget to let them know that they can still eat a piece or two of their spoils (if interested).
  • School Parties or Events: we always recommend kids eating healthy snacks instead of candy. Although, if your child is going to eat candy, try to accompany them with their own candy (free of artificial ingredients and hydrogenated fats) and always, ALWAYS accompany it with a healthy fat (like nuts/seeds) or lean protein (jerky, deli turkey, etc.). This will protect against blood sugar highs and lows.
  • Handing Out Candy: do your visiting trick-or-treaters a favor. If you are going to pass out candy, try to offer the best of the worst (free of artificial sweetners, artificial flavors, artificial colors, hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats). For instance, Whole Foods has on sale Yummy Earth Organic Gummy Bears and Lollipops, Wee Glee Gum, as well as, Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Squares.

    Or better yet, do not hand out candy at all. You can also hand out pretzels, seeds, trail mix, raisins, or other dried fruit.

    Non-food items like a pencil, eraser, stickers, trading cards, toothbrushes, or coins are great ideas.
  • Eat a Meal or Big Snack Before Halloween Parties/Events: this way, your kids will be less apt to gorge on the junk because they are already satiated.
  • What to Do With the Leftover Candy? Adults, do not consume it. It's bad for you too and does not set a good example. Do not give it away to neighbors or charity (why would you want others to consume junk). Throw it in the trash!
Happy Halloween! Bonnie and Steve

The battle over the most important piece of food legislation in decades

Low vitamin D linked to Alzheimer's, Weight Gain

Yet another study has linked low vitamin D levels with significant health issues - in this case, poor cognition. According to researchers in the September issue of Neurology, people with Alzheimer's disease had lower concentrations of vitamin D than those without Alzheimer's disease, and better cognitive test results were linked to higher vitamin D concentrations.

Relationships between hypovitaminosis D and obesity, described by both BMI and waist circumference are suspected. Researchers in a September Nutrition Journal study investigated the effect of a 12-week vitamin D3 supplementation in healthy overweight and obese women. In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, participants were randomly allocated into two groups: vitamin D (1000IU per day as cholecalciferol) and placebo (1000IU per day as lactose) for 12 weeks. 25(OH) D concentrations increased with vitamin D3 supplementation and led to measurable body fat mass reduction.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Group aims to modernize Chinese medicine

A team of scientists from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University has been working on a new approach to drug development involving chemistry, biotechnology, mathematics, computer power and 5000-year ancient practices in Chinese medicine. The groundbreaking regime for herbal study and testing called quantitative-pattern-activity-relationship (QPAR) verifies the quality and health benefits of traditional herbs. The team have also been working on a completely new drug classification and rating standard to establish a scientific link between traditional herbs and various diseases. The new QPAR standard for the first time links medicinal properties to cells, genes and proteins that trigger or contribute to a disease. For example, the fungus Ganoderma could be investigated for its ability to improve immunity by stimulating Dendritic Cells and therefore cell-mediated immune responses in our body.

Another breakthrough is that QPAR uses mathematical methods to make predictions and the sophisticated algorithms tapped into 5000-year ancient system of Chinese medicine which was based on the flow and balance of positive (yang) and negative (yin) energies in the body.

Early menopause doubles CVD risk.

Women who experience early menopause, before their 46th birthday, are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and stroke as women who don't enter menopause prematurely. The study from the October issue of Menopause adds to previous work in this field by extending the results to females of all ethnicities. 

If physicians know a patient has entered menopause before her 46th birthday, they can be extra vigilant in making recommendations and providing treatments to help prevent heart attacks and stroke. It's important that doctors do not overlook younger women who are often not targeted for prevention, because CVD is thought to be attacking women only in old age.

Keys to prevent early menopause
  • Avoidance of smoking - Smokers reach menopause, on average, two years before nonsmokers.
  • Oophorectomy (ovary or partial ovary removal) - Luckily, rates of elective oophorectomy have fallen since the practice of using HRT has waned.
  • Eat real food with minimal chemicals or processing.
  • Do not overdo it with carbohydrates. Balance each meal with lean protein and healthy fat. A new study at the American Menopause Society linked an increase in hot flashes and night sweats with insulin resistance and high serum glucose levels.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Sushi's hidden gluten

  • Sticky sushi rice is typically made with Japanese rice vinegar or rice wine that, you guessed it, contain gluten.
  • And that “crab meat?” It’s not crab, of course, but pulverized white fish mixed with a binder—there’s the wheat—to mimic the texture of crab.
  • Even the sesame seeds that sometimes coat sushi rolls may be mixed with a wheat product.
  • And let’s not even get started on possible cross-contamination issues from tempura, soy sauce, and more.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Young adults use of complementary medicine

A Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine study describes complementary and alternative medicine use among a national sample of young adults, with an emphasis on characterizing racial and ethnic differences, highlighting variation across subgroups of Hispanics. The authors examined young adults ages 18 to 27 years and their recent complementary and alternative medicine use in the past 12 months. Furthermore, they examined recent use for each of 15 specific complementary and alternative medicine modalities, and the 5 most commonly used modalities (herbs, massage, chiropractic, relaxation, and vitamins). 

Results showed that 29% of the subjects recently used complementary and alternative medicine. Prevalence was highest among Cuban Americans (42%) and lowest among blacks (22%). Young adults used a diversity of complementary and alternative medicine modalities and there were substantial differences in use across racial and ethnic groups.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Probiotics reduce URI's in college students

College students are susceptible to upper respiratory infections (URI) due to inadequate sleep, stress and close living quarters. Certain probiotic strains modulate immune function and may improve health-related quality of life during URI. The study in the October issue of British Journal of Nutrition recruited healthy college students and assessed the effect of probiotics on self-reported duration, symptom severity and functional impairment in those who developed URI. Missed school and work days due to URI were also considered. 

Subjects were randomized to receive placebo or probiotic-containing powder (daily dose of minimum 1 billion colony-forming units of each Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG® (LGG®) and Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. lactis BB-12®) for 12 weeks. The median duration of URI was significantly shorter by two days and median severity score was significantly lower by 34 % with probiotics versus placebo, indicating a higher quality of life.

Fall Allergy Capitals 2012

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

NYT Editorial Destroys Stanford Organic Food Study

Frankenweenie's Exciting Food Sponsor

Steve: I could not believe my eyes when I saw this. A movie ad campaign with a nutritious food? Hallelujah!

Vitamin D does not prevent respiratory infection?

Certainly not, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. What we got out of this study was very positive, even if the results were inconclusive. In addition, there are at least 5 recent studies, two of which the authors mention, that found that vitamin D supplementation did reduce upper respiratory tract infection (URTI). 

Here is what we loved about this study:
  • The researchers gave subjects a loading dose of 200,000 IU of Vitamin D3 (that is not a misprint) and then 100,000 IU of Vitamin D3 once per month thereafter for 18 months. You would think the researchers of this study would have heeded the grave concern shown by the Institute of Medicine last year about the potentially fatal effects of overdosing on vitamin D (we disagree with IOM's assessment).

    What do you know? There were no adverse effects from this gargantuan dose of vitamin D3. For those of you who constantly argue with us that taking 5000 IU is too much vitamin D3, please take notice. Now, if these subjects were taking vitamin D2 (synthetic, prescription-only), I feel there would have been adverse effects.

  • There were less total URTIs in the vitamin D group (593) than in the placebo group (611). The authors found this to be statistically insignificant. However, if you prorate these numbers to a population study of 50,000, you are talking about a reduction of URTIs in the thousands. The money lost in work hours, productivity, and the thousands more contagious people walking around is no joking matter to public health officials. Hence, any reduction in URTIs with a supplement as cheap as vitamin D seems like a no-brainer. This, of course, does not take into account the myriad other ways in which vitamin D supplementation is vital for optimal health.
Here is what was wrong about the study:
  • Subjects' vitamin D levels were considered in the normal range, meaning there were no vitamin D deficient individuals when the study began. Vitamin D deficient individuals have a harder time fighting infection.
  • What were the authors thinking recommending that much vitamin D3 for an 18 month period of time? There really is no precedence for it. Their thinking was to get vitamin D levels to the upper limit as quickly as possible, but obviously it was not the right choice.
  • The Vitamin D3 used in the study was a water-soluble tablet, so while it may have raised vitamin D levels in the subjects, it left their bodies immediately. All the other studies that have shown reductions in URTI's have used much lower doses taken on a daily basis. The authors acknowledge this variable.
For reference purposes, here are recent studies showing the positive effects of vitamin D and infection reduction.
  • A study in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology stated that narrowband UV light reduces systemic immune responsiveness via the induction of regulatory T cells. Light and vitamin levels may affect particular immune functions independently. The levels of serum vitamin D over which these effects are apparent should guide future interventions. August 2012
  • Camargo CA Jr, Ganmaa D, Frazier AL, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation and risk of acute respiratory infection in Mongolia. Pediatrics. 2012;130(3):e561-e567
  • Manaseki-Holland S, Maroof Z, Bruce J, et al. Effect on the incidence of pneumonia of vitamin D supplementation by quarterly bolus dose to infants in Kabul: a randomised controlled superiority trial. Lancet. 2012;379(9824):1419-1427 
  • The effect of two oral dosing regimens of vitamin D supplementation on vitamin D status and markers of immune function was evaluated in people in Antarctica with no UV light exposure for 6 months in a Journal Nutrition study. Participants were given a 2000IU daily or 10,000IUweekly vitamin D supplement. After 6 months, the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration increased dramatically in both groups. The data provided evidence that vitamin D, interacting with stress, can reduce risk of latent virus reactivation during the winter. June 2011
  • According to a recent study in Journal of the American College of Nutrition, cod liver oil was a traditional source of vitamin D in the United States and was used to prevent and treat rickets up until the 1930s. The researchers used liquid cod liver oil of adequate purity and acceptable taste for infants and young children, as well as a children's multivitamin/mineral supplement with selenium and other trace metals. In a cluster-randomized study of pediatric visits for upper respiratory illness during the winter and early spring, these nutritional supplements decreased mean visits/subject/month by 36%–58%. Cod liver oil is culturally valued and has been used as a folk remedy by many low-income minorities in the United States. Unfortunately, nutritional supplements cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits (formerly called food stamps). Inclusion of cod liver oil in state Medicaid formularies would make it available to low-income children, whose families may not be able to pay for it out-of-pocket. June 2011
  • Researchers in the Netherlands said in a recent report that vitamin D is essential in activating the human immune defense system.The researchers, from the University of Copenhagen, said that without vitamin D, T-cells, which fight off serious infection in the body, cannot do their job. Vitamin D activates T-cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens. It transforms the cells from harmless immune cells into what the researchers called "killer cells," which search for and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen. Without vitamin D, the researchers said the T-cells would remain dormant and do nothing to protect the body against illness. The study appears in the latest edition of the journal Nature Immunology. March 2010