Monthly Archives: July 2010

Great Ways To Boost Your Metabolism And Lose Weight

Below is an article I found on the USA Today website.  I was surprised when I read it because I usually do not agree with much that mainstream media says about health.  In this article they found some forward thinking, cutting edge people who had some great ideas!  Check it out.  (My comments are in bold within the article.)

USA Today Article

By Maura Kelly, Fitness magazine
Last winter I put on a few extra pounds. No biggie — I do it every year. The weight usually comes off in the spring once I stop chowing down on pasta and bread and shift my outdoor running program into high gear. But this year the scale refused to budge. At all.

“Maybe your metabolism is slowing,” a friend suggested. She had a point; I was in my 30s, after all, which is when scientists say the ebb usually starts. Yikes! How could I rev it back up and drop the flab? Here’s what I learned to turn up the burn — and how you can do it too.

The M factor

Metabolism sounds mysterious and complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple: It’s the amount of energy (aka calories) our bodies need daily. About 70% of those calories are used for basic functions, such as breathing and blood circulation, says Rochelle Goldsmith, director of the Exercise Physiology Lab at Columbia University Medical Center. An additional 20% is fuel for physical activity, including working out, fidgeting, walking and even holding our bodies upright while standing. The remaining 10% helps us digest what we eat (it’s true; eating burns calories!). The trouble begins when you consume more calories than your body needs to do these things: That’s when you pack on the pounds.

Dr. Court’s Comment: While it is true that consuming a significant amount more calories than you burn will cause weight gain, it isn’t the whole story.  Managing hormones like cortisol and insulin are hugely important.  I have many patients that go on ultra low calorie diets and don’t lose a single pound until they actually gain control on their hormones.  Remember, eating food is a hormonal process and you need to treat it that way!  The best way to control those hormones is to eat every 2-3 hours and keep hormone stimulating foods like simple carbohydrates out of the diet.

You can partly thank your parents for the speed of your metabolism. Genes contribute to the levels of appetite-control hormones we have floating around in our bodies, Goldsmith explains. “Some people are genetically programmed to be active; they’re naturally restless and use more energy,” she says. Those are the lucky high-metabolism types.

Gender also plays a role. “The average man’s metabolism is about 10 (percent) to 15% higher than a woman’s,” Goldsmith notes. That’s mainly because men have more muscle mass than women do, which means they burn more calories. “Muscle does the work to help you move, while fat just sits there,” says John Porcari, a Fitness advisory board member and director of the clinical exercise physiology program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Not only that, but women’s bodies are designed to hold on to body fat in case of pregnancy. Talk about unfair.

The good news is, you can make your metabolism faster, experts say, despite genetics and gender. These are the 10 simple secrets to boosting it big-time.

1. Exercise more often.

Working out is the No. 1 way to keep your furnace cranking. The more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn all day. That’s because muscle uses energy even when you’re resting. Exercise enough and you can help prevent the natural metabolic slowdown that can begin as early as your late 20s, according to Goldsmith.

Your amp-it-up game plan: five workouts a week. “Do three days of aerobic activity and two days of weight lifting,” advises Shawn Talbott, an exercise physiologist, a nutritional biochemist and the executive producer of Killer at Large, a documentary about the U.S. obesity epidemic.

Dr Court’s Comments: Exercise more? Yes.  Long aerobic sessions?  No.  If you work out 3-4 times per week and each session has weight training and cardio in it that will do the trick.  The cardio should be interval training (discussed later) and should be full body exercise.  It should also be intense but short.  The intensity allows it to be short and have the same effect as a much longer cardiovascular workout.  By short I mean 4-12 minutes depending on your fitness level.

2. Kick up your cardio.

Aerobic intervals will help you maximize your burn, doubling the number of calories you torch during a workout, studies show. Intervals also keep your metabolic rate higher than a steady-pace routine does for as long as an hour after you stop exercising, according to Michele Olson, a Fitness advisory board member and professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. That means you could blast as many as 65 additional calories after your sweat session. The ideal metabolism-boosting interval routine is to “go hard for a couple of minutes, then take it down to an easier pace for a minute or two, and keep alternating like that throughout your workout,” Talbott says.

Just pick your cardio carefully. Aim for exercises that require your body to work its hardest by using a lot of muscle groups, Talbott says. That means running is better than cycling. Or try a cardio circuit. “Do a variety of activities — like running stadium stairs, jumping rope and squat thrusts — for two minutes each, aiming for a total of 10 minutes,” Olson says. “That will really rock your metabolism.”

3. Put some muscle behind it.

Too many women steer clear of weight machines, fearing that they’ll bulk up. Or they work only their legs and skip their arms. Don’t make this mistake. A head-to-toe strength routine will turbocharge your calorie-blasting quotient. Add five pounds of muscle to your body and you can zap as many as 600 calories an hour during your workout, Olson says. Be sure to choose a weight-lifting routine that targets your core, legs, arms, chest and shoulders; challenging numerous muscles will help your body function like a calorie-burning machine, Goldsmith says.

Dr. Court’s Comments: Yes, yes, yes.  You must train your muscles.  It is the single best way to increase metabolism.  Yes, if you train for a marathon you will lose weight because that much aerobic activity takes a ton of energy, but the minute you stop training you will start to put weight back on because you did nothing to increase your lean muscle mass.  I can’t say it enough – you must train your muscles.

4. Don’t skip meals.

We know you’re superbusy, but make sure you grab lunch. “Simply chewing, digesting and absorbing food kicks your metabolism into gear,” says Jim White, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

“The more frequently you eat, the more often it revs up.” Conversely, missing a meal, or going too long between meals, brings your metabolism to a crawl. “Your body switches into starvation mode and your system slows down to conserve energy,” White explains. Keep your engine humming by having three healthy meals of 300 to 400 calories and two snacks of 200 to 300 calories every day, he advises.

Dr. Court’s Comments: This goes back to controlling the hormones associated with your metabolism.  If you eat more frequently you will have better control of those important hormones.  If your activity level is high the caloric suggestions above are too low so be sure to find out exactly how much you need from a trained professional.

5. Fill up on smart foods.

Start by serving yourself protein at every sitting, says Dr. Darwin Deen, medical professor in the department of community health and social medicine at City College of New York and a co-author of Nutrition for Life. Not only does your body need it to help build lean muscle mass, but protein also takes more calories to digest. To get your fix, have low-fat yogurt at breakfast, chicken in your salad at lunch and salmon for dinner. Between meals, snack on protein-rich walnuts. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote weight loss by increasing your feelings of fullness, according to a recent study in the journal Appetite.

While you’re at it, eat more foods that slowly release the sugar you need for sustained energy, like high-fiber fruits and veggies and whole-grain breads and pastas. Munch a food high in fiber three hours before your workout and you’ll also burn extra fat, a study at the University of Nottingham in England found.

Sipping java can also help. “Caffeine stimulates the production of adrenaline, which speeds up the metabolism,” White says. Research shows that caffeine can significantly accelerate your burn. Just limit yourself to no more than two cups a day; too much caffeine can overtax your system, resulting, ironically, in fatigue.

Dr. Court’s Comments: I agree with most of the above except for the low fat and bread/pasta recommendation.  Keep your diet focused on high quality fats, proteins and lower on the carbohydrate side.  That will be the best way to control your hormones.

6. Eat breakfast.

It will switch your metabolism from idle to high speed. That’s because your level of cortisol, a hormone that helps you use calories to build muscle, is highest just before you get up in the morning. When you eat an a.m. meal, your body is primed to turn those calories into muscle pronto — the only time during the day this happens. Take advantage of the natural torching process by having a healthy breakfast of scrambled eggs, low-fat turkey bacon and a piece of whole-grain toast.

Dr. Court’s Comments: Again this is important to regulate hormone levels so you can efficiently store your food for energy.  Don’t focus on the low fat/grain stuff.  Focus on my suggestions from above.

7. Get off your butt.

Sitting too much — at the computer at work, at home in front of the TV — slows your metabolism, even if you’re exercising regularly. An easy fix is to stretch, stroll and fidget throughout the day. That’s what scientists call NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, and it can boost your burn and help you drop weight, says Dr. James Levine, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot.

The proof: In a study of lean volunteers who were fed extra calories, those who paced frequently, for example, maintained their weight, while the people who did no additional walking got chubbier. If you take advantage of every opportunity to walk and climb stairs, it can make a big difference. “A woman who needs to lose weight would have to burn about 190 to 200 extra calories a day to lose 10% of her body weight, which you can do by increasing your overall activity level,” Goldsmith says. “Try striding around your house or office when you’re on the phone, standing up at your desk whenever you can and walking to your co-worker’s cube instead of e-mailing her.”

8. Go to bed earlier.

Deprive yourself of sleep and your body starts to respond as if it were under siege. “When you get two hours less shut-eye than you normally do, your system becomes stressed and produces about 50% more cortisol,” Talbott says. “That in turn triggers your appetite.”

At the same time, lack of zzz’s throws the body’s hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin out of whack, making you more likely to overeat. Skimp on pillow time for too long and you could be facing a serious weight problem, says Michael Breus, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health. In a 16-year study of sleep-deprived women published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that those who slept seven to eight hours a night had the lowest risk for major weight gain, while women who got six hours a night were 12% more likely to pile on a significant number of pounds, and those who logged five hours or less were 32% more likely to gain weight.

Dr. Court’s Comments: Hormones, hormones, hormones.  I’ve stressed it enough in my comments above, but I’m glad they touched on it here.

9. Schedule a nighttime workout.

Do a 20- to 30-minute moderate-intensity cardio routine before you hit the hay to keep your metabolism humming all night, Porcari says. The average woman’s metabolic rate naturally decreases by about 15% while she sleeps, but an end-of-day sweat session will make the drop closer to 5%, he explains. So take the dog for an evening walk or go for a bike ride with your family after dinner. And don’t worry that the activity will keep you awake: As long as you exercise at least two and a half hours before lights out, you should be able to drift off with no problem, Breus says.

10. Check your meds.

Some of the most dramatic metabolic dips occur when women start taking birth control pills and widely prescribed antidepressants known as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. “These drugs commonly slow the metabolism because they affect the functioning of the thyroid gland, which regulates how our bodies use energy,” says Dr. Kent Holtorf, a thyroidologist and the founder of the National Academy of Hypothyroidism. Depo-Provera, a contraceptive that’s injected every three months, seems to cause the most weight gain. “It’s high in the hormone progestin, which stimulates insulin secretion, leading to increased appetite and a lowered metabolism,” Holtorf explains. “It also signals the body to store fat.” (Oral contraceptives, which contain less progestin, aren’t as problematic.) If you’ve recently started taking any new medication and the scale is inching upward, ask your doc if there’s an alternative treatment that is less likely to cause weight gain.

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National Junk Food Day?

Most of you probably did not know this, but yesterday was National Junk Food Day.  I’m not sure why we need a National Junk Food Day, but it exists.  In a society that is as unhealthy as we currently are it looks like to me every day is National Junk Food Day.  Why don’t we just have a National Smoking Day or a National Eat ‘Til You Can’t Buckle Your Pants Day?

Ok, so maybe we shouldn’t have those days but I think you get the picture.  Having a day to ‘celebrate’ junk food is ridiculous in my opinion because judging by health care costs and our waistlines, people are already celebrating it too much!  Check out the statistics below on junk food consumption in this country.

STATS!

  • The average American eats about 24.5 pounds of candy per year, with 11.6 pounds being chocolate candy
  • There are 3,961 confectionery and nut stores in the U.S.
  • The top five ice cream flavors are vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan, strawberry and chocolate chip mint
  • More than 90% of households in the U.S. consume ice cream
  • Not into candy or desserts? The U.S. has 12,804 McDonald’s restaurants
  • Children aged 6 to 11 are more likely to eat cookies than apples (or any other type of fruit)
  • 12- to 17-year-olds are as likely to eat potato chips as salad
  • On average 82 percent of people eat no cruciferous vegetables in a given day
  • On average 41 percent of people eat no fruits at all in a given day
  • Each day, 1 in 4 Americans visits a fast food restaurant
  • McDonald’s feeds more than 46 million people a day. (That’s more than the entire population of Spain.)
  • French fries are the most eaten “vegetable” in America
  • There’s one soda vending machine for every 97 Americans
  • In 1972, we spent $3 billion a year on fast food — today we spend more than $110 billion.
  • Sodas alone contribute 7.1 percent of total calories eaten
  • Salty snacks and fruit-flavored drinks add another five percent
  • Children and youth aged 11 to 18 years visit fast food outlets an average of twice a week
  • Household income spent on away-from-home foods rose from 25 percent of total food spending in 1970 to nearly one-half in 1999
  • By 14 years of age, 32 percent of adolescent girls and 52 percent of boys in the United States are consuming three or more eight-ounce servings of sweetened soft drinks daily

I got a little carried away with the statistics but they are incredibly easy to find and they are fascinating.  Some of them are unbelievable!  This is part of the problem in the US in terms of health.  These companies specifically market to children so they can get them hooked and in the habit of consuming their food.  They know that habits are hard to change even if they’re bad for your health.  If they can get a child hooked they’ve got a costumer for life.

I hope these statistics have enlightened you a little and I hope it makes you think about just how much junk we put into our mouths as Americans.  A National Junk Food Day is not necessary and hopefully in the next few years it can pass us by and no one will notice.

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Stress and Your Health – Don’t Ignore It

In these uncertain economic times, many of us are under more stress than we may be used to.  While stress is a necessary and sometimes unavoidable consequence in life, we must know that it can take a toll on our overall health if we’re not careful.

The human body is an amazing machine.  It is very well adapted to respond to our environment and allow us to survive and flourish in a myriad of situations.  One of the ways it adapts is through the stress response.  The stress response is critical for human survival.  That being said, chronic or undue stress can be harmful for our health.  The stress response may be activated by physical or mental anguish.  Interestingly, whether a mental stressor is real or perceived the response by the body is the same.  The body is also unable to distinguish the difference between physical and mental stress.  Both produce the same response.

The stress response begins with the activation of the fight or flight system in our bodies.  This is called the sympathetic nervous system.  This releases hormones like adrenalin and noradrenalin.  This signals the body that there is an alarm.  It raises the respiratory rate, heart rate, increases sweating, dilates the pupils and shuts down the digestive system along with anything else unnecessary for immediate survival.  The adrenal glands also secrete cortisol which allows us to have a ready supply of energy if needed.  This scenario is called acute stress.  Our bodies are designed to handle this form of stress.  When the stress becomes chronic, as it all too often does in modern society, it becomes extremely detrimental to our health.

Humans evolved to handle acute stress not chronic stress.  If you lived 20,000 years ago long term stress was not part of your life.  Acute stress was but once that scenario was over so was the body’s stress response.  For example, if you were being chased by a saber toothed tiger that scenario had two possible outcomes – 1. you got away and the stress was over or 2. the tiger got you and the stress was over.  Our bodies evolved to deal with this, not low grade chronic stress.

Chronic stress most often occurs because of a negative change in our lives, such as a down-turn in the economy, and causes the same reaction in the body as acute stress, only on a lower level.  It can lead to problems such as ulcers, trouble with digestion, insomnia, anxiety, depression, headaches, back pain, weight gain and high blood pressure.  Remember, the stress response is designed to help us deal with life-threatening situations and should only be short acting.  When situations arise that have long-term implications, chronic stress may become part of your daily life and negatively affect your health.

Your best bet to guard against the effects of chronic stress is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise is a great stress reliever.  Getting 20-30 minutes of exercises daily not only reduces our perception of stress, but it also helps prevent the physical ailments associated with it.  A healthy diet is also essential.  It provides us with the fuel to manage our day.  I also recommend supplements to support your system.  In particular, I like supplements that are designed to support the adrenal glands.  Many companies make these but consult a practitioner trained in functional medicine to get a quality brand.

Remember, stress not only has an effect on our mental health, it also can have severe effects on our physical health.  If you feel as if stress is a significant factor in your life, don’t put off doing something about it.  Taking action steps to help yourself is often stress relieving in and of it self.  Waiting may have deleterious effects later in your life.

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6 Blood Tests Everyone Should Ask Their Doctor For

At the Vreeland Clinic we use nutrition and diet to manipulate health.  Our main goal is to improve overall health and help people feel energetic and youthful.  To know if we’ve achieved our goal we rely, in part, on our patients to inform us on how they are feeling.  This is not, however, the only marker we use to “check up” on our patients.  We use a wide variety of blood work to make sure that along with feeling great, our patients are protected from the dangers of aspects of disease that do not always manifest in overt symptoms until it’s too late.

This blood work is a huge part of our practice and today I am going to share with you the blood work that you should be asking for when you go to your doctor.

1. Particle Size Cholesterol Test

Now, cholesterol is an interesting subject.  Knowing the total number is useless.  Knowing the breakdown of the “good” cholesterol (HDL) versus the “bad” (LDL) is a little more revealing but still is far from telling the whole story.  What you need is to find out the particle break down.

Cholesterol testing has historically been used as the standard indicator for cardiovascular disease classified as HDL (good) or LDL (bad). However, it is actually the lipoprotein particles that carry the cholesterol throughout the body, not necessarily the cholesterol within them, that are responsible for key steps in plaque production and the resulting development of cardiovascular disease.

It is the particle size that is important.  Small, dense and hard lipoproteins are dangerous while light and fluffy particles are not quite as worrisome.  We know that just as many people with low cholesterol have heart attacks as people with high cholesterol.  If total cholesterol was a good indicator of heart disease then why do people with “healthy” levels have heart attacks? It’s because your total cholesterol doesn’t tell the whole story.  You must know the particle breakdown to have any real idea about your cardiovascular risk.

Below is a schematic from SpectraCell Laboratories that illustrates why this type of test is important.  They are a national lab that runs these tests and their panel is called an LPP panel.  There are many other companies that can do these tests.  The other lab I am familiar with is Atherotech Diagnostics Lab.  They call their test the VAP panel.  Either test works.  Your doctor can order these tests easily. (Please click the picture to enlarge it).

2. Fibrinogen

Fibrinogen is an important factor in blood clotting and increases in response to tissue inflammation.  Fibrinogen can help predict the risk of heart disease and stroke.  Fibrinogen will not only be high in people with heart disease, but it’s also high in other inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.  High levels of fibrinogen also increase the risk of venous thrombosis (blood clots).  Blood clots are silent killers that are often discovered too late.  This is a simple test that almost all labs are capable of running.  If you take appropriate steps, lowering fibrinogen can lower your risk of many inflammatory diseases.

3. Hemoglobin A1C

Having your fasting blood sugar tested is very valuable, but it’s just a spot shot.  It only tells you what your blood sugar was at the moment your blood was drawn.  And if you followed the instructions, you fasted before that test so your blood sugar is likely as low as it’s going to get.  (Remember with blood sugar, lower is better than higher).  High blood sugar leads to diabetes.  A hemoglobin A1C (or HbA1c) checks your blood sugar control over the last 2-3 months.  A much better check!  High HbA1c is an independent risk factor for heart disease for people with or without diabetes.  Higher HbA1c leads to an increased risk of heart disease and vice versa.  HbA1c is another test that every lab can perform and is easily ordered by any physician.

4. DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and is a precursor to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone.   Blood levels peak in one’s twenties and decline significantly as we age.  They reach a level of about 20%-30% of one’s youthful peak between the ages of 70 and 80.  Healthy levels of DHEA supports immune function, bone density, mood, libido and a healthy body composition.  This is another easy test to order and almost all labs can perform it.

5. Homocysteine

Homocysteine is formed in the body from the metabolism of the amino acid methionine.  It is inflammatory in nature.  High levels have been associated with an increased risk of heart attack, bone fracture and poor cognitive function.  Other studies have linked high homocysteine to macular degeneration and gall stones.  Some patients, because of a genetic defect in the way they metabolize folic acid, have very high homocysteine.  Lowering this is critical for long term health.  It is easily lowered with activated B12, activated B6 and activated folate.  Homocysteine is easily performed at any lab.

6. C-Reactive Protein

CRP, as it is abbreviated, is another inflammatory enzyme.  CRP is a powerful predictor of systemic inflammation and is a great indicator of risk for heart disease and stroke.  It may predict heart disease years before it becomes problematic.  It identifies at risk populations while they are still healthy.  This truly is a great tool.  A review of epidemiological data shows that CRP was able to predict heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease and sudden cardiac death in healthy individuals with no history of cardiovascular disease.  Again, this is a simple test and can easily be ordered by your doctor.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a good start.  Each individual person may require more testing depending on their specific condition.  These are, however, a great way to evaluate your overall health and predict disease that might await you years down the road.  Once you have found your specific risk factors appropriate steps can be taken to avoid the consequences in your later years.

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Eat to live, don’t live to eat

Eat to live, don't live to eat

The title of this blog is something that is so simple yet people have such trouble actually abiding by it.  I first heard this quote from a trainer that I work with.  I hear him say it from time to time to other clients when I’m in the gym.

Many people struggle to attain the health goals that they want to achieve.  Whether those goals are losing weight, lowering cholesterol levels or just getting into better overall health, the foundation for those goals is a healthy diet.

Diet is a four letter word.  I’m not sure if you’re aware of that.  When people hear the word diet, they cringe.  They immediately think  it means you have to eat very little, and the food that you’re allowed to eat must taste terrible.  I am here to tell you that does not have to be the case.

When I talk about diet I mean diet in its most basic meaning.  The first definition of diet listed in the dictionary is as follows:

Diet (n) – food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health.

It’s not about breaking down what you’re eating a cutting a bunch of it out to lose weight.  It’s about the quality of the food that you are putting into you mouth and how it will affect your overall health.  It truly is about your habits with regard to food.

When patients come into my office diet is always something that we modify.  Patients come to see us for a wide range of conditions, but dietary change is almost always necessary.  There is the occasional patient that already has a perfect diet, but they are few and far between.

Patients are very motivated at first to change their eating habits because they are very motivated to feel better.  As they get into their programs motivation dwindles and people begin to miss their comfort foods.  It really is amazing how much people depend on food to make them happy.  It should not be that way.  Food can certainly be a source of joy.  There is nothing better than a good piece of steak or a tasty chicken breast sometimes.  However, if foods become your only enjoyment there is a problem.  Food should be nourishment, not your sole source of pleasure.

Patients, even when they are achieving the results they desire, complain about the dietary changes they’ve been forced to make.  Of course the alternative is to continue down the path they were on, eat as they wish and continue to feel bad.  Either way they feel trapped.  This is where the mind set needs to switch.  They need to finally realize that they need to eat to live, not live to eat.

If a person can understand that concept, accept it and then apply it, dietary changes are easy.  You are eating to be healthy and therefore happy.  Not the other way around.  Patients that have the hardest time changing often do not accept this concept.  They don’t want to give up ice cream, candy, cakes, etc. because they get enjoyment out of consuming them.  There are physiological reasons for this of course, but even when those are addressed the mindset does not change.  If one can decide to use food as a tool to get healthy rather than a tool to be happy changes occur much faster.

Remember this concept: food is fuel for our bodies.  We need it to function.  We need it to live.  We can certainly enjoy it, but it should not be a tool to make us happy.  We should view food simply as something that can nourish our bodies and make us healthy.  Viewing it this way makes it much easier to make good choices.  Inevitably people who choose “comfort foods” make bad choices.  When was the last time you heard that someone over ate chicken breast? It doesn’t happen.  People over eat the bad stuff like donuts, chips or ice cream because they are eating for joy, not for nourishment.  Abiding by the eat to live, don’t live to eat mantra will serve you well because it will help you make the right diet choices for the right reasons.

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How to protect your brain – ward off dementia with these simple steps

Well it’s been some time since I have been able to post here on our blog.  The fourth of July holiday and some time away from the office kept me from posting the latest in health information for you.  However, I am back with new information regarding dementia.

Dementia is a scary disease that affects millions of Americans and the numbers are expected to sky rocket as the baby boomer generation approaches retirement age.  Dementia robs people of their faculties long before their time.  It can go on for many years and cause heartbreak and hardship for family members.  It is eventually fatal, but it is a long, slow process that destroys lives and relationships along the way.

For years it was thought that genetics played the most important role in determining who developed dementia and who did not.  It was almost a role of the dice, or so was thought.  In the last 5 years research has been mounting that dietary supplements and exercise can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia.  A new study just released confirms some of those findings.

In a recent study people who exercised, regularly consumed tea and had the highest levels of vitamin D had the lowest risk of developing dementia.  This truly is great news.  There is something you can do to significantly reduce your risk of developing this disease.

Exercise

The first piece of this equation is about exercise.  Exercise has been shown to improve almost every single factor related to health that has been studied.  If you are not exercising, you are not truly taking care of yourself.  With respect to dementia, researchers looked at participants from the Framingham cardiovascular study.  They looked at 1,200 elderly people over 20 years, 242 of whom developed dementia.  They found that participants who had moderate to heavy levels of physical activity had about a 40% lower risk of developing any type of dementia. Those who reported the least amount of activity were 45% more likely to develop dementia compared with those who had higher levels of activity.

Regular Consumption of Tea

In a second study, including data on more than 4,800 men and women ages 65 and older, participants were followed for up to 14 years. Tea drinkers had less mental decline than non-tea drinkers. Those who drank tea one to four times a week had average annual rates of decline 37% lower than people who didn’t drink tea.  The results did not appear to be related to caffeine, however, because coffee drinkers did not see the same benefit except in people who drank coffee heavily (and that has it’s own problems).  Some teas, like green tea, are loaded with antioxidants and that is likely the mechanism of this protection.

Vitamin D

In a third study, British researchers looked at vitamin D’s effect on brain health. They examined data from 3,325 U.S. adults ages 65 and older from the NHANES III study. Vitamin D levels were measured by blood test, and cognitive tests were administered. Odds of cognitive impairment were about 42% higher in those deficient in vitamin D, and 394% higher in people severely deficient.  The research continues to mount on vitamin D.  It truly is amazing just how potent a weapon vitamin D is.  It is also clear to me that the current medical recommendations are far too low and that current sun safety guidelines are actually creating a society of people that are deficient in this life saving nutrient.

The benefit of these three things do not change your genetic make up.  They change the expression of those genes.  This is the study of epigenetics.  Essentially, each gene has a switch on it – an epigene.  These determine which genes get switched on and which do not.  Exercise, the antioxidants from tea and vitamin D seem to have a favorable affect on the epigenes.  They keep the bad genes turned ‘off’ and the good ones turned ‘on.’

Recommendations

Exercise at least three times per week.  Exercise should include weight training and cardiovascular work done in interval style training.  Exercise improves blood flow to the brain, reduces inflammation, increases necessary feed back to the brain and improves the efficiency of many metabolic pathways.  For more information visit www.bendearman.com.  Ben is a trainer that I work with and he’s got a great handle on how to exercise properly.

Take EGCG.  EGCG is the extract from green tea.  It has been studied rigorously and has been shown to be neuroprotective.  I recommend at least 500mg per day.  If you decide to start it please consult someone trained in functional medicine so they can provide you with a quality supplement.

Take vitamin D.  I have many blogs on my site that discuss the huge benefits of vitamin D.  If you’d like to read more about it please click vitamin D in our word cloud to the right or simply type it into our search feature.  It should be taken daily by just about everyone.  I recommend that people take anywhere from 2,000-4,000 IUs per day for maintenance.  Individually one may need even more depending on your condition.  It should be monitored with blood tests and you should shoot for a level no lower than 55 ng/ml.  Just about everyone will require supplementation to reach that level.

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Food Dyes Pose Serious Risk to Children and Adults

All of these foods contain artificial food dyes

Food dyes are an interesting subject.  Health groups have been calling for their removal from the market for years because of links to allergies, hyperactivity in children and cancer.  The food industry uses them for one sole purpose – to make food look more appealing.  That’s it.  We’re not even talking about flavor enhancers here (which have their own set of problems). Food dyes don’t make food taste better and have no nutritional value to them whatsoever.  They are nothing more than chemicals used to make us think our food is going to taste better.

Now the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is calling for the removal of several of these dyes.  They say the three most widely used dyes, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, are contaminated with known carcinogens.  They also say that another dye, Red 3, has been known by the government for years to be a carcinogen yet it remains in our food supply.

Let’s take a look at some things that might open your eyes:

  • Every year about 15 million pounds of eight synthetic dyes end up in our food.
  • Per capita consumption of dyes has increased five-fold since 1955.
  • Children consume more dye per unit of body weight than adults and they are much more susceptible to their effects.
  • The FDA did not consider the risk to children when making their ‘acceptable level’ guidelines.
  • Most safety studies conducted on dyes were conducted or commissioned by food dye manufacturers.
  • Most of these studies lasted less than two years so long term affects could not be assessed.
  • The amount of artificial chemical allowed in any given dye is based on usage from 1990 and usage has increased by 50% since then.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is claiming that the FDA is not upholding the law for the following reasons:

  • Red 3 and Citrus Red 2 should be banned under the Delaney amendment, because they caused cancer in rats (some uses were banned in 1990), as should Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6, which are tainted with cancer-causing contaminants.
  • Evidence suggests, though does not prove, that Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Red 40, and Yellow 6 cause cancer in animals. There certainly is not “convincing evidence” of safety.
  • Dyed foods should be considered adulterated under the law, because the dyes make a food “appear better or of greater value than it is”—typically by masking the absence of fruit, vegetable, or other more costly ingredient.

Click here for a summary of studies on food dyes

There are 9 dyes currently approved for use in the United States.  Many previous dyes have been banned because they have caused adverse affects in laboratory animals.  In fact, the British government had asked manufactures, as of last December 31st,  to completely phase out use of dyes and the European Union is requiring that every food containing dye come with warnings.  Below is a summary of each dye and its potential problems.  This list is from the CSPI.

  • Blue 1 was not found to be toxic in key rat and mouse studies, but an unpublished study suggested the possibility that Blue 1 caused kidney tumors in mice, and a preliminary in vitro study raised questions about possible effects on nerve cells. Blue 1 may not cause cancer, but confirmatory studies should be conducted. The dye can cause hypersensitivity reactions.
  • Blue 2 cannot be considered safe given the statistically significant incidence of tumors, particularly brain gliomas, in male rats. It should not be used in foods.
  • Citrus Red 2, which is permitted only for coloring the skins of oranges not used for processing, is toxic to rodents at modest levels and caused tumors of the urinary bladder and possibly other organs. The dye poses minimal human risk, because it is only used at minuscule levels and only on orange peels, but it still has no place in the food supply.
  • Green 3 caused significant increases in bladder and testes tumors in male rats. Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it safe, this little-used dye must remain suspect until further testing is conducted.
  • Orange B is approved for use only in sausage casings, but has not been used for many years. Limited industry testing did not reveal any problems.
  • Red 3 was recognized in 1990 by the FDA as a thyroid carcinogen in animals and is banned in cosmetics and externally applied drugs. All uses of Red 3 lakes (combinations of dyes and salts that are insoluble and used in low-moisture foods) are also banned. However, the FDA still permits Red 3 in ingested drugs and foods, with about 200,000 pounds of the dye being used annually. The FDA needs to revoke that approval.
  • Red 40, the most-widely used dye, may accelerate the appearance of immune-system tumors in mice. The dye causes hypersensitivity (allergy-like) reactions in a small number of consumers and might trigger hyperactivity in children. Considering the safety questions and its non-essentiality, Red 40 should be excluded from foods unless and until new tests clearly demonstrate its safety.
  • Yellow 5 was not carcinogenic in rats, but was not adequately tested in mice. It may be contaminated with several cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, Yellow 5 causes sometimes-severe hypersensitivity reactions in a small number of people and might trigger hyperactivity and other behavioral effects in children. Posing some risks, while serving no nutritional or safety purpose, Yellow 5 should not be allowed in foods.
  • Yellow 6 caused adrenal tumors in animals, though that is disputed by industry and the FDA. It may be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals and occasionally causes severe hypersensitivity reactions. Yellow 6 adds an unnecessary risk to the food supply.

I always encourage my patients to eat as naturally as possible and this is one of the main reasons.  These chemicals, basically derived from petroleum, are clearly not as safe as the food manufacturers would like you to think they are.  While not all of these dyes pose a serious threat, why risk it?  You can bet that if you buy a packaged food and it is brilliantly colored, it has one or more of these dyes in it.  That is also problematic as these dyes have been studied alone and not it combination with one another.  No one knows what the safety of these dyes are when consumed with other dyes.

Natural Alternatives

There are options for food coloring out there.  Many natural colors exist that work just as well as the synthetics and are known to be safe.  I’ve listed some below for your reference.

  • Caramel coloring made from caramelized sugar, used in cola products and also in cosmetics.
  • Annatto a reddish-orange dye made from the seed of the Achiote. (Some are allergic to this one.)
  • A green dye made from chlorella algae.
  • Cochineal a red dye derived from the cochineal insect, Dactylopius coccus.
  • Betanin extracted from beets.
  • Turmeric (curcuminoids)
  • Saffron (carotenoids)
  • Paprika
  • Elderberry juice
  • Pandan Pandanus amaryllifolius, a green food coloring
  • Butterfly pea Clitoria ternatea, a blue food dye

I see many children in my practice that struggle with attention and hyperactivity.  Those symptoms are often alleviated by removing all artificial sweeteners and dyes from the diets of these children.  In terms of overall health, stick on the edges of the grocery store.  Skip the middle aisle where all of the processed junk is kept.  That is what will contain the dyes you want to avoid.

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