Tag Archives: Research

Cancer Fighting Compounds!

Cancer is a leading cause of mortality here in the United States. As our population continues to get unhealthier because of sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits, the numbers will continue to grow.

Many cancers are preventable, and there are compounds you can get from your diet that will reduce your risk.

See the video below!

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Coffee Wards Off Dementia!

In a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease participants with mild cognitive impairment who had a certain level of caffeine in their blood did not go on to develop dementia.  This is the first study to attempt to isolate whether it’s just coffee that’s protective in dementia or if it is indeed the caffeine that imparts the benefit. In this case, the caffeine seems to be the protective variable.  See the video below for more.

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Vitamin D – From Young to Old

More research on vitamin D comes out each week.  Below Dr. Court discusses some of the most recent and amazing research behind this wonderful vitamin.

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Want a better brain? Lift Weights!

Free weights

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Exercise has long been known to increase brain function.  Most of the research, however, focused on the benefits of purely cardiovascular exercises like running.  New research shows that weight training has the same effect.

Conventional wisdom has stated that the benefits of cardiovascular exercise on brain function was from the significant increase in blood flow to the brain during aerobic type exercises.  It was concluded that because weight training didn’t cause this to happen for extended periods of time, it would not have the same benefit.

The creation of new brain cells, or neurogenesis, is thought to be dependent on a spike of blood flow to the brain. In fact, running and other aerobic exercises have been shown to increase neuron production in the areas of the brain associated with memory and thinking in both mice and humans.  However, this was thought not to apply to resistance training.  That is changing.

“In a study presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in November, researchers from Brazil secured weights to the tails of a group of rats and had them climb a ladder five sessions a week. Other rats on the same schedule ran on a treadmill, and a third group just sat around. After eight weeks, the running rats had much higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (B.D.N.F.), a growth factor that is thought to help spark neurogenesis, than the sedentary rats. So did the rats with weights tied to their tails. The weight-­bearing rats, like the runners, did well on tests of rodent learning and memory, like rapidly negotiating a water maze. Both endurance and weight training seemed to make the rats smarter.” (From The NY Times)

A similar study from Japan at the same conference came to the same conclusions.

“The animals that were assigned to the loaded wheels showed significantly increased levels of gene activity and B.D.N.F. levels within their brains. The higher the workload the animals managed to complete, the greater the genetic activity within their brains.” (From The NY Times)

The genetic activity is important.  That’s precisely how the human brain adapts.  It changes the expression of certain genes in order to respond to certain environmental input.  That input may be in the form of exercise like weight training or it may be more cognitively based like learning to play the piano.  Whatever the input may be, the brain changes in response to the activity being performed.  This is a phenomenon called plasticity.  And the brain remains plastic our entire lives!  That means it can change right up to the day we die.

Just how does this resistance training increase brain function?  No one knows for sure, but there are theories.  The researchers propose that because weight training reduces many cardiovascular risk factors and does increase the strength of the heart it may also help the brain through similar mechanisms that aerobic exercise does.

I have another theory.  Ninety percent, yes that’s 90%, of the input that comes into our brains during any given day comes from the receptors in our muscles and joints.  That means that if we take into account all of the sensory input that our brains receive during the day – light, sound, touch, smell, proprioception – a full 90% of that input is coming from our muscles and joints.  If the body requires that much input from our musculoskeletal system it must be important, right?  It is.  This input keeps the brain functioning normally and maintains the health of just about every type of neuron in the brain.

Resistance training makes this input more efficient.  By training the muscles with weights they send more regulatory information to the brain and you also increase the amount of information coming from the joints.  The stronger your muscles the more force is applied through your joints.  This combination is a winning one in terms of brain function.

The best type of exercise program is one that includes both cardiovascular and resistance type training.  People are often hesitant to start a weight training program because of lack of knowledge on how to properly do it.  If you are concerned hire a knowledgeable trainer to show you how to do it.  The benefits will far outweigh your hesitance to start.

 

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Reducing Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease Naturally

PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease

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As of next year the first of the baby boomers will reach 65 years old and by 2029 all of them will be at least 65.  This is significant because as we age certain diseases become more and more prominent.  One of them is Alzheimer’s disease.  This disease robs people of the faculties much too soon and causes heartache and financial hardship for families across the US.

Just How Big Is The Problem?

About 24 million people worldwide are known to be affected with dementia. This number is expected to balloon to 84 million by the year 2040.  These numbers include all forms of dementia, but up to 80% of dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  In the US alone 5.3 million American’s have Alzheimer’s Disease and 96% of them are over the age of 65.  In just five years the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s will jump to 7.7 million and by 2050 the number is projected to more than double to 16 million.  The numbers truly are staggering.  As a matter of fact, AD has recently passed diabetes, yes diabetes, as the 6th most common cause of death in the US.  As our population continues to grow older because people are living longer, the problem is likely to get worse.  Current statistics show that just over 50% of people who are over 85 will go on to develop AD.

AD is also a very expensive problem for the United States.  In 2005, total Medicare spending was $91 billion and the total US cost was $172 billion for AD.  AD patients make up roughly 13% of Medicare enrollees but account for more than 1/3 of its spending.  The problem will only grow as our population ages.

So What Can I Do To Reduce My Risk?

The best way to treat AD is to prevent it in the first place.  There is very good research behind several nutritional supplements that can significantly reduce your risk of developing dementia as you age.

Vitamin E

Here’s what one study found on vitamin E:

“Among MCI-AD patients, the longitudinal decrease in cellular vitamin E was associated with the deterioration in cognitive performance. These results suggest that accumulation of oxidative damage may start in pre-symptomatic phases of AD pathology and that progression to AD might be related to depletion of antioxidant defenses.”

-J Alzheimers Dis. 2010 Aug 6.

So what does that mean.  Basically what this study found was that among patients who has mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or AD, people with the lowest levels of vitamin E had poorest performance on mental testing.  Oxidative damage is the process by which our brain tissue is broken down in AD.  Vitamin E helps fight this process.

Another study concluded:

“In conclusion, high plasma levels of vitamin E are associated with a reduced risk of AD in advanced age. The neuroprotective effect of vitamin E seems to be related to the combination of different forms, rather than to alpha-tocopherol alone.”

-J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20(4):1029-37.

This is saying that higher levels of vitamin E in the blood were associated with a significant reduction in AD with advanced age.  It also says that when taking vitamin E you should be taking a combination of forms, not a singular type.  When you look at the back of your vitamin E supplement be sure that it says ‘mixed tocopherols.”  That will provide you with the most benefit.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the supplement of the hour right now.  It is being studied by everyone and just about everyone has found that it is critically important for overall health.  New research also shows it helps prevent AD.

“Vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency was associated with all-cause dementia, Alzheimer disease, stroke (with and without dementia symptoms), and MRI indicators of cerebrovascular disease. These findings suggest a potential vasculoprotective role of vitamin D.”

-Neurology. 2010 Jan 5;74(1):18-26. Epub 2009 Nov 25

This study is telling us that vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency was associated with higher risk for dementia and AD.  What this means is that even having levels that are slightly decreased (insufficiency) are associated with higher risk.  Keeping vitamin D levels up not only is important for bone health, cancer reduction and fall prevention but also reduces your risk of AD.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Another study on vitamin D found that:

“Clinical data suggest that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with an increased risk of several CNS diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, seasonal affective disorder and schizophrenia.  Overall, imbalances in the calcipherol system appear to cause abnormal function, including premature aging, of the CNS.”

– Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Dec;34 Suppl 1:S278-86

This study is particularly interesting in that it shows that low vitamin D levels are associated with an increased risk of several CNS or central nervous system diseases including AD.  It also concluded that imbalances in the calcipherol, or vitamin D, system causes premature aging of the brain and central nervous system.  Why is this problematic?  Remember, the number one risk factor for AD is aging.  If we can slow this process, particularly in the brain, we can slow the onset of AD.  Vitamin D can do this for you.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)

“A plethora of in vitro, animal model, and human data, gathered over the past decade, highlight the important role DHA may play in the development of a variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders, including AD. Cross sectional and prospective cohort data have demonstrated that reduced dietary intake or low brain levels of DHA are associated with accelerated cognitive decline or the development of incipient dementia, including AD.”

-Clin Interv Aging. 2010 Apr 7;5:45-61.

DHA is a particular form of omega-3 fatty acid or fish oil.  This study concluded that low intake of this particular fatty acid or low brain levels of it are associated with cognitive decline and accelerated development of AD.  This is of particular interest because of all of the wonderful other benefits that omega-3’s give us.  You can prevent or reduce the risk of many other diseases simply by supplementing with fish oil.

There was this study as well:

“Plasma DHA was associated with slower decline on BVRT (Benton Visual Retention Test) performances in ApoE-epsilon4 carriers only. EPA and DHA may contribute to delaying decline in visual working memory in ApoE-epsilon4 carriers.”

-Neurobiol Aging. 2010 Jun 4.

This study was done on people who have the gene that is linked to an increased risk of AD.  What it concluded was very exciting.  Basically it found that the higher the omega-3 DHA was in the plasma the slower the decline in memory in people that were genetically predisposed to getting AD.  That’s wonderful news!  Many people think that their genetics are their destiny, but this study showed otherwise.

In Summary

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of research that is available on how to combat and reduce your risk of developing AD.  What we did not touch on in this article is that keeping your heart healthy and controlling your blood sugar is of utmost importance.  Do those things and take the supplements listed above and you can significantly reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

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The Next Big Thing In Health and Nutrition!

Curly kale

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Usually I like to take information that I find from many different sources, put it together and give you my opinion on it here on my blog.  Well today I came across and article on Dr. Mercola’s health site, www.mercola.com, that was so good that I wanted to re-post it here on my blog in its entirety without commenting on it.  I think Dr. Mercola said everything about as well as it could be said.  This information is on vitamin K and it’s very well put together.  The article is a bit long but well worth the read! Please enjoy!

Dr. Mercola’s Article

Vitamin K may very well be “the next vitamin D” as research continues to illuminate a growing number of benefits to your health.

It is probably where vitamin D was ten years ago with respect to its appreciation as a vital nutrient that has far more benefits than was originally recognized.

And, according to Dr. Cees Vermeer, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of vitamin K, nearly everyone is deficient in vitamin K – just like most are deficient in D.

Vitamin K measurements in blood plasma can be done accurately, but the results are not necessarily helpful because they mainly reflect what you ate yesterday. Because of this, we will have to trust Dr. Vermeer on his assessment that most are too deficient to reap all of its health benefits. Vitamin K researchers across the world will acknowledge him as a leader in this field.

Most people get enough K from their diets to maintain adequate blood clotting, but NOT enough to offer protection against the following health problems—and the list is growing:

  • Arterial calcification, cardiovascular disease and varicose veins
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prostate cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and leukemia
  • Brain health problems, including dementia, the specifics of which are still being studied

Vitamin K comes in two forms, and it is important to understand the differences between them before devising your nutritional plan of attack.

The Two Basic Types of Vitamin K

Vitamin K can be classified as either K1 or K2:

  1. Vitamin K1: Found in green vegetables, K1 goes directly to your liver and helps you maintain a healthy blood clotting system. (This is the kind of K that infants need to help prevent a serious bleeding disorder.) It is also vitamin K1 that keeps your own blood vessels from calcifying, and helps your bones retain calcium and develop the right crystalline structure.
  2. Vitamin K2: Bacteria produce this type of vitamin K. It is present in high quantities in your gut, but unfortunately is not absorbed from there and passes out in your stool. K2 goes straight to vessel walls, bones, and tissues other than your liver. It is present in fermented foods, particularly cheese and the Japanese food natto, which is by far the richest source of K2.

Vitamin K2 can convert to K1 in your body, but there are some problems with this, which I will discuss shortly. As a supplement, K1 is less expensive, which is why it’s the form used for neonates.

Making matters even more complex, there are several different forms of vitamin K2.

MK8 and MK9 come primarily from dairy products. MK4 and MK7 are the two most significant forms of K2, and act very differently in your body:

  • MK4 is a synthetic product, very similar to vitamin K1, and your body is capable of converting K1 into MK4. However, MK4 has a very short half-life of about one hour, making it a poor candidate as a dietary supplement. After reaching your intestines, it remains mostly in your liver, where it is useful in synthesizing blood-clotting factors.
  • MK7 is a newer agent with more practical applications because it stays in your body longer; its half-life is three days, meaning you have a much better chance of building up a consistent blood level, compared to MK4 or K1. MK7 is extracted from the Japanese fermented soy product called natto. You could actually get loads of MK7 from consuming natto as it is relatively inexpensive, and is available in most Asian food markets. Few people, however, tolerate it’s smell and slimy texture.

Let’s take a look at what scientific studies are showing us about vitamin K2.

Vitamin K Research has Come a Long Way

In 2008, a German research group discovered that vitamin K2 provides substantial protection from prostate cancer[1], which is one of the leading causes of cancer among men in the United States. According to Dr. Vermeer, men taking the highest amounts of K2 have about 50 percent less prostate cancer.

Research results are similarly encouraging for the benefits of vitamin K to your cardiac health:

  • In 2004, the Rotterdam Study, which was the first study demonstrating the beneficial effect of vitamin K2, showed that people who consume 45 mcg of K2 daily live seven years longer than people getting 12 mcg per day[2].
  • In a subsequent study called the Prospect Study[3], 16,000 people were followed for 10 years. Researchers found that each additional 10 mcg of K2 in the diet results in 9 percent fewer cardiac events.

Preliminary findings also suggest that vitamin K can help protect you from brain disease. However, it is too early to say exactly what types of damage it prevents—and how—but it is an area of intense interest to vitamin K scientists right now.

Vitamin K2 is CRUCIAL in Preventing Osteoporosis

The evidence suggests that vitamin K2 is essential for your bone health, but it is a nutrient the vast majority of you do not get in adequate amounts from your diet.

How does vitamin K lead to bone health?

Osteocalcin is a protein produced by your osteoblasts (cells responsible for bone formation), and is utilized within the bone as an integral part of the bone-forming process. However, osteocalcin must be “carboxylated” before it can be effective. Vitamin K functions as a cofactor for the enzyme that catalyzes the carboxylation of osteocalcin.

Vitamin K2 has been found to be a far more effective “activator” of osteocalcin than K1.

There has been some remarkable research about the protective effects of vitamin K2 against osteoporosis:

  • A number of Japanese trials have shown that vitamin K2 completely reverses bone loss and in some cases even increases bone mass in people with osteoporosis[4].
  • The pooled evidence of seven Japanese trials show that vitamin K2 supplementation produces a 60 percent reduction in vertebral fractures and an 80 percent reduction in hip and other non-vertebral fractures[5].
  • Researchers in the Netherlands showed that vitamin K2 is three times more effective than vitamin K1 in raising osteocalcin, which controls the building of bone[6].

Although your body can convert K1 into K2, studies show that the amount of K2 produced by this process alone is insufficient. Even if you are consuming enough K1, your body uses most of it to make clotting factors, leaving little remaining for your bones.

In other words, your liver preferentially uses vitamin K1 to activate clotting factors, while most of your other tissues preferentially use K2.

Vitamin K2 has also been found to offer you other benefits—besides your bones!

Vitamin K2 Lowers Your Cancer Risk

As mentioned earlier, we are also learning that vitamin K2 has a major role in preventing cancer.

The recent European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study[7], published in the October 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found high intake of vitamin K2—not K1—leads to reduced cancer risk, as well as a thirty percent lower risk of dying from cancer[8].

A study funded by the National Cancer Institute found that vitamin K2 might help reduce the risk for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that people with the highest intake of vitamin K2 had a 45 percent lower risk for this type of cancer, compared to those with the lowest vitamin K2 intake[9].

Scientists attribute this to the important role that vitamin K2 plays in inhibiting inflammatory cytokines, which are related to this type of lymphoma, and vitamin K’s role the lifecycle of your cells.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin K from Your Diet?

Eating lots of green vegetables will increase your vitamin K1 levels naturally, especially:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

You can obtain all the K2 you’ll need (about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams of natto daily, which is half an ounce. However, natto is generally not pleasing to the Westerner’s palate, so the next best thing is a vitamin K2 supplement.

But remember, you must always take your vitamin K supplement with fat since it is fat-soluble and won’t be absorbed without it.

Although the exact dosing is yet to be determined, Dr. Vermeer recommends between 45 mcg and 185 mcg daily for adults. You must use caution on the higher doses if you take anticoagulants, but if you are generally healthy and not on these types of medications, I suggest 150 mcg daily.

Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about overdosing on K2—people have been given a thousand-fold “overdose” over the course of three years, showing no adverse reactions (i.e., no increased clotting tendencies).

The Synergistic Effects Between Vitamin K and Vitamin D

It’s important to realize that vitamin K does not work alone. It needs collaborators—and vitamin D is an important one.

These two agents work together to increase MGP, or Matrix GLA Protein, which is the protein that is responsible for protecting your blood vessels from calcification. In fact, MGP is so important that it can be used as a laboratory measure of your vascular and cardiac status.

The results of human clinical studies suggest that concurrent use of vitamin K2 and vitamin D may substantially reduce bone loss.

If you are concerned about your bones, you must balance this nutritional triad:

  1. Vitamin D
  2. Vitamin K
  3. Calcium

Increasing calcium is good for your bones but not so beneficial for your arteries, which can become calcified, but vitamin K protects your blood vessels from calcifying when in the presence of high calcium levels.

So you really must pay attention to the synergism of all three of these nutrients if you want to optimize your benefits.

I am convinced we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to vitamin K and its many valuable functions in your health. It’s truly an exciting area in nutritional science today.

In the meantime it is my STRONG encouragement to make sure you find some regular source of vitamin K2. This will mean eating about four ounces of fermented cheese a day (preferably raw) or taking a high quality vitamin K2 supplement.

It is my strong belief that in ten years time there will be as much passion and appreciation for this stealth vitamin as we have for vitamin D today.

References


  • [1] Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S and Linseisen J. “Dietary intake of vitamin K and risk of prostate cancer in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg)” Am J Clinical Nutrition April 2008;87(4):985-992 http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/87/4/985
  • [2] Geleijnse JM, Vermeer C, Grobbee DE, Schurgers LJ, Knapen MHJ, van der Meer IM, Hofman A and Witteman JCM. “Dietary intake of menaquinone is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease: The Rotterdam Study” November 2004; J Nutr 134:3100-3105 http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/134/11/3100
  • [3] Daniels, S. “Vitamin K2, but not K1, effective for heart health benefits: Study” NutraIngredients.com February 12, 2009 http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Vitamin-K2-but-not-K1-effective-for-heart-health-benefits-Study
  • [4] Vermeer C, Shearer M J, Zitterman A, Bolton-Smith C, Szulc P, Hodges S, Walter P, Rambeck W, Stocklin E, Weber P. “Beyond deficiency: Potential benefits of increased intakes of vitamin K for bone and vascular health” Eur J Nutr. December 2004;43(6):325-335
  • [5] Cockayne S, Adamson J, Lanham-New S, Shearer MJ, Gilbody S, Torgerson DJ. “Vitamin K and the prevention of fractures: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials” Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166: 1256-1261
  • [6] Schurgers LJ, Teunissen KJF, Hamulyak K, Knapen MHJ, Hogne V, Vermeer C. “Vitamin K-containing dietary supplements: Comparison of synthetic vitamin K1 and natto-derived menaquinone-7” Blood. 2006
  • [7] Nimptsch K, Rohrmann S, Kaaks R, and Linseisen J. “Dietary vitamin K intake in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: Results from the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Heidelberg)” Am J Clin Nutr (March 24, 2010) http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2009.28691v1
  • [8] Daniells S (March 30, 2010) “Vitamin D may reduce cancer risk: EPIC study” Nutraingredients.com http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Vitamin-K-may-reduce-cancer-risk-EPIC-study
  • [9] “Vitamin K may protect against developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma” (April 20, 2010) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/185923.php

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