Monday, September 29, 2008

Re-Thinking the Flu Vaccine

Aah, Autumn! My favorite time of year. Mild temperatures, brilliant colors, football…..and flu shot campaigns!

Judging by the forcefulness of the advertising one would think that the flu shot is vital for the very survival of mankind. But is there more to the story? Yes!

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the flu shot needs to be reconsidered.

Dr. Tom Jefferson, coordinator of the Cochrane Vaccines Field in Rome, Italy who was quoted in the BMJ article, said much of the data supporting yearly flu vaccinations was flawed and found that there was little merit in wintertime flu shots. BMJ editor Fiona Godlee agreed, stating that she was critical of the way the UK evaluated the merits and costs of annual flu shots, calling for change in British procedure.

In Britain, experts say the people most at risk -- such as the elderly -- should get the vaccine during the flu season. However, it is difficult for scientists to make the vaccine effective because the influenza viruses mutate, and the strains which are circulating change from year to year.

Dr. David Salisbury, director of immunization at the Department of Health, acknowledged that the vaccines were not perfect, but remained hopeful. "We are hopeful that new vaccines currently in development may overcome some of the concerns raised about efficacy."

But some disagree with the concept of yearly flu vaccinations entirely.
"The winter flu shot myth is based entirely on junk science designed to serve the interests of pharmaceutical companies who sell the vaccines," explained Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of the book, Conquering the Common Cold. “An honest look at the science reveals the unavoidable truth about flu shots-- they're virtually worthless at preventing the flu," Adams said. "People would be much better off to skip the shots and engage in healthier exercise and dietary habits."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), perhaps the biggest advocate of flu shots, has admitted in a study published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that the 2007-08 flu vaccine was only 44 percent effective, making the flu season the worst since 2003-04.

Flu vaccines are formulated based on health officials' educated guesses about which strains of the virus are most likely to be circulating in a given year. Three of these strains are picked for inclusion in the vaccine. On the rare occasions when officials guess correctly, the vaccine is between 70 and 90 percent effective. When they don’t guess correctly, well, the results are not so good.

This past year most flu infections were caused by a Type A H2N2 Brisbane strain that was not included in the vaccine. Another common infectious agent was a Type B Florida strain. According to data collected by the Marshfield Clinic in central Wisconsin, the 2007-08 flu vaccine was only 58 percent effective against the Brisbane strain and totally ineffective against the Florida strain.

Researchers usually measure the severity of a flu season by comparing either adult or child mortality data. By both measures, the 2007-08 season was the worst in recent years. In the 2003-04 season, the flu vaccine also failed to function at peak effectiveness, due to the primary infectious agent for that year not being included.

It also appears that flu vaccines are largely ineffective in the populations for which they are most highly recommended, according to the British Medical Journal study. Dr. Tom Jefferson, quoted earlier, conducted an extensive review of previous studies on the effectiveness of inactivated [dead virus] flu vaccines on hospital admissions, death rates and time off work.

"We've got an exaggerated expectation of what vaccines can actually do," Jefferson said. "I'm hoping American and European taxpayers will be alerted and start asking questions."

Jefferson notes that recommendations for flu shots have significantly increased in recent years, a move he says may not be justified.

"I looked at the evidence described by systematic reviews and confronted it with policy and I found that there is a massive gap," he said. "Almost none of the benefits that these policy documents list are actually given by inactivated vaccines or, if they are, they are given in slighter measure."

Consumer health advocate Mike Adams called flu vaccine shots "one of the greatest medical cons perpetrated on the populations of the world," and questioned new U.S. policies pushing the vaccines on young children and expectant mothers.

"Flu shots only prevent colds in about 1 percent of people who get them, making them 99 percent useless," Adams said. "They also inject unhealthy substances such as mercury preservatives directly into tissues, poisoning the patient with a chemical burden that accumulates with each flu shot."

In contrast, there is a cornucopia of nature-derived substances that boost the immune system and strengthen the body against illness and infection – none of which present a toxic load to the body like flu shots. But more about that in the next post.

Monday, September 22, 2008

New Help for Connective Tissue Disorders

Did you know that there are 200 disorders tied into the umbrella of Connective Tissue Disorders? New advances in nutrition-specific proteomics and nutrigenomics now provides a new and incredibly effective protocol for care of many of these various disorders, which is a long list. Other than the primary genetic disorders such as the Ehlers-Danlos Hypermobility, Marfans, and Osteogenesis Imperfectus, the following disorders have been included also:

· Scoliosis
· Sunken chest (pectus excavatum)
· Barrel chest (pectus carinatum)
· Fibromyalgia
· Double jointedness (hypermobility)
· Migraines
· Mitral Valve Prolapse
· Back pain
· Muscle twitches and ticks
· Vertigo
· Easy bruising
· Neck pain
· Kyphosis (rounded shoulders)
· Frozen shoulders
· Sciatica
· Itching/sensitive skin
· Muscle cramps, especially in the calves
· Obsessive compulsive disorder
· Tinnitus
· Scarring
· Cellulitis as a result of infection
· Plantar Fascitis
· Rheumatoid arthritis
· Systemic Lupus
· And lots of others…

Significant scientific breakthroughs in nutritional medicine provide hope for many of these disorders.

At the Functional Medicine Research Center, a study on patients who previously did not respond to multiple manual adjustments given a formula containing berberine, folic acid, tetra iso-alpha acids from hops, niacinamide, and selenium had 70% pain management within 24 hours and sustained at 47% pain management at 7 days (average)!

This formula works by down-regulating an enzyme pathway called, MMP, which is a collagen degradation mechanism. It would be especially appropriate for tendonopathy, repetitive injury, hypermobile joints, and soft tissue injuries. For chiropractic physicians and osteopaths who perform manual manipulations, it would be appropriate for all patients who do not hold their adjustments.

Mechanism of Action
Matrix Metalloproteinase (MMP) are collagen-digesting enzymes naturally produced by chondrocytes after injury. They serve, in part, to remodel new connective tissue just like osteoclasts remodel new bone tissue. However, poor diet, lifestyle, repetitive injuries can trigger cell signals which can lead to over-activated release of MMPs. Excessive release of MMPs can damage and degrade healthy tendons and cartilage tissue.

The new extra-cellular matrix-supporting product called has specific natural compounds shown in studies to regulate specific MMP enzymes. For example, tetra iso-alpha acids from hops modulate MMP-13. Selenium addresses MMP-1 and MMP-2. Folic acid impacts homocysteine to positively influence MMP-9, and niacinamide down-regulates the tissue-damaging PARS cycle. Berberine, known best for its anti-pathogen power, is also an effective ingredient which can prevent skin inflammation and the degredation of extracellular matrix proteins.

Results of Research
In a multi-site evaluation of 12 “difficult” patients where previous bodywork was only mildly helpful, the nutritional formula was given for 7 days. The patients’ average initial pain score on a 1-10 scale (10 being the worst) was 7, and the average initial flexibility score was 3 (1 being the worst in terms of stiffness). Pain scores over the course of seven days were “dramatically” decreased (range: 2-4) relative to the baseline median score of 7. Flexibility scores also improved.

A case study provided by Dr. John Hallawell, DC, showed that significant improvement in range of motion and trigger point sensitivity allowed the application of deeper manipulation compared to prior to the administration of the product.

A Testimonial
I prefer to stick to research rather than testimonials, but once in a while a testimony is helpful when combined with the research.

Mara from Michigan has the connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos, the hypermobility type. As she describes it, “the tendons and ligaments don’t form well and become like old rubber bands and do not have the elasticity that is the norm. So anything inflammatory will make it a lot worse and I start dislocating. However, thanks to lifestyle changes and Metagenics, I got out of most of the braces, gave up the inflammatory foods and comparatively speaking was doing lots better. But the connective tissue pain has still been hounding me and I have never been able to exercise since any repetitive motion would end up dislocating me. I received the [nutritional formula] on a Friday afternoon. I took two right then and two before bed, two the next morning. By noon on Saturday almost all the pain in my elbow was gone! Within 4 days it didn’t even hurt to the touch anymore and within three weeks, my chiro was able to adjust my back, my shoulders finally released, and I am pain free for the first time in a year! I can’t even tell you how wonderful that is! I did go off for a couple days and the pain started coming back. The great thing is now that I have a loading dose in me, it will work within half an hour now.”

This new formula is another in the growing family of unique Selective Kinase Response Modulators (SKRMs) created with the proteomic method. Proteomics is the science of how certain substances effect physiology and pathophysiology. This method allows researchers to remove the guesswork associated with much of the extrapolation of the research associated with nutritional compounds and allows them to evaluate exactly how certain combinations of nutrients are going to effect physiology and pathophysiology. Thus, a new era has emerged that may provide new hope for those suffering from chronic connective tissue disorders.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Making Sense of the Super Juice Craze

Paul Zane Pilzer, author of the monster-selling book, The Wellness Revolution, predicts that the next TRILLION dollar industry will be in the field of wellness.

Indeed, supplement sales alone enjoy double digit growth every year, and so it stands to reason that manufacturers of novel new products and services will begin popping up all over the place.

Enter then, the new craze of Super Juices.

I’ll leave the manufacturers nameless, but you know them. Sellers of acai berry juice and all manner of exotic fruit juices supposedly providing nutrient power unmatched by any substance in the Milky Way are now commonplace. But are these juices, or even the now mundane commercial orange and grape juices we have enjoyed for so many generations really all that good for you?

Consider this: By law all juice (and milk) manufacturers must pasteurize their products before being brought to market in order to kill any pathogens. Pasteurization involves boiling in temperatures up over 220 degrees for 20 minutes. By the time that boiling is complete, all of the potential pathogens are dead, but so are most of the nutrients. What’s left over is what little nutrients, if any, that survived, and a whole lot of fruit sugar. Might as well drink Hi-C.

This point was dramatically illustrated in a study entitled, Antioxidant activity of pasteurized and sterilized commercial red orange juices. Here’s the abstract:

Blood orange juice is a typical Italian product whose red color is primarily associated with anthocyanin pigments. Two orange-based products are present on the market: pasteurized pure juice with 40 days of shelf life, and sterilized beverage containing minimum 12% of concentrated fruit juice. The aim of the present paper is to verify the relationships between the antioxidant properties and the anthocyanins content in a sampling of pasteurized and sterilized commercial red orange juices. The anthocyanins composition was determined by HPLC-MS/MS, while the antioxidant activity was evaluated by the Briggs-Rauscher reaction, selected in order to acquire information at acid pH values, by three radical scavenging assays (DMPD, 2-2-azinobis-(3-ethylenbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid) diammonium salt (ABTS), DPPH), and by FRAP assay to monitor the ferric reducing power. Results showed that antioxidant activity, particularly when measured by ABTS method, is positively related to the content of anthocyanins and that the reduction of anthocyanins content, typical of commercial long-shelf life juices, leads to a remarkable loss of antioxidant power.1

In my opinion, juicing is great as long as you juice fresh foods yourself and drink them immediately after. If you do your own juicing but save your left-over juice for future consumption, oxidation by itself will kill off a good portion of the nutrients. So drinking your own juiced foods immediately after juicing can provide huge amounts of body-ready nutrients. But be careful. Do this only in moderation. When juice is liberated from the pulp and fiber of the food it came from, it no longer has the benefit of that fiber to slow the absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream. So drinking a lot of even the most nutrient-dense juices can spike blood sugar and contribute to metabolic syndrome.

I’m a juicer myself, but only occasionally. I don’t juice every day, and usually only when I feel like I’m coming down with something or when I’m fasting. For a daily supplement to my diet, I rely on therapeutic levels of micronutrient blends like Multigenics and Ceralin Forte, and powerful phytonutrient blends like the ones found in Celapro. These are ways to provide one’s self with huge levels of disease-fighting antioxidants without the sugar, and because they don’t have to be pasteurized, they maintain their therapeutic value and antioxidant strength throughout the manufacturing process as verified by third-party laboratory assays.

Juices, on the other hand, are typically not analyzed for their nutrient content after pasteurization and processing. The claims being made regarding the antioxidant value in the marketing are usually references to the berry or fruit itself, and the consumer is supposed to make the mental leap that if the fruit is good, the sterilized juice should be even better. Unfortunately, what looks good in full-color glossy ads do not always represent good science and are often just a shade off from the whole truth.
Conclusion? In my opinion, commercial juices, especially the grossly over-priced superfood juices, are gimmicks that cannot be validated with scientific scrutiny.
Alberto Fiore 1, Luca La Fauci 2, Rinaldo Cervellati 3, Maria Clelia Guerra 4, Ester Speroni 4, Stefano Costa 4, Giacomo Galvano 5, Antonino De Lorenzo 6, Vanessa Bacchelli 3, Vincenzo Fogliano 1, Fabio Galvano *
1Department of Food Science, University Federico II, Naples, Italy2Department of Agro-forestry and Environmental Science, Mediterranean University of Reggio Calabria, Gallina di Reggio Calabria, Italy. Fax: +39-95-3512013Department of Chemistry G. Ciamician, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy4Department of Pharmacology, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy5Department of Agronomical, Agrochemical and Animal Production Science, University of Catania, Catania, Italy6Department of Neurosciences, University of Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wonder Nutrients for Cognition, Part 3

In the two previous posts I focused on specific natural compounds, Huperzine A and Ginko, that are effective in managing cognitive decline. In this post I’ll provide strategies for effective overall brain protection, focusing on a single product which has become one of my personal favorites because of its rich content of three nutrients primarily: Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC), N-Acetylcysteine (NAC), and Grape Seed Extract.

Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC)
ALC is a vitamin-like substance that is responsible for the transport of fatty acids into and out of the mitochondria, and is the form of carnitine found naturally in brain tissue and is thought to be substantially more active in the CNS. ALC increases cardiolipin, which is an important phospholipid that serves as a co-factor for a number of critical mitochondrial transport proteins. Supplementation with ALC may also improve energy production within brain cells.

An analysis of controlled studies reports that persons with subclinical or clinical dementia given 1.5 to 3 g ALC daily have shown improvement in numerous clinical measures of cognitive function. In two large multicenter, crossover trials, geriatric patients given 1500 mg of ALC daily for 90 days experienced improvements in clinical tests of cognition, memory, and depression over controls. In other double-blind, placebo controlled trials, ALC-treated subjects showed less mental deterioration as rated by cognitive and AD assessment test scores.

N-Acetylcysteine (NAC)
The protective effect of NAC is believed to be related to its restoration of brain glutathione (GSH) levels. GSH is central to antioxidant defenses in the brain and is an important component of detoxification of ROS. GSH, however, does not cross the Blood-Brain-Barrier, so oral supplementation with precursors such as NAC and alpha-lipoic acid are the best way to increase brain levels.

NAC has been shown to increase mitchondrial complex 1 activity and markedly improve mitochondrial electron transport chain activity. In animal models of traumatic brain injury, NAC significantly restored mitochondrial energy producing mechanisms (electron transfer, energy coupling capacity, calcium uptake activity.

Other Vital Nutrients for Brain Function included in Ceralin Forte:

  • Grape Seed Extract: Acts as a neurological antioxidant, provides protection for nerve cells, and supports circulatory function.

  • 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF): Supports neuron life cycle, neurotransmitter metabolism, methylation, homocysteine metabolism, and nervous system function.

  • Vitamin B6: Involved in the conversion of glutamate into calming GABA,supports neuron life cycle and nervous system function, as well as methylation and homocysteine metabolism.

  • Vitamin B12: Supports neurotransmitter metabolism, neuron life cycle, methylation, homocysteine metabolism, and nervous system function.

  • Thiamin and Riboflavin: Involved in mitochondrial function.

  • Niacinamide: Provides neuron protection and nervous system function.

Putting Together a Brain Protection Protocol
Unfortunately some of the best formulas for neuron protection are also the most expensive. However, a good one-two combination that is cost effective is the Ginko and Rosemary formula along with EPA/DHA from fish oil. You’ll recall from previous posts that EPA and DHA from fish oil provide support for the brain and nervous system such that it has actually been shown to raise the IQ. For those over 40 who are not feeling quite as mentally sharp, I like the addition of the brain antioxidant formula featuring acetyl-L-carnitine, NAC, and grape seed extract at 1 capsule 2-3 times per day. This formula provides some great cross-over antioxidant support that is also important for detoxification and many other body functions. For those experiencing noticeable cognitive decline, the use of the Huperzine A formula is a must at atleast 2 per day.

  1. Carta A, Calvani M, Bravi D, et al. Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Alzheimer’s disease: pharmacological considerations beyond the cholinergic sphere.

  2. Ann NY Acad Sci 1993;695-26.

  3. Murray, MT. The many benefits of carnitine. Am J Nat Med 1996;3(2):6-14.

  4. Salvioli G, Neri M. L-acetylcarnitine treatment of mental decline in the elderly. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1994:20(4):169-76.

  5. Cipoli C, Chiari G. Effects of L-acetylcarnitine on mental deterioration in the aged: initial results. Clinical Ter 1990;132(6 suppl):479-510.

  6. Pettegrew JW, Klunk WE, Panchalingam K, et al. Clinical and neurochemical effects of acetyl-L-carnitine in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobioll

  7. Aging 1995;16(1):1-4.

  8. Sano M, Bell K, Cote L, et al. Double blind parallel design pilot study of acetyl levocarnitine in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neuroll

  9. 1992:49(11):1137-41.

  10. Xiong Y, Peterson PL, Lee CP. Effect of N-acetylcysteine on mitochondrial function following traumatic brain injury in rats. J Neurotrauma 1999:16(11):106 7-82.

  11. Dringen R. Metabolism and functions of glutathione in brain. Prog Neurobiol 2000:62:649-71.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Wonder Nutrients for Cognition, Part 2

Spencer Johansen is the Police Chief in Lexington, Ill. He was only 49 years of age when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Unfortunately the early onset of Alzheimer’s Disease in Spencer Johansen’s case is not isolated. Cases of younger and younger people, some in their early forties, are being reported.
The reasons behind this frightening trend are many and varied. Chronic stress, poor body composition, environmental toxicity, cell phones use, and nutrient deficiency are just some of the many reasons why people get Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. Thus, lifestyle modification is a key component in not only preventing but also treating cognitive decline with age.
Eating a whole foods diet comprised of fresh fruits and vegetables (preferably organic), lean meats, whole grains, and lots of purified water (not tap water), while cutting back on or eliminating fast foods and packaged foods is the starting place. That needs to be followed up by getting more active, as research is now showing that exercise is as good for the brain as it is the rest of the body.
Removing one’s self from stressful situations, if possible, is also another important component of prevention and treatment. Stress raises cortisol and inflammatory mediators which, if chronic, can cause a catabolic state throughout the body which can break down muscle tissue and effect the brain and nervous system. It is now thought that even negative emotions such as anger, resentment, and unforgiveness can likewise effect all the organ systems by causing these same “molecules of emotion” – as they have been called – to continue coursing through the body.

Brain Protection in Nature
Nature’s pharmacy provides some of the most remarkable substances on the planet in preventing and treating diseases of the brain.

The herb, Ginko Biloba, while no longer considered cutting-edge like newer and novel agents such as huperzine A (see my last post of huperzine), is still an important consideration in brain health because of its broad-spectrum effect on brain tissue and its relatively low cost.

Ginko is an approved treatment for dementia in Germany, and is the only non-prescription substance considered a treatment for dementia in Canada. Many European studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Ginko in the treatment of patients with age-associated memory and cognitive impairments as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The first clinical trial in the U.S. showed that patients with dementia and Alzheimer's receiving 120 mg per day improved the cognitive performance and social functioning of a substantial number of cases compared to a worsening of the conditions in the control group.1

Other benefits of Ginko include:
  • Scavenges oxidative radicals
  • Inhibits platelet aggregation
  • Improves circulation to the brain
  • May help normalize cerebral metabolism under hypoxic conditions
  • May prevent changes in mitochondrial morphology and function associated with aging of the brain.
  • Shown in animal studies to possess anti-stress and adaptogenic properties by decreasing blood glucocorticoid levels and increasing adrenocorticotrophic hormone levels, showing positive potential for stress-related cognitive impairment; prevents stress-induced learning impairment and elevations in stress hormones; and increases acetylcholine synthesis and turnover of norepineprhine. 2,3,4

Some recent studies have called into question the effectiveness of Ginko, but it is important to note that the leaf of Ginko is the most therapeutic part of the plant, rather than the stem or the root. However, a company can use the various parts of the plant in a Ginko product and still call it Ginko. Yet the therapeutic effect of the product would be substantially lower than a product utilizing strictly the standardized extract of the leaf.

It is also now widely held that many negative reports on natural substances are from studies funded in part by drug companies who cannot patent or sell substances like Ginko and who therefore wish only to cast these therapeutic substances in a negative light so as to protect the profit on the sale of their drugs. Upon investigating the poor study design of many of these studies, it would appear that that belief certainly has the ring of truth to it.

In the case of Ginko, the well-designed studies clearly show marked improvement in many aspects of cognition and brain health.

A cutting-edge approach for Ginko supplementation is to combine 60 mg of standardized Ginko leaf extract along with the added therapeutic and antioxidant benefits of Rosemary. Two tablets provide the therapeutic dose of 120 mg used in the studies.


1. Le Bars PL, Katz MM, Berman N, et al. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginko Biloba for Dementia. JAMA 1997;278(16):1327-32.

2. Rai GS, Shovlin C, Wesnes KA. A double-blind, placebo controlled study of Ginko Biloba extract in elderly outpatients with mild to moderate memory impairment. Curr Med Res Opin 1991;12:350-55.

3. Rapin JR, Lamproglou I, Drieu K, et al. Demonstration of the “anti stress” activity of an extract of Ginko Biloba using a discrimination learning task. Gen Pharmacol 1994;25(5):1009-16.

4. Sastre J, Pallardo FV, Vina J. Mitochondrial oxidative stress plays a key role in aging and apoptosis. IUBMB Life 2000 May;49(5):427-35.