Monday, October 19, 2009


In his seminar series from earlier this year, Dr. Jeffrey Bland alluded to a new book by Dan Buettner entitled, Blue Zones: Lessons from Living Longer from People Who've Lived the Longest. Borrowing from Buettner's book, Dr. Bland summarized the most common denominator's of culture's where people are living longer and healthier - areas now being reffered to as Blue Zones. Interestingly, one of only four Blue Zone's globally is right here in the United States, in Loma Linda, California, in a close-knit Seventh Day Adventist community.

Here is a list of Blue Zone characteristics:

High Level of Daily Activity

Daily "thoughtless" activity and exercise is key to good health and longevity. Thoughtless activity is the kind one does without necessarily thinking about it, such as raking the yard, mowing the grass with a push mower, walking to your destinations if possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, etc. With some forethought, there are countless ways to get exercise without putting in time at the gym. If you enjoy gym workouts, however, or must use gym equipment because of an otherwise busy lifestyle, then occupying the mind with stimuli not focused on the exercise while you are at work is a great alternative. In most gyms these days, you can find a "cardio theatre," where television sets are positioned in front of the cardio equipment. This outside stimuli really does help in keeping your mind focused other than the discomfort you may be feeling during a grueling and/or boring workout.

Cut Calories

Another characteristic of Blue Zone living is calorie restriction. An easy way to do this is simply eat more slowly, because by eating fast you put food into the stomach faster than what the satiety chemicals like CCK can respond to. By the time CCK kicks in makes you start feeling full, you've already eaten significantly more than you would have otherwise. Also, eating smaller amounts more often is also a way to keep hunger pangs at bay but controlling your caloric intake at the same time.

Cut Down on Meat and Prepared Foods

I'm not advocating a vegetarian diet necessarily. But eliminating animal protein at least one meal per day can reap benefits. It really does not take much meat to provide all the protein that the average person needs to stay healthy, and the saturated fat that is characteristic of beef and pork doesn't help. Eating leaner meats like poultry, fish, and eggs is a great way to get high quality protein without as much saturated fat.

Also, eliminating or at least cutting way back on fried foods in favor of broiling and baking is a huge plus, and choosing plant-based whole foods over refined, processed, packaged foods is the high road.

Red Wine in Moderation

All Blue Zones are known by their intake of red wine in moderation. The phytochemicals in red wine are potent, life-giving antioxidants. Of course, I have often questioned whether or not it's the phytochemicals in red wine alone that provide the benefit, or if there is also something beneficial about the alcohol itself. I think most would be prone say the former, but there is a scripture in the book of Psalms that I find interesting. It says wine is a gift from God given to "make glad the heart of man." It appears that the relaxing effects of the alcohol may have benefit, as long as it is not abused. No more than one small glass per day is the upper level of consumption that seems to show benefit. More than that and wine can have the reverse effect.

For those who do not enjoy wine, there are, of course, non-alcholic alternatives. Organic grape juice, or better yet, supplementing with nutriceuticals that provide phytochemicals either in a broad spectrum product, or in a high potency product are great alternatives.

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I will highlight the next 6 Blue Zone characteristics.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Natural Compounds for Estrogen Metabolism Support

Recall from the last post that we looked at how the liver plays a vital role in metabolizing estrogens. I left you with the thought that those important pathways which so often go awry can be modified with specific compounds from nature. “Although the estrogen receptor is required for a cell to respond to an estrogenic stimulus, the nature and extent of that response are determined by the proteins, pathways, and processes with which the receptor interacts.” Connections and Regulation of the Human Estrogen Receptor, Dean McDonnell and John D. Norris

This means that factors other than the presence or absence of estrogen influence the response of the estrogen receptor and the cell. These factors are what make up the chemical environment in and around the cell, and can be impacted by nutritional factors. The way estrogen receptors create chemical messengers that relate to other receptors is called “cross-talk,” and it would make sense that this “cross-talk” is influenced by nutrient status.

We’ll look at a few of the natural compounds in this post that positively affect estrogen metabolism.

Indole-3-CarbinolIt has been demonstrated convincingly that Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) from cruciferous vegetables increases the healthful 2-OHE estrogen pathway and decreases the harmful 4-/16-OHE estrogens.

“Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound occuring naturally in cruciferous vegetables, exhibits a potent antitumor activity via its regulation of estrogen activity and metabolism... These results further suggest that antitumor activities of I3C are associated not only with its regulation of estrogen activity and metabolism, but also its modulation of ER transcription activity.” J Nutri 130:2927-2931(2000)

“It has been shown that it induces CyP450 1A1, increasing 2-hydroxylation of estrogens, leading to the protective 2-OHE1, and also decreases CyP 1B1 sharply, inhibiting 4-hydroxylation of estradiol, thereby decreasing the formation of the carcinogenic 4-OHE1. …it has also been shown to be effective against HPV-mediated tumors in human patients.” Ann Ny Acad Sci889:204-213(1999)

“These results indicate that anti-invasion and antimigration activities of I3C occur via estrogen-independent and estrogen-dependent pathways. …current finding is the first demonstration that I3C can activate the function of invasion suppressor molecules associated with the suppression of invasion and migration in breast cancer cells. Thus, clinical application of I3C may contribute to the potential benefit for suppression of breast cancer invasion and metastasis.” J Mol Med78:155-165(2000)

Supplementation with I3C has shown promise in the literature:

  • Supplementation with concentrate (400 mg/d) promotes 2-Hydroxylation and improves 2-OH:16-OH ratio. Michnovicz JJ, et al, J Natl Cancer Inst, 89(10):718-20, 1997.
  • May also reduce 4-Hydroxylation. Bradlow HL, et al, Ann NY Acad Sci, 889:204-13, 1999.
  • 300-400mg/d promises to be a chemopreventive agent. Wong et al., J Cell Biochem Suppl 1997;28-29:111

I3C has also shown to positively influence gene expression! Recall that estrogen metabolism occurs in specific liver pathways. The CYP450 1A1 pathway forms 2-OH, and the single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) Msp 1 impairs 1A1 function. I3C, however, improves estrogen metabolism even in the presence of the polymorphism! Bartsch et al., Carcinogenesis 1999;20(12):2209, Taioli et al., Cancer Detection and Prev1999;23(3):232

The CYP450 1B1 pathway, however, forms the 16-OH hormone, and the SNP V432L increases the function of the 1B1 pathway. I3C inhibits 1B1 even in the presence of the SNP! Bradlow et al., Ann NY Acad Sci 1999;889:204

We’ll look at more natural compounds for healthy estrogen metabolism in the posts following.


Related Formula: Meta I3C

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When Estrogen Metabolism Goes Awry (And How to Fix it)

I’ve heard so many positive reports on the power of the Metagenics formula for estrogen metabolism, I thought that it would be time well spent to talk about estrogen in the next few posts.

How Estrogen is Metabolized
The majority of estrogens are detoxified in the cytochrome (CYP) P-450 1A1 phase 1 liver process known as hydroxylation. Fifty percent of all estrogen is metabolized through the catechol-2 (C2) position, creating the weaker 2-hydroxyestrone catechol, whereas the rest is metabolized through much stronger estrogenic pathways known as the C4 and the C16 positions (via the cytochrome 1B1 pathways), which create the 4-OH and 16-OH hormones.

Data is piling up that the 2-OH hormone is protective, whereas overproduction of the 4 and 16-OH estrogens heighten the risk of cancer.

“The expanding data indicates that 2-OH estrone is anticarcinogenic. In every experimental model in which 2-OH was increased, protection against tumors was achieved. Correspondingly, when 2-OH was decreased, an increase in cancer was observed.” J Endocrinology 130:S239-S265 (1996)

“4-OH-E1 and 16-OH-E2 are considered carcinogenic.” Gruber et al., NEJM Jan 31,2002; 346(5):340

“In a study of 10,786 women it was found that the ratio of 2-OH to 16-OH estrone was a very sensitive indicator of breast cancer risk. The higher the ratio of 2:16 OH, the lower the incidence of breast cancer.” Epidemiology 11:635-640 (2000)

The question then, how does the body shift its load of hormone metabolism toward the unfavorable 4 and 16-OH pathways and away from the healthier 2-OH pathway?

“…environmental factors enhancing aromatase activity might result in high tissue concentrations of E2 that would likely be sufficient to serve as substrates for CYP1B1… for formation of catechol metabolites that are estrogenic and which, upon further oxidative metabolism, form genotoxic species at levels that may contribute to estrogen carcinogenesis.” J Nat’l Can Inst Monographs #27:95-112 (2000)

In short and simple terms, environmental factors including toxic pollution and chemically-altered food can enhance the enzyme aromatase, which serves as a precursor to various hormones, including testosterone. This jacked-up aromatase activity shifts estrogen metabolism in the liver toward the cytochrome 1B1 pathway, which is the one that makes more of the 4 and 16-OH estrogens.

Phase 2
After the phase 1 processes in the liver are complete, the phase 2 pathways complete the process of hormone metabolism via the methylation, glucaronidation, and conjugation pathways. Methylation, for example, is protective because once the hormones are hydroxylated in phase 1, they are then either methylated and excreted, or in the case of faulty methylation, they are oxidized to quinones.

“Methylation (of 2-OHE2 and 4-OHE2) by catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is the principal means of catechol estrogen deactivation in the liver and other tissues.” Toxicol Appl Pharmacol 162, 115-123 (2000)

“Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is a phase II enzyme that deactivates catechol estrogens into non-genotoxic methyl ethers that can be easily excreted by the body.” Carcinogenesis vol.24 no.4 pp.681±687, 2003

There is a Reason for all this Biochemistry
The reason for all this biochemistry is to drive home some important take-aways: The favorable metabolic pathways can be influenced by diet and supplements! CYP 450 and COMT activity can be influenced by diet and supplements! The favorable metabolic pathways can be influenced by diet and supplements!

Where diet is concerned, the damaging effects of upregulated aromatase activity can be improved by eating less sugar, as insulin will tend to produce more adipose tissue, and fat cells contain more aromatase which in turn will produce more estrogen from testosterone. Losing weight and improving the diet can positively influence estrogen metabolism!
Xenoestrogens from the environment, likewise, contribute to the estrogen pool and inhibit normal estrogen metabolism. Thus, a detoxification program might be in order.

Where specific supplements are concerned, pathogenic gut bacteria deconjugate detoxified estrogens, allowing for their reabsorption. So probiotic bacteria can help to complete the process of estrogen conjugation and elimination in the gut. But it goes way beyond that. There are specific macro and micronutrients that can greatly influence estrogen detoxification for the better and improve hydroxylation, methylation, etc in the liver.

That is the subject of the next post. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New Study Finds Mushrooms Slash Breast Cancer Risk

New research has concluded that regular consumption of mushrooms can decrease a woman's risk of breast cancer by two thirds.

Scientists from the University of Western Australia in Perth conducted a study on 2,018 Chinese women, half of whom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After adjusting for known cancer risk factors such as obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and lower education level, the researchers found that women who ate at least 10 grams of button mushrooms per day were 64 percent less likely to develop breast cancer. Women who ate dried mushrooms regularly also significantly reduced their risk of developing the disease, although not by as much.

The study was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

This is not the first time scientists have found evidence of mushrooms' cancer-fighting properties. Numerous studies have found that mushrooms may suppress the body's production of the sex hormone estrogen, much like the breast cancer drugs known as aromatose inhibitors. High estrogen levels are a well-known risk factor for breast cancer. Mushrooms have also been found to strengthen the body's immune function, stimulating the all-important T-cells and killer cells, and thus block tumor development. Mushroom extract has been shown to stop the growth of breast cancer cells, sparking an ongoing study evaluating whether taking mushroom extract twice per month can prevent a recurrence of the disease.

Researchers believe that certain mushrooms work by blocking the action of an enzyme known as AKT, which plays a role in controlling cell growth. Prior studies have suggested that mushrooms hamper the activity of skin, lung and prostate cancer cells. They reduce accelerated cell growth and block the development of blood vessels that feed tumors.

Some of the most medicinal of the mushroom family include reishi, shiitake, Fu-Ling, Turkey Tail, Oyster mushrooms, cordyceps, and maitake. These can be obtained individually in supplement form or in combination.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Acid Reflux

Acid blocking drugs are some of the most prescribed medications in the country. Aside from those using prescription medications, forty percent of adults self-medicate with antacids and other OTC medications.

But inhibiting stomach acid may not be such a good thing.

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) plays many important physiological roles. Aside from its obvious role and breaking down solid food that can be passed into the small intestine, HCl also assists in protein digestion, facilitates the absorption of minerals and B-vitamins, and stimulates pancreatic enzymes and bile secretion. HCl also protects against orally-ingested pathogens and is the first line defense against infections, helping prevent bacterial and fungal overgrowth of the small intestine.

In short, blocking acid production can set the stage for a variety of maladies related to nutrient deficiencies and bacterial infestations. Yet these drugs are first line therapy for acid reflux and represent the third highest selling category of OTC medications. Thus, exploring alternative methods is paramount.

Understanding Stomach Physiology
When food is present in the stomach, the parietal cells go to work to secrete pepsin and HCl. The stomach then proceeds to gently churn up the mix until the food is pulverized into a soupy consistency that can be passed into the small intestine for extraction of nutrients into the bloodstream. During this process a signal is sent to the esophageal sphincter muscle at the top of the stomach and it closes tight, preventing access of the stomach contents into the esophagus.

The length of time that this process takes will vary depending on the size of the meal, but even with larger meals it usually takes a couple of hours at the most if everything is in order.

When Things Go Awry
A number of different factors play into why stomach function goes awry and people begin to experience acid reflux.

For one, the quality of nutrition is huge. The parietal cells of the stomach are very dependant upon certain nutrients, especially zinc, for their normal function, and when nutrient deficiencies are present the production of stomach acid can be affected.

Stress is also a factor, as chronic stress has been implicated in causing sometimes catastrophic changes in various functions of GI health.

Additionally, sometimes there is literally a structural malfunction of the esophageal sphincter muscle that sometimes requires surgery to repair.

For this post we’ll focus our attention on stomach acid production.

Is the Burning Because of Too Much Acid, or Too Little?
The common medical mindset pertaining to acid reflux is that too much stomach acid causes acid reflux. I suppose sometimes that is true, but more often than not it probably isn’t true. The reason is that if there is a malfunction in the stomach acid secretion process such as a nutrient deficiency, then two things can happen: 1) The mechanism that is supposed to signal the esophageal sphincter to close off after the parietal cells begin secreting acid is weak or sometimes broken altogether since there is too little stomach acid to initiate it. Thus, the sphincter remains relaxed and acid can backwash up into the esophagus, which of course is very uncomfortable. 2) Because of too little stomach acid to break down food properly, food can sit in the stomach for hours and putrefy, thus causing build up of gases in the stomach that pushes the acids to the top of the stomach and causes reflux.

In short, acid reflux can very often – perhaps more often than not – be caused by not enough stomach acid, not too little of it.

An Alternative Solution
A simple solution to the problem of acid reflux is to give MORE acid, not suppress what little you have. HCl and pepsin can be provided in tablet form and can be used to supplement one’s own production of stomach acid so that food is broken down properly, gas and bloating is reduced, and reflux is controlled.

Given the current trends in the reduction of stomach acid production with age, it stands to reason that most people suffer from having too little instead of too much. Research shows that by the time the average person is 40, stomach acid production is reduced by 50% compared to age 20. And by the age of 60 the production is reduced by two thirds as compared to age 20. Timiras PS. Aging of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. In: Timiras PS, ed. Physiological basis of aging and geriatrics. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press1994:247-57.

Likewise, the use of a novel agent known as zinc-carnosine has been shown to be remarkably effective in treating acid indigestion and diminishing the presence of a bacteria called, Helicobacter Pylori, which has been implicated in stomach ulcers.

Symptoms of Low Stomach Acid
-Bloating or distention after eating
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Indigestion
• Excessive belching, burping and/or bloating
• Flatulence after eating
• Sense of fullness during and after meals (prolonged)
• Poor appetite, disinterest in food
• Offensive breath
• Bad taste in mouth
• Partial loss of taste or smell
• Difficult bowel movements
• Difficulty swallowing
• Unintentional weight loss
• History of anemia, unresponsive to iron
• Spoon shaped nails
• Sores in corner of mouth
• Smooth tongue

Section 1, Part A of the Health Appraisal Questionnaire is a quick and easy way for practitioners to diagnose possible stomach acid issues.
Related formulas:
Zinlori 75

Monday, April 13, 2009

Stressed and Tired: Adrenal Support part 4

In this final installment of my adrenal stress series, let’s take a look at low cortisol and the end stages of adrenal fatigue.

Recall that in the first stages of adrenal stress the cortisol is upregulated and the patient presents with anxiety, irritability, nervousness, and an inability to cope with stress. When that condition goes on long enough, the adrenals eventually become very fatigued and cortisol drops off to below normal, and sometimes flat lines altogether. When that happens, severe and prolonged fatigue sets in, and along with it a whole host of other related maladies, such as low libido and reproductive problems, muscle aches and inflammation, low immunity, and allergic reactions, to name just a few.

Nutritionally, these patients need aggressive support in nourishing the adrenal glands directly with adrenal extract, B-vitamins, magnesium, etc, as discussed in previous posts. But the plant kingdom also offers some very powerful options for supporting the entire HPA axis in these patients.

Of note are four herbs in particular: Rhodiola, Cordyceps, ginseng, and Licorice.

Also known as “Arctic Root,” Rhodiola is a flowering plant that grows at high altitudes in regions of Eastern Europe and Asia. In Russia, rhodiola has been used for centuries to cope with the cold Siberian climate and stressful life, where it was valued for its purported ability to promote energy and stamina, enhance mental and physical performance, and prevent fatigue. Russian scientists conducted a great deal of anti-stress research on rhodiola, who categorized is as an adaptogen due to its ability to increase resistance to a variety of chemical, biological, and physical stressors. Based upon the impressive results of this research, rhodiola became widely used by Russian athletes and cosmonauts to help maintain energy levels, promote a healthy mood, and increase attention span and physical performance.

Cordyceps is one of the most valued medicinal plants in Chinese medicine, where it is traditionally used as an adaptogen to support vitality, as a lung and kidney tonic, and to stimulate libido. It has similar properties to those of ginseng, such that it is traditionally used to strengthen the body after exhaustion. The wide spectrum of activities of cordyceps in quite impressive, with observations of beneficial effects on the respiratory, renal, hepatic, cardiovascular, immunological, and nervous systems, as well as glucose and lipid metabolism.

Asian Ginseng
Ginseng root is a highly valued tonic in traditional Chinese medicine, noted for its ability to stimulate mental and physical activity, enhance stamina and prevent fatigue, and increase resistance to stress. According to tradition, the individual who will benefit from ginseng is run down and has exhausted his/her reserves. Although the exact mechanisms have not been determined, animal and human studies suggest that ginseng may influence the activity of the HPA axis in multiple ways. These mechanisms may include 1) promoting the synthesis of corticosterones by increasing levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate in the adrenal cortex, 2) influencing feedback mechanisms of stress hormone receptors, 3) stimulating adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the pituitary gland, 4) increasing HPA sensitivity to glucose corticoids, and 5) inhibiting cortisone-induced adrenal and thymic atrophy. Through these actions, ginseng appears to promote a healthy stress response by helping to balance HPA axis function.

Licorice is an herb with an unparalleled reputation for promoting health and longevity, and it has gained a reputation for strengthening the body during periods of stress. This perennial herb is native to southern Europe, Asia, and the Mediterranean, and was used by ancient Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures. Currently, licorice is not only one of the most frequently used herbs in traditional Chinese medicine, but it is one of the most popular and widely used herbs in the world. Licorice is well known for its ability to influence adrenal hormone levels. The adrenocorticoid activity of licorice is associated with glycyrrhizic acid and glycyrretinic acid. These activities have ben reported to bind to both glucocorticoid and mineralcorticoid receptors, possibly displacing endogenous steroids and thus contributing to an increase in cortisol availability. Additionally, research suggests that glycyrrhizic acid and glycyrretinic acid increase the half life of cortisol by inhibiting its enzymatic breakdown in the kidneys and liver, thus it is an excellent choice for those with low cortisol production.

Licorice also demonstrates immunosupportive, immunomodulatory, hepatoprotective, and detoxifying qualities. In addition, licorice is traditionally and widely used to promote the health of and soothe mucous membranes of the respiratory and digestive systems.

While the best method of dealing with stress is to get out from under it, that is not always possible in the fast-paced Westernized culture. However, nutritional support of stress defense mechanisms is an excellent way to prevent and treat stress-related conditions.

Related formulas:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Managing Stress-Related Disorders, Part 3: Adrenal Extract

The endocrine system is like a house of cards. It is an interwoven system where all the individual components are interdependent. It is therefore difficult to affect one area of it without tripping off the whole thing. That is important in understanding adrenal fatigue, because the stress on the adrenals could actually be caused by another malfunctioning system, such as that of blood sugar metabolism. But that is a discussion for another day.

In the last post I talked about hypercortisolemia, where the cortisol is in a chronic state of elevation and the patient manifests with anxiety, restless sleep, irritability, etc. When that state goes on long enough, soon the adrenal glands begin to fatigue and the cortisol drops off. Since we need a certain amount of cortisol for normal function, a lack of it can cause terrible fatigue, low libido, a loss of drive and motivation, and eventually inflammation.

For this post, let’s focus on treating low cortisol with the use of adrenal glandulars.

Glandular Therapy for Adrenal Support
The concept of using animal tissues in treatment of disease and support of health is a controversial one in medicine, with opinions ranging from useless to miraculous. On the one hand, we have thyroid hormones, insulin, and estrogens, for example, which are used routinely. On the other hand, we have extracts of tissues from glands such as adrenal, pancreas, pituitary, thyroid, etc, which can be taken orally to help support those same tissues in humans.

The argument against using glandulars as supplements is that it is simplistic to think that eating an animal’s glands would help strengthen one’s own like glands. From a medical perspective, one should be able to measure the hormone activity of any substances used and monitor their effects in the body. Glandulars, however, are usually measured by the amount of the actual glands present, but we do not really know what they do. Further, since these glands are broken down into their basic nutrients in the digestive tract, many believe that they would not necessarily go directly to improve one’s own glands.

The pro argument is that it is likely that the basic components of those gland tissues may offer the precursor substances that our own bodies and glands can use to enhance their functions. And there may be hidden factors that may offer some benefit. The glands, like foods, supply basic nutrients, such as amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, other active substances, and a potential "life force," for lack of a better term, where a drug will not. Some evidence from radioisotope studies suggests that glands, when eaten, do in fact influence the function of the human glands.

In modern medicine, glandular therapy began in the late nineteenth century when physicians suggested that their patients eat the animal parts, usually from cows, that corresponded to the weak areas of their own bodies. So people began eating brains, hearts, kidneys, and so on as part of their medical treatment.

Actually, glandular therapy began much earlier than this, as the ancient Greeks and Egyptians used it following their basic premise that "like heals like." Technology and medical endocrinology evolved this therapy by isolating specific hormones at the source of the glands’ activities (just as we extracted the active pharmaceutical drugs from whole plants). These new drugs are more potent, but they also have more potential for dangerous side effects than the whole glands.

For example, desiccated thyroid gland was first utilized in the late 1800s to help people with goiter and low thyroid function. Then thyroxine (T4) was isolated and used, but many doctors still preferred the whole gland as it was felt to be better absorbed and utilized by the body. Later, the other thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and calcitonin were discovered, but these were always part of the whole gland. Today, both individual synthetic hormones and measured active thyroid tissue are used to support or replace thyroid activity.

In the early 1920s, insulin was isolated by Sir Frederick Banting and Charles H. Best, who received the Nobel Prize for their discovery. Insulin has been a lifesaver for many diabetics, but it is also a potentially dangerous drug because it has such a narrow range of safe uses. Overdoses can cause very low blood sugar and shock. Insulin is destroyed in the gut, so it must be injected. It is possible that when extracts of pancreatic tissue are used as supplements, as with other glands, certain molecules protect the active hormones from the digestive juices, and some of these substances actually get into the body. The whole pancreas gland, which had previously been used, is certainly safer than insulin, but pancreas itself is not thought to be strong enough to treat diabetes once it is established.

In the case of treating conditions associated with adrenal fatigue, adrenal glandulars are often suggested for people who experience fatigue, stress, environmental sensitivities or allergies, infections, and hypoglycemia. The symptoms that come from low blood sugar are probably more related to adrenal than to pancreas, and supporting the adrenals with freeze-dried adrenal at 50–100 mg twice daily, along with other stress-supporting nutrients, such as the B vitamins, may be helpful. For extremely low cortisol, some physicians find it useful to super-dose with as much as a gram of adrenal glandular with B-vitamins for a period of a few days to kick start the adrenals back to optimal function. This approach would not be recommended for someone who has elevated cortisol, but could be very helpful for those who are experiencing the overwhelming symptoms of low cortisol.

In my 15+ years in this industry, I have come to rely heavily upon third party data, but have also learned to not rule out clinical experience even when research is lacking. And the clinical experience of hundreds of physicians points to the fact that adrenal extracts works extremely well in treating adrenal fatigue and the associated maladies.

In the next post I’ll introduce you to some other very powerful options from the plant kingdom in supporting the HPA axis and sluggish adrenals.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Managing Stress-Related Disorders, Part 2: "Stressed and Wired"

Americans as a lifestyle maintain a state of hyper arousal of the adrenal glands. In this condition the cortisol and other stress molecules are upregulated. This state of arousal is an important survival mechanism for emergency situations, but chronically high cortisol is catabolic and sets that stage of all manner of dysfunction and disease.

For starters, high cortisol causes a chronic state of agitation, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, and even panic attacks. This can affect sleep patterns, increase cardiovascular risk factors, decrease the libido, impair the memory and learning patterns, cause muscle wasting, and reduce reproductive function, to name just a few.

Nutritional Management of Elevated Cortisol: B-vitamins
The B-vitamin family is important in any adrenal support program, because the B-vitamins help to support the neurological system and the adrenal glands themselves and change the way a patient interprets the stress. Folate, for example, ranging from as little as 200 mcg to as much 15 mg, has shown anti-depressive effects. Folate and B12 deficiency has long been associated with depression. B-vitamins are involved in norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin synthesis, and are coenzymes in the synthesis of adenosylmethionine (SAM), and shown to have antidepressive properties.

One note of interest is that folate in the form of folic acid does not cross the blood/brain barrier. There is only one form of folate that does, and that is the end metabolite of folate metabolism, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF). It is important that any B-vitamin complex you are using for depression and/or anxiety contains this form of folate.

Studies in animals have shown that a deficiency in another important B-vitamin, pantothenic acid (B5), mimicked metabolic changes seen in adrenal insufficiency. Administering B5 increases the production of corticosteroids. In humans, it normalized the response to ACTH and deficiency led to reduced resistance to stress.

Vitamin B6 is also essential, in that it is important to the metabolism of most amino acids. It also converts tyrosine to dopamine for epinepherine synthesis and protects from homocystiene overproduction. A derivative, homocystiene lactone, can inhibit ACTH release.

Likewise, the B-vitamin, myo-inositol, has been shown to be remarkably effective by itself in the treatment of panic attacks, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression. In one study comparing the effects of myo-inositol against the drug, Fluvoxamine, for panic disorder, the myo-inositol “reduced the number of panic attacks per week by 4.0 compared with a reduction of 2.4 with Fluvoxamine. Nausea and tiredness were more common with Fluvoxamine.” J Clin Psychopharmacol 2001 June;21(3)335-9

The American Journal of Psychiatry reported that inositol in doses of 6g/day and 12g/day “is a potential treatment for depression in both open and double-blind placebo controlled trials.” Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial of Inositol Treatment for Panic Disorder, J Benjamin, et al, Am J Psychiatr, 152: 1084-1086

Myo-inositol is especially beneficial in overall nervous system function because it is an important naturally occurring component of cell membranes. Myo-inositol plays a major role in cell signaling by functioning as a precursor of an intracellular second messenger system. This system is especially important in the brain. For example, serotonin and norepinehprine receptors are linked to the inositol second messenger system.

Another micronutrient deficiency that can have an adverse effect on the stress response is magnesium. According the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, magnesium deficiency intensifies adverse reactions to stress. Such reactions are mediated by excess release of catecholamines and corticosteroids, and low magnesium and calcium levels increase the release of stress hormones, which further lower tissue magnesium, creating a snowball effect. Likewise, magnesium plays a role in maintaining healthy levels of the myo-inositol pool in the body.

Herbal Support for Stressed and Wired
A revered “vitalizer” and rejuvenative tonic in Ayurveda (Charaka Samhita 1000 BC), the herb ashwagandha has been traditionally used for stress tolerance, vigor and stamina, convalescence, nervous exhaustion, fatigue, geriatric debility, physical and mental stress, and insomnia, while no side effects have been reported.

Another remarkable rejuvenating herb, holy basil, has anti-stress activity, including a normalizing affect on the CNS. It has been shown to reduce incidence of gastric injury induced by cold stress and restraint stress. It also inhibits the lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase prostaglandin pathways, antagonizes histamine, and decreases acid and pepsin output, enhances gastric mucosal strength, and helps normalize the stress-response.

Ayurvedic literature attributes a “non-specific increased resistance”to the herb bacopa (also known as brahmi), and has been traditionally used to revitalize the nerves, brain cells, and the mind. It helps to strengthen the adrenals and purify the blood, and in animal testing it improves adaptations in sensory, motor, and motivational systems. In humans bacopa exhibits beneficial effects on anxiety and mental functions (mental fatigue). The effects on the CNS may be mediated through stimulation of gamma-aminobutyric (GABA)ergic and cholinergic systems.

What to Use When
A B-vitamin complex featuring the active form of folate, and/or a high-potency B5/B6 formula is foundational for stress protection and the early signs of adrenal stress, typically presenting in the form of anxiety and high cortisol levels. Additionally, an herbal complex featuring bacopa, ashwagandha, and holy basil can be added for complementary support in helping to rejuvenate the body and support the CNS. If the anxiety becomes severe, one should consider the use of a myo-inositol and magnesium complex to control anxiousness and regulate the mood.

There are a number of other herbal-based remedies as well for the other stages of stress, and we will discuss those in the next post.
Stress formulas to consider:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Mastering Stress Related Disorders

Stress-related disorders has been called America’s number one health problem because it sets the stage for so many other health problems. Stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, neurological problems, depression, sleeplessness, changes in blood sugar and body composition, and a host of other maladies.

It is interesting to note that those who have a positive outlook on life and generally feel that things just always seem to work out also generally enjoy better health phyically and emotionally. However, those who feel that life is hard and that fortunate breaks are few and far between suffer more health problems. Those who focus on bad news and tend to revolve their lives around the predictions of economists and so on are those who also tend to have the most negative outlooks and tend to suffer more health challenges.

The current statistics on stress taken from are as follows:
  • 43% of all adults suffer from stress (probably a very conservative number)
  • As much as 90% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints and/or disorders
  • Stress has been linked to ALL leading causes of death
  • National turbulence causes stress to escalate. Doctor visits related to stress went up 40% after 9/11, and current economic concerns have increased the stress load significantly.

Selye’s 3 Stages of Stress
There are 3 stages of the stress response, as identified by Dr. Hans Selye, who pioneered much of the work that has led to our current understanding of the body’s stress response and the disorders that can ensue under chronic stress. The three stages are:
  1. Arousal, which is characterized by a rapid release of catecholamines and a slower release of corticosteroids.
  2. Adaptation, which is characterized by a sustained increased levels of corticosteroids and alarm molecules. This stage often leads to altered glucose tolerance, blood pressure, thyroid hormone and sex hormone metabolism.
  3. Exhaustion, often characterized by degenerative diseases due to the adverse influence of chronic high levels of corticosteroids and alarm molecules.

According to Selye's theory, anything that causes stress endangers life unless it is countered by an adequate adaptive response. If the stress is severe and/or prolonged enough, the body often cannot counter sufficiently, and all manner of maladies can result.

The list of maladies caused by chronic stress is too long to list completely, but here is a partial list:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of libido
  • Inflammatory disorders like autoimmune disease and allergies
  • Apathy
  • Chronic pain
  • Restless sleep
  • Heart attack and increased risk for CVD disease
  • Inability to cope with mild and routine stressors in everyday life
  • Agitation/irritability
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory/learning
  • Digestive disorders
  • Poor immunity
What Stress Does Metabolically

Stress pretty much disrupts everything. It increases insulin, cortisol, ephineprhine and norepinephrine, while diminishing all the sex hormones. It also increases oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators, which can set the stage for profound degenerative changes throughout the body.

The thesis for Robert Sapolsky’s excellent book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, is that stress in its acute state is necessary and not harmful to the body. When a herd of zebras is confronted with a danger like a predator, for example, the sympathetic dominant state kicks in and stress hormones skyrocket in order to engage all the body systems in preserving life and escaping danger. But when the predator is outrun, they immediately go back to their baseline autonomic state and all is well. The basis for the human stress-related disease, however, is the high percentage of time spent in the sympathetic dominant state, and that chronic state of alarm sends molecules constantly racing throughout the body that can have extremely detrimental consequences when exposed to them long term.

For example, one study in the American Journal of Epidemiology 2003 showed that there was a clear correlation between the risk of breast cancer in women and stressful life events such as divorce/separation and the loss of a husband. Similarly, the British Medical Journal in 2002 showed that “people who reported persistent stress due to high work demands, low job security, or few career opportunities had the same level of risk for fatal heart attacks as people who smoke and do not exercise.”

Dealing with Stress
There are a number of ways to help the body to cope with stress more capably. Moderate exercise, relaxation techniques such as those correlated with prayer/meditation, biofeedback and deep breathing, and diet all play an important role. Also, practicing thankfulness and focusing on what is right in one's life has also been associated with relieving depression and generating a more positive outlook, as has getting involved in humanitarian efforts and community service. Of course, getting out from under chronically stressful situations is the best method of dealing with stress, but that is not always possible in today’s world of fast-paced job demands and dysfunctional families.

Many people simply do not have the reserves to deal with even small amounts of stress, and for them a multi-faceted approach of the above list along with therapeutic supplementation is in order. Certain micronutrients can help the body to interpret the stress differently, and certain combinations of novel botanical agents along with specific micronutrients can help support the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal (HPA) axis and invigorate a lack-luster stress response.

The nutritional approach to stress-related disorders will be the focus of the next couple of posts. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Neurofeedback: A Powerful Tool for Cognitive and Developmental Testing and Rehabilitation

Once in a while I run across a device or therapy other than that of nutritional protocols that I feel is important to share. Neurofeedback is one such therapy that holds promise for those with cognitive issues and for parents with children who have developmental challenges.

Sometimes referred to as EEG (Electroencephalogram) or Neurotherapy, Neurofeedback is the process of training a brain to learn to modify or control the brainwave activity through auditory and visual feedback. Neurofeedback is a gentle method of creating a balance within the central nervous system. It is painless and non-invasive in its approach.

The training process is measured by use of pictures on a computer screen and sensors on the head. The approach can be compared to potty-training. An individual is taking an internal organ and training it to respond by feedback. If a patient is producing an amplitude (strength of a signal) in a specific frequency level that is within the parameters that the technician has set, then music will begin and the picture will move. If the individual is outside those parameters then the music and the movement stops.

The process starts with a compilation of the participants emotional, behavioral and cognitive abilities, concerns and personal goals. After a thorough meeting involving some standardized tests and reviewing their social history a profile is created. The profile is used to develop academic and cognitive strategies for school, home and work. This profile is a starting point for memory, problem solving, reasoning and speed processing enhancement.

Most individuals will be asked to come as often as possible in the beginning of their therapy. It is not uncommon to come 5 days a week in the beginning. The first twenty sessions are the most important. The central nervous system is learning a new neuronal pattern and just like exercising any muscle the more it is practiced the more habitual that movement becomes. The total number of sessions vary and are dependant on the individual, their progress and their personal goals. A common number of therapy sessions range from 25-40.

Computer games, board games and card games are many times used during the session as a method of teaching a new cognitive strategy. Relaxation techniques such as autogenics, visualization, Hemi-Sync music and diaphragmatic breathing are taught to the individual as well.

Many times "home work" is given to the family so they can continue to practice at home, school or at the workplace.

EEG neurofeedback helps many different disorders and conditions. It seems to be effective for several reasons: It helps to remind the body how to relax the muscles, which allow the nerves to "let-go" and not respond until needed. It also allows the blood to flow through the body at a normal rate and volume keeping blood pressure lower during daily activity. Most disorders or conditions are affected by stress. Therefore, as the body reacts to the stress in a different manner the characteristics of these diagnosis' will decrease.

Conditions that can be treated by neurofeedback are:

· Anxiety Attacks
· Apraxia
· Aphasia
· Autism
· Bi-polar Disorder
· Depression
· Dyslexia
· Hypertension
· Learning Disabilities (LD)
· Migraines
· Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD)
· Pain Management
· Stroke
· Tourette Syndrome (TS)
· Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Benefits to Expect:

Improved Sleep:

· Falls asleep within 20 minutes
· Stays asleep
· Wakes Refreshed


· Improved memory skills
· Increased flexibility in thinking
· Heightened sense of documentation and focus
· Increase in the speed of processing information
· Better reasoning skills
· Able to think faster
· Better strategizing and deduction skill


· Better sense of self control
· Better social skills
· Less anxiety
· Less needless body movement
· Less impulse behavior
· Less obsessive/compulsive behavior
· Reduction of addictive behavior


· More involved with family events and discussions
· More willing to share ideas and thoughts
· Happier and more content
· More composed physically/mentally
· Better self confidence
· Reduction of stress related behaviors such as headaches, nail biting, twisting hair, hair pulling, motor or vocal tics

I was introduced to neurofeedback through my friend and client, Dr. Lise DeLong, PhD, who is the founder and director of Cognitive Connections on the southside of Indianapolis. Dr. DeLong also offers a variety of nutritional protocols related to cognitive function and stress, as well as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which helps to oxygenate the brain and body and can be useful for a variety of conditions. Her website offers some compelling case studies on Neurofeedback.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are Taking Supplements "Worthless?" An Analysis of the Women's Health Initiative Study (WHI)

The February 9, 2009 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine reported that multivitamin use did not protect the 161,808 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Study (WHI) from common forms of cancer, heart attacks, or strokes. Thus, the pharmaceutical industry-funded media hype has been that taking multivitamins are “worthless.”

Contrary to the hype of the recent article, however, the WHI study did not have as a primary goal to study the effects of vitamins on women's health. Rather, the study focused on 4 primary areas:
  • The health effects of postmenopausal hormone replacement therapy.
  • The effects of a low fat diet on cancer risk.
  • The effects of calcium and vitamin D intake on postmenopausal fracture risk.
  • Watching for new risk factors for disease such as cancer, CVD, and fracture risk.

Although it was not the goal of the WHI to evaluate the importance of taking a multivitamin, somehow certain authors have misconstrued this study as a black mark against taking vitamins.
In the study, researchers simply asked the participating women a series of different questions, one of which was whether they took a multivitamin at least once a week or not. Once a week? There is not a single vitamin supplement on the planet that is going to provide much benefit taken only once a week, or even three times a week. To do any good, a multivitamin should be taken at least a couple of times a day. But the medical authors conveniently forgot to mention that little detail. No surprise there.
Now, the absurdity of this article is perhaps best revealed by this point, since one would not expect any multivitamin to do much good taken only once or twice a week or so. However, for the sake of demonstrating just how shady this information is, let us consider the bigger picture.
Misrepresenting the Facts
For those that were taking a multivitamin in the WHI study, no additional information was asked for, such as what type and brand of multivitamin, how much of certain nutrients the supplement provided and in what forms, why they were taking them, etc. It was suggested by the authors, however, that people take multivitamins specifically to reduce risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, and it was assumed, of course, that all multivitamins are created equal and that everyone took adequate amounts with regularity. (Of course, anyone who is familiar with the science of supplements knows that there is a wide range of quality in supplement manufacturing, ranging from "pharmaceutical grade" to simply awful.)

There are some fundamental problems, of course, in these assumptions. So we must ask some clarifying questions:
  • Do people really take multivitamins specifically to ward off cancer and heart disease?
  • Is that the purpose of a multivitamin? Or is a multivitamin designed to prevent nutrient deficiency diseases?
  • Are cancer, cardiovascular disease, and postmenopausal fracture risks exclusively nutrient deficiency diseases, or are there other factors that play into these diseases such as stress, diet, exercise, toxin exposure, etc?
The author’s own conclusions were that other large-scale studies that monitored for a sufficient period of time (greater than 10 years) have shown reduced cancer and CVD risk. However, the WHI study lasted only 8 years. Perhaps longer duration is the key. In addition, these women were observing a higher quality diet than what is typical, so it is quite possible that they did not have the kind of disease risk factors as those who observe a typical American diet. The author seems to assume, however, that everyone gets adequate amounts of nutrients from the diet.

From the article:
"...No one denies that an adequate intake of vitamins is essential; however, vitamins can and should be obtained from eating enough healthy foods rather than from swallowing vitamin supplements..."

So then, should we assume that practitioners can just tell patients to “eat better” and they will? What does “eat better” mean in this day and age of nutrient-depleted, heavily processed and refined foods? What does “eat better” look like when even the “fresh” produce at your local grocery store is so nutrient-depleted from modern farming methods that there is scarcely any nutrient value left at all? Have you driven by McDonalds or a Steak-N-Shake lately? Perhaps “eat well” means putting an extra slice of iceberg lettuce on your Quarter-Pounder. I dunno.

The truth is, according to a Surgeon General report, 7 out of 10 leading causes of death in this country are diet-related, and the NHANES II study showed that most Americans are woefully uneducated about diet and nutrition, and most are deficient in several important nutrients than can be resolved with supplements. In fact, the problem of nutrient deficiencies is so bad that most Americans are not obtaining even the pitiful amounts recommended by RDA standards for intake of micronutrients. Indeed, the first NHANES study from 1994 stated that the disease, scurvy – a vitamin C deficiency disease, is still present in developed countries because of the prevalence of widespread nutrient deficiencies. J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Aug;23(8):1281-4. Velandia et al.

“Oops! I didn’t mean to contradict myself.”

What is not apparent to the casual observer of the misleading headlines in this article, and what is evidently not even apparent to the author himself is the fact that the article contradicts itself.

"...All this is not to say that specific vitamins supplements are never desirable. Vitamins can be valuable in certain situations. Folic acid supplements in women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant can help to prevent serious neural-tube defects that affect the baby's brain and spine..."

Umm…didn’t you just say that supplements are worthless? So which is it?

Since the most important time for folic acid sufficiency is prior to conception, would it not be better to take a daily multivitamin that contains sufficient folate instead of finding out one is pregnant and then suggesting a prenatal?

"...Supplements of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, and copper may slow the progression of vision loss in people with early macular degeneration..."

Sounds like a case for a multivitamin right there.

So here are three good examples of a need for a multivitamin other than suggesting it is being taken specifically to reduce cancer and heart disease risk.

Most Western Diets are Nutritionally-Flawed
It can no longer be assumed that people can get all the nutrients they need just by eating better. The toxic load on the human race due to chronic stress and environmental toxicity is higher than it has ever been in human history, and that places a demand for life-giving nutrients to circumvent these challenges.

Think of the human body as an automobile, and the nutrients we take in as the fuel. If a heavier demand in placed upon the automobile by placing a big load in it and driving it uphill against the wind for a long distance, what will happen? The engine works harder and requires much more fuel. Similarly, when heavy demands are placed upon the body by stress and toxicity, the body requires more fuel in the form of vitamins and minerals in order to function optimally. If it does not get those vitamins and minerals, eventually systems begin to break down.

This is not rocket science, folks. The prevalence of chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, etc. is ravaging the American landscape, and conventional medicine has done little to slow the progression of it. Surely these scourges can’t be nutritionally-related! Must be a drug deficiency of some sort, huh?

The fact is, there are more well-designed studies showing the benefits of taking multivitamins than I have room to list here, and in fact the Journal of the American Medical Association – perhaps the most prestigious of all the medical journals – suggested in 2002 that all Americans should consider taking a multivitamin.

The Business of Disease
Why then, is there so much resistance against taking vitamins in the medical community?
Let me ask you a series of questions to get at the heart of the matter:
  • Why do Democrats and Republicans accuse one another and resist each other on most issues?
  • Why does Chevrolet advertising take aim at Honda, and Nissan’s against Toyota?
  • Why does Burger King advertise that they have conducted international analysis of people’s hamburger preferences and a majority say that they like their burgers over McDonalds? Do you wonder if they really do those surveys, or at least do them in a fair and unbiased manner?
I could go on, but you get my point. “But surely this does not apply to American medicine. It’s not a business trying to make a profit. It’s medicine!”
If that’s really what you think, I’ve got some beautiful beachfront property on the moon I would like to sell you.

Of course American medicine is a business. It’s big business! And like a lot of businesses these days they seek to sell their wares by casting a dim light on the competition, which in this case is alternative forms of medicine, which includes supplements. The American Medical Association (AMA), for example, has long worked to discredit alternative medicine and has even been found guilty by U.S. federal courts of engaging in a conspiracy to destroy chiropractic medicine. The AMA, which is largely considered a joke by anyone familiar with natural health, is hardly a credible source for publishing scientific findings on nutrition. To protect the multi-billion dollar drug industry, the AMA would say practically anything, I believe. But folks, it’s worse than that.

What the Unholy Trinity (the pharmaceutical industry, the FDA, and conventional medicine) is guilty of is inhumane. They purposefully misconstrue the facts and even design “studies” that produce the results that they want the public to hear, thus robbing countless Americans of life-saving information for the sake of fattening their already-overstuffed pockets. Only God knows how many people have died because of not having access to information that could have saved them, and instead having drugs pushed on them, exposing them to chemicals that are responsible for more than a 100,000 drug-related deaths per year in America alone (imagine the angry uproar if vitamins killed even a fraction of that amount). And these fat-cat executives use those excess dollars to pretty much fund the news networks, magazines, and newspapers with their monstrous advertising budget, and thus these media outlets publish anything they're told. God forbid that they should ever publish any of the thousands of studies showing the benefit of supplementing the diet. But when a piece of junk science gets published, that’s what you hear about.

Here’s what I mean by junk science.

How to Manipulate a Study

Here’s a great example of how the powers-that-be in modern medicine tell you what they want you to hear.

Last year the Cochrane Library, a widely-read source of information on conventional health matters, launched an attack on vitamins A, C, E, selenium and beta-carotene, claiming that these vital nutrients were linked with a higher risk of mortality (i.e."they'll kill you!"), and as a result scientists began telling consumers to stop taking vitamins altogether. But with all the benefits of antioxidants already well known to the well-informed, how did the Cochrane Library arrive at such a conclusion? Easy.

The researchers reviewed 452 studies on these vitamins, and they threw out the 405 studies where nobody died! That left just 47 studies where patients died from various causes. One study was conducted on terminal heart patients, for example. From this biased selection of studies, these researchers concluded that antioxidants increase mortality.

Just in case you do not yet recognize this as the scientific fraud that it is, let me rephrase what happened. These scientists claimed to be studying the effects of vitamins on mortality, right? They were conducting a meta-analysis based on reviewing established studies. But instead of conducting an honest and unbiased review of all the studies, they arbitrarily decided to eliminate all studies in which vitamins prevented death and kept people alive! They did this by "excluding all studies in which no participants died." What was left to review, then, was only the studies in which people died from various causes.

Brilliant! This sort of twisted “science” would earn any teenager an "F" in high school science class. But apparently it's good enough for the Cochrane Library and the Archives of Internal Medicine to name just two, not to mention all the mainstream press outlets that are now repeating these outrageous and fallacious conclusions as scientific fact.

Using this same cherry-picking method for reviewing previous studies, one could find evidence to support practically any conclusion under the Milky Way. Mike Adams of Natural News explained how this is done in his article, Vitamins A, C and E Increase Mortality! (and other nonsense from the realm of junk science). He writes,
"Let's say that I took a look at 100 studies reviewing the effects of aspirin on erections. And let's suppose I arbitrarily decide to eliminate all the studies involving men, leaving only studies involving women. I could then announce -- with the evidence to back it up -- that "Aspirin Linked with Drop in Erections!" Why? Because nobody in the groups I look at had any erections at all. Sure, they're all women, but that's beside the point. By arbitrarily removing selected studies from my analysis, I can "prove" just about anything, even if it's utter nonsense. The antioxidant study did the exact same thing by eliminating all studies in which people were kept alive and healthy while taking antioxidant vitamins. Or, put another way, the lead researchers on this study purposely eliminated all the studies involving healthy people, leaving only the studies involving people who were about to die anyway. Never mind the fact that antioxidants might have actually extended the lives of some of these people by a few days or weeks -- the fact that they died while being treated with vitamins is enough, it seems, to point the finger at the vitamins themselves.
If a suicidal stock broker leaps from a tall building, and you hand him a vitamin C tablet on the way down, then it's obviously the vitamin C that kills him, right? That's the conclusion of this [method of conducting studies]: Take a bunch of patients who are about to die, load 'em up with antioxidants, and tally the inevitable death toll. Then announce, with great fanfare, your findings that 'Antioxidant Vitamins Increase Mortality!' "

Much "scientific research” is Anything But

As you can see from these particular examples of junk science, the credibility of much of what happens under the guise of "science" is now so incomprehensively awful that it makes one wonder how many drugs the researchers are on. You would think that people literally have to be on drugs to come up with such poorly-designed studies and then to have the temerity to announce their results with a straight face. But money and power often are often just as distorting to people’s judgment as mind-altering drugs.

It turns out that the implications of drug-induced distortions of judgment are not far off the mark. A recent survey in Nature found that 20 percent of science academics use mind-altering drugs for non-medical reasons, supposedly to boost academic performance. That's one out of five researchers engaged in illegal drug use! This is a group that takes more mind-altering drugs than what is passed around at a Grateful Dead concert. And then they have the audacity to announce their "scientific" studies that lack such credibility you have to wonder if their drug abuse is used to dull their consciences.

So what we're seeing in this latest article attacking the efficacy of supplements is just another example of not merely bad science and bad reporting, but deceptive science and deceptive reporting.

And that's the world in which we live.
Some of the information in this article was adapted from two Mike Adams articles from Natural News: Vitamins A,C, and E Increase Mortality, and, The big vitamin scare: American Medical Association claims vitamins may kill you.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grape Seed Extract shown to Kill Leukemia Cells in Laboratory

A new study conducted at the University of Kentucky and published in the journal, Clinical Cancer Research, found that leukemia cancer cells exposed to grapeseed extract (GSE) were rapidly killed through a process of cell suicide known as "apoptosis."

In these laboratory studies, an incredible 76% of leukemia cells died within 24 hours thanks to the ability of GSE to activate a protein called JNK, which regulates apoptosis. In a healthy person, apoptosis is a normal part of cell biology. Every living system creates cancerous cells. There are hundreds or thousands of "microtumors" in every living human being, but cancerous cells in healthy people destroy themselves once they realize they are flawed. This cellular process, however, requires healthy cell communication, and that's dependent on adequate nutrients.

Grapeseed extract appears to accelerate this process in cancer, helping them more rapidly assess their own flawed state so they can engage in apoptosis (cell suicide), thus protecting the larger organism (the body).

It's important to note that this recent study was conducted in a lab, not in humans, so its conclusions cannot necessarily be translated into saying that "grapeseed extract cures cancer.” However, it does indicate quite convincingly that if the unique phytochemical molecules found in grapeseed extract can be delivered to leukemia cells with sufficient potency, they may play an important role in accelerated cancer cell apoptosis, thereby protecting the whole organism from unabated cancer. If the results demonstrated in the labs at the University of Kentucky can be replicated in humans, it could potentially position grapeseed extract as one of the most powerful natural chemotherapeutic agents yet discovered.

Grapeseed extract has been studied and demonstrated to be remarkably effective at killing cancer cells for many different types of cancer, by the way, including cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, skin bowel and stomach.

Eat more Grapes?
Eating more grapes is certainly a healthy and protective thing to do, in that they are a source of resveratrol and various protective phytonutrients. However, in order to get the protective effect of grape seeds, you would obviously have to eat grapes with seeds in them, chewing the seeds and all. Today it’s not even very easy to find grapes with the seeds still in them on the market because of the demand for seedless grapes. As an alternative or complement to eating grapes, grape seed extract is available in supplement form.

I recommend combining grape seed extract with other important chemoprotective nutrients for a well-rounded and powerful antioxidant complex. N-acetylcysteine and acetyl-L-carnitine are two of the most powerful antioxidant compounds on the planet that would provide a powerful synergistic combination with grape seed extract.

See my post on antioxidants for more on this subject.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Frontiers in Bone Health

Bone loss has been traditionally understood as being an issue of lack of calcium, vitamin D, and minerals. While these factors certainly play an important role in why people develop osteoporosis, it is not the only factor to consider. In fact, after age 50 it may be secondary to other more profound issues.

Consider that there is a distinct and important difference between bone density (mineralization) and bone matrix quality. The matrix of the bone is a mesh of collagen microfibers that can be compared to the iron rods that provide structure and support to the pavement in highways. Without the iron mesh, the pavement would deteriorate very quickly under all the wear and tear of the traffic. The mesh of collagen fibers is what provides bone their structural strength and is what minerals attach to.

A DEXA scan, therefore, may not be the most accurate way to assess bone health because a DEXA only looks at bone density, or the minerals that are attached to the matrix. A DEXA cannot provide any information on what is underneath the surface of the bones, thereby providing little or no information about the actual strength of the bones and the quality of the matrix.

In consideration of this fact, it becomes necessary to not only provide minerals and protein for support of bone density, but also provide nutritive substances that will address the quality and structure of the bones.

A New Approach to Bone Support
Before the age of 50, give or take, estrogen is adequate and thus the equilibrium between bone formation and bone resorption is intact. As estrogen declines, however, that equilibrium begins to uncouple, and bone resorption speeds up, thereby causing a faster rate of bone turnover that the formation process cannot keep up with. As a result, bone matrix begins to weaken first, and eventually bone density – that which is visible on a DEXA scan – begins to be effected as well as minerals no longer have an adequate structure to attach themselves. So by the time bone loss begins to appear on a DEXA scan, bone matrix has already been significantly compromised.

It becomes necessary then, to address the uncoupling of bone formation vs. bone resorption.

A 2008 randomized placebo-controlled study at the Functional Medicine Research Center on 76 menopausal women was performed to assess the effectiveness of a non-calcium containing nutritional formula on various markers of bone health, including bone breakdown, bone remodeling, and bone formation. The formula contained reduced iso-alpha acids from hops, berberine, vitamin D3, and vitamin K1. The berberine and hops extracts were used for their effects on modulating proinflammatory signals (NF-kB, RANK, RANKL-mediated TRAP activity) and modifying the expression of certain protein kinases (GSK-3). This strategy has a quieting effect on osteoclast activity,thus creating a better balance between bone formation and bone resorption. Vitamin K promotes metabolism of bone proteins crucial to bone quality and the support of axial and peripheral bone mass. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and the process of bone mineralization, as well as supports bone remodeling by modulating inflammatory signals.

In the 14-week trial using 2 per day of the nutritional formula, bone turnover as measured by osteocalcin significantly slowed in the treatment group trending toward youthful levels. Osteocalcin increased in the placebo group. Likewise, all other measurements of bone matrix quality, including IGF-1 and P1NP (bone formation), and NTx (bone resorption), all improved significantly with the treatment group, whereas the placebo group worsened.

This approach is most appropriate for women with low estrogen levels due to menopause, hysterectomy, or any other condition resulting in low estrogen. It is best combined with substances rich in collagen protein, calcium, bone growth factors, and other minerals such as microcrystalline hydroxyapatite concentrate (MCHC) so as to address both factors of bone health – bone density and bone matrix quality. Women who have adequate estrogen would probably be best suited to concentrate on the MCHC approach, and add the berberine and hops complex as they approach the menopausal years.

Happily, there is now an approach that shows promise in addressing a largely overlooked factor in bone health where there was none before.