Saturday, February 23, 2013

Saturated fat is not the enemy

Can we just throw out the misguided and dangerous recommendations on fat and heart disease – please?

A recent Australian study, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), clearly goes against the tide of prevailing dietary advice.

What it says is that saturated fat is not so bad after all!

The BMJ paper was an update of a previous meta-analysis by the same investigators, looking at the consequences for cardiovascular health of replacing dietary saturated fats (i.e. butter) with polyunsaturated, omega-6 fatty acids (PUFAs). 

This time around, the group reassessed the results of the Sydney Diet Heart Study (SDHS), a randomized, controlled trial involving 458 patients that compared the rates of cardiovascular disease among subjects who increased the amount of omega-6 PUFAs – specifically, linoleic acid from safflower oil – in their diet with patients who continued their normal diet. As well as reanalyzing the results, the investigators incorporated them into their previous meta-analysis.

The SDHS results were clear: replacing dietary saturated fats with omega-6 PUFAs increased all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality and mortality from coronary heart disease. 

In addition to that, “An increase of 5% of food energy from [omega-6 PUFAs] predicted 35% and 29% higher risk of cardiovascular death and all cause mortality, respectively”

Along those lines, the updated meta-analysis found that increasing dietary omega-6 PUFAs in isolation was associated with increased mortality risk from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease overall. And Omega-6’s are the main components of polyunsaturated fats in the Western diet – and they are found in vegetable oils and margarines — the very things we were told to start eating more of forty or so years ago when we were warned that saturated fats would give us heart disease!

By contrast, the SDHS found that when dietary omega-3 PUFAs were increased alongside omega-6 PUFAs, to more closely resemble the 1:1 ratio enjoyed by our ancestors, both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease risk were reduced.

Time for some new thinking

According to our current dietary wisdom, this shouldn’t have happened – and the so called experts are busily trying to pretend that they haven’t. 

The current mainstream recommendation still holds fast to the ‘lipid hypothesis’, which proposes that the cholesterol found in saturated fats raises blood cholesterol, particularly low-density lipoprotein (LDL-C) or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Because the major part of this theory is that raised blood LDL-C is a major contributor to atherosclerosis and heart disease, then statin drugs can be considered the ‘golden child’ of the lipid hypothesis.

Oxidation is the true culprit

Experts like Dr Dwight Lundell have for some time pointed to oxidation as the true culprit in atherosclerosis and heart disease. According to this alternative theory, dubbed the ‘degenerative hypothesis’, LDL-C only becomes a problem when it becomes oxidized. 

In fact, LDL-C is a red herring, since all LDL molecules contain cholesterol. LDL isn't ‘bad’ in any way. LDL is absolutely vital for life, since the body uses it to transport important nutrients, including cholesterol, from the liver to tissues and organs.

Lipoproteins, such as LDL, consist of a core of fats (triglycerides) and fat-soluble vitamins, surrounded by a phospholipid membrane penetrated by cholesterol molecules. This way water-insoluble cholesterol can be transported around the body in water-soluble lipoproteins. 

Some of the membrane lipids are delicate PUFAs, and these can become oxidized – and toxic – in people who eat a poor diet or don’t exercise, among other factors.  Not only is oxidized LDL a marker for heart disease risk, it is strongly implicated in the development of atherosclerosis.

Protect your heart by using saturated fats and antioxidants

So it then makes sense that a diet high in antioxidants will protect against LDL oxidation. Glutathione has been described as 'the bulletproof vest’ that protects against dangerous oxidation. Glutathione-boosting strategies include exercise, cruciferous vegetables, sulphur-containing foods like garlic and onion, nutrients including alpha-lipoic acid, selenium, vitamins B12 and B6, folate and glycine, and botanicals such as milk thistle, cordyceps, gotu kola, and broccoli seed.
Also, since it is the delicate PUFAs in the LDL membrane that become oxidized, a diet high in PUFAs will increase the risk of oxidation, since more PUFAs will be available to be packaged into LDL membrane. This is especially true in modern, Western diets with their high omega-6:omega-3 PUFA ratios. 

On the other hand, saturated fats may well be protective, since their chemical structure makes them highly resistant to oxidation

Accept the new reality

This new thinking is a long way from arteries are like pipes and cholesterol is sticky gunk that accumulates and eventually blocks them up. 

As an hormone precursor and constituent of cell membranes, cholesterol is vital to life, as is the crucial transporter LDL. You would think that it shouldn't be long before the medical establishment and even dieticians would take notice and change.

All this to say that we make sure that our diet is loaded with saturated fat, especially coconut oil, and full of good anti-oxidants.

Friday, February 15, 2013

St. Johns Wort - Safe for Depression

st johns wort

A Natural, Inexpensive, Easily Accessible, Safer Treatment for Depression?

St. John's Wort (SJW) has always been a safe and effective way to work with depression.

But if a group of pharmacists have their way, we may not have easy access anymore.

Pharmacists Planning Service (PPS), a “public health, consumer, and pharmacy education” nonprofit, is petitioning the FDA to change the designation of St. John’s Wort from “herbal dietary supplement status” to “behind pharmacy counter status” (BPCS)—a designation that requires pharmacist consultation—citing dangerous side effects and drug interactions.

Funny thing is, St. John's Wort is far safer than prescription depression medications. Unlike those medications, it has not been linked to addiction, suicide, or violent behavior. It also appears to be effective and has been used for many years in Germany and other countries to treat mild depression, especially in children and adolescents. A meta-analysis found that “the hypericum extracts tested in the included trials a) are superior to placebo in patients with major depression; b) are similarly effective as standard antidepressants; c) and have fewer side effects than standard antidepressants.”

The “fewer side effects” issue is an important one. A 2000 study found that SJW “was superior to fluoxetine [Prozac] in overall incidence of side-effects, number of patients with side effects, and the type of side effect reported.” Similar studies found SJW superior to other SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) as well. This actually understates the side effects risk issue for adolescents and young people. Black box warnings on SSRI’s warn of suicide risk for these groups; they should warn of violent behavior risk but do not. The FDA does not want to admit the evidence linking the drugs to violent behavior, including mass shootings. 

Another, older class of antidepressants is TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants), which, according to a study from early 2011, are at least as effective against depression as SSRIs (this is faint praise, since SSRI’s have not been proven to be very effective). Although TCAs are slowly being replaced by SSRIs, they are still extremely popular: according to Pharmacy Times, in 2011 the most commonly prescribed drug in the US was a TCA called amitriptyline (sold under the trade names Tryptomer, Elavil, Tryptizol, Laroxyl, Saroten, Sarotex, Lentizol, and Endep). 

Amitriptyline’s side effects range from anxiety, panic attacks, chest pain, sudden numbness to one side of the body, sudden severe headache, and problems with vision, speech, or balance, to suicidal ideation, hallucinations, seizures, and bleeding from the nose, mouth, vagina, or rectum.
Antidepressant drugs of all kinds are huge money-makers for drug companies: Antidepressants are used by 11% of Americans. Use has increased 400% over ten years. And, of those taking them, 60% report using for more than two years. Seven of the top eighteen prescribed drugs are antidepressants.

Because it is safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive, SJW poses serious competition to the US pharmaceutical industry. The thought of more and more people turning to an over-the-counter herb instead of relying on pharmaceutical drugs has pharmacists running scared.

If PPS is successful in its petition, St. John’s Wort will no longer be an easily accessible alternative to prescription drugs. PPS has a history of putting pharmacists between consumers and even over-the-counter products as much as possible—for example, the organization advocates mandatory pharmacist/consumer consultations and patient history checks.

There is no specific timeline for this petition: FDA has not yet responded to PPS’s petition, and it is still open for public comment. Action Alert! Please tell FDA that St. John’s Wort is a safe and time-tested remedy for mild depression, that the safeguards already built into the system with the warning on the label are completely adequate, and that druggists do not have the qualifications to play any such advisory role. No reclassification to “behind the counter status” is even remotely warranted. Please write to the FDA today!

Take Action1 Pharmacists Want to Classify Herb as a Drug to Protect Anti depressant Drugs

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Marriage is a key to heart health ...

marriage is work
Marriage is hard work sometimes, and there are bound to be occasions when your spouse sends your blood pressure sky high.

Well, the next time that happens, just take a deep breath, throw your arms around your main squeeze, and remember one thing -- it turns out your sweetie is the perfect tonic for your ticker.

That's right -- our friends from Finland found that if you're married, you are far less likely to die from a heart attack. Just remember that the next time your spouse leaves the toilet seat up or insists on watching that silly romantic movie on the Lifetime channel.

Researchers analyzed more than 15,000 medical records of Finnish patients aged 35 and older who suffered from an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) event, such as a heart attack, between 1993 and 2002. They found that unmarried men and women were up to two-thirds more likely to suffer a heart attack or other ACS event -- and the news only got worse from there.

It turns out unmarried patients were much more likely to die within 28 days after a heart attack. Mortality rates were between 60 percent and 168 percent higher in unmarried men, and 71 percent to 175 percent higher in unmarried women.

Now if you're single, you might be thinking that it's time for drastic measures. Maybe you should try one of those online dating sites or just pop the question to the next stranger who darkens your doorstep.

Well, not so fast. You see, I don't think the key to this research was marriage per se, but companionship. The key to surviving a heart attack is appropriate after care, and living with someone who can help advocate for you and nurse you back to health is critical.

Second, companionship just may keep you from having that heart attack in the first place. You see, as we get older, it becomes very easy to isolate ourselves. It's a bit more difficult to get around, and we start to wonder if it's worth the trouble. We become couch potatoes and start eating three meals a day out of the microwave.

Companionship gets us up and moving, and it stimulates our minds -- and it doesn't even have to be human variety. A study by Baker Medical Research Institute found that simply owning a pet could lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Humans are meant to be social creatures. If you're spending a little too much time alone, use this week to make a date with an old friend or find a club or activity you can join.

And if you're married like me, spend this Valentine's Day appreciating your spouse in a whole new way. He or she just might be saving your life!

And if you need a supplement specifically designed for heart health, check out Enriching Gifts Red Heart Algae

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cuckoo for coconuts

We're cuckoo for coconut oil!

cuckoo for coconut oil
Coconut oil is a good source of B vitamins, trace minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, electrolytes, and cytokinins. It aids health in many other ways, too: 
  • Coconut oil fights inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation is a big culprit when it comes to disease and aging.
  • It balances blood glucose, which lowers your risk of metabolic disorders like diabetes.
  • It promotes better digestion. The enzymes in coconut oil feed the good bacteria in your gut, making your whole digestive system work better.
  • It’s good for your heart. It helps regulate blood pressure, promotes healthy circulation, and fights plaque build up in your arteries.
  • It’s even good for your kidneys and can help to prevent kidney stone formation and the development of urinary tract infections.
For a long time, coconut oil had a bad reputation. It's high in saturated fats, so it got lumped in with foods that contribute to heart disease. 

But nothing could be farther from the truth. Coconut oil has also been shown to:

  • It contains lauric acid, which your body can convert into a powerful antiviral and antibacterial compound that can even destroy the influenza virus.
  • The fats in coconut oil are easier for your body to break down than those in vegetable oils. So, switching from vegetable oil to coconut oil improves your digestion and helps your body use fat more efficiently.
  • Coconut oil gives you energy without causing your blood sugar to spike, and studies show that substituting coconut oil for vegetable oil can help prevent additional weight gain in people with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
  • Coconut oil stimulates the metabolism – making weight loss easier.

Coconut oil is the best oil to cook with. Most oils – even olive oil – become damaged when you heat them. The damage makes them more oxidative in your body – basically, the damaged oils can pass that damage along to your cells

Coconut oil can withstand high heat while still maintaining its beneficial properties. The best coconut oil in terms of health benefits is unrefined, often labeled "virgin" or "extra-virgin." The label will usually tell you how the oil was processed. Centrifugal processing generally produces the mildest coconut flavor. Expeller-pressed and cold-pressed coconut oils will usually have a bolder flavor.

If you're looking to use coconut oil without the coconut taste, choose a refined oil made with a chemical-free process – again check the label. You won't get as many of the health benefits, but refined coconut oil is still better for your heart and metabolism than traditional vegetable oils

Bonus: Coconut oil is great for your skin. Use it in place of lotion to soften skin and repair age damage

We love coconut oil. It's part of our everyday meal plan. A great source can be found here

More articles about the benefits of coconut oil here

Friday, February 1, 2013

February is Heart Health Month

Heart Health Month

February is heart health month!

So what can you do to maintain a healthy heart?

Understand that high cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease but remains a favorite target of the health care industry mainly because drugs can be thrown at it. But drugs can't fix heart disease.

A recent study indicated four key dietary factors that cause heart disease.

Processed foods. These foods are loaded with simple carbs that quickly break down to glucose and cause rapid blood sugar spikes. This eventually leads to insulin resistance and damages the delicate inner endothelial lining of the coronary arteries. Cut all breads, pasta, rice, sugary treats and any foods made with wheat (including whole grain) or corn.

Excess Omega-6 oils. Vegetable oils are used in virtually all baked and processed foods to enhance flavor and increase shelf life. Excess amounts of vegetable fats trigger the release of inflammatory chemical messengers that increase oxidative and damage the vascular system. Vegetable oils are only stable at room temperature and should not be used for cooking. Avoid all fried foods and corn fed meats.

Omega-3 deficiency. Our modern diet is virtually void of health-sustaining Omega-3 fats that have been a part of the human diet for countless generations. The proper ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats is ideally 1:1. Experts agree that many people are closer to a 20:1 ratio. This creates an imbalance and promotes systemic inflammation. Include tuna, salmon, sardines, nuts and seeds to balance your fat ratio or include a high potency fish oil supplement. 

Oxidative Stress. The normal course of breathing, eating and moving generates free radicals that can damage our genetic structure and cause LDL cholesterol to become oxidized. We can`t avoid the process entirely but we can include healthy quantities of fresh vegetables, berries and targeted supplements to negate the effects of free radicals on our heart and other organs. 

One of the best supplements available for maintaining heart health even has "heart" in the name.

Enriching Gifts Heart Algae
Red Heart Algae from Enriching Gifts International plays an important part in reducing oxidative stress. It is 500-1000 times more powerful than Vitamin C and 100 times stronger than Vitamin E. Red Heart Algae is produced in bio-dome photo reactors that maintain a 100% controllable environment which creates an extremely clean, pure and concentrated product which is easily absorbed and digested.