Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Children's Supplement's May Contain Bad Stuff

This article came out of the Earth We Are One website with the title ' "Top Pharma-Brand Of Children’s Vitamins Contains Aspartame, GMOs, and Other Hazardous Chemicals."

The #1 Children’s Vitamin Brand in the US contains ingredients that most parents would never intentionally expose their children to, so why aren’t more opting for healthier alternatives?

MyAchingKnees Comment: I have talked to many parents about putting their children on a quality daily nutritional supplement. It is incredulous that parents, after knowing the difference between food grade supplements like "Flintstones", and pharamceutical grade suplements, will still opt to put the lower cost supplement into their kids even when the difference may be $10 a month!  Why would a parent want to give their children anything other than the safest product?

Kids vitamins are supposed to be healthy, right? Well then, what’s going on with Flintstones Vitamins, which proudly claims to be “Pediatricians’ #1 Choice”?

MyAchingKnees Comment: Pediatrician's #1 choice?  Probably, but certainly not the highest rated product according to the Comparative Guide to Children's Nutritionals.    

 Produced by the global pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, this wildly successful brand features a shocking list of unhealthy ingredients, including:

Aspartame
Cupric Oxide
Coal tar artificial coloring agents (FD&C Blue #2, Red #40, Yellow #6)
Zinc Oxide
Sorbitol
Ferrous Fumarate
Hydrogenated Oil (Soybean)
GMO Corn starch


On Bayer Health Science’s Flintstones product page designed for healthcare professionals they lead into the product description with the following tidbit of information:

82% of kids aren’t eating all of their veggies1. Without enough vegetables, kids may not be getting all of the nutrients they need.

References: 1. Lorson BA, Melgar-Quinonez HR, Taylor CA. Correlates of fruit and vegetable intakes in US children. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109(3):474-478.

The implication? That Flintstones vitamins somehow fill this nutritional void. But let’s look a little closer at some of these presumably healthy ingredients….

ASPARTAME

Aspartame is a synthetic combination of the amino acids aspartic acid and l-phenylalanine, and is known to convert into highly toxic methanol and formaldehyde in the body. Aspartame has been linked to over 40 adverse health effects in the biomedical literature, and has been shown to exhibit both neurotoxicity and carcinogenicity [1] What business does a chemical like this have doing in a children’s vitamin, especially when non-toxic, non-synthetic non-nutritive sweeteners like stevia already exist?

CUPRIC OXIDE

Next, let’s look closer at Cupric Oxide, 2mg of which is included in each serving of Flinstone’s Complete chewable vitamins as a presumably ‘nutritional’ source of ‘copper,’ supplying “100% of the Daily Value (Ages 4+), according to Flintstones Vitamins Web site’s Nutritional Info.[2]

But what is Cupric Oxide? A nutrient or a chemical?

According to the European Union’s Dangerous Substance Directive, one of the main EU laws concerning chemical safety, Cupric Oxide is listed as a Hazardous substance, classified as both “Harmful (XN)” and “Dangerous for the environment” (N). Consider that it has industrial applications as a pigment in ceramics, and as a chemical in the production of rayon fabric and dry cell batteries. In may be technically correct to call it a mineral, but should it be listed as a nutrient in a children’s vitamin? We think not.

COAL TAR ARTIFICIAL COLORING AGENTS

A well-known side effect of using synthetic dyes is attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. For direct access to study abstracts on this topic view our Food Coloring research page. There is also indication that the neurotoxicity of artificial food coloring agents increase when combined with aspartame,[3] making the combination of ingredients in Flintstones even more concerning.

ZINC OXIDE

Each serving of Flinstones Complete Chewable vitamins contain 12 mg of zinc oxide, which the manufacturer claims delivers 75% of the Daily Value to children 2 & 3 years of age. Widely used as a sun protection factor (SPF) in sunscreens, The EU’s Dangerous Substance Directive classifies it as an environmental Hazard, “Dangerous for the environment (N).” How it can be dangerous to the environment, but not for humans ingesting it, escapes me. One thing is for sure, if one is to ingest supplemental zinc, or market it for use by children, it makes much more sense using a form that is organically bound (i.e. ‘chelated’) to an amino acid like glycine, as it will be more bioavailable and less toxic.

SORBITOL

Sorbitol is a synthetic sugar substitute which is classified as a sugar alcohol. It can be argued that it has no place in the human diet, much less in a child’s. The ingestion of higher amounts have been linked to gastrointestinal disturbances from abdominal pain to more serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.[4]



FERROUS FUMARATE

The one clear warning on the Flinstone’s Web site concerns this chemical. While it is impossible to die from consuming iron from food, e.g. spinach, ferrous fumarate is an industrial mineral and not found in nature as food. In fact, ferrous fumarate is so toxic that accidental overdose of products containing this form is “a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6.” The manufacturer further warns:

Keep this product out of reach of children. In case of accidental overdose, call a doctor or poison control center immediately.

HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL

Finding hydrogenated oil in anything marketed to children is absolutely unacceptable. These semi-synthetic fatty acids incorporate into our tissues and have been linked to over a dozen adverse health effects, from coronary artery disease to cancer, violent behavior to fatty liver disease.[5]

GMO CORN STARCH

While it can be argued that the amount of GMO corn starch in this product is negligible, even irrelevant, we disagree. It is important to hold accountable brands that refuse to label their products honestly, especially when they contain ingredients that have been produced through genetic modification. The ‘vitamin C’ listed as ascorbic acid in Flintstones is likely also produced from GMO corn. Let’s remember that Bayer’s Ag-biotech division, Bayer CropScience, poured $381,600 of cash into defeating the proposition 37 GMO labeling bill in California. Parents have a right to protect their children against the well-known dangers of genetically modified foods and the agrichemicals that contaminate them, don’t they? GMO corn starch is GMO, plain and simple. We’d appreciate it if Bayer would label their “vitamins” accordingly.

In summary, Bayer’s Flintstone’s vitamin brand is far from a natural product, and the consumer should be aware of the unintended, adverse health effects that may occur as a result of using it.

1] GreenMedInfo.com, Adverse Health Effects of Aspartame

[2] FlinstonesVitamins.com, FLINSTONES Complete Chewable, Nutritional Info Overview

[3] Karen Lau, W Graham McLean, Dominic P Williams, C Vyvyan Howard. Synergistic interactions between commonly used food additives in a developmental neurotoxicity test. Toxicol Sci. 2006 Mar;90(1):178-87. Epub 2005 Dec 13. PMID: 16352620

[4] GreenMedInfo.com, Sorbitol’s Adverse Health Effects

[5] GreenMedInfo.com, Health Effects of Hydrogenated Oil



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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Protect Your Kidneys

This article was published with the title, "10 Deadly Habits That Seriously Damage Your Kidneys" on Real Farmacy and caught my eye as I know several people who developed kidney cancer in the last several years and one person, a young lady, who had a kidney removed and is on dialysis. In each of the kidney cancer friends of mine, the cancer was not detected until the mass or tumor was too big to miss, like the size of a softball. I don't think these people were delinquent in protecting their kidneys - how do you know if you are growing cancer in an organ? - I think toxins, accumulated over a long time were likely responsible. Still, one must do what they can,...take what steps they are comfortable with, in ensuring the best health possible. So, I like these articles which are common sense and offer easy steps to have a healthy lifestyle.

Our kidneys are super important for our health. They filter our blood, produce hormones, absorb minerals, produce urine, eliminate toxins, and neutralize acids. So as one of the most important organs in your body, your kidneys deserve some love. Damage or steady decline of your kidneys can often go unnoticed for years as your kidneys can still do their job with as little as 20% of their capacity.

Therefore kidney diseases are often referred to as “The Silent Diseases”. That’s why it is so important to take care of them before it is too late. Here’s a list of 10 common habits that put a lot of pressure on your kidneys and can cause serious damage over time.

1. Not Drinking Enough Water

Your kidney’s most important function is to filter blood and eliminate toxins and waste materials. When you don’t drink enough plain water during the day toxins and waste material start to accumulate and can cause severe damage to your body.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  The average person needs about one ounce of water for every 2 pounds of body weight each day. If you are more active, you'll need more water.  Here's an idea - replace those soda's with water.  Try this for two weeks and see how you feel. 

2. Too Much Salt In Your Diet

Your body needs sodium or salt to work properly. Most people however consume too much salt which may raise blood pressure and put a lot of stress on the kidneys. As a good rule of thumb, no more than 5 grams of salt should be eaten on a daily basis.

3. Frequently Delaying The Call Of Nature

Many of us ignore the urge to go because they are too busy or want to avoid public bathrooms. Retaining urine on a regular basis increases urine pressure and can lead to kidney failure, kidney stones, and incontinence. So listen to your body when nature calls.

4. Kick The Sugar Habit

Scientific studies show that people who consume 2 or more sugary drinks a day are more likely to have protein in their urine. Having protein in your urine is an early sign your kidneys are not doing their job as they should.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  High Glycemic diets are killing us. I know most people won't or can't replace high glycemic foods with low glycemic foods in total; however any person would be a fool not to reduce some consumption of high glycemic and substitute with low glycemic foods.  

5. Vitamin And Mineral Deficiencies

Eating a clean, whole food diet full of fresh vegetables and fruits is important for your overall health and a good kidney function. Many deficiencies can increase the risk of kidney stones or kidney failure. Vitamin B6 and magnesium, for instance, are super important to reduce the risk of kidney stones.

An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Americans isn’t getting enough magnesium, so there may be a good chance that you are one of them.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  It is likely the majority of Americans aren't getting much of the required nutrients.  Find the best nutritional supplements you can and take them to ensure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to have a healthy immune system.

6. Too Much Animal Protein

Over consumption of protein, especially red meat, increases the metabolic load on your kidneys. So more protein in your diet means your kidneys have to work harder and this can lead to kidney damage or dysfunction over time.

7. Sleep Deprivation

We have all heard how important it is to get a good night’s rest. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to many diseases and kidney diseases are also on the list. During the night your body repairs damaged kidney tissue, so give your body the time to heal and repair itself.

8. Coffee Habit

Just as salt, caffeine can raise blood pressure and put extra stress on your kidneys. Over time excessive consumption of coffee can cause damage to your kidneys.

9. Painkiller Abuse

Way too many people take painkillers for their small aches and pains, while there are many all-natural, safe remedies available. Excessive use or painkiller abuse can lead to severe damage of liver and kidneys.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  Even of the shelf Motrin can be bad for you if you use it all the time and in bigger doses. I abused Motrin for over 20 years, and have only taken about 400 mg of it in the last 9 years.  I'll use low doses of Aspirin now, but that's about it.  It you have pain, try and fix it, just don't throw drugs at the symptoms.  

10. Alcohol Consumption

Although there is nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine or having a beer once in a while, most of us don’t stop after just one drink. Alcohol is actually a legal toxin that puts a lot of stress on our kidneys and liver.

To stay healthy and avoid kidney issues it is important to eat lots of fresh, whole foods and if you keep the above information in mind and avoid these common habits as much as possible, your kidneys will not be under constant stress and your body will thank you for that.

MyAchingKnees Comment:  Alcohol is a toxin.  Reduce or eliminate your consumption of it.  If you drink hard liquor or beer, maybe you can try replacing it with a quality red wine.  My challenge to you is to try tis for two weeks and see how you feel.  


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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Toxic Toothpaste? Hidden dangers in your dental care products

MyAchingKnees comment: In keeping with my health lifestyle focus on maximizing low glycemic foods, minimizing my intake of high glycemic foods, taking quality nutritional supplements, living a physical life and minimizing toxics, I have quit using conventional toothpastes about 8 years ago. If you read the labels on the ingredients and the poison control warnings and you'll understand why. I have not had any cavities since; my dentist tells me that my gums are very healthy looking; and I don't wake up with bad breath.

On the whitening side, I suggest you use a toothpaste that does not use chemical bleaching or whitening, but rather a toothpaste with silica to gently "scrub" the tooth surface to remove surface stains. How much abrasiveness a toothpaste has is measured by the RDA (relative dentin abrasivity). The FDA recommends a toothpaste under 200 RDA and the American Dental Association puts that limit at 250. I use a fluoride free, natural toothpaste with an RDA under 80. 

So do you own research - nothing will convince you of the what you need to do more so than determining that information firsthand.

This is from a Fox News article posted earlier in the month.

There are many options we have in taking care and beautifying our smile these days. The claims can be enticing— promises of whitening, tartar control, cavity control, germ killing, and more. Did you know some of the ingredients in your toothpastes, mouthwash and teeth whiteners can actually be more harmful than beneficial?

There are some controversial ingredients lurking in our oral care products that we should use with caution. The floor of the mouth— the area below the tongue— is very vascular and can act as a quick route of absorption to our bloodstream.

Triclosan is an ingredient in a popular toothpaste that claims to work up to 12 hours to prevent bacterial plaque formation. This ingredient has raised concern because studies have shown it can be an "endocrine disruptor," which can lead to hormonal imbalances such as fertility problems and thyroid problems; it is also linked to antibiotic resistance. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expressed concern with this ingredient and Johnson & Johnson is removing it from its soap by 2015.

One ingredient in mouthwash that is more harmful than beneficial is alcohol. One popular brand has a 20 percent concentration of alcohol in its formulation. Alcohol dries out the mouth, making breath worse. Plus, it makes you more prone to cavities since the natural protection of saliva is reduced. There have also been some links between alcohol and cancer of the mouth.

There are plenty of good mouth rinses on the market that are alcohol free. Choose one with zinc that will fight bad breath at the source.

Carbamide peroxide is found in whitening pastes, gels and rinses. The byproduct of carbamide peroxide is urea, which turns into ammonia. This is not to be confused with hydrogen peroxide, which is safe to use in moderation. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water and is a better choice since it also works faster.

Whitening toothpaste can be a confusing product. When one hears "whitening" they think of "bleaching" the teeth and having deep stains inside the tooth being removed to reveal a whiter smile. If you look at the back of a "whitening " paste it will say "removes surface stains.” That means it’s only removing the top layer of stain on the outer enamel and not effectively whitening the inside of the tooth. This is accomplished by using heavy abrasives to scratch away the stains on the enamel surface, which can wear away your tooth surface and cause sensitivity. Enamel does not grow back. If you want a real whitening toothpaste you need a professional strength hydrogen peroxide gel in a separate tube which you add to your regular paste each time you brush. This will effectively whitening your teeth— from the inside out.

Please make sure you brush twice a day, rinse and floss. Visiting your dentist twice a year is also recommended to keep your mouth healthy.



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Saturday, August 23, 2014

11 Serious Lack of Vitamin D Warning Signs

It's pretty much common knowledge that a person can't get enough Vitamin D from the Sun....even in the summer months. Plus sun bathing for Vitamin D has side effects like skin cancer. I was never a sun bather, but yet had three basil cell spots, about the size of nickels, cut out of my back. I am posting the article below, from Answers.com, as it lists symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency which should be on people's minds. This article does not discuss the daily amount of Vitamin D a person should receive (see my comment at bottom).

Bone Pain.
Shunning the sun and being lactose intolerant can leave you with a deficiency of Vitamin D. This can lead to bone pain. According to the National Institute of Health, this subtle symptom it can be a serious sign of a lack of Vitamin D.

MyAchingKnees comment: Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption to enable normal mineralization for bone repair and growth.

Muscle Weakness.
Muscle weakness is usually caused by a Vitamin D deficiency. Muscles have Vitamin D receptors. They must have a constant supply of Vitamin D to function. If your body has a deficiency of Vitamin D your muscles will have trouble functioning as stated by the National Institutes of Health.

Psoriasis.
Although psoriasis is not always caused by a lack of Vitamin D, it's used in treatment. The Mayo Clinic claims that if you have a lack of the Vitamin D it will be harder for your body to defend itself against psoriasis.

Tiredness.
Vitamin D is one of the necessary vitamins for your body to create energy. Without it you can end up feeling tired most of the day. This will make it hard for you to get around or even get to work. You should consult your doctor if you have constant feelings of tiredness.

Depression.
According to the Vitamin D Council, this essential nutrient helps your brain's neurotransmitters produce the fluid serotonin. This produces our feelings of happiness. Studies have linked low levels of Vitamin D with episodes of depression. Especially during the winter months, because of the lack of sun during that time of year.

Sweaty Head.
Years ago doctors used to ask new mothers if their heads were sweating more than normal. NDHealthFacts claims that the reason for this is because it is a tell-tale sign of a lack of Vitamin D is a sweaty head.

Constant Respiratory Problems.
Studies show that Vitamin D may help defend against respiratory illness. This is especially true in children. Cardiovascular Disease.

Articles published by the National Institutes of Health have shown that deficiencies in Vitamin D can lead to congestive heart failure. Make sure your body maintains the proper amounts to guard against the risk. Home tests are available to check if have a lack of Vitamin D.

Hypertension.
Harvard University conducted a study on women. The study showed that women with low levels of Vitamin D have a 67 percent increased risk of hypertension. If you suffer from anxiety you may want to consider purchasing Vitamin D supplements and adding them to your daily routine.

Chronic Infections.
The Mayo Clinic has advised that Vitamin D is crucial to our body's health. It is a necessary vitamin in helping our body fight infections. If you notice you or your child is prone to getting infections, you might want to ask your doctor to give you a Vitamin D blood test.

MyAchingKnees comment: So how much Vitamin D andn what type do you need? Vitamin D supplements are available in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). They are basically the same. The USDA recommends that a person 1 year old to 70 years old receive 600 IU per day and a person over 70 receive 800 IU aa day. Many researchers in Nutritional Medicine believe that these doses are way too low. As evident by my wife working outside much of each day and taking a supplement of 1,000 IU of Vitamin D. Her blood serum test for Vitamin D revealed a slight deficiency which was corrected by adding more Vitamin D to her supplement intake. The nutritional scientists I follow now say that 2,000 IU is pretty minimum for most people. I take 2,000 IU per day in my base supplments and add an optimizer that includes another 2,000 IU of Vitamin D3 (taken twice a day) for a total of 6,000 IU per day. The Vitamin D optimizer only adds about $0.40 per day to my cost and I feel it's well worth it.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Is this Supplement Company a scam?

Jeremy wrote in to MyAchingKnees and asked these questions: "My wife's sister is trying to get me and my wife to take Herbalife supplements. I am getting the whole healthy thing as I get older and now have kids to worry about, But isn't Herbalife a scam? I thought I read or heard about it being just a scam recently."

Hey Jeremy, most likely what you heard about some guy,  who is some sort of investor or fund manager, making claims about Herbalife being a pyramid scheme. While I am not making claims against  this guy (whose name I will not publish), but in the past other people had made negative claims attacking other companies which were made in order to drop their stock prices so these people can buy stock shares cheaper, and then later re-sell at a profit once the scare if over and the stock goes back up to it's normal or pre-attack prices.

While I do not use Herbalife product as they are pretty low rated, the Company and the way they market/sell their products is a legitimate method of business called direct sales using independent sales people. This is the same business model as Avon, Mary Kay and other well known names. In fact, most of these products would be more expensive if the manufacturer used conventional routes for marketing such as national advertising, wholesale and retail distributors chains, and the requisite  shipping and storage related costs.

While Herbalife products are not manufactured in a process that guarantees purity, potency or lack of toxins, they do offer a satisfaction or money back guarantee. I know people who take Herbalife products and I believe them to be as safe as any other food grade GMP manufactured product.

According to the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, 3rd edition, by Lyle MacWilliam, BSc, MSc, FP, the only Herbalife product among the daily multi-nutritionals listed that I could find rated that was rated, was Formula 2, which received a score of 14.8 out of a possible 100.    Pretty low in anyone's book.  But do your own research as there are a couple updates available to MacWilliam's Comparative Guide.  Again, I think Herbalife products are likely safe, you could however do much better, but your original question if this is a scam is simple - no, Herbalife is not a scam or some pyramid scheme or anything of the sort other than a Nutritional supplement company using the direct sales - networking marketing business model.

Like I always say "Let the Buyer Beware". Good luck Jeremy and I am glad you are thinking of your children's health as well as your own. Children in today's world face more challenges that ever before with processed, high glycemic and GMO foods and the inherent lack of nutrients available in these foods, not to mention the highly toxic environment they are exposed to often on a daily basis.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eating to Lower Your Cholesterol

While it is old news that certain foods help us control high cholesterol, I am posting this article for the shock value as it states that 33.5 percent of the American population suffers from high LDL cholesterol,.....enroute to heart attacks and diabetes, whichever comes first.

This article from Natural News is short, sweet and accurate.

Four foods proven to lower cholesterol and protect the heart

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 71 million Americans, or 33.5 percent of the total population, suffer from high LDL cholesterol. Only one in three of these individuals has their condition under control, while less than half of them choose to treat it at all. Moreover, the average total cholesterol for adult Americans is around 200 mg/dL, which is borderline high risk. We are, in short, at greater risk of heart disease than ever before. Though doctors love to throw statins and other drugs at people with high cholesterol, an improvement in diet is a far safer and more effective long-term solution to the problem. Most whole foods are likely to reduce LDL and total cholesterol to some degree, but the foods listed below are especially effective in this regard.

Oatmeal

Few foods can beat oatmeal at reducing cholesterol. This traditional breakfast food is packed with soluble fiber which, according to an extensive 19-year study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, can lower cholesterol and the risk of coronary heart disease. Moreover, oatmeal is rich in a specific kind of soluble fiber called beta-glucan that is particularly good at blocking our bodies' ability to absorb cholesterol.

Organic, unsweetened oatmeal is easy to purchase online or in health food stores and is best consumed in the morning with milk. Adding some fruit to the oats, such as bananas or strawberries, will boost its fiber content further.

Avocados

Avocados are one of the best fruits to consume for treating high cholesterol. Firstly, they're packed with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat which, as a study in the Journal of Lipid Research proved, can inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol and lipids in human cells. Secondly, they're also rich in a plant chemical called beta-sitosterol, which suppresses cholesterol absorption in the intestine.

Though avocados are usually eaten on their own, they're known to increase the absorption of disease-fighting antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables. Therefore, adding them to salads and other meals is a great way to boost nutrient intake.

Fish

Fish has always been regarded as good for the heart, and we now understand why: Its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids are proven to lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of blood clots and decrease total and LDL cholesterol. Fish is so beneficial for the cardiovascular system, in fact, that the American Heart Association recommends eating at least two servings of it per week.

The fish richest in omega-3 acids (including EPA and DHA) are salmon, mackerel, tuna, trout, sardines and herring. For obvious reasons, it's best to avoid fish from the Pacific Ocean these days.

Walnuts

Though they are best-known for improving brain function, walnuts also excel at lowering cholesterol. A review published in The Journal of Nutrition in April 2014, for instance, showed that these hard-shelled nuts could "decrease low density lipoprotein cholesterol (by ~9-16%) and blood pressure (diastolic blood pressure by ~2-3 mm Hg), 2 major risk factors for [cardiovascular disease]."

The cholesterol-lowering properties of walnuts are mostly attributed to their high concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid, which can lower cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream.

Other nuts rich in beneficial, cholesterol-lowering fats include almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and pecans. Like all fruits, nuts are best eaten raw for maximum benefits.

MyAchingKnees comment: I have no doubt that lowering your cholesterol can be done by changing how you eat and/or by ensuring your get your daily nutrients through supplementation.  Nine years ago, when I was much more physically active, my cholesterol level was 210.   Today it is routinely 150 to 160.  I would think that before people consent to taking prescription drugs to lower their cholesterol, and take a chance on incurring all those side effects, that these people would try a less invasive way to more naturally lower their cholesterol.       

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Why Extreme Diets are Fundamentally Flawed

While I have a different opinion on why extreme diets are fundamentally flawed, I am posting this article taken from Shine and written by Redbook to get people to thinking. I cannot help but believe that these diets are flawed because they provide the required nutrients people need; they don't make people healthier; they are not lifestyle changers.

Why Extreme Diets are Fundamentally Flawed, By Redbook|Team Mom


I spend a lot of time looking into claims about the best way to eat--in part because it's my job to cover health, but also because it's very much a personal obsession. I know I'm not alone--trying to look and feel our best is a major focus for loads of American women. While it's fascinating to grill experts on why their gluten-free/Paleo/whole-foods diets reign supreme, I'm a skeptic. That's why I found myself so interested in Matt Fitzgerald's new book, Diet Cults, which explores how certain ways of eating can create the same cultish tendencies as fanatic religious sects, especially as the "diet wars" move online. "Social media platforms allow everyone to participate in promoting and defending their favorite diet and attacking others," he says. If you've ever wanted a reason to stop blaming yourself for why these doctrines haven't worked for you, Fitzgerald boils it down.

"What makes every diet cult part of the same phenomenon is the idea that there's one true way," says Fitzgerald. "But the science just doesn't prove that." In fact, if you look at history--from the kosher diets of the ancient Jews to the rice-centric ones of Confucian China to the high-fat Mediterranean ones of Cretans--it's evident there are many ways someone can eat for optimal health. Here's where a few of these "healthy eating" doctrines run into trouble.

Paleo

According to Fitzgerald, there are three major problems with eating like a caveman. To start, it's based on an outdated model of evolution that presumes our bodies can't adapt quickly. But we now know that the human gut can evolve from one day to the next--leaving little reason to presume we have to eat like we may have millions of years ago. And the word "may" is key. New evidence shows that our ancestors ate grasses and sedges (grain-like plants) as much as 3 million years ago. "We're here in 2014, and Paleo doctrine doesn't stand up to the fact that overall health outcomes from eating whole grains are positive," says Fitzgerald. "Our history is irrelevant if we now know that they're good for us."

Atkins

The low-carb frenzy may have peaked in the early aughts, but with the renewed push for Paleo and update of its disciples, like South Beach, the idea remains that to lose weight, we should cut out grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit. "The carbohydrate hypothesis of obesity never gained much traction in the mainstream scientific nutrition community," says Fitzgerald. "For example, research has found that higher-carb foods keep you full, so you eat less, suggesting the idea that blood sugar spikes leave you reaching for more food is false." While it's certainly smart to stay away from refined, processed, or white grains, whole grains have myriad heath benefits.

Raw food

"The raw food movement, like so many diet cults, thinks in absolute terms," says Fitzgerald. "There's the idea that processing foods is always bad, and nothing could be further from the truth." Cooking food greatly increases its usable energy, which is why the development of the human brain correlates with our beginning to use fire about 1 million years ago. And our bodies need cooked food too. A German study classified one third of people who ate purely raw diets as undernourished, and 60 percent of women either stopped menstruating or menstruated irregularly. "We've come up with bad ways of processing foods--like adding trans fats--but you have to consider it on a case-by-case basis," adds Fitzgerald.

Avoiding all pleasures

I like to say that a life without chocolate is no life at all, and science agrees. Japanese researchers studied 80,000 adults over 12 years and found that those who reported experiencing the least enjoyment in life were almost twice as likely to die of heart attack or stroke than those who experienced the most delight. "Any source of pleasure--it's been shown that laughing and spending times with friends is healthful--helps your body," says Fitzgerald. "Taking pleasure from food belongs on that list."

Fasting

There's actually lots of evidence that intermittent fasting can be good for you. For example, Greek Orthodox people on the island of Crete fast for roughly half of the year and they have excellent health outcomes. However, skipping meals--even if you replace them with green juice--can quickly become a means of masking serious food issues. "While juice-fasters often report feeling great during and after the experience, that feeling may be nothing more than the same sense of self-control that other fasters enjoy," writes Fitzgerald. He believes--and I'm inclined to agree--that healthy eating patterns are far more sustainable when they conform to cultural norms. So if your five-day juice fast means five days of no dinners with friends, no wine with you husband, and no coffee with colleagues, it may be more hurtful than helpful.

Gluten-free

Gluten-intolerance and Celiac weren't on anyone's radar 20 years ago, but today, it's difficult to go out to dinner without someone announcing that no, they would not like you to pass the breadbasket. Some attribute this to the rise of genetically modified corn and food processing, but that hypothesis becomes less feasible when considered in a broader context. "Celiac disease is one of 72 auto-immune disorders, the rates of which all are rising simultaneously," says Fitzgerald. "It's extremely unlikely that the gluten is the culprit for every one of them. I throw out the hypothesis that they're all tied together by our skyrocketing stress levels, since stress may interact with the genes that predispose a person to a disease in a way that 'activates' it." What's more, a recent study published in Nutrition in Clinical Practice found that 94 percent of people who self-report as gluten-intolerant are women, providing strong evidence that going gluten-free is being used to exert potentially orthorexic behavior.

So what's the solution?

Fitzgerald calls it "agnostic healthy eating," and no, it's not another diet cult. "This is a set of basic parameters that breaks down food types using a combination of common sense and science," says Fitzgerald. And unlike a diet that tells you exactly what to eat, agnostic healthy eating takes into account that your food-related wants and needs may evolve throughout your life. It simply breaks down what to eat the most and the least of in descending order with no rules for portion size, instead trusting your body to guide you:

1. Vegetables
2. Fruits
3. Nuts, seeds, and healthy oils
4. High-quality meats and seafood
5. Whole grains
6. Dairy
7. Refined grains
8. Low-quality meats and seafood
9. Sweets
10. Fried foods

From there, it's up to you: What makes you feel good? What fuels you? What satisfies your taste buds? "Choose happiness," writes Fitzgerald. "As long as the happier way of eating stays within the rules of agnostic healthy eating, you will come out ahead."



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