Natural Health: Ten Predictions for the Year 2008 By Neil E. Levin, CCN, DANLA 12/10/2007 The New Year will bring more proof of antioxidant benefits for human health. Recent research shows that antioxidants help to maintain healthy brain functions during aging, protect brain and nerve cells, and prevent hormones and cholesterol fractions from oxidizing to become more harmful forms. Look for an expanded understanding of the benefits of these synergistic nutrients in 2008. 2008 will provide more proof of omega-3 fatty acids’ benefits. For example, DHA helps to maintain healthy balances of cholesterol fractions and protects the brain and nerves. EPA helps normalize cell membranes and cellular health. These essential fats are typically very low in the American diet, so dramatic results could occur in clinical trials providing these nutrients to participants. There will be more safety scares regarding popular prescription and Over-The-Counter drugs, creating new safety warnings and label cautions. Since the most popular medications are typically blocking or inhibiting natural body functions (calcium channel blockers, cholesterol production inhibitors, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, stomach acid production inhibitors, etc.) rather than dealing holistically with the causes of problems that create body imbalances (lack of optimal levels of nutrients, environmental chemicals and metals, chronic stress - lack of deep sleep, low fiber - high carbohydrate diets, etc.), major side effects from such drugs are inevitable. Side effects from pain medications will become more evident, increasing the number of people looking for safer alternatives. Herbs and spices are the major natural alternatives with some scientific evidence of efficacy. The market for organic and local foods will continue to grow at amazing levels. This will put pressure on the regulatory, farm and grocery industries to manage these products and segregate them to maintain their integrity. That contrasts with the increased reliance on genetically engineered corn to produce ethanol that raises food costs and increases the use of farm chemicals. And there is much evidence that non-genetically engineered foods are both environmentally and nutritionally superior to their modified cousins, while natural farming techniques are proving superior to chemical and genetically engineered farming in terms of managing fuel and seed costs, water use, improving both crop yields and selling prices, etc. Millions of farmers around the world have already weaned themselves from the chemical-genetic “green revolution” to use appropriate local farming techniques and have actually been more successful as a direct result of truly “green” practices. America has begun to awaken to the benefits of local and organic foods in terms of freshness, reducing the use of fossil fuels for transportation and demonstrable benefits to local economies. Watch for these trends to accelerate in 2008. Blood pressure and blood sugar concerns will continue to grow, along with a medical backlash attacking natural strategies to manage these concerns. However, science will also continue to amass evidencing the positive health benefits of natural products to help people maintain already healthy blood levels, in contrast with the poor symptom management that is a characteristic of pharmaceutical or surgical interventions used to “correct” chronic biological imbalances. These issues dovetail with current obesity and cardiovascular concerns and are part of the same syndrome related to chronic stress and poor diets. Positive reports of the benefits of higher levels of vitamin D will continue to proliferate, though with some bias against the synthesized vegetarian/vegan form of vitamin D2 versus D3 from fish oil or sheep lanolin. Health authorities will be pressured to raise both the recommended Daily Value and the Upper Limit of vitamin D to five times the current levels. Research will continue to accumulate regarding the health benefits of whole grains and whole foods, as will reports of people allergic or sensitive to gluten, corn, and other grains. More mainstream processed groceries will have whole food options in 2008. This is a good trend, though with cautions for the sensitive minority. There will be continuing claims that “dietary supplements” are illegally contaminated with steroids or other pharmaceutical drugs. These claims will typically be self-serving and defensive, made primarily by athletes accused of cheating by using banned substances. Beyond the obvious fact that legitimate supplement manufacturers do not have illegal substances on hand and that GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices certification) quality manufacturing protocols would avoid inadvertent contamination, these accusations are a barometer of how “unregulated” the mainstream media and the public thinks dietary supplements are. While there are plenty of regulations written specifically to regulate supplements, and even the FDA claims that it has adequate regulatory authority, somehow certain medical authorities and journalists like to pretend otherwise; perhaps to have a handy punching bag to deflect attention from the well-documented hundreds of thousands of deaths caused annually from pharmaceuticals and medical errors. In any case, expect more of this blame game in 2008. With a presidential election campaign under full swing, no meaningful legislation regarding health care or Medicare will be passed in 2008. There will be a narrow window of opportunity for such measures in 2009 with a new Congress and Administration. Natural health advocates will continue to press for meaningful use of nutrition to combat the major causes of disease and illness in America, with probably little impact against the lobbying might of the medical and pharmaceutical interests. The wild card is if, by some miracle, the insurance industry finally notices that their costs could be contained by the use of targeted nutrition such as the use of calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis, antioxidants to prevent age-related macular degeneration and oxidative-related glaucoma that affect vision and impact seniors’ independence, omega-3 fats to prevent coronary heart disease, the use of fiber to manage healthy cholesterol levels, etc. That could swing the pendulum towards the use of natural products to control healthcare costs. But I’m not betting on it happening in 2008, though I hope that they wise up soon enough to manage the recently overactive increases in medical costs. There will be additional, unjustified health scares about essential nutrients in 2008. Especially beware of “meta-analyses” that mix unrelated studies and magnify the number of variables using often-flawed statistical models. Some probable targets: · Kava (a few unrelated, anecdotal reports of liver problems) · Folic acid (a few reports of higher cancer levels despite a lot of cellular data indicating the opposite, creating a backlash against re-fortification of refined foods) · Vitamin E (continued championing/publicity of questionable meta-analyses over more rigorous blood-level studies will continue the inexplicable controversy over the safety of this essential nutrient that most Americans are reportedly deficient in.) · Beta-Carotene (again, blood level studies and total antioxidant studies repeatedly show its safety, but studies measuring only administration of certain doses to sick populations that may be deficient in antioxidants create a conflicting picture.) · DHEA (this adrenal hormone has been vilified as a “steroid”, but is no more so than vitamin D. No less an authority than physician and US Senator Tom Coburn has sent a letter to his colleagues informing them that he has reviewed the issues and urging them to avoid a ban of this natural product, which is useful in anti-aging strategies but not for bodybuilders. Efforts by leading senators (including presidential candidates Clinton and McCain) to ban DHEA are ongoing.