Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Doctors Oz and Roizen Recommend 4 Herbs

In a recent newspaper article*, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen (Chief Medicial Officer of the Cleveland Clinic) recommend the use of 4 herbs as scientifically validated. They cite an article on the Cleveland Clinic Wellness website's Supplement Review which reports that the following popular herbs "are generally safe and have some scientific backing as effective remedies":

  • Turmeric (Curcumin) for easing inflammation of ulcerative colitis in conjunction with standard medications
  • Aloe vera cream "may work better than some prescription preparations" for healing mild skin burns
  • Saw palmetto "for benign prostatic hyperplasia" (enlarged prostate gland in men); this herb seems to block the hormones responsible
  • Garlic has moderate but good results in helping "control blood pressure and cholesterol, and slow down hardening of the arteries"
* Read more: http://www.windsorstar.com/health/supplements+worth+taking/7372531/story.html#ixzz29TnVX0Tg

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Response to Doctor Oz's "Melatonin: Are You Sabotaging Your Sleep?"

Obviously, the lowest amount (dose) of something that works for you is usually best, but that is true more rigidly for substances with a high potential for dangerous side effects - like pharmaceutical drugs - than for natural substances that the body produces and knows how to properly handle.

The sleep aid Melatonin is normally made from the hormone serotonin, which in turn is metabolized from dietary l-tryptophan, an essential amino acid that must be ingested because it can't be synthesized in the body from other substances like the non-essential aminos can. Melatonin is produced at night time, in darkness, so those of us who sit up in bright rooms and/or watch TV or computer screens late at night are suspect of creating a deficiency due to these unnatural habits.

Melatonin is supposed to rule the night while adrenal hormones rule the day. Melatonin actually suppresses the production of stress hormones, allowing us to relax and get a good night's sleep. But the more stress we're under, and the more we deprive ourselves of the proper conditions to synthesize our own melatonin, the less likely we can get a good night's sleep or shut off the flood of stress hormones (like cortisol) that raise our risks of getting chronic diseases, heart attacks and strokes, nervous eating and belly fat, etc. 

There are legitimate reasons to use higher amounts of melatonin than the fraction of a milligram that some suggest. In fact, for certain populations, higher amounts may be necesary to maintain a balanced health status (homeostasis), even for children.

Here are some authoritative references for higher doses of melatonin; not only for sleep, but for other potential health benefits:










Thursday, August 30, 2012

Free downloads of some classic nutrition books

Free downloads of some classic nutrition books from a non-profit; includes Cheraskin, Roger Williams, and others: http://www.riordanclinic.org/education/books/

Monday, July 16, 2012

USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2

The USDA recently removed its ORAC database listing values of antioxidant activity for various foods in test tube studies (in vitro). The reason given is that ORAC values don't necessarily translate directly into antioxidant activity in live humans (in vivo).

However, ORAC values do provide an indication of the antioxidant and polyphenol levels in the foods. Polyphenols have proven health benefits beyond their antioxidant activity (i.e. the green tea polyphenol EGCg stimulates metabolism). They also provide an indication of product freshness and ability to maintain freshness.

In the interest of  maintaining access to this data, I am providing a link to the database here. If it becomes inactive in the future, please contact me to send you a copy.

USDA Database for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods, Release 2:


For articles on this issue, please see:



Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sufficient Regulation of Supplements

Critics claim that dietary supplements are under-regulated, which is arguably inaccurate. Critics suggest that the FDA should have the power to ban synthetic analogues of botanical ingredients even when there is no credible safety issue, a major expansion of government authority. There are disturbing attempts to expand the role of unelected government bureaucrats as censors of nature-identical ingredients, even those with a history of safe use.

The FDA recently reinterpreted a 1994 law requiring pre-market notification of New Dietary Ingredients (NDI) unknown to the marketplace or our food supply. The law grants it authority over novel ingredients, not products, by requiring notification, rather than pre-approval. Now the agency is promoting a radical vision by prematurely enforcing its widely criticized Revised NDI Guidance that violates the letter and spirit of the law. FDA asserts the unilateral power to change from requiring pre-market notification of a new ingredient to a de facto registration giving it virtual veto power over all products containing that ingredient. Under its new interpretation, any change of processing or source (i.e. synthetic botanical) gives the FDA power to reject an ingredient even when indistinguishable from one in the food chain.

FDA lacks not only legal authority, but resources to screen thousands of products explicitly regulated as a food category with a presumption of safety. The FDA rejects most pre-market notifications of new ingredients; slowing introduction of new dietary supplements to the marketplace.

Industry critics ignore how dietary supplement regulation has evolved. Mandatory Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) are being vigorously audited/enforced by FDA, requiring identity, potency, and safety testing plus rigorous procedure documentation. All serious adverse events must be reported to the FDA within 15 business days. GMP audits and NDI notifications represent pre-market monitoring; AERs post-market surveillance. The Food Safety Bill enhanced FDA’s recall authority. This regulatory regime is so successful that for years there have been no deaths from dietary supplements reported to Poison Control Centers. Current laws work. We don’t need a virtual government takeover of the dietary supplement industry under the pretense of safety.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Proteins, Protein Isolates, and Amino Acids

Protein isolates are rich in amino acids; note the word “acid”. Isolated proteins are acid-forming (systemically acidic), regardless of whether the whole plant may be alkaline-forming. Hence, brown rice protein isolate is a product isolated from brown rice; hence, it is no longer whole brown rice since the germ and fiber are removed, and is now rich in acid-forming protein. It is no longer an alkaline whole grain as the name, and product marketing, may imply. The same logic would apply to other protein isolates. If only whole grain powders are used, without protein concentration or isolation, the alkaline-forming claim would still be reasonable; otherwise not so.

Raw proteins are typically harder to digest than cooked ones, but that depends on how much the heat denatures the proteins. Denaturing = digestion and is normally necessary to make the amino acids bioavailable and to reduce the likelihood of developing food sensitivities due to incomplete digestion triggering immune (IgG) reactions. There is nothing wrong with denaturing proteins, unless you are trying to preserve certain structures like immunoglobulins in whey protein. But the nature of whole plant foods is to lock up nutrients by binding them in a food matrix, requiring a process of digestion, or denaturing, to separate them from their food matrices for optimal absorption from the gut. It is also questionable exactly how “raw” these proteins are. Some companies ferment so-called raw materials and only count the presence or absence of heat after fermentation when labeling them as “raw”. This may be as inaccurate as labeling yogurt with live cultures as “raw” even if pasteurized milk was used as a sterile culturing medium.

There is some evidence that animal proteins can better promote cancer growth (The China Study) than plant-based proteins, but otherwise are considered excellent protein sources.

Plant proteins each have their own issues: Rice protein tends to have heavy metal contamination. Chia protein is very gummy and thus hard to use in a liquid mixture intended for drinking. Hemp protein doesn’t taste very good. Etc.

Protein digestion is obtained by actions of stomach acid (low pH) and enzymes both in the stomach & intestines (pancreatic protease). In the acidic environment of the stomach, the negatively charged side chains are removed by pepsin. In the stomach, Pepsin helps to "unwind" the proteins and breaks the bonds between the amino acids in certain places. In the more alkaline environment of the intestine, the positively charged side chains are removed by trypsin. In the small intestine, other enzymes break the bonds between different amino acids that pepsin can’t break. Because proteins are such complicated molecules, it takes a long time and more than one enzyme to completely digest them (break them down into amino acids). Digestion results in about 60% small peptides (or peptide-bound), which are chains of amino acids, and 40% free amino acids (or free form). Peptides can be further broken down by hydrolysis in enterocytes (intestinal absorptive cells, simple columnar epithelial cells found in the small intestines and colon).

Plant enzymes (proteases) can also digest protein in a wider range of pH, to help compensate for low stomach acid. But plant enzymes don’t compensate for other functions of stomach acid:

  • Acidic immune barrier
  • Environment to promote Acidophilus (literally: ”acid loving”)
  • Digestion (liberation) of minerals from food, water, and non-chelated supplements
  • Digestion (liberation) of vitamins from food matrices

Friday, May 04, 2012

Natural Controversies: Free Webinar May 15th at 7 PM (CT)

I'm giving a free public webinar May 15th 7 pm CT on Natural Controversies. Register here:  http://americannutritionassociation.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=32 and use this code for free registration as my guest: SPKGST5629

We’ve all seen contradictory information about natural health products. Sensational reports may depict certain ones as always good or bad for us, but these are often based on inaccurate information. A combination of ignorance, bias, and other errors contribute to this mass confusion.

Take a look at the scientific data that reveals the truth behind some Natural Controversies:

  • What are some of the dieting secrets that work long term?
  • Some experts claim that all sugars are the same to the body; others claim that certain sweeteners like fructose are bad for you. What’s good and bad about fructose and how does it work in the body?
  • Aren’t the vitamins and minerals in food better for us than the forms commonly used in dietary supplements?
  • A few years ago, doctors routinely warned us against taking high doses of vitamin D but now it’s the latest thing.
    • How much vitamin D is considered healthy?
    • What are the safety limits?
    • What is the difference between its forms, D-2 and D-3?
  • Some fish oils are in a triglyceride form while others are in a form called ethyl esters. What are the differences and benefits of each form?
  • Soy foods are highly controversial; with some health gurus warning against its use and others promoting it as an important health food. What does science tell us about the safety of soy foods versus their potential benefits?

• Vitamin E had been touted as important to cardiovascular health until recent studies questioned its safety. Is it safe, at what levels, and why is there so much controversy over this basic essential nutrient?

• Are stearates hydrogenated? Bad for us?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Metabolic Syndrome and Nutrients

Metabolic Syndrome is not a disease; it is a cluster of symptoms that are considered risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. These include blood pressure, waist circumference, fasting blood sugar level, triglyceride level, and HDL cholesterol level. If someone has abnormal test results for 3 of these 5 markers, that person may be considered to have metabolic syndrome. It is well established in the medical literature that people with diabetes have higher rates of heart disease and a higher death rate than the general public. Obviously, it is not desirable for any of these metabolic markers to be outside the normal range, and individually they are recognized as risk factors for heart disease and/or diabetes.

Glucose management can be helped by adequate and inhibited by inadequate nutrient intake. Chromium is recognized as essential to managing blood sugar; as is Biotin, which is a B-Complex nutrient that is not one of the essential eight B Vitamins. For herbs, the best evidence is for them helping to maintain insulin sensitivity, control sweet cravings, and perhaps to support healthy pancreatic function: Gymnema sylvestre and Stevia rebaudiana (full spectrum steviosides; not Reb A versions of stevia isolates) appear to help us to manage healthy glucose metabolism; while Banaba leaf extract is a source of corosolic acid, which appears to aid in maintaining healthy insulin sensitivity. Of course, fiber is reported to slow the increase in blood sugar after a meal.

It is far easier to suggest blood sugar supplements and even dietary changes before a drug regimen is started. Afterward, there can be serious interactions, even for fiber. Drastic dietary changes, such as changing to a whole food diet, can be risky if a set dose of medicine is taken because less of the drug may then be needed, opening the door to a real risk of a drug overdose. Patients should always disclose to their physician what supplements they are considering taking to avoid potential interactions. A moderate strength multiple vitamin formula that provides essential levels of chromium is normally allowed by the physician in such circumstances.

Dr. Thomas A. Barringer of Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina reports that his studies show that multiple vitamins benefit our diabetic population. He states that “any population at risk of having marginally inadequate nutrition, such as the elderly in general, might also benefit." Dr Barringer adds: “all obese people might benefit." He pointed out that supplements are safe and relatively inexpensive, so taking a daily multivitamin is "a reasonable option" for people who are overweight, who have any type of diabetes, who may not receive adequate nutrition or whose immune system is weak. (March 4th 2003 Annals of Internal Medicine)

Dietary supplement manufacturers have one thing that they can tell customers who have diabetes: that they should consult their physician before taking any supplements. Beyond that, vitamin companies should stick to careful descriptions as to how certain products may support blood sugar already within the healthy range by various mechanisms. Going into detail about which supplements show benefit for diabetes, or any disease, is illegal under DSHEA, the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) is a potent antioxidant that helps to maintain healthy insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance occurs from swings in blood sugar due to poor diets high in refined carbohydrates (white flour, white sugar, high fructose corn syrup) that eventually lead to the hormone Insulin becoming ineffective at moving carbohydrates out of the bloodstream into the cells. ALA has the additional benefit of protecting cells from oxidative damage, including liver cells.

Chromium is available in several forms. While some of the current evidence is on the form called chromium picolinate, other forms may be more active in controlling cholesterol, such as chromium nicotinate (polynicotinate) that’s bonded to niacin (Vitamin B3). This mineral helps us to properly manage blood sugar and is a component of Glucose Tolerance Factor. Chromium may also help maintain lean body mass (muscle) during calorie-restricted dieting.

Citrimax® is a fruit extract that helps to limit the liver's production of fat from carbohydrate. Its active compound, HCA (-Hydroxycitric acid), is an extract from the fruit rind of Garcinia cambogia that may help to downregulate the body’s ability to convert carbohydrates into stored fats.

Corosolic acid helps maintain proper insulin sensitivity, allowing sugar to be efficiently moved from the bloodstream into cells.

Gymnema sylvestre improves uptake of glucose into cells, may block ability to taste “sweet” flavors (reducing a sweet tooth), and may be useful for maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Stevia extract is a natural herbal product that is non-caloric; in its full-spectrum form providing several steviosides it may support pancreatic function and promote proper insulin sensitivity.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Is Resveratrol stable after exposure to air?

The question of whether the polyphenol Resveratrol will readily oxidize when exposed to air has been addressed scientifically. At the time of this relevant study (Prokop J, Abrman P, Seligson AL, Sovak M. Resveratrol and its glycon piceid are stable polyphenols. J Med Food. 2006 Spring;9(1):11-4. PubMed PMID: 16579722.), there were no published studies suggesting that Resveratrol was unstable, despite contrary claims being made by some. This study solidly confirmed Resveratrol's long-term stability under ambient handling and storage conditions for at least 4 years, as well as being stable for years even under more extreme "accelerated" storage conditions.

I can confidently report at this time that Resveratrol does not deteriorate when exposed to air and therefore does not require any special manufacturing processes that exclude oxygen. This has been confirmed by both this independent study published in a peer-reviewed journal and by stability studies performed on Resveratrol finished products by qualified scientists. Despite the assertion that Resveratrol requires special handling in oxygen-free conditions, we have seen no published data to support that claim.