February 13, 2012

Top 10 Antioxidants

If you're looking to supplement your diet with serious antioxidant power, here's a must-have list. Sometimes antioxidants are measured by their ORAC score. While it's something to consider, different anti-oxidants do different things. I'm also not saying forget the rest (like vitamin C or beta-carotene). Simply put, if your health goal is to reach optimum health, you'll want to add these to your regimen. Without further adieu, here's the list ...

1) Glutathione (GSH) - this is known as our body's master antioxidant. It can quench the worst of free radicals, detoxify, and help clear bacteria among other things. Many other antioxidants we take in combine with nutrients to form GSH inside our bodies (acting as pre-cursors). However, our bodies produce less glutathione as we age. To increase our levels of GSH, NAC is 1 of the best pre-cursors. GSH levels can also be increased through injections or homeopathic means.

2) Resveratrol - to understand the significance of this antioxidant, I'll explain something known as the French Paradox. The French have a deep connection with food. The dishes are savory, albeit full of saturated fat. As unhealthy as their diet is, why is it that the French are still able to live as long as they do? The answer lies in red grapes. When concentrated into wine or a supplement, you get something that is rich in resveratrol, polyphenols, and other nutrients. In addition to its cardiovascular benefits, it is known to have a positive epigenetic effect on the SIRT-1 gene which increases longevity.

3) Astaxanthin - this is 1 of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature. It protects your brain and skin from the signs of aging (even reducing gray hair), improves eye health, and can also improve physical endurance. This is above and beyond its potent free radical scavenging abilities. Next to omega-3's, Astaxanthin has had the most noticeable effect on my personal health.

4) Vitamin D - those brainy researchers at Harvard have made a startling discovery. What they found is that people living above 37 degrees latitude are getting much less sun exposure - particularly in the winter time. And it's that fact which makes them more susceptible to winter colds, cancer, osteoporosis, and general malaise.The RDA is set at 400 IU's, but that is much too low for optimal health. You should be taking closer to 4,000 IU's and even more for seniors. The D3 form is the best form to take.

5) Omega-3 - it's considered an essential fatty acid and is highly touted for its effect on cardiovascular health, skin health, brain function, and reducing inflammation. Key scientific studies that exemplify its benefits looked at the health and diet of Norwegians during World War II. There was a marked reduction in coronary heart disease and corresponding mortality rates. EPA and DHA are the most beneficial compounds in omega-3's. Both can be found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, and sardines.

6) Green/White Tea - there is a long history for cultivation of tea leaves, but green and white tea stand out for their health benefits. They are really 1 and the same leaf, except white tea is made from younger leaves. It is also higher in antioxidants. The primary compounds in tea include EGCG and catechins. It produces a very long list of health benefits which include anti-cancer, increased immunity, mental alertness, increased metabolism, cardiovascular function, and more.

7) L-arginine - this amino acid is the subject of research that led to a Nobel Prize in 1998 and more recently brought to the forefront by Dr. Oz. L-arginine is a pre-cursor to nitric oxide - or NO. When combined with L-citrulline, another amino acid, it can exert a strong effect on the vascular and circulatory systems. NO also improves athletic performance and alleviates sexual dysfunction. Our body's production of NO declines with age, and maintaining  healthy levels is key to longevity.

8) Melatonin - this hormone promotes sleep and does a lot to repair the body. In fact if you're not feeling well, you may find yourself naturally sleeping longer hours which increases recovery. Aside from antioxidant activity, Melatonin is known to fight cancer and reduce hypertension. It's a great reason to get 8 hours of sleep in. Unfortunately our melatonin levels fall with age. If you experience restlessness at night, you might consider supplementation. Melatonin is also found in small amounts in red wine.

9) Probiotics - it's been said that digestive health is 80% of your immunity. Reason being, our bodies fight many food-borne bacteria and carcinogens. For example, alcohol and unhealthy food are some things which disturb the balance of healthy bacteria in our digestive system. Probiotics promote the growth of healthy bacteria, improve immunity, and promote a regular bowel movement. While yogurt is a source of probiotics, you can find supplements that provide much better probiotic support.

10) Dark chocolate - yes, healthy CAN taste good! Chocolate is chock full of antioxidants and flavanoids. For health purposes, select the higher quality chocolate bars with minimum 60% cocoa content. It only takes a few bites to get the benefits. Eating a full bar probably diminishes the benefits due to sugar content.

January 29, 2012

Diabetes ... 1 out of 3 at risk!

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease that's becoming more of an epidemic. According to the American Diabetes Association, it's estimated that as of 2011 over 25 million of the U.S. population are diabetic. Another 79 million are in the prediabetes stage. Those numbers are staggering; that means 1 out of 3 of us will develop diabetes in our lifetime. True, we have power over these statistics. We can pass that piece of cake to our least favorite co-worker so they're the 3rd person who gets it. Let's see if they wizen up also.

Type 2 diabetes is not hereditary. If your parents have it, you may get it too if family meals involve an inherited recipe for chicken fried steak from grandma. To be clear, diabetes is a disease of lifestyle. You won't develop diabetes if you're exercising and eating right. Something such as staying in the sun too long is easier to grasp, because it has immediate consequences ... you will get a sunburn. But it's difficult for us to visualize how eating that cake or deep fried butter will take 2.7 days off your lifespan - adding up over time and leading to a shortened and debilitating life as a senior citizen. Speaking of deep fried butter, celebrity chef Paula Deen is in the news because that's her recipe. She has come out publicly to say she developed diabetes (and has been for several years now, but us knowing that would be bad for business). Most had to see that coming, but is nevertheless tragic and 100% avoidable. She was also quoted as saying she would not change how she cooks. Sure, it can be tough to summon the willpower to eat healthy most of the time. However I personally don't see a lot of appeal to eating her doughnut burger. Is it just me???

And if you already have diabetes, guess what - it's reversible! ... IF you can commit to a strict healthy lifestyle. My own retired mother was diagnosed with diabetes. That really was rock bottom for her. She was frustrated with her symptoms, and it had an effect on the whole family. But I worked with her to change a few basic things. She has seen many improvements including glucose levels in the healthy range. The plan was simple. Vegetables, not rice and potatoes. Baked fish, not bacon. Natural supplements, not prescription medications (under doctor's supervision). Daily aerobics, not bingo. You get the point. And yes, she still enjoys her life. There's a lot to experience out there, and it's about finding enjoyable foods and activities to replace those that are detrimental to your health. As much as possible try to stick to lean meats, healthy fats especially omega-3's, lots of veggies, some fruits, and limited grains. I prefer to get calcium from veggies, meats, and a small dose via supplementation. But if you must have dairy, keep it limited. Don't believe me? Burt Baskin (owner of Baskin-Robbins) was just as stubborn as Paula Deen with his ice cream. He died at the age of 54.

Being overweight, advanced age, and sedentary lifestyle are some of the things that increase your chances for developing diabetes. Be familiar with the risk factors, and see your doctor if you suspect you might be at risk. A simple blood test every few years can shed great insight on your health. If you hate needles, imagine being diabetic and having to check your blood daily for the rest of your life.

Look at every healthy meal, every workout, as a personal victory for you and your body. We already have that inner strength ... we put Hostess Twinkies out of business!

January 15, 2012

EMF Radiation in the Household

First, Happy New Year to all my Beyond Organic readers! Back in March of 2010, I published a blog about cell phone radiation. Figured I'd ring in the new year with a follow-up to that post ... except this time, with a review to include other common household items and armed with a gaussmeter - a specialized device that allows you to take actual measurements of EMF emissions. Some of this will surprise you. For purposes of this test, the "Danger Zone" is set at 3 milligauss or mG (where prolonged exposure can cause diseases such as leukemia) and "Exceeds Scale" is anything over 100 mG.

The tests performed validate others' findings with smart phones. While EMF was expected, it was somewhat surprising just how much EMF is produced by laptops. It gives credence to the recommendation not to rest it on your lap. Using a docking station will keep you a safe distance from the base unit. The old CRT TV's are believed to be high in radiation. As you can see below, LCD TV's are manageable. The results show it's also best to keep your distance from microwaves, blenders, electrical boxes, and ... believe it or not ... alarm clocks. I'll be the first to admit I like to slap the snooze button and doze off to sleep again. But it's worth setting it across the room.

Some other items that were not tested but can be expected to produce high EMF emissions include motorized equipment, electrical appliances, inside airplane cabins, near floorboard of cars, power lines, and electrical blankets. Some sources are seemingly unavoidable. But the more you can reduce your constant exposure, the better your health!

And without further adieu ...

- Smart phones
Not detected: <1 in
Danger Zone: on contact
Max: >5 mG on contact and in use; med to high spikes on establishing call

- Laptop computer
Not detected: 1 ft
Danger Zone: 2 in
Max: >100 mG on contact

- AC wall adapters
Not detected: 2 ft
Danger Zone: 1 ft
Max: >100 mG at 6 in

- 42" flat screen LCD TV
Not detected: 1 ft
Danger Zone: 3 in
Max: 8 mG on contact

- Microwave
Not detected: 1.5 ft
Danger Zone: 6 in (not in use)
Max: >100 mG at 2.5 ft

- Blender
Not detected: 5 ft
Danger Zone: 3 ft
Max: >100 mG at 2 ft

- Electrical box
Not detected: 9 ft
Danger Zone: 3.5 ft
Max: >100 mG at 1 ft

- Alarm clock
Not detected: 1 ft
Danger Zone: 9 in
Max: >100 mG at 3 in

July 23, 2011


We as humans see patterns in our heredity; susceptibilities in our bodies; and expect that at a future time, we'll have to confront the ailments that we fear. We feel vulnerable and helpless to weaknesses in our genes. But what if you were told it's not quite that simple? What if you were empowered with the knowledge to alter your genes in a way that enables you to fight the onset of obesity, cancer, tumors, and other diseases?

Genetics is, of course, the study of genes. Epigenetics is a relatively new field of research. It's the science of gene expression, or things that influence the turning on and off genes. Think of it as a layer that sits on top of our genes. With its discovery, it became evident that there is more to our genetic blueprint than genes itself. What scientists have learned is that through exercise, environment, and certain foods, we actually have the ability to alter our gene expression. For example, eating specific foods can literally turn on the genes that fight cancer. Similarly, there are carcinogens which can have the opposite effect. Sugar and unhealthy fats have a negative influence on our genes. Interestingly, it is possible to pass on epigenetic traits to our children - a concept known as epigenetic inheritance.

Below is a list of some food sources that deliver positive epigenetic effects. Not surprisingly, most of them also appear in the Superfoods section of our website.
- Any foods rich in B vitamins
- Garlic
- High fiber foods
- Black/ green tea
- Broccoli
- Resveratrol (found in grapes, red wine)
- Blueberries
- Fisetin (found in strawberries)
- Curcumin (found in curry)
- Quercetin (found in apples, onions, tea, berries)
- Butyrate (found in butter)

The role of epigenetics is strong. There are limits to where it applies, but it can override our hard genes in profound ways. This is your ticket to fighting weight gain, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. Incorporate these foods into your everyday diet, as well as a good exercise routine. If you can do this while limiting the opposing effects of carcinogens and sugar, your body will thank you for it!

January 10, 2011

Cold & Flu: Part 2

Always in the pursuit of better immune boosters, I have emerged on the tail end of winter practically unscathed from the cold season. It might be luck, but there is strong science behind what is possibly my first cold-free winter. This post is meant to supplement my original posting on cold & flu.

The Flu
If you're weary of the flu vaccine like myself, natural remedies are the place to turn. A vaccine shouldn't give you the the same ill feeling as the malady it's meant to fight. However, too many people suffer from the vaccine (just my personal observation).

Elderberry extract remains on top for natural flu fighters. It won't prevent you from catching it, but it will speed up recovery.

There is also a homeopathic remedy gaining in popularity called Oscillococcinum. Adding this to the mix should get you over the flu in no time.

The Common Cold
For colds, I propose a long-term and short-term fix. What I'm getting at is vitamin D supplementation throughout the winter months, and oil of oregano at the first sign of a cold.

There have been many studies lately focusing on the crucial role of vitamin D. Supplementing with Vitamin D is good for building up your general immunity. The research shows that if you live north of the southern tip of the U.S., your skin is probably not producing enough D most of the year. Winter is particularly bad, because most people stay inside - causing a further drop in their body's vitamin D stores. The answer is supplementing with vitamin D3. I recommend working with a doctor to watch your levels of D, but the average person is probably safe to take 1,000 IUs/day. I personally take 2,000. Here's a great article by Harvard Medical School on the topic ... http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/time-for-more-vitamin-d.htm

Oil of oregano has powerful antimicrobial properties. Take it as soon as you feel a cold coming on. In selecting an oil of oregano supplement, seek out a standardized tincture for maximum benefit.

I also get a little help from a product called "Bio Vegetarian" by Priority One. It's power-packed with cold fighting herbs. Taking 1 dose of this and 1 of Oil of oregano per day at the first sign of symptoms has knocked out any cold I had before it could take hold.

Wishing you all health in the new year!

March 16, 2010

Cell Phone Radiation

Wow, it's been a while. With all the mounting evidence that cell phone radiation is harmful to your health, I thought this would be a fine time to blog about it. The studies contain some alarming findings. Long-term exposure to cell phone radiation can cause anything from brain cancer to tumors, behavioral problems, migraines, and even vertigo.

From all I've read, it seems that children are most vulnerable to cell phone radiation. And if you've been using cell phones since they first came out, chances are the Motorola Brick has you glowing in the dark by now. Next at risk would be those who use internet-capable phones. Phones such as the Droid, iPhone, and Blackberry top the list. Phone radiation levels are measured by their SAR value. The FCC limit is 1.6 W/kg. One such study which compiles manufacturer reports to the FCC can be found on EWG's website at http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/newecellphonesin2010.

What about headsets? Are wired or Bluetooth headsets going to reduce your exposure? The answer is yes ... as long as you don't keep your phone on your person.

Here's how you can calculate your radiation exposure, using myself as an example. But first, a quick tutorial:
- iPhone supports UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz) and GSM (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
- For AT&T service in the US, assume GSM 1900 and UMTS 1900
- GPRS and EDGE = GSM = 2G
- UMTS = 3G

- Baseline SAR for iPhone 3GS: 1.19 W/kg
- Using EDGE instead of 3G: 0.79 W/kg
- With Bluetooth headset: 0.003 W/kg
- With wired headset + EDGE: 0.79 W/kg / 8 = 0.099 W/kg (divide phone to ear SAR by 8 for headset)

Bluetooth SAR values vary from source to source, but generally the figures say that it's the absolute best way to reduce your exposure to radiation. Those who prefer text messaging over talking on the phone are also better off.

There are also other sources of radiation to be aware of:
- Cordless home phones, particularly the DECT phones (0.055 W/kg)
- Wireless computer accessories
- WiFi networks (0.81 W/kg, but usually exposed to lower levels unless you keep your laptop on your lap)
- Baby monitor (0.077 W/kg)

These days it's tough to get by without the wireless technology we've come to depend on. But unfortunately it's finally catching up with us, so protect yourself. Turn off or don't use those wireless devices except when you need it. And stay informed of the SAR values emitted by the devices you use.

If you'd like further information on this topic, here are 2 comprehensive studies. Perfect bedtime reading. ;)
- The Controversy about a Possible Relationship between Mobile Phone Use and Cancer (M. Kundi, 2009)
- http://www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/fullreport (EWG, 2009)

February 20, 2009

How to live to be 100

At the risk of sounding something short of prophetic, mankind has been searching for ways to extend our lifespan way beyond what our bodies are capable of. This endeavor goes at least as far back as ancient China when the alchemists of various emperors believed that drinking liquid mercury brought immortality. Boy, were they wrong ... not that anyone since then has made significant progress. Is the answer vitamin C? Noooo. Is it Botox? Certainly not. And so, the search continues.

There's a widely held belief that 120 years is the full lifespan of humans today. To give you a bit of trivia, the longest living person on record is Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122. Most of us don't even come close to that. The current average lifespan in the US is between 77 - 83, with women towards the top of the range. We die sooner due to disease, natural causes, etc. Numerous studies have been devoted to researching the characteristics of those at the top of the bell curve. Some of the studies are simplistic in nature. Imagine 30 scientists, running around in lab coats with pen and notepad in hand, asking centenarians, "Hey, you're really old! How do you do that?" While others have dug a little deeper to find groundbreaking evidence. There is supposedly a special gene present in longer living individuals. It was also found through large scale studies of twins separated at birth and exposed to different environments that genes influence 23% to 33% of a person's life expectancy. That means environmental conditions account for as much as 77% of our lifespan - and that's good news for the rest of us who don't come with a 90 year limited warranty.

So what are these controllable factors? What we DO know - is that eating healthy, exercise, low stress, and limiting exposure to toxins will help us live longer. Things like making sure we take in lots of antioxidants to eliminate free radicals. The French Paradox is a good example of that. How a person can eat that kind of fatty diet and live beyond 60 seems unbelievable. But not entirely, because the red wine they drink is chock-full of powerful antioxidants. The thing that seems to have the most impact on lifespan is what scientists refer to as caloric restriction. I know, doesn't that suck? Limiting your food intake to 700 - 1200 calories depending on body mass can increase your lifespan by as much as 7 years. But what is all this working to do? They help us to attain our genetically pre-programmed maximum lifespan of 120 years. Actually increasing our maximum lifespan is a whole nuther story. The field of cryogenics attempts to answer that, but the technology isn't quite there yet. Basically, you'd be paying lots of money to donate your body to science and become a human popsicle.

Where else has research of longevity taken us? Scientists are of course conducting studies on the ever-present lab rat. It's actually quite interesting to know that elephants live to be about 69 ... swans, 102 ... and the giant tortoise - 152. Or how about a parrot at 80? I sure can't imagine having a pet that outlives me. Although the big question is how does this help us? Is their secret in their eating habits? Is it in their genes or lifestyle? It's not very practical for us to eat bird seed for a lifetime just to find out. Surely I jest, but animal genes have been the subject of extensive research. Yet, it has offered us little insight into our own limitations on longevity. The inherent problem with animal models is, and will always remain, that they're not human. The correlations we can draw from their bodily chemistry only go so far.

Perhaps the most compelling research is that done by Quest Network. They have performed demographic studies to find regions (the so-called "Blue Zones") where people regularly live to be 100 and older. It may come as a surprise to some people that it's not necessarily those in first world countries or with high socioeconomic status that live longer than their parrot. There are 4 behaviors commonly found in Blue Zones: 1) a positive, healthy outlook, 2) moderate physical activity, 3) a healthy diet, and 4) a strong social circle. And the Blue Zone award goes to ...
- The inhabitants of mountain villages in Sardinia, Italy
- The people of Okinawa, Japan
- Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
- The people of Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica receive honorable mention
So what are the characteristics of the top 3 cultures? Their lifestyles - and what they share in common - are best illustrated in the Ven Diagram below.


NEAT: Answer the short quiz at http://www.bluezones.com/vitality-compass to find out your personalized life expectancy.

Now let's dive into the theories behind death. Some cite free radicals as the underlying cause. However, death by free radical is losing support in the scientific community. That theory was sooo 80's. Others support the theory of mitosis, in which there is a limited number of times our cells can divide. I thought about this 1. But if it was true, all of the regular blood donors would be dropping like flies at an early age. Other theories relate to wear & tear, cellular waste blocking pathways, and the pre-programmed DNA clock I alluded to earlier. And there are many other theories (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aging if you want to read about more). Maybe they're all right to some degree. Although I think the reason there are so many theories is because none of them fully answer the big question.

As far as I'm concerned, death is caused by the failure of 1 of our organ systems which is brought about by the accumulation of multiple health conditions or a single more serious condition including those mentioned in the theories above. In addition there are medications, physical activities, and other things that may be good for 1 organ system and bad for another. And as we age, we end up in this balancing act of trying to improve 1 at the detriment of another. To me this is a little less abstract and allows me to incorporate it somehow into my own personal health goals. But until technology gets better, my best advice is to take care of your body, try to maintain a positive attitude through stressful moments and hardships, and do the things that make life worth living.