Organic Food Really Better for You?
Is Organic Food Really Better for You?
We have all heard that eating organic food is better for you, and while we would like to think that eating less pesticides is a good thing, does it really matter in the long run? Are people who are eating organic having any health benefits at all? Well, it looks like we may have an answer to these questions.
researchers in France decided to look into this matter. They developed a cohort
study following 68,946 French adults for four and a half years to see if an
answer could be found (Baudry et al 2018). The participants tracked their
consumption of sixteen food items as either organic or conventional; each item
was rated as never, occasional, or most of the time organic. An organic food
score was then calculated for each participant from 0-32.
The researchers then tracked first time cancer rates among the participants over the duration of the study. Shockingly (or not), the participants in the highest organic food score group had 25% less cancer rates than those in the lowest organic food score group! And the p-value (or probability of this happening by chance) was 0.001, meaning that there is an extremely low probability of these results occurring by chance, less than 1 in a 1000 actually!
the researchers in this study claimed that the pesticide residue was to blame
for the higher cancer, eating conventional foods on the Clean 15 List would be
acceptable. This list has items that have five or less pesticide residues per
food items. Definitely stay away from the Dirty Dozen as these foods can have
upwards of around 20 pesticide residues.
Baudry, J., Assmann, K., Touvier, M., Alles, B., Seconda, L., Latino-Martel, P., Ezzedine, K., Galan, P., Hercberg, S., Lairon, D., Kesse-Guyot, E. (2018 Dec). Association of the Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk Findings From the NutriNet-Sante Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.4357
Practical Ways to Avoid Weight Gain through the Holidays
Practical Ways to Avoid Weight Gain through the Holidays
November 17, 2018
The holiday season is met with excitement and anticipation for
family and friends to gather, special dishes to be prepared and enjoyed, and… the
unfortunate consequence of unwanted weight gain. Surprisingly, the average American only gains
one pound per holiday season, according to a study in the New England Journal
of Medicine (Yanovski, J., Yanovski, S., Sovik, K., Ngyuyen, T., O’Neil, P.,
Sebring, N, 2015).
Wait… that makes no sense, how is the average weight gain
only one pound? In this study, participants were weighed pre-holiday season,
holiday season, and post-holiday season with the March measurement resulting in
a one pound increase from pre-holiday season (October). The average weight
difference in the holiday season (December) was anywhere from one pound to five
So, technically, the amount gained during the holiday season
was just lost over the post-holiday season before the weight measurement in
March. So if you see yourself gain more than one pound during the holiday
season, know that you are not alone and that you will likely lose it within the
couple months after the holidays, except for that one pound…. which is
problematic ten years down the road.
Therefore, the best way to make sure we get ALL the way back
to pre-holiday season weight would be to not gain it in the first place,
correct? How do we do that? Making small changes during the holiday season is
the best start.
- Choose the events that you will be attending wisely. Events where the food will be on the healthy side or where portions are small are great; a family style pasta place is probably not the best choice. For this one, you would want to eat beforehand or skip the event altogether.
- If you have an option to bring a dish, make it a healthy one: veggies or fruit that you actually will eat, hummus as a dip, or a dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) plate topped with berries as a dessert.
- Make it a point to drink water at the gathering. Drink one glass before you eat anything, this will reduce the amount of food you can fit into your stomach and help you feel less hungry.
- Do not get drunk. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and can cause even the best thought-out evening to go awry. The more one drinks, the more one eats.
- If you bake sweets at home, bake only one to two items maximum. Having more options also increases overall consumption of food… we have to try a little of everything, right?
- Give your homemade baked goods away if you feel the need to bake multiple items. Friends and family would love to try some new goodies, so if you have a ten items on your holiday bake list, make gift trays so there is less around the house.
- On the days you are not attending events, eat less than usual. If you know you have a big weekend coming up, take the previous week to eat extra clean. Eating light will help balance overall food intake during the holiday season, and keep your waistline trim.
- A one day fast after a holiday is also a quick
way to get your appetite back under control. Just make sure to keep electrolyte
balance with some coconut water or a pinch of sea salt in water.
With the holidays approaching ever so quickly, preparation and determination are needed if we are not going to be ten pounds heavier in ten years.
Yanovski, J., Yanovski, S., Sovik, K., Ngyuyen, T., O’Neil, P., Sebring, N. (2015). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. N Engl J Med. PMC4336296
Cinnamon Health Benefits or... Not?
September 17, 2018
Let’s talk Cinnamon.
We have all heard of the amazing health benefits of cinnamon: it helps lower blood sugar, can help keep LDL-Cholesterol in check, can calm mysterious upper abdomen pain, and is a powerful antioxidant to name a few. But there is another side to therapeutic cinnamon consumption. Too much of the wrong type of cinnamon can be harmful. There are several types of cinnamon that are commercially available: cassia, burmannii, loureiroi, and verum.
What’s the difference? Does it matter? How do we know which type is which?
The bad news: it matters! Cassia, burmanni, and loureiroi contain high levels of a constituent called coumarin, about 3-7 g per kg (BfR Institute). In very low levels coumarin can be filtered out of the body and is not harmful. At therapeutic doses, such as those used to help with blood sugar, the levels of coumarin exceed the limit of safety. This can result in liver damage and an increased risk of cancer, the exact opposite of what we want.
The only type of cinnamon that can be used safely at therapeutic doses is only Cinnamonum verum. This type of cinnamon, also known as Ceylon cinnamon or true cinnamon, contains no coumarin at all (Blahova & Svobodova 2012). Seeking out this cinnamon is not impossible, but one must check labels! For instance, McCormick cinnamon is the cassia variety, while Simply Organic is Ceylon. An easy way to tell if a product is Ceylon is usually the price tag. Ceylon cinnamon is the more sought after, better tasting, healthier version and therefore costs more.
Therapeutic vs flavorful
If using cinnamon to spice cookies or apple cider, any type of cinnamon is probably fine. Of course, organic is better as regulations do not allow radiation of or pesticide residues in organic spices but do what you can. At therapeutic doses, about 2-4 grams per day, cinnamon has a much different effect, both the benefits and the harmful coumarin levels.
If using cinnamon or any type of herb therapeutically, please do your research! Make sure you have the correct variety and that the product is organic/clean. It’s never good to think you were helping, but in reality you were hindering yourself.
BfR Institute. (2012 Sept). FAQ on Coumarin in Cinnamon and Other Food. Retrieved from: https://www.bfr.bund.de/en/faq_on_coumarin_in_cinnamon_and_other_foods-8487.html
Blahova, J., Svobodova, Z. (2012 June). Assessment of Coumarin Levels in Ground Cinnamon Available in the Czech Retail Market. The Scientific World Journal. doi:10.1100/2012/263851
Are Dietary Supplements Safe?
September 9, 2017
With upwards of half (53%, and quite probable that number
has increased) the US population taking supplements by 2011 (Gahche, Bailey,
Burt, Hughes, Yetley, Dwyer, & Picciano 2011), one must beg the question:
Are these supplements safe? And second: Are these supplements effective?
The sheer volume and variety of supplements are overwhelming and with the vague health claims, one must be a detective to find out what the supplement is actually supposed to do. Then there is the question of price: Is it really a better deal to buy a bulk brand at a big-box store or will you just end up paying for it later with your health?
Let’s first consider safety. While many supplements claim to be natural and therefore safe, this may not actually be the case. There are many natural things that are not safe, and there are even more natural things that are not safe when mixed with prescription drugs. For instance, grapefruit. This seemingly innocent fruit is contraindicated with many, many drugs due to its inhibition of the CYP3A4 enzyme involved in detoxification, thus allowing a higher active load to stay in the body, potentially causing toxicity. Certain herbs work on the very same enzyme, such as St. John’s Wort.
The dosage of the supplement can be another area where safety is an issue. Some herbs are safe at low doses, but are potentially deadly at higher doses, remember Ephedra? Even high levels of vitamins can be potentially harmful; especially the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. High doses of certain vitamins may cause an imbalance in another vitamin or mineral as the body uses co-factors (vitamins and minerals) to metabolize and detoxify from high dose vitamins.
The above are two well-known issues with supplements, but there is another less known challenge with supplements: the form of the vitamin or mineral. For example the difference between folate and folic acid or the difference between calcium carbonate and calcium lactate. Folate is found natural in foliage (aka greens) while folic acid is the chemical compound found in most supplements.
Calcium carbonate is used in inexpensive supplements and the production of concrete requiring twelve steps each using multiple co-factors to convert it into a usable form, while calcium lactate is easily absorbed and readily used by the body. Low quality, inexpensive supplements can actually cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies because they need the co-factors to convert them into usable forms for the body. Unfortunately, most people do not have excess co-factors to spare and that was why they bought a multivitamin or multi-mineral in the first place!
Another important, but rarely mentioned, issue with supplements is the contamination that can occur during the growing stage, processing stage, or storage stage of supplements. In one study, 37 out of 40 common supplements contained traces of lead and 18 of them contained at least one pesticide residue (Kutz 2010). Not exactly helpful for someone trying to improve their health.
How can we be sure that the supplements we are taking are helping and not hindering our health? This is where knowing your brands and companies are very important. Almost all supplements found in grocery stores or big box stores are the least expensive and have several unusable forms of vitamins and minerals found in them. Looking at the company’s manufacturing procedures and where the raw materials come from is also very important. If grown organically in the US and processed “in-house”, the finished product should be clean. Even better if the company produces third party test results on random batches.
If you are concerned that your supplements may be questionable, contact me and I can help! High grade supplements are available and can help with an imbalanced diet.
Gahche, J., Bailey, R., Burt, V., Hughes, J., Yetley, E., Dwyer, J., Picciano, M. (2011 April). Dietary Supplement Use Among U.S. Adults Has Increased Since NHANES III (1988-1994). U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, NCHS Data Brief. No. 61
Kutz, G. (2010 May 26). Herbal Dietary Supplements: Examples of Deceptive or Questionable Marketing Practices and Potentially Dangerous Advice. Testimony at U.S. Senate.
Are There Choices For Chronic RA Sufferers?
August 27, 2018
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a condition in which the immune system begins to attack the joint linings in the body, usually the hands and feet. The result is swollen, painful joints which decrease motility and enjoyment of life.
Once considered a rare occurrence, RA is increasing its numbers in the US. The most common type of treatment for RA is low-dose methotrexate (MTX) which causes a reduction in the activity of the immune system overall. Alongside MTX, NSAIDs and corticosteroids are often given.
In a recent study (Mori et al, 2018), liver injury due to
MTX in RA patients was explored. Liver injury is common in people taking
low-dose MTX and causes side effects similar to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver
Disease (NAFLD) including high liver enzymes. High liver enzymes are evidence
of the death of liver cells, which is problematic when taking multiple
medications that need to be detoxified out of the body through the liver.
For people with RA, giving multiple medications while
damaging the liver seems to be the only choice they have in trying to control
their suffering. Can there be a better way?
Fortunately, there is. Addressing
dietary allergens, digestive support, intestinal flora, and supporting immune
system modulation many people with RA have been able to minimize their symptoms
without the use of long-term medications. While acute flares need medical
intervention, a better long-term strategy is possible, even alongside
If controlling RA or other autoimmune conditions is of interest to you, I can help! Message me for a consult about your healing plan!
Mori, S., Arima, N., Ito, M., Fujiyama, S., Kamo, Y., Ueki, Y. (2018 Aug 24). Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis-Like Pattern in Liver Biopsy of Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients With Persistent Transaminitis During Low-Dose Methotrxate Treatment. PLoSOne. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0203084
Pizzorno, E., Murray, M., Joiner-Bey, H. (2016). The
Clinician’s Handbook of Natural Medicine, 3rd Ed. Elsevier: St.
Is There a Benefit To Keeping Your Diabetes Under Control With Diet And Lifestyle?
August 18, 2018
In a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine (Rawshani et al. 2018), researcher looked at risk factors and death associated with diabetes. The five risk factors monitored were elevated Hemoglobin A1c, elevated LDL-C, albuminuria, smoking, and high blood pressure.
The outcomes tracked were death from any cause, heart attack, and stroke. A positive correlation was found between amount of risk factors out of range and the three outcomes. For every factor that was in range the outcomes decreased in occurrence. If all five factors were in range, the difference in death by any cause, heart attack, or stroke was no different than that of the general population.
The next question here should be how does a person get those risk factors into range?
Hemoglobin A1c is directly related to blood sugar levels over a three month period. Control your sugar intake (including carbohydrates) and this will quickly fall into range. A normal range is 5.6% or below, 5.7-6.4% is pre-diabetic, and anything over 6.4% is full blown diabetes.
Elevated LDL-c (low density lipoprotein cholesterol) is associated with poor dietary habits, especially the consumption of trans-fats and processed foods, and excessive consumption of animal fats. Trans-fats are commonly found in packaged foods like chips, cookies, baked goods, and crackers. These types of products are typical full of sugar and should be avoided by someone with diabetes. Increasing exercise and activity level also helps to reduce levels. LDL-c levels should be under 100.
Albuminuria is protein in the urine. A normal functioning kidney will not leak protein, but one that is damaged from high blood sugar or high blood pressure can. The best way to support the kidneys is to eat a healthy diet full of vegetables, home cooked foods, low salt, lean meat (chicken or fish), drink plenty of water, and reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol consumption. (If diagnosed with kidney disease, reduced salt and protein are a MUST, as well as medical doctor supervision)
Smoking is an easy one: if a person smokes, then quitting is in order. Bottom line. There are many cessation supports and products if one cannot quit cold turkey.
High blood pressure can be monitored naturally by reducing salt intake, eliminating processed foods, dealing with any food sensitivities, and reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol, especially if liver function is reduced. Increasing intake of garlic, onions, and celery is helpful.
This study shows that the benefits of controlling diabetes and associated risk factors with diet and lifestyle are immense. When controlled, living with diabetes does not have any increased risk of death, stroke, or heart attack compared to the general population.
If you are interested in reducing your risk for stroke, heart attack, and death while struggling with diabetes, you are in the right spot! Contact me to set up an appointment!
A., Rawshani, A., Franzen, S., Sattar, N., Eliasson, B., Svensson, A.,
Zethelius, B., Miftaraj, M., McGuire, D., Rosengren, A., Gudbjornsdottir, S.
(2018 Aug 16). Risk Factors, Mortality, and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Patients
with Type 2 Diabetes. The New England
Journal of Medicine. Doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1800256