Quick Note - New Study in NEJM Finds Being Even Slightly Overweight is Unhealthy

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine strongly suggests that being overweight, even by a little bit, can increase your risk for early death.

Looking at data from nearly 1.5 million people, this study is powerful, statistically. Overweight people had a 13% greater chance of death than normal weight people, after controlling for the usual risk factors (age, physical activity, alcohol consumption, education, and marital status). All participants were non-smokers. Obese people had as much as an 88% chance of premature death, although this relationship has been known for some time.

Critics of the study say that researchers did not pay enough attention to the role of physical activity in risk of death, even though the study did control for it.

All participants in the study were healthy non-smokers when the study began, and most were white.


Study says even being a bit overweight is risky. (YAHOO NEWS)

Body-Mass Index and Mortality among 1.46 Million White Adults. (NEJM STUDY)


Rhodiola Benefits: Rosavins and Salidrosides in Rhodiola Herb Extract

This morning on the PEOPLE'S PHARMACY on NPR, they were discussing the benefits of Rhodiola rosea, an herbal adaptogen that I have been using with great success on and off for years.

It's an adaptogenic herb, extremely good for dealing with stress and fatigue (which is a form of stress).

It's not a stimulant. It works by increasing the body's resilience to stressors. I like to say it makes you "more healthy than healthy."

Modern science has a hard time proving the effectiveness of herbal supplements for the simple reason that it isn't designed to do that.

In health, research studies are fairly simplistic in design. People are either sick or healthy, based on some predetermined range of clinical measurements. The studies have no ability to resolve differences of health state within the range that is considered "healthy." Everything in the healthy range is valued the same. So how do you measure something that makes you "more healthy than healthy?"

What adaptogens do is increase your ability to stay in the "healthy" state under stress from outside factors. Science can't measure this, because adaptogens don't make you better when you are sick. What they do is stabilize your system so you are less likely to succumb to stressors that might make you sick, be it a cold or high blood pressure.

Does that make sense?

In any case, I did my homework as I always do and if you want a good OTC source of Rhodiola that is a great value, go with THIS ONE.

During my eight (8) year tenure in R&D at the vitamin company, I had access to a clinical grade of Rhodiola plus Ginseng from Australia, where herbals are clinically tested the same way that pharmaceuticals are here.

It's hard to find good quality Rhodiola in our sloppily regulated supplement industry. But Rhodiola should contain at least 3% rosavins and 1% salidrosides in the Rhodiola rosea extract.

THIS PRODUCT (Solaray's Super Rhodiola) has all the elements of a good source of the herb and gets great ratings - 4 to 5 stars out of 5, consistently.

That would be my recommendation. Label claims also suffer from a dearth of validation in the United States, but if customers consistently report good results, it's probably a decent product.

If you can get your hands on some of the Australian Rhodiola, manufactured by MediHerb and sold via health care practitioners ONLY, then do that. But it will cost you, so I still recommend the Solaray Rhodiola for a cost effective source.

Brain Toniq. Clear the head fog


Stevia Sweetener and Flavored Stevia Packets

This morning for breakfast I had mixed raw nuts and raisins, fruit (banana and grapes), plain unsweetened yogurt, and unsweetened soy milk, all mixed together. On top of this earthy fibrous blend, I sprinkled some ground flax meal and a packet of STEVIA EXTRACT.

Ever heard of Stevia?

Although it is remarkably sweet (300 times sweeter than sugar as a pure extract, according to some estimates), manufacturers of Stevia still seem hesitant to market Stevia as a sweetener, even though the FDA (finally) has approved it as one, and it is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).

I can tell you firsthand, "Stevia sugar" is very sweet. The Stevia plant is a South American herb and the Stevia leaf extract contains high amounts of glycosides, principally "stevioside," that are 150 to 300 times sweeter than sugar. In dietary terms this suggests the ability to get the same sweetness as sugar with a lot fewer calories, a fact that has not been lost on soft drink manufacturers (REFERENCE).

The brand of Stevia packets I have (Stevia Balance by NOW FOODS) has as its primary ingredient inulin, a soluble fiber that is not particularly sweet by itself (but it is a low glycemic index prebiotic fiber believed to promote gut health). Because Stevia extract is the second ingredient, I can only assume the inulin is used as a filler, to give volume to the amount of Stevia needed to make it a practical sweetener.

Since Stevia extract can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, it takes considerably less of the extract to make things sweet (think 1/300th of a teaspoon). People are fairly conventional when it comes to eating habits and they want a sweetener that looks and behaves like sugar. By using inulin as a filler, Stevia sweetener has the characteristics of sugar (more like confectioner's sugar or saccharin than table sugar crystals) with comparable sweetness to sugar.

It's a great sweetener - low in calories and easy to use. My only critique is that it has a slight lingering after taste when used in high quantities, which isn't bad at all, sort of a faint anise flavor.

In addition to its low glycemic index, useful for diabetics and people with sugar intolerance, there is some research to suggest it supports healthy blood pressure as well.

All I know is that it tastes darn good on my grainy whole food breakfast cereal.


1. Questions & Answers about Stevia (Stevia Marketing Site)

2. Stevia on Wikipedia

3. An Evidence-Based Systematic Review Of Stevia By The Natural Standard Research Collaboration

4. FDA Clears Use of [Stevia] Herb As Sweetener (Wall Street Journal)

5. The Zero-Calorie Sweetener Stevia Arrives (U.S. News and World Report)

6. A double-blind placebo-controlled study of the effectiveness and tolerability of oral stevioside in human hypertension

Now's French Vanilla Stevia Extract 100PktsNOW FOOD's French Vanilla FLAVORED Stevia Extract

If plain Stevia isn't sweet enough for you, now there's VANILLA FLAVORED STEVIA. Use it in coffee or cookie dough.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug administration. The product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Whole Food Vitamins - A Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements

Human beings evolved eating WHOLE FOODS.

Thus, it is not surprising that eating a WHOLE FOOD DIET is optimal for health.

That is not to say a whole food diet will prevent or cure any disease (although there is evidence that this may be so - REFERENCE).

What it means is that eating a whole food diet helps you to achieve the OPTIMUM health possible, all else held constant. Of course, genetic and environmental factors play a role. But given these other factors, a whole food diet maximizes your level of health as compared with a non-whole food diet.

Non-whole foods would be foods that are refined, processed, or even synthetically manufactured (man-made).

The same thing goes for whole food vitamin supplements. Vitamins that are taken out of the whole food context or manufactured chemically do not have the optimal health benefits of those same vitamins in a whole food. This is the nature of biochemistry and evolution. Because humans evolved and adapted eating whole (minimally processed) foods taken from nature, the human body requires the full complement of whole food nutrients to function properly.

For example, although an apple has a lot of vitamin C, the antioxidant power of a whole apple has been shown to be far greater than that of the vitamin C it contains (REFERENCE).

The reason why fish oil vitamins are so healthful, for example, is because the essential fatty acids they contain are derived from a whole food (fish) along with additional micronutrients found in the oils of fish.

For more information, VISIT THE VITAMIN FUN HOUSE.


Dr. Andrew Weil Says What I Have Been Saying for Years

Dr. Andrew Weil just posted an editorial on the Huffington Post entitled "Fat or Carbs: Which Is Worse?"


It is good to see that at least one health expert in the mainstream media is willing to discuss the confusion about carbs and health/weight.

Fats do not make you fat/unhealthy. Refined carbs (fries, white bread, sugary soda), and even overly processed whole grain carbs (flour), do. Why? Because carbs stimulate insulin production by the pancreas, the body's signal to "store" calories as fat. Ironically, fat does not stimulate insulin production, so there is no signal to "store." This is the basis of the Atkins Diet.

Further, if you eat lots of carbs, eventually your insulin producing machinery "burns out" and you develop sugar handling issues, metabolic syndrome, and eventually type II diabetes.

If you read Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" then you know that the fear fat, embrace carbs mythos is a fabrication of the cereal grain lobby, which put great pressure on the USDA during the 80s to downplay the health risks of carbs while the Food Pyramid was being developed.

But all you have to do is look at the obesity (and type II diabetes in kids) epidemic that has exploded since the 80s to see that the pro-carbs paradigm is dead wrong.

During my eight years in R&D at a vitamin company, I discovered this fact for myself while examining hundreds or research studies, and I have been trying to communicate it to people for years. Alas, I am not a mainstream, pop science medical doc privy to the ears and minds of millions.

Thanks, Dr. Weil!


1. Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

2. Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

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Diet for a Small Planet Recipes: Types of Vegetarians

I won't lie to you. The title of this post is entirely intended to get some random web traffic.

However, the content of this post is related to the title.

On Wisconsin Public Radio this morning, Joy Cardin interviewed Anna Lappe about her (and Bill McKibben's) new book "Diet for a Hot Planet." This is a follow-up to "Diet for a Small Planet," written by Anna Lappe's mother, one Frances Moore Lappe.


The new book focuses on how diet directly impacts your ecological footprint, and recommends going organic, buying local, avoid packaging, not eating out, and minimizing food waste.

I can't wait to read it. As soon as I finish Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" and Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma."

So much good reading...


Chia Seeds: Superfood? - The Benefits of the Chia Plant Go Beyond Mere Amusement

Who knew that chia seeds (yes, ch-ch-ch-chia seeds) are a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids?

I didn't, until a friend gave me a reference on the subject of chia nutrition.

In addition to producing an omega-3 rich oil, chia seeds can be consumed whole, usually soaked in water to form a porridge or gruel, or ground into flour (along with corn) and used in baking.

Sprouts of the chia plant, similar to alfalfa sprouts in texture and appearance (as many a Chia Pet owner may know), can also be consumed raw.

As a food, chia nutrition is big in Mexico and South/Central America. In fact, the Mexican state of Chiapas is named after the chia plant.

In America, the chia superfood is not consumed, but rather used as a novelty by people in the form of the "chia pet" - clay figurines on which chia seeds are sprouted to simulate hair growth on an animal or human head.

The benefits of chia oil are the same as flaxseed oil benefits. Both are rich in alpha-linolenic acid, the omega-3 precursor of essential oils DHA and EPA required for cell membranes, heart health, and optimal nervous system function. Although not as easily metabolized as fish oil, plant omega-3s offer an alternative to fish oil for vegetarians or people allergic to fish.

Chia oil may be superior to flaxseed oil in terms of omega-3 fat content.

I don't know of any chia recipes offhand, but you can plant a chia herb garden and use chia sprouts in salad. You can call it "ch-ch-ch-chia health food."

Deva Nutrition Vegan Chia Seed Oil - 90 soft gels Vegan Chia Seed Oil - 90 softgels

Chia seed oil is a naturally vegan health food that has tremendous nutritional value. Chia seed contains a high amount of oil and is known to be the richest vegan source for essential omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid). Chia seed contains three to ten times the omega-3 content of most other seeds and nuts.


Cod Liver Oil: Side Effects = Better Health Via Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D3

Cod Liver Oil Super 1000 mg Softgels 250 GelsHaving worked in R&D at a vitamin company for over eight (8) years, I can tell you that a lot of nutritional advice is hogwash and most nutritional supplements are totally unnecessary for most people leading a healthy lifestyle that involves not smoking, exercise, and a good diet (which does exclude a significant number of people, actually). In fact, some nutritional supplements, like beta-carotene, can even do more harm in smokers than in regular people.

But there are exceptions. One of them is that essential omega-3 fatty acids are important in the diet for maintaining optimal health. We can only get them from the diet, and they are called "essential" because they are essential for good health. So we must eat them.

But guess what? The American diet is severely lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. This is because omega-3 fatty acids are found primarily in fatty marine fish (salmon, tuna, cod, mackerel, etc.), flaxseed oil, and raw nuts. Occasionally you will find them added to other foods like soy milk or the eggs from chickens fed on a diet rich in omega-3s. But for the most part Americans don't eat enough of any of these foods. People are told to avoid fatty fish because of mercury poisoning, and nuts because of the calories. In both cases, the benefits of eating omega-3 fats far outweigh the other risks. But people are inherently fearful.

Even when people do eat nuts, they tend to be processed (roasted), which destroys some of the essential fatty acid content. The same goes for cooking fish, although cooking at lower temperatures is better. Flaxseed oil is not a mainstream food in the American diet at all. To get enough omega-3 fatty acids from fish would require eating fish almost every day. Also, farmed fish are quite variable in their omega-3 fatty acid content, depending on where they are farmed and what they are fed (increasingly, a corn-based diet, lacking in omega-3s).

Before agricultural meats became grain-fed (thus, lacking omega-3 fatty acids), grass fed livestock was rich in omega-3 fatty acids (which are found in grasses, but not grains), so people could get a balance of omega-3s and other fats eating other meats besides fish. It is still possible to obtain 100% natural grass fed beef if you look for it, but it tends to be quite a bit more expensive than the crappy, chemical-laden, nutrient devitalized meats you will find in most conventional grocery stores.

La Cense Beef

So what is a person to do? Well, you can supplement with fish oil, like I do. That's the simplest strategy. You can also use flaxseed oil, if you prefer a vegetarian source of omega-3 fats. But keep in mind that the omega-3 fats in flaxseed oil are in an inactive form and your body has to metabolize them into the long-chain fatty acids needed by the body. Most people can do this easily, but some people have a genetic inability to convert flaxseed oil into the essential omega-3 fats EPA and DHA (these fats are already present in fish oil, because the fish has already done the metabolic conversion from eating omega-3 rich algae in the sea).

So, if you decide to supplement with fish oil, the question is, "What is the best source?"

From my years in R&D at the vitamin company, working closely with a lot of practicing nutritional health professionals, I am fairly convinced the best fish oil is cod liver oil. Norwegian Salmon Oil is very good also.

However, the reason I favor cod liver oil is because it is also the richest source of natural vitamin D3. Notwithstanding the fortification of some foods with low levels of vitamin D, the American population is chronically deficient in vitamin D, which has been attributed to risk for several diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and even multiple sclerosis. Most people (but not all) get enough vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth, but not enough to protect against other vitamin D linked ailments. The problem is, most people never know they are deficient.

The deficiency results from a lack of natural vitamin D in the body. People make vitamin D whenever direct sunlight contacts unprotected skin. UV light causes the skin to manufacture vitamin D and circulate it in the blood. This is why it is called the "sunshine" vitamin (it is actually more like a hormone than a vitamin). A healthy dose of sunlight is great for most people to get their vitamin D (i.e., not staying in the sun so long as to get skin damage).

But again, people are fearful. They are so afraid of all the warnings against direct sunlight exposure, because of the skin cancer risk, that they avoid getting ample sunlight on their skin by staying indoors or wearing sunscreen and protective clothing. There is an increased risk of skin cancer from exposing oneself to damaging levels of sunlight, but the benefits of a healthy exposure to sunlight in terms of getting enough vitamin D far outweigh the skin cancer risks.

Also, it has been shown that the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is far too low. It is high enough to prevent known bone conditions like osteopenia (in adults) and rickets (in children), but not high enough to maintain a fully healthy human metabolism.

So that is why I recommend cod liver oil as the best source of omega-3 rich fish oil. It contains high quantities of both DHA/EPA and vitamin D3 in active forms that are readily metabolized by the body.

Does that make sense? If not, please E-MAIL ME or comment below.

REFERENCE: Vitamin D Health: Why You Shouldn't Shun the Sun by Dr. Frank Lipman.

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Kava Kava Root and Kava Kava Side Effects - Buy Kava Tea?

Yogi's Kava Special Formula Tea 16TbagsKava kava supplements got a bad reputation a few years ago because there were some reports that using it chronically might cause liver damage. Of course, no one was able to prove conclusively that it was the kava kava and not another additive in the supplements that caused the kava kava side effects. With the low quality control in the supplement industry, especially some places overseas (like Asia), it's quite probable the kava kava supplements that sent a handful of people to the hospital didn't even contain kava kava at all.

Regardless, the scare was enough for a lot of kava kava manufacturers to discontinue selling it to the public. As such, it is a little harder to come by kava kava supplements these days (but still not very hard...the general public tends not to think of herbs as being potentially dangerous, to their detriment).

However, the marketing of kava kava tea does not seem much impacted by the hype. I guess most people consider tea to be a more benevolent medium for administering herbs, and there may be some truth to that.

Kava kava tea is essentially a kava kava extract in which the solvent is water.

As such, any lipid soluble components of kava kava are unlikely to be consumed in high quantities in the tea.

If it is lipid soluble chemicals in kava that are responsible for the toxic effects of kava on the liver, drinking tea might be a way around the putative adverse kava effects from taking whole herb supplements.

On the other hand, the beneficial kava kava effects may also be concentrated in the lipid soluble fraction, which would mean the tea is less effective in generating kava kava's beneficial physiological effects - Kava kava is a Polynesian herb (technically, kava ROOT is where the active ingredients of kava are found) that has been used for centuries as a nerve tonic, to calm the mind, relieve stress, and aid in sleep.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Polynesian islanders consume their kava kava as a tea and show no signs of adverse kava effects.

Kava kava is known to inhibit the liver's ability to detoxify the blood of some toxins. It may be that the rare toxic kava effects are an indirect result of the liver not being able to detoxify other toxins in the person's body, if they are already prone to an unhealthy lifestyle. If this is the case, then kava kava supplementation with tea or whole herbs ought to pose little risk for people who already lead an otherwise healthy lifestyle - exercise, not smoking, lots of whole food fruits and vegetables, etc.

More research is needed on whole herb kava root, but used cautiously and infrequently, kava tea's benefits for lessening anxiety and calming nerves outweigh the low risk of toxic kava root side effects.

Kava Kava Extract 250 mg 120 Caps

Kava Kava Extract 250 mg 120 Caps

Can't sleep? Need to relax? Stressed out? And you haven't tried Kava Kave Root yet? Since its introduction, users have raved over this 100% organic sedative herb, and its ability to encourage a natural state of relaxation. It gets its power from high concentrations of kavalactones present in the plant's thick roots. Kavalactones have been shown in many studies to promote a calming effect on the body's limbic system - a region of the brain that regulates emotion. And while it's always wise to consult a physician before use, Kava Kava Root appears to be safe when taken as recommended. NOW Kava contains 100% root extract.


1. Many Supplements Said to Contain Toxins, Make False Health Claims


Healing With Whole Foods: Meat, Heart Disease, Diabetes, and Diet

Hi Everyone!

A study just came out in the journal Circulation that shows a pretty strong correlation between eating PROCESSED meats and the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Not terribly surprising, except that this study was rare in showing that eating unprocessed (whole) meats had no effect on disease risk.

Take it or leave it. The meat industry (specifically, the American Meat Institute, an industry funded research organization) is up in arms. Even though this is great news for livestock and poultry farmers, because it should increase sales of chicken, beef, and pork whole muscle meats by consumers vs. processed meat like hotdogs, this is not good for meat profiteers (industry suits).

The study is BAD NEWS for meat industry profits overall, because in the meat industry, like most other corporate food groups, the money is mostly in processing and "value-adding" (code for conversion to "junk food") to foods for consumers. More additives plus less real whole food = larger profit margins in agribusiness (REFERENCE). They can make the same amount of meat go a lot farther by processing it, literally, to death.

That's why the meat industry is screaming bloody murder. Basically, this news eliminates the "middle men" between the farm and the consumer's table. Each one of the middle men takes a cut of the (meat) pie. So if people eat less processed meat and more unprocessed meat, there's less money for the middle men who staff the management positions in meat processing plants and agribusiness HQs. These middle men don't care about the farmers. In fact, they try to exploit the farmer's as much as they can to LOWER the cost of the raw, unprocessed meat so that when they process it into beef jerky and ballpark franks, they can get higher profit margins selling consumers chemically laden meat by products.

There's some bias to this study, granted. The meat sources for a lot of processed meats are the rendered parts of the animal that wouldn't generally be consumed in their whole natural form (organ meats, gristle, etc.). So it is hard to say if eating these parts of the animal in their unprocessed form would affect disease risk. Even so, the fact that whole muscle meats were NOT shown to increase disease risk is telling in the face of years of messages to the contrary from nutrition researchers. Past research has been very mixed on the health risks of eating meat, in large part because few studies have compared processed and unprocessed meat consumption, as this study does.

From the stand point of the paleolithic dietary hypothesis, the study itself makes common sense. Human beings evolved for millions of years eating a diet scavenged from nature. It consisted mainly of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and whole, lean, unprocessed game meats. It was low in salt and fat. The fat it contained was rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It is no wonder that the healthiest foods (the ones that DON'T cause chronic diseases) are the very same foods we are biologically designed (adapted) to eat (REFERENCE).

Of course, our hormone-fed, genetically modified livestock today produce meat with a very different nutritional profile than the game meats eaten by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Most importantly, they are fed on grain, which produces a meat high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. This fatty acid profile has been shown to be out of sync with our ancestral diet fat profile (REFERENCE). Agricultural meats are also proportionately higher in fat overall than wild game meats (they are fattened with high-calorie diets, a form of "value adding" to the food). Thus, it is even more interesting that our agriculturally generated meats don't seem to significantly increase chronic disease risk, at least with respect to heart disease and diabetes.

The bottom line is, if you load your meat up with chemicals and salt, it's going to hurt you. Duh!

I know that when I eat brats or hot dogs, I don't feel 100% afterwards. This is the body's way of saying, "Hey, you are forcing me to deal with some foreign stuff I don't know what to do with!" The body has to work extra hard to metabolize chemicals, generating inflammatory free radicals in the process that damage cells and organs. Over time, this leads to chronic diseases that are largely irreversible. Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are two of these diseases.

Meat industry whiners aside, at least now you don't have to worry as much when you eat that steak or 100% Angus ground beef burger. You probably still want to avoid the fries and the sugar-laden soda. But when it comes to eating whole food meats like your ancestors did, go crazy!

Just not too crazy, because this is only one study and more research needs to be done (code for "we scientists aren't as smart as people think, and we've been wrong before...").


1. Eating Processed Meats, but Not Unprocessed Red Meats, May Raise Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes, Study Finds (SCIENCE DAILY)

2. A Guilt-Free Hamburger (WALL STREET JOURNAL)

3. Red and Processed Meat Consumption and Risk of Incident Coronary Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes Mellitus. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (CIRCULATION: Research Study Abstract)


Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer (FREE FULL TEXT)


Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms in Adults and Food Vitamin D Sources

Human beings make their own vitamin D in response to sunlight, which is why vitamin D is often called the "sunshine" vitamin." It is also called that because vitamin D has been linked to mood and seasonal depression.

When humans are not exposed to enough natural sunlight, they become deficient in vitamin D. This is especially true in northern climates that get less sunlight for long periods during the year. In addition, society's fear of skin cancer risk has caused people to avoid exposing themselves to sunlight by using sunscreen and protective clothing. Although these behaviors do protect skin from harmful UV rays, those same rays are required for people to make vitamin D, which has been shown to help prevent other kinds of cancer and chronic diseases.

There are other factors that can cause vitamin D deficiency, including darkly pigmented skin and problems with intestinal absorption of vitamin D. Obese individuals often have lower than normal vitamin D levels, so maintaining a healthy body mass index is critical for avoiding vitamin D deficiency.

Effects of Vitamin D Deficiency

It has been shown that many people, especially in northern latitudes, have insufficient levels of vitamin D. This is especially true in the elderly and people with darkly pigmented skin. These groups of people should supplement with vitamin D or eat more foods containing vitamin D.

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper metabolism of calcium. This is why vitamin D deficiency in children causes Rickets, improper bone formation and calcification. In older adults, vitamin D deficiency accelerates osteoporosis.

A common symptom of vitamin D deficiency is bone pain and muscle weakness. However, it is possible to have vitamin D insufficiency, which is less serious than deficiency, but still has some clinical effects, including mood issues, asthma in children, and an increased risk for both heart disease and cancer.

Vitamin D may also play a role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.

Recent research has suggested that the "Recommended Daily Allowance" of vitamin D (RDA) of 400 IU maybe too low, especially in northern latitudes. Nutrition researchers are now recommending the vitamin D RDA be raised to 2000 IU to prevent vitamin D insufficiency, and that vitamin D intakes as high as 5000 IU are safe without danger of vitamin D toxicity or overdose.

Always discuss your health concerns and nutritional needs with a trained health care practitioner.

Vitamin D Food Sources

Cod liver oil is a rich source of vitamin D. Most marine fish and some shellfish contain significant amounts of vitamin D in their raw form, but cooking can destroy vitamin D in these foods. Therefore, some types of sushi may provide ample vitamin D.

Other than mushrooms, there are few naturally occurring vitamin D foods. Egg yolks contain vitamin D, but again cooking destroys it. However, many foods are fortified with isolated, synthetic vitamin D3, like orange juice, milk (both dairy and soy), and cereal products.


1. Role of vitamin D in cardiovascular disease. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Vitamin D, sunlight exposure, and bone density in elderly African American females of low socioeconomic status. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Does vitamin d deficiency cause hypertension? Current evidence from clinical studies and potential mechanisms. (FREE FULL TEXT)
4. Possible Health Implications and Low Vitamin D Status during Childhood and Adolescence: An Updated Mini Review. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. Role of vitamin d in insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity for glucose homeostasis. (FREE FULL TEXT)



Cinnamon Benefits: Can a Cinnamon Supplement Cure Diabetes?

Nutritional supplement companies aren't allowed to tell you that an herbal supplement treats any disease, without the express permission of the FDA.

That's probably smart, because regulation of the nutritional supplement industry is minimal, with poor quality control, and those companies are out to make a buck. Of course, the latter is true of drug companies too.

I'm a health journalist with a biological research background. I was at Iowa State University when the first study on the ability of cinnamon extract to influence sugar metabolism came out. I actually interviewed the research scientist and his graduate student on the subject, making me one of the first (albeit college student) journalists to get the scoop on what has now become a nutritional health buzz.

In summary, some nutrition researchers were examining the known effects of the micronutrient chromium for insulin augmentation and blood sugar control. They were looking at chromium levels in various foods and found that cinnamon had effects on insulin metabolism, irrespective of chromium content, albeit in laboratory cell cultures. Subsequent animal and human studies have shown that cinnamon may have an effect on blood sugar regulation via its effect on insulin metabolism.

Diabetes is a complex disease with many causes and symptoms. It would be far too simplistic to make the blanket statement that a crude herbal extract could treat or cure a disease like diabetes. None the less, there is good evidence that something in cinnamon bark affects the mechanism by which insulin regulates blood sugar, so examining it as a nutritional adjunct in blood sugar regulation and control has value.

For ethical reasons, not enough human studies have been done on cinnamon effects on diabetes or other high blood sugar symptoms. However, the trend in the research data does seem to suggest that cinnamon may benefit type 2 diabetics more than type 1 diabetics. This makes sense when you understand that type 2 diabetes is typically a late onset form of diabetes related to sugar metabolism imbalances rather than a lack of insulin production by the pancreas.

Type 1 diabetics cannot make insulin, whereas type 2 diabetics usually produce insulin at normal or high levels, but have developed cellular "insensitivity" to insulin's effects. Thus, in type 2 diabetes, blood sugar is high because cells are not taking up sugar fast enough from the blood.

Since whatever is in cinnamon appears to augment the ability of insulin to trigger sugar uptake by cells in the body, it makes sense that cinnamon would have its effects on glucose metabolism in type 2, but not type 1, diabetics, because the latter completely lack the insulin on which the cinnamon has its effects. Cinnamon does not mimic insulin, it only facilitates its function in sugar metabolism.

I've compiled some clinical research references on the effects of cinnamon on sugar metabolism at the end of this post. Health care practitioners and technically educated readers will find these of most value. Others should bring them to the attention of their health care provider if they are concerned about their own sugar handling and blood sugar issues, and would like to try cinnamon medicinally as a natural diabetes treatment or preventive.

Cinnamon may have some medicinal effect on maintaining normal blood sugar levels. The available evidence is hard to synthesize into a constructive whole, mainly because of incongruent study designs (different forms of cinnamon extract, different animal or in vitro models, contradicting hypotheses on mechanisms of actions, different endpoints in human studies, etc.).

For people seeking herbs for diabetes prevention or blood sugar control, cinnamon might be a good choice, under the supervision of a licensed health care practitioner knowledgeable about diabetes herbs and cinnamon supplements - most likely a naturopathic practitioner as opposed to a conventional allopathic doctor (and patients should bring research publications on the subject with them. I have compiled some below). While cinnamon may not be a "cure" for diabetes or hyperglycemia, it could be a good addition to diets for diabetics. The research supports its use as a natural diabetes treatment, but only under the care of a trained medical professional.

Like my mom always says, "It can't hurt you and it might help you." Not exactly solid medical advice, but cinnamon is a natural herbal supplement, common in the Western diet.

Is it a coincidence that cinnamon is used to spice apple pie and other sweet foods and drinks? Or is this a product of human adaptation over millions of years?

My sister has Cinsulin, a cinnamon supplement marketed for proper glucose metabolism, in her nutritional arsenal, which was the impetus for me to write this short research post. She doesn't have diabetes, but is like most of my family in having carbohydrate sensitivity, with poor blood sugar and weight control, especially under stress. So the herbal cinnamon supplement probably does help her with sugar handling (assuming the quality of the product is good, and there is no guarantee because the industry is so poorly regulated - but that's a topic for another day!).

1. Effectiveness of Cinnamon for Lowering Hemoglobin A1C in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Effects of a Water-Soluble Cinnamon Extract on Body Composition and Features of the Metabolic Syndrome in Pre-Diabetic Men and Women. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose and Lipid Levels in Non–Insulin-Dependent Type 2 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
4. Effect of cinnamon on postprandial blood glucose, gastric emptying, and satiety in healthy subjects. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. The Effect of Cinnamon on A1C Among Adolescents With Type 1 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
6. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes. (FREE FULL TEXT)
7. Regulation of PTP-1 and insulin receptor kinase by fractions from cinnamon: implications for cinnamon regulation of insulin signalling. (ABSTRACT ONLY)


Beginner's Mind - The Buddhist Diet

Hi Everyone!

I've written many times on this site about the common sense logic of diet and nutrition and how what we choose to eat transcends all the years of expensive "scientific research" to determine the healthiest way to eat (even if people did listen to scientists...).

There is a Zen Buddhist saying: "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's there are few."

There are a lot of nutrition "experts" out there.

Experts have already got it all figured out, so they don't really need to pay attention to what's really happening anymore, and that's a shame. Because truth and reality wait for no one.

In corporate America, I saw the experts' minds at work all the time - PhD scientists running about "proving" how this or that "active ingredient" was the "magic bullet" that made a food "healthy." Not very much useful ever came out of all that "expert" activity. Humans are increasingly overfed and malnourished, because we (collectively) are putting garbage into our (collective) bodies. We don't eat "magic bullets." We eat food.

Transcending all the "expert" opinions about diet, which never seem to reach a consensus anyway, is the fact that human beings evolved on this planet eating a whole food natural diet scavenged from nature with little processing. Set aside the organic, unprocessed nature of the diet, and common sense tells you that human beings are still around because our ancestors "adapted" to the natural environment around them, including the nutritional environment of available foods.

That's a reality not even a scientist would dispute.

A beginner's mind is open to the idea that if we evolved on an omnivorous all natural whole food diet, containing fruit, vegetables, nuts, and lean meat (and very little grain and refined sugar/fat), perhaps such a diet is best suited to our current genetic makeup and biochemistry.

Evolution is a slow process and our ancestors were hunter-gatherers for most of the time that Homo sapiens roamed the planet trying to survive and prosper. We are opportunists by nature and this helped us survive in different habitats and climates. Even though the species of food animals and plants may have differed from place to place, some basic features of the diet remained consistent. Game animals were low in fat and rich in nutrients, because they too were feeding off the available food in the natural environment. Before agriculture, humans collected food from the environment, and besides cooking there was little other processing. Grains were virtually non-existent in the diet because they were difficult to collect in the wild, and the human digestive system cannot handle grains without significant processing (grinding to flour to make the available nutrients accessible in the digestive tract). Our ancestors had no use for grains when plenty of other foods were available. In fact, it is ONLY through agriculture that human populations have been able to grow so quickly.

Many "experts" will argue that from a purely Darwinian perspective, the human race is doing great. The human population of the Earth is exploding and humans now inhabit almost every niche on the planet. "Survival of the fittest" is a misnomer. It is basically only concerned with how well species reproduce themselves. The health ("fitness" in the sense most people think of it when they go to the gym...) of individual members of a species is irrelevant. As long as the species is procreating and multiplying, it is considered "fit" in the view of Darwinists.

Those experts...

But a population that over-populates also eventually exceeds the ecosystem's ability to support it. Just look at the current mass die-off of honey bees. Honey bees are a great example of the dichotomy between population "fitness" and individual "fitness." Most honey bees are sterile worker bees (they lack Darwinian "fitness" notwithstanding their physical "fitness" for flying around and making honey all day long...). It is the queen and a handful of select males that are responsible for reproducing the entire species. The queen doesn't do a lick of useful "work." She just sits around getting fat and laying eggs. Most individual bees are completely UNFIT from a Darwinian perspective. And the honey bee crisis we are now seeing illustrates that eventually even a population's "fitness" goes down the tubes.

Human beings have been surviving on the surface of what I call a "diet bubble" that is a non-renewable resource. It will eventually burst, as most bubbles do. Because of the relatively recent prevalence of fossil fuels, humans have been able to MANUFACTURE a synthetic diet based largely on vast monocultures of corn and soybeans, foods that are not suitably matched to the Paleolithic origins of modern day human biology. Such foods would not exist on such a scale in nature. It requires the huge energy inputs possible with fossil fuels to maintain this "diet bubble" based on corn and soybeans.

Humans can survive on such a diet long enough to reproduce, but they often die of chronic diseases in later life. Chronic diseases are a direct result of the malfunction of human biology in response to an incompatible diet. In the few populations of hunter-gatherers still around, you never find heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or other chronic diseases until these populations adopt a "Western" diet. Then they get these diseases in epidemic proportions.

Some insect larvae metamorphose into adults that lack a functional digestive tract. Their goal is simply to mate and lay eggs before they die of starvation in a matter of hours or days, then the cycle starts again. This system works great for the insects as a species. Their Darwinian "fitness" is through the roof. Just ask the spawning salmon who eat them as they race upstream to mate before they too die a sudden, post-coital death.

In a sick way, modern humans often die the same way, just over a much longer period of time. We have plenty of food and a great lack of actual nutrition in the diet. People consume more calories than ever, but the food is so devitalized and low in nutrition, that they are essentially starving themselves. But not before they are able to mate and start the next generation of malnourished humans.

It is only since the industrial revolutions in both agriculture and energy that human populations have sky-rocketed. The current human population could not be supported if the synthetic, fossil-fuel based food system were to disappear, and it eventually will.

I hope you were not looking for a happy ending. There isn't one. Try to shrink your ecological footprint as much as you can and enjoy life to the fullest while you still can. You can eat a whole food diet and enjoy a long healthy life as a "fit" individual.

Unfortunately, humanity as we know it is doomed.


1. Cardiovascular Disease Resulting From a Diet and Lifestyle at Odds With Our Paleolithic Genome: How to Become a 21st-Century Hunter-Gatherer. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Beneficial effects of a Paleolithic diet on cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: a randomized cross-over pilot study. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. The paradoxical nature of hunter-gatherer diets: meat-based, yet non-atherogenic. (FREE FULL TEXT)


Adaptogen Rhodiola Rosea Extract Effects + Brain Toniq (with the best energy drink ingredients)

Hi Everyone!

During my eight years working in R&D at a nutritional supplement company, I came across an herb called "Rhodiola" (Latin name Rhodiola rosea) that is quite amazing.

Rhodiola rosea extract has the effect of rendering a person extremely alert and focused, but without any stimulants.

The Rhodiola herb contains "adaptogens" - natural agents that bolster the human body's ability to "adapt" to environmental stressors. The mechanism by which adaptogens work isn't fully understood, but it is clear they are NOT stimulants, the way caffeine is. In fact, stimulants actually increase the effects of stress on the body, even though they allow you to plow through the stressful tasks at hand better, on the short term. Rhodiola effects are barely noticeable, except that you will find yourself incredibly focused, alert, and productive.

The best way to describe the effects of adaptogens is that they make you "more normal than normal." This makes it extremely hard for scientists to measure adaptogenic effects and "prove" they work.

(NOTE: Conventional measurement of "health" relies on normal ranges - anything within the range of normal is considered "normal" by medical science...thus, it is virtually impossible to measure "before" and "after" effects of adaptogens, if all they do is help you maintain a normal state!)

That's why modern science is skeptical at best about Rhodiola and other putative adaptogens like red panax ginseng and ashwagandha - although the benefits of ginseng are increasingly recognized and appreciated by alternative health care practitioners today, more so than the benefits of Rhodiola rosea.

(Note: combination Rhodiola, ginseng, ashwagandha formulas are a great combined source of multiple powerful adaptogens for mental focus and stress coping without stimulants).

Rhodiola rosea comes from Siberia and is one of the best herbs for stress reduction and coping. During stressful times at my R&D job, I would take a Rhodiola herbal supplement in the morning and it would keep me fresh and focused for most of the day, without any of the side effects of stimulants.

When needed, I was able to take the supplement in the evenings as well and it did not affect my ability to sleep. However, on occasions when I was dealing with lack of sleep, Rhodiola supplementation was able to completely alleviate fatigue and sleepiness at work. I estimate it probably increased my productivity about 25%. Not huge, but significant.

Quality control is a big issue when trying to find a good herbal supplement, and it is no different with Rhodiola rosea extract. The only 100% reputable vendor I am aware of is MediHerb, an Australian company. In Australia, herbal supplements are taken very seriously and the industry is regulated as tightly as pharmaceuticals are in the U.S. Quality must be validated, and clinical effectiveness "proven" before any label claims can be made for a product.

MediHerb Rhodiola rosea extract is the only brand of the herbal supplement I fully trust and use regularly. However, they only sell their products through licensed health care practitioners (and the occasional ex-R&D researcher), which is how they maintain their reputation for high quality products that work.

However, other potentially reputable vendors include: Gaia Herbs, Planetary Formulas, and Vitabase (They have vegetarian capsules!).

Brain Toniq also manufactures an energy drink based on Rhodiola that is sugar- and caffeine-free. Caffeine and sugar are the main (short acting) energy drink ingredients in most popular brands of energy drinks, and they both increase the effects of stress on the long term. They also mess with metabolism on the short term (highs and crashes, with fluctuating blood sugar levels).

If energy drinks are your thing, I highly recommend giving Brain Toniq a try. It's completely different from anything else on the energy drink market.

Always do your HOMEWORK when it comes to using herbal supplements for health. Consult a licensed health care practitioner whenever possible.

Below I have provided some additional peer-reviewed clinical research articles to help you decide if Rhodiola rosea is right for you.


1. Rhodiola rosea - MONOGRAPH. (FREE FULL TEXT)
2. Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. (FREE FULL TEXT)
3. Experimental analysis of therapeutic properties of Rhodiola rosea L. and its possible application in medicine. (ABSTRACT ONLY)
4. Proof of the mysterious efficacy of ginseng: basic and clinical trials: clinical effects of medical ginseng, korean red ginseng: specifically, its anti-stress action for prevention of disease. (FREE FULL TEXT)
5. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. (FREE FULL TEXT)


Raised Bed Garden Design

The warm weather of late has me itching to start planting my vegetable garden. Because it's Wisconsin, some things will have to wait until mid-May when the risk of frost is minimal. But the cool weather stuff can go in this week.

I am a big vegetable garden planner. I like to carefully think about what I want to plant, and try to do it strategically. I kind of have to garden this way, because I don't have a very green thumb. You know, my nickname isn't CACTUS JOE for nothing...

What are your vegetable garden plans?

I am lucky to have a raised bed vegetable garden, the perfect vegetable garden design. It was here when I moved in. Literally plug and play! Raised beds make gardening a lot less work for an amateur like me, and I really have to appreciate it.

Raised bed gardens have a lot of advantages over conventional ground-level garden plots. The most obvious (to me) is drainage. The Law of Gravity prevents raised bed garden plots from getting over-saturated with moisture. The second big advantage is less competition with encroaching vegetation. The raised bed allows the plants roots to go deeper vertically and not compete horizontally as much with neighboring plants.

Raised beds also make weeding easier. The weeds can't spread far and it is less effort to spot them and remove them from a raised bed garden. In short, a raised bed garden design gives you greater productivity from a smaller area.

There are subtle advantages too. Animals are less inclined to climb up into a raised bed garden, especially if it is protected by wire mesh.

It's important to plot your vegetable garden layout. I can't wait to design my garden this week. I just wish I had the help and advice of a gardening expert like urban vegetable grower Ray Nones (author of a great book about raised bed vegetable gardening).

I think I am going to devote an entire one of my three raised beds to cool weather spinach and lettuce. Then when that goes to seed, I will do some fast growing summer stuff in there, like squash. Well, I had better get on with my vegetable garden planning.

If anyone who is a good vegetable garden planner reads this who lives not far from Cambridge, WI, and would like to help me, please E-MAIL ME as soon as you can, or leave a comment below. I know that's a long shot. Even if you don't live near me, but have some advice or tips, I would love to hear them. I will even share them here with my readers and link back to you.

Tune in next time (subscribe?) when I will talk about HERB GARDEN DESIGN and also ORGANIC CONTAINER GARDENING. (I bolded those phrases so that I can add hyperlinks when the blog posts are ready. You can bookmark this page and check back periodically, but subscribing is easier...)


Support HR4789 - The Medicare "Buy In" Public Option

Hi friends.

Watch this...

It's really simple.

Any American can buy into Medicare at cost.

It makes Medicare available to all resident Americans who want it and want to pay for it themselves.

It costs taxpayers nothing, because Medicare's infrastructure already exists and those under 65 who want it pay "out of pocket." There is no effect on the deficit at all, because Medicare's administrators simply adjust their cost for the added burden of people on their rolls.

If people don't want it, they don't have to buy it.

But this option also makes Medicare cheaper, because you make it available to younger, healthier individuals who pay the same premium as the elderly, who use it far more to pay their medical bills. In addition, medical financial records are centralized, easing administration costs.

Right now, only 1/8 of the American population - seniors - can get Medicare, and it is on the taxpayers dime. It is like saying only OLD PEOPLE can drive on the public highways (horrifying to think about).

I support HR4789.

Read about it here: http://huff.to/cTOrtG

If you support it to, ask your representative to support it.



Hi. It's Joe.

Vegetarianism has been going fine.

I am kind of glad I chose now to try this.

I just found out that new regulations allow for rendered animal parts formerly reserved only for pet food to be put into hamburger for human consumption. No thanks!

In the same magazine, I also read that a study found 48% of all fast food soda machines tested contained traces of fecal matter. That's almost half...

Ugh. NOT OK!

The biggest hurdle I will have when I transition to veganism from vegetarianism in February will be not eating cheese. I have noticed that cheese is my quick and dirty protein source when I am in a hurry and now I won't have anything readily accessible when I need a protein fix. So that might be my Achilles heal.

I am off to Nashville tomorrow for 4 days. I am going to try and be vegetarian the whole time, but traveling often requires eating whatever you can find. So I'll report back on Sunday January 31. I am bringing a bunch of non-perishable items in my bag like PB&J, bread, canned fruit, cheese (OK, until Feb 1).

See you later!