Studies have found that there is a correlation between increasing levels of optimism with decreasing levels of death from cancer, disease, infection and stroke. This is particularly true for cases of cardiovascular disease. Those who had the highest levels of optimism had an almost 40% lower risk of heart disease.
Become an Informed Consumer of Health Information
Eat this, not that. One day a certain supplement or medication is great for you, but a week later you’re being advised not to take it. How can you judge the worth of media hype around health information and determine what applies to you?
Become a discerning consumer by asking key questions and evaluating the information being presented.
Testimonials Only? If the sole evidence for a product is consumer testimony, without presentation of scientific evidence, it’s important to seek out additional information in order to determine if the claims are valid.
Breakthrough Scientific Discoveries? Dramatic breakthroughs and isolated evidence of “amazing findings” are extremely rare in science. Only when evidence is consistent across various types of studies, from lab reports to case studies to clinical trials that span a variety of populations, are we likely to have strong, reliable and valid evidence for a “breakthrough.”
Who’s that Scientist? When study data is reported, look at who conducted the research. Is the researcher affiliated with a university or research institution or with a company or organization that stands to profit? Reliable data does not come from “secret sources.” When reading an article, look for a link to a source; pay attention to where the article was published, by whom, and how it was funded.
Limited or Extensive Data? In research, results that have been replicated by different investigators across a variety of conditions, groups of people, and over time, are much more meaningful and reliable than a single study.
Is there a Cause-and-Effect? Many studies first explore correlation – a relationship between two things. For example, a study finds a relationship between eating olives and headaches. This does not mean the olives cause headaches. Further research is necessary to determine cause and effect. What kind of olives? What is the nutritional profile of the olives? Could it be something in the olives? Are men and women of different ages and races equally affected? What about people who are prone to headaches? Are the olives grown in a certain place? Correlation does not prove causation.
Placebo or Not? A placebo is an inert (inactive) substance or treatment designed to have no physiological impact. When taking a placebo produces the same effect as a supplement or medication, it’s critical to question effectiveness. Studies of medicines must prove (in the data) that the benefits are statistically significantly better than a placebo.
Statistically What? For a study to reach statistical significance means there was a large enough number of participants to measure the effect of the supplement and that the effect was caused by something other than chance.
Who’s in the Study? If a study is done in a petri dish, or on rats, it is not always applicable to human beings. Therefore, studies involving people, if well done, give us more useful and reliable information. Try to identify the population studied. If the population is 90-year old women from Indonesia, the results are not easily generalized to 40 year-old working American women with children. You want to see that the study had a large number of diverse people in it, including people like yourself.
These questions will get you off to a good start when assessing the latest health information. Your holistic health practitioner is the best person to help you determine what information applies to you.
Food for Thought. . .
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Arsenic in Rice: Which Rice is Safest?
From Asian cuisine to gluten-free and other special diets, rice is a staple food for many people. But is it healthy? Depending on where it’s grown, rice contains one of the world’s most toxic elements: arsenic. It can be passed into the human body, building up in body tissue over time, leading to impairments in the nervous system and brain functioning, birth defects, cancer, and other health problems.
Arsenic is a trace element found naturally in the environment in two forms: (1) Organic, found in plant and animal tissue, and (2) Inorganic, found in rocks, soil, or water. The inorganic form is more toxic. Arsenic also gets into the soil through pollution and runoff from manufacturing.
Because rice is grown under flooded conditions, it easily absorbs arsenic in the soil. This is particularly true of rice grown in South America and Asia, as their drinking water contains arsenic. Also, some regions of the U.S. – most of Texas, the Midwest and parts of the West coast – have high arsenic levels, impacting rice grown in those areas.
Rice and rice products (including milk, cereal, crackers, and rice syrups) contain more arsenic than any other food crop. To reduce your exposure to arsenic in rice, follow these tips:
- Rinse the rice before cooking; this can remove 10-28% of arsenic. When cooking any type of rice, use plenty of water.
- Consider decreasing your rice consumption by introducing other types of grains.
- For rice cakes, purchase wild rice varieties.
- Buy Basmati, Jasmine, or other aromatic varieties. Lundberg is a brand name of rice grown in the U.S. and recent reports show it has lower arsenic levels.
Coconut Oil or EVOO? The Healthy Truth
Depending on who you believe, coconut oil is a nutritional miracle food or pure poison. Nearly 70% of Americans view coconut oil as a health food; only about 37% of nutritionists view it that way.
Coconut oil is 88% fat, most of which is saturated fat. However, the structure of fat in coconut oil differs from animal-derived fats and oils, which consist mainly of long-chain triglycerides (LCTs) and linked to elevated cholesterol level. Instead, coconut oil contains a high level of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a form harder for the body to convert into stored fat and easier to burn-off than LCTs. Supporters of coconut oil attribute its benefits – from fighting inflammation to healing itchy skin and adding lustre to hair – to the high MCT content.
Do not rush to replace other healthy oils (like Extra Virgin Olive Oil – EVOO) with coconut oil, which is not entirely composed of MCT’s. There’s still a lot of saturated fat in coconut oil, whereas several other oils have higher MCT profiles. Choose a high quality, minimally processed cold-pressed organic, Virgin Coconut Oil, which has different health effects than highly processed varieties that raise cholesterol levels (the label may indicate “bleached” “refined” or “deodorized”, aka- R.B.D.). Buy from a trusted vendor; the terms “virgin” and “extra virgin” are not regulated the way they are for EVOO.
Keep in mind that you don’t eat fat or antioxidant molecules. You eat food and it should come from a variety of healthy sources while less healthy options should be enjoyed in moderation. Until longer-term, large-scale research is done on the benefits of coconut oil, use it when necessary for preparing ethnic cuisine and in place of butter or shortening in baking, but don’t give up your EVOO.
Yummy Chocolate Avocado & Black Bean Brownies
Out-of-this world yummy and healthy black bean brownies! These are made with avocado instead of butter, which gives you an amazing nutrition boost without sacrificing flavor. Flourless, dairy-free and gluten-free, this treat will fool even the most die-hard chocolate/brownie lover.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
- 1 (15 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 eggs or flax eggs (add an additional egg if you like cakier brownies)
- 1/2 of a large ripe avocado
- 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup coconut sugar or sub brown sugar (or sub 1/2 cup pure maple syrup)
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips + 2 tablespoons for topping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 8×8 inch baking pan.
- Place all ingredients, except chocolate chips, into blender or food processor. Process or puree until ingredients form a smooth batter. If the batter is WAY too thick and won’t process, add in a teaspoon or two of water. This batter needs to be very thick in order to produce fudgy brownies.
- Add in 1/3 cup chocolate chips and fold into batter.
- Pour batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of remaining chocolate chips. You can also fold in nuts or swirl in peanut butter.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out somewhat clean and top of the brownies begin to crack. Cool pan completely on wire rack; cut into 12 delicious large brownies.
Vitamin D Achieves Mainstream Medical Acceptance
It’s only within the last decade that a Vitamin D supplement became widely accepted by the conventional medicine community. Today, it’s one of the most highly regarded supplements in both natural and conventional medicine and viewed as essential to good health.
Vitamin-D made the jump to mainstream medicine through quality evidence-based natural medicine research. Studies were conducted over varying lengths of time, in various countries, and included diverse populations, ranging in age, ethnicity, occupation, activity level, and health status. These studies were conducted by independent researchers not affiliated with, or compensated by, a drug or supplement company. This large-scale, scientific analysis highlighted the critical role of Vitamin-D in our everyday heath and the overarching need for most people to augment their diets with a supplement.
Vitamin D is a catalyst for a variety of cellular processes. It supports the development of strong bones and may also help manage chronic pain and protect against the risk of some types of cancer and musculoskeletal conditions.
Studies indicate a “world-wide epidemic” of Vitamin-D deficiency due to inadequate diets and lack of significant sunlight to trigger the biochemical production of this nutrient; we need 20 minutes a day where most of the skin is exposed without the use of sunscreen.
A vitamin D deficiency can cause osteopenia, osteoporosis, increased risk of fracture, sunken pelvic area (due to rickets) and trouble getting pregnant and delivering a baby naturally.
Of the six forms of Vitamin-D, Vitamins D2 and D3 are the most important for human nutrition. Vitamin D2 predominantly comes from the sun and fungi, such as mushrooms. Vitamin D3 can be produced in the body from the absorption and conversion of the sun’s UVB rays or from animal sources.
Because it affects the entire body, it’s vital to maintain your Vitamin-D levels. For a boost: eat fatty fish, mushrooms, liver, egg yolk, milk, and yogurt. Better yet, get plenty of direct sun exposure. If you are concerned that your vitamin D levels are not up to par, talk with your natural medicine physician about an assessment and individualized supplement plan.
To learn more about Vitamin-D research, visit our resources.
From Ancient Herb to Modern Medicine
Many of today’s modern medicines were first part of “folk” apothecaries, often handed down from the ancients. Take the heart medication digitalis (aka digoxin): it’s extracted from the dried leaves of the purple foxglove plant (digitalis purpurae) and used to strengthen heart muscle contractions. The medication was “discovered” when a physician had no treatment for a patient he thought was dying and sought out a remedy from a “gypsy healer” who gave him the herb. The doctor was amazed by the patient’s recovery and obtained the herbal remedy for further study. Today, while the process may still begin with curiosity and concern for a specific health issue, herbs that make the grade as modern medicine are studied, formally and informally, to determine safety and effectiveness.
There’s a saying: all news is local. Well, when it comes to the transition from ancient treatment to modern medicine, that too starts local: one patient at a time, one healthcare provider at a time, until there is a groundswell of use and success . . . until there is such word-of-mouth it can’t be ignored. When patients seek alternative solutions for a particular condition, it’s often out of concern about side effects associated with conventional medicine. Or they have a deeper desire to explore options that will help them age better, stay strong and manage stress. And when they have success, word gets around.
Once an alternative treatment becomes well-known and has the potential to become a commodity, research begins. It typically starts with informal research, such as a case study. Data will then be collected, including folk knowledge, clinical observations of herbalists, doctors and botanists, research studies (lab and clinical) and more. Eventually, if needed, large formal clinical trials will be organized and conducted. The research results are then compiled, analyzed, papers written and published in a wide variety of media.
As a consumer, always question research conducted by a company that plans to sell the herb for profit. However, if this is just a small part of a larger body of research done by an independent research team (a group not paid by a company selling the herb and with no chance of profiting from the herb), then it does not necessarily need to be discarded.
After the research is sufficient, and published, it can take a long time for the herb to become part of conventional medicine. However, it enters modern medicine early on through holistic practitioners such as herbalists, naturopathic and osteopathic doctors, chiropractors, holistic nurse practitioners, and some medical doctors. Remember, good medicine is personalized. The right herb, in the right form and proper dose for each person, is best determined by a natural medicine physician.
The following are some herbal or plant based medicines that have modern research to support their health benefits:
- Garlic: managing cholesterol
- St. John’s Wort: treating mild to moderate depression
- Valerian Root: insomnia
- Flaxseed: managing cholesterol
- Chaste Tree Extract: menopausal symptoms
|Guiding Principles The information offered by this newsletter is presented for educational purposes. Nothing contained within should be construed as nor is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. This information should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider. Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before embarking on a new treatment, diet or fitness program. You should never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information contained within this newsletter.|
Julianne Forbes, ND