Archive for November, 2009

Exercise and Weight

November 30, 2009 Written by JP

I hear a lot of advice about diet and exercise in my daily life. Many of the statements made by so-called experts and laypeople alike are quite definitive in nature. “Eating fatty foods and sugar will make you fat.” “The key to staying slim is moderation.” “It doesn’t matter what you eat, just eat sensibly.” “You need to exercise if you really want to lose weight. Diet alone won’t cut it.” But nutrition, much like life, is shaded with many gray areas. There are fine distinctions that apply to almost every diet “rule”. One aspect of weight loss which received a lot of attention this year has to do with the role that exercise plays in weight management. Read more »


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Posted in Exercise, Heart Health, Nutrition | 13 Comments

Eating Smarter

November 27, 2009 Written by JP

An area in my life that I’m trying to improve on is how I work. There’s an old adage that advises people to “work smarter” instead of working harder. This same piece of advice applies to other sectors of life, including diet. I often find myself speaking to colleagues, family, friends and even strangers about nutrition. If I overhear someone talking about a particular problem, I try to drop a small hint or tip about something natural they can do about it. Most of the time, my input is well received. But it’s also true that some people accept the information with some degree of trepidation. They frequently believe that any meaningful change in diet or lifestyle is bound to be complicated and/or painful. This is simply not the case. What’s more, it is this very prejudice that encourages so many to remain in a self-destructive cycle instead of attempting some basic steps that could possibly revolutionize their health and life. Read more »


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Posted in Food and Drink, Memory, Nutrition | 6 Comments

Healthy Pumpkin Pie

November 25, 2009 Written by JP

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a time when many Americans reflect on countless blessings that are often taken for granted. The most fortunate among us will have the opportunity to spend this holiday catching up with family and friends. During these joyful gatherings tradition dictates that there be a feast that is shared by all. As the meal concludes, most households consider it customary to include a delicious dessert known as pumpkin pie. Read more »


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Posted in Nutrition, Recipes | 10 Comments

Breast Cancer and Iron

November 23, 2009 Written by JP

One of the top news stories of this past week involved a proposed change in the current breast cancer screening protocol. Mammograms have been generally recommended for all women 40 years and up. However, new guidelines announced by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now suggest that routine testing begin a decade later, at age 50. At the moment there is a passionate debate about whether or not this recommendation and others, such as only having a mammogram every two years instead of one, would result in equivalent or improved health outcomes in older women. But controversy is no stranger to the field of breast cancer research. The topic of breast cancer prevention is perhaps the hottest issue in this category. Some experts are confident that dietary and lifestyle factors can, in fact, impact the odds of a women developing breast malignancies. Other researchers subscribe primarily to the notion of “genetic destiny”. In their minds, whether you get cancer or not is a essentially a roll of the dice. If you happen to have a family history of breast cancer, the dice are loaded against you. Read more »


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Nutrition, Women's Health | 7 Comments

Yacon Syrup

Written by JP

You can’t always trust news headlines. I found two recent examples of this on a national cable network and a highly regarded medical site. On the cable news station, one headline touted a story about a woman who was supposedly arrested for “cutting in line” at a discount store. Now that’s an attention grabber! If there’s an actual law against line-cutting, then I was surrounded by hoards of criminals when I recently attended a U2 concert. The truth in this instance is that the person involved also engaged in other inappropriate activities which played a role in her arrest. The second item that caught my eye had to do with a supposed “artificial” sweetener that could lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Which one could it be? Nutrasweet? Splenda? SweetN’ Low? Imagine my surprise when I discovered that oligofructose (OFS) was classified as a synthetic sweetener! That’s news to me, because it is in fact derived from natural sources. Read more »


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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Nutrition | 8 Comments

Probiotic Supplements

November 20, 2009 Written by JP

One of the hardest “sells” in natural medicine is demonstrating that there can be substantive differences between products that seem similar. Many years ago a skeptical customer was discussing a supplement with an employee at a health food store. At that time, I was a consultant who assisted the owner of that establishment to choose which lines and products to stock. I overheard the conversation and decided to try to help out. The position of the customer was that all echinacea products should be comparably priced. His view was that they all came from the same plant, the same soil, the same planet and therefore should reflect that in their price point. My first approach was to provide details about the specific differences between the brands he was considering – variable concentrations of active ingredients, flower vs. root extracts, the scientific research conducted on certain products, etc. I was unable to sway him with that data. So I tried a different tactic. I asked, “Is it reasonable to pay the same amount for a brand new BMW as you would a used Honda Civic?” “Of course not”, he scoffed. I continued, “Why not? They’re both made with similar materials. They both have four tires and a steering wheel. You can use both cars to get to where you want to go.” Read more »


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Posted in Nutritional Supplements | 8 Comments

Brain Guide

November 19, 2009 Written by JP

Almost every piece of complicated machinery comes with an instruction manual. Without the proper directions it requires much more time and patience to figure out exactly how to use a new car, computer or TV. Using trial and error may be an appealing option to some, but can also lead to miscalculations which can damage new gadgets or, perhaps, even pose a safety risk. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find the the owner’s manual for my brain anywhere. I’m probably not the only one because scientists from around the world are constantly trying to give humans advice about how to optimize mental performance.
Read more »


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Memory, Mental Health | 2 Comments

Holistic Healthcare Lobby

November 18, 2009 Written by JP

It’s too bad there aren’t lobbying groups that represent specific foods, practices and supplements. If there were, I could sit back in my office and take meetings all day long. An advocate for wild Alaskan salmon might drop by one afternoon and fill me in on the latest news about the healthiest ways to cook this prized fish. Or maybe a cheerleader for magnesium could make an appointment to reinforce the case for including plenty of this essential mineral in women’s diet in order to discourage cardiovascular disease. I’d even welcome a visit from a good, old fashioned dentist touting dental floss as a way of boosting brain performance in seniors. But alas, this type of lobbyist simply does not exist. That’s why I often travel around (offline and online) to track down such information. I am, in essence, an unpaid lobbyist for all of these causes. Read more »


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Posted in Heart Health, Memory | 4 Comments

Food Allergies

November 17, 2009 Written by JP

Last Friday came and went without any major calamity occurring in my life. I mention this because Friday’s date was November 13th. Or, for those who tend to be superstitious – Friday the 13th. This is a date that has become synonymous with bad luck. The modern association of Friday with the number 13 appears to trace back to a book published in 1907 entitled Friday the Thirteenth. It’s a tale about a villainous businessman who tries to destroy the stock market on that specific date. A popular silent film version of the novel ensued in 1916. Later, the unrelated Friday the 13th horror film series reawakened this fear inducing urban myth. This may be laughable to some of you, but others actually alter their lives in anticipation of this date – they postpone business meetings, family gatherings, travel, etc. However, myths are not the exclusive territory of scary films and novelists. Quite a few superstitions have made their way into the field of nutrition as well. Read more »


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Posted in Food and Drink | 8 Comments

Herbal Tea Sleep Study

November 16, 2009 Written by JP

A common criticism of conventional medicine is that it’s too clinical. Some patients feel like they’re simply cogs in a massive medical machine that needs repair. This is one of the unintended consequences of relying too heavily on the cold, hard facts provided by science alone. On the other hand, alternative medicine can sometimes go too far in the other direction, allowing emotions to run the show. Several years ago I attended a conference in which the famed cancer patient advocate Dr. Bernie Siegel gave a presentation. He emphasized the importance of considering every available treatment option and understanding the reality of one’s condition. But he balanced that advice by adding this, “Statistics do not apply to individuals and there is no false hope”. Read more »


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Posted in Mental Health | 16 Comments

H1N1 Success Story

November 13, 2009 Written by JP

There are two primary forms of evidence that are generally accepted in modern medical research. One variety is known as anecdotal or empirical evidence which is basically first-hand accounts of medical failures and successes as interpreted by individuals and those treating them. These types of observations were the primary basis for selecting healing techniques in the “old world”. Simply put, healers experimented on their patients using their best educated guesses. They continued using what seemed to work and stopped using what didn’t. Therefore, most of the data collected was subjective in nature. The current state of medicine tends to strongly favor scientific evidence that can be applied to many people at once in a controlled manner. The results of scientific studies are considered more objective and reliable because the risk of influence by individual variables is largely excluded from the mix. Read more »


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Women's Health | 13 Comments

Alternate Day Fasting

November 12, 2009 Written by JP

One of the things I enjoy most about studying natural medicine is that it constantly exposes me to concepts and cultural details that I otherwise might not learn about. Throughout the world there are scientists who choose to devote their lives to very specific aspects of health. Some focus on the causes and prevention of cancer. Others examine how certain diet plans affect body weight. Perhaps my favorite area of research is the investigation of foods and therapeutic practices that are deeply ingrained in a particular part of the world. For instance, it’s no accident that much of the research on olive oil is conducted in Mediterranean countries or that experiments involving acupuncture are predominantly carried out in the Far East. Read more »


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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss | 10 Comments

Natural Heart Attack Protection

November 11, 2009 Written by JP

Perhaps you’ve seen the series of commercials promoting Lipitor (atorvastatin) while watching your favorite TV shows. Lipitor is a cholesterol lowering medication that, according to the October 2009 edition of the AARP Bulletin, had sales of over $5.88 billion in 2008 alone. Needless to say, that buys a lot of advertising time. One of the major points made in these “heart to heart” adverts is that this prescription drug can lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol levels by 39%-60%. The implication is that lowering LDL cholesterol can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. But there’s an emerging body of evidence that suggests that another measure of cardiovascular health should come to the forefront when assessing heart attack risk. Read more »


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Heart Health, Nutritional Supplements | 15 Comments

The Forgotten Superfruit

November 10, 2009 Written by JP

It’s interesting how certain aspects of the past are glamorized while others are considered “dated”. We can easily find examples in the worlds of architecture, fashion, slang/speech and transportation. The same is true of the history of nutrition. Particular foods and beverages, such as a midday tea or a bowl of stewed prunes, are generally associated with a period that’s time has long passed. Read more »


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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Women's Health | 12 Comments

Fenugreek Research

November 9, 2009 Written by JP

Very few health conditions are brought about by genetic factors alone. Some people may be prone to elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity or type 2 diabetes. But it’s extremely uncommon that such health concerns are solely influenced by a familial predisposition. More often than not these conditions are influenced by diet and lifestyle choices that are less than optimal. A pertinent analogy for this might be that genes are like a field. If you eat well, exercise regularly, practice stress reduction and supplement wisely, you will, in effect, encourage lush green plant life to grow. However, if you don’t take proper care of yourself, the field will become dry and lifeless. When ash or a spark comes drifting your way, which type of a field would you rather be? Read more »


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Posted in Diabetes | 7 Comments

H1N1 and Antioxidants

November 6, 2009 Written by JP

A few weeks ago, I visited a local emergency room and was greeted with a special flyer that described symptoms and precautions pertaining to the H1N1 virus. Over the past month or so, the “Swine Flu” has directly affected several people that I know. In each instance, all of these friends and acquaintances have recovered completely. But judging by a review of various journals, magazines and newspapers, it doesn’t seem as though the level of interest and preoccupation with H1N1 has diminished substantially. Part of the reason is likely due to a very minimal number of cases where this particular strain of influenza has lead to tragic outcomes. One such instance was the focal point of a recent Larry King Live program. Read more »


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Posted in Nutritional Supplements | 10 Comments