Recently, a reader asked for my opinion about so-called meat substitutes. Since the topic of vegetarian alternatives to meat is rather complex and nuanced, I’ve decided to write about my answer on this site. But, before I offer my perspective, I want to make it clear that I’m exclusively focusing on the nutritional aspects of the issue. I’ll leave the ecological and philosophical arguments for other commentators and forums.
There are very few trends you can count on in the field of modern medicine and nutrition. The “stock” of virtually every food and/or supplement tends to go up and down more erratically than the Dow Jones or Nasdaq. One day coffee is bad for you, the next it’s being touted as a preventative for Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and liver cancer. For years, doctors have been recommending supplemental calcium for just about everyone. Now, there’s a grand debate about potential cardiovascular side effects involving this essential mineral. And, the examples go on and on. However, if there is such a thing as a bankable food/supplement which has sustained its sterling reputation over the years, it is most certainly green tea.
It’s relatively easy to recognize when you’re not getting enough exercise, nutrition or sleep. In the case of exercise and sleep, deficiency symptoms are usually subjective – fatigue, mood changes, shortness of breath, etc. A lack of nutrients sometimes presents itself physically, but can also be detected and/or verified with the assistance of diagnostic tests. On the other hand, social connectedness, an equally important aspect of wellness, is often overlooked. And, ironically, it may be one of the most common deficiency states affecting mankind in the 21st century.
Yearly, almost 800,000 adults in the United States will suffer a stroke. Of those, approximately 77% will be first time strokes. The remainder are classified as recurrent attacks. While sobering, there is also some optimistic news to report on the stroke front. Between the years of 1999 and 2009, incidents of stroke have declined by 33%. According to the American Heart Association, this improvement is largely attributable to better management of blood pressure, diabetes and other modifiable risk factors, including smoking cessation and weight management. In addition, dietary changes can also play a valuable role in preventing so-called “brain attacks”. In a previous column, I offered my own dietary prescription for a “Stroke Protection Diet”.
Many of us have a basic idea about prudent dietary choices and the health effects they typically produce. For example, if you eat large quantities of low-glycemic fruits and non-starchy vegetables, it’s unlikely that you’ll develop constipation, diabetes and obesity. Conversely, if your diet is loaded with processed foods, your cardiovascular, digestive system and waist line will almost certainly suffer the consequences. But, what you may not know is that there are a few recently discovered, practical ways of applying these old nutritional adages to their greatest advantage.
Tagatose is a sweetener currently making its way onto the U.S. market. And, I want you to know more about it before it starts showing up in your local health food stores and markets. Personally, I’m interested in tagatose because it’s all natural, low glycemic and may even impart some significant health benefits. In addition, it’s a prebiotic, meaning that it selectively promotes the growth of healthy gut bacteria. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in as well, look for products with names like PreSweet and Tagatesse.
If you walk into your doctor’s office with symptoms including abdominal pain, bloating, frequent burping and heartburn you will likely be evaluated for a potential H. pylori infection. This common bacterium can, but does not always, cause unpleasant symptoms. However, if symptoms do arise, it’s important to address the infection in order to protect against chronic stomach inflammation, ulcers , increased risk of stomach cancer and beyond. The most common treatment for Helicobacter pylori is a combination of three medications – two antibiotics and an acid suppressing drug.
In a recent interview with AARP (The American Association of Retired Persons), Linda Ronstadt, a 67 year old, multi-platinum singer who’s earned 11 Grammy Awards, revealed that she’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Because of her illness, she’s now unable to sing and has effectively retired. In the past, other celebrities including Muhammed Ali, internationally acclaimed activist and boxer, and Michael J. Fox, one of the top grossing actors of all time, have also gone public with their Parkinson’s diagnosis in an effort to raise awareness and money for research to improve the care for those living with this life altering disease.
Lately, I’ve received a few questions asking about the differences between conventional oranges and blood or red oranges. One of the inquiries came on the heels a recent news items proclaiming that orange juice is even worse than soda, in terms of promoting weight gain, on a calorie for calorie basis. Could it be that red orange juice is a better option? Another reader was curious after noticing a red orange extract in a product intended to protect against sun related skin damage. And, as it turns out, there’s also been an upswing in current scientific research involving this vibrantly colored fruit that’s native to California, Sicily and Spain.
The hair and skin care aisles of most health food stores are stocked with multiple creams, ointments and shampoos containing tea tree oil (TTO). In fact, the popularity of this native Australian export has even made its way into many mass market products. The crossover appeal of TTO is largely due to its documented antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. In terms of practical applications, you’re likely to find TTO in remedies intended for acne prone skin, flakey scalps, gingivitis, toe nail infections and much, much more. But, just because tea tree oil is already well established in the beauty and health care sectors, doesn’t mean that there isn’t more to learn about it.
As a proponent of evidence-based natural medicine, I encourage supplement manufacturers to incorporate the scientific process in their philosophies. More often than not, this falls on deaf ears primarily due to financial considerations. Specifically, the resistance to testing natural products has to do with the cost of conducting trials and the ramifications if the test results prove disappointing. But, every once in a while, a manufacturer will take the necessary steps to establish the relative efficacy and safety of their product. Relora, an herbal supplement used to address stress related symptoms, falls into the latter category.
Most of us give little thought to the involuntary actions which occur in our bodies on a daily basis: the digestive system absorbing nutrients, hearts beating and circulating blood, livers processing toxins and so on. Beneath the level of conscious awareness resides the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the controller of these vitally important bodily functions and many others. In general, the ANS requires little maintenance. However, sometimes this unsung aspect of our physiology benefits from some assistance in order to work for our greatest good.
Chicken broth has long been considered a healing and nurturing food in many cultures throughout the world. But, as with many traditionally revered foods, scientists rarely devote much time investigating the medicinal or therapeutic potential of such “old wives’ remedies”. Thankfully, an exception to this rule can be found in China, Japan and Malaysia. There, a variation of chicken broth known as chicken essence has been subjected to numerous animal, human and test tube studies.
Just about everyone can relate to this scenario: You’re at a family gathering, a party or work and you experience one form or another of rejection. For many, the first instinct is to retreat from the situation i.e. leave as quickly as possible. But, a recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology suggests you’d be better off taking an entirely different tack. Namely, you may be able to improve your mood almost instantaneously if you stick around and force yourself to interact and seek support from those around you. However, doing so, may, in fact, require higher levels of oxytocin, a hormone that plays a pivotal role in breastfeeding, childbirth and many expressions of social connectedness.
At this very moment, my opinion about honey is in a profound state of flux. On the one hand, I’m well aware that honey contains a relatively high percentage of fructose – a form of sugar that has increasingly been linked to adverse health consequences, such as fatty liver disease and obesity. But, why is it that so many learned, holistic advocates recommend it and use it in recipes? I believe I’ve figured out the reason why and have now come to terms with the rightful place honey ought to hold in my own diet.
A few nights ago, I was on Twitter answering some questions, when I was besieged by an onslaught of tweets promoting Garcinia cambogia, a southeastern Asian fruit extract, as a potent weight loss agent. Rather than blow off these messages as commonplace “spam”, I decided to investigate. To be clear, I already knew all about Garcinia C. After all, it’s been on the US market as a dietary supplement for over 15 years. As far as I was concerned, it had come and gone with little fanfare like most other supplements of its kind. But, I wondered if perhaps there was some new, exciting evidence that was spurring this current buzz.