Posts Tagged ‘Heart Health’

The Fast Diet

March 19, 2013 Written by JP

Recently, a book bearing the title “The Fast Diet” was released in England. Thus far, sales of the book, co-authored by Dr. Michael Mosley, have been brisk and are likely to follow suit in the US where it was just published a few weeks ago. The underlying message of The Fast Diet is that adopting a 5:2 eating plan, in which you eat regularly for five days and semi-fast for two days, will reduce overweight and various risk factors associated with advanced aging, diabetes and heart disease. In the medical literature, this style of eating is commonly referred to as “intermittent fasting” (IF). Since the media and public have taken an interest in IF, I thought this would be a good opportunity to review the most current findings about this practice and a related form of dieting known as alternate day fasting (ADF) which calls for a semi-fast every other day.

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diet and Weight Loss, Nutrition | 4 Comments

Healthy Optimism

January 22, 2013 Written by JP

In recent years, scientists from esteemed institutes of learning have identified an apparent link between an optimistic mindset and physical wellness. The latest entry into this topic comes from the Harvard School of Public Health. An analysis of nearly 1,000 middle-aged men and women determined that higher levels of self-reported optimism were associated with greater concentrations of serum antioxidants (carotenoids). The reason is likely due to a bidirectional effect in which “optimists are likely to engage in health behaviors associated with more serum antioxidants, and more serum antioxidants are likely associated with better physical health that enhances optimism”. This newly observed antioxidant effect may also, in part, explain why greater optimism has been continually linked to a lower risk of cardiac events and strokes.

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Exercise, Mental Health | No Comments;

European Bilberries

September 5, 2012 Written by JP

Last week I had the good fortune of visiting Venice, Italy for the very first time. Along the way, I snapped countless photographs to share with family and friends. And, as I consider you all a part of my circle of family and friends, I’d like to take this opportunity to share several highlights from time away from home: The Doge’s Palace; The Pigeons of Piazza San Marco; Fresh Melon and Prosciutto; The Venice Film Festival; Stormy Venice Flag. While in Venice, one of the details I noticed each morning at breakfast was an assortment of jams and pastries featuring bilberries. For those who don’t already know, European bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) are closely related to huckleberries and wild blueberries indigenous to North America.

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Posted in Food and Drink, Nutrition, Nutritional Supplements | 5 Comments

Mustard Health Benefits

July 11, 2012 Written by JP

One of my favorite condiments is organic Dijon mustard. I slather it on most of my sandwiches – peanut butter and jelly not withstanding. As with most of my other culinary and dietary choices, my decision to use this ingredient is based on the fact that I enjoy the flavor, while hopeful that it will impart certain benefits. If you’ve never thought of mustard as a health promoting ingredient, then please read on.

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition | 6 Comments

Monounsaturated Fats

June 6, 2012 Written by JP

The fact that I embrace science as a means of validating natural remedies occasionally puts me at odds with strict holistic advocates. In a recent encounter, I was accused of aligning myself with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – an organization which, by most accounts, has a contentious relationship with the natural health community. My response was that if I were affiliated with the FDA, prescriptions for statin medications (used to lower cholesterol) would become obsolete and avocados would be stocked in pharmacies throughout the land.

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Memory, Nutrition | No Comments;

High Fructose Corn Syrup

May 18, 2012 Written by JP

New research from UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine reveals that daily consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) impairs learning and memory in rats. This finding has lead to a slew of headlines this past week with titles such as, “Sugar Makes You Stupid”. If accurate, this may come as a surprise to anyone who’s encountered one or more of the television commercials financed by the Corn Refiner’s Association. In the slickly produced ads, the prevailing sentiment is that HFCS affects the body in the same way as any other sugar source. In fact, there’s currently a push to rename HFCS to “corn sugar”.

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Posted in Diabetes, Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink | 4 Comments

Happy, Healthy and Wise

April 25, 2012 Written by JP

Happiness seems like it has little to do with the modern health care system. But, in medicine, as in life, appearances can be deceiving. Statistics reveal that people who have a positive outlook are more likely to be in better physical health. Now, some theorize that happy people are healthier because they take better care of themselves. Simply put, they have more of a reason to want to live longer. There’s certainly some truth to that assertion. However, recent developments in the field of psychology explain that the link between contentment and wellness may very well be a two way street.

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, General Health, Mental Health | No Comments;

Protein Matters

January 6, 2012 Written by JP

Beef is often included on a short list of foods which are purported to increase the risk of various diseases. Among the health concerns expressed about beef is a supposed correlation between red meat consumption and cardiovascular disease. However, a just published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition begs to differ with this prevalent theory. In the trial, a group of participants with high cholesterol were fed one of four diets for 5 weeks. Those receiving a diet known as BOLD+, comprised of 28% fat, 27% protein and includes 153 grams of beef/day, demonstrated greater improvements in several cardiovascular risk factors than subjects receiving lower beef and protein diets. According to the authors of the study, these findings “provide support for including lean beef in a heart-healthy dietary pattern”.

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition | 2 Comments

Arsenic Warning

January 4, 2012 Written by JP

Increased risk of birth defects, cancer and cardiovascular disease are not typically associated with the consumption of “wholesome” foods such as fruit juice and rice. After all, these menu options are 100% natural and frequently recommended as part of a healthy, low fat meal plan for adults and children alike. However, even if you set aside the high glycemic (ie blood sugar elevating) nature of these foods, you should still consider the possibility that they may be contaminated with the heavy metal arsenic.

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Posted in Detoxification, Food and Drink, Women's Health | 5 Comments

Chickpea Discovery

October 14, 2011 Written by JP

Eating a varied diet is one of the best ways to ensure nutritional adequacy. I periodically examine my own menus and look for practical ways to broaden my nutrient intake and keep things interesting. This past week, I decided to try an unorthodox dip to have alongside vegetables. Most of the dips I’m accustomed to are dairy or egg-based and rather rich. However, the alternative I recently discovered doesn’t contain any cheese, mayonnaise or milk. Instead, it uses pureed chickpeas or garbanzo beans as a “creamy” base. The product itself consists of a short list of health promoting ingredients: raw chickpeas, tahini or sesame seed butter, lemon juice, citric acid, garlic, non-GMO olive oil, fresh red pepper paste and salt. Each one ounce serving contains only 45 calories and a fairly strong macronutrient composition: 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of dietary fiber and 1 gram of naturally occurring sugar.

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition | 5 Comments

Low and Slow Cooking

October 12, 2011 Written by JP

The term “Advanced Glycation End product” or AGE isn’t exactly well known. Researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine aim to change that and with good reason. To the uninitiated, AGEs are toxic byproducts that are linked to numerous health threats ranging from cardiovascular disease to diabetes. They’re formed during the cooking and processing of various foods using high heat. Within the body, AGEs can also be produced – especially in the context of diets rich in carbohydrates. The latest evidence suggests that this prevalent risk factor affects everyone from infants to seniors. Why infants? A report in the December 2010 issue of Diabetes Care explains that infants receiving baby formula had twice the level of AGEs typically found in adult diabetics. The authors go on to reveal that baby formula can contain 100 times the AGE content of breast milk. In seniors, elevated AGEs are an emerging risk factor for “accelerated cognitive aging” and Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, there are simple ways to mitigate the effects of dietary AGEs and to discourage their manufacture internally. For instance, according to a study published in July 2011, switching to an AGE-restricted diet for as little as 4 months can lower inflammation and insulin levels by 35% in type 2 diabetics.

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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Memory | 2 Comments

Fructose Confusion

October 10, 2011 Written by JP

Albert Einstein once famously quipped, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” The topic of sugar aptly illustrates his point. Some would have you believe that all calorically equivalent, naturally sourced sweeteners are basically the same. Just eat them in moderation and there’s really little danger. However, a careful examination of the medical literature suggests otherwise. In particular, fructose stands out as a sweetener that ought to be limited in one’s diet. In recent months, fructose has been implicated as: a) reducing the calorie and fat “burning” (net fat oxidation and resting energy expenditure) potential of overweight men and women; b) contributing to abdominal pain, digestive symptoms and sleep disturbance in children; c) elevating various risk markers for cardiovascular disease including LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides; d) a primary contributor to the development of abdominal obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome in a population study consisting of over 2,500 adults. Many of the pitfalls associated with fructose can be avoided by simply steering clear of products containing agave nectar or syrup, crystalline fructose and high fructose corn syrup. Excessive fruit and fruit juice consumption can likewise present issues for some individuals. Another strategy to consider is the regular inclusion of sulfur rich foods in your diet such as garlic, onions and shallots. Several experiments in animal models have determined that these aromatic bulbs can mitigate some of the blood sugar, cardiovascular and inflammatory activity initiated by fructose intake.

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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutrition | 8 Comments

Red Beet Juice Power

September 23, 2011 Written by JP

In the field of athletics, the term “performance enhancers” has taken on a negative connotation of late. The very mention of it frequently conjures up images of professional athletes “juicing up” on anabolic steroids or synthetic stimulants. Fortunately, in recent years, scientists have uncovered an all natural and much safer alternative that may just improve physical capacity and support cardiovascular health. According to several, peer-reviewed scientific studies, the solution may lie in the humble red beet (Beta vulgaris). Athletes who consume red beet juice, a rich source of naturally occurring antioxidants and nitrates, consistently find benefits in trial performance in a number of activities ranging from bicycling to knee-extensor exercises. The key to the greater stamina reported likely involves the ability of beet juice to improve circulation and increase peripheral tissue oxygenation. What’s more, beet root juice also supports cardiovascular health by reducing blood pressure, irregular blood clotting and, possibly, high triglycerides as well. If there is a down side to drinking red beet juice, it would be its high sugar content. The best way to derive the benefits of beet juice while limiting sugar intake is to supplement with beet root juice extracts or powders. For instance, one the most popular products on the market yields only 5 grams of sugar per concentrated tablespoon of beet juice powder. Finally, if you decide to try beet root juice and you find a distinct reddening when you use the bathroom, don’t worry. This is a well known reaction known as beeturia which affects approximately 14% of the population.

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Posted in Exercise, Food and Drink, Nutritional Supplements | 7 Comments

Green Coffee Extract

July 29, 2011 Written by JP

Last week, I stopped into a popular coffee shop and ordered a large, iced Americano. While waiting to pay, I noticed an advertisement for a new line of icy, fruit flavored drinks that featured green coffee extract. That’s right, green coffee. Combining coffee and fruit may seem like an odd pairing, but, in reality, the flavor of raw coffee beans bears little to no resemblance to the brewed forms of coffee enjoyed the world over. Taste issues aside, you may be wondering why green coffee extract would be included in summery drinks and/or so called “functional foods” in the first place. Read more »


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Posted in Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink, Nutritional Supplements | 2 Comments

Quality of Aging

April 22, 2011 Written by JP

Throughout history there have been many wise and witty sayings about growing older. Here are a few of my favorites: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain; “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin Franklin; “The minute a man ceases to grow, no matter what his years, that minute he begins to be old.” William James. Some of the changes that occur with advancing age cannot be avoided entirely. But I believe there’s such a thing as “quality of aging” as well as “quality of life”. What’s more, we can all affect the manner and pace by which our bodies reflect our biological years. Read more »


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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Memory | No Comments;

Maqui Berries

March 28, 2011 Written by JP

Assume for a moment that you are looking for a new supplement to try at your local health food store. Now let’s say you happened upon a product that presented the following statements on its label or in the accompanying supplemental literature: “Age Defying Beautiful Skin”; “Nature’s Ultimate Antioxidant”; “Naturally Pure”; “Scientifically Proven”; “Supports Healthy Cholesterol Levels” and “Supports a Healthy Immune System”. What would your impression of this product be? If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, my hope is that your first instinct would be to do some research to try to verify these seductive claims.
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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutritional Supplements | 6 Comments