Monthly Archives: June 2007

Vitamin D- Can it be a Magic Anti-Cancer Pill?

Vitamin D- Can it be a Magic Anti-Cancer Pill?

Competency # 17 Vitamin D: The Supervitamin

Reference: Lappe, J.M., et al Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nut 85. 1586-91.

Groundbreaking evidence has just hit the news about Vitamin D and it’s dramatic proven effect on cancer prevention.   We’ve thought for some 100 years that sunlight was good for a variety of illnesses:  TB sanitariums had you sitting in the sun high up in the mountains.   Since then many have hypothesized that Vitamin D reduces cancer risk, but until now (literally this week!) that relationship had not be proven. Remember how grandma always thought it better for you to play outdoors?

Creighton University conducted a 4-year study about Vitamin D and bone health.  Cancer risk was not it’s original intent, making the findings all the more credible because they were truly “blinded.”  No one was expecting the outcome. 3 groups were tested; a placebo control group, a calcium supplement group, and a calcium plus vitamin D3 group. Over 4 years the placebo group showed 18 new cases of cancer, the calcium group 15, and the calcium plus vitamin D3 only 8. Ten less people with cancer, pretty significant don’t you think? Just 1100 IU of Vitamin D supplementation, not a mega dose, just 1100 IU reduces your risk by 58%. And not just one type, breast, colon, lung, lymph, leukemia, myeloma, uterus, etc… bottom line: Vitamin D works to reduce cancer by 58%.   Let me repeat this.  One little tiny pill, every day, can reduce your risk of cancer from all sources by as much as 35%.  With no side effects!

How do you get 1100 IU of vitamin D? Sunlight, food and supplements. Fish lovers are in luck! Salmon and mackerel give you about a third of this amount in just one serving. One tablespoon of cod liver oil has about 400 IU, which is why our current Vitamin pills all have 400 units of Vitamin D. (This is why the Inuit can live in the Arctic and get enough Vitamin D)! Milk fortified with vitamin D (most are now days) and fortified cereals also contain about 10% of the current RDA of 400 a day.  BUT THAT’S WAY, WAY, WAY TOO LOW.

Sunlight is golden.  Ten minutes in midday sun, with 50% skin exposure, will allow a 20 year old to make 20,000 units.  A 70 year old will make 25% of this amount.  During the summer, we are in great shape.  It’s the 5 months of winter that are killing us, by way of CANCER. Each year, we get NO Vitamin D in Milwaukee for 5 months.  Vitamin D works, in essence, by making every cell mature into the cell our Creator intended it to be.  A mature cell knows when to die as it gets old.  An immature cell keeps dividing.  Cancers are all immature rapidly dividing cells.  It makes sense to hypothesize that Vitamin D, by signaling cells to mature into their mature form, will cut off their tendency to become cancerous.  And this study proves that hypothesis. Beware though, sunscreens block the UV rays that feed your skin for synthesis, so forgo the SPF for 15 minutes and then apply. Supplements will provide your body with a direct source, but make sure you purchase Vitamin D3 as this is the form that has shown cancer prevention benefits. Try combining these three sources to create a personal plan to steer clear of cancer!

Let’s not get started on the known fact that your longevity over age 75 depends more on your bone density than your cholesterol and blood pressure.  Bone density, another Vitamin D effect, all for another day. The effects and benefits of Vitamin B seem to be never ending. Could we have found The Supervitamin?

WWW. What Will Work for Me? Since it is summertime now, I’m going to get outside! The grass needs cutting, my hosta need watering, anyone up for a trip to the beach? Knowing I’m going to be inside most days, I’m still taking Vitamin D (2000 Units for me).  And being closer to 70 than 20, my skin makes much less than it used to.  I’ll have milk in the morning along with a bowl of cereal (wait isn’t breakfast important anyway?? Hey I get a 2 for 1 on that deal!). If I’m out at a restaurant and I see salmon, I’ll have it. This doesn’t seem too hard, and I’d much rather prevent a cancer all together than try to treat it once it’s snuck up on me!

The AGE Old Question: How do we Die?

The AGE Old Question:  How do we Die?

Competency # 20: Cuisines of the Long-Lived

Reference: American Journal Clinical Nutrition: May 2007, p 1236  Negrean et al.

Understanding AGE has been history’s mystery.  Now, they are turning out to be modern medicine’s key to understanding heart disease.  “They”?  Yes, “they” are problem molecules.  AGE stands for Advanced Glycation Endproducts.  Glycation means the addition of a sugar molecule in a haphazard way to a protein, fat or DNA molecule.  It doesn’t happen from the result of an enzyme, which places the sugar in a precise place.  It occurs through a chemical reaction brought about by high heat.  Cooking with high heat.  And it doesn’t happen equally to all foods.  It happens to high fat, high protein foods.  Meat and cheese.  (Sounds like pizza, hamburger, fried cheese balls, Wisconsin State Fair, back yard barbecue).   And the sugar ends up being in place where it’s not meant to be.  The result is disruption of normal function of that molecule.  It can’t be digested.  It gets absorbed and hangs around.  The net effect has been to show that AGEs end up being pro-inflammatory, pro-oxidizing. They make the complications of diabetes worse and seem to play a role in making coronary artery disease worse.  They are trouble.

Well, half of us die of coronary artery disease.  It’s the runaway epidemic of our time.  That’s how we die!  What’s the link here?  We know that people who are overweight have more diabetes.  Folks with diabetes, or “metabolic syndrome” (AKA pre-diabetes), have vascular disease at 2-5 times the rate of folks without diabetes.  The search for the connection has been focusing on the lining of blood vessels where the problem seems to start.  Recent research has narrowed it down to the state of blood vessels right after a meal when the food we eat has its maximal chemical impact on our body’s blood vessels.  In that period, high sugar and high fat blood levels lead to “oxidative stress” and “endothelial dysfunction”.  And those two are additive.  AGEs make that stress worse.

How to you test for the connection of that with AGEs?  Here’s what Drs. Negrean and Stirban did.  The precise same food, cooked in two different ways (one that makes lots of AGEs and one that doesn’t) and then fed to 20 folks with type two diabetes.  That’s the type of diabetes you get from being overweight and can usually control with pills.  The food was prepared with high heat and frying (high AGE), or low heat (steaming for shorter periods-low AGE).  Same calories each way.   Their hypothesis was that a SINGLE MEAL, differing only in preparation style and, therefore, the amount of AGEs would have differing impact on “endothelial dysfunction”.   One meal had 15,000 AGE units.  The low AGE meal had 2,750 AGE units.  A five-fold difference just by preparation methods.

There were significant differences.  This is a very important finding for you to understand.  They found dramatic differences in blood vessel function like “Flow Mediated Dilatation”  (35% versus 21% in high versus low).  Markers of oxidative stress similarly were significantly different between the two meals.    There were no differences in blood glucose level.  It was the same food and that part was consistent.  It’s blood glucose we’ve been measuring, thinking we were on the right track.  We haven’t been measuring the AGE products we eat, or the endothelial dysfunction they cause.

Here is the unproven and untested hypothesis.  The daily consumption of foods made by frying, broiling or other high heat methods used on meat and cheese consistently damages our arteries.  Bit by bit, it adds up and the eventual complications of diabetes take their toll.  Your first warning sign is a heart attack, or sudden death, a bit late.  The dots are beginning to have credible connections.  This is a watershed idea and you will certainly hear more from me about this.

WWW.  What will work for me?  The AGE Old Question: How to get to healthy old age.  This study shows that the same food, cooked differently shows dramatic differences in outcomes on short-term effects.  If we believe that short-term effect has long-term implications, we need to start cooking differently.  If I poach, boil or stew my food, I’ll have less trouble?  I can certainly reduce the AGE products I eat by 80% by changing my food preparation methods.   I’m eating less high fat meat anyways.  Now, I have to figure out how to make it through State Fair this summer without the barbecue, the deep fried cheese curds…  So, more whole fruits and veggies and less back yard blackened barbecue.  What a bummer with summer just getting started.  How about roasted veggies?

Selenium: A Trace Mineral that’s Great for Your Brain

Selenium:  A Trace Mineral that’s Great for Your Brain

Competency # 16 Mighty Minerals

Reference: American Journal of Epidemiology, Jan 31, 2007, Page 955  S Gao

Selenium is a trace mineral you can find on your multivitamin bottle.  It comes the soils that plants grow in.  Any given food crop can have as much as a 10 fold difference in the amount of selenium in it, depending on the soils that it is grown in.  That makes the part of the world you live in have an impact on your intake of this vital trace element.  And your brain collects it and stores it for a long time.  It takes as much as 200 days for a trace dose to wash out of your system.

What we know about selenium is that it is a crucial component of many enzymes in your brain, liver and throughout much of our bodies.  It has an antioxidant effect that seems to correlate with less cognitive decline.  It has been hypothesized that it works by having an impact on your memory, both short and long term.  What has been frustrating for American epidemiologists has been finding a population that stays put in one area, eating food from one area, getting a constant amount of selenium.  We have been able to measure selenium levels and cognitive decline, but the level you have may be from recent food grown in Chile, or California, or the multivitamin you took with selenium in it.  American populations are so mobile, we can’t easily make the connection that selenium helps with avoiding cognitive decline, unless we can first show a steady dose of selenium, all your life, makes a difference.

Our researchers in the article above, Gao et al, went to four villages in different parts of China where over 70 % of the over 65 year old adults had lived in their village all their lives.  They were tested by multiple visits with state-of-the-art cognition tests, and that was compared to their fingernail selenium levels.  The villages were chosen for the variety in the selenium levels in their soils, and the attendant selenium levels in the population that lived in those villages.  Finally, a life-long natural laboratory where the question could be asked as to whether life-long selenium exposure had an impact on your brain.

The answer?  Yes!  It does!  Life-long low selenium results in lower cognitive function and greater decline with aging.

WWW.  What Will Work for Me?  This is simple.  We all should take a multivitamin every day.  It will have selenium in it.  And if you are on your DASH diet and getting 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, you get a little bit more, depending on where the food came from.  But you wash out the extra and there hasn’t been any reported toxicity from a multivitamin.  I’m not taking extra, for now.  My brain needs all the help it can get.  It’s the only place I’ve got to keep all my hopes and dreams, and memories

Omni Heart: Part II

Omni Heart:  Part II

Competency #  2 The Dash and Omni Heart Diets

Reference: JAMA. 2005;294:2497-2498.  JAMA 297, 969, 2007 AND Nutrition Action: May 2007

Omni: Optimal Macro Nutrient Intake.  That spells OMNI.  It was a study by the NIH finished in 2005 and first reported in JAMA that recruited 164 people to eat three different diets for 6 weeks each.  The study was done by the same team that brought us the DASH Diet.  They were trying to go the next stage in development.  “Optimal”.

One segment of the study was focused on good carbohydrates.  One was on good fats.  One was on good proteins.  Adding a little more of each to make an emphasis changed the basic “flavor” of each.  That’s what makes the “Mediterranean Diet” different, more olive oil.  But all had the basic DASH foundation, 8-10 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat calcium and small amounts of meat.  Extra protein was added by extra beans and legumes, or extra chicken without the skin.  Extra oil was added with olive or canola oil.  Extra carbs were added by adding TWO extra fruit and vegetable servings, and one WHOLE grain serving.  And sweets, well, a serving of “sweets” was so small (a teaspoon) that the only way to make it work is to save up servings for once a week and do it right and have a whole scoop (just one) of ice cream.

All three dropped blood pressure, like DASH.  All three improved LDLs, the major risk for heart disease.  So, we can win the weight loss war and add some variety to our diet.  Curiously, HDLs dropped on the high protein component, which was not expected.  We’re not sure if that’s a risk or not.  People also reported feeling more full on the protein diet.  And in JAMA, last month, a head to head comparison of Atkins versus Zone versus Learn showed that the Atkins diet lost the most weight.

This is good news.  You can construct what works for you.  Here are some crucial tips.

Good Carbs:  Extra serving of FRUIT, VEGETABLE, BEANS (NOT WHITE BREAD) If you want to eat wheat/rice, you want to see the chunk of the WHOLE GRAIN.

Good Fats:  Up to 5 extra teaspoons of olive oil/canola oil a day.  BUT you have to cut other calories someplace else.  Bacon is not a good fat.

Good Protein:  Add more nuts and beans, poultry, fish.  NOT RED MEAT, BACON, SAUSAGE

Copy this link:  Paste it on your fridge

WWW: What Will Work for Me.  I’m on the journey of adding variety by way of more protein, nuts, fruit, whole grains, beans and legumes to my diet.  In essence, whole foods.  If it’s ground into flour, I’m trying to stay away.  For lunch today, two apples and a tablespoon of peanut butter. For supper, just one dish and a piece of fruit for dessert.  I’m not gaining weight.


RECIPE for Spicy Lentils  SUPERFOOD of the Month (Prep time 10 min.  Cooking 30)

(Making a side dish rich in protein, fiber and whole grain carbs that has some zing to it.)  In India, it’s called “Dal”.  Note, rich in turmeric: brain food.

Soak 2 cups of Masoor Dal (bright orange color – bought at Outpost, Indian Groceries) in water while starting the rest.  Masoor Dal cooks in 20 minutes.  Other lentils take longer to cook and have different flavors.  There are dozens of lentil types.  All will work.

Stir fry:

1 T of canola oil with 1 chopped onion

1 tsp of cumin seed

1 tsp of red pepper (more or less to taste)

1 T of chopped garlic and chopped ginger


Stir for 2 minutes, add the rinsed lentils, stir stir stir

Mix in 1 T of turmeric powder

Add 4-5 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Add water to keep it soup-like

That’s it.  Easy and quick.

To get fancy, you can add

One can of chopped tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes

One can of kidney beans adds another bean flavor

You can add 1 package of chopped coriander to add that delicious taste.  Stir that in just before serving:  All of these are optional to add variety.

Makes a great soup, or side dish, or added to brown rice, or part of a curry meal.  I’ve had many people say they love it as a soup!