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21/Nov/2015

In this months edition we shift gears slightly to focus on a “super-food” most commonly found in the form of a dietary supplement; Spirulina.

Spirulina is a cyanobacteria; meaning that it’s a bacterium which derives its energy through photosynthesis. Cyanobacteria are also commonly known as blue-green algae. Spirulina is commonly made from two strains of cyanobacteria: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima. Although now cultivated around the world, spirulina is found naturally growing in only three lakes: Lake Chenghai (China), Lake Chad (Africa) and Lake Texcoco (Mexico).

Spirulina is available at most health food stores in the form of powder, flake or tablet. Much like Quinoa, Spirulina is a complete protein source, containing all essential amino acids. It is also a source of essential fatty acids and is one of the only vegan friendly reservoirs of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Spirullina’s blue-green pigment is an indicator that it is rich in vitamins and other beneficial anti-oxidants. These antioxidants include, but are not limited to: beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and chlorophyll. The unique blend of antioxidants found in spirulina make it a fascinating health promoting supplement, which has demonstrated benefit in the treatment of HIV, brain health, heavy metal chelation, cardiovascular disease and allergies.

The Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminolgy published a paper that investigated the effect of supplementing rats prone to the development of cognitive disease , similar to Alzheimer’s disease, with spirulina. Alzheimer’s disease is characterized by the deposition of amyloid beta-protein, which is thought to “gum up” the functioning of neurons in the brain. The rats studied were bred to be prone to the deposition of amyloid beta-protein. One group of rats received daily supplementation of 50mg/kg spirulina, another group received 200mg/kg spirulina and the third group did not receive spirulina. Analysis of the rat brains (poor rats) demonstrated a reduction in amyloid beta-protein in both spirulina treated groups. There were also lower levels of oxidative damage in the brains of spirulina treated rats. Therefore spirulina may be a beneficial supplement for the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease in genetically prone individuals.

Back in 1998 a paper was published that investigated the effect of spirulina extract on the growth of HIV in human white blood cells. It was found that extract concentrations ranging between 0.3-1.2 micrograms/ml reduced the growth of HIV by 50%. The authors concluded that spirulina may be a potential agent used for the treatment of retroviruses like HIV.

Aside from a runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing, seasonal allergies are characterized by a relative increase in white blood cells known as TH2 cells. One of the ways TH2 cells increase and cause allergy is by a messenger molecule in the blood called interleukin 4 (IL4). In 2005 the Journal of medicinal food published a study that looked at the blood of individuals with allergic rhinitis before and after supplementing with spirulina. The study was a placebo controlled randomized crossover trial where individuals either received 1g, 2g spirulina or placebo daily for 12 weeks. The blood samples at 12 weeks found that 2g spirulina per day reduced IL4 levels by 32%.

Environmental medicine is an exciting emerging field of medicine that looks at how toxins in our environment effect our health, and more importantly how to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of environmental toxins. There are few natural substances that have demonstrated an ability to promote the excretion of some of these harmful toxins, spirulina is one of them. A study published in 2006 looked at the effect of a spirulina and zinc supplement on individuals in Bangladesh chronically exposed to the toxic metal arsenic. These individuals were given 250mg spirulina extract and 2mg zinc twice daily for 16 weeks. There was a increase in urinary excretion of arsenic (detoxification) at 4 weeks which continued for an additional 2 weeks in individuals taking the spirulina zinc combo. At 16 weeks the spirulina plus zinc combo removed 47.1% arsenic from scalp hair (one of the ways to test for arsenic exposure is through hair analysis), whereas results from placebo were not statistically significant. Other studies have shown that spirulina may also chelate (remove) iron, which can be useful for individuals with toxic amounts of iron in the body but may be counter productive for individuals taking an iron supplement.

It seems that a large part of the health benefits seen through the use of spirulina are due to its unique blend of antioxidants. A laboratory study discovered that cells exposed to harmful chemicals had 4-5 times less apoptosis (cell death) when treated with an aqueous extract of spirulina. Another study demonstrated that a diet supplemented with 0.1% spirulina protects against inflammation and oxidative damage in brain neuronal cells. This same studied showed that spirulina increased the proliferation of neural stem cells which have the ability to replace damaged cells. Spirulina is therefore a promising natural supplement for the field of neural and cognitive health.

A study published in the november 2007 edition of the journal: Lipids in Health and Disease, investigated the effect of spirulina supplementation on cholesterol and blood pressure. Thirty six men and women had blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure measured before the study. They were supplied with 4.5g/day spirulina for 6 weeks. There were no other changes to diet and exercise. After 6 weeks total cholesterol levels decreased by approximately 20 mg/dl, tracylglycerides decreased by approximately 60 mg/dl and HDL (good cholesterol) increased by approximately 10 mg/dl. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure also decreased in participants by approximately 10 mmHg. With all the health promoting benefits of spirulina, it is important to consider a few things before taking this medication. As with every supplement, allergy can occur so be careful to monitor and possible allergic symptoms when taking spirulina for the first time. Spirulina contains the amino acid phenylalanine, which can be harmful for individuals who cannot metabolize this amino acid known as phenylketonuria. Since spirulina is a water born blue-green algae it is important that it is not sourced from a contaminated water source. I would recommend going with a reputable supplement company. Spirulina is a very promising natural dietary supplement whose beneficial effects can be seen in almost every organ system in the body. These effects are likely due to its unique blend of antioxidants. Use this supplement with necessary caution and remember that in nature there exist both beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria, a naturopathic doctor can help to explain the difference and point you in the right direction toward optimal health.


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03/Nov/2015

Like a fine wine, Pu-erh is a variety of tea that is often better with age. Pu-erh is a post-fermentation tea, typically produced in the Yunnan province of China. The tea derives its name from Pu-er county in Yunnan, where trading of this fermented tea took place during imperial China. Pu-erh tea begins it’s life much like green tea but undergoes the process of pressing (compacting the tea into round or brick-like shapes) and then fermentation. Raw Pu-erh has not been artificially fermented and therefore must be aged for several years allowing bacteria and fungi to slowly act of the tea leaf breaking down and transmuting many of the compounds and enzymes in the tea. Ripened Pu-erh is a relatively recent invention where the tea leaf undergoes special processing to mimic aged Raw Pu-erh. Moisture, heat and rotation are some of the conditions employed on the tea in order to accelerate the process of fermentation. A good Pu-erh requires the right amount of aging and the right strains of bacteria and fungi for fermentation. The taste is distinctively earthy with many subtleties.

Much like wine, Pu-erh tea ranges in its quality and vintage. Pu-erh can range from 3-months to 100 years old. Most enthusiasts will agree that the very young or the very old Pu-erh is the best, the middle years are sometimes referred to as “awkward”. Usually a raw Pu-erh will start to develop it’s mature taste after 5 years of aging. Buying Pu-erh can be difficult for the westerner as most authentic Pu-erh (must come from Yunnan to be considered authentic Pu-erh) has little to no english on the package. The best way to ensure that you are getting the quality you’re interested in is to develop a relationship with a tea distributer or manufacturer who is knowledgeable on the subject. There is a Pu-erh out there for every palate and every pocketbook.

Pu-erh tea has been a favourite of monks and is a common ingredient of many health promoting elixirs in China. The fermentation process endows this tea with slightly different compounds than green or black tea and therefore deserves its own scientific investigation. When tea undergoes fermentation, such as is the case with Pu-erh, some health promoting compounds are lost (such as catechin antioxidants); however, others are gained. Recent research has revealed that the concentration of gallic acid (an anti-microbial), a compound called theabrownin, various polysaccharides and enzymes are increased in fermented tea.

Scientific studies performed in the last decade have demonstrated Pu-erh tea to have antimicrobial, fat busting and cholesterol reducing properties. The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry published a study demonstrating that a Pu-erh tea extract (PTE) had an antiviral effect on hepatitis B virus (HBV). The PTE had the ability to suppress the replication of virus DNA, while also exerting antioxidant effects inside cells affected by the virus. The researchers could not pinpoint the exact components that made PTE effective but conclude that it is likely due to a combination of compounds working together. The importance of this study is enhanced due to a small amount of substances currently available to treat HBV.

The journal Nutrition Research published a research paper in June of 2011 investigating the weight reducing effects of Pu-erh tea extract. 36 pre-obese Japanese adults were followed in a 12-week double blinded placebo controlled comparison study. The subjects ingested a barley tea with or without PTE (333mg) before each of three daily meals. The group taking PTE had a reduction in weight and body mass index (BMI) compared to the placebo group. The reductions in weight and body mass were only evident after 8-weeks on the PTE. Computed tomography demonstrated the the PTE group had a significant reduction in visceral fat after 12 weeks. There were no adverse reactions in the PTE treated group. The authors speculate that the weight reducing properties of PTE may be due to the high gallic acid content since prior research has demonstrated gallic acid to have anti-obese effects in animals.

Theabrownin (TB) is another compound found exclusively in Pu-erh tea that has recently been shown to have cholesterol and fat lowering properties. A study in 2010 demonstrated that increases in triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and decreases in HDL cholesterol (also known as good cholesterol) were prevented in rats who were fed a high fat diet and supplemented with TB versus rats fed a high fat diet with no supplemental TB. The content of cholesterol and bile-acids found in the feces of the rats with supplemental TB was significantly higher than that of those rats with no supplemental TB. This suggests that TB could promote the transformation and excretion of dietary cholesterol. Therefore, TB and Pu-erh tea may be a promising supplement in the treatment of high cholesterol.

For centuries, Pu-erh tea has been touted as a great digestive aid. A scientific study in 2010 investigated the molecular composition of polysaccharides isolated from Pu-erh tea. Due to the fermentation process the content of water soluble polysaccharides was increased as well as the content of digestive enzymes including: cellulase, pectinase, and glucoamylase. In theory these enzymes may aid with the the digestion of certain foods when taken with a meal, thus reducing gas and bloating.

While all tea (Chamellia Sinensis) has health promoting qualities, different ways of preparing tea, endow it with slightly different properties. Recent research suggests that the fermentation process that Pu-erh tea undergoes gives this tea a slightly higher complement of gallic acid, polysaccharides and hydrolase enzymes. These compounds have been demonstrated to be useful in weight reduction, intestinal gas reduction and as an antimicrobial. There are no reported adverse effects with drinking this tea aside from those associated with caffeine intake. If you choose to age Pu-erh yourself, many experts recommend a clay pot (to allow the tea to breathe) and to store in a cool dry place away from other odours (as tea will take on odour it is exposed to). If in a compacted form, the tea can be broken up with a knife “called activating the tea” if stored for short term but should be kept in compacted form if storing for over 5 years. The consumption and collection of Pu-erh can quickly become a healthy hobby.


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13/Oct/2015

Title: Reduction in symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia at six weeks using Intravenous Vitamins and Minerals (Myers Cocktail).

Running Header: Myers Cocktail for Fibromyalgia

Author: Dr. Shawn Meirovici N.D.

Physio-Logic 96 Scarsedale Road, Toronto, Ontario, M3B 2R7

Disclaimer: Patient consent was obtained

Key words: Intravenous, Vitamins, Minerals, Fibromyalgia

Abstract: Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal disorder characterized by widespread pain commonly with one or more coexisting symptoms. Treatment often includes both non-pharmacological and pharmacological therapy. Pharmacological therapy includes the use of antidepressants and GABA derivatives with varying success rates and often with unpleasant side effects. Micronutrient infusion is a newer approach with the majority of use in the field of alternative medicine. To date one placebo controlled pilot study has examined its use in fibromyalgia patients noting statistically significant effects on pain and fatigue. The following is a case study using a similar “cocktail” as the one used in the placebo controlled trial, for 4 treatments using the modified visual analogue scale of the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (mVASFIQ) as an endpoint measure. Significant reduction in all parameters of the mVASFIQ was noted at 6 weeks, suggesting that micronutrient infusion should be further investigated as a treatment approach for fibromyalgia.

 

Background: I have a special interest in the treatment of chronic pain. Operating out of a rehabilitation clinic in Toronto, Canada has allowed me the opportunity to work with neurological conditions and traumatic injuries of which chronic pain is often a prevalent symptom. Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain and often involves disruption of many body systems including the gastrointestinal tract. While pharmaceutical intervention is focused on regulating the body’s response to pain, many alternative therapies are focused on restoring function to debilitated body systems. One such treatment is the Myers Cocktail: a intravenous micronutrient therapy that delivers vitamins and minerals directly into the blood stream thereby  bypassing the gastrointestinal tract. There is both a review and placebo controlled pilot study demonstrating intravenous micronutrient therapy as an effective treatment for symptom reduction in fibromyalgia. [1] [2]

 

Introduction: Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain, increased tenderness at specific sites known as “tender points,” un-refreshing sleep, fatigue and cognitive dysfunction not attributable to other disease states. While the etiology of fibromyalgia is not entirely clear, associations with trauma, adverse life events, impaired mood, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, cold intolerance, paresthesias and other medical conditions have been described. The pharmacologic treatment of fibromyalgia ranges from antidepressants to analgesics. Here we are commenting on a novel treatment involving the infusion of vitamins and minerals also known as a Myers Cocktail.

 

Case Presentation: J.M. is a 38-year old female who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2008. Her  symptoms started approximately 10 years ago after enduring a series of traumatic life events. Symptoms included: chronic widespread pain, non-restorative sleep, muscle weakness, morning stiffness, subjective swelling, multiple chemical sensitivities, frequent severe headaches, vestibular dysfunction, TMJ, paresthesia, chronic fatigue, dysmenorrhea, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. J.M. had tried a number of GABA derivatives, antidepressants and analgesics with varying degrees of relief but with significant adverse reactions including aphasia, depression and dyspepsia. At initial presentation, J.M. was taking Wellbutrin 300mg XL daily and Tylenol with Codeine as needed. She felt that she was starting to develop a tolerance to Wellbutrin. She was not taking any dietary supplements and was not on any type of specialized diet or exercise program.

J.M. was prescribed an intravenous infusion Myers Cocktail (B-complex 1ml, Dexpanthenol 250mg, Pyridoxine 100mg, Hydroxocobalamin 1mg, Ascorbic Acid 2000mg, Calcium Chlroide 100mg, Magnesium Chloride 1000mg and Sterile Water 46ml) via 60cc syringe with a 24 Gauge butterfly needle at the right median cubital vein, delivered over 15 minutes once per week for 4 infusion sessions. This patient completed a modified visual analogue scale of the fibromyalgia impact questionnaire (mVASFIQ) at initial consult (Image 1) and again after her final infusion (Image 2). She was also prescribed magnesium malate 1.5 grams per day, 1000iu vitamin D per day and 1mg melatonin at night 30 minutes before sleep. However, J.M. was admittedly not taking these supplements consistently during the 4 weeks of intravenous treatment.

The mVASFIQ score at treatment initiation was: (Fatigue 9.5, Insomnia 9.5, Depression 4.5, Anxiety 6.5, Rigidity 8.5, Pain 8.5, Difficulty with work 8.5) at four weeks the mVASFIQ score was: (Fatigue 3, Insomnia 5, Depression 1, Anxiety 3, Rigidity 3, Pain 3, Difficulty with work 3). Besides mild nausea and flushing during the first treatment no adverse effects were reported.

 

Discussion: Micronutrient infusion delivers vitamins and minerals involved in stress response, muscle contraction and nerve signaling, while able to bypass the need for gastrointestinal absorption. This is an effective delivery method for chronic conditions, such as fibromyalgia, where there is often gastrointestinal disruption as well as the potential for micronutrient deficiencies. The results of this case study demonstrate that micronutrient infusion Myers Cocktail may be an effective treatment for fibromyalgia related symptoms as indicated by a  decreased in symptoms score on mVASFIQ at 6 weeks post treatment. This joins the small collection of evidence for the validity of this treatment for fibromyalgia. More study into this treatment for fibromyalgia is warranted.

 

Confounding Factors: As was outlined in the treatment plan, J.M. received a few dietary supplements on initial consult; however, J.M. admitted to not taking these consistently throughout the 4 intravenous treatments. The patient received all 4 infusions by myself and was not blinded to the treatment. There was also no placebo control. Additionally, the patient may have been influenced by the doctor patient relationship or through placebo effect. However the significant improvement observed within a relatively short time helps to validate the results of this study.

[1] Intravenous Micronutrient Therapy (Myers’ Cocktail) for Fibromyalgia: A Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study, Ather et al., The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 15, Number 3, 2009, pp. 247-257

[2] Myers’ Cocktail, Dr. Alan Gaby M.D., Alternative Medicine Review, Volume 7, Number 5, 2002.

 Image 1

Table 1

mVASFIQ for J.M. on July 18th 2015 (patient incorrectly marked X in box rather than a check through the appropriate line, therefore, results have +/- 0.5 confidence interval.

Image 2

Table 2

mVASFIQ for J.M August 28th 2015.


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28/Sep/2015

Pumpkin is a gourd-like squash of the Cucurbitaceae family. The origin of the pumpkin is not definitively known although it is thought to have originated in North America. Pumpkin is a very versatile food; almost every part of the vegetable is edible (shell, seeds, pulp, leaves, flowers). Although the taste and uses of pumpkin as a food may be common knowledge, especially around this time of year, the medicinal properties of pumpkin can often be overlooked.

The color of pumpkin can be attributed to the pigmented carotenoids beta and alpha carotene, the latter of which generates vitamin A in our body. Pumpkin also contains lutein making it an excellent menu choice to maintain eye health. Pumpkin seeds are often roasted and make an excellent snack in the fall and wintertime. Pumpkin seeds have many health benefits, which include a good source of zinc, tryptophan, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and phytosterols. These nutrients help to promote immune system, cardiovascular, and reproductive health.

Diabetes

There have been several studies over the past decade investigating the effect of extracts of pumpkin on diabetes. One of the most recent studies found that mice who were fed a pumpkin paste concentrate maintained a lower blood sugar level than the control group. The authors were able to isolate two compounds from the pumpkin paste (trigonelline and nicotinic acid) which seem to have an ability to regulate enzymes involved in triglyceride accumulation and the progression of diabetes.

Another study, looked at a major complication of diabetes; kidney damage, and whether pumpkin can be used to prevent its progression. This 2010 study in the journal of Food Chemical Toxicology used a mixture of flax and pumpkin seed in the diets of rats with alloxan-induced diabetes. The flax and pumpkin seed mixture was able to quench free radicals and increase the level of antioxidants in the blood of the diabetic rats. Furthermore, on kidney biopsy, rats fed the seed mixture had less glomerular hypertrophy and tubular dilatation, meaning healthier kidneys.

Prostate

The application for pumpkin seed oil in prostate health has been a popular topic of scientific investigation. A recent double blind placebo controlled trial investigated the efficacy of supplementation of pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil in middle-aged Korean men with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). The trial was performed over 1 year on 47 patients with BPH. The patients received either potato starch (320 mg/day), or pumpkin seed oil (320 mg/day), or saw palmetto oil (320 mg/day) or a mixture of both pumpkin seed and saw palmetto oil (320 mg/day). The groups taking pumpkin seed and saw palmetto oils all saw a decrease in symptoms and an increase in quality of life after 3 months. Serum prostate specific antigen (a laboratory marker of prostate pathology) was reduced in the group taking a mixture of pumpkin and saw palmetto oil after 3 months. Urinary output (which is obstructed in many cases of BPH) improved in both the group taking pumpkin seed oil and the group taking saw palmetto oil at 6 and 12 months respectively. The study concluded by saying that pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto oil supplementation is clinically safe and may be used as an effective complementary therapy for BPH.

When ripe, pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed or roasted. It can be eaten mashed or as a base for soups, purees and pies. I hope that you now see a whole world of possibilities for this incredible orange vegetable. Pumpkins are lonely after Halloween, so take one home and experiment in the kitchen.

Links

Pumpkin may be a good addition to the plate for Diabetes. Be sure to include exercise into any successful type 2 diabetes treatment protocol.

Check out this article on Exercise and Diabetes 


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10/Sep/2015

Apple is the fruit from the tree Malus Domestica, a member of the rose family (Rosaceae) which also includes Peaches. The apple tree originated in western asia and was brought to north america in the 17th century.

Thousands of years of cultivation has lead to many varieties of apples differing in texture and taste.  I personally enjoy Russet for its sophistication of flavor and Honey Crisp for its crispy sweetness. The wide variety of apples make them a great fruit to enjoy on their own or to prepare into other foods. Apples are now in season, making it a great time to go to a local orchard and experience the taste of a freshly picked apple.

The proverb “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” dates back to 19th century Whales. There are many healthy compounds found in apples, such as: antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Recent research has focused on investigating the health benefits of the polyphenols found in apple peel.

A study published in the Journal of Pharmacology in July of 2010 demonstrated that an apple peel polyphenol extract (APPE) protected colorectal cells against the cytotoxic effects associated with consumption of the anti-inflammatory drug indometacin. APPE was shown to have free-radical scavenging ability, preventing mitochondrial (the energy production center of the cell) oxidative damage induced by indometacin.

A study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry in June 2010 revealed that APPE may have a role to play in the treatment and prevention of H. pylori infection. The study concluded that doses of 150 and 300 mg/kg/day of APPE showed an inhibitory effect on H. Pylori attachment to the stomach lining. Furthermore, APPE also showed an anti-inflammatory effect on H. Pylori associated gastritis.

The same journal contained a study published in May 2010 demonstrating the liver protective effects of apple polyphenols. The study concluded that apple polyphenols had significant effect against acute liver damage induced in mice. The authors speculate that the effect may be due to the free radical scavenging, inhibition of fat oxidation and increased antioxidant activity of apple polyphenols.

In the same month, the same journal published a study demonstrating that apple juice containing apple polyphenols can actually inhibit the activity of toxins produced by staphylococcus. A toxin which effects the intestine known as “staphylococcal enterotoxin A” is a common culprit of gastroenteritis. The apple polyphenols studied here were shown to bind to the enterotoxin rendering it biologically inactive.

In Naturopathic medicine, as with all health care models, safety is never taken for granted; even when dealing with relatively natural substances. It is necessary to seek out, if possible, studies demonstrating the safety profile of a medicinal substance. The Journal of Oleo Science published a study this year evaluating the safety of excessive intake and efficacy of long-term intake of beverages containing apple polyphenols. Subjects were either given a normal dose (340g/day) of apple polyphenols for 12 weeks or three times the normal dose (1020g/day) of apple polyphenols for 4 weeks. There were no adverse reactions noted in either trial. The study also found that the consumption of the apple polyphenols led to a significant reduction in visceral fat area of subjects who were above normal range at baseline, with no change in visceral fat area in subjects in normal range at baseline.

As I have mentioned in previous articles, I especially like studies that evaluate consumption of the whole food over time. The European Journal of Cancer Prevention published a study in January of 2010 that evaluated the effect of regular consumption of apples on colorectal cancer risk in populations with low intake of fruits and vegetables (i.e. most north american populations). The study revealed that while there was more than a 30% reduction in cancer risk with just one apple a day, risk was reduced to around 50% with intake of more than one apple per day. The authors speculate that the beneficial effect may result from the rich content of flavonoid and other polyphenols, which can inhibit cancer onset and cell proliferation.

It seems the old proverb is true, so enjoy your apple, or better yet, more than one apple a day and remember to always have the peel too.


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17/Aug/2015

The tomato is one of the most commonly cultivated and consumed foods in North America. The tomato is a member of the nightshade family, including potato and eggplant. Some individuals may have an allergy or sensitivity to this family of foods, which is something that can be tested for through your Naturopathic Doctor or allergist.

There are many varieties of tomatoes, including Beefsteak, Plum, Cherry and Heirloom. No matter what variety, all tomatoes contain a multitude of beneficial vitamins, minerals and molecular compounds. One such compound is lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in tomatoes, carrots, watermelons and papayas, and gives these fruits their red-orange colour. This pigment acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting the fruit from free-radical damage [free radicals are electron hungry ions that cause damage to other molecules by stealing their electrons]. Free radicals are formed in multiple ways including stress and prolonged sun exposure. Lycopene has a similar effect in our bodies as it does in the fruit, helping to quench free radicals in our blood and tissues. Some studies have found lycopene to be 100 times more potent than vitamin E as an antioxidant. Interestingly, one study found that eating tomatoes consistently for 10-12 weeks before sun exposure, provided individuals with increased protection against sunburn.

Besides lycopene, tomatoes contain a multitude of other beneficial compounds. Tomato skins contain a compound called naringenin chalcone, which has anti-allergy properties, helping to stabilize histamine releasing cells. A randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial (RCT) done on 33 individuals with seasonal allergies used tomato extract (from tomato peels and seeds) or placebo for 8 weeks in order to determine if tomato extract can alleviate some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies. The study found that sneezing, runny nose and blocked nose were all decreased in the tomato extract group while the placebo group had no significant change. Furthermore quality of life was reported to be increased in the group that took tomato extract.

Tomatoes have also been shown to be very beneficial for preventing cardiovascular disease. One of the ways tomatoes do this is by inhibiting blood clotting in individuals prone to inflammation. An RCT done in 2006 by the American Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that in blood samples given by healthy individuals 3 hours after consuming a tomato extract, platelet aggregation was significantly reduced. Furthermore in individuals with high levels of plasma homocysteine and C-reactive protein (laboratory markers of inflammation) inhibition of platelet aggregation was most pronounced. The authors concluded that tomato extract may have a role in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease by reducing platelet activation, which could contribute to a reduction in thrombotic events.

Tomatoes have a very important role to play in the treatment and prevention of several types of cancer. A clinical trial in 2002 investigated the effects of lycopene supplementation in individuals with prostate cancer. Twenty-six men with prostate cancer were randomly assigned to receive a tomato extract containing 30 mg of lycopene or nothing, 3 weeks before prostatectomy. After 3 weeks the prostatic tissue was evaluated. The results demonstrated that in the group taking the tomato extract, the tumours were smaller and less diffuse. Prostate specific antigen levels (a laboratory marker for prostate cancer) were lower in the intervention group compared to the control group.


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04/Aug/2015

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has been used as a culinary spice and as medicine for centuries. In Ayurvedic medicine ginger is known as “The Universal Medicine” and forms the basis of countless traditional treatments. In terms of everyday use, ginger is known to prepare the body for digestion and assimilation of nutrients as well as to warm the body during cool winter months. In the last decade, research into the properties of ginger has revealed anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-nausea and gastrointestinal protective properties.

In relation to ginger’s gastroprotective properties, an aqueous extract of ginger has been shown to prevent stress induced and alcohol induced gastrointestinal ulcers. Ginger was also shown to prevent the growth of harmful H-pylori bacteria.

The anti-nausea properties of ginger have long been known, and ginger can often be found in medications for nausea and vomiting. A recent study in the journal of gynecological oncology demonstrated that randomized control trials have proven that ginger is an effective agent in alleviating post-chemotherapy nausea.

Extensive study into the anti-tumor properties of ginger has been accomplished in the last decade. One study determined that a ginger extract reduces expression of NF-KappaBeta and TumorNecrosisFactor-alpha (compounds which cause inflammation in the body and are up-regulated in cancer) in rats with liver cancer. Another study revealed that [6]-gingerol (one of the compounds that makes ginger pungent) suppresses hepatoma (liver tumor) cell proliferation by inducing cell cycle arrest (stopping cancer cell growth) and apoptosis induction (causing cancer cells to self-destruct). A study looking into the benefits of ginger in ovarian cancer revealed that 6-shogaol (another pungent compound in ginger) inhibited NF-kB (inflammatory compound) as well as diminished secretion of VEGF and IL-8 (compounds secreted by cancer cells to tell the body to form new blood vessels to feed the cancer cells).


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27/Jul/2015

The Acai berry is somewhat of a health food phenomenon. In the past decade Acai has received massive amounts of attention in the media and in marketing largely to do with its potential as a weight-loss supplement. The truth is that, although a wonderful dietary addition with many antioxidants, this small grape-like fruit is not likely the weight-loss, superfood, miracle it has been hyped to be.

The Acai berry, is the fruit of the Acai palm tree native to central and south America. The Acai fruit is a common staple of the Brazilian diet. In the northern state of Para Acai is sometimes served in gourds called “cuias” with tapioca. In the south of Brazil the Acai pulp is commonly served cold in a bowl with granola and is used to flavour ice cream and juice. The pulp has many vitamins, minerals, oils and is rich in the dark purple coloured antioxidant known as anthocyanidins. One cannot dispute that the consumption of this berry is a healthy addition to the Brazilian diet but we would be greatly mistaken to infer that the archetypal slim, toned and tanned Brazilian body is a result of this berry.

It is difficult to pinpoint when and how Acai berry infused with north american health food culture, and furthermore how it became hyped up as a weight-loss super food. Two likely influences in Acai’s rise to fame were the success of multi-level-marketing company “MonaVie” circa 2004, which distributes an Acai containing beverage supplement with claims of weight-loss and other loosely confirmed health benefits. There have also been numerous misuses of celebrity names such as, “Oprah Winfrey”, by supplement companies promoting weight-loss Acai supplements. In 2008, lawyers from the “Oprah Winfrey Show” began investigating statements from supplement manufacturers who alleged that Dr. Mehmet Oz had recommended their product or Acai in general for weight loss.

With all this controversy it is difficult to not be either pro-Acai or anti-Acai, however, I would suggest maintaining a middle ground on the issue. It is important to remember that Acai is a fruit first and foremost, and that like most fruit it has many health benefits but few miracles. I will now outline some of the current research being done on the benefits of Acai.

As mentioned earlier, Acai is rich in antioxidants, however, it is not particularly more endowed than its dark purple north american counterparts. In 2008 the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry published a paper that compared the antioxidant potency of commonly consumed juice beverages in the U.S. The researchers looked at multiple measures of antioxidant capacity such as: total oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC), free radical scavenging and ferric reducing antioxidant capacity. The findings in order of most to least potent were as follows: pomegranate juice, red wine, concord grape juice, blueberry juice, black cherry juice, Acai juice, cranberry juice, orange juice, ice tea beverages and apple juice. Therefore, the Acai juice used in the study had a similar antioxidant capacity to black cherry and cranberry juice. It scored hIgher than orange and apple juice but lower than pomegranate, grape and blueberry juice.

The claim that Acai is beneficial in the overweight population is not completely unfounded but has more implication in the reduction of blood sugar and cholesterol than of body fat. This year, the Journal of Nutrition published a study that investigated the effect of Acai fruit pulp in a group of overweight adults. Ten overweight adults with body mass indexes (BMI) ranging from 25-30 took 100g Acai pulp twice per day for one month. Results demonstrated a reduction in fasting glucose, insulin levels total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol after 30-days of treatment.

There is also some research to suggest that Acai fruit pulp can help protect DNA from damage. The journal of Mutation Research published a paper in 2010 that investigated the protective effect of Acai pulp on the DNA of mice treated with the DNA damaging chemical Doxorubicin. The investigators found that Acai pulp protects against DNA damage when given to the mice prior to Doxorubicin exposure. The issue with this study is that the mice were force fed large quantities of Acai pulp, 3.3, 10.0, 16.67 g/kg by weight. An average human male is 70kg, meaning the therapeutic dosage would have to be between 230-1167grams. This approximately equates to 1-5 hamburger sized doses of Acai pulp per day.

Perhaps the most interesting research on Acai in the past decade has been in the field of medical imaging. The journal of computer assisted tomography published an article in 2009 investigating the feasibility of using Acai pulp as an internal contrast agent for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). MRI technicians noticed a marked improvement in the depiction of the gastrointestinal tract in patients who consumed Acai pulp prior to MRI. The patients found the pulp to be palatable and no side effects were reported.

Further research may reveal Acai to be the weight-loss miracle food we all hoped it to be, but for now we can only draw the following conclusions:

-Acai is a palatable fruit with a relatively generous amount of antioxidants

-Acai pulp has beneficial effect on blood glucose, cholesterol levels and therefore may be a smart dietary inclusion for individuals with high blood sugar, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

-Feel free to eat large amounts of Acai pulp, the antioxidant compliment will protect against DNA damage.

-If your doctor requests to have MRI imaging of your gastrointestinal tract, remember to request Acai as your contrast agent of choice.

-Do not waste your money on Acai weight-loss supplements. Exercise, a healthy-diet and green tea all have far more data in support of them being a helpful lifestyle addition to promote weight-loss.


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22/Jul/2015

Broccoli is a member of the mustard/cabbage family known as the Brassicacea. Members of this family contain a multitude of compounds that have been and are currently being studied for their health promoting and chronic disease mitigating properties. These compounds include: Diindolymethane (DIM), Sulforaphane, Isothiocyanates and Glucoraphanin. Aside from these specialized compounds, broccoli is also a good source of vitamin C, K, A and fibre.

When investigating nutritional therapy, the most relevant clinical trials are usually those done on a population of people whom are actually consuming significant quantities of the food in question.

A study done in 2008 investigating broccoli’s role in protection against prostate cancer followed a group of men who were either given 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week as a dietary addition for 12 months. Samples of prostatic tissue were analyzed before and after the intervention. The results indicated that the group receiving broccoli displayed significant beneficial effects with regard to signalling pathways involved in prostate cancer growth and generalized inflammation. The effects were especially significant in men possessing a gene involved in detoxification “GSTM1” which represents approximately 50% of the population. There were no significant changes in the pea group. Analysis revealed that Sulforaphane was responsible for many of the beneficial effects of broccoli consumption.

In 2003 an epidemiological study was done in Shanghai, China, which investigated the correlation between the development of breast cancer in women and consumption of Brassicacea. The participants levels of Brassicacea consumption were measured by urine output of Isothiocyanates, (compounds in Brassicacea vegetables which help induce phase 2 detoxification). Results indicated a significant reduction in breast cancer in women with high urine levels of Isothiocyanates, therefore a high level of Brassicacea consumption.

An interesting study done in 2001 examined the protective role of Brassicacea on heterocyclic aromatic amine (HAA) metabolism. HAA’s are compounds produced in grilled foods (those yummy charred lines and smoky flavours you get when BBQ’ing your favourite foods. Although tasty, HAA’s are associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, especially colon cancer. By measuring urinary excretion of certain metabolites from HAA’s investigators were able to conclude that metabolism of HAA’s is enhanced after eating a diet rich in Brassicacea vegetables.

As testament to the power of broccoli and other Brassicacea in health promotion, chemotherapy agents (such as C-DIM’s) have been synthesized using the naturally occurring compounds in this group of vegetables.

It is important to note that prolonged heat exposure will damage the beneficial compounds in broccoli, especially Sulforaphane. Studies suggest that in order to preserve these disease fighting compounds, low heat (such as used in steaming) and short term heat exposure (less than 10 minutes) are key points to remember when preparing Broccoli. Naturally, you can eat it raw too.


dr_shawn

Patient focused integrative health care. Utilizing effective natural approaches designed to be used alone or to compliment conventional medical care.


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