Thursday, July 31, 2008

Children's Life Spans Now Expected to be Shorter than Parents

For the first time in modern history, children's life spans are expected to be shorter than their parents.

In 2005 the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine asked the troubling question, "Why are we witnessing the forecast of a decline in life expectancy in the next generation in the face of being the most medicated society the world has ever seen?"1

Well, part of the answer lies in their question. We are the most heavily medicated society the world has ever seen! Every year there are over 2.2 million adverse drug reactions in the U.S., and 106,000 of those result in the patients' death.2 One person dies every 3-5 minutes of causes traceable to side effects of approved and properly prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, which is almost five times the number of deaths caused by illicit drugs.3 Yet, incredibly, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently urged doctors to begin prescribing cholesterol-lowering statin drugs - now thought to be a possible cause of brain cell damage - to 8-YEAR OLD children!
So the methods of the ultra-conservative medical community ("ultra-conservative" meaning that they use only drugs and surgery as the primary methods of care, and shun "alternative" and "complementary" methods such as supplementation, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc) unfortunately have much to do with why children are not expected to live as long as their parents. In fact, iatrogenic disease, or death by medicine, is now considered to be the leading killer of Americans, taking more lives annually than heart disease or cancer.4 It is statistics like these that is causing a mammoth shift in the thinking of many open-minded medical practitioners.

The Childhood Obesity Factor
According to a 2004 report by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 1 in every 6 children are now considered "obese," and nearly 1 in 3 are classified as "overweight." The same report went on to say that the obesity rate in children age 6-11 has more than doubled since 1980, and it has tripled in children ages 12-19. Lack of exercise and horrific eating habits are to blame for this cataclysmic shift.

Being overweight is known to significantly increase the risk for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and dementia, and the probability of these maladies manifesting increases profoundly the earlier in life that a person experiences unfavorable shifts in body composition.

What We Can Do to Protect our Children
In consideration of the above statistics, it would seem prudent to endeavor to refrain from medicating our children at all except in times of emergencies or life-threatening conditions. Furthermore, efforts to govern our children's diets and encourage physically-active forms of recreation rather than the sedentary kinds (i.e. TV, video games, etc) could result in improvements in children's health that are so profound that on-going use of medications for many conditions may no longer be necessary.

A first step toward that end would be to pay attention to the glycemic index of the food our children are eating, especially as it relates to the first meal of the day.

A report in Pediatrics in 1999 demonstrated that "Voluntary energy intake after the high-GI meal was...81% greater than after the low-GI meal." In other words, kids tend to crave less sugar when they fill up on the right kinds of foods. However, "The rapid absorption of glucose after consumption of high-GI meals induces a sequence of hormonal and metabolic changes that promote excessive food intake in obese subjects." In other words, the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you crave. Sugar is indeed an addiction.

How to Kick the Sugar Addiction in Kids
Zig Ziglar, in his book and audio series entitled, Raising Positive Kids in a Negative World, emphasizes the importance of diet in children's behavior and development. In addressing the issue of the difficulty in getting kids to eat better, he tells the story of a man showing off his dog to a neighbor. The neighbor asked, "What do you feed him?", to which the owner of the dog replied, "Carrots." "Carrots!?", exclaimed the neighbor. "My dog would never eat carrots." The owner calmly replied, "My dog wouldn't either....for the first five days."

In other words, after five days of eating nothing, the dog was hungry enough to eat anything set before him. And Zig Ziglar's point was to take exactly the same approach with stubborn children.

While this may seem cruel to soft-hearted parents, Ziglar assures his listeners that children will not allow themselves to go hungry. They may turn up their noses the first several meals, but if the same plate that they originally rejected is set before them time and again with no other options in the cabinets, they WILL eventually hungrily devour anything set before them without any need for prodding or yelling. And if parents can themselves observe a healthy diet and remove temptations from the cupboards, then everyone wins, and children will reap the benefits. Eating habits, whether good or bad, will nearly always follow children into adulthood.

Medical Foods to the Rescue
In an effort to help parents address the monumentally important task of dietary modification in children, I recommend the use of the landmark medical food, Ultra Meal. Available in several flavors in both the powdered drink mix form and the form of a bar, Ultra Meal is designed especially for the needs of both overweight adults and children. It is a nutrient-dense, low-glycemic, good tasting supplement to the diet packed with micronutrients. It is a healthy alternative to snacks and desserts. It could even be used as a total meal replacement.

Several pilot trials and university studies show consistent improvement in body composition, cardiovascular markers, blood sugar, and metabolic rates among Ultra Meal users as compared to over-the-counter drink mixes or dietary modification alone. (Click here to access one of the studies.)

Any way you slice it, achieving weight loss takes effort, especially in children who may not be terribly motivated to give up their Cheerios and Pop-Tarts for breakfast. But it MUST be done if we truly care about the longterm health of our kids. Allowing them to eat whatever they want to their hearts desires so that they develop body composition, health, and behavorial consequences for which they are then medicated with toxic drugs is not, in the humble opinion of this blogger, responsible parenting. But policing their dietary habits, difficult as that may be, is a true demonstration of love because of the longterm health benefits for possibly generations to come.


1. N Engl J Medicine 2005; 352: March 17

2. Lazarou J, Pomeranz BH, Corey PN. Incidence of Adverse Drug Reactions in Hospitalized Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. JAMA 1998 Apr 15;279(15). 1200-5.

3. Brennan TA, et al, Incidence of Adverse Events and Negligence in Hospitalized Patients, N Engl J Medicine 324(6); Feb 7, 1991: 370-376.

4. Dean C, Feldman M, Null G, Rasio D, Death by Medicine, Nutrition Institute of America, 2003-2004,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dispelling the Whole Food Supplement Myths

There is quite a bit of misunderstanding these days about the value of whole food supplements versus isolated compounds like vitamin C. I have been surprised at how many lay persons and practitioners alike have not come to fully understand this debate, so my purpose here is to attempt to dispel truth from error, research versus hypothesis.

What are Whole Food Supplements?
In quoting a popular online resource and advocate for natural health, “Whole food supplements are what their name suggests: Supplements made from concentrated whole foods. The vitamins found within these supplements are not isolated. They are highly complex structures that combine a variety of enzymes, coenzymes, antioxidants, trace elements, activators and many other unknown or undiscovered factors all working together synergistically, to enable this vitamin complex to do its job in your body.”

That is a very accurate explanation of what whole food supplements are. What is not being said, however, is that in order to make supplements out of whole foods, manufacturers have to freeze dry the food sources – perhaps destroying much of the enzyme content, turn them into powder, and then tablet or encapsulate them.

Let’s attempt to understand this from the perspective of common sense. Let’s say the manufacturer wants to make a supplement containing whole carrot. That might seem like a good idea, right? But by the time the carrot is freeze dried and turned into tablets, how much of all the natural constituents of the carrot are you actually getting? After all, the carrot is in teeny-tiny tablets now. So each tablet is smaller – much smaller – than a single bite of the carrot. So it stands to reason that you end up with much smaller amounts of the nutrients in the supplement than you would from just eating the carrot…and you would have spent much less money eating the carrot compared to buying the supplement.

Is Isolating Nutrients “Unnatural”?
Again quoting the online doctor, “The perfect example of this difference [between whole food supplements versus micronutrient isolates] can be seen in an automobile. An automobile is a wonderfully designed complex machine that needs all of its parts to be present and in place to function properly. Wheels are certainly an important part of the whole, but you could never isolate them from the rest of the car, call them a car or expect them to function like a car. They need the engine, body and everything else.”

The un-named doctor making these statements is well-read and intelligent, and I agree with most of what I have read from him. This is one of the few times, however, where I believe he has made a serious error. His analogy, unfortunately, is frankly not a very good one, with due respect to him. Plants and the nutrient complexes within them are vastly more sophisticated and mysterious than an automobile. I can show you how an automobile comes together on the assembly line, but I cannot tell you how a seed falls to the ground, works itself into the soil, sprouts roots and a stalk, and then grows and thrives all by itself, providing constituents perfectly designed for benefit in human biology. It is nothing short of a Divinely-designed miracle that none of us have any idea how to wrap our minds around. But a car? The complexities of a car compared to a plant are not even worthy of comparison.

A wheel, for example, has almost no benefit apart from the car, that’s true. But that is certainly not true of isolated living nutritive substances like vitamin C, vitamin D, lycopene, limonene, green tea catechins, etc. The fact is, this doctor’s statement sounds sensible to the uneducated lay person, but it is void of support in the scientific literature.

Before I expound further, allow me to quote the good doctor one last time:

“Taking these isolated nutrients, especially at the ultra-high doses found in formulas today, is more like taking a drug. Studies show the body treats these isolated and synthetic nutrients like xenobiotics (foreign substances).”

The doctor mentions studies, but he fails to reference any in the article. No double-blind placebo controlled trials are used to support his assertion. (And out of respect for this doctor and his otherwise good work I will not say what I really think about his above statement, except to say it is very, very wrong.) For that matter, no study of any kind was referenced, but he simply references three other authors at the end of his article, one of which has ties with a whole food supplement company. The fact is, there are no studies to support such a statement. Now, if he is referring to chemical variations of certain nutrients, like dl-tocopherol versus natural forms of vitamin E like alpha tocopherol, then that’s different. I would agree if that’s the case. But he didn’t say that. He implied that ALL “isolated” nutrients are “synthetic,” and that simply is not accurate.

For example, Alpha tocopherol, beta tocopherol, and delta tocopherol are all plant-based vitamin E isolates which have rich support in the scientific literature for their various biochemical benefits. DL-tocopherol is a cheap chemical variation of vitamin E and cannot be compared with its natural counterparts. Some isolates are indeed synthetic in that sense, but to say that all nutritive isolates are synthetic and unhealthy is like saying one kernel of corn is synthetic if it is not still attached to the ear and stalk. It simply doesn’t make sense.

What Does the Research Say?
The fact is, the third-party research supporting the efficacy of whole food supplements is almost non-existent, while the amount of research supporting the safety and efficacy of high-potency isolates for various disease states and even prevention is massive. There are over 12,000 studies alone on EPA and DHA, the two ISOLATED fatty acids from fish oil. And if I were to count up the number of studies showing the obvious benefit of all manner of isolated compounds from various plants, I wouldn’t have room to list them.

The Journal of the American Medical Association even demonstrated the benefit of isolating certain plant compounds for use in cancer patients in their 1995 article, How Phytochemicals Help Fight Disease. They showed that researchers worked out how many oranges one would have to eat every day to get a therapeutic level of a compound called limonene for use in cancer patients. The answer was 400 oranges per day! Yet providing limonene in isolated form prevented and even reversed cancer in laboratory animals.

Just the Facts, Please!
Sometimes I feel like Detective Friday from the old Dragnet series. I just want to say to people sometimes, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Like many who read this blog (and thanks for doing so), I’m not really that interested in someone’s opinion, in conjecture, educated guesses, marketing hype, or even anecdotal reports. I want to know what the research says, and so far I have seen ZERO research on the benefits of freeze drying turnips and chick peas and making vitamin tablets out of them. But I have seen more research than I can even wade through that show the benefits of adding certain isolated nutritive substances to the diet. If research begins to emerge showing an obvious advantage to taking whole food supplements over isolates, then I will be the first to reverse direction. But until that time I have to go where the research leads.

To qualify, I never said that no one ever got a positive response from using a whole food supplement. I’m certain that there is some nutritive value in whole food supplements, but it is my humble opinion that whatever value they offer is not to be compared with simply eating the fresh, unaltered whole food that the supplements came from. And the suggestion some people are making that whole food supplements are somehow superior to isolating certain compounds in therapeutic amounts is….well…misguided.

The Bottom Line
Ultimately, I think this argument suggesting that whole food supplements best representing what Mother Nature had in mind sells nature terribly short. The whole food advocates, sincere as they are, preach that isolated compounds of plants are somehow useless if they are not combined with the other constituents of the plants. I must respectfully but emphatically disagree. I personally believe that that thinking fails to acknowledge the grandeur and exquisite design of God’s creation. I think that God in His wisdom created plants for at least two reasons: 1) to support and nourish human and animal life, and 2) to provide therapeutic substances for medicinal purposes.

God, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there would be a population of the human race who would be living in the most toxic, disease-infested, and nutritionally-deficient time in history, and who would need therapeutic amounts of certain substances to combat chronic disease. And He has made provisions for the discovery through modern technology of these various nutritive isolates. Indeed, modern technology demonstrates the wisdom of our Creator in putting these incredible substances in the plants that we eat and use for medicine.

So is it really that much of a stretch to imagine that God’s design of plants was for many purposes? Cherry trees, for example, provide humans with a high quality wood with numerous uses, produces oxygen to breathe, they grow tasty fruit for food, and that same fruit contains wonderful phytochemicals that are medicinal. It is very obvious that plants have numerous uses, and so with due honor to the whole food supplement advocates, I would like to respectfully suggest that the whole-foods-only argument is probably well-intentioned, but is also myopic and archaic. It limits what I believe God had in mind in creating various plants, which is for food in the whole food form, and for medicinal purposes with the individual constituents they contain.

Thank you God, for Your incredible creation! I’m off now to take my multivitamin.


A great choice for foundational nutrition support can be found in the Wellness Essentials line of products, each one containing 4 products (Multigenics multiple formula, EPA DHA fish oil, and 2 others depending on the application) packaged together in one unit. All are great micronutrient blends to add to your whole foods diet. :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Managing Inflammation, Part 4: Autoimmunity

In my final installment of the inflammation series, the last but certainly not least issue we need to consider is that of the autoimmune connection with inflammation and how it occurs.

Autoimmunity leading to chronic and systemic inflammation can be multi-faceted, but perhaps the most important connection to consider is that of its origin in the gut.

Unbeknownst to many, the gut appears to be the command center for many important biological processes not related specifically to digestion. For example, approximately 70% of the body’s serotonin is made in the GI, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-70% of the body’s immune defenses are concentrated in the Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). When there are problems with immune compromise it can often be linked to gut health.
As it relates to autoimmunity, here’s a simplistic understanding of how it happens.
The gut mucosa is a filtering system of sorts, allowing through very small digested particles, such as amino acids from digested proteins. It can be likened to a screen door which is porous but allows through only the tiniest particles. However, because of disruptions in gut flora through dietary insults and damage to the mucosa itself because of toxins and various pharmaceuticals, particularly antiobiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, the mucosa becomes more like chicken-wire, allowing through very large undigested particles, such as intact proteins.

An intact protein is not supposed to be wandering around in systemic circulation, so even though proteins are necessary in the diet, the immune system doesn’t recognize an intact protein as friendly like it does individual amino acids. Thus, an intact protein will mobilize the body’s immune defenses. The immune system sends out antibodies to attach themselves to the foreign protein, just like it would any bacteria or virus. And then the killer cells identify the targeted substances and blast away until it is destroyed.

However, intact proteins present a unique problem. Sometimes they can resemble other proteins that are part of the body, such as proteins that make up the synovial membranes of the joints. In the case of autoimmunity, the immune system is so busy carrying out its search-and-destroy mission on undigested proteins that it will target anything with a similar shape. So it gets confused and targets host tissue. Thus the term, antigenic mimicry.

It is well established in the scientific literature that certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have an autoimmune connection linked to intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome. So one important step in modifying the immune system and cooling inflammation is to heal the gut mucosa with probiotics first and foremost to inoculate the gut with friendly and healing bacteria, but also with other supportive and nutritive substances like L-glutamine. Together, these approaches can begin the process of healing a leaky gut mucosa and turning off the –over activated immune system.

Deficiencies of certain substances, most notably vitamin D, zinc, and selenium, have also been linked to a malfunctioning immune system that doesn’t know when to shut down.

Several pilot trials have been performed on these substances in patients with autoimmune conditions at the Functional Medicine Research Center to determine the efficacy of specific supplementation in patients with conditions such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. A combination of probiotics with featuring B. Lactis and the NCFM strain of acidophilus; a formula containing reduced iso-alpha acid from hops, vitamin D3, and zinc; an anti-inflammatory medical food, and high potency EPA and DHA from fish oil was used in these patients with remarkable success. I have attached graphs depicting the results of these studies below, and you can also click here to access the paper one of these trials.

'MSQ' scores below represent the Multiple Symptoms Questionnaire results

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Managing Inflammation, Part 3: The Kinase Connection

A diagram showing the ribbon-like
structure of the CaMKII protein kinase.
A new era of understanding the human body is emerging. Soon the concept of biochemical pathways will be as antiquated as Charles Darwin’s understanding of the human cell as a simplistic blob. The electron microscope proved that the human cell was far beyond what Darwin could ever have imagined (and thus placed his theory on shaky ground since he himself wrote that his theories about evolution were based upon the understanding that cells were simplistic), and recent scientific discoveries are proving that even the concept of biochemical pathways are elementary.

Think of it this way: In your hometown there is probably a Main Street. But Main Street is not the only street in town. It is simply a primary thoroughfare within a network of intersecting streets.

Similarly, a pathway is simply an intersecting side street in a huge network of other streets, or other messaging signals.

The human kinome is like the map of a large metropolitan city, complete with main thoroughfares, secondary streets, and alleyways. The kinome is literally a network of kinases, or biochemical signals.

When you eat an organic salad, for example, a set of kinases are activated which send messages throughout the body which result in strength and vitality. However, when you eat a Big Mac with French fries and a chocolate milkshake, another set of kinases are activated which send signals that result in inflammation, fat cell accumulation, degeneration, and endocrine imbalance.

When a person has lived a lifestyle of being sedentary and eating highly processed nutrient-depleted convenience foods, certain kinases, such as glycogen synthase kinase-3 (GSK-3), can get stuck in the “on” position, and even initial efforts to eat better, exercise, and supplement the diet can yield little results because inflammatory signals are still coursing through the body systems. This chronic state of inflammation deep inside the body can lead to elevated triglycerides, high insulin and insulin resistance, high blood sugar, chronic pain, fatigue, accelerated aging, and hormone imbalances.

Selective Kinase Response Modifiers (SKRMs)
Kinase modifiers are any substance that can shift the balance of kinase expression. In other words, if there is a roadblock on Health Street that is detouring the flow of traffic down Inflammation Boulevard, a Selective Kinase Response Modifier is the traffic officer that blocks off Inflammation Boulevard and redirects traffic to Health Street. Kinase modifiers are substances, natural or otherwise, that shut off the expression of kinases like GSK-3 mentioned above and upregulates the more healthful kinases.

SKRMs for Inflammation
In keeping with our series on the management of inflammation, there are kinase modulators that can attenuate the expression of certain kinases that result in inflammation. Among the most powerful of these are various compounds from hops. Reduced Iso-Alpha Acids (RIAA) and Tetra Iso-Alpha Acids (THIAA) are two families of compounds found in hops that have shown extraordinary benefit in cooling the fires of inflammation. The herb, Rosemary, and oleonolic acid from olive leaf are two others that show enormous potential in addressing inflammation deeper and earlier in the process by modulating the activity of specific kinases.

There is only one natural pain and inflammation formula combining these compounds. This combination has been demonstrated in clinical studies to reduce inflammatory markers like C-Reactive Proteins, as well as reduce the expression of certain COX enzymes.

The counterpart of this nutriceutical is the medical food containing the same hops extracts, along with Rosemary, curcumin, and a list of nutrients too numerous to list here. The medical food has shown profound benefit in patients with chronic inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, Fibromyalgia, eczema, and even sciatica. (Click here to access a clinical study on these two formulas.)
The anti-inflammatory medical food, by the way, is one of my favorite all-time products that I use on an ongoing basis for breakfast and snacks. Boasting an antioxidant ORAC value of over 17,000 (antioxidant-packed foods like prunes have ORAC scores of about 4,000), this sophisticated medical food is like napalm to toxins, inflammatory mediators, and oxidative stress.

Adding specific nutrients in the diet that can change kinase expression and quench inflammation can be an important step in reducing oxidative stress and preventing and treating chronic disease. There is no question that many people need higher and more therapeutic levels of certain inflammation-cooling nutrients than what the diet alone can provide. We now live in a time where because of increased oxidative stress due to pollution, toxins in our food and water supply, and more stressful lifestyles, underlying inflammation can rob us of vitality and longevity. But thankfully, we also live in a time when technology is allowing us to discover various compounds in nature that can counter the various toxic insults with which we are now exposed so readily.