Monday, June 27, 2011

Tomato Phytonutrients Lower Risk of Heart Disease and Cancer

Tomatoes are one of the most popular food items in the typical American diet, yet few realize the powerful health-promoting benefits of this bright red fruit. Tomatoes yield a high concentration of the antioxidant lycopene, known to dramatically lower the risk from certain forms of cancer and heart disease as well. Researchers reporting in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine demonstrate the antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory properties of a diet including plenty of tomatoes to lower the risk of chronic disease.

Antioxidant Capacity of Tomatoes Reduces Cancer Incidence
As scientific researchers continue to uncover the healthy benefits of polyphenolic compounds provided by functional foods to prevent and treat a wide variety of common illnesses, tomatoes take their rightful position at the top of the list. Americans consume more tomatoes than any other non-starchy food item and continued studies demonstrate how both the natural whole form of the fruit and the heated extract can dramatically lower the risk from many common illnesses.

Lycopene is the active compound that imparts the bright red color to tomatoes, and nutritional researchers have found that bioavailability improves when the fruit is heated. More than 200 studies to date have focused on how this nutrient thwarts carcinogenesis, specifically prostate, breast, colon and gastrointestinal cancer lines. Lycopene is shown to reduce the inflammatory markers tumor necrosis factor-alpha, C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 after two weeks of supplementation, lowering deadly systemic inflammation and improving immune function.

Lycopene from Tomatoes Lowers Inflammatory Markers and Heart Disease Risk
Tomatoes have been shown to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and related complications. Women consuming more than seven servings of tomatoes each week were shown to have a direct inverse relation to the development of cardio vascular disease (CVD), compared to those with the smallest dietary intake. Interestingly, this association was only seen when the whole fruit was consumed, and not independently with lycopene supplementation.

Tomatoes provide a tasty way to hit your daily goal of at least 10 fruits and vegetables to satisfy the body’s need for vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants each day. The lead study author Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman noted “Tomatoes are the most important non-starchy vegetable in the American diet. Research underscores the relationship between consuming tomatoes and reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.” One medium tomato equals a single serving, and most health-minded individuals will include 2 to 3 daily servings to significantly lower CVD and cancer risk.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Aronia Berries (Chokeberries) Prove Key to Anti-Aging Regimen

Many health-minded individuals understand the importance of functional foods and especially members of the berry family in chronic disease risk reduction and free radical scavenging antioxidant ability. Aronia berries, more commonly known as chokeberries are not well known in North America.

Falling from favor due to their highly astringent taste, chokeberries are slowly gaining popularity due to their powerful capacity to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. The result of research presented in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry demonstrates that chokeberry extract leads all other natural foods on the ORAC antioxidant rating scale and can significantly lower chronic disease risk.

Chokeberry has the Highest Antioxidant Capacity of Any Natural Food
The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale provides an important tool to gauge the ability of functional foods to protect against common diseases that threaten our longevity and quality of life. Aronia extracts have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol oxidative stress, making the lipid structure less likely to become a component in the formation of arterial plaque.

Researchers publishing in the journal Atherosclerosis found that the high anthocyanin flavonoid content of the berry extract significantly lowered the most dangerous small dense LDL particles known to increase the risk of a heart attack. Additionally the study found that systolic and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by a mean average of 11 and 7.2 mmHg, respectively. The study authors concluded “In view of the fact that chokeberry flavonoids reduce the severity of inflammation, they can be used clinically for secondary prevention of ischemic heart disease.”

Chokeberry Helps Prevent Colon Cancer
Functional foods that are extremely high in antioxidants play an important role in the prevention of many types of cancer. A study published in the journal Genes and Nutrition found that colon cancer cells exposed to chokeberry juice were 40% less likely to proliferate and become mature cancer cells. The designers of this research study found that the free radical scavenging capacity of Aronia prevented damage to the DNA structure and modified enzymatic activity known to promote polyps and initiate cancer.

Another novel characteristic of chokeberry is to moderate blood glucose levels by lowering oxidative stress and preventing damage to the endothelial lining of the arteries. Reporting the results of a study in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, scientists noted that a small concentration of chokeberry fruit extract muted the activity of sugars in the blood that lead to development of chronic diseases and complications associated with metabolic syndrome.

Although not a household name in America, chokeberry has been embraced in parts of Europe over the past century and has been slowly regaining acceptance in colder growing climates of North America. Chokeberry extract claims the highest antioxidant ORAC score that makes it a strong ally in the fight against metabolic disease, cancer, heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer`s dementia. Avoid products that include the berry in a sugary base such as jams and candies in favor of the pure extract that can be added to beverages and smoothes to naturally improve your health.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Pecans Lower Oxidized LDL Cholesterol Levels and Prevent Heart Disease

The result of a study published in The Journal of Nutrition provides important evidence that the noble pecan is a powerful functional food providing essential antioxidant nutrients to support cardiovascular health. Pecans contain bioactive compounds including the tocopherol fraction of vitamin E that lowers levels of damaging inflammation known to provoke arterial plaque and lead to sudden death from a heart attack. A handful of pecans each day are shown to be helpful in lowering the risks associated with heart disease and cancer.

Researchers now understand that heart disease risk is much more a factor determined by LDL particle size and oxidative status rather than the total serum LDL level. Pecans contain one of the critical vitamin E fractions called gamma tocopherol known to be important in raising antioxidant blood levels, along with other naturally occurring phenolic substances that enhance the free radical scavenging ability of the nut.

Pecans Raise Gamma-Tocopherol Levels to Lower Systemic Inflammation
The finding from the study showed that gamma-tocopherol levels in the body doubled with pecan consumption and unhealthy oxidized LDL levels dropped by a third. Researchers found that eating the pecans each day significantly increased the amount of antioxidants available to neutralize free radicals and lowered systemic inflammation. The risk of developing heart disease and cancer was lowered by regular consumption of this single functional food.

The study included 16 men and women aged 23 to 44 who ate from one of three specially prepared diets. The first group ate a meal consisting of 3 ounces of whole pecans while a second group ate the same quantity of nuts mixed with water. A third group ate a controlled meal with no pecans. Blood samples were taken prior to eating the first meal and at regular intervals for a period of 24 hours after eating.

Pecan Consumption Improve Antioxidant Status to Lower Disease Risk
Researchers found that vitamin E gamma-tocopherol levels doubled eight hours after eating either of the meals containing pecans and the antioxidant capacity increased by up to 12% measured using the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capability) scale. The oxidized LDL cholesterol reduction peaked at 30% two hours after eating and continued at a sustained level for more than eight hours.

The lead study author Dr. Ella Haddad found that pecans are a powerful ally in the prevention of chronic disease and noted “Previous research has shown that pecans contain antioxidant factors. Our study shows these antioxidants are indeed absorbed in the body and provide a protective effect against diseases.” Health-minded people will want to add a healthy handful of organically grown pecans to their daily menu to control the risks associated with oxidized LDL cholesterol, heart disease and cancer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Targeting Higher Vitamin D Levels to Prevent Cancer and Chronic Disease

The correlation between serum blood levels of circulating vitamin D and lower risk from many cancer lines has been well documented over the past two decades. Scientists have revealed the mechanism used by this powerful pro-hormone to guide healthy DNA replication and cellular division to dramatically reduce the incidence of potentially deadly mutations.

Publishing in the journal Anticancer Research, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Creighton University School of Medicine have found that much higher levels of the sunshine vitamin are necessary to prevent or markedly reduce the incidence of breast cancer and other chronic conditions.

Most Adults Do Not Take Enough Vitamin D to Lower Disease Risk
The study included nearly 5,000 men and women with an average age of 51 over a period of 5 years. Participants answered dietary questionnaires every six months to ascertain vitamin D levels, vitamin D intake, and health status. Researchers found that the vast majority of adults need to supplement with 4,000 to 8,000 IU per day of vitamin D3 (taken with food or as an oil-based gel cap) to maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D metabolites to lower disease risk by 50%.

The study demonstrated that the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases including breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes was cut in half by raising the blood saturation level above 50 ng/ml. One of the lead authors, Dr. Cedric Garland notedI was surprised to find that the intakes required to maintain vitamin D status for disease prevention were so high – much higher than the minimal intake of vitamin D of 400 IU/day that was needed to defeat rickets in the 20th century.”

Supplement Vitamin D to Achieve Proper Blood Saturation Levels
Recommended Daily Allowances for vitamin D were recently bumped up to 600 IU per day for most adults. This study is the first to clearly demonstrate that this small increase is still placing the health of millions of Americans in jeopardy. A report from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine indicates that 4,000 IU is a safe dosage for everyday use by those nine years of age and older. Many factors including age, race and body weight determine the correct amount of vitamin D needed to raise blood levels, and blood testing is the only reliable method to determine the correct supplemental dose.

Most researchers believe that supplementing to establish a blood saturation level between 40 and 60 ng/ml is needed to provide maximum protection from many cancer lines, diabetes and heart disease. This study found that less than 10% of the population has blood levels that fall within this range and supplementation is essential for optimal health and longevity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

B Vitamin Folate Lowers Stroke Risk by One-Quarter

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in America each year with 700,000 people suffering needlessly from this debilitating illness. Stroke attacks with virtually no warning and can leave its victims unable to walk or perform the simplest task. Stroke risk increases with age, number of years consuming a nutrient-deficient diet and inactive lifestyle in a similar manner to heart disease.

Research published in the Lancet shows that members of the B-vitamin family, specifically folate (vitamin B9) from leafy green vegetables provide essential support to protect the vascular system by lowering platelet aggregation and levels of atherogenic homocysteine.

High Folate from Raw Vegetables Lower Stroke Risk by 25%
Researchers from the Northwestern School of Medicine performed a meta-analysis of eight significant studies and found that supplementation with folic acid reduced dangerous levels of homocysteine by 20% and lowered first time risk of a stroke by 25%. For individuals at risk for a second stroke, the incidence was lowered by 18%.

The human body requires folate to synthesize, repair and methylate DNA for cellular division and replication. Folate also helps to lower concentrations of homocysteine in the blood that are known to aggravate the inner endothelial lining of the vessels and arteries that feed the heart and brain. As a result of their analysis, the study authors concluded “Our findings indicate that folic acid supplementation can effectively reduce the risk of stroke in primary prevention.”

Folic Acid Supplementation Lowers Heart Attack Risk by 15%
In a similar meta-study published in the journal PLoS ONE, researchers found that supplementation with folic acid lowered the risk of a first heart attack by 15%. Elevated levels of homocysteine cause blood platelets to stick together and clump, increasing the risk of a thrombus or clot circulating to the coronary arteries and resulting in a heart attack. The entire family of B-vitamins is known to be critical to the prevention of heart disease and stroke by reducing arterial plaque accumulation and acting as a cofactor in cellular metabolism.

Deficiency in B vitamins and specifically folate has been linked with brain aging and cognitive decline. Folate provides a basic foundation for nerve health and brain aging and when reserves become lowered, toxic free radical damage is allowed to wreak havoc in the brain. In one study, individuals with the lowest levels of circulating folate experienced increased incidence of cognitive decline, poor mental function and risk of depression.

Top natural food sources of folate include leafy greens and vegetables including spinach, asparagus, parsley, broccoli and beets. Beans such as pinto, navy, black and kidney varieties provide a healthy dose of the nutrient as well. Depending on diet it may be necessary to supplement with folic acid. Nutrition experts recommend between 400 and 800 mcg daily taken with food to minimize your risk of stroke, heart disease and cognitive decline.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Dietary Fiber Shown to Lower All-Cause Risk of Death

We’ve been told that a diet high in fiber is good for our health as it improves digestion and lowers biomarkers associated with chronic disease. Researchers publishing in the Archives of Internal Medicine provide important evidence to show that a high daily intake of fiber can lower the incidence of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases as well as reduce the risk of death from all-causes.

Fiber is the inedible part of plants and whole grains that has been shown to lower the risk from certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes and assist with weight management. Fiber helps to control blood glucose as it is slowly broken down through digestion and also improves healthy cholesterol metabolism. Prior research indicates that it can also lower blood pressure, reduce systemic inflammation and bind with potential carcinogens for removal from the body.

High Fiber Intake Linked to Lower Disease Risk
The research consisted of nearly 400,000 men and women taking part in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study over a period of nine years. Participants answered a food questionnaire at the beginning of the study and cause of death was determined by linking personal records to national registries to establish dietary fiber intake over the period.

Researchers found that fiber intake ranged from 13 to 29 grams per day for men and 11 to 26 grams for women. Over the nine year course of the study nearly 32,000 participants died. When the average amount of fiber consumed daily was analyzed by the researchers, they found a significantly decreased risk of death for those with the highest fiber consumption.

High Fiber Diet Shown to Lower Heart Disease Incidence by up to 59%
For men and women in the top fifth percentile of fiber consumption (29.4 grams per day for men and 25.8 grams for women), the all-cause risk of death decreased by 22% over those in the lowest dietary fiber group (12.6 grams per day for men and 10.8 grams for women). When breaking the statistics down by specific chronic conditions, risk of cardiovascular, infectious and respiratory diseases was reduced by 24 percent to 56 percent in men and 34 percent to 59 percent in women with the highest fiber intakes.

Based on the results of this study, researchers recommend a daily fiber intake of 14 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed. Vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains were found to provide optimal disease protection, while fruit consumption was not found to lower the risk of total, cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory disease deaths. Individuals looking to lower their disease risk profile will want to target 30 grams of fiber each day for optimal health.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) Promotes Obesity and Poor Health

Fructose has been implicated as a driving force behind a number of chronic illnesses including metabolic syndrome, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Scientists have theorized that the fruit-based sweetener derived most commonly from corn is a primary mechanism that has fueled the obesity epidemic.

Fructose and its evil twin high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are used as inexpensive sweeteners in many processed foods, condiments, baked goods and snacks. Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University publishing in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism demonstrate that fructose reacts differently than glucose in the brain causing chemical alterations that lead to increased body weight and obesity.

Brain Response to Fructose is Different Than Glucose
Researchers working with animal models know that the brain responds differently to a variety of different foods consumed, and that these responses have a strong influence on total calories eaten at each meal. Using new functional MRI technologies, scientists are able to examine electrical and chemical brain patterns that occur in response to consumption of different food groups (macronutrients such as fats, carbohydrates and proteins) and nutrients (from vitamins, minerals and antioxidant-rich polyphenol compounds).

The study involved pre and post meal MRI scans of nine individuals receiving an infusion of fructose, glucose or a saline solution. Researchers found no difference in brain activity in the hypothalamus, an area known to regulate food intake. Activity in the cortical brain control areas showed the opposite response from the sugar infusions. Activity was inhibited with the fructose solution and activated in the presence of glucose.

Fructose Does Not Cause Satiety Similar to Other Macronutrients
The cortical areas activated are important to determine how we respond to food taste and smell. The study showed that when glucose is consumed, a normal satiety response is triggered in the brain so we register caloric intake and can react with a satiety response. Fructose has virtually no effect on this automated feedback system we rely on to provide the `full` signal so we stop eating before over consuming.

The study authors found this to be conclusive evidence that fructose and its derivatives are a significant causative agent responsible for the rampant obesity plague affecting people around the world. In conclusion they write "For consumers, our findings support current recommendations that people be conscious of sweeteners added to their drinks and meals and not overindulge on high-fructose, processed foods."

HFCS has been slowly creeping into the processed food supply over the past 40 years. Health-minded consumers and scientists have theorized that it should be blamed for a contributing role in overweight, morbidity and chronic disease. The best way to avoid high fructose corn syrup is to avoid all processed foods in favor of a raw, natural diet focused on vegetables, lean protein and healthy monounsaturated fats. Your reward will be a healthy, sustainable weight and dramatically lower risk of metabolic disease.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Junk Food Diet Lowers Intelligence in Later Life

Most people understand the importance of a well balanced diet including the minimum daily requirements of vitamins and minerals to prevent chronic disease. These critical cofactors of life are repeatedly shown to promote health and prevent a myriad of chronic diseases from diabetes and dementia to heart disease and cancer.

The impact of proper nutrition on a child`s developing brain is brought to light in a study published in the British Medical Journal. A processed food diet packed with sugar, fat and excess salt can lower IQ in early childhood, while eating a diet filled with healthy natural foods providing a full compliment of vitamins and nutrients is shown to benefit cognitive development.

Junk Foods Directly Lower Child IQ
The study results were based on the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children involving 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992. Based on parent questionnaires, children were placed into one of three dietary groups based on eating patterns: `processed’ including excessive fats, sugars and salt, `traditional` based on high quantities of meats and vegetables and `health-conscious` that stressed salads, fruits, vegetables, rice and pasta.

IQ was measured at the age of 8 ½ using the standardized Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. Researchers found that children eating the most processed food diet at age 3 scored 1.67 IQ points lower for each 1 point increase in dietary pattern score. Similarly, those eating the most healthful diet scored 1.2 IQ points higher for every 1 point improvement in dietary pattern score. Diet was found to have no effect on IQ score after the age of 4 years.

This study underscores the importance of proper diet on the developing brain. Prior research has shown an association between early childhood diet and later behavior and school performance. The research authors noted "This suggests that any cognitive/behavioral effects relating to eating habits in early childhood may well persist into later childhood, despite any subsequent changes (including improvements) to dietary intake".

Proper Nutrition Improves Brain Development and Cognition
The brain is growing at an accelerated rate during the first three years of life, and scientists have observed that head growth during this time is linked to intellectual ability. Clearly a diet filled with processed and refined foods that have been stripped of most natural nutrients during these formative years stunts normal brain growth and the development of the critical neural network that are essential to higher brain function and learning.

Researchers concluded "It is possible that good nutrition during this period may encourage optimal brain growth." Starting infants and children on a natural diet early in life is one of the most important lifestyle habits we can teach our children. The diet they become comfortable eating during these early years will help them to develop optimally and avoid the many diseases that plaque adults throughout life.

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