Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | April 26, 2015

Does The MIND Diet Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

I’m always excited by a breakthrough diet, so I was thrilled by Prevention’s report of a diet that halved the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. This particular breakthrough is a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, both mainstays of modern healthy eating.

According to the Prevention article, even sort of following the MIND diet (which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, which spells MDIND to me) lowers your risk of Alzheimer’s by a third. That’s great news!

Now we get to the difference between an article selling magazines and an article telling about a study. If you look at the original study abstract, they followed less than a thousand people for less than five years, and they based the findings on a questionnaire.

Not as robust as we’d like, but let’s still look for the MIND Diet: Alzheimer’s Cure book coming to bookstores near you in time for Christmas. Except the original study didn’t say that. It said: “High adherence to all three diets (DASH, Mediterranean, or MIND) may reduce AD risk. Moderate adherence to the MIND diet may also decrease AD risk.” So all three diets help reduce Alzheimer’s Disease risk, but that won’t sell magazines, so we focus on the second sentence that says even moderately following the MIND diet may help.

We’d like to see a larger group of people follow this sort of diet for a longer time, but the reality is that we really have no good treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. So, in the interest of lowering all of our Alzheimer’s Disease risks, and with a nod to Prevention for supplying the summary, here’s the list of the things you should do to get MINDful with your diet.

salmon

“Perfect MIND dieters eat:

  • At least 3 servings of whole grains a day
  • 6 servings of leafy greens a week plus one other veggie serving a day
  • 2 servings of berries a week
  • 1 serving of fish a week
  • 2 servings of poultry a week
  • 3 servings of legumes a week
  • 5 servings of nuts a week
  • A daily serving of alcohol, preferably red wine for its long list of health benefits
Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | April 14, 2015

Have You Ever Had Alice In Wonderland Syndrome?

I read a lot of medical literature, and finding Alice In Wonderland Syndrome was a treat. The illness is described as: “bizarre perceptions of size and shapes of a patient’s body and illusions of changes in the forms, dimensions, and motions of objects.”

The total disturbance is described as a metamorphopsia, which can occur from imbalances in the brain. Lewis Carroll (really called Charles Dodgson) is thought to have possibly suffered from these during migraine attacks first documented in 1856. It would be fitting if the author was the first person diagnosed with Alice In Wonderland Syndrome.

More recently, a case of Alice In Wonderland Syndrome has been documented in a child with Lyme disease, which is a disturbing thought as we move into tick season in Maine.

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | April 12, 2015

Is the Pineal Gland Really A Third Eye?

It’s rare to find something truly rare and amazing in medical literature. But the idea that researchers could transplant a tadpole pineal gland and have it turn into a normal eye counts as one of the oddest things I’ve read recently. Adding Vitamin A helped it grow, but the idea that a gland could become an eyeball is pretty bizarre. (More here).

When you look farther, the pineal gland is responsible for creating an inner rhythm in the absence of light. That makes it responsible for the basic rhythms of our lives, including our immune responses. Not bad for a little gland that had pretty much been written off as incidental.

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | April 7, 2015

What Can We Do for Female Hair Loss?

It’s frustrating to try and find decent studies for female hair loss. Because it tends to not be only partial rather than complete, so many more studies are done on males. Here’s the summary: 68% of women on these supplements had hair regrowth compared to 28% in the control group over a period of six months. The supplements were: ” a daily dose of 460 mg fish oil (exact amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA] were not specified), 460 mg blackcurrant seed oil, 5 mg vitamin E, 30 mg vitamin C, and 1 mg lycopene. ” The underlying issue seems to be a decrease of inflammation.

Here’s the study report: click here. And here’s the original abstract: click here.

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | March 22, 2015

Does Round Up Weed Killer (Glyphosate) Cause Cancer?

According to the EPA, we don’t know if drinking Round Up (glyphosate) in your water will cause cancer. We do know that the use of Round Up in the U.S. has tripled since 1986. Back then we were only spraying six million pounds onto our crops, and now we’re spraying eighteen million pounds a year.

If you believe the manufacturers and prominent blogger Steve Novella, glyphosate is completely safe. Anyone telling you differently must be an anti-GMO propagandist. To back himself up, Steve points to all the research done that show that glyphosate itself doesn’t seem to cause cancer. Steve places himself firmly in the same camp as Round Up salespeople, who will drink glyphosate in sales pitches just to prove how safe it is.

Unfortunately for Steve and Round Up’s salespeople, glyphosate is not sold as an individual product but as a mixture. As I point out in my post on whether Round Up causes Celiac, it is not the single chemical but the combination product that causes the issue.

As an additional challenge to the glyphosate issue, Steve points to a Snopes blog post debunking any use of glyphosate on wheat crops at harvest. According to the individual farmers writing in to Snopes, this never happens. But when you go to the manufacturer’s website, they are promoting the use of glyphosate on crops at harvest. The European site notes that even 12% of reluctant German farmers are following their recommendations. A glance at that chart shows that not just wheat is getting the preharvest spraying (barley and beans get more).

Now the UN has joined in the discussion, reclassifying glyphosate as a carcinogen. Don’t be surprised if that doesn’t change the opinion of the manufacturer or bloggers like Steve. Both will argue that the evidence does not support the conclusion. Within their argument will be statements like: “conclusions of regulatory competent authorities were also dismissed” implying that the people who came to any other conclusion might not be as competent.

For those not familiar with the people involved, the World Health Organization has an International Agency for Research on Cancer. To find that glyphosate was a possible carcinogen: “a Working Group of 17 experts from 11 countries” met for a week and discussed all the available evidence. Chances are that they were competent and made the right decision: “the agent is probably carcinogenic to humans. This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”

What does that mean for the average consumer? “Glyphosate has been detected in the air during spraying, in water, and in food.The general population is exposed primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use, and diet, and the level that has been observed is generally low.”

What about what we eat? Chances are that it will another twenty years before Round Up is pulled from the shelves. But it’s residue will be ongoing, and we have seen a huge increase in its use since that introduction of glyphosate-resistant, genetically modified crops.

Before we focus entirely on wheat, glyphosate is also recommended on a variety of other crops. While Germany’s use of glyphosate at harvest is low, the manufacturers estimate that in the UK: “glyphosate is used on 78% of oilseed rape to facilitate harvest.” For those not familiar with rape seed, we commonly think of it as canola oil. While the manufacturer claims no absorption takes place, they do say: “residual traces can sometimes remain on the surface of seed heads and pods.” While these traces would be low for the grains, they would be much more concentrated in an oil taken from compressed grains. Who produces most of the world’s canola? Maine’s neighbor, Canada.

While glyphosate breaks down in the field, at frozen temperatures it remains for well over a year on most crops. The same analysis found differences in the estimated amount of residue in some U.S. and UK crops. Grain residue was generally higher than that found on other agricultural products.

Even if a crop is not sprayed with glyphosate, nearby crop spraying can affect a crop. Idaho potato farmers (Idaho produces most of the U.S. canola crop) are complaining about glyphosate drift that affects their potato crops.

With the recent ruling, we’ll likely see a shift to another weed killer over time. But currently agriculture is largely dependent on what it previously viewed as a harmless chemical. Maybe we’ll get to a point where we realize that such a thing doesn’t exist. All chemicals powerful enough to affect our planet are powerful enough to harm it when used improperly.

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | March 15, 2015

Will Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Promoted By Dr. Oz (Reflection, Rovelle) Reverse Winkles?

I’ve seen the ads and promotions, as well as shots of Dr. Oz showing reversals in wrinkles, so what’s the scoop on these compounds and products?

Not surprisingly, pubmed is fuller of Botox treatments, surgeries and lasers, not vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. But that could be simply because there’s a lot more money in doing something to wrinkles rather than having people fix their own at home.

Beautiful Ageing face eyes

Photo courtesy of Lifelonghealthplanning.com

Vitamin C searches get switched to vitamin A, because there are so many more studies on retinoids and their ability to peel off outer layers and make the skin appear more youthful. A recent study of very high dose vitamin C (as ascorbic acid, 23%) showed benefit in a small study of 20 Chinese women. 75% of them noticed a difference and there were no serious side effects. It confirms an earlier 2001 study of baby boomers that showed improvement after twelve weeks. Notably, none of the baby boomers complained of inflammation.

Hyaluronic acid has been used for injecting into wrinkles, and that seems to work pretty well to fill out crow’s feet. Most of the studies are on injecting the acid, but applying the acid also seems to help with wrinkle depth and skin elasticity.

Are these products the most effective on the market? No. The most effective means of getting rid of wrinkles using a topical is a 0.05% tretinoin cream. A lower dose cream of the same, either 0.01% or 0.001% of tetinoin, was not effective. And the effect of the cream was in direct relation to the amount of inflammatory side effects: “A dose-response relationship was evident for both effectiveness and skin irritation.” The stronger the acid, the stronger the effect, and the stronger the side effects.

Both vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and Hyaluronic acid fall into the lower range of the treatments you can use to strip away the outer layer of your skin. Those seeking rapid results would find lasers or chemical peels more speedy and more prone to making you look like you used sandpaper on your face for a few weeks. But if you want a slower, gentler acidic wash, either acid may do the trick.

So, let’s all get these products, yes? Perhaps. Certainly it makes sense to apply something to your skin if you are concerned about wrinkles. A reasonable use of moisturizer can benefit the skin, but we should be clear that the wrinkle resolution from an acid is likely to be more rapid skin turnover from a slight chemical burn rather than something like feeding the skin.

The trouble is that same logic can be extended to never smiling, which is certain to enforce those laugh lines. Perhaps we need to recognize that wrinkles are the visible evidence that we have lived, and lived well. Bring wrinkles back into vogue as a demonstration of  courage, an acceptance of aging, and a recognition of the cycles of life.

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | March 14, 2015

In Menopause, Every Cell Can Produce the Hormones It Needs?

What is Endocrinology?We have the illusion that different organs are the only places that produce hormones. But as we research further, it is clear that every active cell in the body is capable of producing hormones. How this occurs and what regulates production is less clear. But a recent study on menopause shows that females hormones are continuing to be produced inside the cells.

Having the cells create hormones at very low doses where they need them means that hormone levels circulating in the blood are much lower and the overall risks of cancers associated with those hormones are much less.

Since ” locally made sex steroids exert their action and are inactivated intracellularly” the researchers are talking about a different system. The external hormones are the endocrine system, the new system is called the indocrine system. So the question is, we have endocrinologists as a specialty already, how long until we have indocrinologists as well?

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | March 10, 2015

Is Coffee The New Health Food?

With last month’s ringing endorsement of three to five cups of joe a day, coffee now has the official green light as a health food right beside your broccoli and arugula. But does that mean we should all start drinking it for our health?

It may not be the caffeine at all, but a compound called theobromine that gives coffee its health benefits. Theobromine is what makes us crave coffee, but we might be better off with cooking chocolate. Ounce for ounce, hot chocolate is higher in theobromine than coffee. Except then there’s the sugar involved, and the more cocoa butter, the less theobromine. So break out the bitter chocolate. And don’t share it with your dog (this is the same compound that is poison to them). 

Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | March 9, 2015

Female Hormone Checklist

Many of my patients have requested a listing of things they can do that will positively affect female hormone imbalances. As I tell my patients, the issue is not that there isn’t anything you can do, it’s that there is so much that can affect hormones.

I would never recommend simply taking handfuls of pills. The goal with any treatment should be to taper up, taper down, and try one thing at a time.

Here’s a short list of some of the basics:

  1. Black cohash 2-4 caps
  2. GABA 2 caps daily
  3. Multivitamin with women’s herbs (Innate Formulas one a day)
  4. Meditation 20 minutes daily
  5. Diet Brown, whole, green and colorful, no caloric restriction, no fast food
  6. Detox one day a week (vegetable stew/salads)
  7. Red meat discussion (20% increase in testosterone in two hours)
  8. Dairy discussion (cow hormones still need processing by the body)
  9. Alcohol discussion (300% increase in estrogen due to processing delay)
  10. Teas raspberry, “Yoni,” female teas
  11. Cold packs for pain/hot flashes
  12. Progesterone creams
  13. Combination creams
  14. PhytoB (4 pellets twice a day = one half a standard hormonal dose)
  15. Licorice/Ashwaghanda mix
  16. Soy (SOYI9)four caps or half a cup of soy a day
  17. Sleep discussion (90 minute cycles)
  18. Cycle discussion (temperature readings/ journaling)
  19. Exercise (adrenal/ thyroid = worse/better) helps process hormones
  20. Bowel movements per day (LIQU8) if not at least one.
  21. Family history how to avoid/get what mom had.
  22. Vitex (VITEX), Chaste Tree-one a day.
  23. Weight changes (gain or loss) alter hormonal picture
  24. Folic acid 5 mg a day (Gynecol Endocrinol. 2010 Sep;26(9):658-62.)
  25. Tyrosine 500mg a day (Actas Urol Esp. 2009 Apr;33(4):337-43.)
  26. 5 HTP 50-600mg a day (Serotonin involvement)
Posted by: Christopher Maloney, Naturopathic Doctor | February 20, 2015

Does Alli (Orlistat) Help You Lose Weight?

As a top-selling over-the-counter drug, Alli (Orlistat) presents incredibly well. “The only FDA approved, over-the-counter weight loss aid!” So what does it actually do?

Orlistat gums up the breakdown of fats in the gut, leading to less fat absorption and more fat excretion. Think of it as the “eat your ice cream and don’t absorb it” pill. All that fat can cause problems at the other end, but supposedly not on the hips.

So, why is Alli Amazon’s top weight-loss seller? It’s the only FDA approved drug for weight-loss. In clinical trials it helped people lose weight and there’s nothing else available. But it’s not the only FDA approved drug for weight loss (although it gives that impression): “At present there are three drugs (orlistat, phentermine/topiramate and lorcaserin) approved for long-term use and four sympathomimetic drugs approved by the US FDA for short-term treatment of obesity.” (cite here) It’s the only over-the-counter version, because almost none of it is absorbed. That still doesn’t mean it can’t affect your medication, and may block absorption of that as well.  

If you look at the prescription version of Orlistat, Alli’s bigger brother Xenical, the studies look very official, if small. (Here) It makes Xenical look really useful for minor weight loss, and so Alli should be too. Sure, it’s much ado about very little, but every little bit helps.

But it really comes down to the amount of weight people think they are going to lose with Alli versus without Alli. And that’s what really makes the difference. So let’s pool all the clinical data in one review:

Behavioural interventions focusing on both food intake and physical activity resulted in an average difference of -1.56 kg (95% confidence interval -2.27 to -0.86 kg; 25 comparisons, 2949 participants) in weight regain compared with controls at 12 months. Orlistat combined with behavioural interventions resulted in a -1.80 kg (-2.54 to -1.06; eight comparisons, 1738 participants) difference compared with placebo at 12 months. All orlistat studies reported higher frequencies of adverse gastrointestinal events in the experimental compared with placebo control groups. A dose-response relation for orlistat treatment was found, with 120 mg doses three times a day leading to greater weight loss maintenance (-2.34 kg, -3.03 to -1.65) compared with 60 mg and 30 mg three times a day (-0.70 kg, 95% confidence interval -1.92 to 0.52), P=0.02.” (Review here)

There you have it. Alli helped people lose more weight, a whopping 0.24 kg (8.47 ounces or roughly half a pound) over not taking it. And a greater increase in weight loss the more you took. Sign me up for a couple of bottles (and an extra jumbo pack of toilet paper).

But we no longer have just the clinical studies to look at now. Alli has been released on the general population, and we have big data on how well it has fared. In a study of 100,000 English, Alli resulted in: (trumpets please) about two pounds of weight loss for the first four months. Afterward, they regained the weight. (Study here). The difference? This was in the real world, not in a monitored group of patients who continued to be part of a funded study. In the real world, people lose focus, and when they are getting something over-the-counter instead of as a prescription they can lose focus faster. No one monitored their weight loss, so it disappeared.

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