Friday, July 30, 2010

Your social life can really protect your health....

Today's Post: Friday, 7-30-2010

Smoking really can speed aging and harm your health. So, if you smoke and quit at a young age, you will live longer in far better health.

That means that anything that can boost your health as much as quitting smoking is incredibly powerful indeed. Getting regular exercise is in that category.

This week, research was reported that having a strong social network is also that important for your health. They even say that not having one harms your health overall by as much as smoking about 15 cigarettes a day or three fourths of a pack.

This information is consistent with studies showing lonely people are more likely to have high blood pressure and those showing that good shared experiences help make people happy on the life enjoyment part of it & with Dr Stephen Ilardi's finding that increasing social interaction helps stop depression.

But even so, that’s a very powerful effect.

There are 3 likely reasons for this.

One is that being in the presence of people you know or even better people who you see often who like you has been shown to have a soothing and stress relieving effect.

This effect is so powerful that being in a happy marriage makes an even more powerful difference. In fact, people in an unhappy marriage on the average are happier and healthier than divorced people!

The second reason is that speaking to people is a tonic for your brain. It is as if it’s like working out with a good personal trainer is for your body. Peter Drucker once said that people sometimes don’t realize that they are extremely and unusually good at something because it feels so easy for them. This effect is so strong, they can miss that it’s hard for other people or that some people cannot do it at all

It turns out that simple conversation is that kind of skill. People grow up doing it and develop their skills over many years. So, it feels somewhere from effortless to reasonably easy to do.

However, researchers once got curious as to what parts of the brain were involved and found that conversation used more of people’s brains and used them more intensely than they had previously imagined.

Between the stress relieving aspects and the intense mental exercise, this may be why people with strong social networks are far less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other kind of dementia.

Lastly, no matter how competent you are, the people around you have far more time than you do by yourself. Many of them know important things you do not or have developed key skills to a high degree that you don’t have yourself.

So, at some level I think most people know this. And, as a result social people have a network and skills that enable them to be more effective in life and that sense that they can cope enables them to take the actions that sustain and protect their health.

A book that helped me with this is the Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. Despite its somewhat “hypy” title, focus on sales and business success and it’s outdated examples for some things, it is still in print. This is because of the great wisdom the author passes along about what he calls “thinking right” towards the people around you and his real life examples of how to learn to reach out to people and converse even if you are shy and new to doing so.

My life has been enriched a great deal by learning what he taught.

Now I find out that it may also have helped my health to be better too.

So, I commend it to you.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

What to do when your weight loss progress stops....

Today's Post: Thursday, 7-29-2010

The overall strategy is actually not hard. It’s just like figuring out what to do when your car won’t start.

You check to see what went wrong and then decide what to do to fix it.

It can be a bit more challenging with fat loss and weight loss, but it IS doable.

Sometimes it can even be easy.

Another way is to find out how to do more of something that works.

Here’s a partial list but one that has most of the high impact problems and solutions.

1. Ingesting bad stuff. If you haven’t stopped 100 % or stopped 95 to 98 % of the time or you have allowed yourself to drop from 95% of the time to 55%, you can often restart fat loss and weigh loss by fixing this one.

For example, you stopped drinking regular soft drinks for awhile but have started having a regular or a diet soft drink with your weekday lunch. One source estimates that one of either daily will add or maintain 15 pounds of fat. So allowing yourself these soft drinks instead of insisting on water or tea or coffee with 1% lowfat milk at lunch is working towards ADDING about10 pounds of fat to your body. So, if you were losing 2 or 3 pounds a month and stopped, changing back to no soft drinks of either kind may restart your progress. (By the way, in case you missed it, diet soft drinks add the fat by their sharp boost to your appetite and sugar cravings. Their NAME says diet; but that is NOT their effect.)

Not eating any or virtually any refined grain foods IS much harder since there is so much in the foods most people eat. But the stuff IS fattening, so, if you haven’t yet made a very strong and focused effort to no longer eat them, you may well be able to restart your fat loss by doing so. For example, if you go out for lunch and get sandwiches, the bread does help keep the foods wrapped in the center from going all over and making a mess. But you can order the sandwich Atkins style with no bread and served in a dish. If the sandwiches are premade and that would be a hassle instead of a money saver for the restaurant, you can just ask for a plate, eat the insides & toss the bread. (I found this works great at Subway since they are OK with giving you extra veggies at no charge and they have many to choose from.) If you like pasta, you can eat it once a week instead of five times or make it at home and use Spaghetti squash or whole wheat pasta or combine half of one of those with chopped broccoli florets for a pasta primavera style dish. You can switch from having corn flakes daily at breakfast to once a week and eating eggs and lentils or cooked old-fashioned oatmeal instead. Most people today are fat in part because they eat a lot of refined grain foods. So, if you have been one of them, eating other foods instead of grain foods and only eating 100 % whole grain foods when you do eat grain based foods, may well restart your fat loss.

2. Overdoing eating extra on weekends or overdoing fattening treats because you exercise or eat health supporting foods is also sometimes is a cause for fatloss to stop for some people.

If you eat out or go to parties often on weekends, this can be a problem. One weight loss expert actually recommends weighing twice every week, once at the same time Friday morning and once at that time on Monday morning if this might be happening. If it is, there are several solutions. Eat more strictly on the other meals on weekends; when at parties focus more on talking to the people and less on eating; eat more of the health OK choices such as vegetables and fruit and protein foods – and do that FIRST when you are hungry -- and either pass on the sweet treats and breads or eat tiny servings; offer to bring health OK foods so the host or hostess has that much less to do and you then can be sure there will be food choices you like and can be OK with eating. If you have to, go to less of the parties where you wind up eating excessive fattening foods. Similarly, if you burn 200 calories by exercising and then eat a 500 calorie treat, the good news is that you’ll still benefit from the exercise; but the bad news is that your fat loss will not only stop but begin to reverse. So, eat the 500 calorie treat every TENTH time and not more or eat some fresh fruit that you like instead of a piece of apple pie as a treat or increase your amount of exercise by ten times to burn 2,000 calories.

3. Prescription drugs derail fatloss for some people. If you take any at all and particularly if since you started one, your fatloss and weight loss stopped, check with a knowledgeable pharmacist or look up the drug on Wikipedia to see if it tends to cause people to get fatter or to gain weight. With most drugs there are other kinds that will be safe and do the job that don’t cause this problem and with others there may be and often are effective nondrug treatments that work and don’t fatten you.

4. If you have low energy and have had less recently and your fat loss also has stopped, there are several common causes that can be corrected.

a) One is that you may have tried too hard and triggered your body’s famine response. If so, keep up your exercises no matter how you feel and focus more than ever on only eating health supporting foods and drinks while eliminating the ones that harm you or fatten you – BUT at the same time, temporarily allow yourself to eat more food total, particularly health OK protein foods and oils. Timothy Ferriss, who wrote the Four Day Work Week, found research showing that lower calorie intake without protein cutbacks avoided the famine response and health problems that lower calorie intake can otherwise cause. Then when you begin cutting back on calories again cut back a bit less and exercise more and try doing your fewer calorie days every other day instead of every day. Jon Benson discovered this trims off fat without triggering your famine response and even sell an eBook called the Every Other Day Diet. Even better, research studies confirmed that approach works to prevent the famine response.

b) You recently started taking statin drugs or had your dose increased. Statin drugs are far less needed to prevent heart attacks and are less effective in doing so than most doctors know. We post on the superior alternatives from time to time. But the good news is that your fatloss program, particularly NOT eating foods made with hydrogenated oils or oils high in omega 6 or foods with high fructose corn syrup or sugar or refined grains and getting regular exercise and the fat loss itself each fight heart disease. And, depending on your body’s responses you can turn down or turn off the de-energizing effects of statin drugs even if you keep taking them. Statin drugs do lower LDL cholesterol including some of the small particle kind that is actually dangerous and lower high levels of chronic inflammation as measured by the HSCRP test. But they also lower your blood levels of CoQ10 which turns down or off the mitochondria in your cells. Since the energy you have depends on the cells in your body and they use the mitochondria to ensure they have enough energy, the depletion of CoQ10 will make you tired and even help cause heart failure. Using other methods to protect your heart avoids this side effect. But so does replacing the CoQ10. Not all doctors yet know they should have you take some kind of CoQ10 if they put you on statin drugs. And, even some who do, don’t yet know that they need to have you take the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 for you to reverse this side effect of the statin drugs. The older you are, the more ubiquinol you should take even if you are not on statin drugs to keep normal energy levels. At age 66 I take 100 mg at breakfast and 50 mg at lunch. If I was taking statin drugs I’d also take another 50 mg with each dose of the statin drugs.

c) Particularly if you are female or are in or have passed menopause, you may be low on thyroid. Being low on thyroid is like taking a drug that lowers your energy level and makes you fatter. If the condition is mild, taking a multivitamin and mineral with 150 mcg of iodine, which most of them do have, and taking 1000 mg each early morning on an empty stomach of the amino acid tyrosine can help because your body uses those to make thyroid. This is also a great reason also to avoid soft drinks and packed snacks and treats. The bromine often used to retard their spoilage may cause your thyroid levels to fall. And, though it can be tricky to do well, lower thyroid levels than that can be successfully treated as well.

5. This last one happened to me quite recently. What if you have switched to health OK and un-fattening foods and are exercising and have cut back calories enough to lose down to your goal weight; but you still have visible excess fat you want to get rid of?

There are three solutions. Get a job that requires almost no sitting or very short and infrequent sessions of it – NOT a usable solution for most people although many people can manage to watch a LOT less TV for less sitting away from work. Do a LOT more total exercise such as adding a new 40 minute daily walk. Or, add more effective muscle building strength training exercises. (I added two short sessions of kettlebell training that I’m just beginning to do very many reps in to do this last thing and DID already lose a half inch off my waist.)

6. Try adding a fat loss supplement.

(Just stick to the ones that are for sure safe to use. The ones containing ephedra or some other kind of “speed” have killed people or given them serious health problems. This is simply bad strategy and not even necessary. Only choose methods that IMPROVE your health; and use enough of them to do the job and you won’t need to use such supplements.)

Some of the other weight loss supplements do work a bit. Some of them do work but only if you are already doing the right things because they increase how effective your efforts are instead of doing anything by themselves. And, some of the ones that work sometimes do so because they give the people taking them confidence the efforts they are making to lose fat and weight will be effective which in those cases means the people keep making an effort or increase it although it’s THAT effect that gets the results.

For example, I take two capsules of green tea extract every morning. There are some studies showing that I may eventually be 5 pounds less fat from the mild boost to my metabolism. But even if that doesn’t happen in my case, it does give me a daily reminder that I’m committed to the parts of my lifestyle that take off excess fat or prevent me from gaining it. Two capsules of green tea extract early in the day have a total of 32 mg of caffeine which is helpful in waking me up. Green tea extract capsules are one of the least expensive supplements and HAVE been shown to have heart protective and cancer fighting properties particularly if you take them on an empty stomach as I do.

Although taking steroid drugs to do the job is NOT safe or sustainable, there are some supplements that help to add muscle that are safe and I’ve found one of those that I will try later that may be effective. (It’s one that only works if you do. But it may allow you to use more weight which burns more calories and to build more muscle which also burns more calories if you already do effective strength training.)

I already take some supplements that help my body keep my blood sugar at normal levels; but for people who have more of a problem with that than I do, there are other supplements that are safe that may be effective. For people who have blood sugar issues even after they give up excess sugar intake and refined grain foods and do vigorous exercise every week, taking such supplements can help them lose fat. The ones I already take in part because they have strong health benefits in other ways are chromium polynicotinate and alpha lipoic acid.

Low energy levels from depression can derail fat loss but vitamin D3 and omega 3 supplements help turn off depression. I already take those and they have other health benefits also. Similarly, people over 40 or 45 and particularly those people who take statin drugs as we talked about above, may need to take ubiquinol to restore their energy level. I already take those. And, they help keep my blood pressure down and protect my heart in other ways.

There is also a supplement that may increase how much belly fat I burn with my exercise which is safe and said to be effective that I plan to try later.

And, if I still haven’t gotten the results I want after all these steps, there is yet another supplement that might be effective that I plan to try. It’s safe to take; but most of the supplements that began with similar positive press are no longer considered effective. So, when I try it, I’ll be pleased if it does work and willing to stop taking it if for me it does not work.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

10 ways to permanent fat loss....

Today's Post: Tuesday, 7-27-2010

Many people are so overfat, they are too heavy because of the weight of the fat. But it’s not just weight loss they need and will benefit from but fat loss. It can harm you to lose weight from your bones. And, not only will it weaken you to lose weight from your muscles, doing so makes it more likely you will gain the fat back later!

A. So the first meta-rule or eleventh way to lose weight and keep it off is to focus on losing fat.

B. The second meta-rule or twelfth way to lose fat and keep it off is to make permanent changes in what and how you eat and exercise.

It’s as if you were learning a second language. If you take a term at a community college studying it, you will remember just a bit; and if you want to learn it later, it will be easier for you.

But if you want to be able to speak it well and keep doing so, you have to build ways into your life to hear and speak it. Join a club of people that speak that language or who are from that country and speak in it when they get together. Every year or every other year, go on vacation to that country. Read news from that country online every week. It then becomes a normal part of your life.

That said, here are the 10 ways to lose fat and keep it off.

1. Do 3 kinds of exercise every week.

a) Do strength training even if just for a few minutes at least 3 days a week with a day or two of rest in between. This helps to ensure the weight you lose is fat. AND, if you do it well enough to gain muscle, then by also trimming your calories a bit, you will lose more fat in pounds than the muscle you gain in pounds. Also, by doing upper body exercises every other day and leg exercises every other day, you can do quite well with six 15 or 20 minute sessions each week—3 of upper body work and 3 of leg exercises. A very reliable way to do this is at home early in the morning before breakfast every day.

b) Do some kind of interval cardio at least 10 minutes three or four days a week. Just like strength training, you can start with what you can do easily and then work up to more challenging and vigorous exercise very gradually. The key is to start gently for a bit, then go faster or harder until you feel out of breath or a bit tired but just a bit and then either slow way down or simply stop until you feel recovered; but work up to doing this five or six times.

Add something else too. Some people take a 10 or 15 minute walk at lunch time each day. Some people go dancing once a week. Some people do gardening on weekends. Some people take a long hike once a week. Some people begin to take mass transit and do the inevitable walking to connect the parts. One woman added two 20 minute walks each way doing this and lost 50 extra pounds. Some people do step counting and find lots of ways to walk just a bit extra each week until they get to 10,000 steps a day or more. And, if you haven’t a lot of time, it does not have to be a lot. Right now, I only manage three walks of about 15 minutes each most weeks myself.

2. Focus on learning to live a health supporting lifestyle and protecting your health almost more than on being trim and free of excess fat.

Doing that automatically increases the value of what you do and the benefits you realize it has for you. Virtually everything you do that protects your health also tends to help you get and stay free of excess fat; but you may find it easier to do those things to protect your health and to do them just because you may wind up less fat.

And, since few people want to be sick or disabled, the motivation to stay healthy is often more lasting than just being less fat.

Last, but far from least, things like you fasting glucose, HBA1C reading, and HDL, LDL, and triglyceride readings are diagnostic. If those readings are in the danger zone, it means that you aren’t yet doing enough with eating right or exercising in some way, and you need to figure out how to do more.

3. Stop eating foods and drinking drinks that harm you or make you fat and do very little else for your body. Refined grain foods, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, oils high in omega 6 all tend to harm your health yet for most people in the United States, they make up over half the calories they take in.

Similarly, don’t drink soft drinks at all if you can possibly manage it. The regular soft drinks with some kind of sugar: add calories; don’t make you less hungry when you drink them; and then make you MORE hungry later from the blood sugar drop from the high sugar content. So you get calories in PLUS an extra fattening effect from the hunger boost. Diet soft drinks are just as bad because they turn out to act as double strength appetite increasers – worse, they make you extra hungry for sugary foods. Stop both and your food cravings will be far less and much more controllable.

4. Cut way back on even real sugar. Foods containing real sugar do taste good. And, if you get enough exercise and eat right otherwise, you can get away with eating some foods with sugar. But the average person in the United States takes in 11 Tablespoons a day of sugar! Two Tablespoons of sugar a WEEK is closer to the max your body can process well – and that’s only if you exercise regularly.

5. Eat less often in restaurants. Some still use hydrogenated oils in preparing food. They typically give you refined grain bread when you are hungrily waiting for your order in a sit down restaurant or have the default drinks offered be soft drinks in fast food restaurant. Then many of them tempt you with sugary desserts or extra servings of wine or other alcoholic drinks. So, eat in them less often and most of the time you do, be even more careful of your food and drink choices than you are at home. And, to the extent you can afford to, choose restaurants that serve people who are upscale and health oriented.

6. Always eat breakfast. People who do get several fatloss breaks. They are in better health so much so that’s even true for people who eat fattening foods at breakfast. Their metabolism is higher all day long. They have much better resistance to food cravings between meals and much better control of their appetites at lunch and dinner. And, foods such as real fruit juice, whole fresh fruit, and whole grain cereals are far less fattening eaten at breakfast than when eaten later in the day.

7. Escape junk food addiction and emotional eating. Some people literally become addicted to things like regular soft drinks, desserts, snack foods, and junk food meals and their components such as French fries and potato chips.

Learn to completely stop that stuff even if you have to go cold turkey to do it.

Notice what it is made out of! See step 3 above! Once you remove the sugars and high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, refined grains, oils high in omega 6, hydrogenated oils, salt, and appetite stimulators such as MSG from these things, there’s almost nothing else left in them!

Learn other ways to reward yourself. And, if you need more emotional support, see our post yesterday on the 9 ways to turn off depression. Almost every one of those 9 steps helps you to feel better without using junk foods and soft drinks to do it!

8. Use multiple and doable and sustainable ways to lose fat and keep it off. If you use one and it proves ineffective or you can’t do it for a week or so or simply mess up and don’t do it for a couple of days, it can derail your fat loss or cause you to gain fat back.

But if you use 10, 12, or 14 each of which helps a little bit and no one of which is that hard to do by itself, they become a part of your lifestyle. The combination is very effective. And, your fat loss becomes much more reliable and long lasting. If one proves ineffective or you can’t do it for a week or you mess up doing it for a couple of days, the other 9 or more parts will still be working and doing the job.

9. Watch less TV or cut back to 15 hours a week or less.

Simply put, you burn fewer calories watching TV than you do sleeping. And most people DO have time to do 7 hours a week or more of regular exercise with more hours left over because they watch 21 hours or more of TV each week. For some kinds of recreational TV, it can even work to do a mild cardio workout on a stationary bike while you watch.

Secondly, a huge amount of the ads on commercial TV are for the foods and drinks that will make you fat and keep you that way. Those things are so cheap to make, they do make money for the companies that sell them even with the high cost to advertise them. So, if you watch less TV, you can more easily resist consuming these things or thinking of them as normal or desirable when they are neither.

10. Track your progress at least once a month. Weigh yourself on the same scale at the same time of day. Measure your waist in the same way. And keep a log book or computer file where you store and can review your records.

Failing to do this is like trying to drive on the Freeway without looking out the window because it becomes so much harder to see where you are going.

But, when you do it, you can see when you are doing well; and you can see if you are getting off track in time to fix the things causing you to do so.

Similarly, it can really help to keep a log of your exercises each day as you do them.

Just doing this one step doubles your chances of success at keeping off the fat you lose according to some studies!

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Monday, July 26, 2010

New, ninth way to stop depression without drugs....

Today's Post: Monday, 7-26-2010

Would you like something faster and safer and more reliable than the so far not very good drugs for depression?

A combination of 8 strategies already does that and has been tested to work.

Now there is a ninth way that can be done now with supplements and which also might lead to better drugs. This post is about that strategy. It may be that combining this ninth approach with the 8 strategies already known to work might increase their success rate to close to 100 % and make them work much faster.

1. But for those of you not familiar with the first 8, here’s a quick recap and how to find more about them.

Last month, on Tuesday, June, 22 & Thursday, June 24, we posted on 8 ways to stop depression without drugs.

That Tuesday, 6-22, we posted on the 6 methods in “The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs by Stephen S. Ilardi” which is now available in both paperback & on their Kindle platform at .

Some of these steps are cheap and easy to do. Some have powerful other health benefits in addition to making depression better or go away. And, one in particular is very fast and can give you some depression relief in minutes.

Dr Ilardi found that the people who did all six steps had a 75% success rate in overcoming depression.

Then on that Thursday, 6-24, we posted on the work of Dr Martin Seligman on learned optimism and its upgrades. There are two parts to his discovery. They take quite different methods to learn which is why we listed them as two strategies. They both work; but doing them both together has great power.

Already, by combining all eight of these strategies, it may be possible to get in the 85 to 95 % effective range in stopping depression.

2. That said, it would be nice if there was something that you could do that would work similar to an effective drug to get fast effects to stop depression.

There are several reasons for this.

a) Some depression can be caused by physical brain damage which may well cause a person to need something more than the 8 methods that otherwise work. The good news is that even with such damage, you can retrain your brain to function well with the undamaged part using the 8 strategies. But you might need some extra leverage to get there.

b) You may have conditions that have caused you great stress or that are causing you some legitimate anxieties now. Again, the 8 strategies do work; but you might well need some extra leverage to use them. (Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, and job layoffs do happen sometimes. And even resilient people can be challenged to deal with them without getting depressed at least at first.)

c) There is a vicious circle effect to some degree. After you do the easy steps of the 8 strategies and those that are easy for you, some of the strategies may be more challenging. But when you don’t feel better yet, it can be hard to make yourself do them. But if you don’t do them you don’t feel better, etc.

In this case also, it would be nice to have some extra leverage.

Last week, there was a study done that may show the way to this leverage.

Someone had noticed that some depressed people reported that their world literally looked grey and out of focus and decided to see if this effect could be tested by an actual visual acuity test. This effect WAS found to exist when they did that. They then examined the retina of the people affected and discovered that there was evidence these depressed people were not getting enough dopamine to make their vision work properly.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes feelings of reward and enjoyment work.

So, if you aren’t getting enough or you temporarily or permanently need extra to get the proper effect, you won’t feel very good and since successful efforts don’t feel very rewarding, it can be hard to make the extra effort to gain them.

So, it does make sense that if you are either short on dopamine or need more than usual or than most people, you would be depressed.

Last week I saw a news article titled, “Depression really does turn the world grey, study shows.”

Earlier this month, this study was in the Biological Psychiatry Journal.

The lead author, Dr. Ludger Tebartz van Elst, and his team in Germany WERE able to show that depressed people did have impairment of their ability to see the contrast between black and white.

This is of particular interest since there are several supplements that you can take that will boost your dopamine level.

In addition, vigorous exercise one of the first six strategies to stop depression, tends to normalize your neurotransmitters, which would include increasing your dopamine levels if they are low.

It’s been found that men in the military who took 1,000 mg of the amino acid Tyrosine first thing in the morning tended to perform better under stress and be less affected by it than men who did not.

Tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine & is readily available at reasonable cost in 500 mg capsules. It may well be that taking 2,000 mg of Tyrosine first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, may be a way to jump start recovery from depression.

And, there are two ways to boost that effect.

The supplement macuna pruriens also boosts dopamine. It is less easily available and may cost more; but might also help.

Secondly, if you are over 45 or taking statin drugs, your blood levels of CoQ10 and the energy in your cells from their internal source, their mitochondria, may be draining your energy levels since both aging and statin drugs lower that level. But taking the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 can effectively reverse that. And, if you take ubiquinol now, taking more might help.

Taking both tyrosine once a day and ubiquinol early in the day and again just before lunch, might well do the job.

If not, adding the macuna pruriens also might work.

It certainly looks worth trying.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Weight loss protects your heart....

Today's Post: Friday, 7-23-2010

Today HealthDay online news had a story they titled, “As Weight Goes Up, So Do Heart Risks.”

Having more than a small amount of excess fat adds to you weight on the scale.

If you have enough of it, just the weight of it causes problems. Your mobility and desire to exercise are reduced because it takes so much more energy with that added weight.

The extra pressure on your blood vessels tends to cause high blood pressure. Joint problems in your knees, hips, and back become more likely and more severe if you develop them.

The reduced mobility and exercise and the high blood pressure increase your risk of heart problems.

But the real zapper to your heart health is that the combination of NOT exercising with eating and drinking the things that make you fat, and that we now know directly cause heart disease and the indicators of heart health to read in the danger zone.

Even worse, your doctor or doctor may well try to protect you somewhat from these effects by prescribing drugs. These cost money. They have both unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side-effects. If you take enough of them, you even get interaction effects between them sometimes.

But there is some really good news in this too. If you gradually to quickly reverse the things that made you fat, you not only lose the fat, the heart health indicators your doctor sees begin to get better or a lot better.

(For example, it may take you a year to build up to doing decently well on vigorous exercise. If you aren’t really fat, imagine going on a mile walk with an extra 185 pounds in a backpack, a belt pack front and back, and a chest pack. But if you know how extremely fattening they are, you can successfully decide to completely stop drinking regular and diet soft drinks forever in ten seconds.)

And, once these heart health measures begin to drop out of the danger zone, your doctor is much more willing for you to stop the drugs he or she may have prescribed for you.

Over a couple of years time, you not only will lose fat weight; but every time you get these health indicators checked, they will be better. That can be a huge extra motivation to keep doing the things that continue your fat loss.

The HealthDay article quotes several knowledgeable doctors to the effect that sustained weight loss produces improvements in all these indicators.

I also read recently about a real person who experienced this. She was so fat, she was more overfat in pounds than her entire body weight when not fat. She weighed 325 pounds. She had high blood pressure; very high blood sugars; high cholesterol; and was getting serious stress indications from her heart. Her doctors told her she would die soon if she failed to lose enough weight due to the severe danger to her heart.

And, they started her on drugs for each of these things. For example, her blood sugar reading was so high, they started out putting her on insulin.

At first, the half an hour of walking they suggested was so hard for her, she had to replace it with two ten minute walks. And, it sounds like even that was very challenging at first.

In her case, though, she did the right things and kept doing them. Since she now weighs 135 to 140, she lost 185 to 190 pounds. That was over half her initial total weight!

But as she lost the weight, her blood sugar levels went down enough she could stop taking drugs; her high blood pressure went down; her HDL went up; & her LDL and triglyceride readings went down.

It sounds like, she was getting better readings on almost all these things every time she got measured.

By the end, she was almost happier with her improved heart health readings than she was the weight she lost.

The weight loss advice in the HealthDay article was pretty weak. Some of it was good and some was not.

Our posts recently have had better information than their suggestions.

But to summarize,

1. Stop or very nearly stop those foods and drinks that either make you fat or harm your health. These foods make you hungrier or eat extra calories or store fat. They make your heart risk readings worse directly and begin to harm your heart even before they make you fat. It’s best to totally and completely stop the worst of these such as regular and diet soft drinks, hydrogenated oils and any food containing them, foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, and oils high in omega 6 oils such as corn and soy. With foods made with refined grains and real sugar, it can be much harder to reduce your intake to zero. But many people can cut back by 95% or more. We strongly recommend you do so!

Cutting back as much as you can on whole grains, meats and poultry from grain fed animals or at least as much of their fat as you can manage also helps.

2. Wild caught fish not high in mercury, nonfat and very lowfat dairy, nuts, beans an lentils, and some meat and poultry, ideally from grass or pasture fed animals or birds all produce far better health results. The protein helps you feel full and avoid losing bone and muscle as you lose fat weight. Eating these foods also helps avoid having your body trigger its famine response and shut down your fat loss.

3. Also, eating some wild caught fish not high in mercury that are high in omega 3 oils, nuts, avocados, and extra virgin olive oil and possibly taking omega 3 supplements, allows you to be healthier, more able to continue your fat loss efforts, and still succeed in fat loss than eating only an extremely lowfat diet, research has found.

4. And, to the maximum extent you can engineer it, add as many nonstarchy vegetables to your meals as you can. Go for variety and include as many cruciferous vegetables and others that prevent cancer as you can. These foods fill you up, protect you, turn off hunger, and have so few calories Weight Watchers rates them as having ZERO points.

5. Get vigorous exercise almost every day. Strength training, interval cardio, and fast martial arts practice all work. Even five to 15 minute sessions at home can work wonders if you are short on time and are dramatically better than nothing at all. See yesterday’s post for example and many of our other posts.

6. If you can fit it in, also walking briskly for 30 minutes a day really helps.

7. In addition, some kind of sustainable but not severe calorie restriction of even these better for you foods can help. There are many ways to do this. Research has validated Jon Benson’s every other day calorie restriction for example. But other methods also work. The trick is to find several ways that work for you and that you can keep doing without hassle.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Good heart health foods....

Today's Post: Thursday, 7-22-2010

Recently one of my health emails had an article from WebMD on foods good for your heart I thought included some foods that weren’t that good along with some that were.

I thought I’d do a post that did three things differently. It would leave out the not that great foods; it would group foods by their main heart healthy effects; and it would have more foods.

The effects you want to achieve, high HDL, low LDL, very low triglycerides, and low systemic inflammation, we have posted on a good bit.

One way to achieve them is to NOT eat or drink things that make them worse instead of better. In fact, if you have bad readings on these or want to avoid them, NOT eating the bad things is critical to do as is getting regular exercise, particularly vigorous exercise.

But, we’ve had a lot of those posts recently. And it can be a lot more fun to focus on the good things you can and should eat and drink instead.

Researchers have found that the higher your HDL and lower your triglycerides are the less of the heart disease producing small particle LDL you have.

A. Here are some of the many foods that help increase HDL.

1. Berries are known to do this. Organic ones are safer and have more nutrition. Wild and organic blueberries work. Organic strawberries work. So do organic raspberries and blackberries. (You can also take bilberry extract supplements.)
(Robust intake of vitamin C also helps heart health and berries are high in it.)

2. If you aren’t allergic, eating nuts works. Doing so only works if no junk oils have been used on the nuts. And, it works better by avoiding blood pressure problems if you leave out the salt. So the ideal way to eat nuts is raw or dry roasted with no salt. Pecan, walnuts, and almonds all work. Although you may not want to overdo it since they seem to always come salted, eating pistachio’s also boosts your HDL.

(Eating nuts also helps lower LDL due to the sterols in them; and raw walnuts have other heart protecting effects besides increasing HDL. Plus nuts are good sources for magnesium which helps heart health and to prevent high blood pressure or lower it some.)

3. Drinking red wine in moderation increases HDL. Drinking grape juice in moderation or taking grape seed extract does also. Additionally some red wines such as zinfandel, pinot noir, and burgundy contain saponins which lower LDL. And, although red wine contains resveratrol which has been shown to have heart protective effects, taking supplements with trans-resveratrol (the natural form that is protective) likely works better. (Also note that while higher levels of red wine may also be heart protective, they can help cause obesity, traffic accidents, and other health problems. So only drink red wine moderately.)

4. Foods and supplements that contain choline have brain supporting effects as they help your brain have ample supplies of the key neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Wheat germ is surprisingly high in choline. Egg yolks are high in choline though the lipid profile of eggs from pasture fed chickens is better for you than factory raised. The supplement lecithin contains choline. B complex vitamins usually have some choline as it is classified with the B vitamins. And you can also get choline supplements. Dr Al Sear says the taking the supplement DMAE also helps keep your choline levels high since your body turns it into choline. DMAE also helps protect your body from the effects of sugars in your diet.

5. Three supplements that increase HDL are niacin, inositol hexaniacinate, and chromium polynicotinate.

6. Even though it’s not a food, regular vigorous exercise is very effective in increasing and keeping high HDL levels. I felt this part would be incomplete without noting that since the effect is so strong.

B. Lowering triglycerides. Besides NOT eating or drinking the large number of junky things that increase them, these foods tend to lower them.

1. Wild caught salmon, sardines, small mackerel, and herring are high in omega 3 oils. Eating one or more of them two or three times a week lowers triglycerides and also helps lower chronic inflammation or keep it low.

2. Omega 3 supplements from purified fish oil also have this effect and can be taken daily. DHA supplements from fish oil or algae also work.

3. Onions, garlic – either fresh crushed garlic or deodorized garlic supplements, and leeks and shallots tend to help your blood vessels stay resilient and appropriately responsive and also lower triglyceride levels. (As a bonus, they also help prevent many cancers.) Well used they can add a great deal of flavor to foods as well.

C. Lowering LDL foods include three categories of foods. Foods that are quite high in soluble fiber; foods that are high in fiber to some degree but can be eaten often, and foods containing sterols.

Foods high in soluble fiber include beans and lentils; old fashioned or steel cut oatmeal (instant does too but is high glycemic and often has sugars added); oat bran; and apples and applesauce. (Applesauce that has had NO sugar of any kind added is better for you than the ones that do have.)

The berries we listed; nuts; other whole fruits; cruciferous vegetables; and other nonstarchy vegetables are all relatively high in fiber and have other health benefits. The cruciferous vegetables and the other nonstarchy vegetables also help keep or get you trim because they are nutritious, filling, and have very few calories.

WebMD listed cantaloupe and whole oranges in this group and also because they are high in vitamin C.

And, while the vegetables that are high in mixed carotenoids may be better cancer fighters, they are relatively high in fiber. WebMD listed carrots, broccoli – which is also a cruciferous vegetable, sweet potato, and acorn squash.

Nonstarchy vegetables include asparagus, spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, green beans and more.

Most vegetables also contain some sterols; nuts contain them; and you can also take sterol supplements. I’ve found betasitosterol supplements work well to lower LDL, for example.

D) Keeping systemic inflammation low is best done by NOT eating oils high in omega 6 or the fats in grain fed protein foods or very much grain itself.

The fish and omega 3 oils we noted help do this.

Extra virgin olive oil fits here as it is an oil that has direct health benefits; and either does not lower or may even increase HDL; it helps keep LDL low; but most important perhaps, it is an excellent substitute for the omega 6 oils you might otherwise use and which create inflammation.

The fish, nonfat and very lowfat dairy, some eggs, nuts, and beans and lentils also fit here as they help you eat far less fats from grain fed meat with its high levels of pro-inflammatory omega 6 oils.

E) WebMD also listed tea and dark chocolate.

When you eat dark chocolate or drink unsweetened cocoa or drink tea or green tea or take green tea extract supplements AND do so at a time you have not consumed milk, your blood vessels tend to relax and be more responsive AND your chances of dying of a heart attack if you have one are reported to fall in HALF.

That is very good news indeed!

(Do note that quarter of a small bar pieces of dark chocolate tend to work BETTER than whole bars of it as do drinks of unsweetened cocoa. You also wind up eating less sugar that way.)

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Does eating meat make you fatter or leaner?....

Today's Post: Tuesday, 7-20-2010

The Atkins diet and similar diets make high protein and to some degree eating lots of meat and poultry for that protein part of their overall fatloss efforts.

They seem to have some success at helping people lose fat and weight with this approach.

But, recently a study came out showing that the people who ate the most meat and poultry tended to be fatter and heavier than people eating the same amount of calories but less meat and poultry.

At first this seems impossible since both sources seem to have evidence supporting their claims.

Here’s my take on why they both are likely correct and how they differ to explain how the comparison is not quite what it seems.

1. The Atkins diet and similar diets make high protein and to some degree eating lots of meat and poultry for that protein part of their overall fatloss efforts.

However, there are several things to keep in mind. These diets also stress eating virtually no sugar or refined grain foods. And, the more recent and health upgraded versions also suggest adding a lot of green and unstarchy vegetables.

So, because those two things help fat loss and weight loss so much, even if the meat and poultry is a bit more fattening than other protein sources, the net result is still good.

2. It depends on what kind of meat and poultry you eat.

Naturally or pasture fed poultry and animals fed only grass and NOT penned up tend to be lean, to have less saturated fat in their meat, and have very little omega 6 oils.

The same weight of meat or poultry from poultry and animals that have been penned up and overfed grain is cheaper to buy but DOES tend to make you fat.

Any hormones in the animal that make it fat from being penned up are in its meat. Such animals have more fat in their meat, more saturated fat, and dramatically more omega 6 oils. So their meat has more calories; and the omega 6 oils in it begin to look like they may be as effective a fattener as sugar.

3. Protein from sources other than poultry and meat either is usually leaner and lower in calories or it comes with fiber or both.

So, while eating some poultry and meat from naturally fed animals may be OK as sources of protein, plant sources of protein such as beans, lentils, nuts, and to some extent vegetables that contain protein may be critical for fat loss. If you eat an abundance of those, you will tend to eat less meat and poultry than you otherwise would have done. And, since plant sources of protein have both protein AND fiber, you’ll take in fewer calories and be less hungry too.

Similarly, animal protein sources such as shrimp, crab, lobster, nonfat dairy products, very lowfat dairy products, egg whites, & whole eggs to some degree, have more protein and less fat and thus more protein per calorie than meat and poultry.

Mushrooms and wild caught fatty fish are other choices besides meat and poultry that may be less fattening also. Mushrooms have very few calories and wild caught fatty fish tend to be reasonably lean and their omega 3 oils help balance normal intakes of omega 6 oils and make them less fattening.

So where does that leave someone who wants to get and stay lean?

Do eat a moderately high or high protein diet and virtually no sugar or refined grain foods. Avoid all omega 6 oils and go easy on whole grains.

Eat mostly these other protein foods besides meat and poultry.

And, when you do eat meat or poultry, eat it a third as often but with three times the quality.

For example, instead of eating hamburgers made with meat from grain fed cattle six times a week, have meat loaf made from grass fed beef and some added extra virgin olive oil once and a serving of Crockpot-cooked lamb stew made with lamb fed only grass once.

In short, to get and stay lean, entirely avoid eating meat or poultry that has been grain fed or only eat the very leanest versions but not very often – once a month perhaps.

Do eat a moderately high or high amount of protein but eat more of the kinds besides meat and poultry particularly plant proteins and very lean animal protein foods other than meat and poultry.

And when you do eat meat or poultry or fatty fish, do your best to only eat the naturally fed kinds, meat from grass fed animals, poultry from birds that are pasture fed on unpolluted pasture, and wild caught fish.

The two diets with definite and proven health benefits, the DASH II diet and the Mediterranean diet, follow these guidelines in somewhat different ways but both do so.

A combination of them may work best. Eat more nonstarchy vegetables and less pasta in Mediterranean foods; and add extra virgin olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and other spices to DASH II foods along with drinking a moderate amount of red wine, for example.

So both statements about eating meat are true but in slightly different ways.

Do eat a higher protein diet extremely low in sugars and refined grains.

But come close to eliminating fats from grain fed animals and poultry and eat their meat rarely.

And, although it IS OK to have some meat and poultry, a LOT more is not good and some kinds are much safer and helpful than others. Even eat the safer kinds in moderation and you will be healthier and leaner.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

My personal, monthly, progress report on my fatloss....

Today's Post: Monday, 7-19-2010

As many of you know, at the end of last year, I decided to do the things I thought would likely lose the 15 pounds that I’d gained back of the 30 I initially lost. I also hoped to lose about 4 inches off my waist but was less certain of that result.

As of last month, 6 months through the year, I’d lost all 15 pounds but only 1.5 inches off my waist. And, it was clear, that while the rest of me DID look less fat and my muscles were less hidden by it, I really still had closer to SIX inches I needed to lose off my waist if I lost all the fat on it and in it.

So, how did I do since last month?

This month was interesting.

1. My weight on the scale did not change since last month. I’m still at my goal weight – neither above or below it.

However, that's no surprise. It's what I expected.

Since I ate in a way to lose the fifteen pounds I lost by eating that much less, that means that I've been eating in a way to support what I weigh now ever since I began.

And, since it's easy to do and I certainly don't want the 15 pounds of fat back, I'll continue doing it.

2. But since I don't want to eat less, or at least not yet, nor do I want to weigh less, I decided to work on losing fat by increasing my efforts to add muscle. My hope being that I can eventually add enough muscle to lose the 4 to 6 inches of fat from my waist that I clearly have yet to lose.

I did begin my efforts to do that. But they are just barely beginning to get started. So I'd not yet expected any effects.

The good news is that I did get some progress anyway!

Since last month, I lost half an inch off my chest; half an inch off my waist!; & half an inch off my hips. That means that, since I weigh the same, I am more compact and dense in my body. And, since a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat, that means I did lose some fat and added some muscle.

The only bad news is that I lost half an inch in each of the 3 measurements. I didn't need or want to lose off my chest or hips and would have been MUCH happier to have lost an inch and a half off my waist and have had the other two stay the same.

But here's what produced the little progress I did get.:

a) My progress in my jump rope has stalled out; but I am continuing to do it. For me at what is now over 65, it's turned out to be a bit too high impact to be OK for me to do the 6 sets of 98 I'd planned to build up to. And, it works my legs hard enough they have not been recovering quite enough between my sessions. So, they've felt tired and depleted at the start of each session.

So, I've decided to do 5 sets.: 28, 42, a "big number set" where I do build up to
98, then 42, then 28. I find I can do sets of 28 and 42 often without a miss even when my legs are tired. And, by not overdoing adding more, my hope is that I'll be able to do each of the sets more smoothly and easily and with far fewer misses once I've done that for several more weeks.

And, I can feel that my legs feel more solid than they did. Plus even though the weather has been warmer, my Nordic track performance has been as good as it was in cooler weather from the conditioning effect of the jump rope.

b) The new thing I added was to buy a 12 Kg kettlebell. (That's about 26.4 pounds.)

Because it does handle a bit awkwardly and is new to me, I'm being extra careful to begin with fewer repetitions than I am fit and strong enough to do and then add more slowly.

I decided on a 9 exercise set where I do each of the nine parts without a break. But I began with one rep in each one. Then I did two in each one. And, I'm just now up to doing three in each one. My goal is to do three sets of 25. Now, I just do three sets of three.

One of the basic kettlebell exercises is to get into the position of a football center hiking the football and swing the kettlebell back between your legs and then to swing it forward and up until it's over your head and then repeat.

(Because the kettlebell is awkward and gives you little leverage in controlling its motion, you do have to be careful. So, if at the top it starts to flop to the side, gently begin your downward swing before it does. Then swing a bit faster next time to use the centrifical force to hold it in place for you. )

My nine sets are:

1. a two handed swing; 2. a left handed swing; 3. a right handed swing;

4. a left then right handed clean and press with leg assist as need; 5. a left then right handed row bracing my opposite hand on a bench and my back parallel to the floor; then 6. a left then right handed shrug.

7. a left handed swing; 8; a right handed swing; & 9. a two handed swing.

BUT, already, when I'm finished, I can feel the effects and can tell it is building muscle in my upper back, arms, and shoulders in a way that I'd not gotten using a 25 pound dumbbell with more traditional exercises. However, since I now do 25 reps with those, I am certain I can reach my initial goal with the 12 Kg kettlebell.

And, based on what I already feel, I think it has a shot of working to shrink my waist by building my upper body and core muscles by that much.

The fact that so little may already have worked a little bit, was and is a surprise.

So, I look forward to the next three or four months to see if it does that much more!

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Why obese women do badly on memory tests....

Today's Post: Friday, 7-16-2010

There was a story online recently that found that obese women did more poorly on memory tests than women who were less fat.

The surprise was that the obese women who did not have type 2 diabetes, definite heart disease, or high blood pressure tested about as badly as those who did have.

So, having those things because of obesity wasn’t what caused the lower memory scores.

The article I read speculating on the explanation for this I thought missed the likely causes.

I think the following four will prove to be the main reasons for it.

1. The first one I believe is the likeliest and strongest cause. Two things are true. People who are active for more than half an hour a day and do several sessions of quite vigorous exercise every week are far less likely to get and stay obese. And, being obese makes doing such exercises MUCH harder – at least initially. The bottom line is that few obese women get such exercise.

Exercise has separately both been shown to prevent this effect and being sedentary, complete lack of exercise, to cause it. Exercise grows new brain cells and increases circulation. Sedentary people over time have measurable brain shrinkage that active exercisers do not or have far less of.

2. While obese women who do not have type 2 diabetes, definite heart disease, or high blood pressure, they often DO have similar conditions due to not exercising and the way they eat. And, they often are developing those health problems even though they haven’t arrived at the more severe range of them yet.

Eating and drinking a very large amount of sugars and high glycemic foods and very little foods with fiber almost every day is a direct cause of obesity. It also produces a roller coaster ride in the blood sugar and insulin that the brains of people who eat this way are exposed to.

Conversely, eating organically raised vegetables and protein foods from naturally fed animals such as grass fed beef and wild caught sardines and salmon, tends to produce a lower and much more stable and far less varied level of blood sugar and insulin. The studies I’ve read suggest that the brain functions far better if people eat this way. People who are obese tend NOT to eat this way.

This effect is understandable. For almost all the hundreds of thousands of years people have lived they ate the second way with natural foods. Only in the last 100 years have we changed where most people eat the first way.

To me it could not be simpler. Our brains have evolved to work well on what we ate for hundreds of thousands of years. When fed different and lower quality food that creates this roller coaster effect, they don’t work nearly as well. And, the more people eat the kinds of foods that cause this roller coaster effect, the fatter they become.

3. There is increasing evidence that in similar ways -- going from eating organically raised vegetables and protein foods from naturally fed animals such as grass fed beef and wild caught sardines and salmon to --
eating a lot of grains and the meat of animals fed grains instead of their natural diets has several dreadful health effects.

It boosts the level of the omega 6 oils found in grains and lowers the omega 3 oils found in the meat of naturally fed animals and fish.

I’ve read that people evolved to get a one to one ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. And, even getting five times as much omega 6 may still work.

But when you to the 10 to one to 40 to one ratio people have who eat in the way that produces obesity – and is increasingly what most people do today, unfortunately, people get high levels of chronic inflammation.

That is proven to cause heart disease and make getting most cancer far more likely. But there is increasing evidence that it also is a very powerful fattener.

Obese women ate that way to become obese; and their brains don’t work as well with this chronic inflammation. In addition, the flexibility of the cell walls of nerve cells is a key to them working well. But this flexibility depends on getting enough omega 3 oils.

4. Last but far from least, your score on a memory test depends on you being able to concentrate and focus your attention. If something is continuously distracting you, you are likely not to perform as well.

And, often being obese is uncomfortable enough from the extra weight and the lowered ability to cool off that this may be a factor.

The bottom line is whether you are a man or woman, if you don’t want to get or stay obese and you’d like your brain and memory to work well and keep doing it, stop: eating excessive sugars and foods made from refined grains, eating lots of oils high in omega 6 such as corn and soy oil, & stop drinking soft drinks and getting no exercise.

Instead eat mostly organically grown vegetables and natural sources of protein such as raw nuts, grass fed beef, pasture raised chickens where the pastureland isn’t itself polluted, and wild caught fish.

And, get abundant exercise each week including several sessions each week of vigorous exercise such as strength training with enough weight to cause you to work at lifting them and interval cardio.

Unfortunately, it’s a bit harder to eat this way now than it should be.
And, it CAN be challenging to fit in regular exercise. But you can do better than you might imagine if you begin anyway and keep finding ways to improve that you can do.

But it IS easily possible to stop ingesting the bad stuff totally. Even better, you then have all the money available you were spending on it to buy better quality if slightly more expensive foods instead.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Diet AND regular soft drinks make you fat and much worse, part 2....

Today's Post: Thursday, 7-15-2010

This is part 2 of the post that we did last time, on Tuesday, 7-13.

6. You get yellow teeth and look MUCH older. The phosphoric acid also tends to remove your tooth enamel. And, since the enamel is white and the tooth underneath is yellow. This tends after a few years to make your teeth look yellow. People in their nineties get this effect even without soft drinks. But why make it happen decades sooner and pay to buy the product that does it?

7. You will be more likely to get cancer, particularly esophageal and pancreatic cancer.

Sodium benzoate is used as a preservative in many soft drinks. When vitamin C, ascorbic acid, and possibly other acids such as phosphoric acid, from the soft drink or food you eat is mixed with sodium benzoate, it releases benzene which is a proven carcinogen. The main cancer this seems to cause is esophageal as the soft drink goes down your esophagus into your stomach.

The excessive sugars from the regular soft drinks or from what you eat after the sugar cravings from drinking diet soft drinks also tend to lower your immune system’s cancer fighting ability. Recently it was found than even a few soft drinks a week just about doubled your chances of getting pancreatic cancer.

8. Research from a university in the UK apparently found that, similar to what other researchers recently found for cigarette smoke, sodium benzoate also disables key protections in your DNA in a way that causes mitochondrial damage and such degenerative diseases as liver damage and nerve damage diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

9. You may even boost your chances of getting brain damage and senility. The heart disease and type 2 diabetes that soft drinks contribute to have been implicated in helping to cause both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by harming your blood vessels and cutting down on brain circulation and by giving it too much or too little glucose. One study found that excess fructose directly made memory worse. And, some studies apparently have found a variety of mental and brain problems in some people who drink diet soft drinks with aspartame.

10. Kidney stones are super painful and can be quite expensive to treat. Apparently something in both regular and diet cola soft drinks tends to cause kidney stones AND long term kidney disease. Since kidney disease can harm your brain, this may be a cause of the brain damage. And, since kidney disease tends to harm your heart, this is an extra way cola soft drinks cause heart disease.

11. Heartburn that happens very often and almost every day is called GERD by the doctors, which stands for Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease. The muscular valve to your stomach where you want acid to digest your food, loosens up too much and you get acid in your esophagus. That either hurts as if the inside of you was being burned, which it is to some degree, OR it makes you feel as if something inside you is pressing firmly on your chest.

Worse, if it happens too much, the muscular valve gets stretched too much and opens too easily. The carbonation in soft drinks and possibly the phosphoric apparently tend to make this happen or worse when it does happen. Or, it may be the excess fat from drinking soft drinks makes less room for your stomach and tends to push it open. Regardless of the cause though, people who drink soft drinks tend to get GERD more often.

12. Lower fertility. One study found that men who drank a lot of cola soft drinks had less sperm than men who did not drink soft drinks of didn’t drink them as much. And, research in Europe found that the artificial sweeteners in diet colas increase the miscarriage rate and did so more if the women drank more of them!

So, between the parts, both regular and diet soft drinks not only make you fat if you drink more than one or two a MONTH, they cause or help cause nearly as many serious health problems as tobacco smoke.

So, what can be done?

a) If you’d prefer to avoid being or staying fat or want to stay healthy, virtually never drink soft drinks.

b) And, if you’d like to help protect the health of people who have never learned why soft drinks are harmful and lower our rising health care costs, support taxes on both regular and diet soft drinks that at least equal their current selling price.

The research is clear. When soft drinks cost that much more, people buy less of them.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Diet AND regular soft drinks make you fat and much worse....

Today's Post: Tuesday, 7-13-2010

You likely already know that regular soft drinks make you fat. But you may not be aware of how effective they are and how sneaky they are about doing it.

1. It’s pretty simple actually. Regular soft drinks add calories but do NOT make you less hungry. Then once your body tries to correct for the sugar surge it tends to overcorrect and the lower blood sugar then makes you hungry. The perfect fattener is regular soft drinks. They are enjoyable to drink but add calories and make you hungry later! Not only that, some studies have found that the high fructose corn syrup in them is a bit more fattening than sugar.

So, it’s small wonder that one study found the for every daily soft drink people drink, they are 15 pounds fatter after a couple of years than if they drank water, coffee, or tea instead. So, if you drink 3 a day, you very likely can lose 45 pounds of fat within a couple of years with no added hunger but LESS hunger if you switch 100 % to water, or tea, or coffee without added sugar etc.

2. One study reports that 60 % of Americans now drink diet soft drinks to avoid this problem. The result is about the same! The reason is that at the biological level, artificial sweeteners are extremely strong appetite increasing drugs that produce strong sugar cravings. Except for a tiny minority who have such a strong drive to be thin that they override the drug like effects and are able to ignore their sugar cravings – perhaps one or two percent – everyone else who drinks diet soft drinks, gets just as fat as if they drank regular soft drinks instead. Oops !

Bottom line, if you know the facts and don’t want to get or stay too fat, you’ll never drink soft drinks or diet soft drinks at all.

The effects of this added intake of sugar or high fructose corn syrup do more than make you fat to harm your health.

And, some of the other ingredients of many soft drinks do other kinds of harm.

Yesterday, NewsMax emailed out this headline story, “13 New Ways Colas Ruin Your Health”

Then in addition to obesity, diet & regular soft drinks making you fat, it lists twelve more ways drinking soft drinks harm you.

Here are those other 12 ways.

1. The added sugar and high fructose corn syrup have been found to increase triglycerides and lower HDL which means they increase the small particle LDL in your blood that causes heart disease. The study NewsMax reported was in the journal of the American Heart Association.

2. Similarly, even one a soft drink a day, makes it much more likely you’ll develop type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes does the triple too. It tends to help cause heart disease, it makes having heart disease more likely to cause a heart attack and kill you, and it also damages circulation to your sexual parts, legs, kidneys, and eyes.

3. Similarly, the regular intake of excessive high fructose corn syrup or sugary foods the appetite boosting effects of diet soft drinks causes you to eat, also tend to produce high blood sugar directly apparently. And this is in addition to the high blood pressure increase from the added fat you’ll have.

That makes heart attacks and strokes more likely and more likely to kill you.

4. Apparently, according to some studies, this excessive intake of fructose from high fructose corn syrup and sugars also tends to cause gout. That makes your joints or using that part of your body give stabbing pains from the uric acid crystals that it deposits in them.

But there’s more yet!

Many soft drinks and most colas have phosphoric acid added. It apparently makes the mouth feel of the carbonation more noticeable and increases the fresh feeling from drinking the soft drinks.

But, according to the information in the NewsMax article, you pay dearly for that effect. Remember, there is an extremely large multiplier effect with drinking soft drinks. If you drink 2 a day for ten years, that’s 7300 doses of phosphoric acid in that time.

5. This phosphoric acid apparently causes osteoporosis by leaching calcium from your bones. The drugs to try to reverse osteoporosis have truly obnoxious side effects and leg, back, and hip fractures can be extremely inconvenient, hurt like hell, stop your mobility at least for awhile, and even kill some older people according to the statistics. Why pay money to go there? Don’t drink diet or regular soft drinks.

Continued, in our next post on Thursday with more harms from phosphoric acid and other components in diet and regular soft drinks.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Enough vitamin D and exercise prevents Alzheimer’s disease....

Today's Post: Monday, 7-12-2010

We’ve known that exercise helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of senility for quite a long time. So the recently announced studies showing that it does are nice extras.

Small wonder that exercise has this protective effect.

It helps ensure good circulation to your brain; slows aging; and grows new brain cells!

And, vigorous exercise, even if brief, several times a week prevents or reduces insulin resistance and too high blood sugar that tends to cause both Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of senility. (Both strength training and interval cardio work particularly if you keep doing a bit more until you exercise quite vigorously each time.)

But, the second finding recently reported is critically important.

Research done in the UK and reported today in the HealthDay online news said that:

People who were severely deficient in vitamin D were 394% -- almost FOUR times more likely to be cognitively impaired while those who were only deficient were 42% more likely to have such impairment.

In the last 50 to 100 years dramatically fewer people spend enough time outside to get sufficient vitamin D from that source. (People used to get a lot of vitamin D from sunlight exposure from being outside, over 10,000 iu a day or more from this source in fact. But very few people are outside that much now.)

Also, until recently, it was thought that 400 iu of vitamin D was enough to ensure good health.

Separate studies have found that the real minimum daily requirement for vitamin D3 is closer to 1700 iu and that the optimum daily intake is closer to 3,000 to 7,500 iu of D3.

Further, many people don’t even take a multivitamin with 400 iu of vitamin D.

That means that hundreds of thousands of people are now severely deficient or deficient in vitamin D.

Given the large impact of this in making senility more likely, the public health importance and the increase in caregiver costs this suggests are already happening, the resulting vitamin D deficiency rate is a bit scary.

For this reason, everyone should at least take a multivitamin with 400 iu of vitamin D and 1,000 or 2,000 iu of vitamin D3 each day.

And, if you want to avoid senility and Alzheimer’s disease yourself, consider doing regular, vigorous exercise each week -- and taking at least 5,000 iu a day of vitamin D3.

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Friday, July 09, 2010

Why so many more people are getting too fat....

Today's Post: Friday, 7-9-2010

There are 3 reasons.

They happened for understandable, even partially beneficial reasons. They happened gradually. But the pace and spread of these 3 things have gone up dramatically in the last 50 years and in the last 20. No surprise, so have the number and percentage of people who are too fat and in exactly that time period.

Most unfortunately, being too fat and the direct effects of these three causes also often cause heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases that have helped cause the dramatic and increasingly unsustainable increases in medical care costs. These increases also happened at the same time as the increase in these 3 causes and in more people getting too fat.

1. Before 1905, even most rich people had to do so much walking and get other physical activity that very few were fat. Since 1960, in the United States and in other developed countries, people drive almost everywhere they want to go and they have so many labor saving devices that they also spend far less time doing other physical activities.

2. Before 1950, virtually no one watched television. Beginning in the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s virtually everyone watched television. That means that in less than 20 years people in the United States went from doing things like playing cards or reading or playing baseball themselves to all sitting and watching TV instead. Studies even show people began having sex less often because of TV. From the point of excess fat, this is very unfortunate. One study found that watching TV burns less calories than sleeping.

Today, the average person watches TV more than 2 hours a day, seven days a week. Some people even spend more time watching TV than they do working.

These two things combined mean that people today burn far fewer calories than they did not that long ago.

But our bodies are set to expect the food that would support the greater exercise and activities needed. In addition, the doctor who specialized in the effects of exercise, Kenneth Cooper, MD, quoted studies that found that in addition to burning more calories, exercising and being active allows our bodies to process carbs and fats without problems or causing illness. Before, people could get away with eating more and even eating more desserts and similar foods.

3. But before 1950, people tended to eat real foods and LESS sugar, desserts, snacks, and soft drinks. Few people ate foods made with omega 6 oils.

Since then, in part because these things are heavily advertised on the TV so many people spend hours watching and in part because they have become so cheap to provide, people eat far more sugar, desserts, snacks, and soft drinks.

Worse, the same changes in agriculture and the food industry, have degraded the quality of even real foods and added things to them our bodies do not process well and that cause disease.

It seems simple. If you can make things for people that taste good and keep driving down the cost to provide them, you make more money and people like your stuff.

Between government subsidies to farmers to help them grow more food for less money, the trend in farming towards industrial, mass production methods using these now cheaper foods, everyone had an incentive to do the things they did.

Then, since these foods were advertised heavily on the TV everyone was watching, people bought more of them and the food companies made and sold more.

So, since people saw them advertised on TV and on store shelves they bought them. Then they noticed most people were doing the same.

Gradually foods and drinks that didn’t even exist before 1905 became more than half the calories people took in.

People thought of them as normal and began to perceive people who did not as strange.

There were two huge problems with that. People were no longer active enough to burn off all the extra calories from these foods and drinks or process them safely. And, they still had bodies evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to eat the things people at before 1905.

What can be done now?

People who learn this and who want to be less fat and to stay healthy, can reverse each of these 3 things for themselves.

They can get vigorous exercise, walking, and other physical activity each week instead of none.

They can cut back on watching TV to 14 hours a week or less.

They can eat and drink foods that existed before 1905 and that were raised more in the ways those foods were raised and totally or close to totally stop ingesting the foods and drinks advertised on TV that did not.

They can eat organic produce. They can eat grass fed beef and pasture raised chicken and wild caught fish. (That only works if the grassland and pasture and water are unpolluted.) They can stop buying and stop eating and drinking pre-made, packaged desserts and snacks and regular and diet soft drinks. They can also stop eating almost anything made with refined grains.

Those changes prevent or help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, & cancer.

And, since they increase the calories people burn and drop the excess and unproductive calories that so many people have been getting, they will be far less fat as well.

What about getting less knowledgeable and self-directed people to be less fat and in better health to stop health care costs from going up so much it slows the economy?

There are two ways.

One has been proven to work.

The other has worked to some degree and may evolve to work even better.

Here’s the one that works for sure.:

The new nonfoods and the sugar and refined flour that are now consumed in amounts ten times what people’s bodies can process safely, must all be taxed.

Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, all hydrogenated oils, refined grains, oils high in omega 6, MSG & related compounds, all should be taxed and taxed heavily.

This has been tested to work. Making real food cheaper just got shoppers to get more treat foods with the savings. But making junky foods and drinks cost more got the shoppers to buy less of them and more real foods.

Even better, it’s a way for governments to raise tax revenues without slowing the economy.

The one that has worked to some degree and may evolve to work even better is to have employers who pay health care costs or who want productive and healthy workers to support these three changes effectively.

That means things like making sure their employees learn these things.

It means removing vending machines or at least removing these kinds of foods and drinks from them. And, it means discontinuing the practices that provide these foods and drinks in the workplace such as buying donuts or fast food for employees or providing them with soft or having people bring treat foods to work to share.

Adding exercise facilities or buying memberships in local gyms for employees also works and the employees who use them like them and stay at that employer more than in companies that do not.

The bad news is that these things are NOT being done close to enough by governments and employers yet.

The good news is that you can do these things for yourself.

You can vote in favor of such taxes and support politicians who do.

And, you can make these changes in your company if you are the boss or the health and wellness director and get the boss to OK them.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Surprising foods to prevent cancer....

Today's Post: Thursday, 7-8-2010

Most people know that eating broccoli helps to prevent cancer. Many people have heard that most of the foods in the cruciferous vegetable group broccoli is in prevent cancer.

Some of you have read in our previous posts that eating raw broccoli once or more every week was found to cut the incidence of the really dangerous kind of prostate cancer that kills people by more than half.

But, if you read those posts, you may remember that eating raw cauliflower also did that well or even a touch better at preventing aggressive prostate cancer cutting its incidence a bit more than half.

Needless to say, cancer is something most of us want to completely avoid; but we can use all the help we can get.

For example, in my family there is a history of prostate cancer though not the aggressive kind as far as I know.

Also before I knew better and even as a kid when few people knew better I’ve been exposed to tobacco smoke a good bit even though that is no longer true.

And, I am exposed to many of the chemicals now run amok in our lives that are not that safe.

So, clearly it would pay me and most of us to eat as many cancer preventing foods as possible.

The really nice thing about the other foods I’ve found that prevent cancer is they almost all are low in calories and high in nutrition and fiber, so they make staying or getting free of excess fat easy.

The more of them you eat, the less fat you will wear and the better cancer protection you’ll have.

I’ve been reading the book, Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition by David Servan-Schreiber. (It’s available on Amazon & is current so may also be at your local bookstore. I found it recently at Keplers in Menlo Park.)

If you want to prevent or get rid of cancer, the book is a gold mine. He has researched almost everything you can do besides medical treatment that actually has real evidence it works.

He found, for example, that the same eating changes that prevent heart disease also prevent cancer:

Completely avoiding omega 6 oils, hydrogenated oils, and refined grains; only eating whole grains moderately or less; either only eating meat from animals fed only grass or pasture fed OR eating the grain fed stuff sparingly and trimming as much of the fat as possible --- ALL cut back on the massively excessive intake of omega 6 oils that have jumped into the modern diet in the last 100 years. Such massive doses of these in our bodies which are NOT evolved to handle them, cause inflammation which in turn causes heart disease AND the author found tends to cause or worsen cancers. They also lower your HDL cholesterol which adds to your heart disease risk.

You can also ingest more of the foods that counterbalance the omega 6 oils, the omega 3 oils by eating wild caught fish (farmed is toxic) and which are low in mercury &/or you can take purified fish oil omega 3 supplements.

Third, you can use extra virgin olive oil to replace the omega 6 oils. Olive oil tends to lower LDL, increase HDL – both heart protective and is an oil that’s close to free of omega 6.

This post is about all the foods you can do IN ADDITION to those three steps.

In his book, in the “action” section in the middle, he lists a large number of vegetables that tend to help prevent colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.

Yes, broccoli and cauliflower DO rank high. But in his list, several foods including some you might have never guessed would be there actually ranked higher!

The best one of the cruciferous vegetables listed was Brussels sprouts! They were close to the number one food –NOT broccoli. Green cabbage was also very high. Savoy cabbage and kale were also very high.

Red cabbage was listed; but it was not quite as strong a cancer fighter as the others.

Also, four foods you may never have dreamed would be on his list ranked up with Brussels sprouts:

garlic, onions, scallions – aka green onions, and leeks!

These foods also help protect your heart and are a very effective way to spice up food that does not use salt. And, you can also take de-odorized garlic as a supplement if you want the health benefit without the effects on your breath. (Kyolic is the brand most health food stores carry.)

I do some of each myself.

In a separate place in the book, he also lists eating mushrooms and notes that the inexpensive button mushrooms work. He lists green tea, particularly Japanese green tea.

One study he quotes even found that in women who ate mushrooms and drank green tea every day had an 89% lower chance of getting breast cancer than women who did neither.

Here again, you can buy mushroom supplements. But those are a bit pricey. Adding button mushrooms to your salad or casserole dish a few times a week is likely close to as good for you, gives you a super low cal food to eat, and is a LOT cheaper.

Whole Foods Markets sells the Choice line of organic, Japanese green tea. And, NOW supplements makes an inexpensive green tea extract supplement. I use both. They wake you up without overdoing it as coffee can and have an even better track record for protecting your heart than their cancer preventing one.

Though his book doesn’t stress it as much, it is known that cooked tomatoes eaten with extra virgin olive oil deliver a LOT of the carotenoid, lycopene that helps prevent prostate cancer and may help prevent other cancers. So, tomato sauces that contain cooked or pureed tomatoes, garlic (&/or onion), and extra virgin olive oil are unusually protective. (You can also take 30 mg a day of lycopene as a supplement.)

He does say that eating curried foods that combine turmeric in the curry, black pepper, and extra virgin olive oil makes the cancer preventing turmeric as much as 50 times more bioavailable as taking curcumin supplements does.

Eating such curried foods is known to not only prevent many cancers, it also is one of the best ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Eating a Mediterranean diet* and emphasizing these foods is already known to help prevent cancers, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Eat many of these kinds of foods every week, and you’ll be in better health and live far longer than those who do not.

*(Extra virgin olive oil, garlic, cooked tomato dishes, lots of vegetables, and hardly any grain fed meat and no junk food are the key aspects of a Mediterranean diet. The other part, drinking red wine with meals in moderation, is more of a stress reliever and heart attack preventer.)

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

How statins drive up health care costs and provide poor heart protection, part 3....

Today's Post: Tuesday, 7-6-2010

First we posted that statin drugs are not very effective in preventing heart disease and heart attacks since 100 people need to take them to prevent one heart attack and that they are not effective enough to be worth the very high dollar cost and significant harm that having so many people get from the side effects of statins.

We then point out that doctors would be far more effective in preventing heart disease if they had their patients turn off the direct causes of heart disease instead.

Our last two previous posts listed those 5 direct causes of heart disease and many of the ways to turn them off.

Here’s the list that the last two posts cover ways to turn them off.

After the list, we include other ways to get more protection that get from as good to much better results for heart attack and heart disease prevention than statin drugs.

The best known and most harmful of these are:

1. Ingesting trans fats and other hydrogenated oils.

2. Eating lots of sugars and refined grains (&/or ingesting artificial sweeteners that boost your desire for those foods.)

3. NOT getting moderate physical activity and quite vigorous exercise every week.

4. Getting any exposure to tobacco smoke.

5. Having excessive inflammation from ingesting too many omega 6 oils & ingesting too little omega 3 oils without knowing the health harm that does and from failure to know and do the daily things that keep your gums healthy.

If you turn off those five causes your heart and heart attack protection will increase and your chances of getting a heart attack or other cardiovascular disease problem will go down.

Your small particle LDL level will drop and your excess inflammation will tend to disappear.

That will be shown by having your HDL reading go up and your triglyceride level fall. Research has found this is a direct indicator that your small particle LDL level has gone down.

And, since part of your LDL is that bad kind, your total LDL will go down. For the same reason, your total cholesterol will get lower if it has been much over 200.

And, since you will be eating more fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants and have your excess inflammation mostly disappear, your blood vessels will stay smooth and not order up the emergency patches that tend to turn into artery blocking plaque.

But since you may have built up some plaque before you turned off these causes or still have readings that are not yet good on these measures, are there ways to make that better besides turning off the causes?

Yes indeed there are. They are mostly safer or definitely safer than statins and they work as well and usually better than statins to protect your heart. They are also MUCH cheaper.

1. The Berkeley Heart Lab developed a way to check far more exact measures of heart attack risk and then grouped the people with similar profiles. When I scanned their website, I found something extremely interesting. As I remember it, all their profiles except one got more effective protection from taking the vitamin niacin than taking statins. To be fair, that one group seemed to do better with statins. But since statins tend to cost $1,000 a year and you might take them for 20 or 30 years plus pay for treatment for some of the side effects, it seems to me it might make sense to test first to see if you are in that one group that does somewhat better with statins since the test only costs about $700 and it could save you $20,000 to $30,000 with about a 90 % chance it will tell you that you can safely skip taking statins.

Meanwhile, other studies have found that niacin has such a powerful track record because it directly reverses the cause of heart disease by reducing your small particle LDL that causes heart disease. Further, the death rate of people taking niacin has been found to go down significantly. To me the two things seem connected.

Niacin does lower LDL cholesterol. But because it both increases HDL and lowers triglycerides, it does so by lowering the small particle LDL that actually causes heart disease!

There are two problems with niacin.

a) If you take even a moderately small amount such as the 300 mg dose I take after breakfast every day, if you take it on an empty stomach or after you have had a drink or two, you get a “flush” reaction that feels like a widespread case of instant sunburn. Your skin looks that color & feels noticeably warmer. Since this effect is not only harmless but may be a sign the niacin is doing its job and it goes away in 20 or 30 minutes, it’s not that bad. But if you take a lot more niacin than that or on an empty stomach, it can be a problem.

But there are several solutions. Don’t take more than 300 mg of niacin at a time unless your doctor says you are at severe risk unless you do so such as you are in the ER recovering from a heart attack. Try to always take it on a full stomach right after a full meal. And, if you need a bit more niacin than that since your HDL is still a bit low or your triglycerides are a bit too high or your LDL is too high, take 300 mg doses of “no flush” niacin, inositol hexaniacinate. I finally found a credible reference that actually measured how much real niacin this delivers which said that it tested out as the equivalent of 250 mg of niacin. The reason this delivers no flush is because it goes through the process of liberating the niacin so slowly it doesn’t get enough at any one time to cause the flush. I’ve found that taking the 300 mg of this with no food on a empty stomach or after a light meal is no problem with the flush.

So, I take both. The regular niacin after breakfast and the “no flush” version before breakfast and after dinner even if they are small meals. So, for my 1,050 mg a day of niacin received (300 + 3 X 250) each day, I only have the 300 after my large breakfast that tends to cause the flush a few days a month if that.

(I have found that the inexpensive Whole Foods brand in those strengths for niacin and “no flush” niacin both readily available and inexpensive.)

b) The second problem is a bit more of a concern. Like statin drugs, if you take more niacin than I do, well over 1,000 mg a day, or have liver problems or both, niacin can cause liver problems under those circumstances.

So, if you are going to take niacin, do as I did and have your doctor include a liver function test when you get your lipid panel tested. And, if you are going to take more than 1100 mg a day of niacin, be sure to get that test every 6 months or so.

b) The other key way to lower LDL cholesterol enough to compare with statins but in a MUCH safer way is to take sterol supplements. These were initially added to margarine and found to be effective. But margarine is a food that tends to cause heart disease. So pass on eating a margarine that has sterol supplements added and just take the supplements.

Beta sitosterol and saw palmetto both are sterols. And, sterols are found in nuts and vegetables which are foods that tend to be heart protective in part for that reason.

Natrol makes a beta sitosterol supplement they call “Cholesterol Balance” that I find effective by taking 3 a day. And, it costs less than $10 a month to take.

Again, I’m out of time to cover more things. But those two categories, niacin, and sterol supplements, between them lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as well or better than statins; are far safer than statins, AND provide BETTER heart attack prevention for most people.

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