Letter from Dr. Janson
Supplements for Added Protection
Other Supplements That Help
Research Supports Vitamin C and E
What Are Whole Grains?
In the Health News
In the Mailbag
Now that the tax season is behind us, and we are recovering
the stress that it brings, I am reminded that only one other
event is inevitable, according to the old cliché, and
that is death. As grim as that sounds (and who knows which
is worse – death or taxes!) you can do a lot to delay
the inevitable, and make sure that the aging process that
leads there is as healthy as possible.
Aging does not have to lead to the commonly expected degeneration,
debility, and dependency that most people associate with later
years. I know people who are well into their 90’s who
are fit and active and still have their mental faculties.
Although there is some unavoidable decline in function, it
does not have to lead to a serious change in your ability
to enjoy most of the pleasures of life. You can avoid accelerated
aging changes if you take care of yourself and follow the
lifestyle habits that lead to vigorous health. The right lifestyle
choices not only slow aging, they can even reverse premature
changes and degeneration.
Exercise Slows Aging
The first activity you need is a regular exercise program
or a significant amount of daily physical activity. If you
are a farmer,
gardener, or bicycle messenger, you may need no more than
However, if you are sedentary like most of us, you need to
establish a routine of physical activity. The evidence shows
that older people who exercise are able to maintain most of
their physical strength.
Interestingly, they are also better able to maintain their
You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to enjoy
these benefits. Simply brisk walking, jogging, rollerblading,
bicycling, swimming, or using exercise machines for about
25 to 35 minutes most days is all that is necessary, burning
about 2000 calories per week. Exercise also helps maintain
your ability to do normal everyday tasks so that you can live
It is important to include a stretching or yoga practice
as part of your routine to stay limber, maintain flexibility,
and improve your breathing capacity. This has the added advantage
of reducing stress.
Healthy Eating Habits
The information in the medical literature is quite clear that
proper eating habits can help maintain normal function as
well as prevent the chronic diseases that accompany premature
aging. These normal
functions include hearing, vision, taste and smell, digestion,
physical stamina, balance, agility, and sexual function. The
vast weight of science shows that the best diet is mostly
vegetarian, natural foods,
emphasizing fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and
beans, and small amounts of fish, preferably wild or naturally
farmed. (I used to think that salmon was the best fish, but
with all the farming of salmon, I now think that sardines,
packed in water, may be the best choice. I can’t yet
tell which is the cleanest geographic source for sardines.)
I recommend eating organic foods whenever possible to avoid
toxic pesticides and genetically engineered products.
A diet such as this is rich in vitamins, minerals, protective
flavonoids, and other phytochemicals, many of which are not
available as supplements. One recent example is the research
showing that citrus bioflavonoids can halt the growth of lung,
prostate, melanoma, and colon cancer cells, and the development
of breast cancer in mice. Tangeretin, from tangerines, was
particularly effective. Phytochemical nutrients are extremely
limited in diets based on animal products.
I believe that the research is now clear that supplements
to the diet are essential to slow the aging process and both
prevent and treat degenerative diseases associated with aging.
The most important of these have antioxidant properties, but
others help with circulation, hormonal balance, or detoxification.
My recommendations start with extra vitamins C and E. Ample
evidence shows that they help with protecting the cell membranes
and the fatty acids that are subject to oxidation damage.
For your appearance, they help with preventing the skin wrinkling
seen with aging, but more importantly, they help prevent heart
disease and cancer.
Vitamin C is essential for connective tissue strength and
elasticity, and both C and E support immune function. (Vitamin
C also helps with asthma, allergies, and viral infections,
while vitamin E helps with menopausal symptoms, PMS, and cramps.)
My usual recommendation is 2000 to 4000 mg of vitamin C and
400 to 800 IU of natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols.
In the next issue, Ill continue with the other
important supplements for slowing and reversing the aging
process, including bioflavonoids, other phytochemicals, herbs,
hormones, and other antioxidants.
Although the NAS says that supplements have not been proven,
the research continues to support them, which makes me wonder
just how much proof they really need (after all, drugs and
surgery are often administered with inadequate proof and far
Researchers from the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study report that
elderly men who took supplements of vitamins C and E were
able to preserve brain function better than those who did
not take them.
All of the men they evaluated were between 71 and 93 years
old, and in those men who took supplements of both vitamin
E and C, they found an 88% reduction in the frequency of vascular
dementia, the kind related to hardening of the arteries.
They also reported that the longer the men took both supplements
together, the greater was the protective effect. Even those
men without dementia had improved cognitive function if they
took either vitamin alone or both together. The researchers
presumed that the supplements were effective because of their
Another article shows that high levels of vitamin C in the
blood lessens the risk of gallstones in women. In this report,
there was a direct relationship between the highest levels
of vitamin C and the lowest levels of gallstones.
The researchers said that vitamin C is needed for conversion
of cholesterol to bile acids, and that would reduce the formation
of cholesterol stones. This also might explain why vitamin
C can lower cholesterol levels.
I am often surprised that people don't know what I mean when
I say "whole grains." This became clear to me recently
at a restaurant when I asked whether they served whole grains,
and I was told they had whole wheat bread. When the bread
came, it was white, and I asked the waitress who checked with
the kitchen. The response was they do not use white flour,
only "wheat flour."
Even the sickliest white bread in the supermarket is made
from "wheat flour," but it is not whole wheat. Whole
wheat is brown and includes the bran and the germ, which gives
it fiber and nutritional value, and on labels the ingredient
list should state "whole" every time it says wheat.
If it just says wheat, it is refined to remove the bran and
germ. Occasionally they add some molasses or caramel coloring
to make white bread appear brown, but don't be deceived. It
is best to choose organic, 100 percent whole wheat.
Other whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, corn, rye,
millet, buckwheat (not a true grain), quinoa, teff, and amaranth,
and the wheat relatives, kamut and spelt. There are many ways
to prepare whole grains for delicious taste and health benefits.
I often saute some onions and garlic, add some pepper, thyme,
and a small amount of soy sauce, and then add about two cups
of boiling water for every cup of whole buckwheat. I let this
simmer until the water is absorbed, and it makes a delicious
dish. Sometimes I add some broccoli or other green to the
mix, or simply steam to serve on the side.
Another simple whole grain dish: put three cups of organic
whole corn grits in a crock pot, add nine cups of boiling
water, and let this slow cook for two to three hours, without
stirring! You will have a delicious polenta. I add sauteed
mushrooms and vegetables, (with my usual onions and garlic).
Essential fatty acids are beneficial in a variety of
ways. A recent study showed that alpha-linolenic acid (the
omega-3 oil found in flaxseeds and walnuts) may prevent breast
cancer. Women with the highest levels of this oil in the fatty
tissue of the breast had only about 36 percent as much cancer
as those with the lowest levels. This oil is a precursor of
EPA, the fatty acid in fish, and prostaglandinsthe regulatory
substances that help immunity, circulation, PMS, menstrual
cramps, and many other functions.
Another study shows that EPA combined with vitamin
B12 can help with menstrual cramps and other menstrual symptoms,
such as bloating, headaches, nervousness, and irritability.
Although the fish oil was of benefit, the B12 significantly
increased the relief, which was achieved within three months
of being on the therapy with five capsules a day.
Fruit intake, especially those fruits high in
vitamin C, such as kiwi and citrus fruits, is associated with
a decreased incidence of asthma. Eating these fruits five
to seven times a week offered children significant protection
Women who eat flame broiled meats even twice a month
are at increased risk of breast cancer, possibly due to the
heterocyclic amines generated during flame broiling. If they
have a certain very common gene ( NAT2), the risk is further
increased. This gene promotes rapid activation of the carcinogenic
A reader wrote to me asking what I recommend for varicose
veins. While these may be the result of a low-fiber diet and
lack of exercise, and they are often managed symptomatically
with leg elevation and support stockings, you can reverse
them to some extent with dietary supplements.
I recommend 400 IU of vitamin E, 1000 to 2000 mg of bioflavonoids,
2000 to 4000 mg of vitamin C, and several standardized herbs
that have been shown to help. These include daily butcher's
broom, 50 to 100 mg, horse chestnut, 250 to 500 mg, and gotu
kola (Centella asiatica), 60 to 120 mg. I have seen some remarkable
reversals of varicosities with these and proanthocyanidins,
50 to 100 mg.
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