Letter from Dr. Janson
Lifestyle and Pets for Depression
In the Health News
Recipe of the Month: Bean Chili for Winter
I am glad I waited until after the holidays to report to you
about the relationship of large meals to heart attacks! Recent
reports confirm what many have known for a long timelarge
meals trigger heart attacks. In fact, people who eat a large
meal are four times more likely to have a heart attack in
the next two hours (and within the first hour, the risk is
The researchers did not take into account whether a large
meal of vegetables, brown rice, and tofu, with some garlic
and onions would have the same effect, but no matter what
you choose to eat it is best not to overdo it. Even healthy
foods, in large amounts,are stressful on your arteries and
Now that the holidays are over, it is time to take stock
of your health habits if you want to decrease your risks of
developing chronic degenerative diseases. Modifying those
health habits is also the best way to make yourself feel good,
look good, and have more energy, and help yourself both physically
On another note, while drug therapies are often necessary
and sometimes lifesaving, we put far too much faith in their
safety and effectiveness. Depending on the FDA to protect
us from the risks is unreliable, and medicines cause many
side effects and deaths. Often, they are pulled from the market
after patients (guinea pigs?) have unexpected side effects.
For example, calcium channel blockers are commonly used to
treat hypertension. They do lower blood pressure, but do not
reduce the risk of heart attacks and heart failure compared
to other medications that are less expensive and more effective.
Diuretics, beta-blockers, and ACE inhibitors help with both
the blood pressure and heart disease, but it is even better
to try non-drug therapies. Diet and weight loss can help many
people avoid drugs. Add stress management and dietary supplements,
such as vitamin C, magnesium, coenzyme Q10, garlic, and hawthorn
berry, and you may be able to avoid drugs and the risk of
drug side effects.
The side effects of drugs, even when taken correctly, cause
over 100,000 deaths annually, and if you add the dangers of
errors in prescribing and administering drugs, it is easy
to see how important it is to find alternatives whenever possible.
Even with serious diseases, it is not always necessary to
take drugs, yet many physicians do not look for the non-drug
treatments that are available. Antibiotics are also greatly
overused for conditions that dont warrant them.
Increasing public demand has led to greater awareness in
the medical community of alternativeskeep up the good
work. Taking charge of your lifestyle choices is the real
way to manage your health and avoid the need for medical care.
A new study confirms the value of chromium in managing diabetes
(adult onset, now more properly called Type II diabetes, as
it is now common at earlier ages due to overweight and poor
Earlier studies reported that up to 90 percent of diabetics
could get off medication with chromium supplements, if they
took 1000 mcg of chromium daily. Chromium enhances insulin
sensitivity. This report confirms the value of chromium in
an elderly population, using only 400 mcg daily.
Of course, chromium is only a part of the solution to diabetes.
A high fiber diet, weight loss, and regular exercise are extremely
effective lifestyle changes that help control diabetes. James
Anderson, MD, at the University of Kentucky, has shown that
diabetics do better following such a diet and exercise program.
In addition, other supplements help both to control sugar
levels and prevent the complications of diabetes, related
to circulatory disorders, visual problems, and neurological
symptoms. Bioflavonoids, alpha-lipoic acid, coenzyme Q10,
bilberry, proanthocyanidins, magnesium, gamma-linolenic acid,
vitamins C and E, B complex, and others are all beneficial
Recent research suggests that cholesterol is not only a problem
when it builds up as part of the plaque inside the arteries.
High blood cholesterol levels may impede oxygen delivery to
all body tissues, and impair their function.
The cholesterol that you eat from animal products should
be limited, especially from flesh foods, (I do recommend some
organic eggs in the diet). However, the cholesterol that you
produce in the liver is a greater contributor to blood cholesterol
levels than diet. You produce more cholesterol when you are
under oxidative stress and free radical exposure, which may
be why antioxidants can lower cholesterol levels.
Although cholesterol is a component of all cell membranes,
when too much builds up in red blood cell membranes, it blocks
the transport of oxygen, which is carried by the hemoglobin
in the red cells. This could starve tissues of oxygen, and
in heart muscles this could lead to increased pain on exertion
In this study, patients with high cholesterol had an 18 percent
lower oxygen level in the tissues than patients with low cholesterol.
Treatments that lower cholesterol include diet and some drugs,
but there are alternatives to the drugs that are much safer.
For example, a form of vitamin B3 called inositol hexaniacinate
lowers cholesterol, but does not cause the flush that is typical
of plain niacin, and it does not affect the liver, which can
occasionally happen with high doses of other niacin forms
(niacinamide does not cause a flush either, but it does not
Other supplements that help include garlic, chromium, vitamins
C and E, gugulipids (an Indian herb), and the red-yeast rice
that I wrote about in the last issue. Antioxidants also help
because oxidized cholesterol is the most dangerous form.
A healthy diet plays the greatest and most comprehensive
role in protecting you from heart disease. As you know by
now, my diet guidelines include lots of fresh vegetables and
fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and small amounts
of fish and organic eggs and low-fat yogurt. Medical literature
consistently supports this diet as the most healthful for
most people, including most diabetics.
However, I do recognize that some diabetics and insulin resistant
people might need modification of this diet until they get
their situation under control. Health practices that reduce
insulin resistance are chromium, exercise and weight loss.
Although I write often about the benefits of good nutrition
and dietary supplements in the treatment of depression, non-nutritional
influences can also make a big difference.
For example, having a pet may provide relief from depression.
Pets offer unconditional affection, while the responsibility
of caring for a pet, can give a sense of purpose and joy in
life. Pets provide physical contact and emotional comfort,
which are frequently lacking in the lives of people experiencing
depression. Dogs or cats can also be wonderful companions,
and thus reduce feelings of loneliness that often accompany
If you have to go out to walk a dog every day, you will get
more physical activity yourself, and sustained exercise can
produce endorphins, brain chemicals that give a mild sense
of euphoria (the so-called runners high,
though the exercise does not have to be running).
Aerobic exercise (the level that you can do without getting
short of breath but works up a sweat) is enough to release
endorphins, if you keep it up long enough. This is usually
30 to 40 minutes, but every individual is different, and you
have to find the level at which it happens for you.
Having a dog that requires outdoor activity or getting
outdoors for exercise may provide further relief because of
increased light exposure. The low level of natural light in
winter is one cause of a form of depression called Seasonal
Affective Disorder (SAD).
Light decreases the daytime production of melatonin, a hormone
produced by the pituitary gland that influences the body clock.
Exposure to powerful light sources early in the morning (the
timing is important) will suppress melatonin production at
the right time, and can help reset the body clock and reduce
Special light boxes (small collections of fluorescent
bulbs) can provide adequate light when it is needed. Light
boxes are available from a variety of sources at a range of
prices. You dont have to spend a fortune to find one
that works for you.
Melatonin supplements at bedtime can also help (well, I suppose
I could not get away from supplements altogether). Doses are
usually in the range of 1 to 3 mg of melatonin, but some people
respond to more or less. These doses usually help sleep as
well as helping depression. One study used as much as 10 mg
of melatonin to achieve results, and after a time they were
able to reduce the dose and maintain the benefits.
You can take a sublingual melatonin dissolved in the mouth
if you have trouble falling asleep. You can take a timed release
tablet if your habit is to fall asleep easily but wake up
in the middle of the night and find yourself unable to go
back to sleep.
The USDA, always more friendly to the conventional
food industry, has produced their own version of national
organic food standards. Labels should appear next summer,
but some questions still remain about these standards.
After public outcry, they eliminated irradiated foods, genetically
modified foods, and those fertilized with sewage sludge, but
many in the natural products industry worry that they will
not be as strict as current standards. We will have to wait
to see how this influences the supply and purity of organic
Industrial food producers want to claim that organic
is just a marketing gimmick, and they want the public informed
that organic foods are not better than conventional foods.
Theyre wrong. Organic foods are better for your health
and the environment. Pesticides are not healthy.
We know that saw palmetto berry extract helps benign
prostate enlargement, but now there is evidence from the laboratory
that saw palmetto also helps prevent and treat prostate cancer
(American Society for Cell Biology meeting, Reuters Health,
Dec 2000). Saw palmetto decreased growth of cancer cells in
culture. It killed other cancer cells, but it was five times
more potent against prostate cancer cells. The researchers
noted that because it inhibited the inflammatory substance
known as COX-2, which is high in prostate cancer cells, long-term
usage of saw palmetto could help to prevent prostate cancer
as well as treat it. The usual dose of saw palmetto is 160
mg of standardized extract, 2 to 3 times a day.
While mentioning organic standards, we now have even
further evidence that pesticides are detrimental to human
health (as well as that of the environment). Household pesticides
are increasingly implicated in cancer, especially childhood
cancers. A study at USC (Cancer 2000;89:2315-2321) showed
that household pesticide use before and during pregnancy,
or while nursing, significantly increased the risk of non-Hodgkins
lymphoma. Choose organic foods to further reduce pesticide
Factory farming of animals increases the risk
of mad-cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).
This is another reason not to eat beefthe scientists
claim that our testing is not accurate enough to detect this
disease in order to protect the consumer, and they endorse
organic farming. Even disposal of infected animals could add
to the environmental contamination. (Reuters Medical News,
A hearty bean chili is just what you need to keep you warm
and well nourished in the winter. I cook organic pinto beans
in a pressure cooker to save timeabout 20 to 25 minutes
at pressure, and then I let it cool (or you can buy organic
ones in a jar). Add these to sauteed garlic, onions, and mushrooms
in olive oil (or dry in a non-stick pan), and add tomato sauce,
chili powder to taste, oregano, cumin, and minced spinach.
Add chopped cilantro at the very end to maintain its pungent
flavor. I put this in an organic whole wheat or corn tortilla
with some lettuce, fresh tomato, and avocado, and I serve
it with some steamed broccoli or a salad. You can use another
variety of bean, such as kidney beans, black beans, navy beans,
or aduki beans.
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Heart Attacks Jump After Large
Meal, (American Heart Association
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Blood Pressure Lowering Treatment Trialists
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Glickman Announces National
Standards for Organic Foods
USDA News Release No. 0425.00, Dec 20, 2000