Organic Foods for Health
Acetyl-L-Carnitine and Aging
ALC and Alpha-Lipoic Acid
Schools Are Harming Children
Ask Dr. J: PMS Anxiety
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of the Month: Hummos and Baba Gannouj
Organic foods are the fastest growing segment of the grocery
market, and for good reasons. I recently read an article in
Newsweek, called Whats Killing the Frogs,
reporting that in the past 30 years 32 species of frogs have
become extinct, and that 200 more are in decline, and many
genetic defects are appearing.
It is likely that genetic defects and the decline in the
frog population in Yosemite Park are the direct result of
pesticides from farms in California contaminating the water
sources for Yosemite frogs.
This is of particular concern to me, as I have an organic
garden, and I know that neighbors about a mile away spray
their crops. My well is 500 feet deep, but that is no guarantee
that my water will not become contaminated. So far, testing
has been fine, but I am aware that this could be a problem
in the future.
One of my best health recommendations is that you choose
organic foods as much as possible. Now that they are growing
so much in popularity, they are much more available than in
the past. Almost every town has a health food store providing
some organic foods, and many people have gardens in which
they grow their own food. Organic foods are healthier as well
On my recent consulting trip to Japan, I was pleased to see
the rapidly increasing interest in and availability of organic
foods. Each night, I was treated to a different restaurant
that had tasty vegetarian foods, often organic. My hosts were
kind enough to include organic brown rice at every lunch.
Many restaurants in the U.S. now offer organic mesclun salad
mix with baby lettuces, spinach, arugula, radicchio, and more.
You can virtually always find whole grains and beans (including
tofu) from organic sources, and often a variety of fresh fruits
and vegetables, and even many supermarkets now carry some
Organic foods are increasingly important for our own health,
the environment, and medical care. Pesticides, herbicides,
and poor soil management, are only some of the threats. Antibiotic
use (half of them go to animals as growth stimulants) is one
of the leading causes of resistant organisms. Hormones that
fatten animals and increase growth may cause human hormone
Another problem is the rapid, uncontrolled, growth of genetically
engineered (GE) foods. Half of the soybean and corn crops
are from GE sources that have never been studied for safety.
Allergies, toxicity, and organic crop contamination are serious
issues that have not been addressed. The companies are lobbying
heavily to prevent even the labeling of GE foods that would
give consumers a reasonable choice. Other countries have banned
them or required labels, but not the U.S. Choosing organic
foods is the only sure way to avoid GE products. You can support
labeling bills or even bans on these untested foods (for more
on this go to www.thecampaign.org), and avoid buying them.
Recent research coming out of the Linus Pauling Institute
reveals some exciting information that gives you new tools
to protect your brain and other tissues from aging and degenerative
diseases. The amino acid derivative acetyl-L-carnitine, which
provides both the fatty acid transport of L-carnitine and
a portion of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter molecule,
appears to help aging tissues in several ways.
Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) acts as a fatty acid carrier in
the mitochondria, the subcellular "generators" that produce
energy from fats. The fats must be transported across the
mitochondrial membrane by L-carnitine or ALC where, with the
help of coenzyme Q10, they are converted to energy.
In aging animals, mitochondrial function declines, and the
level of L-carnitine in the mitochondria is half the level
seen in young animals. The recent studies in rats show that
ALC (especially when combined with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic
acid) can protect the brain from the oxidative damage related
to aging, and can protect the mitochondrial membranes.
In practical terms, when older animals are supplemented with
ALC and lipoic acid they are more physically active, have
better short-term memory, and overall enhanced cognitive function.
(They also have better liver function because of the same
protection of the mitochondria, with increased mitochondrial
metabolism and reduced oxidative damage.)
Studies over the past 10 years have shown that supplementing
the diet with ALC is likely to help slow the progression of
Alzheimer's disease (AD). Although in numerous studies the
results have not been completely consistent, most of the evidence
points to at least short-term benefits from supplements of
about 3000 mg daily. Anything that might help to reduce Alzheimer's
disease is worth trying if it is as non-toxic as ALC.
It appears that these nutrients also help the heart, especially
when taken together. While ALC helps restore cardiac carnitine
levels, and improves cardiac energy, the aging heart also
becomes sensitive to oxidative stress. For protection from
such stress, you need to combine the ALC with alpha-lipoic
acid (LA). This is a sulfur-containing antioxidant that works
in both the water- and fat soluble compartments of cells.
The combination works better than either taken alone. In this
way, you can reduce the effects of aging on the heart (the
typical dose of alpha-lipoic acid ranges from 200 mg for general
antioxidant benefits to 1000 mg per day for diabetic neuropathy.
It is apparent that the accelerated aging that results from
lifestyle choices, stress, and oxidative exposures, can be
slowed or even reversed. With this in mind, it is hard to
understand why some gerontologists have recently come out
with a dogmatic statement that "Anyone who claims that they
can stop or reverse the aging process is lying to you-even
if they are a doctor." Apparently they are complaining about
practicing doctors who take the research other scientists
are doing and apply it for their patients' benefit.
At a recent conference, a leading and well-respected antioxidant
researcher from Massachusetts, Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg, was talking
to doctors who practice complementary/alternative medicine.
He pointed out the gratification for researchers when their
work is applied clinically, so that doctors like those in
the audience were making reality out of the laboratory work,
and adding practical value to it.
It is therefore somewhat of a surprise when other researchers
make light of the practitioners, who necessarily have to make
decisions about patient care with imperfect information.
You can also help yourself preserve brain and heart function
with other health practices. Daily exercise, and a whole,
natural foods diet, mostly vegetarian, with lots of vegetables
and fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds (rich sources
of essential fatty acids), fish, and small amounts of organic
eggs, provide lots of intestinal-cleansing and cholesterol-lowering
fiber, as well as a variety of antioxidant vitamins and flavonoids.
In addition to ALC and LA, include coenzyme Q10-an antioxidant
that is also essential for mitochondrial energy production,
vitamins C and E and ginkgo, which have been shown to help
preserve brain function and circulation, and mineral cofactors,
such as zinc, selenium, magnesium, and B complex. You can
slow and reverse some aging, even if "top" scientists cannot.
Three recent articles in the Wall Street Journal are worth
noting. One was on the increasing obesity among schoolchildren
while fast foods are invading the school cafeterias. School
lunches are often pizzas, double cheeseburgers, french fries,
or chicken nuggets, sometimes provided by the schools, but
increasingly through actual contracts with fast food outlets.
The schools are also filled with vending machines advertising
cola beverages, with more than 9 teaspoons of sugar in the
regular sizes. The battle is between concerned parents who
want their kids eating better foods, and the bureaucracy looking
at the economics of the school cafeterias, which are financially
endangered from lack of funds.
Another article noted that in schools where kids are taught
to prepare foods and learn about how fruits and vegetables
grow, they lean toward healthier choices. In the CookShop
program, in Harlem, and the related Food is Elementary
in Trumansburg, NY, kids eat stir-fried vegetables with rice,
and learn to prefer them to junk.
The health costs of obesity far outweigh any savings from
skimping on healthy foods and creating a generation of kids
who are addicted to high fat, salt, sugar and other junk.
The third article asked Is Food the Next Tobacco?
noting that the lethal addictive nature of high-fat, sugary
foods means obesity will soon pass tobacco as a leading cause
of death. Think of it this way: an extra 120 calories a day
(a cola has 160), means a pound per month, and if you do that
for 20 years, you gain 240 pounds. This bankrupts the health
care system, and ruins health. We need new warning labels!
Q. I have anxiety, especially during PMS. Can supplements
help? R.F., Canada (via Internet)
A. Anxiety can be the result of many physical as well as
mental conditions. As it is related to your menstrual period,
it is likely also influenced by your hormonal changes and
diet changes around the time of your period.
You should be particularly careful to avoid sugar and caffeine,
and eat small meals and snacks with whole, natural foods to
control your blood sugar. You can also take chromium (200
mcg), which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Exercise is often a great relief for anxiety. If you have
claustrophobia as you indicated, getting outdoors for walking,
bicycling, or jogging should help. This helps fight both depression
and anxiety, and often helps with PMS. You should also learn
a breathing exercise, visualization, or yoga to help you relax.
B complex (50 to 100 mg) and magnesium (250 to 1000 mg) can
help with mental function and relaxation, and extra B6 (200
mg) often relieves many PMS symptoms, as do vitamin E (400
IU), and GLA (gamma linolenic acid, 240 mg).
If the symptoms persist, you can try taking St. Johns
wort (300 mg three times a day), commonly used to treat depression,
but also good for anxiety. Take care about sun exposure while
taking it. Timed-release niacin (B3, 250 mg once or twice
a day) may also help. Persistent symptoms require medical
In patients who have undergone balloon angioplasty,
there is a high rate of reclosure (restenosis) of the treated
arteries. Patients who have a high level of the metabolite
homocysteine in the blood are at double the risk of restenosis
compared to similar patients with lower homocysteine (Schnyder
G, et al., Association of plasma homocysteine with restenosis
after...angioplasty. Eur Heart J 2002 May;23(9):726-33). Vitamin
supplements can significantly lower homocysteine. Taking folic
acid (500 mcg or more), vitamin B6 (50 to 200 mg), and B12
(1000 to 3000 mcg) is effective treatment. Those with lower
homocysteine levels also had fewer heart attacks and heart
High vitamin C levels are associated with a reduced
risk of stroke. Men with the highest levels of vitamin C had
about half the risk of stroke as those with the lowest levels.
In addition the risk was even greater among men who had both
hypertension and low C levels. For men with obesity and low
C levels, the risk was 2.7 times greater. (Kurl S, et al.,
Plasma vitamin C modifies the association between hypertension
and risk of stroke. Stroke 2002 Jun;33(6):1568-73). The information
continues to accumulate on the value of vitamin C from both
food and supplements.
Studies from the Norwegian government show that fried
foods containing carbohydrates (and baked foods to a much
lesser extent) have high levels of acrylamide, a carcinogenic
compound. The foods that were particularly high were potato
chips, french fries, and biscuits. (Reuters Health, June 6,
2002). This information confirms what has been found in Sweden
and in a British study. It is best to eat a diet with little
or no industrial or fast foods, and one that is
rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains with minimal
Summer schedules cry out for easy and light. Try
these two dips. Hummos is a mix of chick peas, tahini (sesame
paste found at the health food store), garlic, and lemon.
Use 2 cups of organic canned chick peas or pressure cook your
own (soak for 4-8 hours; discard the water to reduce gas).
Add about1/4-1/2 c. tahini (to taste), 3-6 Tbsp lemon juice,
and 2-4 cloves of crushed garlic. Blend in a food processor
until creamy, adding water or olive oil as needed for mixing.
You can add cumin, cayenne, parsley, or scallions to taste.
For baba gannouj, instead of chick peas broil eggplant in
a closed oven, turning every 5 minutes until the skin is slightly
burned and the flesh soft. Peel, mash, and mix with all the
other ingredients. Serve on whole grain pita bread, celery,
carrot, or other veggie wedges.
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Whats Killing the Frogs? Newsweek
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Baxter G J, et al., Salicylic acid in...organically and non-organically
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Hagen TM, et al., Feeding acetyl-L-carnitine
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Hagen TM, et al., Mitochondrial decay in the aging rat heart:
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Pitchumoni SS, Doraiswamy PM, ...antioxidant therapy for Alzheimers
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Cafeteria Food Fight, Wall Street
Journal, June 14 2002, B1
Give Peas a Chance, Wall Street Journal, June 14 2002, B1
Is Food The Next Tobacco? Wall Street Journal, June 13 2002,
Aganoff JA, Boyle GJ, Aerobic exercise,
mood states and menstrual cycle symptoms. J Psychosom Res
De Souza MC, et al., A synergistic effect of a daily supplement
for 1 month of 200 mg magnesium plus 50 mg vitamin B6 for
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