Food Honesty and Lawsuits
Lipoic Acid and CoQ10 Updates
Aging Heart Support
Flu Vaccine May Not Help
Ask Dr. J: Liquid Vitamins
In The Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of the Month: Almond-Apricot Tofu Dessert
I was pleased to see a small news story on the two activists
in England who lost a libel suit by McDonald’s after
they distributed leaflets accusing the company back in 1984
of causing rainforest destruction, starving people in developing
countries, and selling products that cause disease. The good
news was that the European Court of Human Rights overturned
their libel conviction, which led me to breathe a sigh of
I certainly do not need a lawsuit by McDonald’s because
I write honestly about the relationship of fast foods to hypertension,
obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other human ailments.
Aside from ruling that they had inadequate representation
to take on the McDonald’s legal behemoth, the appeals
court also noted that there was a strong public interest in
having non-mainstream sources contribute to open debate.
A few years ago, Oprah Winfrey was sued for libel because
she said on her show that she would not eat hamburgers again,
after hearing from a guest that the cattle industry routinely
fed animal parts to cattle when raising beef, increasing the
risk of Mad Cow disease. At the time, Oprah said that this
“just stopped her cold from eating another hamburger.”
(I could give her a lot of other reasons.) Cattle ranchers
sued her in Texas, in the middle of cattle country, but even
there the jury found in favor of Oprah, reaffirming the right
of individuals to speak out freely regardless of the harm
that might be done to industry by honest exposure of the truth
about their products. (One cattleman said he lost seven million
dollars as a result of Oprah’s comments; he had, of
course, far more than that to lose!)
When public figures, journalists, authors, and interested
parties from the public decry the negative effects of sugar,
white flour, meat, pesticides, artificial flavors, colors,
preservatives, genetically engineered foods, synthetic hormones,
and other food additives, they should not fear retaliation
from the industries. Most of the time these industries do
not want a court case, because then they would have the lack
of quality of their products exposed (it was somewhat of a
surprise when Oprah was sued, as they would have been smarter
to let the comment fade away).
The food industry is extremely powerful, financially and
politically, but if scientific data shows that what they are
selling is doing harm to human health or the environment,
the information should be available to the public, not buried
away in scientific journals, limiting it to the relatively
few professionals who have access to these sources and understanding
of what they mean. Honest and complete labeling of foods (food
additives, trans fats, sugar and fat content, salt levels)
is a start in the right direction, so people can make informed
choices about their dietary habits. The value of healthy foods
should be available right in the market where people buy them.
Two of the most important antioxidant supplements that help
protect the heart, the brain, and other tissues are alpha-lipoic
acid and coenzyme Q10. Research continues to expand our knowledge
of these two nutrients. While they are not exactly vitamins,
as they are manufactured in the body, with stress or aging
the need for them increases while the production declines.
Aging is accelerated by oxidative stress, DNA deterioration,
mitochondrial decline, inflammation, and sugar-protein complexes
called advanced glycation endproducts (AGE), all of which
are increased by a number of chronic health conditions, such
as diabetes. With the right diet, exercise, and supplements,
you can slow down this process and preserve physiological
functions for many extra years of vigorous activity.
Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is a sulfur-containing molecule and
a potent antioxidant that is both water and fat soluble It
protects against free radicals that are related to both oxygen
and nitrogen. As part of the antioxidant network of molecules,
it helps to regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins
C and E.
ALA is also a cofactor for enzymatic functions involved in
mitochondrial energy production, amino acid metabolism, and
production of both DNA and RNA in ways that might reduce chronic
inflammation. Some laboratory tests suggest more far-reaching
benefits from large amounts of ALA. Oxidative damage to certain
enzymes reduces the elasticity of lung tissue, associated
with chronic obstructive lung disease. ALA helps to preserve
the elastin protein.
In the normal course of producing energy, mitochondria create
oxygen free radicals that damage the mitochondria if they
are not neutralized. This damage from oxidation leads to inefficiency
of energy production with age. High doses of ALA can prevent
some of this deterioration by mopping up those free radicals.
Animal studies support this protective role for ALA.
A recent scientific review shows that cancer patients treated
with oxaliplatin (Eloxatin) who develop neuropathy (a common
side effect) can be effectively treated with supplements of
ALA. Earlier researchers used 600 mg of ALA intravenously
once a week for 3 to 5 weeks, followed by 1800 mg daily orally
for up to six months total. The neuropathy was significantly
improved in 53 percent of the patients. Diabetic neuropathy
is also helped by high doses of ALA, and it helps to reduce
In a study of the effect of ALA in diabetics, 1200 mg daily
for six weeks improved blood flow in a marker of capillary
circulation. Poor microcirculation to the nerves may be the
root cause of the neuropathy. ALA also inhibits the formation
of AGEs that damage tissues and cause aging unrelated to oxidation.
Animal studies suggest that ALA supplements may help with
weight control and appetite suppression.
ALA acts as a metal chelator (reducing arsenic and mercury
toxicity), helps maintain brain function, and reduces skin
aging. It is rapidly absorbed and metabolized, so it is best
to divide the daily dose. Evidence suggests taking at least
400 to 600 mg for prevention, and higher doses for treatment.
As the heart ages, its ability to respond to stress declines.
Supplements of ALA and coenzyme Q10 work together to help
preserve heart function as aging occurs. Australian researchers
have shown heart benefits from supplements of ALA, coQ10,
omega-3 oil, plus exercise, and stress reduction. These protect
the mitochondrial DNA and improve recovery from stress.
CoQ10 is a fat-soluble antioxidant, but it is also essential
for mitochondrial energy production and recycling of other
antioxidants, such as vitamin E. Inside cells, enzymes that
are essential for digestion of cellular debris depend on coQ10
for optimal function.
Statin drugs such as Lipitor are widely used to lower cholesterol,
but they deplete coenzyme Q10 levels, leading to worsening
of congestive heart failure. A recent study shows that supplements
of coenzyme Q10 are able to reverse this effect and improve
Doses of coenzyme Q10 range from 100-1200 mg, for prevention
and treatment. Recent studies suggest that larger doses are
beneficial for preserving heart and brain function. Because
it is fat soluble, it is important to take it either mixed
with oil-containing foods, or in a well absorbed chewable
tablet or oil-based capsule.
It has been “common knowledge” that flu vaccinations
in susceptible populations, such as the elderly, can significantly
reduce mortality related to influenza infection. However,
a recent analysis of mortality data surprisingly concluded
that flu vaccinations have not led to a reduction in mortality,
in spite of a great increase in the number of people being
vaccinated. Since 1980, the vaccination rate in people over
65 jumped from 15 to 20 percent of this age group to more
than 65 percent in 2001.
Mortality related to the flu also unexpectedly jumped during
this period. The authors tried to reconcile the differences
between the observations and their data, saying perhaps the
population studied was older, or the prevalence of the flu
virus was greater, but they concluded that the observational
data significantly overestimated the benefits of flu vaccination.
This makes it all the more important to do what you can to
protect yourself from exposure by frequent hand washing and
the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. You also need to
enhance your immunity with good health practices, such as
exercising regularly, avoiding sugar and trans fats in the
diet, and eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, including
garlic and onions. Take supplements of vitamins C and E, zinc,
coenzyme Q10, and proanthocyanidins, and perhaps standardized
echinacea and elderberry extracts.
Q. I have been told that supplement tablets
do not dissolve, and that I should take liquid supplements
instead. What’s the truth?
—HR, Rhode Island via Email
Purveyors of liquid vitamins generally put small amounts
of individual supplements in their products and then tout
how their lower-doses are more valuable than higher doses
in pill form. Unfortunately, research does not back up these
claims, and almost all research on oral dietary supplements
use some sort of pill.
Vitamin manufacturers do vary in the care with which they
make their products, and some pills are compressed too much
or they might be mixed with unhealthy additives, or coated
with colors and glazes that are undesirable.
The claims that the pills do not break down, or that they
are passed through the intestinal tract and excreted whole
is just not true as a rule. The majority of health-oriented
manufacturers of high-quality dietary supplements are carefully
produced by good manufacturing practices (GMP). They have
to be tested for disintegration and dissolution, so it is
untrue that liquid supplements are better for you, and they
are generally much more expensive than comparable doses of
ingredients as pills, either capsules or tablets.
This is true for most supplements, such as vitamins, minerals,
amino acids, fatty acids, flavonoids, phytochemicals, herbs,
and metabolic cofactors, such as coenzyme Q10, and alpha-lipoic
acid. In some cases, such as coQ10, the form of the pill does
make some difference (it is fat soluble, so a pill mixed with
oil or lecithin is better absorbed), but this is unusual.
The claims that liquid vitamins are better and thus worth
their inflated prices are just sales pitches. You would be
better off buying tablets or capsules from health food or
quality mail-order sources.
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Court Backs Activists in ‘McLibel’
Case, Reuters, February 15, 2005.
Cattlemen Lose Food Slander Case Against
Oprah Winfrey & Howard Lyman. Houston Chronicle, Sept.
Cersosimo RJ, Oxaliplatin-associated neuropathy:
a review. Ann Pharmacother. 2005 Jan;39(1):128-35.
Gedlicka C, et al., Effective treatment
of oxaliplatin-induced cumulative polyneuropathy with alpha-lipoic
acid. J Clin Oncol. 2002 Aug 1;20(15):3359-61.
Ziegler D, et al., Treatment of symptomatic
diabetic polyneuropathy with the antioxidant alpha-lipoic
acid: a meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2004 Feb;21(2):114-21.
Haak E, et al., Effects of alpha-lipoic
acid on microcirculation in patients with peripheral diabetic
neuropathy. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2000;108(3):168-74.
Bitar MS, et al., Alpha-lipoic acid mitigates
insulin resistance in Goto-Kakizaki rats. Horm Metab Res.
Marracci GH, et al., Alpha lipoic acid
inhibits human T-cell migration: implications for multiple
sclerosis. J Neurosci Res. 2004 Nov 1;78(3):362-70.
Doggrell SA, Alpha-lipoic acid, an anti-obesity
agent? Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2004 Dec;13(12):1641-3.
Rosenfeldt F, et al., Response of the senescent
heart to stress: clinical therapeutic strategies and quest
for mitochondrial predictors of biological age. Ann N Y Acad
Sci. 2004 Jun;1019:78-84.
Rosenfeldt FL, et al., Coenzyme Q10 protects
the aging heart against stress: studies in rats, human tissues,
and patients. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 Apr;959:355-9.
Silver MA, et al., Effect of atorvastatin
on left ventricular diastolic function and ability of coenzyme
Q10 to reverse that dysfunction. Am J Cardiol. 2004 Nov 15;94(10):1306-10.
Simonsen L, et al., Impact of influenza
vaccination on seasonal mortality in the US elderly population.
Arch Intern Med. 2005 Feb 14;165(3):265-72.
Asthma responds well to intravenous supplements of magnesium.
After pooling results from five controlled studies on 182
children in emergency rooms for acute attacks of asthma, researchers
found that IV magnesium improved both lung function and symptom
scores. The rate of hospitalization was reduced by 70 percent
in those children treated with the magnesium. (Cheuk DK, et
al., A meta-analysis on intravenous magnesium sulphate for
treating acute asthma. Arch Dis Child. 2005 Jan;90(1):74-7.)
Magnesium treatment for asthma is safe and inexpensive compared
to drugs or hospitalization.
a. In 27,017 post-menopausal women, red meat protein increased
their risk of dying of heart disease, while vegetable sources
of protein, such as beans, soyfoods, peanuts, and nuts, decreased
the risk (Kelemen LE, Associations of dietary protein with
disease and mortality in a prospective study of postmenopausal
women. Am J Epidemiol. 2005 Feb 1;161(3):239-49). Over 15
years, those women who most often substituted meat or dairy
protein for carbohydrates had an over 40 percent greater risk
of cardiac mortality, while those who substituted vegetable
protein for carbohydrates had a 30 percent reduction in heart
b. A diet rich in vegetables and high in fiber is as effective
as statin drugs in lowering cholesterol. Emphasizing soy proteins,
almonds, oats, barley, eggplant and psyllium seeds, the subjects
had no problem following the diet and they felt more full.
Statins lowered LDL-cholesterol by 33 percent and the diet
by 30 percent. (Jenkins DJ, et al., Direct comparison of a
dietary portfolio of cholesterol-lowering foods with a statin
in hypercholesterolemic participants. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005
Feb;81(2):380-7.) The researchers note that this treatment
is good “for those who do not tolerate the drugs.”
This is a delicious, creamy dessert with healthy ingredients.
Soak organic apricots (unsulfured) in water until they are
soft and plump. Toast an equal amount of unsalted, raw almonds
on a tray in the toaster oven. With the same amount of silken
tofu (a creamy variety that blends easily), combine these
in the food processor, and add a frozen banana broken into
chunks, a touch of cinnamon, and freshly ground nutmeg. Add
some vanilla and blend all of the ingredients until they are
smooth. You might need some of the liquid from the apricots
to blend it if it is too thick, or you may want to add some
agar (seaweed gelatin) dissolved in the liquid to thicken
it. You can pour the mixture into a precooked whole wheat
or graham cracker pie crust and chill it—no cooking
is necessary, or serve it in individual dessert cups with
shredded coconut or almond on top.
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