Spring 2008

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Welcome to the spring newsletter where I hope to continue to update you on interesting news in the world of health.

In this newsletter:

  • A possible way to shed those difficult-to-lose kilos.
  • One for the men: How broccoli can fight prostate cancer.
  • Some interesting news on ADHD and colourants.
  • Statins and cancer.

Lose Wheat Lose Weight

Spring has sprung and although you’ve been trying hard you still feel last last year’s bikini may have shrunk? I have a suggestion to make: Lose the wheat! It is no longer ground-breaking news that wheat consumption inhibits weight loss and causes water retention.

Apparently the main reason why people cannot lose weight if they eat wheat is because they have developed an intolerance or sensitivity to it. This can happen when you have too much of the same food.

Unfortunately wheat is everywhere. Consider all the meals you have consumed in the last 4 days and you may find that 90% of them included wheat. Look at the cereals on the supermarket shelves, most are wheat- based. Then there are the breads, biscuits, pretzels, soup powders, gravies: the list is endless.

Any food has the potential to cause intolerance if eaten too frequently but the majority of problems are related to only a handful of different foods. The main culprit when there is an inability to lose weight is wheat.

And contrary to what many of you are thinking now, it is not that difficult to avoid wheat and if you wish to lose weight, then it’s worth a try. Wheat intolerance symptoms If you answer “yes” to seven or more of the following symptoms then there is a fair chance you are intolerant to wheat:

  • your stomach feels bloated for no reason
  • you get indigestion quite regularly
  • you do not have at least one bowel movement a day
  • you experience diarrhea a few times a month
  • you get fluid retention especially before a period
  • you feel groggy when you wake up in the morning
  • you experience “brain fog” or struggle to concentrate
  • you experience headache or migraines regularly
  • your muscles/ joints ache
  • you have eczema, acne or similar skin condition
  • you crave wheat-containing foods
  • you experience an energy slump after eating pasta, bread or pizza
  • your energy dips at various times in the day
  • your weight fluctuates up and down for no reason

What to do Eliminate wheat from your diet completely for a period of 4 weeks and monitor the results. This also means avoiding processed foods or checking their ingredient lists very carefully for thickeners, starches, fillers etc.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, non-wheat grains and unprocessed meats are the order of the day for the next 4 weeks. In the beginning you may lose weight rapidly as you eliminate excess fluid. Remember the water you retain in your tissues has nothing to do with the water you drink so keep drinking lots of pure water, preferably distilled, to remove toxins and facilitate weight loss.

For some people, discovering they have a wheat intolerance can be the key to losing those extra pounds, however also take note of the improvement in your energy levels and vitality after just a few days. And the best news is that a sensitivity to wheat is not a life sentence. By avoiding it for a period of time and simultaneously taking steps to improve the health of your digestive system, you should find that in time you can tolerate small amounts of wheat without difficulty.

Biochemical tests There are a number of biochemical tests that can indicate if an intolerance is present however the accuracy of some approaches is doubtful. At a seminar for Nutritional Therapists in Cape Town last week we were exposed to a very impressive test which is now available in SA. One can be tested for up to 100 different foods and chemicals and, although it is a fairly pricey test, it is the first one I would be happy to recommend to anyone struggling with a health problem where a food or chemical sensitivity is suspected. Please get in touch with me if you would like to know more.

Where to holiday Wondering where to go where you can indulge in the local fare and not gain weight? Go to Thailand! Their diet is wheat-free and the Thais are all lean! No wonder they call it the Land of Smiles!

Broccoli fights prostate cancer

You probably have already heard murmurings of this sort but for the first time, a research group at the Institute of Food Research led by Professor Richard Mithen has provided an explanation of how eating broccoli might reduce cancer risk based upon studies in men, as opposed to trying to extrapolate from animal models. Prostate cancer kills more men than any other kind except for lung cancer. Each year, 680,000 men worldwide are diagnosed with the disease and about 220,000 will die from it. For the study men who were at risk of developing prostate cancer ate either 400g of broccoli or 400g of peas per week in addition to their normal diet over 12 months. Tissue samples were taken from their prostate gland before the start of the trial and after 6 and 12 months, and the expression of every gene measured using Affymetrix microarray technology. It was found that there were more changes in gene expression in men who were on the broccoli-rich diet than on the pea diet, and these changes may be associated with the reduction in the risk of developing cancer, that has been reported in epidemiological studies. Researchers believe a substance called isothiocyanate in the broccoli sparks hundreds of genetic changes, activating some genes that fight cancer and switching off others that fuel tumors. The benefit derived from broccoli would likely also be available from other cruciferous vegetables that contain isothiocyanate, including Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket, kale, bok choy, radish, watercress and horseradish, however broccoli has a particularly powerful type of sulforaphane, which the researchers believe gives broccoli its particular cancer-fighting properties. How much broccoli a week is required to reap the benefits? Only a very manageable 10 spears a week. And for those of you still saying "I can’t eat that much broccoli in a week, I’d rather just take a pill", then do remember that pharmaceutical grade fish oil is the next best protection against prostate cancer and you can order the best quality online.

ADHD and Artificial Colourants

There is more than ample evidence in the medical literature that artificial colours, flavours and preservatives can provoke symptoms in many children with ADHD. Research recently reported in an article in the British Medical Journal, Lancet, “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial.” concludes that the results of the study suggest that food additives and/or sodium benzoate (a preservative) increase hyperactive behavior in children.

Food dyes are certainly not the only cause of ADHD but in terms of the ones over which we have control, they are top of the list. Dyes confer absolutely no health benefits. Their primary purpose is to mask the absence of real fruit or other colorful ingredients. And it’s high time that the government eliminated dyes from the food supply—starting with foods that are marketed to children, such as sweets, cereals and jellies.

A small step in that direction was recently made when all strawberry flavoured Nesquik was quietly removed from the supermarket shelves in South Africa. The two red synthetic colourants that give this drink its bright pink colour are Ponceau R4 (E124) and erythrosine (E127). The former is one of the 6 colourants found in a UK study to aggravate behavioural problems in children. In July 2008 the European Parliament took swift action in response to that study, agreeing that food manufacturers in Europe who choose to use one or more of the dyes will have to put warnings on those products by 2010. It will read: "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children". The other five are tartrazine (E102), quinoline yellow (E104), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122 and allura red (E129).

According to SA's regulations relating to food colourants, erythrosine, which has been quietly lurking in Nesquik Strawberry for years, is not allowed to be used in such a product. Erythrosine causes, amongst other things, sensitivity to light and increases thyroid hormone levels. It is banned in Norway and rarely used in the States. Colourant regulations state that it may only be used in sugar confectionery, cocktail and candied cherries, raw or unprocessed meats and processed meat. I fail to understand why, considering that these are also foods eaten frequently by children. If you are interested in being kept up to date on research done on ADHD I strongly recommend you go to this website and subscribe to their excellent newsletter.

Possible cancer link to Vytorin

Vytorin is a combination drug made up of the compounds simvastatin and ezetimibe that's designed to reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and cut the risk of cardiovascular problems. It works by decreasing the production of cholesterol by the liver and inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. In a statement released on 21 August 2008, the FDA said it had obtained preliminary results from the SEAS trial which tested whether lowering LDL-cholesterol with Vytorin would reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems in people with narrowing of the aorta, the body's largest artery. The five-year trial did not show a reduced cardiovascular risk. But, a "larger percentage of patients treated with Vytorin were diagnosed with and died from all types of cancer combined, when compared to treatment with a placebo," the statement said. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has informed health-care professionals that the agency is investigating a possible association between the use of Vytorin and an increased risk of a variety of cancers. It expects to receive a final study from the SEAS trial in about three months. It will then take an estimated six months to review and evaluate the trial data. However, the FDA said patients can continue to take the drug until a conclusive verdict is reached and urged health-care professionals to monitor their patients for possible side effects and report them to the agency. Now blow me down! Would it not be better advice to say “stop prescribing the drug while the jury is still out”? How many more people should die of cancer in the meantime?

Vytorin is made by the drug companies Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals. It's a combination of Merck's Zocor (simvastatin), a statin, and Schering-Plough's Zetia. A report earlier this year found the drug failed to reduce the buildup of plague in arteries any better than the generic drug Zocor once again bringing into question the actual efficacy of statin drugs to reduce cardiovascular risk.

This report, together with the dangerous side effects of statins, ought to be reason enough to choose a nutritional approach using diet supplemented by pharmaceutical grade fish oil for a more effective and safer way to lower cholesterol. Especially since two long-term studies published recently in the Lancet medical journal concluded that fish oils are better than cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. The studies compared the effects of giving patients with heart failure cholesterol-lowering statin drugs or omega-3 fish oils versus placebo. Those given omega 3 fats had a significantly reduced risk of death or hospitalisation, while the statin drugs had no effect. Those taking 1 gram a day of omega 3 fats cut their risk of mortality by 9% and risk of admission to hospital by 8% compared to placebo. Those taking statins had no reduction in risk after almost four years on the drug.

Enjoy a wonderful Spring

That’s all for now folks till we meet again in the Summer. I know I promised to make my newsletters shorter however I didn't say when, did I? In the meantime take care of yourselves and enjoy a wonderful spring season.

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