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The truth about last week’s big health story

Posted May 06 2010 8:04pm

Overweight and French FriesIn This Issue:

By Jon Benson

A study released last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association led the nightly newscasts and made for some interesting water-cooler talk over the next few days. But I can tell you flat out, this study’s conclusions were way off base.

The study suggests that an extra 20 or 25 pounds of body fat the fat most of us try so hard to shed is not going to cause us any health problems that lead to death. (The study was based on new mortality figures for 2.3 million American adults.) The conclusion? While obesity, defined in the study as a Body Mass Index, or BMI, of at least 30, leads to early death and the onset of dozens of disease states, those with a BMI between 25 and 30 showed no increase risk of death from heart disease or cancer.

So, should you just forget about those love handles after all? Not so fast.

First, this study analyzed death, not life. Quality of life, or the state of living in optimum health and energy, was overlooked in favor of sheer mortality statistics.

These statistics can be vastly skewed. For example, there are millions of overweight Americans with heart disease, forced to live on medications and at a considerably slower pace, who do not die from the condition.

Also, the researchers used the rather inaccurate BMI to judge their findings. What’s my problem with the BMI? At under 10 percent body fat, I have a BMI of 26. This would put me into the “overweight but healthy” camp, yet I am far from overweight. My additional muscle mass throws off the BMI scale. Other factors can cause the BMI to be less reliable than actual body fat percentage, ranging from water retention to bone density. The use of hydrostatic weight or calipers to measure body fat would have provided a far more accurate examination of the data.

The researchers also failed to take into account the fact that abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, has been shown to lead to metabolic syndrome. A study presented at the 23rd Annual American Medical Association Science Reporters Conference in Washington, D.C. revealed that metabolic syndrome nearly triples heart disease risk, even in “non-obese individuals.” Visceral body fat is the strongest of the predictors for the condition. Many people with a large amount of visceral fat are not technically obese when judged by the BMI.

As I said, this study fails to look at the quality of one’s life, only the cause of death. Most of us would not want to spend the last 10 or 15 years of our life on drugs, machines and in a state of infirmity, even if it meant we would technically outlive the onset of heart disease or cancer.

I am not alone here. Dr. Robert Eckel, a spokesperson from the American Medical Association, also disagreed with the conclusions and the false impressions of the study. He stated that, for example, diabetes (found to be much higher among even moderately overweight individuals) often goes hand in hand with heart disease.

I have yet to meet one person who decreased their body fat in a healthy manner who did not also increase their energy and passion for life. And from personal experience, I can say with certainty that an extra 25 pounds of fat will rob that energy and vitality faster than you can say, “Pass the stuffing, please.”

This prompts a question that no study can answer:  What is the value of thriving, excelling and achieving our best in every area of our life, including our body? And what will this mentally empowered state do for our mortality?

Something tells me it will increase it far beyond what we can measure.

[Ed. Note: Jon Benson is a lifecoach and nutrition counselor who specializes in helping individuals discover a life-altering mind/body connection. His work in the field of post-40 fitness and mental empowerment has helped countless thousands rediscover their youthful body and positive outlook. Discover how you can do the same by clicking here or here. ]

3D image of gutsAlternative Eating:

By James B. LaValle

Did you know that, according to the book “Digestive Wellness,” 70 percent of the cells that make up your immune system are located in your digestive system? That’s just one of many good reasons to take care of your GI tract. A good place to start is with probiotics.

A lack of beneficial flora can cause or worsen many health problems:

  • Constipation or diarrhea.
  • Allergies and asthma. A recent study reported that children who were on antibiotics had more risk of developing these diseases.
  • Environmental allergies. In another recent study, people with environmental allergies who took probiotics saw their symptoms improve significantly.
  • Acne. A study from Australia reported that acne is due at least in part to a lack of friendly bacteria in the intestine.
  • Intestine permeability. Probiotics create a substance called butyrate, which is the fuel for intestinal cells. Anything that harms gut flora also causes intestinal tissue to break down. Intestine permeability is suspected to lead to ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and autoimmune diseases. It also allows alfatoxin (a toxin from black mold on foods or in the environment) to get into your blood stream. This toxin can cause liver damage.

In addition, probiotics also control how you absorb vitamins, minerals, amino acids and even hormones.

A wide variety of prescription and over the counter drugs, including antibiotics, oral contraceptives, acid blockers, corticosteroids, pain medication and chemotherapy, can damage or destroy the good bacteria in your intestine. Unless you actively make the effort to build it back up, it may not recover.

Can you replace good bacteria with yogurt? Not by itself. Yogurt may help a little. But it takes probiotic dosages in the billions daily to keep the intestines colonized. That’s far more than yogurt can supply. In addition, yogurts do not usually contain human strains of probiotics or contain adequate quantities.

If you are going to eat yogurt, makes sure that it has human-strain flora. Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut feeds the good bacteria in the gut. For the best results, find a practitioner to help you select a reliable probiotic supplement and take it daily.

[Ed. Note: Jim LaValle is an educator, clinician and industry consultant in the field of integrative healthcare. He is a licensed pharmacist, board certified clinical nutritionist and doctor of naturopathic medicine with more than 20 years clinical practice experience in the field of natural therapeutics and functional medicine. Named one of the "50 Most Influential Druggists" by American Druggist for his work in natural medicine, LaValle has authored 13 books, including his latest, Cracking the Metabolic Code. For more information, click here. ]

PillsHealthy Healing:

By Dr. Ray Sahelian

Many women who need chemotherapy, surgery or radiation for breast cancer take a drug called tamoxifen. The hope is that this drug will reduce recurrence of the breast cancer. New research shows that nutritional supplements can help the drug do its job better.

Some background: Doctors monitor breast cancer recurrence or relapse by watching certain markers. Two breast cancer tumor markers are called CEA and CA 15-3.

Researchers from India studied 84 breast cancer patients. Some were not treated. Others were on 10 mg tamoxifen twice a day. And some of those on the drug also received a daily supplement of 100 mg CoQ10, 10 mg riboflavin and 50 mg niacin a day.

CEA and CA 15-3 levels were elevated in untreated breast cancer patients. Their tumor marker levels dropped with more than one year of drug therapy. But patients supplemented with CoQ10, riboflavin and niacin for 90 days also had significantly reduced marker levels.

I am not sure why the scientists chose these three particular supplements in these particular dosages to add to the drug regimen. The important point is that there appears to be nutritional factors that could reduce the risk for recurrence. Women on tamoxifen should ask their doctors about vitamin supplements.

[Ed. Note: Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a practicing physician and best-selling author. He is a leading authority on natural supplements and nutrition. For the latest research on organic ways to improve your health and well-being, click here .]

Dish with meat and saladMind/Body/Soul:

By Dr. Jonny Bowden

Quite a lot of research has compared the results of a low carb diet with a high carb diet on weight loss. But until now, no one has investigated the impact of low carb diets on mood and cognition. Since there’s been a persistent myth about low carb diets making people depressed and foggy-brained, this is a great area of investigation.

A study was just published in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers from Australia decided to investigate diet and mood. They put 93 overweight or obese men and women on one of two diets: high carb, low fat or low carb, high fat. The diets ranged from 1400-1700 calories a day, about 30 percent less than what the participants were used to. The study lasted eight weeks.

At the beginning of the study and for every two weeks afterward they were weighed and tested on three different standardized assessments of mood. They were also tested on memory and how quickly they could perform simple mental tasks.

Here’s what the researchers found. Not surprisingly, the low carb group lost significantly more weight. But everyone in both diet groups improved in mood. And there was no significant differences seen between the two groups. Memory was also the same in both groups. And both groups improved in mental tasking (though the low carb group improved slightly less).

So do low carb diets make people depressed? Any diet can affect mood in some people more than others. The exact outcome will depend on a host of circumstances way too complex and intertwined to reduce to a single simplistic statement. That said, the current study gives the lie to the myth that low carb diets cause bad moods. The low carb group improved in mood and overall well-being and lost more weight on top of it!

[Ed. note: Dr. Bowden is a nationally known expert on weight loss, nutrition and health. He's a board certified nutrition specialist with a Master's degree in psychology. Dr. Bowden is also a life coach, motivational speaker, former personal trainer and author of the award-winning book, Living the Low Carb Life. For more information, click here .]

Couple at the beachHealthy Aging:

By David Levine

The evidence keeps mounting that the sun is good for you. In the latest study, high levels of sun exposure were associated with a 47-percent reduced risk of advanced breast cancer in women with light skin pigmentation.

The study, of 4,000 women living in the San Francisco Bay area, was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“We believe that sunlight helps reduce women’s risk of breast cancer because the body manufactures the active form of vitamin D from exposure to sunlight,” lead author Dr. Esther M. John said in a statement.

Other studies have shown that increasing vitamin D may lower the risk of prostate and colon cancers too. Sunlight is the best way to boost vitamin D levels.

[Ed. Note: Are you vitamin-D deficient? Most of the population is. Yet this powerful vitamin can help protect you from many of the life-threatening diseases that plague modern men and women. Fortunately, there's an easy way to up your vitamin D quotient. Better yet, it's free. To learn more, click here .]

Fish dishRecipes & Nutrition:

By Kelley Herring

This delightful fish dish is a great way to enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean. And you’ll help protect your heart, too. In the Lyon Heart Study, heart attack patients given a Mediterranean diet had 70 percent fewer recurrent heart attacks than those following a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. Researchers credit healthy fats (like those in fish, olive oil and nuts) plus the wide array of phytonutrients from fruits, veggies and herbs, for the heart-protective benefits seen in the study. Do your heart a favor and dine Mediterranean tonight with this simple and sumptuous seafood meal.

Serves: 4

Time to Table: 40 minutes

Healing Nutrient Spotlight

• Phenols
• Good source of calcium, thiamin
• Excellent source of protein, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, potassium, selenium


1 16-oz can organic whole tomatoes
4 tsps organic orange peel, grated
1 whole organic bay leaf
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 tsp organic dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp organic dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp leaves organic dried basil, crushed
2 Tbsps organic chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup organic dry white wine
4 fillets snapper, preferably yellowtail
1 clove organic garlic, minced
1/4 cup organic orange juice
4 Tbsps organic lemon juice
1 medium organic onion, sliced


Heat broth in large nonstick skillet. Add onion and sauté over moderate heat 5 minutes or until soft. Add all remaining ingredients except fish. Stir well and simmer 30 minutes, uncovered. Arrange fish in 10×6-inch baking dish; cover with sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 375º F about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Nutritional Information

312 calories, 3 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0.0 g trans fat, 1 g monounsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 81 mg cholesterol, 306 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 46 g protein

[Ed. Note: Kelley Herring is the Founder & CEO of Healing Gourmet, a multimedia company that educates on how foods promote health and protect against disease. She is also the creator of Healing Gourmet's Personalized Nutrition Software and Editor-in-Chief of the Healing Gourmet book series published by McGraw-Hill, including Eat to Fight Cancer, Eat to Beat Diabetes, Eat to Lower Cholesterol and Eat to Boost Fertility. For more information, click

here. ]

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