Calcium Supplements Risk for Heart Problems

If you have been taking these to help your bones, there is a hidden danger that has been exposed by new research in the British Medical Journal which adds to mounting evidence that calcium supplements increase the risk of cardiovascular events, particularly heart attacks, in older women.

Nutritionists have been saying for some time that calcium supplements alone are not a good idea, but these new findings suggest that their use in managing osteoporosis should be re-assessed. They are often prescribed to older (postmenopausal) women to maintain bone health and sometimes they are combined with vitamin D, but there are a whole range of heart supplements that are needed, not just calcium alone.

A team of researchers, led by Professor Ian Reid at the University of Auckland, re-analysed a seven-year trial of over 36,000 women to provide the best current estimate of the effects of calcium supplements, with or without vitamin D, on the risk of cardiovascular events.

What they found was that the women who were not taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial but then were given a combined calcium and vitamin D supplement were at an increased risk of cardiovascular events, especially heart attack. By contrast, in women who were taking personal calcium supplements at the start of the trial, combined calcium and vitamin D supplements did not alter their cardiovascular risk.

The authors suspect that the abrupt change in blood calcium levels after taking a supplement causes the adverse effect, rather than it being related to the total amount of calcium consumed. High blood calcium levels are linked to calcification (hardening) of the arteries, which may also help to explain these results. The authors concluded that these data justify a reassessment of the use of calcium supplements in older people.

If you do want to keep your bones strong, and not impact your heart, then gentle regular weight bearing exercise is a start, and add plenty of black pepper to your diet as it contains four anti-osteoporosis compounds and boron, which is also good for bone health, is found in abundance in cabbage. Also healthy for bones are garlic, onions and eggs plus cod liver oil A which is a natural source of vitamins A and D3. If you do want to take a supplement look for one with a good mix of bone building nutrients including vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, silica and boron. Higher Nature make a good one called Osteo Food and the best natural way to build bone is to have good levels of progesterone as that is the first bone-building substance the body needs.

Olive Oil Lowers Stroke Risk by 40%

July 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health

Last week I was encouraging you to eat more strawberries and now continuing the healthy summer diet theme I would like to see you pouring out more of the golden liquid – preferably cold pressed and organic. New research shows that regular olive oil consumption lowers stroke risk and by a highly significant amount, particularly in the elderly.

Critical research released in the journal Neurology from the American Academy of Neurology provides evidence that regular consumption of olive oil can help to do more than keep your heart healthy. The value of the Mediterranean diet is now well proved but this new study study examined individuals over the age of 65 that are most vulnerable to the devastating effects of a stroke. Scientists suggest that olive oil taken as part of a healthy diet can lower the life-altering risks associated with a stroke by 41% in the elderly. Based on this body of work, researchers “suggest that a new set of dietary recommendations should be issued to prevent stroke in people 65 and older.”

The study author was Dr. Cecilia Samieri from the University of Bordeaux in France and she and her researchers examined the medical records of 7,625 aging adults 65 or older from three cities in France. These were in generally good health and had no prior history of stroke. Participants were monitored via a dietary questionnaire to record how much olive oil they used and then that was broken down into three groups: none, moderate and intense which was based on their regular consumption habits. Because this was a home, not a laboratory trial they were assessing not just their consumption but the type of oil they used at home and it is significant to note that virtually all of it was extra virgin and cold pressed. This type of minimally processed oil is what is recommended to combat heart disease and has been previously found to lower the risk of heart disease in prior studies. Extra virgin olive oil is known to be a rich source of natural polyphenols from the olive fruit; it alters the oxidized, sticky nature of LDL cholesterol that is implicated with plaque build-up in the arteries.

This was a long term study as they followed the participants for a period of five years, and 148 strokes occurred during that time span. After considering dietary, lifestyle and medical history, researchers found that those with the highest intake of extra virgin olive oil were 41% less likely to suffer a stroke compared with those with the lowest consumption of the monounsaturated oil. In a secondary arm of this study where plasma fatty acid measurements were available, individuals with the highest oleic acid (olive oil fraction) were found to experience a 73% lower risk of stroke.

Olive oil consumption is associated with lowered risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid abnormalities and obesity and now strokes can be added to the list. Dr. Cecilia Samieri commented, “Stroke is so common in older people and olive oil would be an inexpensive and easy way to help prevent it.” The study did not specify the amount of olive oil used by those in the `intense` group that experienced the highest degree of protection from stroke but nutritionists recommend that most people should add 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil five days a week to reap the powerful health benefits of this monounsaturated oil. Be generous with the olive oil in your salad dressing, and personally I add my salad dressing to hot vegetables as well, particularly good on carrots!

Got Diabetes? – Eat More Strawberries

Wimbledon may be over, but we are still in the wonderful English strawberry season and now there is a powerful health reason to eat more of them. A recent study from scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that a strawberry a day could lessen the complications of diabetes. Or more accurately, the fisetin they contain as this naturally-occurring flavonoid is found most abundantly in strawberries.

Fisetin is a naturally-occurring flavonoid found most abundantly in strawberries, and to a lesser extent in other fruits and vegetables, and has been found to be able to target multiple organs. This research describes for the first time a drug that prevents both kidney and brain complications in a type 1 diabetes model and strongly suggests that a single drug could be used to mitigate numerous medical complications.

Fisetin was originally identified as a neuroprotective flavonoid ten years ago and in plants it act as sunscreen and protects leaves and fruit from insects. The types of fruit and vegetables containing fisetin are found in the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ and contribute to the protective effect of that regime.

The researchers evaluated effects of fisetin supplementation with reference to the serious complications of diabetes such as diabetic nephropathy or kidney disease, retinopathy, and neuropathies in which patients lose touch or heat sensations. Improvements were seen, but remember that to achieve a similar effect you would need to eat 37 strawberries a day so let’s hope they manage to turn the fisetin into a supplement form fairly soon.

Interestingly, the fisetin was also effective in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease so there is certainly more research to be done.

In the meantime what about a strawberry and blueberry smoothie to get the maximum fisetin into your system in a palatable way?

Which Foods Will Give You Most Weight Gain – and Loss?

June 29, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Food & Nutrition, Health

This is one of those studies from the US that will either cheer you enormously, or cause you to rethink your shopping trolley. It seems that the humble potato crisp may be the most dangerous food for your hips.

The man responsible for this – and other news – is Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Schools of Medicine and Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts. He has laid out weight-associated foods by the pound and has calculated that roughly half of the average 3.35 pounds a healthy, non-obese American gains over four years could be chalked up to eating more potato crisps – though he doesn’t say exactly hw many so does one small bag of Smith’s non-salted really count?!

His results were reported in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine and the foods most strongly associated with weight gain are these:

• Potatoes
• Sugar-sweetened drinks
• Unprocessed red meats
• Processed meats
• Alcohol

What is interesting to me is that there is little difference in his analysis between processed and unprocessed meats, but if you are looking to lose some pounds then over a four-year period the most weight loss was associated with these foods:

• Yogurt
• Nuts
• Fruits
• Whole grains
• Vegetables

This pretty much follows the well-known data that a vegetarian/vegan diet will generally help you lose weight and be healthier all round. In fact as we age, and tend to put on weight, such a diet may have only a slight creeping gain of 0.8 lb on average per year.

Two non-food items that will put on the weight are giving up smoking and too much television watching. If either of these is a factor for you then not surprisingly, physical activity will help you lost some of that extra weight effectively and healthily.

A Healthy Alternative:
If you want a savoury snack, then instead of crisps what about a brand new concept? Savoury Veatable bars are eaten fresh from the fridge and are soft and chewy. They only have 99 calories per bar and although I have to say I was not keen on the idea, once I tried one my favourite was the Tomato Pizza version which contains tomatoes blended with onions, cheese olive oil and mixed herbs and really was very tasty.

You might prefer the other two varieties: Roasted vegetable or Thai Sweetcorn. They are made from diced and roasted vegetables, 100% natural, gluten and wheat free, high in fibre and count as one of your five a day.

You should find them in health stores, or direct from

And if you are serious about weight loss, make sure you get a good night’s sleep as a lack of it can slow the rate at which you burn calories, increase blood sugar levels and make you feel hungrier. Researchers at the University of Chicago recently studied a group of dieting men and women, some of whom had 8.5 hours sleep a night, the others just 5.5 hours, they found that those that got adequate sleep lost over 50% more weight than their sleep-deprived counterparts.

Time for a snooze, then?

Medicinal Cookery

May 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Natural Medicine

Food as a healing tool is not new: “Let your food be your medicine” said Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, although many of the medical profession have chosen to forget it. If you would like to swap pills and potions for ingredients from your garden — or at least an organic supermarket — then the new book by Dale Pinnock is just right for you.

Apparently he is the U.K.’s only medicinal cook and the first to bring together three distinct strands; herbal medicine, nutrition and cookery to create a radical new way to help combat a wide range of common health problems. The idea is to literally eat yourself better and I have to admit the recipes look delicious and are not aimed at those who don’t much care what they eat as they have been designed to stimulate the palate and indulge your appetite for gourmet food.

Conditions that he addresses include digestion, heart and circulation, immune and nervous systems, joints and skin disorders. You don’t need a degree in biochemistry either as this book is accessible to all readers with simple, practical recipes with ingredients that are easily accessible to everyone. Indeed he is frequently seen on television and in magazines explaining his philosophy and showing how the compound in food work in a similar way to medicinal plants, and even the pharmaceutical drugs, but without the side-effects.

One of my favourites is the anti-rheumatoid risotto — and I do think he could have come up with a morecatchy name — that is both simple and absolutely delicious. This is no mean spirited cookery as you get to add a dash of wine to the risotto and are encouraged to have another one for working so hard in the kitchen! If this hot weather continues then you might also feeling signs to make some of the Omega ice lollies that are a wonderful combination of yoghurt, mixed berries, flax seed oil and honey and probably take about 30 seconds to make.

If you want to give your skin a boost seek out the red/orange vegetables for their high beta carotene level so get the darkest red peppers you can find and combine with sweet potato to make a tasty skin enhancing soup. If hayfever and allergies are bothering you then add red onions to your daily diet for their high level of quercetin to damp down allergic reactions.

In addition to the simple recipes he also gives the medicinal properties of the ingredients for each one which is not only informative but also extremely interesting. Medicinal Cookery would make a great addition to any kitchen and if you want to know more about the man himself then visit his website at or see him in action at

5 Simple Ingredients That Boost Your Energy Levels and Your pH

The human internal ecosystem is stabilized by several different buffering systems that keep the body functioning at a high level for as long as possible. One of these buffering systems is pH and our blood stream should be slightly alkaline at 7.365 pH at all times for the body to be healthy.

The body maintains good pH levels through getting rid of excess acid through the lungs, skin, saliva and urine. The most common problem with pH balancing is keeping up with the excess metabolic acids. These are produced from a lack of oxygen, poor diet, environmental toxins, cellular inflammation and metabolic waste products.

Maintaining good pH levels is vital for good health and one of the biggest challenges is maintaining that all day and night. We are constantly encountering different stressors that drain our alkaline reserves and leave us in an acidic state but there are a few simple dietary measures that can help and you will gain energy, mental clarity, and emotional stability.
1 Celery: it is full of water and makes an excellent acid neutralizer. You can eat it at any time, as a snack or with a meal. It contains a perfect electrolyte balance that quenches thirst and reenergizes and alkalizes your body.

2 Aloe Vera Juice: loaded with electrolytes and highly alkalizing it is loaded with trace minerals, anti-oxidants, and polysaccharides. Pure aloe juice or gel gives one of the quickest alkaline boosts and the perfect way to drink it is before or after a large meal. Apple cider vinegar is another great alkaline booster that can be used either with aloe vera or on its own.

3 Fennel Seeds: contain a concentrated form of minerals like calcium, potassium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper, and iron and Is rich in powerful anti-oxidants. Fennel seeds neutralize acids, aid in digestion, and are a good breath freshener. If you don’t want to chew on the seeds, then fennel tea makes a good substitute and is an ideal drink after a meal to a digestion.

4 Lemon Bicarbonate Formula: maintaining the ideal alkaline environment during the night can pose a problem, but this drink will help if taken just before going to bed. To make it squeeze a whole lemon in a glass and begin adding baking soda bit by bit. The acid/base combination will immediately begin to fizz but just keep adding baking soda until the fizz stops and then fill the glass with water (8-16 oz).

5 I promised you a refreshing lemonade drink and as well as containing some of the most powerful anti-oxidant rich herbs and alkalizing elements it can also be used by people who crave soft drinks and other sweetened drinks and are looking to retrain their palate .

Best made fresh in a large glass jug and kept in the fridge: ingredients are 4 -6 lemons,1 tsp each of ground turmeric and cinnamon, pinch of pink Himalayan salt, 1/2 tsp of liquid stevia (or to taste) and 1 tsp ground/fresh ginger (optional). Combine all the ingredients in the jug and top up with water to your personal taste.

Adding Energy In A Sachet

May 4, 2011 by  
Filed under featured, Health, Vitamins & Supplements

We all have periods where our energy is lower than we would like it to be and we usually have our favourite “fixes” to help us through it. That normally involves some kind of stimulant like coffee, chocolate, alcohol or — less common these days — tobacco. If you are looking for a more natural lift then certain herbs are traditionally used, particularly ginseng and ginkgo, and if you want to have a compound that will help lift your energy and mood and give you a good balance of vitamins then there is a food supplement that might be the answer for you.

As a hangover from a childhood addiction to “pop” usually a lurid orange colour with the inaccurate name of Jusoda, as I don’t think the juice of an orange had ever ventured near it, I liked the fizz and the refreshing taste of this new supplement. The grown-up, and all natural version, is of course not a soft drink but Turbovite Whiz-Fizz is both fizzy and orange but comes in sachets rather than bottles and you just add water.

If caffeine is your stimulant of choice, then Turbovite will give you that same boost up with less than you would find in a cup of coffee and this new pick me up relies more on the herbs and minerals it contains. Among these are Ginseng to help give you a longer term energy and stamina boost, and Ginkgo Biloba, for greater mental alertness and concentration. It’s pleasant taste comes from fruit sugar which adds vital fuel for body and mind, whilst calcium and magnesium provide your muscles with the nutrients they need to work at their best.

If you need to tackle either a physical effort or a mental one then the range of B Vitamins it contains not only aid with energy metabolism, but also give your immune system a boost. Last, but certainly not least, there is Vitamin C also to help with energy metabolism and of course it is absolutely essential to help in protecting your cells against stress.

Available from a number of independent chemists and for further details please visit

Why Your ‘Healthy’ Shake or Smoothie Can Cause Inflammation

April 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health

One of the most popular supplements in our society today is protein powder and there are endless varieties that you can buy. They certainly make for a simple and hopefully nutrient-packed breakfast but you really do need to be aware of what is in the powder that you are using. They come from a variety of different sources and a number of unique manufacturing processes and, unfortunately, 95% of commercial protein powders have toxic ingredients that could be slowly inflaming your body and depleting your cellular nutritional stores.

Dr David Jockers runs the Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia and is a regular contributor to my women’s hormone health site. He specialises in nutrition and his advice is always straightforward and well researched. He certainly believes that protein supplements can be a great addition to a healthy diet because of their ability to provide essential and branched-chain amino acids in a highly absorbable form. However where he has doubts is that of the many different protein sources available only a few are of high quality. Most commercial protein powders use inferior protein sources and fill their products with artificial sweeteners and preservatives that are highly toxic.

The most common protein sources used in commercial powders include soy, egg, whey and wheat gluten. I have certainly mentioned before that soy does not suit everyone and can often be quite degraded in its manufacturing process and consuming large amounts of it can be detrimental if not from a pure, organic source. Soy and gluten-containing proteins (wheat, barley, rye, oat, kamut, and spelt) are highly allergenic and promote inflammatory reactions within the body.

Dr Jockers believes that soy protein is an anti-nutrient that should be avoided for several reasons. Soy contains phytic acids that bind and pull major minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc from the body. High processed soy consumption is linked with deficiencies in these major minerals and it also contains enzyme inhibitors that turn off natural enzymes needed to perform critical cell functions. Soy foods also contain goitrogenic substances that block thyroid hormone function.

If you’re protein shake or smoothie also contain milk then please ensure that it is organic as animals raised in conventional factory farms can be pumped full of hormones and antibiotics while eating genetically modified and often pesticide-laden grains. This combination causes massive amounts of toxic bioaccumulation within the animal tissue and animal byproducts which are then passed on to you.

The best and healthiest form of protein comes from organic whey protein concentrate as this form contains beta-glucans, lactoferrins, and immunoglobulins that enhance immune function. Additionally, organic whey contains all the branch chain amino acids and optimal ratios of essential amino acids and is one of the best food sources for boosting cellular anti-oxidants such as glutathione.

I am a devotee of protein shakes as I have never yet found a breakfast that suits me and I use organic oat or rice milk blended with a banana or soft fruit and the protein powder that I use is made from hemp and available from-Higher Nature. Hemp protein is one of the very few plant based complete protein sources and is a great source of sulfur containing amino acids methionine and cysteine, which are necessary for cellular detoxification and the production of vital enzymes. Additionally, it is rich in branched chain amino acids that are needed for muscle growth and repair. You can also get brown rice protein, considered to be the most hypo-allergenic protein, and this is especially important for anyone with chronic food allergies and leaky gut syndrome.

If you are buying a protein powder then please check the ingredients carefully for additives, including sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Walnuts – The Healthiest Nut for Your Heart

You may have avoided eating nuts for fear of putting on weight, but a new scientific study gives walnuts a strong recommendation as they have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut.

A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other popular nut such as peanuts or almonds. Also, nuts in general have an unusual combination of nutritional benefits as they contain plenty of high-quality protein that can substitute for meat; vitamins and minerals; dietary fiber; and are dairy- and gluten-free.

Years of research by scientists worldwide link regular consumption of small amounts of nuts or peanut butter with decreased risk of heart disease, certain kinds of cancer, gallstones, Type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

The researchers compared both the amount and quality of antioxidants found in nine different nuts: walnuts, almonds, peanuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, macadamias, and pecans.

Walnuts not only had the highest levels of antioxidants but also the highest potency, of antioxidants. They are 2-15 times as potent as vitamin E, renowned for its powerful antioxidant effects that protect the body against damaging natural chemicals involved in causing disease.

Another reason that walnuts are so healthy is that are eaten raw, unlike other nuts which are heated which generally reduces the quality of the antioxidants, so you get the full effectiveness of those antioxidants.

If it is the dietary aspect that has kept you from eating nuts, and they are it is true high in fat and calories, but nuts contain healthful polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats rather than artery-clogging saturated fat. As for the calories, eating nuts does not appear to cause weight gain and even makes people feel full and less likely to overeat. In a 2009 U. S. study, nut consumption was associated with a significantly lower risk of weight gain and obesity.

What’s the maximum healthy snack size to get your daily dose of antioxidants? Apparently it is seven, and think of the extra calories you will expend in cracking the shells!

Balancing Blooms to Help Your Moods Naturally

April 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Food & Nutrition, Health, Natural Medicine

If your traditional gift of flowers and chocolates didn’t hit the spot for Mothering Sunday, then I have a much better idea that lasts throughout the year – and works for everyone, not just mothers.

I have always been a fan of Bach flower essences and indeed am never without Rescue Remedy to help in times of stress or crisis – and indeed it comes out of my bag to help others more often than myself! Now they have been beautifully repackaged into some very interesting combinations which bring emotional balance for a range of conditions that you are likely to encounter.

Each Balancing Blooms™ consists of individual Bach flower essences combined to perfectly deal with whichever situation you find yourself in. So, do you need to Get Up & Go! ™, Cheer Up! ™, Calmdown! ™ or do you need Peace™, Confidence!™ or Sensuality? Are things heading up to a Crisis!™, or do you just need to Let Go?

In the 1930s herbalist Edward Bach perceived that each flower has its own unique mood and created his range of 38 single Bach flower essences. Each of Balancing Blooms offers between five and seven different flower essences which Bach believed captured different moods. For instance, “Cheer Up! contains Gentian (happy), Gorse (hopeful), Sweet Chestnut (courageous), Cherry Plum (strong and confident), Mustard (cheerful), White Chestnut (calm) and Wild Rose (joyful) which Bach would have believed ideal for overcoming winter blues or at times when you need a positive lift.

Flower essences are a very gentle, but effective, treatment for mood and each of the different blends is specific to a particular condition. However, what I really love is that you can also combine them. For instance if you are busy and under stress then Crisis blend will deal with the immediate issue and then later you could add in some Calmdown or Peace, whichever feels more appropriate for your situation.

The flower essences contained in Balancing Blooms® are prepared according to the original written instructions of Edward Bach in the 1930s and wild flowers are hand picked in the English and Welsh countryside. The essences come in a handy 20ml bottle which fit into a pocket or bag and simple enough to use. Either by placing four drops directly on the tongue from the enclosed pipette, or by mixing with water. I found that the Cheer Up blend added to a bottle of water in a triple dose and then sipped through the day definitely helped lift my mood and Get Up and Go has sustained me through a week of the stress and preparation for a major production for the Community Quire that I belong to – I can no longer do 14 hour days like I used to without some (natural) help!

Balancing Blooms® is available from major chemists and health food stores or direct from the website at

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