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Month: September 2008

Folic Acid

September 08, 2008 9:46 pm

Researchers in the United Kingdom and Texas are reporting a new, more detailed explanation for the link between low folate intake and an increased risk for colon cancer, the second leading cause of cancer
death in the United States.

Their study reinforces the importance of folate in a healthy diet. Susan Duthie and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that a deficiency
of folate, one of the B vitamins commonly called folic acid, increases the risk of birth defects. As a result, manufacturers enrich some foods with folate.

Scientists also have found that low folate in the diet increases the risk of developing colon cancer in adults. However, scientists lack an adequate explanation of how folate depletion affects the genes, proteins, and cells
involved in cancer. In this new research, scientists grew human colon cells in folatedepleted and folateenriched tissue culture. They found that folate depletion caused increased DNA damage and a cascade of other biological changes linked to an increased cancer risk.

  • Folic acid, also called folate or folacin, is a B vitamin often lacking in the diet.
  • When consumed in adequate amounts by women before and during pregnancy, folic acid reduces the risk of serious birth defects of the
    brain and spine, called neural tube defects.
  • Folates also are needed for cell growth and blood production. As a fetus grows, it takes folates from the mother’s blood, which in turn
    creates a shortage in the mother.
  • Because of their control over homocysteine, an amino acid
    produced by the body, folates are thought to give some protection against heart disease. High levels of homocysteine in the blood may be a risk factor for heart attacks.
  • Additional health benefits associated with folic acid consumption include reduction in depression, colon, cervical, and breast cancers. It also may help prevent memory loss and susceptibility to Parkinson’s disease.

  • Foods rich in folic acid include fortified breakfast cereals, enriched breads, pastas and grains, dried beans and peas, orange juice,
    oranges, cantaloupe, avocados, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, lima
    beans, nuts, and peanut butter.
  • Some cereals are fortified with 100 percent of the recommended daily amount of folic acid.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 1998, enriched grain products, such as white bread and flour, pasta and rice, were required to be fortified with folic acid.


  • Females of childbearing age need 400 micrograms from fortified foods
    and/or supplements daily in addition to what they get from food. Because spina bifida and similar birth defects occur in the first two weeks of pregnancy, women need to build up their folate stores long before they become pregnant. Once they realize they are pregnant, it is too late.
  • Because 50 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, it is even more crucial for all women of childbearing age to continually
    consume large intakes of folic acid.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 26 percent decrease in the incidence of neural tube defects following folic acid fortification.
  • Adult men and older women need 400 micrograms (μg) of folate.
  • To obtain 400 micrograms per day through diet, eat according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and include a highly fortified breakfast cereal. For individuals unable to get enough folic acid from the diet, a vitamin supplement is strongly recommended.
  • Grain foods and breakfast cereals contribute over 62 percent of dietary folic acid, according to a study conducted by the Bell Institute of Nutrition.
Food Folic Acid μg/Serving
Ready-to-eat breakfast cereal 100 – 400/serving; read labels
Enriched wheat tortilla 98 / one 8″ tortilla
Lentils, cooked 180 / cup
Black-eyed peas, dried, cooked 105 / half cup
Pinto beans,chickpeas, cooked 140 – 145 / half cup
Asparagus 110 / 5 spears
Whole wheat pasta 23 / half cup
Sunflower seeds, dry-roasted 152 / half cup

What is Stevia

September 05, 2008 11:56 pm

Stevia is one of the most health restoring plants on earth. What whole leaf Stevia does both inside the body and on the skin is incredible. Native to Paraguay, it is a small green plant bearing leaves which have a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. Besides the intensely sweet glycosides (Steviosides, Rebaudiosides and a Dulcoside), various studies have found the leaf to contain proteins, fiber, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, rutin (a flavonoid), true vitamin A, Vitamin C and an oil which contains 53 other constituents. Quality Stevia leaves and whole leaf concentrate are nutritious, natural dietary supplements offering numerous health benefits.

Stevia is the sweetener of the future. Because the human body does not metabolize the sweet glycosides (they pass right through the normal elimination channels) from the leaf or any of its processed forms, the body obtains no calories from Stevia. Processed forms of pure Stevia can be 70-400 times sweeter than sugar. Whether these products are called Stevia, Stevioside, Rebaudioside, Stevia Extract, or Stevia Concentrate, if they are in their pure unadulterated form they do not adversely affect blood glucose levels and may be used freely by both diabetics and hypoglycemics. For people with blood sugar, blood pressure or weight problems Stevia is the most desirable sweetener.

In all of its current forms Stevia has a taste unique to itself. Along with its sweetness there is also a bitter component. The poorer the quality of the leaf the more bitterness is evident in the taste. In good consumer products, however, this bitter flavor disappears as does the slight licorice taste of whole-leaf products when appropriately diluted for consumption. Unlike artificial sweeteners, the sweet glycosides do not break down in heat which makes Stevia an excellent sweetener for cooking and baking.

The vast majority of reported health benefits, both from the research laboratory and consumer experience, comes from daily use of a water based whole leaf Stevia concentrate. Scientific research has indicated that Stevia effectively regulates blood sugar and brings it toward a normal balance. It is sold in some South American countries as an aid to people with diabetes and hypoglycemia. Since its introduction into the US, numerous people have reported that taking 20-30 drops with each meal brought their blood glucose levels to normal or near normal within a short time period. Obviously each individual’s condition is different and such experimentation should be done under the supervision of a qualified physician. An important benefit for hypo-glycemics is Stevia’s tonic action which enhances increased energy levels and mental acuity. Studies have also indicated that Stevia tends to lower elevated blood pressure but does not seem to affect normal blood pressure. It also inhibits the growth and reproduction of some bacteria and other infectious organisms, including the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.

This may help explain why users of Stevia enhanced products report a lower incidence of colds and flu and why it has such exceptional qualities when used as a mouthwash or added to toothpaste. Many people report significant improvement in oral health after adding Stevia concentrate to their toothpaste and using it, diluted in water, as a daily mouthwash. Stevia is an exceptional aid in weight loss and weight management because it contains no calories and reduces one’s craving for sweets and fatty foods. Hunger sensations are lessened when 10 or 15 drops are taken 20 minutes before meals. Preliminary research data indicates that Stevia may actually reset the hunger mechanism in people where the pathway between the hypothalamus and the stomach has become obstructed. If so, Stevia would help people to feel satiated sooner, helping them to eat less. Other benefits of adding Stevia to the daily diet include improved digestion and gastrointestinal function, soothed upset stomachs and quicker recovery’ from minor illness. Users have also reported that drinking Stevia tea or Stevia enhanced teas helped to reduce their desire for tobacco and alcoholic beverages. Stevia concentrate tablets are available for those who want the medicinal benefits of Stevia concentrate in an easy to swallow tablet form.

Stevia leaves vary widely in quality due to many environmental factors including soil, irrigation methods, sunlight, air purity, cleanliness, farming practices, processing and storage. There are also numerous species of Stevia with differing Stevioside/Rebaudioside content. Bacterial and fungal contamination is a serious problem and one must be careful about the original source of Stevia. Chinese Stevia leaves are a poor quality, containing only 5-6% of the sweet Steviosides/ Rebaudiosides, while Paraguayan leaves contain 9-13%. Stevia should be compared according to aroma, taste, appearance and sweetness. Leaves are available in tea bags (only from Wisdom of the Ancients at the time of writing) and make a delicious tea. Tea bags may be placed in any beverage desired and make a delightful lemonade. The sweet glycosides are released more rapidly in hot liquid than in cool liquid. You may want to place a tea bag in a small amount of hot water for a few minutes and then add the sweetened water to the beverage. A mild Stevia tea offers excellent relief for an upset stomach. After use, a Stevia tea bag placed over the eyes (similar to using a cucumber) for a few minutes effectively tightens the skin and smoothes out wrinkles. Ground Stevia is excellent when sprinkled lightly over cooking vegetables and meats, cereals and salads. Besides adding its own sweet taste it significantly enhances the flavor and nutritional value of the food. Ground Stevia can be used in many cooking and baking applications.

Refined Steviosides & Rebaudiosides are the sweetest form of Stevia and may be purchased in a semi-white powder form (usually referred to as an extract) or in a clear liquid made by adding the powder to water and a preservative. The powder may be added directly to food and beverage but in very tiny amounts. The liquid is used drop by drop.

Stevioside has over 50% of the commercial sweetening market in Japan, which consumes 90% of the world’s supply of Stevia leaves. The refined Chinese Stevioside product is only 80-91% pure and some samples have been found to be high in pathogens.

Although Stevioside is a desirable sweetener it does not have the extraordinary health benefits of the Stevia leaf or products made from whole leaf Stevia concentrate.

Water based whole leaf Stevia concentrate offers several exceptional benefits when used regularly in skin care. When applied as a facial mask it effectively softens and tightens the skin, smoothes out wrinkles and helps to heal various skin blemishes including acne. One simply smoothes the dark liquid over the entire face, allowing it to dry for at least 30-60 minutes. As it dries you will feel the skin tightening. A drop of the concentrate may be applied directly on any blemish, acne outbreak, lip or mouth sore. People report success from applying Stevia to a variety of problem skin conditions. Stevia concentrate is also effective when used on seborrhea, dermatitis and eczema. Reports indicate that when a few drops of the concentrate are placed in cuts and scratches there is a more rapid healing of the wound without scarring. This will sting for 30-40 seconds followed by a significant lowering of pain. The concentrate is easily washed away with soap and warm water. In Paraguayan experiments the Stevia concentrate was added to a unique native herbal soap made from edible oils extracted from the seeds and leaves of trees native to the Paraguayan rain forest. Marketed in the U.S. under the name Cream of Coco Hair & Body Shampoo, the soap blends well with the concentrate. Used together these two natural products help retard the graying process and retain natural hair color, eliminate dandruff and various scalp problems, and improve the health and luster of the hair. Many Americans today add the concentrate to this native soap or to their regular shampoo and report excellent results. Most people wash the hair first and then add Stevia concentrate to the second shampoo, allowing it to remain on the hair for a few minutes before rinsing.

There has never been a complaint that Stevia, in any of its consumable forms, has caused any harmful side effects in the 1500 years of use in Paraguay and about 20 years in Japan. Scientists who have studied Stevia state that it is safe for human consumption.

Following extensive research Dr. Daniel Mowrey reported: “More elaborate safety tests were performed by the Japanese during their evaluation of stevia as a possible sweetening agent. Few substances have ever yielded such consistently negative results in toxicity trials as have stevia. Almost every toxicity test imaginable has been performed on stevia extract [concentrate] or stevioside at one time or another. The results are always negative. No abnormalities in weight change, food intake, cell or membrane characteristics, enzyme and substrate utilization, or chromosome characteristics. No cancer, no birth defects, no acute and no chronic untoward effects. Nothing.”

This brief review of the Stevia plant and its worldwide uses in no way constitutes an endorsement of such uses. At this time the FDA permits Stevia to be imported, labeled and sold only for its approved use as a dietary supplement and in skin Care. The information contained is provided for educational purposes only. Medical advice is neither implied nor intended. Please consult your health care professional for medical advice.

Additional reading and information on Stevia here.

Loss of Sleep

September 05, 2008 2:36 am

Loss of sleep, even for a few short hours during the night, can prompt one’s immune system to turn against healthy tissue and organs.

A new article in the September 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry, by the UCLA Cousins Center research team, reports that losing sleep for even part of one night can trigger the key cellular pathway that produces tissue-damaging inflammation. The findings suggest a good night’s sleep can ease the risk of both heart disease and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Specifically, the researchers measured the levels of nuclear factor (NF)-κB, a transcription factor that serves a vital role in the body’s inflammatory signaling, in healthy adults. These measurements were repeatedly assessed, including in the morning after baseline (or normal) sleep, after partial sleep deprivation (where the volunteers were awake from 11 pm to 3:00 am), and after recovery sleep. In the morning after sleep loss, they discovered that activation of (NF)-κB signaling was significantly greater than after baseline or recovery sleep. It’s important to note that they found this increase in inflammatory response in only the female subjects.

These data close an important gap in understanding the cellular mechanisms by which sleep loss enhances inflammatory biology in humans, with implications for understanding the association between sleep disturbance and risk of a wide spectrum of medical conditions including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity. John H. Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and affiliated with both Yale University School of Medicine and the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, comments: “The closer that we look at sleep, the more that we learn about the benefits of sleeping. In this case, Irwin and colleagues provide evidence that sleep deprivation is associated with enhancement of pro-inflammatory processes in the body.” “Physical and psychological stress brought on in part by grinding work, school and social schedules is keeping millions of Americans up at night,” said Dr. Irwin, lead author and director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute. “America’s sleep habits are simply not healthy. Our findings suggest even modest sleep loss may play a role in common disorders that affect sweeping segments of the population.” In other words, sleep is vitally important to maintaining a healthy body. And as Dr. Krystal notes, “these findings provide a potential mechanistic avenue through which addressing sleep disturbance might improve health.”