By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education
A beneficial but lesser-known nutrient making its way onto nutrition facts labels is choline, an essential nutrient associated with heart health, improved liver function, maternal and fetal health, child development, cognition, and sports performance. In the first update to the nutrition facts label in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for manufacturers to voluntarily label choline, paving the way to help Americans look for and include this essential nutrient as part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle.
In addition, for the first time, the FDA established a reference daily intake (RDI) for choline of 550 mg per day, which was the adequate intake (AI) amount set in 1998 by the Institute of Medicine—now the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Health, and Medicine Division. Despite choline’s recognized and well-established health benefits, almost 90% of Americans are not getting enough choline every day.
“Choline is perhaps one of the most underrated nutrients, yet a large body of evidence supports a range of benefits at all life stages, from maternal health and infant nutrition to healthy aging,” said Marie Caudill, PhD, RD and professor in nutritional sciences at Cornell University. “By using the Nutrition Facts label to check choline amounts in foods, Americans will soon be able to look for this essential nutrient and better meet their daily goals.”
Food sources of choline include eggs, beef, chicken, fish, certain seafood, toasted wheat germ, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. Some multivitamins and prenatal vitamins contain choline and certain packaged foods, such as infant formula, may be fortified with choline to boost intake. Foods with at least 55 mg of choline per serving are considered a “good source” of the nutrient.
Excerpted from the Choline Information Council website: http://cholinecouncil.com/ latest_information/cholinelabel.
By Jen Morganti, ND, NEEDS Education Director
They say you can’t stop time, but you can slow the aging process to help you look and feel your best! Part of the secret is to protect mitochondria, those pint-size powerhouses that make energy (ATP) for our cells, tissues, and organs. Mitochondria slow down with age and cause some of the physical manifestations of aging, such as fatigue, weaker muscles, declining brain cell communication, and slower organ regeneration.
Scientists have recently discovered another role that mitochondria play beyond ATP production—they contribute to the activity of stem cells. You probably have heard about stem cells in the context of stem cell treatments, which uses stem cells from other sources to treat various conditions, such as heart disease, joint disease, and neurodegenerative conditions. But in this case, we are talking about the stem cells that naturally exist in our body. They are essential for restoration of organs and muscles; however, as we age they tend to slow down and become less effective with their regenerative powers.
One way to restore the capacity of mitochondria and consequentially stem cells may be through nutrients. A new study found that a type of B vitamin, called nicotinamide riboside, may provide rejuvenation to stem cells and help with muscle regeneration in older people, based on test results in mice. If the effect is similar in humans, it means there is potential for improving muscle and cell regeneration as we age, which equates to improved energy for more activities and potentially less muscle stiffness and pain.
Nicotinamide riboside is a nutrient that boosts NAD production, a vitamin B-like compound found in all living cells, which is used in the mitochondrial production of energy (ATP). It’s through this NAD/ATP production pathway that nicotinamide riboside boosts mitochondria and therefore boosts stem cell function. This study on mice has shown how nicotinamide riboside can help activate muscle stem cells, but it also theorizes that this benefit may extend to nerve and skin cells—meaning better cognitive function, less wrinkles, and slower aging.
Nicotinamide riboside isn’t a magic bullet for anti-aging because there are many other facets to the aging process, such as hormone decline, including thyroid, progesterone, or testosterone, as well as free radical damage that must be addressed. But, this form of B vitamin is a good addition to any comprehensive plan for healthy aging and could help combat some of the visible signs of aging.
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education
If you have ever tried yoga, you already know how wonderfully de-stressing and energizing it can be. But what you may not have realized is that it can also help lower cholesterol! A recent small study was conducted in India to determine if a consistent yoga program could help address high cholesterol. Twenty-two women who took thyroid medication for hypothyroidism participated in this study. All had high cholesterol—a common symptom related to low thyroid—high TSH, low thyroid, and all took prescription thyroid medication.
In this study, the women participated in intense yoga practice for one hour daily for six months. The yoga sessions included sun salutations, meditation, breathing practices, and a variety of yoga postures. After practicing for six months, it was shown that their total cholesterol and triglycerides decreased significantly, and their HDL (beneficial cholesterol) increased significantly. There were only slight improvements in thyroid issues; TSH levels decreased slightly, but not significantly, and seven of the twenty-two women were able to lower their thyroid medication doses.
High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis or “clogged arteries,” putting a person at risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack. Statin drugs are commonly prescribed to reduce cholesterol levels, but they come with risk for other side effects, such as muscle pain, liver damage, and neurological effects. So it makes sense to try alternative, natural treatments to lower cholesterol as an initial trial. It would be wise to take red yeast rice, fish oil, and milk thistle to lower cholesterol levels, along with healthy eating and a consistent yoga practice.
This small but interesting study indicates that long term yoga practice may be part of an effective plan for reducing stress, balancing thyroid hormones, and reducing risk of cardiovascular disease.
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that almost 10 percent of the U.S. population has Type-2 diabetes, and over one third of U.S. cases go undiagnosed. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of death and because of a large aging population, statistics are expected to continue to increase steadily.
People with diabetes have high blood-sugar levels (hyperglycemia) caused by insulin resistance or insulin deficiency. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and acts like a taxi that shuttles glucose (sugar) from the blood into the cells, where it is either stored or made into energy (ATP).
Insulin resistance occurs when there is plenty of glucose in the blood, but the cells block insulin from entering and refuse delivery of glucose. In diabetes, there isn’t enough insulin, usually because of pancreas dysfunction due to the constant stress of producing more and more insulin.
There are two types of diabetes, Type-1 and Type-2. Type-2 is by far the most prevalent type, yet it is highly preventable and treatable through lifestyle modifications. Type-2 was once called “adult-onset diabetes,” but that term has faded over the past decade because it is now showing up increasingly in younger people. Type-2 diabetes develops due to a combination of genetics, lack of exercise, and most significantly, poor dietary choices. As we get older, the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases due to the compounded effects of chronically elevated blood sugar levels, which put excessive strain on the pancreas.
Type-1 diabetes is primarily diagnosed in children. Their pancreas doesn’t produce insulin. It isn’t the result of lifestyle and environmental factors; therefore, it can only be treated by delivering insulin through injection. Only 5% of the U.S. cases of diabetes are Type-1 and there are no known alternative treatments.
Escalating Rates of Diabetes in the U.S.
Some of the complications of hyperglycemia and diabetes include obesity, cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, nerve damage, periodontitis. Other conditions and complications related to cardiovascular disease include: high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and hypertension. The combination of hyperglycemia, cardiovascular disorders, and obesity constitutes metabolic syndrome, causing an escalated risk of heart attack. It is estimated that over 30% of the U.S. population has metabolic syndrome.
Type-2 diabetes is most prevalent and most within our control to reverse, with a little determination and commitment. The rate of diabetes in the U.S. would significantly decline if we focused on better dietary choices and using supplements that are proven to control blood glucose, rather than depending on drugs to regulate insulin and blood sugar.
Recently, a study was presented at the Endocrine Society Annual Meeting about the effects of adding healthy protein to the diet to help stabilize blood sugar and encourage weight loss. Researchers contended that the key to healthy weight loss and blood-sugar stabilization is a diet plan that includes a high calorie, high-protein breakfast, a medium-sized lunch, and a smaller dinner, which is practically the exact opposite of how many Americans eat.
The focus of the study was to determine if the quality of protein was significant. Study participants had type-2 diabetes and were overweight or obese. They were divided into three groups: group one ate primarily whey protein shakes for breakfast, group two had other protein sources, such as eggs, tuna, or soy for breakfast, and group three had a high-carb breakfast. After 12 weeks, group one lost almost 17 pounds, group two lost over 13 pounds and the high carb breakfast group lost almost 7 pounds. Group one also showed the most improvement in HbA1C blood levels, which is an indicator that blood-sugar levels were more stable over the long run as compared to the other two groups.
Beyond adding whey protein to your meals, these supplements have been found to help support stable blood sugar levels:
Berberine: A large body of research shows that berberine helps improve insulin resistance and stabilizes blood sugar levels, sometimes as well as metformin, a diabetic medication.
Chromium: Improves sensitivity to insulin, helps lower blood sugar. Recommendation: up to 1,000 mcg/day.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: A strong antioxidant. Improves insulin sensitivity and prevents or slows kidney damage; also improves symptoms of diabetic neuropathy (nerve pain). Recommendation: 600-1,200 mg/day.
Magnesium: May improve insulin production in the elderly. Also shown to prevent diabetic retinopathy—a major cause of blindness. Recommendation: 200-600 mg/day
Vitamin E: Those with low levels of vitamin E are more likely to develop diabetes. Shown to improve insulin resistance and decrease damage to nerves, eyes, and kidneys; also reduces chances of stroke. Recommendation: 800 IU/day.
B-vitamins: Shown to reduce blood sugar. B12 may significantly reduce nerve pain and improve nerve functioning when given orally at 500 mcg three times daily. Biotin, another B vitamin, has profound benefits for many with diabetes when given at 16 mg/day for a few weeks; some people’s fasting blood sugar reduced by as much as 50 percent.
The key is to prevent the progression of diabetes as early as possible. With proper diet, exercise, and supplements, you can improve blood-sugar stability and prevent the damaging effects of insulin resistance.
http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-04-large-whey-proteinbreakfast-diabetes.html JAMA May 19, 2015, Vol 313, No. 19 http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/age/fig1.htm
By Jennifer Morganti, ND, NEEDS Director of Education
Curcumin, derived from the Indian spice turmeric, is undoubtedly on my top-five favorites list, because it covers the majority of health issues that most people are concerned about. It is so versatile, it could single-handedly replace several different supplements in your pill box. This herb has a low absorption rate, so manufacturers have created options that use different technology to improve effectiveness. Better absorption equates to lower doses.
It’s exciting to see all the new curcumin supplements on the market, but how do you know which one to use? Unfortunately, you can not simply use the culinary spice from the grocery store because the quality isn’t guaranteed. You could buy the fresh root (organic) and grind it up daily, but that takes some serious dedication; therefore, taking curcumin in supplement form is the easiest and most effective way to benefit from this superstar herb.
There are a lot of options when looking for a quality curcumin product. To help simplify the process, we broke down all the variations and gave a simple summary for each so that you can choose a product that fits your needs.
Standardization is a common way to extract herbs and make sure they meet minimum potency of certain natural chemicals. A standardized turmeric extract should offer 95% total curcuminoids. This indicates a quality herbal extract, but unfortunately it doesn’t guarantee 100% absorption due to the nature of this ingredient.
C3 offers 95% total cucuminoids and the extraction process ensures the presence of all three naturally-occurring curcuminoids: curcumin, demethoxy curcumin, and bisdemethoxy curcumin. There are no excipients or additives to the C3 extract. Over 70 research papers have been published on this particular ingredient.
Bioperine, known as piperine, a black pepper extract, has been shown to enhance curcumin absorption (as well as other nutrients). It may help with emulsification and nutrient transport.
Meriva uses non-GMO soy lecithin-derived Phosphatidylcholine to embed the curcumin molecule. This makes it more acceptable to phospholipid membranes (found on most cells), and therefore better absorbed into cell membranes.
Longvida uses a similar concept to Meriva, creating a “Solid Lipid Curcumin Particle” in an optimized lipophilic matrix for better absorption through the cell membrane.
This ingredient extracts all three of the important curcuminoids plus naturally-occurring essential oils through steam distillation and ethanol, making it extremely safe. It is 100% turmeric with no additives or fillers.
This technology makes curcumin more water-soluble (and therefore more absorbable) by combining the powder with a vegetable gum-derived from the ghatti tree. This significantly improves the percentage of curcumin that gets absorbed through the intestines and into the blood.
MicroActive Curcumin – SR
This is a sustained release formulation that allows for slower, but more consistent absorption. The technology makes microparticles so it is water soluble and better absorbed through the use of carriers that assist in passing through the intestinal wall.
Choosing a curcumin product may not be a simple task, but with the assistance of a NEEDS wellness educator, you’ll be able to choose one that’s right for you!
Carol B. Blair, BS, DiHom, CNC
We’ve all heard the ads about high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) with the catch phrase “Sugar is sugar.” Not true! Because high-fructose corn syrup is derived from corn (genetically modified, at that), the corn industry tried to call it “corn sugar,” but the FDA denied their claim. As you know, I am not a fan of the FDA, but it appears they finally got something right!
High-fructose corn syrup is highly processed and that processing comes with a price.
First and foremost, according to research published in Environmental Health, most of it is contaminated with mercury, which is used in the processing. Mercury is a poison linked to brain disorders including tremors, Parkinson’s, memory loss, and even Alzheimer’s. Remember the “mad hatters?” That term was coined because mercury was used in the hat-making process, and the makers went “mad.”
Due to the fact that high-fructose corn syrup metabolizes to fat very quickly in the body, and because of its rapid absorption into the blood stream, it causes insulin spikes. Weight gain is the result because insulin is a fat-storing hormone. Also, Dr. Mark Hyman states that HFCS “goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol); this is why it is the major cause of liver damage in this country and causes a condition called ‘fatty liver,’ which affects 70 million people.” Other metabolic disturbances such as increased appetite, accelerated aging, and diabetes also occur.
So what are some of the major products that contain high-fructose corn syrup? Unless you are a label reader (I am!), you’ll probably be surprised. Here are some of the common ones: cereal, salad dressing, pudding mixes, many yogurts (you just think you’re eating something healthy with many brands), candy, chocolate bars, ketchup, juices, bread, and pizza sauce. However, soft drinks are the biggest culprit of all. Many people have a very bad habit of drinking soft drinks instead of water. Don’t make the mistake of drinking low calorie, artificially sweetened, soft drinks as a replacement. I haven’t decided yet which one is worse–the high-fructose corn syrup or the artificial sweeteners!
We all know sugar isn’t good for us but the catch phrase, “Sugar is sugar,” is not true. High-fructose corn syrup is used because it is cheap–plain and simple. Don’t sacrifice your health for it.
Did you know that NEEDS’ professional wellness educators offer complimentary wellness consultations over the phone and can answer any questions that you have over email? Take advantage of this phenomenal service by calling 800-634-1380 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Clinical Nutritionist Christine Carlson and our Naturopathic Doctor Jennifer Morganti are here to help you! Get to know our wellness educators:
Jennifer Morganti, ND
Director of Education
Dr. Jen received her Naturopathic degree from Bastyr University, one of the four accredited naturopathic schools in the US. She has been working in the Dietary Supplement and Natural Health industry for over 15 years. Dr. Jen’s passion is to make natural health information accessible to anyone who is interested in optimizing their health and to promote positive, healthy aging. Throughout her career, she has brought new dietary supplement products to market, provided advice on FDA regulations, and educated consumers nationwide through writing and speaking engagements.
Christine Carlson, BS, CN
Christine Carlson, BS, CN, is a New York State Certified Nutritionist and a biofeedback practitioner with over 20 years’ experience in holistic health. She helps individuals optimize their health through nutrition and lifestyle changes. She focuses on a variety of health issues including digestive problems, allergies and sensitivities, immune dysfunction, osteoporosis, weight problems, stress management, depression, and more.