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SKIN CARE 101 - Occlusives

By Ann C Wooledge
on November 17, 2014
1 comment

organic skin care at wingsets

 

This series of blogs will be about skin care and how we can make the right choices while we search the aisles, go to home parties and read a bunch of "stuff" online. Now if you are new to this blog, you should know that we are unrelenting advocates of being label readers - always! I know, I really do. It takes time, precious time, but our health is as precious as it gets. I've been researching skin care ingredients for over 12 years and I've seen some very good and some very bad advice. I hope to help you with just the basics on what to look for in a good, healthy, effective skin care ingredient. This will be the first of a series and will be repeated in our Ingredient Benefits tab at the bottom of each page of our website. I have been juggling too many balls the past few years and have been remiss on sharing what I do know about skin care including carrier oils and essential oils. The winter months remind all of us that tight, dry, flaking and chapped skin is something to be avoided.

Occlusives - what are they?

I will make this abbreviated for now and go into more detail on each oil as we progress. We do actually have some information we've shared in the past about the oils we use in our products plus other ingredients. But this series is more about why you want or don't want a particular ingredient.

So, what makes an oil “occlusive” and what does that really mean? Occlusives generally get a bad rap because we automatically think of things that clog our pores, but that isn’t true. You need these protective oils. They prevent transdermal moisture loss, protect your skin from harsh winds, dry weather and cold weather. I’m sitting in front of our pellet stove right now. I love this stove and it is the only thing (well, maybe not the only thing) that keeps me sane through the cold Nebraska winters. But, I also notice a distinct drying of my skin as I sit here if I don’t use a protective cream that contains at least one occlusive oil, preferably at least two.  There are so many quality ingredients now available to all of us through the internet and, of course, I recommend organic or certified organic and cold pressed, unrefined. Why? I have compared the cosmetic grade oils to the cold pressed unrefined oils that we now use and the difference in just the appearance tells me that the beneficial properties have  been refined out of cosmetic grade oils. I have a picture I posted on our Facebook page probably two or more years ago of our beautiful dark green certified organic, cold pressed, unrefined avocado oil sitting in a clear glass container beside the expeller processed, cosmetic grade of avocado oil that we once used before I figured this out. The cosmetic grade is colorless, thin and odorless - something large manufacturers look for - plus it is significantly cheaper. The cold-pressed (i.e. without heat that ruins beneficial properties) is dark green, thicker and has a nice subtle plant-type fragrance. Before I knew better I thought – well, if it is cosmetic grade and I’m making a cosmetic, then that’s what I need. Simple right? Well, not so much. Oils retain their phytonutrients only if they are cold-pressed and unrefined, which means they are full of antioxidants that fight those free radicals that try to make those wrinkles on your face. Cosmetic grade oils, which are what you will find in your big box store and home party brands, have been stripped of their benefits! Do they still “feel” like they are doing something for your skin? Well, yes, they do because oil is still oil. It is what is going on beneath your skin at the cellular level that you can’t “feel” that makes such a huge difference.

So here is a list of oils that are “occlusive”:

Jojoba oil (one of our favorites)
Rice Bran Oil
Sesame oil (not the roasted kind that smells heavenly in any stir fry recipe)
Avocado oil (again one of our favorites)
Pumpkin Seed oil (okay, another of our favorites and I will tell you why in another blog)
Macadamia Nut oil (obviously not to be used with nut allergies)
Moringa oil (we are experimenting with this one to determine if the hype is hype or true information)
Mineral oil (which is petroleum product and we advise you to avoid any products containing mineral oil and it also clogs pores)

Why do occlusive oils work to protect our skin?

Oils are – well obviously fats. And we will talk in another blog about the different types of fats and why some work better than others.  It is known that fats penetrate deeper into the surface layers of the skin and alleviate drying of the skin and help to retain the skin’s moisture by preventing moisture loss through evaporation. The healthier our skin is, the healthier our body is. It is truly a protective covering and keeping that covering intact, healthy, moisturized and elastic is key to overall health. Bacteria and viruses can enter quite easily through broken, red and chapped skin. It is more than just a beauty question (listen up here men!), or holding back the ravages of time and preventing and delaying wrinkle formation, it is essential to the health of your body overall. We all need and want (we really do) more supple, softer and elastic skin regardless of whether it is on our face on our feet.

I've just mentioned carrier oils here, but I should mention beeswax as well and probably the star performer in this lineup. Waxes in general are absorbed more slowly and can contribute to the “greasy” feel  that a lot of us try to avoid. But beeswax provides more protection than oils. The greasy feel only lasts for a short period of time and it is so worth it. We all need that protective barrier and only by using some occlusive oils/waxes in our products can we achieve this function. 

I know there are others and am just giving you a short synopsis. There have been newer oils on the market but we keep coming back to the ones we have used for years except, of course and importantly, we have switched to organic, cold pressed and unrefined. 

 

Thanks for listening!

 

 

Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health, nutrition and skin care. Ann was a Critical Care Registered Nurse, is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

How healthy will your skin be in 5, 10 or 20 years? Part I - Rosacea

By Ann C Wooledge
on March 19, 2014
2 comments

How healthy is your skin going to be in 5, 10 or 20 years?

And how early should you start to be concerned about that?


Skin health does not always refer to having no wrinkles or even fewer wrinkles, although with all of the glossy photo-shopped magazine ads, that is usually the first thing most people consider - not really the actual health of their skin. What about the typical and pretty common skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea? Interestingly enough, my family has a lot of these issues. I myself have rosacea, my daughter has had eczema since birth and my husband has a type of psoriasis, which we painfully discovered when he had a very bad flareup in November of 2011. So what do you do about these - and how do we keep the wrinkles at bay and our skin glowing and healthy looking?

Can you cure these skin issues or just calm them?

I am going to do this as a series and we'll start with rosacea. Rosacea apparently affects over 13 million Americans and usually causes facial redness and acne-like bumps and pimples. People like myself with rosacea will often blush much more easily or have "ruddy" cheeks. Bill Clinton is said to have rosacea and from looking at his pictures, I'd have to agree.

We've found that all of these skin issues are not "curable", but they can be relieved, calmed and alleviated unless you do something to trigger them. Each of us has our own individual triggers and it is important that we know what they are. I've been able to pretty much get rid of my rosacea; however I used to have red spots that turned into acne almost every day. That was before I started making my own creams and learned what triggers any episodes that I do get. I found that parabens will almost always cause a flareup with a cystic type pimple. I sample any new ingredients I receive because lots of parabens are hidden in other ingredients and are not declared. An example - I recently received a sample of a highly acclaimed and fairly expensive oil called Prickly Pear Seed Oil. It came with all sorts of accolades on how it would prevent wrinkles and other good things for your skin. I was very excited to receive this oil because of all the things I read about it. As I'm constantly searching and researching for new ingredients (part of the fun of being a formulator of skin care products) this one definitely sounded like something I wanted to add to our Skin Renewal Cream. We'll talk more about this particular oil in another blog, but the point I'm making here is - it had to have parabens in it because my face broke out in some pretty ugly cystic type pimples - big yuck for me, especially when my skin care line is our most popular line of products and I was afraid to "face" any of my customers for awhile. Not a very good advertisement. It took a few weeks to get them totally gone, but that's a long time in my experience. I'm super disappointed too because it does sound like a good oil to try. I will get samples from other places and let you know. This one was certified organic and Ecocert certified so how did a paraben get in here? I know some will say it was just the oil itself, but I know my skin and I know and understand the fatty acids in this particular oil and these would not have caused my face to break out to this degree.

Interestingly, the first time someone (a dermatologist) gave me a name for this skin condition was many years ago and she (and I think they still do) told me to use only "oil-free" makeup and creams. Which now makes me laugh whenever I hear that because it is just not true and if anything makes my skin more dry and flaky. Which as most of you know is why I started on this quest of healthy skin and being a skin product formulator.

So what can you do?

1. First of all, find out what your trigger is - it can be any of the usual allergy type triggers such as cheese, chocolate, soy, spicy foods and particularly alcohol can cause flares. I don't find any of these to be a problem anymore as long as I'm using a good skin care regimen and keeping my skin clean. My face does turn a bright red with any strenuous exercise - it just does and it goes away, so I don't consider that a problem except I often have to wash my face and add additional moisturizer after any routine that has caused my face to sweat - including gardening.

2. Secondly, find good organic skin care products. Your skin care products are really the biggest and best thing you can do to help or make worse your rosacea. It is really important to stay away from alcohol-containing products and as I said earlier parabens. I have found that I can use oil-based products and in fact my skin loves it when I use products made from unrefined organic ingredients such as shea butter, olive oil, avocado oil and others. It is important to find products that contain UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED oils because these retain the natural phytonutrients that actually feed your face and keep it healthy. Refined oils can also have solvents still in them, which will worsen the condition of anyone's skin. I recommend always to use products that contain as many natural ingredients as possible and I don't mean a cream that is full of just extracts of this and extracts of that. You need something in there to moisturize, soften and regenerate your skin. It is important if the product contains butters, such as shea butter, cocoa butter and/or mango butter - and this should be close to the top of the list of ingredients meaning it has a larger percentage contained in the total formula for that product, not thrown in at the bottom of the list as what I call eye-candy.

Tamanu oil is probably my favorite oil to use alone and for any breakouts or redness. I again encourage you to find unrefined, cold-pressed and organic and it does work wonders for your skin. Keep it out of your eye area as it will sting your eyes. I like to use it at night before I go to bed so I won't be taking the chance of inadvertently getting it into my eyes during the day. And finally, an oil that is truly a very good oil to use for the skin is neem oil. I did use this in our skin renewal cream from the beginning, but slowly phased it out simply because it does not smell very good - at all. I still use it in the garden as do other organic gardeners, but test it out first to see if the odor is offensive to you or not. Tamanu oil has a wonderful rich, almost caramel like odor, but I have heard some people say they don't like it or like the smell better if it is a refined Tamanu. Refined tamanu just doesn't have the same benefits for your face though, but these are individual choices you alone can make.


All products that contain water need to be preserved, although you will hear otherwise, it is just a fact of nature. So you will usually find phenoxyethanol as a preservative and from our testing with this preservative against many others, this is the one that did the best job, using the least amount and without causing problems with my skin.

3. Are there herbs or essential oils that work?  Lavender, of course, is well known for it's calming properties, both mind and body which includes your skin. We love lavender and tea tree in our products and encourage others to search for those ingredients. My research turned up quite a few of our favorite herbs for calming and adding nutrients to the skin. Rooibos tea is well known also for it's anti-inflammatory properties and I have found that if I include that in our creams, it really does make a difference. I add green tea, calendula, chamomile and helichrysum to that mix for ways to calm your skin and keep it glowing, healthy and young looking. Drinking these herbs as teas is also beneficial. The essential oils from these plants are also very beneficial for healthy skin, especially for their calming and healing properties. Finally, one herb, well I guess it is technically a spice, is turmeric which has been gaining a lot of attention with an incredible amount of research in the past few years. It is highly anti-inflammatory and with lots of research backing up those claims. Turmeric can be taken in capsule form and is probably the most effective way to use it unless you eat a lot of Indian type foods - but then you are getting into "hot" foods, which can cause a flare of your rosacea. I love Indian food, however, and just accept the fact that my skin may be red for a little while. It isn't really the redness that bothers me, it is if and when my face gets those pimple-like spots. I know when that happens, which it very rarely does anymore, that I need to take a step back and figure out what I had done that might have caused that and avoid whatever that was in the future - like the Prickly Pear Seed Oil.


And how early should you start to be concerned about this?

In my opinion it never is too early. I know pediatricians will tell you not to use oil products or creams on your babies, but I also have read research showing when sunflower oil was used to massage newborn babies in a neonatal unit, the survival rates were much higher. This only makes sense for several reasons including the fact that touch is very important for all of us, as is massage, but particularly important for babies. The oil (and this is where the pediatricians I think must get it wrong) if organic, unrefined will soften and protect your babies' skin causing it to be stronger. Any broken, chaffed or red areas are places bacteria can quickly enter and cause problems. Keeping your baby's skin supple and hydrated is very important. I think the medical field thinks only in terms of what they know to be available and those are synthetic type products including mineral oil. Do not put mineral oil on your baby - please!! Baby oil that you buy in the stores is usually mineral (read petroleum) based and is definitely not a good choice. I would rather you used nothing than to use mineral oil - which again, may be why the pediatricians recommend using nothing. Vegetable oils when used without water do not need a preservative. Creams and lotions are a mixture of oil and water and do need to be preserved. However, a lot of vegetable oils need to be refrigerated or have vitamin E added to them to prevent oxidation.

So - let me know what you use to keep your skin healthy? I didn't mention too much about nutrition, but I always tell people that their skin will reflect what they do or don't eat. Another blog for another time. Did your pediatrician tell you not to use any creams or oils on your baby as a newborn? Which of these suggestions did you like best or have you used and why?

Thanks for listening!

 

Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

 

 

Yoga or Tai Chi to relieve heart problems!

By Ann C Wooledge
on December 12, 2013
1 comment

 

 

Atrial fibrillation - afib for short, an irregular heart beat. A problem we saw often when I worked in the Critical Care Unit. It wasn't one of those issues that caused your adrenaline to spike when you saw it on your patient's EKG, but it was nonetheless concerning and required a call to their doctor and medical - pharmaceutical - intervention. Usually chronic administration of a medication -or two. Afib can cause symptoms that reduce a person's quality of life and it can sometimes progress to something more acute.

Surprisingly for the doctors I think, but not really so surprising to me and possibly you, is a recent article in MedPageToday.com. They found evidence (enough to convince them to review the research and write about it) that yoga actually improves the burden on the heart caused by afib, and also improved heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression! Now think about it - how many different medications would one have to take to do all of that!? Exactly! Not to mention all of the side effects from EACH of those medications. It took only three months of yoga training to improve "quality of life parameters, including physical functioning, general health, vitality, social function and mental health" - and this is not the first study to evaluate the effects of yoga for improvement in cardiac problems. Not to be taken lightly, atrial fibrillation can still cause disabling and bothersome symptoms that adversely affect a patient’s quality of life. These doctors agreed that: "One way to help manage the disease and improve quality of life may be to add adjunctive complementary and alternative therapies, such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, therapeutic hypnosis, or tai chi into routine care." That in and of itself is pretty amazing!

If you or a family member, friend or co-worker suffer from ANY cardiac disease, please show them this article for more information including the impressive benefits of practicing Tai Chi. Do I do either of these? Well, actually I don't. I've often considered it, but after reading this and the research studies they provided - and many other articles I've read confirming the benefits, I am going to check out yoga. Well, maybe an at-home video first. At one time I actually thought yoga was a sort of religion and therefore not something a good conservative Christian girl would do. I was so totally wrong about that and I wish I had considered this sooner. And - you don't have to be fit, slender and young as depicted in almost every picture I searched to find something to post here! Do you practice yoga or tai chi? I'd love to know what you think. I'm having coffee with a couple of very dear friends of mine tomorrow morning - both of their husbands have undergone cardiac catheterizations and are on medications. I am copying the article and will take a couple copies with me tomorrow. Maybe we can all start a yoga or tai chi class together - that would be a good way to start the new year!

Below are direct quotes from the article in MedPageToday.com's article. Take a few minutes to read it in more detail here.

  • The regular practice of yoga improves symptoms, arrhythmia burden, heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and depression scores, and several domains of quality of life among patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
  • Twelve weeks of tai chi training can significantly improve heart failure-related quality of life and exercise tolerance, as well as reduce blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein.

Tell me this isn't so much better than taking a lot of pills!! Seriously, I'm just very excited that this totally allopathic website has chosen to publish this article and giving credence to what most of you probably already knew. Show it to your doctor and as with any new exercise program start out slow and do keep in touch with your physician. Hopefully, you can regulate those medications downward and to the point of not taking them at all.

Thanks for listening!

 

Ann

Ann's mission statement truly is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

References provided by MedPageToday.com:

  1. Lakkireddy D, Atkins D, Pillarisetti J, et al. Effect of yoga on arrhythmia burden, anxiety, depression, and quality of life in paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: The YOGA My Heart Study. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2013 Jan 25. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Schneider RH, Grim CE, Rainforth MV, et al. Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: randomized, controlled trial of transcendental meditation and health education in blacks. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012;5:750-758.
  3. Lombardi F, Belletti S, Battezzati PM, et al. Acupuncture for paroxysmal and persistent atrial fibrillation: an effective non-pharmacological tool? World J Cardiol. 2012;4:60-65.
  4. Novoa R, Hammonds T. Clinical hypnosis for reduction of atrial fibrillation after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Cleve Clin J Med. 2008;75(suppl 2):S44-S47.
  5. Yeh GY, Wood MJ, Lorell BH, et al. Effects of tai chi mind-body movement therapy on functional status and exercise capacity in patients with chronic heart failure: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Med. 2004;117:541-548.
  6. Caminiti G, Volterrani M, Marazzi G, et al. Tai chi enhances the effects of endurance training in the rehabilitation of elderly patients with chronic heart failure. Rehabil Res Pract. 2011;2011:761958.

 

 

 

Are those Omega 3's really worth it?

By Ann C Wooledge
on March 22, 2013

 

 

Omega 3's - are they worth those dollars? Are they really working?

I don't know about you, but we spend a good deal of money every month purchasing my omega-3 fatty acid capsules. I've read a lot about mercury and lead contamination and possible rancidity in the different capsules. So I was very excited and pleased to see that Consumer Lab has done a large analysis of all the potential benefits and whether or not they are real or just perceived. Are we just spending too much money on something that doesn't work? For that reason I wanted to share this information with you. I would, however, highly recommend that you purchase a very reasonably priced subscription from consumerlab.com because the extensive report they published covers far more than what I am able to cover in this blog. 

What are Omega 3's?:

EPA and DHA are two principal fatty acids found primarily in fatty fish, krill and calamari. You are probably very familiar with the term omega-3 fatty acids. DHA can also be obtained from other sources such as algae. The body can only manufacture limited amounts of EPA and DHA from food as well as alpha linolenic acid (ALA) from plant foods such as flaxseed and walnuts. Consumer lab.com recently did an extensive analysis of the research concerning the benefits, which are many, of supplementing or consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Below you will find a list of the proposed benefits as well as the research that supports these benefits or has shown a lack of substantial justification for taking the supplement. 

Heart attack and stroke: 

The FDA has approved the labeling of supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids to state that research shows "supportive but not conclusive evidence that consuming DHA and EPA may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease." There is also an approved pharmaceutical prescription of a high-dose highly concentrated EPA/DHA product derived from fish oil. Heart healthy benefits attributed to omega-3 fatty acids include:

1.  Reducing triglyceride levels
2.  Raising levels of the good cholesterol (HDL),
3.  Possibly thinning the blood
4.  Reducing homocystine levels
5.  And also reducing blood pressure. 

Conclusion:

After a review of 14 studies Consumers Lab found no significant difference in outcomes between those who did from those who didn't take fish oil supplements.(1) Prior research has suggested a benefit for individuals with a history of cardiac disease. Clinical trials since 2010 now cast doubt on the benefit for both healthy individuals or those with prior cardiovascular vascular disease. However it was also stated that these studies may have been too short or small to detect small or modest benefit.(2) An additional review of twenty studies published from 1989 to 2012 also concluded that supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids was not associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, cardiac death, sudden-death for all forms of death among people. It should be said that most of these participants in the studies were at increased cardiovascular risk and were probably taking cardiovascular medicatio.(3) However, one study looked specifically at cerebrovascular disease (strokes) and found benefit from fish oil supplementation as well as eating fish. Another analysis of thirty-eight studies found that eating two to four servings per week of fish resulted in a 6% lower risk of stroke compared to eating one or fewer servings per week.(4) It was believed that the decreased risk of stroke was seen with fatty fish types and not whitefish types and that the beneficial effects of eating fish could very well be due to a wide range of nutrients that are found in fish. So in conclusion, although it has been widely believed that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids was beneficial in reducing cardiovascular events it does seem to remain generally not substantiated following the review of these studies. However, eating fish at least twice a week may be beneficial as long as it is not fried or deep fried. 

Arthritis and other inflammatory diseases: 

It is known that increased intake of omega-3 fatty acids from fish alters the body's production of prostaglandins and therefore reduces some forms of inflammation. Because of this fact, supplementation with EPA and DHA has been used for symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and does seem to work in the early stages of the disease. However it was believed that fish oil probably doesn't slow progression of the disease. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties there have been other diseases with inflammatory components that have been studied and in one large study it was shown that people with the highest consumption of DHA had a 77% reduction in the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. (5) 

Cancer: 

After looking at studies regarding the prevention of cancer of the prostate, colon/rectum, and breast, it appeared that current use but not past use of fish oil supplements was associated with a 32% reduction in the risk of breast cancer. The risk reduction was more effective for ductal carcinoma of the breast than lobular carcinoma. It was suggested that the anticancer effects may be due to the anti-inflammatory property of fish oil because chronic inflammation is associated with cancer risk and progression. It was noted, however, that researchers felt fish oil cannot be recommended for breast cancer prevention without further study. An additional study did find fish consumption to be associated with a large reduction in late stage or fatal prostate cancer.(6) 

Chemotherapy: 

It was found fish oil could be helpful to prevent weight loss during cancer chemotherapy. Although not all studies did show this benefit a recent study showed significant benefit.(7) 

Eye disease: 

And analysis of the use of supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids did show that those with the highest intake of EPA and DHA were 30% less likely to develop diseases of the retina. Decreased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration was also shown in a study of over 30,000 female health professionals. Those who ate fish at least once a week had a 42% reduction in developing AMD compared to those eating less than one serving per month. It appeared that the greatest benefit was with consumption of canned tuna or other dark meat fish such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines.(7) 

Psychiatric and mental disorders: 

Omega-3 fatty acids appear to help mental disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia although there have only been a limited number of double-blind trials. 

Depression: 

In a study comparing depressed older women in a nursing home showed significant improvement and remission of 40.9% compared to 16.7% of those taking placebo.(8). The same study also showed a significant improvement in their self assessed quality-of life. 

Suicide: 

A study was done on military personnel who had committed suicide. Prior to suicide they had a significantly lower blood level of DHA than personnel who did not commit suicide.(9) It was found that in this mostly male population the risk of suicide was 62% greater among those with low serum levels of DHA compared to those with higher levels. As a side note the researchers found that omega-3 fatty acid levels were generally lower in the military personnel who participated in the study, in fact much lower, than in the general population.

Anxiety: 

Using medical students in the United States for comparison, researchers found that those who received the high-dose omega-3 fatty acid showed a 20% reduction of anxiety symptoms compared to those receiving placebo treatment. They also noted that the students treated also had a 14% decrease in a marker of inflammation.(10) It should be noted however that the study used a very concentrated fish oil which was high in EPA because evidence points to EPA as having a relatively stronger anti-inflammatory and antidepressant effects than DHA. 

Alzheimer's disease: 

It has been shown in previous population studies the consumption of DHA is associated with reduced incidents of Alzheimer's disease. Animal studies also have demonstrated that DHA consumption reduces Alzheimer-like brain disease. It should be noted however that DHA from algae has not shown these same benefits even though plasma levels of DHA tripled and the amount of DHA in cerebrospinal fluid increased by 38%, meaning the DHA was absorbed. There was, however, no significant change from those taking placebo. 

Age-related cognitive decline: 

In contrast to Alzheimer's disease, age-related cognitive disease is not actually considered a disease but is more of a gradual declining of mental capacity and perhaps a normal consequence of aging. One study involving a small population of those 65 and over with mild cognitive impairment showed that those receiving a large amount of DHA with EPA had improved scores on verbal fluency, although not on any other memory or cognition test compared to those in a control group. The researchers rightfully noted that depression is a risk factor for progression to dementia so if there is a reduction in depressive symptoms this may also reduce the risk of dementia. 

Memory enhancement in healthy individuals: 

In one small study of healthy young adults, improved working memory performance was found to result with higher levels of DHA but not EPA. Participants were then asked to take higher concentrations of fish oil containing EPA and DHA daily for six months and they were tested again and scores improved.(10) 

Strength training in older women

Considering the fact that omega-3's have been shown to play a role in the plasma membrane and cell function of muscles, studies were done on mostly sedentary women in their mid 60s who were given supplements of fish oil containing both EPA and DHA. After 12 weeks of supervised lower body resistance training three times a week, the strength of those taking the fish oil had improved more than those who did not take the fish oil. It was also noted that what is referred to as functional capacity, assessing the speed of rising from a chair for instance, also increased more among those who took the fish oil. However simply taking fish oil without strength training did not show any benefit.(11)

Quality Control:

It's perhaps important to note that neither the FDA nor any other federal or state agency is responsible for or actually does routine tests on fish oil supplements for quality prior to being placed on the market. For this reason consumerlab.com chose to independently evaluate omega-3 products on the market today that claim to contain EPA and or DHA. They proceeded to test them for the levels of omega-3 fatty acids as indicated on their labels (EPA, DHA and, if listed, ALA), mercury, lead, PCBs, and signs of decomposition. An abbreviated list of the quality concerns and the issues that consumer lab tested for follows below: 

Contamination: 

Contamination has always been an issue because fish can accumulate toxins such as mercury, dioxins, and PCBs. Mercury is also a well-known element that can damage the nervous system and is particularly dangerous in a fetus. Dioxins and PCBs may be carcinogenic even at low levels of exposure over time and may also have other harmful effects. 

Freshness: 

The freshness of an oil is always an important consideration because fish oil can go rancid resulting in an unpleasant odor and taste. More importantly than odor or taste is the fact that rancid fish oils can produce a variety of compounds, some of which could cause health concerns. A study by the government of Norway concluded that there would be some health concerns related to the regular consumption of rancid fish/marine oils particularly in regards to the gastrointestinal tract. However there's not enough data to determine the amount of risk.(12) 

In conclusion:

Whew! I know this has been a long blog, but an important one I think. Consumer Lab found that of the 35 products they selected for review only 24 passed quality testing for meeting requirements for freshness, purity, and if they contained the declared amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. If the supplement had any enteric coatings they tested to see if they were properly absorbed. Considering all the various and important potential benefits of supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids and or eating fatty fish, it seems to me that it would be advantageous to read the full report that Consumer Lab published. There was in this report detailed discussion of all the varieties and ways you may be spending your money on a product that is not effective and even potentially harmful. In this report they also talk individually about each of the products they tested and why they were or were not approved. It is an extensive list of specific brand names and shows an analysis of prices, some of which are ridiculously expensive with "very low concentration" of Omega 3's. This list also shows what you are actually getting for those diminishing dollars in terms of the actual concentration of DHA and EPA. This is an important discussion because there is much confusion in this area. My husband and I have spent many hours looking at the various labels with our calculators in hand. This is no longer necessary with this excellent comparison done for you. Obviously, I'm not going to list the brands they analyzed, but just as an example, Dr. Mercola's very expensive Krill Oil was analyzed as containing a "very low" concentration of Omega 3's and at a very high cost. As a matter of fact, most of the krill oil supplements showed low to moderate levels of concentration, and these are usually more expensive. So, if you don't take Omega 3 fish oil or eat fatty fish on a regular basis, I suggest that you do. If you want to be sure that you are purchasing the best for the dollar, then spend that $33 for a one-year subscription to Consumerlab.com. No - they aren't paying me for this recommendation. They have no idea I exist other than perhaps in their record keeping as I purchase their subscription every year. 

Do you take Omega 3's? If you are a vegetarian, do you find that the ALA in plant-based foods is sufficient? How much do you spend on your supplements and where do you purchase them? Can you tell a difference when you don't take them. I can - both from an inflammatory and vascular standpoint. I can also tell from one brand to another. Trader Joe's didn't work - for me anyway.

Thanks for listening!

 

1.   Kwak S, Myung S, Lee Y, Seo H, Korean Meta-analysis Study Group f. Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-analysis of Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-Controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(9):686-694. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.262. 

2.   Hu FB, Manson JE. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease—Is It Just a Fish Tale?: Comment on “Efficacy of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Eicosapentaenoic Acid and Docosahexaenoic Acid) in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease”. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(9):694-696. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.463. 

3.   Rizos EC, Ntzani EE, Bika E, Kostapanos MS, Elisaf MS. Association Between Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation and Risk of Major Cardiovascular Disease Events: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2012;308(10):1024-1033. doi:10.1001/2012.jama.11374. 

4.  Chowdhury R, Stevens S, et al, Association between fish consumption,  long chain omega 3 fatty acids, and risk of cerebrovascular disease: systemic review and meta-analysis: BMJ 2012;345:e6698.

5.  Hart 2009.

6.  Szymanski KM, Wheeler DC, Mucci LA.Fish consumption and prostate cancer risk: a review and meta-analysis:
Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1223-33. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29530. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

7.  Christen WG, Schaumberg DA, Glynn RJ, Buring JE. Dietary ω-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women. Arch Ophthalmol. 2011;129(7):921-929. doi:10.1001/archophthalmol.2011.34. 

8.  Rondanelli M, Giacosa A, Opizzi A, et al. Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms and on Health-Related Quality of Life in the Treatment of Elderly Women with Depression: J Am Coll Nutr vol. 29 no. 1 55-64.

9.  Lewis M, Hibbeln J, Johnson J, et al. Suicide Deaths of Active-Duty US Military and Omega-3 Fatty-Acid Status: A Case-Control Compariso: J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72(12):1585-1590

10. Narendran R, Frankle WG, Mason NS, et al. Improved working memory but no effect on striatal vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 after omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation: PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046832. Epub 2012 Oct 3.

11.  Rodacki C, Rodacki A, Pereira G, et al. Fish oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women:  Am J Clin Nutr ajcn.021915.

12.  Torkildsen Ø, Wergeland S, Bakke S, et al. ω-3 Fatty Acid Treatment in Multiple Sclerosis (OFAMS Study): A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Arch Neurol. 2012;69(8):1044-1051. doi:10.1001/archneurol.2012.283.

Do you get enough magnesium?

By Ann C Wooledge
on February 26, 2012

Magnesium - do you get enough?


We subscribe to consumerlab.com and their newsletter which is always full of very good, update, accurate and needed information. Here is a quote from a recent article that they published. I can't link directly to that link because it is a secured url and requires a subscription. Which is fine, that's how they keep in business as they don't sell anything. 

So - do you eat enough magnesium rich foods every day, or do you take a supplement, none of these or both of these? Here's why you should think about it.

"An analysis of several studies concluded that magnesium may help reduce the risk of stroke. People who consumed 100 mg of magnesium more per day than average (the average being about 300 mg) had an 8% lower risk of strokes of any kind and a 9% lower risk of ischemic stroke (Larsson, Am J Clin Nutr 2012). This finding is based on total magnesium in the diet -- it does not mean that 100 mg of magnesium from a supplement will necessarily have the same risk-lowering effect, but getting a total of at least 400 mg of magnesium from your diet per day may be beneficial."

What else does magnesium do?

Well it does a lot of things, but to keep it short, it is important to take it with any calcium supplement that you might take. It also relaxes nerves and muscles, which is why I like to take my calcium/magnesium supplement before bedtime.

Foods rich in magnesium: Truthfully, magnesium isn't all that difficult to get enough of. I use the supplement because it is important to take it with calcium in order for calcium to be absorbed. I've been working on a blog about cow's milk (got way more complicated than I'd planned) and there will be more information about calcium in that blog.

According to Whole Foods, here is a list of foods rich in magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Soybeans
  • Sesame seeds
  • Halibut
  • Black beans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cashews
  • Almonds

Whole Foods has an amazing amount of information on their website, so if you want more information than you could possibly imagine, check out their page on magnesium.

Thanks for listening!





Best supplements to prevent dementia

By Healthy Planet Blog Your Healthy Brain
on January 08, 2012
1 comment

What supplements will help prevent memory loss?

 

Mom died in her 80's but she "left us" when she was in her 70's as her Alzheimer's took over a once incredibly talented and bright mind. It's a horrible thing to watch and the Alzheimer's Association estimates that 4 million people have Alzheimer's disease just in the United States. That's a lot of people and then of course the family members become an important part of that equation first, of course, because of their loss, and secondly because they begin to worry about their own brain health. Which is why I have dedicated a lot of my time doing research on how to maintain a healthy brain and prevent dementia. Dementia is not always Alzheimers. Alzheimer's disease is, however, the most common cause of dementia in older people. If you visit my Facebook page, you will see this picture of me and Mom many years ago. I wonder if we couldn't have been able to help her knowing what we do today about brain health.

 

What is dementia?

As we age, we become more and more aware of some loss of brain function and your doctor will often tell you "you ARE getting older you know", which if you're like me makes you extremely frustrated and you'd like to hit him/her over the head with your chart. But dementia is basically a definite measurable decline in intellectual functioning which can interfere with activities of daily living and family relationships - and, of course, social situations. I still remember one time when my sister and I took Mom to lunch and she had a very difficult time trying to read the menu and order. She was still at the stage where she realized something wasn't right and it broke my heart to see her embarrassed about her inability to do so. I'm sure it was very scary to her as well. Dementia can be caused by Alzheimer's as mentioned, but it is also often caused by strokes which may be a series of strokes or only one that does the damage. A stroke is when the blood supply is blocked to your brain due to a blood clot - the same thing that causes a heart attack, except the clot is supplying blood to the brain rather than the heart. There are other reasons for dementia, but these are the two most common.

What can I do to prevent dementia?

When I was in nursing school, it was believed that brain cells could not be regenerated and once you lost them, they were gone forever. Research has shown this is not true and brain cells can be regenerated - good news for all of us! Researchers at Princeton University discovered that the formation of new nerve cells, a process called neurogenesis disproves that out-dated belief. I don't know about you, but when I first heard that, I was very, very relieved as the potential for developing Alzheimer's can be hereditary.

So now that we KNOW we can actually do something about those dying brain cells, shouldn't we be doing everything we can to make that happen? You will find past articles in our blog (see here) concerning brain health and we will be constantly informing you of new research as well as ways to increase your brain function.

The latest research that is interesting and reveals to us an easy fix is as simple as supplementing our diets with vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. This study showed that when people between the ages of 60 to 74 were given daily amounts of vitamin B-12 and Folic Acid, there was significant improvement in short and long-term memory. The improvement was documented after 2 years of supplementation, but why wait until you're 60 to start! In this study patients were given daily doses of Folic Acid (800 mcg), vitamin B-12 (500 mcg), and vitamin B-6 (20 mg).(1)

Cognitive benefits were also seen in a study that used smaller daily doses of just two of these vitamins: folic acid (400 mcg) and B-12 (100 mcg).This particular study showed that long-term supplementation of these vitamins at these dosages did "promote improvement in cognitive functioning after 24 months."

And yet another study showed additional nutrients that were effective for enhanced brain cognition. This study done with an elderly population (mean age of 87) showed that when blood levels were examined for each participant, those with higher levels of vitamins B (B1, B2, B6, folate, and B12), C, D, and E, as well as high in "marine" Omega 3 fatty acids, closely correlated with better brain functioning and increased brain volume. However, this study also showed that those participants with higher levels of trans fats (can you say hydrogenated oils?) had a lower cognitive function and lower brain volume. (3)

This should be enough to convince you to throw out those tubs of margarine and stop buying so many boxes of processed foods! What this also shows I believe is that it is obvious that what we eat or don't eat has a direct and measurable affect on the health of our brain and our future. I can't think of a better reason to change to a healthier diet. There is a lot of debate that taking supplements just produces expensive urine. I think these studies prove them wrong.

Thanks for listening!

 

(1) Celeste, A, Oulhaj, A., Jacoby, R., Refsum, H., & Smith, A. D. (21 July 2011, 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182436598). Cognitive and clinical outcomes of homocysteine-lowering B-vitamin treatment in mild cognitive impairment: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

(2) Walker, Janine, et al. (2012, January). Oral folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplementation to prevent cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults with depressive symptoms—the Beyond Ageing Project: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 95.1 (2012): 194-203.

(3)Bowman, G. L. e., Silbert, L.C., Howieson, D. (Published online before print December 28, 2011,). Nutrient biomarker patterns, cognitive function, and MRI measures of brain aging. Neurology.

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