Does Cell Phone Use Lead to Brain Cancer?

Author: Dr. Pierre DuBois

Does Cell Phone Use Lead To CancerThere are currently close to 6 billion cell phone subscriptions worldwide, and increased usage of cell phones has understandably led to a greater level of interest in how safe they are.

The main concern for our health is that mobile phones emit and receive electromagnetic radiation as a result of their need to communicate with relay towers, and some of this radiation is absorbed by the head when the phone is held up to the ear.

Whether or not the radiation (both the amount and the frequency) that a typical mobile phone user is likely to receive is potentially damaging to their health has been the subject of debate for some time.

Does Cell Phone Use Lead to Brain Cancer?

Anecdotal evidence that high mobile phone use can potentially lead to brain cancer is not hard to find. Newspapers and other media sources are only too ready to run such stories.

However, given that there are so many people using mobile communication so regularly, the chances are that someone is going to have a brain tumor at some point, whether or not there is any link with the amount of time they spend on their phone.

The obvious question is whether or not there is good reason to be concerned over how and how much you use your phone.

The Evidence Against Cell Phone Usage Leading To Brain Cancer

The most recent assessment of the scientific evidence of mobile phone safety was carried out by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Emerging And Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR). They concluded that mobile phone usage was unlikely to increase the risk of developing brain tumors.

The most recent results from a long-term study by researchers from the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology at the Danish Cancer Society in Denmark also failed to find any link between mobile phone usage and the development of brain tumors or any other cancers of the nervous system.

This study was particularly significant in that it used most of the Danish population to determine if there was any difference in the incidence of brain cancer between mobile phone users and non-mobile phone users. Unsurprisingly, this work has been quoted frequently, especially by cell phone companies, as evidence that their products have now been given a completely clean bill of health.

The Evidence For Cell Phone Usage Leading To Brain Cancer

In contrast to the previous results, the conclusion of a 2010 paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology on the subject suggested that while no overall link was found between two kinds of brain tumor and mobile phone usage, the data did point to a possible increase in the development of glioma-type tumors in the most intensive users

The authors also pointed out that since the new generations of smart phones are being used for even greater periods of time, especially by younger people, further and ongoing studies in this area are definitely merited.

In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified mobile phone radiation as “potentially carcinogenic to humans.” Following from this, many countries have adopted a precautionary approach and suggested moderation in cell phone usage. Using a hands-free kit to avoid holding a phone next to your head has also been advised.

While the available evidence suggests that low and normal usage of a mobile phone does not increase your risk of developing a brain tumor, it is probably wise to reduce your exposure to electromagnetic radiation as much as you can, and certainly to avoid spending long periods of the day with a phone next to your ear.

The Bottom Line:

  • The link between cell phone use and brain cancer is inconclusive at present. Most studies find no overall link, but suggest that certain types of brain cancers could be associated with cell phone use.
  • Experts recommend not holding cell phones next to your head for long periods of time.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Are Cholesterol Lowering Drugs Right For You?

Do Statins Really Work?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Do statins really work?Statins – those ubiquitous drugs used to lower cholesterol levels – are big business!

Over 20 million Americans are currently being treated with statin drugs at a cost that runs into billions of dollars every year. And cardiologists have just recommended that another 20 million Americans consider using cholesterol lowering drugs. 44% of the men and 22% of the women in this country are now being told that they should be using statin drugs.

Some of my cardiologist friends are so convinced that statin drugs prevent death from heart attacks that they have said, only half-joking, that we should just add statins to the water supply.

Are Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Right For You?

Is the faith of doctors in the power of statin drugs to prevent death from heart disease justified? To answer that question in full we need to look at people who have already survived a heart attack and people who have never had a heart attack separately.

If you’ve already had a heart attack the evidence is clear cut.

  • If you have had a heart attack, there is good evidence that statins will reduce your risk of dying from a second heart attack.
  • In the technical jargon of the scientific world that is referred to as secondary prevention.

But what about those millions of Americans who are being prescribed statin drugs who have never had a heart attack? This is something we scientists refer to as primary prevention.

What Do The Studies Actually Say About Statins And Primary Prevention?

Here the evidence is not clear at all. Two major reports have cast doubt on the assumption that statins actually do prevent heart attacks in people who have not already had a first heart attack.

In the first study, Dr. Kausik Ray and colleagues from Cambridge University in England performed a meta-analyis of 11 clinical studies involving over 65,000 participants (Ray et al, Arch. Int. Med., 170: 1024-1031, 2010). They focused on those participants in the studies who had not previously had a heart attack (primary prevention).

  • They found that the use of statins over an average of 3.7 years had no statistically significant effect on mortality. In short, statins had no effect on the risk of dying from heart disease or any other cause.
  • Dr. Sreenivasa Sechasai, one of the doctors involved in the study, said “We didn’t find a significant reduction in death despite having such a huge sample size. This is the totality of evidence in primary prevention. So if we can’t show a reduction with this data, it is unlikely to be there.”

The second study was a Cochrane Systemic Review of statins published January 19th, 2011.  It stated that there was not enough scientific evidence to recommend the use of statins in people with no previous history of heart disease with some caveats (see below).

To help you understand the significance of that conclusion, let me give you a bit of background:

  • First you need to understand that the Cochrane Collaboration is an independent, non-profit organization that carefully reviews the scientific evidence behind medical treatments and proposed medical treatments.
  • Cochrane Reviews are considered the “Holy Grail” of evidence-based medicine (ie. medicine based on the best scientific evidence rather than what the pharmaceutical companies would have you believe).
  • So when a Cochrane Review concludes that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend use of statins in patients with no prior history of heart disease that is pretty big news in the medical world.

How Should These Studies Be Interpreted?

Please don’t misinterpret what I am saying. The Cochrane Review said that statin drugs are overprescribed, but it did not say that everyone who has not had a heart attack will not benefit from statins. It said that there are a number of risk factors that need to be considered in evaluating individual patients for statin use.

  • Simply put, that means that it is not as simple as saying that everyone with no previous history of heart disease should not be on statin drugs.
  • If you are currently taking statin drugs and you have no previous history of heart disease, you may want to discuss with your physician whether the Cochrane Review of statin drugs changes their opinion of whether se of those drugs is still warranted for you.
  • But the bottom line is that only your physician is trained to take into account all of the factors that increase your risk of heart disease and the best therapeutic approach for reducing your risk of heart attack.

There Is A Double Standard In The Medical Community

More importantly, these studies highlight the difficulty in showing that anything works when you start out with a healthy group of adults with no prior evidence of disease (primary prevention).

And, the way that doctors have responded to primary prevention studies shows that there is a double standard in how primary prevention trials are interpreted in the medical community. For example:

  • There is no good evidence that statins prevent fatal heart attacks in healthy people.
  • However, because statins do work in high risk patients, most doctors recommend their use by millions of Americans who have never had a heart attack.
  • There is also no good evidence that nutrients like vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids prevent fatal heart attacks in healthy people.
  • However, there is evidence that both vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids prevent heart attacks in high risk patients, yet most doctors will tell you they are a waste of money.

It is food for thought.

The Bottom Line

1)    Statin drugs clearly save lives when used by people who have already had a heart attack.

2)    On the other hand, there is no proof that statin drugs prevent heart attacks in people who have not previously had a heart attack

3)    Statin drugs do have side effects. Increased risk of diabetes, liver damage, muscle damage and kidney failure are the best documented, although memory loss has also been reported.

4)    I am not recommending that you stop using statin drugs without consulting your doctor. I am suggesting that you discuss the benefits and risks of statin drug use with your doctor.

5)    Perhaps the most important poin tto come out of these studies is that it almost impossible to prove the benefit of any intervention in a primary prevention trial. If you can’t prove that statins work in healthy people, it is not surprising that it is difficult to prove that other interventions work.

6)   Finally, the way that these studies have been interpreted shows that there is a clear double standard in how the medical community evaluates primary intervention trials.

  • Statin drugs don’t show any benefit in a primary prevention setting, yet most doctors still recommend them.
  • Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids don’t show any benefit in a primary prevention setting, and most doctors recommend against them.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Healthy Thanksgiving

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Healthy ThanksgivingWhile “Healthy Thanksgiving” doesn’t quite have the appeal of the more familiar “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting, I used it here to make the point that Thanksgiving dinner (and many other holiday meals) doesn’t have to be an unhealthy affair.

After all, there is a lot to like about the ingredients in Thanksgiving dinner.  Turkey can be a healthy, low- fat meat, if prepared correctly.  Sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash and pumpkin are all loaded with vitamin A and other important nutrients.  And cranberries are a nutrition powerhouse.

Healthy Thanksgiving

Here are some tips to make your Thanksgiving meal one that contributes to your health:

1) Skip the basting.  Choose a plain bird and cook in a bag to seal in the moisture.  Remove the skin before serving.

2) Refrigerate the turkey juices and skim off the hardened fat before making gravy and use a gravy cup that pours from the bottom to minimize fat.

3) Use ingredients like whole wheat bread, vegetables, fruits (cranberries, raisins, dates or apples), nuts and your favorite spices for the stuffing and bake it in the oven rather than in the turkey.

4) Serve your sweet potatoes or yams baked rather than candied and let your guests add butter to taste.

5) Use skim milk or buttermilk rather than whole milk and skip the butter for your mashed potatoes.

6) Give your meal gourmet appeal by cooking your green vegetables with garlic, nuts and herbs rather than creamy or fat-laden sauces.

7) Don’t serve the meal on your largest plates. By using smaller plates you ensure smaller portion size and even that second helping isn’t quite so damaging.

8) Use the Shaklee 180 meal replacement products for one or more meals the day before and/or after Thanksgiving so that your total caloric intake over the three day period is not excessive.

By now you have the idea.  There are lots of little things that you can do to make your Thanksgiving dinner one that your waist and your heart will thank you for. Bon Appetit and have a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

The Bottom Line

  • If you make healthy food choices and choose your portion sizes wisely, you can make this a healthy Thanksgiving as well as a Happy Thanksgiving.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Benefits of Sprint Interval Training

Are You Still Doing Cardio?

Author: Kai Fusser, MS

Sprint Interval TrainingLast month I told you about functional fitness training and why I think it is superior to workouts on the machines that fill most gyms and sports clubs. This month my topic is sprint interval training, and why it beats the traditional cardiovascular or aerobic exercises.

Walk into any gym and the first thing you see is people straddling treadmills, ellipticals or bikes for 45 minutes or more trying to burn calories and improving their aerobic fitness.

It is not an easy task for me to explain in a short fitness tip why we should stay away from the typical low to moderate-intensity continuous training (“CARDIO”) and instead do sprint interval training (SIT, or burst training), but here are the key points.

The Problem With Cardio Exercise

 

Slow cardio:

  • is very time intensive (the number one reason people skip their workouts)
  • only works on your aerobic fitness (and that fairly inefficient)
  • burns some calories during the activity but has no impact on your overall metabolism
  • stresses your joints due to repetitive impact (especially if you are running for your cardio)
  • increases inflammation

 

The Benefits of Sprint Interval Training

 

Now here is a solution for you. SIT (sprint interval training) training:

  • will only take about 4-8 minutes 3 days a week
  • works your aerobic and anaerobic system at the same time
  • will raise your metabolism for several hours after you have completed the exercise
  • is very effective for fat loss
  • will build “fast muscles”
  • reduces impact on your joints and helps reduce inflammation

Sprint training can burn the same calories as slow cardio in 1/15th of the time! In addition, slow cardio exercise produces a lot of stress hormones (cortisol) while sprint training stimulates growth hormone (have you ever compared the physique of a sprinter to a marathon runner? It’s your choice).

It is the intensity, not duration that effects the adaptation to exercise.

 

Making Sprint Interval Training Work For You

 

There are different ways to implement SIT training:

It can be done on equipment like a:

  • treadmill (using a steep incline rather than high speed)
  • stationary bike
  • upper body ergo meter
  • or a X-iser

Or it can be done with no equipment at all, like

  •  sprinting (athletes only)
  • running up a flight of stairs
  • running up a hill
  • or with full body calisthenics like a Turkish Getup.

I recommend that you start with 4 min workouts (add 2-3 min of warm up before) with a sprint to rest ratio of 1-3, say 10 sec sprint with 30 sec rest (slow pace). As you feel more comfortable you should work your way down to a ratio of 1-1 like 20 sec sprint with 20 sec rest. The maximum total time you would want to do is 8 min. (more is not better in this case).

Please remember that the sprints should be “high intensity” which is of course relative to your fitness level. The intensity will be different for a fully trained athlete than for a de-conditioned couch hugger.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

Sprint interval training (SIT) is a quick and efficient way to burn calories and get the cardiovascular exercise your body needs.

You will be surprised how quickly your:

  • body will adapt to the new and positive exercise stress
  •  energy level will increase
  • performance will improve,
  • metabolism will pick up

You will save time and wear on your joints. Most of all, it can be fun !

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Should GMO Labeling Be Required For All Food Ingredients?

When Is GMO Not GMO?

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

GMO-freeI’m probably going to get lots of hate mail for this week’s “Health Tips from the Professor” because I’m finally going to tackle the GMO controversy.

You see, the GMO controversy is very much like Washington politics. On one side of the aisle, you have the people who are absolutely convinced that anything GMO is terrible. On the other side of the aisle, you have people who are absolutely convinced that there are no problems with GMO foods. And both sides are convinced that their opponents have absolutely nothing of intelligence to say on the topic.

So almost anything I say about GMO is bound to offend somebody. But nobody ever accused me of being timid, so let’s get started.

What Are The Health Risks Of Genetically Modified Foods?

I’m going to start with the supposed health risks of GMO foods because that’s my area of greatest expertise, and I’m going to evaluate those health risks from the viewpoint of a card-carrying biochemist. I’ve seen the scary pictures and alarming statements posted on many anti-GMO web sites, but objective evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful to humans is underwhelming at present.

Modifications to DNA And Health Risks

Let’s start at the beginning. Genetic modification occurs in the DNA, and on that basis GMO foods have some potential, but yet unproven, risks. Let me give you an example:

  • Some genetically modified foods carry genes for naturally occurring pesticides so that if bugs try to eat the leaves of those plants they will die.
  • When we eat foods occasionally small pieces of their DNA will find their way into our intestinal track.
  • We have bacteria in our intestinal tracts that excel at picking up small pieces of DNA and inserting them into their genome.
  • So it is theoretically possible that those bacteria might start producing in our intestines the same pesticides produced by the genetically modified foods we ate.

It is an interesting idea, but to my knowledge one that has not yet been shown to have actually occurred in a human being.

Modifications to Proteins And Health Risks

A more likely risk comes from the proteins contained in genetically modified foods:

  • Genetic modifications in the DNA result in the production of modified proteins, so GMO foods, GMO protein powders and foods made from GMO protein sources can be a source of unsuspected food allergies.
  • Unfortunately, food allergies, especially those from genetically modified protein sources, are very difficult to quantify, so we have no good data on how big a problem this actually is.

However, it would be very surprising if there weren’t some individuals with food allergies to genetically modified proteins.

When Is GMO Not GMO?

Many of the GMO opponents take it one step further and want to label as GMO any food or supplement that contains any ingredient made from a genetically modified food. This is where the science is clearly on the other side of the aisle. With respect to purified sugars, purified oils, vitamins and other purified nutrients obtained from foods there is no difference between GMO and non-GMO because these purified nutrients contain neither DNA nor protein.

 Should GMO Labeling Be Required For All Food Ingredients?

For the most part, it isn’t even possible for most manufacturers to produce foods or supplements with all non-GMO ingredients. When the whole GMO issue first entered public awareness the food industry was guided by the science. It made good business sense for them to create a capacity, a pipeline if you will, to make sure that non-GMO protein sources were available to meet the market demand for companies that wanted to make non-GMO protein products for this new GMO-adverse market.

But, nobody anticipated the emotional demand for non-GMO sugars, oils and the like. There was no scientific basis for that demand, so none of the suppliers created the capacity to meet that demand. Currently there is only enough of those kinds of non-GMO ingredients to meet the needs of the bit players in the market. There simply aren’t enough of those ingredients to satisfy the requirements of any manufacturer who deals in the mass market. That, for example, is the reason big players in the market lobbied against the recent California and Washington State propositions that would have required a food product to be labeled GMO if any ingredient in the food was GMO.

Genetically Modified Foods And The Environment

Now that I have managed to alienate almost everyone, I should point out that there are some non-health issues around GMO foods.

  • The biggest issue is that many of the genetically modified foods contain modifications that make them resistant to herbicides, and that encourages overuse of those herbicides with the resultant pollution of air, soil, and water.
  • Another concern is that the increasing reliance on genetically modified food crops is leading to a decrease in the genetic diversity of those crops, which could make them more susceptible to a new virus or pest in the future. This is a theoretical concern, but there is historical precedence for believing that it could happen.
  • Finally, laws that prevent subsistent farmers from saving their own seed for next season’s planting is a major concern in Third World countries. But, that is more an issue of corporate greed than it is of genetic modification.

The Bottom Line:

What is the take-home lesson for you?

From a health perspective:

  • Genetically modified proteins are likely to be a food allergy risk for some people, but we have no good data on how many people are affected by this kind of food allergy
  • Genetically modified DNA is a theoretical concern because of the ability of intestinal bacteria to pick up pieces of DNA, but we have no evidence at present that this has actually ever caused a problem in people.
  • With respect to sugars, oils, and other nutrients extracted from foods it makes no difference whether the food was GMO or non-GMO

From an environmental perspective:

  • Genetic modifications leading to herbicide resistance are a significant environmental concern because it encourages overuse of herbicides.
  • Lack of genetic diversity from the overuse of GMO food crops is a theoretical concern, but one with historical precedence.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Heal Your Plantar Fasciitis Naturally

You Can Make Your Foot Pain Go Away

 Author: Julie Donnelly

Just a couple of weeks ago I taught you how to make your hip pain go away. Today’s topic is foot pain. And, yes, you can make your foot pain go away as well. But, let’s start at the beginning.

How Does Foot Pain Get Started?

You Can Make Your Foot Pain Go Away
Do you suffer from plantar fasciitis?

You feel it coming on gradually. Maybe your lower leg aches a bit, but you’re busy so you ignore it. After a while every time you take a step you feel a burning that spreads along the entire lower leg and into your arch. Still you ignore it.  But it doesn’t go away, in fact, it gets worse.

Now your arch just doesn’t feel “right.”  Then it starts to hurt, but not every time you put pressure on your foot. Again, you ignore it until finally you are experiencing foot pain all the time.   Then eventually you can’t ignore it any more, it’s like a knife being jabbed into your arch. Now it’s not just hurting when you run or drive your car, your foot hurts with every step.

Almost every day you do something that causes you to lift the front of your foot while your heel is still resting on the floor. For most people it comes from straining your lower leg muscles when you are driving a car, especially if you drive often. It is even more evident if you are doing any type of city driving because you are off and on the gas and break constantly, repetitively straining all of your lower leg muscles. You just know that your foot hurts and it’s affecting your life.  You must find a solution!

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

You’ve been told you have plantar fasciitis, and you may have been told you need expensive orthotics.  Perhaps you’ve even tried them and while they worked for a short time, eventually the pain returned and then it started to hurt worse.  Now you’re told you need to replace the orthotics, but you’ve come to realize that isn’t the answer.  And it’s not the answer. The orthotics are focusing on the symptom, but totally ignoring the source of the problem.

The good news is that you can heal your plantar fasciitis naturally. Most people, including too many medical professionals, don’t realize that foot pain is frequently coming from outside the foot. The muscles of your lower leg actually are there to move your ankle and foot, not to move your lower leg (that comes from your upper leg).

The reason is simple. First let’s use an analogy that I use all the time because it’s so perfect to explain how muscles work to move a joint.  If you pull your hair at the end, it hurts at your scalp. You don’t need to massage your scalp, you don’t need to take pain medications to stop the tension in your head, and you certainly don’t need brain surgery, you just need to stop pulling your hair!  Now substitute the muscle for your hand, the tendon for your hair, and the joint for your scalp.

Muscles originate in one place, they merge into a tendon that crosses over a joint, and then the tendon inserts into a point on the other side of the joint.  When the muscle pulls, the tendon tightens and the joint moves, but if the muscle is tight it will continue pulling on the joint even when you don’t want it to move.  In the case of the lower leg muscles and the foot, the muscles are pulling your foot up from the ground, but you are pressing it down and causing the tendons to put a strain on the insertion points, which in this case are all in your arch.

How the Muscles Get Strained

Every time you take a step you are using all of the muscles of your lower leg. As you work you contract these muscles every time you step on the pedal. Lifting the front of your foot up you are using your tibialis anterior and then you press down on the pedal you are using your calf muscles. If you walk a lot, or you are a runner, you are causing a repetitive strain on the same muscle fibers. Also, while driving your car your foot is picked up in the front to go from the gas to the brake, again straining the same muscles. You do this over and over until you have strained the muscle fibers.  Eventually the fibers shorten due to a phenomenon called muscle memory.

Muscle memory will hold your muscles in the shortened position even when you don’t need them contracted. This puts pressure on the insertion point, in this case, the arch.

The Result is Arch Pain

The two primary muscles that cause arch pain are the tibialis anterior and the peroneals.  They originate at the top of the lower leg, merge into tendons where your ankle begins to slim, and then insert into the bottom of your foot.

The tibialis anterior goes along the outside of your shin bone, crosses over the front of your ankle and then inserts into your arch.  When it contracts normally you lift up the inside of your foot so you are resting on the outside of your foot.

The peroneals originate at the top/outside of your lower leg, run down the leg and merge into a tendon that goes behind  the outside of your ankle and inserts in two places; the outside of your foot, and under your arch to the inside of your foot. When it contracts normally you pull up the outside of your foot so you are resting on your big toe.

An Easy Treatment that Works

The goal with this Julstro self-treatment is to force the toxins out of the muscle fibers, drawing in blood to nourish the muscles.  As the blood fills the muscle, the fibers lengthen and the strain is removed from the arch.

Begin by treating the tibialis anterior on the front of your leg.

Foot_Pain_1

 

#1 – kneel on the floor and put a ball just outside of your shin bone.

 

 

Foot_Pain_2

 

#2 – Move your leg forward so the ball rolls along the outside of your shin bone.

 

 

Then treat the peroneals on the outside of your lower leg, sit on the floor with the leg you are treating bent and resting on the floor. Put the ball on the outside of your leg (so it is actually on the floor and your leg is on top of it) and then press the outside of your leg into the ball.  Move your leg so the ball starts to roll down the outside of your lower leg.  Your intention is to do the same as you did for the tibialis anterior (above)

Or, sit on the floor or a bed and position your leg as shown in picture #3. While using either a dowel or a length of PVC pipe, slide the pipe from just above your ankle bone to just below your knee joint.

Foot_Pain_3#3 – Using a dowel or piece of PVC pipe, put pressure on the outside of your leg and slide along the peroneals muscle from your knee to above your ankle bone.

The treatments will feel sore but that’s because you’re forcing H+ ions through the muscle fibers, and acid burns. But, it’s better to have the toxins out of the muscles and fill the fibers with blood, plus the lymphatic system will pick up the toxins and eliminate them from your body.

There are several other treatments that work to eliminate arch pain and plantar fasciitis, but I’ve found these to be the most productive, and they may be all that is necessary to eliminate the problem completely.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Are Fat Burning Sports Supplements Safe?

It’s Buyer Beware in the Sports Supplement Market

Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

Muscular man holding container of training supplementsFor many athletes it’s all about being bigger, faster, stronger. That’s what makes the fat burning sports supplements so appealing. If you believe the ads, they will burn fat, increase muscle mass and give you an energy boost. But, are fat burning sports supplements safe? Are they effective?

What Are Fat Burning Sports Supplements?

Simply put, most of the fat burning sports supplements contain metabolic stimulants of some kind. That’s where the energy and fat burning claims come from. The stimulants range from clearly ineffective to downright dangerous.

Are Fat Burning Sports Supplements Effective?

Because sports supplements are considered to be foods rather than drugs, the FDA cannot require sport supplements manufacture to prove that their products are either safe or effective. As a consequence, most sports supplement manufacturers don’t conduct clinical trials to prove the effectiveness of their products. Their claims are based on animal studies and testimonials. However, in most cases there is no objective evidence that their supplements actually work.

Are Fat Burning Sports Supplements Safe?

All stimulants carry some risk. Even small amounts of caffeine can be problematic for some individuals, and many sports supplements contain massive amounts of caffeine. But, it is not caffeine containing sports products that are the most worrisome.

Many sports supplement manufacturers are firm believers in the “better living through chemistry” motto.

  • They start with an herbal ingredient that has stimulant properties
  • They synthesize what they think is the active ingredient
  • Perhaps they chemically modify it a bit….
  • ..and, Voila! They have a proprietary new sports supplement
  • They label it a fat burner, prepare their claims and they’re ready to go to market

And, why bother testing it? Unless the product kills or seriously harms people, the FDA can’t step in and tell a manufacturer to take their product off the market.

And, if you think that the manufacturers and sellers of the product are looking after your best interests, think again.

Case Study #1: Jack3D and DMAA

I told you about this story last year, so I’ll just give you a brief recap here.

  • After a couple of marines died after using Jack3D prior to a workout, the US military ordered that the product not be sold on their bases. The manufacturer continued to make the product. GNC stopped selling it on military bases, but continued to sell it in all its other stores.
  • Eventually the FDA stepped in and recommended that Jack3D not be sold. The manufacturer claimed that the active ingredient, DMAA, was found in the geranium extract they used in their product. Since that was a food ingredient, they claimed the FDA did not have jurisdiction.
  • The FDA denied that claim based an extensive testing of geranium extract. At that point the manufacturer stopped making it (They have since resuming making the product with yet another poorly tested stimulant). GNC said they would stop selling Jack3D “as soon as their inventory was used up”.
  • The FDA finally had to raid the GNC warehouses to get the product off the market.

Case Study #2: OxyElite Pro and Aegeline

In case you thought that was an isolated case, the same sports supplement manufacturer has recently been involved in a second case that sounds all too familiar.

  • The FDA recently advised consumers to stop using OxyElite Pro after reports of 24 cases of acute non-viral hepatitis (a very rare disease) in users of that sports supplement in Hawaii. Two of those patients required liver transplants, and one of them died.
  • In this case the manufacturer stopped domestic distribution of the product, but argued that the product is safe. They claimed that counterfeit versions of OxyElite Pro were being sold in the US market.
  • On October 11, 2013 the FDA sent a warning letter to the manufacturer stating that the active ingredient, aegeline, was not a lawful dietary ingredient. The manufacturer replied that it was a natural constituent of the citrus fruit tree Bael. (I’m not sure why that makes it safe. I don’t know about you, but I don’t eat a lot of Bael fruit.)
  • As of a few days ago England, Denmark, Spain, Australia & New Zealand have warned consumers in those countries not to use OxyElite Pro.

It’s too early to tell how this story is going to turn out, but my money is with the FDA.

Case Study #3: Craze and DEPEA

And, in case you thought the problem was with a single rogue manufacturer, there is a developing story around yet another popular sports supplement, Craze, made by a different manufacturer.

  • Researchers from the NSF, Harvard and the National Institute for Public Health in the Netherlands recently published a paper claiming that Craze contained DEPEA, a methamphetamine-like compound.
  • The manufacturers claimed that the researchers did the chemical analysis incorrectly and their product actually contained a close analog of DEPEA that is found in dendrobium orchids. (Again I’m not sure why that makes it OK. I don’t think people eat a lot of dendrobium orchids either).

Stay tuned. I’m sure this story will have some interesting twists before it’s finished.

The Bottom Line:

1)     In the sports nutrition industry, it is buyer beware. There are lots of rogue manufacturers out there who care more for their bottom line than your well being. Do your homework and search for reputable companies with a long track record of product quality and ethical standards. There are some out there.

2)     Ignore the outlandish claims, no matter how appealing. Once again, stick with establishing companies with a track record of product integrity. Only use sports supplements that are backed by clinical studies showing that they are both safe and effective.

3)     Be particularly cautious about sports supplements that claim to burn fat or give you energy. They generally contain metabolic stimulants, and often those stimulants are poorly characterized. Most have not been proven to be effective, and some have the potential to do more harm than good.

4)     Fat burning supplements are often cross marketed as weight loss supplements. They are just as dangerous for dieters as they are for athletes.

5)     Don’t assume that just because the ingredients supposedly come from a natural source (geraniums, Bael trees or dendrobium orchids, for example) they are safe.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Use of Sports Supplements By Young Athletes

Are Sports Supplements Effective? Are They Safe?

Author: Dr. Pierre DuBois

plate-of-pills-200-300In recent years, the use of sports supplements by young athletes has increased dramatically. The most commonly used sports supplements among teenagers of all ages were vitamins and minerals, though “ergogenic aids” are used by some teen athletes specifically to enhance performance. Among these performance-enhancing supplements  are substances such as caffeine, creatine, ephedra and other stimulants, human growth hormone (HGH) and anabolic steroids.

Of the vitamin and mineral supplements, mutivitamins, vitamin C, calcium and iron were reported as being taken most often. While the risks of taking vitamin supplements is relatively low, there is some concern that young athletes may then progress to taking more dangerous substances under the impression that they are as harmless as vitamins and minerals. And while the risk of overdose with vitamins and minerals is low, it is not nonexistent, and some vitamins can be toxic when too much is taken (such as iron and vitamin A) or may interact with other vitamins or drugs.

Although many performance-enhancing supplements are advertised as being safe – especially those made from natural compounds –  a great number of them have not been tested by any regulatory agency, so their actual safety is not known. In addition, there are no formal guidelines for dosage in many cases, so there could be adverse side effects if too much is inadvertently taken.

The pressure to excel at sports is greater than ever, and there is increasing competition to get into elite sports programs where they have a better chance of being discovered by professional sports scouts looking for the next big star. The possibility of fame and fortune can be a strong enticement to young athletes to try performance-enhancing supplements to give them an edge over their competition. And often it is their coach that suggests or encourages this practice.

According to studies done on high school athletes, they report taking supplements to not only enhance performance, but also to encourage growth and muscle development, prevent illness and reduce fatigue. Supplement use was greatest among athletes who practiced two or more different sports and those who were required to “bulk up”, such as wrestlers and weight lifters.

While the opinions of friends, teammates and coaches were a big influence on the decision of young football players to take supplements (particularly creatine), it was their parents who had the greatest amount of influence on their decision. So it is incredibly important for parents to be educated as to the benefits and drawbacks of each of these supplements for young athletes.

The Bottom Line:

  • There is tremendous pressure on teenage athletes to qualify for elite programs that will increase their chances of being selected for the top college teams and eventually getting onto professional teams. Because of that, the use of sports supplements by teenage athletes is commonplace.
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements are generally harmless unless taken in excessive amounts.
  • Performance-enhancing sports supplements, on the other hand, are poorly regulated. Many are useless and others are potentially harmful. In next week’s “Health Tips From The Professor”, I’ll give you some examples of sports supplements you might want to avoid.
  • If you are the parent of a teen athlete, have a conversation with your child about supplements. Don’t lecture, but involve them in the process of doing research. You may be surprised what you both find.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Multivitamin Supplements May Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality

Can A Multivitamin A Day Keep Breast Cancer At Bay?

 Author: Dr. Stephen Chaney

3d rendered illustration - breast cancerA few weeks ago I wrote about soy and breast cancer survival. You’ve probably seen the latest headlines: “Multivitamin Supplements May Reduce Breast Cancer Mortality” and are wondering if they could possibly be true. After all, wasn’t it just a short time ago that the headlines said “Multivitamin supplements have no effect on breast cancer mortality” or that “Multivitamins may increase your risk of death”?

With all the conflicting headlines, you have every right to be skeptical about the latest news. So perhaps we should start with looking at the previous studies and discussing why they disagree.

What do we know about multivitamin use and breast cancer survival?

 Three very large studies have reported no correlation between multivitamin use and breast cancer incidence. So it is pretty clear that multivitamins don’t prevent breast cancer.

However, breast cancer incidence and breast cancer survival are two different things. In the first case you are starting with healthy women and asking how many of them develop cancer. That is what we scientists call a primary prevention study. It is very difficult to prove the effectiveness of any intervention in a primary prevention study. In the second case you are starting with a sick population and asking if an intervention provides a benefit. It is much easier to prove whether or not an intervention is effective in this kind of study.

There, have been several small studies looking at the effect of vitamin supplementation in women who already had breast cancer. While the results have been mixed, the majority of the studies showed that vitamin supplementation did appear to reduce breast cancer recurrence and mortality.

What makes this study different?

The women in this study were part of 161,608 women enrolled the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study to investigate the effects of multivitamin use in post-menopausal women. In fact, this was one of the studies to report no effect of multivitamin use on the incidence of breast cancer (Neuhouser et al, Arch. Intern. Med., 169: 294-304, 2009).

What the present study did was to look at the those women in the WHI who did develop breast cancer during the previous study and followed them for an additional 7.9 years to see if multivitamin use affected breast cancer survival (Wasserthiel-Smoller et al, Breast Cancer Res. Treat., 141: 495-505, 3013).

This is the largest study of its kind (7,728 women). It started with an older and sicker group of women than previous studies.  All of the women were 50-79 years old at the time the study began, and all of them had invasive breast cancer at the time of enrollment into the study.

The results were quite impressive. Multivitamin use improved survival by 30%, and the results were highly significant.

Strengths of the Study:

  • This was a large and very well controlled study. The authors did an excellent job of controlling for confounding variables that might have affected the outcome.
  • Multivitamin use was measured at multiple time points. It was assessed at enrollment into the original WHI study and at each subsequent doctor visit. The multivitamin usage for the purpose of data analysis was the usage at the time of breast cancer diagnosis, but the authors also corrected for any change in vitamin use post-diagnosis.
  • The study was in agreement with the majority of previous studies, further strengthening the conclusion that multivitamin use in women with breast cancer improves the likelihood of survival.

Weaknesses of the Study:

  • Because previous studies have been mixed with respect to the effect of multivitamins on breast cancer survival, further placebo controlled intervention studies will be required before multivitamin use becomes part of the standard of treatment for breast cancer patients.
  • Most of the women in the study were post-menopausal. It is unclear if multivitamins will provide the same benefit to pre-menopausal women with breast cancer.
  • This study measured consistent multivitamin use before and after the diagnosis of breast cancer. It did not look at women who began multivitamin use after diagnosis. So we have no idea whether starting multivitamin use after diagnosis would have also been beneficial.

The Bottom Line:

1)    This study strongly suggests that multivitamin use may help improve your chances of survival if you are unlucky enough to develop breast cancer.  While more studies are still needed, this study certainly strengthens the argument for multivitamin use.

2)    The rap on multivitamins has always been that they aren’t needed by healthy people who have a good diet. However, multivitamins are important for assuring good nutritional status if your diet is not optimal or if you have increased nutritional needs – either because of your genetic makeup or because of illness.

3)    The difficulty is that you usually don’t know if your genetics increases your vitamin needs, and once your disease has progressed far enough to be diagnosed it may be too late to improve disease outcome.  That’s why many experts consider a multivitamin supplement as an inexpensive form of nutritional and health insurance. I concur.

4)    As for the fear that multivitamins might just kill you, that hypothesis has been disproven by several subsequent studies including one published just a couple of weeks ago (Macpherson et al, Am. J. Clin. Nutr., doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.o49304).

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Functional Fitness Training

Are You Doing Your Workouts Wrong?

Author: Kai Fusser, MS

man exercising weight training silhouetteWe’ve all heard about “functional exercises” by now, but what does functional fitness training really mean?

Playing a sport, doing yard work or even day to day activities, requires the whole body to move all at the same time. Do you know of any sport (with the possible exception of arm wrestling) where only part of the body is in action?

A good workout is the sum of all muscles in our body working together. Not only do they need to work together but also at the right time. This ensures great efficiency as the loads on the body are distributed throughout the whole system, every muscle does its part, and they all help each other. This requires the nervous system to be trained to give the command to each muscle to work at the right time and at the right “volume”. This can be learned and practiced.

Knowing this fact, it is hard to understand that anyone would want to work out on a machine. Most gyms are now stuffed with all those high tech, futuristic looking, color coordinated machines, some even come with a belt to buckle up. Seated or strapped in you immediately isolate part of your body, therefore that isolated part cannot help the part that has to perform the movement.

This teaches the nervous system the wrong pattern. Not only that, the guided motion in machines are mostly “one size fits all”, our joints all move in slightly different angles but the machine will keep them from moving freely so they are pressed into a motion different from your individual movement pattern. This can result in extra stress on the joints, the surrounding ligaments and tendons.

It will also neglect to strengthen the surrounding tissue and stabilizing muscles, as the guided motion will not require your body to stabilize that joint. This can result in injury latter on as the “machine strengthened” muscle will pull against the still weak surrounding stabilizing tissue.

So in order to get a fully functional body for our sport (or even yard work etc. for that matter) we need to exercise functionally. This means we need to be standing up and perform movements where our whole body is involved, using our own body weight, dumbbells, barbells, cables and balls, there are literally thousands of ways we can move our body functionally.

By the way, our body was designed to move freely since the beginning of time, so who ever came up with the idea of restricting our movement?

The Bottom Line:

Get up on your feet and either move an object or yourself, that’s what our ancestors did.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

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