Psyllium Fiber Decreases Metabolic Syndrome Risk

Adding some psyllium fiber to your diet might lower your chances of developing a set of risk factors for heart disease called metabolic syndrome, says a study in Obesity Reviews.

A risky condition
Metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following:

  • Alterations in blood fats (high total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides,
  • Psyllium Fiber Decreases Metabolic Syndrome Risk: Main ImageAbdominal obesity
  • Elevated blood sugar
  • Elevated blood pressure

People with metabolic syndrome are at significantly higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke and developing diabetes than people without the condition. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is steadily increasing worldwide in parallel with rising obesity rates.

Fiber fights against metabolic syndrome

High-fiber diets are associated with lower body weight and smaller waist size, better blood fat (lipid) profiles, and lower blood sugar levels. But many people don’t get the recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber they need each day.

Psyllium, a soluble fiber, can be taken as a supplement. When added to water, it takes on a gelatin-like consistency that may help create a feeling of fullness and decrease cholesterol and glucose absorption. Psyllium tends to cause less bloating and gas than many other fiber supplements since it doesn’t ferment in the intestines as easily.

A review of studies conducted over the past 32 years showed that taking a psyllium supplement helps decrease the risk of developing metabolic syndrome. It seems to improve blood sugar levels, insulin response (how much insulin is released into the bloodstream after a meal), and blood fats. More studies are needed to determine if psyllium can help lower blood pressure and aid in weight loss. “Research to date does support the notion that the consumption of psyllium may provide benefits to many components of metabolic syndrome,” concluded the researchers.

Seize the reins

If you have metabolic syndrome, look at it as an opportunity to change the course of your health. There are plenty of things you can do in addition to adding psyllium to your daily regimen. To get out of the risk zone and into well-being:

  • Be active. Exercise helps lower your blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, aid in weight loss, and enhance your metabolism so you burn more calories even when you’re at rest. It’s one of the single best things you can do to stop metabolic syndrome in its tracks!
  • Clean up your diet. Switch out white bread and pastas for whole grain versions, skip the sugar in your coffee, opt for fiber-rich protein sources like beans and nuts in place of meat, and make sure you eat some fruits and veggies at every meal. Every little change helps add up to a healthier you.
  • Quit smoking. This is often easier said than done, so get the help you need to quit for good. Smoking increases your risk for countless health problems; quitting helps lower your risk of many of these right away.

 

By Kimberly Beauchamp, ND

 

 

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Go with Your Gut

Easy ways to improve digestionWoman's Fingers Touching her body parts, heart shaped fingers

If you have problems with your digestion, you’re in good company. More than 100 million Americans have digestive problems. Whether it’s irritable bowel syndrome,

bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, reflux, or gas, getting your digestion in order will bring you much needed relief and save you from potential embarrassment. Don’t let digestive discomfort become a fact of life. By making five simple changes, you can help your digestive system find its groove again so it can absorb nutrients and keep things running smoothly.

1. Stay hydrated
The best way to stay regular is to keep hydrated and encourage the flow of food through your intestines. If there’s any remedy for overall digestive health, it’s water. Dehydration is one of the most common culprits of constipation. Not drinking enough water slows your digestive system down, forcing it to get water from your food waste. The result is hard, difficult-to-pass stools. You know you are getting enough water if your urine is clear (as opposed to yellow) all day long.

2. Keep on moving
Exercise may be the next best thing for your digestion, as it stimulates all the muscles in your GI tract. Brisk movement speeds up digestion, makes your organs work more efficiently, and signals your intestinal muscles to contract. A toned colon pushes out stools better and

3. Choose healthy fats
Fried and rich foods throw a wrench into your digestive tract, making it sluggish. Instead, opt for healthy fats to help support the GI tract. One great source of healthy fat is coconut oil, which can help increase metabolism, aid in digestion and help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.

4. Choose bulk
Fiber is constipation’s sworn enemy. The typical American’s low-fiber diet causes all the wrong bacteria and yeast to grow in the gut, damaging its delicate ecosystem. Fiber quickly plows its way through a plugged-up gut by softening stools and adding bulk. Seek out fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes such as beans and lentils. The fiber found in plant foods stimulates the growth of healthy intestinal flora.

5. Probiotics
Gut-dwelling, “friendly” bacteria keep pathogens (harmful microorganisms) in check, aid nutrient absorption, reduce bloating, and boost immune function. Especially relevant is their ability to normalize bowel movements. Some experts recommend eating probiotic- rich foods (such as yogurt or other cultured foods) or taking a probiotic supplement for a minimum of two weeks in order to notice a difference in your digestion.

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Food Focus: Flavonols for Heart Health

Food Focus: Flavonols for Heart Health: Main Image
Flavonols are a group of nutrients found in foods such as tea, onions, chocolate, and berries. While health experts have long known that flavonols may offer general health benefits, the heart appears to be one of the specific areas where flavonol-rich foods may enhance health.

Flavonols offer cardiovascular benefit to older women

Researchers collected diet and health information, including use of blood pressure medications, existing heart disease, height, weight, diabetes, and smoking and drinking habits, from 1,063 generally healthy, older women living in Perth, Australia. The group was followed for five years to track who died due to atherosclerotic heart disease—the type of disease that leads to blocked blood vessels and heart attacks.

  • Women who got the most dietary flavonols from all foods and beverages were 73% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic vascular disease compared with women eating the least.
  • Women consuming the most flavonols from tea were 68% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic disease compared with women who had the lowest intake.
  • Women consuming the most flavonols from non-tea sources were 59% less likely to die due to atherosclerotic disease compared with women with the lowest intake.

Feasting on flavonols

This study is observational, and cannot prove cause and effect. Still, it uncovered a strong connection between flavonols and reduced risk of developing atherosclerotic disease, a major killer in the developed world. Further, there are few downsides to getting more flavonol-rich foods into your healthy eating plan.

  • Sip smartly. Tea accounted for about 65% of the flavonol intake in the study, suggesting that the beverage is a smart addition to any heart-healthy diet.
  • Brew tastiness. Black tea is a rich source of flavonols, though both green and white teas contain the nutrients too. Regardless of the type, don’t overbrew: steep for two to four minutes, and use water that is just below boiling temperature to avoid bitter flavors.
  • Pick the plant. True tea comes from a plant known as Camellia sinensis. While herbal infusions such as chamomile, licorice, valerian, and other herbal blends taste great and can have their own health benefits, only the Camellia sinensis plant yields true tea—black, green, or white.
  • Focus on food. Don’t forget to think beyond tea too. Great food sources of flavonols include onions, scallions, kale and broccoli, other green leafy vegetables, apples—especially the peels—raspberries, blackberries, dark red cherries, strawberries, grape juice, and red wine.
  • Add it up. Don’t rely only on food and beverages for heart health. No heart-health plan would be complete without regular aerobic physical activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, vigorous dancing, basketball or soccer, and good social support that bolsters you when you’re down and helps you keep the stresses of daily life in perspective.
By Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Meat, Carnitine, and Cardiovascular Health—A Complex Relationship

Meat, Carnitine, and Cardiovascular Health—A Complex Relationship: Main Image
New preliminary research suggesting that a nutrient in red meat—carnitine—may play a role in atherosclerosis, the process by which cholesterol-rich deposits form inside blood vessels. While the research has recently made headlines, a closer look suggests that the potential harm likely affects only certain people. Further, carnitine supplements have a solid history of safe use to address a variety of cardiovascular conditions, an indication that there’s no need for people who are taking the supplement for a particular health condition to drop it.

Exploring an important feedback loop

The bacteria in our digestive tract interact with our diet in complex ways. What we eat affects gut bacteria, and gut bacteria affect how we metabolize what we eat. Some gut bacteria process carnitine, found in abundance in red meat, into a substance called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO).

Researchers found that TMAO, which forms after carnitine intake, contributed to atherosclerosis in mice, prompting them to look at how carnitine is metabolized into TMAO in people.

The carnitine challenge

Researchers enrolled five people, including one long-term vegan, and four omnivores—people who reported eating meat (beef, venison, lamb, mutton, duck or pork) nearly daily—into several “carnitine challenges.” For the challenge, study participants (including the vegan) ate an 8-ounce steak providing 180 mg of carnitine, and took a 250 mg carnitine capsule.

Compared with blood and urine carnitine and TMAO levels before the challenge, levels after the challenge:

  • increased significantly in the omnivores
  • did not change measurably in the vegan participant
  • did not change after the omnivores had taken antibiotics for one week to decrease the bacteria in their guts, and
  • again increased significantly in the omnivores after several weeks off of antibiotics, after the gut bacteria had time to recover.

These results suggest that if certain types of gut bacteria are absent from the body, carnitine may not be processed into TMAO, and that differences in gut bacteria between the vegan and the omnivores affected TMAO formation.

The researchers also evaluated blood carnitine and TMAO levels in 2,595 people who had undergone cardiac evaluation. Although high TMAO blood levels were associated with more advanced cardiovascular disease, and a higher likelihood of having experienced a heart attack, stroke, or death, a closer look at the details suggests that TMAO, rather than carnitine, was the primary reason for the association between carnitine levels and cardiovascular risk.

Complex analyses yield complex answers

Red meat has long been considered a contributor to atherosclerosis due to its saturated fat content, so whether or not carnitine is an additional factor in developing atherosclerosis, it is prudent to follow the standard advice of health experts and eat meat in moderation—no more than a couple of 3-ounce servings per week—for best heart health.

Carnitine’s role in all this is less straightforward. While this research suggests that carnitine may promote atherosclerosis, Alan Gaby, MD, Chief Medical Editor of Aisle7, submits that more information is needed to interpret these results, pointing out, “Carnitine supplements have been successfully used therapeutically in people with angina, intermittent claudication, and congestive heart failure, and have been shown to improve the odds of survival when given after a heart attack.” Interpreting these latest results, he notes that “carnitine might conceivably be harmful for a subset of people with a certain type of gut bacteria, but this study is very preliminary, and it doesn’t provide enough evidence to justify dropping carnitine supplements for people who can benefit from them.”

While the debate continues, in addition to limiting your meat intake, consider the following sensible advice to create your heart healthy, self-care plan:

  • Track your ticker. Talk with your doctor about your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, and if needed, come up with ways to ensure they stay in a healthy range.
  • Dig deeper. Consider getting a high-sensitivity, C-reactive protein (hsCRP) blood test, which can add to a more complete picture of your heart disease risk.
  • Take smart steps. Take sensible measures to protect heart health: exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains, and keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • Ask the expert. If you are interested in, or already taking carnitine supplements, talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about heart disease risk.
by Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD
Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Herbal Extract May Promote Heart-Healthy Weight Loss

CarallumaLosing weight not only helps you look and feel better, it can also help you avoid heart disease, especially if the weight you lose comes off your middle. In a study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, people on a calorie-restricted diet and an exercise program who also used an extract from the plant, Caralluma fimbriata, reduced their waist circumference more than people on the diet and exercise program alone.

Adding caralluma to a weight loss program

Caralluma fimbriata, a cactus that grows in India, has been eaten as a vegetable for centuries. Because it has also been used traditionally to suppress hunger and increase stamina, it is sometimes referred to as “famine food.”

The 12-week study included 33 people who were either overweight or obese. Each was given guidance on how to reduce their caloric intake to a level that was 500 calories lower than the amount recommended to maintain a normal weight for their height. They participated in regular exercise, attended weekly support sessions, and were randomly assigned to receive either 500 mg of Caralluma fimbriata BID or a placebo.

Caralluma users’ bellies shrink

Food diaries showed that both groups ate approximately the same amount of calories and lost the same amount of weight (about 5.25 pounds) during the study; however, people in the caralluma group experienced some extra positive changes:

Waist circumference: The caralluma group lost an average of 6.5 cm of waist circumference compared with a loss of 2.6 cm in the placebo group.
Waist-to-hip ratio: The waist-to-hip ratio declined by 0.03 in the caralluma group and 0.01 in the placebo group, indicating a greater loss of abdominal fat in the treatment group.

Together these findings suggest that the caralluma group lost more abdominal fat than the placebo group. Increased abdominal fat is part of a condition known as metabolic syndrome and is closely associated with cardiovascular disease. The caralluma group also had less desire to eat, as measured by surveys done during the study, than the placebo group. Whether the herb’s effect on appetite might support long-term dieting and weight loss could not be determined from this study.

“The decline in waist circumference following Caralluma fimbriata supplementation is vital as it implicates the potential role of this plant extract in the treatment of central obesity and the prevention of metabolic syndrome and other lifestyle related diseases,” the study’s authors said.

Use weight loss products wisely

While these findings add support for use of Caralluma fimbriata as a dieting aid, it is important to bear in mind that inaccurate marketing, sometimes to the point of deception, is common in weight loss products. If you decide to talk to your doctor about adding a caralluma extract to your weight loss program, here is some advice:

Do your research. Look for trusted brands that use independent labs to verify their ingredients.

Read labels carefully. Check both active and inactive ingredient lists to be sure you know what other nutrients and herbs are included, as well as their amounts.

Keep your wits about you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—there is no miracle cure for overweight and obesity, so make sure your expectations, and the product price, remain reasonable.

Lay a heathly foundation. While caralluma and certain other nutrients and herbs may support healthy weight loss, dietary change and exercise are the foundation of all effective weight loss programs.

By Maureen Williams, ND

Posted in Emerson Ecologics

A Bean Extract that May Support Weight Loss

A Bean Extract that May Support Weight Loss : Main Image
In the never-ending quest for the secret to losing weight and keeping it off, another natural product with promise comes to light: an extract from white kidney beans, Phaseolus vulgaris, that interferes with carbohydrate digestion and absorption. Researchers found in a preliminary study that the extract helped overweight and obese people lose weight durng 1i2 weeks of calorie restriction and maintain the weight loss during 24 weeks of unrestricted eating.

Watching weight

The study, published in Obesity, was divided into two parts: weight loss and weight management. During the weight loss part of the trial, 123 overweight or obese people were put on individualized diets based on gender, age, weight, and activity level. The diets were designed to encourage weight loss through slight calorie restriction for 12 weeks. Participants were also assigned to take 1,000 mg of Phaseolus vulgaris extract three times per day or placebo.

During the weight management part of the trial, 49 of the original bean extract users were monitored for an additional 24 weeks while continuing to take the extract. They were told to eat a nutritionally balanced but unrestricted diet.

Bean extract brings better weight loss

Researchers found several positive effects:

  • During the weight loss part of the trial, people taking bean extract lost an average of 2.9 kg (6.4 pounds) while people taking the placebo lost 0.9 kg (2.0 pounds).
  • Bean extract users also lost more body fat, suggesting that the weight loss was not due to muscle loss, and inches around the waist, indicating that abdominal fat, which is more closely associated with diabetes and heart disease than other types of fat, had decreased.
  • During the weight management part of the trial, 73% of participants successfully maintained their weight.
  • No negative side effects were seen in people using the bean extract.

“We conclude that [Phaseolus vulgaris extract] is effective and safe in weight loss and weight management, even with unrestricted energy intake,” the study’s authors said.

No quick fix

These results suggest that Phaseolus vulgaris extract might increase weight loss while on a low-calorie diet and further suggest that this bean extract might help with the stickiest of problems: maintaining weight loss, but the amount of weight lost and kept off over a total of 36 weeks (9 months) was modest, at 2.9 kg or 6.4 pounds. If you are trying to lose a meaningful amount of weight, a comprehensive program that includes diet, exercise, and supplements may be the best approach.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Eat beans. Whole beans are rich in complex carbohydrates. They slow down carbohydrate digestion and help regulate blood sugar levels, and are an important part of a low-calorie diet that promotes weight loss, along with fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
  • Make it count. All effective weight-loss diets are based on calorie reduction. Focus on sustainable habit changes that eliminate extra calories—snacks, sodas, fancy coffees, and even juice might be adding to your calorie load and might be well replaced by fruit, herbal tea, or water.
  • Get support. Researchers have found that one of the keys to successful weight loss and maintenance of weight loss is social support. Meeting regularly with a support group or an individual counselor may help you meet your goals.

By Maureen Williams, ND


Posted in Emerson Ecologics

Probiotics Promote Beneficial Bacteria for a Healthy Mouth

A healthy mouth, like the rest of the digestive tract, is populated by beneficial bacteria that help keep the immune system working properly and prevent harmful organisms from causing infections. A group of researchers in the dentistry field have found that oral health in people with chronic inflammation of the gums and other tissues that surround and support the teeth (periodontitis) improved after using supplements containing two special Lactobacillus strains.
Bacteria and periodontitis

Periodontitis is caused by harmful bacteria that cause plaque to accumulate on the tooth’s surface and by the immune system’s inflammatory response to these bacteria. It affects the gum, ligament, root covering, and bone at the base of a tooth, resulting in degradation of the tooth-supporting structures and formation of deep pockets around the tooth. If not properly managed, it can lead to tooth loss.

The study, published in Acta Odontologica Scandanavica, included 20 nonsmokers with mild to moderate periodontitis. They were given chewable probiotics containing two strains of Lactobacillus reuteri or placebo to take daily for 30 days. Lactobacillus reuteri is one of the most populous bacteria in the digestive system, and the specific strains used in this probiotic supplement, known together as Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis, have been shown to be active against the bacteria involved in periodontitis.

Probiotics reverse periodontal damage

The participants had dental exams before and after the trial to measure changes in pocket depths around the teeth, plaque levels, and bleeding with probing. These were the changes the researchers saw:

In the probiotic group, about 50% of the pockets around teeth had depths of 4 to 5 millimeters at the beginning of the study, but only 40% of the pockets were still in the 4 to 5 mm range at the end.
The deepest pockets (6 millimeters or more), representing the most advanced periodontitis, also decreased in the probiotic group.
The amount of plaque on teeth decreased in the probiotic group.
The percentage of pockets that bled with probing decreased in the probiotic group from 55% to 29%.
There were no changes in the percentages of deep pockets, plaque levels, or bleeding with probing in the placebo group.

“Our results in this study suggest that a probiotic intervention with Lactobacillus reuteri Prodentis could be a useful tool for treatment of inflammation and clinical symptoms of periodontitis, especially in nonsmoking subjects with initial-to-moderate chronic periodontitis,” the study’s authors said.

Take care of your mouth

Taking a probiotic formulated for the mouth is a good strategy for improving oral health. Here are a few other ways to keep your mouth healthy:

-  Don’t smoke. Smoking causes chronic inflammation in the gums, bone loss, and gum recession.
-  Quit the sugar habit. The bacteria that cause periodontitis thrive in a high-sugar, high-acid environment, so avoiding sweets and especially sodas is an important part of prevention and treatment.
-  Have some olive oil. Research suggests that using olive oil might prevent periodontitis. Olives are rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial plant chemicals that might contribute to this beneficial effect.
-  Chew gum for your gums. Not just any gum—choose gum made with xylitol, a nonsugar sweetener that doesn’t feed harmful bacteria in the mouth and has been found to reduce plaque.

by Maureen Williams, ND

Posted in Emerson Ecologics