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How and Why Nutraceuticals Work

Akin to cosmeceuticals, which are a therapeutic blend of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, applied topically on the skin to enhance beauty and prevent premature ageing, nutraceuticals refer to similar products that are taken orally.

Inappropriate dietary habits and a stressful work life are very important contributory factors towards cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancers, etc. Nutraceuticals are gaining immense popularity these days as people rely more on them for prevention and safeguarding their health, yet at the same time, avoiding side effects from drugs. The philosophy behind nutraceuticals is to focus on prevention, according to a saying by the Greek physician Hippocrates, who said, “Let food be your medicine”

What are Nutraceuticals?

The name nutraceutical combines two words namely nutrients and pharmaceuticals which is how old fashion pharmacist who were real chemist put together natural herbal formulas for doctor prior to synthetic pharmaceuticals. This phase was coined in 1989 by Stephen L. DeFelice, M.D. the founder of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine, a nonprofit organization established in 1976 whose purpose is to accelerate medical discovery by establishing a more productive clinical research community.

Dr. DeFelice believes that nutraceuticals will revolutionize the health care system. “What we’re seeing is the start of a new paradigm in health care,”

Thus, any product derived from natural food sources and which provides extra nutritional value including prevention and treatment of life-threatening diseases but is obtained thus natural means, may be called a nutraceutical.

Categories of Nutraceuticals

  1. Nutritional Supplements
    Substances with established nutritional value such as vitamins (A, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, Folic acid and calcium pantothenate) minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, chromium, iodine etc), amino acids contained in the form of capsules, gels, liquids, etc.

    2. Phytochemicals or Herbal supplements
    Supplements containing herbs or botanical products as concentrates such as Aloe Vera (useful in wound-healing), Evening Primrose oil (helpful in treatment of Atopic eczema), garlic, ginseng, ginger, green tea (which is an excellent anti-oxidant and prevents against cardiac aliments).

    3. Dietary supplements
    Products intended to supplement the diet and containing one or more of the following ingredients such as prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants (Vit C, Vit E, Carotene etc) and enzymes.

Over the years, nutraceuticals have attracted considerable interest. They are widely consumed by people for delaying the biological age clock, prevention against life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular phenomenon, hypertension and renal diseases, certain types of cancers and infections. Of late, they have been found be play a role in modifying allergies, dementia, obesity and Parkinson’s disease.

To conclude, nutraceuticals is a food based nutrition found in nature which helps in combating some of the major health problems of the century. With ever-changing lifestyles, the antioxidant defense mechanisms of the body are often overloaded resulting in oxidative stress. Nutraceuticals have proven health benefits and if consumed properly to coincide with the body’s cell cycle within their acceptable recommended dietary intake (RDA), they will help in keeping diseases at bay while promoting wellbeing via a strong immune system.

Nutraceuticals Popularity

‘Nutraceutical’ is the current trend among the US consumer who are now keenly looking forward to ways of improving health and lifestyle. The US nutraceutical industry has been riding the tidal waves for the past few years, and has been growing swiftly, presenting ample opportunities to the industry players. With favorable demographics, positive eco-financial dynamics, and rising focus on digital marketing/sales channels, the US nutraceutical market is poised to scale newer heights.

TRGnutritional®

TRGnutritional® is a nutraceutical manufacturer who has been offering medicinal pharmacopoeia-grade cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and neurological nutraceuticals to the professional and public marketplace since 1997. All our active ingredients are food based for better bioavailability resulting in proper nutrient absorption and better results.

These next generation nutraceuticals are of the highest European, Chinese and Ayurvedic herbal medicinal quality utilizing European Standardized pharmacopoeia-grade herbs which are produced in GMP certified FDA compliant manufacturing facilities under strict supervision from experienced scientists and leading herbalists.

 

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How to Succeed with Healing Herbs

In this Blog Post, we will look at how you can use herbs with success to see results. We will also look at common misunderstandings that keep people from having success with herbal healing. First, the pitfalls of incorrect use:

Why people fail in their use of herbs
  • Don’t take the herbs
  • Lack of proper amount or dose
  • Don’t take herbs long enough
  • Fail to take herbs at right time
  • Don’t take herbs the right way
  • Take the wrong kind of herbs
The Rules of Success for Herbal Healing
  1. The first rule of success when taking herbs is: Take the herbs!
Believe it or not, the biggest reason that patients or the public have unsuccessful experiences with herbs is that they buy products and don’t take them. The bottle of capsules or tincture sits on the shelf or counter and remains unused. Sometimes this happens because part of the population does not like taking pills. Other reasons can include they don’t like the taste of a tea or tincture. If they are cleansing, there might be a fear of having diarrhea, or not being able to eat fun foods on a vacation. Some people are not able to accommodate change in their lives even if it means that taking an herb or changing the diet will make them feel better.
  1. The second rule of success when taking herbs is: Take the recommended dosage.
The second consideration is taking the right amount of the herbs. The “dose” of herbs you take will vary depending on your goal: health restoration, performance, or complimentary (disease) care. The amount of herbs also depends on how long you’ve had a set of symptoms–acute or chronic problems. Most herbal products have a recommended dosage of 2 capsules, 2 to 3 times a day.

Continue reading How to Succeed with Healing Herbs

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What are Neutraceuticals

What Are Nutraceuticals?

“Nutraceuticals” is a relatively new word that refers to “functional foods” that are beneficial to our health. The bigger picture is that nutraceuticals are believed to help the human body fight off illness and disease with their specific chemical compounds. You may sometimes hear the terms phytochemicals, phytonutrients, functional foods, and nutraceuticals used interchangeably, as they all refer to the same concept.

At TRGnutritional® , we are a leader in the health supplement arena, and our nutraceuticals are guaranteed to be 100 percent free of dyes, preservatives, chemicals, and additives. Top scientists, researchers, and nutritionists who have the expertise and the skills to make only the highest caliber supplements create all of our high quality products. If you are interested in nutraceuticals because you want to provide your body with the best ammunition against illness and disease, you are to be commended. We think you will find all of our health supplements and products to be the best in the industry.

NUTRACEUTICALS FOR DISEASE PREVENTION

Science has uncovered some of the benefits associated with nutritionally dense foods and more specifically how certain chemical compounds in these foods work together to prevent illness and disease. Being healthy and staying healthy should take top priority in our lives, as treating illness and disease can be extremely expensive, debilitating, and complicated. When you think about the rising costs of healthcare, doesn’t it just make sense to do all that you can now to prevent the onset of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases?

At TRGnutritional® , we think so. That is why we go to great lengths to ensure that our products can help the consumers who buy them. Our goal is to create only the best natural health supplements that will allow people to look and feel better, as well as live longer through disease prevention.

Take a look at all our products on our Product Map.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2006 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

RELATED TERMS:

Acupressure, acupuncture, acustimulation, acutherapy, Asian bodywork, auricular acupuncture, chi kung, Chinese herbal medicine, Chinese herbs, Chinese nutrition therapy, Chinese patent remedies, classical acupuncture, coining, cupping, eclectic Chinese medicine, electroacupuncture, ethnic Chinese traditional medicine, feng shui, five element acupuncture, I Ching, Japanese acupuncture, medical acupuncture, moxibustion (moxa), qigong, Reiki, scraping, shiatsu, tai chi, taoism, tiji, ting sha, TCM, traditional acupuncture, tui na.

Chinese medicine is a broad term encompassing many different modalities and traditions of healing. They share a common heritage of technique or theory rooted in ancient Chinese philosophy (Taoism) and dating back over 5,000 years. The term traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is actually a recent development with a specific meaning in the long history of Chinese medicine. In the 1940s and 1950s the Chinese government undertook an effort to coalesce many diverse forms of Chinese medicine into a unified system to be officially defined as traditional Chinese medicine. The intent was to integrate the country’s large workforce of traditional practitioners into an organized health service delivery system. This would aid in providing care for a large population by using familiar and inexpensive methods.

Because TCM and Western medicine are used side by side in modern China, that country is relatively advanced compared to Western countries in using the concept of “integrative medicine.” TCM figures are prominently in treatment and planning of services — including for major illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), TCM is fully integrated into the Chinese health system with 95% of Chinese hospitals practicing it. As an example of such integration, it is common in treatment of children with intravenous antibiotics to be simultaneously treated with Chinese herbs in order to counteract the side effects of the antibiotic and boost the child’s immune system.

TCM places strong emphasis on herbal medicine since herbs can be taken every day. TCM regards acupuncture as more of a supportive treatment, although the two are used together when feasible for the patient. Herbs are usually given in the form of manufactured or processed pills, extracts, capsules, tinctures, or powders. This contrasts with the raw and dried form used in the more informal and older forms of practice. There are more than 2,000 different kinds of herbs of which about 400 are commonly used.

TCM has herbal regimens for use with major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Herbal combinations are commonly used to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and improve immune functioning in cancer, and to improve cardiovascular health in heart and circulatory diseases. Other herbal combinations are used in diabetes, infections, and other conditions.

Cupping is a therapeutic method in TCM that refers to the application of a heated cup over an area of the body. As the air inside cools its volume decreases, thus creating a slight suction on the area that stimulates blood circulation.

Moxibustion is a therapeutic method in TCM in which an herb, usually mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), is burned above the skin or on the acupuncture points to introduce heat into an acupuncture point and alleviate symptoms. The herb may be applied in the form of a cone, stick, or loose herb; or it may be placed on the head of an acupuncture needle, to manipulate the temperature gradient of the needle.

TCM also uses dietary recommendations that are based on the energetic qualities of foods in terms of the theory of the eight principles. This is in contrast to Western concepts of specific nutrients and biochemistry.

TCM practitioners may call upon a wide range of other modalities as well, from meditation and martial arts to feng shui.

In the West, TCM offers a popular alternative to conventional medicine. Despite this growing popularity, there is debate as to its evidence of effectiveness. The modality within TCM with the largest body of evidence is acupuncture. Few well-designed trials of TCM herbal formulas have been conducted. Establishing and applying stronger clinical trial methodologies in TCM is imperative for integrating it with modern medicine and achieving the end goal of creating evidence-based options for patient care.

Note: To supplement the evidence described in this TCM monograph, the evidence table below gives additional examples of research that have taken place using TCM herbs for various conditions. This is not a complete list of evidence on traditional Chinese medicine. It should be noted that there has been very little standardization of Chinese herbal medicine. This makes the available evidence weak for establishing reliable evidence-based expectations for treatment of any condition with Chinese herbs.

The ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism provided the basis for the development of Chinese medical theory. Taoist principles as described below are present throughout the literature and teachings of the many forms of Chinese medicine.

Nature and the laws that govern the on-going, harmonious flow of life energy through the natural world are used to understand the body and health. The person is viewed as an ecosystem that is embedded in, and related to, the larger ecosystem of nature and subject to the same laws.

The life force, chi (qi), circulates through the body and enlivens it. Health is a function of a balanced, harmonious flow of chi and illness results when there is a blockage or an imbalance in the flow of chi. Yin and yang are opposite and complementary qualities of life energy (chi). Yin is regarded as the feminine principle and yang the masculine principle.

The human being has a system of pathways called “meridians” (also sometimes called “channels”) through which the chi flows. The body has been mapped with these meridians that pass through all its organs, and specific meridians correspond with specific organs or organ systems (“organ networks,” below). Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony of the circulation of chi through all the organs and systems of the body.

Symptoms are regarded as signals of impaired flow or circulation of chi through the body. Symptoms are considered as part of a larger picture or pattern affecting the whole person. The practitioner seeks to connect seemingly unrelated symptoms and develop a unifying explanation of what is going on with the person’s chi overall.

Most modern diseases are considered “chi deficiency” diseases, caused by not maintaining or supporting a harmonious internal ecology. Harmony and disharmony are understood in two main conceptual frameworks: the eight principles, and the five elements, described below.

The eight principles are actually four pairs of complementary opposites describing patterns of disharmony within the person. Briefly the principles are interior/exterior, referring to the location of the disharmony in the body (internal organs vs. skin or bones); hot/cold, referring to qualities of the disease pattern, such as fever or thirst vs. chilliness or desire to drink warm liquids; full/empty, referring to whether the condition is acute or chronic, and whether the body’s responses are strong or weak; and the balance of yin/yang, which adds further to the description of the other six principles. The eight principles are the theoretical basis of the TCM approach.

The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. These terms do not refer to basic constituents of matter, but are dynamic qualities of nature. They are used to describe the changing qualities of chi energy as it circulates through the person. Five element theory is the basis of traditional acupuncture (also referred to as classical or five element acupuncture), which does not use herbs. However, some TCM practitioners also use the concept of the five elements.

The body has five organ networks, each corresponding with a particular element: heart/small intestine with fire, spleen/stomach with earth, lungs/large intestine with metal, kidneys/bladder with water, and liver/gall bladder with wood. The organ networks are named for the common meridian that circulates through and connects the organs, as it circulates chi throughout the larger, body-wide, meridian system. The practitioner’s efforts to harmonize the five elements promote greater harmony in the functioning of all the organ networks.

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Acne, aging, allergic rhinitis (seasonal), allergies, anemia (infantile chronic aplastic), antiviral, asthma, back pain, bleeding (subarachnoid hemorrhage), blood circulation, blood flow enhancement, blood stagnation, brain damage, cerebral palsy, cerebrovascular accident (stroke), cirrhosis (hepatic fibrosis), cognitive function, common cold, cutaneous disorders, cystitis, dental procedures, dermatitis, detoxification, diabetes, diarrhea, dry mouth, encephalopathy (pulmonary), epilepsy, fatigue, fever, gallstones, gastritis, Graves’ disease, growth disorders, headache, heart failure, hepatitis B, hypertension, immunomodulation, immunostimulant, infant development / neonatal care, infertility, inflammation, influenza, insomnia, irregular menstrual cycles, kidney disorders, liver cirrhosis, liver disorders (fibrosis), liver health, migraine, motion sickness, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, nausea/vomiting, nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum), neck pain, ovulation disorders, pain, pancreatitis, Parkinson’s disease, pelvic inflammatory disease, peptic ulcer, post-traumatic stress disorder, pre-eclampsia, prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS), quality of life, renal failure, renal impairment, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, senile dementia, sleep disorders, spleen disoders (liver stagnation and spleen deficiency syndrome), stroke, tendonitis (rotator cuff), thrombocytopenia, ulcerative colitis, urinary stimulant, vasodilation, venous disorders, viral myocarditis, wound healing.

Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

GENERAL

Since traditional Chinese medicine covers so many different therapies and modalities, the below information are only examples of safety concerns with selected herbs, supplements, and modalities. For more detailed information, please see Natural Standard monographs on individual therapies.

CHINESE HERBS

Studies of the Chinese herb ma huang, which is the main active ingredient in the weight-loss drug, ephedra, indicate that use of the substance is associated with serious health complications, including acute hepatitis and deaths.

Pregnant or lactating women should not use ma huang or other herbs such as ginseng where safety has not been clearly established. For more details on individual therapies please see Natural Standard monographs.

There have been reports of manufactured or processed Chinese herbal products being tainted with toxins or heavy metals or not containing the listed ingredients. A qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, should be consulted for recommendations of safe herbal products.

Chinese herbs can be powerful. Based on one study, Sang Ju Yin or Yu Ping Feng San formulas may cause headache or dizziness. There have been reports of adverse effects; a qualified healthcare practitioner, including a pharmacist, should be consulted on dosage.

Chinese herbs can interact with drugs, interfering with or exaggerating their effects. In particular, ma huang should not be taken with caffeine. Consumers should consult with a medical professional, including a pharmacist, before mixing herbs with any prescription drugs.

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture is generally reported as a safe procedure when performed by an experienced practitioner using standard sterile techniques. Needles must be sterile in order to avoid disease transmission (most practitioners now use disposable needles).

Rare serious and potentially lethal complications have been noted, including infection, and organ, nerve, or vascular injury, such as cardiac tamponade. There are several reports of fatalities in the available medical literature. Acupuncture may be unsafe in particular when performed on patients with emphysema or other pulmonary disease, due to multiple case reports of pneumothorax, elderly or medically compromised patients, diabetics (due to poor circulation), or patients with history of seizures.

Electrostimulation acupuncture should be avoided in pregnant women (theoretical), in patients with a cardiac history, including those persons with an arrhythmia or a pacemaker, due to risk of arrhythmia or interference with pacemaker functioning.

Acupuncture should be avoided in the following conditions: valvular heart disease, known bleeding disorders, use of anticoagulant drugs, unstable medical condition or infection, pregnancy (may induce unwanted labor and possible miscarriage), systemic or local infection, pain of unknown medical origin, medical condition of unknown origin such as dermatologic lesions, neurologic patients. Acupuncture should also be avoided on areas that have received radiation therapy.

CUPPING AND MOXIBUSTION

Adverse events reported in the scientific literature from cupping and moxibustion are extremely rare.Cupping commonly leaves a temporary bruising of the skin, which disappears on its own.

For both cupping and moxibustion, the following precautions and contraindications are based on tradition, clinical experience, and theory rather than controlled research.

Cupping: Avoid the abdomen/sacral area during pregnancy, contraindicated acupuncture points, during high fever, during convulsions or cramps, over allergic skin conditions or ulcerated sores, over an inflamed organ, over inflamed areas in general, in patients with cardiac disease and/or aneurysms, in patients with extreme fatigue and/or anemia, in patients who have just finished exercising or taking a hot bath or shower. Avoid sliding cups over the spine, moles, or other skin abnormalities.

Moxibustion: Use caution with patients with neuropathy. Avoid face, head, nipples and genitals, skin adhesions, points where needling is contraindicated for the individual patient, in patients with any kind of “heat syndrome” according to acupuncture theory, in patients with strong heat signs–high fever, etc.–on or near inflamed and/or red areas of the body, or in patients with diabetic neuropathy or in any situation where the patient may not respond to the sensations of heat.Patients are advised not to bathe or shower for up to 24 hours after a moxibustion treatment.

Pregnancy & lactation: The abdominal area and the lower back during pregnancy are traditionally avoided in both cupping and moxibustion practice out of concern for adversely impacting the uterus or fetus, although there are no published reports of related adverse effects.

Other modalities

More safety information can be found in the specific monographs on this site for related modalities that are sometimes used with TCM.

This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

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Think Twice Before You Eat Plasticizer’s In Fast Food

Think Twice Before You Eat Plasticizer’s In Fast Food

We all know that “fast food” isn’t the healthiest choice when it comes to eating. It’s generally low in nutrients and high in “bad’ fats and calories. But as it turns out, there may also be an additional layer of “badness” about it. A group of chemicals called “phthalates” has been shown to be more prevalent in people who eat fast food as compared to those who do not.

What are phthalates?

Phthalates are chemicals used in plastic to make it more flexible and harder to break, thus known as “plasticizers”. They are also found in household cleaners, cosmetics, health and beauty products, flame retardants, and food packaging, although you’ll never see them listed in the ingredients. You’re probably familiar with one of the many kinds of phthalates, BPA, as there was a big push to remove it from consumer products. We felt some temporary relief when new plastic products were introduced with the label “BPA free”, only to later find out that the replacement chemical (BPS) is equally toxic. So, back to square one.

Health risks of plasticizers

Plasticizers have been implicated in causing birth defects, childhood chronic illnesses such as asthma, fertility issues and cancer. They are known to be “endocrine disruptors”, meaning they mimic hormones such as estrogen, thyroid and testosterone. They bind to receptors which are meant to be triggered by the body’s naturally occurring hormones, and thereby block the normal responses that should occur. Or they may cause overstimulation of the receptor or interfere with the body’s normal production of that hormone. As a consequence, they can cause hormone related diseases, such as endometriosis, cancers, infertility, thyroid dysfunction and more.

In this latest research, investigators wanted to see if there was a correlation with eating fast food, which is packaged in materials that contain phthalates, and phthalate levels measured in people’s urine, where it is excreted. The focus was on 2 specific phthalates, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP). They used data from almost 9000 people who detailed their diet over the previous 24 hours. They found that in people who ate fast food during that time frame, those chemicals were 24% and 40% higher (respectively) as compared to people who did not recently eat fast food. They also noted that the more fast food they ate, the higher the level of phthalates found in the test.

What you can do

Unfortunately we are exposed to these types of chemicals from other sources beyond fast food, but avoiding fast food is a smart place to start to improve overall health. If you are struggling with hormone-related issues, including thyroid problems, you probably want to take serious steps to avoid plasticizers. Instead of eating prepared food, try making your meals from whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein- and organic as much as possible. Store your food in glass instead of plastic or saran wrap. And never put hot food in contact with plastic. Look for other ways to support your thyroid such as reducing stress and taking herbal formulas. Over the long term, these small efforts can make a big impact!

Reference:

Susanna D. Mitro, Cassandra A. Phillips, Ami R. Zota. Recent Fast Food Consumption and Bisphenol A and Phthalates Exposures among the U.S. Population in NHANES, 2003–2010. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2016; DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1510803

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Ten Commandments of Cholesterol Control

The Ten Commandments of Cholesterol Control

What to do if your cholesterol levels are high?

INTRODUCTION:

You’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol. Now what? It’s a perfectly valid question, the same one facing millions of Americans at this very moment. Your doctor has probably recommended dietary changes, perhaps more exercise, maybe even medication. But you know you can do more. You’re just not sure what, or when, or how.

That’s why we’ve created the Ten Commandments of Cholesterol Control. They’re the basic steps anyone can follow, no matter what their current cholesterol profile, to get the numbers they want.

Some of the commandments may seem more important to you than others, depending on your current health status. For now, feel free to focus on those most relevant to your situation. You can return to the others later; at the very least, they’ll help you stay informed and inspired as you wage your own cholesterol war.

Just remember that by adopting all Ten Commandments, you establish a solid foundation for lifelong cholesterol control. They’ll support whatever treatment plan you ultimately choose to follow. There’s no better time to get started than now!

COMMANDMENT 1: KNOW WHERE YOU STAND

You’ve heard the old saying about no news being good news? Well, it doesn’t apply to cholesterol. Getting it checked on a regular basis is essential to your long-term good health. After all, high cholesterol has been linked to cardiovascular disease, the number one cause of death in the United States. In fact, according to the American Heart Association , people who have total cholesterol of 240 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) are twice as likely to experience a heart attack as people who have a cholesterol level of 200 mg/dL. Knowing your level, and tracking it as you begin treatment, just makes sense.

In a nutshell, all adults age 20 and over should have their cholesterol checked at least once every 5 years as recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health . You may require more frequent screening if you have certain risk factors for heart disease or if your test results are cause for concern.

Generally, doctors like to see total cholesterol below 200 mg/dL, with LDL (bad cholesterol) below 130–the high end of the “near-optimal” range–and HDL (good cholesterol) above 40. If your test results aren’t consistent with these levels, your doctor may recommend a retest. If they’re still not where they should be, your doctor may want to discuss treatment options.

The truly good news is that in many cases, cholesterol is easily managed, even without medication. But you need to know your starting point, and you need to monitor your progress toward healthy levels. Even for those whose cholesterol is within the range considered normal, knocking a few points off their readings can slow fatty buildup in the arteries and possibly reduce any buildup that’s already there. The bottom line: In the pursuit of cholesterol control, knowing your numbers is an absolute necessity.

COMMANDMENT 2: LEARN ALL YOU CAN

Once you’ve been diagnosed with high cholesterol, your instinct may be to jump right into whatever treatment plan your doctor recommends. Unless your cholesterol has gone through the roof, which may require immediate intervention, you’re better off taking time to think through your situation and your treatment options. By exercising some control up front, you’re more likely to develop a cholesterol management plan you can truly live with.

Perhaps a good place to begin is with an assessment of your personal risk factors for heart disease beyond high cholesterol. Which ones are within your control? For example, you may not be able to change your age, gender, or family history. But you can improve your eating habits, get more exercise, and quit smoking. These are the sorts of lifestyle changes that should become part of your cholesterol management plan, no matter what other treatments you may choose.

Likewise, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about cholesterol itself. Your body needs cholesterol to perform certain vital functions. In fact, lowering one type of cholesterol, HDL, can be bad for your heart. What’s more, while many foods contain dietary cholesterol, most of the blame for elevated cholesterol levels rests squarely on the shoulders of saturated fat.

Of course, you’ll also want to educate yourself about the available treatment options. Conventional medicine has much to offer to people with high cholesterol–but so do alternative therapies. Indeed, the choices can seem overwhelming. Before you settle on a specific treatment or combination of treatments (in consultation with your doctor), you should know whether it’s effective and safe and how soon you can expect to see results.

COMMANDMENT 3: GET RID OF THOSE EXTRA POUNDS

If you weigh more than you should, slimming down may produce a significant drop in your cholesterol level. Research suggests that being overweight disrupts the normal metabolism of dietary fat. So even though you may be eating less fat, you may not see a difference in your cholesterol profile until you unload the excess pounds.

In fact, shedding just 5 to 10 pounds may be enough to improve your cholesterol level. Just don’t go the crash-dieting route. A slow but steady loss of 1/2 to 1 pound a week is healthiest and easiest to maintain. Since 1 pound equals 3,500 calories, you could meet the pound-per-week rate by eating 500 fewer calories per day, burning 500 more calories per day through exercise, or–the best option–a combination of the two.

Findings from the landmark Framingham Heart Study confirm that such modest weight loss is worth the effort, for reasons beyond cholesterol control. According to the study, taking off–and keeping off–just 1 to 2 pounds a year may reduce your risk of high blood pressure by 25% and your risk of diabetes by 35%.

Incidentally, many of the lifestyle strategies that help rein in unruly cholesterol can also take off unwanted pounds, and vice versa. If you’re significantly overweight, be sure to consult your doctor before embarking on any weight loss program.

COMMANDMENT 4: LACE UP YOUR WALKING SHOES

Whether your goal is to lower your cholesterol, shed some extra pounds, or both, regular exercise can help you get there. We’re not talking about high-intensity workouts, either, though boosting your intensity can elevate HDL cholesterol. Walking and other, more moderate physical activities are good for your heart, too.

In fact, one study suggests that walks of any duration may help reduce heart disease risk. For the study, British researchers recruited 56 sedentary people between ages 40 and 66, then divided them into three groups. One group took a long, 20- to 40-minute walk each day; another group walked for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day; and the third group took 5- to 10-minute walks three times a day.

Over the 18 weeks of the study, the once-a-day walkers saw their LDL cholesterol drop by 8.3%; the twice-a-day walkers by 5.8%. The researchers concluded that walks of any length can be beneficial, as long as they’re done at a moderate intensity–that is, a brisk pace at which you can still carry on a conversation.

We mention walking because it’s the most convenient form of physical activity. But really, any form of aerobic exercise–running, bicycling, swimming, whatever gets your heart pumping–can help lower heart disease risk. Whichever activity (or activities) you choose, just make sure you’re doing it for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.

If you’ve been relatively inactive, check with your doctor before launching any exercise regimen. Your doctor may be able to help you choose an activity that suits your current fitness level.

COMMANDMENT 5: BECOME ACQUAINTED WITH THE GOOD FATS

When you were diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor likely advised you to reduce your fat intake. In general, cutting your dietary fat will lower cholesterol. But as with any rule, this one has exceptions. Evidence suggests that eating more of some fats and less of others are better than simply cutting way back on all fats.

Peanut butter, avocados, olive and canola oils, and most nuts are mostly monounsaturated fat. Research has shown that monounsaturated fat can help lower LDL and triglycerides (another type of blood fat) while raising HDL. It’s a much healthier choice than saturated fat, found primarily in animal products–meats, butter, full-fat milk and cheese. Saturated fat can elevate your cholesterol level more than anything else you might eat.

Also included in the good fats category are the omega-3 fatty acids, found in abundance in fish such as mackerel, albacore tuna, and salmon. The omega-3s appear to lower levels of VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) and triglycerides. Studies have shown that when people cut back on saturated fat and consumed more fish oil, their LDL dropped. The American Heart Association recommends eating at least 2 servings of baked or grilled fish a week.

That said, omega-3s are not a magic bullet. When study participants consumed more fish oil without altering their saturated fat intake, their LDL levels stayed the same or increased. In order to reap the cholesterol-cutting benefits of omega-3s, you need to limit your saturated fat consumption. Remember, too, that eating foods low in total fat can help restrict saturated fat.

COMMANDMENT 6: DISCOVER FIBER’S CHOLESTEROL-CUTTING CAPACITY

It’s no secret that vegetarians have lower cholesterol levels and lower heart disease rates than meat eaters. That’s in part because vegetarians consume so much fiber, which is found exclusively in plant foods–fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans.

Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. The soluble kind appears to pack the greatest cholesterol-lowering punch. Research has shown that consuming about 15 g of soluble fiber a day can lower LDL cholesterol by 5 to 10%. It works by binding with cholesterol-containing bile acids in the intestines and escorting them out of the body.

A specific kind of soluble fiber, pectin, not only lowers cholesterol but also helps curb overeating by slowing the digestive process. Munch on apples and other pectin-rich fruits, and you’re likely to eat less, lose weight, and rein in your cholesterol.

Coincidentally, foods high in fiber tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, as well as calories. Just make sure you don’t top your fiber-rich whole grain toast with a huge dollop of butter.

COMMANDMENT 7: TAKE A GOOD MULTIVITAMIN

Even if you’re getting more good fats, avoiding bad fats, and filling up on fiber, your diet may have some nutritional gaps. A multivitamin/mineral supplement can help cover your nutritional bases and possibly lower your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Look for a multi that delivers 400 micrograms of folic acid, 2 mg of vitamin B6, and 6 micrograms of vitamin B12, advises Robert Rosenson, MD, director of the preventive cardiology center at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago. In studies, all three of these B vitamins have played important roles in protecting heart health.

In a Harvard study involving 80,000 nurses, for example, those with the highest intakes of folic acid were 31% less likely to develop heart disease. Folic acid works by decreasing blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that’s an emerging risk factor for heart disease and stroke. While many foods contain folate (the naturally occurring form of folic acid), including orange juice, kidney beans, broccoli, and spinach, you’ll be certain that you’re getting the recommended amount by taking a multivitamin.

The same study found that the women who consumed the most vitamin B6 reduced their risk of heart disease by one-third. Like folic acid, B6 helps to hold down levels of homocysteine.

In older people, effectively controlling levels of homocysteine may depend on adequate stores of vitamin B12. After age 50, the human body sometimes absorbs less B12 from food. According to Johns Hopkins researchers, older people who took a multivitamin containing B12 had lower levels of homocysteine.

When you’re shopping for a multivitamin, steer clear of those that contain iron. According to Rosenson, men and postmenopausal women don’t need extra iron. Iron stores have been linked with a higher rate of heart attacks and strokes.

COMMANDMENT 8: EXPLORE YOUR TREATMENT OPTIONS

When you were diagnosed with high cholesterol, you and your doctor probably discussed an appropriate course of treatment. It’s important that you continue to work with your doctor and inform him of any therapies that you decide to try on your own.

The fact is, both conventional and alternative medicine have a range of cholesterol-combating strategies available. Which ones you choose depends on your current cholesterol profile, your general health, your lifestyle, even your perspective on treatment. Some people feel perfectly comfortable taking cholesterol-lowering medication; while others do all they can to avoid it.

For people who have advanced heart disease or who’ve already had a heart attack, conventional therapies such as drugs and surgery are vital, at least at the start of treatment. Later, you and your doctor can discuss lifestyle strategies and alternative therapies that may support your recovery and possibly stop the disease from progressing.

For those with mild to moderately elevated cholesterol, lifestyle strategies and alternative therapies may make drugs and surgery unnecessary, Rosenson says. These days, many physicians urge patients in the mild-to-moderate category to try controlling their cholesterol through dietary changes and increased physical activity. If those measures alone aren’t enough, or if a patient already has coronary heart disease or is at high risk for it, physicians reach for the prescription pad.

Together, you and your doctor can come up with a treatment plan that matches your needs and lifestyle–and that delivers the results you want.

COMMANDMENT 9: FIND WAYS TO SHORT-CIRCUIT STRESS

To win the cholesterol war, managing stress is as essential as eating healthfully and exercising regularly. When you’re tense and anxious, you’re more likely to neglect the actions that help lower cholesterol in the first place. After spending 12 hours at the office working frantically to meet a deadline, do you really want to devote another hour to preparing a nutritious meal or walking on a treadmill? Probably not.

What’s more, stress and its companion emotions–tension, anxiety, anger, depression–trigger the release of chemicals that constrict arteries, reduce blood flow to the heart, raise blood pressure, and elevate your heart rate. These changes, in combination with uncontrolled cholesterol, can put you on course for a heart attack.

To block your body’s stress response, simply removing yourself from the stressful situation can help. Go for a short walk, practice deep breathing, perform a few simple stretches, meditate–whatever enables you to relax and regroup. You’ll feel better, you’ll think more clearly, and you’ll spare your heart from harm.

No matter how busy you are, set aside a few minutes every day to reflect on yourself and your life. Are you satisfied with the direction you’re taking? Are your needs being met? By tuning out the world and turning inward, you remind yourself of what matters most, and you rise above the stressful distractions that undermine your health in so many ways.

While staying in touch with yourself can help you set priorities and adjust your life’s course, don’t sacrifice family and social relationships. They give your life balance and enable you to cope with stressful situations. Of course, maintaining ties to family and community takes some effort, especially in an era when technology drives our interactions. But it’s worth doing, since research has shown that people with fewer social connections are more prone to illness and more likely to die young. On the bright side, the more social connections you have, the better your chances of living longer–free of heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.

COMMANDMENT 10: MAKE A COMMITMENT

Several men and women manage to take charge of their cholesterol and achieve their ideal numbers. Many of these people had experienced some life-changing event that forced them to commit themselves to a healthier, cholesterol-lowering lifestyle.

To win the cholesterol war, you must make that same commitment–resolving to take care of yourself, to make necessary changes, to live healthfully every day. Your family and your friends can support you, but ultimately, you’re the one making the decisions that will have an impact on your health, for better or worse.

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The Reality of Daily Diet

The Reality of Daily Diet

NUTRIENT DENSITY:

Ideally; our foods would be low in calories but high in nutrients. In reality, however, we get too many calories and too few nutrients. When we eat a food such as French fries, for example, we remove the nutrient-rich potato peel, leaving an almost pure-starch mass which is cut, fried, and salted. Such processed foods are nutrient-poor and calorie-rich, and they rarely provide the nutrient density of their whole-food parents.

NUTRIENT DIVERSITY:

The idea of getting a variety of nutrients is not new, but it has grown in importance. While one generation of Americans grew up thinking that diversity was “three square meals,” the following generation was told to eat from the “Four Basic Food Groups.” Later, to encourage dietary diversity, that recommendation was changed to advise picking foods from the “Food Pyramid.” Likewise, the Japanese government recommends eating 30 different foods each day for optimal health.

Unfortunately, many of us engage in a practice called “channel eating,” where we eat the same rather small number of foods over and over (for example, eating the same breakfast cereal every day). This practice erodes diversity. It may also reduce the availability of certain nutrients, impacting the nutrient density of the diet as well.

People miss out on many important nutrients because their eating habits are exactly that — habits. For example, big portions of the population never get the antioxidant protection of berries because they never eat berries. The closest some people get to eat a berry is a little jam now and then. But berries are one of the richest sources of healthful plant nutrients called flavonoids, which research has shown may play a role in preventing heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other diseases. The same argument could be made for other beneficial nutrients which people miss out on when they consume only a narrow range of foods.

WE KNOW BETTER, YET WE STILL MAKE POOR DIETARY CHOICES:

“Do as I say, not as I do” could be the world’s dietary anthem. People everywhere know they should consume healthy foods. Yet, people everywhere often make poor food choices — despite the fact that they know better. Polls show that most Americans, for instance, understand the eight dietary goals set in 1989 by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences:

 

  • Reduce fat intake to 30% of total calories or less.
  • Limit saturated fat to less than 10% of calories.
  • Consume less that 300 milligrams of cholesterol each day.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
  • Increase consumption of complex carbohydrates by eating six or more servings of breads, cereals, and legumes each day.
  • Eat moderate amounts of protein — less than twice the RDA.
  • Limit total daily sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams or less.
  • Consume the RDA for calcium.

 

But despite our growing nutritional awareness, our diet has not improved. A 1991 study that compared eating trends of Americans over three decades revealed that fewer than 25% of people surveyed ate a healthful diet. And as more countries join the ranks of developed nations, where processed, fatty, salty, or sugary, foods are commonplace, unhealthy dietary choices are likely to prevail.

REALITY CHECK: WHAT WE SHOULD EAT VERSUS WHAT WE ACTUALLY DO EAT:

The link between diet and health is so well established that public health organizations of every nation make dietary recommendations. In the U.S., for instance, the Department of Agriculture/Health and Human Services created the Food Guide Pyramid to recommend daily intake for various kinds of foods. Keep in mind that Americans are not unique in their poor eating habits: A similar pattern — too few plant and dairy foods and too many fats and sweets — exists in most other industrialized nations.

For fruits and vegetables, the consumption pattern is particularly alarming. Virtually all of the world’s major public health organizations recommend consuming at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day for optimal health. In the U.S., for instance, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the National Research Council all recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthful phytonutrients (nutrients only available from plants — carotenoids, flavonoids, cruciferous compounds, etc.). Numerous studies show that the gap between the dietary ideal and actual consumption is enormous:

  • Only 9% of Americans eat the minimum recommended amount of and vegetables.
  • On any given day, almost half of the U.S. population consumes no fruit!
  • On any given day, almost a quarter of the U.S. population eats no vegetables
  • On any given day, 70% of the U.S. population consumes no vitamin C-rich fruit.
  • On any given day, 80% of the U.S. population consumes no carotenoid-rich fruits or vegetables.

We should eat one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day, but we actually only eat one serving a week. We tend to overestimate the amount of good food we eat and underestimate the bad. Consumers in one study overestimated the amounts of fruits and vegetables they ate by 33%.

Food is abundant and available in developed nations, so food scarcity is not the problem! Nonetheless, studies show that virtually none of us eat well enough to get the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of many critical vitamins and minerals! The RDA is the amount of a vitamin or mineral necessary to prevent the appearance of deficiency symptoms in healthy people. Some people think it is okay not to consume RDA amounts of nutrients every day as long as they get all the nutrients they need over several days. Studies show that not only do the vast majority of us fail to get the RDA every day, but we don’t get it over several days, either.THE RDA TO SURVIVE — BUT THE ODI TO THRIVE!

The tragedy is that we are not even consuming amounts of nutrients that would prevent deficiency symptoms, let alone amounts that would take us a step closer to optimal health! You can survive with a poor diet, but you certainly won’t thrive. While deficiency symptoms can be corrected by supplying the substance which is lacking, many scientists believe that optimal health results from vitamin and mineral consumption in amounts exceeding the RDA. According to Nobel laureate Linus Pauling: “The RDA for a vitamin is not the allowance that leads to the best health for most people. It is, instead, only the estimated amount that for most people would prevent death or serious illness from overt vitamin deficiency Values of the daily intake of the various vitamins that lead to the best health for most people may well be several times as great, for the various vitamins, as the values of the RDA.” A concept that is growing in acceptance among the scientific community is that of Optimal Daily Intake, or ODI, an idea research scientists pioneered in the late 1970s.

SUPPLEMENTS: “NUTRITIONAL INSURANCE” WHEN THE DIET IS POOR:

Nutrient density and nutrient diversity are two sides of the same coin. Research indicates that the reality of the daily diet is that you cannot get all the nutrients you need for optimal health and vitality from foods alone. The next step will likely be government recommendations to consume both healthy foods and supplements. Don’t wait for new government recommendations to take charge of your health today. Begin making better food choices. And to be certain the inevitable nutrient “gaps” won’t threaten you, supplement to assure your best health.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE HUMAN DIET: OUR ANCESTORS ATE BETTER THAN WE DO!

The modern diet is a far cry from the foods that humans have consumed for two million years. Before humans took up agriculture 10,000 years ago, they were primarily hunter-gatherers, with dietary needs met primarily by fruits, vegetables, roots, nuts seeds, legumes, fish, and wild game. Scientists believe our ancestors ate about three times as much fruit and vegetables as we do, generally consumed within hours of being gathered, usually raw, with little or no processing. It is likely, therefore, that our ancestors had intakes of vitamins and minerals that exceeded the current RDAs (1.5 to 5 times higher), although they were by no means megadoses. They also ate five times more fiber than we do. In many respects, the ancestral diet resembles the American Heart Association dietary recommendations, the traditional Mediterranean and East Asian diets, and semi-vegetarian eating practices. Our ancestors did not live long, but it was infection and accidents — not degenerative RDA for a vitamin is not the allowance that leads to the best health for most people. It is, instead, only the estimated amount that for most people would prevent death or serious illness from overt vitamin deficiency Values of the daily intake of the various vitamins that lead to the best health for most people may well be several times as great, for the various vitamins, as the values of the RDA.” A concept that is growing in acceptance among the scientific community is that of Optimal Daily Intake, or ODI, an idea research scientists pioneered in the late 1970s.

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The Benefits of Garlic

The Benefits of Garlic

For years now we have been hearing about the numerous benefits of garlic in our diets. The problem is, garlic is known to cause bad breath after consumptioin, with the odor sometimes lingering for days. This fact alone deters many people from eating garlic in its natural form or using it frequently in cooking. At Gerometrix, we have a whole food garlic supplement that will not cause bad breath, yet it will provide users with the same health benefits of garlic without consuming it raw.

First, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly known benefits of garlic.

 

  • Garlic is considered to be one of the oldest medicinal plants, as it has certain disease fighting properties.
  • Garlic has been touted as having the ability to fight heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, infections, and the common cold.
  • More recently, scientists have linked garlic consumption with lowered risks of developing cancer.

 

When a garlic clove is crushed, minced, or chewed, allicin is released, which is a sulfur-bearing compound. This chemical, allicin, gives garlic its unique taste and pungent smell; yet it is also this chemical that is responsible for garlic’s numerous therapeutic benefits. Unfortunately, too many of us are turned off by garlic’s strong aroma and lingering aftertaste that we do not consume enough of it in its raw form. The good news is that when taken in supplement form, you get all of the benefits with none of the odor or taste.

THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF GARLIC – TOO GOOD TO PASS UP

Our garlic supplement is made from whole clove garlic that goes through a specialized cool-drying process. What you get is a supplement that retains all of the therapeutic properties found in raw garlic, without the potent odor or taste. If you want to protect yourself against high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clots, colds, infections, and possibly cancer, doesn’t it just makes sense to supplement your diet with our garlic preparation from Gerometrix? When you want only the best for your health, Gerometrix is a name you can trust.

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Plant Sterols

Plant Sterols

FDA Authorizes New Coronary Heart Disease Health Claim For Plant Sterols

PLANT STEROLS AND CORONARY HEART DISEASE

The FDA has authorized use of labeling health claims about the role of plant sterol or plant stanol esters in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) for foods containing these substances. This interim final rule is based on FDA’s conclusion that plant sterol esters and plant stanol esters may reduce the risk of CHD by lowering blood cholesterol levels.

Coronary heart disease, one of the most common and serious forms of cardiovascular disease, causes more deaths in the U.S. than any other disease. Risk factors for CHD include high total cholesterol levels and high levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

This new health claim is based on evidence that plant sterol or plant stanol esters may help to reduce the risk of CHD. Plant sterols are present in small quantities in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, legumes, and other plant sources. Plant stanols occur naturally in even smaller quantities from some of the same sources. For example, both plant sterols and stanols are found in vegetable oils.

Foods that may qualify for the health claim based on plant sterol ester content include spreads and salad dressings. Among the foods that may qualify for claims based on plant stanol ester content are spreads, salad dressings, snack bars, and dietary supplements in softgel form.

Foods that carry the claim must also meet the requirements for low saturated fat and low cholesterol, and must also contain no more than 13 grams of total fat per serving and per 50 grams. However, spreads and salad dressings are not required to meet the limit for total fat per 50 grams if the label of the food bears a disclosure statement referring consumers to the Nutrition Facts section of the label for information about fat content. In addition, except for salad dressing and dietary supplements, the food must contain at least 10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) or Daily Reference Value (DRV) for vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein, or fiber. FDA is also requiring, consistent with other health claims to reduce the risk of CHD, that the claim state that plant sterol and plant stanol esters should be consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Scientific studies shows that plant stanol in the diet are needed to show a significant cholesterol lowering effect. In order to qualify for this health claim, a food must contain at least 0.65 grams of plant sterol per serving or at least 1.7 grams of plant stanol esters per serving. The claim must specify that the daily dietary intake of plant sterol or plant stanol esters should be consumed in two servings eaten at different times of the day with other foods.

This new health claim interim final rule responds to petitions submitted to the FDA by Lipton (plant sterol esters) and McNeil Consumer Healthcare (plant stanol esters). The FDA is issuing this rule as an interim final rule. It is effective immediately with an opportunity for the public to comment. The final rule on this health claim may differ from this interim rule, and manufacturers would be required to revise their labeling to conform to any changes adopted in the final rule.

Geromatrix’s Cholesterol Support contains 800mg of plant sterols.

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Overall Nutrition

Vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes constitute a rich source of dietary fiber. Composed of the indigestible cell walls of plant material, fiber acts like a scouring pad to cleanse and flush the digestive tract. Researchers claim it helps eliminate cancer-causing chemicals and may decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream.

Wheat grains must be ground into flour before they can be made into easily digestible foods such as pasta and bread. Flour has played an important role in the diet of Western civilization since ancient times.

NUTRITION:

Human Nutrition affects the health and survival of the human body. Human beings require food to grow, reproduce, and maintain good health. Without food, our bodies could not stay warm, build or repair tissue, or maintain a heartbeat. Eating the right foods can help us avoid certain diseases or recover faster when illness occurs. These and other important functions are fueled by chemical substances in our food called nutrients. Nutrients are classified as carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

When we eat a meal, nutrients are released from food through digestion. Digestion begins in the mouth by the action of chewing and the chemical activity of saliva, a watery fluid that contains enzymes, certain proteins that help break down food. Further digestion occurs as food travels through the stomach and the small intestine, where digestive enzymes and acids liquefy food and muscle contractions push it along the digestive tract. Nutrients are absorbed from the inside of the small intestine into the bloodstream and carried to the sites in the body where they are needed. At these sites, several chemical reactions occur that ensure the growth and function of body tissues. The parts of foods that are not absorbed continue to move down the intestinal tract and are eliminated from the body as feces.

Once digested, carbohydrates, proteins, and fats provide the body with the energy it needs to maintain its many functions. Scientists measure this energy in kilocalories, the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. In nutrition discussions, scientists use the term calorie instead of kilocalorie as the standard unit of measure in nutrition.

ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS:

Nutrients are classified as essential or nonessential. Nonessential nutrients are manufactured in the body and do not need to be obtained from food. Examples include cholesterol, a fatlike substance present in all animal cells. Essential nutrients must be obtained from food sources, because the body either does not produce them or produces them in amounts too small to maintain growth and health. Essential nutrients include water, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals

.

An individual needs varying amounts of each essential nutrient, depending upon such factors as gender and age. Specific health conditions, such as pregnancy, breast-feeding, illness, or drug use, make unusual demands on the body and increase its need for nutrients. Dietary guidelines, which take many of these factors into account, provide general guidance in meeting daily nutritional needs.

WATER:

If the importance of a nutrient is judged by how long we can do without it, water ranks as the most important. A person can survive only eight to ten days without water, whereas it takes weeks or even months to die from a lack of food. Water circulates through our blood and lymphatic system, transporting oxygen and nutrients to cells and removing wastes through urine and sweat. Water also maintains the natural balance between dissolved salts and water inside and outside of cells. Our joints and soft tissues depend on the cushioning that water provides for them. While water has no caloric value and therefore is not an energy source, without it in our diets we could not digest or absorb the foods we eat or eliminate the body’s digestive waste.

The human body is 65 percent water, and it takes an average of eight to ten cups to replenish the water our bodies lose each day. How much water a person needs depends largely on the volume of urine and sweat lost daily, and water needs are increased if a person suffers from diarrhea or vomiting or undergoes heavy physical exercise. Water is replenished by drinking liquids, preferably those without caffeine or alcohol, both of which increase the output of urine and thus dehydrate the body. Many foods are also a good source of water-fruits and vegetables, for instance, are 80 to 95 percent water; meats are made up of 50 percent water; and grains, such as oats and rice, can have as much as 35 percent water.

CARBOHYDRATES:

Carbohydrates are the human body’s key source of energy, providing 4 calories of energy per gram. When carbohydrates are broken down by the body, the sugar glucose is produced; glucose is critical to help maintain tissue protein, metabolize fat, and fuel the central nervous system.

Glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall. Some of this glucose goes straight to work in our brain cells and red blood cells, while the rest makes its way to the liver and muscles, where it is stored as glycogen (animal starch), and to fat cells, where it is stored as fat. Glycogen is the body’s auxiliary energy source, tapped and converted back into glucose when we need more energy. Although stored fat can also serve as a backup source of energy, it is never converted into glucose. Fructose and galactose, other sugar products resulting from the breakdown of carbohydrates, go straight to the liver, where they are converted into glucose.

Starches and sugars are the major carbohydrates. Common starch foods include whole-grain breads and cereals, pasta, corn, beans, peas, and potatoes. Naturally occurring sugars are found in fruits and many vegetables; milk products; and honey, maple sugar, and sugar cane. Foods that contain starches and naturally occurring sugars are referred to as complex carbohydrates, because their molecular complexity requires our bodies to break them down into a simpler form to obtain the much-needed fuel, glucose. Our bodies digest and absorb complex carbohydrates at a rate that helps maintain the healthful levels of glucose already in the blood.

In contrast, simple sugars, refined from naturally occurring sugars and added to processed foods, require little digestion and are quickly absorbed by the body, triggering an unhealthy chain of events. The body’s rapid absorption of simple sugars elevates the levels of glucose in the blood, which triggers the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin reins in the body’s rising glucose levels, but at a price: Glucose levels may fall so low within one to two hours after eating foods high in simple sugars, such as candy, that the body responds by releasing chemicals known as anti-insulin hormones. This surge in chemicals, the aftermath of eating a candy bar, can leave a person feeling irritable and nervous.

Many processed foods not only contain high levels of added simple sugars, they also tend to be high in fat and lacking in the vitamins and minerals found naturally in complex carbohydrates. Nutritionists often refer to such processed foods as junk foods and say that they provide only empty calories, meaning they are loaded with calories from sugars and fats but lack the essential nutrients our bodies need.

In addition to starches and sugars, complex carbohydrates contain indigestible dietary fibers. Although such fibers provide no energy or building materials, they play a vital role in our health. Found only in plants, dietary fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber, found in such foods as oats, barley, beans, peas, apples, strawberries, and citrus fruits, mixes with food in the stomach and prevents or reduces the absorption by the small intestine of potentially dangerous substances from food. Soluble fiber also binds dietary cholesterol and carries it out of the body, thus preventing it from entering the bloodstream where it can accumulate in the inner walls of arteries and set the stage for high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. Insoluble fiber, found in vegetables, whole-grain products, and bran, provides roughage that speeds the elimination of feces, which decreases the time that the body is exposed to harmful substances, possibly reducing the risk of colon cancer. Studies of populations with fiber-rich diets, such as Africans and Asians, show that these populations have less risk of colon cancer compared to those who eat low-fiber diets, such as Americans. In the United States, colon cancer is the third most common cancer for both men and women, but experts believe that, with a proper diet, it is one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Nutritionists caution that most Americans need to eat more complex carbohydrates. In the typical American diet, only 40 to 50 percent of total calories come from carbohydrates-a lower percentage than found in most of the world. To make matters worse, half of the carbohydrate calories consumed by the typical American come from processed foods filled with simple sugars. Experts recommend that these foods make up no more that 10 percent of our diet, because these foods offer no nutritional value. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates, which provide vitamins, minerals, some protein, and dietary fiber and are an abundant energy source, should make up roughly 50 percent of our daily calories.

PROTEINS:

Dietary proteins are powerful compounds that build and repair body tissues, from hair and fingernails to muscles. In addition to maintaining the body’s structure, proteins speed up chemical reactions in the body, serve as chemical messengers, fight infection, and transport oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Although protein provides 4 calories of energy per gram, the body uses protein for energy only if carbohydrate and fat intake is insufficient. When tapped as an energy source, protein is diverted from the many critical functions it performs for our bodies.

Proteins are made of smaller units called amino acids. Of the more than 20 amino acids our bodies require, eight (nine in some older adults and young children) cannot be made by the body in sufficient quantities to maintain health. These amino acids are considered essential and must be obtained from food. When we eat food high in proteins, the digestive tract breaks this dietary protein into amino acids. Absorbed into the bloodstream and sent to the cells that need them, amino acids then recombine into the functional proteins our bodies need.

Animal proteins, found in such food as eggs, milk, meat, fish, and poultry, are considered complete proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Plant proteins, found in vegetables, grains, and beans, lack one or more of the essential amino acids. However, plant proteins can be combined in the diet to provide all of the essential amino acids. A good example is rice and beans. Each of these foods lacks one or more essential amino acids, but the amino acids missing in rice are found in the beans, and vice versa. So when eaten together, these foods provide a complete source of protein. Thus, people who do not eat animal products (see Vegetarianism) can meet their protein needs with diets rich in grains, dried peas and beans, rice, nuts, and tofu, a soybean product.

Experts recommend that protein intake make up only 10 percent of our daily calorie intake. Some people, especially in the United States and other developed countries, consume more protein than the body needs. Because extra amino acids cannot be stored for later use, the body destroys these amino acids and excretes their by-products. Alternatively, deficiencies in protein consumption, seen in the diets of people in some developing nations, may result in health problems. Marasmus and kwashiorkor, both life-threatening conditions, are the two most common forms of protein malnutrition.

Some health conditions, such as illness, stress, and pregnancy and breast-feeding in women, place an enormous demand on the body as it builds tissue or fights infection, and these conditions require an increase in protein consumption. For example, a healthy woman normally needs 45 grams of protein each day. Experts recommend that a pregnant woman consume 55 grams of protein per day, and that a breast-feeding mother consume 65 grams to maintain health.

A man of average size should eat 57 grams of protein daily. To support their rapid development, infants and young children require relatively more protein than do adults. A three-month-old infant requires about 13 grams of protein daily, and a four-year-old child requires about 22 grams. Once in adolescence, sex hormone differences cause boys to develop more muscle and bone than girls; as a result, the protein needs of adolescent boys are higher than those of girls.

FATS:

Fats, which provide 9 calories of energy per gram, are the most concentrated of the energy-producing nutrients, so our bodies need only very small amounts. Fats play an important role in building the membranes that surround our cells and in helping blood to clot. Once digested and absorbed, fats help the body absorb certain vitamins. Fat stored in the body cushions vital organs and protects us from extreme cold and heat.

Fat consists of fatty acids attached to a substance called glycerol. Dietary fats are classified as saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated according to the structure of their fatty acids. Animal fats-from eggs, dairy products, and meats-are high in saturated fats and cholesterol, a chemical substance found in all animal fat. Vegetable fats-found, for example, in avocados, olives, some nuts, and certain vegetable oils-are rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. As we will see, high intake of saturated fats can be unhealthy.

To understand the problem with eating too much saturated fat, we must examine its relationship to cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol in the blood have been linked to the development of heart disease, strokes, and other health problems. Despite its bad reputation, our bodies need cholesterol, which is used to build cell membranes, to protect nerve fibers, and to produce vitamin D and some hormones, chemical messengers that help coordinate the body’s functions. We just do not need cholesterol in our diet. The liver, and to a lesser extent the small intestine, manufacture all the cholesterol we require. When we eat cholesterol from foods that contain saturated fatty acids, we increase the level of a cholesterol-carrying substance in our blood that harms our health.

Cholesterol, like fat, is a lipid-an organic compound that is not soluble in water. In order to travel through blood, cholesterol therefore must be transported through the body in special carriers, called lipoproteins. High-density lipoproteins (HDLs) remove cholesterol from the walls of arteries, return it to the liver, and help the liver excrete it as bile, a liquid acid essential to fat digestion. For this reason, HDL is called “good” cholesterol.

Low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) and very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs) are considered “bad” cholesterol. Both LDLs and VLDLs transport cholesterol from the liver to the cells. As they work, LDLs and VLDLs leave plaque-forming cholesterol in the walls of the arteries, clogging the artery walls and setting the stage for heart disease. Almost 70 percent of the cholesterol in our bodies is carried by LDLs and VLDLs, and the remainder is transported by HDLs. For this reason, we need to consume dietary fats that increase our HDLs and decrease our LDL and VLDL levels.

Saturated fatty acids-found in foods ranging from beef to ice cream, to mozzarella cheese to doughnuts-should make up no more than 10 percent of a person’s total calorie intake each day. Saturated fats are considered harmful to the heart and blood vessels because they are thought to increase the level of LDLs and VLDLs and decrease the levels of HDLs.

Monounsaturated fats-found in olive, canola, and peanut oils-appear to have the best effect on blood cholesterol, decreasing the level of LDLs and VLDLs and increasing the level of HDLs. Polyunsaturated fats-found in margarine and sunflower, soybean, corn, and safflower oils-are considered more healthful than saturated fats. However, if consumed in excess (more than 10 percent of daily calories), they can decrease the blood levels of HDLs.

Most Americans obtain 15 to 50 percent of their daily calories from fats. Health experts consider diets with more than 30 percent of calories from fat to be unsafe, increasing the risk of heart disease. High-fat diets also contribute to obesity, which is linked to high blood pressure (see hypertension) and diabetes mellitus. A diet high in both saturated and unsaturated fats has also been associated with greater risk of developing cancers of the colon, prostate, breast, and uterus. Choosing a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol is critical to maintaining health and reducing the risk of life-threatening disease.

VITAMINS & MINERALS:

Both vitamins and minerals are needed by the body in very small amounts to trigger the thousands of chemical reactions necessary to maintain good health. Many of these chemical reactions are linked, with one triggering another. If there is a missing or deficient vitamin or mineral-or link-anywhere in this chain, this process may break down, with potentially devastating health effects. Although similar in supporting critical functions in the human body, vitamins and minerals have key differences.

Among their many functions, vitamins enhance the body’s use of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They are critical in the formation of blood cells, hormones, nervous system chemicals known as neurotransmitters, and the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Vitamins are classified into two groups: fat soluble and water soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins A, D, E, and K, are usually absorbed with the help of foods that contain fat. Fat containing these vitamins is broken down by bile, a liquid released by the liver, and the body then absorbs the breakdown products and vitamins. Excess amounts of fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fat, liver, and kidneys. Because these vitamins can be stored in the body, they do not need to be consumed every day to meet the body’s needs.

Water-soluble vitamins, which include vitamins C (also known as ascorbic acid), B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, B12, and folic acid, cannot be stored and rapidly leave the body in urine if taken in greater quantities than the body can use. Foods that contain water-soluble vitamins need to be eaten daily to replenish the body’s needs.

In addition to the roles noted in the vitamin and mineral chart accompanying this article, vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, and E function as antioxidants, which are vital in countering the potential harm of chemicals known as free radicals. If these chemicals remain unchecked they can make cells more vulnerable to cancer-causing substances. Free radicals can also transform chemicals in the body into cancer-causing agents. Environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, are sources of free radicals.

Minerals are minute amounts of metallic elements that are vital for the healthy growth of teeth and bones. They also help in such cellular activity as enzyme action, muscle contraction, nerve reaction, and blood clotting. Mineral nutrients are classified as major elements (calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and sulfur) and trace elements (chromium, copper, fluoride, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc).

Vitamins and minerals not only help the body perform its various functions, but also prevent the onset of many disorders. For example, vitamin C is important in maintaining our bones and teeth; scurvy, a disorder that attacks the gums, skin, and muscles, occurs in its absence. Diets lacking vitamin B1, which supports neuromuscular function, can result in beriberi, a disease characterized by mental confusion, muscle weakness, and inflammation of the heart. Adequate intake of folic acid by pregnant women is critical to avoid nervous system defects in the developing fetus. The mineral calcium plays a critical role in building and maintaining strong bones; without it, children develop weak bones and adults experience the progressive loss of bone mass known as osteoporosis, which increases their risk of bone fractures.

Vitamins and minerals are found in a wide variety of foods, but some foods are better sources of specific vitamins and minerals than others. For example, oranges contain large amounts of vitamin C and folic acid but very little of the other vitamins. Milk contains large amounts of calcium but no vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, but white potatoes contain almost none of this vitamin. Because of these differences in vitamin and mineral content, it is wise to eat a wide variety of foods.

TOO LITTLE – TOO MUCH FOOD:

When the body is not given enough of any one of the essential nutrients over a period of time, it becomes weak and less able to fight infection. The brain may become sluggish and react slowly. The body taps its stored fat for energy, and muscle is broken down to use for energy. Eventually the body withers away, the heart ceases to pump properly, and death occurs-the most extreme result of a dietary condition known as deficiency-related malnutrition.

Deficiency diseases result from inadequate intake of the major nutrients. These deficiencies can result from eating foods that lack critical vitamins and minerals, from a lack of variety of foods, or from simply not having enough food. Malnutrition can reflect conditions of poverty, war, famine, and disease. It can also result from eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

Although malnutrition is more commonly associated with dietary deficiencies, it also can develop in cases where people have enough food to eat, but they choose foods low in essential nutrients. This is the more common form of malnutrition in developed countries such as the United States. When poor food choices are made, a person may be getting an adequate, or excessive, amount of calories each day, yet still be undernourished. For example, iron deficiency is a common health problem among women and young children in the United States, and low intake of calcium is directly related to poor quality bones and increased fracture risk, especially in the elderly.

A diet of excesses may also lead to other nutritional problems. Obesity is the condition of having too much body fat. It has been linked to life-threatening diseases including diabetes mellitus, heart problems, and some forms of cancer. Eating too many salty foods may contribute to high blood pressure (see hypertension), an often undiagnosed condition that causes the heart to work too hard and puts strain on the arteries. High blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. A diet high in cholesterol and fat, particularly saturated fat, is the primary cause of atherosclerosis, which results when fat and cholesterol deposits build up in the arteries, causing a reduction in blood flow.

MAKING GOOD NUTRITION DECISIONS:

To determine healthful nutrition standards, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a nonprofit, scholarly society that advises the United States government, periodically assembles committees of national experts to update and assess nutrition guidelines. The NAS first published its Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) in 1941. An RDA reflects the amount of a nutrient in the diet that should decrease the risk of chronic disease for most healthy individuals. The NAS originally developed the RDAs to ensure that World War II soldiers stationed around the world received enough of the right kinds of foods to maintain their health. The NAS periodically has updated the RDAs to reflect new knowledge of nutrient needs.

In the late 1990s the NAS decided that the RDAs, originally developed to prevent nutrient deficiencies, needed to serve instead as a guide for optimizing health. Consequently, the NAS created Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), which incorporate the RDAs and a variety of new dietary guidelines. As part of this change, the NAS replaced some RDAs with another measure, called Adequate Intake (AI). Although the AI recommendations are often the same as those in the original RDA, use of this term reflects that there is not enough scientific evidence to set a standard for the nutrient. Calcium has an AI of 1000 to 1200 mg per day, not an RDA, because scientists do not yet know how much calcium is needed to prevent osteoporosis.

Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) designates the highest recommended intake of a nutrient for good health. If intake exceeds this amount, health problems may develop. Calcium, for instance, has a UL of 2500 mg per day. Scientists know that more than this amount of calcium taken every day can interfere with the absorption of iron, zinc, and magnesium and may result in kidney stones or kidney failure.

Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) reflects the amount of a particular nutrient that meets the optimal needs of half the individuals in a specified group. For example, the NAS cites an EAR of 45 to 90 grams of protein for men aged 18 to 25. This figure means that half the men in that population need a daily intake of protein that falls within that range.

To simplify the complex standards established by the NAS, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created the Food Guide Pyramid, a visual display of the relative importance to health of six food groups common to the American diet. The food groups are arranged in a pyramid to emphasize that it is wise to choose an abundance of foods from the category at the broad base (bread, cereal, rice, pasta) and use sparingly foods from the peak (fats, oils, sweets). The other food groups appear between these two extremes, indicating the importance of vegetables and fruits and the need for moderation in eating dairy products and meats. The pyramid recommends a range of the number of servings to choose from each group, based on the nutritional needs of males and females and different age groups. Other food pyramids have been developed based on the USDA pyramid to help people choose foods that fit a specific ethnic or cultural pattern, including Mediterranean, Asian, Latin American, Puerto Rican, and vegetarian diets.

In an effort to provide additional nutritional guidance and reduce the incidence of diet-related cancers, the National Cancer Institute developed the 5-a-Day Campaign for Better Health, a program that promotes the practice of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Studies of populations that eat many fruits and vegetables reveal a decreased incidence of diet-related cancers. Laboratory studies have shown that many fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, substances that appear to limit the growth of cancer cells.

Many people obtain most of their nutrition information from a food label called the Nutrition Facts panel. This label is mandatory for most foods that contain more than one ingredient, and these foods are mostly processed foods. Labeling remains voluntary for raw meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, foods produced by small businesses, and those sold in restaurants, food stands, and local bakeries.

The Nutrition Facts panel highlights a product’s content of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and the minerals calcium and iron. The stated content of these nutrients must be based on a standard serving size, as defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Food manufacturers may provide information about other nutrients if they choose. However, if a nutritional claim is made on a product’s package, the appropriate nutrient content must be listed. For example, if the package says “high in folic acid,” then the folic acid content in the product must be given in the Nutrition Facts panel.

The Nutrition Facts panel also includes important information in a column headed % Daily Value (DV). DVs tell how the food item meets the recommended daily intakes of fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and protein necessary for nutritional health based on the total intake recommended for a person consuming 2000 calories per day. One portion from a can of soup, for example, may have less than 2 percent of the recommended daily value for cholesterol intake.

Health-conscious consumers can use the Nutrition Facts panel to guide their food choices. For example, based on a daily diet of 2000 calories, nutrition experts recommend that no more than 30 percent of those calories should be from fat, which would allow for a daily intake of around 65 grams of fat. A Nutrition Facts panel may indicate that a serving of one brand of macaroni and cheese contains 14 grams of fat, or a % DV of 25 percent. This tells the consumer that a serving of macaroni and cheese provides about one-fourth of the suggested healthy level of daily fat intake. If another brand of macaroni and cheese displays a % DRV of 10 percent fat, the nutrition-conscious consumer would opt for this brand.