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Family Values

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It’s a New Year, full of old clichés about change, but what if changing just one thing could matter in a big way? What if committing to one simple concept opened up possibilities you never imagined, because you felt better than you’ve ever felt before? What if it all starts with your grocery list and ends at your dinner table?

Our parents’ own personal journey to better health by way of better food showed us firsthand how changing your diet can change your life. It’s the reason we’re here after all.

The evidence sits on the shelves of our stores, in the quality products that have made a difference for so many people, and in our customers that have stories to tell about the impact a high-quality diet has had on their lives. The beauty of it is in its simplicity. You don’t need fancy gadgets or tools to commit to changing your diet; it only takes a few tweaks to your grocery list and making sure that where you shop has your best interests at heart.

We think these are good places to make those first tweaks:

Nix the sugar

It’s bad for your heart, your brain, your gut, not to mention your teeth. Sugar doesn’t contain a single essential nutrient, but the damage this empty calorie can do over time takes a lot more than a single nutrient to reverse. Sugar needs to go.

Buy organic

Studies have shown that organic produce contains higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of heavy metals. It is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, which studies indicate results in no residues on your produce and a healthier ecosystem. Organic agriculture regenerates and nourishes the soil, resulting in healthier plants that are more nutrient dense, which translates into richer nutrient density at the dinner table.

If meat and dairy are your thing, go clean

Choose naturally raised meat and pasture-based dairy to keep hormones and antibiotics out of your food, choose it for the humane treatment of animals, and choose it to support environmentally sustainable farming methods.

Our family passionately believes that diet is the most important aspect of nutrition. We’re committed to having the highest product standards so that you won’t find anything on our shelves that shouldn’t be on your table. We have Nutritional Health Coaches on staff at every store, available for free health-coaching sessions to help guide you along the way to creating your own best grocery list. We also have Always Affordable Prices because our New Year’s resolution has always been to make sure that healthy food is accessible to everyone.

Family Values

P.S. Some of our family favorites when we need a tasty snack are organic roasted and salted pistachios, opal apples, smoked canned oysters, Kalamata olive snack packs, and for a sweet treat without the added sugar, our own bulk unsweetened dried mango. Delicious and nutritious!

Happy New Year from our family to yours!

The Isely Family

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Avocado Awesomeness

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Just One More Excuse to Eat Guacamole

If I ever find myself wondering about what to bring as a snack for a party or get together, I fall back on the time-tested party favorite—guacamole. Guacamole is without a doubt one of the easiest party snacks to make, yet one of the most absolutely people-pleasing dishes out there. And the best part? Avocados are incredibly good4u.

The avocado (Persea americana) is a berry fruit (yep, it’s a fruit!) with a dark green leathery skin and a very large seed. The first English-language mention of avocado was in 1696. In 1871, avocados were first introduced to the United States in Santa Barbara, California, with trees from Mexico. Compared to other fruits, avocados contain very little sugar1. One-half an avocado contains only about 0.2 g sugar (e.g., sucrose, glucose, and fructose). The primary sugar found in avocados is a unique and uncommon seven-carbon sugar called D-mannoheptulose which, studies suggest is capable of supporting healthy blood sugar balance and healthy body weight2. The glycemic index and load of an avocado is about zero.

Once ripened, avocados have an amazing creamy texture provided by the type of fats found within. Much of the fat found in an avocado is the same fat that gives olive oil its reputation as being incredibly healthy, and it’s because of these healthy fats that avocados have a reputation as being incredibly nutritious. Oleic acid, the primary monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, actually increases in concentration as avocados ripen! However, it’s not just the fats in avocados that make it so amazing; avocados supply nearly 20 vitamins, minerals and other beneficial plant compounds to the diet3 . Also beneficial is the fact that avocados have a unique unsaturated fat and water matrix that is perfectly designed to enhance fat-soluble nutrient absorption. Clinical research has demonstrated that adding an avocado to a salad or simply serving avocados with salsa, mixed into guacamole, increases the bioavailability of many fat-soluble compounds by 2–5 times4 .

Some of the beneficial nutrients found in avocado include antioxidants like vitamin E, carotenoids like lutein, a variety of B vitamins, which are important for cellular energy production and gene expression, and much more.

Taken together, studies show that different components of avocado can
  1. Support a healthy microbial balance in the stomach5

  2. Support digestive health

  3. Modulate inflammation

  4. Support heart health and healthy cholesterol levels

  5. Support the health of our knees, hips, and bones,6

  6. Support eye and brain health7

Furthermore, avocado eaters just seem to be healthier people in general. Studies show that avocado consumers tend to consume significantly more of key shortfall nutrients—dietary fiber, vitamins K, and E, potassium, and magnesium—in their diet than non-avocado consumers. An analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2001–2006 suggests that avocado consumers have higher HDL-cholesterol, better cardiovascular health, and a healthier body weight than non-consumers8 .

So, you might ask, what are a few good dishes that I can make using avocados

Well, if you are hosting a party, maybe for the upcoming Big Game, I recommend this great guacamole or this sensational spicy salmon dip.

    Meet the Blogger

    Jonathan Clinthorne’s love for nutritional sciences stems from his work in a nutritional immunology laboratory at Michigan State University, where he studied the effects of various diets on immune function.  While earning his PhD in Human Nutrition, Jonathan had the opportunity to study various other nutritional interventions, such as probiotics, mushroom extracts, and omega-3 fatty acids.  He is excited to keep you updated on current research that influences the way that we think about nutrition and food.

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    What our customers say

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    - John Doe | Tempe, AZ

    References

    [1]USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Avocado, almond, pistachio and walnut Composition. Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2011.
    [2]Roth G. Mannoheptulose glycolytic inhibitor and novel calorie restriction mimetic. 2009. Experimental Biology. Abstract # 553.1. New Orleans, LA.
    [3]Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013; 53(7): 738-750
    [4]Unlu N, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J. Nutr. 2005;135:431–436.
    [5]Castillo-Juárez I, González V, Jaime-Aguilar H, Martínez G, Linares E, Bye R, Romero I. Anti-Helicobacter pylori activity of plants used in Mexican traditional medicine for gastrointestinal disorders. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009; 122(2):402-5.
    [6]Ernst E. Avocado-soybean unsaponifiables (ASU) for osteoarthritis - a systematic review. Clin Rheumatol. 2003 Oct; 22(4-5):285-8.
    [7]Dreher ML, Davenport AJ. Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2013; 53(7): 738-750
    [8]Fulgoni V. L., Dreher M. L., Davenport A. J. Avocado consumption associated with better nutrient intake and better health indices in US adults: NHANES 2011-2006. Experimental Biology. 2010b. Abstract #8514. Anaheim, CA.
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    Total Health Makeover With Fish Oil

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    New Years’ resolutions are hard to keep. It’s true—while nearly half of Americans make them, by early February most have abandoned their good intentions. Maybe you resolved to lose weight, be more active, or just be healthier. Or maybe you are like me, and shun resolutions altogether, but would still like to be healthier in 2017. Here’s a piece of good news for everyone, no matter what your resolution for better health was (or wasn’t): you can be healthier this year, and with little effort. How? Start taking fish oil. It’s really that simple!

    The omega-3 fats found in fish oil, EPA and DHA, are essential for good health. They influence weight, strength and muscle building, mobility, brain health, cardiovascular health, and so much more. There are studies investigating their role in weight loss; chronic pain; learning and behavior in children; diabetes; neurogenesis; age-related macular degeneration; immunity; osteoarthritis; heart failure; and depression.1 So whatever area you want to improve on this year, from head to toe, fish oil will likely help.

    Rev Up Metabolism

    Losing weight tops the resolution “to-do” list each year. And while losing weight to fit into your skinny jeans is a noble cause, the health implications go far beyond looking good. Carrying around extra weight increases your risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.2 Dropping those extra pounds becomes more important when you consider that. Fish oil can help!

    A number of studies have shown that the omega-3s in fish oil support weight loss, in part by reducing the proliferation of fat cells, preventing the accumulation of fat, and improving insulin and glucose tolerance.34 And now, two new studies have discovered that fish oil can prompt fat storage cells to act like fat burning cells. To explain: our bodies have both brown fat cells and white fat cells—brown fat’s job is to burn fat to maintain body temperature, while white fat’s job is to store fat for future energy use. The studies confirmed that fish oil causes white fat to act like brown fat, which may reduce weight gain in middle age.56

    Maximize Muscle Mass

    Building muscle mass is important to looking and feeling good in your body and supporting healthy glucose metabolism, but it is also important in maintaining mobility and the ability to remain active throughout life. Know what can support muscle building? You guessed it! Fish oil! Studies looking specifically at older adults (60 and older) have found that fish oil supplementation increases muscle mass and improves strength, especially when combined with strength training exercise.78 Much of the research has focused on muscle building in older populations because muscle loss presents such a problem; however, there is also research that shows omega-3s, when taken with protein, increases muscle synthesis in healthy middle-aged men and women too, even when they didn’t engage in regular physical activity.9

    Boost Brain Health

    Okay, so maybe improving brain health wasn’t at the top of your to-do list for 2017, but it should be! What does an unhealthy brain look like? It can manifest as anxiety, depression, addiction, inability to focus, forgetfulness, uncontrollable temper, aggressive behavior, or dementia, to name a few. And the omega-3s have been shown to help with each of these issues. The omega-3 fat DHA comprises up to 30% of fat in the brain, influencing nerve transmission and cellular communication—low levels of DHA can negatively affect brain function. In young and old alike, the omega-3s have proven to improve cognition, learning, attention, focus, and memory. They also have a positive effect on mood and mental health, particularly in depression and stress and anxiety. One study found EPA to be as effective as Prozac in reducing the symptoms of depression.10 And research has also shown that omega-3 supplements reduce both anxiety and stress-induced inflammation.11 The anti-inflammatory docosanoids produced by DHA are also thought to function as neuroprotectins in the brain, protecting brain cells from inflammation and oxidative damage, which are thought to play a role in the development of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.12

    As we move further into this new year, don’t feel guilty if you’ve strayed from your resolution! Look forward and focus on improving whole body health, one step at a time. A perfectly easy place to start is with a fish oil supplement. One survey concluded that each year 84,000 deaths are attributable to low-dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake—start your total health makeover with fish oil today!1314

    References

    [3]Cavaliere G, Trinchese G, et al. “Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Attenuate Diet Induced Obesity and Insulin Resistance, Modulating Mitochondrial Respiratory Uncoupling in Rat Skeletal Muscle.” PLoS ONE 11(2); Feb 2016
    [4]Liu H, Qiu Y, et al. “A high ratio of dietary n-3/n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids improves obesity-linked inflammation and insulin resistance through suppressing activation of TLR4 in SD rats.” Nutrition Research 33; July 2013
    [5]Kim M, Goto T, et al. “Fish oil intake induces UCP1 upregulation in brown and white adipose tissue via the sympathetic nervous system.” Scientific Reports 5, Article no: 18013; Dec 2015 http://www.nature.com/articles/srep18013
    [6]Quesada-Lopez T, Cereijo R, et al. “The lipid sensor GPR120 promotes brown fat activation and FGF21 release from adipocytes.” Nature Communications 7, article no: 13479, Nov 2016
    [7]Smith G, Juilliand S, et al. “Fish oil-derived n-3 PUFA therapy increases muscle mass and function in healthy older adults.” Am J Clin Nutr. July 2015;102(1):115-122
    [8]Rodacki C.L.N., Rodacki A.L.F., Pereira G., Naliwaiko K., Coelho I., Pequito D., Fernandes L.C. Fish-oil supplementation enhances the effects of strength training in elderly women. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2012;95:428–436.
    [9]Smith G, Atherton P, et al. “Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women.” Clin Sci. 2011 Sep;(6):267-78
    [11]Kiecolt-Glaser J, Belury M, et al. “Omega-3 Supplementation Lowers Inflammation and Anxiety in Medical Students: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Brain Behav Immun. 2011 Nov;25(8): 1725-1734
    [12]Dyerberg J MD & Passwater R PhD. The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2012. Pg. 39
    [13]Dyerberg J MD & Passwater R PhD. The Missing Wellness Factors – EPA and DHA. Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2012. Pg 34

    Family Values

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    He loved collecting seashells and stacks of National GeographicThe New York Times, and The Denver Post. He also loved adding raisins to his omelets and to every kind of salad. She loved walks on the beach and red lipstick. And she loved papaya juice with dinner to help with digestion, her famously cluttered desk, and Häagen-Daz Rum Raisin ice cream. She loved him and he loved her, and they both loved a good cause. Margaret and Philip Isely were passionate people—they believed in big ideas so wholeheartedly that all the cards stacked against them were just fuel for the fire. That’s how it was when they started Natural Grocers—a mountain of cards stacked against them—but they loved so much they just kept climbing. They had discovered the greatest love of all—good health—and they knew it started with good nutrition.

    They knew that all the other loves, especially that lifelong, unconditional kind that you have for family, friends, and community, couldn’t be sustained without good health. They researched and experimented and changed and proved for themselves that for the love of health, the food that you eat is essential. They thought it mattered so much that they wanted to make sure it was always affordable for everyone, and this became their mission—to make nutrition education accessible and healthy food affordable so that everyone in their community and beyond would be able to learn about nutrition and afford healthy food so that they could keep loving themselves and their families. They wanted this mission to spread from their neighborhood to the next and the next—a ripple effect that could take the love all the way from a tiny cottage in Lakewood, Colorado to the ends of the earth if possible.

    That’s why we’re here, because of their love. It’s why we have Always AffordableSM Prices and Nutritional Health Coaches in our stores for free health-coaching sessions. It’s why we host nutrition seminars in our communities, so that you can learn and choose for yourself how to best love your health. It’s why we only sell 100% organic produce and pasture-based dairy and 100% antibiotic and hormone free meats. It’s why we keep certain ingredients off our shelves no matter what, and why we’re always scouring our local neighborhoods so that we can curate the best selection of products that adhere to the principles we believe in: clean, authentic, sustainable, wholesome, and health empowering. Please join us this month in celebrating all the kinds of love, and all the reasons for love, starting with the greatest love of all, your health.

    P.S. Love itself is good for your health! Even doctors say so. A physician once said, “The best medicine for humans is love.” A patient asked, “What if it doesn’t work?” She smiled and replied “Increase the dose.”

    The Isely Family

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    One Simple Way To Protect The Hearts You Love...COQ10

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    It’s natural to want to take care of the people you love, and let’s face it—for those of us with loved ones who are, shall we say, stubborn about taking care of themselves, it might be downright imperative. After all, we want our loved ones to live long healthy lives as much for their good as our own. So as Valentine’s Day nears, it seems particularly appropriate to focus on taking care of the hearts you love with the heart-loving nutrient Coenzyme Q10.

    At first thought, Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10 as it is commonly called, might not seem like such a romantic gift to give your Valentine, but because CoQ10 supports heart health (and so much more) in so many ways, it’s really like saying, “I love you so much I want you to be healthy with me for as long as possible.” And that’spretty romantic and certainly a much more effective means of getting them there than a box of chocolates.

    CoQ10 is a vitamin-like compound that is essential in several key steps of energy production within the cells. Thus, it is most abundant in organs that require a lot of energy, like the heart. When the heart is supplied with adequate energy, it can pump blood throughout the entire body efficiently. Without energy, not only does actual pumping efficiency go down, but cells aren’t able to repair and maintain themselves properly either. CoQ10 also supports healthy blood vessel function, thus helping to maintain healthy blood pressure.1  2 Although extremely important, energy production is just the tip of the iceberg for CoQ10.

    one_simple_way_to_protect_the_hearts_you_love_coq10 During the process of energy production, our bodies require not only numerous nutrients, and fuel in the form of carbohydrates and fats, but also oxygen. While this process allows us to create the energy we need, it is not 100% efficient, and some of the oxygen used is incompletely reduced and instead turned into an unstable reactive oxygen species, a.k.a. a free radical. Free radicals aren’t all bad; after all, our immune system uses some as defense weapons. But when there is an overabundance of free radicals or the body lacks the necessary compounds to protect itself from these unstable molecules, cellular damage can occur.

    CoQ10 acts as a potent free radical scavenger to protect the cell membranes of the very cells it is working to produce energy in. It also helps to protect lipoproteins, the protein rafts that transport fats through the watery bloodstream, with a particular affinity for low-density lipoproteins (more commonly referred to as LDL). Healthy, unoxidized LDL particles help maintain healthy blood vessels, which supports optimal cardiovascular health.3  4  5 In addition to helping to protect LDL, CoQ10 also helps to regenerate vitamin E, another potent free radical scavenger that supports healthy LDL, so we get more benefit from the vitamin E that is available. The free radical scavenging role of CoQ10 is incredibly protective to the heart and cardiovascular system, but the benefits don’t end there.

    While much of the research on CoQ10 has focused on the cardiovascular system, it may also turn out to have health promoting effects throughout the whole body. For instance, CoQ10, in its energy-producing role, appears to support physical performance and improve feelings of fatigue.6 7In its free radical scavenging role, it may help to keep brain cell membranes healthy, which supports mental function as we age.8  9  10

    Although CoQ10 is found in a wide variety of foods, the average diet supplies very little on a daily basis.11And although our bodies can produce it, natural production begins to decline after age 40, making CoQ10 supplementation a good idea. For more details on choosing and using the right CoQ10 supplement for your or your loved one’s needs, check out one of these great articles here or here.

    CoQ10 helps promote optimal heart function, maintain healthy blood pressure, energy production and even helps to protect our brains, which makes ensuring that adequate amounts of this versatile nutrient are available is a great way to help support the health and longevity of those we love, not to mention ourselves. So this Valentine’s Day, show your love in a truly meaningful way, by giving the gift of good health, in a bottle of CoQ10.

    References

    [1]Rosenfeldt FL, Haas SJ, Krum H, et al. Coenzyme Q10 in the treatment of hypertension: a meta-analysis of the clinical trials. J Hum Hypertens. 2007 Apr;21(4):279-306. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17287847
    [2]Singh RB, Niaz MA, Rastogi SS, Shukla PK, Thakur AS. Effect of hydrosoluble coenzymeQ10 on blood pressure and insulin resistance in hypertensive patients with coronary artery disease. J Hum Hypertension. 1999 Mar;13(3):203-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go
    [3]Meisinger C, Baumert J, Khuseyinova N, Lowel H, Koenig W. Plasma oxidized low-density lipoprotein, a strong predictor for acute coronary heart disease events in apparently healthy, middle-aged men from the general population. Circulation. 2005 Aug;112(5):
    [4]Nishi K, Itabe H, Uno M, et al. Oxidized LDL in carotid plaques and plasma associates with plaque instability. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2002 Oct;22(10):1649-1654. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12377744
    [5]Holvoet P, Mertens A, Verhamme P, et al. Circulating oxidized LDL is a useful marker for identifying patients with coronary artery disease. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. 2001;21:844-848. http://atvb.ahajournals.org/content/21/5/844
    [6]Littarru GP, Tiano L. Clinical aspects of coenzyme Q10: An update. Nutrition. 2010; 26(2010):250-254. http://www.farmaciareativo.com/artigos/coenzima_q10_review.pdf
    [7]Mizuno K, Tanaka M, Nozaki S, et al. Antifatigue effects of coenzyme Q10 during physical fatigue. Nutrition. 2008 Apr;24(4):293-299. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18272335
    [8]Wadworth TL, Bishop JA, Pappu AS, Woltjer RL, Quinn JF. Evaluation of coenzyme Q as an antioxidant strategy for Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2008 Jun;14(2):225-234. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18560133
    [9]Ono K, Hasegawa K, Naiki H, Yamada M. Preformed beta-amyloid fibrils are destabilized by coenzyme Q10 in vitro. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2005 Apr;330(1):111-116. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15781239
    [10]Choi H, Park HH, Koh SH, et al. Coenzyme Q10 protects against amyloid beta-induced neuronal cell death by inhibiting oxidative stress and activating the P13K pathway. Neurotoxicology. 2012 Jan;33(1):85-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22186599

    For The Love Of Organics: Citrus

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    The scent of citrus is transformative of time and space. Light and tangy, it makes you feel like spring breezes, like summertime lemonade stands, like cozy, winter afternoons with a book and slice of orange pound cake. Enjoy a Ruby Red grapefruit with breakfast, morning sunlight on your skin, and know that the vitamin C packed into each bite is essential for the formation of collagen—which maintains blood vessel integrity, connective tissue and skin elasticity. Squeeze lemon into sparkling water for an instant pick-me-up, and give your complexion an antioxidant-rich glow. Vitamin C, the superstar of citrus fruit, can regenerate vitamin E, which results in a powerful nutrient combo to protect the skin from UV damage and the dulling effect of environmental toxins. It also acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor which may help to even skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation. So, curl up with a book and a platter of blood orange slices, indulge in the beauty enhancing goodness and let your mind adventure.

    Choosing Organic

    Choosing organic may have a ripple effect far beyond that delightful basket of citrus on your table. According to a study at Princeton University, only about 1% of pesticides reach the pests they were meant for, leaving the other 99% to assimilate into the environment. The detrimental impacts of this could affect everything from groundwater and soil to wildlife and farm laborers who are subject to repeated exposure. Choose vibrant, nutrient-rich, organic produce and let the positive influence of your preferences warm you like the golden sun that ripens your favorite oranges. Lemons are a treasure trove of nutritional benefits, but they also gift us the never-ending fun of finding new variations for a long running joke about life and lemons. A current favorite is: “When life gives you lemons, keep them. Because hey, free lemons."

    Grove of Orange Trees

    An idyllic stroll through a grove of orange trees sounds enchanting, but when it comes to conventional citrus the enchantment ends after harvest. To “preserve freshness while in transit,” the fruit is heavily sprayed with fungicides and other pesticides, saturating the peel with cancer-causing and thyroid-disrupting chemicals. Thiabendazole and Imazalil are the two most commonly used and both are classified as developmental/ reproductive toxins, as well as possible carcinogens. They are also environmental toxins, especially toxic to fish, and Thiabendazole in large amounts can disrupt human thyroid hormones. Imazalil cannot be entirely removed with soap and water and residues of it were found on 90.8% of non-organic tangerines tested, as well as 69.2% of oranges and 39.6% of grapefruit. You probably don’t want a dash of fungicide along with your favorite citrus garnishes, but the solution is simple. When you zest, always zest organic, and keep those orange slice smiles of your after-school snacks as enchanting as a stroll through a citrus grove by making sure they are organic!

    References available upon request

    For The Love Of Organics: Beets

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    The cold weather can bring on some major comfort food cravings and there’s no better way to healthfully indulge than with warm root veggies, including beets!The wild beet dates back to prehistoric times in North Africa where, interestingly, only the greens were eaten—it wasn’t until later that people began eating the root as we know it today—but nowadays you can find beetroot at every trendy restaurant in town.Beets are enjoying increased popularity because they are not just tasty and make a beautiful presentation; they are tremendously good for you as well!

    Health Benefits

    If the deep red color of beets reminds you of a heart, it’s for good reason. The unique nutrient content of beets provides specific support for the heart and cardiovascular system.

    Beets are incredibly rich in nitrite and nitrate, two chemicals quickly and easily transformed in the body into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, which promotes healthy blood pressure.1 Relaxed blood vessels allow blood and oxygen to flow smoothly throughout the body which keeps the heart from experiencing undue stress. In addition, this improved blood flow supports brain function, exercise stamina, and even increased quantities of healthier “brown fat” in the body.2 3 4

    Beets also contain betalains and betaine. Betaine is specifically heart healthy because it reduces homocysteine, a metabolic byproduct implicated in heart disease and stroke.5 These nutrients also support liver health, detoxification, immune function, healthy insulin function, blood sugar balance, and also block some pro-inflammatory pathways in the body.

    In addition to these unique nutrients, beets are a good source of fiber, vitamin C and bioflavonoids, potassium, manganese, and folate as well.

    To entice you to eat the greens along with the roots, let us remind you they support bone health, cognitive function and healthy brain aging, stimulate production of antibodies and white blood cells, and support eye health. With more iron than spinach, along with magnesium, calcium, copper, potassium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, the greens are hard to beat!

    Why Organic?

    Some of the pesticides used on conventionally grown beets have significant health effects on humans and animals, especially via environmental exposure. On average, forty-five different pesticides are used on beets, of which 14 are toxic to honey bees, 14 contaminate streams or groundwater, 39 are linked with chronic human health problems, and 40 are poisonous to wildlife.6 The best way to limit your exposure to pesticides, both in your food and in the environment, is to choose organic!

    How to Use

    Beets are rich in geosmin, a compound which is produced by soil microbes. This imparts the earthy flavor that some love and some just love to hate. Along with the earthy notes of a freshly plowed field, beets are also quite sweet, especially when fresh. Pairing beets with flavors such as blue cheese, citrus, or dill will help bring out the sweetness while minimizing the earthy notes.

    Beets are incredibly versatile; you can eat them raw, roasted, pickled, boiled, or steamed. Raw grated beets are a delicious addition to any salad with a citrus dressing.Roasted beets that have developed caramelization allow the sweet notes to shine. Pickled beets add an unexpected tangy sweetness to any meal, and steamed beets are wonderful when tossed with garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil. We also have a delicious recipe that uses beet “noodles” on page six.No matter how you enjoy beets, make sure to keep the cooking time minimal to retain the nutrients and maximize the health benefits.

    To make use of the whole plant and limit the amount of food in your trash bin, be sure to eat the greens. Beet greens are excellent when sautéed with garlic and butter, or boiled for about a minute and dressed with butter and balsamic vinegar.

    References

    [1]Kobayashi J, Ohtake K, Uchida H. NO-Rich Diet for Lifestyle-Related Diseases. Nutrients. 2015; 7: 4911-4937
    [2]Gilchrist M, Winyard PG, Fulford J, Anning C, Shore AC, Benjamin N. Dietary nitrate supplementation improves reaction time in type 2 diabetes: development and application of a novel nitrate-depleted beetroot juice placebo. Nitric Oxide. 2014 Aug 31; 40():
    [3]Roberts LD. Does inorganic nitrate say NO to obesity by browning white adipose tissue? Adipocyte. 2015 Jan 14;4(4):311-4.
    [4]Affourtit C, Bailey SJ, et al. On the mechanism by which dietary nitrate improves human skeletal muscle function. 2015; 6(211): 1-8

    Lower Your Blood Pressure Now For A Healthier You

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    3 Foods, Supplements, and Lifestyle Habits To Reduce Your Risk Of Hypertension

    Doctors admonish us to lower our blood pressure, but why? What exactly does high blood pressure do to our bodies? As it turns out, quite a lot—it significantly increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and even dementia. The worst part about hypertension is that you’re not even aware that it’s happening—there are no apparent signs that it may be slowly killing you. It’s called the silent killer for good reason.

    Considering that there are no symptoms of high blood pressure and nearly 1 in 3 American adults has the condition it is important to regularly have your blood pressure checked. African American men and women are especially at risk, with rates among the highest of any population in the world. Think you’re too young to have hypertension? Think again. A recent study took blood pressure readings from more than 14,000 men and women between the ages of 24 and 32 and found that 19 percent of them had high blood pressure—and the majority was unaware they had the condition. Risk factors for developing high blood pressure include smoking, a high-sugar diet, stress, and having diabetes.

    A person’s ideal blood pressure ranges from 90/60 to 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure is usually defined as anything consistently above 140/90 mm Hg. In-between numbers, from 121/81 mm Hg to 139/89 mm Hg, are considered pre-hypertension.

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    3 Dietary Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure

    Mediterranean Diet

    Adopting a Mediterranean-style diet may be one of the best ways to manage your blood pressure, according to numerous high-profile studies. For example, adopting a Mediterranean diet combined with either extra olive oil or nuts can lead to substantial reductions in blood pressure.

    The Mediterranean diet is rich in olive oil, fish, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. Traditional Mediterranean cultures also consumed full-fat butter, dairy, lamb, and an abundance of spices including rosemary, oregano, sage, fennel, cloves, and cumin. These foods provide a cornucopia of nutrients—health-promoting omega-9 and omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber—that have been shown to consistently reduce blood pressure.

    Beetroot juice

    Beetroot is rich in nitrate, which the body converts to nitric oxide—a substance that promotes the relaxation of blood vessels. Dozens of human studies have shown that beetroot juice or beetroot “shots” significantly improve blood vessel tone and lower blood pressure.

    British researchers asked 68 people to drink a cup of either beetroot juice or a placebo daily. Then the researchers switched the drinks, so everyone at some point consumed the biologically active beetroot and the placebo. The researchers reported that beetroot juice lowered blood pressure, while the placebo did not.

    Hibiscus Tea

    Drinking hibiscus tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) every day sounds almost too simple to be true, but it’s a very effective natural means of reducing blood pressure. An analysis of five studies, including 390 people, reported significant decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure after drinking hibiscus tea. Supplements appear to work just as well according to one study. Researchers gave 250 mg of hibiscus extract to patients with high blood pressure. After four weeks, people taking hibiscus had a significant 12 percent reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, similar results to drinking hibiscus tea.

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    3 Supplements for Lowering Blood Pressure

    Magnesium

    Plenty of research has shown that a magnesium deficiency is a factor in hypertension, along with arrhythmias and coronary artery disease, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that magnesium supplements can lower blood pressure. The mineral works with calcium, sodium, and potassium to regulate blood pressure. For example, calcium contracts the heart and blood vessels, whereas magnesium helps relax them.

    Researchers at the Center for Magnesium Education & Research in Hawaii analyzed seven studies, including 135 subjects, and confirmed that magnesium supplements reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Another study investigated magnesium levels in people with and without prehypertension. People with prehypertension had low levels of magnesium, but no other apparent differences with healthy subjects. Take: 200-400 mg of elemental magnesium daily. A higher dose might have a laxative effect.

    Vitamin D

    People with low blood levels of vitamin D have a higher risk of heart disease and, specifically, hypertension. In a study published in the journal Circulation, people with inadequate levels of vitamin D (less than 15 ng/mL) were twice as likely to have hypertension, compared with people who had the highest levels of the vitamin. In a 2016 study, researchers focused on seniors because they have a particularly high risk of vitamin D deficiency—blood levels less than 15 ng/mL. They gave 36 seniors 1,000 IU of vitamin D3 or placebos daily for six weeks. On average, people taking vitamin D had a 20 mmHg decrease in systolic blood pressure and a 7 mmHg decrease in diastolic blood pressure, compared with the placebo group. Take: 2,000 to 5,000 IU daily.

    L-citrulline

    The body efficiently converts this amino acid to L-arginine, which increases nitric oxide. A lack of nitric oxide interferes with healthy blood vessel tone, contributing to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Both arginine and citrulline have been shown to improve nitric oxide production and cardiovascular function; however, because of the different ways in which they are metabolized by the body, citrulline is more effective at increasing and maintaining plasma and tissue levels of L-arginine and enhancing nitric oxide production. Take: 1,000 mg of L-citrulline, three to four times daily.

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    3 Lifestyle Changes for Lowering Blood Pressure

    Go for walks

    Simply making time for a daily walk—fast or leisurely—may be the easiest lifestyle change for reducing blood pressure. We all know that exercise is good for us, and walking helps reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, which have a bearing on blood pressure. Researchers have even shown that walking can lower blood pressure among people with hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and type-2 diabetes. The benefits of walking might be increased by combining it with a low-salt diet. Tip: If you’re out of shape, start slowly. Week after week you’ll be able to increase your distance and speed.

    Meditate

    Numerous studies have confirmed that meditation is an effective way to lower blood pressure anywhere from 3 to 10 mmHg. Sound a little too complicated to learn? Then try guided visualization. It’s easy to learn, and is almost like daydreaming. Basically, sit comfortably in a chair with your feet on the floor and your hands resting on your legs. Close your eyes and visualize a place that made you feel relaxed. Maybe it was sitting on the beach or stopping on a hiking trail to look at the trees. Simply try to relive that experience. Make the time to meditate for 20-30 minutes several times a week.

    Gratitude Journaling

    We live in a stressful world and stress is a contributor to high blood pressure, but something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal can lower stress and blood pressure. According to Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading expert on the science of gratitude, practicing gratitude can have dramatic effects on a person’s health, including reducing levels of stress hormones and lowering blood pressure. Keeping a gratitude journal can be as simple as jotting down three to five things you are grateful for each day.

    A Simple Take-Home Message

    Physicians are often quick to prescribe medications for high blood pressure, but drugs often cause unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects. Nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle changes are extraordinarily safe and effective for lowering blood pressure, and they often come with added side benefits.

    References available upon request.

    The Big Fat Mistake: There Was Little Evidence To Support Fat Restrictions

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    In 1977 the United States government and in 1983 the United Kingdom government recommended that people significantly reduce their overall fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol consumption to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Since then, low-carbohydrate diets have remained controversial, in large part because they often increase fat intake.

    Studies since that time have found no clear association between dietary saturated fat, cholesterol, and the risk of cardiovascular disease, at least for the majority of people.

    Zoë Harcombe, MA, of the University of the West of Scotland, along with collaborators in Wales and the United States, recently decided to analyze studies focusing on dietary fat and coronary heart disease published before 1983. It turns out that the scientific evidence at the time did not support a reduction in dietary fat or cholesterol.

    Harcombe and her colleagues found only six dietary randomized clinical trials, involving 2,467 men, that focused on dietary fat and coronary heart disease. In those studies, which lasted for an average of 5.4 years, 370 people died of any cause. Of those, 207 had died in the low-fat groups and 216 had died in the control groups from coronary heart disease.

    “There were no differences in all-course mortality and nonsignificant differences in coronary heart disease mortality, resulting from the dietary interventions,” Harcombe concluded.

    They added, “No randomized controlled trial had tested government dietary fat recommendations before their introduction. Recommendations were made for 276 million people following...studies of 2,467 males...”

    Editor’s note: The dietary recommendations for eating low-fat foods resulted in an increased intake of refined carbohydrates (including sugars) and trans fats. Since then, the incidence of obesity, prediabetes, and type-2 diabetes has skyrocketed, largely a consequence of these dietary changes.

    References

    [1]Harcombe Z, Baker JS, Cooper SM, et al. Evidence from randomised controlled trials did not support the introduction of dietary fat guideliness in 1977 and 1983: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Heart, 2015; 2:e000196.

    For The Love Of Organics: Broccoli

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    One vegetable you will always find in my house is broccoli. Whether it is cooked and flavored, or eaten raw in a salad, I can count on my family to gobble it up every time. And we are not alone—broccoli is one of the most consumed vegetables in the United States. Part of what makes broccoli so popular is its year-round availability, its versatility, and its impressive nutrient content.

    Health Benefits

    With plant-based nutrients such as glucosinolates, antioxidants including vitamin C, beta carotene, flavonoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and vitamin E, along with vitamin K, chromium, manganese, zinc, and folate, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. These nutrients allow broccoli to play an important role in liver detoxification, heart health, healthy digestion, and eye and skin health.

    One of the unique benefits of the glucosinolate nutrients in broccoli is their ability to support balanced detoxification.Broccoli helps to slow down phase I detoxification, which can sometimes result in toxic byproducts that have no way out of the body, while revving up stage II so that toxins can be safely removed from the body.

    Broccoli is great for your heart in a variety of ways. Glucosinolates are transformed in the body into chemicals that help to tamp down inflammation, antioxidants can help prevent damage to blood vessels, fiber helps support healthy cholesterol levels, and folate and vitamin B6 help regulate levels of homocysteine (a metabolic byproduct implicated in heart disease). Altogether, broccoli plays at least four important roles in the prevention of cardiovascular disease.

    Your digestive tract will thank you for eating broccoli too! Broccoli’s fiber content keeps things moving and feeds the healthy bacteria we rely on for good health. In addition, sulforaphane, one of the transformation products of glucosinolates, helps protect the lining of the stomach from the ulcer-inducing bacteria H. pylori. Levels of sulforaphane are especially high after eating broccoli sprouts, so sprout up for your stomach!

    Two lesser known effects of broccoli are on the eyes and skin. Lutein and zeaxanthin in broccoli help keep the macula and lens of the eye healthy, and while researchers are not quite sure how, broccoli also seems to help prevent sun damage to skin.

    Why Organic?

    Conventionally grown broccoli has consistently tested positive for some concerning pesticide residues. In 2014, USDA-conducted tests found broccoli to have traces of 40 different pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and growth regulators. The residue most concerning for human health is DCPA, an herbicide that has been classified as a possible carcinogen and has been shown to decrease immune system function. But what may be worse are the residues of neonicotinoid pesticides that have been shown to kill bees and may affect the developing human nervous system. The best way to avoid pesticide residues is to buy organic!

    How to Use

    This Italian immigrant has a pungent grassy flavor with a slightly bitter aftertaste, but broccoli can be prepared in diverse ways to tickle the taste buds of just about everyone.To retain maximum nutrients, try lightly steaming broccoli until it is bright green and still slightly crunchy. If that sounds a bit too bland for your taste, add broccoli to stir-fry, try grilled spears, or thinly slice broccoli to include in salads. I recommend roasting broccoli florets with butter or olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices. The crispy, caramelized areas add an enticing texture, while the roasting helps minimize the bitter notes. If the bitterness of broccoli has you turning up your nose, try balancing that flavor with a squeeze of sour lemon, some umami from cheese or nutritional yeast, or a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

    Too often broccoli stems end up in the trash, but they are absolutely edible and delicious! Reduce food waste and use the stems—peeled and thinly sliced they make a wonderfully crunchy addition to coleslaw, and stems spiralized into noodles make a healthy and tasty alternative to pasta. Cooked stems also add great texture when included in soups and stir-frys. And don’t forget about broccoli sprouts! They add a powerful nutritional punch to salads and sandwiches with a crunchy, earthy flavor. Between the delicious taste and the amazing health benefits, broccoli should always have a place in your shopping basket. And now may be a good time to thank your mom for always urging you to eat your broccoli!

    References available upon request.

    Easy Way To Cure Your OverIndulgence

    Uggghhh! Ah, the sound of someone who has overdone it.

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    That extra serving of corned beef, the fat slice of chocolate cake, or that nightcap you probably didn’t need. We’ve all done it and we’ve all paid the price, each time swearing we won’t do it again, at least until the holidays roll around or the next Friday happy hour. But the next time you throw caution to the wind, instead of ending up with a food, sugar, or alcohol-induced hangover that wrecks your day, consider taking a couple of the following measures, a round-up of my favorite suggestions for whatever hangover ails ya… that way you can have your cake and eat it too.

    The Alcohol Hangover

    Even though people have been getting hangovers and dreaming up cures for them for thousands of years, we still don’t fully understand why alcohol produces hangovers in the first place. Currently, the most plausible explanation is a combined result of dehydration, the effects of acetaldehyde (the toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism) and an increase in inflammatory cytokines.1  2 Unfortunately for sufferers, of all the possible hangover cures out there, very few have any scientific research to back them up. While you can certainly try those sheep eyeballs if you want, a more practical approach might include the following tips that get to the root of the problem.

    • Even though dehydration isn’t solely to blame for the hangover, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water both while drinking and the day after is still a good plan. Adding some electrolytes, such as from a powdered electrolyte packet, isn’t a bad idea either.
    • Get plenty of compounds that naturally modulate inflammation, both before and after heavy drinking. Good possibilities include turmeric, ginger, flavonoids (from things like green tea and brightly colored berries), carotenoids (from orange vegetables and fruits) and vitamins C (found in most fresh fruits and veggies), and E (from avocado, nuts and seeds).
    • Sip some ginger tea. Not only can ginger help settle an upset stomach, but it is also rich in compounds that support a healthy inflammatory response.3
    • While most hangover cures involve greasy, simple carbohydrate-rich foods, the best bet is actually a super palatable food that combines healthy complex carbohydrates with nutrients that support healthy inflammation, like this Inflammation Modulation Smoothie. If you just can’t fight the urge for those greasy hash browns, be sure to eat some healthy protein and inflammation-modulating foods with them, like eggs and a side of fruit, or a veggie omelet.

    An alcohol hangover has long been recognized as the outcome of heavy drinking, but you’d be hard pressed to find conclusive scientific research supporting the notion that overindulgence in sugar and heavy, rich foods can also cause a hangover. However, as most of us have felt at one time or another, the headache, grogginess, mood swings, stomach upset, and overall sense of discomfort that sometimes come after overindulgence in certain foods feels an awful lot like that well-researched hangover from alcohol and deserves our attention too.

    The Sugar Hangover

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    Unfortunately, because sugar is so particularly pleasing to our taste buds, overindulgence is all too easy. Enjoying a little too much of the sweet stuff can leave you feeling pretty miserable, a feeling not unlike an alcohol-induced hangover. That’s because sugar impacts our bodies far beyond the sweet taste on our tongues. It puts our metabolic system on the blood sugar rollercoaster, and the emotional and physical highs and lows that go with it. To counter the effects of too much sugar try the following tips.

     

    • Go for a walk or get some exercise. Being physically active helps your body to use the sugar you ingested, helping to mitigate the negative effects later on.
    • Drink plenty of water, which can help flush toxins, including excess sugar, from the body.
    • According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tastes of sour and pungent (spicy) help to diminish the craving for sweet, so consider adding a little tomato, lime, sauerkraut, horseradish, ginger, garlic, and/or hot peppers to your next meal.4
    • Make the next meal a balanced meal, one that contains protein, healthy fat, and ample vegetables, in particular the green leafy ones.
    • Avoid having more sugar. Even though it may be tempting, having more sugar only sets you up to feel terrible and start the whole vicious cycle again.

    The Food Hangover

    easy_way_to_cure_your_overIndulgenceI’ve never felt terrible the next day from eating too much broccoli, but I sure have from overindulging in rich holiday feasts or greasy meals out. Salty, greasy foods like fried foods can be particularly troublesome since they tend to sit in your stomach longer and contribute to water retention and bloating. But overdoing any heavy, rich food, or just eating too much in general, can contribute to the bloating, nausea, stomach upset, and general discomfort of overindulgence. To fight those yucky feelings fast try some of the following simple tips.

    • Try the time-honored remedy of digestive bitters. Dating back to the Middle Ages, bitters have long been valued for their ability to support healthy digestion. Bitters are just what they sound like—bitter—and it is the bitter taste on the tongue that stimulates the flow of digestive juices, pancreatic secretions, and bile into the digestive tract.5Herbal digestive bitters are available in liquid form for adding to water.
    • Sip some herbal tea. For hundreds of years herbalists have relied on the power of herbs to tackle digestive problems. Any combination of the following digestive support herbs can help to quell an upset stomach, dispel gas and move food along through the system: ginger, peppermint, fennel, cardamom, caraway, black pepper, and/or chamomile.6
    • Take a short walk. The ancient practice of Ayurveda recommends 1,000 steps after a meal to improve digestion. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise the day after, too, as it will not only help to get your bowels moving, it’ll stimulate the release of some feel-good endorphins.
    • Make your next meal a light, but balanced one, with a heavy focus on fiber-rich vegetables and fruits that will help to get the digestive tract moving and supply ample nutrients to help with recovery. Fruits and vegetables are also light, which helps balance the heaviness you may be feeling.
    • Be sure to get some good protein in your next meal, too. Especially proteins high in branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), such as chicken, fish, dairy products, or eggs. BCAAs compete with tryptophan, the amino acid that causes that feeling of sleepiness and fatigue after overindulging in carbs.7
    • Be sure to drink extra water, especially if you’ve overdone it with salty foods.
    • Perhaps nowhere is the saying, “Time cures all ills,” more relevant than in a discussion about hangovers. In the end, time really is the best cure for feeling hung over, from any type of overindulgence. While this isn’t the quick fix most of us are looking for, it does serve as a  reminder that we probably shouldn’t overindulge too frequently.

    References

    [4]Pitchford P. Healing with Whole Foods. 3rd ed. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books; 2002.
    [5]Hoffmann D. Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 2003.
    [6]Aggarwal BB, Yost D. Healing Spices. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company; 2011.

    Nutrient Combinations Protect The Brain And Support Healthy Moods

    Nutrients work synergistically and certain combinations protect the brain from atrophy and mental illness, according to newly published research.

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    In one study, Fredrik Jerneren, PhD, of Oxford University, United Kingdom, and his colleagues from several other nations, studied 168 men and women age 70 and older. All of the subjects had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a common prelude to Alzheimer’s disease.

    About half of the subjects took several B vitamins—800 mcg folate, 20 mg vitamin B6, and 500 mcg vitamin B12—and the others took placebos daily for two years. They also underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging scans at the beginning and end of the study.

    Jerneren and his colleagues analyzed the results in terms of the subjects’ blood levels of the omega-3 fats.

    In people with high levels of the omega-3s, the B vitamins slowed brain atrophy by 40 percent. However, the B vitamins had no significant effect on brain atrophy among people with low blood levels of the omega-3s. In addition, high blood levels of the omega-3s had no effect on brain atrophy in the placebo group.

    Jerneren wrote that he and his colleagues “have shown that the effect of B vitamin supplementation on brain atrophy rates depends on pre-existing plasma omega-3 fatty acid concentrations; this finding could possibly explain why some B vitamin trials on brain function have failed.”

    In a second report, Rhonda P. Patrick, PhD, and Bruce N. Ames, PhD, of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Center, California, studied why the omega-3 fats—eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)—and vitamin D improve cognitive and brain function in a range of disorders.

    “This synergy of omega-3 and vitamin D can be explained in part by their effects on the serotonin system,” they wrote, adding that “vitamin D regulates serotonin synthesis, EPA influences serotonin release, and DHA improves...serotonin receptor accessibility.”

    They noted that the neurotransmitter serotonin affects a broad range of brain activities, including cognition, mood, decision making, and impulsive and aggressive behavior. “This may explain why supplementation with these essential micronutrients has been shown to be effective for treating symptoms associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, impulsive disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder,” they added.

    Patrick and Ames added that vitamin D and omega-3 supplements are safer and have fewer side effects than such drugs as Prozac and Zoloft.

    References available upon request.