Seven Surprising Facts About Sugar

Considering sugar is one of the most addictive, yet incredibly delicious substances on the planet, you have likely asked yourself – is it really that BAD for you?

Since 1989, WHO (World Health Organization) has been encouraging people to reduce intake of added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories and preferably only 5%, which translates to 6-12 teaspoons per day.  According to data from the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey, kids consume 33 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Sugar consumption has become a way of life, not only in the Western world, but worldwide.  Sugar is our celebration food, in good times and in bad, starting in early childhood and for most people, over the course of whole lifetimes.  I hope the following information helps you to make the best choices you can with regards to your long term health.

1.You’ve been duped. In the late 1960s, the sugar industry has aggressively campaigned that dietary fat is the primary causative factor of heart disease, diabetes and excess weight.  Their tactics have often been compared to those of Big Tobacco.  Since that time, sugar consumption has dramatically increased as low fat foods were introduced in the market to cater to newly adopted dietary guidelines that influence public demand.  As these policies have been implemented, that obesity and diabetes have risen to epidemic levels.  It is sad to realize that the overall health of people in the last forty to fifty years have been compromised due to dubious marketing strategies.

2. It is a serious addiction. Like other addictive substances, consuming sugar causes the brain to release opiods and dopamine into the bloodstream.  That is what makes it so difficult to have “just a little bit” of sugar.  Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found the substance lights up the brain’s pleasure system in a way other foods do not, increasing the urge to overindulge.  When compared to cocaine, sugar (specifically Oreos) has been shown to be more addictive.  And just like humans, rats eat the filling first.

3. Sugar hides in many everyday “non-sugar” foods.  The sugar content of ice cream or candy might not surprise you, but what about pasta sauce, bread, yogurt or salad dressing?  Sugar is almost impossible to avoid, given the amounts that are added to all processed foods.  Of the 60,000 grocery items available to North Americans, 80% or more contain added sugar.  It is even worse in any foods labelled “low-fat,” as those fat calories are usually replaced with sugar to maintain the food’s appeal on the palate.  For example, a single cup (245 grams) of low-fat yogurt can contain up to 47 grams of sugar, which is 12 teaspoons.  Even foods we think of as healthy like coconut water or a green smoothie (depending on how fruit content)  can range from 20-45 grams of sugar.  Aside from the taste, sugar also acts as a preservative of processed foods and is a cheap substitute for other flavour enhancers like herbs and spices.  Possibly the worst offender are sweetened beverages, whether in the form of energy drinks, fruit juice, or fancy coffees, comprises 36 percent of the added sugars consumed.  Click here for a detailed infographic

4. Fruit counts towards your overall sugar intake. People are surprised to learn that fruit isn’t a free for all.  Fruit contains fructose which when consumed in moderation (I suggest to limit intake to 2 pieces/day), it doesn’t pose health issues. Optimal choices are low sugar fruits such as avocado, olives, tomatoes and berries. However, there are instances where fructose is overconsumed.  One example is in fruit smoothies (a Green smoothie from Jamba Juice contains 45 g of sugar), or fruit juice (a glass of orange juice contains 21 g of sugar), where numerous pieces of fruit are used to make a single serving.  Another example is the use of high fructose corn syrup (HCFS) in processed foods.

High-fructose diets  have been shown to cause free radical damage in the body, increase blood pressure, and impair the body’s ability to use and store glucose. ¹,²,³  Fructose confuses your hunger signals, so that you never feel full.  There are also significant detrimental effects on the brain which affects memory, learning ability and has been implicated in the occurrence of Alzheimer’s. ⁴

5. Sugar feeds cancer cells.  Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study that showed that over half of mice fed a sucrose-rich diet developed breast cancer.⁵  In an editorial in Nutrition, Dr. Undurti N. Das highlighted the fact that fructose, a constituent of table sugar, or sucrose, changes cell metabolism and raises the activity of cancer-promoting proteins.⁶ A study done in 2017 studied the process by which cancer cells generate energy.  Instead of burning sugar, cancer cells ferment it, which is not very efficient at energy production (which would not favor tumor growth). In this study, it was discovered that during the process of fermentation, there is an intermediate substance produced that is a potent activator of proto-oncogenes – which then get turned on and stimulate cell proliferation.⁷

6. Sugar causes aging. When there is excess sugar in the bloodstream, it will attach to other proteins in the body.  When it attaches to the collagen in your skin, it causes wrinkles.  When it binds to the connective tissue in your legs, it causes cellulite.  It is the same process that is involved in multi-organ breakdown seen in diabetics. A recent study linked blood sugar spiking foods to acne formation.⁸ It literally ages every cell of your body.  One study showed that one sugary canned drink per day changes cellular DNA similar to those you would see in a smoker.⁹

7. Sugar affects your hormones.  When you eat sugar, your pancreas produces insulin, which allows your cells to store that sugar as fat.  Insulin is closely connected to all of the other hormones in your body, including estrogen and testosterone. High insulin levels lead to elevated estrogen and testosterone. It also increases the production of testosterone, which is then converted into even more estrogen by fat tissue in the belly. This is true for men and women alike.

This, unfortunately, is the cold hard truth.  Tough to swallow, I know.  Breaking up with sugar is hard, I have been in those shoes.  On the up side, I didn’t expect to feel so good minimizing my sugar intake.  I hope that one day you get to feel that way too.

References:

1. Katrien Lowette, et al.   Effects of High-Fructose Diets on Central Appetite Signaling and Cognitive Function. Frontiers in Nutrition (2015) 2: 5.
2. Walker RW, Dumke KA, Goran MI. Fructose content in popular beverages made with and without high-fructose corn syrup. Nutrition (2014) 30:928–35.10.1016/j.nut.2014.04.003
3. Douard V, Ferraris RP. Regulation of the fructose transporter GLUT5 in health and disease. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab (2008) 295:E227–37.10.1152/ajpendo.90245.2008
4. Lindqvist A, Baelemans A, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Effects of sucrose, glucose and fructose on peripheral and central appetite signals. Regul Pept (2008) 150:26–32.10.1016/j.regpep.2008.06.008
5. Yang, Peiying et al. A Sucrose-Enriched Diet Promotes Tumorigenesis in Mammary Gland in Part through the 12-Lipoxygenase Pathway. Cancer Research (2016) 76:1
6. Undurti N.DasM.D., F.A.M.S., F.R.S.C.Sucrose, fructose, glucose, and their link to metabolic syndrome and cancer. Nutrition (2015) 31:1:249-55
7. Ken Peeters, et al .  Fructose-1,6-bisphosphate couples glycolytic flux to activation of Ras.  NATURE COMMUNICATIONS (2017) 8: 922
8. Smith, RN et al.A low-glycemic-load diet improves symptoms in acne vulgaris patients: a randomized controlled trial.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jul;86(1):107-15.
9. Leung, Cindy W et al. Soda and Cell Aging: Associations Between Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Consumption and Leukocyte Telomere Length in Healthy Adults From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. American Journal of Public Health (ajph) (Dec 2014)

5 Brain Fuel Hacks

Every September is the beginning of a new academic year – an opportunity to create new habits and routines, after all of the summer festivities. With the new school year, it is a great time to refocus on eating well for best mental and cognitive health for every member of the family. Not only does improved nutrition enhance learning, it also decreases the number of absences due to sickness and improves overall behaviour, in children and adults alike. Refuel your brain with these five tips for best brain health:

1. Balance your meals.

Stable blood sugar levels are critically important for brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning.  The brain depends on glucose, as its main fuel source.  If there is not enough glucose available, the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters, the brain’s signalling chemicals, decreases. Low levels of glucose can also lead to a loss of energy for proper brain function, resulting in poor attention and cognition.

Ensuring meals contain relatively equal proportions of complex carbohydrates, protein and fats allows for balanced blood sugars for hours at a time (which also reduces the need for snacking).  We need to stop eating dessert for breakfast! Most “breakfast foods” like cereal, toast, muffins and waffles are rich in simple carbohydrates, which usually results in chasing your blood sugar all day long.  Better breakfast options include protein shakes made with plain yogurt/protein powder(for the protein), fruit (1/2 cup) and coconut milk or avocado (for the fats), veggie omelette, toast with almond butter and berries, oatmeal with berries (with a Tbsp or two of nut butter or nuts/seeds added in), or chia seed pudding.

2. Ditch the sugars.

Probably the worst food you could eat for your mental and physical health is sugar. It is shocking to learn that in North America, the average child under age 12 eats about 49 pounds of sugar annually in addition to 32 pounds of high fructose corn syrup, only 3 pounds less of each than the average adult (compared to 8 pounds of average broccoli consumption).

Sugar has many effects on a child’s learning ability.  It decreases attention span and memory. Eating sugar at an early age has been shown to impair memory function long-term as well as increase inflammation in parts of the brain. Other effects of sugar consumption an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, addiction and dementia.  All good reasons to cut back, if not eliminate it entirely from your diet.  I recommend using stevia glycerite to sweeten food & drink, which gives the sweetness without the compromise.

3. Add more fish.

We can’t make omega 3 fatty acids, so we have to get it through dietary sources such as wild salmon, flaxseed and walnuts.  When it comes to memory and brain health, most of the research indicates that is is specific to the effects of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  It is not only neuroprotective but is a major structural component of brain tissue.¹

Though there is no upper limit, a little can go a long way.  According to one study in Rotterdam indicated that even one meal per week consisting of fatty fish could reduce cognitive decline by up to 60%.²

People with Alzheimer’s have been shown in several studies to have severely low levels of DHA in key parts of the brain needed for memory formation.³,⁴

So not only is it important not only to increase DHA intake, but also drastically reduce intake of omega 6 fatty acids commonly found in vegetable oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, and other common polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s). Historically, the human diet consisted of omega 3 intake in a ratio of 1:1 to omega 6 fatty acids.  With processed foods this has shifted upwards to a ratio of about 1:16 to 1:36. ⁵

DHA has also shown to benefit cognition in both older and younger rats in the absence of neurodegenerative disease. DHA is good for both the young and the old, and the sick and the healthy.⁶,⁷

4. Take a multivitamin/mineral.

Once you have the major macronutrients covered (though eating a balanced plant-based diet will usually suffice), ensure that your micronutrients aren’t lacking. Iron deficiency, for example, even in early stages can decrease dopamine (one of the four main brain neurotransmitters) transmission, thereby decreasing cognition.  Cognition and mental concentration are also shown to be affected by deficiencies in B vitamins (especially thiamine), vitamin E, iodine and zinc.⁸,⁹,¹⁰

5. Hydrate adequately.

Most North Americans are chronically dehydrated and mistake thirst signals for hunger signals. Even the most minimally dehydrated brain is 15% less efficient than a hydrated one.

The best choice for drinking for people of all ages is pure, filtered water.  Ideally, about 50% of your body weight in ounces everyday.  While plain water might get tedious, there are plenty of sugar-free flavoured water options now available, which makes it easier to change things up.  With autumn around the corner, other good choices include bone broth and herbal teas.

References:

(1) Morris MC, Evans DA, Bienias JL, et al. Consumption of fish and omega-3 fatty acids and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2003 Jul;60(7):940-6.

(2) Kalmijn S, Launer LJ, Ott A, Witteman JC, Hofman A, Breteler MM. Dietary fat intake and the risk of incident dementia in the Rotterdam Study. Ann Neurol. 1997 Nov;42(5):776-82.

(3) Soderberg M, Edlund C, Kristensson K, Dallner G. Fatty acid composition of brain phospholipids in aging and in Alzheimer’s disease. Lipids. 1991 Jun;26(6):421-5.

(4)  Prasad MR, Lovell MA, Yatin M, Dhillon H, Markesbery WR. Regional membrane phospholipid alterations in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurochem Res. 1998 Jan;23(1):81-8.

(5) Kris-Etherton PM, Taylor DS, Yu-Poth S, et al. Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jan;71(1 Suppl):179S-88S.

(6) Morris MC, Evans DA, Tangney CC, Bienias JL, Wilson RS. Fish consumption and cognitive decline with age in a large community study. Arch Neurol.2005 Dec;62(12):1849-53.

(7) Gamoh S, Hashimoto M, Sugioka K, et al. Chronic administration of docosahexaenoic acid improves reference memory-related learning ability in young rats. Neuroscience. 1999;93(1):237-41.

(8) Pollitt E. (1993). Iron deficiency and cognitive function. Annual Review of Nutrition, 13, 521–537.

(9) Chenoweth, W. (2007). Vitamin B complex deficiency and excess. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Greenbaum, L. (2007a). Vitamin E deficiency. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Greenbaum, L. (2007b). Micronutrient mineral deficiencies. In R. Kliegman, H. Jenson, R. Behrman, & B. Stanton (Eds.), Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th Edition. Philadelphia: Saunders.

Bryan, J., Osendarp, S., Hughes, D., Calvaresi, E., Baghurst, K. & van Klinken, J. (2004). Nutrients for cognitive development in school-aged children. Nutrition Reviews, 62(8), 295–306.

Delange, F. (2000) The role of iodine in brain development. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 59, 75–79. Sandstead, H. (2000). Causes of iron and zinc deficiencies and their effects on brain. Journal of Nutrition, 130, 347–349.

(10) Lieberman, H. (2003). Nutrition, brain function, and cognitive performance. Appetite, 40, 245–254.

Frisvold, D. (2012). Nutrition and cognitive achievement: An evaluation of the school breakfast program. Working Paper, Emory University.

 

Is Your Water Bottle Making You Fat?

Did you know that most plastic water bottles contain substances that can cause weight gain?

By now, many of us have heard of bisphenol A (BPA), which has been used since the 1950s to make reusable water bottles, baby bottles, pacifiers, plastic utensils, children’s toys, compact discs, and certain microwaveable and reusable plastic containers. After it was determined that BPA acts as a endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) as well increase one’s susceptibility to cancer, many companies switched over to using bisphenol S (BPS), to make their plastics “BPA-free”.

Bisphenol-A (BPA)and its similar counterpart bisphenol-S (BPS) belong to a class of substances called obesogens.  An obesogen is a chemical that, you guessed it, disrupts normal development and fat metabolism and can, in some cases, lead to obesity.

According to a Canadian study, BPS, like BPA, can actually trigger fat cell growth.1  Cells when exposed to BPS were stimulated to accumulate fat as well as signalled to produce proteins that allowed the cell to become more efficient in fat deposition.  One study actually found BPS to be more effective in stimulating fat accumulation than BPA. 2

The mechanisms by which these toxins disrupt the body’s metabolism is complex.  They include the dysregulation of several hormones, disruption in regulation of hunger and satiety, and a reprogramming of metabolic set points. Both BPA and BPS have also been shown to affect the proper functioning of beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells which can contribute to the development of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. 3,4,5 Exposure to even small amounts of these substances in unborn children can trigger obesity later in life. These substances are not benign and have a significant impact on many aspects of our health.

So while drinking water is certainly beneficial for your health (it can speed weight loss by 550 percent and rev energy by 89 percent), you need to give your water container some serious consideration.

Here are five strategies to reduce your exposure:

  1. Carry your own water bottle (stainless steel or glass) with you. If you must buy water when you are on the go, choose water that comes in either a glass bottle or a box. Avoid plastic water bottles, as most are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), another EDC which increases estrogenic activity.
  2. Avoid drinking from plastic cups or using other plastic kitchenware.
  3. Avoid touching cash receipts – as the paper is usually coated with BPA or BPS.
  4. Reduce your consumption of canned food – choose dry or fresh foods whenever possible. If you do buy canned items, try to find BPA and BPS-free versions, such as those made by Eden Foods.
  5. Don’t reheat foods in the microwave if they are in plastic containers. Instead, use ceramic or glass containers.  Better yet, reduce/eliminate your reliance on plasticware and plastic wrap to store food and go with glass instead whenever possible.

 

References:

  1. Boucher, JG, Ahmed, S, Atlas E. 2016. Bisphenol S Induces Adipogenesis in Primary Human Preadipocytes From Female Donors. Endocrinology. 2016 Apr;157(4):1397-407.
  2. Ahmed, S, Atlas, E. 2016. Bisphenol S- and bisphenol A-induced adipogenesis of murine preadipocytes occurs through direct peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma activation.  International Journal of Obesity volume 40, pp.1566–1573
  3. Bodin, J, Kocbach Bolling, A, Wendt, A. Eliasson, L, Becher, R, Kuper, F, Lovi, M, Nygaard, C. 2015.Exposure to bisphenol A, but not phthalates, increases spontaneous diabetes type 1 development in NOD mice. Toxicology Reports, Volume 2, pp.99-11
  4. Mirmira, P, Evans-Molina, C.  2014.  Bisphenol A, Obesity, and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: Genuine Concern or Unnecessary Preoccupation?. Transl Res. Jul; 164(1): 13–21.
  5. Provvisiero, D, Pivonello, C, Mucogiuri, G, Negri, M, de Angelis, C, Pivonello, R, Colao, A.   2016.  Influence of Bisphenol A on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Int J Environ Res Public Health. Oct; 13(10): 989.

5 Tips to Help you Keep your New Year’s Resolution(s)

The beginning of a new year always holds such promise – an era of newness, filled with the optimism to better oneself.  A chance to start fresh, yet change is hard.  Many of us come up with all sorts of New Year’s resolutions – whether it is increasing your physical fitness, losing weight, saving more money or learning a new language.  The reality is only 9.2% of people actually achieve their goals and manage to break free from their bad habits.  The vast majority of us don’t even manage to make it past the first month!

Often we fail because we are not making the right resolutions.  This year, make a real difference by implementing this SMART strategy to make lasting change in your life, not just in  your resolutions, but any goals you might have in life (at any time of the year).  I hope you find them useful to increasing your chances for lasting success and a healthier more fulfilling life.

  1. S is for specific. Make your goal absolutely clear – eg. if you want to save more money for your RRSP, decide what specific amount of money you would like to save and by when
  2. M is for measurable. It is incredibly important not only to write down your goal, but also to log your progress.  Whether you use old fashioned pen and paper, or track your results on a suitable app, the difference between tracking your results and not will significantly affect your ability to successfully achieve your goal
  3. A is for achievable. There is nothing wrong with setting big goals for yourself, but you are more likely to realize your goals if you break it down into smaller goals. When you tackle a larger task, it may interfere with your lifestyle in such a way as to really affect its sustainability. We are much better at implementing small changes successively, rather than tackling a big goal for a few days (or weeks) and then ultimately fail at it.
  4. R is for relevant. You need to ask yourself what your motivation is for your goal – is it intrinsic (and therefore based on a value that is important to you), or something that someone (or society) thinks you should do better? Ask yourself what are your reasons for working towards this goal.  When it is important to  you, you will find it much easier to make to implement changes.
  5. T is for timebound. We often are not very kind to ourselves. I think one of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight.  We give ourselves plenty of time to gain weight, but then want to lose it in a matter of weeks, or even days!  Giving yourself enough time to reach your goal, with plenty of intervals to measure the intermediate success along the way.  In this way, you building a better habit for years, instead of a short term fix over a few months.  Remember, it takes 66 days to change a habit.

Mini Chocolate Pies

Ingredients:
Chocolate Coconut Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup almonds or nut of choice
1 cup unsweetened dried coconut shreds
3 1/2 Tbs raw cacao powder
3 Tbs maple syrup*
3 Tbs coconut oil**
1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Water if needed to help blend

Chocolate Filling:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (Enjoy Life brand is dairy-free, use Lily’s for sugar free option)
1 1/4 cup canned coconut milk shaken
3.5 Tbs maple syrup to taste*
2.5 Tbs coconut oil melted**
1 tsp vanilla extract

Coconut Whipped Cream:

1 13.6 oz coconut milk solid cream only (Thai Kitchen brand)
1 Tbs maple syrup*
1 tsp vanilla extract

*maple syrup can be substituted for sugar-free maple syrup for sugar free option
** use refined coconut oil if you don’t like the coconut flavor

Instructions
To make the crust:

Pulse all ingredients together in a food processor until sticky crumbles form.
Press into a silicone muffin pan OR use parchment liners. Set in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

To make the filling:

Place chocolate chips in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan on the stove (or glass bowl in the microwave), heat coconut milk to just boiling.
Pour hot coconut milk over the chocolate chips and let it sit for about 5 minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk smooth.
Add in the remaining ingredients and stir until well-combined. Taste and adjust for sweetness.
Pour chocolate mixture over crust and freeze for 2 hours or until solid. Remove from muffin pan.

To make the whipped cream:

Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight. Scoop out the solid cream into a mixing bowl. Add maple syrup and vanilla.
Whip with a hand mixer for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.
Spread whipped cream on top of each pie. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe is from: http://prettypies.com/recipe/mini-chocolate-pies/

5 Steps to Kick the Habit

I started drinking coffee in my mid-20s and have been trying to quit since (now more than 20 years later).  It is easy to tell yourself, or a little bit can’t hurt, but before you know it, an innocent one cup a day habit can easily turn into 4 or even 8 cups/day.  Whether it is coffee, certain foods (think sugar), social media, cigarettes or alcohol, everyone has a tendency to addiction.  The good news is that we now have a better understanding of the underlying brain chemistry that makes us susceptible.  Following these five strategies will help rebalance your brain, and make it that much easier to overcome addiction.

Simple Gluten-free, Dairy-free Bread

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole tahini butter (from ground sesame)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon Himalayan Pink Salt

Directions:

  1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together tahini and eggs until very smooth
  3. Add in apple cider vinegar, baking soda and salt
  4. Transfer batter to pan greased with coconut oil
  5. Bake at 350° for 35 – 45 minutes depending on your oven.
  6. Enjoy!

 

How to Be Sun Savvy

Summer’s here!  What feels better than a bright sunny day?  However, don’t forget the sun is still a force to be reckoned with, and as with many things, moderation is key.

Here is the what you need to know about keeping you and your family healthy for all of your summertime fun:

1. Skin cancer is not prevented by using sunscreen.

Despite increased use of sunscreen, the rate of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – have tripled over the past 35 years.  Most scientists and public health agencies  have found very little evidence that sunscreen prevents most types of skin cancer.  What sunscreens do, when used correctly, is help prevent sunburn – a major risk factor for melanoma.  Sunscreen is only one measure, of several, needed for optimal sun protection.

Action plan: Prioritize other measures of self-protection, including:

  • wearing lightweight long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin from the sun’s rays
  • moderating your time spent outdoors mid-day, when the sun’s rays are the most direct and the hottest, which is good for vitamin D production, but also the time when you are most vulnerable to sun damage
  • doing outdoor activities in the shade
  • considering the UV index when making your plans
  • wearing sunglasses protect your eyes

2. Beware products with a high SPF rating.

Products with high SPF numbers pose many problems.  The formulations are usually slanted in favour of only protecting against UVB radiation, without offering balanced protection against  the skin damage that is caused by UVA radiation.  There is a high degree of discrepancy in the range of SPF offered by any products depending on testing methods and amount of product used, which worsens as SPF numbers increase.  Consumers also get lulled into a false sense of  security when using high SPF products and tend to use too little and too infrequently to obtain the sun protection required for their exposure.  At present, the FDA is considering banning the sale of sunscreens with SPF values greater than 50+, calling higher SPF values “inherently misleading.”  Australia, Europe, Japan and Canada already cap their labels at a maximum of “50+”.

Action plan: Choose products with an SPF between 30-50 and don’t forget to liberally reapply often based on your exposure/needs. Skip the spray-on sunscreens, since they evaporate too quickly to be consistently effective.

3. A common vitamin A sunscreen additive can actually speed development of skin cancer.

The sunscreen industry adds a form of vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) to 16 percent of beach and sport sunscreens, 14 percent of moisturizers with SPF and 10 percent of lip products.  An excess of preformed vitamin A has been known to cause cause a number of health problems, including liver damage, brittle nails, hair loss, osteoporosis and hip fractures in older adults.  Though normally added to products for its antioxidant qualities, studies indicate that retinyl palmitate may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight.

Action plan: Avoid sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinoic acid.

4. Improve your UVA protection by going European.

European sunscreen makers can formulate their products with any of seven chemicals that filter UVA rays, compared to their American counterparts that use only three.  Therefore, American made products do not offer the same protection for UVA rays.

Action plan: Choose a sunscreen with a wide range of UVA and UVB protection.

5. SPF measures protection from sunburn, but not all types of sun damage.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can generate free radicals, accelerate aging, cause sunburn and may cause skin cancer.  Sunscreen does mitigate some of this damage, but it is mostly effective in preventing sunburn, reflected by its SPF.

Action plan: Be careful about how much sun exposure you get, regardless of sunscreen use.

6. Be wary of sunscreen ingredients.

Sunscreens are either “chemical” sunscreens, which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and often contain hormone disruptors, and “natural” sunscreens, made from zinc and titanium, that may contain nanoparticles to prevent you from looking like Casper the Ghost on the beach.  Since it only takes seventeen seconds for any substance you put on your skin to be absorbed into the bloodstream, be discerning about what kinds of sunscreens you are using for you and your loved ones.

Action plan: Use mineral-only products (offerings have doubled since 2007)  which offer protection against both UVA and UVB,  generally don’t contain harmful additives. Not sure?  Click here to check out your favourite brand’s rating.

7. You need sun exposure to make vitamin D.

Vitamin D, technically a hormone, strengthens bones and the immune system and reduces risks of breast, colon, kidney and ovarian cancers and perhaps other disorders. It is estimated that about a quarter of North Americans have borderline low levels of this important nutrient.  Persons with darker skin, breast-fed infants and the elderly are more prone to having less than optimal levels for good health.

Action plan: Check your blood levels for your vitamin D status and supplement accordingly.

Follow these guidelines for a safe and enjoyable season.  Happy summer!

 

 

10 Health Myths Debunked

10 health myths debunked

Amidst all of the marketing and hype and information overload, it can be difficult to really know what to believe.  If you regularly consume these “healthy” choices, you just might want to reconsider…

1. Fruit Juice

Juice seems like it should be healthy, right?  In reality, it is concentrated sugar.  It takes 2-4 oranges to make one cup of juice.  It is unlikely that you would eat that much fruit in one sitting, yet it is not uncommon for someone to consume multiple servings of juice in one day.  Since you are drinking and not chewing, it is difficult for your system to register the caloric (and sugar) intake.  Fruit contains fructose, a special type of sugar, that bypasses the liver and goes straight into your bloodstream, which makes it very easy to overconsume.  Opt instead for whole fruits, since the fiber found in fruit slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream and limit yourself to one to two pieces per day for optimal health.  Your best beverage options continue to be water or herbal tea.

2. Foods Labelled “Low Fat” or “Fat Free”

Most low fat/fat-free foods have had the fat replaced by sugar and/or chemicals to compensate for the change in flavor that fat provides.  Sometimes, this change doesn’t even mean the product is lower in calories!  Not only does your body need healthy fat, fat is what helps satisfy your appetite.  Every year, the food industry tries to dupe us into believing eating fat makes you fat, when in reality, we continue to eat our “low-fat” and carb-rich diets and get heavier every year. If you are going to eat store bought mayonnaise, buy the best (& healthiest) one you can afford and enjoy it.

3. Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap contains triclosan, a known hormone disruptor that contributes to antibiotic resistance.   Opt instead for regular soap and water, as it is equally effective in washing away bacteria as antibacterial soap.

4. Bottled Water

Plastic water bottles are simply not sustainable. It is estimated that it takes 450 years on average for the earth to digest a single plastic water bottle.  Add to that the chemicals that leach into the water as it gets packaged and transported (even if it is not BPA) before consumption.  And to top it all off, bottled water itself has fewer, if any, regulations that ensure it is healthy drinking water.  Some brands are nothing more than tap water that has been filtered and repackaged for you.  From both a health and financial standpoint, you are better off carrying a reusable glass or stainless steel bottle for when you are out and getting a good quality filter (I like Santevia) for the tap water you have at home.

5. Frozen Yogurt

We think of yogurt as a health food.  Even the non-frozen variety is often candified, unless you choose plain quality yogurt.  What people don’t realize is that frozen yogurt often contains more sugar than ice cream.  If you are buying it from a frozen yogurt boutique, that means you are likely indulging in bigger portions with added toppings (usually candy or chocolate) that increase the sugar content even more. Not all yogurts contain probiotics and even when they do, it is not usually in an amount that makes any noticeable impact on your health.

6. Scented Candles/Air Fresheners/Incense

Scented candles and air fresheners are a quick and enjoyable way to either mask unpleasant odors or create ambience.  The scents in these products are created by hazardous substances such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), allergens, and phthalates, which have been shown to cause hormone imbalance, respiratory difficulties such as allergies and asthma, and even DNA damage.

Most candles are made from paraffin wax, which emit toxic toluene and benzene when burned (both known carcinogens).  When lit, scented candles also give off formaldehyde and contribute to indoor air pollution (the air inside your home is 10X more polluted than the air outside).  Their wicks are often contain heavy metals like lead which also get airborne when burned.

A better choice is to buy candles made from soy wax or beeswax (which help to improve indoor air quality) and/or an essential oil diffuser.   Other ways to improve your air indoors is to get a good quality air filter (I like IQair), have indoor houseplants (your best choices are weeping fig, Boston fern, peace lily and English ivy) and use salt lamps regularly.       

7. Sushi

Generally, sushi is considered a healthier eating option. The reality is, depending on the sushi you choose, eating two sushi rolls is like having six slices of white bread!  Sushi rice is so tasty because it has added sugar.  A better choice is to have sashimi (or at least sushi made with brown rice instead of white) with reduced sodium soy sauce and skip the tempura or rolls made with heavy sauces.  Don’t indulge too often though, as tuna tends to be high in mercury.  Salmon and shrimp are better options.

8. Protein/Meal Replacement Bars

A protein bar or meal replacement bar will never outperform an actual meal or snack.  Sometimes it is convenient to have something you can have on the go.  But not all bars are created equal.  Be careful to look at the ingredient list, the number of ingredients, the added sugars and the overall calorie count. Choose a bar with a small list of ingredients that you can identify, with low sugar content and depending on whether you need it as a snack or as a meal, calories that range from 200-400.  Otherwise, you might up with something that is no better for you than a candy bar.

9. Smoothies

Smoothies from a juice bar or a restaurant are usually loaded with fruit with additional sugar added and can end up as calorie (and sugar) bombs.  Make them at home instead, being careful to use an unsweetened base milk or water, low glycemic index fruit (like berries), an added serving or two of health promoting leafy vegetables, some healthy fat (like avocado, nut butter or seeds) and protein for a balanced meal.

10. Honey/Maple Syrup

People seem to think that if they make treats with honey or maple syrup, somehow that has made them sugar-free, which of course, is not the case.  Treats are treats and while it is certainly better for you to have ones that are homemade with quality ingredients and less processed types of sugar, sugar is still sugar.  If you really want to make a serious impact on your health, you could omit eating baked goods/desserts completely, and opt instead for fruit to satisfy sweet cravings.  Barring that, don’t kid yourself into believing that if it is made with honey or maple syrup, that a muffin is suddenly transformed into a health food, because, well, it is still a muffin.

Why Use Homeopathy?

why use homeopathy

People often ask me why I focus on the use homeopathy in my practice and what motivates to continue my professional development in this area. The answer to that question is quite simple, “It works.” In my eighteen years of practice, I have yet to witness any supplement or dietary change or combination thereof, to have as profound an impact on a person’s health and well-being as a well selected homeopathic remedy.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that utilizes the body’s own healing power through a law of cure, termed “Like Cures Like.” This law states that a substance that can produce symptoms in a healthy person will cure similar symptoms in a person who is sick. The therapeutic potential of a substance is explored through giving it in very small amounts to healthy people and a careful analysis is made of its effect on the mind and body of those taking the substance. Thus, the remedy is not so much for a particular disease process as much as it is for a person who expresses disease in a particular pattern. The homeopath’s task is to determine that individual’s pattern of disease expression and then choose a remedy that matches that pattern to bring about relief. The pattern often will resemble a pattern of a substance found in nature, as remedies are usually made from natural substances – typically animals, plants, or minerals.

How does a remedy work?

Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body’s innate capacity to cure itself. They are prepared in homeopathic pharmacies, as homeopathic remedies are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as drugs. Extremely small amounts of these remedies are given, the minimum amount necessary to stimulate a reaction in the body.

My favourite analogy is that of a computer program that has been infected by a virus. The virus distorts the information in the program and causes the program to malfunction. Once the virus is identified and removed, the program goes back to functioning normally. In the case of a person, the program is the body’s innate natural intelligence, or what we call the vital force in homeopathy.

When did homeopathy start and where is it used?

Homeopathy was established in Germany in the 18th century by the physician Samuel Hahnemann. It spread to all continents and is probably the most popular form of holistic medicine in the world. It is practiced by both physicians and non-physicians and is incorporated into the health-care system of many countries. It was brought to the United States in the 1830’s and has been a part of the American medical system ever since.

The fundamental principles of homeopathy and other holistic therapies.

  1. The body heals itself. The human organism has always shown a remarkable ability to adapt and survive. It is the “biological imperative” of the organism to create an optimal level of healthy. The body has a sophisticated immune system and natural intelligence that seeks to maintain health of the whole organism – mind, body and spirit – at all times. Homeopathy works by helping the body heal itself. Healing takes place through the conscious awareness of the body’s own healing power. Only then can the word “cure” be used. This is the goal of homeopathy.
  2. Homeopathy always treats the whole person. All functions of the body and mind are connected. The complex physical and psychological make up of a person creates a unique pattern for each individual. When we become sick, it is the whole body that is sick, even if symptoms express themselves only in one part of the body. Only by re-establishing a total balance will health be restored. Therefore homeopathy treats the whole person, not just the disease.
  3. There is an energetic “thread” that connects all functions of body and mind. Homeopathy belongs to a philosophy of healing that believes that we have an energetic “life force” that permeates all functions of the body. It is this “life force” which maintains health or creates disease through imbalance. This has been understood for thousands of years. In China it is called “Chi”, in India “Prana” and by homeopaths as “Vital Force”. It describes a phenomenon that exists in all nature. Modern physics is now exploring these dimensions of reality. There is a dynamic, living energy that permeates both body and mind. It is a consciousness, like a memory. It is this energy that keeps the body alive and well.
  4. Symptoms of disease are a result of an imbalance in the body/mind. Symptoms may express themselves in many ways. Some are purely physical, some are emotional, and some are combination of the two. However, it is important to know that they are an expression or a result of an imbalance in the whole organism. Symptoms are not the cause of a problem, only to be suppressed by drugs, but are an indication that something is not right in the whole system. They are a warning that something is not in balance and has to be changed.

Why do we become sick?

We become sick when we can no longer adapt appropriately to the circumstances of life. These circumstances may seem to be due to external factors, such as allergies, the weather, stress, germs, etc or may just seem to be an inability to feel well. In homeopathy, we look at both the internal factors and the external ones, seeking to understand the circumstances of life that may be influencing the health of the whole person. Much of modern medicine focuses on the external causes of disease – germs for example – and drugs are given to kill them. While that serves an important role, homeopaths also ask the questions “why do some people get sick while others do not?” and “what can be done to help the body’s own immune system fight off germs (or other factors) more effectively?” Merely killing the germs does not always lead to great health as the body has not cured the problem itself and some drugs merely suppress, which can sometimes make things worse in the long run. In this case, the same or more serious symptoms tend to recur and the problem may become more chronic and difficult to cure. Homeopathy and other holistic systems of healing seek to establish a higher level of health and in so doing prevent illness as well as helping to cure it.

What conditions does homeopathy treat?

Homeopathy is able to treat most physical and emotional conditions – such as asthma, allergies, skin rashes, acne, depression, lupus, tinnitus, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, insomnia, gas and bloating, just to name a few. A homeopathic consultation involves an analysis of the whole person. Each person is unique and the homeopath needs to understand as much as possible about all the concerns a person has. This allows the homeopath to understand the underlying causes of any disease state. The correct remedy choice will allow the whole person – body and mind – to realign to a more optimal state of health. An overall wellness should be the result, including any particular condition a person is experiencing.

What does a homeopathic treatment involve?

The initial interview takes place between 45 to 90 minutes. During this time, the homeopath begins to investigate the particular features of your nature as well as the conditions that the patient experiences. Sometimes, the patient doesn’t feel that we are talking medicine anymore! But rest assured, it is all relevant in finding the best remedy to improve your health. Once a homeopathic remedy has been chosen, another appointment will be made 3-6 weeks after the first visit.