May 2000 Newsletter


Letter from Dr. Janson
Research Supports Vitamin C and E
What Are Whole Grains?
In the Health News
In the Mailbag

Letter from Dr. Janson
Dear Friends,
Now that the tax season is behind us, and we are recovering from the stress that it brings, I am reminded that only one other event is inevitable, according to the old cliché, and that is death. As grim as that sounds (and who knows which is worse – death or taxes!) you can do a lot to delay the inevitable, and make sure that the aging process that leads there is as healthy as possible.

Aging does not have to lead to the commonly expected degeneration, debility, and dependency that most people associate with later years. I know people who are well into their 90’s who are fit and active and still have their mental faculties. Although there is some unavoidable decline in function, it does not have to lead to a serious change in your ability to enjoy most of the pleasures of life. You can avoid accelerated aging changes if you take care of yourself and follow the lifestyle habits that lead to vigorous health. The right lifestyle choices not only slow aging, they can even reverse premature changes and degeneration.

Exercise Slows Aging
The first activity you need is a regular exercise program or a significant amount of daily physical activity. If you are a farmer,
gardener, or bicycle messenger, you may need no more than that. However, if you are sedentary like most of us, you need to establish a routine of physical activity. The evidence shows that older people who exercise are able to maintain most of their physical strength. Interestingly, they are also better able to maintain their mental functioning.

You don’t need to be a competitive athlete to enjoy these benefits. Simply brisk walking, jogging, rollerblading, bicycling, swimming, or using exercise machines for about 25 to 35 minutes most days is all that is necessary, burning about 2000 calories per week. Exercise also helps maintain your ability to do normal everyday tasks so that you can live without assistance.

It is important to include a stretching or yoga practice as part of your routine to stay limber, maintain flexibility, and improve your breathing capacity. This has the added advantage of reducing stress.

Healthy Eating Habits
The information in the medical literature is quite clear that proper eating habits can help maintain normal function as well as prevent the chronic diseases that accompany premature aging. These normal functions include hearing, vision, taste and smell, digestion, physical stamina, balance, agility, and sexual function. The vast weight of science shows that the best diet is mostly vegetarian, natural foods, emphasizing fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains and beans, and small amounts of fish, preferably wild or naturally farmed. (I used to think that salmon was the best fish, but with all the farming of salmon, I now think that sardines, packed in water, may be the best choice. I can’t yet tell which is the cleanest geographic source for sardines.) I recommend eating organic foods whenever possible to avoid toxic pesticides and genetically engineered products.

A diet such as this is rich in vitamins, minerals, protective flavonoids, and other phytochemicals, many of which are not available as supplements. One recent example is the research showing that citrus bioflavonoids can halt the growth of lung, prostate, melanoma, and colon cancer cells, and the development of breast cancer in mice. Tangeretin, from tangerines, was particularly effective. Phytochemical nutrients are extremely limited in diets based on animal products.

Supplements for Added Protection
I believe that the research is now clear that supplements to the diet are essential to slow the aging process and both prevent and treat degenerative diseases associated with aging. The most important of these have antioxidant properties, but others help with circulation, hormonal balance, or detoxification.

My recommendations start with extra vitamins C and E. Ample evidence shows that they help with protecting the cell membranes and the fatty acids that are subject to oxidation damage. For your appearance, they help with preventing the skin wrinkling seen with aging, but more importantly, they help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Vitamin C is essential for connective tissue strength and elasticity, and both C and E support immune function. (Vitamin C also helps with asthma, allergies, and viral infections, while vitamin E helps with menopausal symptoms, PMS, and cramps.) My usual recommendation is 2000 to 4000 mg of vitamin C and 400 to 800 IU of natural vitamin E with mixed tocopherols.

National Academy of Science Reports Inaccurate

Other Supplements That Help
In the next issue, I'll continue with the other important supplements for slowing and reversing the aging process, including bioflavonoids, other phytochemicals, herbs, hormones, and other antioxidants.

Research Supports Vitamin C and E
Although the NAS says that supplements have not been proven, the research continues to support them, which makes me wonder just how much proof they really need (after all, drugs and surgery are often administered with inadequate proof and far more risk).

Researchers from the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study report that elderly men who took supplements of vitamins C and E were able to preserve brain function better than those who did not take them.
All of the men they evaluated were between 71 and 93 years old, and in those men who took supplements of both vitamin E and C, they found an 88% reduction in the frequency of vascular dementia, the kind related to hardening of the arteries.

They also reported that the longer the men took both supplements together, the greater was the protective effect. Even those men without dementia had improved cognitive function if they took either vitamin alone or both together. The researchers presumed that the supplements were effective because of their antioxidant effects.
Another article shows that high levels of vitamin C in the blood lessens the risk of gallstones in women. In this report, there was a direct relationship between the highest levels of vitamin C and the lowest levels of gallstones.

The researchers said that vitamin C is needed for conversion of cholesterol to bile acids, and that would reduce the formation of cholesterol stones. This also might explain why vitamin C can lower cholesterol levels.

What Are Whole Grains?
I am often surprised that people don't know what I mean when I say "whole grains." This became clear to me recently at a restaurant when I asked whether they served whole grains, and I was told they had whole wheat bread. When the bread came, it was white, and I asked the waitress who checked with the kitchen. The response was they do not use white flour, only "wheat flour."

Even the sickliest white bread in the supermarket is made from "wheat flour," but it is not whole wheat. Whole wheat is brown and includes the bran and the germ, which gives it fiber and nutritional value, and on labels the ingredient list should state "whole" every time it says wheat. If it just says wheat, it is refined to remove the bran and germ. Occasionally they add some molasses or caramel coloring to make white bread appear brown, but don't be deceived. It is best to choose organic, 100 percent whole wheat.

Other whole grains include brown rice, oatmeal, corn, rye, millet, buckwheat (not a true grain), quinoa, teff, and amaranth, and the wheat relatives, kamut and spelt. There are many ways to prepare whole grains for delicious taste and health benefits. I often saute some onions and garlic, add some pepper, thyme, and a small amount of soy sauce, and then add about two cups of boiling water for every cup of whole buckwheat. I let this simmer until the water is absorbed, and it makes a delicious dish. Sometimes I add some broccoli or other green to the mix, or simply steam to serve on the side.

Another simple whole grain dish: put three cups of organic whole corn grits in a crock pot, add nine cups of boiling water, and let this slow cook for two to three hours, without stirring! You will have a delicious polenta. I add sauteed mushrooms and vegetables, (with my usual onions and garlic).


In the Health News
� Essential fatty acids are beneficial in a variety of ways. A recent study showed that alpha-linolenic acid (the omega-3 oil found in flaxseeds and walnuts) may prevent breast cancer. Women with the highest levels of this oil in the fatty tissue of the breast had only about 36 percent as much cancer as those with the lowest levels. This oil is a precursor of EPA, the fatty acid in fish, and prostaglandins-the regulatory substances that help immunity, circulation, PMS, menstrual cramps, and many other functions.

� Another study shows that EPA combined with vitamin B12 can help with menstrual cramps and other menstrual symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, nervousness, and irritability. Although the fish oil was of benefit, the B12 significantly increased the relief, which was achieved within three months of being on the therapy with five capsules a day.

Diet and Disease
� Fruit intake, especially those fruits high in vitamin C, such as kiwi and citrus fruits, is associated with a decreased incidence of asthma. Eating these fruits five to seven times a week offered children significant protection against wheezing.

�Women who eat flame broiled meats even twice a month are at increased risk of breast cancer, possibly due to the heterocyclic amines generated during flame broiling. If they have a certain very common gene ( NAT2), the risk is further increased. This gene promotes rapid activation of the carcinogenic heterocyclic amines.

In the Mailbag
A reader wrote to me asking what I recommend for varicose veins. While these may be the result of a low-fiber diet and lack of exercise, and they are often managed symptomatically with leg elevation and support stockings, you can reverse them to some extent with dietary supplements.

I recommend 400 IU of vitamin E, 1000 to 2000 mg of bioflavonoids, 2000 to 4000 mg of vitamin C, and several standardized herbs that have been shown to help. These include daily butcher's broom, 50 to 100 mg, horse chestnut, 250 to 500 mg, and gotu kola (Centella asiatica), 60 to 120 mg. I have seen some remarkable reversals of varicosities with these and proanthocyanidins, 50 to 100 mg.