WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT? HERE’S A THOUGHT—WATER!

                                                                       

   Everyone who has tried to lose weight understands how daunting this task is. In desperation, people often resort to expensive and seemingly “magical” approaches that benefit nobody but the company or salesman that touts such worthless products.

   So are there any cheap alternatives available? Proper dieting with restriction of calories is certainly the best answer, but one potential aid to this approach is the simple substance obtainable right out of the tap—water!

   But first, let’s look at one factor that contributes to the world’s obesity epidemic—the common use of sugar sweetened beverages—or even those possessing sugar substitutes. Scientific information indicates that these beverages seem to “prime” users for sweetness that leads to increased caloric consumption with the following meals. Replacing these sweetened drinks with water increases the sensation of fullness and reduces the perception of hunger. Besides being free of calories, water possesses the added advantage of promoting energy expenditure through support of body metabolism.

    A group from the Berlin School of Public Health recently reviewed the association between water consumption and weight (Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2013;98:282-99). They evaluated previous studies covering many adults and tracked associations between water consumption and body weight. They related difference in body weights based upon amount of water consumption.  Their data revealed that, in individuals attempting to reduce weight through calorie control, increased water consumption reduced boy weight after 3-12 months, compared with simple dieting alone.

    One simple approach is to precede each meal with one-half quart (16 oz.) of water. This seems to reduce calorie consumption during the meal because of earlier satiety.  On average, people who drink this much water before meals eat an average of 75 fewer calories at each meal. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but multiply 75 calories by 365 days a year. Even if you only drink water before dinner every day, you’d consume 27,000 fewer calories over the course of the year. That’s almost an eight-pound weight loss.

    Obviously, increasing water consumption can only play a secondary contributing role in weight control, for it needs to be combined with other lifestyle and dietary modifications. But at least it’s inexpensive, harmless, and, for most people, is worth a try.

 

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HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE TO PREVENT AGING: ANOTHER SNAKE OIL?

       

     In a segment of one of his shows, the celebrated TV host, Dr. Oz, began by asking his audience, “How many of you want to start feeling 20 years younger right now?”  Then, after hearing the predictable chorus of yeses, he went on to discuss what he called “a new frontier:stimulating your body’s production of growth hormones naturally with amino acids.” And then Dr. Oz told his adoring audience, “I have been searching for this from the day we started the show. I’ve been looking for ways of increasing HGH naturally because I don’t like getting the injections”. As is his customary style, he then started a new frenzy of those wishing to seek out such a product, in this case called “SeroVital”.

     But what does this all mean? Human growth hormone, or HGH, is a natural substance   secreted by a small gland (pituitary) in the brain. It promotes growth during childhood and adolescence. Growth hormone acts on the liver and other tissues to stimulate the production of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I), which is responsible for its growth-promoting effects. Blood levels of circulating IGF-I tend to decrease as people age or become obese. Many marketers would like you to believe that boosting HGH blood levels can reduce body fat; build muscle; improve sex life, sleep quality, vision and memory; restore hair growth and color; strengthen the immune system; normalize blood sugar; increase energy; and “turn back your body’s biological clock.” Unfortunately all this not only lacks experimental support and is patently false, as will be summarized below. This has also been aptly described in greater detail by Stephen Barrett, MD, the editor of the popular website, Quackwatch, which I strongly recommend.

     The drive to popularize growth hormone began about 20 years ago with publication of the book “Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach,” by Pearson and Shaw. These authors claimed that large amounts of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other substances would cause people to add muscle, burn fat, and live much longer. Although their advice had no scientific basis, these authors made hundreds of talk-show appearances that boosted sales of the products they recommended.

   Soon after the book’s publication, many amino acids were claimed to cause overnight weight loss by increasing the release of growth hormone. So called “growth-hormone releasers” were also marketed to bodybuilders with claims that they would help build muscle. Such claims are unfounded because amino acids taken by mouth do not produce such effects. These formulations are based mainly on misinterpreted studies of intravenous arginine, which can increase HGH blood levels for an hour or so. The FTC and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs attacked some companies making “growth-hormone release” claims, but these actions had very little effect on the overall marketplace.

     In 1990, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study that attracted mainstream media attention. The study involved 12 men, aged 61 to 81, who were apparently healthy but had IGF-I levels below those found in normal young men. The 12 men were given growth hormone injections three times a week for six months and compared with 9 men who received no treatment. The treatment resulted in a decrease in fatty tissue and increases in body muscle mass and spine density  An accompanying editorial warned that some of the subjects had experienced side effects and that the long-range effects of administering HGH to healthy adults were unknown. It also warned that the hormone injections were expensive and that the study had not examined whether the men who received the hormone had actually improved their muscle strength, mobility, or quality of life.

In March 2003, in response to growing controversy, the New England Journal of Medicine took the unprecedented step of denouncing misuse of the above mentioned 1990 article. The full text of the article was placed online so readers could see for themselves what it actually said; and editorials pointed out that subsequent reports provided no reason to be optimistic. As noted by Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D.:

Although the findings of the study were biologically interesting, the duration of treatment was so short that side effects were unlikely to have emerged, and it was clear that the results were not sufficient to serve as a basis for treatment recommendations. . . .” Indeed, Mary Lee Vance of the University of Virginia said in an accompanying editorial “Because there are so many unanswered questions about the use of growth hormone in the elderly and in adults with growth hormone deficiency, its general use now or in the immediate future is not justified.”

Despite these reservations, the initial study of 1990 inspired many offbeat physicians to market themselves as “anti-aging specialists.” offering expensive tests that supposedly determine the patient’s “biological age,” They promise to lower this “age”, with expensive hormone shots and dietary supplements. To this date, nobody has provided any evidence that it is more than just another myth.

All this hype also helped stimulate formation of the American Association for Anti- Aging Medicine (A4M) and the unrecognized medical specialty of “anti-aging medicine.” The group, founded in 1993, claims that it has 11,500 members, of whom 80% are medical or osteopathic physicians. Many exhibitors at its conferences have made unsubstantiated claims for HGH-related products.

   Also springing up are thousands of Web sites and spam e-mailers that are hawking the actual hormone; alleged HGH releasers; alleged oral hormone products (which can’t work because any HGH would be digested).

    But what we do know thus far is simply that HGH is useful for treating growth hormone deficiency in children and adults and has several other proven (FDA-approved) uses. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists has warned that the clinical use of growth hormone for any patient—with or without ordinary obesity—is not recommended and could possibly lead to unknown dangers.

Robert N. Butler, M.D., a noted gerontologist who founded a legitimate organization, the International Longevity Center-USA, has warned that, “So-called anti-aging medicine is largely a sham. We simply do not have the equivalent of a blood pressure cuff for testing aging.” He further states:

Although growth hormone levels decline with age, it has not been proven that trying to maintain the levels that exist in young persons is beneficial. It is conceivable that age-related hormonal changes may serve as useful markers of physiological aging. However, this has not been demonstrated experimentally for either humans or animals. Although hormone-replacement trials have yielded some positive results (at least in the short term), it is clear that negative side effects can also occur in the form of increased risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and behavior changes.

   It might even turn out that lower growth-hormone levels are an indicator of health. Research findings indicate that mice that overproduce growth hormones live only a short time, suggesting that growth-hormone deficiency itself does not cause accelerated aging, but that the opposite may be true. . . .

      In short, physicians have no scientifically based measures of aging and lacking this indicator, there is no way to fight against something that can’t be identified.

     So how can ingesting “HGH stimulators” produce any benefits? From the foregoing, the answer is apparent—they cannot!  Although growth hormone levels decline with age, there is no proof that trying to maintain the levels that exist in young persons is beneficial. Considering the high cost, significant side effects, and lack of proven effectiveness, HGH injections appear to be a very poor investment. So called “growth-hormone releasers,” oral growth hormone,” and “homeopathic HGH” products are thus clearly fakes.

    Into this category we place the product noted above touted by Dr. Oz, (who is also given to hyping other useless products) manufactured by SanMedica International™ under the trade name SeroVital. Even if this product could stimulate HGH production by the body, which is doubtful, any long-term benefits from such stimulation are totally unproven, and are likely to remain so for a long time in the future!

     Sure, it’s tempting to try every product on the market that promises a more youthful look and feel, but sometimes good, old fashioned diet and exercise can have the same effect as a “miracle pill”.

     In a future blog, we will discuss the relationship between HGH and sports—currently a lively and controversial topic

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POTASSIUM: A GREAT DIETARY CONSTITUENT

 Potassium is a dietary mineral necessary for many bodily functions. It plays an important role in holding blood pressure down, working in opposition to sodium. Potassium is also needed for normal muscle growth, and for nervous system and brain function. In addition to reducing blood pressure, potassium seems to work by protecting blood vessels from damage and excessive thickening. This mineral is found in many different foods, especially fruits and vegetables, so you may be getting plenty of potassium in your diet right now. But for better understanding of your situation, we need to look at this issue more closely.  Studies in human populations at risk for hypertension (high blood pressure) indicate that diets high in potassium can reduce the chances for this disorder with its devastating consequences, which includes strokes (brain damage), kidney failure and heart disease. Although there is some debate regarding the optimal amount of dietary potassium, most authorities recommend a daily intake of at least 4,700 milligrams. Most Americans consume only half that amount per day, which would make them deficient as regards this particular recommendation. Likewise, in the European Union, insufficient potassium intake is common. In a large pooled analysis, Italian researchers reported in 2011 that by raising one’s daily intake of potassium by 1,640 milligram, you could expect a 21% lower risk of stroke. Even greater benefits can be achieved if we combine increased potassium with reduced intake of sodium.

In order to get 4,700 mg of potassium a day, try to get your intake from healthy eating unless your physician says otherwise. Dietary supplements, while generally safe, can lead to excessive intake of potassium that can be dangerous and, therefore, under most circumstances, are best avoided.  Moreover, foods containing liberal amounts of potassium usually also possess other valuable nutrients that promote health in other ways. Several delicious foods can help you reach your potassium goal. Below is a list of great foods that can satisfy your needs as well as your eating pleasure.

    1) Sweet potatoes: Surprisingly, this source outranks bananas on the list of foods that are high in potassium. One sweet potato packs a whopping 694 mg of potassium and only 131 calories, plus loads of fiber, beta-carotene (Vitamin A), and energizing carbohydrates. Baked, fried, grilled, mashed, or stuffed, sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest and most delicious foods you can eat. But be careful about what you put on them, avoiding large amounts of butter or other sources of saturated fats.

    2) Fresh tomatoes are great, but tomato paste and puree are even better sources of potassium. One quarter cup of tomato paste delivers 664 mg of this vital mineral, while one half cup of puree comes in at 549 mg. Tomato juice itself has just over 400 mg, but in general includes too much added sodium to be very beneficial. If you love cooking with tomatoes and want to get more potassium into your diet, make spaghetti sauce more often!

    3) Fresh beets: If you’ve ever bought fresh beets and tossed the greens in the garbage, time to change your ways. Those cooked, slightly bitter greens deserve a place at the table in part because they pack a whopping 644 mg of potassium per half cup. The beets themselves are also not only good for potassium (1 cup contains 440 mg) but they also provide generous amounts of folate (Vitamin B9), amounting to approximately 35% of daily adult requirements.   

4) White beans are good providers of potassium, with half a cup delivering nearly 600 mg, but kidney and Lima beans, as well as lentils and split peas, are all respectable sources. All beans are good in general and appear prominently on our list of the best foods for fiber so it’s smart to make beans a much bigger part of your diet.

    5) Yogurt.  Eight ounces of plain old non-fat yogurt contains 579 mg of potassium, while low-fat, whole milk, and cultured buttermilk—yogurt’s tangy cousin—have a little less. Delicious ways to use yogurt include mixing it with granola at breakfast, using it instead of mayo on sandwiches and in salads, and swapping it for whipped cream on desserts. Bonus: Most yogurt products contain probiotics, natural bacteria that can aid digestion and keep your gut healthy.

   6) Clams. Canned or fresh, 3 ounces of clams pack 534 mg of potassium and have the highest concentration of vitamin B12 of any food. Use them to make seafood pasta or traditional New England claim chowder.

   7) Prunes. Juice from prunes is no joke when it comes to potassium, delivering 530 mg per 3/4 cup; half a cup of stewed prunes have nearly 400 mg. While you know prunes are good for regularity, you may not know that eating more of these dried plums can help keep your bones strong too. In one study, women who ate 10 prunes a day had significantly higher bone density than women who ate dried apples.

    8) Carrots.  The juicing trend means more people will be getting their potassium from carrot juice, which packs over 500 mg in one 3/4 cup. Besides their potassium benefits, carrots and other orange-colored fruits and vegetables are also great for your eyes and vision.

    9) Molasses: Looking for a nutrient-packed alternative to sugar or honey? One tablespoon of blackstrap molasses (the thick, dark kind) has nearly 500 mg of potassium and a respectable amount of iron and calcium.

  10) Fish: Meaty fish like halibut and tuna have nearly 500 mg of potassium per 3 ounce serving, but cod and even farm-raised rainbow trout have plenty of potassium too. But potassium isn’t the only reason to add more fish and seafood to your diet. Evidence is mounting that regularly eating fish, not taking fish supplements, can increase your lifespan, thanks in large part to the healthy fats in fresh fish; a high fish diet can even reduce your risk of death by heart disease by 35%, according to Harvard researchers.

  11) Soy: Unprocessed soy products (think edamame, not soy powder) are a great source of protein. One half cup of cooked soybeans contains nearly 500 mg of potassium.

  12) Squash: Winter squash like spaghetti squash are a dieter’s dream: it contains less than 50 calories per serving, yet contains 448 mg of potassium per half cup. Also helpful is  plenty of vitamin A and fiber..

  13) Bananas: Everyone thinks of bananas when they think of high-potassium foods, and one medium fruit does pack more than 400 mg of this mineral. But bananas are also the ultimate hunger buster, packed with resistant starch, a healthy carb that is filling and tends to prevent subsequent hunger.

   14) Milk: This product is a surprising source of potassium, with 382 mg per cup for the non-fat or skim version (1% and whole milk has a little less).

   15) Orange juice: One of the healthiest additions to your breakfast table is 3/4 of a cup of orange juice, which delivers 355 mg of potassium. Orange juice, especially the fresh-squeezed variety, is also a good source of calcium, folate, and several B vitamins. 

    So this list above can give you an idea of what foods to select with potassium in mind. But there are many more, too numerous to detail here. Below is a summary and more comprehensive list of foods that should be considered for inclusion in a healthy diet.

Foods High in Potassium:

  • Raisins
  • Prunes
  • Potatoes
  • Apricots
  • Dates
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Citrus fruits
  • Beets
  • Greens
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Soy and soy foods
  • Many veggie burgers
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Salmon