Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mediterranean diet boosts brain power in seniors

The traditional Mediterranean diet of fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish and wine could prevent neurological degeneration in later life, say researchers at the University of Edinburgh. This recent study is music to my ears. 

This comes on the heels of an earlier study showing the Mediterranean diet is able to cut the risk of heart disease by 30 percent. These studies make it clear that these particular eating habits should be enshrined as a healthy legacy for all! Of course generations have lived by its precepts and many more regularly enjoy this fine cuisine in its multiple guises. 

Interestingly, the so-called “landmark” study, which began in 2003 was terminated in 2011, cut short because the findings were so significant and because those following the standard “low fat diet” as recommended by the American Heart Association were at such a disadvantage! How’s that for damning the dietary pundits ...?

Wondering exactly what constitutes the Mediterranean diet? Think ... Spanish, Italian, Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern. Think ... very high in fresh vegetables and fruit (red, orange, purple, green), whole grains, legumes, seafood and mono-unsaturated fats from olive oil, olives and nuts such as walnuts and almonds. Also think ... much reduced meat and dairy!

Oh and along with food lovingly prepared from a cornucopia of fresh ingredients, you’ll usually find a fine glass of red wine and convivial surroundings in that Mediterranean mix!  
On the subject of that glass of red wine, I still recommend that prospective parents avoid in the 4 months leading up to conception and that pregnancy and breastfeeding periods remain an alcohol-free zone. Learn all the reasons why in my free webinar.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy linked to autism

Vitamin D deficiency in pregnancy is linked to an increased risk of autism in children by the age of six, Australian researchers have found, who argue low cost supplementation for at-risk mothers is merited.

If you’ve been following my blog posts you’ll have seen plenty emphasising the importance of Vitamin D before conception and during pregnancy as a way of reducing the incidence of toxemia (high blood pressure of pregnancy) and premature birth. Optimal Vitamin D status confers a large number of other, more general health benefits (adequate immune status and protection from cancer among them) and now this study from Australian researchers at the University of Queensland Brain Institute and The Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands adds another potential benefit to the growing list!

The researchers however suggest that supplementation, not sun exposure, is the answer because of the high risk of skin cancer in countries like Australia. I agree that supplementation has a role in ensuring Vitamin D status in high latitudes where sun exposure during the winter months cannot ensure Vitamin D adequacy, but in Australia, the recommended, unprotected exposure to the sun is hardly sufficient to lead to skin cancer. Ironically, if Vitamin D levels were adequate, skin cancer may not be an issue at all.

While we’re on the subject of supplementation, I'm always frustrated with the studies that take one nutrient and show how important it is during pregnancy. The reality is ... all the trace elements, vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids and various co-factors are important! AND making sure you and your partner enjoy optimal nutritional status across the board before you conceive and maintaining that status during pregnancy and beyond, will do more for your baby’s intelligence, birthweight, learning and behaviour issues and everything else, than supplementing with single nutrients in isolation!

More on all of the above in my new 5-Point Better Babies Webinar Program. Watch the free introductory webinar.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Summer's coming - get out in the sun

I’ve posted regularly about the needs for Vitamin D in pregnancy and during breastfeeding - lest you think Vitamin D requirements are confined to those periods, this post is for you.  Summer’s just around the corner in this part of the world and time to reflect on what sun exposure is appropriate. Unfortunately complete avoidance has become akin to a religion thanks to dire warnings from Cancer Councils and other eminent bodies of sun-induced skin cancers and melanoma. This religious zeal is particularly apparent where children are concerned, with shade sails over playgrounds, hats with excessive brims and tails, swim wear that covers all flesh and 50+ sun screens. Add to that a generation of young men and women who prefer to spend their spare time indoors in front of computer screens instead of riding surfboards and a recent taste for fashionably pale flesh. 

Yet latest research says that sun avoidance is almost as unhealthy as smoking!

I’m not advocating the sort of sun exposure that I've had throughout my life. We lived by the beach and in my mum’s blissful ignorance and with lack of sophisticated commercial products I got a dab of zinc cream on my nose and across my shoulders at the start of a long day in the water. Every summer I had obligatory sunburn until I acquired the colour that for so many of my years was a must-have fashion accessory (how times have changed). Even with the advent of sunscreens claiming 4+ and 6+ and good grief the maximum protection at 8+ I sun-baked, swam, surfed, water-skiied and sailed with not much more than a healthy layer of melanin to protect me. Snow-skiing added insult to injury.

But there is a middle ground and it’s important that we take that middle ground! What we all need is a regular dose of unprotected, non-burning sun exposure. It’s the sun-burning that is primarily associated with skin cancer risk (I would add to that - lack of anti-oxidants) but far fewer die from skin cancer than suffer from a very long list of health problems that are linked to Vitamin D deficiency. That list starts with infertility and continues through pre-eclampsia of pregnancy, premature birth, diabetes types 1 and 2, MS, cancers, influenza, impaired wound healing, poor immune response, muscle weakness in the elderly and more.

If you’d like to test your Vitamin D status, to confirm that you’re in the recommended zone of 40-60ng/ml (100-150nMols/L), you can order your at-home-test-kit through In doing this you’ll contribute to their already massive body of research surrounding this important public health issue.

For updated guidelines concerning appropriate sun exposure and Vitamin D3 supplements check my earlier post.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Prematurity - a lifetime of consequences

According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, prematurity is the leading underlying cause of death in children under five years, with over one million babies dying each year worldwide due to complications of preterm birth. For those who survive, the consequences of being born too soon can continue throughout the life course, impacting individuals, families and communities.

In Australia, one baby in ten will be born before 37 weeks gestation. The cost of these preterm births not only in dollar, but in physical, mental and emotional terms is huge. It’s an enormous drain on the health care system with preterm babies suffering ongoing physical and mental health problems, the families of a preterm baby are denied the pleasure of bonding with and breastfeeding a normal, healthy full-term infant, with profound implications for that family’s longterm emotional health, there are ongoing educational challenges and much more …

The good news is, the incidence of prematurity could be halved (at the very least) by ensuring the Vitamin D status of pregnant mums. 

Check the graph - courtesy of the researchers at GrassRootsHealth, whose work now spans more than three decades. You can see that weeks of gestation (left vertical bar) keeps increasing until the serum level reaches about Serum 25(OH)D 40ng/mL (Serum 25(OH)D 100nmol/L). 

It’s really that easy - and  it’s a free vitamin! It’s manufactured in the body when you get unprotected exposure to sunlight during the peak hours of sunshine! 
  • Minimize UVA while allowing UVB
  • 10-15 minutes exposure/day between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm (between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm during daylight saving)
  • Expose 40 percent of skin area (wear shorts and tank top)
  • Ensure it’s a clear day without pollution

These guidelines apply to Australian latitudes. In colder climates (higher latitudes) supplementation is the only way to achieve appropriate status. Use oral D3 supplements to achieve 40-60ng/mL (100-150nMols/L) - remembering that these ideal levels require significantly more D3 than are found in most supplements. Look for the newer, high potency D3 (e.g. drops containing 1,000-2,000IU/drop and Softgels containing 5,000IU)

Vitamin D Recommendations Update for Preconception, Pregnancy & Breastfeeding
Dose for adults: I,000IU 1 to 2 times daily. 
Dose for preconception: 2,000 IU daily.
Dose for pregnancy: 4,000 IU daily
Dose for breastfeeding: 6,400IU daily
The only way to get Vitamin D3 in breast milk is by dosing daily - either by sun, diet or supplementation. Dr. Bruce Hollis, Professor of Pediatrics, College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina indicates that 6,400 IU/day is necessary for breast feeding mothers to attain sufficient vitamin D (to the value of 400 IU/day for the infant) in their breast milk.
Remember too that the very best time to ensure Mum's optimal Vitamin D status is before conception, while making sure of prospective Dad's status will positively impact his fertility. If you've missed the preconception period, it’s never too late to get your levels into the preferred zone. 

More on all of the above when you join my free webinar.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Now it's an egg a day to reduce risk of stroke

Eating up to one egg a day has no association with coronary heart disease (CHD) but does reduce the risk of stroke by 12%, a meta-analysis has suggested. 

Remember when eggs were demonised as cholesterol-promoting bombs and the traditional bacon and egg breakfast was even more soundly derided? Of course you do and what a load of rubbish that was, based on seriously flawed research and incomplete understanding of the real culprits in coronary heart disease. Despite the evidence that is now overwhelmingly in favour of including plenty of eggs and healthy fats in our diet and of reducing the sugars and grains, it’s going to take a very long time to switch the ‘eggs and fat promote cholesterol and cholesterol is bad’ mentality. 

As far as eggs are concerned, this latest study, suggesting the benefits of an egg a day is hardly new. I blogged about the positive power of eggs in 2013, and have no hesitation in repeating myself…

Consumption of eggs is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease or stroke! An analysis by the prestigious BMJ (British Medical Journal) of eight studies and more than half a million participants, might hopefully remove the stigma from the much-maligned egg. What led us to swear off eggs was set in motion when a long-ago researcher fed cholesterol-containing eggs to rabbits (obligatory herbivores). Now almost 100 years since the original research, it’s interesting to reflect that Anitschkov never concluded from his experiments that cholesterol in the diet caused atherosclerosis in humans. But somehow his simplified work entered the pop science mainstream, setting a whole cholesterol-reduction industry in motion and spawned several generations of consumers studiously avoiding a God-given, nutrient-laden, healthy food choice! Well, let’s be more specific here ... the God-given eggs laid by wide-roaming, omnivorous hens, free to eat snails, bugs, grain and greens are what I’m referring to. The alternative eggs, yolks potentially coloured by additives in the feed, from battery hens, forced into laying non-stop, don’t cut the mustard. 

If you’re in any doubt about the need to buy organically raised and fed produce, check out the movie Samsara and while you’re out looking for good eggs from chooks that are free to roam, consider eating the shells too. Latest calcium and other mineral-enriched additive from the food industry is ... guess what? You got it, straight from organic egg shells. Chuck em into the blender with your fruit and yoghurt smoothie.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids? Where do healthy kids really start?

This week I came across a depressing number of studies, all completely missing the point in their desire to improve the health of the next generation. I really wonder what rock these researchers have been hiding under when for example the Healthy Parents, Healthy Kids study is “recruiting women in their second trimester (14 - 25 weeks) of pregnancy, so that they can participate in the study from the beginning of their third trimester (week 26), through to 4 weeks after their babies are born.”

In the same breath and from the same article I learn of the "Barwon Infant Study (BIS) - a major birth cohort study being conducted by the Child Health Research Unit (CHRU) at Barwon Health in collaboration with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and Deakin University. The overarching objective of the BIS is to generate new knowledge on the best way to provide babies and children with a healthy start to life. More than 1000 pregnant women from the Barwon region of Victoria, Australia were recruited between 2010 – 2013, and their children are now part of the invaluable BIS cohort." 

Then there’s the “The Healthy Mothers, Healthy Families research program, which focuses on what can be done in pregnancy and the early postnatal period to improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes.” 

Enough said - every one of these studies is closing the door after the horse has bolted! 

It’s a fact people! Excellent preconception diets (with robust supplementation), supported by toxicity and stress-free lifestyles (both his and hers), backed up by an excellent maternal diet during pregnancy, profoundly and positively impact the developing foetus and increase the likelihood that individual will live a life free of chronic degenerative disease. The effects carry across generations too! Conversely, poor preconception health (his and hers) and compromised pregnancy nutrient intake in addition to lifestyle and environmental toxicity contribute to poorer reproductive outcomes, increasing the chance of a child who will suffer a life-time of less than robust physical and mental health. Ditto for epigenetic effects. This is fact - not supposition!

So here’s an idea for researchers … how do we get the general population to listen up and take responsibility for the health of the next generation and generations beyond? Maybe we could start with a wellness-focused model of healthcare? Maybe we could reward practitioners for keeping their clients well, for keeping them out of the clinic and out of hospital? Maybe medical insurers could reward their members for never making a claim?  Wow, now there are some novel ideas! What would it take for scientists to get behind such novel ideas instead of constantly re-inventing the wheel (or in re-inventing just a part of the wheel in the case of the foregoing studies)?

I've been singing the preconception song for thirty five years, The Natural Way to Better Babies - Preconception Healthcare for Prospective Parents, my first book with Francesca Naish, just turned twenty (and it's still in print). As well as being a bible for hundreds of thousands of prospective parents, it's used as a reference tool by integrative practitioners around the world - maybe those researchers would like a copy? More on all of the above when you join my free webinar.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

'Nutrition gap' behind issue of disease inheritance

In July 2016, Science published research from Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London and University of Cambridge, where scientists ‘speculated’, following their studies on mice, that the nutritional quality of a mother’s diet during pregnancy has a huge say in determining offspring attributes such as weight and even susceptibility to chronic conditions. Jeez, you don’t say? I know researchers need to keep researching, but these sorts of studies, apart from the results being self-evident to any thoughtful, sensible individual, frustrate me beyond belief. 

It’s a fact! Excellent preconception diets (both his and hers) backed up by an excellent maternal diet during pregnancy, profoundly and positively impact he developing foetus and increase the likelihood that individual will live a life free of chronic degenerative disease. The effects carry across generations too. Conversely, poor preconception and pregnancy nutrient intake (and I include the standard Western diet in my ’poor’ frame of reference) contribute to poorer reproductive outcomes and increase the chance of a child who will suffer a life-time of less than robust physical and mental health. Ditto for epigenetic effects.This is fact - not supposition!

We’ve known for generations, there are multiple historical precedents, we have Dr. Weston Price’s work from the 1930s, Professor David Barker’s work in Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, admittedly the “Barker Hypothesis” for thirty years but now widely accepted as fact, then Foresight Association’s work spanning forty years and involving research institutions around the world, all supported by thousands of individual studies linking enhanced nutrient intake with better reproductive outcomes. Farmers and stock-breeders know all about it - they never breed their animals unless they are in optimally nourished, non-stressed condition.

So here’s an idea for researchers … how do we get the general population to listen up and take responsibility for the health of the next generation and generations beyond? Maybe we could start with a wellness-focused model of healthcare? Maybe we could reward practitioners for keeping their clients well, for keeping them out of the clinic and out of hospital? Maybe medical insurers could reward their members for never making a claim?  Wow, now there are some novel ideas! What would it take for scientists to get behind them instead of constantly re-inventing the wheel?

Well one thing it takes is for me to keep on keeping on with my personal Better Babies campaign,  coming to you now as a 10-module webinar series.