As we have read in previous articles, eating cholesterol-rich foods does not raise your cholesterol. If you eat too much cholesterol, your body will just produce less to compensate. But there are some foods that will raise your cholesterol. In the the prior two  articles, we looked at two foods that will raise your cholesterol levels: trans fats and fructose. In the final article of the cholesterol food raising series, we are going to look at a major cholesterol concern: the imbalance between omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids.

Omega 3 and omega 6 are both essential fatty acids, which means our body cannot produce them, we have to eat them. In a perfect food world, we would eat omega 3 and omega 6 in equal amounts and ingest a 1:1 ratio. In today’s food reality, however, that is rarely the case. Today many of eat 20-50 times more omega 6 than omega 3. That’s because omega 6 oils are commonly used for cooking and are prevalent in processed and restaurant foods, while omega 3 is taken in through eating fish like salmon, meat, eggs and vegetables. We just can’t eat enough of those to offset the omega 6 that we take in today.

Research shows that 99% of us are omega 3 deficient, and a recent study at Harvard directly linked omega 3 deficiency to death in an estimated 72,000-96,000 people a year. To put that in context, there are approximately 40,000 deaths a year due to breast cancer; this makes omega 3 deficiency something we need to pay attention to.

Omega 3s help reduce internal inflammation, which is linked to most every chronic condition that plagues us including – and especially – heart disease. They play a very important role in heart health as they inhibit the thickening of the arteries, lower the amount of lipids that circulate in our bloodstream, and help the arteries to relax. They also help reduce obesity by stimulating the hormone leptin which regulates food intake, body weight and metabolism, and they help prevent cancer cell growth.

In addition to directly impacting coronary heart disease and stroke, omega 3s can help reduce depression, improve mental clarity and focus, reduce dry or itchy skin, hair and nails, and help prevent autoimmune disorders and type 2 diabetes. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid; it is essential because our bodies can’t make it. Fatty acids fall into three groupings: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Let’s take a brief look at the science behind it so you can understand why it matters.

Each type of the three fats is made up of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms to fill in the spaces around them. Saturated fatty acids are acids where all of the spaces around the carbon atoms are completely filled, i.e., saturated. As a result, they are very stable regardless of temperature. They are found mainly in dairy, red meat and chicken, but also in tropical oils like red palm oil and coconut oil. We can also make some saturated fat from eating carbohydrates.

While we are on the subject of saturated fats, let me dispel the myth that saturated fats cause heart disease. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported on a study done by Dr. Ronald Krauss which analyzed 21 existing studies that included nearly 350,000 people and found “no significant evidence that eating more saturated fat increases a person’ risk of heart disease or stroke.”

A British report looked at data from ten large studies which included more than 400,000 men and women over several years. They found that the number of heart attacks and strokes were smaller among those who consumed the most (whole fat) dairy products and a recent Swedish study confirmed the same result.

One reason saturated fat may have been labeled a bad guy is that the meat and milk we ingest today is very different than that which we consumed one or two generations ago.

Meat today is bombarded with growth hormones, antibiotics, environmental toxins like pesticides. These toxins remain in the fat cells of the animals we eat. When we eat them or drink their milk, we take in all of this and the result is health problems including low grade inflammation.

Just as we discussed before, occasional ingestion is fine, but when we eat large quantities every day, the inflammation is ongoing and this leads to an increased likelihood of oxidation and heart disease. Small amounts of grass fed meat and milk products will not lead to heart disease and can definitely be part of a balanced diet. So don’t take this as license to go eat a 16 oz porterhouse every night! But by all means, don’t stress about occasional meat or dairy and lose the guilt over a pat of butter on your vegetables. It won’t hut your health or your waistline to ingest good fats in moderate amounts.

Another finding was that if people cut back on saturated fats and replace them with polyunsaturated fats, they may improve their heart health. For every 5 % in total calorie intake from polyunsaturated fats the study participants’ risk of heart attack or heart-related death fell 10%. And the longer their diet remained polyunsaturated rich, the greater the benefits for heart health.

But if they replace the calories with refined carbohydrates, sugar and trans fats, they will increase their risk and they’d be better off enjoying a steak and some butter on their baked potato instead. Dr Krauss concluded, “I agree strongly with the notion that rather than focusing on further reductions in saturated fat per se… we should be thinking much more seriously about finding ways of increasing our intake of polyunsaturated fat.”

Ok, more on this in a minute. Let’s get back to our discussion about fats.

Monounsaturated fats are fatty acids have a double bond between two carbon atoms and they are missing two hydrogen atoms. They are called mono because of its single carbon double bond and unsaturated because not all of the spaces are filled: two hydrogen atoms are missing. Because the chain can bend at the double bond point, when you mix a large number of these chains together, it won’t be dense or compact; there will be room in between.

As a result, these acids are usually liquid at room temperature and are relatively stable, though not as stable as saturated fats because they are not packed as tightly. The most common monounsaturated fat is oleic acid and examples are olive oil, avocados, peanuts, cashews, pecans and almonds. Your body can also make monounsaturated fat from saturated fat as needed, another reason not to be afraid of saturated fat.

Polyunsaturated fats are missing several hydrogen atoms and they have two – or more – double bonds. As a result, since there are more than one double bond, they are called poly, meaning many. At each double bond, there is a kink in the chain, so they tend to be very loosely packed and remain liquid, even in colder temperatures. The good polyunsaturated fats are found in whole food sources such as nuts, seeds, fish, algae, leafy greens and krill. These are the foods that Dr. Krauss was encouraging we eat more of that have health benefits for us.

However, it’s really important to distinguish that not all polyunsaturated fats are healthy. While the good forms can yield great health benefits, other forms of polyunsaturated fats are not so good for us and can do great health harm. These are the polyunsaturated fats found in vegetable oils such as soybean (a staple in packaged goods), corn, sunflower or safflower oil. They are highly unstable fats and they can go bad, or turn rancid, easily when exposed to heat and light.

When they turn rancid, free radicals are created which travel around in your blood causing damage to just about everything they interact with. Free radical damage has been tied to cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons’s, cataracts, tumors, and aging.

The most common polyunsaturated fatty acids are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. They are called essential fatty acids because our bodies cannot make them; we must get them from the food we eat. But while polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are good for us, some are better than others. The ones higher in omega 3 and the ones less likely to turn rancid, the ones found in whole foods rather than processed oils, are all good for us. But high heat processing of omega heavy oils is not desirable and not a good healthy fat source as we’ll see in just a minute.

So we started off by saying omega 3s can do a host of good. But let me just detour for a moment and share with you that rancid omega 3s can do a lot of damage. We need them, but we need to ensure that they do not turn rancid in our bodies. Antioxidants will mitigate this impact in the body, so regular antioxidant intake along with your omega 3s is a great preventive measure. Since fish oil is low in antioxidants, that is one reason why people like krill oil as an omega 3 supplement. Krill oil in addition to being a very pure omega 3 source contains antioxidants to help mitigate any free radical damage that may occur if oils turn rancid in your body.

Let’s go back to omegas 3 and 6. We need both of these essential fatty acids.

The problem is that in today’s food supply, omega 6 acids are used heavily in processed foods. Vegetable oils such as corn oil, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed and safflower oil contain at least 50% omega 6 and very little omega 3. Corn oil, for example, has a ratio of 60:1 omega 6 to 3, while safflower oil has a ratio of 77:1. In addition, factory farming reduces the amount of omega 3s in meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables, and increases omega 6 because it is the base of most animal feed, also contributing to the imbalance.

A chicken that is free to eat its normal diet of grass and bugs will lay an egg that is a perfect balance of omega 6 to omega 3. However, the traditional vegetarian grain fed chicken will yield an egg that is more like 20:1 omega 6 to 3. Nature undisturbed knows to work in perfect balance, but our changes in farming have disrupted that balance and left us with an overabundance of omega 6 in our diets.

Ideally, we need a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to 3, but up to a 4:1 ratio our bodies can still cope fairly well. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is more like a 20:1 up to a 50:1 ratio of 6:3 and that is why it is so important to eat more and supplement with omega 3s. Not only do we need them in isolation, but we need them to be in balance together with our omega 6 intake and our current diet is highly imbalanced in favor of omega 6s.

An imbalance will prevent all the wonderful health benefits we mentioned earlier from omega 3s from occurring.  In addition, too much omega 6 versus omega 3 has been shown to lead to inflammation, heart disease, weight gain, sterility, high blood pressure, digestive concerns, blood clots, inhibited immune function, and even cancer.

We covered a lot in this article series so let’s sum this all up. If you eat trans fats, fructose, or a processed food diet heavy in omega 6, cholesterol levels will be higher as a result because cholesterol is stepping in to try to help our bodies deal with the inflammation and the imbalance that ingesting these substances create. Forcing cholesterol levels higher to deal with these choices is not in our body’s best interest; so we should avoid eating these.

Artificially forcing cholesterol down without removing the cause simply inhibits the body’s ability to heal. It’s the old don’t shoot the messenger! Cholesterol is necessary for the body to deal with our choices: cholesterol isn’t the bad guy. In each case, it is helping our body to deal with the true bad guy: it’s a reflection of what is going on as our body tries to stay healthy, not an enemy.

We need to address the cause and remove these harmful substances from our diets so they don’t force our bodies to dispatch cholesterol continually to deal with their impact. That means limiting fructose consumption (no high fructose corn syrup!), avoiding trans fats (no products containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil; even if the label says trans fat free, check for hydrogenation!) and balancing omega 3 and omega 6 intake.

Balance can be achieved by avoiding vegetable oils and processed and restaurant foods which are heavy in omega 6. Taking in good quality omega 3 such as eggs from chickens allowed to eat a natural diet (not vegetarian feed), wild sockeye salmon, grass fed meat and supplementing with a high quality omega 3 or krill oil will help restore balance and reduce internal inflammation.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal. Learn more about Inger and receive her free bestselling ebook What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.

Article Photo: courtesy of winnond |


In the second of three articles about the real foods that raise your cholesterol (animal products are not among them!), we are going to look at sugar and review a form of sugar known as fructose. (If you missed the first article on trans fats, you can read it here.)

Studies have shown that it matters what form the sugar takes, what the sugar’s source is, and that not all sugars react the same way inside our bodies.

Glucose and Fructose
To help you understand the difference between glucose and fructose and more importantly, why it matters, I have to cover a little science. Bear with me and I’ll try to keep it simple and brief.

Glucose and fructose are two of the most common forms of sugar. They are both simple sugars and they have the same molecular form. But they have a different structure and as a result, they are metabolized very differently in the body.

One recent study followed participants for only 10 weeks. During the study, 25% of the participants’ energy requirements came from consuming either glucose or fructose sweetened beverages. The weight gain of both groups was comparable. But the group that consumed the fructose drinks gained measurably more intra abdominal fat, or the fat that forms around the organs in the abdomen. This fat has been shown to be a risk factor for many chronic illnesses including heart disease.

The fructose group also developed insulin resistance. In other words, they became less sensitive to insulin, the hormone whose job it is to control blood sugar levels through the release of glucose into the blood. Insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome, which has been shown to increase the risk of heart attack among other things. And metabolic syndrome is the precursor to type II diabetes.

A number of studies have now revealed significant health differences between the consumption of glucose and fructose so let’s look at the differences.

Glucose is the basis for all cellular energy. Since every cell in your body uses glucose, when you consume any glucose, your body utilizes it almost immediately. If you consume 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie will be stored as fat because the rest essentially gets ‘burned up.’ Because it’s typically broken down in the cells, only a small amount of glucose will need to be broken down by the liver, the organ that performs carbohydrate metabolism and detoxification (among other roles.)

As mentioned above, despite having the same molecular formula, fructose has a very different structure. As a result, they are metabolized very differently. Unlike glucose, which is metabolized in the body’s cells, fructose is metabolized completely by the liver just like ethanol — a known toxin — according to Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor at the University of California at San Francisco Medical School.

Metabolism in the liver also creates by products that pose health challenges, especially if the liver is working hard all day. Some of the by products include toxic waste and uric acid (which raises blood pressure and can lead to gout.)

Because our liver has so many important jobs, it can get overloaded and burn out; since  we cannot live without it, the less burden we place on our livers, the better. Given the choice between glucose and fructose, it’s definitely better for our bodies to consume glucose, which can be processed predominantly in the cells of the body, over fructose since fructose taxes our livers.

In addition, there are several connections between fructose and fat. Remember that when we consume 120 calories of glucose only one is stored as fat. But when we consume 120 calories of fructose, 40 of those calories will be stored as fat! When it is metabolized, fructose is turned into free fatty acids, VLDL (the bad cholesterol), and triglycerides, which are stored in the body as fat.

The fatty acids also form fat droplets, which can accumulate in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues. These fat deposits can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and result in insulin resistance. Fructose is a carbohydrate that is metabolized in the body like a fat so no wonder it impacts our weight and our health so dramatically.

Fructose is not inherently bad. It is commonly found in the fruits and vegetables we’ve eaten for thousands of years. If we consume small amounts from fruits and vegetables throughout the day as our ancestors did, we might derive about 15 grams of fructose from our daily diets. (I did read an interesting report recently that stated the way we grow fruit today has increased the amount of fructose it contains, which would add to the burden.)  But this fructose would also be consumed along with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber contained in the fruits and vegetables, which would also help to balance out the sugar intake.

If we increase our fructose consumption exponentially, as we have in recent years, with current estimates that a typical teenager takes in 73 grams a day just in sweetened drinks alone, (and for you non-soda drinkers you’re not off the hook: sugar comes plentifully in sports drinks, processed fruit juices and flavored milks), it’s not hard to see how this could pose metabolic challenges to our bodies and impact cholesterol and heart health.

Too much sugar or processed foods will start us on a road toward diabetes or insulin resistance. While that can occur with all sugars, as we just saw, fructose has an even more damaging effect due to its impact on very small LDL and Triglycerides. While there are many reasons to avoid diabetes as it poses numerous health risks, one of its greatest impacts is on heart health.

According to Dr. Frederic Vagnini, “It is apparent to me in my practice, and it is becoming more and more documented in the scientific literature that individuals with any type of heart ailment, be it a heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, angioplasty or bypass surgery experience, hypertension, or hyperlipidemia, will be found upon examination to have elevated glucose levels—that is, diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Dr. Vagnini makes it clear that it’s not just the diagnosis of diabetes, but the simple effect of elevated glucose levels. When we have elevated glucose over time we experience what is known as pre-diabetes, and the damage begins to occur, Often it can take years to go from pre-diabetes to full diabetes diagnosis, but during that time, significant damage to our heart health is steadily occuring.

For people with diagnosed diabetes, heart attack and stroke are the leading cause of death; heart attacks in people with diabetes are more serious and more likely to result in death. But even without a diagnosis of diabetes, as Dr. Vagnini has observed, elevated glucose is present in people experiencing any type of heart ailment, which makes it important to take action long before your blood sugar reaches the 125 level that constitutes a diabetes diagnosis. (Many doctors say healthy blood sugar should be below 80. If you want to learn more, you can read my article “The Diabetes Myth” here.)

Dr. Vagnini concludes, “Years ago, cholesterol became a household word because of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on health education through the National Cholesterol Education Program of the Institutes of Medicine. Today glucose levels are just as important as cholesterol (hyperlipidemia) as a risk factor for heart disease; yet they are not given sufficient attention by medical practitioners.”

Maybe it’s time we start paying attention to the connection.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal. Learn more about Inger and receive her free bestselling ebook What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.

Article Photo: courtesy of Stuart Miles |


As we have read in previous articles, eating cholesterol-rich foods does not raise your cholesterol. If you eat too much cholesterol, your body will just produce less to compensate. But there are some foods that will raise your cholesterol. In the next three articles, we will examine several foods that actually ARE shown to raise cholesterol levels. There are three commonly eaten foods we eat way too much of that are proven to raise your cholesterol levels.  The first is:

Trans fats

Trans fats are made when a hydrogen atom is added to unsaturated fat. During this process, hydrogen gas bubbles through the oil while in the presence of a nickel catalyst. Originally just an interesting science experiment, the result became attractive to food manufacturers looking to increase profits. Trans fats don’t spoil as readily as other oils, they don’t break down when heated repeatedly, and they can turn a liquid oil into a solid, which makes transport easier and offers a cheaper substitute to solid animal fat.

The fast food industry saw appeal, with most every major chain finding a use: Dunkin donuts began to use them for frying donuts, McDonalds used them for frying its french fries. (They and most others have recently eliminated trans fats due to public pressure).  Margarine, is a trans fat the remains a supermarket staple which along with baked and snack goods benefited from an increasing concern over the use of butter and lard several decades ago and the desire to shift to a vegetable based product. But as trans fat consumption increased radically, researchers began to be concerned about its impact on health.

Awareness of the harm of trans fats began in the 1990s, though a study done in the UK as far back as 1981 raised some questions.  In 1993, Harvard concluded that the intake of partially hydrogenated oils increased the likelihood of a heart attack. That study suggested that replacing just 2% of energy from trans fats with healthy unsaturated fats could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by a third.

In 1999, a joint study by Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital reported that  “at least 30,000 and as many as 100,000 cardiac deaths a year in the United States could be prevented if people replaced trans fats with healthier non hydrogenated” oils.  The New England Journal of Medicine reported that same year that trans fats are directly linked to the development of diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.

Today we know that trans fats increase LDL, the low-density lipoproteins, especially the smaller denser particles that we now know are more damaging to the arteries. (More on this soon.) At the same time, they reduce HDL, the high-density lipoproteins that are responsible for taking bad cholesterol and waste that needs to be returned to the liver for processing and disposal.  They also create inflammation, which has been shown to lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions. Trans fats have also been linked to obesity and insulin resistance as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

At one point, the FDA estimated 95% of prepared cookies, 100% of crackers and 80% of frozen breakfast products contained trans fats.  They have also said that the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fats a day. While some companies are shifting their manufacturing processes, the majority of foods still contain some amount of trans fat.  (It breaks my heart every year when the Girl Scouts come calling because I’d love to support their cause, but their cookies all include trans fats, so typically, I make a donation and tell them to keep the cookies.)

When you eat at bakeries, restaurants, schools and cafeterias there is no way to monitor trans fat presence, so there’s a good likelihood you are consuming them unless you are in a trans fat free zone. Trans fats do occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, so it’s hard to avoid them completely.

The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 1% of your calorie energy come from trans fats. If you eat a 2000 calorie a day diet, that is 20 calories, or less than 2 grams of trans fats a day. Given what you likely ingest through your daily meat and dairy consumption, you are most likely reaching or exceeding that amount through natural sources, leaving no room for ANY additional trans fat consumption.

Prior to 2006, when trans fats were finally required to be listed on labels, it was hard to tell which foods contained them. Now it’s a little easier, but you still cannot depend on full on truth in labeling with regard to trans fats. In fact, many products claim to be trans fat free while still containing trans fats. Portion sizes under .5g per serving do not require listing on labels. (In Canada, it’s .2g). So some manufacturers simply reduce portion sizes in order to meet the minimum requirements, but continue to process foods the same way.

Despite the common belief that they have been banned, the hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils still abound in the foods we eat. The only way to know for sure if to read the label and to look for partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list. Land O’ Lakes Margarine spread per tablespoon has 2.5 grams of trans fat (more than an entire day’s limit) It may surprise you where you find them; I found them in a jar of artichoke hearts!

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal. Learn more about Inger and receive her free bestselling ebook What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You.

Article Photo: courtesy of Grant Cochrane |


There are 206 bones in the human skeleton that support and protect our internal organs and perform a number of important functions. But we rarely give them much thought unless we break one and we have to learn to function without it. When you’re a kid, it can be a cool badge of honor, but as an adult, it can wreak havoc with your life.

A few years ago, I broke my right wrist so severely that I now have a four-inch plate and two screws where my wrist bone once was. I was at the roller rink with my kids when a boy lost control and knocked me over. The accompanying nerve damage was excruciating and learning to bathe, dress, cook and take care of my little kids without the use of my wrist was quite a challenge.

It took me almost a year to fully recover, and as a result, I’m even more conscious of my bone health now.

If you’re struggling with wear and tear on hips or knees or perhaps you’re concerned about bone health and osteoporosis as you age (or you have a friend or family member who is), there is much you can do to prevent and even repair bone damage. In this article, I’m going to explore how you can avoid drugs, replacement surgeries and debilitating fractures as you age, and have strong healthy bones for life.

How our Bones Work

Our bones are meant to last: Exhumation at burial sites thousands of years old reveals intact skeletons. Ancient societies’ medical records reveal no issues or concerns with bone failure as people age. So what has changed?

Bones are continuously being built up and broken down. In fact, the entire human skeleton is replaced every 10 years. There are two types of cells in the bones needed to complete this task: Osteoblasts, which produce new bone, and osteoclasts, which are responsible for removing damaged or unnecessary cells from the bones. These cells work to structure your bones as you grow, to regulate calcium levels in the blood, and to repair stresses and damage from daily function.

In addition, almost all of our hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, thyroid hormones and growth hormones have an effect on bones. We hear a lot about women being at risk for osteoporosis post-menopause, when estrogen levels in the body fall; clearly the hormone connection is real.

Osteoporosis occurs when bone tissues thin as we age, resulting in a loss of bone density. We have been told that osteoporosis is a problem. But is how dense your bones are really that important? If your bones are thin, but they support you through your life and never break, is there a reason to be concerned?

Or, if it’s actually fractures and their impact that is the real concern, is there a direct correlation between thin bones and fractures that we need to manage? Research indicates that there are many people with thin bones who never experience fractures and many people whose bones are dense who still succumb to fractures.

Thanks to aggressive marketing campaigns, everyone knows of the connection between calcium and bone health. I cringe every time I go into my kids’ schools and see posters of athletes and pop stars with white mustaches. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and most of Western Europe are the largest consumers of dairy in the world. Yet we have more fractures than people from Asia and Africa. In fact, the populations of Africa and Asia consume almost no dairy, but have fracture rates 50%-70% lower than ours.

Calcium may play a role, but clearly it is not enough on its own. (Of course, there is the question of can we actually absorb calcium or any nutrients from today’s dairy products, which is discussed in the article on making better diary choices; the short answer is no.)

Let’s look at how bones are structured.  Bones are made of an interwoven lattice-like structure: a collagen matrix. This makes up about 35% of the bones and it is what gives bone its flexibility. This matrix forms the base that then traps calcium phosphate, a mineral salt, which is also known as hydroxyapetite. Hydroxyapetite forms about 65% of bone mass and it is what gives bones its strength. Bones are also the depositories of many minerals that the body needs such as sodium, potassium and magnesium.

Tests measure bone density. But if you fall, what determines whether your bones fracture? Is it the density of the bone? If so, why don’t we see that thin bones consistently fracture and that dense bones do not?

Perhaps it’s not how thick the bone is, but rather, how flexible the collagen matrix is and how able it is to support you when you fall or find yourself out of your natural alignment. Caring for bones means more than just calcium and bone density; it means ensuring the flexibility of the collagen web.

If collagen is the key, that would explain why density isn’t directly related to fractures. It would also explain why cultures that consume healthy diets rich in collagen and the nutrients required to produce it such as the populations of Asia and Africa have significantly fewer fractures than Western (collagen-deficient) dieters.

What About Bisphonates?

Osteoporosis drugs known as Bisphonates (such as Fosomax, Actonel and Boniva) work in two ways: by preventing bone perforations that can weaken structure and by inhibiting the osteoclasts, the cells that break down old bone. Normal bone processes includes resorption, in which old bone is cleared away. But osteoporosis drugs prevent that process, so that the old bone stays around longer.

Instead of a natural process that renews the bone skeleton every 10 years, the old bone is kept around. During the first year, new bone keeps getting built, which is  why many people see such great results short-term from bone building drugs. But after a while, that process peaks and just as the bone resorption stops, so does the bone creation. Somehow the osteoblasts that build bone are repressed by the bisphonates and the natural process is halted.

New research reveals that many people on these drugs have spontaneous fractures that are not trauma related but simply bones breaking while walking up stairs or performing normal daily routines. Ultimately, the old bone buildup and the lack of new bone growth may make the bones even more brittle than they were before!

When we looked at cholesterol, we talked about the “number needed to treat,” or NNT. (Some scientists say anything over 50 is like buying a lottery ticket.) A study of post-menopausal women showed that twice as many of the high-risk fracture group (history of a previous fracture and low bone density) on placebos had a fracture versus those on the drug Fosamax. This study result allowed Fosamax to claim a 50% reduction in fractures. But just as in the cholesterol fine print, we need to dig deeper to understand what that means.

The study shows that 2.2% of the placebo group had a fracture versus 1.1% of the Fosamax group. The net result of risk reduction was 1%. For every 100 women treated, 99 got no benefit. Those 99 would be much better served with diet and exercise changes given all the side effects of these drugs, including irregular heartbeats, increased fractures of the femur (isn’t that what we are trying to prevent?), ulcers and upper GI irritation, joint, bone and muscle pain, and rare but serious jaw bone decay.

So if drugs aren’t the answer, what can we do? The answer lies in exercise and diet.

Exercise: Get Moving

Weight bearing exercise is critical to bone strength. As a cycling instructor, I paid attention when a cycling magazine reported that they looked at the bones of professional/serious cyclists and found men in their 50s with hip bone density similar to that of elderly women. There is something about the cycling movement that grinds the hipbone and if you ride to excess without weight bearing exercise, it takes its toll on your hips.

Cyclist or not, we all need to walk, run, hike, dance or climb stairs to get some weight-bearing exercise. And we should also work on strength training. While lifting weights can be done in a gym, you can also use household or kitchen items and perform body weight exercises such as push-ups or squat into a chair in your living room without weights or gym memberships.

And since fractures have a lot to do with flexibility, stretching is key. The hip flexor muscle in particular needs to be flexible enough to respond should you fall out of normal alignment. Yoga and tai chi can be helpful, but you can just lie on the floor and stretch at home, too.

Balance training can also be helpful: The better your balance, the less likely you are to tumble and end up in a position that could result in a fracture. Try standing on one foot without holding onto anything. If that’s easy, close your eyes. Practice over time and your balance will improve: You’ll be able to hold that pose for longer periods of time with greater stability.

Bone-Building Diet Options

The complex interplay of minerals and nutrients for bone health means that dietary answers are not as simple as taking more calcium. Calcium needs approximately 16 other nutrients in order to be utilized by your body and dairy calcium does not deliver those nutrients. So using dairy as a source of calcium is not helpful unless you also consume a wide variety of plant foods to access those other nutrients. But since calcium can also be delivered through those same plant foods, increasing dairy is ultimately unnecessary.

While improving calcium through increasing plant food consumption may be of some help, it is not enough. Collagen — and the vitamin C required to make it — are critical. In fact, some researchers have suggested that vitamin C is as integral to bone health — or given our deficiencies, perhaps even more so — than calcium. Vitamin C stimulates the enzymes that create the connective tissue and the collagen. But collagen also requires adequate protein for formulation. A deficiency of either one — protein or vitamin C — may weaken the collagen matrix and prevent the calcium salts from being retained.

Man is one of the few mammals that cannot make vitamin C in its liver, so we must ingest all our daily vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C is not stored in the body, so it must be continually replenished.

The prior Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C of 60 mg was chosen as the minimum level needed to avoid scurvy, a disease that occurs when we are extremely vitamin C deficient.

Researchers now recommend that we get a minimum of 200 mg of vitamin C a day, though a recent study on college age men showed they needed as much as 1,000 mg a day. 200 should be sufficient for most of us, but getting that amount means at least five servings of fruits and vegetables. We know about citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, as well as berries like strawberries and raspberries, but vegetables are good sources of vitamin C as well, and without the blood sugar impact that fruits can have. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collard greens and asparagus are all good sources of vitamin C.

Because we can’t store it, that means we must get at least 5 servings throughout the day, and I don’t know a lot of people who get five servings of dark green leafy vegetables a day! But without regular and consistent vitamin C consumption, our collagen matrix can be compromised. A weakened collagen “web” means we can lose the flexibility required to avoid a bone break and our risk of fractures will increase.

Vitamin D is also required for calcium absorption (so we need to get our daily dose of sunshine), as are a host of other minerals including phosphorus, magnesium, boron, copper, manganese, silica, zinc, folic acid and vitamins B12, A and K.

Its best to get these minerals through a whole plant food diet: dark green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, seaweeds and some fish. But if you can’t do that, a whole food supplement can help bridge the gap. (Just note that with vitamin C, you will want to consume several smaller doses a day instead of one larger one because we can only take in smal amounts at a time.) We also need the presence of healthy fats (omega-3s) to perform all the necessary body functions around vitamin absorption.

Finally, it’s important to know that an overly acidic diet will weaken our bones. Acid-creating foods such as alcohol, sugar, flour, grains, meat, fish, poultry and eggs pull calcium and other minerals out of teeth and bones. We need to have some of these foods, as we need protein to support collagen as well. But many of us are out of balance from excessively large meat portions coupled with excess sugar and white flour and not enough healthy fats.

Restoring the acid-alkaline balance is the goal. The more minerals there are in a food, the more alkaline it is; eating fruits, vegetables, seaweeds, salt (note: not iodized salt or excessive sodium through processed food, but natural untreated salt such as himalyan or sea salt) and other alkalizing foods can help balance out too much acid and support our natural healing and bone repair process.

To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


In this article, I’m going to cover a topic of concern for most men: prostate health. But this topic is important for female readers too. This information will likely be helpful to someone you love who does have a prostate AND you’ll also find much of this information applies to breast or uterine health as well. Many scientists consider prostate cancer in men to be the equivalent of breast cancer in women because it is brought about by the same conditions, factors and imbalances that simply manifest in different sexual organs because of gender. So ladies, there is something here for you, too.

What is the Prostate and How Does it Work?
The prostate is a small gland about the size of a walnut just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The prostate wraps around the urethra, a tube that takes urine from the bladder out through the penis. The prostate makes the milky fluid that carries the sperm, which is made in the testicles, out through the penis during ejaculation.

As men get older, enlargement of the prostate is a common concern, affecting more than half of men by age 60 and an estimated 80% by age 80. As the prostate enlarges, it presses against the bladder, resulting in a disruption of the flow of urine, causing frequent urination, difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream or a feeling that the bladder has not fully emptied.

Looking at those statistics, it may seem that prostate challenges are inevitable. But research shows there is much we can do to prevent these problems. However, the conditions we create in our bodies do not appear magically overnight; they are the result of the many small choices we make each day. There are no quick fixes for good health, but the recommendations below can have a positive effect over time.

Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Prostate
Here are some of the things you can do to enhance prostate health (and if you are a woman, think breast health instead):

Eat a healthy balanced whole-food diet: Ensure you are consuming all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrients your body needs. Take a whole-food supplement to cover any gaps. Eat more fiber, especially from vegetables, as vegetable fiber is shown to help with blood sugar and reduce the risk of prostate problems. Reduce or eliminate white sugars and flours from your diet and choose foods lower on the glycemic index that are rich in fiber and healthy fats.

Hormonal balance is important and I’m going to talk about balancing our sex hormones shortly. But you cannot balance your secondary (sex) hormones (i.e., testosterone and estrogen, which are very important to prostate health) when your primary hormones, like insulin, are out of balance. Balance your primary hormones by making sure that your blood sugar is regulated so that insulin is not a concern.

Reduce internal inflammation: It’s directly connected to prostate problems and tied to many cancers including prostate and breast. Johns Hopkins research shows that early stages of prostate cancer go hand in hand with chronic inflammation and that an anti-inflammatory diet can help correct this. Pay attention to high cholesterol not because cholesterol is bad; cholesterol is part of your body’s natural healing process. Rather, high cholesterol is an indication that inflammation is occurring in the body. Ubiquinol can help prevent the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation that causes inflammation in the arteries. Omega 3 can help reduce inflammation already present.

Cholesterol levels are important for another reason: Higher cholesterol typically indicates higher levels of estrogen in the body. (Estrogen levels are also usually higher in obese men.) Higher estrogen levels are shown to double the risk of stroke, significantly increase the risk of heart disease and increase thickening of the arteries. High estrogen levels are tied to prostate cancer as well, though some scientists think it hasn’t been studied enough because many men with high estrogen levels succumb to other diseases long before prostate concerns manifest.

Hormones are always about balance and our sex hormones are no different. When estrogen levels increase, it means that relatively speaking, there is less testosterone. (Or in women, less progesterone.) Testosterone is required to maintain a healthy prostate and men with higher levels of testosterone are better able to prevent prostate problems. Because it’s about balance, we either need to raise testosterone levels or eliminate the excess estrogen. Increasing testosterone can only be done effectively through a prescription medication that comes with a host of side effects.

But there are a number of ways to avoid excess estrogen, including reducing your meat and dairy intake. Humans are the only species on the planet whose adults drink milk (or consume large amounts through cheese, ice cream and other dairy products). Milk from perennially pregnant cows is, not surprisingly, laden with hormones such as estrogen. And the feed given to animals these days can interfere with animal hormones, leaving excess estrogens stored in their fat.

In addition, we are bombarded daily with estrogenic compounds called xenoestrogens. These compounds can mimic estrogen and take up estrogen receptor sites, leaving the body’s estrogen to wander looking for an available receptor site. This excess estrogen imbalances our normal hormone ratios. Xenoestrogens are found in petroleum-based products, plastics, herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. They are in car emissions, paint, nail polish, soap, lotion, food, water and the air.

Xenoestrogens result in an increase in belly fat or breast development in men as well as weight gain, allergies, sinus infections, fatigue, mood swings and the onset of andropause, the male equivalent of menopause. Andropause can result in impotence, low sex drive, low sperm count, low absorption of zinc, increased risk of heart disease, and not surprisingly, urination and prostate problems.

While we can reduce meat and dairy and improve our diets, we cannot control all the elements in our environment. This is where the supplement DIM (or diindolylmethane) that I speak about in my article on supplements everyone should take can help comes in. DIM is a phytonutrient that occurs naturally in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. It was discovered about 10 years ago, but its benefits are only just now being understood.

Taking DIM has the equivalent effect of eating three pounds of broccoli a day. DIM is a natural estrogen balancer in women and men. It can promote healthy estrogen metabolism and prevent estrogen dominance, and is also shown to protect against cancer, heart disease and to support healthy prostate tissue and prevent prostate enlargement.

The plant indoles in cruciferous vegetables have been shown to regulate hormone metabolism and not only manage estrogen in men, they have also been shown to support a more desirable testosterone function. DIM can help estrogen break down into its “good” metabolites, which are responsible for the positive things we hear about estrogen: protection of heart and brain activity.

Slow estrogen metabolism can result in too much active estrogen, or estradiol, in the body, which causes problems like weight gain, diminished sex drive, male pattern baldness and prostate enlargement. DIM increases the “good” estrogen metabolites, which serve as antioxidants in the body and simultaneously decreases the “bad” metabolites, which are not antioxidants and can cause cancer in the body.

I don’t normally recommend specific supplements, but many of us (male and female) are estrogen dominant as a result of our diets and our environment and thus have hormonal imbalance issues. For anyone concerned about estrogen metabolism or hormonal imbalance, or dealing with the physical manifestations of such, I recommend the BioResponse form of DIM, as it is a naturally occurring phytonutrient that is microencapsulated to ensure absorption.

Other Ways to Support Prostate Health
Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is tied to many health issues including heart attacks, diabetes and prostate problems. Excess weight around the mid-section is a particular concern, as it’s far more detrimental to our health than weight gain anywhere else in the body. Gaining weight or enlargement of the breasts is also a concern as it reflects excess estrogen.

Exercise for physical health and to reduce stress. Research shows that as little as 15 minutes of exercise a day reduced the mortality rate of men with prostate cancer. As exercise intensity levels and frequency increased, so did survival rates. Men who exercised three or more hours a week (moderate to intense exercise like jogging, cycling, tennis or swimming) reduced mortality rates by 35%. Men who walked four or more hours a week reduced mortality by 23% while men who walked 90 or more minutes at a brisk pace had a 51% less risk of death than those who walked less than 90 minutes at a slower easier pace. Those who engaged in vigorous physical activity for five or more hours a week showed a significant reduction in mortality.

Engage in frequent sexual activity or masturbation. Studies show that carcinogens pool in seminal fluid and that releasing the toxins from your prostate regularly improves prostate health. It’s the ejaculation process that is beneficial. Improvements are shown at two times a week, with additional protection afforded at three or more times a week. (Dr. Oz recently commented that the average American has sex once a week, but that increasing the frequency to twice a week can add three years to your life.)

Release any buried anger and resentment. Holding onto it doesn’t serve you in any way and keeping negative emotions inside the body has a physical effect on our cells. Anger and resentment have long been correlated to cancerous cell growth in energy medicine and this idea is now being proven in research as well.  Negative feelings increase the stress level cortisol, a hormone that has been consistently found to repress the function of the immune system. When the immune system is not at the top of its game, the cancer cells that are present in every body have a better environment in which to multiply and can form tumor sites.

Suppression of anger, hate, grief or resentment can also the damage the emotional reflex center in the brain. Over time, this will result in a breakdown that will result in wrong messages being sent to the organ it controls, creating deformed or cancerous cell growth. Numerous studies of cancer patients have identified an unresolved conflict, or suppressed and unexpressed emotion, usually occurring several years before cancer emerged.

And when adrenaline is low, the environment is better for cancerous cell growth. High stress levels will deplete your adrenaline reserves enabling a cancerous environment. Let your feelings out and release stress in other ways such as meditation, deep breathing, journaling, music, and laughter. Laughter is a powerful stress reliever, so when you’ve had a bad day, find some friends you can laugh about it with, or watch a favorite funny movie and laugh out loud.

Research shows that vitamin D helps prevent a variety of cancers, including prostate and breast. In one study, supplementation was shown to reduce the PSA (prostate specific antigen) levels in men with prostate cancer. Another study revealed that men with high vitamin D levels were half as likely to develop aggressive forms of prostate cancer as men with lower levels, so get outside and get your daily dose of sunshine.

As for specific supplements or foods to enhance prostate health, there are many. There are a number of food studies that indicate the benefits of certain foods such as garlic, scallions, pomegranate, walnuts (for the omega 3s and gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E), coffee (for the antioxidants), cooked tomatoes (for the lycopene), bee pollen (for the zinc) and it never hurts to add more healthy foods to our diets.

There are also nutrient studies touting saw palmetto, zinc, boron, K2 and selenium but there are also risks of taking too much of these in supplement form. Generally speaking, taking any supplement in isolation limits its effectiveness. When you eat the foods themselves, or the food sources of the minerals and phytonutrients, it’s hard to overdose and they can offer great prostate health benefits.

By eating a balanced whole food diet and taking a whole-food supplement, you will be getting all the vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and phytonutrients you need together to absorb and fully utilize the benefits. That makes good sense for overall wellness as well as prostate health.

Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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