Supplement news

A tough few days for the supplement industry last week. You may have read the news reports. One newly published study found that, in a large observational sampling of women over 60, those who took a multivitamin had a higher death rate than those who didn’t. And another new piece of research, this time involving a ten-year clinical trial, concluded that men over 55 taking vitamin E are more likely to develop prostate cancer.

To be fair, the first study has methodological shortcomings – there was no adjustment for initial health levels or use of a placebo – and the second one has a limited scope. But both are important reminders of a little secret underlying the global supplement industry: there is almost no science validating the many hypotheses that taking supplements is a good idea. Add to this a bit of new evidence suggesting the practice may not be as benign as many people previously thought, including food and drug regulators, and it really was a bad week all around for the industry.

HumanaNatura remains open to scientific research showing clear net benefits from specific supplement regimes. But perhaps like you, we have been waiting for this evidence for a while and there have been many studies seeking to find reliable and scientifically-valid supplementation strategies during this time.

Today, based on available science, we recommend two and only two nutritional supplements for adults (and none for children) using our natural health system, and both only on the advice of your physician: 1) a daily vitamin D supplement if you have inadequate sun exposure and low circulating levels of this critical vitamin-hormone, and 2) a daily low-dose aspirin, given its low-cost, limited risk of side-effects, and strong correlation with reduced cardiovascular disease and lowered large-organ cancers (both findings via randomized clinical trials).

Given the new studies and pervasiveness of supplement use (by roughly half of North American adults), many medical experts have been in the news on the topic of supplementation these last few days. By an informal reading, it appears most are saying to save your money, unless you have a known vitamin deficiency, and to focus instead on healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle. As we have suggested, there is a lot of science upon which to base this advice.

Before you take or buy another supplement, learn more about the new studies via three news articles on the topic – Dietary Supplements RiskyShould You Take Vitamins, and Is It Time To Stop – and review HumanaNatura’s Supplement Guidelines (Item #7) in our comprehensive, science-based Personal Health Program.

Photo Courtesy of Wyeth Centrum

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Nutrition first

A new and nicely done article in The Independent discusses a common personal experience – finding that exercise alone will not make us naturally lean, healthy, and fit. The article includes the math and some of the science that explains why this so. The bottom line: we limit our natural fitness when we jump to exercise and do not first attend to the foundations of our natural health, especially food quality and quantity.

In practice, poor eating creates a high barrier to realizing our health and fitness potential, one that exercise usually cannot run over or around. This is in part because unnatural eating generally means excessive and unbalanced eating…often in the form of too many calorie-rich and artery-clogging fats, and too many fat-building and hunger-stoking carbohydrates.

Unnatural eating also brings foods into our diet that we are not evolved to eat, displacing natural foods required for fitness and leading to metabolic distortions that reduce our physiological health before we go out the door or to the gym. And, as the new article points out, most exercise increases rather than decreases hunger, which can ironically compound our fitness gap if our health promotion efforts did not begin by ensuring healthy natural nutrition.

Check out the new article at Does Running Make You Fat and see how HumanaNatura places natural nutrition before natural exercise in the overview to our four-part Personal Health Program.

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Healthy fish fry

Shot this photo for our updated Meals page in the early morning sun and then had the meal for breakfast. Delicious and photogenic, but we decided not to use, so here it is re-purposed to make a specific point: you can enjoy fried fish and have your health too. Our model-meal was prepared with wild-caught bass that was pan-fried with a bit of olive oil, red onion, and seasonings. It is served with mixed greens, julienne-cut celery, whole grape tomatoes, diced figs…and garnished with sunflower seeds, parsley, coriander, and black pepper. We hope this beautiful meal is health-inspiring, and that you will check our new page tabs. They’re still being developed but you’ll get where we’re going.

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Happy stumbling

New research by a team at University College in London adds to a growing field of investigation demonstrating important life-limiting Cognitive Biases in humans. This general field holds that since our brains were evolved primarily for survival and reproduction in nature, and in any case not as perfect perceiving and thinking instruments, they should be subject to various limitations – potentially leading to undesirable and unconscious quirks in our natural functioning. Already, this idea has been well-validated, underscoring that human wisdom and optimality have always required and will continue to require considerable personal and collective effort. Put another way, the natural flow of our minds and groups can be expected to lead us along a stumbling track.

In the new experiment, a small cohort of people were assessed for the characteristic of optimism and then asked to assess various risks while in a brain scanner. The researchers found three things, all consistent with related prior research: 1) more optimistic people were more likely to initially underestimate known objective risks, 2) these people were less able to assimilate objective information that contradicted their overly positive beliefs, 3) this pattern of processing bias (favoring rejection of negative information) was well-correlated with reduced frontal lobe processing in the more optimistic people. The researchers found, essentially, that our brains can naturally lead us to happy but incorrect judgments.

Since the vast majority of us are fairly to highly optimistic, the new research is important and adds to an increasing body of evidence suggesting significant and widespread distortions in the way we operate (even as an optimistic bias has been shown to provide compensating health benefits and added resilience against less than optimal choices). Key human biases include not only the systematic underestimation of risks and the minimization of contradictory facts (self-deception and dogmatism), but also 1) under-appreciation of the future and poor consideration of the consequences of our actions (presentism and impulsiveness), 2) more negative feelings toward people who are less similar to us (tribalism and chauvinism), 3) relativistic and self-favoring moral standards (selfism and clanism), and 4) vulnerability to manipulation by supernormal influences (primalism). Each of these innate biases may have been less of an issue in our original setting in small hunter-gathered bands on the plains of Africa, but today can greatly hamper individual and collective perception, thinking, choice, and quality of life in modern society.

Before your next decision, take a moment to review the new research at Brain Rejects Negative Thoughts. You can also learn more about human cognitive biases within us all (yes, you too) at Human Biases and explore three thought-provoking articles in the HumanaNatura article library that discuss aspects of this important area of health and quality of life science: The Persistence of IdeasEscape From Supernormal Reality, and Understanding Personal Empowerment.

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Red plate special

If only diners and cafes would serve breakfast this way and help us all start the day with a healthy meal. This HumanaNatura version of a morning “salad meal” features a spicy shrimp omelet with figs, strawberries, and oranges on mixed greens…garnished with parsley, paprika, coriander, tarragon, and black pepper. While the restaurant owners in your community wake up to the possibilities of naturally healthy meals and clients, learn to make your own red plate specials via our popular article Perfect Salad Meals or through the Natural Eating section of HumanaNatura’s comprehensive Personal Health Program.

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Good science

Perhaps like you, HumanaNatura is an active consumer and communicator of health science. Our use of science spans the design and guidelines of our four-part Natural Health System, the health and quality of life articles of our Article Library, and the updates we provide via NaturaLife on new scientific studies and research. Today, there is of course a lot of good and even great science available, which after all is the principal hallmark and driving force of our times. But there is a lot of bad science too – experiments and studies that are poorly conceived, conducted sloppily, or used to bolster rather than validate the soundness of a hypothesis or economic endeavor. So how do we, and you, separate good science from bad pseudoscience, and navigate conflicting scientific claims when we encounter them?

Ben Goldacre’s funny and insightful new presentation at TED, Battling Bad Science, offers important guidance for ferreting out bad science from good, and we hope you will give it a view.

For HumanaNatura, our approach to the use of science is to always look for peer-reviewed, independent research by established scientific institutions. We place a premium on randomized clinical trials and double-blind studies, consider experimental design and sampling methods before we publish, and look for findings that have been validated by multiple teams over time (including meta-analyses of earlier research). We always remember and normally highlight when a study suggests causation or correlation, remain careful with researcher and press inferences from experimental findings, and know that all dominating theories and paradigms are subject to refinement and revision based on new evidence. At the same time, we also understand the power of cross-disciplinary analyses and know these can begin crudely, appreciate rough new insights into existing research and data, and recognize that some studies may be less than perfect but still promising – all cases suggesting the need for added investigation, while still offering cause for pause.

Today, becoming an informed consumer of science is critical to progressive health and quality of life for individuals, communities, and our global society. We hope these guidelines are helpful to you and that you will always feel free to ask questions on the science that HumanaNatura uses and presents.

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This is it!

About as healthy and delicious a meal as you can have…raw fruits and veggies, marine protein from low in the food chain, and some seeds and olive oil for healthy fat. It took eight minutes to prepare, thanks to the modern miracle of frozen cleaned shrimp. So, what’s keeping you from eating this way every day? Learn the how and why of Natural Eating via HumanaNatura’s Personal Health Program today!

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Parent trap

Who are you going to listen to – parents who have your long-term health and well-being in mind, or unhealthy and self-serving messages beamed at you electronically, encouraging pleasure and impulsiveness? Not surprisingly, a new study of children by Texas A&M International University has found that the unhealthy electronic messages can win out.

In the study, children aged 3-8 were exposed to healthy or unhealthy commercials during a cartoon, and then to health-encouraging or health-neutral input from their parents. Researchers found the commercials were more powerful than parental input in determining a subsequent food choice, and that the combination of unhealthy commercials and neutral parent input reliably led to poorer quality choices.

Though the new study is inconclusive on its own, owing to its small sample size and limited scope, it is sure to be repeated on a larger scale and should be seen in the context of widespread research demonstrating the strong and often counter-intuitive impact of electronic messages on the quality of our choices and health. Read about the new study at Gimme My Fries and learn more about the impact of media exposure on child behavior at Television and Children.

Photo courtesy of Television Set.

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Friday brunch

If you are moving toward our recommended four-day work week, then Friday is start of your weekend and lunch becomes brunch! This delicious brunch meal features a spicy curry saute of flounder and veggies with mixed greens, strawberries, and figs…garnished with parsley, coriander, black pepper, and cooling anise. Enjoy for yourself and with friends, and learn about healthier life and work via a new HumanaNatura article, The Real New Economy.

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Captured live

We all know that plants and animals, including people, evolve. Scientists have catalogued hundreds of now dominating genetic changes to our species that have first arisen in the last few thousand years. But important questions remain in this still relatively new field of study, including how often and rapidly such changes can occur, and if there are clear examples of genetic evolution by natural selection at work in our time. A new study by researchers at the University of Quebec has found the most recent known example of natural selection in humans. Importantly, the study suggests that changes in the dominant genes of a human population can occur much more rapidly than many scientists thought possible.

The new study examined well-documented child-bearing patterns on a relatively isolated island community of 30 families from 1799 to 1940. The generally uniform pattern of life on the island offered a largely neutral environment, culturally and socio-economically, permitting researchers to more easily study and statistically isolate genetic effects. The conclusion: a significant genetic change favoring early child-bearing was naturally and progressively selected over the period (evidenced by strong multi-generational mother-daughter transmission of the trait against nearly identical background circumstances across the community).

The new findings reinforce and make quite palpable the basic tenets of evolutionary theory, confirming and reminding us that we are part of the natural world and continually shaped and re-shaped by it. Learn more about the new research at Humans Are Still Evolving or Natural Selection Leaves Fresh Footprints, and about HumanaNatura’s evolutionary-based natural health system at About HumanaNatura.

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