the sun is more than a vitamin

I talk about vitamin D a lot. It’s useful for healthy bones, healthy immunity, healthy levels of inflammation, healthy mood. In the past decade it’s gotten a lot of press.


But in the same way whole foods are a better source of nutrients than a multivitamin, there are things the sun can do that a supplement cannot. When it comes to health, Nature almost always does it better. And it turns out that sun is more than a vitamin.  (more…)

garlic lowers lung-cancer risk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 1:33 pm

Garlic fights cancer, part … what number are we up to now?


This summer, I got a note from one of my writer friends. A new study on garlic and lung cancer was out, would I be willing to comment for her article? 


Hardneck garlics (Allium ophioscorodon) send up curling flower stalks in the spring. Known as garlic whistles, the flower stalks make a seasonal culinary treat.


all about olive, part 1

As some of you may know, I am slowly — glacially, even — working on a book about gardening with medicinal plants. Looking out at the frost-covered garden this morning for inspiration for any  hint of green, I decided to start working on my olive (Olea europa) monograph. 


Arbequina olive (Olea europea) in flower.

Before my breakfast (which includes copious quantities of olive oil — yum!), I went looking through my physical library for something beyond olive oil. Because, really, I’m unlikely to actually press the olives from my tree. And besides, like so many other garden medicines, there’s healing value in other parts.


In olive’s case, the leaves are powerhouses of phytochemicals (more…)

are multivitamins the way to go?

Filed under: healthy living,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Orna @ 9:13 am

We all have times when we don’t eat exactly as we should. So supplementing with a multivitamin makes sense, right? Or does it?


As doctors and research scientists look into the value of multivitamins, the picture has become increasingly muddled. Many studies find multis don’t offer any discernable benefit. You may have heard that some brands pass into and out of your body without being digested at all — much less absorbed into the blood stream so nutrients can get to your cells.


But just last week a large study using the most rigorous kind of science (randomized, double-blind, placebo control) found that regular use of a multivitamin makes a modest but significant reduction in cancer risk.


So what gives? (more…)

‘let food be your medicine’

By Dr. Orna Izakson

beans and oregano.

beans and oregano.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) famously said “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Gardeners know the best way to get your veggies is fresh and organic, ideally straight from the farm or garden. But beyond simple nourishment, scientists are finding some foods specifically help prevent or reverse certain diseases. Published research from the past few months alone has shown fruits and veggies protect your heart, brain and eyes, and help fight asthma, cancer, swine flu, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Much of the research looks at isolated constituents in the foods, although of course there’s more to fresh fruits and veggies than the isolated “active ingredients” scientists have identified so far. All the components in the plant work synergistically, and do more than just one thing.

Here’s a short list to get you started. (more…)

vitamin B6 halves lung-cancer risk

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 6:55 am

Looking for another excuse to eat your avocados and broccoli? A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that good levels of vitamin B6 — found in those vegetables as well as whole grains, fish and meat — may cut lung-cancer risk by as much as half. In a study of nearly half a million Europeans, some of whom smoked, researchers looked at the B6 levels in people who did or did not get lung cancer after five years. While there were undoubtedly differences in diet, the B6 connection was profound and unequivocal, even for the smokers in the group. That doesn’t mean smoking is safe if you take a supplement, but it does offer a good reminder about the importance of eating right regardless of your other habits. (Via CNN.)

cell phone/cancer link murky but present

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Orna @ 10:36 am

The World Health Organization has completed a large, 10-year study to determine if cell-phone use causes cancer. The answer? Not clear enough to make recommendations other than further study of the issue. The report, to be released later this week, does find an increase in gliomas, a type of brain cancer, in people who used cell phones for 30 minutes daily for 10 years. They also found, however, that a little bit of cell phone use can be protective against brain cancer. So while the big news of the study is that it offered little news, it’s also telling that the researchers couldn’t definitively call cell phones safe, either. (Via The Daily Mail).

do sugary sodas cause pancreatic cancer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 11:48 am

You know that sugary sodas aren’t healthy, but are they really that bad? A new study reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, put out by the American Association for Cancer Research, found a huge health impact in a small number of study participants. Researchers found that people consuming two or more regular sodas each week had a whopping 87-percent increase in deadly pancreatic cancer over peers drinking juice instead. The findings are based on information from 14 years of following 60,524 men and women from Singapore. How does it work? Sugar stimulates the pancreas to create insulin, and the extra insulin may be responsible for turning pancreas cells cancerous. Soda makers find the study flawed, pointing out that only 140 study participants developed pancreatic cancer and only 30 of those drank soda at all. (Via WebMD.)

PCBs contaminate many fish-oil brands

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Orna @ 5:42 pm
Photo by Oktaviani Marvikasari.

Photo by Oktaviani Marvikasari.

Y’all know I’m a huge fan of fish oils for almost every aspect of health — from heart and mind to skin and joints, and that’s only for starters.

But a California environmental group found there’s a fly in the ointment, so to speak: They tested 10 (out of 100) common brands of fish oils and found them to be high in carcinogenic and toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. The chemicals were banned in the US 30 years ago, which just goes to show how toxins stick around in our environment once we let those genies out of the bottle. (This is a good thing to remember at a time when even the stalwart European Union is sanctioning new genetically engineered potatoes.)

California has a labeling law that, the environmental groups say, requires these fish-oil purveyors to list PCBs on the bottle, and they’ve just filed a lawsuit to this effect. (more…)

third-hand smoke

Filed under: cancer,healthy living in a toxic world,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Orna @ 9:22 am

You know the smell that’s left on clothes, furniture and hair after being around cigarettes? Turns out the chemicals causing that smell, dubbed “third-hand smoke,” offer a whole new kind of cancer risk. When cigarette smoke mixes with nitrous acid — a common household gas emitted by gas appliances and cars — it creates new carcinogenic chemicals called tobacco-specific nitrosamines. Some of this happens with second-hand smoke, but the process continues as the smoke settles. That means even nonsmokers are exposed, often through skin contact, and the exposure can persist. Time to toss that stinky sofa — and get serious about smoking outside. (Via Scientific American and the Contra Costa Times.)

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