Turmeric (Curcuma longa, C. domestica) is one of my favorite spices for both its flavor and its amazing health benefits. The rhizomes of this perennial tropical plant have been used as a spice, dye, and medicine for nearly 4,000 years, particularly in India.1
Modern researchers have been intently studying turmeric and its chief active component, curcumin, with more than 3,000 publications written on turmeric or curcumin over the last 30 years.1 Turmeric has been used therapeutically for a wide range of conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, chronic anterior uveitis, conjunctivitis, skin cancer, chicken pox, wound healing, urinary tract infections, and liver ailments.2
In my experience, this history of widely varied therapeutic use is often regarded not as a virtue, but as cause for skepticism. Modern clinicians, and particularly specialists, are trained to match specific health conditions with specific pharmaceutical drugs. The concept that a single herbal medicine – in this case, turmeric – could prevent or alleviate a wide variety of conditions seems unlikely from their perspective. This is even further complicated by the fact that turmeric and its active components are not well absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and what is absorbed is purported to be rapidly “inactivated.” So how could this one rhizome be of benefit for even a fraction of the conditions it is purported to help?
Research has shown taking supplemental turmeric or curcumin is associated with mitigating symptoms of a wide range of conditions. A small sampling includes:
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) offers a natural way to make sure your hormone levels are balanced, improving the way your body functions. In fact, balancing your hormones offers benefits like lowering your risk of heart disease, weight loss, and relieving joint and muscle pain. Of course, along with your unique BHRT cocktail, which is tailored to your hormone needs, you may also want to support your health with natural supplements. Here’s a closer look at some supplements that work well with BHRT and may help and enhance your results.
Supplement #1 – Magnesium
Magnesium is the cofactor for the enzyme that removes toxic forms of estrogen (catechol-o-methyltransferase). Estrogen alters magnesium levels all throughout the menstrual cycle. Magnesium also makes testosterone more biologically active in the body. Raising Free and Total Testosterone Levels in men. Our product Neuromag or Magnesium chelate
Supplement #2 – Vitamin D
Vitamin D, sometimes called the sunshine vitamin, is essential for many reasons. It plays a role in keeping bones healthy, supports the immune system, and may protect against certain types of cancer. It’s especially, preventing osteoporosis, helping menopausal women with weight loss, and lowering the risk of heart disease. Our product Liposomal D or Vitamin D Synergy
Supplement #3 – Diindolylmethane (DIM)
DIM promotes beneficial estrogen metabolism in both sexes supporting the formation of healthy estrogen metabolites and enhancing the potential for greater antioxidant activity.
DIM is an essential phytochemical that’s produced when you digest cruciferous veggies like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. It helps modulate your immune response system and may have anti-cancer effects. If you’re taking BHRT, some research shows that DIM can have positive effects of estrogen metabolism, minimizing the potential side effects of estrogen hormone replacement. It’s also useful for treating chronic breast pain in women and an enlarged prostate in men. Our product DIM-Evail
Supplement #4 – Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 as methyl or hydroxy cobalamin is a B vitamin that’s essential to your body, yet your body can’t produce it on its own. When used along with BHRT, this vitamin can help support bone health and help improve mood. B12 is also known for boosting energy since it plays a role in the body’s energy production. It’s been shown to have a positive effect on mental function and concentration and may even help treat sleep disorders and male infertility. Our Product Trifolamin, B Supreme or Twice Daily Multi
Supplement #5 – Omega’s 3,6,7,9
Omega’s 3,6,7,9 have a long history of medicinal use. Omega’s 3,6,7,9 supplements often prove helpful for patients taking BHRT, and these supplements are particularly useful for reducing hormonal breast pain that may occur in some women who are taking BHRT. Some studies have also discovered that omega’s 3,6,7,9 help to reduce hot flashes as well, another benefit for menopausal women and andropausal men on BHRT. Other general health benefits of Omega’s 3,6,7,9 supplements include improved heart health, reduced bone pain, and better skin health. Our product OmegAvail Synergy
Supplement #6 – Zinc
Deficiency lowers testosterone levels.
Zinc dependent proteins metabolize estrogen. Zinc is the mineral involved in almost every aspect of reproduction, including testosterone and estrogen metabolism, sperm and egg formation and sperm motility.
Some men and women require higher levels of zinc to adequately suppress aromatase. Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen. Our product Zinc
Supplement #7 – Calcium-D-Glucarate
Calcium D-Glucarate is the supplemental calcium salt form of D-glucaric acid, a substance produced naturally in the body and obtained through consumption of certain fruits and vegetables.
Calcium D-glucarate has been extensively studied and has been shown to inhibit beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme found in certain bacteria that reside in the gut.
This activity supports the body’s ability to detoxify estrogens, foreign molecules and fat-soluble toxins. Our products FemGuard+Balance or Calcium-D-glucarate.
Poor vitamin D status increases the risk of anemia and lower immune system function in school children: National Food and Nutrition Surveillance
Research has begun to unveil a role for vitamin D in iron homeostasis and erythropoiesis. Abundant vitamin D receptors exist in bone marrow, where vitamin D may directly activate erythroid precursor cells. Vitamin D may additionally suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines that contribute to anemia. As children approach the teenage years (between the ages of 9 and 12), they experience an increased demand for iron and other micronutrients. This cross-sectional study explored the association between 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25[OH]D) and anemia in a large cohort of Iranian children.
MethodsThe study evaluated blood and anthropomorphic parameters in 937 children (aged 9-12). Anemia was defined as hemoglobin < 11.5 g/dL, iron-deficient anemia (IDA) was defined as anemia with ferritin < 15 micrograms/L, and at risk for IDA was defined as ferritin < 15 micrograms/L without anemia. Vitamin D sufficiency was defined as 25(OH)D > 50 nmol/L, insufficiency was defined as 25 to 50 nmol/L, and deficiency was defined as ≤ 25 nmol/L.
ResultsOverall, 13.3% of the children had anemia (10.8% of girls and 15.6% of boys), 12.8% were at risk of IDA, and 3.2% had IDA. Regarding vitamin D status, 64.2% had vitamin D deficiency, 28.1% had vitamin D insufficiency, and only 7.7% had vitamin D sufficiency. Mean 25(OH)D concentrations were significantly lower in the anemic children than in the non-anemic children (19.6 nmol/L vs 23.1 nmol/L; p=.003). After controlling for sex, body mass index, and intact parathyroid hormone, children with vitamin D deficiency were 3.45 times more likely to be anemic than children with vitamin D sufficiency (95% CI, 1.21-9.81). The increased risk of anemia started significantly at 25(OH)D < 44 nmol/L.
ConclusionsThe results of this study are congruent with previous population-based studies of micronutrient status in children, although US statistics have been somewhat less dire. The United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), for example, found the incidence of anemia in children and teens to range from 4% to 16% and the incidence of vitamin D sufficiency to be as high as 67%. Still, this study brings to light an important association between vitamin D deficiency and anemia, a finding that could have significant clinical importance for children and teens.
Nikooyeh, B., & Neyestani, T.R. (2018). Poor vitamin D status increases the risk of anemia in school children: National Food and Nutrition Surveillance. Nutrition, 47, 69-74.
You've probably heard that fried foods of all kinds, hydrogenated oils, and full-fat dairy products are cholesterol bombs that are best avoided (and not just by those watching their cholesterol levels). The American Heart Association recommends that everyone restrict these foods, as they contain trans and saturated fats, the "bad" kind that raises LDL cholesterol and leads to plaque buildup in the arteries.
But what about the so-called "healthy" fats? Is there really such a thing?
Healthy Fats That Naturally Raise HDL
In a word, absolutely. Just as there are options that raise your bad cholesterol, there are heart-healthy superfoods that naturally raise HDL (the "good" kind of cholesterol), and lower LDL, effectively protecting you from heart disease and stroke.
The food at the end of your fork is powerful. And if you love avocado, the fatty, creamy fruit that makes a perfect salad or sandwich topping, you'll be happy to hear that it's a potent HDL-boosting fat.
What Is HDL Cholesterol?
HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, is a protective form of cholesterol that carries bad cholesterol away from the arteries and into the liver where it can be broken down and eliminated from the body.
When your HDL is high (60 mg/dl or higher is considered desirable for both men and women), your risk of heart attack or heart disease is lower. When your HDL is low (for women less than 50 mg/dl, for men less than 40 mg/dl), your chances of having a heart attack or heart disease are increased.
Foods to Eat for Increased HDL and Lowered LDL
Here are several types of food you should consider eating more often.
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which boost HDL and lower LDL. In a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, eating one avocado a day while following a moderate-fat diet was associated with a 13.5 mg/dL drop in bad cholesterol, or LDL, levels. Several other blood measurements were also improved in the participants who consumed an avocado a day, including total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, and others.
Preparation Tip: Avocados have 235 calories per cup (146 g), so portion control is key. For a delicious "California-style" sandwich, try ½ of an avocado with lettuce, tomato, and onion in a medium-size, whole grain pita. Add a squeeze of lemon and one tablespoon of flavored hummus (horseradish, lemon, or garlic) for an added kick.
A 2016 study published in the journal Nutrients showed that an antioxidant-rich diet raised HDL levels in relation to triglycerides. High antioxidant foods include dark chocolate, berries, beets, purple cabbage, red grapes, kale, spinach, red bell peppers, and other deeply colored fruits and vegetables.
Preparation Tip: For an HDL-boosting, antioxidant-rich breakfast, try making a smoothie containing berries, kale or spinach, avocado, and non-dairy milk such as almond milk.
Niacin (vitamin B3) is believed to block cholesterol production in the body. Although niacin in prescription supplement form appears to be most effective in increasing HDL, it may have side effects such as flushing, itching, and headache, so you may want to consider adding niacin-containing foods to your diet first. Niacin is found in high concentrations in crimini mushrooms, chicken breast, halibut, tomato, romaine lettuce, enriched bread, and cereals.
Preparation Tip: Sautéed crimini mushrooms are a delightful complement to any meal. You can also grill them and use as a fantastic filler for chicken or seafood kabobs.
Countless research studies have shown that regular consumption of oats aids in reducing total cholesterol and LDL ("bad" cholesterol), but does not lower your HDL cholesterol.
Preparation Tip: Adding ground cinnamon and ½ an ounce of walnuts (7 shelled halves) makes an oatmeal breakfast even more heart-healthy.
A 2014 study published in the journal PLoS One found that a diet rich in foods including fish, especially fatty fish, increased the size of HDL particles, which may help improve cholesterol transport throughout the body. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week, especially varieties that contain omega-3 fats, such as salmon, trout, and herring. A serving is considered 3.5 ounces cooked.
Preparation Tip: A chopped almond crust adds, even more, omega-3s to any fish meal.
Keep in mind that dietary changes go hand in hand with lifestyle choices for healthy cholesterol levels. Aerobic exercise, weight loss, and avoiding smoking all contribute to higher HDL cholesterol levels.Remember that several small changes can add up to big results.
If you're having trouble remembering to get your cholesterol checked, maybe there's a reason — a study finds that memory loss is associated with low levels of HDL, the "good cholesterol." Researchers believe this memory loss may lead to dementia later in life.
Studies Find Low HDL or High LDL Raises Memory Loss Risk
The study, published in July 2008 in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that, by the age of 60, men and women with low levels of HDL were 53% more likely to have memory loss than those with higher levels.
The use of statin drugs to raise HDL levels or to lower levels of LDL, the "bad cholesterol," was not found to have any association with memory loss in the study.
And this isn't the first time researchers have found a link between cholesterol and memory problems. A study in 2002, published in the Archives of Neurology, found that women with high levels of LDL had increased degrees of cognitive impairment, including memory loss. Four years later, study subjects who lowered their LDL levels also lowered their chances of suffering from cognitive impairment.
In 2004, a study from the Netherlands found that a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat was linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline among middle-aged study subjects. That study, published in the journal Neurology, also concluded that consumption of fish and fish oil was associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline; the reputation of fish as "brain food" appears to be intact.
Solving the Mystery of Cholesterol and Memory Loss
How does cholesterol affect memory and cognitive function? The precise answer to that question remains a mystery. Researchers speculate that HDL may improve memory in a number of ways. HDL has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which may improve brain function. HDL may also prevent the formation of beta-amyloid, associated with the plaques that form in the brain tissue of Alzheimer's patients.
Other researchers, like William Connor, M.D., professor of medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, believe that cholesterol affects brain functioning primarily through the link between LDL and strokes, which are caused by plaque formation in the blood vessels of the brain.
"High cholesterol levels in the blood can predispose the deposition of plaque in the blood vessels," says Connor, a specialist in atherosclerosis (the process by which deposits build up in arteries). And, he adds, "stroke can result in memory loss."
A review of studies in 2011 noted that "cholesterol seems to be intimately linked with the generation of amyloid plaques," which develop in Alzheimer's disease. The majority of the studies they looked at found an association between cholesterol and Alzheimer's disease.
What You Can Do About Cholesterol and Your Memory
While researchers continue to piece together the puzzle of cholesterol and memory loss, there's much that you can do now if you're concerned about your cholesterol levels.
According to the American Heart Association, getting regular exercise and avoiding tobacco smoke can all help to moderate cholesterol levels. Cholesterol-lowering drugs can also help patients achieve their cholesterol goals.
And, of course, eating a heart-healthy diet is strongly recommended. In addition to avoiding saturated fats and cholesterol, Dr. Connor and other experts encourage people to get plenty of fiber, eat fruits and vegetables regularly, and have one or two servings of fish per week.
While most of us have been advised about the dangers of high cholesterol and the ways to avoid it, there are indeed situations where your cholesterol may be too low. These have to do with specific aspects of your cholesterol profile, rather than your total cholesterol itself. Having suboptimal levels of "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increases the risk of hypertension and heart disease. And while having too much "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) increases your risk of heart attack and stroke, data suggests an association, but not a causal relationship, between having too little and an increased risk of certain cancers, mood disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.
This last fact often comes as a surprise to many who have been advised to get their LDL down. While scientists are still not certain why there appears to be a pretty clear threshold as to when a low LDL becomes problematic. While low HDL is typically associated with high-carbohydrate diets and obesity, there are also genetic and environmental factors that can cause levels to dip.
Despite its association with heart disease and obesity, cholesterol is essential to making certain vitamins and hormones, and it also plays a part in digestion and the metabolization of nutrients. The problem is that most Americans consume way too much through high-fat, high-carb diets. This only adds to the cholesterol that is already naturally produced by the liver.
A low-fat, low-carb diet, by contrast, can help maintain a higher concentration of HDL (which the body uses to excrete LDL from the body) and a lower concentration of LDL (which can clog arteries and form plaque).
We can measure HDL and LDL levels with a simple blood test. For the average American adult, the values, measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), can be interpreted as follows:
Dangers of Low HDL
From the standpoint of heart health, the total cholesterol level can never be too low. A problem, however, arises when the HDL drops below 40 mg/dL. Quite simply, the less HDL there is in your blood, the less LDL you can clear from the body. This, in turn, increase your risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart attack, and stroke.
HDL functions as an antioxidant, preventing arterial damage caused by other lipids. If the HDL is low (a condition referred to as hypoalphalipoproteinemia), the loss of the antioxidative effect may not only promote but accelerate plaque formation.
There are many reasons why your HDL may be low. Chief among these is a high-carbohydrate diet. A diet of this sort not only affects your blood sugar, increasing the risk of insulin resistance, but it can also lower your HDL while raising both your LDL and triglycerides by 30 percent to 40 percent.
Other factors associated with hypoalphalipoproteinemia include:
Dangers of Low LDL
While it would be fair to assume that a low LDL is a good thing, there are rare circumstances in which chronically low levels may increase your risk of certain diseases.
LDL is what's called a carrier protein, whose role it is to deliver chemicals to every cell in the body. It is also a critical component of cell membranes, serves as a brain antioxidant, and is used by the body to create the hormones estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
Chronically low LDL levels may impair brain and hormonal activity and increase the risk of hypobetalipoproteinemia, a condition linked to depression, cirrhosis, preterm birth, hemorrhagic stroke, and certain types of cancers.
These conditions can affect both sexes but tend to impact women with an LDL below 50 mg/dL. Men, by contrast, are more likely to be affected when their LDL dips below 40 mg/dL.
While there remains strong debate as to the associations, given the disparate nature of the conditions, it may be reasonable to assume that the depletion of LDL may increase the oxidative stress on the brain, impacting both brain function and vascular integrity.
Similarly, abnormally low LDL levels during pregnancy may trigger hormonal imbalances that contribute, at least in part, to premature birth. We also know that low LDL is also associated with the dysregulation of a protein known as tumor necrotizing factor alpha (TNF-a), the condition of which may be associated with cancer, major depression, and Alzheimer's disease.
With that being said, hypobetalipoproteinemia is often caused by cancer, liver disease, severe malnutrition, and other wasting disorders. As such, no one knows for sure if a chronically low LDL is necessarily the cause or consequence of a disease. It may be in some cases, but not others.
Hypobetalipoproteinemia is also believed associated with mutations of the so-called ANGPTL3 gene, causing abnormal drops in both LDL and HDL. Other likely genetic causes have been identified.
It is often difficult to manage low cholesterol with anything other than diet or lifestyle. There are currently no pharmacological agents able to raise HDL (with the exception of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women).
Vitamin supplementation, including high-dose vitamin E (tocotrienols) (100 to 300 mg/day) and vitamin A (10,000 to 25,000 IUs per day), may help normalize LDL levels.
Beyond that, the best way to get your cholesterol within the normal limits is to:
Current Dietary Recommendations
While the current U.S. dietary guidelines no longer restrict cholesterol to 300 milligrams per day, this shouldn't suggest that the amount we eat is no longer an issue. By and large, foods that are high in cholesterol tend to be high in saturated fat, the latter of which significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
It is important to note that dietary cholesterol is derived only from animal sources, including meat, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, and egg yolks. Of these, foods like eggs and shellfish are high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat, making them an ideal source for the cholesterol our bodies need.
To this end, cholesterol is not a "danger" in and of itself. It is the type of cholesterol-containing foods we eat that influence our risk of CVD and other cardiovascular-related illnesses.