Monday, February 18, 2019

Fish, Flax & Krill: What You Need to Know about Omega-3

While fats have been given a bad reputation for decades, most will agree there’s at least one type of fat we all need–omega 3 fatty acids.

The health benefits we receive from omega-3 come from EPA and DHA. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) is essential for heart health, and may play a role in cholesterol and triglyceride levels. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) helps to improve memory and cognition.

There are different opinions what is the best type of omega-3, either animal or plant source. We’ll take a look at three common sources of omega-3, and the pros and cons to each one.

Flax and Chia seed (oil)

Flax seed, also known as linseed, gained popularity in the 1980s and 90s. People were hearing about mercury toxicity in fish (oil) which gave the green light to pursue flaxseed oil as a healthier source of omega-3.

Flaxseed contains ALA (alpha linoleic acid). The body breaks down ALA into EPA and DHA. The downside is if the body cannot convert ALA into EPA and DHA the health benefits are null and void. We're learning now that the body may only utilize between 1-8% of EPA and DHA from flax.

There’s really no omega-3 benefit from flax, however there may be some benefit from the flax lignans. A lignan is a phytoestrogen found in the hull of the flax seed that can help with menstrual and menopausal symptoms.

Recently chia seeds have been touted as a rich source of omega-3, EPA and DHA, but it’s more expensive than flax seed and we run into the exact same problem with very little ALA converting into EPA and DHA.

Krill oil

Krill are small crustaceans (shellfish) that have a similar resemblance to shrimp. The name krill is a Norwegian word meaning “small fry of fish.” Krill is a food source for salmon, which gives the fish it’s pinkish hue.

Krill oil has been promoted as a better source of omega-3 than fish oil. At first glance that may appear to be true because omega-3 (EPA and DHA) from krill oil uses a phospholipid carrier rather than a triglyceride carrier. You tend to get more EPA and DHA from the phospholipid carrier than a triglyceride carrier.

There is a new study that found 40% of krill oil on the market is spiked with fish oil, possibly inferior fish oil, so you don’t know if you’re really getting 100% krill oil in a product. Also if you are allergic to shellfish then you may be allergic to krill oil.

Fish oil

Fish oil is the most common way of getting your omega-3, and is the broadest in quality standards ranging from very poor quality to excellent quality. You will get more EPA and DHA from a quality fish oil product than krill oil, and definitely more than a plant source like flax.

Poor quality fish oils get their fish from just about anywhere, including mercury-containing waters. Companies will use solvents such as hexane as well as high heating treatments to extract the omega-3 from the fish, and also may contain a harmful chemical called BPA. Poor quality fish oil has a tendency to go rancid faster.

Good quality fish oils come from cold water fish from waters that do not contain mercury. That alone is an improvement from poor quality fish oil. Usually companies with higher standards will not use solvents, rather more natural extraction methods, but some may still use high heating methods. If the label on the bottle states the fish oil comes from cold water fish, or better yet uses the term “pharmaceutical grade” or something along those lines it may be a good quality.

One of the best fish oils is a bio-identical omega-3 extracted from salmon. Instead of solvents to extract the omega-3, water and enzymes are used for a much more natural process. Plus it uses a phospholipid carrier for increased absorption.

In Summary

If you’re looking for a good omega-3 supplement, pharmaceutical grade fish oil or bio-identical omega-3 from salmon extract are both great choices. The salmon extract tips the scale for me because it may absorb better and there is no chance of it going rancid.

by John Connor, CNC

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Get the Most Out Of Your New Year's Resolution

It's time to start a new year, and that means new year's resolutions. You want to better yourself in some way–slim down, better skin tone, more energy, better sleep, more money...sorry I can't help with the money part, however I can help with better health.

Weight loss is a popular new year's resolution and it seems like everybody has the solution. Pick up a tabloid at the grocery story, surf the web or social media, and it's imminent, everybody out there has a quick fat loss tip like, lose ten pounds in ten days, or let's flush that fat once and for all. My personal favorite is, lose weight without changing your diet. There are countless fad diets that circulate this time of year.

Before we talk about losing weight or which diet plan to go on, ask yourself these two questions. One, do I want to lose weight or do I need to lose weight? There is a difference between need and want. Your doctor my want you to lose weight for health sake, but you have to want to make this change and have it last forever.

The other question I want you to ask yourself is what is your stress level? Be honest. On a scale from 1 to 10 where do you land?

If you want to lose weight and your stress level is high, I wouldn't recommend starting with a dietary overhaul just yet. The reason is because we're not dealing with just diet, we're also dealing with some sort of hormone imbalance.

Hormones play a factor in how we manage our stress and also how we manage our body composition. If you go on a diet while your stress level is high, then you probably won't succeed. That may sound harsh, but if you're on a diet and you have a stressful day, there's a good chance you'll reach for a comfort food. The answer to why we reach for comfort foods in times of stress is primarily due to one hormone–adrenaline.

Adrenaline is your fight-or-flight hormone. The body produces more adrenaline when it thinks it's in danger. There is no danger. No wild animal is chasing you, at least I hope not. But adrenaline is produced in abundance in stressful cases. It's trying to help you "survive" the stressor, so to speak.

Adrenaline tells the body to send more glucose to the brain and muscles to adapt and escape the stressor. The need for glucose goes up, so then we reach for comfort foods to meet that demand. Our body is tricking us into eating comfort foods, but it doesn't stop there. As glucose rises in the blood stream insulin comes in to control it, and then cortisol arrives to control the stress. Insulin and cortisol block fat from being used as energy. That is the end result. That is why people struggle with weight loss because of these hormones.

There are supplements that can help reduce stress. In addition you may find these suggestions beneficial. First, if it all possible remove the stressor from your life. If you live with the stressor or work with the stressor then that may not be feasible. In that case find ways to reduce stress, such as slowing down. Yes, sometimes we're constantly going, doing this and that. Make some time for yourself. Relax and enjoy a bit of quiet time. Enjoy life! Read a book, do yoga, pray, take a leisurely walk. If you want to burn off adrenaline and cortisol quickly, hit a punching bag or a pillow. Don't hurt yourself, but you'd be surprised how better you'll quickly feel.

As far as diet changes are concerned, start simple with substitutions. Instead of eliminating your favorite foods, substitute. Substitute your favorite foods with low-carb variations. You're eating the same foods, but prepared low carb. Many times telling someone who's stressed to cut out sugar is non-negotiable. Sugar is a biggie for many (thanks to adrenaline). Instead of eliminating sugar, use a low-carb substitute like stevia, xylitol, or erythritol.

Diet Doctor is a great online resource (www.dietdoctor.com/low-carb), and it's free. If you would like more information make an appointment to see me.

This is the year you reach your goal. You can do it.

by John Connor, CNC

Monday, November 12, 2018

ABC's of Nutrition: Molybdenum

Legumes and whole grains are rich food sources of molybdenum. The typical American diet contains 50 to 500 micrograms of molybdenum per day. The food concentration of molybdenum is dependent on the soil content of molybdenum.

Molybdenum is available as sodium molybdate and molybdenum amino acid chelate.

Molybdenum deficiency may lead to the inability to process sulfites because the enzyme that detoxifies sulfites (sulfite oxidase) is molybdenum dependent. Symptoms of sulfite toxicity are an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, headache, disorientation, nausea, and vomiting. Molybdenum deficiency may be the cause of sulfite sensitivity.

Molybdenum works as a necessary coenzyme in the enzymes xanthine oxidase, aldehyde oxidase, and sulfite oxidase. These enzymes are involved in uric acid formation, alcohol detoxification, and sulfite detoxification.

Molybdenum is an important mineral for those that consume high quantities of alcohol.

by John Connor, CNC

ABC's of Nutrition: Manganese

Good dietary sources of manganese include green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, whole grains, and nuts. Pecans and Brazil nuts rank at the top.


Some of the best absorbed forms are manganese bound to picolinate, gluconate, or other chelates.

Human manganese deficiency is not as well defined as in animals. Animal results have shown manganese deficiency may lead to impaired growth, skeletal abnormalities, and defects in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

In several human studies where subjects were fed a manganese-reduced diet, several metabolic abnormalities developed, including appearance of a skin rash, loss of hair color, reduced growth of hair and nails, and reduced HDL cholesterol.

Manganese functions in many enzyme systems, including enzymes involved in blood sugar control, energy metabolism, and thyroid function.

High doses of manganese may inhibit the absorption of iron, copper, and zinc. On the other hand, high intake of magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, and zinc may inhibit the absorption of manganese.

by John Connor, CNC

ABC's of Nutrition: Iron

There are two forms of dietary iron, heme and nonheme. Heme iron is bound to hemoglobin and myoglobin. This type of iron is found in animal products and is the most efficiently absorbed form. Nonheme iron is found in plant foods and is poorly absorbed compared to heme iron. Liver is the best food source of heme iron. Kelp and brewer's yeast are good plant sources of nonheme iron.

Ferrous bisglycinate chelate is the most efficient form of supplemental heme iron. The absorption rate of nonheme iron supplements such as ferrous sulfate and ferrous fumarate are around 1-3%. Despite the superior form of heme iron in bisglycinate chelate, nonheme iron is the most popular. Even taking the best quality nonheme iron the net absorption is 50 milligrams compared to only 3 milligrams of heme iron. It takes that much more nonheme iron to equal a smaller dosage of heme iron, and the heme iron absorbs better.

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the United States. The target groups at risk are infants two and under, teenage girls, pregnant women, and the elderly. Iron deficiency may be caused by an increased iron requirement, decreased iron intake, diminished iron absorption, blood loss, or a combination of such factors. Vegetarians and vegans also run a higher risk of iron deficiency. Adolescents and college age students run a high risk of iron deficiency due to poor diets. Other causes of decreased iron absorption include chronic diarrhea, malabsorption, and the use of antacids.

The effects of iron deficiency are caused by the impaired delivery of oxygen to the tissues and the impaired activity of iron-containing enzymes in various tissues. Iron deficiency can lead to anemia, excessive menstrual loss, learning disabilities, impaired immune function, and decreased energy levels.

Serum ferritin is the best laboratory test for determining iron deficiency. Routine blood analysis is not accurate enough. Men may suspect iron deficiency if they have a history of peptic ulcers, hemorrhoids, blood loss, or long-term use of antacids.

Iron plays an essential role in the hemoglobin molecule of our red blood cells. It functions in transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body's tissues and then transports carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs. Iron also functions in several key enzymes in energy production and metabolism, including DNA synthesis.

by John Connor, CNC

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Key to Weight Loss

Weight management is a confusing topic. Hands down! There are terms such as calories, metabolism, and fat-burning. In order to maintain healthy weight we have to look beyond these terms and arrive at the underlying cause.

Do I eat this way or that? Do I consume fewer calories? Do I ramp up my metabolism? If so, how? Or do I dare say the “E” word (exercise). Actually, once we acquire a basic understanding how fat storage increases and decreases, it will all make sense. Putting it into practice may be another story.

Calories and metabolism do play a role in how the body uses stored fat as energy. There is somewhat of a misconception that people have trouble losing weight simply because of their metabolism, or that they consume too many calories. To illustrate I'll use the "Steakhouse Analogy."

You visit your favorite steakhouse. You order a nice, juicy steak, seasoned and cooked to perfection. Along side of the steak is a plain baked potato (minus the butter, cheese, and sour cream). The moderately portioned steak, let’s say eight ounces, has far more calories than the plain baked potato. The next morning you step on the scale and you’ve gained weight! If you were to blame the steak or the potato for the weight gain, it would likely be the steak because it has more calories than the potato.

Calories in, calories out is pretty much myth. Calories were not created equal. Instead of looking at calories and metabolism directly, there is something powerful happening in the body that affects calories, metabolism, and weight gain–hormones.

Hormones are messengers in the body that play a pivotal role in every single physiological process. Hormones are like a finely-tuned orchestra happening at all times in the body. Hormones directly or indirectly control everything that happens in the body, including fat storage.

Insulin is a fat-storing hormone. It’s job is to look for glucose and store it away for a rainy day. All too often that that rainy day never occurs.

Going back to the Steakhouse Analogy. The reason the plain baked potato is the culprit for the weight gain and not the steak is because the potato requires insulin where the steak does not.

Hormones (such as insulin) control body fat the same way they control our heart rate, energy level, and body temperature. Obesity is a hormone imbalance. When hormones are in balance so is the proper percentage of body fat. Rather than look at calories and metabolism as a direct cause to weight gain, it’s actually hormones that affect your metabolism and caloric expenditure.

Insulin levels are roughly 20 percent higher in obese people. As insulin goes up, the body weight goes up. We know that if insulin levels are low, the body has an easier time using stored fat as energy. As long as the pancreas secretes insulin, due to our diet, then the body will constantly store fat instead of using it as energy.

The key to weight loss is hormone balance, more specifically, insulin balance. A low-carb lifestyle works very well, because it greatly reduces insulin output. Diet Doctor is a great resource to get started.

by John Connor, CNC

Monday, September 24, 2018

Taming the Wild Beast: Childhood ADHD and School

In my nutritional practice I see more and more parents deal with the beast, that is ADHD. I’ve touched on this in my article, "Hyperactive Enigma," but I want to go more in depth on taming the ADHD beast when it comes to school work.

The past couple of generations, including my own Gen X, didn’t have an ADHD problem, or if we did it was nothing compared to what we deal with today. It’s a simple multi-pronged approach, and it starts with diet.

How we eat directly affects the body, how we feel, and of course it affects ADHD. Here’s why.

The body produces a certain amount of adrenaline. It sends glucose to energize the brain and muscles. Problem is adrenaline can sometimes send too much glucose to said areas causing a hyperactive response known as adrenaline dominance. When children are allowed to consume sugar and carbohydrates that is in essence feeding the beast, adding insult to injury.

When making dietary changes, remember to keep it simple at first, especially if any of the family members are picky eaters. It’s a common theme I hear that a child is a picky eater. Being a picky eater isn’t an issue. We simply change what foods are available to them at home. If chips, cookies, and crackers aren’t in the house then they, and you, won’t eat them.

Dietary changes are best made as a family unit. Your kids eat what you eat. Sit down together and make a list of low carb foods everyone is willing to eat. Make a category for protein, vegetables, and fruits. Start with animal protein. Write down what proteins the family likes: chicken, ground beef, fish, etc. Then make a list of non-starchy vegetables everyone likes. Then a list of fruits the family likes. Even if the list is small, it’s a good start. If you need help choosing low carb foods, my go-to resource is Diet Doctor.

Another way to get your child to be less of a picky eater is to include them in what you’re cooking for dinner. Give them two options per macronutrient. Chicken or ground beef. Black-eyed peas or green beans. This way they have a say in what is set before them. Also, you can have fun and create a menu, so it makes them feel like they’re eating out but at home.

Speaking of eating out. It’s going to happen. With various extracurricular schedules, cooking at home sometimes isn’t an option, so what do you do? Stick to low-carb as best as possible. It doesn’t necessarily eliminate drive-thru establishments. There are some grilled chicken options out there. It may not taste as good as the deep fried version, but it’s healthier. Keep an eye on sugary dipping sauces. Ranch and bleu cheese are better choices. Substitute french fries for fruit or a salad. These little changes will bear fruit long term, and you’ll see it in your child’s behavior and school grades.

One more thing that will help the family stick to a low-carb diet is planning ahead. Preparing food in advance means simply heating it up in the microwave and serve.

With diet aside there are two other areas that can cause an outpouring of adrenaline, feeding the ADHD beast: lack of exercise and electronic devices. These two go hand-in-hand.

When I was a kid, we played outside, we ran around breaking a sweat, in turn burning off excess adrenaline and the stress hormone, cortisol. Without exercise, excess adrenaline will transpire in other ways such as temper tantrums and outbursts.

Instead of playing and running and getting all of that excess adrenaline out, we now supplement it with electronic devices that add to the adrenaline problem. Even if the video game is harmless, or even educational, it can still create more adrenaline. The same goes for watching TV, movies, and streaming.

The answer to taming the wild beast is to eat a low carb diet as a family. Limit electronic stimulus, before homework and bedtime. Have the kids run around outside to burn off adrenaline and cortisol.

Before your child begins homework let them have a high protein/low carb snack such as cheese sticks. Make sure they have a chance to run around before beginning homework, and no electronic devices until homework is done. This should improve mood, behavior, and better grades.

by John Connor, CNC

Fish, Flax & Krill: What You Need to Know about Omega-3

While fats have been given a bad reputation for decades, most will agree there’s at least one type of fat we all need–omega 3 fatty acids...