The Truth about Calcium Supplements

A study was published in October 2016 on the cardiovascular effects of taking calcium supplements. It was a multi-ethnic study.

The ten year study had 5448 adults between the ages of 45 and 85 years old. The participants were free of cardio vascular disease at the start of the study. Fifty two percent of them were female.

The researchers concluded that people consuming calcium supplements had a higher risk of coronary artery calcification and its progression.(1) Note that when arteries become calcified it leads to high blood pressure and can eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke.

The form of calcium that one consumes is very important. Many calcium supplements are made from calcium carbonate which is the same material as blackboard chalk. The body cannot use this form of calcium and thus deposits of it form on the walls of the circulatory system.

However the form of calcium found in plants, especially green plants, is highly useable by the body. Dietary calcium has been linked to a lower risk of coronary artery calcification.(1)

Magnesium lays down the bone density and is of vital importance to having strong bones. However, the majority of the population is deficient in magnesium and has an overabundance of calcium. This ratio leads to weak bones.  Magnesium supplements have also been shown to reduce blood pressure. (2)

My own mother developed coronary artery calcification and suffered from clogged arteries as a result of taking calcium carbonate supplements. The calcium supplement also made her osteoporosis worsen.

When she stopped taking the calcium supplement and replaced it with a magnesium supplement, her bone density eventually returned to what the doctor called perfect for her age. She was 72 then and now she is 84 and has good bones.

A little known hidden source of dangerous forms of calcium is fortified food, especially nut milks, soy milk, rice milk and other calcium fortified foods. Check the ingredient list. If you see the word calcium on the INGREDIENT list I suggest that you avoid that product.

Craig B Sommers ND, CN


Sesame Seeds, a Surprising Superfood

The nutritional profile of sesame seeds is outstanding and, in my opinion, greatly underestimated. They have been gown for food for more than 3000 years.

Sesame seeds contain high amounts of protein, fiber and oil, which is rich in omega-6 (linoleic acid) and oleic acid. They are also high in B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and zinc.

Most people consider steak an excellent source of iron. According to the USDA steak contains about 1.5 mg of iron per 100 grams.[1] But sesame seeds contain a whopping 14.8 mg of iron per 100 grams.

Compared to most other foods, sesame seeds contain considerably higher amounts of magnesium. Dark chocolate is said to be an excellent source of magnesium. According to the USDA nutrient data charts, dark chocolate solids (70-85% cacao) contain 228 mg of magnesium per 100 grams but sesame seeds contain 356 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.[2]

If I find a client deficient in phosphorous after they take a nutritional profile, my number one recommendation for increasing their phosphorous intake is adding sesame tahini to their diet. According to the USDA nutrient data charts, sesame seeds contain 638 mg of phosphorous per 100 grams which is approximately three times higher than beef.[1]

When it comes to calcium, most people think of cow’s milk as a good source. However, according to the USDA, there are 113 mg of calcium in 100 grams of whole milk while sesame seeds contain a whopping 989 mg of calcium per 100 grams.[3]

Sesame seeds are very high in lignans. There are several extraordinary lignans in sesame seeds (pinoresinol, sesamin, sesamolin and lariciresinol.[4][5] Among the numerous health benefits of lignan consumption, epidemiological studies have shown that lignan consumption is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.[6][7][8][9][10]

According to the USDA raw beef contains 22 grams of protein per 100 grams. Sesame seeds are not far behind containing 17 grams of protein per 100 grams.[1]

Followers of the macrobiotic diet and the Japanese have been using a sesame seed product called gomashio that is made from un-hulled toasted sesame seeds mixed with sea salt. The gomashio used in the macrobiotic diet usually contains quite a bit less salt than traditional Japanese gomashio. To add extra flavor and nutrition to your food, try adding gomashio instead of just salt.

Sesame seeds have one of the highest oil contents of any food. But due to sesame oil’s lack of omega-3 fats and high content of omega-6 fats, I don’t recommend regular consumption of the extracted oil.

This is because the average person and even healthy eaters usually over consume omega-6 fats and under consume omega-3 fats due to their scarcity in the food chain. This can cause an out of balance omega-6 to omega-3 ratio and lead to inflammation in the body unless omega-3 supplements are taken. I suggest sticking to products made from the whole seed.

Sesame seeds can be purchased two ways, with the hulls on and with the hulls removed. I personally prefer un-hulled sesame seeds because the hulls contain nutrients and fiber. But both hulled and un-hulled are healthy.

Sesame seeds come in a variety of colors including tan, gold, brown, black, reddish, grey and white. If you’re trying to increase your nutrient intake, you might try sprinkling raw sesame seeds on your food and adding sesame tahini to your diet. Sesame seeds have a rich nutty flavor and, in my opinion, are quite tasty.

  4.  Milder, Ivon E. J.; Arts, Ilja C. W.; Betty; Venema, Dini P.; Hollman, Peter C. H. (2005). “Lignan contents of Dutch plant foods: a database including lariciresinol, pinoresinol, secoisolariciresinol and matairesinol”. British Journal of Nutrition 93: 393–402. doi: 10.1079/BJN20051371.
  5. Kuo PC, Lin MC, Chen GF, Yiu TJ, Tzen JT (2011). “Identification of methanol-soluble compounds in sesame and evaluation of antioxidant potential of its lignans”. J Agric Food Chem59 (7): 3214–9. doi: 10.1021/jf104311gPMID 21391595.
  6. Boccardo, F; Puntoni, M; Guglielmini, P; Rubagotti,  A(2006). “Enterolactone as a risk factor for breast cancer: A review of the published evidence”. Clinica chimica acta; international journal of clinical chemistry 365 (1–2): 58–67. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2005.07.026.PMID 16168401.
  7.  Adlercreutz, H (2007). “Lignans and human health”. Critical reviews in clinical laboratory sciences 44 (5–6): 483–525. doi: 10.1080/10408360701612942PMID 17943494.
  8. Saarinen, N. M.; Huovinen, R; Wärri, A; Mäkelä, S. I.; Valentín-Blasini, L; Sjöholm, R; Ammälä, J; Lehtilä, R; Eckerman, C; Collan, Y. U.; Santti, R. S. (2002). “Enterolactone inhibits the growth of 7, 12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced mammary carcinomas in the rat”.Molecular cancer therapeutics 1 (10): 869–76. PMID 12492120.
  9. Bergman Jungeström, M; Thompson, L. U.; Dabrosin, C (2007). “Flaxseed and its lignans inhibit estradiol-induced growth, angiogenesis, and secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor in human breast cancer xenografts in vivo”. Clinical cancer research: an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research 13 (3): 1061–7. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-06-1651PMID 17289903.
  10. Lindahl, G; Saarinen, N; Abrahamsson, A; Dabrosin, C (2011). “Tamoxifen, flaxseed, and the lignan enterolactone increase stroma- and cancer cell-derived IL-1Ra and decrease tumor angiogenesis in estrogen-dependent breast cancer”. Cancer research 71 (1): 51–60. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2289PMID 21097717.

Chia Seeds, an Ancient Food Rediscovered

Looking back in time, we can trace chia seeds back to their origin in Central America, where they were a staple food for the ancient Aztecs.  Not all that long ago the thing that came to mind when people heard the name chia seed, was the ‘Chia Pet’ clay figurine. Today we have a large body of research on the health promoting benefits of chia seeds. Today the word chia is synonymous with the word superfood!

Here is a quick overview of the nutritional profile of chia seeds. The data comes from the USDA Nutrient Data Library [1] :

-The protein content of chia seeds is impressive. They are composed of approximately 20% protein containing all the essential amino acids.

-The following vitamins are found in chia seeds: Vitamin C, Thiamin, Riboflavin,   Niacin, Folate, Vitamin A and Vitamin E.

-Chia seeds are a very good source of important minerals including iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, phosphorus and boron. By weight, chia has more calcium than cow’s milk and about six times the iron of spinach. The line-up of bone building minerals in these super seeds is outstanding

-They are also a great source of fiber. Just 2 tablespoons contain about 10 grams.

-These little seeds are extremely high in anti-oxidants. Especially the dark colored ones. Some sources show them to be around the same level as blueberries. The high level of antioxidants preserve the nutritional value of this superfood, even if it has been ground up!

-Chia seeds are a very good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Among the long list of benefits of omega 3 fatty acids are its anti-inflammatory and mind boosting effects. Chia seeds also contain most of the nutrients that our bodies need to convert the omega 3 fats to EPA and DHA!

The ‘no worries’ list for chia seeds is also impressive!

-No need to worry about chia going rancid on you, at room temperature they will stay fresh for over two years!

-It is said that insects don’t colonise chia plants and there is no need for farmers to spray them with pesticides.

-Nor do we have to worry about genetic modification, as for now, chia seeds are non GMO!

-Chia seeds do not need to be ground up to have the nutrients digest and absorb, unlike flaxseeds that need to be ground to gain access to their nutrients.

-With growing awareness of the damaging effects of gluten, it is great to know that chia seeds are gluten free!

-And of course, chia seeds are cholesterol free!

Their usefulness goes on!

-Add them to a child’s diet for extra nutrition. Chia seeds make a great pudding! Just soak for a while, mix in sweetener and eat!

-They can be added to soups, smoothies, dressings, and much more to increase the nutrient profile. Try adding them to drinking water!

-They can even be used as a cholesterol free egg replacer! Chia seeds swell when coming in contact with liquids and form a gel. For each egg called for in a recipe, simply mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of water and wait for about 15 minutes. Then use the mixture in your recipe just as you would use an egg. The gelatinous chia seeds will increase the nutrient profile of whatever you are preparing!

My personal experiences with chia seeds have always been amazing! For many years I have been adding them to my smoothies and I also make chia pudding every so often. If you haven’t tried them yet, you’re missing out on a precious gift from nature!



Homocysteine, is it causing your symptoms?

Homocysteine is what scientists refer to as a non-protein amino acid. In other words, we cannot build protein from homocysteine. It is a substance found in the blood that can be accurately measured with a simple blood test. Homocysteine is not obtained from the diet but is biosynthesized inside our bodies from the amino acid methionine by the removal of a methyl group.

In 1968 a Harvard researcher discovered that children with elevated homocysteine levels due to a genetic defect had vascular disease similar to middle-aged people with the disease. This ground breaking discovery concluded that excess homocysteine could be a risk factor for heart disease.

It is now known that elevated homocysteine can lead to inflammation of the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels called the endothelium. If the elevated level of homocysteine is not lowered, it may lead to inflammation of the arteries, veins and capillaries which carry blood to all parts of the body. After that happens, artery walls may begin to thicken from the accumulation of calcium and fatty materials. This is known as atherosclerosis. This in turn can result in the restriction of blood supply to tissues, causing a shortage of oxygen and glucose which is needed for cellular metabolism.

Elevated levels of homocysteine have been correlated with the occurrence of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. However, many cardiologists are still not checking homocysteine levels in their patients unless the person specifically asks to be checked. This may be due in part to the fact that testing homocysteine levels is not usually covered by health insurance and that there is no pharmaceutical treatment for elevated homocysteine levels other than natural vitamin supplementation along with a diet high in raw leafy green vegetables.

Blood levels of homocysteine are statistically higher in people who eat a lot of animal protein and don’t consume adequate amounts of fruits and leafy green vegetables. Research also indicates that the more coffee one drinks the higher the homocysteine level becomes. Reducing the consumption of animal protein and coffee can help lower homocysteine levels. The literature shows that levels tend to be higher in men than in women, and increase with age.

Stress has been linked to elevation as well. The neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine are elevated by stress and need to be metabolized in the liver with a process that uses methylated B vitamins. When we use up these methyl groups, we can’t process homocysteine and the level rises in the bloodstream.

There are numerous unhealthy effects that homocysteine can have on the human body in addition to damaging the circulatory system. Some such health conditions include: macular degeneration, spontaneous abortion, migraine headaches, congestive heart failure, hearing loss, high risk of Alzheimer’s disease and many more conditions.

The good news is that homocysteine can be recycled back into methionine or converted into cysteine with the aid of B-vitamins; more specifically, folate (active folate is known as methyltetrahydrofolate)vitamin B6  and the methylated form of vitamin B12 called methylcobalamin. Note that I said folate and not folic acid, also methylcobalamin and not cyanocobalamin. Folic acid and cyancobalamin are synthetic.

It is now known that approximately one out of every five people have some level of a genetic mutation that makes it difficult to convert synthetic B vitamins into usable ones. It is known as the MTHFR-677 mutation. People with this mutation have been found to have high levels of homocysteine when they are not consuming adequate amounts of food derived B vitamins. This is because they have a limited ability to add a methyl group to synthetic vitamins to make them useable. (For more information on the MTHFR mutation, see my article and video on it.)

There are two commonly known ways that homocysteine is converted into usable substances. One requires folate and vitamin B12. This path turns homocysteine back into methionine. The other requires vitamin B6 as a co-factor (pyridoxal phosphate is the active form of vitamin B6). This route converts homocysteine into cysteine, which is then used by the body to make glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant and is very useful in the body.

Other substances have also been shown to lower homocysteine levels in the human body. Betaine hydrochloride (betaine HCL) can be purchased as a dietary supplement or can be obtained from eating or juicing beets. Betaine turns homocysteine into cysteine. N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) can also reduce blood plasma homocysteine levels and improve endothelial function. Furthermore, research indicates that vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and magnesium are involved in homocysteine metabolism.

I recommend that everyone check their homocysteine levels every few years as they age and especially if they are less than optimally healthy. I also believe that everyone should carefully follow their nutritional status with annual testing from a reputable lab that does intra-cellular micronutrient testing. And lastly, consume a healthy diet with lots of fresh vegetables and a great multiple vitamin that contains food extracted vitamins.