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Green coffee bean for weight loss- should I take it?

This week we’re busting another weight-loss supplement scam. There were many to choose from and I settled on green coffee beans. The theory is that caffeine decreases fat absorption and something called chlorogenic acid influences the metabolism of sugar and fat. Dr. Oz championed green coffee beans on his TV show and website. He even went so far as to sponsor a study! Some of his fans agreed to take a green coffee bean supplement for two weeks and they lost two pounds each. Volunteers not taking green coffee bean extract lost one pound in two weeks.

But we can’t just let Dr. Oz get off that easy! Let’s dive into the real research.

A study conducted in the lab found that extract of green coffee beans could cause fat cells to release their fat. Not very applicable to people.

Three studies in obese mice have shown mixed results.

The crux of the evidence for green coffee beans comes down to one randomized, controlled trial involving 16 overweight adults. Each participant took a high dose of green coffee bean extract, a low dose of coffee extract, or placebo for six weeks each, in different orders. For example, Person A took 1,050 mg green coffee extract for six weeks, then waited for a two-week “washout” period, then took the placebo pill for six weeks, then waited for a two-week “washout” period, then took 700 mg per day for six weeks.

All of the participants lost weight over the 22 weeks of the study.

But here’s the kicker: all the subjects lost weight over the course of the study and all the subjects received diet counselling on a weekly basis. If anything, I would say this study shows that receiving weekly counselling about weight loss can help people lose weight.

When it comes to green coffee beans, there just is not a body of evidence showing it will help you lose weight.

Many weight-loss supplements contain caffeine. My personal theory is that caffeine is helpful insofar as it affects willpower. If your energy is low, you are more likely to give in to a craving for junk food. You are more likely to engage in a sedentary activity than an active activity. Caffeine provides an energy boost that helps you stick to positive resolutions.

Caffeine use can backfire if it interferes with your sleep or causes anxiety, both of which will tire you out. That’s just my theory.

In the next Nature’s Way column we’re going to cover the first of two supplements that may actually be useful to take while losing weight. There are no supplements that will take the place of changing your diet, but these supplements have a legitimate role for people who are in the process of losing weight. Stay tuned!

The scoop on probiotics

by Dr. Andrea Hilborn, ND

Originally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard

Probiotic supplements are everywhere now – should you be taking one? Let me help you decode some of the information about these microorganisms that have be shown to have wide-ranging health benefits.

A probiotic is a bacteria that lives in or on us that produces a beneficial effect. Bacteria are found all over our skin, in our digestive system- just about everywhere. Bacteria have recently been discovered in urine (which was thought to be sterile), and even in the placenta. Many foods contain beneficial bacteria: yoghurt, cheese, sauerkraut, and tempeh for example.

A probiotic supplement is a commercial product that contains particular strains of probiotics in a capsule, powder or liquid. Probiotic supplements are getting more diversified all the time. For example, you can now purchase probiotic vaginal suppositories, which are used to relieve the symptoms of vaginal yeast infections.

Probiotic supplements are not safe for severely ill or immunocompromised people.

lThe Lactobacillus species are the most common probiotic supplements, and the best-studied. They reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea by 36-44%. Lactobacillus rhamnosus appears to be most effective at reducing this risk. The Lactobacillus species can aide in digestion of lactose and glucose, and treat urinary tract infections.

Bifidobacterium is another common group of species found in probiotic supplements. They are usually packaged with Lactobacillus, rather than being on their own, and have many of the same effects as Lactobacillus. In combination, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species can reduce the frequency of respiratory tract infections, by a surprising 42%.

Saccharomyces boulardii is actually a fungus, rather than a type of bacteria. Saccharomyces reduces the risk of Clostridium difficile by 61%.

Escheria coli NISSLE 1917 is a beneficial type of E.coli. It alters the immune response of intestinal cells, decreasing the effects of inflammatory bowel disease. It has also been genetically modified to deliver molecules that promote wound healing and inhibit the attack of HIV.

Studies are currently underway examining the possibility of creating a probiotic cocktail from a healthy person, to give to a sick person. The 'fecal microbiota transplant' is delivered by enema. Providing a complex mix of probiotics this way may help treat inflammatory bowel disease and recurrent C. difficile.

Our understanding of probiotics is in its infancy. We are starting to see that calling a type of bacteria good or bad may be too simplistic. Helicobacter pylori is associated with stomach ulcers. We thought for sure that it was a bad bacteria. Now we know that less than 20% of people infected with H. pylori will go on to have serious consequences.

Vegans and vegetarians should use extra care in choosing a probiotic. Some contain fish meal and many contain milk ingredients.

In my practice, I only recommend a probiotic if there is a specific symptom I am trying to treat, as opposed to advising people to take them even if they are completely healthy. In my opinion, if you are healthy, your bacteria are probably healthy. If you are ill, your bacteria probably suffer. Fixing your bacteria with a probiotic may help your health, and getting healthy probably creates a good environment for healthy bacteria to grow in. It's a chicken-and-egg relationship.

How Stress Impacts Women

Dr. Andrea Hilborn, NDOriginally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard

This article will focus on how stress intersects with being female. Our female physiology and female gender both impact the way women handle stress. Understanding how can help us manage it better. Men and woman all have three sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These hormones affect all our body systems in myriads of ways. Imagine these three hormones as though they are radios playing different music. The volume of each radio can go up or down. Whichever radio is loudest is the one that has the strongest effect. During reproductive years, women's hormone levels are constantly fluctuating. In the first half of the cycle, estrogen is the dominant signal. In the second half, progesterone is the dominant signal. Estrogen has became a synonym for femaleness in everyday conversation, but progesterone is actually present at much higher levels. After menopause, sex hormones are in a steady state and no longer cyclically fluctuate. Healthy hormone levels are critical for longterm health. We know that having adequate progesterone levels throughout our reproductive years is protective against breast cancer, osteoporosis and heart disease, which are three of the big causes of mortality and morbidity. During the reproductive years, hormone imbalance can show up in many ways: irregular menstrual cycles, male pattern hair growth on face and body, changes in menstrual bleeding and PMS are some symptoms. In addition to the regular hormonal cycling that happens, women also undergo periods of major hormone shifts: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Menopause is the time from one year after a woman's last menstrual period continuing through the rest of her life. Perimenopause is the time up to one year after a woman's last menstrual period. The onset of perimenopause is when characteristic hormone-related signs show up. Common signs include heavier menstrual bleeding, shortening menstrual cycle, increased PMS symptoms and hot flashes. Perimenopause can begin as early as the mid-thirties. Stress impacts our hormones, and hormones impact our stress level. We know from animal studies that being in stressful situations over a long period of time decreases progesterone levels, and can inhibit ovulation. One theory of why this happens is that because the stress hormone cortisol is made out of the same material that progesterone is made out of, producing a lot of stress hormone reduces the ability to make progesterone. We also know that our sex hormone levels impact our ability to respond to stress. Cortisol levels increase during stressful situations. In the presence of higher progesterone levels, the increase in cortisol is smaller. Going through times of hormonal change can produce enormous stress. For example, if you start to experience intense hot flashes hourly, you will me worn out physically and emotionally, and less resilient to stressors in your everyday life. During perimenopause, estrogen levels start to spike and dip erratically, which can cause mood swings. Progesterone levels start to wane, causing greater sensitivity to stress. The combination of these two changes combine, reducing stress tolerance. I recommend keeping a menstrual cycle diary to see if your hormones and your stress level may be related. A blank diary can be found at www.natural-route.com/basal-body-temperature-chart Increasing your resilience to stress may mean treating hormonal imbalance. If you suffer from any of the symptoms discussed above, consider naturopathic care.

Memory boosters: sleep, exercise and nutrition

by Dr. Andrea Hilborn, ND

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Like money and free time, memory is something we feel we can never have enough of.

As soon as we misplace our car keys, we start to wonder if our memories are going. Many of us believe we could benefit from having a stronger memory, and look to herbs and supplements to help boost our recollective power.

If there are any herbs or supplements out there that can help, I would certainly like to know. I am still in my 20s and I have to write everything down, and my husband has his own very specific memory problem; he never seems to remember about my memory deficiency.

I searched around to find out which herbs and nutrients are being advertised as memory enhancers, then cross-checked them with reliable literature to see what study results have found.

Many a substance has been recommended for memory improvement. The following have a small amount of positive evidence of memory improvement in healthy young adults: phosphatidylcholine, bacopa, sage and vinpocetine. The small amount of research means that we do not know the proper dosage to see improvements, nor do we know how safe it is to take these for an extended period of time. Choline and lecithin have both been studied as well, in elderly people, and were not observed to have any effect on memory.

Gingko biloba is one of the most widely recognized herbal remedies. Some people say that because the leaf of the ancient tree looks like a cross-section of a brain, the plant must have an affinity for our memory and cognition. It certainly has a long record of use, but apparently the fruit was used more often than the leaf. Nowadays, in North America, we generally use the leaf.

Multiple reviews have been done to examine the effect of gingko biloba on memory. If the plant has any effect at all, it is not a dramatic one. It may be that the diversity of dosages and methods of preparation have obscured the herb’s benefit, but it may be that it just doesn’t have much of a benefit at all.

Gingko biloba may come with a risk of increased bleeding. Case reports about individuals appear to support the idea that gingko causes brain bleeds, nose bleeds and internal bleeds of all kinds, but larger reviews that include thousands of people show no increased risk of bleeding between those taking gingko and those not taking it. I take the precautionary approach, advising anyone with a bleeding disorder or entering surgery not to take it.

There does not appear to be a magic bullet for upping the ability to remember.

Some simple nutrition changes, however, may be helpful.

Eat breakfast. The effects of skipping or eating breakfast have mostly been studied in schoolchildren but the effects are consistent. Eating breakfast produces better performance on multiple tests of cognition, including memory. Some people who don’t eat breakfast find that they aren’t hungry and even feel nauseous in the morning. You can gradually overcome this sensation by regularly eating breakfast at the same time each day. Be sure to eat before drinking any coffee.

Reduce your fructose intake. Fructose is found in large quantities in candy, syrup and pop. Some researchers suggest that a high-fructose diet promotes cognitive decline because of the poor performance of rats on a high-fructose diet. We eat a lot of this stuff. Apparently in the US, 4% of children eat syrup every day.

For future generations, we need to ensure as a society that pregnant moms and infants get optimal nutrition because gestation and infancy appear to be a critical time for the development of our ability to remember.

I wish I had better news to convey, but I’m back to recommending the old standbys: sleep, exercise and nutrition. At least it’s easy to remember those three simple cures.