29 October 2013

Saturated Fat Is NOT The Enemy

Nutrition advice has performed some pretty spectacular flip-flops over the past few decades. First nuts were thought to cause heart disease, then eggs were banished from the breakfast table only to be welcomed back later. Margarine was first deemed healthier than butter—until researchers determined that the trans fats were much harder on the arteries.

Saturated Fats De-Villainized

Yes you heard me right... the time has come for saturated fats to be de-villainized as cause of all heart disease. 
 "The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades," says Dr Aseem Malhotra author of a recent editorial in BMJ.  And it's time for that to change!
Scientists universally accept that trans fats—found in many fast foods, bakery products, and margarines—increase the risk of cardiovascular disease through inflammatory processes. But “saturated fat” is another story. The mantra that saturated fat must be removed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease has dominated dietary advice and guidelines for almost four decades. Yet scientific evidence shows that this advice has, paradoxically, increased our cardiovascular risks. Furthermore, the obsession with levels of total cholesterol, which has led to the overmedication of millions of people with statins, has diverted our attention from the more egregious risk factor of atherogenic dyslipidemia.

Saturated fats, like butter, provide essential nutrients

Recent studies have not supported any significant association between saturated fat intake and cardiovascular risk. Instead, it has been found to be protective. The source of the saturated fat may be important. Organic butter is a great provider of vitamins A and D and there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular mortality.
Butter is a key source of the most easily utilized form of Vitamin A, required for support of skin and organs, including endocrine glands, the immune system and the brain. And butter is loaded with antioxidants! It contains vitamin E, good cholesterol (the type that is not oxidized) and is important for brain function. It is a natural source of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), which show promise in research for holding weight to a normal range and preventing diabetes.

Processed meats, not organic, pasture-raised dairy and beef, are dangerous...

One study showed that higher concentrations of plasma palmitoleic acid, a fatty acid mainly found in dairy foods, was associated with higher concentrations of high density lipoprotein, lower concentrations of triglycerides and C reactive protein, reduced insulin resistance, and a lower incidence of diabetes in adults.  Red meat is a major source of saturated fat. Consumption of processed meats, but not red meat, has been associated with coronary heart disease and diabetes mellitus, which may be explained by nitrates and sodium as preservatives.

Carbohydrates, especially processed ones may be a bigger risk factor for inflammation & heart disease.

Saturated fat may raise LDL cholesterol. But compared to carbohydrates, it also raises HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides. If we looked just at LDL, we would predict that saturated fat raises heart disease risk. If we looked at the effect of saturated fat on HDL and triglycerides, we would suppose that saturated fat lowers that risk. If we looked at the combination, we would predict that saturated fat is relatively neutral for heart disease risk compared to carbohydrates.

Dr. Malhotra's editorial suggests the following: 

  • Low-saturated-fat diets cut levels of lower-risk large, buoyant LDL particles rather than the small, dense LDL particles thought to worsen cardiovascular disease. 
  • Dietary saturated fat may actually protect against cardiovascular risk. 
  • Low-fat diets promote an atherogenic pattern of blood lipids and worsen insulin resistance. 
  • Low total-cholesterol levels are "associated with cardiovascular death, indicating that high total cholesterol is not a risk factor in a healthy population."
  • Even in secondary prevention, no cholesterol-lowering drug besides statins has shown survival benefit, supporting the hypothesis that the benefits of statins are independent of their effects on cholesterol. 
  • The "Mediterranean diet" confers three times the survival benefit in secondary prevention, compared with statins; it led to a 30% improvement compared with a "low-fat" diet in the PREDIMED study.

So here's my list of the Top Ten Saturated Fats you can enjoy guilt-free!

  1. Coconut oil 
  2. Egg yolks
  3. Avocado
  4. Organic pastured, cultured butter or Ghee
  5. Organic dark chocolate
  6. Sardines
  7. Raw organic cheese
  8. Brazil nuts
  9. Macademia nuts
  10. Cashews

22 October 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

If you're looking for a sweet but guilt-free treat, this is it!
You will adore this recipe for a delicious but healthier version of your favorite chocolate pudding.   It only takes a few minutes with a blender to put together.

The avocados are full of vitamins and healthy fat plus it gives it the smooth, thick consistency.  Topped off with favorites like sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, toasted almond slices, or perhaps fresh raspberries and mint leaves you'll devour this divine dessert!

Serves 2


  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled + quartered
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup raw organic honey (Use less or substitute stevia if you are on a Candida Diet)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk (more or less depending on desired thickness)
  • Optional 1-2 tsp melted organic coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure organic vanilla extract


Put all the ingredients in blender or food processor + blend until smooth. Refrigerate before eating for optimal consistency.
Top with your favorite topping & Enjoy!

05 October 2013

What's the Big Deal about Methylation?! Update of the popular MTHFR blog post...


Do you have a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene??

Maybe you've have a family history of heart attack or stroke... maybe you've suffered through multiple miscarriages.  Or maybe you struggle with chronic migraine headaches or irritible bowel syndrome or depression.  Perhaps your child or a sibling has autism.  What do all these things have in common?  Well, these are just some of the conditions liked to a faulty enzyme called MTHFR.

What's up with MTHFR?

MTHFR stands for methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme that is responsible for the process of methylation in every cell in your body.  MTHFR is a common genetic variant that causes this key enzyme in the body to function at a lower than normal rate.  This can lead to a variety of medical problems.  Although there are over fifty known MTHFR variants, the two primary ones are called C677T and A1298.  Your doctor can order a blood test to determine if you have these genetic variants. Better yet, you can order a complete genetic profile yourself through 23andMe.

What's the big deal about methylation?

Methylation is a core process that occurs in all cells to help your body make biochemical conversions.  When people with genetic mutations is MTHFR are exposed to toxins, they have a harder time getting rid of them which can cause some very serious illnesses.  The methylation process is responsible for:
  • Cellular Repair: synthesis of nucleic acids, production and repair of DNA and mRNA
  • Detoxification and Neurotransmistter  Production:  interconversion of amino acids
  • Healthy Immune System Function:  formation and maturation of red blood cells, white blood cells & platelet production
The 677T variant is most commonly associated  with early heart disease and stroke and the 1298C variant with a variety chronic illnesses, but either anomaly can cause a wide variety of health problems.  The MTHFR anomaly is reported out as heterozygous or homozygous.  If you are heterozygous that means you have one affected gene and one normal gene.  Your enzyme activity will run at about 60% efficiency compared to a normal.

If you are homozygous or have 2 abnormal copies, then enzyme efficiency drops down to 10% to 20% of normal, which can be very serious.   The worst combination is 677T/1298C in which you are heterozygous to both anomalies.  Many chronic illnesses are linked to this anomaly.   Fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, chemical sensitivity, frequent miscarriage and frequent blood clots are all conditions associated with MTHFR anomaly.  For a great diagram of more methylation related health problems, check this out:

MTHFR Related Health Problems 

Glutathione is the body's primary antioxidant and detoxifier.  One of the ways that MTHFR gene mutation can make you susceptible to illness is by lowering your ability to make glutathione.    People with MTHFR anomalies usually have low glutathione, which makes them more susceptible to stress and less tolerant to toxic exposures.  Accumulation of toxins in the body and increased oxidative stress, which also leads to premature aging.

Some conditions that may be associated with MTHFR gene mutations

  • Autism
  • Addictions: smoking, drugs, alcohol
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Frequent miscarriages
  • Male and female infertility
  • Pulmonary embolism and other blood clots
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome  
  • Stroke
  • Spina bifida
  • Migraines
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Breast cancer
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack)
  • Methotrexate Toxicity
  • Nitrous Oxide Toxicity


Treatment for MTHFR

Fortunately, you can easily be tested for the MTHFR mutation.  If you find out that you have one or more of the gene mutations, you can supplement with methyl-folate  and methyl B12, the active forms of these B vitamins.   You can also supplement with liposomal or acetyl-glutathione, the end product of the pathway.  Glutathione is poorly absorbed so either the liposomal form or a precursor, called n-acetylcysteine (NAC) may be used. Some of my favorites are Thorne Research Methyl Guard Plus and 5-MTHF 1mg and 5mg.

There are prescription medicines, that also contain methyl-folate: Deplin, MetanX, CerefolinNAC are a few.   Methyl B12 can also be given as shots, nasal sprays, and sublingually.  The intramuscular shots are by far the most effective method and must be prescribed by your physician.  The choice of nutrients will vary from patient to patient and should be done under a doctor's supervision.  There is a bell-shaped optimal curve so you may not feel well with too much or too little of the appropriate supplements.   Other B vitamins, such as riboflavin and vitamin B6 also play an important role.  As you may have surmised, this can be quite complex and I suggest you find a functional medicine trained physician to help you sort through your needs for the different nutrients if you have a chronic health condition related to the gene mutations.  It is not uncommon for patients with these genetic polymorphism's to be very sensitive to supplementation.

Patients who I recommend be screened for MTHFR mutations:

  • Mood disorders: depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, bipolar
  • Infants and children of parents with MTHFR mutations
  • Family members related to someone with MTHFR mutations
  • Infertility and Pre-conception care: test both man and woman
  • Elevated folate (not processing to active 5-MTHF due to inability to methylate)
  • Elevated homocysteine (due to low active 5-MTHF and methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated s-adenosylhomocysteine (due to low active 5-MTHF and methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated serum cobalamin (due to inability to methylate cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin)
  • Elevated methylmalonic acid (due to methylcobalamin deficiency)
  • Patients with syndromes: IBS, multiple chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, Down syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Neurological disorders: Multiple sclerosis, Autism, Alzheimer’s, Epilepsy, Parkinson's
  • Cancer: family history of cancer or undergoing cancer treatment
  • Cervical dysplasia
  • Cardiovascular risk: family history of strokes, embolisms, heart attacks, clots, hypertension
  • Birth defects: cleft palate, tetralogy of Fallot, spinal bifida, midline defects
  • Drug sensitivities: methotrexate, anti-seizure meds, nitrous oxide, anesthesia

If you are interested in knowing more about your genes, the 23andme gene test will be the best $99 investment you've ever spent !

More reading

23andMe Gene Test
Holistic Primary Care 
Genetics Home Reference
Molecular Biology of MTHFR
Genetics of Homocysteine Metabolism
Homocysteine and MTHFR mutation
LiveWello Gene app