Ask Will: Are Cleanses Dietary Draino For Toxins?

Dear Dr. Clower,
I’ve read a lot about cleanses lately. What is a good cleansing tea to drink to clean out your system?

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I know. You hear about this stuff all the time, along with abs busters, fat-be-gone rings, no work no exercise pills that melt fat off, and the super food that will [fill in the blank] as you sing and dance on a beach with a Labrador and 2 children (all of whom are magically behaving themselves).

As far as detox diets go, it turns out that the two best detoxers on planet Earth are called, your liver and your kidney. That’s what they do. It’s their job. 

If they aren’t functioning well, toxins can certainly accumulate. In other words, we need to NOT get in their way and let them do the job they have been crafted for over the past few bazillion years.

Listen, there is no dietary Draino for your digestive system. The metabolic Roto-Rooter doesn’t exist. There is no tea, acai berry, or bizarre green slurry that’s going to clean up your act for you. You have to do that yourself. 

All that said, you actually can help your system clean up, and take out the metabolic trash. You do this by avoiding processed food products that your kidney has to manage, and synthetic ingredients that your liver has to filter.

Replace those with real food like beans, sweet potato, squash, root veggies … see where I’m going here? Do this and you get a higher percentage of antioxidants on board that work on the molecular level to help our your liver and your kidneys at the organ level.

That said, if you like green slurry juice or tea or Goji berries or whatever, go for it. If it’s a real food, it’s certainly not going to hurt you. And you are, in fact, helping to clean your system by AVOIDING faux foods.

So. To finally answer your question, all tea can help if it consists of real ingredients. Some have slightly more antioxidants in them, and so are a bit better. 

But none are as important to add, as faux foods are important to subtract. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Ask Will: Is there anything to Plexus and Advocare?

Dear Will,
My Facebook and email are covered in ads for plexus and advocare. 

What is it? What is it supposed to do? Anything to the hype?
Tricia

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Hi Tricia, thank you so much for this question! 

The business model for these products amounts to pyramid schemes run by two companies that both specialize in “multilevel marketing”. But instead of selling Amway swag, they’re enrolling what they call “Ambassadors” to go out and sell unregulated, untested supplements to people desperate for solutions.
Can you trust the comments of people whose income depends on your “buying” their claims? Of course not. Would people over-hype their product just to get you to buy it? Of course they would. 

You would do better to trust clinical trials, and randomized placebo controlled research. 

But how much research would you guess there is on either of these products (HINT: it’s a nice round number). 

That would be zero. 
  •          There are no published data on the safety of either of them.
  •          There are no published data on the effectiveness of either of them.
  •          There are no FDA regulations to keep them from putting added drugs or adulterated elements in them.

That said, the FDA has sent a warning letter to Tarl Robinson (the CEO of Plexus Worldwide in Scottsdale AZ) due to their unfounded claims about the health benefits of the supplements he has to sell. That’s who we’re dealing with.
Clearly, these companies have a pyramid scheme business model first. Next they just need to get a product to plug into that. Since supplements are unregulated, you can seriously put almost anything in there and put anything on the label and sell it to anyone for any price. 

This is ideal for a company that is high on hype without the pesky and unfortunate burden of accountability.
By contrast, neither of these companies started out as health-oriented companies dedicated to making people well. They didn’t set out to perfect a dietary approach though years of research, and then settle on a way to get it out to people.  
Bottom line? You have every reason in the world to expect this to be a scam. It looks like a scam. It acts like a scam. It smells like a scam.  

In fact, hypothetically of course, if you were a bad person who would set out to design a scam on purpose to lure unsuspecting people in to purchase your product, this is exactly what you would do. 
But what about the actual stuff in these supplements? 

AdvoCare for example, has a “cleanse phase” with ingredients that are basically glorified laxatives. So you can lose water weight. Although at high levels this can also contribute to electrolyte imbalances. The AdvoCare plan also encourages the consumption of energy drinks, which is absurd.

Plexus Slim is a supplement that says it contains 200 mcg chromium, and some combination of chlorogenic acid (from green coffee Caffee bean) extract, garcinia cambogia extract, alpha lipoic acid, polydextrose, citric acid, natural flavors, beet extract (for color), Stevia extract, Luo han guo extract.


Again, there are no studies on this mixture. Nevertheless, this multilevel marketing company seems to have thrown a number of ingredients into one package because they have been used as weight loss supplements in the past (alpha lipoic acid, chlorogenic acid, garcinia cambogia).  

Tricia, a better solution for weight control — not to mention health! — is to eat real food, and eat that in control. Move every chance you get, and make that activity something you love  
doing. Let me know your thoughts!!

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Dear Will,
 
My family has always been health conscious and we try to do the right thing for our health – because it’s important! 
 
But I’m getting mixed messages from the news when I hear about supplements. Are there some that are better than others?
 
Thank you for your help … Health Conscious
 

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Dear Health Conscious,
 
I want to make this very clear. The weight of research evidence is not looking good for dietary supplements! And this, I think, is what causes the confusion as the health claims run headlong into the health data. So let’s just look at a bit of that.
 
First of all, the best source of your nutrition comes from food. That’s just common sense. The body has adapted to the food grown on this planet for the past few billion years of evolution. 
 
And it would be a logical absurdity to presume the perfect fit between food and physiology could be bettered by some invention we came up with over the past few decades.
 
We’re just not that smart.
 
Of course, that doesn’t stop us from trying to convince others that nutritional supplements must be a healthful solution. Unfortunately the health claims lead the health data. For example … 
 
pills.jpg
Does glucosamine and chondroitin work for joint pain? Not for the knee (here’s another).
 
Do vitamin B supplements help heal the arteries of your heart? Not at all.
 
Do supplemental vitamins C and E help prevent cancer? In this massive randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled Physicians’ Health Study II, an amazing 14,641 male physicians aged 50 years or older were given vitamin C and E supplements. 
 
Neither provided any protection whatsoever against cancer, despite the fact that foods with vitamin C and E are protective.
 
But what about the multivitamins? Do they help you stay healthy? Not for your heart and not for cancer prevention. Not, not, not.
This amazing lack of effect is only now getting significant attention from regulators. In fact, a FDA investigation of herbal supplements randomly tested 78 supplement bottles at Walgreens, Walmart, GNC and Target stores. They found that 80% of did not even contain the ingredients advertised on their labels.
 
What did they contain? According to the report, in many cases they consisted of powdered rice, wheat, and ground-up houseplants.
 
Seriously. Ground up houseplants.
 
Even if they were pure which, 80% of the time they are just not, ginkgo biloba supplements carried a claim that the products supported “concentration, memory and peripheral circulation, enhancing blood flow to the arms, legs and brain.” There is no evidence for this. At GNC, a line of saw palmetto supplements promised to “support healthy prostate function.” There is no evidence for this either. And Walmart’s Spring Valley brand of echinacea supplements were promoted for “healthy immune function.” Evidence? Nope.
 
Maybe the ground up houseplants just aren’t that effective for anything much, with the exception perhaps of selling fraudulent claims to unsuspecting customers. 
But supplements can also be dangerous.
The common supplements above may have been irrelevant to better health for the men, but for pregnant women they turned out to make pregnancy complications of high blood pressure 10% worse!
 
The Cancer Institute recently reported that exposure to supplements such as vitamins, herbs, protein powders, and botanicals were responsible for more than 35,000 calls to US poison control centers in 2011. 
 
Over 800 of them had moderate to severe outcomes, and 4 people died.
 
Even this alarming incidence is likely a strong underestimate of the actual health toll taken by supplements, as most people won’t actually call a poison control center.
 
Those on chemotherapy are at a much higher risk of unexpected drug interactions with dietary supplements and should consult their doctor about any they are taking. But even this may not be enough, as the lack of regulatory oversight has allowed some supplement makers to insert dangerous additional drugsin their formulas that are completely unlabeled (Reumofan, the all “natural” Mexican supplement for pain relief).  
 
Bottom line?
If you’re sick, take your meds. Don’t be silly. But if you have a relatively normal physiology and your body’s not broken yet, your best source of nutrition comes from the foods that are here precisely because of the optimal nutrition they provide for our body.
 

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AskWill: This Valentines Day learn the difference between chocolate and “chocolate”

Dear Will, 

With Valentine’s Day coming up I’m a bit confused. Normally I’d just get chocolates for my wife, knowing that they’re a decadent, not-so-good-for-you treat. 

But lately I’ve heard that there’s good chocolate and bad chocolate.  Now I feel like I could actually making wrong choice!

Dear Confused,

As the bearer of good news, I just want to let you know that chocolate is a righteous health food. In fact, it’s one of the healthiest foods you could possibly eat: 
  • for your heart 
  • for your emotional state 
  • for your metabolism 
  • for insulin control for diabetics 
  • for your blood pressure 
  • and even for your skin health!


But you’re absolutely correct that not everything with “Chocolate” slapped on the label is good for you. The part of the chocolate that is the most highly packed with health properties comes from the cocoa itself. So if the chocolate you’re choosing this Valentine’s Day is a high cocoa chocolate, then it’s a healthy chocolate. Otherwise, it’s just not.

Here’s the way to think about it. Most people crave chocolates that are dramatically over-sweetened (think, candy bars, confections, and ), to feed their sweet tooth. In other words, they use chocolate as nothing more than a vehicle for sugar.  

If you want your Valentine’s Day gift of chocolate to be healthy, it needs to be a vehicle for cocoa. This is the principle difference between chocolate and “chocolate”.

Chocolate = a cocoa delivery device.

“Chocolate” = a sugar delivery device.

That’s why everyone says that chocolate with higher cocoa content (darker chocolate) is better! Plus, as the cocoa percentage increases from 50% to 60% to 70% etc., the sugar content drops. 

In other words, you’re getting more of the good stuff (cocoa) and less of the bad stuff (sugar). Win-win!

One more bit of coaching in order to find healthy chocolate is to look for three characteristics: Solid. Dark. Chocolate. Skip the goop, and nougat and wafer and filling and caramel because those are all unhealthy. There are many good brands out there (Green & Blacks is one I’m fond of), but you’re going to be safe if you keep these rules in mind. 

So when you’re buying a gift for your sweetie, now you know the difference between chocolate and “chocolate”. Maximize the cocoa to minimize the sugar, with Solid Dark Chocolate! 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Ask Will: Cholesterol

Dear Will, 

Our son had his blood tested last week and has high cholesterol…so weird…he is only 10.  


My wife is really good about providing a balanced, healthy diet to the kids (has a hard time with me) but he still appears to have some more specific dietary needs.  

The Mediterranean diet, from what I remember, hits cholesterol specifically doesn’t it?

Thanks in advance for your help! 

Tedd

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Hi Tedd, thanks for the question!! 

This is so important to answer because the science on cholesterol is changing under our feet. At first we were told to get our total cholesterol under 200 mg/dl at all costs (take statins, for example). 

More recently we were told that the total value isn’t as important, so long as the balance between GOOD CHOLESTEROL and BAD CHOLESTEROL is correct. 

Great review here from the Nat’l Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

Something we need to keep in mind is that although the research changes quickly, not all clinicians may keep up with the pace. This can result in outdated advice. It’s not always the case, of course, but it does help explain our confusion when one clinician may say X, a second one emphatically argues for Y, and a third goes totally off-grid with Z.

What About The Mediterranean Diet?
You’re correct that the Mediterranean Diet is recommended for many things, including overall cardiovascular health. Basically, this approach includes normal foods (fruits and veggies, dairy daily in the form of yogurt or cheese), normal drinks (tea, water, coffee, wine, juice, milk … nothing artificial), meats that lean on fish and chicken, and daily activity. 


I know we don’t live on the Amalfi coast in Italy (bummer, eh?), and so we cannot eat their specific cuisine purchased from their grocery stores on their time schedules. But with your son, if you follow these basic rules you’ll be adapting their principles at least. 

And the impact of this approach on cholesterol — according to the data, see below — will be minimal on the total cholesterol number, and can improve the ratio of GOOD to BAD cholesterol in the process. And Tedd, what you’re looking for is a ratio of 1 to 3. 

In other words, if your son’s good cholesterol is 50, the bad should be around 150. Again, if fruit becomes your dessert, you make your own food at your own home from real ingredients, additive sugars are cut out, and deep fried … everything … becomes the vast exception to the rule, then this ratio should move in the healthy direction. 

Let me know if this makes sense, and (as a cure for insomnia, lol) check out the seismic shift on cholesterol research below.

Cholesterol Is Getting Another Look
Your body needs cholesterol. In fact, a full 75% of all the cholesterol in your body is made by your own liver. 

Your body’s commitment to cholesterol is likely due to the fact that every large axon in your brain is ringed by it. And the rest of your body needs it to make vitamin D, hormones, and also to help you digest your food.  

That’s how important it is for you. 

But over the past 30 years, we were told that this vital molecule was directly linked to heart disease, and also that eating cholesterol (as in an egg, for example) increased that risk. Fortunately, the research is coming back around on this, and changing its mind. 

Here’s just a taste (so to speak!):
1. The cholesterol — heart disease link is not as solid as we thought:

In recent years, there have been a number of epidemiological studies that did not support a relationship between cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease. Further, a number of recent clinical trials that looked at the effects of long-term egg consumption (as a vehicle for dietary cholesterol) reported no negative impact on various indices of cardiovascular health and disease. STUDY LINK HERE.


2. The targets for dietary cholesterol may be outdated:

The recommendations need to be changed.The lines of evidence coming from current epidemiological studies and from clinical interventions utilizing different types of cholesterol challenges support the notion that the recommendations limiting dietary cholesterol should be reconsidered. STUDY LINK HERE.


3. Dietary cholesterol has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels: 

The preponderance of the clinical and epidemiological data accumulated since the original dietary cholesterol restrictions were formulated indicate that: (1) dietary cholesterol has a small effect on the plasma cholesterol levels with an increase in the cholesterol content of the LDL particle and an increase in HDL cholesterol, with little effect on the LDL:HDL ratio, a significant indicator of heart disease risk, and (2) the lack of a significant relationship between cholesterol intake and heart disease incidence reported from numerous epidemiological surveys. STUDY LINK HERE.

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Ask Will. Is Peanut Butter Good For You?

Dear Will, 

I’m not sure about peanut butter. Is it healthy for you? I’ve heard that it is, and I’ve also heard that it’s not. 

Thanks for any insights you can offer. 
David


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Peanut butter is a total health food. And, as a food, it’s like blood type O, it goes goes with practically everything! 

It’s awesome for a weekday breakfast, along with a piece of fruit: banana, apple, or even a pear (orange is the exception to THAT little rule). The nice thing about the peanut butter, too, is that it helps lower the glycemic index blabbitty blah of whatever you eat with it. 

In other words, if you put it on a banana, an apple, or even a piece of bread, the healthy fats and fiber helps your insulin/blood sugar stay balanced!! 

And this makes it as good for your blood sugar as it is for your heart. But don’t take my word for it, see what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say! 

From HSPH: 

A typical 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter has 3.3 grams of saturated fat and 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat. That puts it up there with olive oil in terms of the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat. 

Dr. Walter Willett notes that saturated fat isn’t the deadly toxin it is sometimes made out to be. The body’s response to saturated fat in food is to increase the amounts of both harmful LDL and protective HDL in circulation. In moderation, some saturated fat is okay. Eating a lot of it, though, promotes artery-clogging atherosclerosis, the process that underlies most cardiovascular disease.

Peanut butter also gives you some fiber, some vitamins and minerals (including potassium), and other nutrients. Unsalted peanut butter has a terrific potassium-to-sodium ratio, which counters the harmful cardiovascular effects of sodium surplus. And even salted peanut butter still has about twice as much potassium as sodium. 

Numerous studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts. Although it is possible that nut eaters are somehow different from, and healthier than, non-nut eaters, it is more likely that nuts themselves have a lot to do with these benefits. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Ask Will: Dissing Dairy

Dear Will, 
Our son and daughter-in-law have informed us that based upon advice of co-workers in the medical profession, they will give our grandson almond milk rather than regular milk once he’s off formula. 

I may be old school, but I’ve never heard of such a thing unless a child is allergic to regular milk.  Is there medical evidence that this is better for a toddler or for that matter a child of any age? 

Thank you, 
~Bob

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Hi Bob, 

I totally understand their concerns, as it’s so common lately to hear how milk has become the secret cause of every health problem from obesity and heart disease to colic, constipation, and cancer! Even high profile organizations (such as the Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine) aggressively market this way of thinking that turns out to be very anti-dairy.  

Fair enough, and groups like this are certainly entitled to push their perspective, but there’s far more going on and, for our kids’ health, we need BOTH sides of the story to truly get a clear picture.  

The first and most pedestrian reason to avoid dairy would be due to milk allergies. But 97.5% of all children under 3 years old do NOT have an allergy to milk (source here), and most of the remaining 2.5% outgrow as they grow. If you happen to have a child with a dairy allergy, don’t give them dairy. 

But the biggest reason cited to eliminate dairy for our kids comes down to the claim that it causes systemic inflammation in the body. 

In this article “The Dangers of Dairy”, we read that Dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our modern diet, second only to gluten. How could they possibly make such a strong assertion — that your yogurt is THE MOST inflammatory food behind gluten — unless there were definitive evidence? 


Does Dairy Cause Inflammation?

If this were true, the consumption of any form of dairy would lead to a closet full of health problems: cardiovascular disease, asthma, allergies, arthritis, auto-immune disorders, cancer, and others. Anyone who eats any dairy would suffer from all of these ailments.  

Reading claims like this is very frustrating, and feels like someone who is simply echoing what everyone happens to be saying right now. So I took the time to look up some actual studies that investigated the claims. 

Here are some highlights: 

1. In a systematic review of randomized controlled nutritional intervention studies, they found that circulating inflammatory and atherogenic biomarkers are NOT increased following meals of dairy foods.

2. “Dairy product consumption does not exert adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation in overweight or obese adults.” 

3. Study: Dairy Product Consumption Has No Impact on Biomarkers of Inflammation among Men and Women with Low-Grade Systemic Inflammation. As a matter of fact, Among subjects, significant falls occurred … in inflammatory biomarkers after cream and butter

4. “Consistent with data from previous work, these results suggest that short-term consumption of a combination of low- and high-fat dairy products as part of a healthy diet have no adverse effects on inflammation.” 


Not only do these studies show that dairy is not inflammatory, in this review we indicate how milk proteins could be useful for the prophylaxis and therapy of intestinal inflammation in infants and children.” 


Therapy. 

For intestinal inflammation. 

In children. 

So Bob, your sense of things is spot-on. If your grandchild is one of the 97.5% of people who do not have a dairy allergy, then there is really no reason (based on nutrition research) to move them away from dairy.  

Of course, as with all things, you do have to eat it in control. But this is the case not matter what you’re eating. 

For more information: Click here to visit Will Clower’s website.

Ask Will: Should We Eat 5 Times Per Day?

Dear Will,

Can you advise if eating five times throughout the day is better than eating three meals and no snacks?  

… I’m wondering if I should eat three balanced meals instead.

~Catherine


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Dear Catherine, 
Thank you so much for this question … and your intuition is spot on! 

“Eat every three hours.” Isn’t that amazing advice? At some point, there were people in a room somewhere who said, “Hey, you know what? We have a colossal weight problem in this country with people who vastly overeat all the all the all the time. I have an idea, let’s tell them to eat MORE often!” 

The advice to trade in our traditional 3 meal per day pattern for an eat every 3 hours pattern throws away the habits we practiced when we were much thinner (1958, obesity rate = 11%). Between then and now, we lost our way, distracted by the new theories that pop out of the clown car each January. 

The new ideas can only distract us if they convince us that there’s actually something real there (the mini meals idea is a perfect case-in-point). However, although there’s a kernel of truth in the center of this little dietary sugar pill, that’s about all because the evidence to support it is just not there. 

Who is surprised by this, really? 

Here is the rationale behind the multiple mini meal mistake: 
1. The act of eating revs your body’s metabolism due to something called “the thermic effect of food”, so you’re burning more calories and therefore losing more weight. 
2. If you don’t eat between meals, your body will go into a “starvation mode”, hold onto all the fat it does have on board, and subvert your attempts to one day find yourself in smaller pants. 

Yes, our aging metabolism may be turning into a slug over time, sliding into a complacent stupor day by sedentary day, but not snacking between meals is not what is driving it into the ground. Your metabolism may have 99 problems, but that ain’t one. 


Here’s the kernel of truth 
The thermic effect of food is a real thing, and has been measured. But when you eat, the number of calories burned by consuming that food amounts to about 5 – 15 percent of the total calories of the meal. The idea is that if you eat more frequently, you will keep up that calorie burn! 

This sounds really great until you think about it in common sense terms. It’s like you saying, “There’s a 10% sale on at Macy’s! I’m going to buy more bed sheets and back to school supplies more often so I can save more money!” Said in this way, the idea that you’re going to save calories by eating more often is totally nonsensical. “Spending to save” is still spending, just like adding calories to burn calories is still adding on the calories. 

Even worse for this latest new idea, smaller mini meals have a smaller effect on boosting metabolism as compared to a larger normal meal. And eating multiple mini meals also did not improve your body’s ability to rev up your metabolism over time. 

What about the dreaded starvation mode? 

This is behind door number two – the idea that if you don’t eat every three hours you will slip into this mode where your body thinks you are starving and holds on to all the fat you’re trying to lose. But to achieve such a sad metabolic state of affairs, you would have to consume about 500 calories per day (that’s all) for about 10 days straight in order to make this happen. 

The idea that you can’t make it all the way from breakfast to lunch without your metabolism going full DEFCON1 on you a) makes no sense, and b) has exactly zero research supporting it. 

Not only does the multiple mini meal pattern not prevent the mythical starvation mode beast, but compared head-to-head with the normal 3 squares per day meal pattern, the multiple mini meal pattern does not increase basal metabolism. 

Not.

By the way, eating those additional mini meals through the day turns out to be worse than fewer larger meals for lipid profiles in obese individuals and for blood sugar in Type 2 diabetics. 

Worse. 

The bottom line for your bottom lines
What about the effect of this eating pattern on weight loss? There are definitely cases in which an individual lost weight doing this or some other diet du jour, but controlled studies indicate that it doesn’t help most people control weight most of the time. 

Again, yes, it’s possible for one person to lose weight on the Krispy Kreme diet, the eat every 3 hours diet, or any other. However, if you had a ton of people do this diet, and you looked to see whether its weight loss effect was statistically significant (not a fluke), the answer would be … nope. 

So Catherine, your sense of things is exactly correct. People certainly can give this mini meal miracle a shot, and hope that they’re the exception to the rule and it actually works for them. 

Alternatively, we can find an eating pattern that we know is associated with weight control. When we were thinner than we are today, no one ate every three hours with mini meals. At that time (in the main, in general, as a rule … you get my point), we ate 3 meals a day, portions weren’t gargantuan, and it was real food. 

It’s my recommendation that we do that! Hope this helps.

Talk to you soon,
Will