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Dietary supplements (DS) story is BS

Why the story on DS (Dietary Supplements) may be BS

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This story came out about two weeks ago. I am chiming in a little late but the topic on dietary supplement manufacturing practices is still important. And you need to know about it.

According to the New York Times, GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart have been caught selling mislabeled dietary supplements. Investigators found that four out of five of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels.

The story claims that up to 80% of pills that allegedly contain medicinal herbs contained little more than cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus, pulverized houseplants, and in some cases substances that could be dangerous to those with allergies.

Further, three out of six herbal products at Target — ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, and valerian root (a sleep aid) — tested negative for the herbs on their labels. But they did contain powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots. And at GNC, the agency said, pills contained unlisted ingredients used as fillers, like powdered legumes, the class of plants that includes peanuts and soybeans, a hazard for people with allergies.

Questioning the testing method – DNA bar coding

There are some problems with this report, though. It is worth noting that DNA barcoding has been criticized by botanical scientists who question whether this technology is an appropriate or validated test for determining the presence of herbal ingredients in finished botanical products.

DNA barcoding has strengths and limitations. DNA testing is rarely able to properly identify chemically complex herbal extracts as little or no DNA is extracted in many commercial extraction processes. Processing during manufacturing of botanical supplements can remove or damage DNA; therefore, while a DNA testing method can be useful in some cases, this method well may be the wrong test for these kinds of products.

Also, the DNA testing method does not provide information on the amounts of food contaminants found in the products. This is important because there are well-established legal thresholds that allow for trace amounts of some ingredients, say gluten, rice, pine, etc., which are not considered harmful or required on labels.

Alarming the public by saying that these substances could be dangerous to people with allergies is unnecessary; after all, there was no mention of whether DNA from these substances poses any allergic risk.

Being based on only one testing technology from only one laboratory, the NY AG results are preliminary and require further substantiation. Additional tests using microscopic analysis and validated chemical methods should be conducted to confirm the initial results upon which the AG is acting.

Questioning the tester – Professor James A. Schulte II

Of note, the AG’s office contracted with Prof. James A. Schulte II, PhD, of Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, who employed DNA barcode technology to test the supplements. Dr. Schulte has a background in evolutionary biology and reptilian zoology, but he is not considered an expert in botany, pharmacology, or natural product chemistry — three key scientific areas related to herb and medicinal plant research.

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7 Easy Tips to Stay Healthy During the Super Bowl

7 Easy Tips for a Healthy Super Bowl Party

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Odds are there will be a lot of crap for you to eat at the Super Bowl party this weekend. Six-foot long sandwiches, chips, salsa, and beer are the usual grub, right? Those are the “manly” things to eat after all, aren’t they? No. They’re not.

Now, here’s the deal. I know you want to have a good time without having to think much about ‘eating healthy.’ You just want to live the moment and enjoy the awesome super commercials, eat and be merry. I get it.

But eating an excessive amount of toxic foods during the Super Bowl is not worth it. It never is. I am not suggesting to be neurotic and fanatical, but only to be aware. You have one life. Live it right.

OK, I will step off my soapbox now and give you seven good tips that I personally will apply this weekend to enjoy the Super Bowl without paying the price.

7 Health Tips to Enjoy the Super Bowl

  1. Don’t lose sight of the main goal, which is to share good times with family and friends. Talk a little smack and laugh. Food and beer is a small component of that.
  1. Have a great breakfast on Super Bowl Sunday. I’m talking high-octane proteins like a veggie omelet (no bread) or a power smoothie (tips here)
  1. Work out on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s what the football players are doing, after all. Act like you are playing in the super bowl and workout as such. I am half joking here, but if you get in the right state of mind your workout can feel awesome.
  1. Eat right before leaving your home or before everyone comes if you’re hosting. Again, eat a top notch meal. No junk! This will prevent the dangerous situation of starting the party in a hungry state. All bets are off if you start on empty.
  1. Be mindful. It is easy to overeat and over-drink when you get caught up in the moment and eat simply without thinking, so think about it!
  1. Have a veggie platter with hummus dip if you’re hosting. Bring one to the party if you are not. Don’t eat raw broccoli though, it is very hard to digest when it is not at least steamed. (Also, raw broccoli contains goitrogens which damages your thyroid – did you know that?) Carrots and celery are OK to eat raw. Easy on that white creamy dip though.
  1. Root for the Seahawks! Actually, I just want to see a good game. But I really like Russel Wilson. For a relatively short quarterback, that level of talent is an aberration. And I like aberrations. Plus, he is a Wisconin Badger, my favorite college football team. (Don’t discount the rest of my advice if you’re rooting for a different team.)

Who are you going for? Or do you not care? Share your thoughts on the comments section below.

Lastly, here is a sneak preview of this years Budweiser’s super bowl commercial.  It’s a bit of a tear jerker so grab your handkerchief.

Be safe.

Battle Of The Fitness Bands – are they worth it?

Battle of the Fitness Bands, are they worth it?

 

fitnessband

Yes.

Fitness bands can be a massive motivational boost as well as a neat and convenient way to track your training progress.  I personally use a Nike Fuel Band, but I wanted to explore the Internet and find out what people were saying about other popular Fitness Bands.  That’s what I did, and here are the results, listed A to Z with some pros and cons for each.

BASIS

Pros

  • It delivers the most detailed reports of all the Fitness Bands.
  • It automatically knows when you’re running, walking, biking, or sleeping.
  • It measures Heart Rate (HR), a big plus for me.

Cons

  • Expensive!
  • Some users report that it has trouble telling the difference between watching TV and sleeping.
  • Does not measure distance

Price: upwards of $149.99

FITBIT

Pros

  • Strong in activity monitoring, does all the basics (walking, biking, running, stair climbing)
  • Great battery life
  • Silent alarm feature
  • Sturdy
  • Sleep monitor

Cons

  • No heart rate monitor

Price: less than $100

JAWBONE-UP24
Pros

  • This one records your steps, how many hours of sleep you get per night, and your caloric intake as well with the help of the smartphone app.
  • That app has an elegant user interface that makes it very easy to use.
  • It’s easy to put on.
  • It connects with social networking sites, if you’re into that!

Cons

  • The device itself has no interface.  It’s a band without a screen, so you’ll have to keep your Smartphone on hand.
  • It does not sync automatically with your Smartphone.

Price: $149.99

NIKE FUEL BAND

Pros

  • It’s a simple, non-flashy design with a friendly user interface.
  • It tracks your steps, your sleep, and your calories.
  • It’s pretty comfortable!
  • Nike Fuel is a neat imaginary point system.
  • It syncs wirelessly to your Smartphone.

Cons

  • Some say the calorie counter is a little bit inaccurate, and the sleep monitor doesn’t stand up to that of the other brands.
  • What is “Nike Fuel” anyway?

Price: $125.00+

SHINE
Pros

  • It’s tiny, and therefore very portable and discrete.  You could stuff it in your shoe, keep it in your pocket, clip it to your tie, tape it to your bicep…if you want.
  • It’s 100% waterproof.
  • Its internal battery has a year-long life.
  • The Smartphone app gives specific and practical advice for reaching your goals.

Cons

  • It’s tiny, and therefore easy to lose.

Price: $119.95

WITHINGS PULSE O2
Pros

  • A detailed display shows steps, distance traveled, and calories burned.
  • The calorie-counter takes hills into account, which is pretty cool!
  • It also displays your heart rate and blood oxygen level.  Great for those of us who are training for events.

Cons

  • The Smartphone app has a crowded user interface.
  • Not exactly waterproof, but it will survive a splash or two.

Price: $100.00-$200.00

MY TAKE ON THIS

My Fathers’ Day gift two years ago was the Nike Fuel Band.  As a guy who likes to quantify things, I embrace the idea of having this black rubbery band around my wrist all day, every day. After a while, it becomes part of your look. Even after the battery runs out (about every 4 to 5 days), I keep it on for another day or two.  It sort of becomes a part of you.

I have to say, the Fuel Band keeps you on your toes – literally.  You are probably goal oriented.  I am too.  The Nike Fuel Band, like the other trackers I listed above, allows you to set goals of how much daily “fuel” you would like to burn or how many steps to take.
What’s this “fuel” thing about?    The “fuel” measurement is unique to the Nike Fuel Band and it may seem arbitrary at first, but over time, you’ll notice your daily average, which then allows you to earn more fuel points.  It takes some getting used to, but it’s a workable system.

My own goals are moderate: use 3,000 fuel points per day and take 10,000 steps. 3,000 fuel points is what an average, active but not athletic person would use.  I admit, there are days I fall short, but I try to hover around those numbers. There are also many days when I hit over 4,000 points. What’s cool is that if I am 1,000 steps away from my goal or need 500 fuel points to get to 3,000, I tend to do a little extra something to get there, e.g., walk up the stairs, park as far from the supermarket as I can, or do a fifteen-minute workout.

There are a few downsides to the Fuel Band I didn’t list above.  For instance, if I’m not moving the arm with the band on it, I get no fuel points.  So when I take a Citi Bike here in New York for 2 miles or so, I get no love.

I am not a fitness-band expert as I have only tried the Nike Fuel Band, but I know that a band that measures heart rate is best for me.  If you’re looking for a more detailed review, I suggest going to the experts here!

The Bottom Line.

•    If you’re doing hardcore exercise daily and like to see the numbers, I would recommend the Pulse O2.
•    Looking for something light-weight and user-friendly?  Shine.
•    If you’re looking for an efficient, no-nonsense bargain, go for the Fitbit.  It seems to be the most popular!
•    If you’re a casual exerciser and want something you can quickly slap onto your wrist before you go, the Jawbone is for you.
•    The Basis, I would say, is for those of us who need to monitor our body states in detail, or just like to have all the data. Most expensive but also has a heart rate monitor.
•    The Nike Fuel band is nice but not my favorite since I only ‘get credit’ when I move the arm that has the band wrapped around the wrist. However, It’s simple, durable, and has just enough features to keep my on my toes.

I’m ready to move on to the next fitness tracker. Not sure which one yet.

But….. rumor has it the iWatch will be out soon! Starting price? $349

HERE’s a good review of the iWatch

HERE’s a fantastic XY wellness blog post on Fitness as a Lifestyle

References:

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2404445,00.asp
http://www.bestfitnesstrackerreviews.com/basis-watch-review.html
http://time.com/516/26-fitness-trackers-ranked-from-worst-to-first/

 

The Mr. Happy Team Triumphs at the Spartan Race

The Mr. Happy Team Triumphs at the Spartan Race

 

The Spartan race this past weekend was a tremendous  (painful) experience.

It was a potpourri of emotions: grueling, dizzying, disheartening, camaraderie and exhilarating.

The Mr. Happy team: Austin, Gary, Geo and Brandon. Having a good time before going to Mountain Creek, NJ.

 

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We arrive to the race. No pain yet,, just fun and laughter. Brandon (next to me)  is 17 years younger – and it showed. 😉 Very HOT and HUMID.

 

SparNephew

 

Good luck hugs all around as the Mr. Happy team gears up.

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And here we go!

SparStart

 

By now we have already gone through the barbed wire crawl: a low crawl through mud under barbed wire for about 50 yards in length where my head got nicked and scratched. After a walk through about 20 yards of water shown below,  we continue.

SparGeoMud

Austin and Brandon, clearly in great shape as they pause and laugh after mile 2 while they wait for me and Gary.

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Spoke too soon…. Brandon cramps up. MAN DOWN!

SpaCramp

 

Dr. Geo to the rescue!! Dijon mustard, water and salt to help Brandon with his cramps. Yellow mustard is thought to relieve cramps do to turmeric, which is used to give yellow mustard its color. Turmeric has many anti-inflammatory properties which are believed to enable the immediate relief. Cramps can be caused by a deficiency in acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that stimulates muscles to work. Mustard contains acetic acid, which helps the body produce more acetylcholine. This approach has not been verified by scientific research but it seems to work.

 

SparGeoSaltBran

The Horizontal Wall Traverse is uses upper body, lower body, and core strength with a good dose of coordination to cross and tap the bell at the end. Gary shows great team effort by staying by me in case I fall. If I fall, I’d have to do 30 burpees. I don’t want to do burpees.

SparGeoSliding wall

Rope climbing? Oh no.  Austin is up.  My arms are dead after the Horizontal Wall Traverse. Rope Climb:  A rope is hung over a body of water/mud with a bell placed at the very top. Participants must “ring the bell” before climbing down.

SparGeolookingrope

Let’s do it!  And up we go.

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Team effort is what its all about. Let’s go Gary, get up!

 

SparGeohelping gary

The penalty for missing the spear throw was 30 burpees. I was pooped by this point. Spear throw: from a distance of 20 yards we threw a wooden spear into a target. If the spear does not stick (and my didn’t) we had to do a penalty of 30 burpees.

DSC_0511

 Object carry:  Throughout the course we carried a tire, rock-filled bucket, boulder and sandbag. Now I am dizzy and my legs are numbed – I can barely feel them. God help me.

SparGeoRock

I lost my grip. My arms give out.  I don’t know if I could make it further. Crazy!

SparGeorocksdown

Whew! I made it. Barely. Gary now has a swollen ankle. Is it broken? Or just a sprain? I don’t know.

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Where’s Gary? Looking for Gary who  decided to go through the rock/bucket challenge with a (I think) sprained leg. C’mon Brandon, let’s go get him.

SparFlukFar

Found him. Let’s Go Gary!!! You can do it brother!

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YES!!! What grit! You did it brother!

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Just when I  question my decision on doing this, I read this guys shirt. And that’s exactly the message  I need to read. Let’s GO!

SparRedSHirt

After a few more wall climbs, one herculean hoist and a log jump, the Mr. Happy team made it to the finish line.

 Wall climb: as the name suggests, runners must climb over a wooden wall. Walls range from 4–8 feet and are often in sequence. This obstacle may be repeated throughout the course.

 Herculean Hoist: pulled a cement off the ground using a pulley system.

Log Jump: Logs are arranged in a zig-zag pattern at varying heights and participants have to hop on them without touching the ground. A true test of balance. Yup, I failed this one too but made it through Gary’s help.

SparFinish

8.5 miles and 28 obstacles later… We jumped over  fire and made it to the end. In pain. No energy to smile. The Mr. Happy Team Triumphs!

SparTheEnd_3006

Will I do it again? I’m too sore to answer that right now. There were times where I felt like I was going to vomit. Some delirium also set in around mile 6. It was too hot and those obstacles were grueling.

We definitely pushed ourselves to the limit.

Mr. Happy Blog with more pics

4 things I learned by doing the  biggest physical challenge of my life:

1. The human spirit is able to do anything to survive

2. People are genuinely good and want to help each under  extreme circumstances

3. I need to lose 15 pounds.

4. I’m not in optimal spartan shape.

OK, so,,, who’s in for the next one?

If curious, see this 1 minute plus video on the spartan race.