Category Archives: Health & Lifestyle


They Don’t Just Taste Great!


Those delicious snacks of nuts are rich in fiber, low in saturated fats and have high levels of antioxidants.  They are probably the most nutritious snacks out there, according to new research, and the benefits are more wide-ranging than we think.  Nuts also contain vitamins and minerals in addition to their various antioxidants and have definitely earned their spot in the “superfood” category.

It has also been shown through research that nut consumption will reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as the health benefits might extend well beyond these major diseases.  The Imperial College London in the United Kingdom and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Norway researchers analyzed a range of existing studies and tracked down the associations between nuts intake and the risk of various illnesses.  These findings have been published in the journal BMC Medicine, which consisted of a meta-analysis of 29 existing studies from around the world, including Europe, Australia and Asia.

The medical research databases PubMed and Embase were used to search for prospective studies of cardiovascular disease (CVD), total cancer cases, all-cause mortality rates and cause-specific mortality rates in 2016.  About 819,448 participants that included over 12,300 cases of coronary heart disease, more than 18,600 cases of CVD and 18,400 cases of cancer, were included in the analysis. The link between nut consumption and mortality was studied from a variety of causes, such as respiratory disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, infectious disease and kidney disease.  All kinds of tree nuts were included in the research such as hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts and pine nuts, which are actually legumes.

Just that little handful of nuts a day is enough to cut the risk of various diseases and is associated with an overall 22% decrease in the risk of all-cause mortality.  In fact, as little as 20 grams a day (a handful) can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by almost 30%, CVD by 21% and of all cancers by 15%. The risk of respiratory disease was also shown to decrease by 52%.  Eating nuts will also decrease the risk of diabetes by almost 40% and the risk of infectious diseases by 75%. Tree nuts and peanuts both seemed to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, CVD and mortality, but only peanuts reduced the risk of stroke.  A decreased risk of cancer was linked only to tree nuts.

Under the assumption that the observed associations are causal, they estimate that approximately 4.4 million premature deaths in the regions covered, including North and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and Western Pacific, may be attributable to a nut intake below 20 grams per day.  

They found a consistent reduction in risk across many of the different diseases, which is a strong indication of underlying relationships between nut consumption and different health outcomes.  Nuts and peanuts are high in fiber, magnesium and polyunsaturated fats are nutrients and are beneficial for cardiovascular disease risks, and can reduce cholesterol levels. Mixed nuts were shown to improve insulin resistance and decrease inflammation in patients with metabolic syndrome.  Nuts can also help fight oxidative stress, possibly reduce cancer risk, and there is some evidence that suggests nuts might actually reduce your risk of obesity over time. Sounds like a winning snack to me!

Dr Fredda Branyon


Aloe Vera Fraud

Many benefits have been shown from using aloe vera on wounds, cuts and burns.  Some serious diseases have been remedied as well to help speed up healing as well as to ease the pain.  The healing power of aloe vera gel is widely known today such as heartburn relief, to lower blood pressure and slowing breast cancer growth, to name just a few.Aloe Vera

With all this said The Washington Post reported recently that private brands of aloe vera products from Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens and CVS were tested and found to contain zero particles of aloe vera.  The products were left wanting:

  • Wal-Mart’s Equate Aloe After Sun Gel with pure aloe vera
  • Target’s Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel with pure aloe vera
  • CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel
  • Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel

All four mention aloe vera first, or list it second after water in the ingredient list.  ConsumerLab estimated that only half of the aloe products actually contain meaningful levels of the gel.  The International Aloe Science Council who creates the standards for the aloe industry, estimate sales to be around $100 million annually, and certified none of these listed products.

The companies stood behind their product suppliers.  Among all 4 stores there are about 23,000 outlets with the alleged aloe-containing products on the shelves.  The companies dispute the validity of the lab findings.

What are they using for these products if not aloe vera?  The Wal-Mart, CVS and Target brands contained maltodextrin, a cheaper, sugar-based aloe vera alternative.  Walgreen’s version used the marker malic acid only. Even lactic acid, an ingredient in the plant that would reveal broken-down aloe vera bits, was absent.

AloeCorp, one of the biggest suppliers of raw aloe powder, has been undercut in the market by aloe vera wannabe products like maltodextrin.  It is not cheap producing pure, unadulterated aloe vera. It is hand-harvested and the aloe powder can cost as much as $240 a kilogram, while the same amount of maltodextrin can cost only a few dollars.

Some beneficial ingredients in aloe vera are anthraquinones, fatty acids, enzymes, vitamins and minerals.  Some of the health benefits provided by aloe vera are diabetes, minor skin infections, frostbite, dandruff, epilepsy, canker sores, acne, bowel disease, psoriasis, cysts, eczema, osteoarthritis, ulcers, genital herpes, gum disease, fever, constipation, sunburn, cold sores and itching.  

Most of the benefits we receive from aloe vera come from the gel of the spiky, succulent leaves.  It is widely used by cutting off enough of one of the stiff leaves to apply the gel on trouble spots, but it can also be used internally for acid reflux, indigestion and ulcers.  The gel is easily extracted by slitting open a leaf and squeezing the gel out.

Dr Fredda Branyon


Blood Tests to Predict Cancer Survival

There is a routine blood test that can predict how long cancer patients in palliative care will survive, according to the researcher’s report at the ESMO Asia 2016 Congress Singapore.  Lead author Dr. Yu Unenon, an oncologist at Kyoto University in Japan relates that these palliative care patients want honest and accurate prognostic information, but it needs to be sensitively shared in a way that respects their desire to maintain hope.

The patients with advanced cancer and their families must make decisions about treatment and where to spend the end-of-life as well as when to discontinue palliative chemotherapy.  Ineffective therapy increases life-threatening adverse events, reduces quality of life, delays hospice referral and deprives patients of the chance to die in their preferred place by continuing when therapy is ineffective.  Predicting the prognosis improves end-of-life care for cancer patients and their caregivers.Blood Tester

Evaluations can determine whether or not pharmacological treatment should be given.  A previous model for predicting prognosis for a patient used subjective conditions such as dyspnea and delirium, which may be scored differently by clinicians.  Currently, the Six Adaptable Prognostic (SAP) models use 3 laboratory measurements (albumin, neutrophil, lactate dehydrogenase) which are routinely monitored in daily clinical practice with a blood test.  These can be used at any time after the initiation of treatment. This is important because a patient’s condition can change. The six models were developed in around 5,000 cancer patients receiving chemo at Kyoto University Hospital in Japan, and predicted death within 1-6 months for those receiving chemotherapy, allowing physicians to re-estimate prognosis at any time point after the initiation of chemotherapy.

It was found that the SAP models had a good ability to predict that a patient would die in one to three months.  A prediction was accurate in 75-80% of the cases. These models could be a promising decision aid for the healthcare professionals and allows patients adequate time to prepare for their impending death which is vital for planning effective palliative care.

Dr. Grace Yang, Division of Palliative Medicine, National Cancer Centre Singapore said that the rapidly increasing armamentarium of anti-cancer therapy means that cancer patients can receive multiple lines of chemotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapy.  These patients may have aggressive treatment until the very last days of their life but not without physical symptoms and great financial cost. This is all information that will help weigh the benefits and burdens of further cancer-directed treatment.

By knowing the patient’s prognosis it will facilitate the decision making regarding trade-offs, for anti-cancer therapy and also for treatments directed at relieving symptoms.  They would have a choice in deciding between pain-relieving treatments with different time horizons for onset and duration of effect, with different side effects/risk profiles and different financial costs.  

Dr Fredda Branyon


Marijuana & Parkinson’s


The second most common neurological illness in the U.S. is Parkinson’s disease.  Symptoms of this disease are tremors, slowness of movement, postural instability and impaired balance and coordination.  Marie Ellis gives information from a new study that suggests that symptoms of this condition could be improved with marijuana.

Prof. Zvi Loewy from the Touro College of Pharmacy in New York led a review that is published in the journal Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  It is noted that medical marijuana has been approved in various U.S. states to treat the symptoms of cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, chronic pain, seizures, cachexia and multiple sclerosis.

There has also been another recent study that suggests tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active compound in marijuana, reduced beta-amyloid levels in nerve cells.  This is a protein considered a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. About 1 million people are affected by PD in the U.S. This disease gets worse over time and occurs when a person’s brain stops producing dopamine.  This is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in our movement, as well as our cognitive and psychological functions. Currently, there is no cure for the disease and treatments carry several limitations and do not slow progression of PD.  

The latest study says that research has indicated the endocannabinoid system plays an important role in PD as components of this system are highly expressed in the neural circuit of basal ganglia, which is part of a complex neuronal system.  This system organizes activities from certain cortical regions that are active in the movement control. Therapies out there were basically for motor symptoms, but Parkinson’s also has non-motor symptoms that greatly impact the quality of a person’s life.  The team conducted a thorough literature review on studies of marijuana. A chemical component of marijuana yields benefits in the wake of different PD symptoms and is the most compelling finding. Prof. Loewy notes that marijuana has been found to relieve pain in other disease and it should be studied for pain relief in people with PD.  About 50% of people with this condition are affected by pain.

According to the team, the cannabinoid compounds in marijuana bind to dopamine receptors to reduce the effects of reduced dopamine in the brain.  The compounds replace the normal compounds that are adversely affected by Parkinson’s.

It was also found that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of marijuana might prevent neuron damage.  Preventing neuron damage could slow PD progression.

There is a need for safer drugs to treat PD and cannabis may provide a viable alternative or addition to the current treatment of Parkinson’s disease.  There are risks to take into account including memory loss, increase osteoporosis risk and impaired blood vessel function. A study published in April suggested that marijuana use might reduce dopamine in the brain, so this should be taken into account as to how it could affect PD.  

Further studies are indicated to provide more data on efficacy, safety, pharmacokinetics and interactions of cannabinoids.  Some cancer patients are using marijuana for their pain and discomfort as well.

Dr Fredda Branyon


Nutty Anticancer Tool

The stimulant component of areca nuts, arecoline, has anticancer properties, according to the researchers at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.  These particular findings will be published in Molecular Cell.

In many Asian countries the areca nuts are chewed for their stimulant effects.  Evidence links this practice to the development of oral and esophageal cancer. Arecoline is analogous to nicotine and identified as an inhibitor of the enzyme ACAT1 that contributes to the metabolism-distorting Warburg effect in cancer cells.

The health news observers have complained thatDoctor Tools coffee, for instance, is implicated in causing cancer in one week, and then absolved the next.  Senior author Jin Chen, PhD, professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute, stress that the same trend is not the same for arecoline.  Showing that ACAT1 is a good anticancer target is just a proof of principle and they view arecoline as a lead to other compounds that could be more potent and selective.

According to Chen arecoline could be compared to arsenic, which is a form used as a treatment for acute promyelocytic leukemia, but is also linked to several types of cancer.  If not delivered or absorbed orally, arecoline’s cancer-promoting effects may be limited.

When arecoline first came to light in a chemical screen, it sounded like a carcinogen to Chen, but it all depends on the dose and how it is taken into the body.  

The Warburg effect from 1931 describes how cancer cells tend to favor the inefficient use of glucose, also known as glycolysis, and de-emphasizes their mitochondria.  This metabolic distortion benefits the cancer cells because the byproducts of glycolysis can be used as building blocks for fast growth.

In the lab, Chen had previously identified the mitochondrial thiolase ACAT1 as a control valve regulating the Warburg effect.  Researchers showed that ACAT1 enzymatic activity was higher in several types of cancer cells, even though the levels of ACAT1 protein are about the same.  This is because the protein clusters together as tetramers in cancer cells and when tyrosine kinases are on overdrive in cancer cells, they hijack ACAT1 and nudge it into tetramers that are enzymatically more active.  Arecoline appears to steer cells’ metabolism away from glycolysis.

There seems to be a double role for the enzyme ACAT1 as it breaks down ketones and the amino acid isoleucine, and it also modifies other proteins through acetylation, which is how it regulates the Warburg effect.

ACAT1 has genetic mutations that lie behind a very rare metabolic disorder called beta-ketothiolase deficiency.  Complete inhibition of this could induce side effects resembling that disorder, but the main effect was on protein acetylation and not on ketone metabolism.

There appeared to be no obvious toxicity when treating mice with arecoline but more extensive pharmacokinetic and toxicology studies with arecoline and similar compounds are needed.

Dr Fredda Branyon


The Gift of Flowers


Gift of Flowers

A gift of flowers is always something great to give at Mother’s Day.  But, not just flowers!  Flowers with medicinal qualities always add that personal touch.  To help in selecting them are some helpful hints.

  • The corn flower.  This flower is a sky-blue flower that has been used to delivery relief to medical patients for a long time.  Tea made from this flower acts as a laxative and a mouth cleanser, or to make a paste to bring relief to acne and tired or irritated eyes.
  • Dandelion.  This flower cleans the blood and helps with related issues as anemia.  It was also used as a laxative and tonic for overall wellbeing in Native American culture.
  • Foxglove.  Foxgloves have proven to be valuable in curing edema when used in moderation and as a tea to remedy coughs and colds.  Also used as a compress for skin swellings or sores.
  • Gardenia. Used for blood cleansing and disorders, bladder problems and physical injuries, especially in Chinese medicine. Helps to alleviate depression, stress, anxiety, insomnia and similar type disorders.
  • Jasmine.  An exotic and sweet flower that makes a delicious tea.  It also helps in digestive issues, stomach ulcers and other ulcers.  Sip before bedtime to help with insomnia and anxiety.
  • Honeysuckle.  Create an antibacterial gargle wash for sore throats.  Apply a paste from the flower for skin rashes or inflammation.
  • Hyssop.  This flower goes back to Biblical times and now used for its potency again sore throats, bronchitis, congested chests, rheumatism and arthritis.
  • Lilac.  Steep this flower for a tonic to reduce fever and get rid of internal parasites.  Those skin burns or wounds are soothed and will heal well when a paste is applied.
  • Lotus. These are effective against fever, diarrhea and more serious illnesses such as cholera and bronchitis.  Works well for relief of bad coughs when used as a syrup.
  • Morning Glory.  Do not ingest the seeds as they could cause hallucinatory effects.  Use is as a laxative and general purge.
  • Nasturtium.  Has anti-microbial properties that make it an effective remedy against colds and flu.
  • Passionflower.  Medicinal properties are contained for treating disorders such as insomnia, agitation, anxiety and epilepsy.  Can reduce pain and induce a calming sensation.
  • Peony.  Tonic made from the flower is helpful as a muscle relaxant for general muscular pain and cramps; also menstrual discomfort.
  • Plum Flowers.  Used in Chinese medicine to free the body of parasites and ulcers.  Also can boost digestive health.
  • Rose.  They contain Vitamin C and safe for human consumption.  Can increase blood circulation and relieve depression or as a mild laxative.
  • Rosey periwinkle.  Traditionally used as a tea for diabetes and high blood pressure.  It also has properties towards diseases as leukemia, cancer and Hodgkin’s Disease.
  • Snapdragon.  Used as a gentle sedative and mental reliant.  Useful for insomnia or stress.
  • Sunflower.  Use a brew to help with ulcers and menstrual cramps as well as a wash for gargling for sore throat.

So there you have it.  Not only for the smell or beauty of the flower, there are medicinal reasons for all these flowers.  Give the gift of health to your mom for this Mother’s Day!

Dr Fredda Branyon


A Gift of Health


What better way to show your love on mother’s day than to give a gift of health?  Harvard Health Publishing offers some suggestions for services and gadgets for gift giving on mother’s day.

Purchasing some items that your mom would never buy for herself, would most likely be an excellent gift for mother’s day.  Some suggestions are:

    • Health club memberships promote year-round health for your mom.  Perhaps a personal trainer through an organization such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE) would be very helpful and appreciated by your mom.
    • Gadgets like a fitness monitor to help track everything from heart rate to the number of steps walked per day might be helpful.  Helping mom to stick to her medication regimen might be made easier by giving her an automatic pill dispenser.  This is especially useful for someone taking several pills daily.
    • Workout equipment is an excellent gift for a mom who likes to exercise at home.  Even giving a yoga mat or exercise clothes with fibers that repel moisture.
    • Give the gift of an exercise class that you can also attend with mom.  Having company gives you a common goal for yoga, tai chi or even ballroom dancing.
    • The gift of knowledge is always a valuable gift.  Perhaps a newsletter or special health report.  These contain reports on dozens of topics and offer insight and advice for improving your health, gaining better balance, boosting energy and losing weight.

Consider your mother’s interests while taking into consideration any previous injuries, surgeries and medical conditions or limitations when selecting that unique and thoughtful gift.  Make this something your mother will cherish as it is most likely something she would not buy for herself.

This is just another way of telling her how much you love and care for her.  Of course, a nice bottle of bath crystals also goes a long way in letting her know how you feel.  Mother’s Day is a special time to let that special person in your life know exactly how much you appreciate all she’s done for you all your life and just how much you love her.

Dr Fredda Branyon


Wise Flower Choices for Mom


It has long been known that there are therapeutic properties of certain flowers.  Wouldn’t it be great to gift your mom with flowers that have medicinal uses?  Even dried flowers or their essential oils are good choices.

The Angelic Herb is extremely fragrant and there are a number of medicinal uses including digestive disorders as well as coughs and colds.

Begonias can be used in different ways, such as soaking the flowers in hot water to eliminate headaches and rid the body of toxins.  Using the crushed flowers and leaves can help to relieve pain and heal sores or burns when rubbed directly on the skin.

Bellis Perennis is also known as the common daisy.  It does hold many medicinal properties.  Use it as an infusion, as a laxative and an expectorant to purge the body of toxic matter.  Physical disorders as arthritis and rheumatism are also treated as home remedies.

You need to be careful when using Black Cohosh as it is an extremely potent flower.  It can be used as an emmenagogue and stimulates the uterus.  The women who have menstrual problems can use low doses of this flower to help regulate their cycles and relieve pain.  Pregnant women should avoid this plant.

Blood root is effective in low doses for treating respiratory problems.  When made as a paste and mixed with other compounds it can be used to treat rashes, warts and various dermic problems.  If used as a tea or tonic it is effective in cleansing the blood and lowering fevers.

Blue Lobelia is a treatment for syphilis and less severe ailments.  Using as tea it helps to relieve fevers, coughs and colds as well as digestive problems.

Butterfly weed is primarily effective in treating respiratory and related lung issues.  In large amounts, it can be used for internal cleansing and pain relief.

When calendula is mixed with other substances it can create ointments or creams for healing burns, cuts and wounds to the skin.

California poppy is not addictive and has no opium in the plant.  It can reduce anxiety and insomnia as well as bladder problems in children and adults.

Carnation petals can be brewed to make tea to reduce anxiety, agitation, stress and fatigue.

Chrysanthemums make a great tea to bring relief for those suffering from a fever, headache or common cold.

These are just a few of the flowers that can be useful other than just for viewing or scent.  This would make a great and useful gift to give on mother’s day.  Your mom is sure to appreciate the concern you have for her health.  It’s just another way of telling her you love her, especially on mother’s day.

Dr Fredda Branyon


The Health-Minded Mom


Mom’s are the best!  This is where we get hugs, help and unconditional love from the crib to our adult life.  They are there when no one else is and always ready to help in whatever way we need. Some of our mom’s are very health-minded and we should aid them in their quest to stay healthy.  Treat them like queens, especially on that special day of the year.

The gift of good health may be the best gift we can give.  Keep your mom feeling pampered, refreshed and healthy. This quality time is more valuable than anything you can buy for her.  

Take her to the gym with you or to a health spa where she can relax in a sauna or have a relaxing hydro massage.   Be sure to use the equipment first to make the most of the sauna and massage.

Spending the time with you at the spa is far more valuable and says “I Love You” in a way that nothing else can.  Quality time together gets shorter and shorter as children create their own family. The additional grandchildren take up much of their time so when they take time out for us, it really does mean a world to us, as moms.

Suggestions on healthful eating can help.  Providing a delivery of the month of apples or oranges gives your mom that required fruit for healthful eating.  Avoid that big, beautiful package of chocolate and substitute instead with wholesome foods.

This in itself shows our mom that we really care and tells her we love her in a different and meaningly way.  If you feel a gift is absolutely necessary, how about giving her that membership to the health club or provide a piece of equipment that she can use at home?  Perhaps even a massager for her neck? A soothing yogi candle might bring her a sense of balance and calming energy for her routine.

All moms desire the effect of staying hydrated and is the major pillar of good health.  There are many feminine looking water bottles that keep the drinks cold for 24 hours, or warm for 12.  This is a good reminder sitting on the counter to keep taking those sips and stay hydrated.

Make the most of the time we have together now as we never know what tomorrow will bring.  If you just absolutely have to give candy or flowers, please opt for a beautiful flower or plant with some health benefits.  She will know this is your proof to her of your undying love.

                                                                                                                                        Dr Fredda Branyon

Healing Power of Touch


Robin Donovan, Health Writer, wrote an article that I thought tied in with Mother’s Day pretty accurately.  The power of touch has many results, one of which I feel is very important for all our mothers. The touch, such as a hug or gentle rub, can help her through a stressful time or just to help relax her.  Take away her negativity and help to revive her energy.

The body releases oxytocin, which is also called the love hormone.  The effects can include lowering blood pressure, decreasing the stress-related hormone cortisol and increasing pain tolerance.  Just a friendly touch, and also like the contact between breastfeeding moms and their babies or cuddling together with loved ones or even pets can convey love.

Even holding a stranger’s hand in a stressful time can help against pain and shock when experiencing trauma.  Massage is another great way to express love and relaxation to a loved one. Lowering blood pressure and slowing heart rate is a result as well as premature babies even gain weight.  

Some people are natural touchers while others can go for days or even weeks without any physical contact.  Adding this little touch to your day is a great and simple way to harness health-maximizing effects of less stress, pain management and a healthier body and mind.  Wouldn’t this be a great way to give back to your mom?

Giving of a touch, a matter a handshake, hug or pat on the back, affects not only the person receiving it, but the giver as well.  Even all those high-fives are doing their job. Some things to consider are cuddling, hugging hello, petting your dog or cat, indulging in more sex, a massage, yoga or pilates, holding hands, getting a pedicure and just plain patting someone on the back.

David Lipschitz of Matter of Your Health even received a massage as a birthday present and didn’t know what he was missing until he’d had one.  He reported that it reduced stress, eased his tension and cleared the mind as well as promoted relaxation and tranquility.

Now wouldn’t a great massage just be the epitome of a gift for your mom for mother’s day?  As a mother myself I can’t imagine a more thoughtful gift, especially if that daughter enjoyed the gift with you, side by side.  Not only the wonderful massage but the hard to find time together.

In this busy world of ours it is becoming harder to ferret out those times when we can share an intimate moment with a daughter.  Riding bicycles, jogging and maybe grilling out are other ways to spend quality time with a son.

If nothing else, time with our loving pets is very calming and they love it!  Just don’t forget to use the healing power of touch wherever we go. It’s just another way of spreading warmth and friendliness to everyone.  Of course the very most important thing of all is saying, “I Love You, Mom.”

                                                                                                                                        Dr Fredda Branyon