Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

February 2010 Archives

Given the serious natural disasters of late, I thought it would be good to reprint this email that I had received from Pamela Howard.
An article from the Daily Green recently reported on some common marketing ploys used in food ingredient listings in order to boost sales. The misleading marketing claims were related to: fiber amount, omega 3 content, serving size portions, "food as medicine" claims, whole grain listing content, the ingredient list itself, hidden sugars, trans fat, "cage free" eggs, and "real fruit".

Here's why these claims aren't necessarily the whole truth:

Fiber amount: Some fiber products taint their contents with unnatural fibers in order to boost the gram amount on the label. These additive fibers can be processed and contain chemicals such as MSG and aspartame. I have even seen the ingredient propylene glycol added to some "fiber blends." This acts as an irritant to the intestine, leading the consumer to believe the fiber is "working". However, it is the irritation from the chemical that is increasing bowel movements. Furthermore, these additives have been linked to health hazards.

Omega 3 content: I disagree with this article. You can search this site for my previous articles on cholesterol and fish oil to see how claims of heart health and omega 3s are warranted. Still, you want to get healthy fats from organic, high quality sources, not oxidized and rancid sources or unhealthy chickens.

Serving Size: Can be misleading as it includes content for only a portion of the product.

Food as Medicine: Nutrigenomics...I concur

Whole grain listings: A product can say "whole grain", and only sprinkle in whole grains while filling the main content with white, bleached, processed flour.

The ingredient list: Manufacturers are not required to list ingredient sources. This means that various additives and preservatives can be made from an allergic sources such as corn and soy, but the label may not portray this. This can be confusing and hidden ingredients may cause issues with the consumer.

Trans fat: No trans fat doesn't mean safe. New processing of fats can be just as toxic such as interesterfied fats

Cage free eggs:  Unless they are organic, "cage free" , means the chickens might only have 5 minutes access to outdoors

Real fruit:....with lots of sugar and other additives

A further issue with food labeling is validity. According to an article in Dr. Mercola, a food label has a buffer of 20%. In other words, in order for a food label to be flagged by the FDA, it would have to be off 20%. This means a label with 400 calories could actually contain 480. 

What is the solution? The best solution is to be aware. The USDA organic seal is your best option to look for, along with staying away from processed foods. A product is only 10% organic if it claims "100% organic" on the label. If it says "made with organic ingredients", it is 70-95% organic, and can contain additives.

In summary, I would like to post an excerpt from an article by Dr. Jospeh Mercola, states the importance of healthy foods and being aware of your choices:

I'm sure you've heard that old saying, and it's as true today as it ever was.

It all boils down to this: if you want to optimize your health, you must return to the basics of healthy food, ideally, chosen specifically for your nutritional type, because it's all about eating the proper ratios of the right types of food for your personal biochemistry.

There is no way around this simple fact. It may not be as convenient as you would like. It may be more costly in the short term, both in dollars and cents and in the amount of time required to obtain and prepare healthy foods. But make no mistake -- there are no short-cuts when it comes to this single most important thing you can do for your health.

In today's world, the need for speed has taken over our lives. Fast and processed foods are what most working people and families seek out for the sake of convenience and speed.

Then when years of bad food choices take their toll on health, people want to feel better by tomorrow. They want to be at their ideal weight by next week. And as luck would have it, there is an endless supply of drugs and fake foods available promising to do just that.

Unfortunately, nearly all of these "magic pills" and diets can worsen your health even more in the long run.

Ultimately, the simplest and most effective way to achieve good health and a long life is to focus on the nutrition you are putting in your body on a daily basis.
The results of a recent study on the favorable effect of the use of dietary supplements to aging was recently reported by Science Daily.  The summary reviewed the findings from  Experimental Biology and Medicine which involved the use of a dietary supplement cocktail containing vitamins B1, C, D, E, beta carotene, folic acid, garlic, ginger root, ginkgo bilboa, ginseng, green tea extract, magnesium, melatonin, potassium, cod liver oil, and flax oil. To assess the effect on aging, the scientists measured oxidative stress biomarkers (brain protein carbonyls), brain neuronal health (strial neuropeptide y) and energy use in the brain (mitochondrial protein carbonyls) and compared locomotion function with controls.

"The study found that a complex dietary supplement powerfully offsets this key symptom of ageing in old mice by increasing the activity of the cellular furnaces that supply energy -- or mitochondria -- and by reducing emissions from these furnaces -- or free radicals -- that are thought to be the basic cause of ageing itself.

Furthermore, the authors conclude, 

"Most of the primary causes of human mortality and decline are strongly correlated with age and free-radical processes, including heart disease, stroke, Type II diabetes, many cancers, neurodegenerative diseases, and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Successful intervention into the ageing process could consequently prevent or forestall all of these."

An important note on the above study is how most of the bio-markers to assess the aging process are linked to many diseases. One could argue the underlying issue of most diseases is inflammation (click here for a taste of this research). Recently, the Stroke Journal published results on the link of inflammation to high blood pressure and Alzheimer's. Specifically, those with high blood pressure had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's later in life.

What I found  impressive about this study is that scientists tested the synergism of more than one ingredient. (Most drug and nutrient studies do not take into account reactions with other drugs). This is a more accurate portrayal of the use of nutrients today.  Although it may be argued that controlling for one variable can show an effect of that variable, it doesn't necessarily exhibit everyday use by the consumer or safety. 

Another study in Alzheimer's & Dementia demonstrated that the useuridine, choline, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), B vitamins, phospholipids and antioxidants, "improved memory (delayed verbal recall) in mild AD patients. This proof-of-concept study justifies further clinical trials." The mechanism behind these nutrients may be through improving actual neural synapse connection! This use of synergism in research may be a growing trend as medicine begins to shift from a one pill panacea to prevention and healthy living. 

What I enjoy about the concept of Naturopathic and Functional medicine is the determination to get to the root cause of the issue, not to just simply surpress inflammation or other symptoms with natural pharmocopias. The job of an integrative health care practitioner is not to keep you dependent on supplements, but rather to address  the cause of the inflammation, whether it be from immune imbalances, hormonal de-regulation, or gut dysfunction. 

"Doctor" in latin means teacher. I consider it my job to educate my patients on how their body works and how to get in tune with it's healing potential. This requires attention in getting to know the patient as a person as well as through the observance of objective blood measures. 

A healthy diet, supplementation, and lifestyle plan for your current needs can do wonders for calming inflammation. This individualized plan can be found  in individualized health care where the doctor and patient work together for a common goal.

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Coming to the conclusion that you've made a bad decision doesn't mean you can't trust yourself.

The Journal of Pediatrics News Release reported findings from a recent study on the relationship between parental food influence and prediction of obesity in teenage girls later in life. The study's results indicated  highly restrictive parental control of childhood snacking was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI). Specifically, girls in the study who had a combination of low levels of self control and higher parental restrictive food control exhibited greater weight gain in later life.

According to Ms. Anzman, "Parental attempts to help children with lower self-control by restricting their access to favorite snack foods can make the forbidden foods more attractive, thereby exacerbating the problem." She suggests that parents can help their children learn to control their eating habits by allowing them to choose between healthy options. She adds that it is often better to not keep restricted foods in the house. "That way," she explains, "it is not necessary to constantly tell children they cannot have the foods they want."

This news release provides further evidence that children are born with a capacity to regulate healthy behavior. Unfortunately, society's obsession with outer appearance, negative parental influence, the use of toxins, and the manipulation of quality food, can turn off the body's own regulatory activity and feedback mechanism and negatively effect our health.

One example of this is how wheat sensitivity negatively affects our brain chemistry leading chronic disease and weight gain. Read about wheat gluten antibody's in my February newsletter.
A recent article in Vital Choice discussed several journal findings on the relation between omega 3 intake and psychotic symptoms. In one recent study, the author reports:

"Long-chain omega-3s reduce the risk of progression to psychotic disorder ... in young people with sub-threshold psychotic states ... omega-3s may offer a viable prevention and treatment strategy ..." (Amminger GP et al. 2009)

The researchers randomly assigned the volunteers to receive a daily placebo (coconut oil) capsules or supplements of fish oil containing 1.2 grams of omega-3s, including 700 mg of EPA and 480 mg of DHA.
The participants took the supplements or placebo for 12 weeks, and were followed for one year.
After 12 months, only 4.9 percent of the omega-3 group (two out of 41) had progressed to full-blown psychotic disorder, compared with 27.5 percent (11 of 40) in the placebo group.
In other words, compared to placebo, supplementation with fish oil appeared to reduce the risk that at-risk youths would progress to "full threshold psychosis" within a year by one-fifth to one-quarter (22.6 percent).

Prior research has deomnstarted that  schizophrenic patients had significantly lower levels of omega 3s in their cell membranes as compared to controls. It seems omega 3s have the benefit of favorably affecting the cell membrane for more effecient neurotransmission. They also increase the availability of the antioxidant glutathione and the key neurotransmitter  glutamate.

Make sure to click on the article for additional reference sources! 

Another Key to Optimal Mental Functioning to keep in mind (pun intended):

According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, "
Twelve months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training benefited the executive cognitive function of selective attention and conflict resolution among senior women."

Another study in the same journal, concluded, "

Moderate or high physical activity is associated with a reduced incidence of cognitive impairment after 2 years in a large population-based cohort of elderly subjects."

What to Avoid for Optimal Brain Power:

Artificial Sweeteners

The use of artificial sweeteners has caused a great debate in health care. According to AAHON, "scientists disagree about the relationships between sweeteners and lymphomas, leukemias, cancers of the bladder and brain, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and systemic lupus.  Recently these substances have received increased attention due to their effects on glucose regulation."

More information available on my recent blog on artificial sweeteners at my main website.


A recent article published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated the beneficial effect of constituents in green tea on attention span in adults. Specifically, participants in this study who consumed a combination of l-theanine and caffeine vs those who received placebo, scored higher in attention tasks. Furthermore, brain imaging results showed these substances had a tonic effect to visual modulation, suggesting greater visual accuracy.

L-theanine is an analog amino acid to glutamine. It has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and is generally believed to have a calming effect. According to, " L-theanine may help relieve stress by inducing a relaxing effect without drowsiness. L-theanine as been shown to promote the generation of alpha-brain waves, an index of relaxation. It may also boost natural resistance to microbial infections and perhaps even tumors. Researchers suggest further isolating and refining L-theanine from tea to use it as a drug to boost the infection defense of the body. Although limited, there is clinical evidence to support these claims".  Due to the fact that stress has been shown to negatively affect neuronal cells in the brain, this relaxing effect may explain the benefit of L-theanine in potentiating attention span.

What about caffeine? Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid. It acts as a mild stimulant to the brain. According to Science Daily,  caffeine may impede brain circulation while increasing alterness through stimulation of higher brain wave patterns. 

In combination, l-theanine and caffeine may produce a synergistic effect. Caffeine's stimulating and brain modulating effects are combined with the calming effect of L-theanine to increase attention span.

L-theanine and caffeine are only two of many different constituents present in green tea. Studying only a few substances of an herbal remedy never gives the full, synergistic picture. Green tea has also been researchered for it's ability to modify inflammation via its polyphenol content and to inhibit inflammation through its potent antioxidant properties.

Just a note of caution relating to high caffeine intake is warranted before I close- as it may induce inflammation. According to a researcher from National Institute of Health"it has been known for many years that caffeine interferes with the adenosine receptor. If, in fact, adenosine receptors are needed for effective inflammation control, anything that hinders their function might impair the body's ability to regulate inflammation."

The modifying effects of green tea polyphenols on acute colitis and inflammation-associated colon carcinogenesis in male ICR mice. Kim M, Murakami A, Miyamoto S, Tanaka T, Ohigashi H. Biofactors. 2010 Jan 27.

Green Tea Polyphenols Prevent UV-Induced Immunosuppression by Rapid Repair of DNA Damage and Enhancement of Nucleotide Excision Repair Genes. Katiyar SK, Vaid M, van Steeg H, Meeran SM. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2010 Jan 26. [Epub ahead of print]
PMID: 20103727

Antioxidant potential of tea reduces arsenite induced oxidative stress in Swiss albino mice.
Sinha D, Roy S, Roy M. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Jan 19.

Oplinger, A. Dampening the Flames: Inflammation Control Mechanism Determined. NIH News. 2001.

And what about coffee?? 

According to Dr. Mercola:

 Most people are not aware that regular coffee consumption can be a significant source of pesticides. According to the CS Monitor, conventional farmers apply up to 250 pounds of chemical fertilizers per acre!

    Pesticides contribute to a wide range of health problems, including prostate and other types of cancers, Parkinson's disease, and miscarriages in pregnant women.

    So when you sip on your non-organic morning brew, you are also sipping on pesticide residues. Further, the U.S. has limited input and control over the type and quantity of pesticides used in the countries from which we import.

    Since the vast majority of coffee, both organic and non-organic, consumed in the U.S. is grown outside this country, a return to non-organic farming of coffee beans in Latin America means a return to heavy use of pesticides. 

Other adverse affects of coffee include increasing blood pressure, raising cholesterol and insulin, damaging metabolism, increasing risk for osteoporosis, interfering with nutrient absorption, and affecting hormone levels.

My thoughts: Some studies do exhibit some potential benefits to coffee. Therefore, as with everything, listen to your body, use common sense, and be informed. If you are going to drink coffee, do yourself and your liver a favor- purchase fair trade organic.

image1380.jpgMany of the women (by women I mean those over the age of 35 -- maybe even 40) who come to see me for a facial treatment have never had one before.  Ladies:  We have to realize that taking care of ourselves enables us to be better caretakers and that we can't wake up at 59 and want to make up for all the years that we didn't do anything to help ourselves!  After the facial, these same women are amazed how different they feel.  The benefits of having a facial go way beyond the idea of pampering.  These benefits include:

1.  Increased liquid tissue flow, i.e. blood, to the facial skin which brings nourishment and takes away toxins and debris. 

2.  Deep cleansing of the pores boosts the skin's ability to take in hydration and vitamins and also helps the pores to remain smaller and tighter.  Think of it this way:  the pore is like a grocery bag.  When empty, it's flat.  When it's filled, it's stretched out to it's largest size and then can't fit anything more in it -- no matter how good it is for you.

3.  Deep exfoliation aids in exposing newer cells and that makes our skin look bright and healthy.

4.  All of the above plus facial massage aids in the body's production of elastin and collagen, which helps with the skin's aging process.  Elastin is responsible for the skin's elasticity and collagen plumps the tissues, allowing for firmness.

5.  Time on the table equals destressing down time and helps us to feel better.

If you can manage it, it's a good idea to have a professional facial every 4 - 6 weeks.  If you can't, try to have one at least once per season.  What's more -- if you've never had a facial before and you mention this article, I'll give you a $10 gift certificate towards that first facial to get your started! 

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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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