Nutritional Support for Skin Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Nutritional Support for Skin Health

Skin health is a direct reflection of health overall. What’s on the inside is expressed on the outside. In many traditions worldwide, skin health has been related to “impurities” and “toxins” in the blood. Furthermore, several traditional medical systems advocate supporting the efficiency of the liver and detoxifying organs of the body as a means of enhancing skin health. It makes sense that an excessive level of “toxins” in circulation could potentially cause blemishes on the skin. Thus, supporting liver health as a means of supporting healthy skin is a viable approach.

Besides the liver, poor skin health has been related to digestive function. Our digestive tracts are one of the means for the outside world to make direct contact with our insides, especially in the realm of foods and diet. It’s also where many of our food intolerances are developed, either because of immune deficiencies or because of defects in our digestive capacities. Another contributing factor is bacteria and yeast that normally populate our digestive tract. If the bacterial flora is health-promoting, they help digest our food and aid in extracting skin-healthy nutrients from the diet. If the bacterial flora is unhealthy, we fail to take full advantage of the nutrients contained within the foods we eat. Unhealthy bacteria and yeast can also excrete toxins into the gut that can add to the toxic burden our bodies have to deal with, eventually affecting the health of our skin.

A further aspect related to skin health that is important to keep in mind is that the skin itself is a major barrier, which shields and protects our bodies from the ravages of our environment. Intact skin functions to protect us from potential insults that we are exposed to in the world in which we live. Damaged skin compromises this protective shield, leading to compromises in immune defenses and other health problems.

When considering supporting skin health, think about nourishing the skin (and body) from within. What’s healthy for the body is healthy for the skin. Ensuring that our diets contain nutrients that are healthy and support the structural needs of the skin is the first step. The next step is to ensure optimal digestive function and to ramp up the detoxifying ability of the liver. Finally, limiting the effects of environmental exposures that can compromise skin health is also important.

Keeping Healthy Skin Healthy
Healthy skin is smooth, soft, and supple, with a nice uniform color and the sheen of youthfulness. Discolorations and other blemishes aren’t just unsightly – they alert you to the less-thanoptimal health status of your natural outer covering. The beneficial effects of your favorite creams, which contribute important nutrients and hydration from the outside, can be augmented by including several skin-friendly nutrients in your diet.

Pycnogenol to Enhance Venous Tone and Circulation
Pycnogenol strengthens the ability of small blood vessels in the skin to resist oxidative damage.1 Results of recently published human clinical trials confirm the power of Pycnogenol to promote healthy, well-nourished skin by supporting healthy circulation and vein health.2,3 Pycnogenol also contains compounds that have potent antioxidant properties to support the skin’s immune defenses.

Hyaluronic Acid for Skin Elasticity
Aging skin contains less hyaluronic acid. Because hyaluronic acid is the most abundant water-binding glycosaminoglycan in healthy skin, loss of hyaluronic acid results in loss of elasticity and increased density – giving skin a dry and wrinkled appearance. Adding hyaluronic acid back to skin increases its moisture content and flexibility.

Exposure to sunlight also dries skin and reduces its flexibility. Increasing the hyaluronic acid content of skin increases its resistance to the deleterious effects of sunlight. A paper published recently in the Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Science has shown hyaluronic acid to be a powerful antioxidant within the skin that prevents wrinkle-producing free radical damage of the skin as well as maintaining the normal level of hydration within the skin.4

Hyaluronic acid promotes flexible and supple skin, which makes it an ideal candidate for your skin anti-aging program.

Smooth Out Your Coloration with Nutrition
Extracts of pomegranate fruit can help decrease your skin’s tendency to develop spotty pigmentation after exposure to sunlight. In research published recently in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry, the consumption of pomegranate extract prevented much of the excess pigmentation that otherwise was caused by sunlight exposure.5 Other research published recently in Photochemistry and Photobiology has shown that pomegranate extract blocks the effects of ultraviolet light on the chemical pathways in the skin that can produce the unsightly signs of skin aging.6

Discolored spots on the skin can be caused by excessive oxidation within the skin – usually triggered by unprotected exposure to a little too much sun. Those great antioxidant vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E, can intercept runaway melanin production in your skin – a major cause of the undesirable appearance of photoaged skin. But these vitamins never are as powerful as when they are combined with other targeted nutrients such as melatonin, which works in concert with the antioxidant vitamins to keep skin from overreacting to sunlight.

Another key to healthy skin is filling your diet with colorful phytonutrients! A growing body of research shows that men and women who supplement their diets with ß-carotene, lutein and lycopene (along with vitamin C and vitamin E) can increase the ability of their skin to withstand sunlight without burning – powerful additional antioxidant support for a good sunscreen!

Stay Cool and Remain Refreshed – Both Are Good for Your Skin
Iced tea is for beating the heat inside your body – and it also helps you handle the sun’s energy on the outside. Iced tea, and especially green tea, adds nutrients to your skin that increase its natural barrier to sunlight penetration. Research findings published recently in the Chinese Medical Journal and in the Journal of Nutrition testify to the protective properties of the phytonutrients in tea and especially in green tea.7,8 It turns out green tea contains phytochemicals that have superb antioxidant activity. This property of tea allows it to confer potent protection to skin cells.

Lose Excess Fat for a Trimmer Appearance and More Supple Skin
You knew that if you could get yourself to limit your intake of fats you could drop a few pounds and trim your shape. You also need to know that that excess layer of fat you have built up between your skin and the rest of your body acts to dry out and stiffen your skin.9 Take home message – don’t take the fat home – leave it in the store or restaurant and help your skin draw admiration to your entire appearance.

Fish Oil for Skin Cell Communication
The essential fatty acids contained in fish oil are extremely beneficial for the skin. Our diets generally contain a large proportion of unhealthy fats and a high percentage of omega-6 fatty acids. However, cell membranes preferentially use the omega-3 fats from fish for incorporation into their membranes. These fats facilitate cell-to-cell communication and enhance the ability of cells to flush toxins out and push nutrients in, keeping cells healthy. While this is the case with cells throughout the body, this is also certainly true for skin cells. Thus, for truly vibrant skin, eat wild-caught fish that is loaded with omega-3 oils and supplement with a high-quality fish oil supplement.

Healthy Bacteria = Healthy Skin
Digestive function can have a big impact on skin health. Probiotic organisms are bacteria that produce beneficial health effects in the body and support optimal digestive function and nutrient absorption. Thus, supplementing with probiotics can have beneficial effects on the skin as they facilitate nutrient utilization by the body.

Support the Liver, Support the Skin
The liver is the major detoxifier of the body. Keeping the blood free and clear of toxins can have a large effect on the appearance of the skin. By enhancing the liver’s detoxifying efficiency, you can ensure that toxins in circulation are properly neutralized. Herbs such as milk thistle and turmeric, and nutrients such as N-acetylcysteine and other antioxidants, play a role in supporting liver function. See the Liver Support chapter for more information on liver-healthy practices.

Supporting the skin begins with promoting the health of the digestive tract and liver, and providing optimal levels of nutrients that directly support skin health. Incorporating skin healthy dietary practices and therapeutic nutrients into your daily regimen can leave your skin supple, youthful, and glowing. The skin is a reflection of what’s underneath. Keep it happy by nourishing your insides.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Nutritional Support for Bone Health

References:
1. Gulati OP. Pycnogenol in venous disorders: A review. Eur Bull Drug Res 1999;7:8-13.
2. Belcaro G, Cesarone MR, Errichi BM, Ledda A, Di Renzo A, Stuard S, Dugall M, Pellegrini L, Rohdewald P, Ippolito E, Ricci A, Cacchio M, Ruffini I, Fano F, Hosoi M. Venous ulcers: Microcirculatory improvement and faster healing with local use of Pycnogenol. Angiology 2005;56:699-705.
3. Cesarone MR, Belcaro G, Rohdewald P, Pellegrini L, Ledda A, Vinciguerra G, Ricci A, Gizzi G, Ippolito E, Fano F, Dugall M, Acerbi G, Cacchio M, Di Renzo A, Hosoi M, Stuard S, Corsi M. Comparison of Pycnogenol and Daflon in treating chronic venous insufficiency: A prospective, controlled study. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost 2006;12:205- 212.
4. Trommer H, Neubert RH. Screening for new antioxidative compounds for topical administration using skin lipid model systems. J Pharm Pharm Sci 2005;8:494-506.
5. Yoshimura M, Watanabe Y, Kasai K, Yamakoshi J, Koga T. Inhibitory effect of an ellagic acid-rich pomegranate extract on tyrosinase activity and ultraviolet-induced pigmentation. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2005;69:2368-2373.
6. Syed DN, Malik A, Hadi N, Sarfaraz S, Afaq F, Mukhtar H. Photochemopreventive effect of pomegranate fruit extract on UVA-mediated activation of cellular pathways in normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Photochem Photobiol 2006;82:398-405.
7. Song XZ, Bi ZG, Xu AE. Green tea polyphenol epigallocatechin-3- gallate inhibits the expression of nitric oxide synthase and generation of nitric oxide induced by ultraviolet B in HaCaT cells. Chin Med J 2006;119:282-287.
8. Heinrich U, Neukam K, Tronnier H, Sies H, Stahl W. Long-term ingestion of high flavanol cocoa provides photoprotection against UV-induced erythema and improves skin condition in women. J Nutr 2006;136:1565-1569.
9. Boelsma E, van de Vijver LP, Goldbohm RA, Klopping-Ketelaars IA, Hendriks HF, Roza L. Human skin condition and its associations with nutrient concentrations in serum and diet. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:348-355.

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Nutritional Support for Eye Health

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Eye Health – Seeing is Believing

Vision and eyesight often receive little attention when it comes to nutrition. The vast majority of people are unaware that there are foods and nutritional support ingredients that can promote healthy vision as they get older. Whether you prefer to add selected fruits and vegetables to your diet, supplement your diet with an appropriate high-quality formula, or both, the foundation of eye health is the combination of several ingredients that prevent free radical destruction of eye tissue over the long run to maintain healthy visual function with age. These include basic antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, ß-carotene, and the mineral zinc (balanced with copper); two vastly underappreciated phytonutrients – lutein and zeaxanthin; the extract of French maritime pine bark – Pycnogenol – and potentially the structural-support nutrient hyaluronic acid. These powerful nutritional support champions form the basis of every healthy vision regimen.

Antioxidants ß-Carotene, vitamins C, E and Zinc

The AREDS (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) trial was conducted several years ago under the sponsorship of the National Eye Institute, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of supplementation with antioxidant vitamins and the mineral zinc in supporting eye health in aging individuals. The AREDS study involved 4,757 participants aged between 55 and 80 years old. The results of the study were released in October 2001. The study participants supplemented with either antioxidants alone, zinc alone, or the combination of antioxidants plus zinc for an average of 6.3 years. The group supplementing with the combination had the best outcomes with statistically significant results in maintaining normal visual acuity over that period of time.1

The formula used in the study included 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of ß-carotene, 80 mg of zinc and 2 mg of copper supplemented on a daily basis. This study was integral in showing that a relatively high dose of antioxidant nutrients was able to help promote healthy vision in elderly individuals, and suggests the benefits of antioxidant supplementation to eye health.

The human retina contains the photoreceptor cells that convert light into vision. A healthy retina is absolutely vital to good vision. Oxidative damage to the eye is the most common cause of vision problems and loss in adulthood.2 Preventing oxidative damage before it happens is the best protection you can give your eyes.

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and the Retina

Fortunately, the retina contains lutein and zeaxanthin, the carotenoid cousins of ß-carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin absorb ultraviolet light – a powerful antioxidant effect that protects the retina from oxidative damage. The absorption of ultraviolet light before it reaches the photoreceptors also helps to keep the visual image clear and distortion-free. By absorbing ultraviolet light, lutein and zeaxanthin contribute to visual acuity.

Smoke in Your Eyes (a bad thing)

Smoking has detrimental effects all around. Several tissues can suffer oxidative damage as a result of exposure to several of the compounds present in cigarette smoke. Direct exposure to cigarette smoke causes oxidation in the eye and its internal structures, and can double the retina’s need for the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Age-Related Changes in Vision

Age also increases the retinal requirement for lutein and zeaxanthin, which approximately doubles between the ages of 20 and 80 years.3 Elderly men and women with low amounts of retinal lutein and zeaxanthin experience a decline in visual acuity and are much more likely to suffer age-related visual stress. Daily dietary supplementation with as little as 6 mg of lutein is a powerful promoter of visual acuity and eye health.4,5

Of course, “age-related” refers less to the fact that an individual is getting older and more to the fact that there is oxidative damage to eye tissue, which can occur at any age and in any individual. Thus, ensuring adequate lutein intake can be beneficial for everyone.

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and the Lens

Oxidative damage to the structure of the eye known as the lens is also common. Lutein and zeaxanthin filter high-energy blue light and function as antioxidants in the lens – functions which can protect this essential eye structure from being damaged. Researchers found that women aged 53 to 73 years with daily lutein plus zeaxanthin intakes of at least 2.4 mg nearly doubled their chances of having optimally-functioning lenses.6 Yet another reason for supplementing with these beneficial carotenoids.

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and the Optic Nerve

Making sure that your eyes contain enough of the natural antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, can ensure continued support for optic nerve health. The optic nerve transmits visual information from retinal tissue to the brain. Thus, damage to the optic nerve can severely affect visual acuity. Ensuring adequate lutein and zeaxanthin intake can protect the optic nerve from free radical damage.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin – Where Do They Come From?

The lutein and zeaxanthin of the macular pigment are entirely of dietary origin (and therefore lutein and zeaxanthin are essential nutrients).2 Lutein and zeaxanthin are found naturally in corn, broccoli, green beans, green peas, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, kiwi, honey dew, nettles, algae, the petals of many yellow flowers, the yolks of eggs laid by hens fed marigolds and high-quality dietary supplements. The results of a study published recently in the Journal of Nutrition indicate that more of the lutein (and probably zeaxanthin) that you consume can be absorbed if you add a little avocado.7

Recent studies have also confirmed that the more lutein and zeaxanthin one consumes, the more it can benefit eye health. Studies suggest that dietary intake of both carotenoids causes an increase in the amount of carotenoids reaching the eyes and thus able to confer protection from free radical damage.8,9

Pycnogenol

As we know, the normal processes of vision and daily environmental exposures to eye tissue produce vast amounts of free radicals. Overload your eyes with these destructive byproducts of sight and you risk permanent damage to the retina, cornea and lens. Pycnogenol protects the structures of the eye – the cornea, lens and retina – from vision-destroying oxidation.10

Incorporating eye-friendly nutrients into your daily nutritional regimen increases your chances of enjoying worry-free visual function throughout life. Antioxidant nutrients such as ß-carotene, vitamins C and E, Zinc, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, Pycnogenol and hyaluronic acid can all play a part in ensuring you maintain healthy visual acuity and eye function by providing your visual organs with the nourishment and protection they desire.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Skin Health – Nourishing your Insides to Nourish your Outsides

References:
1. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Arch Opthalmol 2001;119:1417-1436.
2. Beatty S, Boulton M, Henson D, Koh H-H, Murray IJ. Macular pigment and age related macular degeneration. Br J Ophthalmol 1999;83:867–877.
3. Beatty S, Murray IJ, Henson DB, Carden D, Koh H-H, Boulton ME. Macular pigment and risk for age-related macular degeneration in subjects from a Northern European population. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2001;42:439-446.
4. Richer S, Stiles W, Statkute L, Pulido J, Frankowski J, Rudy D, Pei K, Tsipursky M, Nyland J. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: The Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry 2004;75:216-230.
5. Seddon JM, Ajani UA, Sperduto RD, Hiller R, Blair N, Burton TC, Farber MD, Gragoudas ES, Haller J, Miller DT, et al. (1994) Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. JAMA 1994;272:1413-1420.
6. Jacques PF, Chylack LT Jr, Hankinson SE, Khu PM, Rogers G, Friend J, Tung W, Wolfe JK, Padhye N, Willett WC, Taylor A. Long-term nutrient intake and early age-related nuclear lens opacities. Arch Ophthalmol 2001;119:1009-1019.
7. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr 2005;135:431-436.
8. Burke JD, Curran-Celentano J, Wenzel AJ. Diet and serum carotenoid concentrations affect macular pigment optical density in adults 45 years and older. J Nutr 2005;135:1208-1214.
9. Rodriguez-Carmona M, Kvansakul J, Harlow JA, Kopcke W, Schalch W, Barbur JL. The effects of supplementation with lutein and/or zeaxanthin on human macular pigment density and colour vision. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2006;26:137-147.
10. Dene BA, Maritim AC, Sanders RA, Watkins JB 3rd. Effects of antioxidant treatment on normal and diabetic rat retinal enzyme activities. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther 2005;21:28-35.
11. Aragona P, Papa V, Micali A, Santocono M, Milazzo G. Long term treatment with sodium hyaluronate-containing artificial tears reduces ocular surface damage in patients with dry eye. Br J Ophthalmol 2002;86:181-184.
12. Debbasch C, De La Salle SB, Brignole F, Rat P, Warnet JM, Baudouin C. Cytoprotective effects of hyaluronic acid and Carbomer 934P in ocular surface epithelial cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2002;43:3409- 3415.

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Healthy Circulation: Go with the Flow

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Healthy Circulation: Go with the Flow

Healthy blood circulation through the cardiovascular system depends on two major factors. The first factor that needs to be in place is a healthy heart. The heart is the pump that keeps blood moving throughout the body. The second major factor that’s necessary is healthy arteries and veins. The blood vessels serve as the conduits for blood to flow to the tissues. Akin to a highway network, the veins and arteries that make up the passageways of the circulatory system need to be made up of healthy cells and need to be clean and unclogged with traffic. There are a number of issues that can affect healthy circulation. Let’s look at a few of the major ones.

Blood Sugar Control and Circulation
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) allows too much sugar to interact with the proteins that line the inner walls of your blood vessels. In your blood vessels, sugar + protein = AGE (advanced glycation endproducts – sugar-protein complexes that destroy the function of the protein and act as “debris” stuck to the blood vessel walls – sort of like rust along the inside of a pipe). This traffic can block flow and prevent capillaries from nourishing our cells. Several ways to ensure blood sugar levels stay healthy include dietary measures such as a low-sugar low-starch diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy body weight, and dietary supplementation with nutrients like chromium, magnesium, vanadium and extracts of Gymnema sylvestre and Fenugreek.

Maintain Arterial Health
Blood can’t get to those healthy capillaries if it can’t get through your arteries. Keep them wide open by adopting sensible dietary measures such as cutting back on red meats and animal fats. Instead, increase consumption of fatty cold-water fish and fresh garlic cloves (or plenty of garlic powder) plus abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables every day. In addition, daily dietary supplementation with high-quality fish oils, allicin (from garlic), vitamin C, vitamin E, N-acetylcysteine, quercetin, resveratrol and phytonutrients from pomegranates supports arterial health and structure.

Sipping a cup or two of vessel health-promoting green tea is also beneficial, as green tea is a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols that promote blood vessel health.

Support Venous Flow
Just as important as getting fresh nutritious blood out to your cells is getting the nutrient-depleted blood back to your heart for another cycle. Keep your venous return systems flowing smoothly with daily dietary supplementation of nutrients such as diosmin, hesperidin, Pycnogenol, resveratrol, and horse chestnut seed extract.

Horse Chestnut Seed extract
Often, cells in the walls of the veins become “loose” and leaky with age, allowing for fluids to leak out into the surrounding tissue. While it probably happens inside tissues where its effects cannot be seen, weakness in the veins is most visible when it occurs under or in the skin.

Horse chestnut extract has been recognized for many years as a “tonic for the veins.” Modern research has discovered that horse chestnut extract indeed “tightens up” the spaces between cells in the walls of veins, decreasing leakage. A recently published study showed that horse chestnut extract stimulates mild lateral contraction within the walls of veins, effectively “sealing up” any gaps that might have formed.1

Scientists also reported in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Science that horse chestnut extract contains inhibitors of enzymes that may cause vein health to be compromised when activated.2 Its inhibition of these important enzymes may explain the ability of horse chestnut extract to enhance venous structure and flow.

The prestigious Cochrane Collaboration has performed two intensive analyses of horse chestnut extract (most recently in 2006) and both times has concluded that horse chestnut extract is “efficacious and safe” in promoting healthy veins.3

The experts agree – horse chestnut extract helps to seal leaky veins and is a valuable contributor to every effort to keep your veins and circulatory system healthy.

Diosmin and Hesperidin
Research in Europe has identified a flavonoid compound that supports vein health by providing the benefits that aging blood vessels crave. The phytonutrient diosmin is found in several plants and also can be made from hesperidin, a flavonoid found in the skins of citrus fruits. In commercial products these two flavonoids are combined in a 9:1 ratio of 450 mg of diosmin and 50 mg of hesperidin. When tested in men and women needing nutritional venous support because of age, dietary supplementation with 450 mg of diosmin and 50 mg of hesperidin twice a day for 2 to 6 months improved measures of venous flow and allowed for superior maintenance of healthy vein structure.4

The results of an analysis of published research describing the effects of diosmin plus hesperidin used in combination for venous support were published recently in Angiology.5 The analysis showed that dietary supplementation with 450 mg of diosmin and 50 mg of hesperidin twice a day for 6 months produced venous healing and powerfully supported the beneficial effects of diosmin and hesperidin on blood vessels.

A “gold standard” randomized double-blind placebo controlled human clinical trial demonstrated that diosmin alone (450 mg twice a day for 60 days) has strong benefits for leg veins and comfort that older adults generally experience due to decreased venous function.4

Hesperidin is additionally revered as a strong tissue-supporting antioxidant. Free radical damage to veins leads to many of the vein-related health issues seen today in clinical practice. Adding hesperidin to diosmin thus creates a combination that potently supports venous health by providing protection against free radical attack.

Support of Blood Vessels throughout the Body
In addition to veins in the legs needing nutritional support, blood vessels of other areas of the body require adequate nutrition to function optimally. This includes the veins of the rectum and anus, which require extra flexibility and strength in order to be able to withstand and adapt to the large fluctuations in pressures they experience during normal bowel movements. If their walls become weakened due to lack of nutrition, they can collapse and stretch. Obviously, antioxidant support for these overworked blood vessels should be expected to help them maintain structural integrity and avoid failure. Fortunately, dietary supplementation with 450 mg of diosmin and 50 mg of hesperidin twice a day has been shown to dramatically support the blood vessels of these areas as well.

One More Thing
Help your heart in its strenuous work by doing some standing and stretching exercises several times a day, drinking copious amounts of water, and avoiding constrictive clothes, salty foods and excessive alcoholic beverages. A regular routine of cardiovascular exercise would also go a long way in providing added support to the entire cardiovascular system.

Diosmin, Hesperidin & Horse Chestnut

  • Diosmin has been shown in research studies to support venous tone and normal lymphatic drainage.*
  • Both Hesperidin and Diosmin may modulate the level and activity of certain immune factors, thus supporting the normal healthy function of blood vessels.*
  • Diosmin (in the proper concentration) has been shown to promote efficient circulatory and vascular function.*
  • A combination of Hesperidin and Diosmin has been shown in clinical studies to support healthy venous tone and normal vessel elasticity, thereby supporting healthy circulation.*
  • Horse Chestnut Seed extract has been shown to exert significant antioxidant effects on vascular tissue, allowing for enhancement of normal circulatory function and the support of healthy vessel tone.*
  • Studies point to the potential ability of horse chestnut seed extract to modulate the effects of enzymes in the circulatory system to promote normal, healthy vascular function.*

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Eye Health – Seeing is Believing

References:
1. Ottillinger B, Greeske K. Rational therapy of chronic venous insufficiency—chances and limits of the therapeutic use of horse-chestnut seeds extract. BMC Cardiovasc Disord 2001;1:5. doi:10.1186/1471-2261-1-5 (http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471- 2261/1/5).
2. Sato I, Kofujita H, Suzuki T, Kobayashi H, Tsuda S. Antiinflammatory effect of Japanese horse chestnut (Aesculus turbinata) seeds. J Vet Med Sci 2006;68:487-489.
3. Pittler MH, Ernst E. Horse chestnut seed extract for chronic venous insufficiency. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;(1):CD003230.
4. Ramelet AA. Daflon 500 mg: Symptoms and edema. Clinical update. Angiology 2005;56 (Suppl.):S25-S32.
5. Smith PC. Daflon 500 mg and venous leg ulcer: New results from a meta-analysis. Angiology 2005;56 (Suppl.):S33-S39.

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Blood Sugar – Healthy Support for Optimal Levels

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Blood Sugar – Healthy Support for Optimal Levels

As the development and progression of unhealthy blood glucose metabolism can often take years, it is important to establish and inculcate practices early on which can support healthy blood sugar metabolism.

Powerful Practices to Promote a Healthy Relationship between You and Sugar

You can take charge of your body’s struggle to control glucose. Implementing these powerful practices can promote healthy blood sugar metabolism as a part of your diet.

Eat Less Sugar and Eat It More Slowly

The “sugar load” you place on your body directly reflects how much sugar and starch you eat – the more glucose in any form that you eat or drink, digest, absorb and send into your blood, the more you need to work to get the glucose into your cells. Thus, eating less simple carbohydrates and processed foods, while eating more complex carbohydrates and fiber-rich foods, can lead to decreased absorption of sugar from meals and better overall blood sugar regulation. Why make your blood sugar-regulation system work any harder than is necessary?

Establish and Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

As is confirmed by recently published research body fat interferes with insulin’s ability to stimulate your muscle cells to remove glucose from your blood.1 The more fat you’re carrying, the less able you are to maintain healthy blood glucose regulation. Period. No more discussion. No excuses. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise facilitates proper sugar utilization. Get your weight right and help keep your blood glucose under control. It’s that simple.

DASH to Glucose Health

Lifestyle changes that incorporate a combination of weight loss, reduced sodium intake, increased physical activity, moderation of alcohol intake and a diet high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products (low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol contents; high in magnesium, calcium and protein contents) – the “DASH” Lifestyle – dramatically improve insulin sensitivity in older adults who are not yet hyperglycemic. Even simply increasing the number of servings of fruits and vegetables consumed daily to 5 (still below the recommended 7 to 9 servings) has been shown to provide powerful protection to the blood glucose regulatory system. So has cutting back to only one serving of red meat daily. Of course, so has consuming the recommended amount of dietary fiber which, according to a recent study, can improve insulin sensitivity by about 10% and contribute to sustained maintenance of healthy blood glucose control into the future.2 The merits of this lifestyle approach have been reinforced by the findings in a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – limiting yourself to only one serving of French fries a week significantly enhances chances of having healthy blood glucose control.3

Add the Correct Mix of Minerals

The US Food and Drug Administration approved a Qualified Health Claim for chromium – they agreed that daily dietary supplementation with chromium picolinate (with more than 50 mcg of chromium) can improve insulin sensitivity and restore and maintain healthy blood glucose regulation and homeostasis.4 The US Food and Drug Administration also has determined that daily chromium picolinate may reduce the risk of developing adult onset (“type 2”) diabetes later in life.4 The results of a human clinical trial published recently in Fertility and Sterility confirm that dietary supplementation with chromium picolinate (1000 mcg of chromium daily) dramatically supports the maintenance of healthy blood glucose regulation and protects it from destabilizing influences.5

Adequate intake of the important mineral magnesium is required for maintenance of stable insulin sensitivity. In individuals with normal fasting blood glucose and insulin concentrations, fasting plasma insulin concentration goes down as dietary magnesium intake goes up – a principle that was confirmed again in the results of a study published recently in Diabetes Care.6 In other words, as magnesium intake increases, less insulin is needed to help muscle cells obtain glucose from the blood. The longer you can maintain a high degree of insulin efficiency, the longer you maintain adequate blood glucose regulation capacity. As shown in a 6-year study of 39,345 women, a 12-year study of 42,872 men and an 18-year study of 85,060 women – adults who routinely consume at least 300 mg of magnesium daily have healthier glucose metabolism over the years and are more likely to maintain health with age.

The little-known trace mineral, vanadium, also plays important roles in promoting healthy blood sugar control. Vanadium may also protect other tissues against the potential consequences of chronically dysregulated blood sugar. In a study of rat eyes published recently in the Journal of Biosciences, vanadium protected the lens from the destructive effects of overexposure to glucose.7 In live rats, vanadium supplementation has prevented disruptions in glucose regulation caused by a diabetes-inducing drug. While these studies were in diseased animals, vanadium may also be of utility in healthy humans. As an example, supplementation with 150 mg of vanadium (as vanadyl sulfate) daily has been shown to increase the ability to move glucose from the blood into muscle cells – promoting the sustained normalization of blood glucose regulation in human subjects.

It seems that minerals function in synergy with one another – vanadium contributes to blood glucose regulation by facilitating the regulatory actions of magnesium, while magnesium enables chromium to increase the insulin sensitivity of muscle cells.

A Note of Caution – Never become confused by thinking that dietary ingredients such as chromium, magnesium or vanadium, effective components of a comprehensive healthy blood glucose maintenance program, can substitute for hypoglycemic drugs if your blood glucose already is out of control. As shown by the results of a human clinical trial published recently in Diabetes Care, maintaining healthy blood glucose regulation is not the same as restoring regulation by the treatment of an existing disease.8 Thus, take your minerals to help keep you healthy before your sugar levels are to the point where they may not do much good.

Sprinkle on the Cinnamon

Cinnamon can facilitate the normal action of insulin. In men and women, 1 to 6 g of cinnamon daily maintained normal blood sugar levels in a study that reinforced the expectation that cinnamon consumption can contribute to the maintenance of healthy blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. However, the results of a human clinical trial published recently in the Journal of Nutrition suggest that small amounts of cinnamon (less than 3 g daily) may not contribute to the maintenance of healthy sugar metabolism.9 It appears that the benefits of cinnamon adhere to the time-honored culinary principle that too little spice is without effect. However, a small study conducted using a particular water-soluble cinnamon extract showed significant benefits on blood sugar levels and body composition. The results of the study pointed out that individuals supplemented with 500 mg per day of the extract had healthier fasting blood sugar levels and a statistically significant decrease in body fat than individuals in the placebo group when the extract was given as a part of a healthy diet.10

Dark Chocolate in Moderation

How can something that tastes so good be so healthy? According to the results of a study published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, faithful daily consumption of 4 ounces of dark chocolate (containing about 500 mg of quercetin and mixed catechins) helped maintain normal sensitivity to insulin, contributing to healthy blood sugar control.11 One caution – this much dark chocolate will add about 500 calories to your daily caloric intake. Remember to adjust your dietary intake of calories – and exercise more – instead of just adding the chocolate!

Herbal Support for Healthy Blood Sugar

Extracts of the leaves of the herb Gymnema sylvestre contain phytonutrients that promote and sustain healthy blood sugar concentrations. Gymnema is an herb that has been used traditionally in the Ayurvedic herbal system to support normal blood sugar levels and has been researched in animals and humans.12 This herb acts in part by slowing the rate of absorption of the sugar in foods and beverages. However, because this herbal extract also may act in part by stimulating some insulin secretion by the pancreas and by itself could contribute to hyperinsulinemia, it should not be consumed alone but only in combination with the other dietary ingredients that increase the efficiency of insulin action in muscle and stimulate glucose entry into muscle cells.

Fenugreek seeds contain 4-hydroxyisoleucine, an amino acidlike phytonutrient that increases muscle cell sensitivity to insulin and facilitates the maintenance of long-term glucose homeostasis. Findings published recently in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry confirmed the results of a number of previous studies by showing that Fenugreek seed powder promotes sustained normalization of blood glucose regulation.13 Similarly, the daily consumption of several grams of powdered Fenugreek seeds has been found to contribute to the stabilization and maintenance of healthy fasting plasma glucose concentrations and oral glucose tolerance (ability to move glucose from the blood into muscle cells) in men and women. In addition, a study of rat eyes published recently in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry found that Fenugreek seed powder protected the lens and retina from the destructive effects of overexposure to glucose.14 These reports demonstrate that Fenugreek seed powder promotes 1) normalization of blood glucose regulation, 2) protective glucose homeostasis in the tissues most susceptible to permanent hyperglycemic damage and 3) stabilization and maintenance of healthy oral glucose tolerance. Thus adding herbs like Gymnema sylvestre as a dietary supplement, and incorporating spices like Fenugreek and others to your diet, can lead to long-term healthy regulation of blood sugar metabolism.

Phytonutrients for Healthy Blood Sugar Maintenance

The findings of two recently published studies indicate that the phytonutrients (not the caffeine) in both regular and “decaf” coffees are beneficial in the maintenance of healthy blood glucose regulation.15,16 In fact, the more coffee these 117,071 American women drank on a regular basis, day in, day out, year after year, the better their regulation of blood glucose metabolism. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid and trigonelline, its two major phytonutrient components. A recent study found that acute intake of chlorogenic acid and trigonelline in 15 men was found to significantly reduce blood sugar levels as assessed by performance of an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) compared to placebo.17

Maintaining blood sugar levels in an ideal range is an important cornerstone for health and wellness. Healthy blood sugar regulation can be achieved by implementing several dietary measures, incorporating exercise and other healthy lifestyle practices into your daily routine, and by adding health-promoting nutritional supplements to your daily regimen.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Healthy Circulation: Go with the Flow

References:
1. Virtanen KA, Iozzo P, Hallsten K, Huupponen R, Parkkola R, Janatuinen T, Lonnqvist F, Viljanen T, Ronnemaa T, Lonnroth P, Knuuti J, Ferrannini E, Nuutila P. Increased fat mass compensates for insulin resistance in abdominal obesity and type 2 diabetes: A positron-emitting tomography study. Diabetes 2005;54:2720-2726.
2. Weickert MO, Mohlig M, Schofl C, Arafat AM, Otto B, Viehoff H, Koebnick C, Kohl A, Spranger J, Pfeiffer AF. Cereal fiber improves whole-body insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese women. Diabetes Care 2006;29:775-780.
3. Halton TL, Willett WC, Liu S, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. Potato and French fry consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:284-290.
4. Schneeman BO. Qualified health claims: Letter of enforcement discretion — Chromium picolinate and insulin resistance (Docket No. 2004Q-0144) (letter). Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC, August 25, 2005.
5. Lydic ML, McNurlan M, Bembo S, Mitchell L, Komaroff E, Gelato M. Chromium picolinate improves insulin sensitivity in obese subjects with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril 2006;86:243-246.
6. Huerta MG, Roemmich JN, Kington ML, Bovbjerg VE, Weltman AL, Holmes VF, Patrie JT, Rogol AD, Nadler JL. Magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin resistance in obese children. Diabetes Care 2005;28:1175-1181.
7. Preet A, Gupta BL, Yadava PK, Baquer NZ. Efficacy of lower doses of vanadium in restoring altered glucose metabolism and antioxidant status in diabetic rat lenses. J Biosci 2005;30:221-230.
8. Kleefstra N, Houweling ST, Jansman FG, Groenier KH, Gans RO, Meyboom-de Jong B, Bakker SJ, Bilo HJ. Chromium treatment has no effect in patients with poorly controlled, insulin-treated type 2 diabetes in an obese Western population: A randomized, doubleblind, placebo-controlled trial. Diabetes Care 2006;29:521-525.
9. Vanschoonbeek K, Thomassen BJ, Senden JM, Wodzig WK, van Loon LJ. Cinnamon supplementation does not improve glycemic control in postmenopausal type 2 diabetes patients. J Nutr 2006;136:977- 980.
10. Ziegenfuss TN, Hofheins JE, Mendel RW, Landis J, Anderson RA. Effects of a water-soluble cinnamon extract on body composition and features of the metabolic syndrome in pre-diabetic men and women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2006;3:45-53.
11. Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, Croce G, Valeri L, Pasqualetti P, Desideri G, Blumberg JB, Ferri C. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension 2005;46:398-405.
12. Gad MZ, El-Sawalhi MM, Ismail MF, El-Tanbouly ND. Biochemical study of the anti-diabetic action of the Egyptian plants Fenugreek and Balanites. Mol Cell Biochem 2006;281:173-183.
13. Anonymous. Gymnema sylvestre. Altern Med Rev 1999 Feb;4(1):46-7.
14. Preet A, Siddiqui MR, Taha A, Badhai J, Hussain ME, Yadava PK, Baquer NZ. Long-term effect of Trigonella foenum graecum and its combination with sodium orthovanadate in preventing histopathological and biochemical abnormalities in diabetic rat ocular tissues. Mol Cell Biochem 2006; May 23. doi: 10.1007/s11010- 006-9156-0.
15. van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: A prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women. Diabetes Care 2006;29:398-403.
16. Pereira MA, Parker ED, Folsom AR. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1311-1316.
17. van Dijk AE, Olthof MR, Meeuse JC, Seebus E, Heine RJ, van Dam RM. Acute effects of decaffeinated coffee and the major coffee components chlorogenic acid and trigonelline on glucose tolerance. Diabetes Care 2009;32(6):1023-5.

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A majority of important phytonutrients come from just four fruits and vegetables

In order to get a well-rounded supply of different vitamins and phytonutrients, individuals should eat a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables. However, a new study indicates that this may not be happening.

A team of researchers reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association that the vast majority of phytonutrients consumed come from a small handful of fruits and vegetables.

The results showed that 72 percent of all alpha-carotene consumed came from carrots, 81 percent of lycopene came from tomatoes, strawberries accounted for 68 percent elagic acid and oranges represented 64 percent beta-cryptoxanthin and 94 percent of hesperetin.

The researchers said it is important to eat fruits and vegetables, but it is not enough to consume just three or four different items. Individuals should strive to incorporate a wider array of plant foods into their daily diets.

"Fruits and vegetables are the cornerstone of a healthy diet, and an important way to improve our phytonutrient intake is by eating more nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables every day," said Dr. Keith Randolph, who led the study.

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Not all greens offer the same nutritional benefits

Most people know that leafy greens are key to a nutritious diet. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals that may support heart health and brain health. However, what many people may not know is that not all greens are created equal.

Eating a plate full of lettuce does not give anywhere near the same nutritional lift as a serving of kale or collard greens. The difference is the number of phytonutrients each option possesses. While lettuce is relatively poor in these nutrients, dark green vegetables tend to have much higher levels.

Therefore, when individuals are making a salad they should consider replacing lettuce with other choices. Baby spinach is one nutrient-loaded option that works well in a salad. Arugula and kale may also serve as a base for a nutritious dish.

A salad is always a healthy choice, but there are a few minor tweaks that can push its nutritional value over the top. Including only the most vitamin- and antioxidant-rich ingredients may be one of the best ways to get the most out of these meals.
 

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Essential Brain Nourishment: Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Essential Brain Nourishment: Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract

Extracts of the leaves of Ginkgo biloba, the world’s oldest living tree, contain a range of phytonutrients that stimulate the cholinergic neurotransmitter system. In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 30 days of daily dietary supplementation with the extract produced improvements in the speed of information processing by working memory and the accuracy of executive processing in young men and women who were otherwise completely normal in their cognitive abilities.13 In an older study, the one-time consumption of 600 mg of Ginkgo biloba leaf extract increased memory performance in healthy young women with “good” memories within one hour.14 More recent research showed that acute administration of a single dose of Ginkgo biloba to young, healthy individuals led to significant performance enhancements for sustained-attention tasks and pattern recognition tasks 4 hours after dosing.15 Furthermore, a study performed in elderly individuals consuming 120 mg of a Gingko biloba extract daily for one year found that the extract was able to aid in the maintenance of cognitive function over the study period.16 The extract was extremely safe and in several cases was shown to enhance cognitive ability in the study group. The results of these studies illustrate the promotion of mental functioning by Ginkgo biloba leaf extract.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Essential Brain Nourishment: Choline

References:
13. Stough C, Clarke J, Lloyd J, Nathan PJ. Neuropsychological changes after 30-day Ginkgo biloba administration in healthy participants. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 2001;4:131-134.
14. Subhan Z, Hindmarch I. The psychopharmacological effects of Ginkgo biloba extract in normal healthy volunteers. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1984;4:89-93.
15. Elsabagh S, Hartley DE, Ali O, Williamson EM, File SE. Differential cognitive effects of Ginkgo biloba after acute and chronic treatment in healthy young volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2005;179(2):437-46.
16. Le Bars PL, Katz MM, Berman N, Itil TM, Freedman AM, Schatzberg AF. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial of an extract of Ginkgo biloba for dementia. North American EGb Study Group. JAMA 1997;278(16):1327-32.

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Critical Tools for a Healthy Liver: Curcumin (from Turmeric)

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each week, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Critical Tools for a Healthy Liver: Curcumin (from Turmeric)

Curcuminoids are phytonutrients from turmeric that are responsible for the brilliant orange color of this culinary and medicinal spice. They have tremendous antioxidant properties and have been used for centuries as components of liver-supportive formulas in the Ayurvedic tradition. Several studies, performed in the laboratory and in living organisms, confirm the ability of curcumin to protect the liver against damage caused by hepatotoxic chemicals.18 It seems that curcumin has the ability to upregulate the function of several antioxidant enzymes, which facilitate protection of liver cells against free radical damage. Studies also show that curcumin activates the essential detoxifying enzyme glutathoine-s-transferase, which facilitates phase II detoxification activities, including conjugation of several chemical compounds with glutathione, leading to their elimination from the body.19 Being a powerful antioxidant stimulator, curcumin is a useful compound for liver health and function.

Supporting liver function by eating right, limiting alcohol, avoiding tobacco smoke, and providing it the critical nutrients and cofactors it needs to keep functioning at a high level can ensure that it will give you its best effort in keeping you healthy and fit.

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
Brain Health – Maintain a Sharp Mind and Support Cognitive Function

References:
18. Farombi EO, Shrotriya S, Na HK, Kim SH, Surh YJ. Curcumin attenuates dimethylnitrosamine-induced liver injury in rats through Nrf2-mediated induction of heme oxygenase-1. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46(4):1279-87.
19. Nishinaka T, Ichijo Y, Ito M, Kimura M, Katsuyama M, Iwata K, Miura T, Terada T, Yabe-Nishimura C. Curcumin activates human glutathione S-transferase P1 expression through antioxidant response element. Toxicol Lett. 2007;170(3):238-47.

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Plant-based diet may have important health benefits

Despite the fact that plant foods are loaded with phytonutrients and other important minerals, few people eat enough fruits and vegetables. The western diet is very heavy on meats and carbs, with little emphasis on incorporating plant foods. However, experts say that even small changes in eating habits can lead to significant results.

Jill Nussinow, a registered dietitian, told the Chicago Tribune that, while few people in America eat enough fruits and vegetables, plant-based diets are starting to catch on to a certain degree, and this could help many people improve several areas of their health.

"Even if you ate vegetarian just one day per week and ate more plant foods overall, you could make a difference," she told the news source.

She added that making efforts to consume more fruits and vegetables in place of meat can help individuals reduce their intake of potentially harmful salts and saturated fats, which have been shown to contribute to the development of heart disease.

The USDA recommends that when preparing a meal, individuals have half of their plate taken up by fruits and vegetables, while meats should be limited.
 

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Researchers try to update the potato’s reputation

Is there a vegetable that is more misunderstood than the potato? A group of researchers funded by the USDA think there is not.

They recently conducted a study that showed people who ate plain, unfried potatoes experienced significant heart health benefits. The researchers chalked the benefits up to the high levels of vitamins and other phytonutrients in the spuds.

"Mention 'potato' and people think 'fattening, high-carbs, empty calories'. In reality, when prepared without frying and served without butter, margarine or sour cream, one potato has only 110 calories and dozens of healthful phytochemicals and vitamins. We hope our research helps to remake the potato's popular nutritional image," said lead researcher Joe Vinson.

He added that potatoes have developed a seriously negative reputation over the years, but that this is wholly undeserved. It is more the condiments people add to potato dishes or the manner in which they are prepared that account for any negative health effects associated with the vegetable.

Furthermore, certain varieties of potatoes, like red or purple, may be even healthier, as the deep colors indicate high levels of phytonutrients.
 

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