I just finished reading a biography of Eva Cassidy, who probably had the most astronishing rise to stardom ever achieved by a deceased person. Eva was a singer and musician who during her life was known locally in the Washington DC area. She played the local clubs and whatnot. But, she never could support herself as a musical performer; she worked a day job at a plant nursery. And at the age of 33, she died of malignant melanoma which had spread to her bones. It was only after that that she rose to worldwide fame.

First know that she had an extraordinary voice. Some say that among singers of popular song of her generation that hers was the best. Some say that hers was the best ever. But, she was more than a singer. She was also an excellent guitarist, and she was also an extraordinary musical arranger and stylist. She took classic, beloved songs and infused them with even more feeling and emotion than anybody thought they had.  

For instance, take Over the Rainbow. I'm a big Judy Garland fan, and I read her biography too and wrote about it. But, once you've heard Eva Cassidy sing Over the Rainbow, you don't want to hear anyone else sing it, including Judy Garland. For many people the world over, Eva's version has become the ultimate rendition of Over the Rainbow. Here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5EesOU5oc0

I'm also a big fan of Irving Berlin, and Eva's versions of Cheek to Cheek and Blue Skies soar above all others. And even Sting admitted after he heard Eva's vesrion of Fields of Gold that it's better than his. And nobody ever thought they'd want to hear anyone except Louie Armstrong sing Wonderful World- until Eva sang it.

Where did her talent come from? Well, her father Hugh was a semi-professional musician, and he instilled all his children with a love of music. Hugh played the guitar, and he gave Eva her first guitar lessons. Hugh was a real Rennaisance Man because besides  music, he was involved in sculpting, teaching, landscaping, and he was also an athlete. In 1971, weighing 300 pounds, he won the world title in Super Heavyweight Powerlifting. This was an actual strength contest- not posing. He squated with 865 pounds and benched 570.

Eva was unusual because growing up, music and also art (she painted) were her passions, and she didn't care a bit about clothes or fasihions or trying to be popular. She wasn't one to chase boys either. She went on to have brief romantic relationships, but she swore she would never marry, and she was romanticaly unattached much of the time, including the last 3 years of her life.

In 1993, Eva had a malignant melanoma removed from her back. Not much thought was given to it after that. But three years later, she started having pain in her hip. X-rays showed that the bone was completely eroded from cancer. She underwent surgery, including a total hip replacement. She also had cancer in her lungs. She underwent aggressive treatment, including chemotherapy, but it was to no avail. She died at her parents' hoome on November 2, 1996.

Her rise to international fame started after that, and it began in the UK. Then it spread to Europe. And only after that did it reach the United States. A total of 11 albums have been released, some of which went gold and platinum.

Here is an Eva Cassidy website run by her cousin Laura which features all her work : http://evacassidy.org/eva/

But since this is a health blog, I want to hone in on what happened to her health-wise. The book I read is called Behind the Rainbow: The Tragic Life of Eva Cassidy by Johan Bakker. It was good, but I don't think the author ever met her, so it may not be the best one to read. But, the only thing he said about why she got sick is the usual refrain about excess sun. But, did she really get more sun exposure than most? I doubt it. It doesn't sound like she did. I bet you I've gotten more; a lot more. And the back isn't a part of the body that gets regular sun exposure just from being out and about. That would be the arms and the face and even the shoulders. But, this was down on her back. It never said that she was one to be out sunbathing in skimpy swim attire.

So, I have to think that there had to be more involved than just sun exposure, and the first place my mind goes is to food. What did she eat? And I think about her father during the time he was a power lifter who pushed his weight up from 175 to 300 pounds. I know very well that weightlifters tend to do that by loading up on animal food- lots and lots of protein. So, if he was doing that while she was growing up, don't you think that it influenced the way the whole family ate?

There wasn't much said about her diet in this book, but I recall two things. It said that during the bref time that she lived with bassist Chris Biondo that they didn't have much time for cooking so they lived on hot dogs, burgers, and pizza. Then it said that after her death, the actress Meg Ryan pursued the idea of developing Eva's life into a movie (others have as well, and it may well happen) and during that time Ms. Ryan made a statement that it would be about a gifted musician and performer who had a sad childhood which led to depression and a junk food addiction. That jumped out at me.

The bottom line for me is that there had to be more involved in the genesis of Eva's cancer than sun exposure, and it makes it all the more tragic because it probably could have been prevented with better nutrition. I hope that doesn't come across as cruel. I certainly don't mean it that way. I own several of Eva's albums which I listen to often, and I really think she was exceptionally  gifted. Her music affects me emotionally, and consequently, so does her death.       

 

 

 

 

 

I know a lot of people who are vegetarians, and because they are vegetarians, they would rather take Vitamin D2 than Vitamin D3, since Vitamin D2 is a non-animal product derived from irradiated mushrooms whereas Vitamin D3 is an animal product derived from the lanolin of sheep. But, I really think it's a good idea to make an exception in this case because Vitamin D3 is natural Vitamin D, cholecalciferol, identical to what your body produces from sunlight. But, D2 is a foreign chemical, a drug with some Vitamin-D-like properties, but it is not the real thing. 

An analogy can be made to the drug Progestin, which is a synthetic analogue of Progesterone but not identical to it. It causes lots of problem for women and has lots of risk, whereas natural, bio-identical Progesterone is very safe. And it's the same thing here: Vitamin D3 is natural, bio-identical Vitamin D.

This article just came out about muscule damage in athletes taking Vitamin D2, but it is hardly the first article of its kind. The disruptive dysfunctionality of Vitamin D2 within the human body has been known for years- make that decades. Nobody should be consuming it.

Taking supplemental Vitamin D is a very good idea because practically no one can reach an optimal blood level through sunlight alone. Plus, there is very little Vitamin D in foods, and what little there is occurs only in animal foods. It's true that milk and other foods are often fortified with Vitamin D, but guess what? They almost always use Vitamin D2! So, that's no good either.

I don't eat meat, and I have no desire to. But, I do take Vitamin D3. If that sounds like a contradiction, then so be it! That's because this is very important. Vitamin D has the potential to make the difference between life and death. Vitamin D, among other things, is an anti-cancer compound. It has the ability to destroy cancer cells at their earliest formation. Who doesn't want that working for them? Just be practical about this. I strongly urge you to do so. Now, here is the new artcle:

 

Results from a new study show that vitamin D2 may not be beneficial to muscle health in athletes.

There is ongoing study about the difference in effects of vitamin D3 versus vitamin D2 on human health. Vitamin D3 is the form of vitamin D that humans produce from sun exposure. Vitamin D2 is a form of vitamin D produced by certain plant species, like mushrooms. Supplement manufacturers make both kinds, but vitamin D3 is more commonly produced and found on store shelves.

In recent years, researchers have found that vitamin D3 may be more beneficial of the two and have questioned the use of vitamin D2.

Recently, researchers at the Appalachian State University in North Carolina set out to see the effects of vitamin D2 supplementation on reducing exercise-induced inflammation and muscle damage in athletes.

The research team recruited NASCAR pit crew members for the study. Pit crew members often undergo intense weight lifting and other muscle related exercise during their job.

They conducted a double blind randomized controlled trial study on pit crew members for six weeks. During the six weeks, the pit crew members either took 3,800 IU/day of vitamin D2 or a placebo.

They found that the pit crew members taking vitamin D2 had increased muscle damage compared to those taking a placebo.

“This is the first time research has shown that vitamin D2 supplementation is associated with higher muscle damage after intense weight lifting, and thus cannot be recommend for athletes,” said lead researcher Dr. David Nieman.

Based on their results, Dr. Nieman suggests that something is occurring at the muscle level with vitamin D2 that specifically worsens muscle damage.

“High vitamin D2 levels are not a normal experience for the human body,” Dr. David Nieman stated. “Taking high doses of vitamin D2 caused something to happen at the muscle that isn’t in the best interest of the athletes.”

During the study, those who took vitamin D2 had their vitamin D3 levels decrease, which is one theory for why vitamin D2 increased muscle damage.

  

The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that doctors stop prescribing combination drugs that contain more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per tablet, capsule, or other dosage unit, citing the risk of possible liver damage. 

The agency said in a statement Tuesday that limiting the amount of acetaminophen per dosage unit will reduce the risk of severe liver damage from an inadvertent acetaminophen overdose, which can lead to liver failure, liver transplant, and death. 

"There are no available data to show that taking more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dosage unit provides additional benefit that outweighs the added risks for liver injury," the statement read.  

Combination acetaminophen drugs, such as Tylenol and Panadol, are commonly prescribed to consumers to treat pain, such as pain from acute injuries, post-operative pain, or tooth pain following dental procedures. 

In January 2011, the FDA asked manufacturers of prescription combination drugs containing acetaminophen to limit the amount of acetaminophen to no more than 325 mg in each tablet or capsule by January 14, 2014. 

While more than half of prescription drug manufacturers complied with the request, some  combination drug products containing more than 325 mg of acetaminophen per dosage unit remain on the market, according to the agency.

The danger of liver toxicity from Acetaminophen is well known and well understood. People have the sense that Tylenol is the one safe pain killer, without major risk, but it's a mistake. Acetaminophen appears to be less toxic to the kidneys than other pain killers but more toxic to the liver. So, which organ do you like better?

However, there are some things that worsen the danger of liver damage from Acetaminophen:

1. Alcohol. Combining alcohol and acetaminophen multiples the risk of harm. So, DON'T DRINK AT ALL IF YOU ARE TAKING ACETAMINOPHEN.

2. Taking it under fasting conditions, even just missing a few meals, makes it far more likely to do harm. So, you shouldn't take Acetaminophen without eating. Furthermore, eating high anti-oxidant foods seems to offset some of the danger. It is a free-radical reaction that damages the liver, so nutrients that fight free radicals (antioxidants) inhibit the harm.

3. There are specific nutrients, and one in particular, that seem to inhibit the harm, namely, N-Acetyl Cysteine or NAC. I have been told that every hospital in this country- and maybe in the world- keeps NAC in their ER to be used in cases of Acetaminophen poiisoning. Is there any reason why NAC can't be taken preventatively along with Acetaminophen? I don't know of any. And if you didn't want to take it at the exact same time, you could certainly take it on the same day. And that is what I suggest you do. Take 500 mg of NAC two or three times a day whenever you are taking Acetaminophen. And keep taking it for several days after you stop taking Acetaminophen.

4. It can't be stressed enough that limiting the dose of Acetaminophen is extremely important. Just take as little as you can get by with. Be as strong as you can. I realize that pain is debilitating, but just try to get the pain level down to what you can reasonably tolerate. And stop it completely as soon as you can.

Unfortunately, there are no good pain killers, meaning, no safe ones. Using aspirin as a pain-killer is bad for the stomach and the kidneys- and you can bleed to death from it. All of the NSAIDs like Ibuprofen are extremely bad for the kidneys. And the active ingredient in Aleve, Naproxen, is also very bad for the kidneys.

You don't want to mess with your kidneys because damage to your kidneys is often silent and always rreversible. By the time you find out about it, it's too late.

The fact that with Acetaminophen there is a known antidote in NAC makes it more appealling to me. So, I actually keep it around, and have some here right now. Very rarely I have taken it, such as for a tooth ache. But, I have great awareness of the danger of it, and I practice all of the above in order to minimiize it, including taking NAC. I wish everybody would realize that there is a real peril involved with taking Acetaminophen. It should be done with great caution and responsibility.

The Silk corporation makes soy milk and almond milk, both of which are widely available in supermarkets. But of late, they have decided to really push the almond milk with advertising. And, I think their tv ads have really been cute and effective.

The ads feature this little almond-man talking to some guy in the kitchen about what to pour over his cereal at breakfast. The little almond keeps saying, "would you rather have this or this?" while the screen flashes back and forth from the two of them to a very close-up picture of a cow being milked, where you can see the udders up-close and some hands yanking on the udders and milk squirting out. It's a reminder of the very bovine nature of milk.

I have visited dairy farms, and it's something that everyone should do because there you really get the sense of how bovine milk is. And when I say bovine, I mean strong-smelling of cow, including cow sweat, cow dung, cow urine, etc., with flies everywhere, etc. Most people don't realize that commercial milk from Big Ag is, among other things, DEODORIZED. After visiting a dairy farm- whether large or small- you don't come away with any desire to drink milk. And I was reminded of that in watching that close-up of a cow being milked in the ad. The only thing it lacked was the flies.    

So, why not get your milk from something as clean as an almond?

As far as the Silk Almond milk goes, I have had it, but it's nothing that I would use on a regular basis. It's OK, but it's sweetened. It has a lot of nutritional fortification, and one of the things it's fortified with is Vitamin D. However, they use Vitamin D2, which is the synthetic, pharmaceutical Vitamin D and not natural Vitamin D, which is Vitamin D3. The Vitamin D Council urges everyone to avoid Vitamin D2, pointing out that virtually all of the cases of Vitamin D toxiciity have involved Vitamin D2 and not Vitamin D3. There is a world of difference between them, and Vitamin D3 is much to be preferred. Again, they use Vitamin D2 in Silk Almond mlk, but fortunately, it is a very low dose.

But, even if that were not an issue, there is no good reason to depend on commercial almond milk when you can make your own so easily. I make it just about every day. I used three kinds of nuts: almonds, pecans, and walnuts. I use a regular blender and a blender cup. A blender cup is just an 8 ounce cup that accepts the blade and housing of the blender, and it's meant for an individual serving. I fill the blender cup with nuts about half-way, and then I fill it to the top with purified water. Then I blend at high speed for about 8 seconds. That's it! It delivers a very white, pure, silky-smooth, delicoius nut mlilk which I pour over whole-grain cereal or oatmeal.

The reason why it is important to use a blender cup is because the nuts and water have to be under pressure in order to force the nuts down into the blade. If you try to use a regular big blender basin, the nuts will just fly around the top, and it will never work. You need that high pressure condition. So, be sure to fill the blender cup to the top with water.

And by the way, it keeps very well too. The blender cup comes with a cap, so if you don't use it all, you can screw on the cap, put it in the fridge, and it's still good the next day.

So, I am very enthused about homemade nut milk, and that's how I make it. I like the idea of the commercial almond milk better than the commecial soy milk, however, it's only something that I might use when I'm traveling. That's it. Otherwise, there's no need for it. Get yourself a blender cup and make your own nut milk at home.

But, they certainly do a good job of selling the idea that nut milk is superior to and preferable to bovine milk. Who needs cow's milk? It's food for baby cows, not adult humans, or even young humans. I wouldn't give dairy milk to kids either.

Researchers reported in a study published in September 2013 that soy isoflavone supplementation improved some menopausal symptoms and increased bone density in menopausal women. The investigators assigned 80 women to receive 90 mg per day of soy isoflavones or placebo for six months. The researchers measured bone mineral density of the radius and tibia using quantitative ultrasound. The researchers measured indices of bone metabolism including calcium, phosphorus and alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and serum cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha). The subjects completed questionnaires regarding menopausal symptoms.

The results showed that tibial bone density increased significantly with isoflavone supplementation compared to the placebo group.

The investigators stated, “For menopausal women, soy isoflavone in the dose of 90 mg per day could improve some menopausal syndromes and was effective on increasing limb bone density."

I realize that soy is a very controversial, and online especially, soy-bashing is rampant. But, I eat some soy, and I will continue to eat some soy. I take it in the form of tofu and tempeh. I do not take soy supplements.

I'll admit that there is a negative case that can be made against soy. Soy is high in phytic acid. But, most and perhaps all plant foods contain some phytic acid. So, you can't avoid it. Phytic acid is thought to interfere with mineral absorption, but it should be kept in mind that in the normal course of eating and living, only a small percentage of the minerals in food get absorbed. At most, 20% of the calcium in food gets absorbed. It's presumed that only 10% of the iron in food gets absorbed- and it may be much less. About 15% of the zinc in food gets absorbed. The phytic acid in plants may be a reason why, but it would be toxic if we absorbed all the minerals in food.  The evidence shows that, despite the phytic acid, plant-based diets are best for bone health, teeth health and mineralizatoin in general. The concern about phytic acid has been exaggerated.

Soy phyto-estrogens have also been a boogey-man to some. But again, many plant foods contain phytoestrogens, and some contain much more than soy, such as sesame seeds. Phyto-estrogens are weak estrogens, and they have been found to be protecxtive against breast cancer in women. Does soy cause feminizing effects in men from the phyto-estrogtens? Well, it hasn't happened to me. And my testosterone level is high for a 63 year old man.

Some of the complaints against soy relate to raw soy beans, such as the digestive antagonists and hemagluttins. These issues apply to all raw legumes, but they are neutralized by cooking. Cooked legumes have been included in the traditional diets of people from all over the world, and scientists agree that legumes are beneficial to health, being cardio-protective, diabetes-preventive, and very high in antioxidants. The USDA lists legumes as 3 of the top 5 foods in antioxidants, the other 2 being berries. The very highest antioxidant food, according to the USDA, is the red kidney bean.

So, beans, in general, are very good foods. I am them almost every day. And I'm not talking about soy. I'm talking about pinto beans, blacks beans, kidney beans, garbonzos, etc. They are truly a staple in my diet. What soy I eat is on top of that, but in smaller quantity.

I don't say that people should be eating large quantities of soy. But to include some is fine, and I do so myself and without worry. It has a positive effect on bones. It has a proven anti-cancer effect, including on prostate cancer in men. And it is definitely cardio-protective. In my book, a little soy is definitely A-OK.