watching TVA new study suggests that time in front of the television may be partially to blame for weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease risk.

The study looked at close to 4,000 individuals, divided into two groups — those whose TV-watching increased over five years and those whose TV-watching remained the same. The researchers then examined the two groups for symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

FYI Living reports:

“The results showed that an increase in TV-watching does have an unhealthy effect.

For both men and women, people who increased their TV viewing similarly increased their waistlines. Meanwhile, women who watched more TV also developed higher blood pressure than women who watched the same amount as before.

Interestingly, these factors were not affected by exercise”.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

There’s actually no shortage of studies linking excessive TV watching with a variety of health ailments, particularly weight gain, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.

This is no great surprise, considering that the more time you spend watching TV, the less time you’re engaging in more physical activities, such as exercising, which is the remedy for all of the ailments just mentioned.

It is very important to keep a handle on this aspect of your life. I am absolutely convinced that television watching is a major contributing factor to many of our most common health problems, both physical and emotional.

Watching TV will take away from not only your exercise time, but from reading and maintaining meaningful relationships as well.

In addition to the health problems related to excessive TV watching, research has also shown that watching TV has a major impact on your brain chemistry.

The longer you watch the TV screen, the easier your brain slips into a receptive, passive mode, meaning that messages are streamed into your brain without any participation from you. This is an advertiser’s dream, and the vast majority of TV advertisements promote foods, drugs, health options and lifestyles that are not in your and your family’s best interest.

Researchers have also shown that TV can have a devastating impact on children’s psychological health, as discussed in this recent article.

I firmly believe putting strict limits on the amount of time you spend in front of the TV every day could have a significantly positive impact on your health, mood, and overall well-being.

How TV Watching Harms Your Health

A number of studies have shown that the more time you spend watching TV, the more likely you are to develop metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by overweight, elevated insulin levels and hypertension (high blood pressure).

This holds true both for children and adults, and it’s nothing new.

More than 20 years ago, a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, along with experts at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, concluded that a child’s weight increases with the number of hours he or she spends watching television each day.

Still, two decades later, the problem has only gotten worse.

When was the last time your doctor discussed your TV habits with you?

In the study above, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the goal was to determine whether or not symptoms of metabolic syndrome worsen if you increase the amount of time you spend watching TV over a five-year period.

The answer is yes, it does. FYI Living reports:

“They divided the people into two groups: those whose TV-watching increased over five years and those whose TV-watching remained the same.

The symptoms of metabolic syndrome were then compared between the groups. The results showed that an increase in TV-watching does have an unhealthy effect.

For both men and women, people who increased their TV viewing similarly increased their waistlines.

Meanwhile, women who watched more TV also developed higher blood pressure than women who watched the same amount as before.”

Interestingly, exercising did NOT counteract the effects of increased TV watching. What that means is, if you want to address your metabolic syndrome, reducing time in front of the TV could make or break your success. If you spend increasingly more time watching TV, then adding an exercise routine likely won’t make up for the damage incurred from these longer stretches on the couch.

Adding to the evidence that exercise can’t make up for lost time in front of the TV is a study published ten years ago, which found that:

“Watching TV only one hour per day in women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 and doing about 75 minutes of moderate exercise per week was associated with a BMI 1.8 kg/m2 lower than in women watching TV three hours per day and doing the same amount of exercise.

 Those with twice the amount of moderate exercise and watching TV one hour per day had a BMI 0.45 kg/m2 lower.”

Another Australian study published in 2005 in the journal Diabetologia also found that watching more than 14 hours of TV per week was associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance, obesity and high choleserol in both men and women.

Meanwhile, both men and women who engaged in at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week had a reduced prevalence of both insulin resistance and high choleserol. Women also had a reduced risk of obesity and hypertension at this amount of weekly exercise.

How to Successfully Address Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (which used to be called Syndrome X) is oftentimes also referred to as pre-diabetes, which is characterized by insulin resistance and can easily develop into full-blown diabetes if not properly treated.

So, you would address metabolic syndrome the same way you address insulin resistance and diabetes. The prescription is the same: get out there and exercise, and chose foods appropriate for your nutritional type, being very careful to avoid foods that increase your insulin, namely grains and sugars, and of course, processed foods.

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protein powderA study just published in the International Dairy Journal suggests whey protein beverages are effective at reducing blood pressure in people at risk for hypertension.

According to researchers:

“We found that whey protein beverages lowered BP only in individuals with previously high BP, but not in those with normal blood pressure .

These findings suggest that whey protein beverages had a normalizing effect on elevated BP and did not cause hypotension. This is important since hypotension can be a health concern in certain population groups,  such as young women and the elderly.”

The beneficial effects of whey protein may be related to its influence on nitric oxide production, which plays a role in blood pressure regulation.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Clearly it is best to eat whole unprocessed foods. However, for many of us that just simply isn’t possible at all times. In many circumstances using a high-quality protein powder will be far superior to the other options that might be available to you.

After careful review it is very clear that whey is one of the highest quality protein powders.

Whey, a byproduct of milk and cheese, has been recommended since ancient times — as early as 420 B.C. by Hippocrates — and its sterling reputation continues to be further proven to this day.

Whey Protein is Beneficial for Your Heart and Blood Pressure

This latest study revealed that whey protein has a normalizing effect on blood pressure levels, reducing levels significantly in those at risk of hypertension. This may be due to whey’s impact on nitric oxide production, as nitric oxide helps your vessels maintain their elasticity and its suppression leads to increases in blood pressure.

This benefit extends not only to those with, or at risk of, high blood pressure; it’s important to maintain healthy blood pressure levels too.

One recent study found, for instance, that supplementation with the whey-derived peptide NOP-47 had a positive impact on vascular function in healthy people. Blood flow in the arm improved by 2.7 percent per minute following whey protein supplementation, but did not change for those in the control group who took a placebo.

So in choosing a protein powder as a meal replacement, protein source or exercise recovery drink, you’ll support healthy blood pressure levels just by choosing whey.

What Else Can Whey do for You?

There are numerous reasons to choose whey over other protein powders, even beyond its influence on your blood pressure. For instance, whey protein may:

  • Help your pancreas-produced insulin work more effectively, which helps maintain your blood sugar level after a meal
  • Promote healthy insulin secretion
  • Help to promote your optimal intake of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals needed for your overall wellness
  • Support your immune system, as it contains immunoglobulins
  • Help you preserve lean body tissue (particularly during exercise) as it delivers bioavailable amino acids and cysteine

Whey proteins are complex in and of themselves and each can provide you with even more distinct benefits, such as:

  • Beta-Lactoglobulin — may help your body better react to foods
  • Alpha-Lactalbumin — supports your immune system and may improve morning alertness
  • Glycomacropeptide — provides support against occasional digestive discomfort and stress
  • Lactoferrin — helps regulate your intestinal iron absorption and promotes healthy cell growth
  • Immunoglobulins — promotes your immune system and helps support your body’s natural detoxification processes
  • Bovine Serum Albumin — provides a source of essential amino acids
  • Lactoperoxidase –provides protective benefits for your system
  • Natural Growth Factors in Whey — aids your system in cell rejuvenation, muscle recovery after exercise, and energy function

Whey protein can also help optimize your production of glutathione, which is considered by many to be your body’s most powerful antioxidant.

Glutathione has the unique ability of maximizing the activity of all other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, and the fresh veggies and fruits you eat. It also removes toxins from your cells and protects you from the damaging effects of radiation, chemicals, and environmental pollutants.

The optimal food source for maximizing your glutathione production is high-quality grass-fed whey protein.

Be Choosy When Choosing Whey

As with many food products and supplements on the market, all whey protein powders are not created equal.

When Consumer Reports recently tested 15 protein powders and drinks, they found three of them contained very worrisome levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead.

Clearly, getting a potentially toxic dose of heavy metals with your daily protein drink is not what you had in mind, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to the quality of your whey protein.

I cannot recommend using nearly any of the commercial whey protein shakes on the market, even if they’re not contaminated, however, because most contain whey protein derived from pasteurized, commercial dairy sources.

Unfortunately, pasteurized milk is almost entirely devoid of glutathione-producing compounds, so you’ll be missing out on this significant health benefit. Many commercial whey products are also artificially sweetened, making them useless from a health perspective.

So when selecting a whey product I strongly recommend making sure it has the following features:

  1. Whey is derived from grass-fed cows that are not treated with pesticides or hormones
  2. Cold processed, since heat destroys whey’s fragile molecular structure
  3. Whey protein concentrate, not protein isolates
  4. Sweetened naturally, not artificially, and low in carbohydrates
  5. Highly digestible — look for medium chain fatty acids (MCTs), not long chain fatty acids

As part of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle, I strongly believe that whey protein powder that meets the above criteria is a very healthful supplement to your diet, an excellent source of protein, and a powerful supporter of optimal health.

In fact, it’s been my daily breakfast for well over a year. It’s an excellent post-workout meal, and it keeps me going all morning long. Plus, I find it absolutely delicious!

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postassium rich Swiss chardAccording to Time Healthland:

A recent report shows that consuming just 4.7 grams of “good salt” (potassium) is the equivalent of cutting out 4 grams of “bad salt” (sodium) in terms of reducing blood pressure.

But there are only so many bananas (.5g each) you can eat. Just in time for lunch, here’s a list of 5 foods that can help boost your potassium intake.”


The article goes on to list the following sources for potassium:

  1. Swiss chard (1 cup = 1g of potassium)
  2. Winter squash (1 cup = 1g)
  3. Avocado (1/2 Florida variety = .8g)
  4. Dried apricots (1/2 cup = .9)
  5. Baked potato (1 large = .9g)

The new study found increasing intake of potassium could improve blood pressure levels at the population level.


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Potassium, an essential mineral “salt” sometimes referred to as the “good salt,” is making headlines for its role in your blood pressure health. I do not agree with TIME’s five food choices for potassium listed above (I’ll explain why later), but I do suggest you make sure you’re getting plenty of this beneficial mineral in your diet.

It’s long been known that people with higher intakes of potassium tend to have lower blood pressure levels, but a new study revealed just how great the benefit may be.

Researchers determined that increasing average potassium intake to the recommended 4.7 grams a day would reduce systolic blood pressure by between 1.7 and 3.2 mm Hg on a population-wide scale. This decrease, they suggest, is similar to the reduction that would occur if Westerners lowered their salt intake by 4 grams a day.

You can read my take on salt and blood pressure in this past article (namely, I believe sugar is a far greater contributor to high blood pressure than salt), but it’s clear that processed foods are far too high in refined sodium. The researchers suggested a novel solution — using mineral salts in processed foods, which would replace some of the sodium with healthful potassium.

The Potassium Blood-Pressure Connection

A proper balance of potassium both inside and outside your cells is crucial for your body to function properly. As an electrolyte, potassium is a positive charged ion that must maintain a certain concentration (about 30 times higher inside than outside your cells) in order to carry out its functions, which includes interacting with sodium to help control nerve impulse transmission, muscle contraction and heart function.

There is so much research showing a link between low levels of potassium and high blood pressure that researchers now believe increasing your levels should receive just as much attention as a low-salt diet in blood pressure management.

Signs You May be Deficient

Potassium is widely available in fruits and vegetables, but if you eat a highly processed diet, there’s a chance you’re not getting enough. Further, it’s generally recommended that you take in five times more potassium than sodium, but because most Americans’ diets are so rich in high-sodium processed foods, most people get two times more sodium than potassium.

So if you have high blood pressure, it could be a sign that you’re lacking in this vital mineral. Likewise, if you’ve had excessive fluid loss, such as vomiting, diarrhea or sweating, it can also take a toll on your potassium levels, as can some medications, including certain diuretics, laxatives, chemotherapy drugs, and steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Prednisone.

Signs of severe potassium deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, abdominal pain and cramps, and in severe cases abnormal heart rhythms and muscular paralysis.

The Best Food Sources of Potassium

Many people immediately think of bananas when it comes to potassium, but you don’t need to eat bananas to make sure you’re getting enough (and because bananas are so high in sugar, I recommend you do not eat many of them at all).

Bananas do contain potassium, but so does the vast majority of other fruits and veggies. Potassium is the predominant nutrient among most all fruits and vegetables, and there are some excellent, very healthful choices out there.

An avocado, for instance, has more than twice as much potassium as a banana and is rich in beneficial monounsaturated fat. The avocado was one of the five foods to make TIME’s list above, and it, along with Swiss chard, are two great options.

However, I do NOT recommend eating dried apricots or baked potatoes for their potassium. Both of these foods are high in sugar (white potatoes are a vegetable, but they digest more like a grain) and will raise insulin levels beyond what is ideal for most people — especially if you are struggling with high blood pressure.

Winter squash is a better choice, but still should be consumed only in moderation by some people due to its high carb content.

Ideally, you should find out your nutritional type and then choose a variety of potassium-rich vegetables to fill out your diet. However, generally speaking you can round out your potassium intake by eating a wide variety of veggies, including:

  • Swiss chard (960 mg of potassium per 1 cup)
  • Avocado (874 mg per cup)
  • Spinach (838 mg per cup)
  • Crimini mushrooms (635 mg in 5 ounces)
  • Broccoli (505 mg per cup)
  • Brussels sprouts (494 mg per cup)
  • Celery (344 mg per cup)
  • Romaine lettuce (324 mg per 2 cups)

If you are struggling with high blood pressure, optimizing your potassium intake is highly recommended. The current recommended level for adults is 4,700 mg a day. You can also find more tips for lowering your blood pressure naturally by using the search feature on this site and reading the five strategies in this past article

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By Dr. Mercola

It’s important to understand that uncontrolled high blood pressure is a very serious health concern that can lead to heart disease and increases your risk of having a stroke.

The good news though is that following a healthy nutrition plan, along with exercising and implementing effective stress reduction techniques will normalize blood pressure in most people.

So please review the guidelines below, and look through the related article links at the end to learn more if you or someone you know is affected b y high blood pressure. It’s actually an easily treated condition, but one that can cause serious damage to your health if it’s ignored.

Your Diet Will Raise or Lower Your Blood Pressure

Are you on a high grain, low fat regimen?

If so, I have bad news for you, because this nutritional combination is a prescription for hypertension and can absolutely devastate your health.

Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet along with insufficient amounts of exercise.

So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels because these two problems often go hand in hand.

As your insulin level elevates, so does your blood pres

pregnant womanA new study finds that women who develop a severe form of pregnancy-related high blood pressure tend to have lower blood levels of vitamin D. The condition is known as early-onset severe preeclampsia, and it contributes to about 15 percent of preterm births in the U.S. each year.

Researchers found that vitamin D levels were generally low among 50 women with early severe preeclampsia. Their average vitamin D level in the former group was a very low 18 nanograms per milliliter.

Reuters reports:

“If vitamin D is involved in preeclampsia risk … then it might help explain why African American women are at greater risk of the complication than other racial groups … Vitamin D is naturally synthesized in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. This process is less efficient in people with darker skin.”


Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

If you or anyone you know is pregnant, PLEASE make sure that you get your vitamin D levels (25 hydroxy D) regularly checked during your pregnancy.

We know today that your levels need to be above 50 ng/ml to protect you and your baby from some of the most serious complications of pregnancy such as premature delivery and preeclampsia — but most obstetricians will NOT automatically check your levels for you.

Please do not assume that your levels have been tested in with the routine pregnancy blood work you receive. You will need to specifically ask to have your vitamin D tested. It is very likely that it will be considered malpractice to not check pregnant women’s vitamin D levels in the near future, but for now it is not standard practice.

Unfortunately, by the time health policy catches up with the research, many pregnant women today will have missed out on the chance to provide their unborn babies with sufficient vitamin D during pregnancy — but this needn’t happen to you or your loved ones.

Vitamin D is Crucial for Preventing Many Serious Pregnancy Complications

Preeclampsia is a potentially deadly increase in blood pressure and fluid accompanied during pregnancy. Early-onset severe preelcampsia is especially dangerous as it occurs before the 34th week of pregnancy. Because the only “cure” for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby, it is responsible for 15 percent of preterm births in the United States.

Preeclampsia and related disorders are thought to cause 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths every year — deaths that could potentially be prevented by simply optimizing vitamin D.

According to the latest research, women with early severe preeclampsia were more likely to have low vitamin D levels than women with healthy pregnancies. In fact, the women with preeclampsia had vitamin D levels that averaged just 18 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) — a serious deficiency state.

You see, vitamin D is far more than “just a vitamin.” Rather it’s the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects), repair and maintenance seco-steroid hormone that serves multiple gene-regulatory functions in your body, including during pregnancy.

The researchers speculated that vitamin D may affect the regulation and function of proteins in the placenta, which are believed to be involved in preeclampsia. Even a 10-ng/mL increase in vitamin D was found to lower the women’s risks of preeclampsia by 63 percent!

Research Shows Vitamin D Benefits for Preeclampsia, Premature Birth and More

U.S. researchers Drs. Hollis and Wagner also found that the “core morbidities of pregnancy” — diabetes, high blood pressure, and preeclampsia — were reduced by 30 percent in the women who took high-dose vitamin D, amounting to 4,000 IUs of vitamin D a day (ten times the RDA of 400 IU).

Their findings were discussed at an international vitamin D research conference in Brugge, Belgium, and also included other promising benefits including:

  • Mothers who took 4,000 IUs of vitamin D during pregnancy had their risk of premature birth reduced by half
  • Premature babies born to women taking high doses of vitamin D were reduced by half at both 32 and 37 weeks
  • There were also fewer babies who were born “small for dates”
  • Women taking high doses of vitamin D had a 25 percent reduction in infections, particularly respiratory infections such as colds and flu, as well as fewer infections of the vagina and the gums
  • Babies getting the highest amounts of vitamin D after birth had fewer colds and less eczema

Most Pregnant Women are Vitamin D Deficient

Unfortunately, the study by Drs. Hollis and Wagner found that over 87 percent of all newborns and over 67 percent of all mothers had vitamin D levels lower than 20 ng/ml, which is a severe deficiency state. As a result, the researchers recommended that all mothers optimize their vitamin D levels during pregnancy, especially in the winter months, to safeguard their babies’ health.

This finding could also help to explain the disproportionately high numbers of poor outcomes among African American births along with the increased risk of preeclampsia among African American women, as deficiency is extremely common among people with darker skin colors.

African Americans and other dark-skinned people and those living in northern latitudes make significantly less vitamin D than other groups; the darker your skin is, the less likely it is that you will produce adequate vitamin D levels from sun exposure alone.

Again, this is why it is just so important that you get your levels tested.

Government Vitamin D Recommendations — and Reference Ranges — are Far Too Low

Current guidelines recommend pregnant women consume from 200 IU to 400 IU of vitamin D a day, an amount that is far too low; most adults will need from 5,000 to 10,000 units every day to reach therapeutic levels unless they are spending one or more hours a day in the sun with most of their skin uncovered.

Based on the latest research, many experts now agree you need about 35 IU’s of vitamin D per pound of body weight. This recommendation is the same for adults, children, the elderly and pregnant women.

But, remember that vitamin D requirements are highly individual.

Your vitamin D status is dependent on several factors, such as the color of your skin, your location, and how much sunshine you’re exposed to on a regular basis. So, although these recommendations may put you closer to the level of what most people likely need, it is virtually impossible to make a blanket recommendation that will cover everyone.

The only accurate way to determine your optimal dose is to get your blood tested, and then be aware that the reference ranges from the lab may say your levels are normal when in fact they are still too low.

Ideally, you’ll want to maintain a vitamin D level of at least 50 ng/ml and perhaps as high as 80-90 ng/ml year-round.

For in-depth information about safe sun exposure, dosing and other recommendations to safely and effectively optimize your vitamin D levels, please watch my free one-hour lecture on vitamin D.

Calling All Pregnant Women: A Simple Way to Monitor Your Vitamin D

GrassrootsHealth is looking for pregnant women, lactating women, and infants to participate in their Grassrootshealth D*action study, which is aiming to further prove the links between vitamin D levels and healthy babies.

If you’re interested you can save 15 percent off your vitamin D testing simply by being a Mercola subscriber.

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