Archive for the ‘Mind-Spirit’ Category

Does Vitamin D Improve Depression?

Posted on: May 14th, 2011 by doctor No Comments

A recent study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry finds that vitamin D supplementation does not improve symptoms of in women older than 70.  The researches identified women who had vitamin D deficiency and gave them 500,000 IU of vitamin D one time each year for three to five years.  Hmmm.  This is an unusual vitamin D dosing regimen.

In my experience, providing 5,000 IU vitamin per day, every day, for adult patients is a safe way of maintaining optimal vitamin D status – using less than 4,000 IU does not usually work.  In my clinic, this approach has been a part of a successful program for improving depression in patients with vitamin D insufficiency or deficiency.  This means taking almost 1,800,000 IU of vitamin D per year – much more than what was provided in this study.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 4,000 IU of vitamin D is the upper intake limit for universal safety in people older than 9 years old.  At this level of intake, the annual dosage of vitamin D is 1,460,000 IU – again, much more than the 500,000 IU used in this study.

Honestly, I don’t know if randomized control trials will end up showing that vitamin D supplementation prevents or treats depression.  However, providing one third of the usual annual dose to maintain vitamin D sufficiency is not a very good way to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D for depression.  Providing that dosage all at once makes even less sense.

This is an example of how the results of research and the headlines may not provide an accurate assessment of the question that is trying to be answered.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

Simple Steps for Staying Sharp, Stopping Senility

Posted on: December 27th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

Preventing cognitive decline as we age may require only simple measures, according to several recent research articles out of Oxford University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the National Institute of Aging.  Scientists have been looking into the association between preventive lifestyle measures and the size of our brains as we age.

As we age, our brains atrophy; they get smaller over time.  This is a normal process, just like graying hair or skin wrinkling.  However, according to MRI scans, people with senility tend to have more brain atrophy than similarly aged individuals with good cognitive function.  Alzheimer’s Disease produces even faster rates of brain atrophy.

Oxford University researchers recently published study findings indicating that in patients with mild cognitive decline older than 70 years old, daily supplementation for two years with folic acid (800mg), vitamin B-12 (500 micrograms), and vitamin B-6 (20mg) decreases the rate of brain atrophy compared to similar patients taking a placebo.

Research by scientists at the National Institute of Aging found that low folate levels may increase the likelihood of symptoms of depression – especially in women between the ages of 20 and 85 years old.

Folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 status can be measured with a single simple blood test: homocysteine.  There is an inverse relationship between intake of these vitamins and homocysteine levels –  homocysteine goes down with supplementation of these nutrients.  Optimal homocysteine levels are less than 12 nm/L.

In another study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that women and men in their 70’s who walk more than 9 miles per week have better cognitive function than their less active peers.  These patients were monitored for 9 years and their preservation of cognitive function was correlated with slower rates of brain atrophy.

The amounts of folic acid, vitamin B-12 and vitamin B-6 suggested above are non-toxic – adverse effects at these dosages does not commonly occur.  Physical activity, such as walking, not only improves cognitive function but also prevents cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and enhances mood.  These natural approaches to mental health are affordable and powerful medicine you can use without a prescription.

Back to School, Back to Wellness

Posted on: August 24th, 2010 by doctor No Comments

It is a great time of year to improve the health of your family.  While preparing for the coming school year, it can take only a few moments to identify simple steps that will substantially improve your family’s wellness and make your life simpler.

Sleep is important – I consider it an essential nutrient.  Some medical studies show that decreased sleep can increase your chances of getting a cold.  Healthy amounts of sleep also improve mood and support weight loss.  Keeping regular bed times and avoiding stimulating activities (i.e. movies, wild play, caffeine, and sugar) before bed can go a long way to getting your family to bed at a reasonable hour and waking refreshed.

Vitamin D is important for both neurological and immune function.  Vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to direct sunlight – something that does not occur in cooler months of the year.  2,000 IU of vitamin D per day is safe for adults and children older than 12 months.

Healthy food is the cornerstone of good health.  Most people know that vegetables, fruits and whole grains are health foods, but many don’t realize the many negative effects of refined carbohydrates.  Beyond encouraging obesity, refined sugars cause emotional agitation and reduce immune function; some studies show that sugar, honey, and maple syrup reduce the ability of white blood cells to destroy bacteria by as much as 50%!  Simply reducing – it is not necessary to eliminate – intake of refined carbohydrates can have many positive health effects for your family.

Imagine what your family’s school year could be like with less illness and irritability.  Imagine how this can improve your stress level and support the time and energy required for raising a family and having fulfilling relationships.  Sometimes, great changes can result from the simplest of interventions.

Be Well,


Vitamin C and the Brain

Posted on: September 5th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

When the body needs a specific nutrient to do a specific job in a specific organ, that nutrient is found in higher concentrations in that organ. Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in many organs including the brain.

Vitamin C is important for many functions in the brain. As an antioxidant, it plays an important role in protecting brain cells from oxidative damage – the kind of damage implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C is also important for neurotransmitter synthesis – improving neurotransmitter levels is the therapeutic goal of many psychiatric medications. Vitamin C can be a basic part of many natural protocols for depression.

Vitamin C can can cause loose stools if taken in too large doses (this can be used to help with constipation). It is commonly used as a basic, supportive therapy for mood concerns like depression or anxiety.

Be Well,

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Video: Natural Treatments for Depression

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Click to Watch in a New Window (180 MB)

This video, on depression, is one of the presentations I delivered at the 2008 Kushi Institute Summer Conference.



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Anger is an Important Emotion

Posted on: May 17th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

While researching the work of Harvard’s George Vaillant on happiness, longevity and health (posted yesterday), I found a wonderful article in The Guardian that expresses the importance of expressing anger in a healthy way.  The article expresses this issue so eloquently that I will simply quote several paragraphs here:

According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development, a piece of research that has tracked the lives of 824 men and women since 1965, those who repress their frustration are at least three times more likely to admit they had hit a glass ceiling in their careers and have disappointing personal lives. On the other hand, the study found, those who learned to harness and channel their anger were far more likely to be professionally well-established, as well as enjoying emotional and physical intimacy with their friends and family.

Professor George Vaillant, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School, has spent the last 44 years as director of the Study of Adult Development, based at the Harvard University Health Service. “People think of anger as a terribly dangerous emotion and are encouraged to practise ‘positive thinking’, but we find that approach is self-defeating and ultimately a damaging denial of dreadful reality,” he said. “Negative emotions such as fear and anger are inborn and are of tremendous importance. Negative emotions are often crucial for survival: careful experiments such as ours have documented that negative emotions narrow and focus attention so we can concentrate on the trees instead of the forest.”

Vaillant criticises the boom in anti-anger, mood-stabilising drugs and the growing market for anger-management counselling and classes. He believes that, while uncontrolled exhibitions of anger are destructive, learning to positively channel our anger serves a vital role in our wellbeing. Internalising the emotion can cause depression, health problems and communication difficulties.

“Psychologists, having dealt for generations with damaged psyches, should now be engaged in the psychological equivalent of reverse engineering,” he said. “We all feel anger, but individuals who learn how to express their anger while avoiding the explosive and self-destructive consequences of unbridled fury have achieved something incredibly powerful in terms of overall emotional growth and mental health. If we can define and harness those skills, we can use them to achieve great things.”

An interesting perspective that I tend to agree with.  What do you think?  Submit your comments below.

Be Well,

Richard Malik, ND

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How to be Happy, Successful, Healthy, and Have a Long Life

Posted on: May 16th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Well that about covers it all.  How much money, energy and time do we spend trying to attain these things, figuring out how we are going to attain them, or worrying about our failures in these areas? 

I just ran across some very interesting work by a Harvard researcher that actually may answer the question: What can we do to ensure happiness, success, health, and longevity?

According to George Vaillant’s research, the answers are: 

  1. have a good marriage before the age of 50
  2. be ingenious when coping with difficult situations
  3. be altruistic
  4. don’t smoke
  5. consume moderate (or less) amounts of alcohol
  6. maintain physical activity
  7. maintain a healthy weight
  8. get the most education your intelligence allows
  9. stay creative after retirement
All of this sounds like reasonable advice.  It’s good to have some scientific confirmation of good and practical common sense.
Be Well,
Richard Malik, ND
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Prescription Drug Manufacturers Skew Data? Never!

Posted on: March 2nd, 2009 by doctor No Comments

Obviously, I’m kidding with the title of this post.

According to the New York Times: “AstraZeneca “buried” unfavorable studies of its $4.4 billion blockbuster psychiatric drug Seroquel, according to internal documents released Friday in a legal dispute between the company and lawyers for thousands of people who sued the company because they said the drug caused diabetes and weight gain.”

It seems as though the drug company knew about the adverse effects, but decided to hide these study results; complimenting a lead researcher for using “smoke and mirrors” to obscure the side effects.

Is this a unique occurrence?  Apparently not.

In early 2008 researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University, the University of California, and Harvard published research in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) that indicates that studies on antidepressants that are funded by the pharmaceutical companies making these drugs much more likely to be published and see the light of day if they show that the antidepressant is effective.  Most studies that show that these antidepressants are not effective are not published or are published with a commentary that undermines the true statistical findings.  If you don’t want to read the research article from the NEJM linked above, take a look at this blog post at the Wall Street Journal.

It may go even farther.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that St. John’s Wort does not work in some cases of depression.  This study was funded by Pfizer, the manufacturer of Zoloft.  Are they skewing this data too?  Well, the results are suspicious is several ways.

The Bottom Line:

Medical research and statistical analysis can (and is) manipulated to provide results that are in the best interests of the organization paying for the study (and maybe not in your best interests).  At, we try to help you understand and prioritize the information that is available using expertise in medicine, physiology, and biochemistry with a dash of common sense.  We hope we help.

For helpful links on depression and mood concerns, visit the World of Wellness sections on Mood and Mind/Spirit.

Be Well,


DHA Good For Developing Brains – More Evidence

Posted on: January 18th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that supplementation with DHA – one of the omega-3 essential fatty acids found in some fish like salmon, herring, sardines, and mackerel – helps neurological development in premature girls.

The Bottom Line:

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for health and neurological development while being non-toxic.

Be Well,


Women of Child Bearing Age & Folic Acid

Posted on: January 12th, 2009 by doctor No Comments

From a recent Centers for Disease Control report, most women from the ages of 18-24 are not aware of the importance of folic acid supplementation and do not supplement with folic acid. According to the report “Because women from this age group account for nearly one third of all births in the United States, promotion of folic acid consumption should be targeted to this population.”

Folic acid is a vitamin that reduces the risk of a serious birth defects of the brain and the spine called neural tube defects. The recommended consumption of folic acid is 400 micrograms per day for women of child-bearing age. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) increases in pregnancy and breast feeding.

Some foods rich in folic acid include enriched breakfast cereal, orange juice, spinach, asparagus, lentils, and garbanzo beans.

Besides for the prevention of neural tube defects, folic acid is also used to lower cardiovascular risk (when deficient, prevention of cancer of the gastrointestinal tract, and gingivitis. Adequate levels of folic acid may also protect against breast cancer and help with depression.

For more information on nutrients that are commonly deficient in American diets, listen to my podcast called Response to Reader’s Digest Article on Supplements through iTunes or your Web Browser.

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