PCOs are procyanidolic oligomers, which are bioflavonoids found in grape seeds, lemon tree bark, peanuts, cranberries, and citrus peels. Known to improve circulation, PCOs strengthen blood vessel walls and prevent the clumping of blood-clotting substances, protecting against stroke. These properties come on top of PCOs’ very strong antioxidant powers that preempt LDL oxidation.
To address high cholesterol with PCOs, 150 to 300 mg per day is recommended. Otherwise, 50 mg of PCOs daily makes a good supplement if you’re over 50. Many studies have shown that PCO extract from grape seed is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It also increases the performance of other antioxidants.
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin that is easily kept at healthy levels with regular exposure to sunshine. Unfortunately, thanks to intensive marketing by the sunblock industry, we have become sun-phobic in Western countries. Dozens of studies on vitamin D have been published in the past few years, and we now know that vitamin D is a must for good heart health and reducing the risk of stroke. In one study, men who were vitamin D deficient had a 63 percent higher risk of heart disease.
Sunshine is perfectly safe unless you get a sunburn. There is no solid evidence that normal sun exposure increases the risk of skin cancer and melanoma. The biggest risk factors for skin cancer and melanoma are having fair skin and getting sunburned. Thus the key is to enjoy the sun every day if possible, but to cover up and apply sunblock before you become burned.
For those who live in colder, cloudier, northern climates or who just can’t get out in the sun enough, it’s probably a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement. The RDA of 400 IU is clearly too low. It was put in place before Americans became sun-phobic. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and as such can accumulate in the body and become toxic, so there has been justifiable concern about taking too much. Now that we have more research, it seems clear that we can safely take 2,000 IU daily in the D3 cholecalciferol form to maintain our vitamin D levels. If your doctor wants to ratchet up your vitamin D levels quickly with large doses, be sure to test levels regularly. Check the “Resources and Recommended Reading” section in the back of the book for how to get a vitamin D test.
Vitamin E is your greatest ally and protector when it comes to vitamins and heart health; yet most people are deficient in vitamin E. In one study, the vitamin E intake of elderly, affluent Americans was less than three-quarters of the RDA.
Impressive results were shown in two major Harvard University studies of health professionals. A survey of over 39,000 male professionals showed that they enjoyed a 37 percent lower risk of coronary artery disease when they took 100 IU or more of vitamin E daily. The Nurses’ Health Study of 87,000 women showed a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease for women on the same dose of vitamin E. More recent research has given us conflicting data about whether vitamin E helps prevent heart disease. However, nutrition studies show that without a doubt, eating foods high in vitamin E is protective.
A European population study looked at 100 apparently healthy men between ages 40 and 49 years old. Blood levels of vitamin E were found to be the most important risk factor for heart disease, even beyond smoking. There is evidence, too, that vitamin E can dissolve clots, helps the heart pump more efficiently, naturally makes arteries widen, and increases the oxygen available in the blood.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble oil found in many foods, including unrefined vegetable oils, whole grains, butter, organ meats, eggs, a variety of nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit, soybeans, and dark green, leafy vegetables.
If you’re going to take vitamin E supplements, we recommend that you take it in the form of mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. These various forms of vitamin E occur together in food sources, and supplements that contain all of them are closer to what exists in nature. Studies from the University of Sweden in Uppsala and elsewhere have shown that when mixed, these various forms of vitamin E have much greater antioxidant power than d-alpha-tocopherol—generally known as natural vitamin E—alone. Do not use the synthetic form of vitamin E, called dl-alpha-tocopherol.
Although vitamin E is very safe even at high doses, 400 IU (dry form) daily should be an adequate dose for adults. The dry or succinate form is recommended for anyone sensitive to oils or with problems absorbing nutrients (if you’re over the age of 65, you probably fall into the latter category). Vitamin E works well taken with its partners in the body, the nutrients vitamin C, beta-carotene and other flavonoids, and selenium.
Prescription Alternatives: Hundreds of Free, Natural, Prescription-Free Remedies to Restore & Maintain Your Health, by Earl L. Mindell, R.Ph, Ph. D, & Virginia Hopkins, M.A. Published by McGraw-Hill.