Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Where has my Celcom Internet run off to?

My Celcom internet is so fast; it has run away from me. Now, I have no more internet. Perhaps this joke is hitting below the belt, but I am frustrated with Celcom. I signed up for the internet in October 2015. I signed up for the RM85 post-paid, but I never bargained for Celcom’s famous service.

For the first year, the internet was fine. Most of the time, I had no trouble connecting to the internet. Then troubles began in October 2016. My internet connection started deteriorating. The computer would connect to the internet with the connection icon showing an active connection. However, I had no internet. Then the internet connection continued to worsen in November and December. Finally, January and February 2017, I could not log onto the internet at all during the night or morning. Sometimes, I could log on around in the afternoon, but that became problematic in February.

When I entered into an agreement with Celcom to pay 85 RM per month, in turn, Celcom was supposed to provide an internet service. As far as I am concerned, Celcom has breached its agreement with me. I filed a formal complaint with Celcom in April 2017 and requested for April’s charge to be removed from my bill. No luck! Unfortunately, I paid for April too although I had no internet. The Celcom staff blamed my computer for the problem, but my computer works fine at my employer’s and coffee shop’s Wi-Fi. Celcom just wants to take my money and offer nothing in return.

I am not sure why Celcom would treat its customers like this, but I will never sign up for post-paid from Celcom again. Celcom has lost one customer forever.


I have noticed when I would come to the Celcom office in downtown Miri; it was always busy with long queues. When I went there September 2017 to close my account and pay the outstanding bill, the queues have disappeared. Apparently, I am not the only unhappy customer.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Bad Internet Businesses

People must be careful when dealing with companies on the internet. For example, I purchased two bus tickets to visit the Grand Canyon South Rim on 24 December 2016. The company, Canyon Tours, clearly stated the company would pick up guests at their hotel. I found no disclaimers that restricted the range of hotels in the Las Vega area. I stayed at Sunset Station in Henderson, Nevada, which is 16 miles south of the Las Vegas Strip. I did not think the hotel would be a problem because the bus would travel near Hoover Dam, so the bus would drive through Henderson, Nevada. Henderson lies between Las Vegas and Hoover Dam. The company charged my debit card and informed me the bus would pick me up at the Excalibur Hotel. The company never asked whether I was ok with this. Unfortunately, Canyon Tours provides misleading information on their website because they did not honor their pledge to pick me up at my hotel. Please refer to their information on the website.


Once a company gets your credit or debit card information, they can charge any amount on it. I bought two tickets for $79, but the company charged my debit card $168. I should have immediately called and contested the charges. Canyon Tours never explained why it charged me an extra ten dollars.

A clue that this company would be a problem is Canyon Tours does not provide a mailing address on their website. The company supplies two phone numbers and an email address. It is not suspicious if a company does not provide an address, but an address provides two things. First, an address gives a person a means to send official complaint notices, especially if you are planning to sue or write a formal complaint to a government agency. Second, the address allows people to trace other businesses to that address. Some badly operated businesses change their name frequently, especially once the public has discovered its reputations, but these companies may operate in the location.

Depending on the complaint’s severity, customers should also report bad businesses to the government agencies such as a State’s Attorney General’s Office, Federal Trade Commission, and other agencies. If the company had done something illegal, then report the company to law enforcement. If the company did something unethical but still legal, then complaining to the government agencies may do little good. However, posting your complaint on social media can be effective to inform future potential customers

Many social media and websites allow customers to post favorable or unfavorable reviews of companies. Some people routinely check reviews on TripAdvisor, RipoffReport.com, Yelp. com, and Complaints.com before trying new business. I found this information at TripAdvisor on 13 February 2016 about Canyon Tours. The over rating is okay because the 319 excellent ratings are three times more than the 86 terrible ratings. Nevertheless, people should be careful reading online reviews and complaints. Some companies routinely challenge bad reviews and coerce websites to remove the unfavorable content. Furthermore, a company’s competitor may post bad reviews to attract more customers. Thus, an online rating may not match a company’s true rating. (I will monitor my reviews to see if Tripadvisor and Yelp will remove it.)


Another trick to identify a bad company is to call the company’s customer service and ask questions. If I had called, I would have discovered Canyon Tours provides poor customer service. Of course, this was a common theme as I perused through some of the terrible ratings - poor customer service. When I called to confirm my pickup time and place, the person answering the phone quickly says please hold on and immediately placed me on hold. I waited, and waited, and waited. I called back to try to speak with the person answering the phone. On the third attempt, I screamed at her, "Hey." She paused and let me speak. Then she still put on hold. Imagine a customer with no troubles experiences just contacts the company and encounters poor customer service. Then imagine how the company would treat a person if this person incurred a problem? My problem was the customer rep told me to be at the hotel at 6:30 A.M. but the bus left at 6:15 A.M.

Companies like Canyon Tours may operate poorly because they try to provide too much service for rock bottom prices, which I call the Wal-Mart Effect. Companies reduce prices as much as possible to attract customers, and, thus, they must cut corners to earn a profit. Canyon Tours probably offers too many services with a limited staff. For example, I used their phone number to search for more information. For the phone number, 866-218-3427, Maverick Helicopters came up on Google. For the phone number, 702-260-0796, Canyon Tours came up. Another company, Scenic Airlines, charged my debit card. When I found the mailing address for Canyon Tours on the internet, an agent for Farmers Insurance also shares the same address. At least three businesses are associated with Canyon Tours.

How could I infer the company could be cutting corners? I hired tour companies in Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The companies always picked me up at the hotel on time. They were organized. They provided the service that they said they would provide. If a patron were late, the driver would call the front desk of the hotel and find out what the problem was. The companies knew some customers were always late and they built that into the schedule. For Canyon Tours, the company takes the customers’ money – supplying a service becomes secondary.

Bad companies that sell inferior products and offer terrible services will usually bankrupt and close their doors in a market economy. As long as customers have a choice of companies, they will gravitate towards the good ones. However, bad companies can thrive at tourist destinations, especially if the area attracts international tourists. For example, Las Vegas attracts international tourists from around the world, so bad companies have a constant supply of unsuspecting customers to victimize. If I did more research on the internet about Canyon Tours, I would have avoided this company. I should have rented a car and visited the Grand Canyon myself.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

The Power of Grape Seeds

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

Since ancient Greece, people have used various parts of the grapes for medicinal purposes. And current medical research has shown grape seeds bestow significant antioxidant properties. Grape seed may inhibit cancer growth, reduce heart disease, and ease other disorders caused from oxidation and inflammation.

Wine manufacturers produce grape seed extract from grape seeds. Grape seeds contain vitamin E, flavonoids, linoleic acid, tannins, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and polyphenols, also known as procyanidins, oligomeric procyanidins (OPC), or oligomeric proanthocyanidins. This combination of ingredients makes grape seeds 50 times stronger than Vitamin E and 20 times stronger than Vitamin C.

Some value the procyanidins the most important ingredient in grape seed extract. These compounds are also found in grape juice, grape skins, and wine, but with lower concentrations. Pine bark (or pycnogenol) and green tea also contain procyanidins.

Health Benefits

Researchers have shown the power of antioxidant activity of grape seeds in vitro or in test tubes. Consequently, few trials have examined grape seed extract's effects on diseases or disorders, but research suggests grape seed could treat and prevent the following health problems:

Diabetes

Metabolic syndrome comprises a cluster of health problems including excess belly fat, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and inflammation. Metabolic syndrome boosts the chance of developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.

In a 2009 study, 32 Type-2 diabetics with high cardiovascular risk took either a placebo every day or 600 mg of grape seed extract for four weeks. The grape seed extract significantly reduced inflammation and blood sugar levels. Thus, researchers suggest grape seed extract might alleviate problems with diabetes.

Alzheimer's Disease

Grape seed extract may delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease. According to a mice study published in 2009, scientists discovered grape seed extract eased inflammation and prevented the accumulation and formation of substances in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Antioxidants

Scientists believe antioxidants prevent and control disease by protecting cells against damage from charged oxygen molecules called free radicals. They harm the body, damage DNA, and kill the body’s cells. Free radicals could speed aging, as well as cause several health problems, such as heart disease and cancer.

Healthy volunteers taking grape seed extract substantially boosted their levels of antioxidants in their blood. Antioxidants in grape seed extract may neutralize the free radicals. Thus, grape seed extract would benefit the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, inflammation, blood sugar regulation, and nervous systems.

Inflammation

Despite the French eating large amounts of saturated fat in their diet, they experience much lower rates of heart disease than one would expect with such high saturated fat intake. They call this the French Paradox because the French drinks red wine regularly, and the wines reduce inflammation and boost antioxidants in the body.

The cardiovascular system reaps the most benefits of the wine’s antioxidants. Our blood vessel linings need strong antioxidant support because the arteries carry large concentrations of oxygen, and the blood cells and vessel linings need protection from oxygen damage.

Chronic inflammation in our cardiovascular system can trigger many types of cardiovascular disease, and the body must regulate inflammation especially to reduce atherosclerosis and other conditions.

Eye Health

Grape seed extract can improve eye health. It could combat cataracts, eyestrain, and macular degeneration – a condition when people lose clear vision. For example, people taking 300 mg of grape seed extract daily for 60 days had reduced their eyestrain from prolonged computer use. In small scientific trials, diabetics taking grape seed extract reduced diabetic retinopathy – a disease of the retina caused by high blood sugar levels.

Edema

Grape seed extract could reduce edema quickly. Edema is swelling caused by surgery or injury and is common after breast cancer surgery. In one study, breast cancer patients taking 600 mg of grape seed extract daily for 6 months after surgery experienced less edema and pain than those taking a placebo. In another study, people taking grape seed extract after a sports injury experienced less swelling than participants taking a placebo. Finally, wounds treated with grape seed extract heal faster and scar less than wounds treated with a placebo solution.

Longevity

Some believe the phytonutrients in grapes extend longevity. Procyanidins may protect the body from premature aging. Scientists believe the procyanidins raise vitamin C levels in the cells, and the procyanidins scavenge for toxins, removing the toxins from the organs.

Improve Mental Alertness

Grape seed extract, one of the few antioxidants, could protect nerve and brain cells by passing through the blood-brain barrier. Thus, it could reduce inflammation in the brain.

In one study, participants drinking from one to two cups of Concord grape juice daily boosted their scores on the California Verbal Learning Test. In another study, grape seed extract might treat Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because it regulates the neurotransmitters in the brain and slows the breakdown of norepinephrine and dopamine.

Skin

People can take grape seed extract for younger looking skin. The procyanidins bond with collagen, the body’s most abundant protein. Collagen comprises an important component of bones, gums, hair, skin, teeth, and body tissues. The bonding supports cell health and improves the skin’s elasticity, making the skin more youthful, similarly to a natural face-lift. Moreover, procyanidins help protect the body from sun damage, which causes premature aging of the skin.

Cancer

The antioxidant and anti-inflammation properties of grapes can protect people against cancer because ingredients in grapes reduce chronic oxidation and chronic inflammation. In laboratory studies, scientists have shown grape seed eliminates free radicals, which damage DNA and spur development of cancer. If oxidation overwhelms the body’s cells, the oxidation damages cell structures, causes chronic inflammation, and boosts cancer risk.

In vitro, or test tubes, grape seed procyanidins reduced tumor numbers and lowered the malignancy of papillomas - a benign tumor that forms a rounded mass on organs’ surfaces.

According to the American Cancer Society, we have little reliable scientific evidence at this time that drinking red wine, eating grapes, or following a grape diet can prevent or treat cancer in people. For instance, researchers had found grape seed extract did not alleviate the hardening of breast tissue in female patients undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer.

Heart and Circulatory System

Antioxidants, found in grape seeds, could protect blood vessels from damage and could reduce high blood pressure. According to researchers at the University of California Davis School of Medicine in 2009, participants with metabolic syndrome taking grape seed extract for four weeks had lowered their systolic and diastolic blood pressure. They lowered their systolic pressure by 12 mm and their diastolic pressure by 9 mm.

In one study, 40 people with high cholesterol took either grape seed extract, chromium, a placebo, or a combination of grape seed extract and chromium for 2 months. Participants taking both the grape seed extract and chromium had lowered their LDL, “bad” cholesterol than either grape seed alone or a placebo. In another study, 24 healthy male smokers aged 50 years or older took either a placebo or 150 mg of grape procyanidin extracts and soy phosphatidalcholine, twice daily for 4 weeks. The participants taking grape seed extract had lowered their “bad” LDL cholesterol levels than those taking placebo.

Grape seed extract could treat poor circulation and chronic venous insufficiency, where the veins have problems moving blood from the legs to the heart. People suffering from chronic venous insufficiency experience blood pooling in the legs and constant pain, swelling, fatigue, and visible veins.

Grape seed extract may do the following to the circulatory system:
  • Improve vascular strength and strengthen blood vessels.
  • Alleviate atherosclerosis
  • Reduce cells from sticking to the blood vessel walls, and platelet cells clump together less.
  • Lower inflammation in the blood
  • Boost glutathione levels in the blood. Glutathione, a body’s enzyme, scavenges for free radicals.

Other health benefits

Grape seed extract may provide the following health benefits:
  • Reduce constipation
  • Alleviate gastrointestinal disorders
  • Reduce the growth of certain bacteria that metabolizes sugar and causes cavities
  • Increase bone density and strength
  • Possesses anti-viral and antibacterial properties
  • Improves liver function

Dosage and Toxic Effects

If you plan to utilize grape seed extract to treat or prevent a medical condition or disease, please consult your physician first. Side effects include dry, itchy scalp, dizziness, headache, high blood pressure, hives, indigestion, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, sore throat, cough, and rash.

People can take grape seed extract by mouth, but it tastes bitter. People should take capsules. Supplements usually supply between 50 mg and 100 mg of grape seed extract.

Currently, we have insufficient research about the long-term use of grape seed extract, and how it affects health or diseases. Furthermore, researchers have not studied how grape seed extract may interact with medicines or other supplements.

If people taking blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder should avoid grape seed extract unless your doctor prescribes it. Procyanidins reduce platelet adhesion and may act as a blood-thinner, increasing clotting time.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking grape seed supplements. Children should not take grape seed extract, but they should snack on whole grapes because grapes are healthy and safe.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Health Benefits of Resveratrol

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:
Scientists classify resveratrol in a class of plant compounds named polyphenols. These compounds possess antioxidant properties that protect the body from cancer and heart disease.

One source of resveratrol comes from grapes and mostly contained in the grapes’ skin. The resveratrol protects the grape from fungi. If wineries ferment grapes into red wine, the resveratrol becomes concentrated in red wine. Wines may supply more resveratrol than grape juices because fermentation converts piceid to resveratrol in the wine. The alcohol may help the body absorb the resveratrol better than other sources.

White wine supplies smaller quantities of resveratrol because wineries ferment the wine without the grape skins, while wineries ferment red wine with the grape skins.

The resveratrol concentration in Muscadine grapes is ambiguous. Some believe Muscadine grapes contain the highest concentration of resveratrol in nature because their extra thick skins protect the seeds while other researchers conclude Muscadine grapes provide little or no resveratrol.

Blueberries, berries, cranberries, cocoa, dark chocolate, and peanuts also supply resveratrol. Table 1 displays the content of resveratrol in several foods and drinks, and the levels of resveratrol can vary greatly.

Table 1. Resveratrol content in selected foods
Food Serving size Total resveratrol
(milligrams)
Peanuts (raw) 1 cup or 146 grams 0.01 – 0.26
Peanuts (boiled) 1 cup or 180 grams 0.32 – 1.28
Peanut butter 1 cup or 258 grams 0.04 – 0.13
Red grapes 1 cup or 160 grams 0.24 – 1.25
Cocoa powder, baking chocolate, and dark chocolate 1 cup or 200 grams 0.07 – 0.46
Beverages
Pinot noir 150 milliliters 0.06 – 0.30
Red grape juice 150 milliliters 0.17 – 1.30
Spanish red wine 150 milliliters 0.29 – 1.89
Spanish rose wine 150 milliliters 0.06 – 0.53
Spanish white wine
150 milliliters
0.01 – 0.27

Resveratrol comprises of two isomers: cis- (Z) and trans- (E). Isomers are molecules comprising the same atoms, but the atoms are arranged as mirror images in three-dimensional space. Many claim the trans-resveratrol possesses the health benefits while cis-resveratrol does not. In Table 1, the total includes both the cis and trans resveratrols, and they usually occur in equal amounts.

The health supplement industry extracts resveratrol from red wine or red grapes or from the roots of Japanese and Chinese knotweed, known as polygonum cuspidatum. Japanese Knotweed, a type of bamboo, is an invasive weed. Many recommend not to plant knotweed in your yard because it quickly spreads and becomes difficult to control.

Gram for gram, peanuts provide about half the resveratrol as red wine and contain between 2.3 and 4.5 micrograms for every gram. On the other hand, sprouted peanuts supply comparable levels of resveratrol as grapes and yield between 11.7 and 25.7 micrograms per gram depending on the peanut cultivar.

Blueberries provide twice as much resveratrol as bilberries, but resveratrol levels vary greatly by region. These fruits possess less than 10% of the resveratrol of grapes. Cooking or heating the berries degrade resveratrol by half. Finally, health supplement industry sells the extract of the mulberry skins as a nutritional supplement.

Researchers also found resveratrol in the eastern white pine, Pinus strobus and the Chinese herb, Gnetum cleistostachyum.

Benefits of Resveratrol

Some researchers believe resveratrol explains the "French Paradox" – the French people have good cardiovascular health despite consuming a poor diet loaded with fats and copiously amounts of wine.

Some researchers, however, concluded the trace levels of resveratrol reached in the blood of French people cannot explain the paradox. They believe the benefits of wine originate from the multiple substances found in wine. For example, wine contains procyanidins that correlate with cardiovascular benefits. Grape seed extract also contains procyanidins.

Researchers mostly studied the effects of resveratrol in test tubes and animals. Thus, the researchers only suggest resveratrol could protect the human body against several diseases.

Anti-aging

Some refer to resveratrol as the “fountain of youth” because it appears to ward off many diseases associated with aging, enhance longevity, and boost the lifespan of human cells. Resveratrol protects the body’s cells from damaging free radicals – charged molecules inside the body that harm and damage healthy cells.

Scientific studies involving rodents indicate resveratrol could counteract the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle. For example, mice consuming a high-calorie diet while taking resveratrol lived longer than mice not given resveratrol.

Even though scientists do not fully understand the chemical mechanisms of resveratrol's impact on extending life, resveratrol appears to mimic several biochemical effects of calorie-restriction diets. For instance, researchers recently have shown resveratrol activates three genes related to longevity. The three genes are SirT1s, Fox0s, and PBEFs. For instance, the SirT1 gene may protect the body against the diseases of aging and the damaging effects of obesity.

Other studies indicate resveratrol improves the functioning of the mitochondria, which help the cells convert nutrients into energy. Resveratrol's effect on human lifespan remains unclear as of 2011, but the evidence shows resveratrol boosts the life of yeast and mice.

Alzheimer's disease

Resveratrol, being unique among antioxidants, can protect the brain and nervous system by crossing the blood-brain barrier. Resveratrol may be effective against neuron dysfunction and cell death, and may, in theory, treat Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases. Resveratrol could protect nerve cells from damage and reduce the buildup of plaque that leads to Alzheimer's. However, researchers have not yet tested this in humans for any disease.

People can gain a mental edge by boosting the blood flow to their brains. UK researchers studied 22 healthy adults and determined resveratrol had increased blood flow to the nervous system. Furthermore, Illinois researchers discovered mice receiving resveratrol had better memory recall and increased mental performance.

Boost Testosterone

As men enter their thirties, their testosterone levels begin declining. According to Korean researchers, mice consuming resveratrol for 28 days had improved their blood concentration of testosterone by more than 50%. Consequently, resveratrol could raise natural testosterone production in men.

Cancer

French researchers indicated resveratrol could slow down the production of cancer cells because it interferes with all three stages of cancer development—initiation, promotion and progression. In some cancer cell cultures, resveratrol triggered apoptosis, which causes the cell to die, and thus kill the cancer cells. Resveratrol slowed the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells in test tubes and could wipe out skin and gastrointestinal tract tumors, where it comes into direct contact. Resveratrol, being similar to other polyphenols, shares similarities to chemotherapy, anticancer drugs, such as etoposide and doxorubicin.

Some researchers, nevertheless, discovered injecting high doses of resveratrol into young mice enhanced tumor growth.

Diabetes

Resveratrol could prevent insulin resistance – a condition where insulin cannot reduce the sugar levels in the blood. Insulin resistance usually leads to diabetes. Researchers experimenting with animals have demonstrated resveratrol can reduce the effects of diabetes.

Heart Disease

Center for Disease Control and Prevention ranked heart disease as the number one cause of death in the United States in 2011. Many know drinking red wine reduces the risk of heart disease. For example, by drinking one to two 5-ounce glasses of wine per day, participants significantly reduced their risk of developing atherosclerosis – a condition where fats deposit and collect in the arteries making them narrower. Atherosclerosis can lead to strokes and heart disease. Finally, wine lowers blood pressure, keeps the heart healthy, and improves the blood vessels' elasticity.

Researchers in Connecticut determined resveratrol conditions the heart, protecting it against cardiac events. Resveratrol helps reduce inflammation and inhibits the oxidation of LDL "bad" cholesterol. Hence, the blood's platelets stick together less and do not clot, thus reducing the chance of a heart attack.

Inflammation

Inflammation is the body's natural response. White blood cells defend the body from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, some people always remain in a chronically inflamed state. Chronic inflammation damages the body and is connected to numerous diseases like heart disease. Researchers showed the resveratrol protects the body from sphingosine kinase and phospholipase D – two molecules known to trigger inflammation.

Protect Eyesight

People consider vision the most important of the five senses, and they will notice the slightest vision loss. Unfortunately, most people experience vision loss as a normal part of aging. Missouri researchers discovered resveratrol could counteract this vision loss because resveratrol can regulate angiogenesis – the forming of new blood vessels. Resveratrol prevents the abnormal growth of blood vessels that could damage eyesight.

Enhance Endurance

Resveratrol produces many benefits similar to exercise. Canadian researchers discovered in a 12-week study on rats that resveratrol supplements boost endurance, increase oxidative metabolism, and enhanced cardiac function. Thus, athletes cold combine endurance training and resveratrol supplements to boost their performance.

Weight Loss

We have little human evidence of resveratrol's effect on metabolism. However, resveratrol mimics a calorie-restricted diet. For example, it protected mice fed a high-calorie diet from obesity-related health problems. Animal studies have shown resveratrol helps overweight mice run farther and live about 20 percent longer.

Dosage and Side Effects

Like other supplements, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate resveratrol. Unfortunately, consumers do not know what they have bought when they purchase a bottle, or whether the supplements work.

Since researchers conducted few studies on resveratrol in humans, doctors cannot substantiate any benefits, and they do not know the long-term effects the supplements can have on the human body. Thus, the experts cannot recommend any specific dosage, and dosages vary from supplement to supplement.

Researchers had not detected any severe side effects even when users had taken resveratrol in large doses. In one small study, healthy volunteers had taken a single dose up to 5 grams of trans-resveratrol, and it caused no serious adverse effects. However, resveratrol may interact with blood thinners like warfarin (Coumadin), and non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, increasing bleeding risk.

Supplements vary in purity and can provide anywhere between 50% and 99% resveratrol. Many brands contain an extract of Japanese knotweed, and most supplements supply from 250 to 500 milligrams of resveratrol – much lower than the amounts the researchers used in animal studies. To get the equivalent dosage used in animal studies, people would need to take two grams of resveratrol, or 2,000 milligrams per day.

Some retailers advise women that resveratrol may interfere with oral contraceptives. Moreover, pregnant women or women intending to become pregnant should not use resveratrol because it may harm the human fetus. Finally, children or young adults under eighteen should not take resveratrol because we do not know how resveratrol could affect their developing bodies.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Super Nutrient – Spirulina

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

Some call Spirulina the super food because it packs all of nature’s essential nutrients into one little package. However, it is neither a herb nor plant but cyanobacteria which comprises of two species: Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima.

People in many countries and cultures across the world cultivate and consume Spirulina tablets, flakes, or powder either as a whole food or as a dietary supplement. Some farmers mix Spirulina into feeds for fish and animals.

Ancient man knew about Spirulina. The Aztecs and other Mesoamericans utilized spirulina as a food source until the 16th century. One of Cortes soldiers described the natives harvesting Spirulina cakes from Lake Texcoco. Even the European Space Agency and NASA suggested using Spirulina as a primary food source for astronauts to cultivate and grow during long-term space missions.

Nutritional Contents

Dried Spirulina comprises roughly 65% protein, and our bodies can utilize that protein with a net rate ranging between 50% and 61%. Spirulina furnishes all essential amino acids although it contains lower amounts of methionine, cysteine, and lysine as compared to the proteins from eggs, meat, and milk. The U.S. National Library of Medicine stated Spirulina has no edge over milk or meat as a protein source, and it costs roughly 30 times more per gram. On the other hand, Spirulina provides more protein than legumes.

Pregnant mothers, vegetarians, and patients afflicted with anemia or required a boost in immunity after surgery should take Spirulina because it has high concentrations of protein and natural, non-animal iron. Furthermore, Spirulina supplies high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, but also provides omega 6s, and 9s. Spirulina contains about 7% lipids (oils) by weight and is rich in the essential gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Spirulina also supplies:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Arachidonic acid (AA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – healthy fatty acids in fish oil
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) – healthy fatty acids in fish oil
  • Linoleic acid (LA)
  • Stearidonic acid (SDA)
Researchers and scientists have used the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) to measure the antioxidant ability and concentration of different foods. An independent laboratory tested Spirulina and rated it 24,000 which exceeds the antioxidant power of blueberries by four times. Nevertheless, the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped publishing food tables with the ORAC score because the ORAC score correlates poorly to biological effects on the body. Spirulina still supplies three important antioxidants: Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Spirulina also includes the following vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin B3 (nicotinamide)
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin K
Experts believe people should not rely on spirulina as a source of Vitamin B12 although some tout Spirulina’s high B12 content. Spirulina supplements provide mostly pseudo-vitamin B12, which the human body cannot absorb and utilize. Hence, people should absorb their B12 from animal products. Spirulina furnishes over 26 times the calcium in milk, making it excellent supplement for children, the elderly, and expectant mothers, and it does not cause constipation. It also contains phosphorus that can help to re-mineralize the teeth. Furthermore, Spirulina provides the following minerals:

  • Calcium
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
Spirulina uses Chlorophyll to obtain its energy from the sun. The chlorophyll helps remove toxins from the blood and boost the immune system. Spirulina supplies many health-enhancing pigments such as:

  • 3'-hydroxyechinenone
  • Allophycocyanin
  • Beta-cryptoxanthin
  • Canthaxanthin
  • Chlorophyll-a
  • C-phycocyanin
  • Diatoxanthin
  • Echinenone
  • Myxoxanthophyll
  • Oscillaxanthin
  • Phycobiliproteins
  • Xanthophyll
  • Zeaxanthin

Health Benefits

Researchers studied Spirulina in animal and human studies. For example, Spirulina binds with radioactive isotopes and removes them from the body. Thus, Spirulina may help people exposed to radiation. Spirulina can also prevent damage caused by toxins and help protect the heart, liver, kidneys, neurons, eyes, ovaries, DNA, and testicles. Finally, researchers studied Spirulina to prevent chemotherapy-induced heart damage, recover from strokes, slow declines in age-related memory, and alleviate diabetes mellitus.

Spirulina supplies many health-boosting qualities even though it has the tastes and consistency of pond scum. Some believe Spirulina helps the body by:

  • Boosting the immune system
  • Strengthening the heart and circulatory system and promoting healthy cholesterol
  • Improving gastrointestinal and digestive health
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Naturally cleansing and detoxifying by binding with heavy metals in the body and removing them
  • Lowering cancer risks through its antioxidant power
  • Alleviating allergies and reducing allergic reactions
  • Satisfying appetite and helping in weight loss
  • Enhancing fat burning while exercising
  • Boosting endurance and strength in athletes
Spirulina contains 1% phycocyanobilin by weight. Phycocyanobilin inhibits NADPH oxidase, where NADPH stands for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate. What does this mean? The body can use NADPH to negatively charge oxygen molecules, so the oxygen kills microorganisms. However, these oxygen molecules move around in the body as free radicals. Thus, the phycocyanobilin in Spirulina prevents the NADPH into making free radicals. Furthermore, researchers believe the NADPH oxidase causes atherosclerosis, and if a substance could inhibit the NADPH oxidase, then this substance could reverse atherosclerosis. At this point, I am not suggesting Spirulina reverses atherosclerosis, but it is something to watch out for. (I kept NADPH in this blog because researchers are studying derivatives of NAD to slow down or reserve aging. NAD comprises one form of Vitamin B3).

Dosage and Toxic Effects

Spirulina had shown no harmful or toxic effects in humans or animals, even when they have consumed up to 800 milligrams per kilogram of body weight and have replaced 60% of their protein intake by Spirulina. In a 2009 study, 550 malnourished children consumed up to 10 grams per day of Spirulina powder with no adverse effects. In humans, researchers conducted small studies to evaluate Spirulina in undernourished children, to treat the cosmetic aspects of arsenic poisoning, to alleviate hay fever and allergic rhinitis, to reduce arthritis, to treat hyperlipidemia and hypertension, and to improve exercise tolerance.

People using any anti-coagulation medicine should consult with a doctor before taking Spirulina. It contains Vitamin K that can interfere with anti-coagulant medications that slow the clotting of blood.

People with phenylketonuria must avoid taking Spirulina because Spirulina contains the essential amino acid phenylalanine, roughly between 2.6 and 4.1 grams per 100 grams of Spirulina. Phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder, prevents the body from metabolizing phenylalanine. The phenylalanine accumulates in the brain, causing damage. Sufferers also cannot consume the artificial sweetener aspartame, or its brand name NutraSweet. Those with phenylketonuria should confer with a doctor before taking Spirulina.

The U.S. government does not regulate or enforce safety standards for Spirulina’s purity and manufacturing because it is a dietary supplement. Heavy-metal contamination of Spirulina supplements has also raised concern. For example, the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration discovered Spirulina supplements marketed in China were contaminated with lead, mercury, and arsenic.

Other types of cyanobacteria can contaminate Spirulina batches, creating toxic substances such as microcystins, BMAA (beta-Methylamino-L-alanine), and others. Microcystins can disturb the gastrointestinal tract and cause liver cancer in the long term. Thus, users should buy quality Spirulina supplements from well-known companies. Otherwise, they could risk developing cancer by chronic, long-term exposure to low levels of microcystins. Finally, BMAA can damage nerve cells and cause neurological disorders.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Power of Herbs, Supplements, and Natural Remedies

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

After reading passages from the first book of the Bible, Genesis, I begin wondering whether the passages contained a speck of truth - many of the early biblical figures easily lived to 900 years old. I began searching for herbs, supplements, and natural remedies that could extend life and prolong longevity. Even if I could not extend my life, I would at least want to live a quality life devoid of afflictions, illnesses, and health problems.

I became shocked after seeing my former high school friends suffer from debilitating health problems. For example, I tried to visit a friend in January 2014, and he would not open the door. As I peered through the living room window, he lay on the floor, as he strained for every breath. A plastic tube chained him to a nearby oxygen tank. He became enormous and could barely move. After he had spotted me in the window, he shooed me away. Another good friend from high school has deteriorating and collapsing vertebrae disks along his spine. Unfortunately, all the drinking and smoking during high school had caught up to them. Finally, after browsing through Facebook, the former cute high school girls have turned into grandmothers. Now, I know I am quickly advancing towards old age.

I worry about becoming afflicted with a debilitating health condition, so I started experimenting with legal herbs and supplements. I also do not want to rely on expensive, potent prescription drugs. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have no incentives to sell and market herbs and supplements because they cannot obtain patents to restrict sales and charge high prices. For example, patients could pay between $15 and $175 for a month supply of generic Plavix. Some refer to Plavix as the Cadillac of aspirins. On the other hand, aspirin costs less than $10 for 300 tablets or more. Originally, an inventor, Felix Hoffmann, created aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid from willow bark.

I search for good supplements for another reason. Pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to cure diseases. For example, Company X sells a 30-day medication that cures diabetes. The company knows each customer would buy a 30-day supply of medication, and after the person is cured, then the company loses the customer forever. However, if the company only sold the customer insulin, the customer would need to take insulin daily for the rest of his or her life. That translates into long term profits.

Pharmaceutical companies, furthermore, have a strong financial incentive to discredit the healing properties of herbs and supplements. They give grants to scientists and researchers who find problems with the herbs or discredit the herb's effectiveness. Remember, the pharmaceutical companies pay researchers to scour the world in search of new, exotic plants and species. Then chemists isolate and concentrate various chemicals and molecules from these plants and animals checking whether these molecules help a medical condition. Then the companies replicate these chemicals in the laboratory and obtain patents on them.

Niacin stories, for example, circulated in the news during the summer 2013. The news reported niacin causes infections, internal bleeding, and ulcers and in extreme cases, liver and heart failure. However, the news never reported the dosage level. The recommended daily dosage ranges between 14 and 18 milligrams. Some users would take 1,000 milligrams or more to alleviate diabetes, improve arthritis, and reduce cholesterol, and combat heart disease and atherosclerosis. So taking anything in massive doses would never be healthy to a person.

I limit the herbs I take because I do not want to overdo it and have one herb interfere or cancel another herb's power. If I keep my herb usage down to a minimum, then I pay less from the pocketbook. However, a company manufacturing supplements could charge greater prices on herbs and supplements that are gaining popularity. I do not worry about the costs of supplements because prescription medications usually vastly exceed the prices of herbs and supplements.

My Core Supplements

Hyaluronic acid and astaxanthin comprise my core supplements. I discovered hyaluronic acid first when I hit middle age and started encountering problems. My wrinkles were deepening and spreading while my complexion had an unhealthy reddish tint – a sign that constant inflammation was wreaking havoc on my body. I would experience dizziness if I stood up too quickly, and I often felt something pinching a nerve on the left side of my chest. After I had started taking hyaluronic acid, all these symptoms had disappeared. I started sleeping better while my thinking became more lucid. I began taking a 100-milligram tablet every day. Currently, I take a 100-milligram tablet every day. I vary the brands, so my body does not become used to one supplement. I rotate among:


After taking hyaluronic acid for five years, I started experiencing constant eyestrain and a constant pain in my feet. I accidentally came across astaxanthin and decided to try it. So I started taking the 12-milligram tablets from Healthy Originals. At first, I felt dizzy within an hour of taking astaxanthin, but this disappeared after two weeks. However, my foot pain and eyestrain had vanished overnight. I also have more energy, and jogging became much easier. I tried to reduce my dosage to 4 milligrams per day, but that dosage seems too weak. Currently, I take between 8 mg and 12 mg daily.

My Secondary Supplements

Although I added derivatives of B3, krill oil, and spirulina to my regimen, I feel well and have loads of energy. Unfortunately, I cannot tell whether these supplements are working but I provide a reason for taking them.

I started taking derivatives of vitamin B3 because scientists injected nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (abbreviated NAD+) into mice to reverse aging. It may be difficult to get NAD+, but I ordered reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) from iHerb. I sometimes take 10 mg of NADH, and I feel a burst of energy after taking it. At this time, I do not understand how reduced NAD differs from NAD+. Currently, I take 100 milligrams of niacinamide daily because the human body can more easily convert niacinamide into NAD+ than niacin. Niacin comprises the other form of B3, which can cause niacin flush. Niacin dilates the blood vessels near the skin, causing a tingling sensation of the skin and giving the skin a reddish flush.

I started taking fish oil tablets long ago because they contain the omega 3 fatty acids: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Then I switched to Krill Oil in February 2014 because I wanted to try something different. The supplement industries extract Kill Oil from a tiny shrimp-like crustacean. Krill Oil also contains traces of astaxanthin as a bonus.

I take Spirulina because every large tablet is loaded with natural vitamins, minerals, and other healthy ingredients. I consider it my natural multivitamin and take one 1,000-milligram tablet daily.

Experimental Supplements

I am always searching to expand my knowledge of herbs, natural remedies, and supplements. Currently, I started experimenting with Lingzhi, a mushroom the Chinese associate with longevity and long life. I occasionally drink a tonic or tea made from it. I hope that I do not have to drink Lingzhi daily, or I will live a short life. The drink packs quite a nasty punch. Besides, I am interested in other traditional Chinese mushrooms such as Cordyceps and Yunzhi. These mushrooms help promote longevity and slow down the aging process.

I also heard about French Bark Extract that contains pycnogenols – powerful antioxidants contained in tree bark. Unfortunately, the extract is gaining popularity, and GNC sells it for a premium. However, I buy Asta-Pycnogenol from Cosway, a Malaysian pharmacy chain. Each tablet supplies 50 mg of Maritime Pine Bark extract and 100 mg of haematococcus pluvialis containing 4% of astaxanthin.

I started taking resveratrol and grape seed extract daily. I found the brand, Reversage, in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Every tablet contains 100 mg of grape seed extract and 200 mg of Japanese Knotweed extract. Knotweed supplies resveratrol, another anti-aging compound.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

The Ancient Chinese Mushroom – Lingzhi

I wrote several blogs about supplements, herbs, and natural remedies that I take or experiment with. I am interesting in slowing down aging and want to live a long, fulfilling life devoid of illnesses, diseases, and health problems. The blogs are:

The Chinese knew Lingzhi or Ganoderma Lucidum for 2,000 years while the Japanese call it Reishi. Lingzhi, an herbal mushroom, possesses many miraculous health benefits. The Chinese associate Lingzhi with a long life and call it the "Mushroom of Immortality" or the "Elixir of Life." Many recognize Lingzhi as one of the most effective medicinal herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 2000 years. Lingzhi is often depicted in images with the God of Longevity.

Li Shi-Zhen wrote about Lingzhi in the Ben Cao Gang Mu in 1590 AD during the Ming Dynasty, one of the first pharmacology books in China. The Supplement to the Materia Medica, published between 502 and 536 AD mentions Lingzhi. They attributed Lingzhi with boosting energy, strengthening the heart and circulatory system, enhancing memory, slowing aging, and extending longevity.

Lingzhi naturally grows in densely wooded mountains with high humidity and dim lighting. Hikers and explorers find it thriving on the dried trunks of dead plum trees. Wild Lingzhi grows on two or three plum trees out of 10,000, making it extremely rare. Before the health industries could cultivate it, only the wealthy and nobility could afford to take it.

As the Lingzhi mushrooms ripen, they release spores – the seeds to germinate the next generation of mushrooms. The spores pack more potency than the mushrooms, and thus carry more value. Before people can consume the spores, they must be cracked so it can release the beneficial chemicals and active ingredients.

Lingzhi contains polysaccharides, beta-glucans, triterpenes, organic germanium, alkaloids, and amino acids. Polysaccharides help boost the immune system and increase the action of white blood cells. Beta-glucans, forms of complex sugars, prevent and slow down the growth and spread of cancer cells. Some people add Lingzhi to green tea to inhibit tumor growth. Finally, the triterpenes give the mushroom its bitter taste and help reduce blood pressure and relieve allergies. Some believe Lingzhi enhances a person's health by:

  • Improving the body's use of oxygen and relieving coughs and asthma
  • Alleviating allergies
  • Restoring and boosting immunity
  • Enhancing physical endurance and sharpening mental abilities
  • Calming the mind and the nervous system
  • Improving circulation and reducing blood pressure
  • Regulating the glucose levels in the blood
  • Slowing down and preventing the spread of cancer
  • Helping the body to eliminate toxins
  • Positively influencing the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys

Chinese philosophy refers to the qi or chi – the life force circulating through the body. They believe people become sick and unhealthy if this life force becomes unbalanced in the body. The healers (if you believe in this) use acupuncture, acupressure, and Lingzhi to restore the qi's balance.

If you are taking immune-suppressing drugs, then you may want to avoid taking Lingzhi. Lingzhi may counteract these drugs because it potentially stimulates the immune system.

Since I live in Malaysia with a large Chinese community, I easily found Lingzhi at the Chinese herbal stores. Ironically, the clerks asked politely if I have cancer. I replied no and say I am searching for the Fountain of Youth.

I bought dried, sliced Lingzhi, shown below. Although the Lingzhi looks like wood chips, it makes one nasty cup of tea. I boil about six slices of Lingzhi in water for 15 minutes, pour it into a coffee cup, and add a teabag.


I also found a pre-made mix of Lingzhi and ginseng in liquid form. Each box shown below comes with six small bottles of dark, ominous looking liquid. According to directions, an adult drinks one bottle per day, six days in a row.

The top of the box:


The bottom of the box: