coconut oil

coconut oil

Science has come a long way since the simplistic admonition in the 1980s for Americans to eat less fat.

It has taken nearly 30 years to officially reverse some recommendations about cholesterol and fat intake, even with relatively strong evidence that the recommendations were not based on current scientific evidence. Also, contrary to our thought process in the 1980s, it isn’t as simple as “saturated fats are bad” and “unsaturated fats are good.”

It was that exact overly simplistic thinking that resulted in the near extinction of tropical oils from the food supply and the explosion of hydrogenated vegetable oils (think trans-fat). The truth of the matter is that not all polyunsaturated fats are healthy, nor are all saturated fats unhealthy.

There has also been a shift in what most experts agree is a healthier macronutrient ratio of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The long-time recommendation to eat low fat and high carbohydrate has now been adjusted to slightly increase fat and decrease carbohydrates to a more moderate level of both.

Although most experts would still agree with the fact that fats derived from plant sources, which are primarily unsaturated fats, should comprise the majority of fat intake, some research has indicated that replacing all saturated fat with carbohydrates may actually worsen heart health and disease risk.

So, as it turns out with most nutrition and health related subjects, the best advice is balance and moderation.

Everything in Moderation

The most recent evidence indicates that replacing saturated fatty acids with MUFAs or carbohydrates does not improve endothelial function, nor does it decrease coronary heart disease risk. Endothelial cells are cells that line the inner blood vessels that mediate coagulation, platelet adhesion, immune function, and control the dilation and narrowing of blood vessels (called vasodilation and vasoconstriction). Endothelial dysfunction is thought to be a key event in the development of atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries.

Saturated fats have a big advantage over polyunsaturated fats when it comes to stability. They are much less prone to oxidation and rancidity. Even the healthiest of polyunsaturated fats becomes unhealthy once it is oxidized. This is a real potential concern in processed products that require a fairly long shelf life.

It may take many more years for the official recommendations to catch up with science when it comes to saturated fat, but the evidence is mounting. Until then, our mission is to provide the healthiest and best quality products based on current science. Currently, the science says get a variety of fats from healthy sources such as nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables (avocados, olives), and that our avoidance and fear of saturated fats (especially from tropical plants) has been largely exaggerated and unnecessary.


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Teenage years are a critical period for brain development. Adolescents experience major shifts in hormones, and their brains hit developmental milestones throughout puberty. These changes contribute to a teen’s working memory, mental flexibility, and self-control.

It’s important for teenagers to fortify their brain during this time of growth and development. Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients needed to help support and maintain a teenage brain.*

The Brain and Vitamin D

For children, teens, and adults alike, vitamin D helps protect brain cells and supports the development of new neural pathways. Vitamin D can even act like a hormone to help optimize cognition and executive (brain) function.*

For many teenagers, vitamin D is acquired in the diet and through sun exposure. But for adolescents living in high-latitude regions, like Norway or Alaska (where the sun doesn’t always shine), this daily nutrient requirement is often not met. And teens tend to make poor food choices that keep them from getting their vitamin D.

A European study conducted in 2016 tested several hypotheses on the relationship between adolescent’s vitamin D levels and executive function. The link between vitamin D levels and mental health (such as sense of well-being, happiness, and satisfaction) was also researched.*

The results supported researchers’ predictions—vitamin D supports executive function and mental health in teenagers. Teens optimized their performance on problem-solving and executive function tests when they supplemented with vitamin D. Their mental health was supported with higher levels of vitamin D, too.*

Conversely, the teens in the study who did not supplement with vitamin D (or who were vitamin D deficient) didn’t experience the same brain-supporting benefits.*

That’s why it’s so important that teens meet their vitamin D needs. The teenage years are booming with brain development. Maintaining healthy vitamin D levels is just one way teens can be proactive and support their executive function and mental health.*

Get to Know the Study

This study shows that adequate levels of vitamin D can be an effective way for teenagers to support their growing brains. Supplementing this essential vitamin may be the most practical way to optimize the daily intake of vitamin D for teens—particularly those living at high latitudes. And although this study was conducted in Norway, the results can be extrapolated and applied to adolescents all over the world.

Here are the details of the study and research that links vitamin D and teenage executive function:

This experiment examined the relationship between vitamin D supplementation and performance on two executive function tests. To account for the effects on mental health, a survey was given to all participants.

The study subjects were 52 Norwegian teenagers who participated in the experiment after school. All subjects received a tablet to take daily during the study, but only half the tablets contained a vitamin D supplement.

A blood draw and three online pre-tests helped researchers establish a baseline for vitamin D levels and brain performance. The first two tests were called the Tower of London, and the Tower of Hanoi, respectively. These tests observed the teenager’s ability to plan and “look ahead” by predicting how many steps would be required to solve a problem.

executive function

The final pre-test was a self-report of the adolescent’s mental health. There is a well-established link between mental health and vitamin D. Researchers wanted to confirm this link in their study.

Performance on each of the two executive function test and self-report of mental health were recorded for each subject at the beginning of the study, and 4-5 months later. With half of the participants supplementing with vitamin D tablets on a daily basis, the researchers had three predictions to test:

  1. Vitamin D supplementation would be beneficial on both executive function tests*
  2. Vitamin D supplementation during winter would improve self-perceived mental health*
  3. Vitamin D supplementation would increase overall levels of vitamin D in adolescents*

The Case for Vitamin D

In the years since this study was published, more research has established a similar relationship between the brain and vitamin D. Teens aren’t the only age group that could benefit from vitamin D. Young children especially need to meet their daily vitamin D requirements to support the development of fine motor skills, and establish a foundation of mental well-being.*

See all the ways vitamin D helps optimizes your brain health. Check out these resources and read the research for yourself.*

Your body can’t wait for a specific cleaning day to roll around. It’s constantly repairing, maintaining, and recycling. That happens on a large scale with life-essential proteins everywhere in your body. And that continual cycle happens in each human cell, because they all do their own form of cellular damage control, too. Two of the most important cleanup processes are autophagy and mitophagy.So, let’s figure out why these cleaning processes are important. Then talk about how your cells deal with recycling, renewing, and dealing with cell damage and cellular cleanup.

Why Cell Cleanup is Good for Your Overall Health

So many proteins are essential to your life. But amongst the diversity, there is something that’s common. They all must be broken down after fulfilling their assigned tasks. Whether the protein is a liver enzyme, cellular structural support, or a protein protecting your body as part of the immune system, they all eventually become old and have to go.

This normal cellular-quality-control process helps maintain your overall physical wellness. It helps keep you cranking through your daily tasks, enjoying adventures, and generally living your best life.

But if the body’s housekeeping operations are stalled or inefficient, the results can be disastrous. Research has revealed how imbalances between protein production and degradation (another word for breakdown) can lead to accumulations of protein products. And these accumulations have been linked to declining brain health and can adversely affect many other systems in your body.

How Autophagy Helps with Recycling and Renewal

Before getting into the process of autophagy, let’s define what it is. The straight translation of autophagy is “self-eating,” which sounds bad. But it’s an important, normal part of a healthy body.

Basically, autophagy is the formal name for the recycling process your body’s cells go through. It’s where cells recycle damaged or used up parts into their most basic components. Then those small pieces can be reused.

It’s time for the deeper dive into the details of cellular cleanup.

During the process of autophagy, unwanted cellular elements are isolated and walled-off in specialized double-membraned compartments. (These are also known as autophagosomes.) The packaged protein “garbage” then fuses with lysosomes. The lysosomes are a type of cell organelle (or a cell structure) that has digestive enzymes to break down protein components. Recycling is completed when the broken-down protein’s amino acids become the raw material for new proteins.

Autophagy is happening all the time for all your cell structures. It’s a normal part of your cellular cleanup processes. But it also gets cranked up when your cells are stressed. That can come from your lifestyle, free radicals, or other sources. For example, calorie restriction is a common stressor connected to autophagy. The damage done from stress can’t be allowed to pile up. So, it makes sense that autophagy kicks into high gear in stressful times.

What is Mitophagy?

Autophagy is a general term about the recycling process in many parts of the cell. Mitophagy is more specific. It refers to the same type of cleanup process for the mitochondria—the part of your cell responsible for energy production.

The mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell that turn fuel into energy. When they are young and healthy, they are efficient at providing energy with few waste products (free radicals). As mitochondria age or wear out, they’re much less efficient at producing energy. And, in doing so, they give off much higher levels of free radicals.

You can liken this to the engine in a car. When the car is new, it’s efficient and gives off few emissions. As the car ages with use, the engine loses its efficiency and gives off far more emissions. At some point, the check engine light comes on. It indicates the engine may need to be overhauled or replaced for the car to continue to function optimally.

So, the process of mitophagy overhauls your cellular power plants to keep them churning efficiently and effectively. And normally functioning mitochondria play a big role in maintaining your health, vitality, and long-term wellness.

Signaling Cellular Cleanup

All the recycling the human cell does is a good thing. So, why wait until cellular damage stacks up? How come your body doesn’t start autophagy and mitophagy more often?

Basically, because your body is all about survival. While more cleanup might help maintain optimal health, it isn’t necessary to keep you alive. So, the processes are triggered when necessary, but not before.

The survival mentality of your body—enough to stay alive, but not to thrive—is helpful, but not optimal. That’s where targeted nutrition can make a difference.

Under certain conditions, nutrients in your diet mimic cellular stressors like calorie restriction. And instead of cutting out a lot of calories, wouldn’t you rather target specific nutrients in your diet to trigger this process? Incorporating a few nutrients is the easier path. And it’s still effective. These nutrient stressors can signal the cell to renew or replace itself in order to maintain efficiency.

So, you’re essentially tricking your cells into overhauling their engines before the miles of life have totally taken their toll. That means optimal cellular health is maintained. And you have the efficient, effective cells you need to live your life to the fullest.

Many of these stress-inducing nutrients are found in fruits and vegetables—broccoli, tomatoes, kale, turmeric root, grapes, and blueberries to name a few. These new signaling abilities of plant compounds further support eating your fruits and vegetables for good health.

Take a deep breath. It’s a good idea for your mental health. But when the air isn’t clean, should you feel great about breathing deeply? How does air pollution impact your health?

The simple answer is that air pollution is a major human health concern and is a risk factor for several health conditions. The most common health effects of air pollution are respiratory ones, such as coughing, asthma, and stressing existing respiratory health issues. In some cases, air pollution can be related to major cardiovascular issues.

The most common causes of environmental air pollution include power plants, manufacturing facilities, fuel-burning heaters, automobiles, and wildfires. Despite increasing government regulations to reduce emissions and modern, cleaner combustion devices, air quality in many areas continues to be poor. This isn’t limited to just major cities either, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 92 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with poor air quality.

Beijing – After a storm (left) and with visible air pollution (right)

One of the most dangerous forms of air pollution are fine particles, known as PM2.5, with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. Among the potential negative effects of these particles is that exposure can result in epigenetic alterations (the switches that turn on different aspects of your genetic code) to DNA that could damage health.

How B Vitamins Might Help Protect Your Health from Bad Air

You can’t stop breathing. Ultra-filtration may not be financially doable. So, what’s the solution to help mitigate the impact of air pollution on health?

Turning to your diet may be one answer. Animal models have already shown that the administration of B vitamins (and other methyl-rich nutrients) can help reduce the negative effects of environmental stressors on DNA.

A study published in PNAS used B vitamins to determine if the results previously observed in animals was relevant in humans. During treatment individuals were given 2.5 mg/day folic acid, 50 mg/day vitamin B6, and 1 mg/day vitamin B12. The individuals were exposed to PM2.5 to determine if epigenetic alterations were mitigated by B vitamin supplementation.

Following exposure to the PM2.5, different locations of the subjects’ DNA were measured to determine the extent of DNA changes. Supplementation with the B vitamin lessened DNA changes in the top 10 locations by 28-76 percent compared to placebo.

More research in this area needs to be conducted. But this study demonstrates supplementation with B vitamins may help protect against the negative effects of air pollution.

Zhong J, Karlsson O, Wang G, et al. B vitamins attenuate the epigenetic effects of ambient fine particles in a pilot human intervention trial. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2017;114(13):3503-3508.

picky child
children's multivitamin

children's multivitamin

Nearly 70 percent of children’s multivitamins come in gummy form. While this may make them appealing to kids, that may not be a good thing as hundreds of parents rush to the emergency room each year with children who ate the whole bottle.

We have been asked many times over the years why we don’t make our children’s vitamins in a gummy form because “kids don’t like ours.” First of all, just like all of our products, we hold our children’s supplements to very high standards (which gummies cannot meet), and second, they really shouldn’t be seen as candy or a treat. Give them with a meal, don’t make them a treat or a chore.

Very few people truly understand how difficult it is to make a children’s chewable vitamin that is complete, palatable, low in sugar, and without any artificial sweeteners or flavors. There are many companies that provide products with some of these characteristics, but very, very few have the whole package.

The easiest way to make them taste better is by adding more sugar or artificial flavors and sweeteners. In order to satisfy our own philosophy and that of most of our customers, we do not use artificial sweeteners or flavors. And, we keep the sugar content to an absolute minimum at about 0.75 grams per tablet.

What makes this most difficult, and what sets us apart from the vast majority of other children’s vitamins, is that we add higher amounts of magnesium, calcium and other minerals. And, we provide trace minerals like selenium, manganese, copper, chromium, and molybdenum that aren’t found in most competitors. If they are important for adults, why wouldn’t they be important for children?

children's multivitamin

Here is something you probably won’t hear anywhere else. But, the primary reason most children’s chewable have lower and less complete mineral dosages is because they taste NASTY. Covering the flavor without adding tons of sugar or artificial ingredients takes some talented food scientists.

I distinctly remember sitting around a table in the lab many years ago before a reformulation. In front of us were little plates of mineral raw materials that we each had to taste. The purpose was to determine which of the minerals was resulting in the bad flavor we were attempting to overcome. I can tell you from experience that it is a minor miracle the Usanimals taste as good as they do with the level of minerals and the restricted flavors and sweeteners we use.

Gummies, on the other hand, typically contain 2 or more grams of sugar per gummy. And, even if they are providing natural flavoring, they are never as complete in nutrients, especially minerals, as the Usanimals. The next time you are at the store, or looking online, compare the label of the Usanimals to different brands of gummy vitamins and you’ll see what I mean.

We’ve always said food first to get your recommended daily dose of vitamins, but the reality is that most diets are deficient in many areas. And, in many ways, nutrition is even more crucial in children that are actively growing and developing.

Yes, we could make the Usanimals taste better, put them in a different form, or simply leave out the nasty tasting nutrients. But then, who would we be? Everybody else.

In research published in the International Journal of Obesity, scientists evaluated the effects of multivitamin/mineral supplementation on body fat, energy expenditure, and lipid profiles in obese Chinese women. Subjects were divided into three groups, receiving either a multivitamin/mineral supplement (MMS), 162mg of calcium, or placebo daily. Body weight, BMI, waist circumference, fat mass, lean tissue, resting energy expenditure, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose and serum insulin, total cholesterol, LDL and HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides were measured at the beginning and end of the study period.

After 26 weeks, the multivitamin/mineral group had significantly lower body weight, BMI, fat mass, total and LDL cholesterol, and significantly higher resting energy expenditure and HDL cholesterol than individuals in the placebo group. They were also more likely to have a reduced waist circumference. The calcium group also had significantly higher HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol levels compared with the placebo group.

The results suggest that multivitamin/mineral supplementation could help reduce body weight and obesity and improve serum lipid profiles in obese women, possibly through increased energy expenditure and fat oxidation.

The correlation between inadequate nutrient status and obesity was further strengthened in a new study involving mice. For 12 weeks, mice were given either a standard diet or one that was restricted to 50% of their micronutrient requirements. At the end of the study, the body weight of the mice with a nutrient restricted diet was 6% higher than the controls, and their body fat more than doubled.