By Sarah A LoBisco, ND

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The Science of Belief and the Placebo Effect
My recent blog on the science of belief  discussed the role of belief and expectations on healing. This means that what we think or expect from a medical intervention will have physiological effects on our body.  The role of thought processes in healing is not a mind-body medicine approach. It is a scientific fact made evident in our medical research.
A belief which causes an actual or perceived improvement in a disease is known as a placebo effect. This effect is so strong, it is actually a confounding variable in scientific research! In other words, when scientists are testing if a medication has an effect on a certain population, the placebo effect is used as a baseline control for or against the efficacy of treatment results!  In medicine, a physician is always asking the question, “How does this treatment compare against the placebo and what is the benefit to risk ratio of using it?” (If you missed the interview with Dr. Lissa Rankin on her embracement of this principle, it’s worth the eleven minutes.)
In other words, a drug or intervention will be deemed successful if it outperforms the placebo. Therefore, if it is conventionally accepted that belief affects biochemistry, why is the media scaring the be-willies out of us with their constant reporting about our toxic world, premature aging, and physical deterioration?
Here’s where the art of medicine comes into play for me.  A skillful balance is needed between information and solutions regarding the effect of harmful exposures verses scaring them to death. Personally, I have had physicians give advice to me about my herniated disc not healing quickly. Thankfully, I ignored them and believed in the body’s innate healing capacity. I am gratefully running, doing yoga, and kicking with Billy Blanks (taebo) daily and pain free.

What is More Powerful than Placebo?

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Some things just are. Even if you don’t belief in gravity, your pen will still fall to the ground if you drop it. Your body needs oxygen, food, and water to live. If you don’t nourish it with any of these things, it will cease to exist.
Therefore, it’s exciting to see all the power that exists with everyday choices in changing our lives and bodies!
Below are some summaries of research trials in nutrient supplements and lifestyle factors that have been shown to have an outstanding and empowering effect in wellness (emphasis mine)!
Eye Health & Antioxidants
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Intervention  Individuals were enrolled and randomly divided as follows: placebo group, group 1 (a capsule containing 10 mg of lutein, 1 mg of zeaxanthin, 100 mg of docosahexaenoic acid, and 30 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid administered each day), and group 2 (same substances but twice the dose used in group 1). One hundred forty-five participants completed the study successfully.
Conclusions and Relevance  A supplement containing a fixed combination of lutein, zeaxanthin, and ?-3 LC-PUFAs during 12 months significantly improved plasma antioxidant capacity, circulating macular xanthophyll levels, and the optical density of the macular pigment.
Source: Christin Arnold, Dipl-Troph; Lisa Winter, Dipl-Troph; Kati Fröhlich, PhD; Susanne Jentsch, Dipl-Ing; Jens Dawczynski, MD; Gerhard Jahreis, PhD; Volker Böhm, PhD . Macular Xanthophylls and ?-3 Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in Age-Related Macular DegenerationA Randomized Trial (abstract). JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013;131(5):564-572. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.2851. March 21, 2013.
Liquid Green Power on Metabolic Syndrome
Green tea, a popular polyphenol-containing beverage, has been shown to alleviate clinical features of the metabolic syndrome….
Thirty-five obese participants with the metabolic syndrome were randomly assigned to receive one of the following for 8 weeks: green tea (4 cups per day), control (4 cups water per day), or green tea extract (2 capsules and 4 cups water per day). ..
Green tea beverage and green tea extract significantly increased plasma antioxidant capacity
..These results support the hypothesis that green tea may provide antioxidant protection in the metabolic syndrome.
Source: Basuemail, A, Betts, N, Mulugeta, A, Tong, C, Newman, E, & Lyons, T. Green tea supplementation increases glutathione and plasma antioxidant capacity in adults with the metabolic syndrome (abstract). Nutrition Research. Volume 33, Issue 3 , Pages 180-187, March 2013.
Read more about the science of supplements and heart healthy effects in my follow up blog at blog.