Category: Health

Cholesterol No Longer a Nutrient of Concern

Posted on Feb 27, 2015 by 1 Comment

For decades we’ve been warned about how many eggs we should eat because they are high in cholesterol. Since the cholesterol is all located in the yolk, we learned to work around it. It’s the reason we concocted egg-white omelets and other such dishes.

But all that’s about to change. Eggs have been given a bad rap, and now the next update to the Dietary Guidelines, which are written to help us make healthier food choices, will tell us they are actually good for us.

Dropping the warning about cholesterol consumption is a big change because it is one of the “official” core guidelines. While I’ve suspected for years that eggs were getting a bad rap, the government has been slow to change their dietary recommendations.

Since the 1970s they’ve been telling us to limit the intake of cholesterol to less than 300 mg per day because eating cholesterol would raise our cholesterol.

This view was supported in the first edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans when they were released in 1980 and has been with us since.

Now the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) no longer believes that the consumption of dietary cholesterol is anything to worry about.

Dietary cholesterol differs from the cholesterol our bodies manufacture. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. So are organ meats and some seafood like shrimp and lobster.

For years, we were told to restrict our consumption of these foods. Now the DGAC has decided that “cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

Instead of focusing on foods we should not eat, the DGAC’s is turning its attention to foods we should eat. Their new mission is to get us to take in more good nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, and fiber. These are things we are not getting enough of.

So go ahead and eat your eggs. They are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which help to lower your cholesterol.

Photo credits: Ivy Dawned

Is the Treadmill Equal to the Road?

Posted on Feb 27, 2015 by 2 Comments

With arctic air pushing its way all the way to Florida, I’ve been staying inside but still exercising.

I’ve been house-walking (walking in the house for at least 30 minutes), hula hooping, jump roping, and stretching but all indoors. I prefer walking outdoors, for a number of reasons, but not when it’s cold. One of those reasons, is that the hills require a variation in exertion.

My girlfriend pounds the treadmill to get her exercise it. But she does that year round, though she is not as consistent with her exercise and I think it is because it is rather boring running in the same place.

At least we are moving and burning some calories indoors, but the real question when it comes to treadmills is, do they do the job we think their doing? Are we accomplishing the same thing we would outside?

According to Reed Ferber, exercise physiologist and director of the running injury clinic at the University of Calgary in Canada the answer is basically, yes.

He says, “You have more forward lean from your trunk and more flexion at the hips and knees when you run on a treadmill because you don’t need to generate as much power at the same speed as you do running on level ground outdoors.” But he goes on to say that for the average runner, that doesn’t mean much.

How does that translate to calories burned? If running, studies show it makes a difference at speeds faster that 8.5 miles per hour. That’s faster than most runners run, so if I choose to climb on my girlfriend’s treadmill these cold days, it could do me good.

We can even visit as we take turns, or watch a movie. That’s what I do while I hula-hoop indoors. The real importance is to keep doing something. For now, I dream of the Spring and warm sunshine and keep on keeping on, until then.

Photo credits: Amazon

The Battle Surrounding Female Viagra

Posted on Feb 26, 2015 by No Comments

Men have had Viagra for decades. The “little blue pill” increases blood flow to the area they are often accused of thinking with. During all those years, women who have lost the desire for sex haven’t had the same type of option.

Sprout Pharmaceuticals has been working to fix that, with a drug they are calling flibanserin, but so far the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has turned down their experimental drug twice citing that it has not been proven safe or effective.

With their last rejection, the FDA scientist requested data regarding the pill’s effect on driving ability because side effects include fatigue, dizziness, and nausea.

After heavily lobbying for the pill, which is designed to boost female libido, the drugmaker is once again submitting it to the federal health regulators.

Sprout said it is refiling with the requested information regarding the side effect of sleepiness reported by almost 10 percent of the women who participated in company trials.

Up until now the FDA didn’t really feel the benefits outweigh the risks and they had questions about how the drug would interact with other drugs.

The difference with this pill compared to the blue version for men, is that the pink pill is designed to affect a woman’s brain, not blood flow, and would be the first treatment of its kind for this problem. When a woman loses her sex drive, it can take its toll on her relationship with the man in her life.

In an effort to break through the regulatory red tape, groups sponsored by Sprout and other drugmakers have started publicizing the lack of a “female Viagra” as a women’s right issue.

It made me think about Viagra for men. What kind of side effects is the FDA willing to let them risk?

Well there’s the sudden vision loss, sudden hearing loss, chest pain or heavy feeling, pain spreading to the arm or shoulder, nausea sweating, general ill feeling, irregular heartbeat, swelling in your hands, ankles or feet…. Do those risks outweigh the benefits? Who decides?

Even with such serious side effects, the men who take Viagra are willing to risk it. So maybe it is a rights issue. Should women have the same option to take a pill that restores their libido if they are willing to risk the side effects?

Photo credits: Jason Trommetter

Whole Foods Recalls More than 100 Items Due to Possible Peanut Contamination

Posted on Feb 25, 2015 by No Comments

Anyone worried about peanut allergies knows how serious cross contamination can be. In late January a cumin-related recall announced the possibility of cross contamination of various products. It led to one of the largest recalls ever.

Now that recall has grown to include the Whole Foods franchise. As a result, the grocery retailer has recalled more than 100 items which contain the cumin spice that may contain undeclared peanuts.

The recall affects a large variety of foods like preseasoned meats, rotisserie chickens, tacos, prepared salads, and other items sold at stores in Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington DC between Jan. 14 and Feb. 6, 2015.

Not all items or all products were sold in all store locations, but if you’ve shopped at one of those Whole Foods locations, you can find a complete list of recalled items on the FDA website.

According to the FDA, “No allergic reactions have been reported to-date, and recalled items have been pulled from store shelves. Whole Foods Market was notified by its supplier that undeclared peanut protein was found in cumin supplied to some of its facilities.”

This all started in January when undeclared peanut proteins where found in Adams Flavors, Foods & Ingredients’ cumin supply. It has turned into a far-reaching problem leading to recalls to include manufacturers who use cumin in their products.

If you suffer from peanut allergy or sensitivity and have bought any of the affected products listed on the Whole Foods recall, you are to discard them and bring the receipt to the local store for a full refund.

If you have questions, call 512-477-5566, extension 20060, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST. And if you know someone with a peanut allergy or sensitivity, be sure to pass on the information to them.

Photo credits: wikipedia

Is Your Plastic Drinking Bottle Really Safe?

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 by 1 Comment

For years, I’ve made an effort to drink water and stay hydrated. It takes work for me to remember to drink enough water. I actually track it, and gradually I’ve developed the habit.

When I grew tired of lugging in bottled water, I installed an RO system. Then I learned about BPAs and that my water bottle was deemed unhealthy because it contained a chemical known as bisphenol-A. It has been linked to all kinds of health issues including obesity and diabetes!

Not what I’m looking for by drinking water.

BPAs are found in so many things that traces of BPA were found in 90 percent of urine samples taken from a group representative of the American population.

So I was proactive. I bought a BPA-free bottle and just refilled it throughout the day. Instead of BPAs it contained BPS. I thought I was home safe, but learned that may not be the case.

BPA Free

According to a new study, BPS (bisphenol-S) may be considered harmful, too. The author of the study, Dr. Deborah M. Kurrasch, is recommending a “societal push to remove all bisphenols from our consumer goods.”

So while several states have banned BPA in items like baby bottles, and many companies have voluntarily removed the chemical from their products, the replacement BPS may not really be the answer.

Just because a bottle is labled “BPA free” doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to drink from, and as for BPS exposure, it is said to affect prenatal neurodevelopment in zebra fish. As a result, pregnant women are told to limit exposure to BPA and BPS during gestation.

While I don’t plan to get pregnant, I have a rule of thumb I follow. If something is thought to be a possible risk for pregnant or nursing women, I steer clear of it.

Experts suggest it isn’t appropriate to draw conclusions on this limited experiment, but there seems to be a growing opinion among scientists that the chemical may be harmful to humans. So for now, I think I’ll go back to drinking out of glass.

I’m sure I’ll get plenty of BPAs and BPSs from food packaging. I certainly don’t need to drink them.

Photo credits: Amraepowell, Mark Morgan

Researchers Learn How Pancreatic Cancer Forms

Posted on Feb 23, 2015 by 1 Comment

No cancer diagnosis is welcome, but I remember when Patrick Swayze learned he had pancreatic cancer. He told his wife, “I’m a dead man walking.” And he was right. He died 20 months later.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the few cancers for which the survival rate has not improved much for almost 40 years.

According to data from the Hirshberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, pancreatic cancer is the twelfth most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fourth-leading cause of cancer related death, just behind lung, colon, and breast cancer. It’s the same cancer that killed Steve Jobs.

Pancreatic Cancer

I had a friend who died at age 59 just weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She ignored her symptoms thinking she was experiencing bad indigestion.

That’s not unusual though. Many times this cancer only produces vague symptoms that can be mistaken for other common conditions within the abdomen or gastrointestinal tract.

Actual symptoms include pain, usually abdominal or back pain, weight loss, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, changes in stool, and diabetes. It’s a good reason to be sure you get regular checkups.

Risk factors include being overweight and smoking. In fact, it is found twice as often in smokers. As for the extra weight, it mostly effects people who carry extra weight around their waistline, even if they aren’t carrying around much extra weight elsewhere.

Now a new study at the University of Utah Health Sciences has been published in the January 26 issue of eLife that says they have found a way to identify the method by which pancreatic cancer forms.

Researchers poured over previously published data, and while I’m not going to go into all of the medical lingo (you can read that for yourself), it offers a small bit of hope.

Learning how this deadly cancer forms offers a better chance of finding how to fight it. As I write this, a number of new options are being explored by drug developers. There is hope!

Photo credits: Charles Muldrow

Early On-Set Alzheimer’s More than Misplacing Your Keys

Posted on Feb 20, 2015 by No Comments

Julianne Moore’s portrayal as an early-onset Alzheimer patient in the film Still Alice, has generated a lot of buzz about Alzheimer’s. The actress has already won a Golden Globe and is now nominated for an Academy Award.

In the movie, her character is only 50 years old when she is diagnosed with the disease many people think of as an old-person disease.

The fact is, it’s not just an old person disease. It affects around 200,000 people in the U.S. and about five percent of them are under 65.

My girlfriend’s mother was only 62 when they started noticing changes. For them, that was a personality change. By the time she was 65, she didn’t know any of her children.

A 39-year-old woman, by the name of Tracy Mobley (pictured above), recognized there was a problem one morning when she stood watching a stray dog in their yard. When her young son came into the kitchen, she didn’t want to alarm him so she asked him where he thought the dog had come from.

He said, “Mom that’s our dog Daisy.”

Since then Mobley has written a book to help others called, Young Hope the Broken Road.

Alzheimer’s victims who are in their 40s and 50s or younger, are considered to have early onset Alzheimer’s which is also known as “younger onset.”

No matter the age, when it strikes, the symptoms are about the same. However, because people aren’t expecting it in younger people, many times the symptoms are overlooked by the people with the disease as well as by the people around them.

Mary Sano, PhD, professor of psychiatry and director of Alzheimer’s disease research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Bronx was consulted for Still Alice.

She says, “By the time people ask for help, something strange has probably been going on for at least six months. And often, it’s family members and close friends who can provide a point of view that a change has occurred, which can allow that person to realize something is wrong.”

Those with a family history of Alzheimer’s should try to be more aware of any changes.

A blood test can be run to see if you are genetically prone to the disease. However, it will not prove whether or not you have the disease, only that you have the gene mutation that places you at higher risk.

If you’re like me, there are times I wonder if my forgetfulness is the start of Alzheimer’s, but Sano says that most cases of middle-aged forgetfulness (like not knowing where you put your keys) is not uncommon or anything to worry about.

It’s when our memory starts to interfere with our ability to complete common everyday tasks or things that are important that we should be concerned.

Sano point out that “those with early-onset Alzheimer’s often subconsciously modify or adapt their routines so they don’t even notice specific red flag incidents.”

The Alzheimer’s Association even says that warning signs may include regular use of memory devices or relying on family and friends to do things the person used to handle on their own. Other warning signs include withdrawal from work or social activities.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are drugs that can slow its progression, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your concerns if you suspect your symptoms may be Alzheimer’s.

Photo credits: Jim Dryer

Puerto Rico Legislators Talking About Fines on Parents of Obese Children

Posted on Feb 19, 2015 by No Comments

Obesity is a problem. Not just its effect on our health, but the struggle to deal with it. It requires life changes. Those changes are hard enough when you’re doing them for yourself, but when your child is obese you have to help them to make the changes, too.

In an effort to help, Puerto Rican legislators are looking at leveling fines up to $800 on parents of obese children, if they don’t lose weight.

I think one of the reasons we struggle in our efforts to help kids lose weight is that we feel like they are missing out if we restrict their sweets, snacks, or seconds.

We make an exception for this special event, this birthday, and the next thing you know we’re right back to a lifestyle of poor choices. Could fines of up to $800 keep everyone motivated to lose weight?

The Puerto Rican bill is still under consideration, but it’s aim is said to be the wellbeing of the kids and to help motivate parents to stay on the straight and narrow with making healthy choices.

It’s not a done deal yet; public hearings on this bill are scheduled later this week. If it is approved, public school teachers would be the ones who flag potential obesity cases.

Those children would then be referred to a counselor or social worker (depending how severe the case), and Health Department officials would meet with the parents.

At first I thought the fines might actually help to motivate parents, but when I see ideas like teachers singling out kids, and government officials from the Health Department meeting with parents to figure out whether the obesity is the result of bad eating habits or a medical condition, it gives me creepy vibes.

Yes, they’d create a diet and exercise program for the kids, but monthly visits would also be part of the program to make sure it is being followed.

After six months, the child would be evaluated again and if improvement isn’t what it needs to be, the parents would be fined between $500 and $800 if the child’s weight doesn’t improve within another six months to a year.

How’s that going to make a child feel?

I’m not the only one who thinks this approach goes too far. Several doctors, including the president of Puerto Rico’s chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics are calling it unfair.

I agree that we need help in tackling the problem of obesity for our kids and even ourselves, but this kind of governmental “intervention” is excessive and undermines parental authority.

What do you think? With more than 28 percent of kids in Puerto Rico and 18 percent of children in the U.S. mainland classified as obese, how can parents be better equipped to help their children?

Photo credits: Robin Corps

Why Does Lack of Sleep Cause Weight Gain?

Posted on Feb 18, 2015 by 2 Comments

I first heard about lack of sleep contributing to extra weight about ten years ago. I grabbed on to it as an excuse for why I struggled with a widening waistline, but didn’t really understand the correlation.

A recent study finally shows the how the two are related.

When we don’t get enough sleep the research suggests there is a physiological adjustment to provide the body with the energy it needs to stay awake.

However, in today’s modern environment with food readily available at every turn the research concludes that “weight gain occurs because food intake is more than necessary to offset the energy cost of sleep loss.” That means we are eating too much.

Plus, because we are tired, we are less active, and being sedentary leads to weight gain. It reminds me of the snowball rolling downhill. The problems of lack of sleep and weight gain just exacerbate each other and make a bigger problem.

Because food is so readily available, it contributes to “overfeeding” as we try to compensate for the energy demands that result from loss of sleep. And it appears that food intake at night is consistently increased.

Researchers admit that “changes in peripheral satiety and hunger hormones do not explain the overeating we observed.” As a result they suggest it is possible that sleep loss actually “alters brain mechanisms involved in nonhomeostatic food intake (e.g., mood, comfort, reduced eating restraint.”

Now the term comfort food comes to mind.

This leads to the big question. What can we do about it? This study showed that getting adequate sleep reduced overeating and the consumption of fats and carbohydrates.

Not only that, but findings also show that those who get enough sleep and who follow a low-calorie diet see better results.

The findings from this study suggest sleep education programs should be part of strategies to prevent weight gain. So maybe the first step in losing weight is getting a good night’s sleep…regularly.

Photo credits: wikipedia