Saturday, July 08, 2006

Only Some Vitamins Have Clear Benefit

A federal panel reviewed the research on vitamin supplements, and concluded that there's not enough evidence to either support or dispute their benefit. Only three vitamins have proven to have a clear protective benefit:

  1. Folic acid (taken by pregnant women to prevent birth defects)

  2. A combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, and the minerals copper and zinc (for the reduction of macular degeneration)

  3. Calcium and vitamin D (for reducing the risk of bone fractures)

So much more research needs to be done to make more conclusions. My general recommendation for now: A multivitamin that gives you 100% DV is probably good insurance, but since some studies show no benefit from vitamins, and even negative side effects from too much of some vitamins, don't over-do it! Try to get the majority of your nutrients from the foods you eat. There are clear benefits from eating more fruits and vegetables, but we haven't been able to isolate all the benefits and put them in a pill!

Committed to your health,

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Secondhand Smoke Suffocates

The surgeon general released a report that should convince anyone who thinks it's just a theory that secondhand smoke kills, that it's a real threat. In surgeon general Richard H Carmona's words: "The scientific evidence is now indisputable: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and non-smoking adults."

Some of the findings:

  • Your chance of getting lung cancer increases 20 to 30 percent if you live with a smoker.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke increases your risk of heart disease by 25 to 30 percent.
  • Children exposed to second hand smoke are at increased risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), respiratory infections, asthma, slower lung growth and ear problems.

California has been a leader in banning smoking in public places, so now most secondhand smoke exposure is occurring in people's homes, or cars. Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, jumped at the opportunity of the recent press to introduce a bill that would allow police officers to stop and cite drivers smoking with children under the age of 6 in the car.

I think it's important to keep our children healthy, even at the expense of the personal freedom of smoking. What do you think? Is it going too far?

Committed to your health,

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Quick Tylenol Warning

Today the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that shows the maximum dose of Tylenol recommended (4 g daily, or two 500 mg pills every six hours) elevates liver enzymes to levels that could cause liver damage. Enzyme levels even kept increasing 4 days after they stopped taking acetaminophen, and didn't return to normal for as long as 11 days. Please use caution and moderation!

Committed to your health,

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Causes for Obesity, or Just Correlations?

A study appearing in the International Journal of Obesity looks at 10 factors that might be adding to the obesity epidemic.

  1. Sleep deprivation.
  2. Pollution and chemicals.
  3. Heating and air conditioning use.
  4. Decreased smoking rates.
  5. Use of steriods, antidepressants & contraceptives.
  6. An aging population.
  7. Children being born to older women.
  8. Genetics.
  9. Higher fertility rates among overweight women.
  10. Attraction to similar body types.

Yeah, I agree these factors might be contributing to our society's weight gain, although inactivity and huge junk food portions have to be bigger contributors. So what's the solution? EXERCISE and EATING HEALTHY!!!

  1. Sleep deprivation? Exercise helps you sleep better.
  2. Pollution and chemicals? Exercise helps purge toxins out of your body, and foods full of antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) help combat the cellular damage and hormone disruption of pollution and chemicals.
  3. Heating and air conditioning use? Exercise (especially strength training) helps you regulate your temperature better so you need to depend on external means of finding comfort less.
  4. Decreased smoking rates? Exercise and eating healthy helps offset possible weight gain.
  5. Use of steriods, antidepressants & contraceptives? Exercise and eating healthy may not be able to fully offset medication effects. Talk with your physician about alternatives that may not have weight-gain side effects.
  6. An aging population? No! It's being sedentary and losing muscle that contributes to weight gain, not age by itself. Strength train to keep up your muscle mass and metabolism.
  7. Children being born to older women? A correlation. An active and healthy lifestyle with less TV, video games and junk food should prevent obesity in children.
  8. Genetics? Maybe, but genetics can only give you a predisposition to a certain weight, not determine it. Exercise and eating healthy still work.
  9. Higher fertility rates among slightly overweight women? I believe this is skewed because underweight women may not be able to conceive.
  10. Attraction to similar body types? Start exercising and eating well, and attract those who do also!

So we already knew the problem... and the solution. Let's take this new information, and just let it add to our motivation to be solution oriented!


Committed to your health,

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hoodwinked by Hoodia?

Have you been getting the same spam as I have? Every day I get at least one email advertising Hoodia - the latest promised quick fix for bodyfat loss. I didn't think anything of the email, knowing that Hoodia is a hoax, but then a client of mine told me they learned about Hoodia on 60 minutes! What?! Is that part of the spam true?! I also receive spam saying "Hoodia: As seen on Oprah". So, I had to dig deeper...

Well, I didn't find anything about Hoodia on Oprah's site, so let me know if you saw anything on her show.

What I read on 60 Minutes' site shocked me! In 2004, they traveled to Africa, where the bitter-tasting cactus-like plant grows, and talked about ANECDOTAL evidence of one of their reporters not being hungry all day after eating some of it. That's science?

An English pharmaceutical company called Phytopharm has spent more than $20 million on researching it. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had even teamed up with Phytopharm at one point, but and then decided the patent wasn't worth further money, since Hoodia doesn't work!

The truth? Hoodia has not been through a long-term scientific trail to see if it works. The study cited on the Phytopharm website said bodyfat was reduced after 2 weeks. Would you like to see results beyond 2 weeks? It also says "by day 15 the calorie intake had decreased by approximately 1000 kcal per day". I hope you know by now that a calorie deficit that significant is not only NOT healthy, but sure to destroy your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight permanently. And notice you can't find anything published on it after 2004? Don't you think you'd hear more recent news if it was working? Phytopharm even admits "further scientific studies are required to establish the safety profile of Hoodia".

All the Hoodia products you can find now are created by companies who decided to get in on the hype, and include contain between 0.1 and 0.01 percent of the active ingredient claimed. So, even if the patented Hoodia did work, none of the products on the market today would. Save your money!

Yes, losing weight has to be done the old fashioned way by eating slightly less, eating balanced meals, doing moderate amounts of cardiovascular exercise and strength training to preserve muscle. Don't be hoodwinked by Hoodia!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Over the Hedge" Reflects Society's Bad Eating Habits

So, I guess first I should explain why I saw "Over the Hedge". My days of seeing every "3-and-more-stars" movie that comes out, and throwing Oscar parties are over - temporarily. You see, I have a 2 and a half year old daughter. I can count on two hands the movies I've seen in a theater in the last 2 and a half years, whereas I used to be able to count as many in 2 and a half months. And the majority of the movies I've seen have been animated films.

While not usually my favorite kind of movie, I found a redeeming quality in this one. It was a great reflection of how our society looks at food, and what we consume. I just hope it serves as a mirror for parents who take their kids to see "Over the Hedge", and that it will move them to make some changes. Once kids are introduced to junk food, it's hard to steer them toward nutrition. It's truly addictive.

"If it tastes so good, it must be good for you?" I don't think so. But healthy food doesn't have to taste bad, and it's our responsibility as parents to guide our kids toward healthy choices. I hope I won't be the only parent who pops healthy popcorn and brings it into the theater for long!

The narrator of the movie calls humans "couch potatoes" with "pie holes". Sugar rushes keep us going, and enough is never enough. We exercise only to rid our guilt for eating. These are sad truths.

The animals in "Over the Hedge" know better than we do, that it's smart to "Eat to Live" rather then "Live to Eat".

Committed to your health,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

This is NOT Permission to Eat at McDonald's

A colleague of mine told me that McDonald's is putting on a new promotion trying to cater to people who want to eat healthier. I went to their web site to check it out, and what a promotion it is!

McDonald's is now selling "Go Active! Happy Meals" for adults. The meals include a salad, water or other drink, and one of four 15-minute workout DVDs: yoga, cardio, strength or core, led by a computer animated "virtual" trainer.

Sounds really great, huh? McDonald's promoting health... Giving people healthy fast food options...

There are 4 reasons I don't think it's a good idea for consumers to buy into this.

1. You still have to know what you're doing to get a healthy salad. One of the salads is a bacon ranch salad. With "crispy" (fried) chicken, bacon and ranch dressing, it has a whopping 540 calories and 32 grams of fat. That's 53% fat!!! A hamburger and small fries has 510 calories and only 22 grams of fat (39%). More nutritional info here.

The idea behind a salad being healthy is that it's low in calories and full of high-nutrient veggies. Many salads contain bacon, fried chicken or noodles, butter soaked croutons, cheese or other foods that are high in calories or fat. Also, unless the salad dressing says it's low-fat, it's not. Iceberg lettuce has virtually no vitamins in it, so if your salad is mostly light colored lettuce, you're out of luck for your vitamin dosage for the day.

2. Keeping salads fresh is real a challenge. when is the last time you tried a salad at a fast food place? Last time I did, the lettuce was wilted and brown, the tomatoes flavor-less, the shredded carrots dry and the chicken was rubbery. (That was all that was left of the salad after I picked the cheese off it, since I wasn't willing to open the bacon and crouton packets.) By definition, salads need to be prepared ahead of time to be "fast" food, so freshness is nearly impossible.

3. The smell of french fries. Would you really be able to hold your resolve once you walked in? Need I say more?

4. It's still McDonald's. Even if you do eat a salad, with the light dressing and only a water, you're still supporting a restaurant that serves about the worst food for you on the planet. Have you watched "Super Size Me" or read "Don't Eat This Book" yet? Until they start serving truly healthy salads, offering even more healthy choices, and offering less super-sized artery-clogging foods, I'm not going to become a regular.

Yeah, I might have to go and check out the DVDs, but since they only work on PCs, PlayStations or Xboxes and not Macs, there's another reason they won't make a convert out of me!

Committed to you health,

P.S. As I dug deeper into the program online, I learned they have a link to a menu plan for certain calorie ranges. I thought for sure it would be a menu of McDonald's foods, but there weren't any. Although beer, goldfish crackers and doughnuts were options, I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a variety of foods you could prepare at home. They also have some great family fitness articles and other resources.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Calcium Helps, Doesn't Help, Helps...

Here we go again!

In February, the widely held belief that Calcium
supplementation helps prevent osteoporosis was shot
down by a report from the Women's Health Initiative Study.
Monday, April 24, 2006, the Archives
of Internal Medicine published a study
that swings
us back to the belief that it works after all. What
should we believe?

Sometimes studies leave us with confusing and
conflicting results. Studies may need to be redesigned
or repeated before we'll know the truth.

This is a case where the interpretation of the study
and study design led us to believe calcium has no
effect erroneously.

The WHI study reported results of women who were in
the group that was SUPPOSED to take calcium. However,
not all of them actually did! When statistically
insignificant results were reported, it was because of
compliance, not efficacy. When the results are
analyzed for women who actually took their calcium,
there was a 29% lower risk of hip fractures than those
who didn't. It also found a 21% reduced risk for women
over 60, even if they weren't consistent in taking
their supplement every day!

Further disrupting the results of the WHI study, women
in the control group could've been taking hormone
replacement therapy or other medications that can
prevent bone loss, or taking calcium without being
told to.

In the study reported in the Archives of Internal
Medicine, women who took at least 80 percent of their
600 mg calcium supplement twice a day, had a 44%
reduction in fractures!

Conclusion from all the recent studies: take the
doctor recommended 1200 mg of calcium with vitamin D
a day if you're a woman over 50.

Committed to your health,

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fast Food Poison

Processed food companies and restaurants have made tremendous changes since the FDA regulated the listing of trans fats on nutritional labels. I wrote an article detailing the negative effects of trans fats and the changes that have been made.

Unfortunately not enough changes have been made yet.

The New England Journal of Medicine published a new study April 13, with a shocking statement about just how bad trans fats are for you. "The daily intake of about 5 g of trans fat is associated with a 25 percent increase in the risk of ischemic heart disease."

I knew that trans fat raises bad cholesterol and lowers good cholesterol, but that new statistic really drives home just what a huge impact it has. A few handfuls of cookies or chips and you could increase your risk 100%!

The study found trans fats were used more frequently in McDonald's and KFC french fries and chicken nuggets in this country than some others, so the regulations of disclaiming what's in your food hasn't been enough. It's time to choose other restaurants and foods that won't kill you!

P.S. Here is a USDA list itemizing high trans fat items.

Committed to your health,