Save your money: Vitamins and herbal supplements

save your money and buy healthy foodsBuy healthy food and skip the vitamins

Last week two news stories caught my attention.

First, medical experts have (once again) come out saying that the evidence does not support taking supplemental vitamins to reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government panel that provides guidelines to the public on such things as preventive care and screening tests, has recently updated its recommendations for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Looking at a large number of smaller studies (what’s called a meta-analysis), the researchers at the Kaiser Permamente Center for Health … Continue reading

Nutrition is key: “Food, Inc.”

nutrition is keySupermarkets can be scary

Today is Halloween, and I just watched the most terrifying movie!  😯

No, it wasn’t Carrie or Paranormal Activity 4. It was Food, Inc., an exposé of America’s food industry—the multinational, fast-food and junk-food-supporting, animal-abusing, politically-subsidized conglomerations that produce the majority of our food products.

The film maker, Robert Kenner, points out that the average supermarket contains 47,000 items, but most are made by just a handful of giant corporations, such as Coca Cola, Tyson or Proctor & Gamble.

These megacompanies keep hidden some pretty nauseating industry practices. Perhaps they think we are too ignorant … Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 28, 2013

June 24-28, 2013It seems to have been a busy week in health care news, and I found it difficult to settle on what interested me the most. But here are my picks:

Coke for breakfast?

Apparently that is one of the marketing strategies Coca-Cola is considering to increase its sales in the United Kingdom. It is not clear whether they mean to actually pitch the idea that a Coke would be a great accompaniment to a bowl of oatmeal (maybe an Egg McMuffin) or they mean to develop a new line of beverages to compete with tea and coffee. But sales of … Continue reading

“Farmacology”

farmacologyHow are farming and medicine alike?

I just finished reading a thoughtful and informative book by Harvard-educated physician, Daphne Miller, MD. In Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, she makes an analogy between the “complex and dynamic” systems of soil and modern farming practices, and the human body and modern medicine.

After reading a book about soil ecosystems, Dr. Miller was struck by the similarities of the chemical processes that occurred in soil and those that happened in our own intestines.

Like our own biosystems, it [soil] too depends on bacteria and fungi

Continue reading

Diet for cancer prevention

My belief as a frugal nurse is that each of us has the power to improve our health and lower our health care costs. Prevention is key, and in my posts I advocate such preventive actions as vaccinations, hand washing, adequate sleep, drug safety, exercise and a healthy diet.

Diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and, I think, is crucial to cancer prevention.

Therefore, I read with keen interest a recent post by David Katz, MD, on the HuffPost Healthy Living Blog.

Dr. Katz interviewed a one-time student, Nicole Larizza, a nutritionist currently … Continue reading

Weekly rounds May 10, 2013

I’ve finally realized there are just too many health-related news stories every week for me to comment on in a timely manner. And some news tidbits are interesting or funny, but really not worth a whole post.

But I would still like to share with you the stories that caught my eye over the week, so on Fridays I will start posting a weekly summing up, or “rounds” to use health care lingo, of what I have found of interest.

Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry. Really?

In the did-we-really-need-a-study-to-tell-us-this? file, a research letter published in Journal of the American Continue reading

Grapefruit vs. drugs

Florida. The Sunshine State. I am here on vacation enjoying some much-needed warmth and sun. I’m also enjoying the abundance of fresh oranges and grapefruit.

Luckily for me, I don’t take any prescription medications. I remember all the dire warnings in the media last fall that grapefruit juice is more deadly than ever—beware!

Of course, grapefruit has not suddenly turned evil. The problem is that there are so many medications on the market, more every year, that interact badly—yes, even lethally—with that ruby red fruit.

Grapefruit, as well as limes, pomelos and Seville oranges, contain chemical compounds called furanocoumarins, … Continue reading

“Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

dvd fat sick nearly deadSometimes drastic change is required

Last night I watched a truly inspiring documentary, a testament to the power of a healthy diet.

Fat Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles Australian filmmaker Joe Cross’s journey to health. Fat, fortyish, and suffering from an autoimmune disease, Joe spends 60 days traversing America. But no fast food stops for Joe—his mission is to drink only fresh fruit and vegetable juice (he travels with his own juicer) for the entire 60 days. Joe believes fasting on juice will allow his body to heal from the inside out.

We all know the typical American diet (and … Continue reading

Vitamin D – Yes, no or maybe?

The sunshine supplement

Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.

I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.

A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading

Pass the salt

Two reports last week reminded Americans—again—that we are eating too much salt (sodium), and the media gleefully passed on the news—again—that what we eat is killing us.

Possibly. But it’s not helpful to focus the blame on salt, when it alone is not the problem.

The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that, on average, adults consume 4,000 mg of sodium every day, or about twice what’s recommended. The United States Dietary Association (USDA) recommends no more than 2,300 mg/day (about 1 teaspoon); the AHA advises less than 1,500 mg/day.

In a coordinated analysis, researchers from Harvard Medical School concludedContinue reading

Boning up on calcium

Out of sight, out of mind

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and unearthed an economy-sized bottle of calcium tablets. Oops! I should be taking one or two of those every day.

Or should I?

Everyone knows calcium is necessary for bone health. Most women have been told by their doctors that they need extra calcium after menopause because without estrogen’s help, bones do not absorb it well. Low calcium leads to osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones, which lead to huge health care costs. Oh no!

Too much of a good thing—or the wrong thing

Continue reading

The probiotics con

Probiotics are of limited use

As a nurse, I often give patients the advice to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics to decrease the risk of developing diarrhea or, in women, vaginal yeast infections.

Why yogurt? Because it contains live, beneficial micro-organisms—now called probiotics—that are thought to replenish the “good” bacteria incidentally killed when taking antibiotics. In theory, eating yogurt makes sense. At best, it helps; at worse, you get a tasty snack with some extra calcium.

In the last few years, however, I have seen probiotic-laced products (fortified yogurt, snack bars, capsules) account for an increasingly large part of the … Continue reading

Got a craving?

In another bit of good news this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that Americans are actually eating less fast food. Since 2006, an American adult’s total daily calories from fast food has dropped from 12.8% to 11.3%.

This number, although small, surprised me. It is no secret that America is in an obesity epidemic; more than one-third of adults meet the definition of obesity with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. In children, the obesity rate is about 15%.

Obesity is tied to all sorts of chronic health problems such as heart disease, … Continue reading