Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do multi-vitamins stop cancer, heart attacks? This Study Answers That Question.

Will taking multivitamins protect you from dying of cancer or heart disease? The answer is no, according to new research.
In a study of more than 180,000 people, scientists saw the same number of deaths from cancer and heart disease among multivitamin-takers and those who did not take the supplements.
"People need to understand that just taking these multivitamins is not sufficient to prevent disease," said Jennifer Hsiang-Ling Lin, assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, who did not work on the study.

Does this mean that what you eat has no bearing on your health? 
Of course not. If you eat foods that have vitamins in them, you do get reductions in cancer and heart disease ... just not when they're in the form of pills. 

Multiple past studies have shown no link between multivitamins and reduced risk of cancer or heart disease. Other recent research couldn't prove that multivitamins protect against diabetes, either.
But more than half of U.S. adults choose to take multivitamins, according to Lin.
Altogether, Park's team looked at the vitamin-popping habits of more than 82,000 men and nearly 100,000 women, who were an average of 60 years old. Then they tracked how many died, and the causes, over the next 11 years.
The multivitamins didn't seem to protect users from cancer in general, or from cancers of the lung, colon, rectum, prostate, or breast.
According to Consumer Reports, Americans spent almost $4.7 billion on multivitamins in 2008. Depending on the type, supplements range from $3 to $16 a month.

Do vitamins stop cancer, heart attacks? Study: no | Reuters

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Worried About Japan Food Radiation? Don't Eat The Chrysanthemums!

I read the Reuters headline in shock:

WHO warns of "serious" food radiation in disaster-hit Japan

This is a level-headed news source, not prone to the kind of deceptive sensationalism you see on other outlets that over-hype everything (Huffington Post is an unfortunate one). 
But in this case, about 75% of this article has absolutely nothing to do with food or food contamination. It's just regurgitation of the standard story that Japan is struggling to contain the damage at the reactor, they're pumping in tons of water to cool the rods, etc. 
But what about the horror of food radiation? 
As it turns out, there is no evidence of contaminated food from Fukushima reaching other countries.
Of course, Japan's health ministry has urged some residents near the plant to stop drinking tap water after high levels of radioactive iodine were detected. This is completely expected, given that they are right beside the nuclear plant. 
Isolated cases of contaminated vegetables and milk have caused their government to pause the sale of raw milk from Fukushima prefecture and spinach from a nearby area. Also, a great precaution to take. 
But is radioactive food flooding the world food market? Of course not, and not even in Japan itself. For example, there were no major reports of contaminated food in Tokyo, a city of about 13 million people. City officials however said higher-than-standard levels of iodine were found in an edible form of chrysanthemum.
"From reports I have heard so far, it seems that the levels of radioactive iodine and caesium in milk and some foodstuffs are significantly higher than government limits," said Jim Smith, a specialist in earth and environmental sciences at Britain's Portsmouth University.
"This doesn't mean that consumption of these products is necessarily an immediate threat, as limits are set so that foodstuffs can be safely consumed over a fairly long period of time. Nevertheless, for foodstuffs which are found to be above limits, bans on sale and consumption will have to be put in place in the affected areas."

Bottom line
If you're concerned about foods you might buy at your local grocery store, don't be. Just avoid the chrysanthemums for a while! 

WHO warns of serious food radiation in disaster-hit Japan | Reuters

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Mayo Clinic Weighs in on the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet has been in the news a lot lately, and now our mainstream health stake-holders are weighing in on the plan. Below is a brief summary put together by this group. 

Bottom line? 

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan combining elements of Mediterranean-style cooking. Here's how to adopt the Mediterranean diet.

If you're looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet remain tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, a recent analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of overall and cardiovascular mortality, a reduced incidence of cancer and cancer mortality, and a reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.
For this reason, most if not all major scientific organizations encourage healthy adults to adapt a style of eating like that of the Mediterranean diet for prevention of major chronic diseases.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

Key components of the Mediterranean diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)
The diet also recognizes the importance of enjoying meals with family and friends.

Fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables, pasta and rice. For example, residents of Greece eat very little red meat and average nine servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with a lower level of oxidized low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the "bad" cholesterol that's more likely to build up deposits in your arteries.
Nuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in fat (approximately 80 percent of their calories come from fat), but most of the fat is not saturated. Because nuts are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts — generally no more than a handful a day. For the best nutrition, avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.
Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grain and usually contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet there. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil — not eaten with butter or margarines, which contain saturated or trans fats.

Mediterranean diet for heart health -

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Fortified Foods Make Us UN-Healthier? Here's what the study says.

Let's just say that you have a hand full of sugar and synthetic dyes. This, of course, is awful for your health. Don't eat that. 

But then, what if you dissolved a multi-vitamin in it (which, on its own, abstracted from the context of food, does little to boost health)? This strategy turns out to be healthy, but not for you. It's very healthy as a marketing tactic.  

This study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition argues that nutrient intakes would actually decrease as a result of consuming foods slated for discretionary fortification. That's because consumers would reduce intake of foods like vegetables and fruit, meat and alternatives, milk products.

Discretionary fortification has been allowed in the US since the early 1990s as well as Europe. However, according to the Canadian researchers, the potential implications of such a practice for the health of a population “have been the subject of little research”. What studies have been done have indicated a positive impact on nutrient intakes, they noted.

The new paper adds to a previous article by Sacco and Tarasuk published in theJournal of Nutrition in 2009 (Vol. 139, No. 10, pp. 1980-1986). That article described Health Canada's proposed discretionary fortification policy as being“misaligned with the nutritional needs of Canadians”.
The more "fortifiable foods" there are, the less fruits and veggies get eaten.
An inverse association between fortifiable food intakes and the number of servings of foods like fruit and vegetables, dairy products, and meat was observed for most age and gender groups. These inverse associations also extended to vitamins A, D, B6 and B12, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and fiber, report the researchers.
What does this mean?
The only reason processed food products are eligible for fortification in the first place are because there's nothing of redeeming nutritive value in them to start with!! The only "fortified" foods you need to be eating are those that come out of the ground that way.  
“Therefore, Health Canada’s proposed discretionary fortification policy is at odds with national dietary recommendations,” they wrote.
Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Discretionary fortification may ‘discourage healthier eating’: Study

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