Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Of Death and Vitamins

This article says, “Supplements ‘raise death rate by 5%’” They are talking about vitamin A, beta carotene, and vitamin E. Is this really news? Haven’t we known for some time not to take beta carotene? I even think I heard something a few years ago about vitamin E, but I'm not sure. This article talks about the current issues surrounding vitamin E. There is even a reference that says taking vitamins E and C together might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by 64 to 78%? That's interesting.

There was an article the other day that said selenium and vitamin E taken together work to strengthen the immune system. And when I had my prostate checked a few years ago the doctor recommended I take selenium, yet the above article even questions the effectiveness of selenium.

What are you supposed to believe in all this? What are you supposed to do? Take supplements or not take supplements?

Since I am vegetarian I will continue to take a B supplement. But I do think that when it comes to getting vitamins and antioxidants it has always been, and will continue to be better to get them from your diet.

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Health Notes

Here are some miscellaneous articles of interest:
Too many women don't get enough vitamin D during pregnacy.

Vitamin A may protect against stomach cancer, but that doesn’t mean go out and take a supplement.

New research says garlic apparently does not lower cholesterol.

Men who take common pain relievers might increase their risk of high blood pressure?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Gene Therapy to Save Limbs?

Doctors may someday use gene therapy to treat critical limb ischemia caused by peripheral artery disease. The results of clinical trials have been very promising. More trials are ongoing. Let us hope they get this figured out and more people don’t have to lose their limbs because of diseased arteries.

Here are some symptoms of peripheral artery disease. This is a pretty serious condition. If you have symptoms, it is a good idea to see a doctor.

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Uric Acid

This article says that uric acid could affect the cognitive functioning of elderly people. The thing about this article, though, is that sometimes uric acid can be good and sometimes it can be bad – for example, sometimes uric acid might protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Scientists do not yet know why this is the case. Here are some dietary sources of uric acid and purines.

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Monday, February 26, 2007


There are a lot of important organs in the human body, but the brain is pretty important. Here are some interesting articles about what Woody Allen called his second favorite organ:

Good sleep is just as important to your health as are diet and exercise. I might add that learning to deal with stress is important too. Then of course there are brain exercises.

Then there is this article that says physical exercise might be beneficial for the brain.

I had always believed that when brain cells died, they were gone. But here are some brain cells that regenerate.

Researchers may have reduced the levels of certain proteins in the brains of mice, which could have positive implications for someday treating Alzheimer’s disease in humans.

There may be new ways to determine who is at risk of developing schizophrenia.

KetoCal, a commercially available high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet designed to treat epilepsy in children may be effective in treating brain tumors.

Regarding Down syndrome, here are two articles. One says that taking Gingko might improve the memory of Down’s patients. The other article is about the same research, I think, and talks about improving the memory of Down’s patients, but it doesn’t seem to mention Gingko. I don’t know why, but you can check it out for yourself.

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Pennsylvania does not have a law allowing women to breastfeed in public, although apparently Philadelphia does have such an ordinance. This came up recently when a woman was harassed and threatened by mall security at the Berkshire Mall near Reading, PA for breastfeeding there. This led to a huge “nurse in” at the mall, with about 150 mothers participating with their babies. Let us hope that Pennsylvania soon joins the other thirty six states that do have laws allowing breastfeeding in public.

In other news, many sources say that breast milk is really good for babies, but here is an article that says breastfeeding may help protect mothers from heart disease. That’s good news, and is just one more reason to breastfeed as far as I’m concerned.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Eating Disorders

This article says “Improving Body Image Key to Treating Eating Disorders.” I can understand that. I do think that too many girls feel they are overweight when they really are not. Or they feel their weight and appearance are problems when they really are not. Or they receive messages from society or their families that lead to unhealthy obsessions with their appearance. Or they are somehow led to reject their natural appearance and try to make themselves over with a different appearance. Psychological intervention might help all that.

Eating disorders are complex problems, though. The woman in this article says, “It wasn't about body image for me but having some control.” So this is another perspective.

While we’re on this subject, this article says that some people may have a genetic predisposition to develop anorexia, so that is another perspective, which may be true as well. Very complex.

The thing is, all this does not have to be either/or. It is probably all correct. Eating disorders are probably about body image and control and genetics and other things as well. So when we are raising our girls, we need to help them feel good about themselves. And if they somehow get off track, then we need to get them some help. This is very important. We’re talking about lives possibly being ruined here.

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Gender Difference

When men have a heart attack there is often squeezing chest pain or pressure. When women have a heart attack, the symptoms are often different: shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting and back and jaw pain. It is important that both men and women recognize heart attack symptoms, and get the help they need fast. Two things you can do immediately if you’re having a heart attack is call 9-1-1 and chew an aspirin.

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Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the number one cause of cancer death among non-smokers, and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. To encourage more people to get checked for colon cancer, this article lists twelve myths that shouldn’t stand in the way of your getting checked.

I think I read somewhere recently that colon cancer was caused by sugar in the intestines, or something like that. This article seems to refute that. Here are some apparent risk factors. I eat a low fat, high fiber diet, without meat, and with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and some carbohydrates.

Here are some symptoms of colon cancer. And here is an informative article from Medline.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Healthy Prostate

If you don’t want an enlarged prostate, you might want to try eating lots of fruits and vegetables.

I remember when I had my encounter with prostate problems in 2000. The distinct impression I came away with from the whole episode was that one of the main contributors to prostate problems was cholesterol – lower your cholesterol and you lower your prostate risk. Here is one article that seems to agree with that. I’m sure there are others. Anyway, not long after that I stopped eating meat altogether, lowered my fat intake, and became a vegetarian. I think that is the way to go, not only for prostate health, but for other conditions as well.

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Weather Warnings

I think there is pretty much of a consensus that air pollution contributes to people having strokes. Here is one article, and here is another article. If there’s not an actual consensus, at least there is enough of one for me so that I’m more careful. That is one reason why I do my walking at the mall in the summer, especially when it is so hot, humid, and hazy outside. It is obvious that such conditions are unhealthy.

Also, this article says that cold weather can increase heart attack risks, and not just from shoveling snow. Apparently the cold may lead to increased blood viscosity, increased clotting factors, and increased pressure on the heart wall, all of which could lead to a heart attack in someone with existing risk factors. This is another reason why I do my walking at the mall.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Drink to Your Health

We have already spoken about how green tea may help against prostate cancer, as well as other health conditions.

Just the other day we spoke about the possible health benefits of pomegranate juice.

We’ve talked at great length about wine drinking and health.

Now it seems that coffee may help against colon cancer. And although you may not be able to get all your daily fiber from coffee, it apparently does contain some soluble fiber. And is it really true that caffeine protects the elderly from heart disease?

Drinking tomato juice may prevent blood clots in those with diabetes by thinning the blood?

Of course whenever you are drinking anything it is a good idea to be aware of the calories you are consuming. If you drink a lot of juice, for example, that is a lot of calories, which have to be accounted for somehow – either by weight gain, or exercise, etc. The idea is to take an already healthy diet and fit in some healthy drinks. For example, if you are drinking two glasses of wine per day, you might consider drinking just one glass plus one glass of pomegranate juice. Be sure to watch those calories.

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Chocolate for Me

Drinking cocoa is supposed to boost blood flow to key areas of the brain for 2 to 3 hours. You know, as a low-fat vegetarian who verges on being vegan, I don’t eat chocolate, because of the milk and calories and cholesterol. But recently I had an idea: I bought an 8 oz box of Hershey’s Cocoa, naturally unsweetened. I put about a tablespoon of cocoa in a little bowl, add sugar, water, and put it in the microwave for a few seconds, just so the water and cocoa mix. That is how I take chocolate now, almost like a little cup of espresso. I think it is rather healthy for me. I’m not eating a candy bar; I’m just having some chocolate, which in and of itself is not unhealthy. It is what the candy manufacturers do to the chocolate that makes it unhealthy in my opinion. And of course it is what the consumers do – consuming too much, even of a good thing like chocolate – that leads to obesity, illness, etc.

While we’re on the subject of chocolate, some cocoa may help prevent heart disease. And apparently Mars products contain more healthy flavonols because of the way the cocoa is processed.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Iron and Illness

I have thought for some time that too much iron in my diet was not good for me as a man. (Woman may have different requirements.) I don’t remember now where I first heard that, or exactly what it said, but this article seems to confirm that opinion. It says, among other things:

While iron is a necessary nutrient, it is needed only in small amounts. When too much iron is absorbed from the diet, it can cause a wide variety of health problems. High levels of iron are associated with an increased risk for cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses such as endocrine problems, arthritis, diabetes, and liver disease.

Wow, I’m glad I don’t take any iron supplements, and I’m glad I stopped eating meat, which is a major source of iron. Iron has been linked with lung cancer in particular, and other cancers in general.

Also, I ran across an article recently that says too much iron in your blood may damage your arteries. This is another reason why I’m glad to be vegetarian.

Since I am a vegetarian, you might wonder where I get my iron. Here is a link of vegan sources. Apparently there is no shortage of iron in our food, even in vegetables. Part of our problem is that we have been brainwashed in this country to think we need to take iron. I grew up in the 1950s when there were Geritol commercials on TV telling us we all might have iron deficiency anemia. In my opinion that was just one more example of a corporation trying to make money, because not that many people had low iron levels, and I doubt they do now.

I hope some of this discussion opens people’s eyes to the truth about iron in our diet. Too much is not good, and I think it is unlikely that I don’t have enough, even though I am vegetarian. That being said, however, it would be a good idea to have your blood tested for iron the next time you go to the doctor, and particularly if you don’t feel good.

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Coronary Bypass: On Pump or Off?

I have written and thought a lot recently about coronary bypass surgery. Here are the articles. One article says a heart-lung machine might cause brain damage in some cases; and according to this article, “stopping the heart and passing the blood through a heart-lung machine . . . frequently leads to ‘whole body inflammation,’ which includes complications such as brain swelling, heart arrhythmia and infections.” So having read these articles I had pretty much decided that having a bypass operation performed on a beating heart, i.e., without the heart-lung machine, would be the way to go if I ever needed such an operation.

Now, however, this article says that the off pump procedure is no better at preventing mental decline after five years than the procedure using the heart-lung machine. In fact, after five years half of the patients who had undergone each procedure showed mental decline. That’s pretty depressing. It just reinforces my opinion that you want to do everything you can do to avoid needing to have a bypass. That means eating right (vegetarian, no hydrogenated oil), watching your fat and cholesterol, exercising, not smoking, etc.

So there are basically two opinions about coronary bypass operations as stated in the above article:

(Dr.) Sellke said he favors on-pump bypass in his own practice. His advice for people facing bypass surgery: "I would go to the best surgeon and leave it up to the discretion of that surgeon. I would rather have an on-pump bypass and have the best surgeon."

But van Dijk had a different view. "Because it is conceivable that off-pump surgery decreases the risk of perioperative stroke -- although definite evidence for this is not available yet -- I would personally prefer to undergo an off-pump procedure, and I would recommend the same to patients who have an increased risk of this terrible perioperative complication," he said.

I think I tend to favor off-pump too. But I guess if we ever need a bypass that will be the time to decide. President Clinton had the on pump operation, so it must not be too bad. But he also had his bypass in the eighth best hospital in the country. We can’t all be that lucky, however I do live relatively close to Duke which is number seven . . . .

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tea Tree Oil

There is the possibility that the European Union may ban tea tree oil. Users of the oil risk having rashes and allergies. Some boys who used products containing the oil apparently grew breasts. I bought some tea tree oil recently. As I recall it was rather expensive. The odor of it was so strong that I only used it once. I didn’t want to go around all day smelling like tea tree oil.

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Albert Einstein, Vegetarian

It has been said that Albert Einstein was a vegetarian. Here are some of his quotations on vegetarianism:

It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.

Vegetarian food leaves a deep impression on our nature. If the whole world adopts vegetarianism, it can change the destiny of humankind.

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.

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Flaxseed oil may be good for bone health.

It also may help reduce blood pressure.

Flaxseed lowers cholesterol, like statin drugs? Interesting.

I’ve always heard that flaxseed oil is
sensitive to heat, so you should not cook with it

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sexualization of Girls

This report says that sexualization of girls in America is very prevalent and leads to several serious mental health problems in girls and women. I can readily agree with these conclusions, but upon reflection they seem to me like a large part of a much bigger problem, and that is the nurturing of the corporation at the expense of the individual.

I’ve talked about this many times before. Albert Einstein said, "If a visitor should come to this country from another planet, would he not find it strange that in this country so much power is permitted to private corporations without their having commensurate responsibility?”

Corporations have the power to sexualize our girls, and yet when the girls develop mental problems, when their lives are seriously affected, the corporations don’t have the responsibility to fix the problems to which they have contributed.

The same thing is true of food and health: corporations have the power to sell us all types of unhealthy food; they have the power to shape public opinion; they can make jokes about healthy eating and denigrate those who follow a healthy lifestyle; they can praise those who eat meat and fast food; they can extol the virtues of excessive consumption while criticizing moderation. And yet when our people become obese, when they develop diabetes, when they get cancer and die the corporations don’t have the responsibility to fix the problems to which they have contributed.

But that is the American Way, and it’s wrong. And it is one of the major things that is wrong with America. Will it ever change? I doubt it. Not only are the corporations firmly entrenched in our culture, but they are exporting the American Way to countries around the world, just as when the tobacco industry began exporting cigarettes overseas.

In all fairness, however, the sexualization of girls is not just an American phenomenon. I doubt that corporations in other countries are really any different than those in this country.

In the meanwhile, you still have the victims. Here is the full report on the sexualization of girls. Here are ways we can empower girls. And here are things that parents can do to alleviate the problem. Let us hope and pray that we can alleviate the problem.

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Spearmint Tea

Hirsutism is a condition in which women have too much hair on the face, stomach, breasts, etc. It sometimes results from the medical disorder polycystic ovary syndrome which is potentially serious and needs to be seen by a doctor. But often hirsutism results from an overproduction of male hormone. In mild cases of hirsutism spearmint tea may prove effective in reducing the hormone and thereby reducing the excess hair. It follows from this that men probably don’t want to drink a lot of spearmint tea.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Pomegranate Juice

I don’t believe there are any miracle foods. I do however believe there are some foods that can contribute to our bad health, and there are some foods that can contribute to our good health. Pomegranate juice may be one of the latter. This article says the juice may help fight atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, and actually contribute to unclogging the arteries. This article says it may reduce plaque in the brain and help fight Alzheimer's disease. And this article says that it is so effective against prostate cancer that it might help older men outlive the disease.

These are some pretty impressive claims. Maybe it is a miracle food after all? I bought a jar of pomegranate juice last night at my local Lebanese store. It was something like $7 at my neighborhood grocery, but about $5.50 at NeoMonde. I had a glass last night with my snacks of hummus, tomatoes, olives, and pumpkin seeds. (NB: if you can't buy Pomegranate Juice in your area, you can search for it in the Google box on the right. Just type buy pomegranate juice.) One thing I would like to say: even at $7 a bottle it is cheaper than a bottle of wine, because you get more in a bottle. I used to drink two glasses of wine per day. Now I drink one glass of wine and one glass of pomegranate juice.

While I’m on this topic, there are a few things I would like to say. Whenever I go into NeoMonde Restaurant it is like entering into a foreign country, with the Lebanese music, the Middle Eastern aromas, and all the foreign foodstuffs on sale in the grocery section. It makes me really nostalgic for the Middle East. I went to Egypt in 1976. And even though it was one of the happiest experiences of my life I doubt I will go again. With the way the situation is now, and with the way we are hated in that area of the world I just don’t think it is safe for an American to travel in the Middle East, and that is too bad. I really resent that.

All that aside, I really admire the Mediterranean Diet. I think it is a very healthy way to go. And of course there is no better place to eat it than on the Mediterranean Sea. But with the Americanization of the world it is getting more difficult to find places that are unadulterated by such things as fast food restaurants. So I can visit the Mediterranean again if I want to, but it won’t be the way it was in 1976, before McDonald’s moved in.

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Child Health and Television

Dr. Aric Sigman has analyzed 35 studies and identified 15 negative effects that television watching may have on children. Those effects include the impact it has on a child’s heart, immune system, metabolism, eyesight, attention span, hormones, sleep, brain growth, weight gain; and how it may contribute to a child’s developing Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cancer, early puberty, and diabetes. Read the article for other effects and for a more complete discussion of these issues. Also, the comments at the end of the article are very insightful and pertinent for the most part.

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Treating Cancer

This article is so cool! It has a wealth of information about cancer and its treatment. The article was published in 1996, so you might think some of the information is out of date, but I’m sure some of it is not. And much of the information is very interesting. For example:

The synergistic effect of vitamin E and selenium together to enhance the immune system is greater than either alone.

Many types of cancer cells use an enzyme called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) which makes the prostaglandin hormone, E2. This hormone helps fuel the growth of such cancers as colon, pancreas, estrogen-negative breast, prostate, bladder, and lung to name just a few.

According to results of a study in the UK, turmeric was found to inhibit the production of COX-2.

The incidence of prostate cancer in China, a population that consumes green tea on a regular basis, is the lowest in the world.

A rich garlic content in the diet might reduce the proliferation of tumors in humans.

Fish oil has been shown to specifically induce apoptosis of pancreatic cancer cells and to inhibit metastasis of breast and lung cancer.

There are many other nuggets of information like these. I have not attempted to independently verify the above claims. I leave that to the reader.

If you are sick, have cancer, whatever, be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking supplements. And please do your own research and/or ask your doctor if you are thinking about taking any of the supplements mentioned here.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

GM Potatoes

Dr. Arpad Pusztai is famous in the annals of genetic engineering controversies. He published a study in 1998 which claimed that there were dangers connected with some genetically modified (GM) potatoes. His work was reviled and he apparently lost his job over the flap. Of course in the intervening years genetic engineering has moved forward to the point where it is now almost ubiquitous, at least in certain countries like the United States. Very few people worry about the safety of GMOs if they are aware of their existence at all.

Now it turns out that Dr. Pusztai may have been right all along? That he was victim of a smear campaign? That some information about the case was suppressed for eight years? Read this article, it’s very interesting.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday Recipe

Here is a quick and easy recipe, especially for kids: while cooking a box of Stovetop Stuffing, stir in a 6 oz. can of white meat chicken. Use 4 tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter. Much healthier that way.

That's all. It really is good. My son loves it. I have trouble staying away from it myself.

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Chronic Fatigue

Most doctors and government officials are now taking chronic fatigue syndrome seriously.

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Vitamin A, Fetuses & Depression

Apparently taking too much vitamin A can harm your fetus if you are pregnant. (We’ve talked about this before. Here is one article, here is another article, and here is another article.) Vitamin A is found in fish oil, so pregnant women are advised to take “only low dose omega-3 supplements.” Of course, couldn’t that concern be avoided if you took flax seed oil, which contains plant-derived omega-3s?

Regarding fish oil supplements and mercury, the fish oil I use (Carlson) says on the label it contains no detectable levels of mercury, PCBs, etc, so I feel pretty safe taking it.

And finally, the article to which I am referring in this post says that taking fish oil is probably not going to help people who are depressed. OK. I wish it did help, but I still think that taking fish oil, if you’re not pregnant, is a good thing to do.

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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

I stand corrected: apparently 15,000 Americans die each year from aneurysms of the abdominal aorta, not 9,000 as I said on February 13; but in all fairness to me, the article I was quoting said 9,000. Anyway, abdominal aortic aneurysms remain a serious problem. Smokers, former smokers, or generally those who are over the age of 65 still need to be checked for this condition. In the meantime, there is new research that “raises hopes for developing a drug that could prevent small aneurysms from enlarging to the point where surgery is necessary.” That is good news. Surgery to repair an abdominal aorta is no picnic, nor is it cheap.

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Health in the USA

A couple of reports have come out recently that reflect badly on the state of health in the United States. First there was the report placing the US next to last among industrialized nations in child welfare. Now there is a report stating that the US health care system is getting worse. (It may not even cost all that much to fix it.) Add to that the fact that we are way down the list (behind Bosnia and Herzegovina) in life expectancy and it is easy to see where the priorities are in the country. (They ain’t on healthy eating and living longer.) The military industrial complex gets more than its fair share, as do large corporations generally, while the people get the short end of the stick.

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Fish and Pregnancy

Eating fish while you’re pregnant is supposed to be generally good for your baby, but there some caveats: eat oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines; don’t eat shark or marlin; limit your intake of tuna. There are more details here. I don’t know what to say about shellfish, but the FDA has some information on that here.

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