Category Archives: health awareness

Coffee drinkers enjoy life more

coffee potWhile coffee lovers everywhere might look at that headline and heartily agree – there may just be more to it than you’d think. Sure, drinking coffee might perk you up so you can be more present during your daily activities and interactions. And health benefits like decreased stroke risk and Type 2 diabetes risk could help you enjoy life more. But according to a new study, coffee drinkers enjoy life more because their coffee drinking might allow them to enjoy more life. Multiple cups of joe every day may help boost longevity.

“In our study, we found people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says one of the study authors, nutrition researcher Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. Decaf drinkers also saw benefits.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, build on a body of evidence linking a coffee habit to potential health benefits.

Now, of course, it’s possible to overdo it with caffeine. Research has shown that consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine can interfere with sleep and create feelings of unease. And some of us are even more sensitive.

One study found that 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of about two cups of coffee) is an optimal amount to enhance cognitive function and mood among sleep-deprived people. But we don’t all metabolize caffeine the same way.

As we’ve reported, the caffeine amounts in coffee vary wildly. One analysis, conducted by Bruce Goldberger, found a 16-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee from Starbucks could contain anywhere from 250 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine.

“Not everyone reacts to coffee in the same way,” says Andrew Maynard, who studies risk assessment at Arizona State University. He summarizes the benefits documented in this study as “small.”

He says this study does not prove cause and effect between drinking coffee and living longer. Rather, it points to an association. “There are a lot of unknowns as to what [may explain] the increase in life expectancy,” Maynard says.

Here’s a conversation from The Salt about the findings with study co-author Walter Willett, edited for length and clarity.

So, what do you think might explain this association? In the study, you point to compounds in coffee — such as lignans, quinides and magnesium — that may help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Prior studieshave pointed to these as well.

We’re not sure exactly how coffee is [linked] to all these benefits. The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phytochemicals. And my guess is that they’re working together to have some of these benefits.

We [see] similar benefits from caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. That’s important, because it suggests that caffeine is not responsible for [the benefit].

So this may be welcome news to people who drink decaf?

Yes, because too much [caffeinated] coffee can cause insomnia and loss of sleep, and that’s not a good thing!

The reduced risk of death was not seen among the coffee drinkers in your study who were smokers or former smokers.

Definitely. It’s extremely important to disentangle the effects of coffee from the effects of cigarette smoking.

So, what’s the take-home here? Is it that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle?

I think if people like coffee, it’s fine to include it [as part of your daily habit]. So, certainly, [people] should not feel guilty about moderate coffee consumption. It definitely can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
I wouldn’t suggest that someone who doesn’t like coffee go out and drink it.

Are you a coffee drinker? Are these findings likely to influence your own behaviors?

Well, I really like a good cup of coffee. But if I have more than two cups a day, I really don’t sleep as well. So, I’ve been switching more toward decaf or half decaf/half regular.

In this study, you also analyzed how coffee influenced the risk of specific diseases — or categories of diseases. What did you find?

We went beyond total mortality and looked at specific causes of death. And we found that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee have lower risk of [death] from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease [such as Parkinson's] and suicide.
Your findings come from data from two Nurses’ Health Studies, which included about 167,000 women. And it also looked at the 40,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
As you point out, the participants in these studies are about 95 percent white, largely middle-class and well-educated. Can you extrapolate to other populations?
Yes, I’m quite sure these findings would apply to other populations. This is a biological relationship. And we basically have a common biology. is always happy to see more good news associated with our favorite hot beverage. And while it’s always important for all of us to understand how much is too much, it certainly appears that there’s a lot more going on in that cup than just the caffeine!

Is the salmon on your dinner plate the same as the salmon you ordered for dinner? All about salmon fraud …

salmon-fraud-restaurants-600x380If you’re first response is, “Of course it is!” invites you to read further because this interesting study all about salmon fraud may really surprise you.

Would you be able to tell if the wild Alaskan sockeye salmon you ordered for dinner was swapped out for a less expensive piece of farm-raised salmon?

For the observant, the color difference between the two would likely be the first give away. (Sockeye has a deeper red-orange hue.) Or maybe you’d notice the disparity in the thickness of fillet. (Sockeye is flatter and less steaky in appearance.)

But what if you ordered the most coveted of salmon species — king salmon? (It’s also known as Chinook.) Much like farmed Atlantic salmon, its light in color, thick in texture and similarly marbled with fat. It’s also significantly more expensive. And according to a new report released Wednesday by conservation group Oceana, it’s a fish where you’re more likely to get duped — especially if you order it from a restaurant during the winter.

In its latest attempt to uncover seafood fraud, Oceana collected and tested 82 salmon samples from restaurants and grocery stores in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York between December 2013 and March 2014. Results showed that 43 percent of salmon samples tested were mislabeled, and that far more of that mislabeling is occurring in restaurants than in large supermarkets.

The instances of salmon fraud were significantly higher than during an earlier 2013 nationwide study by the same group. That study included far more — 384 samples, which showed salmon fraud at only 7 percent. But the jump isn’t being attributed to a sudden increase in unabandoned label swapping, rampant menu hijinks or differences in sample size. This survey was designed to measure fraud during the winter months, when salmon was not in season, and the marketplace would be shorter on supply, says Kimberly Warner, a senior scientist at Oceana who authored the new report.

“In D.C. in summer, I don’t think we had any salmon mislabeling. Same for Chicago,” says Warner.

To select samples for the newest study, Oceana searched online menus for restaurants touting “wild salmon” and sought out salmon labeled “wild” in grocery stores.

What the group found was that when wild salmon was out of season, the testing netted significantly different results. Diners were likely to get duped 67 percent of the time when ordering salmon in restaurants, compared with 20 percent of the time when buying in large grocery stores — which have to comply with country of origin labeling (COOL) regulations. And when diners were deceived, it was more likely to be an incident of farmed salmon being passed off as more expensive wild (69 percent of the time).

Erica Cline, an associate professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, conducted a similar study published in 2012. Initially, she also found higher rates of farmed salmon being swapped for wild during winter months. But her ongoing testing in the years since has found that fraud tends to fluctuate regardless of season. Like Oceana’s report, “we still see substantially higher rates of substitution in restaurants than in [grocery] stores,” Cline says.

Oceana says this kind of fraud is a real economic problem: Salmon-loving consumers aren’t always getting what they’re paying for, and responsible American salmon fishermen are being forced to compete with fraudulent products “receiving less cash than they should be for their hard-won catch,” according to the report.

And Warner says it’s an environmental problem for those consumers who go the extra mile to consult seafood sustainability ratings like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which ranks seafood as “best choice,” “good alternative” or “avoid.”

Salmon fraud is a real concern for seafood consumers and as the winter months approach, it’s important for us to understand that we’re actually getting what we pay for. Let’s make sure that the salmon we’ve ordered at our favorite restaurant is the salmon that’s being served to us.

If you’re over 50, your calcium intake has very little effect on your bone density

cs-osteoporosis-boost-bone-health-722x406We’ve all heard for years that calcium is a significant contributor to our bone health as we age. So after the age of 50 we’re all fairly cognizant of how much calcium we’re getting and how we’re getting it – through supplementation and diet. wants us all to be aware of some recent research that calls into question how important calcium is to bone density as we age.  In fact according to recent studies, calcium has little effect on bone density.

Calcium, eaten in foods or taken as supplements, has little or no effect on bone density or the risk of fracture in people over 50, according to two large reviews of studies in BMJ.

One analysis reviewed 59 randomized controlled trials of the effect of dietary and supplemental calcium on bone density. Together, the trials included 13,790 men and women over 50. The data showed that more calcium in the diet or taken as supplements increased bone density about 1 percent to 2 percent — too little to have any effect on fractures.

The other review pooled the results of 55 studies of calcium intake and fractures and found no significant association of overall calcium intake with broken bones. Some studies of supplements showed a slightly reduced risk for vertebral fracture, but none for hip or forearm fractures. The four most rigorous, randomized controlled trials of calcium supplements included more than 45,000 participants and showed no association between supplements and the risk of fracture at any site.

“We found no evidence that calcium intake is associated with the risk for fracture,” said the senior author, Dr. Mark J. Bolland, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “so if you have a normal diet, you don’t need to worry about your calcium intake.”

It’s certainly different information from what we’ve all been told in the past. It’s so important for all of us to keep abreast of the latest findings and how they may affect our dietary decisions. Our regular, every day diets may give us enough calcium to sustain our bone density. That’s great news for the over 50 crowd! We’ll continue to bring our community updates on this as well as other evolving health information.

Toxic chemicals are damaging our health

151001100058_1_540x360We hear it all the time … the level of chemicals we’re exposed to can’t hurt us – it’s not high enough. The population used to be told that about BPA in plastics. Turns out that wasn’t true. The truth is that no one has really been able to tell us how pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and other toxic chemicals are damaging our health. thought everyone in our community could really benefit from this new information.

Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals in the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the first global reproductive health organization to take a stand on human exposure to toxic chemicals.

The opinion was written by obstetrician-gynecologists and scientists from the major global, US, UK and Canadian reproductive health professional societies, the World Health Organization and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

FIGO, which represents obstetricians from 125 countries and territories, published the opinion in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics on Oct. 1, 2015, just prior to its Oct. 4 to 9, 2015, world congress in Vancouver, BC, where more than 7,000 clinicians and scientists will explore global trends in women’s health issues.

“We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals, and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, MD, PhD, Honorary Secretary of FIGO and lead author of the FIGO opinion. According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children and families around the world.”

Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more, according to the FIGO opinion.

“What FIGO is saying is that physicians need to do more than simply advise patients about the health risks of chemical exposure,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, a co-author of the FIGO opinion and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued an opinion on chemicals and reproductive health in 2013. “We need to advocate for policies that will protect our patients and communities from the dangers of involuntary exposure to toxic chemicals.”

Chemical manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries in the next five years, according to FIGO. In the U.S. alone, more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported, and yet the vast majority of these chemicals have not been tested. Chemicals travel the globe via international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. Environmental and health groups have criticized the proposed agreement for weakening controls and regulations designed to protect communities from toxic chemicals.

“Exposure to chemicals in the air, food and water supplies disproportionately affect poor people,” said Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc, a FIGO opinion co-author, past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and chair of the UCSF department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. “In developing countries, lower respiratory infections are more than twice as likely to be caused by chemical exposures than in developed countries.”

Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals is linked to millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars every year, according to the FIGO opinion, which cites the following examples:

• Nearly 4 million people die each year because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as to lead.
• Pesticide poisonings of farmworkers in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to cost $66 billion between 2005-2020.
• Health care and other costs from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe are estimated to be at a minimum of 157 billion Euros a year.
• The cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil and in homes and neighborhoods was calculated to be $76.6 billion in 2008 in the United States.

“Given accumulating evidence of adverse health impacts related to toxic chemicals, including the potential for inter-generational harm, FIGO has wisely proposed a series of recommendations that health professionals can adopt to reduce the burden of unsafe chemicals on patients and communities,” said FIGO President Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, MBBS, who is also past president of the British Medical Association.

FIGO proposes that physicians, midwives, and other reproductive health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals; work to ensure a healthy food system for all; make environmental health part of health care; and champion environmental justice.

Chemicals count. Our environment contributes to our health and well being and our environment carries toxins. Our food supply didn’t have to be chemically laden. Pesticides didn’t need to be uninvited guests in our body tissue. But they are. We’ve all got to advocate to eliminate the exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply. It’s already affected us all far too much.

Can chili peppers kill cancer cells?

1441705070647After read about this new finding, we reflected on how it might alter how people describe the heat associated with chili peppers. “It was so hot it made my eyes water.” “It was so hot my ears turned red.” “It was so hot my mouth was on fire.” Someday we just might hear, “It’s hot enough to kill cancer cells.” What an amazing thing.

Capsaicin, the compound responsible for chilis’ heat, is used in creams sold to relieve pain, and recent research shows that in high doses, it kills prostate cancer cells. Now researchers are finding clues that help explain how the substance works. Their conclusions suggest that one day it could come in a new, therapeutic form. Their study appears in ACS’The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

About 10 years ago, researchers reported that capsaicin can kill prostate cancer cells in mice while leaving healthy cells unharmed. But translating that dose to humans would require them to eat a huge number of chili peppers per day. Figuring out how capsaicin works could help researchers transform it into an effective drug in the form of an injection or pill.

Researchers have figured out that the molecule binds to a cell’s surface and affects the membrane, which surrounds and protects the cell. That finding prompted Ashok Kumar Mishra and Jitendriya Swain to try to gain a deeper understanding of capsaicin’s effects so it might be harnessed in the future for new medicines.

The scientists were able to detect how the compound interacts with cell membranes by monitoring its natural fluorescence. The study showed that capsaicin lodges in the membranes near the surface. Add enough of it, and the capsaicin essentially causes the membranes to come apart. With additional research, this insight could help lead to novel tools against cancer or other conditions.

It’s always exciting when research establishes links between natural foods and improving outcomes of disease. A natural approach that can be proven as effective will ultimately always be a better option than unnatural methods. Cancer treatment is exceptionally hard on the human body. More natural options would be welcome to the millions of people undergoing treatment. We look forward to hearing more about this fascinating development.

Obesity crisis may be bigger than we originally thought

shutterstock164062556We’ve been hearing that 30% of the population is overweight or obese for quite a while now. Thirty percent is a big enough number and certainly speaks to the prevalence of the condition of obesity. But today learned that it really may be much larger than that.

New estimates have revealed the extent of one of the biggest public health problems facing the US, as a research letter reports that more than two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.

The authors of the research letter, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, are Dr. Graham A. Colditz and Lin Yang of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.

Their paper describes an analysis of the most recent data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 2007-12) to calculate the prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Researchers had conducted a similar study around 20 years ago, analyzing data taken from 1988-1994 to work out the chronic disease burden associated with body mass index (BMI). The findings of that study were used to inform clinical practice and prevention strategies.

“Compared with 1988-1994, the distribution of the population’s weight status has increased in the past 20 years,” write the authors of the new research letter. “The rising trends in overweight and obesity warrant timely attention from health policy and health care system decision makers.”

In the new analysis, overweight was defined as a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30.0 and above and was divided into three different classes. BMIs of 30.0-34.9 were defined as class 1, BMIs of 35.0-39.9 were class 2 and BMIs of 40 and above were class 3.

Data were obtained for 15,208 men and women aged 25 and above in a sample representative of over 188 million adults. The researchers estimated that around 36.3 million men (39.96%) and 28.9 million women (29.74%) were overweight, with around 31.8 million men (35.04%) and 35.9 million women (36.84%) obese.

These findings make alarming reading when considering that overweight and obesity are associated with numerous chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There is also a financial cost to the problem; the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that obesity costs $190 billion each year in weight-related medical bills.

Such is the scale of the problem that a Gallup Poll conducted in November 2013 found that obesity was considered to be the third most urgent health problem facing the US, behind cost and access but ahead of cancer and heart diseases, the two leading causes of death in the country.

Dr. Donna H. Ryan – professor and associate executive director for clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge – suggests a number of possible triggers for the obesity epidemic.

These suggestions include changes to sleep patterns, increased availability of food and more sedentary lifestyles fueled by the decreased physical demands of many jobs and increased “screen time” with the use of televisions, computers and smartphones.

“Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environment interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required,” state the authors.

Dr. Ryan believes that society must learn to treat obesity as a disease rather than a consequence of a lack of willpower, becoming more accepting of people with the condition:

“If you have not had a friend, family member or colleague who has struggled with their weight and particularly if you haven’t tried to lose weight yourself, then it’s easy for you to ascribe negative stereotypical traits to overweight and obese people. It’s a lot like alcohol and drug addiction. Our society is more accepting of these conditions as a disease and less so for obesity.”

Previously, Medical News Today reported on a study finding that stepping on the scales daily and tracking the results on a chart is an effective way of losing weight and keeping it off.

We’ve been referring to obesity as a disease medically. But we know that in the minds of the population it isn’t necessarily viewed as other diseases. Instead, as the article states, obesity is looked upon more as a lack of willpower — some sort of a character flaw. It involves shame and sometimes shunning. It’s time to rethink our views in order to arrive at solutions for this tremendous health crisis.

Suffering from seasonal allergies? Probiotics might help.

woman-yogurt-bed-150504The season is upon us. After an especially long, cold and snowy winter, millions of people here in the U.S. are greeting the change in seasons with a chorus of sneezing, watery eyes and runny noses. Seasonal allergies have arrived and with them, the attempt to find a way to stop them. Could eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements be helpful?

Researchers analyzed the results from more than 20 previous studies and found that hay fever sufferers may get some benefits from using probiotics, improving their symptoms and quality of life.

But the jury is still out about whether probiotics are actually an effective treatment for people with seasonal allergies, said lead author Dr. Justin Turner, an ear-nose-and-throat surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Additional high-quality studies are needed before doctors would recommend for or against using probiotics to help treat people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Probiotics are bacteria that are thought to help maintain a healthy gut. They are found in certain foods, such as yogurt with live active cultures, kefir and sauerkraut, and also supplements. Probiotics may change the balance of bacteria in the intestines in a way that could protect the immune system from flaring up in response to pollens and other allergens, which may help reduce allergy symptoms, Turner said.

But he also cautioned that there is still much more information that needs to be understood about the effect of probiotics on the immune system.

Seasonal allergies are estimated to affect approximately 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes are typically treated with a combination of medications, including antihistamines, decongestants and steroid nasal sprays.

In the new study, published online in April in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers reviewed data from 23 randomized trials and more than 1,900 people.

They found that the majority of these studies (17 of 23) showed that people with seasonal allergies who took probiotic supplements or ate foods containing probiotics showed improvement in at least one outcome measure, such as improving their allergy symptoms, or their general quality of life, compared with allergy sufferers who took a placebo.

Six of 23 studies found probiotics had no benefit to people with hay fever, the researchers said.

But because the studies used different strains of live bacteria, different dosages and different probiotic supplement formulations over different periods of time, it is difficult to make any formal recommendations about probiotic use, bacterial strains or length of treatment that may benefit people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Even if probiotics prove effective for seasonal allergies, it’s unlikely they would replace the standard medical treatments currently used by people affected by them, Turner said.

While more research is needed, wants to point out that for seasonal allergy sufferers, it’s easy enough to determine if probiotics can help you. Yogurt is simple enough to add into your diet. And the majority of these studies did yield results that illustrates the addition as a viable option. Over-the-counter medication for seasonal allergies can keep us awake, put us to sleep, raise our blood pressure, and make us thirsty — not to mention that most contain ingredients we’re not very fond of. Testing out the probiotic concept seems to be more than a reasonably good idea!

It’s not just about high blood pressure: the effects of salt on other organs

salt sprinkled on tableWe all know that salt can have negative health effects. We know that’s true, and yet, doesn’t see any decrease in the sales of processed foods and millions are still walking through the doors of major fast food chains every day.

You may think you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat all the salty snacks and convenience foods you want and still register low numbers on the blood pressure cuff. But, new research suggests you may not be so lucky after all.

A review paper co-authored by two faculty members in the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System provides evidence that even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.

Authors of the paper, “Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure,” include William Farquhar and David Edwards in UD’s Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology; William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care; and Claudine Jurkovitz, a nephrologist epidemiologist and senior scientist in the Value Institute Center for Outcomes Research at Christiana Care.

The paper was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Blood pressure responses to alterations in dietary sodium vary widely, which has led to the concept of ‘salt-sensitive’ blood pressure,” says Farquhar. “There are no standardized guidelines for classifying individuals as having salt-sensitive blood pressure, but if blood pressure increases during a period of high dietary sodium or decreases during a low-sodium period, the person is considered salt sensitive. If there’s no change in blood pressure with sodium restriction, an individual is considered salt resistant.”

However, the research cited in the paper points to evidence of adverse effects on multiple target organs and tissues, even for people who are salt resistant.

Potential effects on the arteries include reduced function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels. Endothelial cells mediate a number of processes, including coagulation, platelet adhesion and immune function. Elevated dietary sodium can also increase arterial stiffness.

Farquhar and Edwards have done previous work in this area, with one study showing that excess salt intake in humans impairs endothelium-dependent dilation and another demonstrating that dietary sodium loading impairs microvascular function. In both cases, the effects are independent of changes in blood pressure.

They review their work and the growing body of evidence to support a deleterious effect of dietary salt on vascular function independent of blood pressure in a recent invited paper in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.

“High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber,” Edwards says. “As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart.”

Regarding the kidneys, evidence suggests that high sodium is associated with reduced renal function, a decline observed with only a minimal increase in blood pressure.

Finally, sodium may also affect the sympathetic nervous system, which activates what is often termed the fight-or-flight response.

“Chronically elevated dietary sodium may ‘sensitize’ sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction,” Farquhar says. “Again, even if blood pressure isn’t increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs.”

Jurkovitz points out that studying the effects of salt restriction on clinical outcomes is not easy. Challenges include accurate assessment of intake, long-term maintenance on a defined salt regimen, and the need for large numbers of patients and extended follow-up to obtain enough outcomes for meaningful analysis.

However, she says, “A large body of evidence confirms the biological plausibility of the association between high sodium intake and increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular events.”

This evidence has resulted in the American Heart Association’s recommendation that we consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Taking the salt shaker off the table is a good way to start, but it’s probably not enough, says Weintraub, whose work focuses on cardiology outcomes.

“Approximately 70 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, including items that we don’t typically think of as salty such as breads and cereals,” he says. “Also, restaurant food typically contains more salt than dishes prepared at home, so eating out less can help reduce salt intake, especially if herbs and spices — instead of salt — are used to add flavor to home-cooked meals.”

But the authors acknowledge that shaking the salt habit won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight.

“Reducing sodium will take a coordinated effort involving organizations like the AHA, food producers and processors, restaurants, and public policy aimed at education,” Weintraub says. thinks we should all remember this research the next time we reach for a processed food product or think to ourselves that our favorite bowl of soup from our favorite casual restaurant can’t be that bad. All of us need to be more conscious of our salt consumption and try our best to work towards a meaningful reduction of sodium in our diets.

Have a healthier Thanksgiving! Common sense ideas that DON’T involve avoiding your favorite holiday foods

shutterstock_224254609-676x450In every corner of America, Thanksgiving will see families and friends sitting down to a marvelous and overindulgent feast. Thursday will involve turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, vegetables and pies. The preparation of these favorites rarely, if ever, takes into consideration calories, fat, sodium or sugar. It’s a fact, we expect to indulge over the holidays. We even look forward to it.

But, how can we allow ourselves to enjoy that indulgence without the traditional late day “food coma” or the possible weight gain that can easily accompany a meal that some experts have estimated contains an average of 4500 calories?

Here are a few ideas that can help you through your Thanksgiving feast while still maintaining some reasonable standards.

1. Drink Water Through Out the Day
The holidays might make you forget about the most basic need of your body: hydration. Be sure to sip water through out the day to stay hydrated. In addition to staying hydrated, you won’t be as hungry in the face of all those holiday treats.

2. Switch to Sea Salt (And Use Less of It)
The white table salt commonly used at home is the result of many refining processes that leaves us with “dead salt” laden with chemical additives. You can add more healthy minerals like magnesium, calcium and potassium to your diet instantly by making the switch to sea salt.

3. Load Up On Cranberries, Not Sugar
These little red berries have some of the highest antioxidant levels in berries, and their bright anthocyanin pigments may also act as antioxidants. For a healthier cranberry sauce, try adding a cup of orange juice and a cup of honey instead of sugar.

4. Skip the Turkey Skin
If you are eating turkey, be choosy about what parts you consume. A single serving of white, skinless turkey (about a size of a deck of cards) has about 160 calories and 4 grams of fat, whereas dark turkey breast meat with skin contains twice the amount of fat and 70 more calories.

5. Stick to Whole Grains
Scientists have found that a diet consisting mainly of whole grains can help lower blood pressure and may help with weight control. Whole grains may also help decrease the risk of heart disease. Yet more than 40 percent of Americans do not consume any whole grains in their diet, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Instead of loading up on white breads and rice, opt for whole-grain products such as brown or wild rice and whole wheat bread.

6. Don’t Forget Your Greens
You may be excited about the turkey, potatoes and gravy, but don’t forget to have some fresh, colorful salads on the table. In general, Americans consume less vegetables than the recommended five servings per day, so give your family the option of a fresh salad with at least three colors (orange, green and red) for an abundant dose of antioxidants and vitamins.

7. Ditch the Dairy Dessert
Ice cream may seem like a necessary companion to pumpkin pie, but it might not be the best option after an already decadent feast. According to FDA’s standards, ice cream must contain at least 10 percent (mostly milk) fat content. Eliminate the fat and cholesterol in your dessert and reduce unpleasant side effects of dairy (such as skin irritation and upset stomach) by switching to organic soy, rice, or coconut ice cream.

8. Listen To Your Stomach
Finally, a simple but effective rule of thumb for festive eating: know when your stomach is full. When your brain starts justifying eating one more bite because it “tastes so good,” it’s time to put the fork down.

A few small suggestions that might leave you feeling much better on Friday morning! wants to point out that no one is suggesting that you forego the candied yams or your favorite stuffing. Instead, you can skip the turkey skin, use less salt and drink more water and you can help yourself avoid the 4500 calorie price tag that might be attached to your Thanksgiving feast!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Pre-packaged sandwich wraps from Hormel. The real deal on Rev.

Hormel RevHormel’s been busy airing commercials for their Rev sandwich wraps.  The commercials are all about physical fitness, being the best you can be, participating in sports and achieving goals.  Somehow or another an ad agency managed to connect the dots between those things and a sandwich wrap.  Go figure.

While might not see the sense behind that connection, Hormel does.  Supposedly their Rev wraps are just the thing anyone needs to be able to maximize performance.  All 8 varieties deliver between 15 and 17 grams of protein … enough to power plenty of physical activity.  Sounds great, right?

Before you go grabbing a Rev wrap on your way to the gym though, you might want to read on and find out what’s going on beyond all that protein.

Let’s take a look at the Italian Style Rev Wrap.  There are actually 81 ingredients in this one.  That’s a lot for a wrap that contains pepperoni, genoa salami, mozzarella cheese in a rolled flatbread.  Here’s the list:

Flatbread (Flour Enriched [Wheat Flour, Barley Malted Flour, Niacin Vitamin B3, Iron Reduced,Thiamine Mononitrate Vitamin B1, Riboflavin Vitamin B2, Folic Acid Vitamin B9] , Water, Wheat Gluten Vital, Soy Flour, Contains 2% or less of the following: [Sugar Brown Liquid, Oats Fiber,Soybeans Oil, Olive Oil Extra Virgin, Spices, Baking Soda, Prunes Juice Concentrate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Wheat Protein Isolate, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Propionate, Yeast,Cellulose Gum, Fumaric Acid, Salt, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulphate, Carrageenan, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Annatto Color, Enzymes] ) , Cheese (Cheese Mozzarella Low Moisture Part Skim [Milk Part Skim, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes] , Cheese American [Milk, Cheese Culture, Salt, Enzymes] , Water, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sorbic Acid) , Salami Genoa(Pork, Beef, Salt, Contains 2% or less of the following: Citric Acid [Dextrose, Water, Spices,Sodium Ascorbate Vitamin C, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Sodium Nitrate Nitrite, Garlic Powder,BHA, BHT, Citric Acid] ) , Pepperoni (Pork, Beef, Salt, Contains 2% or less of the following: Citric Acid [Water, Dextrose, Spices, Lactic Acid Starter Culture, Oleoresin of Paprika, Garlic Powder,Sodium Nitrate Nitrite, BHA, BHT, Citric Acid] )

We can easily live without plenty of the ingredients in this wrap.  Curiously, though, it contains only 290 calories.  We’re going to assume that there isn’t much meat and cheese inside that flatbread.  It also contains 20 grams of fat, 10 mg of saturated fat, 55 mg of cholesterol, and 960 mg of sodium.  So besides those 15 grams of protein, there’s really not a whole lot else in there that’s doing much for your body — or fueling your workout or sports performance.

It’s our considered opinion that a different option that contains leaner protein, better fats, and real ingredients would be a better boost.  Nice try Hormel, but we’ll “rev” up without the wraps.