February 2010

FISH OIL

We have been hearing a lot about fish oil lately, because it has made its way into mainstream medicine. Why all the hype? Is it really as good as its cracked up to be?
The American Heart Association thinks so. They recommend that healthy people should be eating omega-3 fatty acids from fish and plant sources to protect their heart. Fish oil in the amount of 2-4 grams a day has been found to lower triglyceride levels in the blood. Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids do the following:

Decrease the risk of sudden death and abnormal heart rhythms
Decrease the development of atherosclerosis and plaque formation
Decrease blood clots
Improve the overall health of the body’s arteries

Is there a difference between fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

There are different types of omega-3 fatty acids. The active forms in fish are eisosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). EPA and DHA are found exclusively in fish. Those that are highly recommended include herring, sardines, wild salmon and fresh tuna. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil contain Alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. This is another form of the omega-3 fatty acid. It is converted to EPA and DHA by the liver. Since the conversion to the active components is variable, fish oil is a far more potent form of omega-3 fatty acids. It is best to use both fish and flax seed to get omega-3 fatty acids.

What about mercury?

There is the potential for fish oil and of course fish to contain mercury. Mercury can be toxic to the nervous system and is particularly harmful to the developing nervous systems of babies and small children. If you are interested in taking fish oil, look for brands that use distilled fish oil and test for contaminants. There are a couple of common brands that do this, Nordic Naturals and Eskimo Oil. If you have fish oil capsules and you pierce one of them and it smells like rotten fish, it is time to find a new bottle. Rancid oil isn’t good for you.

Eating fish is probably the best route for getting good fish oil. It is always best to get nutrients from whole food. If you are concerned about mercury there are certain types of fish to avoid or eat sparingly. These include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

What else is fish oil good for?

A recent study done in England found that pregnant women who consumed 2-3 servings of fish or seafood a week throughout their pregnancy had children with higher IQ’s than those pregnant women who consumed no fish or seafood. Fish oil has been found to be of benefit in stroke prevention, Crohn’s disease, lupus, prostate cancer, colon cancer, high blood pressure and rheumatoid arthritis.

Are there risks?

Those with bleeding problems should probably avoid fish oil since it thins the blood. Some people become nauseated after taking it. No one knows the exact right dose for a given individual. Some people who take it might find it elevates their cholesterol. Quality issues with fish oil supplements are huge. It is really important to find a good, mercury-free brand.

What is the recommended dose?

There really isn’t a set recommended dose. Most doctors recommend anywhere from 1-3 grams of fish oil a day. For those patients with high triglycerides the recommendation is 2-4 grams a day.

If you are interested in taking fish oil supplements it is really important to discuss it with your doctor or health care provider first. One more tip, if you find you are burping up fish after you take your supplement, switch to a different brand. There are many, which don’t give you a fishy after-taste!!

APHRODISIACS: REAL OR IMAGINED?

If you ask the FDA, there are no aphrodisiacs. But, why would we turn to the Federal government for help with our love lives? If we believed them, this would be an incredibly short article.

To find the answers we seek, it is important to look to our ancestors. They didn’t need randomized controlled trials to tell them what turned them on. They found what worked and used it. They also knew that what one thinks MIGHT be a turn-on, probably would do just that. There are a wide variety of foods that have been documented as aphrodisiacs throughout history. Let’s take an alphabetical approach. We’ll start with the “A” foods!

Sucking on Aniseed was found to be a powerful aphrodisiac by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Most people these days use it to flavor alcoholic drinks. Almonds have been a symbol of fertility, and their scent is supposedly quite effective at inducing passion in women. You can find it in scented oils. Since the first century, arugula, which we use in salad has been considered a turn on. It should be a staple in every Valentine’s Day meal. In ancient times, the avocado, which looks like hanging testicles on the vine, has been found to be a powerful aphrodisiac as well. You can add it to your salad!

The shape of the banana is what attracted our ancestors, but the nutrients may have helped it to qualify as an aphrodisiac. Bananas are rich in potassium and vitamin B, which is important for making sex hormones. Of course chocolate is a definite aphrodisiac just ask any woman. Scientists suspect that chocolate contains chemicals that affect the neurotransmitters of the brain, which might explain its power over those of the female persuasion. If you’re a guy and you want to increase the chance that your significant other will jump your bones, give her some rich, dark chocolate. It is the type of chocolate that is highest in anti-oxidants.

The Egyptians used fennel as a libido booster. It is also a rich source of plant estrogens. Figs look like the female sex organ. Folklore has it that a man eating a fig in front of his significant other is a huge turn on. Garlic is a hot spice. It can boost the libido but really needs to be shared for obvious reasons. Those who wanted to sweeten their relationships in olden times used to share a drink of fermented honey.

What about oysters? The Romans described women gone wild after eating oysters and drinking wine. Oysters look like female genitalia and also are high in protein. If oysters aren’t your cup of tea, the taste and smell of vanilla are reputed to induce passion and desire. Finally, wine can be a powerful aphrodisiac in moderation. If you drink too much, the party’s over.

The bottom line is that there are many foods that can ignite passion and excitement. You just have to believe and it will be so!

IS CHOCOLATE A HEALTH FOOD?

A new study that followed 44,000 people has found that those who ate chocolate weekly were 22% less likely to have a stroke compared to those who did not eat chocolate. There have been other studies showing that chocolate can reduce general inflammation, keep platelets from clumping, improve brain function and may even help prevent cancer.

The benefits of chocolate are thought to be due to the flavonoids that are contained in this tasty treat. With all these benefits is it time to start eating daily M&M’s? Hold on!
The flavonoids are contained in the seeds of cacao plants and they taste bitter. That is why chocolate is processed to make it more palatable. Dark chocolate with the least amount of processing has the greatest health benefits. Unfortunately for those of us who like milk chocolate, there is little to no health benefit.

It is important to take the information on the health benefits with a grain of salt (so to speak). Chocolate is healthy in moderation and it is the dark (and bitter) chocolate that has the major health benefits.

No Cure for Heart Disease?

When former President Bill Clinton ended up back in the hospital needing stent placements for heart disease, I read an article stating that we have no cure for heart disease. I have no doubt that after his bypass President Clinton had watched his diet and exercised. Was progression of his coronary disease inevitable? Had he followed the Pritikin Diet (basically a vegetarian and high fiber diet), it might have reversed. However, the diet is really hard one to follow. I don’t fault him for not giving it a try.

I take issue with the fact we do not have a cure for heart disease. I believe that the cure is never to get it in the first place. Had Bill Clinton eaten a healthy diet and exercised his whole life I doubt he would have needed the bypass in the first place. It seems to me that many specialists such as cardiologists and cardiac surgeons get so wrapped up in their abilities to “fix” the problem that there has not been enough emphasis on prevention. Helping people to manage their weight, fitness level, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, stress and smoking isn’t sexy. It is labor intensive and it is tough to do. However, it is effective in the long run and can ultimately provide the cure for heart disease.

CONTROL YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE-PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

Whenever I ask my patients what they are most afraid of the most common answer is that they are afraid of losing their minds. As we age every memory lapse has us thinking we may have Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study has found that one of the easiest ways to prevent it is to make sure our blood pressure is controlled.

Researchers have found that high blood pressure causes scarring in the brain that is connected with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is a silent disease that if untreated greatly increases the chances of developing memory problems as we age.

There is now quite a lot of evidence to suggest that the longer one is exposed to high blood pressure the more damage there is to the brain. What does this mean?

It means that we need to know what our blood pressure is and make sure we have it controlled. We also need to make sure our cholesterol, weight, and blood sugar are in good control.

Paying attention to fitness and a healthy lifestyle will also go a long way in helping to maintain healthy brain function. Exercising the brain is also important. Learning a new language, doing crossword puzzles, reading books and newspapers are all fun ways to exercise the brain.

If you are concerned about your brain health, just follow the simple tips presented here and it may help to give you peace of mind!

The Vaccine Autism Connection-A Scam?

In 1998 when Dr Andrew Wakefield published his article in the Lancet (an esteemed British medical journal) that connected autism and the MMR vaccine, it caused a major sensation. The other thing that happened was that it caused a panic among parents in England that spread to the United States. Eleven years later, the medical board in England has denounced Wakefield and his study.

Why did it take them so long? There have been multiple studies to show that there is no link between autism and the MMR vaccine. Wakefield had not been honest about the fact that he had been paid by lawyers representing the parents of children with autism who were suing the vaccine companies. He also paid many of his subjects some of whom he got from his son’s birthday party.

How is it that a small study done by someone who behaved unethically was able to have such a huge influence on parent’s behavior? This is something that has caused harm to children around the world. Measles, mumps and rubella can cause serious problems and even death. Fear of the autism connection to vaccines has bled over into other vaccines as well.

It is important that journal review boards do their due diligence. By not acting sooner with Dr Wakefield there has been serious harm done to children and families. Unfortunately, regardless of the evidence, the idea of the autism vaccine connection has taken on a life of its own. Unless rational behavior prevails, more children will continue to be harmed.

IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?

I was watching the political talking heads on Sunday morning television. One of the Republican senators stated that the American public is no longer interested in healthcare. When he said that my mouth flew open and I wanted to scream at him through the TV. What planet is he on? What is up with our government representatives? Maybe they aren’t interested in healthcare because we provide them with the best health plan available. Looking out into the audience as the President delivered his State of the Union address something else was apparent. We feed them well. The majority of those in the audience appeared overweight and out of shape.

What we need in this country is to find Senators and Representatives who actually care about the American people. That is why I am asking is there anybody out there? The Democrats and Republicans are constantly in a feeding frenzy looking and digging up dirt on each other. They have lost sight of who we are. We should all be demanding that they get it together and do their jobs!

There is real suffering going on in our country. People are going bankrupt as a result of medical bills. Many people are going without medical care and unnecessarily dying young. Preventive services are things that many just dream about. Most people cannot afford to eat a healthy diet and obesity is the new normal. We need healthcare for everyone and we need a call for personal accountability that starts with affordable healthcare and help for adopting a healthy lifestyle. Our government representatives could start by setting an example. It is time for them to become fit and to be accountable to themselves and to us, the people who pay their salaries.

ISN’T IT TIME TO BAN BPA?

There has been a fair amount of research that has confirmed that bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic bottles is not good for our health. There has been some reluctance on the part of government agencies to make a strong statement about this chemical due to their insistence that there has not been enough research. However, a recent study that was done by British and American researchers has found a correlation between heart disease and high levels of bisphenol A in the urine. There is also a connection between bisphenol A and diabetes and certain forms of liver disease. It has also been linked to impotence. In addition, there is concern that it may effect childhood development.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in plastic bottles that are often used for water and baby bottles. It is also used in compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices. It is also present in epoxy resins that are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. Ninety-five percent of Americans have BPA exposure.

With the recent evidence that has been presented by researchers, it is time to use BPA-free containers and to ask our lawmakers to call for a ban on products that contain this chemical.

 

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