More than half of all adults in the United States take some sort of multivitamin; many do so in hopes of preventing heart disease and cancer or even to aid with memory. But an editorial published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine says that using supplements and multivitamins to prevent chronic conditions is a waste of money. “The (vitamin and supplement) industry is based on anecdote, people saying ‘I take this, and it makes me feel better,’ said Dr. Edgar Miller, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the editorial. “It’s perpetuated. But when you put it to the test, there’s no evidence of benefit in the long term. It can’t prevent mortality, stroke or heart attack.”
The editorial, “Enough is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements,” is based on three studies looking at the effects of multivitamins on preventing heart attacks and cancer, as well as improving cognitive function in men older than 65. All three studies were also published in this week’s Annals of Internal Medicine.
The first study was a meta-analysis of 27 studies that covered more than 450,000 participants and found that multivitamins had no beneficial effect on preventing cardiovascular disease or cancer. In addition, taking vitamins didn’t prevent mortality in any way. However, the analysis did confirm that smokers who took only beta carotene supplements increased their risk of lung cancer.
When taking multivitamins to prevent a second heart attack, authors again found no beneficial evidence.
The second study looked at 1,700 patients who previously had heart attacks. They were assigned to take three multivitamins or placebos twice a day for five years. However, with more than 50% of patients stopping their medications, it was difficult for authors to come to any real conclusions about the vitamins’ effectiveness.
With such a high drop-out rate, “interpretation is very difficult,” said Miller.
The final study followed nearly 6,000 men older than 65, who took either a multivitamin or a placebo for 12 years. The men were administered cognitive functioning tests, and test results found no differences between the two groups. However, Gladys Block, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at University of California Berkeley, pointed out that the group of men followed in the cognitive study were all physicians with no health problems.
“These are very well-nourished, very health-conscious people,” she said.
In fact, she says none of the studies accurately represents the American population.
Block has spent her life studying the role of Vitamin C, in particular, on disease risk factors and says that most Americans are undernourished. She says that most Americans don’t have a healthy diet, and therefore don’t get the vitamins and minerals they need. “You’re not getting any of these micronutrients from Coke and Twinkies,” said Block. “Two-thirds of us are overweight, a quarter over 50 have two or more chronic conditions, so there’s a substantial population that one would hesitate to call healthy.”
Block went on to say, “There’s always a nontrivial minority that’s actually getting a questionable level of some micronutrients. So multivitamins are a backstop against our poor diet.” Cara Welch, senior vice president of the Natural Products Association, agreed with Block. “It is pretty common that in this day and age with the lifestyle many of us lead that we don’t always take the time to have a balanced diet, and even if you do have a balanced diet, you can still have nutritional deficiencies.”
The Natural Products Association is the largest trade organization representing the manufacturers and retailers of the natural products industry, including vitamins. The vitamin and supplement industry rakes in nearly $12 billion annually, according to the researchers, with multivitamins its most popular product. “Multivitamins address the nutritional deficiencies in people,” Welch said. “We don’t believe they are the answer to all life’s ailments, as the editorial suggests.”
Miller, however, disagreed that the studies didn’t represent the general public. “They didn’t select people who eat good diets or bad diets,” he said. “You assume that these people selected are the typical American diet. Taking a supplement in place of a poor diet doesn’t work.”
Some groups, however, do need supplements, he said.
“For people with deficiencies, malabsorption issues, and to prevent neural tube defects in pregnancy — there are a small number of conditions where we prescribe them.” Miller also said the jury is still out on Vitamin D, which can help strengthen bones, and omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA and EPA. Miller said the studies were unlikely to change any clinical standards, and that focusing on diet and exercise remain key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It’s something with which Block can agree. “Eat fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Source: CNN Health
A new formula to predict a woman’s final menstrual period could help menopausal women fight bone loss and reduce their heart disease risk, a new study reports.
The formula is based on the changing levels of two hormones: estradiol, which is found in the ovaries; and follicle-stimulating hormone, which is present in the brain and gives instructions to the ovaries.
Estradiol levels fall and follicle-stimulating hormone levels rise as women go through menopause, the University of California, Los Angeles, researchers explained in a news release from the Endocrine Society.
Currently, doctors monitor women’s menstrual bleeding patterns to determine the menopause transition phase. However, this phase is an imprecise indicator of when the final menstrual period will occur, according to the authors of the study published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
“We need a better way to answer women’s questions about when to expect the final menstrual period,” lead author Dr. Gail Greendale, of UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, said in the news release.
Source: HealthDay News
St Patrick’s Day celebrations are a many splendored thing: the parades, pub crawls and municipal water dyeing stunts are enjoyed by everyone — not just those of Irish descent. And that extends to food choices like beer, doughnuts, milkshakes, and even ketchup, all of which are getting a heavy dose of what is most likely the synthetic food dye, FD&C Green No. 3 on Sunday, March 17.
But is the dye a health problem? According to the experts, probably not. “The likelihood of harm
from some green dye on one occasion a year is apt to be very remote,” says Dr. David Katz, director of the YaleUniversity’s PreventionResearchCenter. “A lot of questions are asked about how to avoid health hazards associated with any given holiday. I think the best answer is to take care of yourself every day — and then you can relax and have fun when that special holiday rolls around!”
The worst that could happen is probably some gastrointestinal discomfort, according to Dr. Braden Kuo, an assistant physician at HarvardMedicalSchool and at the GI Unit of Massachusetts GeneralHospital. Artificial food dyes and additives are often not meant to be absorbed by the body, he explains, and instead may weigh heavily on the bowel, which, in turn, can suck water into the bowels, resulting in diarrhea.
But even the dangers of long-term consumption are uncertain. While some research has suggested that certain food dyes can contribute to worsening hyperactivity among children, those are largely inconclusive. The FDA has ordered additional testing.
As adults, we consume small, though constant amounts of food dye — about 14 to 16 milligrams per day, according to Stefani Bardin, an artist and professor of food studies at Parsons and The New School who worked on a video-based experiment with Kuo to examine how the body processes and breaks down artificial additives. Their well-known video displays the digestive process of three adults who ate processed ramen and drank blue Gatorade. Many viewers were upset to see that the blue dye retained its color throughout the digestive process. But that reaction may be more visceral than scientific.
“There’s not a lot of evidence to show that it has a definitive impact on overall health,” says Kuo. “Just because we can’t digest it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with a dye. It might be good that you’re not absorbing it. It’s relatively contained. If it was really dangerous, it would get broken down.”
Most people will make New Year resolutions, and very few will keep them. Why? Because they make the so-called resolution, but don’t initiate new behaviors to see those resolutions through.
If you really want to make changes in your health for this New Year, you can do it. Here are some tips for getting real.
This is perhaps the toughest addiction of all to break – but doing so could save your life. Continuing to smoke can lead to greater risk of a heart attack or any number of gruesome cancers. Smoking adds absolutely no benefits to life, and is a dangerous and destructive habit.
Acupuncture can help. The trick is to find a highly qualified acupuncturist with experience helping smokers to quit. Utilizing hair-thin wires, the treatment re-wires patterns in the nervous system and does not hurt.
While you’re trying to kick the habit, drink lots of pure, fresh, plain water daily to detoxify your body, and take a couple of grams of vitamin C daily to rejuvenate your cells and provide antioxidant protection.
Most important of all, if you’re struggling with a smoking addiction, get help. Many people simply cannot quit on their own. Do whatever you have to do to win this battle over cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or whatever form your tobacco vice takes. Change some of your daily routine to disrupt your smoking schedule.
For starters, try not to finish your plate or consuming fewer calories. You gain excess pounds by taking in more calories than you expend, pure and simple.
Avoid all fast foods and fried foods, and stop drinking sodas, which are just liquid candy. Also, cutting out snacks and junk food can help with weight loss.
If you really want to lose weight, you need to change your eating habits. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Try eating a fresh apple every day. Apples help elimination, are packed with antioxidants, and help to stabilize metabolism.
Drink a couple of cups of green tea daily. The antioxidant compounds in green tea aid weight loss. Try taking green coffee extract – a minimum of 500 milligrams twice daily. Either Svetol or GCA are the brands that are actually tested and proven effective. Both cause your body to steadily shed pounds, day after day.
It’s not just diet that will help you lose weight – but exercise is also key. Exercise faithfully, every day. Get out and walk at least two miles – and if you can, make that four. Exercise spends calories that would otherwise turn into fat, and it tones your body while helping to clear your mind. You can absolutely lose weight if you really want to.
Be more focused
If you want to maximize your mind power, start by taking 400 milligrams of Rhodiola rosea extract every day. Rhodiola is proven in human clinical studies to enhance concentration, thought formation, memory and overall mood.
Meditate daily. You don’t need to become a monk; just learn to meditate and clear your mind, so you can live in a naturally fresh and alert state. Drink less alcohol – or even no alcohol at all. A little alcohol is fine for health, but booze does in fact fog the mind. Want to be razor sharp? Nix the drink.
Get in shape
Start with realistic goals. If you don’t walk much, start walking just two miles daily at a brisk pace. Increase your daily exercise gradually, so you’ll stay with it.
If you like going to the gym, ask a trainer to help you out. Attend exercise classes, so you’ll be encouraged by others. Reinforce the habit of daily exercise.
The best tip is not to aim too high in the beginning. Don’t resolve to work out every day for two hours. You won’t do it. Be moderate and once you have the hang of it, go for more.
Get more sleep
Are you sleep-deprived and tired? Make more time for sleep. Spend less time in front of the TV and a bit more time in bed. Drink less alcohol (which often makes sleeping harder), and try passion flower tea, holy basil (Tulsi) tea, or L-theanine capsules, 100 milligrams each. All these can help you to get more deep snoozing time.
Start by taking walks outdoors on a regular basis. This is immensely helpful for shedding stress. Meditate daily to calm your mind. Play with your children more. It’s pretty hard to stay stressed when you’re actively having fun with kids.
Practice Yoga. It’s probably among the very best things for shedding stress and worry.
More often than not, New Year’s resolutions are hopeful ideas that quickly dissipate as we engage in the same old behaviors. But by making real and significant changes, we can act on those resolutions and achieve our goals. So make it a happy – and healthy – New Year.
What are your committed to doing to improve your health in 2013?
Believe it or not, holiday heart is the real deal! Deadly heart attacks do increase during the winter holiday season. One study even found distinct spikes around Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Doctors have long known that cold weather is hard on the heart. Blood vessels constrict, which raises blood pressure. Blood also clots more readily. Frigid temperatures increase strain on the heart, and too much physical exertion can worsen the burden and trigger a heart attack. For example, doctors have treated many patients whose heart attacks followed strenuous snow shoveling.
In a national 2004 study published in Circulation, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and Tufts University University School of Medicine examined 53 million U.S. death certificates from 1973 to 2001. They discovered an overall increase of five percent more heart related deaths during the holiday season.
But cold extremes don’t really explain why fatal heart attacks peak on Christmas and New Year’s Day, especially among the most rapidly stricken patients. Adding to the mystery, why do holiday heart attacks shoot up consistently across the country, even in balmy climates like Southern California.
In the Circulation study, researchers suggested people might delay getting treatment because they don’t want to disrupt Christmas and New Year’s festivities. People just tend to put off seeking medical help during the holidays. They tend to wait till afterwards, or holiday travelers might take longer to find competent medical care, which heightens the risk. Also, hospitals may be short-staffed on major holidays.
The study also suggested other factors may play a role, such as emotional stress and overindulgence. During the holidays, legions of Americans eat too much and drink more alcohol — while ditching their exercise routine. Needless to say, this combo isn’t healthy for the heart. People tend to gain weight during the holiday season and take in more salt, which can put additional stress on a weakened heart.
How do you prevent a holiday heart attack?
Pile on the layers. Try to avoid exposure to very cold temperatures. Dress warmly.
Take a load off. Steer clear of heart stressors, including too much physical exertion (especially snow shoveling), anger, and emotional stress.
Make good choices. Avoid excess salt and alcohol. Too much drinking — for example, binge drinking — can lead to atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm in which disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers to contract irregularly. Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
Get a shot. Consider getting a flu vaccination. Infection and fever put extra stress on the heart.
Breathe. Go indoors during air pollution alerts but try to avoid breathing smoke from wood-burning fireplaces. If you’re visiting another home during the holidays, sit as far away as you can from a burning fireplace. Ultra-fine particles in the air can be bad for the heart.
Get help. If you feel chest pain or other symptoms, call 911 for emergency help. The stakes are high. So give yourself and your family a gift this season. Don’t postpone treatment because you don’t want to spoil the holiday fun!
Source: Web MD
The point is that chocolate makes you smarter. (Unless you are going for the Nobel Peace prize, and then chocolate makes you nicer.)
According to the findings of Dr. Franz H. Messerli, cardiologist and director of Clinical Hypertension with St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospital, “There was a close significant linear correlation (r=0.791, P=0.0001) between chocolate consumption per capita and the number of Nobel Laureates per 10 million persons in a total of 23 countries.”
His study is brilliant. Given the assumption that chocolate has a flavonoids and the fact that flavonoids have been tentatively linked to increased brain functioning (it’s a substance also found in red wine and fruit, but do we really need another fruit-is-good-for-you study?), he compared national chocolate consumption with the number of Nobel Laureates per capital and found a direct correlation between the amount of chocolate, measured in kilograms, and the number of laureates, measured in people per 10 million population.
We all know that correlation means X is linked to Y, and that it does not necessarily prove that one thing causes the other. Whatever.
In any event, Sweden was an outlier. “Given its per capita consumption of 6.4 kg per year, we would predict that Sweden should have produced a total of 14 Nobel Laureates, yet we observe 32.” Messerli suspects one of two things: 1) bias on the part of the judges, who are based in Sweden; or 2) Swedes are hypersensitive to the cognitive-enhancing aspects of chocolate. (I would go with the latter… something to do with the chocolate receptors on their brain neurons.) Messerli adds that as the “research is evolving,” the cumulative dose of chocolate needed to sufficiently up your odds of getting the Nobel is not yet known. Stay tuned. I’m waiting for a savvy statistician to correlate martini drinking with intelligence, or at least with happiness.
Flu vaccines may do more than guard against infection. New research hints that the vaccine, which is recommended for all adults, may also help the heart. Two new studies presented at the 2012 Canadian Cardiovascular Congress suggest that heart patients who get flu vaccines have lower risks of heart and strokes and fewer episodes of irregular heart rhythms.
Some cautions apply. Both studies were small and preliminary. Researchers agree that they should be repeated with more people and published in peer-reviewed journals before flu vaccines can be claimed to cut heart risks.“The current body of evidence makes it difficult for us to know for sure whether influenza vaccination reduces cardiovascular events,” says Jennie Johnstone, MD, an assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at McMaster University in Toronto, Canada. She was not involved in the research.
Johnstone says the new studies are intriguing but should be followed up. For the first study, researchers pooled data from four published clinical trials with 3,200 patients that tested flu vaccines against placebo shots. About half the patients in the studies had heart disease. The other half had no history of heart problems.
Patients in the studies were randomly assigned to get flu vaccines or placebos. Over one year, there were 187 major cardiovascular events. Those events included heart-related deaths and non-fatal heart attacks, strokes, emergency heart procedures, hospitalizations for heart failure, or sudden chest pain.
Overall, about 7.8% of the people who didn’t get flu vaccines had a major heart-related event over the course of the next year compared to 4.3% of those who did get flu vaccines, a reduction in risk of almost 50%. Stated another way, researchers estimate that one major heart-related event is prevented for every 34 people who get vaccinated for flu.
“These are very provocative findings. If I could give you a pill that would cut your risk of heart problems in those with either established heart disease or at risk for heart disease in half, I’m pretty sure everybody would be taking that medication,” says researcher Jacob A. Udell, MD, MPH, a clinical investigator at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Canada.
The CDC advises all adults, including adults with underlying conditions like diabetes and heart disease, to get an annual flu vaccine. Still, most don’t. According to the CDC, only about 40% of adults were vaccinated against the flu during the last flu season.
For the second study, researchers surveyed 230 patients at the same hospital who all had implanted cardiac defibrillators (ICDs), devices that shock the heart when it goes into dangerous, irregular rhythms.
Patients with ICDs tend to get more jolts from those devices during the winter months, and doctors wondered whether that might have something to do with the flu. About 80% of the ICD patients said they’d gotten a flu vaccine that season, and about 20% did not. Researchers say the patients who got flu vaccines had fewer ICD shocks to the heart than patients who didn’t get flu vaccines. They couldn’t rule out that the differences between the two groups might have been due to chance alone, however.
“Our finding is thought-provoking,” says researcher Sheldon Singh, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, in Canada. “If this finding is reproducible, if this is a real finding, flu shots may have real benefits for our patients.”
How might flu vaccines be helping the heart?
Udell says there are two theories: that the vaccines may protect vulnerable patients or that they protect unstable buildups in artery walls from breaking open and cutting off blood flow to the heart or brain. “The vulnerable patient theory goes, if you have heart disease or diabetes or some other major risk factor and then you get the flu, you get congested and can’t breathe as well and it lowers the oxygen that’s going to vital organ tissues like the brain and heart, and that can lead to heart attacks and strokes,” Udell says.
The vulnerable buildup theory suggests that inflammation caused by a viral infection triggers the rupture of artery-clogging plaques. “This is one instance where there’s a clear benefit,” says Len Horovitz, MD, a pulmonary and internal medicine specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
“This is another reason to tell people, ‘Be vaccinated. Be protected,’” says Horovitz, who was not involved in the research.
These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.
The news is filled with stories of an outbreak of fungal meningitis on the East Coast, believed to be caused by tainted steroidal injections (used for pain relief). This type of meningitis is not contagious and appears to be inked to a specialty pharmacy located in Massachusetts.
For the average person, there are far more serious types of meningitis of which to be aware.
Bacterial meningitis is usually severe, and is contagious. Most people with meningitis recover, it can cause serious complications, such as brain damage, hearing loss, or learning disabilities.
Some bacteria can spread through the exchange of respiratory and throat secretions (e.g., kissing). Also, the bacteria are not spread by casual contact or by simply breathing the air where a person with meningitis has been. Other meningitis-causing bacteria are not spread person-to-person, but can cause disease because the person has certain risk factors (such as a weak immune system or head trauma). Unlike other bacterial causes of meningitis, you can get Listeria monocytogenes by eating contaminated food.
People who qualify as close contacts of a person with meningococcal or Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) meningitis are at higher risk of getting disease and may need antibiotics. Tell your doctor if you think you have been exposed to someone with meningitis.
Healthy people can carry the bacteria in their nose or throat without getting sick. Rarely, these bacteria can invade the body and cause disease. Most people who ‘carry’ the bacteria never become sick.
Viral meningitis is generally less severe and resolves without specific treatment. Most viral meningitis cases in the United States, especially during the summer months, are caused by enteroviruses; however, only a small number of people with enterovirus infections actually develop meningitis. Other viral infections that can lead to meningitis include
- Herpes virus, including Epstein-Barr virus, herpes simplex viruses, varicella-zoster virus (which also causes chicken pox and shingles), measles, and influenza
- Viruses spread through mosquitoes and other insects (arboviruses)
- In rare cases LCMV (lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus), which is spread by rodents, can cause viral meningitis
- Non–infectious meningitis causes include
- Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
- Certain drugs
- Head injury
- Brain surgery
This type of meningitis is not spread from person to person. Non-infectious meningitis can be caused by cancers, systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus), certain drugs, head injury, and brain surgery.
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is a very rare form of parasitic meningitis that causes a fatal brain infection. The parasite enters the body through the nose and is caused by the microscopic ameba (a single-celled living organism) Naegleria fowleri. In the United States, the majority of infections have been caused by Naegleria fowleri from warm freshwater located in southern-tier states Factors that can increase your risk of viral meningitis include:
- Bodies of warm freshwater, such as lakes and rivers
- Geothermal (naturally hot) water, such as hot springs
- Warm water discharge from industrial plants
- Geothermal (naturally hot) drinking water sources
- Swimming pools that are poorly maintained, minimally-chlorinated, and/or un-chlorinated
- Water heaters with temperatures less than 47°C.
Naegleria fowleri is not found in salt water, like the ocean.
Questions? Feel free to use our MouseCall service to chat with a physician via email. www.caduceusmedicalgroup.com
Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Chock-full of antioxidants, vitamins and other compounds, tea has been linked in a variety of studies to stronger immune function and reduced cell damage. Some research suggests tea may prevent cavities, improve blood sugar levels and perhaps provide cardiovascular benefits.
In many parts of the world, the custom is to serve tea with milk. But lately researchers have been surprised to find that adding milk may strip tea of some of its beneficial effects.
In a study published in The European Heart Journal, researchers had 16 healthy adults drink cups of freshly brewed black tea, black tea mixed with a small amount of skim milk or boiled water. Then the scientists measured the effects on vascular function.
Compared with water, black tea “significantly improved” arterial function, the researchers found, “whereas addition of milk completely blunted the effects of tea.”
The scientists repeated similar tests in mice and found the same results, which they speculated may be a result of proteins in milk binding to and neutralizing antioxidants. “Milk,” the researchers wrote, “counteracts the favorable health effects of tea on vascular function.”
A study published this year looked at whether the effect was limited to dairy products. It was not: Proteins in soy milk had the same effect as regular milk on antioxidants in tea.
- Are multivitamins a waste of money? Editorial in medical journal says yes.
- Doctors warn of breast-cancer link to keeping cell phone in bra.
- New Method May Help Pinpoint Woman’s Final Menstrual Period.
- St. Patty’s Day is almost here! Is green dye a health risk?
- If There is a Will There is a Way!
- What is the truth about the phenomenon called “holiday heart?”
- Why Chocolate Makes You Smarter- Proof??
- Flu Vaccines May Protect the Heart Too!
- Meningitis– What You Need to Know
- Tea for Your Health? Skip the Milk.
- Understanding Your Medical Bills
- Effects of Musical Experience on the Brain Last a Lifetime