Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
Quick bites before you start your weekend (go on, get out of here!).
1) Another Study from Denmark
This study was well-done (for once). And the news is pretty cool: a little coffee in the late stages of pregnancy is probably safe. Worker Bee Sara begrudgingly gives “the motherland” some credit.
2) Varsity Blues
You’ve probably heard the obesity-football ruckus this week about high school football players being too beefy. In general, yes, football players are bigger and taller than your average chess club member. But this study is a good example of why the BMI is…well…lame. Many athletes and extremely fit individuals – particularly men, including Mark – are “fat” according to the BMI, which simply measures inches and doesn’t account for muscle mass, muscle distribution, bone density or physique. If you need to lose a few, don’t you just kinda know it?
3) Billion Dollar Birth Defects
Birth defects are among the most expensive health care costs, running into the billions every year. Many birth defects can be prevented completely by avoiding alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and unhealthy foods. Environmental factors like exposure to chemicals should also be considered, and mothers are encouraged to avoid eating more than one weekly serving of fish from warm waters (where mercury and other contaminants are often more highly concentrated). Additionally, prenatal vitamins (really just an extra-potent multivitamin with plenty of folate) are a must, as is prenatal care.
The Difference Between Fact…and Factitious
I’ve noticed that frightening myths about vitamin E persist in spite of vocal opposition from scientists and top experts. For those who want to know the facts behind the E “controversy”, here it is (just call it the E! True Supplement Story).
For years, doctors have recommended vitamin E supplements to patients seeking better heart health. But a fairly recent study claimed vitamin E increases the risk of death and should not be taken. Let’s take a closer look – because there’s fact, and then there’s factitious.
What is vitamin E?
Vitamin E, a fat-soluble nutrient, is found naturally in many oils, grains, nuts and fats. E is also present in meats, dairy and leafy greens.
What is it used for?
The body needs vitamin E for various processes in the blood, eyes, brain and skin. Doctors have been supportive of E because of its heart benefits. Vitamin E helps to thin the blood and fight free radicals, so many Americans fighting heart disease, blood clots or high blood pressure like to take this natural treatment. Vitamin E can help ease leg cramps, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and the pain associated with several cardiovascular diseases. Even some migraine sufferers have benefited from vitamin E supplements. Though the benefit to the heart may not be as powerful as initially thought, vitamin E may help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
What is the recommended dosage?
400 IU daily is the general recommendation of the government and most health experts – individual needs can vary.
What are known side effects?
Doctors have long known that excessive vitamin E intake can cause too much thinning of the blood. For that reason, large amounts of vitamin E should not be taken if you are already taking a synthetic blood thinner. There are no other known drug interactions and vitamin E cannot become toxic.
Will Vitamin E kill me?
No. A recent study that got a lot of spin (Vitamin E is bad! Oh no!) merely observed a correlation.
Are there any problems with that study?
Where to start? There are several issues with the study that launched the vitamin E scare:
It only looked at people over age 60 who already had serious pre-existing conditions like heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease; this study cannot possibly be applied to younger and/or healthier patients.
It eliminated observational studies from the analysis, most of which show clear benefit over several years.
The study of 136,000 people grouped dozens of studies together without taking into account the different – and possibly incompatible – processes and analyses the various studies used.
Many of the studies included in this broad study have been independently questioned for their reliability.
This study used “meta-analysis,” which means there was not a consistent, controlled approach in each individual study.
Most of the patients taking the vitamin E were also taking other drugs, and the study did not control for the possibility of interaction or complications.
The patients were only taking an incomplete vitamin E supplement. Many people are unaware that vitamin E is a complex vitamin; meaning, there are different types of vitamin E and the full complex is necessary for nutritional benefit. Furthermore, the study didn’t separate synthetic from natural E.
How many forms of vitamin E are there?
There are different forms of vitamin E – just like B vitamins. The B-complex includes many different vitamins that perform different crucial functions in the body. Vitamin E is a complex, as well. This means that, like vitamin B, there are several “types” of vitamin E, not just one. There are two main groups in the E complex: tocopherols and tocotrienols. I’m always amazed that this basic information about vitamin E gets swept under the rug. Taking only one form of E, which is what is in most supplements, is silly.
Strangely, the average vitamin E gel capsule contains only one part of tocopherol, di-alpha tocopherol. It’s worth noting that this Mayo study only examined the common di-alpha tocopherol. Studies examining patients who take the full E complex show different results.
So what do experts say?
Annette Dickinson, PhD and president of the Council for Responsible Health, has vehemently disagreed with the study’s findings, going so far as to say the study obviously pooled for certain results.
Dr. Raymond Gibbons of the Mayo Clinic stands by the study, saying there was clearly a slightly increased risk of death, but Dr. Dickinson and others point out that the patients in the study all had chronic or fatal diseases to begin with.
The overwhelming majority of health experts still adamantly support vitamin E – in its full complex form and at reasonable dosages. Doctors are aware of hundreds of controlled studies showing a clear causative link between the vitamin E complex and better heart health. Because this joke of a meta-study found a risk of 1.05 – 1.0 is considered neutral – most experts dismissed it completely. So you can see how media spin takes on a life of its own. There are a few studies that have questioned the benefit of taking vitamin E, but none of these have been statistically significant. The Mayo Clinic itself conceded that this finding needs further research. Fair enough.
Dr. Andrew Weil, one of America’s top health experts, says, “My feeling is that the health status of the study participants could be the problem here – perhaps the vitamin E had some unpredictable bad effect on their pre-existing conditions or didn’t mix well with certain medications. The researchers also may have overlooked controlling for the form of vitamin E used in the various studies.”
The bottom line:
Avoid using anything but the full complex of vitamin E, and don’t exceed recommend dosages. Be sure to eat foods that have vitamin E. Though vitamin E’s benefit to the heart may prove to be less significant than researchers initially thought, other benefits are well-documented: the dissolution of blood clots, possible prevention of many diseases including Alzheimer’s, and antioxidant benefit.
This government clickativity offers a good list of foods containing E. It also highlights several studies – the biggest and most significant study points to greater benefit from supplemental E instead of food sources. This link also details two studies which showed less promising results, although you’ll notice both studies were looking at people who already had heart disease or were at serious risk for heart attacks.
Here’s a handy guide to reducing your Alzheimer’s risk. You’ll notice that prevention, plenty of vegetables, and a “smart” lifestyle are keys to staying sharp.
One note: this above link would have benefited from including a little more information on vitamin E. I’ll be posting the truth behind the vitamin E scare shortly. Heads up!
Here’s your smart fuel, just in time for the weekend!
This chewy grain is not really a grain at all. It’s not even rice, technically speaking. It’s a grass shoot, more akin to bamboo. (Which, incidentally, is grass, not a tree. Imagine mowing that.)
Wild rice is incredibly high in protein, low in sugar, and has more fiber than a cardboard box. This is one of the smartest ways to get an internal “scrub” (hey, it’s true). It also tastes a lot better than cardboard and won’t puff you up like pasta or white rice.
Here’s a great recipe for wild rice from the Bees. I suggest substituting the sausage with organic chicken or turkey.
Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
All the news, none of the preservatives.
1) Inflammation Causes Cancer
This is huge news, so be sure to spread it! Scientists have long suggested a link between inflammation and cancer, but lacked conclusive evidence. Lo and behold…
Inflammation is caused by many things. Among the most common culprits: injury, stress, smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity (this is a “two way street”), and poor diet. Pro-inflammatory foods are – you guessed it – the most common foods in the American diet. To avoid inflammation, avoid sugars and starches, fried foods, and processed, packaged items. Examples are waffles, pasta, french fries, snacks and chips, pastries, and frozen convenience meals.
Translation: stay away from things that inflame! Inflammation is a common culprit behind obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and much more.
In related health matters, acid reflux may lead to cancer, too. And guess what causes acid reflux? Your buddy, inflammation. Like the guy on the couch in your college days, it’s time to say goodbye if you’re letting inflammation hang around and damage your health. Here are important things to avoid if you want to reduce heartburn and reflux risk.
2) Fun Facts About Mark’s Daily Apple
Did you know that hovering over links and pictures here at Mark’s Daily Apple can provide you with hours of hilarious entertainment? That’s because we pride ourselves on sneaking in funny (okay, maybe cheesy is more like it) comments when Mark is not looking. Don’t tell him.
Another fun fact:
See that nifty little description above Mark’s head? We’re going to be holding a contest to change it (which means the contest just started). One of the Bees likes “Better than bran muffins.” Mark says “Will blog for health.” We want to know what your idea is! We know there’s a witty, funny, healthy phrase inside you, just waiting to get out! So tell us. Shoot us your ideas by clicking “Ask Anything!” at the top of this page. A very cool and healthy reward goes to the first winner. Because hey, we might just change it again.
3) Embolization is the new surgery! Wait…what’s embolization?
Scientists say that uterine fibroid tumors can be treated successfully without surgery, which involves serious risks, side effects and longer hospital stays. The trade-off: one in five women undergoing the embolization process has to come back for more traditional treatments. But it’s a reasonable and encouraging alternative to the invasive and permanent nature of hysterectomies.
4) Fizzy Fruit
We’re in a tizzy over fizzy fruit (hey, we couldn’t resist). Thanks to Dr. Mercola for the heads-up: this ridiculously unhealthy “fruit” product aimed at children is being marketed with the help of some old Coca-Cola pros. Now if you’ll excuse us, the Fuming Fuji has blown his top and we need to call the contractor.
Fruit is already fun for kids. We don’t need to make it fizzy – who needs yet another processed food? This is one more example of taking a food that has a vague reputation of health, turning it into a processed, unnatural product, and espousing it as a health food. Fresh, whole, natural foods are best – isn’t that simply common sense?
Unfortunately, this is one of those items that kids will love and parents may go along with because of the convenience factor – and fruit is “healthy”, right? Of course children love sugar and soda – which is what this snack boils down to. The carbonation may not have added sugar, but this is a glorified dessert nevertheless.
Here’s Fizzy Fruit’s bizarre wonderland website. Is it a farm, Hollywood, a scary freeway, or Wonka’s magic factory? We want to know: how do these enemies of children’s health sleep at night knowing they’re contributing to a lifetime of bad health for the next generation? (And what genius thinks words like “Fizzonator” and “Serfizzes” are clever? Kids are smart, so this is insulting, which tells you a lot about what the company’s real aims are.)
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