Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

19 Dec

Black Tuesday for Black Cohosh

The latest study doesn’t look good for black cohosh. Here’s the clickativity.

Our take: The study was performed by the National Institutes of Health (your friendly government agency), and looked at just over 300 women – so, not exactly a conclusive study. However, size does not always matter – a good study is a good study. The researchers found that women taking black cohosh for hot flashes had a half-episode less per day than women on the placebo treatment. This marginal difference might be enough for some women to take the herbal supplement, but it’s not significant enough to pass scientific muster (and that’s really a good thing – that’s why science rocks).

Black cohosh has been used for hundreds of years and was a traditional Native American medicine. If you suffer from hot flashes and find that black cohosh has helped you, there’s probably nothing to worry about as it is a fairly harmless herb (though it can cause headaches and stomach discomfort in some).

The study designers did state that the jury’s not out and larger studies need to be conducted.

Mark adds:

About a year and a half ago, a big study was released on echinacea. The report was that the herb did nothing to prevent or alleviate cold and flu viruses. The study was certainly well-designed: participants were locked up dorm-style in a completely controlled environment for the duration of the study. But despite the strict parameters, the scientists forgot something: the echinacea plant has different parts that can be utilized for medicinal purposes. Because herbal supplements are not regulated the same way as drugs are regulated, the type of echinacea in the assortment at your local GNC can literally vary from bottle to bottle. Other studies testing different sources of echinacea have proven a benefit. It just goes to show that “the latest study” is almost never the last word.

cohosh

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19 Dec

The Fuming Fuji Says No to Macaroni and Cheese

FUJ

The Fuming Fuji is outraged at the marketing of toxic food, especially when it’s aimed at the small fry. This week, the Fuming Fuji has decided to have a serious problem with macaroni and cheese.

But, Fuming Fuji, you ask, isn’t mac ‘n cheese at least rich in complex carbohydrates, calcium and protein?

The Fuming Fuji says no!

The claim: Fuming Fuji notices a certain brand of mac ‘n cheese promotes itself as having calcium.

The catch: Classroom chalk also has calcium, and it is much less fattening. Children like chalk. Yet they do not sell chalk. Mac ‘n cheese is one of the emptiest foods known to humanity. Cats and dogs agree.

The comeback: Come on. It can’t be that bad, especially if you throw in some diced up hot dogs for protein?

The conclusion: The Fuming Fuji cannot believe what was just said. HOT DOGS? For protein? The Fuji only has time for one outrage per week. This week, it is macaroni and cheese, which is bleached processed flour mixed with chemically-altered powdered cheese product and fat. Enough with the calcium obsession! Calcium does not make up for garbage food.

The catchphrase: Heart Attack ‘n Cheese.

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18 Dec

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know

HRT is all over the news again. This, from Newsday:

“Statistics from a major study revealing that rates of the most common form of breast cancer dropped dramatically between 2002 and 2003 are being greeted with applause and skepticism as the medical and advocacy communities digest the news.”

Yes, it’s a tough one to chew. In brief, cases of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer (which accounts for nearly 3/4 of breast cancer cases) dropped dramatically from 2002 to 2003. This was the same time that several key studies, including a famous government-funded study (the Women’s Health Initiative), found that hormone replacement therapy (or HRT), particularly that derived from mares – in drugs like Prempro and Premarin – was linked to a significant increase in breast cancer risk.

It makes sense. Estrogen is a powerful hormone and using it in drug therapy has been and continues to be a risky proposition. A dramatic drop in estrogen-receptor breast cancer cases, occurring in tandem with the much-publicized discontinued use of HRT by millions of women, isn’t something I think the drug industry or medical community ought to be stumped by. These are highly-trained, intelligent individuals, and frankly, I think the situation is quite clear. What’s to digest? In one year – the same year in which Prempro saw its sales cut by half – breast cancer rates dropped by over 7%; for women over age 50, the rate was 12%.

This is why it is so important to be critical of any drug therapy that is recommended to us, especially for treating health matters that are either part of aging or can be prevented or better addressed through lifestyle choices. Blood pressure pills and cholesterol-lowering pills and arthritis prescriptions can help, but as we see with the HRT scandal (and last year’s Vioxx and Celebrex disasters), there are always side effects. There are always unintended consequences.

This doesn’t mean you ought to toss your medications if there is a legitimate need for them; but arm yourself with knowledge, be ruthlessly critical of everything that anyone recommends to you, and consider whether there are safer, more natural alternatives. The alternatives are often not as easy in the short term, but they’re certainly easier than painful and even fatal side effects down the road.

pinkribbon

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18 Dec

Corn Is Not a Vegetable

Check out a recent post in the Diet & Nutrition section by junior apple Annie B. She writes to tell us about a recent adventure to Boston Market, where she overheard two well-meaning ladies order the “healthy vegetable plate” of mashed potatoes, corn, and mac ‘n cheese. Hmm.

We’re a little concerned about that meal being thought of by anyone as a “vegetable” plate. Potatoes, maybe. But macaroni and cheese is definitely not a vegetable. It’s fat (processed cheese) and refined starch (white pasta). But we’re most upset about corn.

Friends, corn is not a vegetable. It’s not. We are perplexed as to when corn entered the American dietary lexicon as a veggie, because it’s a grain – and a really unhealthy grain at that. Corn is the most sugary, starchy, empty grain there is. You’re better off with white rice – seriously. (Not that we recommend eating a lot of white rice, because brown rice is higher in fiber and protein.)

In fact, we hate corn. Now, we’re not talking about the occasional corn on the cob at the family BBQ. That’s probably not going to hurt anyone. But corn should not make up the veggie section of your meal plate, because it’s a high-glycemic sugarfest. In sum: corn is not a vegetable, and it’s a worthless grain.

And yet, miraculously, it forms the basis of the American diet.

The most maddening thing about all of this is that corn is the #1 ingredient in just about every processed food and fried food. How, you ask? Well, we have a lot of excess corn sitting around every year (mostly because the government still subsidizes corn farmers). What to do? A few decades ago, people figured out that turning corn into oil was really cheap and profitable. Never mind that corn oil is terrible for you when used in cooking: trans fat city, and no Omega-3′s! Yet corn oil, and its trans-fat twin, hydrogenated corn oil, are in everything. Take a look at just about any food in the middle aisles of your grocery store. Yep, corn oil. If it doesn’t have corn oil, it will have corn syrup. Sometimes both.

Even worse is the corn sweetener situation. High fructose corn syrup is really, really cheap, which is great for food manufacturers. And it’s sweeter than sugar. What food manufacturer is going to say no to that? They won’t – not unless you tell them enough is enough.

HFCS goes into soda, sports drinks, kids’ snacks, candy, and breakfast cereals, to name just a few items. The HFCS lobby has a really, um…colorful brown website (we can’t think of anything nice to say about it) that makes a big deal about how nutritious corn syrup is and how it’s the backbone of the American Diet. Seriously, is that something you want to be bragging about? With diabetes now a runaway epidemic, and corn syrup registering off the charts on the old insulin-response meter?

Maybe the HFCS lobby lives in an alternate America where a diet high in pizza, Lucky Charms, pop tarts and Pepsi has produced legions of energetic, happy, lean, muscular individuals. You can check out their “fact” site right now. Clickativity.

Waves of grain…

corn

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18 Dec

Holiday Health Challenge!

This one should be easy for all of you: before the holidays really hit full speed this weekend, do yourself a healthy favor. No junk food this week. Nada, zip, zero, [all right, insert “nothing” synonym of choice here]. We know you’re all healthy in mind, body, and spirit. Salads don’t stand a chance around you. Wait, why is this one even a challenge? Mark?

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