Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:
Or should that be…health is the new blog? And have you noticed the constant “this is the new that” slogans everybody likes to come up with? (Just Google: sugar is the new trans fat, brown is the new black, adults are the new kids.) How about a new turn of phrase device? Like…”couplets are the new turn of phrase device”. Oh, wait, that’s just the new thing again. Nevermind.
Here’s your piping hot batch of health news!
1) No More Wining
All the benefits of wine, none of the headache-inducing tannins and brain toxins. Just make sure you pick 100% real juice, and don’t drink too much of it (because…yes…sugar is the new trans fat). Or just eat grapes. The beneficial antioxidants everyone is in a big stomp about (like resveratrol) are found in the skins of the grapes.
2) Unexpected Mad Cow News
Here is some unexpected mad cow news. We’ll keep you posted as research develops. You might want to consider going organic in the meantime.
3) Will it make a difference?
Faster Death Agency Food and Drug Administration has come under furious scrutiny over all manner of corruption and shenanigans (Vioxx, politicizing Plan B, Prempro and numerous other drug scandals). A recent independent investigation found that the FDA errs – big surprise here – on the side of approval even when new drugs have not had extensive testing. Essentially, the FDA gives drug companies a hall pass. In so many words, the FDA says “Hey, Big Pharma, you’re gonna make sure your product is safe, right? Cool. Sally, did you find my iPod yet? I have to make my private jet to Telluride in, like, 30 minutes!”
The actual wording is convoluted legalese, but that’s pretty much what it boils down to.
In light of the fact that a post at the FDA is a cushy chill-out job for stressed former Pharma execs, this news fills us with hope. We’ll keep an eye on whether or not it actually makes a difference. Check the press release (link below), and you’ll see that the official spin is maddeningly glib: the FDA is changing because it’s simply time to update processes in light of new scientific methods. Gosh, is that it? How fun. Translation: the FDA is changing because, oops, we need to stop approving needless deaths by instituting standards that have already been around for two hundred years.
In the meantime, be careful about trying new drugs or multiple prescriptions without first doing a little research – and always get a second or third opinion (fortunately, real research is now easy to find at places like Pubmed, Vitasearch and even the FDA’s own website).
And let’s just remember, the FDA is the fine organization that brings us this inflamed nubbin:
New York has taken steps to ban trans fat. So we knew L.A. would catch up sooner or later. It just needed time to come up with a subtle little “Um, we’re already so much healthier than NYC!” jab, and here it is:
“I haven’t received one call from a restaurant saying it doesn’t want to make a change. I get more phone calls a day from restaurants that say they’ve never used it.”
We don’t care, as long as more cities jump out of the fryer, too.
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!
Google isn’t the only search engine on the world-wide-web. If you are looking for specific health-related information or technical articles on vitamins and supplements it makes sense to use a search engine that is optimized to provide health-specific results. Here are two websites that do just that.
Vitasearch.com provides scientific articles that cover the latest research in the field of nutrition. Visit the ‘Weekly Updates’ link for the most up-to-date findings on everything from vitamin D and folate to coenzyme Q10 and fish oils. Additionally, this website supplies interviews with some of the brilliant scientists behind all the research. Get their expert opinions on a variety of health topics. This site is simple, straightforward, and as long as you are willing to dig through sometimes technical journal article summaries, provides excellent content.
If you are looking for solid information about specific health conditions and ailments Healthline.com may be able to provide you with answers. This 2006 Webby Award winning site provides filtered search results that draw from over 170,000 health-related websites and thousands of peer-reviewed journal articles. Healthline was developed in partnership with over 1,110 medical specialists to help bring consumers relevant search results. The site also offers cool features like Healthmaps, detailed illustrations and pictures, and quizzes to help assess physical conditions. Although a lot of the information seems to be focused on and sponsored by Big Pharma, this site still offers plenty of preventative tips and a wealth of quality advice (just be aware of the bias).
As we are always saying at Mark’s Daily Apple: be willing to be critical about everything you’ve assumed to be true about health and fitness, and take responsibility for your own health. In order to do this, it is important to stay on top of the latest research and findings. Between MDA and these resources you are sure to find the most up-to-date health information available.
© 2013 Mark's Daily Apple | Design By The Blog Studio