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

Mark's Daily Apple

29 Jan

A Monday Moment

Are you ruthlessly committed to enjoying yourself?

At first glance, this can sound selfish and counter-intuitive – even shallow. But I believe that total commitment to enjoyment is the best way to love yourself and others. What does this mean?

It’s not about possessing material goods, and certainly not about instant gratification (in fact, instant gratification is often the exact opposite of true enjoyment and self-love).

Committing to enjoyment means having gratitude – even (or especially) for your flaws and shortcomings, your mistakes, and the things you feel are missing from your life. True gratitude for life – your life – frees you from needing things, from needing approval, from needing control. True gratitude is pure, simple, and joyous.

Committing to enjoyment means steadfast obedience to your inner voice – your heart or instinct. We all know the satisfaction and peace that comes from the times you do listen to your intuition – why not commit to this 100% of the time? How many painful mistakes and personal tangles could have been avoided if you’d simply been true to yourself? Commit to what philosopher Marcus Aurelius referred to as “fidelity to self”. This can seem selfish at times, but by being faithful to your own heart, your actions will be a blessing to others, rather than a cause of misunderstanding or pain.

Ruthless commitment to enjoying yourself – what an idea. If you can commit to pure and genuine participation in your life – because you know it in your heart to be the right thing for you – you can turn your world upside down. Commitment to yourself means commitment to your purpose. The beautiful side effect is that those in your life actually benefit when you commit. When you sacrifice things you know you shouldn’t, and do things your heart isn’t really into, not only do you harm yourself – ultimately, you harm others, too.

Be gentle with your soul by being tough with it – commit to true enjoyment.

29 Jan

The Weekly Health Challenge

Most of us eat out for at least one-third of our meals. It’s a necessary convenience these days. Unfortunately, that means a lot of extra calories and unhealthy choices. It’s no wonder Americans have gotten wider as restaurant dining has become the norm.

This week, resolve to eat right when you dine out. That means no junk or fast food. No sea of bacon grease or pasta swimming in alfredo sauce. It means no basket of bread with butter before your meal, and no dessert after your dish (the food we eat after we’ve already…eaten?). Stick to salads, grilled fish or chicken, simple vegetable or fruit sides – and hold the grease, sauces, and spreads! You’ll feel really great choosing the healthiest thing on the menu. (And you’ll probably lose a few pounds).

And here’s the second part of the challenge:

Help others make healthy choices, too. Click on Forum above, and take a moment to share how you stay healthy while dining on-the-go. If you aren’t already an Apple, registering takes just a few moments, and of course, joining is completely spam-free. Tell us your tips!

26 Jan

Catch This

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.

cupofbeans

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?

football

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.

26 Jan

Vitamin Eeeeek?

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.

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.

pow

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.

Uncle Sam Is on E

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.

E

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26 Jan

Alzheimer’s Prevention

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!

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