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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Tips On Improving Your Cholesterol Profile

The beneficial effects on the heart and circulatory system of a having a low blood level (below 130) of LDL cholesterol and a high blood level (above 55) of HDL cholesterol are well established. It is also good to have a ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol of no more than 4.0. If your levels don’t meet these criteria, you might benefit from the recommendations listed in an online Men’s Health Magazine article by Bill Phillips dated September 13, 2011. It presents the following ways, purportedly based on scientific studies, of improving your cholesterol profile without drugs:

Raise Your HDL Level

  • Eat at least 2 oz (57 gm) of nuts per day.
  • Do endurance exercise at least 20 min/day
  • Do 3 sets of 6-8 reps of the half squat, leg extension, and leg press, with 2 min max rest between sets, 2x/wk
  • Take a 1000 mg calcium supplement daily with 400 IU of Vitamin D-3
  • Eat fresh, not processed, white fish (e.g. cod, sole, flounder)
  • Take a daily 10-20 mg polycosanol supplement
  • Drink cranberry juice
  • Eat 2.5 oz of dark chocolate daily
Lower Your LDL Level
  • Eat a grapefruit daily
  • Eat several small meals a day
  • Eat food fortified with oat bran
  • Switch from a margarine containing trans fats to a spread that doesn’t
  • Drink Concord grape juice
  • Take phytosterol or phytostanol supplements in pills or margarine form
  • Add whole grains, nuts, and beans to your diet
Bottom Line

These seem like good recommendations. Just observe the following precautions:
  • Don’t overdo the calories by adding these items to your diet. Remove other items when you add these.
  • Endurance exercise is important for everyone. Weight training alone is not optimal for health.
  • Do not exceed 1000 mg of calcium/day from all sources (1200 mg/day if you're over 70) because of a possible increased risk of prostate cancer.
  • Don’t eat only white fish, because darker, fattier fish like salmon and mackerel are high in beneficial omega-3 fish oil.
  • Don’t overdo the juice because even natural juices contain a lot of sugar, especially fructose, which can increase fatty deposits in the liver and around the midsection.
  • Look for brands of dark chocolate without added milk fat.
  • Several small meals means SMALL.
  • The margarine brands that contain phytosterols and phytostanols contain some trans fats that are not listed because they're less than 0.5 mg per serving. So you may prefer getting these supplements in tablet form.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Important Information About Vitamins

An article in the September 2011 issue of the Nutrition Action Health Letter, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, examined research data on the value of taking multivitamins. Key points of the articles are:

Three major studies with a total of 426,000 study subjects over the age of 40 showed no difference between those who took and those who didn’t take multi-vitamins as to lifespan or the incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or stroke.

Other studies showed no effect of multi-vitamin use on the incidence of colds, other infections, length of illness, or absence from school, work or other planned activities.

Cognitive performance was not improved in various study groups that took multi-vitamins for 6-12 months

However, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee found that the following nutrients that are deficient among a large number of Americans:

  • Vitamin D
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B-12
  • Iron (among women due to menstruation)
  • Calcium
Most brands of multivitamins do not provide large enough doses to cause harm. However, there is concern that some people may be ingesting enough of the following to increase their risk of health problems:
  • Folic acid: Too little folic acid can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, and pregnant women who are deficient in folic acid are at risk for having babies with neural tube defects. That is why the U.S. government now mandates that folic acid be added to grain products. However, there is some evidence that too much folic acid taken over several years can increase the risk of having colorectal pre-cancerous growths (adenomous polyps) as well as prostate cancer. Thus, it is prudent not to ingest more than 1,000 micrograms a day of folic acid. Some breakfast cereals contain 400 micrograms per serving, and many people eat more than the standard serving size. Eating such cereals every day as well as taking a multivitamin and eating fortified bread, pasta, or rice can easily lead to exceeding 1,000 micrograms. This can be prevented by avoiding multivitamins with more than 400 micrograms of folic acid and limiting consumption of cereals that are fortified with 400 micrograms of folic acid per serving (e.g. Kashi Heart to Heart, Total, Multigrain Cheerios, Kellog’s Mueslix, Product 19, Smart Start, and Special K Original).
  • Selenium: Although there is marginal evidence that selenium may lower the risk of certain types of cancer, a study showed that people who took 200 micrograms of selenium daily for 8 years were almost 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who didn’t take the supplement. So it is best to avoid multivitamins that contain more than 100 micrograms of selenium.
  • Vitamin A: While a Vitamin A deficiency can cause various health problems, very few Americans are deficient in the vitamin. However, a study showed that excess Vitamin A (more than 1667 IU/day) doubled the risk of hip fracture among women. The safest alternative is to take a multivitamin that contains beta-carotene rather than Vitamin A. Beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A as needed by the body and doesn’t cause any harm itself.

Bottom Line
  • Unless you feel you can get all your needed nutrients from your food, take a multivitamin that has 100% of the recommended daily value of each vitamin, rather than taking megadoses.
  • It is advisable not to exceed 1000 micrograms per day of folic acid by avoiding multivitamins with over 400 micrograms per serving and limiting intake of breakfast cereals containing more than 200 micrograms per serving.
  • Limit selenium in supplements to 100 micrograms per day.
  • Limit Vitamin A in supplements to 100% of daily value (5000 IU). Or, even better, take a supplement that contains beta-carotene rather than Vitamin A.