Long-awaited vitamin D studies are finally appearing this year. A large international study found that higher levels of vitamin D in a person's blood is associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Those with the highest vitamin D levels had a 21% lower risk (compared to the lowest group) of colorectal cancer after an average 5.5 years.
But the researchers generally do not recommend vitamin D supplements - saying that most people had adequate levels from foods and sunshine. However, they suggest that the risk for vitamin D deficiency is higher for those with very dark skin; for older adults (their skin may not be as efficient at synthesizing vitamin D); and for those who do not go outside at all - and that these groups may need supplementation (but not beyond 4000 IU per day - because higher levels have negative health effects). From Medical Xpress:
Large international study links blood vitamin D levels to colorectal cancer risk
A new study authored by scientists from the American Cancer Society, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and more than 20 other medical centers and organizations finds that higher circulating vitamin D concentrations are significantly associated with lower colorectal cancer risk. This study strengthens the evidence, previously considered inconclusive, for a protective relationship. Optimal vitamin D concentrations for colorectal cancer prevention may be higher than the current National Academy of Medicine recommendations, which are based only on bone health. ...continue reading "Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer Risk"
There has been a lot of concern with the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes in the US and other countries. Along with that is an interest in blood glucose levels after meals (postprandial blood glucose response or PBGR). Glucose is a type of sugar that slightly rises after a meal, and some types of foods rise it more than others. It is thought that big spikes in glucose levels in the blood are unhealthy for both long-term health and also if one has diabetes. A nicely done Canadian study (people randomly assigned to groups) found that swapping out half of a portion of starchy potatoes or rice with lentils reduced levels of blood glucose levels by 20% (when replacing rice) to 35 % (replacing potatoes).
What foods are pulses? Pulses are dried seeds of legume plants, and include all lentils, dry beans, and dry peas. This includes, baked beans, all lentils (red, green, yellow, brown), chickpeas (garbanzo beans), black-eyed peas, runner beans, fava beans, kidney beans, lima beans, haricots, cannellini beans, pinto beans, etc. They provide fiber in the diet and are a great source of protein. From Science Daily: Lentils significantly reduce blood glucose levels
Replacing potatoes or rice with pulses can lower your blood glucose levels by more than 20 per cent, according to a first-ever University of Guelph study. Prof. Alison Duncan, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, and Dan Ramdath of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, found that swapping out half of a portion of these starchy side dishes for lentils can significantly improve your body's response to the carbohydrates. ...continue reading "Eating Lentils Has Health Benefits"
LASIK is an incredibly popular eye surgery to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. But it turns out that LASIK surgery has more short and long-term complications than we realize. Studies show that the persistant "minor problems" (depends on who you ask if they're minor) are more frequent than we realize - up to 55% report symptoms such as dry eyes or visual distortions. But the really serious ones, such as corneal ectasia, and which occur rarely (less than 1%), typically occur a year or two after the LASIK surgery. And unfortunately ectasia can result in total loss of vision.
Sooo... Buyer beware. And before you consider LASIK surgery, please go to the site LASIK Complications to see exactly what can happen in a worse case scenario, read the following NY Times article in full, and this Washington Post article from 2016. This way if you do decide to do the voluntary procedure, at least you will be fully informed. Excerpts from an article by Roni Caryn Rabin in the NY Times:
Lasik’s Risks Are Coming Into Sharper Focus
Ever since he had Lasik surgery two years ago, Geobanni Ramirez sees everything in triplicate. The surgery he hoped would improve his vision left the 33-year-old graphic artist struggling with extreme light sensitivity, double vision and visual distortions that create halos around bright objects and turn headlights into blinding starbursts. His eyes are so dry and sore that he puts drops in every half-hour; sometimes they burn “like when you’re chopping onions.” His night vision is so poor that going out after dark is treacherous.
But Mr. Ramirez says that as far as his surgeon is concerned, he is a success story. “My vision is considered 20/20, because I see the A’s, B’s and C’s all the way down the chart,” said Mr. Ramirez. “But I see three A’s, three B’s, three C’s.” None of the surgeons he consulted ever warned him he could sustain permanent damage following Lasik, he added. ...continue reading "Eye Problems Can Develop After LASIK Surgery"
When I was growing up, it was quite fashionable for children to have their tonsils removed. A few sore throats, and BOOM - they were taken out. But what are the long term consequences of having the tonsils or adenoids removed in childhood? Are there any?
An interesting large study from Denmark, using Danish public health data, examined this issue and found a higher long-term risk of certain diseases. In those who had either tonsils or adenoids or both removed during childhood (up to the age of 9), years later there were higher rates of respiratory, infectious, and allergic diseases. Tonsil removal (for recurrent sore throats) is a tonsillectomy, adenoid removal (due to frequent middle ear infections) is an adenoidectomy, and removing both at once is a adenotonsillectomy. However, both adenoids and tonsils are parts of the immune system, have roles in pathogen detection and defense, and during childhood the immune system is still developing. From Science Daily:
Tonsil and adenoid removal associated with respiratory, allergic and infectious disease
Removing tonsils and adenoids in childhood increases the long-term risk of respiratory, allergic and infectious diseases, according to researchers who have examined -- for the first time -- the long-term effects of the operations. The researchers suggest renewed evaluation of alternatives to these common paediatric surgeries that include removal of tonsils (tonsillectomy) to treat chronic tonsillitis or adenoids (adenoidectomy) to treat recurrent middle ear infections. ...continue reading "Are There Any Long Term Risks From Tonsil or Adenoid Removal in Childhood?"
Is melanoma overdiagnosed? I recently wrote about an article on cancer screening where melanoma was discussed as a cancer that was "overdiagnosed". And now an article, with supporting research, from Health News Review (an excellent site that does "critical thinking about health care") about the issue of overdiagnosis of melanoma during skin screening tests. What? This is definitely news to many.
The following article was written because of a new skin cancer screening test developed using artificial intelligence (AI) that could distinguish between melanomas and benign moles. It turns out that a lot of people have concerns over melanoma being overdiagnosed (and therefore overtreated), including the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
But how do we know melanoma is being overdiagnosed? Because even though more and more melanomas are being found (through screening tests) and treated, the death rate from melanoma has stayed the same over the past 40 years (see the graph below). Just note that what is described here are moles diagnosed as melanoma during screening tests, meaning that small moles just sitting there on the body are examined. It is not talking about moles that are changing in some worrisome way - those should absolutely be checked out. Excerpts from Kevin Lomangino's post at Health News Review:
Yes, melanoma can be overdiagnosed, but news stories like these don’t discuss it
Many stories, like this U.S. News & World Report piece, suggested that AI “may serve physicians involved in skin cancer screening as an aid in their decision whether to biopsy a lesion or not.” But none of the stories I looked at paused to ask, Is finding more melanoma definitely a good thing? ...continue reading "Is Melanoma Overdiagnosed?"
Once again, a study linked a person's diet with the chances of getting age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years and older, and it has no cure. The study (conducted at the University of Bordeaux, France) found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop advanced age-related macular degeneration. The study was presented at a conference (not a medical journal), but it builds on other research with similar findings.
What is the Mediterranean diet? It is a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fish. The diet is a good source of fiber, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (especially fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines), and of vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, and copper. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids found in green, yellow and red vegetables. From Medscape:
Mediterranean Diet Linked With Lower Incidence of Advanced AMD
People who eat a Mediterranean diet are less likely to develop advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). That's according to research presented May 1 at ARVO 2018, the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, in Honolulu, Hawaii. "Higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a 39% reduced risk of developing advanced AMD. These results highlight that eating a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean-type diet, may help to limit progression to advanced AMD," Dr. Benedicte M. J. Merle of the University of Bordeaux, France, and her colleagues write in their abstract. ...continue reading "Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Macular Degeneration"
Walk, walk, walk for health - and the faster, the better. The message from a large study (in Britain and Scotland) is that walking is associated with healthier, longer lives - but if you walk at a fast pace (brisk walking), the effects are even better. Walking at an average or brisk pace reduced death (from any cause) by 20% to 24% - as compared to those walking slowly. Heart disease deaths were reduced by 21% to 24% at an average or brisk pace - when compared to those walking at a slow pace.
Bottom line: average walking pace is good, but getting your heart rate up (and getting a little sweaty) while walking briskly is better. By the wayr, the researchers did not find any effect of walking speed on cancer deaths. ...continue reading "Walking At a Brisk Pace Is Best For Health"
Another study has found that the most common vitamin and mineral supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C), don't offer hoped for health benefits, and may actually carry some risks. This latest study was a review of other studies, and examined whether specific vitamins or minerals would lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and strokes) and death from any cause (referred to as all cause mortality"). [Posts discussing other research finding problems with supplements.]
In general, the review of studies of popular supplements (multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin C) show no consistent benefit (no significant effect) for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, or stroke, nor any lowering of death (all cause mortality). On the other hand, folic acid and B-vitamins with folic acid, B6, and B12 reduced stroke (folic acid showed a 20% reduction in stroke), but niacin and antioxidants were associated with an increased risk of death from any cause (10% increase). But overall the effects in the studies were small. Vitamin D did not show any benefits in reducing death, but the researchers pointed out that many vitamin D studies are now under way, and the results of vitamin D studies so far are mixed (e.g. 16 showing positive effects from vitamin D, 17 showing a more favorable effect in the control group, and 10 neither).
On the other hand, the researchers stressed that eating a well balanced diet has lots of health benefits and is recommended by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Three dietary patterns are frequently discussed as beneficial: 1) a healthy American diet (sometimes called a "prudent diet") low in saturated fat, trans fat, and red meat, but high in fruit and vegetables, 2) a Mediterranean diet, and 3) a vegetarian diet. All 3 of these diets are rich in fruits and vegetables (which means increased fiber), are relatively rich in vitamins and minerals, and meet Dietary Reference Intake guidelines. ...continue reading "Study Finds No Benefit From Most Supplements"
Something a little different today. For years I've posted studies showing that eating organic foods lowers pesticide levels in the body quickly, eating organic foods is the only way to avoid the presence of the controversial pesticide glyphosate (Roundup) in food, the nutritional profile (especially fatty acids) of meat and milk from grass-fed, pasture raised animals is different and healthier than conventionally raised animals (and even organic animals not raised on pasture), and on and on. In other words, eating organic foods has health benefits. All good.
But meanwhile, the National Organic Program and National Organic Standards Board (which controls the national organic foods certification program) is being influenced by big agriculture lobbying - to the dismay of real organic farmers. Yes - real organic farmers, who farm the way we expect our organic meat and crops to be raised. You know - cows grazing outside, chickens pecking away for insects outside, crops being raised in real soil (and not hydroponics). But ... Big Agriculture with the mega-farms and lots of chemicals, and animals confined by the thousands indoors, have decided they want a piece of the organic action, and have now influenced the National Organic Program and National Organic Standards Board with the result of weakening of organic standards. But there are other problems too with the organic program as it currently exists.
The Washington Post did a series of articles last year about a huge issue of fraud - about how so-called organic food from other countries may really not be organic (esp. corn and soybeans), and this mega-influx of fake organic food with lower prices is something real organic farmers in the US can't compete with. Also, how "larger agricultural companies have sought to loosen organic rules in the name of efficiency and affordability". The organic market is a big one, and growing bigger every year (billions of $$). It benefits large corporations and huge mono-crop farms financially to have watered down standards.
Another example: the organic milk that one buys may not really be organic (and the same issue with organic chickens). Organic dairies are supposed to have their dairy cows out grazing in the pasture for a minumum of 120 days per year - it is a requirement. But big dairies that are only organic in name ignore that requirement - such as the huge Aurora Dairy. Yup, they lie. And in September 2017, the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) didn't punish the 15,000 cow Aurora Dairy - instead they "exonerated the enormous Aurora Dairy CAFO (Confinement Animal Feeding Operation) of any wrongdoing at their Colorado “farm.” This dairy operation was described in detail in one Washington Post article, along with compelling test results to prove the cattle weren’t on pasture." So of course now they and other mega-dairies will just ignore the organic regulations, because they can without any penalty. ...continue reading "Is A New Organic Label Needed For Farmers Following Traditional Organic Practices?"
Does it matter what blood type (A, O, B, AB) we have when dealing with microbes that can make us sick? Apparently it does for certain illnesses.
New research suggests that people with blood type O and B can handle a strain of Escherichia coli referred to as "enterotoxigenic E. coli" better than those with blood type A. This bacteria is associated with traveler's diarrhea and diarrhea in developing countries, with especially severe effects among young children. It turns out that those with blood type A get sicker (more severe diarrhea) and sooner, than those with blood type O and B. Antibiotics successfully treats the diarrhea.
By the way, other research also finds a link with certain diseases and blood types (e.g. diabetes, malaria, and cholera). From Medical Xpress:
Blood type affects severity of diarrhea caused by E. coli
A new study shows that a kind of E. coli most associated with "travelers' diarrhea" and children in underdeveloped areas of the world causes more severe disease in people with blood type A.
The bacteria release a protein that latches onto intestinal cells in people with blood type A, but not blood type O or B, according to a study led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. A vaccine targeting that protein could potentially protect people with type A blood against the deadliest effects of enterotoxigenic E. coli (Escherichia coli) infection. ...continue reading "Blood Type Affects Severity of Illness From E. Coli Strain"