Archive for December, 2009

ASK DR. H: Extra selenium not recommended

Q: What’s your opinion on taking a selenium supplement? I’ve been taking one for years, but now I’m hearing that it might not be such a good thing. — M.C., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

A: Beyond the selenium content in food and a multivitamin you might be taking, I would not advise taking any extra selenium.

Although selenium is a known anti-oxidant that had been thought to protect against cancer and heart disease, several recently published studies suggest that too much selenium may actually be harmful. One study published in the Aug. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that people receiving 200 micrograms of selenium daily might have a higher incidence of diabetes. Another recent study from the University of Warwick, England, found that taking too much selenium or consuming too much dietary selenium was associated with an 8 percent rise in total cholesterol and a 10 percent rise in triglycerides and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels.

Q: I have a burning …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Help for severe insomnia?

Q: I’ve had chronic, severe insomnia all my life. All I get from well-meaning people is the advice to stop drinking coffee. All I get from doctors are more and more drugs, which work for a while, then quit.

I go days at a time without sleep. My brain is so fried. Any suggestions would be really welcome.

CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special; Styling by Sarah Cox

CHRIS HUNT/AJC Special; Styling by Sarah Cox

A: Although yours is an extreme case, you are not alone. Millions of people also have great difficulty falling asleep. Others awaken in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep. Regardless, sleep deprivation can contribute to a range of health problems, from hypertension and forgetfulness to impaired immunity and weight gain.

Some tricks to try include vigorous exercise early in the day, a hot bath an hour before bedtime or a high-carb snack half an hour before climbing into bed.

Nondrug approaches such as relaxation CDs, magnesium, melatonin or herbs like valerian, hops or lemon balm also may be helpful.

Joe …

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HEALTHY EATING: Set realistic goals to lose weight

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

For many of us, ringing in the new year brings a new commitment to improve our lives with resolutions to make positive changes.

Diet resolutions are among the most popular. Fitness centers fill up, and restaurants sell more salads. TV shopping channels hawk diet supplements, exercise equipment and lots of Spandex active wear.

But often, even the most enthusiastic plans to “finally lose weight this year” fade by the time Super Bowl snacks appear.

In one survey, 45 percent of those who set New Year’s resolutions had broken them before Feb. 1.

Chef Jenny Levison prepares her homemade soups in the kitchen at Souper Jenny. Pictured here is Absolutely Everything Roasted Veggie Soup.  Photo by Becky Stein/Special.

Chef Jenny Levison prepares her homemade soups in the kitchen at Souper Jenny. Pictured here is Absolutely Everything Roasted Veggie Soup. Photo by Becky Stein/Special.

Dietitians who specialize in adult weight management say that New Year’s diet resolutions are often too broad and unrealistic — such as “I’ll never eat ice cream again!” or “I’ll cook at home every night.”

It turns …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Sauerkraut juice helps heal canker sores?

Q: I have had dry mouth for years because of medication. Recently, with my diabetes diagnosis, it has gotten much worse. It is hard to talk and hard to swallow.

In the past week, I have had painful sores inside my mouth and on my tongue. My doctors were no help, but my mom referred me to the People’s Pharmacy, and I read about sauerkraut juice. I purchased a can and took it home, not really thinking it would help. Within a minute, the pain was gone! The relief lasted hours.

A: We heard about sauerkraut juice for canker sores more than a decade ago. A listener to our syndicated radio show shared his mother’s remedy. She worked as a dental assistant during the Depression and learned this remedy from the dentist, who recommended swishing the mouth with sauerkraut juice several times during the day. Swallowing about a tablespoon of juice each time may help.

We are not aware of a scientific explanation for why sauerkraut juice would help heal canker sores. We have heard …

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ASK DR H: No hard data on cherries treating gout

Q: On the advice of a friend, I’ve been drinking cherry juice every day to prevent a gout attack. I have not had a gout attack in more than four years. Can you explain how cherry juice prevents gout? — S.M., Philadelphia

CherryPharm, Inc.

CherryPharm, Inc.

A: Cherries, whether they are in the form of juice or in a bowl, are probably the No. 1 home remedy used in preventing and treating gout.

For those of you fuzzy on what gout is, it’s an inflammatory joint condition resulting when a supersaturated mixture of uric acid and tissue fluid form needlelike crystals under just the right set of conditions.

Does it really work? I can’t say for sure, because there’s just not enough clinical research behind the numerous anecdotal claims like yours.

One theory is that dark cherries rich in anti-oxidants may help combat inflammation.

A preliminary study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service published in a 2003 issue of the Journal of Nutrition suggests …

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HEALTHY EATING: Be selective on splurge-worthy food

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

This just in: University of Pittsburgh researchers observe that we eat more on weekends and during the holidays.

After studying two years’ worth of consumers’ eating behavior, professor of marketing J. Jeffrey Inman and colleagues found that the quality (“This homemade fudge is fantastic!”) and quantity (“I’ll have some more homemade fudge, please!) of foods consumed during weekend and holiday meals is considerably different from regular weekdays.

Inman suggests that Americans need special dietary advice for special occasion eating to help in the battle against obesity.

So today’s column serves up some smart tips on eating healthy and having a fabulous time during the holidays.

Ashley Spotkill/AJC Special

Ashley Spotkill/AJC Special

Trim the trimmings

Go all out and deck the halls with boughs of holly, glitter and lights, but when it comes to holiday food, accessorize with care.

To shave calories, go easy when adding nuts, cheese, cream sauces, …

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ASK DR H: Alternative sweeteners do not contain sugar alcohol

Q: In products that use Equal/Nutrasweet as their sweetener, there is a sugar alcohol content. What other sugar substitutes have sugar alcohol amounts?
— T.P. Jackson, Mich.

A: No, that’s not quite right. Equal/Nutrasweet is a protein-derived sugar, and has no sugar alcohol content.

I’m guessing that you got the mistaken impression from looking at the label of a “sugar-free” food like dietetic cake, cookies or candy. Those products use alternative sweeteners to sugar such as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol or lactitol.

Although they’re derived from the alcohol molecule, they’re 100 percent alcohol-free.

Such sugar-free sweeteners are as different from alcohol as a drinking glass is to a handful of sand.

Alcohol-free sugars have been used safely for many years to sweeten calorie-controlled foods, especially commercially baked goods and candy.

Although you might think of sugars as natural sweeteners derived from sugar cane or fruits, there are ways that …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Alcoholic abusing mouthwash?

Q: My 31-year-old sister is an alcoholic. She has been to two rehab facilities within the past year. She finally got a job, and then about two weeks ago she started sleeping all weekend.

Those severely addicted to alcohol may turn to seemingly benign household products like mouthwash to satisfy their cravings. PARKER C. SMITH/AJC SPECIAL

Those severely addicted to alcohol may turn to seemingly benign household products like mouthwash to satisfy their cravings. PARKER C. SMITH/AJC SPECIAL

I couldn’t find any alcohol in the house, but we bought a blood alcohol content detector, and it would read off the charts. She’d say she wasn’t drinking, and she would have this wild-eyed drunk look.

I saw a huge bottle of Listerine in her bathroom yesterday, and today it is gone. She always smells of it, and it broke my heart when I realized what she’s doing.

A: Your sister might need more help than you can give her. As you have realized, she might be abusing Listerine for its alcohol content. Only a desperate and addicted person does this.

We heard from another reader who reported that her mother died of liver failure, kidney …

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HEALTHY EATING: Look to Italy for gourmet ideas

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Certainly an all-expenses paid gourmet tour of Italy would be a fabulous holiday gift idea, but it might not be in the budget this year.

That doesn’t mean you can’t share the flavors of Italy with the foodies on your list.

Tie festive baskets with red and green ribbons to match the Italian flag and fill them with an assortment of artisanal pasta, olive oil and balsamic vinegars for a fabulous way to convey holiday greetings.

I’ve always loved the thought behind fancy food gifts, especially if they carry the win-win message of taste and health. By pairing delicious aged balsamic vinegars with a gorgeous extra-virgin olive oil (and tucking in a few recipes for vinaigrette salad dressings) you’re saying, “I care about your taste buds and your heart.”

Decades of nutrition research show that Mediterranean diets made up of whole grains, greens, olive oils, fruit, seafood and wine are among the healthiest in the world. And as the …

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ASK DR. H: Diseases linked to not breastfeeding

Q: Are there any health problems a mother might face because she did not or could not breastfeed? 
— C.L., Orlando

A: There are a number of diseases linked to women who never breastfed: high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides, heart disease, ovarian and breast cancers and metabolic syndrome (a group of conditions that includes obesity, high triglycerides, low HDL “good” cholesterol and a pre-diabetic state of elevated fasting blood sugar). The reasons are not clear, but some proposed explanations include greater weight retained after pregnancy; absence of oxytocin (milk-stimulating) hormone production results in higher blood pressure and pulse rate; women who are not breastfeeding have higher cortisol hormone levels in response to stress, which can cause higher blood sugar, blood pressure and weight gain; and women who are obese and/or diabetic have pre-existing health problems and a more difficult time producing milk.

Dr. Mitchell …

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