November 26, 2012

193 Baby’s Best Friend [26 November 2012]

Dogs may not be just man’s best friend – they could be baby’s best friend too. In addition to the emotional benefits of having a pet, there appears to be physical health benefits too. A recent study from Finland adds to the evidence that pets, particularly dogs, improve children’s health.

The study, published earlier this year in Pediatrics, followed 397 children from rural and suburban settings through their first year. Indoor contact with dogs and cats was correlated with frequency of childhood infections. The analyses took into account other factors: breastfeeding, birth weight, number of siblings, and parental health. The researchers found that children with indoor contact with dogs:
• had fewer incidents of fever, infections and colds
• were less likely to be given antibiotics
• had half as many inner ear infections, and
• were just generally more healthy.

The study also found that the more contact the children had with the dog and the more time the dog spent outside the house, the greater the benefits. Curiously cats didn't provide the same benefits, but did not cause any health problems either. This and other similar studies support the “hygiene hypothesis” – that increased exposure to microbes (germs) early in life boosts the infants’ immune systems, not only increasing resistance to respiratory infection but also reducing the risk of allergic conditions such as asthma and eczema.

There are many factors to consider by a family with young children in the decision to have an indoor pet. But fear of the children getting sick from the pet need not be one of them.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 19, 2012

192 Belly Fat [19 Nov 2012]

A study by the Mayo Clinic presented at the 2012 European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich August 27, showed that normal weight people with belly fat have a higher risk of death than obese people. The study looked at the BMI (weight in kg / height in m squared) and waist/hip ratios of 12,785 adult Americans. Those with normal BMI but with central obesity (high waist/hip ratio) had the highest risk of cardiovascular death (2.75x) and of death from all causes (2.08x) compared with those with normal BMI and normal waist/hip ratios.

Why should this be? Visceral (belly) fat around the organs is associated with increased insulin resistance. And as I’ve discussed many times, insulin resistance is the common factor in the symptoms of metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, high blood lipids, and diabetes.

What this study shows is that while BMI is an important risk factor of cardiovascular death (think heart attacks), having a “beer belly” is even more significant. If you have a high BMI you need to do something about it – lose fat, gain muscle, or both. But even if your BMI is normal and you have a high waist/hip ratio, you still need to do something. What is considered a high waist-hip ratio? For men a ratio below 0.85 is considered “excellent” and over 0.95 “at risk”; for women it’s 0.75 and 0.86 respectively. See Dr. Mercola's article for a more detailed table and a height:waist table. I’m just finishing 9 weeks on the Ideal Protein Diet and my ratio is 0.86 (it was 0.94 before I started). My Body Fat %, as measured on the Body Composition Analyzer (a more accurate measurement than BMI), is 22.5 which puts me in the middle of the “Acceptable” range. To improve it further (the “Fitness” level for men is 14-18%) I now need to work at building muscle.

If you would like to know what your Body Fat % is, I am offering free readings at the Ideal Protein information meeting tonight (Monday November 19) starting at 7:00 pm. If you missed it, just stop in any time and ask for a free BCA reading.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 12, 2012

191 Diet Soda & Cancer [12 November 2012]

An interesting flip-flop on a news item happened last month. A study was published in the Am J Clinical Nutrition on October 24, showing a higher risk of blood cancers with consumption of diet soda (and by implication aspartame). As is customary, copies were released to news media a few days before so their stories would come out on publication date. Then just half an hour before publication, a news release was sent out by the Harvard Brigham and Women’s University asking the media not to run the story because “the data is weak”.

The study was significant for several reasons. It followed 115,000 adults for 22 years looking at the relation between diet soda consumption and blood cancers. The long term is necessary to determine the effects of chronic exposure, and to enable detection of cancers (the longest previous human study on aspartame toxicity was only 19 weeks). It found that men (but not women) who consumed more than 1 diet soda per day had an increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma, and that both men and women had an increased risk of leukemia. The gender difference can be explained by men producing more of the enzyme ADH that converts methanol from aspartame to formaldehyde. The risk increases are small but statistically significant, and in the authors’ view warrant further study.

So was the publication of the study premature? Or could there possibly be some industry pressure put on the university to recant? A 2006 New York Times article reported that all of the industry-funded studies on aspartame (to date) found it safe, while 92% of the independent studies found significant problems. The US FDA has had more adverse reports on aspartame than all other food additives combined. Another article on aspartame [The Defense of Diet Soda] listed some of the health problems linked by studies to diet sodas: heart attacks, strokes, cancers, osteoporosis, tooth decay, and nervous system disorders. And while some studies show improved weight loss for diet soda drinkers, there are many others that don’t or show the opposite – that diet sodas cause weight gain. So there are many reasons to avoid diet sodas and really no reason to drink them. The pulling of the news story reminds me of a line by Hamlet’s mother: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Two other online articles on this subject that I referred to were: "Study: Aspartame linked to blood cancers" by E. Hector Corsi, Digital Journal, 7 Nov 2012, and "Aspartame Associated with Increased Risk of Blood Cancers in Long-Term Human Study" by Dr. Joseph Mercola, 7 Nov 2012.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

November 5, 2012

190 Risks of High Protein Diets [5 Nov 2012]

I’m just finishing a few months on the Ideal Protein diet program. A few friends have expressed concern about health risks of “high protein” diets, so I decided to see if there was any validity to their concerns.

First, the Ideal Protein program is not really a high protein diet. Yes, carbs are reduced and protein as a % of total calories is increased. But the total protein is within normal limits. Using the formula of 0.5g of protein daily per pound of lean body weight (usually the “goal” weight), I should consume 0.5 x 200 = 100g of protein daily. The program provides 54g from 3 of their high-quality protein foods and 56g from one 8oz lean meat meal for a total 110g.

A 2004 article in the J. Int Soc Sports Nutr evaluated the scientific validity of the American Heart Association statement:
“Individuals who follow [high-protein] diets are [at higher] risk for …potential cardiac, renal, bone and liver abnormalities…”
The author of the article, A H Manninen, found that:

• there is no scientific evidence that high-protein intake has adverse effects on liver function or damages healthy kidneys
• rather than promote osteoporosis as hypothesized, some studies show an increase in bone density with increased protein intake
• systolic and diastolic blood pressure are reduced with increased protein intake
• rather than increase cholesterol as hypothesized, blood lipid levels significantly improved
• recent findings suggest replacing carbs with protein may reduce ischemic heart disease (likely due to the improvement in blood lipid levels)
• fat mass is significantly reduced and lean mass increased with carbohydrate-restricted diets (this is the ultimate goal of a weight loss diet!)

The author concludes that the AHA statement “contains misleading and incorrect information [and is based on] unsubstantiated fears… the risks are minimal and must be balanced against the real and established risk of continued obesity.”

Some other concerns about high protein diets do not apply to Ideal Protein because of its temporary nature, low fat intake, and the careful use of supplements.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.