A long-term Finnish study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has reported that vitamin D deficiency in childhood may be linked to hardening of the arteries later in life. In 1980 the researchers enrolled 2,148 children aged 3 to 18 who underwent periodic physical exams measuring serum vitamin D levels and other cardiovascular markers until they were 45 years old. During this time, doctors used ultrasound to examine their arteries (including the carotid artery in the neck) for thickening as a marker of increased cardiovascular risk. After adjusting for age, sex and other cardiovascular risk factors, the results showed children in the lowest one-quarter for vitamin D levels were nearly twice as likely to have thickening of the carotid artery as those in the other three quarters. This evidence suggests Vitamin D is important for good artery health. What are your typical sources of Vitamin D? How often do you recommend your patients to get their Vitamin D levels checked?
According to the New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman, four major retailers are accused of selling fraudulent and potentially dangerous herbal supplements. Authorities conducted tests on top-selling store brands of herbal supplements at four national retailers — GNC, Target, Walgreens and Walmart — finding 4 out of 5 of the products did not contain any of the herbs on their labels. The products contained cheap fillers like powdered rice, asparagus and houseplants, potentially dangerous to those with allergies. “Mislabeling, contamination and false advertising are illegal,” said the state attorney general. The FDA has now threatened to take legal action if the companies do not resolve the problem. In response, Walgreens has agreed to remove the products nationwide, not just in New York. GNC is also willing to
cooperate with the attorney general “in all appropriate ways,” but stands behind the quality and purity of its store brand supplements. Target could not be reached for further comment. How often do you discuss the quality concerns with your patients? What are you typically looking for in a product in terms of quality? What are some of your favorite trusted companies?
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The vitamins and minerals are in the news again, with all this being related to their addition to sports drinks, water and juices. Scientists suggests that consumers might be ingesting higher than necessary (and sometimes potentially harmful) amounts. When consumed in excess, water-soluble vitamins like B and C are in the urine, but fat soluble-vitamins including A, D, E and K, accumulate in tissues, posing potential risks. Some people (for example, pregnant or lactating women) will require additional vitamins and minerals, but for the majority of the population, these nutrients should be primarily acquired through daily diet. This discussion extends to antioxidants and the lack of information on the long-term supplementation effects. Scientists state that it is impossible to consume too much from foods but the exposure through supplementation may be too great. How do you counsel your patients about healthy diet and vitamin/mineral/antioxidant rich foods? For those who require supplementation, what are your typical recommendations?
Turmeric as well as one of its main ingredients, curcumin, are well-known for their anti-inflammatory activity. A new study from the journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluates curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome. In this randomized controlled clinical trial 117 participants, who had already been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, were split in half to either receive one gram of curcumin or placebo for 8 weeks. The researchers measured levels of three inflammation blood markers at the beginning and end of the study. They found the participants who took curcumin had improved blood levels of all three inflammatory biomarkers as well as reduced fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long term blood sugar levels. “The findings of our studies, along with clinical findings reported by other groups, indicate the usefulness of daily use of curcumin supplement for the prevention and treatment of several diseases,” the study’s senior author states. Curcumin has strong antioxidant and antiinflammaotry properties which give the compound its therapeutic effects. The authors advise that even at high doses curcumin is a very safe natural supplement, but should be avoided in pregnant and lactating women. How do you incorporate curcumin and turmeric into your diet?
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New observational research performed at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School was just published in the journal Gut. Researchers have associated higher levels of vitamin D with a reduced risk of colon cancer, stating that the higher the levels in the blood, the less is the likelihood of developing malignant tumors in the colon. The authors discuss how vitamin D boosts immunity in cancer as well as any other type of infection leading to greater number of T cells which target tumor cells and limit their growth. When did you have your vitamin D level check last?
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According to new study from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, consuming tea and citrus juices could correspond to a lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. This was the first large-scale study to determine the role of flavanoids on ovarian cancer, and followed 172,000 patients over three decades. The research team found that women who consumed flavonols and flavanones, which are two sub-types of flavanoids, experienced much less of a risk of developing epithelial ovarian cancer. Since these flavanoids are found in tea and citrus juices and fruits, it is fairly easy to incorporate them to get the associated benefits. This was a promising find, as roughly 20,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States each year and it also happens to be the fifth leading cause of death from cancer among women. What other dietary sources of flavanoids do you recommend to your patients for health benefits?
The study that supports the use of green coffee bean extract for weight loss and was promoted in Dr. Oz’s Show as the “Magic weight loss cure”, has been retracted by its authors. They explained that the sponsors of the study, the green coffee bean extract manufacturer, could not assure the validity of the data. Moreover, the company, Applied Food Sciences Inc., has been charged by the Federal Trade Commission for using the results of the flawed study to make baseless claims. What are your thoughts about weight loss products and specifically green coffee bean extract? What other products are you uncomfortable recommending?
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As consumers continue to grow curious about the origins of their food, there has been a shift to support famers markets and purchase food grown locally. To support this change, the US Department of Agriculture will supply $52 million to help the businesses of local farmers and fund research on organic cultivation. There are now 8,268 farmers markets in the country, which is a 78% increase from 2008. Considering this growth, we can also see that restaurants and super markets have started to integrate local foods into their sales. Backing local food operations is not only a good investment for reducing health care costs, but it also helps the economy through providing more employment opportunities. A list of farmers markets in your area can be seen by visiting the USDA website. What are your typical recommendations in terms of purchasing food to your patients?