Archive | January, 2010

Niacin, a B vitamin, can boost your HDL, “good,” cholesterol.

18 Jan
(This came in my email today – thought I should share it)
  
Niacin, a B vitamin, has long been used to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol. HDL cholesterol helps sweep up low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol, in your bloodstream. Although niacin is readily available and effective, it hasn’t gotten much attention compared to other cholesterol drugs.
A lot of the attention regarding cholesterol has been focused on lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. That’s still an important goal. But boosting your HDL level can be just as important as lowering your LDL cholesterol. Taking niacin — either by itself or along with other cholesterol-lowering medication — may help control your total cholesterol level.
 
What is niacin?
Niacin (nicotinic acid) is a B vitamin that’s used by your body to turn carbohydrates into energy. Niacin also helps keep your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair and eyes healthy. That’s why niacin is often a part of a daily multivitamin, though most people get enough niacin from the food they eat.
You may see niacin labeled in different ways. As part of a multivitamin or supplement, it’s often just referred to as niacin. When it’s used as a treatment to increase your HDL cholesterol or correct a niacin deficiency, it’s sold in higher doses that are prescribed by your doctor.
 
 
Niacin is found in many foods, including:
  • Dairy products
  • Lean meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Enriched breads and cereals

Niacin is also available in a variety of different forms as either prescription medication or over-the-counter supplements. However, don’t take niacin — even in the over-the-counter form — without discussing it with your doctor first because niacin can cause side effects when taken in high doses.
 

What impact does niacin have on cholesterol?
Niacin can raise HDL — the “good” cholesterol — by 15 to 35 percent. This makes niacin the most effective drug available for raising HDL cholesterol. While niacin’s effect on HDL is of most interest, it’s worth noting that niacin also decreases your LDL and triglyceride levels. High levels of LDL and triglycerides are significant risk factors for heart disease.
 
Why is having a high HDL cholesterol level important?

HDL, or “good,” cholesterol picks up excess bad cholesterol in your blood and takes it back to your liver for disposal. The higher your HDL cholesterol, the less bad cholesterol you’ll have in your blood.

Cholesterol levels are measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L):

  • For men, HDL levels under 40 mg/dL or 1 mmol/L increase the risk of heart disease.
  • For women, HDL levels under 50 mg/dL or 1.3 mmol/L increase the risk of heart disease.
  • An HDL level above 60 mg/dL or 1.6 mmol/L is considered ideal for men or women.

 

Having a low HDL level by itself is a risk factor for developing heart disease.

That means even if your LDL and other risk factors are normal, having a low HDL level still increases your risk of heart disease.

  

What about niacin side effects, like flushing?

Niacin comes in a variety of forms, ranging from fast-acting forms to those that are longer acting. Some forms of niacin, especially in high doses — 1,000 milligrams or more — do cause temporary flushing of the skin. The flushing can make your skin redden and possibly feel warm to the touch. While annoying, this flushing isn’t harmful. If you have flushing, talk to your doctor about taking an aspirin shortly before you take your niacin. Aspirin can counteract this flushing effect. Also, avoiding hot drinks and alcohol can decrease the flushing. Versions of niacin with reduced flushing effects also are available by prescription.

Other possible side effects include:

  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Liver damage
  • Increased blood sugar

 
However, your doctor may be able to find the right dose and form of niacin that minimizes side effects. Also, taking niacin with food may help prevent side effects. Remember, don’t take niacin — even in the over-the-counter form — without discussing it with your doctor first. Niacin can cause side effects when taken in high doses.

Who might consider taking niacin?
It depends. Niacin has been shown to increase HDL in otherwise healthy people who have normal LDL levels, so your doctor might suggest you take niacin, even if your LDL is relatively normal and you’re healthy.
However, don’t start taking niacin to raise your HDL without talking to your doctor. Niacin must usually be given at high doses to raise your HDL cholesterol, and the use of high-dose niacin needs to be monitored by your doctor to make sure it doesn’t cause any harmful side effects.
 
Lifestyle changes are also helpful in boosting HDL. These include:
  • Stop smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Start an exercise program, with your doctor’s OK.

If you try steps like this and your HDL is still too low, your doctor may suggest you take niacin.
Niacin is usually given along with statins or other medications to people who have high LDL levels and low HDL. Check with your doctor before taking niacin with another medication to avoid any dangerous drug interactions.
However, in general, niacin seems to work even better when used in combination with statins, drugs used to lower your LDL cholesterol. In fact, when used with some statins, niacin can increase your HDL level by 50 percent or more, as well as reduce LDL levels more than when just statins are used.

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Fermented Tea – Kombucha

13 Jan
Like everything else, take all this info with a grain of salt, use commonsense and determine the pros and cons.  Everything done in moderation is also helpful.

Fermentation Simplified

13 Jan
Take a look at this

Fermentation

13 Jan
There is a lot of hype these days about fermentation. I have begun toread up on it. Late last year I started drinking a lot of fermented Kefir and it’s like I am addicted to it. I drink it all the time.  I have just started to ferment my fruit such as pineapples and wild berries and eating.  I just immerse them in water and put a little sugar and leave for a week or so and then eat it. I don’t think I am following the prescribe way of fermenting but I am hoping to get better with time.  I think there is something healthy about fermenting from what I have read so far. I will appreciate feedback from any of you out there who are into fermenting as well.  Thanks.

Foods that belong in your your pantry

7 Jan
  1. Beets: Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.
    How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.
  2. Cabbage: Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.
    How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.
  3. Swiss chard: A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.
    How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.
  4. Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.
    How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.
  5. Pomegranate juice: Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.
    How to eat: Just drink it.
  6. Dried plums: Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.
    How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.
  7. Pumpkin seeds: The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.
    How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.
  8. Sardines: Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.” They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.
    How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.
  9. Turmeric: The “superstar of spices,” it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
    How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.
  10. Frozen blueberries: Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.
    How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.
  11. Canned pumpkin: A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fiber and immune-stimulating vitamin A; fills you up on very few calories.
    How to eat: Mix with a little butter, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Make 2010 a year to be your healthiest self. Eat fresh, rest, pray and laugh out loud as often as you can.

Pregnant women take note

4 Jan

Op-Ed Columnist – World’s Healthiest Food – NYTimes.com

 So what’s the most scrumptious, wholesome, exquisite, healthful, gratifying food in the world? It’s not ambrosia, and it’s not even pepperoni pizza. Hint: It’s far cheaper. A year’s supply costs less than the cheapest hamburger. Give up? Here’s another hint: It’s lifesaving for children and for women who may become pregnant. If you know of a woman who may become pregnant, make sure she gets this miracle substance. A final hint: It was a lack of this substance that led to a tragedy that I encountered the other day at a hospital here in the Honduran capital. Three babies lay in cots next to one another with birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. In the first cot was Rosa Álvarez, 18 days old and recovering from surgery to repair a hole in her spine. She also suffers from a brain deformity. In the next cot was Ángel Flores, soft tissue protruding from his back. Closest to the door was José Tercera. His mother unwrapped a bandage on his head, and I saw a golf-ball-size chunk of his brain spilling out a hole in his forehead. The doctors believe the reason for these deformities, called neural tube defects, was that their mothers did not have enough micronutrients, particularly folic acid, while pregnant. These micronutrients are the miracle substance I’m talking about, and there’s scarcely a form of foreign aid more cost-effective than getting them into the food supply. “It’s unnecessary to have these kinds of problems,” Dr. Ali Flores, a pediatrician and expert on these defects, said as he looked over the three babies. If a pregnant woman does not have enough folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) in her body at the very beginning of her pregnancy, then her fetus may suffer these neural tube defects. That’s why doctors give folic acid to women who plan to become pregnant. Equally important is another micronutrient, iodine. The worst consequence of iodine deficiency isn’t goiters, but malformation of fetuses’ brains, so they have 10 to 15 points permanently shaved off their I.Q.’s. Then there’s zinc, which reduces child deaths from diarrhea and infections. There’s iron, lack of which causes widespread anemia. And there’s vitamin A: some 670,000 children die each year because they don’t get enough vitamin A, and lack of the vitamin remains the world’s leading cause of childhood blindness. “In the early stages of life, the die is cast,” said David Dodson, the founder of Project Healthy Children, an aid group that fights micronutrient deficiencies in Honduras and other poor countries. “If a child is not getting the right micronutrients, the effect is permanent.” Nine years ago, Mr. Dodson was simply an American businessman running a 300-employee waste company that he had founded. Then he happened to visit Honduras and, in a hospital, encountered a mother whose newborn baby had a hole in the skull. He learned that negligible amounts of folic acid would prevent such heartbreaking defects — and his life was transformed. “I had never seen anything in my life that could have so much impact for so little money and be sustainable,” Mr. Dodson said. He and his wife, Stephanie, sold their company and used some of the proceeds to start Project Healthy Children. The most cost-effective way to distribute micronutrients isn’t to hand them out. Mary Flores, a former Honduran first lady who is active in nutrition, notes that impoverished women can be hard to reach, and even if they are given folic acid pills they sometimes won’t take them for fear that they actually are birth control pills. So micronutrients instead are often added to such common foods as salt, sugar, flour or cooking oil. Adding iodine, iron, vitamin A, zinc and various B-complex vitamins including folic acid to a range of foods costs about 30 cents per person reached per year. Groups focusing on micronutrients also include Helen Keller International and Vitamin Angels. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has required that flour be fortified with folic acid since 1998. Even in America, with better diets, medical care and widespread fortification, not all women get enough micronutrients, but the problem is far worse in poor countries. Mr. Dodson notes that it is much cheaper to prevent birth defects than to treat them. “It’s not a sexy world health issue, but it’s about the nuts and bolts of putting together a healthy population,” Mr. Dodson said. “Putting small amounts of iron, iodine and folic acid in the food supply hasn’t drawn attention the way it does when you treat someone who is sick or in a refugee camp. Until recently, this has been off everybody’s radar screen.” As the United States reorganizes its chaotic aid program, it might try promoting what just may be the world’s most luscious food: micronutrients.

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