Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dietary Supplements: Using Them Wisely

Post by Diane Danchi, R.D., L.D.N. Diane is a Registered Dietitian at Rex Wellness Center of Cary and Rex Wellness Center of Knightdale.

In 2011, results of a survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were released revealing that more than half of American adults were using dietary supplements of some kind, like vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, etc. As a Registered, Licensed Dietitian, I not only keep my ears to the dietary supplement news wires for my clients and students, but for myself as well. In addition to healthy eating and exercise, yes, I do take some supplements. Though we know some supplements may be beneficial, some lead to dangerous waters that need careful navigation.
What are the possible dangers? There are several.

“Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. A lot of prescription drugs come from “natural sources” (i.e. aspirin), so taking them without dosage guidance could be harmful. Unknown affects – research isn’t complete on a lot of supplements. The National Institutes of Health has on-going research looking at the potential benefits and dangers of herbs and supplements. There are also known dangerous effects of some dietary supplements. For example, comfrey and kava can damage the liver. There could also be nutrient or drug interactions, i.e. – too much iron can interfere with calcium absorption; fish oil can act like a blood thinner. Supplements use is rarely researched with pregnant or lactating women or children, so affects on those 3 groups are unknown. Some herbal supplements can increase risk of bleeding and intensify affects of anesthesia. In addition, new supplements are hitting the market place every day with very little scientific information about them available.
So, ask these basic questions before starting a supplement. 1. Do I first need to think about improving the health of my diet overall? Nutrients, in most cases, are better absorbed from food than from supplements. 2. Do I need to talk to my doctor, pharmacist, nutritionist, or surgeon? 3. If purchasing from a website, is there any evidence of the business’ credibility?

A few other tips: Ask, “Is it too good to be true?” Think twice about sensationalized news reports of recent studies, as it takes time to prove safety and effectiveness. Also, check your assumptions. “If it doesn’t help, at least it won’t hurt me.” Not necessarily true! “Natural” doesn’t always mean healthy, and remember the famous baseball player who sadly died from an overdose of ephedra in 2004.

The FDA does not regulate supplements, so unless a manufacturer submits their product to the United States Pharmacopeia, there is no assurance that it contains what it says. Check out their website for the list of USP verified supplements. Once the manufacturing process has passed an on-site audit and product content has been verified, the USP does random follow-up checks for quality control.

For current safety information, check these web sites:

For information about supplement use, effectiveness and safety, you can do research at these sites:
National Institutes of Health
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
CARDS database research site
Mayo Clinic
Tufts University

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Dark Chocolate – The Key to a Happy (& Healthy) Heart!

Post by Caroline Bowden. Caroline is a dietetic intern at the Rex Wellness Center of Raleigh. She is currently working towards her Master’s of Science in Nutrition from Meredith College to become a Registered Dietitian.

This Valentine’s Day when you’re choosing chocolate for your loved ones or yourself remember: not all chocolate is equal. Small amounts of dark chocolate consumption is associated with decreased cardiovascular risk, as it contains especially high concentrations of flavanols in contrast with milk chocolate (about half of the flavanols in dark chocolate), and white chocolate (flavanols are virtually absent). Flavanols are a subclass of plant-derived flavonoids that contribute sharp flavor to foods, and they are conveniently found in abundance in cocoa beans.
Read more…

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10 ways to keep your colon healthy

How fiber, fruit, and fitness can help

Worried about developing colorectal cancer, one of the most common cancers in men and women? Stick to these 10 habits to keep your colon healthy:

  1. Boost calcium. Calcium may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Get it from almonds, low-fat milk, dark-green veggies, cottage cheese and yogurt. Men should limit calcium to 1,500 mg a day, as too much calcium may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
  2. Eat more fruits and veggies. They’re good sources of fiber, which adds bulk to the waste that moves through your intestines.
  3. Seek a bit of sun. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. It comes mainly from sunlight (10 minutes a day is all you need), but can also be found in salmon, mackerel, fortified milk and eggs.
  4. “B” smart. Folic acid, an essential B vitamin, may reduce your risk of colon cancer. Lentils, collard greens, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, papaya and oranges are good sources.
  5. Butt out. Smoking can cause colorectal cancer, so if you smoke, quit.
  6. Get slim. Obesity raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women. If you’re overweight, ask your healthcare provider about a weight-loss plan that will work for you.
  7. Cut back on beef. Eating too much red or processed meat has been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, so choose chicken instead.
  8. Ease up on alcohol. Drinking too much (more than one drink a day for women; two for men) can cause colon problems, so if you drink, do so in moderation.
  9. Stay active. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week. It may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  10. Get screened. The ACS recommends that all men and women get screened for colon cancer at age 50. Colonoscopy is the gold standard when it comes to colon cancer screening. Your doctor looks inside your large intestine using a tiny camera that’s attached to a long, thin tube. Schedule your appointment now—people who get screened regularly greatly reduce their risk of colorectal cancer.
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Death by association: The threat of secondhand smoke

If you live, work or socialize with a tobacco smoker, you may be jeopardizing your health. Each year, regular exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), also called secondhand smoke, causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 23,000 to 69,000 heart disease deaths among nonsmoking American adults, according to the American Lung Association.

Your own risk
Just how dangerous is secondhand smoke to you personally? Even having lived with someone who smokes raises a nonsmoking woman’s risk of pulmonary adenocarcinoma (the most common type of lung cancer in nonsmokers) by at least 50 percent, according to a study done by researchers at Louisiana State University Medical Center in New Orleans and four other medical institutions. The study also concluded that exposure to secondhand smoke in social situations or in the workplace can raise a nonsmoker’s risk of adenocarcinoma of the lungs by 40 percent to 60 percent. Other scientific studies show that secondhand smoke increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, nonsmokers exposed to ETS are 25 percent more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease than those not exposed to secondhand smoke, says the American Lung Association.
Burning cigarettes emit two types of smoke—mainstream smoke, which is inhaled directly into the smoker’s lungs, and sidestream smoke, which is released from the tip between puffs. ETS, which contains at least 40 cancer-causing chemicals, is composed of about 85 percent sidestream smoke and 15 percent exhaled mainstream smoke.

Ways to cut your risk

  • Since there is no “safe” level of exposure to ETS, your best line of defense is to avoid it whenever you’re able.
  • If you live with a smoker, share this article and encourage the smoker to quit. If he refuses, or isn’t successful, ask him to smoke outside or in a particular room.
  • Adopt a no-smoking policy in your home. Let guests know in advance what your rules are, so smokers can either decline the invitation or prepare for a smokeless visit.
  • If your workplace isn’t smoke-free, get together with other nonsmoking employees and talk to your boss about banning smoking or limiting it to designated areas. Get a letter from your doctor explaining that your health is threatened by ETS in the workplace. Point out that a smoke-free environment will result in greater productivity and lower medical costs.
  • When dining out, always request a table in the nonsmoking section.

Source: BlueSpire Strategic Marketing. Published with permission.

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