Archive for September, 2012


Fish Heart AttackThe healthy effects of fish outweigh the risks from mercury when it comes to lower heart attack risk — so long as the type of fish is low in the hazardous chemical, according to a small new study.

Researchers from Umea University found that high omega-3 fatty acids in fish were linked with a lower risk of heart attack, but high levels of mercury in fish raise risk of heart attack — especially when the fish with high mercury levels also had low omega-3 levels. In order to maximize the benefits of the omega 3-s, researchers advised people to choose fish with low levels of mercury and high levels of omega-3s.

The study was based on levels of methylmercury and omega-3 fatty acids in a total of 572 men from Finland and Sweden by examining samples of their blood and hair. It was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Similarly, a recent Arizona State Universty study in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, showed that sustainable fish tend to have lower concentrations of mercury than unsustainable seafood. Therefore, researchers said, if you want to pick the most healthful fish, go for the sustainable kind.

Nearly every kind of fish contains mercury, but some contain higher levels than others, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Mercury can be especially dangerous for pregnant women because it can affect how the child develops. The EPA recommends against eating shark, king mackerel, tilefish and swordfish because of their high levels of mercury; fish known to be lower in mercury include shrimp, salmon, catfish, pollock and canned light tuna (which has lower mercury levels than albacore tuna).

While the new study suggests a protective benefit of eating fish for the heart (especially if the fish is low in mercury), a recent review of studies was less positive about the heart-protective effects of fish oil. That review, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, included 20 studies and showed that omega-3 supplementation doesn't seem to lower heart attack or stroke risks, WebMD reported.

"It may be that food sources of omega-3, rather than supplements, are a better choice," Dr. David A. Friedman, M.D., of the North Shore-LIJ Plainview Hospital in New York who was not involved in that study, told WebMD. Read more.

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Nutrition Labels: How To Read Them

Nutrition Labels

One step to fighting the obesity battle might just be printed on the back of your food package. New research published in the journal Agricultural Economicssuggests that people who read nutrition labels tend to be slimmer than those who don't. And that effect was especially pronounced among women: Female study participants who scanned labels were more than eight pounds lighter than their non-label-reading peers.

Of course, it could be that those who look at labels are already more health-conscious, but it can only help to understand what's really in your food. And while the finding is somewhat intuitive, the truth is that many of us aren't reading those labels. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that while a third of people say they always look at the calorie counts on a label, in reality only 9 percent really do. And just 1 percent looked at the other components, including total fat, trans fat, sugar and serving size.

"The results of this study suggest that consumers have a finite attention span for Nutrition Facts labels: although most consumers did view labels, very few consumers viewed every component on any label,” study researchers Dan J. Graham, Ph.D. and Robert W. Jeffrey, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, wrote in their findings.

So how can we make label reading more accessible? "There really is so much information on a food label that it can get overwhelming," says HuffPost blogger Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of "The Flexitarian Diet." "Yes, you can look at everything, but soon one thing starts canceling out the next."

We spoke to Blatner and Toby Smithson, R.D., founder of, to help understand what the different components on the label really mean, and to suss out what you should prioritize when comparing labels in the grocery store. Of course, people with various health concerns (diabetes, high cholesterol, etc.) will have different needs when evaluating a label — but these guidelines are a good place to start. Take a look, then tell us: What part of the label do you always read?

Read more.

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Organic Food Not So Special According to Research

Organic food has long been considered to be far superior and more nutritious than conventional food. However, some have questioned the high cost of organic food as opposed to its real benefits and dismissed the organic food claims as fictional. And, until now there was no definitive study with conclusive proof about organic food one way or the other.  As Lauran Neergaard of the Huffington Post reports, a recent Stanford University study dispels those myths about the superiority of organic food.

Organic Food Is Not Healthier Than Conventional Produce: Study

Organic Food

WASHINGTON — Patient after patient asked: Is eating organic food, which costs more, really better for me?

Unsure, Stanford University doctors dug through reams of research to find out – and concluded there's little evidence that going organic is much healthier, citing only a few differences involving pesticides and antibiotics.

Eating organic fruits and vegetables can lower exposure to pesticides, including for children – but the amount measured from conventionally grown produce was within safety limits, the researchers reported Monday.

Nor did the organic foods prove more nutritious.

"I was absolutely surprised," said Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior research affiliate at Stanford and long-time internist who began the analysis because so many of her patients asked if they should switch.

"There are many reasons why someone might choose organic foods over conventional foods," from environmental concerns to taste preferences, Bravata stressed. But when it comes to individual health, "there isn't much difference."

Her team did find a notable difference with antibiotic-resistant germs, a public health concern because they are harder to treat if they cause food poisoning.

Specialists long have said that organic or not, the chances of bacterial contamination of food are the same, and Monday's analysis agreed. But when bacteria did lurk in chicken or pork, germs in the non-organic meats had a 33 percent higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics, the researchers reported Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

That finding comes amid debate over feeding animals antibiotics, not because they're sick but to fatten them up. Farmers say it's necessary to meet demand for cheap meat. Public health advocates say it's one contributor to the nation's growing problem with increasingly hard-to-treat germs. Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, counted 24 outbreaks linked to multidrug-resistant germs in food between 2000 and 2010. 

The government has begun steps to curb the nonmedical use of antibiotics on the farm.

Organic foods account for 4.2 percent of retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It certifies products as organic if they meet certain requirements including being produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, or routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.

Consumers can pay a lot more for some organic products but demand is rising: Organic foods accounted for $31.4 billion sales last year, according to a recent Obama administration report. That's up from $3.6 billion in 1997.

The Stanford team combed through thousands of studies to analyze the 237 that most rigorously compared organic and conventional foods. Bravata was dismayed that just 17 compared how people fared eating either diet while the rest investigated properties of the foods themselves.

Organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. In two studies of children, urine testing showed lower pesticide levels in those on organic diets. But Bravata cautioned that both groups harbored very small amounts – and said one study suggested insecticide use in their homes may be more to blame than their food.  

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Organic food has some benefits but consumers must decide whether organic food is worth the high cost for the benefits actually received. Consumer's can now receive a highly nutritious, all natural whole food in one convenient, single serving that replaces a hand full of pills and supplements and is significantly more cost effective.  Find out more here

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