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    Archive for the ‘smoking’ Category

    There’s More to Osteoporosis than Calcium

    osteoporosis-illustratedThe majority of news articles on osteoporosis never fail to mention that calcium is a key nutrient in slowing down bone density loss.

    While that is an established fact, there are other nutrients and behaviors that are just as important in risk-reduction and management of osteoporosis.

    Here’s a handy cheat sheet:

    • Phosphorus: High intakes inhibit calcium absorption and bone metabolism.  Ironically, dairy products are quite high in phosphorus.  Yet another reason why calcium intake should come from a variety of foods (i.e.: leafy green vegetables, chickpeas, almonds), including dairy (if so desired).
    • Smoking: negatively affects bone metabolism and decreases bone density levels.
    • Sodium: Excessive amounts (not at all uncommon in the “Standard American Diet”) increase calcium losses in urine.
    • Vitamin D: Facilitates calcium absorption.  Note: current guidelines (400 International Units of Vitamin D per day) are too low.  Supplement 1,000 – 2,000 International Units every day.
    • Vitamin K: Helps bind calcium to the bone matrix.
    • Weight-bearing exercise.

    There are also preliminary studies which show that zinc, manganese, and even vitamin A may play important roles as well.

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    Another Dark Side of Lighting Up

    Many discussions on the health effects of cigarette smoking leave out a very important fact — it can speed up the development of osteoporosis.

    Several studies — here is one example — have found a link between cigarette consumption and decreased bone density.

    Although one could argue that it may be behaviors and lifestyle choices common in smokers (i.e.: lack of physical activity) and not cigarettes themselves that may be the actual cause, there is no denying that smoking in and itself has a detrimental effect on bone health.

    Nicotine, for example, inhibits calcitonin, a hormone that inhibits the dissolution of bone tissue.

    Additionally, the massive amounts of free radicals created by smoking decrease levels of estrogen, consequently accelerating bone loss in women.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    After controlling for confounding variables, the HDL (protective cholesterol) levels of women who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are, on average, 17 percent lower than those of their non-smoking counterparts.

    Source: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart

    “Controlling for confounding variables” means that, in this study, cigarette smoking was isolated as a singular factor.

    Although it is common knowledge that smoking contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), its HDL cholesterol-lowering properties are not as widely publicized.

    The best news? As the Harvard Medical School so effectively summarizes it,every 1% increase in HDL is associated with a 1%–3% reduction in heart attack risk.”

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    Numbers Game: Pack Attack

    After controlling for confounding variables, the HDL (protective cholesterol) levels of women who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are, on average, _________ lower than those of their non-smoking counterparts.

    Source: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study

    a) 25
    b) 8

    c) 17

    d) 10

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Friday for the answer.

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    A Stroll Down Diet Lane

    It may seem like a new diet is introduced to the masses every other day, but many of today’s fads are simply reheated versions of oldies.

    I recently came cross a brief timeline of fad diets (dates and names only) compiled by The American Dietetic Association.

    It’s quite interesting to see that many current bestsellers originally popped up decades ago!

    The first documented low-carbohydrate diet, for instance, appeared in Jean Brillat-Savarin’s Physiology of Taste back in 1825.

    The no-frills (and no-nonsense) counting of calories was first written about in in Lulu Hunt Peters’ 1917 book, Diet and Health, with Key to the Calories.

    Food combining — the completely baseless concept that mixing carbohydrates and protein in the same meal results in weight gain — originated in the 1930s.

    The ever-popular grapefruit diet? It first appeared in the 1950s.

    Then there are the truly bizarre fad diets.

    My favorites?

    There’s Horace Fletcher’s 1903 low-protein diet plan which urged dieters to chew food 32 times — not 31 or 33! — before swallowing.

    Not surprisingly, he quickly became known as “The Great Masticator”.

    In 1925, the Cigarrette Diet came along, in which tobacco companies happily advertised the appetite-suppressing powers of their “magic” cancer sticks.

    One popular tagline? “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet.”  Yeah — especially if your lungs have a death wish!

    1961 brought along Dr. Herman Taller’s — don’t laugh — “Calories Don’t Count Diet”.

    According to the good doctor, all you had to do was eat as much as protein as you wanted (he claimed these calories literally “didn’t count”) and immediately follow that meal with one of his special vegetable oil pills.  Sounds like a combination of Gary Taubes’ carbphobia and Kevin Trudeau’s shamelessness.

    The Sleeping Beauty Diet, which promoted heavily sedating patients so they slept for several days and therefore did not consume any calories, emerged from some sicko’s mind in 1970.

    The ridiculousness is far from over.

    Just last year, Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret claimed two keys to weight loss were ridding yourself of the belief that food makes you fat and taping a piece of paper with your ideal weight on it over your scale’s display screen, in order to allow “the universe” to create a new reality for you.

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    Half a cup of which of the following foods provides 100% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C?

    The answer is: red peppers.

    Here is how the others’ Vitamin C contributions stack up:

    Half a cup of strawberries provides 81 percent.
    Half a cup of tomatoes provides 39 percent.
    Half a cup of watermelon provides 11 percent.

    That’s right. Just adding a half cup of peppers to your salad pretty much covers all your Vitamin C for the day. This is precisely why I don’t think multi-vitamin supplements are necessary for people eating a balanced diet.

    Remember, Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that amounts exceeding your body’s needs will be excreted in your urine. Taking massive doses of Vitamin C to ward off colds is futile.

    Somestimes, though, our bodies need more Vitamin C. For example, as mentioned in this post, smokers require higher amounts of vitamin C than non-smokers.

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    Light Up? Load Up on Antioxidants!

    In most people’s minds, cigarettes are mostly associated with cancer, but did you know smoking also affects your nutrition status?

    Not only does smoking damage cells and clog arteries — thus paving the way for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease — it also significantly decreases the amount of vitamin C in our body.

    Ironically, smokers need more vitamin C than anyone else since this antioxidant is crucial in repairing the cell damage caused by inhaling all these toxins in the first place!

    Although I am not a proponent of unnecessary supplementation, I suggest all smokers take a vitamin C supplement, as their needs are too high (approximately 2,000 milligrams) to be reached with diet alone.

    Meanwhile, a 2005 study done at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute found that smoking decreases levels of Vitamin E – another antioxidant — from tissues, making them “particularly vulnerable to attack by toxins and free radicals,” according to researchers.

    Benzo(a)pyrene, a hydrocarbon present in car exhaust fumes as well as cigarettes, depletes vitamin A levels. Not surprisingly, low vitamin A levels are linked to a higher risk for developing emphysema.

    However, supplementing one’s diet with vitamin A (beta-carotene) was shown to actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer by the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Trial, a massive Finnish study that tracked almost 30,000 male 50 to 69-year-old Finnish smokers for eight years. Results were published in the June 23, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    In essence, smoking suppresses your immune system and makes you extremely vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses and diseases.

    Although a high fruit and vegetable intake is recommended for everyone, smokers need to be especially aware of their consumption. Whereas five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average adult, I recommend smokers aim for ten to twelve servings a day.

    Why such a high amount? The antioxidants exclusively found in these two food groups may help partly counteract some of the cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.

    Looking at minerals, smokers should pay special attention to calcium, as the cadmium in cigarettes impairs calcium metabolism, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Taking supplements does not “balance out” the harm done by continuous cigarette smoking, and, in the case of vitamin A, supplementation is not recommended, despite the depletion smoking causes.

    The best solution, obviously, is to kick the habit. Until then, be mindful of your eating habits and supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E to give your immune system a small boost while it’s attacked by toxic puffs of smoke.

    Share

    Light Up? Load Up on Antioxidants!

    In most people’s minds, cigarettes are mostly associated with cancer, but did you know smoking also affects your nutrition status?

    Not only does smoking damage cells and clog arteries — thus paving the way for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease — it also significantly decreases the amount of vitamin C in our body.

    Ironically, smokers need more vitamin C than anyone else since this antioxidant is crucial in repairing the cell damage caused by inhaling all these toxins in the first place!

    Although I am not a proponent of unnecessary supplementation, I suggest all smokers take a vitamin C supplement, as their needs are too high (approximately 2,000 milligrams) to be reached with diet alone.

    Meanwhile, a 2005 study done at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute found that smoking decreases levels of Vitamin E – another antioxidant — from tissues, making them “particularly vulnerable to attack by toxins and free radicals,” according to researchers.

    Benzo(a)pyrene, a hydrocarbon present in car exhaust fumes as well as cigarettes, depletes vitamin A levels. Not surprisingly, low vitamin A levels are linked to a higher risk for developing emphysema.

    However, supplementing one’s diet with vitamin A (beta-carotene) was shown to actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer by the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Trial, a massive Finnish study that tracked almost 30,000 male 50 to 69-year-old Finnish smokers for eight years. Results were published in the June 23, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    In essence, smoking suppresses your immune system and makes you extremely vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses and diseases.

    Although a high fruit and vegetable intake is recommended for everyone, smokers need to be especially aware of their consumption. Whereas five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average adult, I recommend smokers aim for ten to twelve servings a day.

    Why such a high amount? The antioxidants exclusively found in these two food groups may help partly counteract some of the cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.

    Looking at minerals, smokers should pay special attention to calcium, as the cadmium in cigarettes impairs calcium metabolism, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Taking supplements does not “balance out” the harm done by continuous cigarette smoking, and, in the case of vitamin A, supplementation is not recommended, despite the depletion smoking causes.

    The best solution, obviously, is to kick the habit. Until then, be mindful of your eating habits and supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E to give your immune system a small boost while it’s attacked by toxic puffs of smoke.

    Share

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