Does fish oil protect against heart disease? Can pills help stave off Alzheimer’s? Does cutting back on salt reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke? I get as confused as the next person as research seems to circle back on itself time after time. I take several vitamins and don’t really know if they work, but I’m afraid that if I stop, my health will suffer-quite the conundrum. The current issue of Nutrition Action Health Letter (September 2012), published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, shed some light on some of these food rumors, combing through the latest studies. Check it out for the real story. I’ll give you the reader’s digest version.

To prevent fractures, shoot for the RDA for calcium (1200 mg/day) and vitamin D (at least 2000 IU/day) from food and supplements. If you’ve heard that eating more fiber will help you eat less, don’t expect a food with processed fiber to fill the bill-foods such as FiberOne ¬†chocolate fudge brownies. Instead, eat whole foods. Many added fibers such as inulin and soluble corn fiber don’t affect satiety at all. As far as weight loss goes, the best long-term studies show that people lose weight, and keep it off as much weight on high-carb diets as they do on low-carb diets. Nothing magical with either one. Fish oil and heart attacks and strokes: Eat fish at least twice a week. For people who have already had a heart attack or stroke and are on medication, taking fish oil capsules may not help-the jury is still out. Sugar causes cancer: Sugar causes a spike in insulin, which serves as a catalyst for certain types of cancers, but so far the results from studies on people are iffy. Sugar is too narrow a focus, as refined starches also raises insulin. Bottom line: Cut back on sugars and starches, though whether they cause cancer is still up in the air. Cutting back on salt is useless….or dangerous: Cutting back on salt isn’t dangerous and lowers the risk of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure.

There are several brain support pills on the market, all touting “Boost memory, think faster, protect against cognitive decline.” To date, NONE show any good evidence for their claims.

From the “Did You Know” camp, subcutaneous fat, particularly in the butt cheeks, protects against type-2 diabetes. Japanese researchers found that 3-5 cups of green tea per day reduced risk of flu by 46%. Bananas are better than sports drinks for athletic performance. The best healthy 100 snacks, according to Environmental Nutrition (September 2012) are: Almonds (17), 8 artichoke hearts, 1/4 avocado, 1 banana, 1 cup non-fat cottage cheese, 1/2 cup edamame, 2 large figs, 1 jumbo hard-boiled egg, 1 cup kiwi fruit, and 1-1/2 oz mozzarella cheese.

I have a female patient who regularly (about seven to eight per year) gets urinary tract infections (UTI’s). While her doctor thought continually keeping her on a low-dose antibiotic, she was not too keen on that. Several years ago I had read In Dr. Whitaker’s Health & Healing¬†newsletter about cranberry juice helping to prevent UTI’s, but one had to drink it daily. She didn’t think she could keep up with that so we tried cranberry pills, @ 500 mg/day. She has now gone 3 months without a UTI! If you know someone who suffers from UTI’s, you may want to recommend the pills. I know she is very grateful…

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.