Doctor’s Tip: A potpourri of health tips
Some health tips are important to know about but don’t warrant a whole column. Following are some of these random tips:
• Star fruit: There are not very many fruits or vegetables that can cause harm, but there are a few, such as palm and coconut products (other than coconut water). Star fruit is another — the levels of oxalates from eating too much of this fruit can cause serious kidney damage. Just three whole star fruits, or less than a cup of the juice, can do this. Star fruit can also cause neurotoxicity, which often starts as uncontrollable hiccups. You’d have to eat 15 or more star fruit all at once to cause neurotoxicity if you have normal kidney function, but in someone with severely impaired kidney function, a single star fruit can cause coma and death. It’s best to avoid star fruit and stick to all the other side-effect-free, health-promoting fruit out there.
• The Hispanic paradox: In spite of a high incidence of risk factors for poor health — including poverty, obesity, pre-diabetes and diabetes — Latinos as a group live longer than African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans. It could be because Latinos smoke less, but even when that is taken into account, they have longer life-expectancy. It turns out it’s the beans they eat — Latinos make up only 10 percent of the population in the U.S. but account for 33 percent of the bean consumption. Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas) reduce inflammation in the body, in part via the bacteria in our gut microbiome. Lower inflammation results in lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, the two main causes of death in the U.S. And when Latinos do develop cardiovascular disease and cancer, they have a better survival rate — again because of their anti-inflammatory, high-legume diet.
• Type 1 diabetes linked to meat and dairy: Most of the diabetes in America and world-wide is type 2, related to lifestyle and obesity. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease — where the body attacks its own, insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. It often affects young children and teenagers, and the incidence has been increasing since World War II. There is a link between type 1 diabetes and meat and dairy products, thought to be due at least in part to paratuberculosis bacteria in cattle, which is becoming more prevalent. Sixty-eight percent of cattle are infected with this organism — 95 percent of cattle in herds of 500 or more (i.e. industrialized farms).
• It’s best to avoid pre-chopped vegetables: Gram negative bacteria are part of the microbiome present our colons and the colons of animals. These bacteria contain endotoxins, which can be released into the blood stream under certain circumstances, where they cause inflammation — which in turn contributes to many diseases. Meat, including poultry — especially ground meat — and dairy contain the highest levels of gram-negative bacteria; fruit and vegetables have the lowest. Intact vegetables are resistant to the spoilage effects of bacteria and bacterial endotoxins, but veggies that are chopped up lose that protection and are more prone to spoilage. Pre-chopped veggies are a modern convenience that can now be found in most grocery stores. An example of the downside of pre-chopped veggies is a study cited in nutritionfacts.org, where intake of prechopped onions was compared to onions chopped just before eating. As measured by change in white blood count (inflammation causes an increase), prechopped onions failed to reduce inflammation, whereas just-chopped onions did. It’s clearly better to eat prechopped veggies compared to no veggies, but ideally you shouldn’t chop your veggies until shortly before eating them.
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• Health benefits of garlic — powdered versus supplement: A quarter of a teaspoon of powdered garlic, which costs less than 1 cent a day, increases arterial function by 50 percent within minutes to hours. Furthermore, long-term studies show that it prevents the thickening of the endothelial organ that lines our arteries — an early sign of hardening-of-the-arteries. Of interest is that pricy Kyolic aged garlic supplements found on the internet do neither. It’s always better and cheaper to go for the natural, unadulterated product (the reason powdered garlic was used in this study is that it’s easy to put in a capsule for a double blind study).
Greg Feinsinger, M.D. is a retired family physician who has a nonprofit: Prevention and Treatment of Disease Through Nutrition. He gives a free presentation at 7 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Third Street Center in Carbondale; is available by appointment for free consultations (379-5718); and conducts a shop-with-a-doc session at 10 a.m. the first Saturday of the month at Carbondale City Market.
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