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A Note on Peas

Peas are a good source of vitamins K and C, manganese and fiber.They are naturally sweet and a delicious addition to any spring meal. Plus they may help promote bone, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal health. No matter which variety of peas you choose, buy them as fresh as possible - they are best enjoyed by eating them the same day.


Try this recipe with peas: Stir-Fried Rice with Tofu.


Acupuncture Used in Unusual Ways

Proper placement of these tiny needles can ease fears of having dental work done and can help restore the sense of smell after a viral infection. English doctors reported in the March 29, 2010 issue of Acupuncture in Medicine that five minutes of acupuncture relieved anxiety about seeing the dentist in 20 patients who had suffered from dental phobia for two to 30 years. The participant's nervousness levels were measured before and after acupuncture on the Beck Anxiety Inventory, a standard, validated test of these symptoms. Meanwhile, a small study including 15 patients whose sense of smell was impaired after a viral infection found that eight of them improved with acupuncture, compared with two given vitamin B complex, a treatment sometimes used to address loss of smell after colds or flu. The researchers from the University of Cologne in Germany said that while their findings must be confirmed in further studies, the 50 percent response rate to acupuncture they observed was better than results with vitamin B and better than rates of spontaneous remission. The study was published in the April issue of Otolaryngogology - Head and Neck Surgery.

Learn more about acupuncture as a wellness therapy.


Vitamin K and Cancer Risk

Vitamin K regulates normal blood clotting by helping the body transport calcium. It also may help reduce bone loss, decrease risk of bone fractures and may prevent calcification of arteries and other soft tissue. And now researchers in Germany suggest that individuals with higher intake of one of the two types of vitamin K are less likely to develop and die of cancer, particularly, lung and prostate cancers. These findings come from an investigation including more than 24,000 Germans between the ages of 35 and 64, none of whom had cancer when they enrolled in the decade-long study. Over time, the researchers found that the study participants with the highest intakes of vitamin K2, found in meat and cheese, were 28 percent less likely to have died of prostate, lung, colon or breast cancer than the men and women with the lowest intakes of K2, even after such lifestyle and risk factors as age, weight, exercise habits, smoking and fiber and calcium consumption were taken into account. The researchers noted that in the lab K2 has been shown to promote the process by which abnormal cells in the body self-destruct. The study was published online March 24, 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Learn more about vitamin K.


Vitamin D and Skin Color

Can vitamin D have more benefit for one ethnic group than another? A new study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine suggests that it might. Researchers looking at the relationship between calcified plaque in large arteries (a measure of atherosclerosis) and vitamin D levels in black patients found that higher circulating levels of "D" were associated with more calcium in artery walls. The investigators noted that this is the opposite of what is expected to happen in white patients and suggests that normal levels of "D" may be different between blacks and whites (the normal range was established in white patients). They also said that despite having lower intakes of both calcium and vitamin D than whites, blacks naturally have lower rates of osteoporosis and far less calcium in their arteries than whites. Moreover, the researchers noted that black patients with diabetes have half the rate of heart disease as whites when provided equal access to health care (in the community at large, blacks have higher rates of heart attack than whites, perhaps due to unequal access to health care). The researchers cautioned physicians against advising blacks to supplement with vitamin D until the effects of the additional "D" on blood vessels and heart disease in blacks are better understood. The study was published in the March, 2010 issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

My take? This study raises a provocative issue - whether the vitamin D levels we consider normal and healthy apply to all racial groups. Clearly, more research is needed to further investigate the results seen by the Wake Forest team. In the meantime, blacks supplementing with "D" on their own might discuss their individual heart disease risks and the pros and cons of taking "D" with their physicians.


Earth Day 2010

Today is Earth Day, a time to celebrate and pay respect to our planet. If you want to join the millions of people around the world who are making small but significant changes to help sustain our ecosystem, try these tips, courtesy of

  • Use energy-efficient light bulbs, which result in the emission of less carbon dioxide (CO2) than regular light bulbs
  • Consider a hybrid car, drive less, and get regular tune-ups - all can reduce CO2 levels and improve fuel efficiency
  • Eat locally farmed foods that are grown organically, as these are free of pesticides and less harmful to the earth
  • Buy recycled products - and recycle your trash. In addition, try to purchase products that use minimal packaging

Small steps and individual responsibility can make a huge difference all over the world - get started today, and encourage others to do the same!


Endometriosis and Omega-3

The type of fats in women's diets may influence their risk of endometriosis. This often painful condition develops when tissue from the lining of the uterus migrates outside of the uterus and implants itself elsewhere in the pelvic cavity, where it can cause inflammation and pain and form scar tissue and adhesions. A study published on line on March 23, 2010, in Human Reproduction found that diets high in trans fatty acids increase the risk of endometriosis by 48 percent while those rich in omega-3 fatty acid reduce the risk by 22 percent. The data come from an analysis of the diets of nearly 71,000 women participating in the ongoing Nurses’ Health Study II by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School. Omega-3s are found in cold water fish including salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring while trans fatty acids are used in many processed and fast foods. The results have to be confirmed by other studies, but the lead researcher, Stacey Missmer, Sc.D., suggested that women who want to lower their risks could make sure that their diets include omega-3s and exclude trans fats.


Job Stress Can Lead to Obesity

First comes the stress - from layoffs and fear of layoffs - then the vegging out at home in front of the TV. And when pink slips are circulating, the vending machines at work run out of snacks highest in fats and calories. Those are findings from a study of the effects of chronic job stress and lack of physical activity on nearly 2,800 employees at a large manufacturing facility in upstate New York. Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center said that the circumstances apply to almost any job situation in which layoffs or lack of control at work is a major concern. They found that 72 to 75 percent of the employees they studied were overweight or obese. Most were middle-aged, white, college-educated (some with advanced degrees), earned more than $60,000 per year and averaged almost 22 years in their jobs. More than 65 percent of the employees reported watching two or more hours of TV daily and of these individuals 77 percent were more likely to be overweight or obese. The solution? The researchers suggested improved corporate policies to better protect employee health. And, of course, exercise.


Too Much Plastic

The stuff is everywhere, in the oceans, garbage dumps, landfills. Patches of oceanic garbage, some as large as the state of Texas, hold a huge volume of non-biodegradable synthetics. And every day the average person in the United States contributes another half-pound of plastic to the waste. The effects on human health of all this plastic are still largely unknown, although we do know that measurable amounts of plastic additives are present in human blood and urine. Consider this: a chemical known as di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) may compose up to 50 percent of the plastic used to make such medical devices as IV bags or tubing and may ooze directly into your bloodstream. This information comes from a new survey of the hazards plastics present to human health by Rolf Halden, Ph.D., associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering at Arizona State University and assistant director of Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute and published in the annual Review of Public Health. Dr. Halden notes that studying low dose exposure is tricky because we’ve all been exposed; as a result, it is almost impossible to find unexposed subjects for comparison. In the meantime, he notes that we should be re-evaluating some of the plastics we use and throw away daily, and compare their short usefulness to their persistence in the environment; for example, throw-away water bottles, Teflon-coated dental floss and cotton swabs made with plastic sticks.

My take? Plastic is all around us - in everything from water bottles to car bumpers. Even such non-plastic items as paper cups or aluminum cans are often lined in plastic to protect their integrity. Questions about the safety of BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates to human health confirm my belief that the inherent risks of plastic may outweigh its convenience. Getting plastic out of your life takes some effort - it means substituting re-usable glass containers for plastic ones, giving up bottled water, and taking your own cloth shopping bags to the store with you. In my view, it is more than worth the effort.