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New research shows health benefits of salt

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) – In a recent New York Times article, award- winning science journalist Gary Taubes describes the considerable efforts and expenditures made by government public health agencies to support and promote salt restriction, despite clinical evidence which does not support population-wide salt reduction strategies.

According to Taubes, a flood of new research published in the last two years has not only shown the health benefits of salt but also revealed the risks of low-sodium diets.

“There was no disputing that salt is a natural, no-calorie and tasty nutrient essential for life, but the biggest nutrition story in recent years is the proof that following the government’s low salt advice could actually shorten your life,” says Lori Roman, president of the Salt Institute.

Within the past year, peer-reviewed medical studies have documented:

• Type 1 diabetes risk: In one Australian study on patients with type 1 diabetes, low sodium intake was independently associated with increased all-cause mortality and ESRD (end-stage renal disease).

• Type 2 diabetes risk: In another Australian study with type 2 diabetes patients, lower sodium consumption was associated with increased all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

•  No cardiovascular benefit to salt reduction: A study published in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that eating less salt will not prevent heart attacks, strokes or early death. On the contrary, low-sodium diets increased the likelihood of premature death.

• Increased risk of illness and death: The Journal of the American Medical Association published a multi-year study on a very large cohort that concluded that lower salt intakes resulted in higher morbidity and mortality.

• Negative effects of low-salt intakes: An analysis of 167 studies showed that individuals placed on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines – recommended salt levels experienced significant increases in plasma renin, aldosterone, adrenaline, noradrenalin, cholesterol and triglycerides – all risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

• Health risk of current U.S. Dietary Guidelines: In a Journal of the American Medical Association publication, an analysis of the association between sodium intakes and cardiovascular events in almost 29,000 adults, showed that CV risk was increased among those with the lowest levels, equivalent to the current recommendations in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

• Nutritional risk of current U.S. Dietary Guidelines: The American Journal of Preventative Medicine published an article demonstrating that following the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for salt will result in unbalanced and unsustainable dietary choices.

• It is well documented that the Japanese and the Swiss enjoy among the longest life expectancy rates of any of the world’s population groups. Less known however, is that they are also among the highest rates of salt consumption. Comparing the available data on salt consumption and longevity around the world indicates that if we were to actually consume the low levels of salt recommended in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, our life expectancy figures would drop dramatically.

Taubes is far from the only journalist to have questioned the government’s policy on salt. Scientific American reviewed the studies and summarized its findings in the headline, “It’s time to end the war on salt.”

Five steps to impact community health positively through education

  • Written by ARA

(ARA) – Health education is a rewarding career for many. You don’t have to be a doctor or a nurse to become involved. It takes professionals in accounting, research, law and administration – as well as individuals who enjoy working with people – all collaborating to improve the well-being of others.

Why care about community health?

Several reasons, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health’s website, What is Public Health?, are: the importance of improving access to health care, controlling infectious disease and reducing substance abuse.

There may be no better example of a dedicated public health professional than Dr. Mine S. Seniye, chair of the Allied Health department at Brown Mackie College - Albuquerque.

She has traveled the world preparing students and health care professionals to care for underserved populations. Here, she outlines five steps to implement a successful health program.

Step one. Assess the community

Whether you want to enhance community health in a Bosnian village or an inner city neighborhood, it is important first to understand the community as a whole. Who lives there? Where are they from? What are their current health practices? “This can’t be done long distance,” says Dr. Seniye. “You can’t just barge into a community and ask ‘What do you eat?’ You must take part in the society and let them accept you as a person.”

Step two. Community organization

Collaboration with community leaders is essential to any successful health program.

“It is important to identify leaders and stakeholders in the community to recruit to the team,” says Dr. Seniye. The Minnesota Department of Health suggests looking for those who are in a position of power, or have already made decisions on previous community issues, and those who actively volunteer.

Collaborators from the community help you understand the inner workings of the society.

Step three. Create and implement the program

When approaching any community to help, it is important to speak in terms of what they already have, and adding to it.

“Rather than telling them you want to fix something or change the way they do things, you must communicate that you are here to enhance what they already have,” Dr. Seniye says. “Suggest what may be lacking, and integrate a solution into a program already familiar to them.”

Step four. Assess the program

An advisory group formed at the outset can be invaluable to assessing the progress of your efforts.

“Keep the team involved. I always share small successes with the group – the number of patients, where they were treated. I see the grassroots community advisors as gatekeepers,” she says. “They keep us on track.”

Step five. Maintain the effort

Eventually others come in to carry on. They must be prepared to be effective in that community. “This takes a competency that many don’t have. They must be chosen carefully,” says Dr. Seniye. “I find that as I get to know people of other cultures, and students who want to engage, I also get to know myself better. It is a growth process. Students teach me something every day.

“All the knowledge, resources, and ideas won’t help without fitting into the culture you want to improve,” adds Dr. Seniye.

Whether diversity occurs among the people staffing the program, or the people they serve, it is important to develop an understanding of others. Respect for their culture, beliefs, and ways of interacting is critical for success.

Women: Life-changing tips for better health and energy

  • Written by ARA

Moms, career women, singles enjoying life with close friends and family, and even women approaching their retirement years – women at every life stage can benefit from adding simple activities to improve their happiness and health. Activities can range from enjoying a delicious breakfast to incorporating a cardiovascular workout to limbering up and stretching those muscles.

In honor of National Women’s Health Week, May 13 to 19, consider incorporating a new element to your day to enrich your lifestyle, improve your digestive health and give you energy to tackle the rest of your day. Need some ideas? Try one of these options:

• Flexible body –Healthy stretching can improve flexibility, and help reduce joint or muscle pain. Target core muscles in the legs – such as hips, thighs and calves – and in the upper torso including the lower back, neck and shoulders. While stretching, don’t bounce, or push the stretch past the point of pain. Gently hold each stretch for about 30 seconds.

• Fun workouts – Exercise can be a very negative word for some women, but there are several ways to enjoy a physical workout. Like to dance? Sign up for an adult jazz, ballroom dance or even Zumba class. Don’t like to sweat? Take your workout to the pool with some water aerobics. Bored? Bring a friend or family member with you for some exercise like a bike ride, inline skating, a walk or maybe even a yoga class.

• Breakfast treats – What you consume at the beginning of the day can determine how the rest of your day goes. Getting good amounts of fiber and protein through fruits and dairy products is a great way to target heart health, and maintain high energy levels throughout the day. Enjoy a fruit smoothie at the start of your day, and add some Sunsweet Prune Juice, a good source of six vitamins and minerals naturally found in California-grown prunes. This all natural, high quality juice is a great way to introduce more fiber, potassium and magnesium into your diet. Try this smoothie recipe to kick start your day:


Sweet and Sassy Smoothie

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plain or vanilla low fat yogurt

1/2 cup Sunsweet Prune Juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 medium banana, peeled

• For an extra boost of protein, add 1/4 egg substitute or 2 tablespoons protein powder

3 ice cubes

Directions:

In a blender container, combine all ingredients except the ice cubes. Cover and blend until smooth. Add ice cubes, cover and blend until ice is chopped.

• Me time – The constant on-the-go of children, careers, spouses and thousands of activities can wear a woman down. Add a little “me time” into the daily schedule. Try setting the alarm 10 minutes earlier for stretching before tackling the day. Over the lunch hour, take a walk to a local park in nice weather, or call your best friend for a quick catch-up. Or take the time before bedtime to paint your toenails or read a novel. Consider adding a half-hour of uninterrupted time for an at-home spa treatment. This “me time” is very important for a female’s mental and emotional well-being, and should cater to her specific indulgences.

Adding a new healthy living event on a daily basis should be a goal for every woman to boost her health, her energy levels and even emotions. For additional general health tips, recipes and information from dietitians, purchase two Sunsweet Juice products and receive a free Healthy Mornings Guide. Visit www.facebook.com/SunsweetJuice to learn more.

The buzz on battling flying, stinging summer bugs

  • Written by ARA

Summer picnic season is upon us, and that means it is time to grab the sunglasses, cooler and sunscreen, and head outdoors. But people are not the only ones who want to enjoy the warm weather. Flying, stinging insects like bees and wasps are abuzz, and make their presence known when collecting pollen and nectar as the weather warms.

“In the proper environment, bees, wasps and yellow jackets can be very beneficial,” says Ron Harrison, entomologist and Orkin technical services director. “In addition to pollinating flowers and plants, they eat grubs, flies and other harmful pests. It is when they are aggravated or feel threatened that they can be a bigger problem.”

There are more than 20,000 known bee species around the world. Their stings can be painful and may cause allergic reactions. About 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and many of them are at risk of life-threatening reactions.

Carpenter bees are fairly large and are often mistaken for bumble bees. They can cause significant damage to decks, siding, landscape timbers and even lawn furniture, but males – even though they are aggressive – do not have stingers, and the females rarely sting. Females bore holes in wood to deposit their eggs.

Yellow jackets can sting multiple times and aggressively protect their colonies, but otherwise, are not quick to sting. They commonly nest on or near the ground under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties, or at the base of trees. Yellow jackets are also scavengers, so they can be found near garbage cans and picnics.

Paper wasps look similar to yellow jackets in that they are narrow and dark brown with black wings and yellow markings. Paper wasp nests are made from small wood or plant fibers combined with saliva and appear to be made from paper. Their nests – frequently found in sheltered areas like tree branches and eaves of houses – include numerous compartments where they lay their eggs and rear their young.

Be sure to contact a pest professional like Orkin before attempting to address a bee infestation or hive. Harrison offers the following tips to help avoid flying and stinging pests:

• Use a weed trimmer to thin vegetation near your home, as thick vegetation provides a place for both bees and wasps to nest.

• Don’t leave food or drink containers uncovered for long periods of time. Pests are attracted to human food sources and stinging pests can often enter cans unseen, so it is best to pour your drink into a glass.

• Fit screens and tighten seals properly on doors and windows to prevent pests from entering into your home.

• For those at risk of an allergic reaction, apply an EPA-registered insect repellent on clothing and exposed skin to deter bites and stings.

Hand-Me-Down Genes

  • Written by Submitted by Alex Kraft, ND Lac, Health Moves, Woodinville

Let’s start with a question: Which of the following are true?

1. You inherit genes from your parents that predispose you to certain traits.

2. The expression or activation of genes in your DNA is influenced by your diet and lifestyle factors.

As with most questions of this sort, the answer is of course both. Darwin began the modern thought that genes from parents are passed on to their offspring in part through random genetic variation.

But the new field of epigenetics takes this a step further by showing the influence one’s lifestyle and genetic background has on our gene expression or activation.

Why is that?

The DNA which exists in each of us contains packets of directions (genes) for what our cells and hence our bodies should do. But unlike the directions for operating your dishwasher, gene directions can change based on their environment. The most obvious example of this is that every cell in our body has the exact same genetic material, the exact same instructions as to what to do, but some cells become part of the heart while others become part of a finger.

These cells have a different fate because the signals from the cells around them are different.

They are in a different environment. In addition to this, it seems that which genes are turned on or off are also influenced by which genes were active in our parents!

What the modern field of epigenetics is starting to see is that our nutrition and our exposure to chemicals are having an impact on whether or not we develop disease.  And even more interesting is that science is starting to show that what happens with our genes not only determines what happens to us, but can influence what happens to our kids!

Johns Hopkins University now even has a department of epigenetics which is looking into how this influences the chances for developing autism and bipolar disorder.

In one of the most well-known examples of epigenetics, Francis Pottenger conducted an experiment in the 1940s in which he fed cats a diet of either cooked animal products and meat, or the same foods in their raw form (more ideal for cats).

What Dr. Pottenger found was that the cats fed the raw food diet were typical cats with some developing disease later in life, but the cats fed the cooked foods were not as healthy. OK, interesting.

But he also found that the offspring of the cats fed the cooked meats and processed foods developed disease earlier and earlier in subsequent generations.

That is, the same illnesses that occurred later in life in the “grandparents” consuming cooked foods developed earlier in their children with the same diet, and even earlier in their children (the grandchildren).

Finally, he found that by the third generation (the grandchildren), these cats were essentially infertile or did not survive to reproductive age. (Just to be clear, he did not propose that the ideal diet for humans would be raw meat scraps.)

So, as always, what do we do about this? If one has children or expects to have children, one’s obvious course of action is to eat a healthy, whole-foods-based diet and limit the amount of chemical exposure you have, knowing that this will have a positive influence on you and your future children/grandchildren.

Perhaps this is further motivation to eat well and live a more “organic” life.  And, modern nutritional science has found yet another reason to eat your broccoli, cauliflower and kale. In particular, while everyone has heard that broccoli and other “cruciferous” vegetables are healthy, it seems that these groups of plants contain nutrients (sulforaphanes) which actually turn on genes in our cells to help prevent cancer and increase our overall antioxidant ability.  And these genes continue to function for three days.  And these genes help our liver function better and improve our cholesterol — just from eating broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale!  And not only that, if you want to be a real hippie, you can eat broccoli sprouts or take supplements containing sulforaphanes and get WAY more of these amazingly protective chemicals. This is short term epigenetics in action.

The concept of epigenetics is reminiscent of the Native American belief that we need to think of our actions not only for us personally, but also for seven generations forward.

This seems to play out in terms of our environmental stewardship, but also apparently that how we eat actually influences the DNA of subsequent generations.