400th Issue Celebration

Nutrition Breakthroughs Over The Last Two Years

celebrationIn the nearly eight years that I have been publishing “Health Tips From The Professor”, I have tried to go behind the headlines to provide you with accurate, unbiased health information that you can trust and apply to your everyday life.

The 400th issue of any publication is a major cause for celebration and reflection – and “Health Tips From The Professor” is no different.

I am dedicating this issue to reviewing some of the major stories I have covered in the past 100 issues. There are lots of topics I could have covered, but I have chosen to focus on three types of articles:

  • Articles that have debunked long-standing myths about nutrition and health.
  • Articles that have corrected some of the misinformation that seems to show up on the internet on an almost daily basis.
  • Articles about the issues that most directly affect your health.

Best Ways To Lose Weight

weight lossSince it is almost January, let’s start with a couple of articles about diet and weight loss (or weight gain). I have covered the effectiveness of the Paleo, Keto, Mediterranean, DASH, vegetarian, and Vegan diets for both short and long-term weight loss in my book “Slaying The Food Myths”, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Instead, I will revisit two articles – one which questions the validity of a popular diet and one about a cause of weight gain that most Americans either don’t know about or ignore.

Does intermittent fasting work?

Intermittent fasting is all the rage. Its proponents claim it is a miracle diet that will make you leaner and healthier without forcing you to forgo the foods you love. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I reviewed intermittent fasting and told you which claims were based on solid science and which were simply hype.

Do Ultra-Processed Foods Make You Fat?

What is the secret for successful weight loss? Is it low fat, low carb, low sugar, paleo, keto, vegan, or intermittent fasting? The possibilities seem endless, and they are contradictory. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I share a recent study that suggests the real secret to weight control may be none of the above.

The one common feature of every popular diet is they cut out sodas and processed foods and replace them with whole, unprocessed foods. What if cutting out highly processed foods was the secret to successful weight loss, and none of the other restrictions of the various diets really mattered? That’s what this study suggests.

Healthy Diets

healthy foodsThis is my favorite topic. Here are some of the best articles about the effect of diet on our health from the past two years.

Is Your Diet Destroying the Planet?

You believe in preserving the environment. You save energy. You recycle. You drive an energy efficient car. But are you destroying the environment with every bite you put into your mouth? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the Planetary Diet and what it means for you and for the planet.

What Is The Best Diet To Prevent Heart Disease?

What is the best diet to prevent heart disease? Is it the one recommended by the American Heart Association? Or is it Mediterranean, vegan, paleo, or keto? Or, perhaps, is it none of those diets? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a different way for thinking about diets and our health.

Can Plant-Based Diets Be Unhealthy?

In some circles, a plant-based diet is considered next to Godliness. You have been told that a plant-based diet will guarantee you a longer, healthier life. But is that true of all plant-based diets? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a study that suggests some plant-based diets may actually be unhealthy and told you which plant-based foods are good for you and which are bad for you.

Can A Healthy Diet Prevent Alzheimer’s?

You are worried. You have a family history of Alzheimer’s or you have had your genes tested and learned you are a high risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Do bad genes doom you to Alzheimer’s? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a study that suggests the answer to that question is “No” and provides a strategy for overcoming even the worst genetic predisposition for dementia.

the paleo dietIs The Paleo Diet Bad For Your Heart?

There is a lot to like about the Paleo diet, but is it healthy long term? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a recent study that suggests the Paleo diet may be bad for your gut bacteria and bad for your heart.

Do Vegetarians Have A Higher Risk Of Stroke?

Vegetarian diets are supposed to be incredibly healthy, but the latest headlines claim they increase the risk of stroke. What’s going on? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared the study behind the headlines and put it into perspective.

This article takes a closer look at the pluses and minuses of a vegetarian diet.

Is red meat as healthy as white meat?

You have been told that white meat is better for your heart than red meat. But now the latest headlines are saying that’s not true. The headlines claim that red meat is just as healthy as white meat. What are you to believe? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I looked at the studies behind the headlines and showed you how the beef industry influences clinical studies to support the consumption of red meat.

Impossible BurgerIs The Impossible Burger Healthy For You?

A new generation of meatless burgers has arrived. Are the Impossible Burger and its competitors healthier than regular burgers? Are they better for the planet?  In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I evaluated the health and environmental claims of these new meatless burgers.

Which Foods Affect Stroke Risk?

What foods should we eat to reduce our risk of stroke? We keep getting conflicting information from the media. Why is diet and stroke risk so confusing? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the latest study of which foods affect stroke risk and why the headlines about diet and stroke risk have been so confusing.

Which Foods Should I Avoid?

Some health gurus tell you to avoid red meat and saturated fat. Others tell you to avoid sugar and carbohydrates. It is so confusing. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a study that looked at all the possibilities and recommended which foods to avoid. You may be surprised.

Should I Avoid Whole Grains?

If you believe Dr. Strangelove, whole grains have gone from “heroes” to “villains”. Which is true? Should you include whole grains in your diet, or should you avoid them? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a recent study that sheds light on this important question.

Do Processed Foods Increase Your Risk Of Diabetes?

Most of us instinctively know that highly processed foods are bad for us. They have been linked to obesity and multiple diseases. And the list keeps growing. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a study on the effect of highly processed foods on your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Healthy Lifestyle

Of course, diet is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Weight control, exercise and other lifestyle factors are important in determining our overall health. Here are a couple of articles that focused more broadly on a healthy lifestyle.

Heart Disease StudyWhy are heart attacks increasing in young women?

Heart attack rates are decreasing in the general population. So, why are they increasing in young women? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the latest study on heart attack rates in young people and what the study may mean for you.

Why is colon cancer increasing in young adults?

Last week we learned that heart attacks were increasing in young women. This week we learn that colon cancer is increasing in young adults. What the heck is going on? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the latest study on colon cancer rates in young people and what the study may mean for you.

Eggs And Heart Disease

are eggs good for youDo eggs increase heart disease risk?

The egg rollercoaster continues. Last year we heard that an egg a day was good for your heart. The latest headlines warn that eating eggs increases your risk of heart disease. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the latest study on eggs and what the study may mean for you.

What Is The Truth About Eggs And Heart Disease?

The eggfusion (egg confusion) continues. Several major studies over the past few years have come to opposite conclusions about the effect of eggs on our risk of heart disease and stroke. What is the truth about eggs? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a very large study which clears up the eggfusion.

Omega-3s

There have been a lot of studies on the effect of omega-3s on our health over the past two years, but let me share a few that have updated the information I shared in the first 300 “Health Tips From The Professor” articles.

omega 3 supplementsDoes Omega-3 Supplementation Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease?

Does omega-3 supplementation reduce the risk of heart disease or doesn’t it? The headlines keep changing. What is the truth? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared the latest studies on omega-3 supplementation and heart disease risk and put them into perspective for you.

How Much Omega-3s Do We Need?

Two recent clinical studies have provided strong evidence that omega-3 supplementation can reduce heart attacks. Those studies used high-dose omega-3 supplementation, and they did not measure dose response. This raises the question of exactly how much omega-3s do we need to significantly reduce heart disease risk. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed a recent study that answers that question and more.

What Does The FDA Say About Omega-3s And Blood Pressure?

The FDA has finally acknowledged what scientists have known for years: Omega-3s represent a safe, natural way to help keep your blood pressure under control. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I discussed the FDA’s recent ruling and described the studies showing that omega-3s play an important role in a holistic program for keeping your blood pressure under control.

Are Pregnant Women & Children Dangerously Deficient in Omega-3s?

You have probably heard that most Americans don’t get enough omega-3s in their diet. Just how deficient are we? Should pregnant women and mothers of young children be concerned? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I answered those questions.

Vitamin D

vitamin dThere also have been a lot of studies on the effect of vitamin D on our health over the past two years I will share a couple of articles that updated the previous information I have shared with you.

Does vitamin D reduce Cancer deaths? 

The headlines about Vitamin D are confusing. Is vitamin D a panacea or a placebo? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a recent meta-analysis that suggests vitamin D supplementation reduces cancer deaths and discuss why clinical studies about vitamin D supplementation are so confusing.

What Is The Truth About Vitamin D And Respiratory Diseases Like COVID-19?

The days are getting shorter and your sun exposure is decreasing. We are also in the midst of a serious pandemic. How important is it for you to maintain optimal vitamin D levels? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a study on the importance of vitamin D for reducing the risk of respiratory disease and COVID-19.

Misleading Clinical Studies

I base all my recommendations on well-designed clinical studies. But sometimes even well-designed studies can be misleading. Here are some examples.

Question MarkCan you believe clinical studies?

We get lots of advice in today’s world – from our friends, from our trainer, from Dr. Strangelove’s nutrition blog, from our doctors – even from learned “experts”. We are told the advice is based on clinical studies. But are recommendations based on published clinical studies true…for you? Maybe, maybe not. In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I shared a “secret” about clinical studies that no one else has told you.

Does magnesium optimize vitamin D levels?

Why have so many clinical studies on the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplementation come up empty? One reason may be that most clinical studies treat them as “Magic Bullets”. Each vitamin and mineral is tested individually for their ability to reduce disease risk. Are these studies doomed to fail because they don’t take a holistic approach? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I will discussed a recent study on the interaction between magnesium and vitamin D and why it makes a strong case for a holistic approach to supplementation.

Does Vitamin D Prevent Depression?

The latest headlines claim that vitamin D doesn’t reduce the risk of becoming depressed. Are the headlines true? In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor”, I reviewed the study behind the headlines and told you why you can’t believe everything you read.

The Bottom Line 

I have just touched on a few of my most popular articles above. You may want to scroll through these articles to find ones of interest to you that you might have missed over the last two years. If you don’t see topics that you are looking for, just go to https://chaneyhealth.com/healthtips/ and type the appropriate term in the search box.

In the coming years, you can look for more articles debunking myths, exposing lies and providing balance to the debate about the health topics that affect you directly. As always, I pledge to provide you with scientifically accurate, balanced information that you can trust. I will continue to do my best to present this information in a clear and concise manner so that you can understand it and apply it to your life.

If you have other topics that you would like me to cover, please click on the link below to enter your suggestions in the comment box.

Final Comment: You may wish to share the valuable resources in this article with others. If you do, then copy the link at the top and bottom of this page into your email. If you just forward this email and the recipient unsubscribes, it will unsubscribe you as well.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Have A Healthy Thanksgiving

The Holidays Don’t Have To Be Unhealthy

Thanksgiving TurkeyI realize that in this strangest of years many of us won’t be heading “through the woods and over the hills to grandmother’s house” this year. However, we will probably be gathering with a few friends and family. So, it is time for my annual reminder that we can have a healthy Thanksgiving this year.

While “Healthy Thanksgiving” doesn’t quite have the appeal of the more familiar “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting, I used it here to make the point that Thanksgiving dinner (and many other holiday meals) doesn’t have to be an unhealthy affair.
After all, there is a lot to like about the ingredients in Thanksgiving dinner.  Turkey can be a healthy, low- fat meat, if prepared correctly.  Sweet potatoes, yams, winter squash and pumpkin are all loaded with vitamin A and other important nutrients.  And cranberries are a nutrition powerhouse.

Have A Healthy Thanksgiving

Healthy Thanksgiving DinnerHere are some tips to make your Thanksgiving meal one that contributes to your health:

1) Skip the basting.  Choose a plain bird and cook in a bag to seal in the moisture.  Remove the skin before serving.

2) Refrigerate the turkey juices and skim off the hardened fat before making gravy and use a gravy cup that pours from the bottom to minimize fat.

3) Use ingredients like whole wheat bread, vegetables, fruits (cranberries, raisins, dates or apples), nuts and your favorite spices for the stuffing and bake it in the oven rather than in the turkey.

4) Serve your sweet potatoes or yams baked rather than candied and let your guests add butter and nutmeg to taste.

5) Use skim milk or buttermilk rather than whole milk and skip the butter for your mashed potatoes.

6) Give your meal gourmet appeal by cooking your green vegetables with garlic, nuts and herbs rather than creamy or fat-laden sauces.

7) Don’t serve the meal on your largest plates. By using smaller plates, you ensure smaller portion size and even that second helping isn’t quite so damaging.

8) Consider something like a cranberry, walnut, Greek yogurt parfait for dessert. However, if everyone is expecting grandma’s chocolate pound cake recipe, use small dessert dishes. Of course, you can also experiment with using less fat or sugar when you make the cake.

9) Use a low calorie, plant-based protein shake for one or more meals the day before and/or after Thanksgiving so that your total fat, cholesterol, and caloric intake over the three-day period is not excessive.

By now you have the idea.  There are lots of little things that you can do to make your Thanksgiving dinner one that your waist and your heart will thank you for. Bon Appetit and have a Happy, Healthy Thanksgiving!

The Bottom Line

If you make healthy food choices and choose your portion sizes wisely, you can make this a Healthy Thanksgiving as well as a Happy Thanksgiving.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Relief From Headache Pain

Could A Tight Muscle Cause Your Headaches?

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving TurkeyNovember is one of my favorite months because it’s the beginning of the holiday season. There are so many holidays during these next two months, all of them joyful. The colors of the season are vibrant, the smells of delicious foods cooking are embedded in our minds, and spending time with our loved ones warms our hearts.

I come from New York and I love the beautiful changing of the leaves that happens in October, and then the way winter starts to ease into our days. If you come from any of the northern states, you probably have these same memories. Children jumping into huge piles of leaves and finally getting to wear my favorite sweaters and jackets again.

I can still smell the smoke lingering in the air as homes were warmed with fireplaces and cast-iron stoves. Shopping for that special gift for our family and friends, the Salvation Army bell-ringing volunteers, hot apple cider…the memories go on and on.

If you grew up in a warm weather State, you have different memories that bring joy to your heart. It is exciting to have this beautiful season starting again!

2020 is different than years before, challenging us to redesign the holidays. We all have our stories of how we’re being impacted by COVID19. I think this is a perfect time to focus our minds on all the things for which we are grateful. Show kindness and appreciation to everyone around us, people need it more than ever before. Count your blessings!

My prayer is that however you may be affected by all that is happening in the USA, that you will have a beautiful, happy, and healthy holiday season.

I Have A TEDx Talk Coming Up

If you have been to the office lately, you probably know I was chosen to do a TEDx talk.  My title is “The Pain Question No One is Asking.”

Headache PainPeople are suffering, yet a huge cause of pain is constantly overlooked!

The principle thought is, why isn’t anyone looking at muscles as a cause of pain during the diagnosis process.  My TEDx talk is only 9 minutes long, short and to the point.

I am most excited that my talk will bring this information to the awareness of people who are searching for answers to the cause of their pain.

It was originally scheduled for May 15th (which was also my birthday, so what a present!), but COVID19 prevented that from happening.  Then it was scheduled for November 20th, and it was still going to be live.  Oh well…COVID19 prevented that too!

So, it was finally decided to have each presenter do a video and submit it to the Team. There is going to be a two-day private presentation for everyone who has bought a ticket to the event. Ticket prices start at $17 for general admission, or $77 to be able to enter the VIP room and meet with each presenter. There are 20 presenters, with topics that range from muscles to health, from animal rights to the environment, and lots of other interesting topics.

If you would be interested in joining us, it will be held on Dec. 5th & 6th, on a Zoom “stage.” Just contact me (Phone: (919) 886-1861; Email: info@JulstroMethod.com) and I will make the arrangements for you to receive a ticket to the event.

The Muscle Of The Day

cruise shipBack when I worked on the cruise ship, which was my first job after getting my massage license in 1989, I studied what I called “the muscle of the day.”  Every day I would pick one muscle to really study.  Before the passengers would start coming in, I would list the name, location, action, origin point and insertion point of just one muscle.

I would give what I call “fluff and buff” to the entire body, except for the muscle of the day.  On that muscle I would go slow, a bit deeper, and when I found something that didn’t feel like the rest of the muscle, I would ask my clients for feedback.  They would tell me if it hurt or not, and where they were feeling it.

I worked on over 3000 people while I was on the ship (in just one year!) and by the time I got off the ship I was really confident that I knew what “hurt” feels like, and what “doesn’t hurt” feels like.  It is the foundation of my therapy practice.

My clients always are interested when I explain why a particular muscle is causing their pain.

With that said, I want to share a “muscle of the month” with you.  Each month I will take one muscle and we will talk about it for a few minutes.  I’m not trying to make you a muscular therapist, just give you a little info that will make sense when you have a painful condition.

Could A Tight Muscle Cause Your Headaches?

This month I want to share the #1 muscle that causes headache pain. When this muscle is tight it can cause headaches that are so severe that they are sometimes called migraines, and some people end up on strong medications to mask the pain.

Levator Scapulae MuscleThe Levator Scapulae originates on your first four cervical vertebrae and inserts into the inside/top of your shoulder blade.

As you see in the graphic the first two vertebrae have a special setup and it’s these two vertebrae that are causing the problem.

C1 is called “the Atlas” because Atlas held up the world.  C1 holds up your skull.

C2 is called “the Axis” because a piece of bone (called the Dens) pokes up through the center of C1. Your skull sits on this point and is the reason you can tip your head forward and back, as well as side to side.

Your brain goes into your spinal cord and the nerves travel through the center of the vertebrae and then go out to innervate every cell in the body from your head to your feet.

The problem is, when the Levator Scapulae gets tight (usually from a repetitive movement, such as holding your shoulders up when you are stressed) it pulls your cervical vertebrae to the side and down.  This causes the opposite side of the bone to press into your spinal cord, right at the base of your brain.

When someone comes into my office and says they get right-sided pain, the odds are the muscle tension is coming from the left side of the body.  As you release the tight muscle fibers, the vertebrae frequently realign by themselves (or you can go to a chiropractor) and the pressure is off your spinal cord.

Relief From Headache Pain

muscle-treatment

 

 

I have already shown you one method for treating this muscle by putting a ball on your shoulder and then leaving forward and pressing into the corner of a wall.

 

 

 

Treatment-For-Tight-Shoulder-Muscle-1

 

 

Here is another method. Put your opposite thumb into the hollow in the front of your shoulder, as shown in this picture

 

 

 

 

Treatment-For-Tight-Shoulder-Muscle-2Flip your four fingers over your shoulder. Be sure to go back far enough that you can grip a thick piece of muscle in between your thumb and fingers.

Have your elbow raised so it is horizontal to the floor.  It helps if you put your opposite hand under your elbow to hold it up.

Next, squeeze hard, really gripping the thick muscle.

Bring your elbow down close to your body.  Hold for 15-30 seconds.

At the end, continue squeezing and drop your head in the opposite direction so you are stretching the muscle.

 

Last Thoughts…

I really love helping my clients get better, so I would appreciate it if you would tell others about my work, and about my books/DVD’s etc.  My goal with everyone is to stop the pain that brought to me in the first place, and have you return each month for a tune-up until you are permanently pain free.   Depending on your situation this could take one session or multiple sessions, but I believe we can accomplish this goal.

If you have family or friends who aren’t local to Sarasota, please let them know that I do Zoom consultations for the same price as an office visit.  We talk about what is happening and then I can show them how to self-treat. With the both of us on Zoom, I can watch and make sure they are doing the techniques correctly.  It works really well. To date I have worked with people all over the world, including Australia, Switzerland, Canada, Egypt, and lots of other places.

To book a virtual Zoom consultation, just go to https://julstromethod.com/product/pain-relief-training-zoom-us/.

If you have anything you’d like me to discuss, please email me at Julie@JulieDonnelly.com

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Update On Omega-3 Supplementation And Heart Disease

How Much Omega-3s Do You Need?

Pendulum
Pendulum

In previous issues of “Health Tips From The Professor” I have described the medical consensus about omega-3 supplementation and heart disease as resembling a pendulum.

A few positive studies are published, and the pendulum swings in the positive direction. The medical consensus becomes, “Omega-3s may reduce heart disease risk.”

Then a few negative studies are published, and the pendulum swings in the other direction. The consensus becomes that omega-3 supplements are worthless. One review a few years ago went so far as to say that fish oil supplements were the modern-day version of snake oil.

Meta-analyses combine the data from multiple clinical studies to increase statistic power and minimize the effect of clinical studies that are outliers. They are supposed to provide clear answers to medical questions like the effect of omega-3 supplements on heart disease.

However, the meta-analyses published to date have also reached conflicting conclusions about the effectiveness of omega-3 supplementation. No wonder you [and the medical community] are confused!

In 2018 three large, well-designed, clinical studies looking at the effect of omega-3 supplementation on heart disease risk were published. They reached different conclusions. However, they covered a much wider range of omega-3 doses than previous studies. And the studies with the highest doses of omega-3s showed the most positive effect of omega-3 supplementation on the reduction of heart disease risk.

That lead a group of doctors and scientists from the United States and Finland to postulate that many previous studies had failed to find an effect of omega-3 supplements on heart disease risk because the dose of omega-3s they used was too low.

These scientists designed a very large meta-analysis (AA Bernasconi et al, Mayo Clinic Proceedings, doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2020.08.034) to test their hypothesis. In short, their study was designed to:

  • Determine whether supplementation with the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA resulted in reduced heart disease risk.
  • Quantify the relationship between the dose of EPA + DHA and the risk of heart disease outcomes.

How Was The Study Done?

Clinical StudyThis study was a meta-analysis of 40 randomized control clinical studies on the effect omega-3 supplementation on heart disease outcomes. Specifically:

  • It included all high-quality clinical studies of omega-3 supplementation published before August 2019.
  • It included a total of 135,267 participants.
  • It included participants at both low and high risk of developing heart disease.
  • It included studies of supplementation with EPA alone and with EPA + DHA.
  • It included omega-3 doses ranging from 400 mg/day to 5,500 mg/day.
  • It excluded dietary studies because:
    • It is difficult to measure the dosage of omega-3s that participants are consuming in dietary studies.
    • It is difficult to assure their compliance with dietary advice.
    • There is variation in the omega-3 content of various foods.
    • Participants in these studies are often advised to make other changes in diet. It then becomes difficult to know whether any benefits observed were from changes in omega-3s or from changes in other components of the diet.

Update On Omega-3 Supplementation And Heart Disease

omega-3 supplements and heart healthHere are the results of the meta-analysis. Supplementation with EPA or EPA + DHA reduced:

  • Coronary Heart disease (defined as diseases caused by atherosclerosis, such as angina, heart attack, and heart failure) by 10%.
  • Heart Attacks by 13%.
  • Coronary Heart disease deaths by 9%.
  • Heart attack deaths by 35%.

Because of the large number of participants in this meta-analysis, they were able to reach some other important conclusions:

  • Despite the claims you may have heard about a new drug consisting of highly purified EPA, this study found no evidence that EPA supplementation was superior to EPA + DHA supplementation.
  • Even though heart medications provide some of the same benefits as omega-3s, this study concluded that omega-3 supplementation reduced the risk of heart disease even for patients on multiple heart medications.
  • This study also concluded that omega-3 supplementation was likely to be effective for people at both low and high risk of heart disease. This means that omega-3 supplementation is likely to be beneficial for preventing heart disease.

The authors concluded: “The current study provides strong evidence that EPA + DHA supplementation is an effective strategy for the prevention of certain coronary heart disease outcomes…Considering the relatively low costs and side effect profiles of omega-3 supplementation and the low drug-drug interactions with other standard therapies…clinicians and patients should consider the potential benefits of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) supplementation…”

What Does This Study Mean For You?

Heart AttackThe most significant conclusions from this study are the reduction in heart attacks and heart attack deaths. That is because:

  • Approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year. For those who survive their quality of life may be permanently altered.
    • A 13% reduction in heart attacks means that something as simple as EPA + DHA supplementation might prevent as many as 195,000 heart attacks a year.
  • Approximately 100,000 Americans will die from a heart attack each you.
    • A 35% reduction in heart attack deaths means that EPA + DHA supplementation might prevent as many as 35,000 deaths from heart attacks each year.
  • For many Americans sudden death from a heart attack is the first indication that they have heart disease.
    • As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. That is why EPA + DHA supplementation makes sense for most people.

I can’t say that this study will be the final word on omega-3 supplementation and heart disease risk. However, several recent studies have supported the benefit of omega-3 supplementation at reducing heart disease risk. The pendulum has clearly swung in the direction of omega-3s being beneficial for heart health.

Of course, omega-3 supplementation is not a magic “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You can’t expect it to overcome the effects of a bad diet and lack of exercise with omega-3 supplementation alone. You need a holistic approach.

The American Heart Association recommends:

Doctor With Patient

  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Choose good nutrition.
    • Choose a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, non-tropical vegetable oils, and nuts.
    • Choose a diet that limits sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.
  • Reduce high blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and get moving.
  • Lower High Blood Pressure.
  • Be physically active every day.
    • Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
  • Aim for a healthy weight.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Have a regular physical checkup.

Add in omega-3 supplementation to these recommendations and you have a winning combination.

How Much Omega-3s Do You Need?

Question MarkAs I mentioned at the beginning of this article the omega-3 dosages used in the studies included in this meta-analysis ranged from 400 mg/day to 5,500 mg/day. More importantly, there were enough participants in these studies to obtain a fairly accurate estimate of dose response. This allow the authors to answer the question, “How much omega-3s do I need?”The study found that:

  • The protective effect of omega-3s for heart attack deaths and coronary heart disease deaths plateaued with dosages of EPA + DHA that exceeded 800 – 1200 mg/day.
  • The dose response of the protective effect of omega-3s for non-fatal heart attacks was linear over a wider range of dosages, with every increase 1,000 mg/day of EPA + DHA decreasing the risk of heart attack by 9%.

Based on the totality of their data, the authors concluded, “…clinicians and patients should consider the potential benefits of omega-3 supplementation, especially using 1,000 to 2,000 mg/day dosages, which are rarely obtained in most Westernized diets, even those including routine fish consumption.”

The Bottom Line

A recent meta-analysis combined the data from 40 clinical studies with over 135,000 participants looking at the effect of omega-3 supplementation on various types of heart disease. The study found that supplementation with EPA or EPA + DHA reduced:

  • Coronary Heart disease (defined as diseases caused by atherosclerosis, such as angina, heart attack, and heart failure) by 10%.
  • Heart Attacks by 13%.
  • Coronary Heart disease deaths by 9%.
  • Heart attack deaths by 35%.

Because of the large number of participants in this meta-analysis, they were able to reach some other important conclusions:

  • This study found no evidence that EPA supplementation was superior to EPA + DHA supplementation.
  • This study concluded that omega-3 supplementation reduced the risk of heart disease even for patients on multiple heart medications.
  • This study also concluded that omega-3 supplementation was likely to be effective for people at both low and high risk of heart disease. This means that omega-3 supplementation is likely to be beneficial for preventing heart disease.
  • The optimal dose of EPA + DHA appeared to be 1,000 – 2,000 mg/day.

The authors of the study concluded: “The current study provides strong evidence that EPA + DHA supplementation is an effective strategy for the prevention of certain coronary heart disease outcomes…Considering the relatively low costs and side effect profiles of omega-3 supplementation and the low drug-drug interactions with other standard therapies…clinicians and patients should consider the potential benefits of omega-3 (EPA/DHA) supplementation, especially using 1,000 to 2,000 mg/day dosages, which are rarely obtained in most Westernized diets, even those including routine fish consumption.”

For more details, including a more detailed discussion of what this study means for you, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Do Antioxidants Reduce Diabetes Risk?

What Diet Is Best For Reducing Your Risk Of Diabetes?

ConfusionI don’t need to tell you that nutrition is confusing. The headlines change day to day. One day antioxidants are good for you. The next day they are worthless. What are you to believe?

That is why I knew you would be skeptical when you saw recent headlines saying things like, “Antioxidants reduce your risk of diabetes” or “An antioxidant-rich diet may prevent diabetes”. You are probably waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You are waiting for the next headline telling you to ignore the previous headlines.

That is why I decided to analyze the study (FM Mancini et al, Diabetologia, 61: 308-316, 2018) behind the headlines and tell you whether the headlines were true or false. More importantly, I wanted to put the study into perspective so you could apply the findings to your life.

How Was The Study Done?

Clinical StudyThe data for this paper came from the Interaction of Genetic and Lifestyle Factors on the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes (InterAct) study. French women born between 1925 and 1950 were enrolled in the study beginning in 1990.

Women were excluded from the study if they had pre-existing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or cancer.

In June of 1993 a very extensive dietary questionnaire was mailed to all participants. The antioxidant capacity of each of the foods in the diet was estimated using an existing database, and the total antioxidant content of each woman’s diet was calculated.

A total of 64,223 women (average age = 52) completed the questionnaire and were followed for 15 years. During that time 1751 of the women developed type 2 diabetes.

The study correlated the total antioxidant content of the diet with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Coffee was excluded from the analysis because the antioxidants found in coffee are high molecular weight compounds, and it is not clear how well they are absorbed.

The major sources of antioxidants in the French diet were fruits (23%), vegetables (19%), wine (15%), tea (10%), and chocolate (2%). Whole grains and beans are also good sources of antioxidants, but the French (and Americans) don’t eat enough of them to influence their total antioxidant intake.

In case you were wondering why wine and chocolate were among the five top sources of antioxidants, remember this is the French diet we are talking about.

Do Antioxidants Reduce Diabetes Risk?

Diabetes and healthy die The authors of the study divided the women into 5 groups (quintiles) based on the antioxidant content of their diets. Quintile one had the lowest antioxidant intake, and quintile five had the highest antioxidant intake.

Compared to the women in quintile one (lowest antioxidant intake), the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was decreased by:

  • 15% for women in quintile two.
  • 30% for women in quintile three.
  • 38% for women in quintile four.
  • 39% for women in quintile five (highest antioxidant intake).
  • As you might guess from the data above, there was an inverse association between total antioxidant content of the diet and type 2 diabetes up until somewhere between the third and fourth quintiles.
  • Above that antioxidant level, the relationship between dietary antioxidant content and risk of developing type 2 diabetes plateaued.

The authors concluded, “Our findings suggest that the total antioxidant capacity of the diet may play a role in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in middle-aged women. As type 2 diabetes represents a high disease burden worldwide, our results may have important public health implications.”

What Diet Is Best For Reducing Your Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes?

While most of the headlines talked about the effect of antioxidant intake on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, we need to remember that the study was done with antioxidant-rich foods. That raises 3 important questions.

#1: Is it the antioxidants or the foods that decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes?

Diabetes-&-Vitamin-CThis was a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and tea with moderate amounts of wine and chocolate. Although they didn’t make it to the top 5 in this study, whole grains and beans are also a good source of dietary antioxidants. In short, this was a very healthy diet.

That represents a complicating factor. For example, fruits and vegetables are also good sources of non-antioxidant phytonutrients that appear to have health benefits. They are also a good source of fiber and the healthy gut bacteria that eat the fiber.

In short, this study shows that healthy foods reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since oxidative stress is thought to play a role in the development of diabetes, it is logical that antioxidants in these foods may help prevent diabetes. However, in reality, we don’t know how much of the risk reduction is due to the antioxidant content of the foods and how much is due to other components of the foods.

#2: Is it healthy foods that decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, or is it due to decreased intake of unhealthy foods?

food choiceThe skeptic in me wants to ask, “Is the diabetes risk reduction due to the healthy foods included in the diet or does it derive from the fact that those foods displaced unhealthy foods from the diet?” It is also legitimate to ask whether people who eat healthier foods also followed a healthier lifestyle.

Fortunately, the data from this study puts those questions to rest. Compared to women in the lowest quintile of antioxidant intake, women in the highest quintile of antioxidants intake from diet:

  • Drank more sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages.
  • Ate more processed meat.
  • Ate more calories.
  • Smoked more.
  • Were just as likely to be overweight.

These women were more physically active, but in other ways their diet and lifestyle were no better than women with much less antioxidant intake.

However, we do need to remember that these are French women. Their overall diet and lifestyle is much better than American women. For example, at their worst:

  • 30% were overweight or obese compared to >60% for American women.
  • Intake of processed meat was less than ½ serving/day.
  • Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages was less than 1 ounce/day and intake of artificially sweetened beverages was 1.3 ounces/day.

#3: How much healthy foods do your need to include in your diet to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes?

fruits and vegetablesThe fact that the beneficial effect of adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes up to a point and then plateaued has important implications. It means you don’t need to be a vegan to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. You just need to include enough healthy foods in your diet.

“How much healthy foods”, you might ask. If we look at the point at which the benefit of eating antioxidant-rich foods plateaued in this study, the women were eating:

  • 5-6 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day.
  • 4 cups of tea/day.
  • 7 pieces of chocolate/day.
  • 1 glass of wine/day.

If you are an American who is consuming less tea, chocolate, and wine than the French, you will probably want to aim for 6 or more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day and include whole grains and beans in your diet.

In a previous issue of “Health Tips From the Professor” I reviewed a study that looked at the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables for various other diseases. That study reported:

  • 10 servings per day is optimal for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
  • 6 servings per day is optimal for reducing the risk of cancer.

This study suggests 6 servings of fruits and vegetable per day is likely to also be optimal for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The bad news is that the average American eats one serving of fruit and less than 2 servings of vegetables a day. The good news is that each added serving of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of disease and premature death. The same is probably true for whole grains and beans, but they weren’t specifically included in these studies.

What About Supplementation?

vitamin COf course, some of you will be tempted to say, “Changing my diet is hard. I’ll just take antioxidant supplements.” Will that work. If we are talking about individual antioxidant supplements, the answer is a clear, “No”. Numerous clinical studies have shown that.

However, one study looked at a holistic approach to supplementation and found that it significantly decreased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over a 20-year period. That is encouraging, but you need to know that the people in that study were not just consuming antioxidant supplements. They were also consuming:

  • Supplements containing B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and trace minerals.
  • Plant-based protein supplements that replaced some of the animal protein in their diet.
  • Omega-3 supplements.
  • Probiotic supplements.

So, just as was true for the diet study discussed above, antioxidant supplements may be beneficial in reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. However, it is not possible to separate the benefits of antioxidant supplements from the other supplements included in the study.

The Bottom Line

You may have seen recent headlines claiming, “Antioxidants reduce your risk of diabetes”. The study behind those headlines was actually looking at the effect of antioxidant-rich foods like fruits and vegetables at decreasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study did show that increasing the amount of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet decreases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Since oxidative stress is thought to play a role in the development of diabetes, it is logical that antioxidants in those foods may help prevent diabetes. However, in reality we don’t know how much of the risk reduction is due to the antioxidant content of the foods and how much is due to the phytonutrient and fiber content of the foods.

There was an inverse association between total antioxidant content of the diet and type 2 diabetes up until somewhere between the 5 and 6 servings per day of fresh fruits and vegetables. At that point. the beneficial effect of eating antioxidant-rich foods plateaued. Eating 6 servings per day of fresh fruits and vegetables appears to be optimal for reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To put that into perspective, a previous study that looked at the optimal intake of fruits and vegetables for various other diseases reported:

  • 10 servings per day is optimal for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and premature death.
  • 6 servings per day is optimal for reducing the risk of cancer.

The bad news is that the average American eats one serving of fruit and less than 2 servings of vegetables a day. The good news is that each added serving of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of disease and premature death. The same is probably true for whole grains and beans, but they weren’t specifically included in these two studies.

Of course, if you really wish to prevent or reverse type 2 diabetes, a holistic approach including weight control, exercise, diet, and supplementation is best.

For more details, including a more detailed discussion of supplementation, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

 

Finally, you should also never think of supplementation as a replacement for a healthy diet. If you wish to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, I recommend a holistic approach that includes weight control, exercise, diet, and supplementation.

Is The Keto Diet Best For Endurance Exercise?

Where Do Food Myths Come From?

ketogenic dietI don’t need to tell you that the keto diet is popular right now. It is touted for weight loss, mental sharpness, and improved health. I discuss the accuracy of those claims in my book, “Slaying the Food Myths”.

Perhaps more surprising has been the adoption of the keto diet by so many endurance athletes. As I point out in my book, there is a kernel of truth for that idea. Fats and ketone bodies are a very efficient energy source for low to moderate intensity exercise, and we have a virtually unlimited source of stored fat that can be converted to ketone bodies.

However, I always add this caveat, “The keto diet is perfect for endurance exercise – as long as you don’t care how fast you get there”. That is because high intensity exercise requires muscle glycogen stores, which come from the carbohydrates we eat. When you cut carbs from the diet, you deplete your glycogen stores.

And, if you are running a marathon and you want to sprint to the finish line, you will need those muscle glycogen stores. Or, if you are in a cycling event and you want to power up a mountain, you will need those glycogen stores.

Of course, you are probably asking, “Why do so many endurance athletes swear by the keto diet?” There is a dirty little secret behind athlete endorsements. I’m not talking about the money that top athletes get paid for endorsements, although that is also a problem.

I’m talking about the testimonials you hear from your friend who runs marathons or your personal trainer. Unfortunately, testimonials from athletes are notoriously unreliable. The problem is that the placebo effect approaches 70% for athletes.

Competitive athletes are strong willed. If they think a diet or sports nutrition product will help them, they will themselves to a higher level of performance. And this happens subconsciously. They aren’t even aware that their mind is influencing their performance.

So, just because your favorite athlete endorses the keto diet doesn’t mean it is the perfect diet for you. Testimonials can be very misleading.

The important question to ask is, “Do clinical studies support the keto diet as the best diet for endurance exercise?” But, before I answer that question, let me frame the question by asking. “Where do food myths come from?” because the belief that keto diets are best for endurance exercise is a classic food myth.

Where Do Food Myths Come From?

I discussed this question at length in my book, “Slaying The Food Myths”. Let me summarize it briefly here.

Secrets Only Scientists Know: First you need to know the secrets only scientists know. Here are the top 2:

#1: Scientists design their studies to disprove previous studies. There is no glory for being the 10th person to confirm the existing paradigm. The glory comes from being the first to show the existing paradigm might be wrong. While this may seem to be a contrary approach, it is actually the strength of the scientific method.

However, it means that there will be published clinical studies on both sides of every issue.

#2: Every study has its flaws. There is no perfect study.

This is why the scientific community doesn’t base their recommendations on 2 or 3 published studies. We wait until there are 10 to 20 good quality studies and base our recommendations on what 90% of them show.

Now, let me contrast the scientific approach with how food myths are born.

Where Do Food Myths Come From? Food myths usually originate on blogs or websites. Often the articles are written by people with no scientific credentials. But some of them are written by doctors (I will call them Dr. Strangelove to “protect the guilty”). The articles they write have these things in common:

cherry picking studies

  • The articles are based on the biases of the author. No effort is made to look at the other side of the story.
  • The authors “cherry pick” studies that support their bias and ignore studies that contradict them.
  • They use scientific-sounding mumbo jumbo to make their hypothesis sound credible.
  • Their articles are usually spectacular. For example, they say things like, “A particular diet, food, or supplement will either cure you or kill you”, and/or “The medical community is hiding the truth from you.”
  • They never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Since the idea sounds credible it is picked up by other blogs and websites without any fact checking (social media at its worst). Once it has been repeated often enough, it becomes generally accepted as true. It becomes a food myth. From that point on, studies that disprove the myth are often ignored.

How do you know whether a common belief is true, or just another myth? The only way to be sure is to take a balanced look at all the clinical studies, not just the studies that support the belief.

That is what the authors of a recent review paper (CP Bailey and E Hennessy, Journal of the international Society of Sports Nutrition, 17, Article number: 33, 2020) did for the belief that the keto diet is the best diet for endurance exercise.

Is The Keto Diet Best For Endurance Exercise?

CyclistsBefore I discuss the findings of the review article, there are two things you should know:

#1: There is little scientific research on the effectiveness of the keto diet on endurance exercise. After an exhaustive search of the literature, the authors were only able to find 7 published studies on the topic.

#2:Most sports nutrition studies are of poor quality. In general, they are very small studies, are of short duration, and do not use common test procedures to measure a successful outcome. These studies on keto diets were no different. For example:

    • The number of subjects in these studies ranged from 5 to 29 (average = 14).
    • The duration of time on the diet in these studies ranged from 3 weeks to 12 weeks (average = 5 weeks).
    • Tests used to measure the effectiveness of specific diets on endurance exercise were VO2max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise), Time to exhaustion (how long you can exercise before you are exhausted), Rating of perceived exertion (feeling of fatigue at the end of the exercise), Race time (time required to complete an event), and Peak power output during the event.
    • Four studies used a treadmill to simulate endurance exercise. The other three used a stationary bike.
    • Five of the studies compared the keto diet to a high carbohydrate diet. Two studies used the keto diet only.

The results were all over the place:

Question Mark

  • Two studies reported an increase in VO2max for both the keto diet and the high carbohydrate diet. One study reported a decrease in VO2max for both diets. The other studies reported no change in VO2max. In short, there was no difference between the diets for VO2max.
  • One study reported a decrease in race time for the high carbohydrate diet and a non-significant increase in race time for the keto diet. Two other studies reported no effect of either diet on race time. In short, one study suggested the high carbohydrate diet was more effective at shortening race time. The other two studies found no effect of either diet.
  • Two studies showed an increase in time to exhaustion for both diets. One study showed a decrease in time to exhaustion for the keto diet (participants got tired more quickly). That study did not include the high carbohydrate diet for comparison. In short, there was no clear difference between the two diets for time to exhaustion.
  • One study showed that the group on the keto diet reported a higher rating of perceived exertion (were more tired) at the end of the endurance event than the group on the high carbohydrate diet. Another study found no difference between the two diets. In short, one study suggested the high carbohydrate diet was better with respect to perceived exertion (tiredness) at the end of the endurance event. Another study found no difference between the two diets.
  • One study reported that peak power was significantly greater for the group on the keto diet than the group on the high carbohydrate diet. One of the studies with the keto group reported that peak power decreased for 4 out of 5 subjects on the keto diet. In short, one study suggested that the keto diet was more effective at increasing peak power than the high carbohydrate diet. Another study suggested the keto diet decreased peak power.

The authors concluded: “When compared to a high carbohydrate diet, there are mixed findings for the effect of the keto diet on endurance performance…The limited number of published studies point to a need for more research in this field.” I would add that we need larger, better designed studies, with common measures of exercise performance.

What Does This Mean For You?

confusionYou may be wondering why I even bothered to talk about such poor-quality studies and a review that could not provide a definitive answer. In fact, that is exactly my point.

This is characteristic of the kind of “evidence” that Dr. Strangelove and his buddies present to support whatever food myth they are featuring on their website. They don’t know how to distinguish good studies from bad studies, and they “cherry pick” only the studies that support their food myth.

So, if you believe that the keto diet is best for endurance exercise, you can “cherry pick” the one published clinical study that supports your belief. You just need to ignore the other 6 published studies.

And, if you believe that a high carbohydrate diet is better for endurance exercise than the keto diet, you can “cherry pick” two clinical studies that support your belief. You just need to ignore the other 5 published clinical studies.

None of the studies are high-quality studies, and the effect of either diet on endurance exercise in these studies is miniscule.

In short, there is no convincing evidence that the keto diet is best for endurance exercise. Or, put another way, we do not have enough evidence to elevate that belief from a food myth to a recommendation we can confidently make for an endurance athlete.

The Bottom Line

A recent publication conducted an impartial review of the evidence for and against the popular belief that a keto diet is the best diet for endurance exercise. The review found only 7 poor-quality studies on this topic in the scientific literature, and the results of those studies were all over the map.

  • One study reported the keto diet was better than a high carbohydrate diet for endurance exercise.
  • Two studies reported that the high carbohydrate diet was better.
  • The other 4 studies were inconclusive.
  • None of the studies found a significant effect on endurance performance by either diet.

So, if you believe that the keto diet is best for endurance exercise, you can “cherry pick” the one published clinical study that supports your belief. You just need to ignore the other 6 published studies.

And, if you believe that a high carbohydrate diet is better for endurance exercise than the keto diet, you can “cherry pick” two clinical studies that support your belief. You just need to ignore the other 5 published clinical studies.

In short, there is no convincing evidence that the keto diet is best for endurance exercise. Or, put another way, we do not have enough evidence to elevate that belief from a food myth to a recommendation we can confidently make for an endurance athlete.

For more details, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Recovering From A Torn Meniscus

Regain Full Flexibility And Get Back To The Sports You Love

Author: Julie Donnelly, LMT –The Pain Relief Expert

Editor: Dr. Steve Chaney

Happy WomanI love Florida, but I must say I really miss the changing of the leaves like I enjoyed when I lived in New York.  October was magical!  The trees painting a picture of red, gold, maroon, yellow, and green, and the smells that are so familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the north.

Fires burning to heat chilly homes, apple cider, baking pies and cookies because we could get back into the kitchen as the weather cooled down.  And of course, Halloween.

The world has changed so much.  Remember how we could go out in costume with our friends, no adults needed, and go from door to door, shouting “Trick or Treat!”  We’d come home with a pillowcase (or plastic pumpkin) filled with candy.  Such sweet memories..

What Is A Torn Meniscus?

Knee JointOne of my clients asked me to talk about a medial meniscus tear, and that is a topic that is “near and dear to me” because I had a severed medial meniscus from a ski accident.

The meniscus is something that many people aren’t familiar with, unless they have had a meniscus tear, then you definitely know all about it.  It hurts!

All of the major joints are complicated with many ligaments and other structures, each having an important function.

The knee joint is straightforward.

The lateral (outside of knee joint) and medial (inside of knee joint) meniscus cushion the femur (thigh) bone and tibia (shin bone) so your knee can bend and straighten without wearing down the bone.

Ligaments that surround the knee joint hold the bones together and form a tight, secure joint.

How Does A Meniscus Tear?

MeniscusTrauma to the knee joint, especially a twisting movement, will tear the meniscus.

In 1995 I had a ski accident where I severed the medial meniscus, but I didn’t have insurance at the time. I paid the $1000 for an MRI to find out why my knee was in so much pain, and why my knee felt like it was going to totally separate.

It turned out that I not only severed my left medial meniscus, I also tore my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), The ACL holds your bones together from front to back. When this tore, I felt like whenever stepped down my upper leg still kept going forward.  It was a scary feeling, I felt like my leg was going to come apart at my knee. Yikes!

Recovering From A Torn Meniscus

I need to remind you that I am not a doctor, nor do I have medical training to advise you about what to do.  This message isn’t meant to replace your physician’s advice.

When I found myself with a severed medial meniscus and a torn ACL, and I didn’t have medical insurance, I didn’t know what to do!  Fortunately, I was working along with Zev Cohen, MD.  My therapy practice was in Dr Cohen’s office, and he would often ask me to see one of his patients who were in pain when he knew it wasn’t caused by any systemic or visceral problems.  I totally respected Dr. Cohen because he truly wanted his patients to get better, even if it meant he was going to bring in a massage therapist!

As a result, when Dr. Cohen told me that my meniscus would heal with scar tissue, I believed him. And it worked!  The only glitch was the scar tissue made my knee stiff, so I started to do a movement that I believed would stretch the scar tissue enough so I could bend my knee properly. And that worked too!

Regain Full Flexibility And Get Back To The Sports You Love

A Stretch for AFTER Your Meniscus Heals 

Caution: Do Not do this stretch until your knee is completely healed. 

Stretch For Stiff KneeStand with your feet directly under your hips. Hold on to a closed door, being sure you’re on the side of the door that pushes out so you are pulling it shut as you do the stretch.

While keeping your knees straight up from your ankle, squat down, stopping when you start to feel pain in your knee.  Stay there, and then go just a little bit further.  Don’t push, it’s better to go slowly so your muscles stretch safely.  Scar tissue is really dense, it doesn’t stretch easily (if at all) so you need to slowly allow the scar tissue to loosen.

I can’t guarantee that this will work for you but let me tell you what happened to me.  I was doing this stretch multiple times a day, stopping when it would be too painful – or when I just ran out of time. Then one day – success!

One day I was squatting down and suddenly something released and I ended up sitting on the floor with my knees totally bent!

Since then I’ve been able to get back to skiing, and I have ZERO pain!

Wishing you well,

Julie Donnelly 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Does Vitamin D Prevent Depression?

Why You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

depressionThe days are getting shorter and Seasonal Depression, often called the “winter blues”, will soon be upon us. Most of the research on Seasonal Depression has centered on the effect of sunlight on our hormones.

However, sunlight is also responsible for the synthesis of vitamin D in our skin cells. So, some experts have hypothesized that low levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, the active form of vitamin D, in our blood also play a role in the winter blues.

If so, that could have important implications for managing depression, especially in older adults. Depression is estimated to affect around 6.5 million of the 49 million adults over the age of 65 in our country. Treatment costs for older adults in this country are estimated at $9 billion/year.

If something as simple and inexpensive as a vitamin D supplement could reduce the risk of depression, it would be a huge boon to our health care system.

Association studies suggest that may be a possibility. For example, one recent meta-analysis of 6 clinical studies (H Li et al, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 27: P1192-1202, 2019) reported that every 10 ng/mL increase in 25-hydroxyvitamin D was associated with a 12% decrease in the risk of depression in older adults.

However, association studies do not prove cause and effect.

Unfortunately, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials have given mixed results. A few studies suggested that vitamin D might reduce depression risk, but most of the studies found no effect of vitamin D on depression risk. However, most of the published studies have been poorly designed They were too small, too short, or did not use validated methods for measuring depression.

This was the genesis of the current study (OI Okerke et al., JAMA, 324: 471-480, 2020). It was designed to be a definitive study that would avoid the defects of previous studies.

The study concluded that vitamin D supplementation does not decrease the risk of depression in older adults, and those were the headlines you have probably seen. But is that conclusion true? Let’s take a peek behind the curtain and analyze the study.

How Was The Study Done?

Clinical StudyThis study was an offshoot of the VITAL (VITamin D and OmegaA-3 TriaL) clinical study, so let me start by describing the characteristics of that study.

The VITAL study (JE Manson et al, New England Journal of Medicine, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1811403) enrolled 25,871 healthy adults (average age = 67) in the United States. The study participants were 50% female, 50% male, and 20% African American. None of the participants had preexisting cancer or heart disease.

Study participants were given questionnaires on enrollment to assess clinical and lifestyle factors including dietary intake. Blood samples were taken from about 65% of the participants to determine 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels (a measure of vitamin D status) at baseline and at the end of the first year to assess the effectiveness of vitamin D supplementation. The participants were given either 2,000 IU of vitamin D/day or a placebo and followed for an average of 5.3 years.

This study consisted of 18,353 participants from the VITAL study. Ninety percent of the participants had no previous history of depression. Ten percent had previously been diagnosed or treated for depression but had been depression-free for over 2 years.

The participants filled out annual questionnaires to quantify the onset of depression by three criteria:

  • A diagnosis of depression by a physician.
  • Treatment for depression (medications, counseling, or both).
  • A questionnaire designed to evaluate symptoms of depression. The authors of the study referred to this as an assessment of their mood.

During the 5.3 year follow up period 3.6% of the participants reported the onset of diagnosed depression or a mood consistent with depression. This is consistent with previous studies showing that 1-5% of healthy, non-institutionalized older adults suffer from depression.

Does Vitamin D Prevent Depression?

thumbs down symbolThe results of the study were clear.

Treatment with 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 compared to placebo for 5.3 years did not have a statistically significant effect on:

  • The incidence or recurrence of depression diagnosis, or…
  • Treatment for depression, or…
  • Clinically relevant depressive symptoms.

The authors concluded, “These findings do not support the use of vitamin D3 in adults to prevent depression.”

Why You Can’t Believe Everything You Read

It would be tempting to say, “Case closed. We now know for certain that vitamin D has no effect on depression.”

After all, this was an excellent study. It was large (18,353 participants), lasted a long time (5.3 years), and used well established measures of depression. What’s not to like?

Peek Behind The CurtainUnfortunately, even well-designed studies can give misleading results. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain and see where this study went astray.

There were two glaring deficiencies in this study.

#1: Most of the participants had adequate vitamin D status at the beginning of the study. The average 25-hydroxyvitamin D level of participants at the beginning of the study was 31 ng/mL (78 nmol/L). The NIH considers 20-50 ng/mL (50-125 nmol/L) to be an adequate level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for most physiological functions. This means that study participants started in the middle of the adequate range with respect to vitamin D status.

This was not a failure of study design. In fact, the authors of the study are to be commended for measuring the vitamin D status of participants at the beginning of the study. Many previous studies have neglected to do that.

The problem is that vitamin D has become extremely popular. Many Americans are already taking multivitamins or vitamin D supplements. To recruit enough people for the study the authors were forced to allow participants to enter the study even if they were taking vitamin D supplements, as long as the amount did not exceed 800 IU/day.

In short, most of the participants in this study were already supplementing with up to 800 IU/day of vitamin D. If so, they were allowed to continue taking their vitamin D supplements. The 2,000 IU of vitamin D was added to what they were already taking.

The question then becomes, if people are already taking RDA levels of supplemental vitamin D and their blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are already in the adequate range, do we really expect additional supplemental vitamin D to have a beneficial effect?

The author’s answer to that question was, “The mean baseline 25-hydroxyvitamin D level was 30.8 ng/mL; this value is already at a threshold for extraskeletal health benefits [health benefits other than bone health], and so the ability to observe effects of vitamin D3 supplementation may have been attenuated. [To determine whether vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of depression] large-scale studies would be required to address the effects of high-dose, long-term vitamin D3 supplementation among those with nutrient deficiency.”

My more direct answer would be, “This study provides no useful information on whether vitamin D3 supplementation reduces the risk of depression. What is needed are studies that start with a population that is deficient in vitamin D.”

An accurate conclusion from this study would have been, “If you are already taking vitamin D supplements and/or have an adequate vitamin D status, supplementation with an extra 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 provides no additional benefit with respect to the risk of developing depression.” But that is not what the headlines said.

#2: The study did not record the reason for the onset of depression. That is important because the top 3 causes of depression in adults 65 and older are:

  • Loss of a spouse or partner.
  • Chronic health issues.
  • Restricted blood flow to the brain.

It is unlikely that vitamin D supplementation would have much of an effect on these issues.

In contrast, seasonal depression, which is more likely to be affected by vitamin D supplementation, was not measured in this study.

The Bottom Line

You may have seen recent headlines saying that vitamin D supplementation has no effect on the risk of developing depression.

The study behind these headlines was a very well-designed study. It was large (18,353 participants), lasted a long time (5.3 years), and used well established measures of depression.

It would be tempting to say, “Case closed. We now know for certain that vitamin D supplementation has no effect on depression.”

Unfortunately, even well-designed studies can give misleading results. This one had a major flaw that made the data almost useless.

The problem is that most Americans are already taking multivitamins or vitamin D supplements. To recruit enough people for the study the authors were forced to allow participants to enter the study even if they were taking vitamin D supplements, as long as the amount did not exceed 800 IU/day.

That meant that most participants already had adequate blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D at the beginning of the study.

The question then becomes, if people are already taking RDA levels of supplemental vitamin D and their blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D are already in the adequate range, do we really expect additional supplemental vitamin D to have a beneficial effect? The answer is, “Probably not”.

Rather than saying that this study definitively shows that vitamin D supplementation has no effect on the risk of developing depression, I feel it would be more accurate to say, “This study provides no useful information on whether vitamin D3 supplementation reduces the risk of depression. What is needed are studies that start with a population that is deficient in vitamin D.”

An accurate conclusion from this study would have been, “If you are already taking vitamin D supplements and/or have an adequate vitamin D status, supplementation with an extra 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 provides no additional benefit with respect to the risk of developing depression.” But that is not what the headlines said.

For more details, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Do Processed Foods Increase Your Risk Of Diabetes?

Why Do We Keep Eating Processed Foods?

Fast Food DangersUnless you are Rip Van Winkle and have been asleep for the past 20 years you probably know that the highly processed foods in the typical American diet are bad for your health. But perhaps you didn’t realize just how bad they were.

But first, let’s start with a bit of perspective. Scientists like to be precise. Even healthy foods go through some processing.

  • The oatmeal you ate this morning was either steel-cut or ground. That is processing.
  • The almond butter you put on your whole grain toast this morning was made by roasting and grinding. That is processing.

So, scientists have developed the term “ultra-processed food” to describe the worst of the worse. In short, ultra-processed foods:

  • Usually go through several physical and chemical processes, such as extruding, molding, prefrying, and hydrogenation that can lead to the formation of toxic contaminants. One example you may have heard about recently would be acrylamide in French fries.
  • Typically contain ingredients of no or little nutritive value, such as refined sugar, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, thickening agents, and artificial colors. Some of these ingredients have been linked to cancer, heart disease, and premature death.
  • Have long shelf-lives because of added preservatives. This allows migration of chemicals such as bisphenol A from the packaging materials into the food.

Examples of ultra-processed foods include:

  • Sodas
  • Chips
  • Candy and packages of cookies or crackers
  • Most breakfast cereals
  • Boxed cake, cookie, and pancake mix
  • Chicken nuggets and fish sticks
  • Fast food burgers
  • Hot dogs and other processed meats
  • Infant formula
  • Instant noodles
  • Most store-bought ice cream
  • Flavored yogurt

In short, ultra-processed foods include sodas and the junk and convenience foods Americans hold so dear. Even things like infant formula and flavored yogurt make the list.

Evidence of the ill effects of ultra-processed foods on our health is becoming overwhelming. In previous issues of “Health Tips From the Professor” I have shared recent studies that have shown that heavy consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to increased risk of obesity and cancer. Other studies have linked ultra-processed food consumption with increased risk of depression, heart disease, and premature death.

In this issue of “Health Tips From the Professor” I:

  • Ask the important question, “If we know these foods are so bad for us, why do we still keep eating them?”

How Was The Study Done?

Clinical StudyThe data from this study were taken from an ongoing study in France (the NutriNet-Sante study) looking at associations between nutrition and health. This study began enrolling French adults 18 and older in 2009.

This is a web-based study. Participants are prompted to go to a dedicated website and fill out questionnaires related to things like sex, age, height, weight, smoking status, physical activity, health status, and diet.

With respect to diet, participants filled out a series of 3 nonconsecutive 24-hour dietary records at the time of enrollment and every 6 months. This is a particularly strong feature of this study. Many studies of this type only analyze participant’s diets at the beginning of the study. Those studies have no way of knowing how the participant’s diets may have changed during the study.

Diagnosis of type 2 diabetes for study participants was obtained from the French centralized health records.

The study enrolled 104,708 participants, 20% men and 80% women, and followed them for an average of 6 years. The average age of the participants was 43 years.

Do Processed Foods Increase Your Risk Of Diabetes?

High Blood SugarIn this study the range of ultra-processed foods in the French diet ranged from 7% to 27% (average = 17%). High intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with:

  • Younger participants. Simply put, young people were more likely to drink sodas and eat junk food than older adults.
  • Increased caloric intake. Ultra-processed foods have a higher caloric density than whole, unprocessed foods.
  • No surprise here. Previous studies have shown that ultra-processed food consumption increases the risk of obesity.
  • Poorer diet quality. Again, no surprise. Junk foods tend to crowd healthier foods out of the dirt. Specifically, ultra-processed food consumption was associated with:
    • Higher intake of sugar and salt.
    • Lower intake of fiber.
    • Higher intake of sugary drinks, red and processed meats.
    • Lower intake of whole grains, yogurt, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

However, even after statistically correcting for all these factors, there was a significant association between ultra-processed food consumption and the onset of type 2 diabetes in the 6-year follow-up period.

  • There was a linear relation between ultra-processed food consumption and the development of type 2 diabetes. Simply put, the more ultra-processed food the participants consumed the more likely they were to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • There was a 15% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes for every 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption.

The authors concluded:

“In this large observational prospective study, a higher proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Even though these results need to be confirmed in other populations and settings, they provide evidence to support efforts by public health authorities to recommend limiting ultra-processed food consumption.”

What Does This Study Mean For You?

Questioning WomanYou might be tempted to say that a 15% increase in the risk of developing diabetes is a small price to pay for continuing to eat the foods you enjoy. However, you should be alarmed by this study. Here is why.

The French diet is much healthier than the American. Remember that ultra-processed foods only comprised 17% of the French Diet. In contrast, a recent survey found that:

  • Ultra-processed foods make up 58% of the average American’s diet.
  • Ultra-processed foods account for 90% of the added sugar in our diet.

It is no wonder that obesity and diabetes are reaching epidemic proportions in our country.

You might also be tempted to think that you can just take some medications and live with type 2 diabetes. However, you should think of type 2 diabetes as a gateway disease. It increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney damage, and neuropathy, just to name a few. These are diseases that make your life miserable and ultimately kill you.

More importantly, type 2 diabetes is completely reversible if you catch it early enough. Just lose some weight, exercise more, give up the ultra-processed foods, and eat a healthy diet. I recommend a whole food, primarily plant-based diet.

Why Do We Keep Eating Processed Foods?

Fast FoodsWe all know that ultra-processed foods are bad for us. Study after study show that they make us sick. They kill us prematurely. And, unlike most topics in the field of nutrition, this is not controversial.

For example, there have been lots of bizarre diets that have come and gone over the years. There have been books written on “The Steak Lover’s Diet” and “The Drinking Man’s Diet”. But nobody has written a book on “The Junk Food Lover’s Diet”. It simply would not be believable.

So why do we Americans keep eating such unhealthy foods. Part of the answer is physiological. A preference for sweet, salty, and fatty foods is hardwired into our brain. That’s because they had great survival value in prehistoric times.

If we think back to the time when we were hunters and gatherers:

  • Fruits are healthy foods. They are a great source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber, but there were no orchards or grocery stores back then. We had to search for fruits in the wild. Our desire for sweet tasting foods provided the motivation to seek them out.
  • Game was seasonal and sometimes scarce. We had to be prepared to go for days or weeks without eating except for the leaves and roots we could gather. Our bodies are designed to store fat as the primary energy source to get us through the lean times. Our preference for fatty foods encouraged us to store as much fat as possible in times of plenty so we would be prepared for times of scarcity.
  • If we fast forward to our early recorded history, salt was scarce. It was worth its weight in gold. Yet some salt is essential for life. Our preference for salty foods encouraged us to search out supplies of salt.

Unfortunately, the food industry has weaponized these food preferences to create the ultra-processed foods we know today. Their ads entice us by associating these foods with youth and good times. And ultra-processed foods have become ubiquitous. There are fast food restaurants on almost every street corner and shopping mall in the country.

Fortunately, we do not have to let the food industry destroy our health. We can retrain our taste buds to appreciate the sweetness of fresh fruits and vegetables. We can substitute healthy fats for the kinds of fat found in most ultra-processed foods. We can also retrain our taste buds to appreciate herbs and spices with just a pinch of salt.

The Bottom Line

Ultra-processed foods, such as sodas, junk foods, and convenience foods have become the biggest food group in the American diet. A recent study found:

  • Ultra-processed foods make up 58% of the average American’s diet.
  • Ultra-processed foods account for 90% of the added sugar in our diet.

That is scary because ultra-processed foods are deadly. Previous studies have shown that consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study discussed this week looked at the association between ultra-processed food consumption and type 2 diabetes. It showed:

  • There was a linear relation between ultra-processed food consumption and the development of type 2 diabetes. Simply put, the more ultra-processed food the participants consumed the more likely they were to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
  • There was a 15% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes for every 10% increase in ultra-processed food consumption.

You might be tempted to think that you can just take some medications and live with type 2 diabetes. However, you should think of type 2 diabetes as a gateway disease. It increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney damage, and neuropathy, just to name a few. This are diseases that make your life miserable and ultimately kill you.

More importantly, type 2 diabetes is completely reversible if you catch it early enough. Just lose some weight, exercise more, give up the ultra-processed foods, and eat a healthy diet. I recommend a whole food, primarily plant-based diet.

For more details and a discussion of why Americans continue to eat ultra-processed food even though we know it is bad for us, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The Truth About Vitamin D And Respiratory Diseases

How Should You Prepare For This Winter?

deadSome health experts are making dire predictions for this fall when COVID-19 overlaps with our annual flu season. People are worried.

When people are worried, hucksters smell a quick buck and start coming out of the woodworks. They are touting all sorts of miracle pills and potions that will keep us safe this winter. The FDA is doing its best to shut them down, but it’s like the “Whack A Mole” game you may remember from the county fair. As soon as the FDA shuts one down, another pops up.

In the meantime, you are left trying to sort through the claims. I could write a whole book on the truth (and lies) about the claims you are seeing on the internet. But this week I will focus on vitamin D. I will give you unbiased answers to three questions.

1) What is the truth about vitamin D and respiratory disease?

2) Will vitamin D help protect you against COVID-19?

3) How should you prepare for this winter?

I am basing today’s “Health Tip” on a recently published study (H Brenner et al, Nutrients 2020, 12, 2488) looking at the effect of vitamin D status on deaths from respiratory disease in older German adults.

How Was The Study Done?

Clinical StudyThe data from this study were taken from an ongoing study in Germany looking at the effect of diet and lifestyle on health outcomes in older adults. In this case, 9548 adults, ages 50-75, from the region of Saarland in Germany were enrolled in the study between 2000 and 2002 and followed for an average of 15 years.

Blood samples were drawn at the time of enrollment and 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels were determined as a measure of vitamin D status. Deaths and cause of deaths over the 15 year period were obtain from German health records.

The basic characteristics of the study population were:

  • The gender breakdown was 43.8% men, 52.6% female.
  • The average age was 62.1 years.
  • Almost all participants were Caucasians of German or French descent.
  • 8% were vitamin D insufficient (25-hydroxyvitamin D of 30-<50 nmol/L)
  • 1% were vitamin D deficient (25-hydroxyvitamin D of <30 nmol/L)

Note: Almost 60% of this study group had an inadequate vitamin D status. The comparable figures for the US population are 42% with inadequate vitamin D status (34% vitamin D insufficient and 8% vitamin D deficient).

The reasons for this are likely two-fold:

  • Saarland is at the latitude of Newfoundland, Canada, so sun exposure is less than for most Americans.
  • Germans are less likely to consume supplements than Americans.

However, the fact that 60% of this study group has inadequate vitamin D status makes it a particularly good group to look at the effect of vitamin D status on health outcomes.

The Truth About Vitamin D And Respiratory Diseases

the truth signThis study found:

  • Vitamin D insufficiency (25-hydroxyvitamin D of 30-<50 nmol/L) increased the risk of dying from respiratory disease by 1.9-fold for men and 2.1-fold for women.
  • Vitamin D deficiency (25-hydroxyvitamin D of <30 nmol/L) increased the risk of dying from respiratory disease by 2.3-fold for men and 3.0-fold for women.

The authors pointed out that this was consistent with a recent meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials showing that supplementation with RDA levels of vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infections by 70% in people who were vitamin D deficient.

The authors concluded:

“Vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are common and account for a large proportion of respiratory disease mortality in older adults…Our results, along with evidence from meta-analyses from RCTs [Randomized Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials] regarding results of vitamin D3 supplementation on various outcomes, suggest that vitamin D3 supplementation could contribute to lowering mortality from respiratory and other diseases during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women.”

How Should You Prepare For This Winter?

Winter WindNow it is time to answer the three questions I posed at the beginning of this article:

1) What is the truth about vitamin D and respiratory disease?

There have been many studies suggesting that inadequate vitamin D status increases the risk of “catching” respiratory diseases such as the seasonal flu. Some of those studies showed that supplementation with vitamin D3 reduced the risk of catching respiratory diseases. However, most of those were small studies.

This study and the meta-analysis the authors referred to were much larger, better designed studies. Other large, well designed studies are needed. But, taken together, these two studies strongly support the hypothesis that inadequate vitamin D status significantly increases the risk of developing and dying from respiratory diseases.

However, we do need to put this into perspective.

  • Supplementation with vitamin D primarily protects individuals with inadequate vitamin D status. It doesn’t appear to offer significant benefit for individuals with adequate vitamin D status (>50 nmol/L 25-hydroxyvitamin D).
  • Supplementation with vitamin D at doses of 2,000 IU or less appears to be sufficient for most people. There is little evidence that megadoses are beneficial unless you are severely vitamin D deficient (more about that below).

2) Will vitamin D help protect you against COVID-19?

vitamin dThe answer to this question is less clear. As we learn more about COVID-19 we have learned that it is much more than just a respiratory disease. On the other hand, cellular studies suggest that vitamin D may interfere with the mechanism by which COVID-19 attacks cells.

What do clinical studies say? We are just learning. Four small clinical trials and one large study have recently been published or posted online as preprints prior to being accepted for publication.

  • The second study (HW Kaufman et al, PLOS One, September 17, 2020) used data from a major national testing center (Quest Diagnostics) and linked COVID-19 test results with 25-hydroxyvitamin D test results for 191,779 patients. This study reported that vitamin D deficiency was associated with a 30% increased risk of testing positive for COVID-19.
  • The third study found that vitamin D deficiency was associated with hospital admissions for COVID-19.
  • The fourth study found that vitamin D deficiency was associated ICU admissions for COVID-19.

Taken together these 5 studies suggest that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of being infected by COVID-19 and on the severity of the disease if you are infected.

I should point out that these studies are preliminary. Normally we would say that they need to be confirmed by larger studies before becoming incorporated into the standard of care for COVID-19.

You might be saying to yourself, , “Why is the medical community paying so much attention to preliminary studies?” The answer is simple:

  • The need is urgent. We need all the tools at our disposal to fight this deadly disease, and we need them now.
  • Vitamin D3 supplementation at 2,000 IU or less is inexpensive and safe. Plus, even if further studies find that our vitamin D status has no effect on COVID-19 risk, we know that adequate vitamin D has many other potential health benefits.

To summarize:

  • Preliminary studies suggest that adequate vitamin D status may offer some protection for COVID-19. These studies are not definitive. No reputable scientist is ready to tell you that vitamin D will ward off COVID-19. However, supplementation with 2000 IU/day or less of vitamin D3 is safe and may have multiple health benefits.
  • Vitamin D should not be considered a “magic bullet”. It is just one aspect of a holistic approach to creating a healthy body that is less susceptible to respiratory diseases like COVID-19.

3) How Should You Prepare For This Winter?

Winter WindAs we approach the winter months, the days are getting shorter and sun exposure is decreasing. This is the time of year when your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels will be at their lowest.

At the same time, we are likely to see a convergence of the seasonal flu, flu-like illnesses, and COVID-19 this winter. You will need a healthy body, a healthy immune system, and adequate vitamin D status more than ever.

When asked about vitamin D and COVID-19 in a recent interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, “If you’re deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. I would not mind recommending, and I do it myself, taking vitamin D supplements.”

I recommend supplementation with vitamin D3 to make sure your vitamin D status is adequate. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU for adults and 800 IU for seniors over the age of 70. However, because the efficiency with which we convert vitamin D3 to 25-hydroxyvitamin D varies from person to person, many experts recommend supplementing with 1,500-2,000 IU of vitamin D3.

I also recommend that you ask your health provider for a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. If you are in the vitamin D deficient range, your health provider may recommend more than 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D3.

Finally, we should not rely on vitamin D alone. As I discussed in a previous issue of “Health Tips From The Professor”, I recommend a holistic approach for strengthening our immune systems, and I recommend the CDC guidelines for reducing the risk of catching both the flu and COVID-19.

I would note that social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing are just as effective at reducing the risk of getting the flu as they are for getting COVID-19. In fact, some Asian countries practice mask wearing in public every flu season.

The Bottom Line

  • A recent study found that inadequate vitamin D status caused a 2-3-fold increased risk of dying from respiratory illnesses for seniors (ages 50-74).
  • A previous meta-analysis reported that supplementation with RDA levels of vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory tract infections by 70% in people who were vitamin D deficient.
  • Taken together, these two studies strongly support the hypothesis that inadequate vitamin D status significantly increases the risk of developing and dying from respiratory diseases.
  • Preliminary studies suggest that adequate vitamin D status may offer some protection for COVID-19. These studies are not definitive. No reputable scientist is ready to tell you that vitamin D will ward off COVID-19. However, supplementation with 2000 IU/day or less of vitamin D3 is safe and may have multiple health benefits.
  • Vitamin D should not be considered a “magic bullet”. It just one aspect of a holistic approach to creating a healthy body that is less susceptible to respiratory diseases like COVID-19.

So, how should we prepare for this winter?

  • As we approach the winter months, the days are getting shorter and sun exposure is decreasing. This is the time of year when your 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels will be at their lowest.
  • At the same time, we are likely to see a convergence of the seasonal flu, flu-like illnesses, and COVID-19 this winter. You will need a healthy body, a healthy immune system, and adequate vitamin D status more than ever.
  • I recommend supplementation with vitamin D3 to make sure your vitamin D status is adequate. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU for adults and 800 IU for seniors over the age of 70. However, because the efficiency with which we convert vitamin D3 to 25-hydroxyvitamin D varies from person to person, many experts recommend supplementing with 1,500-2,000 IU of vitamin D3.
  • Finally, we should not rely on vitamin D alone. As I discussed in a previous issue of “Health Tips From The Professor”, I recommend a holistic approach for strengthening our immune systems, and I recommend the CDC guidelines for reducing the risk of catching both the flu and COVID-19.

I would note that social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing are just as effective at reducing the risk of getting the flu as they are for getting COVID-19. In fact, some Asian countries practice mask wearing in public every flu season.

For more details, read the article above.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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