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America’s Potassium Problem

By Matt Brignall
September 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition

America’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is truly a masterpiece of nutritional science.

Once a decade, NHANES publishes a comprehensive guide to what Americans eat, broken down by age, gender, race, and geographical location. This data helps guide public policy and research agendas over the upcoming decade.

The newest NHANES data, gathered from 2003 to 2006, are just starting to seep out into the research world, and if you are an advocate for food-as-medicine, the results aren’t pretty. …read more of America’s Potassium Problem here

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Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk?

By Matt Brignall
August 9, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Nutrition

Do you think you are making a healthy choice by preparing your child’s lunch ahead of time, and sending it with them to school? Think again, according to a study published this week in the journal Pediatrics.

It turns out that over 90% of the lunches tested reached temperatures that would potentially foster the growth of bacteria responsible for food-borne illness. And since the temperatures were measured an hour and a half before lunch, foods were potentially sitting at these temperatures for a long time.

Do you think that cold pack you included in the lunch will prevent this issue? Wrong again. …read more of Poor Food Safety Practices: Do They Put School Children At Risk? here

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If They Won’t Believe the Scientists, Maybe They’ll Believe the Actresses

By Matt Brignall
August 1, 2011
File under: Childrens Health, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention

Actress Amanda Peet is in the news this week promoting the Every Child By Two vaccination campaign. In this news article, she talks about a scary experience she had last year when her daughter contracted pertussis (whooping cough), a serious disease that has been making a comeback as vaccination rates drop.

This is not the first time Ms. Peet has been in the news for her pro-vaccine statements. In 2008, she stirred up a hornets nest of anti-vaccine sentiment when she referred to parents who don’t vaccinate their children as “parasites.” Ironic, then, that two years later her daughter (who was too young to have completed the vaccine schedule) contracted the condition that is the center of the firestorm.

My intention here is not to rehash the evidence in favor of vaccinations. It has been done more thoroughly and snarkily than I could manage to do it on such a tight deadline. Rather, my concern is about what has happened to our trust for science in this country. …read more of If They Won’t Believe the Scientists, Maybe They’ll Believe the Actresses here

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A New Life For an Old Idea

By Matt Brignall
July 5, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Alternatives, Natural Health, Nutrition, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized


In the same way that a broken watch is right twice a day, every once in a while the nutrition beliefs of the natural health community and the academic community line up in unexpected ways. This is the case with the reanimated recommendation of Meatless Monday.

The concept of a Meatless Monday as a means of conserving scarce resources is nearly 100 years old. It was developed in response to food shortages during World War I, and was revived during World War II. But once peacetime rolled around, the programs were placed in the same mothballs as the Send Over Smokes program and the Liberty Bond.

In 2003, as part of the Healthy Monday series of campaigns, the guy responsible for the advertising catch-phrase “don’t squeeze the Charmin” revived the Meatless Monday program. …read more of A New Life For an Old Idea here

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Learning More About Niacin

By Matt Brignall
June 7, 2011
File under: Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Medical Care, Supplements


A major clinical trial that added niacin to statin treatment for people with a history of heart disease was closed early due to lack of clinical benefit, according to a news release from the American Heart Association. These results are being interpreted as a disappointment in some early media reports.

The trial was based on a belief that simultaneously lowering bad LDL cholesterol (with a statin class medication) and increasing good HDL cholesterol (with niacin) would be superior to simply increasing LDL alone. This combination treatment has been associated with promising outcomes in previous studies, including one published just over a year ago in the New England Journal of Medicine. …read more of Learning More About Niacin here

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Dietary Sodium – A New Controversy About an Old Intervention

By Matt Brignall
June 3, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition


Salt restricted diets have been a mainstay of treatment for high blood pressure therapy for over 100 years. A study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association challenges this view, purporting to link higher salt intakes with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

In this new study, the authors collected the urine of about 3600 European adults over a single day period, and analyzed the content of sodium. This group was then followed over a period of about six years, and statistics were kept on cardiovascular events (like heart attack and stroke) and blood pressure.

There were a number of controversial findings in this study, …read more of Dietary Sodium – A New Controversy About an Old Intervention here

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E-Cigarettes – Friend or Foe?

By Matt Brignall
May 9, 2011
File under: Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Uncategorized


This week, the local board of health in my community has been deliberating on whether to impose a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes (or E-cigarettes, for short) in public places. Several areas throughout the country already have similar bans in place.

Our local debate comes just a week after the US Food and Drug Administration chose to regulate E-cigarettes as cigarettes rather than as medical devices. If they had chosen to regulate them as medical devices, the E-cigarette industry would almost certainly have gone away almost overnight.

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that vaporize a nicotine solution, allowing the user to inhale the vapor in a way that closely resembles smoking a cigarette. The difference, though, is because no smoke is being created, a number of the most toxic constituents of cigarettes (e.g., tar, carbon monoxide) are no longer being inhaled or released into the room. …read more of E-Cigarettes – Friend or Foe? here

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Does Anyone With Adequate Vitamin D Have A Heart Attack?

By Joseph Katzinger
April 21, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition, Supplements


Well, the short answer is yes. However, a study released online from the American Journal of Cardiology suggests that it is a lot less likely than previously thought. In a sub-study of what is known as the TRIUMPH study (Translational Research Investigating Underlying Disparities in Acute Myocardial Infarction Patients’ Health Status), the 25-OH vitamin D levels were checked in 239 patients (about 3/4 men) who had just had a heart attack.

They analyzed a diverse set of patients, enrolled in 20 different centers around the United States. They reported an astoundingly high prevalence of suboptimal vitamin D: 96% total…. 75% had levels so low they were considered deficient (25-OH Vitamin D of 20ng/mL or less), while 21% had insufficient vitamin D (25-OH vitamin D of 21-29ng/mL). Thus, only 4% of patients having a heart attack had what is generally considered adequate vitamin D levels.

A few things that are worth noting. The big one is that this study does not show causation. It does not show that having low levels of vitamin D causes a heart attack, or even that having optimal levels is protective against one. To show either of these relationships requires a different kind of study. …read more of Does Anyone With Adequate Vitamin D Have A Heart Attack? here

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How Does Meditation Work?

By Matt Brignall
April 15, 2011
File under: Illness Prevention, Natural Health


Two new studies have helped to fill in gaps in our understanding of how meditation affects key neurological functions. Taken together, these studies appear to support a broader use of simple, relaxation based exercises.

The first of these two studies looked at the effect of a meditation exercise on pain perception in young and healthy adults. In a series of four 20 minute training sessions, these volunteers were trained in a technique called mindfulness meditation. This technique uses a focus on the act of breathing to induce a relaxation state.

Both before and after this training session, the study participants were tested for their ability to withstand treatment with a heat probe while simultaneously undergoing an MRI exam (I hope the subjects were well paid for this). Through use of the meditation technique, the participants were able to reduce their experience of pain intensity by 40%. …read more of How Does Meditation Work? here

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Sleep, Stress, and Weight Loss

By Joseph Katzinger
April 4, 2011
File under: Diet, Health Concerns, Illness Prevention, Natural Health, Nutrition


Losing weight can be quite a difficult challenge, with many obstacles to overcome. While certainly food choices and physical activity are major components of losing weight maintaining a healthy size, a new article was released this week published in the International Journal of Obesity which points to a couple of other factors which might also be relevant.

As a bit of background, 1 in 3 Americans are now obese, an important risk factor for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, some cancers, and an increased risk for total mortality.

The prevalence of obesity (defined as a body mass index (BMI) over 30) doubled between 1986 and the year 2000, while the prevalence of severe (BMI >40) and super (BMI > 50) obesity have increased 4 and 5 times! Childhood overweight/obesity has also increased 3-fold, and some estimates predict that 86% of US adults will be overweight or obese by the year 2030.

So what does the new research add to help counter this problem? …read more of Sleep, Stress, and Weight Loss here

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