Smoking Leads to More than Just Lung Cancer

We are well aware that cigarette smoking has a direct link to lung cancer.  Did you know that the latest Surgeon General's report identified 21 other diseases that have a causal relationship to cigarettes?

The list included 12 types of cancer, 6 categories of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and some pneumonias.  But a new report put  out by the American Heart Association, the National Cancer Institute and several major medical centers that pooled data on millions of subjects of both sexes and age 55 years and older found other concerns for smokers. In this study,  mortality was followed from 2000 to 2011.

There were 181,377 deaths overall---19% in smokers and 14% in non smokers. The study reconfirmed the increase morality due to smoking in the conditions listed above. However, 17% of the smokers with increased mortality helped identify new conditions impacted by smoking:   renal failure, intestinal ischemia, hypertensive heart disease, infections, various respiratory conditions, breast cancer and prostate cancer---conditions not part of the earlier "21".

While the study provides a more complete lists of conditions increased due to smoking, it also reinforces the fact that the rate of death from almost any cause was two to three time higher in current smokers when compared to non smokers.  While more study is needed to rule our other behaviours and determine how smoking effects treatment, the study demonstrates how important it is to reduce smoking espeically in young people.   Smoking also impacts one's  quality of life and will often cause mortality due to chronic conditions a decade earlier in smokers.  It sure makes sense to put those cigarettes away.

 

Fats in Nutrition: Know the Facts!

We need a certain amount of fat in our diets to stay healthy. Fats provide needed energy in the form of calories. Fats help our bodies absorb important vitamins—called fat-soluble vitamins—including vitamins A, D and E. Fats also make foods more flavorful and help us feel full. Fats are especially important for infants and toddlers, because dietary fat contributes to proper growth and development.

“Fats are really the most concentrated source of energy in the foods we eat, and our bodies need that energy,” says NIH nutritionist Dr. Margaret McDowell. “Fats are truly an essential nutrient.” Problems arise, though, if we eat too much fat. Dietary fats have more than twice as many calories per gram as either proteins or carbohydrates like sugar and starch. Excess calories, of course, can pack on the pounds and raise your risk for diabetes, cancer and other conditions. “Some fats are better for our bodies than others,” McDowell says. “We should really aim to eat the right types of fats.”

Unsaturated fats are considered “good” fats. They’re sometimes listed as “monounsaturated” and “polyunsaturated” fat on Nutrition Facts labels. These can promote health if eaten in the right amounts. They are generally liquid at room temperature, and are known as oils. You’ll find healthful unsaturated fats in fish, nuts and most vegetable oils, including canola, corn, olive and safflower oils.

The so-called “bad” fats are saturated fats and trans fats. They tend to be solid at room temperature. Solid fats include butter, meat fats, stick margarine, shortening, and coconut and palm oils. They’re often found in chocolates, baked goods, and deep-fried and processed foods.

“When we eat too many solid fats, we put our bodies at risk. These fats tend to raise total blood cholesterol, as well as the part of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (bad cholesterol),” says McDowell.  LDL can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries and cardiovascular problems.

Experts say that the total fat intake for adults ages 19 and older should be 20% to 35% of the calories eaten each day. For children ages 4 to 18, it should be 25% to 35%.  Less that 10% of our fat calories should come from saturated fatty acids.

Other NIH-funded research found that, when it comes to weight loss, the source of calories—whether from fat, protein or carbohydrate—isn’t as important as the number of calories you consume. But when it comes to risk factors for heart disease, replacing some carbohydrates with protein or unsaturated fats can greatly improve blood cholesterol. In a specialized diet designed to lower blood pressure, using unsaturated fats in place of some carbohydrates boosted blood levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and caused a more healthful drop in blood pressure.

 

Source:  National Institutes of Health

 

Women's Health Research Institute Celebrates Policy Decision

This past Tuesday, the Women's Health Research Institute welcomed U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky in the celebration of the recently announced National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Food and Drug Administration policies to include women in basic science and clinical studies. The event attracted over 200 guests and WHRI Director Teresa Woodruff, PhD shared the floor with Congresswoman Schakowsky and Jay Walsh, PhD, Vice President for Research at Northwestern University. 

Since the launch of the Women's Health Research Institute in 2007, its members have advocated for policy that addresses the need to examine sex as a research variable from bench to clinical science. Walsh stated, "I look forward to watching, over the rest of my career, the results that will come out because of this new notice from the NIH, that would not have come out if there hadn't been such leadership that exists in women's health." Woodruff and her team of Leadership Council members (comprised of researchers and clinicians across the Feinberg School of Medicine) celebrated these new policy rollouts as a major victory for women's health--health that extends beyond pregnancy, breast cancer, and menopause.

Read more about the event on Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine news page.

Protect Your Child by Getting the HPV Vaccine

Protect your daughter from cervical cancer by getting her the HPV vaccine. It takes 3 shots to complete the series, so make sure she gets them all to be protected. It's easy to get very busy with school, activities, work, and all of the juggling that parents of preteens and teens do every day. However, for the sake of your daughter's health, it's important to take the time to get her the life-saving HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer. Every year in the United States about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 4,000 die. If we protect girls now, we could reduce disease and cancer due to HPV.

About 20 million people, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV, the type of virus that causes cervical cancer. That's why it's important to protect preteen and teen girls early through vaccination. The HPV vaccine is safe and effective and is given in a series of 3 shots over about a six-month period. The second shot is given 1 or 2 months after the first, and the third shot is given 6 months after the first shot. It is very important to complete all of the shots to be fully protected. 35 million doses of HPV vaccine have been safely given to girls across the country. If your daughter is age 11 years or older, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) recommend you vaccinate now to protect her against cervical cancer. If your daughter is older than 11 or 12 and has not started these shots, it's not too late.

The HPV vaccine is not just for young girls! Young men are encouraged to get vaccinated as well, so see your doctor today!

Gluten Free Diets: Do they help you lose weight?

Over the past several years, gluten free diets have been all the rage. Is it true that gluten free diets can help you lose weight or is this just a fad? Gluten is a protein present in foods including wheat, rye, oats, and barley, but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, and even lip balms. There's absolutely nothing wrong with eating gluten unless you have celiac disease, or gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE), an autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. If you are sensitive to gluten, the body produces an abnormal immune response to it, attacking the lining of small intestine where digestion takes place. This leads to the symptoms of celiac disease:

• abdominal bloating and pain
• chronic diarrhea
• vomiting
• constipation
• pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
• weight loss

About 1% of the population has GSE. But there may be another 9% or so who have what is called gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. These people may have similar symptoms to those with GSE but do not show the same damage to the bowel as those with GSE. The only treatment for celiac disease is a lifelong, gluten-free diet. But can it cause you to lose weight? The answer is complicated. Studies have shown that patients with GSE who were underweight gained  weight on a gluten-free diet. Those with GSE and obesity tended to lose weight after starting a gluten-free diet. What about people who don't have GSE? Celebrities have touted a gluten-free diet as a way to lose weight, and proponents hype it as a healthier way to eat. They claim it improves sleep, increases energy, and clears skin. But Dee Sandquist, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, who also happens to have celiac disease, says, "There is nothing magical about eliminating gluten that will improve your health or enhance weight loss unless you are intolerant to gluten."

The academy points out that "Research on individuals with celiac disease reports that long-term compliance with a gluten-free dietary pattern improves outcomes related to bone density, iron deficiency anemia, villous atrophy, gastrointestinal and neurological symptoms, pregnancy outcomes and quality of life." One problem is the fact that many people with GSE don't even know that they have the disease, and those with gluten intolerance are less likely to be diagnosed.  Researchers conclude that there is no scientific evidence supporting the alleged benefit that a gluten-free diet will promote weight loss and  that adherence to the gluten-free dietary pattern may actually result in a diet that is low in carbohydrates, fiber, and important vitamins.

Many confuse a gluten-free diet with a low-carb diet (which can promote weight loss). A gluten-free diet eliminates foods such as bread and pasta, it doesn't eliminate other high-carb foods such as rice, beans and corn. The popularity of gluten-free diets has lead to an explosion of gluten-free food availability and a financially growing industry. This is great if you need to be on the diet. However, people need to be aware that these are not low-calorie foods! Some prepared foods have additional fat and sugar added and mixed into substitute flours such as white rice flour or potato starch to make them more palatable. A gluten-free diet is not a panacea for weight loss. It is, however, an important diet for those who suffer from GSE or intolerance.