Millions of Americans take vitamin D. Most should just stop.

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By Julia Belluz,

Americans love a quick health fix in pill form: something to protect against illness, with minimal effort. For years, one of the go-to supplements has been vitamin D, thought to do everything from preventing cancer to strengthening bones.

Some bad news: Yet another big meta-study adds to the pile of evidence that it’s useless for most people.

The new research, published in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, looked at 81 randomized trials on whether vitamin D prevents fractures and falls, and improves bone mineral density in adults.

The findings of the review were unequivocal. “There is little justification for the use of vitamin D supplements to maintain or improve musculoskeletal health,” the authors wrote, except in rare cases when patients are at high risk of or being treated for rickets and osteomalacia.

“Something like 40 percent of older adults in the US take vitamin D supplements because they think it’s going to prevent against fractures and falls or cancer,” said Alison Avenell, the clinical chair of health services research at the University of Aberdeen and an author on the Lancet study, “and we’re saying the supplements for fractures and falls aren’t going to do that.”

This new research builds on previous meta-studies and the large-scale randomized trials that have shown the fat-soluble hormone doesn’t prevent fractures and may not have a role in preventing cancer, but can increase the risk of kidney stones when taken along with calcium.

Of course, there are some cases when supplementation can be helpful: During pregnancy, for example, or for people who have been diagnosed with health conditions that may lead to vitamin deficiencies, like liver disease or multiple sclerosis. People who don’t get into the sun at all, like the homebound or institutionalized, may also be prescribed a supplement.

But for a health boost in people with no symptoms of deficiency, the tablet shows so little utility that doctors are even questioning why we bother measuring vitamin D levels in people who aren’t at risk of deficiency. Most of us actually get enough vitamin D without even trying.

So why all the hype about vitamin D?

The hype about the vitamin during the past two decades started with early vitamin D science. Before researchers run randomized controlled trials, they often look for links between health outcomes and exposures in large-scale population research called observational studies. And early observational research on the benefits of vitamin D uncovered associations between higher levels of vitamin D intake and a range of health benefits.

But the studies could only tell about correlations between vitamin D exposure and disease outcomes, not whether one caused the other. Still, they were enough to fuel media hype. Dr. Oz called the supplement “the number one thing you need more of.” And the vitamin D industry helped create a craze by paying prominent doctors to expound on the benefits of testing and supplementation for everyone.

But more recent randomized trials — that introduce vitamin D to one group and compare that group with a control group — have shown little or unclear benefit for both vitamin D testing and supplementation in the general population. And reviews that take these trials together to come to more fully supported conclusions, like the new Lancet paper, are similarly lackluster.

In 2010, the Institute of Medicine (now known as the National Academy of Medicine) brought together an expert committee to review the evidence on the vitamin and figure out whether there was a widespread deficiency problem in North America. According to the 14-member panel, 97.5 percent of the population got an adequate amount of vitamin D from diet and the sun. (Vitamin D occurs naturally in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. It’s also found in fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, and cereal.)

“You are at risk of D deficiency only if you have no sun exposure, live above 55 degrees latitude, and do not eat vitamin D-fortified foods or fluids [like milk],” said Chris Gallagher, a professor of Medicine at Creighton University, who wrote a comment about the new Lancetpaper. “About 80 to 90 percent of vitamin D comes from sunlight, and even 15 minutes in the midday will boost vitamin D levels to a good level.”

Still, testing and supplementation have exploded in the US. Between 2000 and 2010, the amount Medicare spent on vitamin D testing rose 83-fold, making the test Medicare’s fifth most popular after cholesterol. All that screening also led to an explosion in vitamin D supplement use, and millions of Americans now pop daily vitamin D pills.

When I asked Avenell what she thinks about the fact that so many people are diagnosed with deficiencies, she said, “It can’t be the case that just about the entire population is deficient in Vitamin D. It’s such an important nutrient, the body must have ways of making sure it doesn’t get short.”


Fool’s Gold: What Fish Oil is Doing to our Health and the Planet

I have teaching my Nutrition clients for 20 years to NOT TAKE FISH OILS, or any other oil in supplement form. Fats and oils that are not in their original packaging (nuts, fish, avocado, seeds, etc.) are rancid.  They are rancid as soon as they are exposed to oxygen. They are oxidized, and that renders them carcinogenic.

There is no reason to ever take oils as supplements, it is easy to come by these nutrients by eating seafood, avocadoes, butter, etc. Ingesting fish oils do not protect you from heart disease. A balanced diet that meets your nutrient needs does that. Along with exercise.

Is the evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill?

Omega-3 is one of our favourite supplements – but a huge new study has found it has little or no benefit for heart health or strokes. How did it become a $30bn business?

Is the evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill? Composite: Getty

The omega-3 industry is in a twist. Again. Last week, Cochrane, an organisation that compiles and evaluates medical research for the general public, released a meta-analysis – a study of studies – to determine whether or not omega-3 pills, one of the world’s most popular dietary supplements, reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. After comparing 79 trials involving 112,059 people, the researchers could find “little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities”.

I can’t say that I was particularly surprised. Over the past 15 years, more than 20 studies have shown a similar lack of effect. But what does surprise me is how we continue to look at the world of fish and seafood through the amber lens of a fish oil capsule. Omega-3s do something in our bodies – and probably something important. But without the larger context of the marine organisms that contain them, omega-3s get lost in the noise of human metabolism and modern marketing.

The confusion arises in part from the historical baggage of fish oil and the $30bn (£23bn) industry associated with omega-3 extraction. Once upon a time, fish oil solved a major human health problem. But it had nothing to do with coronary heart disease. During the Industrial Revolution, a disease became increasingly prevalent throughout northern Europe: rickets. Malnourished children in sunlight-poor urban slums often ended up bowlegged by adolescence. Researchers eventually pieced the puzzle together and concluded that the disease was caused by a deficiency in vitamin D, which the body naturally generates in the presence of sunlight. And, as it turned out, vitamin D is stored in high amounts within the liver of codfish.

A Norwegian pharmacist named Peter Möller seized upon this finding (and many other anecdotal stories about the curative properties of cod-liver oil). Using a patented chemical process, he arrived at a product that, he announced to the world, “didn’t taste fishy”. Möller and his advertising team then launched a campaign to institutionalise the regular use of cod-liver oil, regardless of whether you were at risk of rickets or not. The campaign was a success: a spoonful a day became common practice. Möller built his company into an international presence and died in 1869 with 70 cod-liver oil steam factories to his name, churning out 5,000 barrels of the stuff a year. By the time omega-3s started to be a focus of medical research, there was already a rosy feeling around fish oil.

In the early 1970s, the chemist Hans Olaf Bang read in a Danish journal that there were extremely low incidences of cardiovascular disease in Inuit communities of Greenland. He and his assistant, Jørn Dyerberg, travelled to Uummannaq on the north-west coast of Greenland to investigate. At the time of the expedition, Bang didn’t quite know what he wanted to test for. They probed and palpated 130 local people, measured height and weight, and came home with a lot of blood.

“We had these 130 precious samples of blood,” Dyerberg told me in his lab in Copenhagen recently. They estimated that in 20 years, the traditional Inuit diet would have changed to the western diet, and Dyerberg remembers Bang saying: “‘There will never be anyone who can do this again, so let’s do whatever we can!’ And we decided to do fatty acid analysis.”

The result of their analysis was a hypothesis that is an exemplary “association study”. In an association study, multiple factors are logged and a hypothesis of correlation is drawn from the findings. In the case of the Bang and Dyerberg Inuit study, they found that: 1) Inuit people in Greenland had a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and blood lipid levels of omega-3s much higher than their western contemporaries. 2) Inuit people also had, according to public health records, markedly lower rates of coronary heart disease. They hypothesised that therefore 3) omega-3s might reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

This was backed up by further laboratory studies that did show, in vitro, that omega-3s were involved in anti-inflammatory reactions. But – and this is a big but – while correlations abound for omega-3s and heart disease, the real trouble has always been in showing causation. That is where this latest round of studies comes in.

The Cochrane study and the others that preceded it have one thing in common: they are meta-analyses of “randomised control trials” (RCTs). That is, trials where patients are given a supplement at random and tracked over time against another set of patients given a placebo. Most statisticians consider these trials to be the very top of the evidence pyramid. But it is these studies that have at times proven troublesome for Omega World. Each time RCTs come to light that show little or no effect, Omega World tends to blend its counterargument with evidence from association studies because, as a recent industry reply to the Cochrane report put it, “it’s all connected”.

When it then turns to the RCTs, the industry, as would be expected, looks for different explanations as to why positive health outcomes weren’t reported. In the burst of RCTs preceding Cochrane, the Omega World line was that these most recent trials did not show benefits because things such as statins, stents and other forms of cardiovascular intervention masked the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil pills; earlier RCTs had shown a fairly significant effect, but none of those treatments existed at the time of those trials.

The industry also, and I believe rightly, pointed out that studies often failed to look at omega-3 blood lipid levels before and after supplementation. In other words, it’s not really a fair trial if you don’t know where the patients started with respect to the omega-3 levels in their blood. If we only measure effect without looking at omega-3 levels in the blood at the outset, aren’t we doing the dietary equivalent of testing how far a car can drive without checking how much petrol is in the tank at the start?

With Cochrane, the latest industry argument is that the study’s authors cut out a number of different forms of cardiac ailments, thus skewing the stats. In particular, it notes that Cochrane failed to include “sudden cardiac death” and “sudden cardiac mortality” in its list of outcomes. Since nearly half of all patients first report heart disease to their doctors by suddenly dropping dead, this is not an insignificant exclusion.

But the fact that the industry’s arguments shift with each new, damning meta-analysis gives you pause. What is going on? Is there an international conspiracy to discredit omega-3s? Or does Omega World keep moving the goalposts? When I posed this question to Ellen Schutt, the executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, probably the world’s most prominent omega-3 advocacy organisation, she made it seem as if the problem didn’t even exist. “As a matter of fact, we track media sentiment … and have found many more positive omega-3 stories than negative, in general. Of course, the negative stories are the ones that catch people’s attention. As we both know, negative stories are much more interesting and the media is definitely guilty of sensationalist ‘clickbait’ headlines such as: ‘Omega-3s don’t work.’”

As sympathetic as I am to the trials of Omega World, as studies continue to poke holes in aspects of the omega-3 cardiovascular argument, I can’t help thinking there is something else going on. Because, while the fish oil supplement business is a big deal, it is also a sheen on the surface of a much deeper pond. Long before omega-3 supplements became popular, an industry arose that used the same omega-3-rich creatures not for medicine, but for an odd array of agricultural and industrial purposes.

Ultimately, it was this so-called “reduction industry” that created the oily-fish extraction system that now consumes millions of tonnes of marine wildlife every year. Today, one in every four kilograms of fish caught is reduced into oil and meal and used for agriculture, land animal husbandry and, most recently, fish farming, AKA aquaculture.

The reduction industry has appeared in different forms under different ownership over centuries of human history. In the 18th century, it targeted whales, reducing northern hemisphere cetacean populations into isolated pockets of endangered species in order to make lamp oil and lubricants. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it shifted to the southern hemisphere, reducing 390,000 of the 400,000 great whales that once roamed the Southern Ocean to margarine, nitroglycerine and other “marine ingredients”.

In the latter half of the 20th century, it shifted again and targeted small, oily fish such as anchovies, sardines and herring. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the largest reduction operation in human history arose off the coast of Peru in pursuit of the Peruvian anchoveta. The Peruvian anchoveta is by far the largest single species catch by tonnage in the world, some years comprising as much as 10% of all fish caught. And although Peruvian anchoveta are as delicious as any anchovy on Earth, an industry-influenced Peruvian law dictates that more than 95% of the catch must go to the reduction industry.

Each decade brings a different use for all those anchovies. In the 1940s, they were used for fertiliser. In the 50s and 60s, chicken feed. In the 70s, pet food and pig feed. In the 80s and 90s, aquafeed for salmon and other carnivorous fish. And now, the most elite product of the reduction industry: dietary supplements.

And it is not just Peruvian anchoveta that are reduced into fish meal and oil. All told, the reduction industry removes from the ocean 20m-25m tonnes annually – the equivalent of the combined weight of the population of the United States. The omega-3 industry argues that some vendors are turning to much more sustainable options, such as algae-based omega-3s and fish oil reclaimed from recycled byproducts.

Nevertheless, the reduction industry marches on into new territory. Most recently, it has begun targeting Antarctic krill, the keystone prey species of the entire Antarctic ecosystem. Two years ago, when I asked the then chief executive of the largest krill extractor in the world why it had launched a $200m fishing operation in the Southern Ocean to take food out of the mouths of whales, he noted that krill oil is a “phospholipid” and making it much more “bioavailable” means that consumers can take a much smaller pill. Why was this important? Consumers who chose krill oil over fish oil would be much less likely to suffer the horrors of a fishy burp.

Amid all the conflicting reports, there is one bit of data that shines out: fish and seafood can bring considerable health and environmental benefits. Fish, in addition to providing us with omega-3s, delivers protein with far fewer calories than meat: 100g of salmon contains 139 calories and 23g of protein. By comparison, 100g of beef contains 210 calories and 20g of protein.

Harvesting wild fish from well-managed stocks requires a fraction of the carbon as farming terrestrial livestock. Similarly, fish farming puts a lesser burden on the Earth in terms of carbon and freshwater use than pretty much any form of terrestrial animal husbandry. We could make the farming of fish even more carbon- and resource-efficient if we used alternative ingredients for fish food based on algae and food waste. And if you consider growing “filter feeders” such as mussels, clams and oysters, the benefits are even more extreme. These bivalves don’t have to be fed anything, and make water cleaner even as they grow fatter. They provide protein 30 times more efficiently than cattle.

Is the epidemiological evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill? Again, we are stuck with the problem of correlation versus causation. It is very difficult to feed someone a fish in such a manner that they don’t know they are eating a fish. Hence an RCT of seafood-eating hasn’t really ever been done. Most of the studies around seafood are association studies. And, while one such study associated eating fish twice a week with a possible reduction in mortality of 55,000 lives a year, we don’t know what a fish-eater does with the rest of their life beyond eating fish.

But what we do know is this: the omega-3 industry and the reduction industry that bred it removes fish from the water in a way that doesn’t put protein on our plates – it just puts pills in our cupboards. Is this the way we want to continue to do business with the planet?

Paul Greenberg is the author of The Omega Principle: Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet (Penguin Press).


Eating Processed Meats Has Been Linked to Serious Psychiatric Problems

Oh, great. Bacongate 2.0.

Bacon

MIKE MCRAE

19 JUL 2018

Nitrate-cured meats – things like beef jerky or bacon – have been linked to extensive periods of hyperactivity, insomnia, and attention loss in people experiencing manic episodes.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University on patients receiving care for manic symptoms found they were over three times more likely to have ever eaten processed meat products than patients being treated for other psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia.

“We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out,” says the study’s lead author Robert Yolken.

“It wasn’t just that people with mania have an abnormal diet.”

The exact mechanism behind the link isn’t yet clear, but a follow-up experiment on rats fed jerky with their plain old rat chow resulted in increased movement and altered signalling in their hippocampus.

Changes were also noted in the rats’ gut microflora, hinting at a possible stepping stone between the nitrates in the meat and effects on their nervous system.

Taken all together, the results provide a strong suggestion that a diet rich in many varieties of ham, jerky or salami just might play a role in the development of mania-related conditions in at least some people.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterised by dramatic swings in mood and energy levels, including mania. Episodes can last weeks, or even months, and can coincide with depression and psychosis.

The condition affects as many as one in 25 people at some time in their life, significantly impacting productivity and taking a serious toll on personal and community wellbeing.

Surprisingly little is known about the condition’s causes. There are strong hints of a genetic predisposition, though as with most neurological conditions there’s a lot more going on than a wonky gene or two.

Environmental factors that affect early development, from infections to maternal smoking, have been explored as possible explanations. Stress, head injuries, and preterm births are also considered potential risk factors.

Diet is yet another area attracting significant attention, with studies suggesting a westernised diet and higher glycemic loads might contribute to the development of symptoms.

For this study, the researchers used medical records to categorise more than 700 volunteer patients as having either mania, bipolar depression, a major depressive disorder, or schizophrenia.

They gave each patient a survey that asked questions such as, “Have you ever eaten locally procured dry cured meat”? and “Have you ever eaten undercooked fish such as rare tuna?”

Those in the mania category had an unusually high number of patients who’d consumed processed meats.

“Future work on this association could lead to dietary interventions to help reduce the risk of manic episodes in those who have bipolar disorder or who are otherwise vulnerable to mania,” says Yolken.

The addition of nitrogen compounds in the form of sodium nitrite or potassium nitrate has been used to preserve meats for centuries, preventing decay, adding colour and reducing oxidation.

Nitrogen compounds in meat products have been linked with cancer in the past (never forget the great Bacongate of 2015 when the World Health Organization changed the carcinogen classification of processed meats).

But in this case it’s the nitrogen compounds’ influence on bacteria in our gut that could end up being the culprit. And this isn’t the first time nitrates in processed meats have been found to affect our health via our personal microbes.

Variations in microflora were deemed responsible for an overzealous digestion of nitrates in the diets of people who experienced migraines, causing their blood vessels to dilate more than usual and cause intense pain.

Our brains and the bacteria in our guts have a complicated relationship, one we’re still learning more about as we find connections between our bugs and our emotional state, the development of Parkinson’s disease, and even risk of strokes.  

So, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if further research confirms manic symptoms in bipolar can be exacerbated or even caused by certain microflora reacting to nitrates in our meats.

None of this means you need to ditch the jerky entirely. But to those who experience manic episodes, this might be useful information to perhaps help make their issues a little less severe.

This research was published in Molecular Psychiatry.


Omega-3s from Fish More Effective in Cancer Prevention- NOT Supplements!

I have never advised my clients to take any oil based supplements as they are very rancid by the time they are processed.  Which renders them carcinogenic. And they lack enzymes that you get when eating whole food. 

Image result for supplements

 

Toronto, Jan 27 (IANS) When it comes to cancer prevention, Omega-3 fatty acids from fish pack a stronger punch than flaxseed and other oils, new research has found.Marine-based omega-3s are eight times more effective at inhibiting tumor development and growth than plant-based sources, said the study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. “This study is the first to compare the cancer-fighting potency of plant-versus marine-derived Omega-3s on breast tumor development,” said David Ma, Professor at University of Guelph in Ontario.”There is evidence that both Omega-3s from plants and marine sources are protective against cancer and we wanted to determine which form is more effective,” Ma said.

There are three types of Omega-3 fatty acids: a-linoleic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ALA is plant-based and found in such edible seeds as flaxseed and in oils, such as soy, canola and hemp oil. EPA and DHA are found in marine life, such as fish, algae and phytoplankton.The study involved feeding the different types of Omega-3s to mice with a highly aggressive form of human breast cancer called HER-2. Ma exposed the mice to either the plant-based or the marine-based Omega-3s.”The mice were exposed to the different omega-3s even before tumors developed, which allowed us to compare how effective the fatty acids are at prevention,” said Ma. Overall exposure to marine-based omega-3s reduced the size of the tumors by 60 to 70 per cent and the number of tumours by 30 per cent.However, higher doses of the plant-based fatty acid were required to deliver the same impact as the marine-based Omega-3s, the study said.Omega-3s prevent and fight cancer by turning on genes associated with the immune system and blocking tumor growth pathways, said Ma.Based on the doses given in the study, humans should consume two to three servings of fish a week to have the same effect, he said.–IANSgb/vm


What Is Ghee and Why Is It a Staple of Indian Health Care?

The next time you fry an egg, use ghee—the cooking butter of choice, thanks to it’s low smoke point. Unsplash/Caroline Attwood

Much like coconut oil and bone broth, ghee is a multi-hyphenate: think cooking BFF, snack o’dreams (Kourtney Kardashian reportedly eats it by the spoonful), and skin transformer. This centuries-old Ayurvedic staple is also a digestive powerhouse. “Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion,” Natural Food Chef Danielle Shine told Observer. Which is all to say, that ghee is a “good” fat. And when fats are good, they are absorbed quickly in the body, making them a potent source of energy.

But how’s it made? Isn’t it just butter?

Ghee is cow’s milk butter transformed into a fat source by removing its water and milk proteins through a process of boiling, skimming and straining. Apart from being cited as a digestive cure-all, it’s also been touted as a salve for a plethora of emotional ailments. In the Ayurvedic community, ghee’s golden hues are considered as balancing to the body. In fact, the Susruta Samhita, a Sanskrit text on medicine and surgery, claims ghee is the remedy of remedies for problems stemming from the pitta dosha, namely chronic-disease inducing inflammation.

Famed LA-based Ayurveda practitioner Martha Soffer, the woman who converted Kardashian, told Observer that “ghee helps cultivate ojas, the subtlest essence of life, the connection between the physical and spiritual in our own bodies, and really, in Ayurveda, our own ultimate source of health and well-being.”

Fourth & Heart founder Raquel Tavares Gunsagar who’s dived into the making of artisanal gourmet flavored ghee—like white truffle salt, California garlic, and Madagascar vanilla bean—is at the forefront of the U.S ghee explosion. ”Ghee is an ancient butter gone modern. It’s like the, ‘where have you been all my life?’ of not only Indian healthcare but truly all of our healthcare. In fact, I’d say ghee is now being reinvented here in the U.S.,” she told Observer.

From a cooking standpoint, its low smoke point is significant. Scientists have long warned against the dangers of cooking with vegetable oils that release toxic cancer-causing chemicals. In numerous studies including a 2010 one on the Elevated Levels of Volatile Organic Carcinogen and Toxicant Biomarkers in Chinese Women Who Regularly Cook at Home, it was found that when an oil exceeded its smoke point, the number of toxic fumes increased significantly.

“This is crucial to remember when choosing a cooking aid,” Shine told Observer, “and ghee’s makes it a much safer choice when sautéing or frying foods.” Think of ghee then, as a superfood that not only has nutritional benefits, but also preventative ones. “Ghee is well on it’s way to becoming the cooking butter of choice,” says Tavares Gunsagar, “as not only is it an easy to use, versatile ingredient that’s shelf stable, it’s also dairy free which is perfect for those who are lactose intolerant.”

What’s more, ghee makes a case as a potent salve for massages, aches, and sprains according to the 5,000-year-old wellness tradition that is Ayurveda. Try using ghee to massage the feet to improve circulation, memory and emotional wellbeing. “Its high concentration of vitamins A, E, as well as carotenoids—antioxidants that boost the immune system and help to neutralize free radicals,  will help skin heal too,” says Shine.

The takeaway? Get experimenting! Stir its unctuousness into winter’s beautiful vegetable bounty, press it with buttery fingers into mashed avocado, or use a spoonful in your bulletproof coffee instead of coconut oil. And if you’re feeling daring, get au fait with Indian cuisine and see how it compliments the country’s most revered dish, dal.

Kayla Jacobs is a British New York City-based freelance writer who has previously written for Vogue, Tatler, Glamour, Refinery29, Conde Nast Traveller, The New York Times, Mindbodygreen, VF Agenda and Live The Process, among others. Follow her olfactory obsessed adventures on Instagram @kaylasthread.


Before You Take Ibuprofen, Try This

Image result for ibuprofen

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen are widely used to treat pain and don’t require a prescription. But recent studies suggest that when taken regularly, these medicines can have serious side effects. They’ve been linked to kidney, bone, hearing and cardiovascular problems—including, most recently, an increased risk of heart attack.

For healthy people with occasional aches, there’s nothing wrong with taking an Advil or an Aleve to relieve discomfort, says Dr. Jyotsna Nagda, a pain specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. But “long-term use of anti-inflammatories is not a good idea,” she says, especially when alternatives are available.

Plus, says Alban Latremoliere, a pain physiologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, NSAIDs don’t always work well—which could prompt people to take higher and higher doses when they should be turning to other treatments. “Instead of looking for a pill that works for every type of pain, we need to be thinking about combination approaches that treat the underlying problems,” he says.

If you’re concerned about the level of pain medicine you’re taking, here are a few things you might try instead.

Unlike ibuprofen, over-the-counter acetaminophen has not been linked to heart problems. Nagda recommends it to some of her patients—especially elderly ones—who aren’t good candidates for anti-inflammatory medicines.

Still, the drug is not without its own risks. “We recommend it on an as-needed basis, rather than an around-the-clock regimen,” says Nagda. “People should still be careful about the doses, and if they need it somewhat regularly, they should talk to their primary care physician about having their liver function tested.”

Aspirin is another option. While it is an NSAID, studies of regular aspirin use suggest a protective cardiovascular effect, rather than increased risks. (It can, however, cause stomach bleeding and ulcers.) “If someone has regular pain and they’re planning on doing something more strenuous than normal, I might tell them to take an extra-strength aspirin beforehand,” says Nagda.

Omega-3 fatty acids

For arthritis and related conditions, studies show that omega-3 fatty acids—found in fish, fish oil supplements, nuts and seeds—may help reduce pain and inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation recommends taking fish oil capsules with at least 30% omega-3s.

Latremoliere says that following a diet rich in fish, fruits, vegetables and whole grains may also ease pain throughout the body, although it won’t likely take the place of pain medicines entirely. “If you make a habit of avoiding foods that promote inflammation and eating foods that help reduce it, it can definitely be helpful,” he says.

Turmeric

Despite a recent review that called into question the benefits of curcumin—the active compound in turmeric—Nagda says that people seeking pain relief may still want to try adding the yellow spice to their diet.

“It has anti-inflammatory properties, and there are some small studies that show benefits for patients with rheumatoid and other forms of arthritis,” she says. It’s safe in quantities used in cooking and flavoring food, so as long as you don’t mind the taste, there’s little downside.

Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese medicine technique may help reduce pain associated with back pain, neck pain, arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia pain after surgery, according to research. Not everyone who tries acupuncture improves, says Nagda, but “when you look at risks and benefits compared to other methods like NSAIDs, acupuncture comes out on top with minimal risks.”

While acupuncture’s cost can be prohibitive for many pain sufferers, it is increasingly covered by health insurance—at least in part—as its benefits become clearer. Massage is another approach that’s been shown to to relieve chronic lower back pain.

Exercise and mindful movement

Regular exercise is a good way to ward off chronic pain and to reduce symptoms if it does develop. But certain types of movement may be more beneficial than others.

Tai chi has been shown to benefit people with fibromyalgia, for example, and yoga may help with back pain and arthritis. “Even if these techniques don’t necessarily decrease pain, they may help people cope with it better,” says Nagda.

Nagda also recommends swimming to many of her pain patients, as a way to stay active and flexible without stressing their joints. And for injuries, she stresses the value of using heat and ice and seeing a physical therapist, rather than masking pain with a pill.

Meditation

In one 2016 study, people who practiced seated meditation for 20 minutes a day had less reaction to a painful stimulus than those who sat and read a book. The research didn’t include people with chronic pain, but the authors say meditation could have potential as an alternative to painkillers like opioid drugs. Other research has shown that mindfulness can reduce a person’s experience of physical pain (and emotional pain, too).

“If you meditate, you’re helping your brain relax and get into a state where some of its regions can be slowed down,” says Latremoliere. “That might help reduce focus on pain or attention to stimuli, so it makes sense that it might help people feel better.”

More sleep (or coffee, in a pinch)

Latremoliere’s own research in mice, published recently in Nature Medicine, has shown that chronic sleep deprivation can enhance pain sensitivity—and that a dose of caffeine can temporarily reverse those effects. Studies in humans have also suggested that staying awake for long periods of time can lower people’s thresholds for pain, and that the equivalent of a few cups of coffee before a workout can reduce perceived muscle pain.

“Our research suggests that if you have chronic pain and you’re not sleeping enough, your pain is probably greater because of that,” says Latremoliere. People should be wary of relying on caffeine to get by, however. “Coffee in the morning might help reduce pain and get you through the day,” he says, “but if you have it too late in the day it could make your sleep, and your pain, even worse.”


High Fructose Corn Syrup Has Been Quietly, Deceitfully Renamed

High fructose corn syrup is a killer. Since humans started consuming it, obesity rates have more than tripled and diabetes incidence has increased more than seven fold since. Even when used in moderation it is a major cause of heart disease, obesity, cancer, dementia, liver failure, tooth decay, and more.

So what does the FDA do about this silent killer? It allows food producers to change the name of the infamous sweeter in order to trick consumers into thinking they are not eating high fructose corn syrup.

That’s right, high fructose corn syrup now goes by a new, deceitful name – “Natural Sweetener” – designed to trick customers into making ill-informed choices that will impact on their health.

Consumers are finally catching on to the fact that what we put in our mouths effects our waistline as well as our health. Since consumers have become much smarter and finally waking up to these realities, they are demanding healthier food choices. Every food company is smearing 100% natural on every box of anything regardless of whats inside the box.

Now we have to know the new sneaky name to know whether or not we are consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup or not. Obviously the best way to avoid this mess is to buy from companies you really trust.

Big food companies are hiding ingredients they know we really don’t want to consume in their products. This time it’s the presence of a new version of high fructose corn syrup. But this is not the innocuous fructose that has sweetened the fruits humans have eaten since time began. This is a questionable ingredient with many names that could be causing all sorts of health problems.

The product is General Mills’ Vanilla Chex, an updated version of the Chex cereal sold in most conventional grocery and discount stores for many years. The front of the box clearly states that the product contains “no high fructose corn syrup” (HFCS), but turn it over to read the ingredient list and there it is – the new isolated fructose.

Why is that a problem? According to the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), there’s been a sneaky name change. The term ‘fructose’ is now being used to denote a product that was previously known as HFCS-90, meaning it is 90 percent pure fructose. Compare this to what is termed ‘regular’ HFCS, which contains either 42 or 55 percent fructose, and you will know why General Mills is so eager to keep you in the dark.

CRA explains:

A third product, HFCS-90, is sometimes used in natural and ‘light’ foods, where very little is needed to provide sweetness. Syrups with 90% fructose will not state high fructose corn syrup on the label [anymore], they will state ‘fructose’ or ‘fructose syrup’.”

And the way that they get away with this is fairly simple:

Simply eliminating the high fructose corn syrup designation for the laboratory sweetener that’s nine-tenths fructose and calling it what it really is: fructose. And that’s how a processed-food product like Vanilla Chex that contains “fructose”, a substance that, according to the corn refiners, used to be called HFCS-90, can now declare itself to be high fructose corn syrup-free.