Monthly Archives: April 2013

Are Vitamins Really Safe?

Vitamin companies play it up. They tell you that you need their product, whether for weight loss or general health, and most of the time, it’s a crock. There is something to be said about different body types. Nobody is going to react quite the same way, even to the exact same things. However, that does not mean that you should give them all a try. There are studies, especially when it comes to things like weight loss, and there are plenty of weight loss ingredients, both natural and prescription, that are hardly healthy or effective. Here are a few things you might not know about vitamin companies though.

  1. Choices, Choices, Choices – Vitamin companies obviously sell a lot of products. What you might not know is that part of the idea is to overwhelm you with choices. They want to make you think you need everything in separate supplements. There are already 54,000 diet supplements and over 1000 brands. According to the FDA, a dietary supplement is an ingestible product containing a dietary ingredient. Talk about vague. Frankly, the research can be overwhelming, and not all information available online is actually dependable or honest. There are some companies who, while these supplements are not FDA approved, claim to be approved by the USP (United States Pharmacopeia). This sounds nice, and the USP does have certain standards. However, they have no way to regulate companies practices. They lay out rules, but they do not officially endorse any company as they do not actually tour their factories, do regular checkups, etc.
  2. No FDA Approval – Personally, I’m conflicted about this one. On one hand, there are a lot of “natural supplements” that are not regulated by the FDA, and some have been proven dangerous. Some have even hidden prescriptions in their “natural” formulas. However, being FDA approved does not guarantee safety. Alli is technically FDA approved, and yet it has been associated with liver damage, severe diarrhea, vitamin deficiencies, and ironically virtually no weight loss. There’s a reason why they’ve had to change their claims so many time. Likewise, prescriptions like Phentermine as well as antidepressants like Zoloft can have serious side effects even including death. So either way, realistically, you’re not getting any guarantees. The fact is that some of the studies that “prove” that certain prescriptions work are a little sketchy. Yes, it’s nice to think that there is an agency watching over the manufacturing, tests, etc. It just doesn’t mean as much to me.
  3. The label doesn’t mean as much as you think – Yes, natural supplements do have to list ingredients. However, they often have a lot of preservatives and other inactive ingredients that are listed under vague and non-specific names. Likewise, many use “proprietary blends”, meaning you don’t get doses of any one ingredient, and a lot of it may actually be fillers. The fact is that even when amounts are listed, things like Chondroitin and glucosamine are questionable at best, and many studies have shown little to no results. Most supplements don’t even use the amounts that have been tested, but the label won’t necessarily tell you that.
  4. The actual health benefits are questionable – There are some impressive studies out there that show natural ingredients do this, that, and the other thing. For example, some studies show shark cartilage can fight arthritis. Other studies show that it does absolutely nothing. Even if you do see consistent studies, the numbers are often less significant than the companies advertise. For example, CLA could be heart healthy and promote more fat burning. However, according to even the most positive studies (which are equal to the negative studies), the weight loss is negligible, and it is only one part of improving heart health.

    The FDA supposedly requires companies to make reasonable claims and provide competent and reliable scientific evidence. Again though, these are not FDA approved, and there is nothing to stop them from not doing that.

  5. Pills don’t replace a healthy diet and exercise plan – Yes, we like the idea that we can lose weight or stay healthy while eating all sorts of junk food, but it’s not going to happen. If you want to be healthy, get the right vitamins, maintain a good weight, etc, you actually have to live healthy. You have to eat the right foods, and there is no dietary supplement that can replace that. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with taking an extra vitamin to just make sure you have a little extra help, especially if you’re pregnant. Just don’t use this as a substitute.
  6. Warnings and disclaimers are hidden – Yes, many companies put that in small print for a reason. If you don’t notice them or don’t read them, they are more likely to make more sales. Most disclaimers say something about not treating disease, not being FDA approved, etc. However, some can be a bit harsher. If you have allergies especially or a medical condition though, you’re going to want to take a look and take the time to read up on your supplement.
  7. Natural isn’t safe – Natural can be safe. There are plenty of perfectly safe natural products. However, there are also natural supplements that are not safe, and some can be flat out dangerous. In the weight loss industry especially, a number of different “natural” ingredients have popped up, and at one time, people called anabolic steroids “all-natural”. It turns out all of those things were far from safe.
  8. Some have government support – Do you know why certain dangerous supplements remained on the market for so long? Orrin Hatch and certain other mostly Utah senators went to bat. They protected supplement companies and kept certain dangerous ingredients on the market, even when they knew they might be dangerous. They prevented bans and recalls, all because they like the money. Supplements bring in billions every year, and if they can get a piece of the pie, why not.
  9. There may be prescriptions – The latest controversy was associated with a number of Chinese supplements. This is not the first time though. It has happened before with all sorts of “natural supplements” using prescriptions and other illegal supplements. Ironically, most are weight loss supplements, and yet most of the prescriptions used have nothing to do with weight loss. The big one for many companies is actually anti-anxiety drugs. In most cases, the contamination is 100% intentional, all meant to help them to make more money.
  10. Tell your doctor – Even if it’s something as simple as a multivitamin, your doctor needs to know what you’re taking. There are a ton of possible drug interactions that you may not know about. Your doctor on the other hand does. So before he prescribes you anything, or maybe even before you start taking a natural supplement, check with your doctor for any possible drug interactions.

    If you are diabetic or have a heart problem, I think it would be safe to say that you may want to avoid unnecessary supplements or non-prescription products all together. Especially with diabetes, your body is reacting differently, and the results of an otherwise innocuous supplement could be deadly or debilitating.

The Dangers of Prayer Healing

prayerIn 2009, a couple faced charges for the death of their toddler after they decided to simply pray over the sick toddler for healing. Put on probation, you would think they would at least take any one of their other 8 children to a local menanite doctor or something if they got sick. Part of a fundamentalist church, Herbert and Catherine Schaible still decided that they knew better, sticking to faith healing.

After suffering from diarrhea and breathing issues though, their second child, 8 month old Brandon, passed away, again without any medical attention whatsoever. Their first son died of bacteria pneumonia. The way I see it, if you want to avoid the doctor, fine, but allowing your children to die because of your limited beliefs is not okay.

So far, prosecutors are waiting on the results of an autopsy before pressing any charges. Mythri Jayaraman, the couple’s attorney, encourages people not to “rush to judgement”. Personally, I don’t see it as a rush when they already let one child die and did nothing to help the second. It seems pretty clear cut to me. Yes, we don’t know what the exact illness or accident was that killed the child, but we can say that the parents took the same exact path that led to their other son’s death and previous charges. Frankly, the other children should have all been removed the first time around.

According to Jayaraman, What we do know is Mr and Mrs Schaible are distraught, they are grieving, they are tremendously sad about the loss of their most recent baby. Again, clearly they’re not sorry enough to have taken lifesaving steps to help any one of their children, including the latest.

When their son Kent died in 2009, he was 2 years old suffering coughing, congestion, crankiness, and a loss of appetite. They were convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and they were sentenced to 10 years probation. You would really think it would have been more. The judge has determined at this point that they did violate their probation. They reportedly prayed to god as opposed to seeking medical attention. Judge Benjamin Lerner stated, You did that once, and the consequences were tragic.

Their other 7 children are in foster care, which is the only reason why Lerner has allowed them to remain in the community. They are only a danger to their own children according to Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, the prosecutor who took on their case in 2010.

Their church site states, It is a definite sin to trust in medical help and pills; and it is real faith to trust on the Name of Jesus for healing.

The message could not be more clear, though the loss of one child should have changed things. After the first incident, the Schaible children went to mandatory medical checkups. However, there was no way to make sure they would seek treatment if an illness came up. Technically, Brandon had a checkup at 10 days old. No one seems to know though whether or not he got a checkup of any kind after that.

I’m not saying they didn’t love their child. They were obviously influenced by their church in a negative way. They made that kind of choice not once, but twice though. In addition, why didn’t the state have them on monthly or other frequent and regular checkup schedules? It’s a scary world when people actually believe that they can get away with killing their child or letting them die, regardless of the circumstances.

I would highly advise against it. For example though, if you have cancer and you decide you want to go with natural treatments, that’s up to you. Making that kind of decision for young children with deadly effects on the other hand, is in no way appropriate or acceptable.

Are Short People Healthier

Asian people have traditionally been healthier and shorter. Technically, it has a lot to do with our diets and lifestyles. Especially in the past, Asians didn’t exactly have access to certain nutrients in certain cultures. Since we have gotten more regular access, we have gotten taller. However, at 5’6 1/2, I am tall compared to my counterparts. It’s depressing and great at the same time, considering I’m always short in the US and European countries. However, being short may not be as bad as it seems sometimes.

It’s not just Asians who tend to be shorter when you see them at older ages. White people who live longer tend to be shorter too. It is partly associated with osteoporosis and shrinking bones, but most were short in the first place. You can only shrink so much.

Studies seem to go both ways, but short people are winning overall. Japanese women seem to have the longest average lifespan at 86, and diet aside, the average height between 75 and 79 is 149.54 cm (58.87 inches). Some say that our lifespans have expanded as we have gotten taller. Realistically though, we haven’t actually gotten that much taller lately, and our increases in height are related to less malnutrition. You also can’t discount the fact that our medical care is obviously superior to what it used to be, if you haven’t noticed.

Interestingly enough though, stress correlates with shorter statures. This would tell some of us that short people must live longer. For example, during mass unemployment, people tended to be shorter. Again though, this could be related to temporary malnutrition during significant growth spurts. This could be fixed later on, and people could again adopt healthy lifestyles and diets to sustain later life.

So who wins in the long run?

Genes

Those with primordial dwarfism will face a lot of health issues. They have an average height of under 40 inches, and while rare, this can be extremely destructive. It is a recessive gene. Likewise, those with giantism or a tumor on their pituitary gland (releasing more HGH) are likely to have heart and other health problems with a shorter life span. In other words, you’re not going to do well if you’re sitting on either extreme.

The Methuselah Gene

The actual connection between height and life may not be as clear cut as many would like to think. Neither short or tall people are likely to live longer just because of that. In some cases though, there is something called the methuselah gene. It is a rare genetic mutation that decreases the cell’s use of IGF-1. These people are smaller and live longer based on this more efficient use of this gene. There are other things that have a much bigger effect though.

Determining Factors for a Long Lifespan

People who live longer generally have better genes, lifestyle choices, birth weight, early childhood care, nutrition, vaccinations, antibiotics, and a higher income. Generally speaking, middle class is fine. In other words, overall quality of life is the biggest determining factor when it comes to a longer lifespan. Those raised under these positive conditions had a lower rate of chronic disease, fewer colds and flus, and less stress in general.

In other words, even as fetuses, their mothers underwent less stress, making them healthier and more resilient later on. Those who were alive or born during times of struggle and starvation were more likely to experience chronic disease later in life, and they were less likely to even reach middle age.

Conclusion

If you’re tall, you don’t have to worry about being automatically screwed. Likewise, if you’re short, I wouldn’t recommend just assuming you’ll be okay. There are no guarantees. However, if you live a healthy lifestyle and do your best to keep stress low, you have a good bet.

Pessimists Live Longer

All the research is wrong. It’s not optimists who live longer, it’s all about the pessimist. Some believe that pessimism cuts your life because it causes stress, and that would seem logical. However, according to a new study by the American Psychological Association (APA), it just isn’t that simple.

Those who anticipated better days ahead between 65 and 96 didn’t measure up to those who expected the end to come. I can personally attest to this based on my own grandmother. She got sick multiple times, and we would go to her bedside, thinking this would be the last time. Then she would suddenly pull through. Sometimes, she even claimed to see my dead grandfather, which made her think it was time to go. She did eventually die, but she was over 90 years old. I can’t necessarily say this was a good thing, because as a pessimist of sorts, she was not happy. Towards the end especially, things were not sunny or healthy even.

According to Frieder R Lang, PhD of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade.

So where’s the logic? What’s the reason?

Theoretically, pessimists are more careful. They see the worst coming. So in most cases, they will live more carefully, avoid risks, eat healthier, etc. The stress doesn’t beat healthy living for most people. Optimists may live and let live, because they just assume things will go well. Optimists may also look through rose colored glasses, ultimately ignoring some small or pretty big warning signs, less likely to care for themselves and see the early issues.

Seniors and others who are more pessimistic will visit the doctor more, get regular exams such as colonoscopies, exercise, eat healthier, avoid smoking, etc. Those who are just in the happy mode may not consider these types of things necessary. Maybe they don’t even care if they die early or live in an unhealthy state. Maybe they hear what they want to hear when the doctor is actually trying to tell them to change.

So how did the study go?

Data collected between 1993 and 2003 was analyzed, gathering from the German Socio-economic Panel. These stats included 40,000 people between 18 and 96. They were divided into ages between 18 and 39, 40 and 64, and 65 and older. Their satisfaction in the last 5 years was assessed (by their answers), and they contacted these same people 5 years later. They tracked death and disability and found that:

  • 43% of the older group (pessimists) underestimated their later satisfaction
  • 25% were able to predict their satisfaction accurately
  • 32% (optimists) overestimated future satisfaction and health

This might open another door. If you are expecting the best, you may be more disappointed if things don’t go the way you had hoped. On the other hand, if you expected the worst and things go even moderately well, it would be a pleasant surprise, increasing your overall satisfaction with life and reducing stress. Overestimating future health and satisfaction increased disability by 9.5% and death by 10%.

Is optimism really all that great?

Positive thinking can reduce stress and therefore boost immune health. You may not get sick as often, and stress in any form can take a toll. Prior studies seem to show that optimists live longer, at least at first. I would definitely like to see more studies to confirm or contradict this idea.

To be fair, this Germany study largely targets those who are so optimistic that they deny reality. They put on their rose colored glasses and bury their head in the sand. They deny facts, even related to their health, not getting proper care, and they are therefore worse off medically than those who anticipate accurately and get all the right checks. They do worse than those who might visit and listen to their doctors.

Overall though, especially when younger, optimists are likely to avoid colds and flues. They obviously have better emotional health and are less prone to depression, and in some cases, optimistic sports teams were more likely to win. Career success may even be connected to this.

Should you be optimistic or pessimistic?

There are benefits to both. Personally, I wouldn’t want to live that long, let alone if I was pessimistic about it. It depends on the person though. If you are afraid of death, chances are you want to live as long as possible. Others just may not feel the same way.

Exercise During Juice Cleanse

ellipticalYou’re only drinking juice. So you don’t need to exercise, right? Wrong. You should be meeting similar calorie requirements, around 1000 to 1200 calories a day, or maybe even more. Even with cleanses, exercise is essential if you want to lose weight, and moreover if you want to keep it off. Your body is going through a detox. So you aren’t going to want to take protein for example, but you do want to maintain muscle for future fat burning.

During a juice cleanse, you don’t have to involve yourself in intense exercise, long runs, etc. You can of course if you feel up to it, but sometimes it’s light and simple things that help. Go for a walk, take a hike, take a light jog. Some experts actually recommend you don’t participate in strenuous exercise.

There are of course many options. I get my dogs out when I can, but with 2 jobs, it is harder to set a regular schedule. Consequently, I recently ordered myself a small compact elliptical, and it arrived a few days ago.

I have read the reviews, and many say that you have to sit in a certain way or even stand up to get the most effective results. I am not disagreeing with this, but I can’t say I have been perfect in the few days since I received it. I put it under my desk at my main job, and it was a pain to put together. I think they tried to make it Mikkel-proof. I pulled it off, and I have been using it randomly throughout the day since. My legs have gotten hot when wearing pants, but I haven’t broken a sweat even once.

I hit somewhat of a wall for a couple days before that, and I haven’t been entirely disciplined. I’m trying. However, the first day that I started using my elliptical, and this is randomly throughout an 8 hour work day, I lost 2 pounds. I know, 2 pounds a day is not normal, but when you’re on a juice cleanse, it happens. The next day, I cheated because I won free food at my other job, and I still lost a pound. Today, I’m hoping for good results again. It takes some good positioning to keep it from rubbing against or even knocking down cords. I’m sure I could probably get better arm results if I were actually using the straps. So far though, it seems to be good enough.

In my case, I am not always going fast. Sometimes, I go at a relatively relaxed pace. I think it’s fair to say though, when it comes to any exercise, especially during a cleanse, it just depends on the person.

Carrot Juice Cleanse

How long? I don’t know yet. I’m taking it day by day. So far, I’ve determined that my cleanse is going to be at least a week, max of 60 days. Otherwise, I can’t really say, and I’m an undisciplined wimp. So it probably won’t be 60 days.

I may mix it up. So far, I have been using bolthouse juices, keep in mind not smoothies. I was disappointed in my research to find that the smoothies wouldn’t qualify for a juice cleanse. However, I also have a juicer at home that I could break out. It’s just a matter of wanting to make the effort.

I have a bunch of carrot juices I got from Costco, $6 for 3. I have randomly been buying juices that are carrot mixes. I have an allergy to carrots. But I have determined that as long as I don’t end up in the hospital or covered in hives, I should be okay and my body may even get over it. I have had a little bit of asthma like symptoms over it, but nothing life threatening.

The first day, I failed. I got through my first job, and it’s easy to say I didn’t bring food and I am not going to go out and spend money on lunch. However, when my second job is a restaurant, food was right in my face, and everything smelled soooo good. Fail.

I started over yesterday, and I made it through the day not being scheduled.

This said, it’s not that I’m hungry. I’m not hungry. It’s just hard to get over the regularity of eating. Even though I got off to a false start, I have lost 4 pounds and 1/2 an inch around my stomach in 2 days. Not too bad, and I know results will slow down over time. However, it is motivating. Measurable results make me want to suck it up.

We’ll see how long this lasts. But considering plenty of other people have done this and logged it, it is possible.