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Blog posts of '2012' 'May'

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Calcium Scare!

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CalciumOn May 23, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an article warning that taking calcium supplements increases the risk of heart attack. The article was based on findings from a Swiss/German study published in the journal, Heart. Calcium is the top-selling nutritional supplement in the United States, so naturally this report raised quite a fuss when it was published. But here are a few things you may not know.

Study Faces Criticism

The study conducted by the scientists was set up to examine the effects of diet and nutritional supplements on cancer and nutrition health; it was not specifically targeted toward calcium supplements and cardio health. This means that even though there were several thousand participants in the analysis, only a fraction of them took any calcium supplements or consumed foods with high amounts of calcium (such as milk and dairy products). Another thing to consider is that study paints a bad light on calcium alone, but not when calcium is consumed as part of food or with other nutrients. The researchers claimed that when too much calcium is consumed, it can clog arteries the same way cholesterol plaque does. However, according to a 2007 article on WebMD, pairing calcium with other nutrients, such as vitamin D and magnesium, aids calcium absorption in bones and helps maintain normal blood calcium levels. Most high-quality supplements or multivitamin formulas already do this.

Strong Bones Need Calcium

Calcium supplementation is crucial to supporting bone density, especially in maturing women who are more prone to age-related bone loss. Studies on the benefits of calcium are so plentiful that the Food and Drug Administration has even approved health claims about calcium with regard to osteoporosis. The National Products Association, a leading representative of the dietary supplement industry, believes that people who are currently taking calcium supplements should not be frightened into cutting off their supplementation, especially if it has been recommended by a physician. If you are concerned about your calcium intake, speak to a physician first before making any radical changes to your supplement plan.

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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health Benefits

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Sacrifices Can Lead to Big Health BenefitsAs gas prices, the stock market, and employment rates continue to yoyo, one figure has been steadily growing over the past few years, and it’s not a good one: It’s obesity. According to a joint study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Duke University in Atlanta, at current rates 42% of Americans will be overweight by the year 2030, and half of that figure will be due to childhood weight gain. A large part of it is simply due to the fact that people are consuming more calories, but exercising less.

Small Numbers Add Up Over Time

On paper, weight management seems like a simple task: If kids cut between 41 to 64 calories per day, it can lead to a national obesity rate of only 16.1% among youths aged 12 to 19. That equates to about cutting 4 ounces of apple juice or a quarter of an oatmeal raisin bar every day. These figures vary between racial demographics, but they are manageable, nonetheless, if parents and schools work together to curb kids’ appetites, and if adults themselves exercise a little more willpower. If obesity figures are left to their own devices, national healthcare costs due to weight-related health issues may exceed $500 billion over the next 20 years.

Cutting Back Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

As stated earlier, one doesn’t need to make drastic changes just to be healthier; small cutbacks to your diet every can be equally effective in producing lasting health results. So the next time you’re thinking about adding dessert to your meal, have one scoop of ice cream instead of two, or choose low-calorie frozen yogurt—then get up and add a little exercise into the mix. The long-term results may be a pleasant surprise!

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Dark Chocolate Brightens Up Your Heart Health

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Dark Chocolate Brightens Up Your Heart HealthMost of us dread eating things that are supposed to be good for our health (do you remember being forced to eat your greens when you were a kid?). But what if we told you that you could actually improve your heart health by eating chocolate?

According to Mee Young Hong, PhD, associate professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at San Diego State University, chocolate has remarkable benefits to your heart. But it’s important to be picky about the type of chocolate you consume because dark chocolate is a clear winner over white chocolate when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels and improving cholesterol.

Pick Dark Chocolate Over White Chocolate

Pure, unprocessed cocoa that hasn’t been heavily processed with sugar and preservatives is actually quite healthy because it is loaded with compounds called flavonols, which have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Dark chocolate contains up to 70% of cocoa solids whereas white chocolate has no cocoa solids at all. In her study, Dr. Hong and her team assigned 31 men and women 1.7 ounces of dark, white, or “bloomed” dark chocolate daily for 15 days. Bloomed chocolate is chocolate that has been melted, but stuck back in the refrigerator to reharden. Dr. Hong wanted to test this type of chocolate to see if blooming affected the health properties of the chocolate. At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the participants who ate dark chocolate, compared to the white chocolate eaters, had:

  • Lower blood sugar because cocoa helps the body use insulin more effectively
  • Improved good HDL cholesterol
  • Decreased bad LDL cholesterol

Results were consistent even for the people who ate bloomed dark chocolate.

Additional Research Sweetens the Deal

A similar study conducted by scientists in Germany found that dark chocolate may also help lower blood pressure, again due to cocoa’s antioxidant capabilities that support the arteries and circulation. But just because the results look promising, it’s no reason to overindulge out on chocolate (remember, most store-brand chocolate is packed with sugar and calories!). You can, however, reward yourself every so often with a bar of dark chocolate to brighten up your mood—and your heart.

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