IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  December 1, 2006

Freshwater Fish Have Omega-3s

If you're a fisherman or have friends who share their catch with you, here's good news. Ocean-going fish may be rich in those important omega-3 fatty acids, but salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are not the only sources.

Freshwater game fish have omega-3s, as well. Lake Superior lake trout actually are richer in this nutrient than Atlantic salmon or Atlantic mackerel. The trout has 3 grams per 3.5-ounce serving as opposed to 1.84 for the salmon and 1.2 for the mackerel.

Other freshwater game fish with omega-3s include whitefish with 1.6 grams per 3.5 ounce serving, chub with 1.5, herring with 1.1, bass with 0.9, smelt with 0.5, walleye at 0.4, and northern pike with 0.1 ounces per serving.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say it's true that the content of most game fish isn't as high as that of ocean-going cold-water fish. But fish, as long as it's not fried or prepared with a lot of added fats, is still a better choice than meat. Meat is typically higher in undesirable saturated fats and cholesterol.


Dietary Fat

A little fat makes vegetables more nutritious, helps prevent cancer.

Having corn on the cob with dinner? Adding a little butter will increase the level of nutrients your body will absorb. Having a salad for lunch? Adding full-fat salad dressing will have the same effect.

Many of the healthful compounds in vegetables are fat-soluble. That means your body can't absorb them very well unless fat is present at the same time.

Researchers at Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center in Columbus checked for nutrients that were especially important for cancer prevention.

Some of affected nutrients: Lutein and zeaxanthin found in spinach and kale are important for eye and heart health.

Lycopene, the red carotenoid found in tomatoes and watermelon, is a potential cancer fighter.

Alpha and beta carotene, the orange pigment in carrots and cantaloupe, help to reduce cancer rates.

Vitamin E found in mango, broccoli, and spinach is a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the body that cause tissue and cellular damage.

When some avocado was added to salads, blood tests showed the absorption of lutein was 18 times greater than without the fatty avocado. Absorption of lycopene increased by 4.4 times, and the increase in beta carotene absorption was 2.6 times.

Fortunately, the amount of fat in the entire meal can aid nutrient absorption. Nutritionists say you should choose at least one food per meal with a high fat content. That means if you have a small steak or hamburger with dinner, you'll be fine.


Why Trans Fats are the Worst

Many experts say trans fats are worse than artery-clogging saturated fats. Trans fats are found particularly in baked goods such as doughnuts and cookies.

Scientists at Wake Forest University report that diets rich in trans fats can cause a redistribution of fat tissue in the abdomen, the worst place to store fat for both health and appearance.

This can also lead to a higher body weight even when total calorie intake is the same.


Shot in the Arm Could End Nicotine Addiction

Researchers are testing NicVAX, given as a shot to the arm. It keeps nicotine from reaching the brain, making smoking less pleasurable and easier to give up. The small amount of nicotine that manages to reach the brain helps to ease withdrawal problems, the main reason quitters relapse.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted the vaccine fast-track status, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse has contributed a second $4 million grant to finance the study.

Use Acetaminophen Wisely

A six-year study at the University of Washington and other sites shows that cases of acute liver failure caused by acetaminophen rose to 51 percent of all cases in 2003. Unintentional overdosing accounted for half of the liver failures. The makers of Tylenol, the most popular acetaminophen medicine, have gone on television to urge people to follow their directions.

The normally safe pain medication is used by 36 percent of Americans at least once a month. They warn consumers not to exceed 4,000 mg within a 24-hour period. That would be eight 500-mg tablets, capsules, or gel caps.

Men who drank more than one-and-a-half ounces of alcohol per day and women who drank more than one ounce per day in addition to taking acetaminophen were more vulnerable to liver failure.


Alzheimer's Disease

Don't wait until you're older. Start protecting your brain now.

If you're in your 40s or beyond, the specter of losing your memory to Alzheimer's disease can be frightening. With a lot of medical information available, you may wonder what you as an individual can do to prevent it.

Researchers now have given us simple news about on what to do throughout life to reduce risk: Take care of your heart, and you'll be taking care of your brain at the same time.

The link between heart disease and Alzheimer's is growing. The Alzheimer's Association predicts that it will continue to grow. The heart is the organ that supplies essential elements to every part of the body, and the brain is one of the most important parts.

Risk factors for the two diseases are essentially the same.

  • One study showed that people with high cholesterol in their 40s and 50s were three to five times more likely to become demented later in life. Blood vessels become stiff and lead to a decrease in nutrients to the brain.

    Some things to do now:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking just 10 to 20 cigarettes per day can double or triple the risk of dementia.
  • Exercise regularly to send oxygen-rich blood flowing to the brain.
  • Take steps to reduce stress throughout life. Meditate, walk, garden, or work on a hobby.
  • Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to get phytochemicals and antioxidants. Drink enough water to rid your body of toxins.
  • Keep your blood pressure under control naturally or with medication.
  • Avoid diabetes or use medications to keep blood sugar in the normal range.


  • Diabetes

    The American Diabetes Association defines diabetes as having a fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dl or higher on at least two occasions. But a second factor is important in the diagnosis.

    Hemoglobin is the molecule in blood that combines with sugar or glycosylates. Measuring the amount of hemoglobin that is glycosylated is a good way to determine whether it's a borderline case or a full-blown case.

    Sometimes a patient has elevated blood sugar levels, but normal glycosylated hemoglobin. According to a large study reported by Brigham and Women's Hospital, lifestyle changes at this point may be as effective as medication for keeping mild diabetes from getting worse.

    The changes include eating a low-calorie diet, exercising regularly and moderately for half an hour a day, and losing weight. A 5 percent to 7 percent weight reduction can help. The doctors say it can be difficult, but should be tried before going on medication.

    They advise having blood sugar and glycosylated hemoglobin levels checked regularly.


    Healthy Fast Food

    If you like fast food, try some of these low-fat offerings:

  • McDonalds Grilled Chicken Classic sandwich has 420 calories and 9 grams of fat.
  • McDonalds Asian Salad has 290 calories and 10 grams of fat.
  • Wendy's Baked Potato with Broccoli and Cheese at 349 calories and 3 grams of fat.
  • Burger King's BK Veggie Burger at 340 calories and 8 grams of fat.

    Water Instead of Coffee

    If you reach for a cup of coffee at mid-afternoon, you may not be making the best choice. Moderate consumption of caffeine can increase energy levels, but more of it can cause elevated blood pressure. The American Dietetic Association says that, coupled with stress, may increase the risk of heart disease.

    Try water instead. It's necessary for digestion and maintaining normal body temperature. Since mild dehydration can bring on fatigue, it's wise to reach for some nice cold water next time you feel sluggish at work.

    Importance of Aerobics

    Every health program should include some form of aerobic exercise. With aerobics, you continually move large muscle groups such as legs, arms, and buttocks. This action causes you to breathe more deeply. Your heart works harder to pump blood, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs.

    Aerobic exercise incudes walking, jogging, aerobic dancing, bicycling, swimming, hiking, and all sports that involve running, such as basketball, soccer, tennis, handball, and racquet ball.

    Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.

  • Warm up for 5 minutes before starting. Go slow for another 5 minutes.
  • Increase your workout gradually from 5 minutes to 20 minutes until your heart rate is 60 percent of maximum, which is 220 minus your age.
  • Count your pulse for 15 seconds. Multiply by four to find your heart rate.