Friday, July 30, 2010

Health in the News Roundup

A few newspaper articles caught my eye this week that I thought might interest you.

Remember Vitamin D, the wonder vitamin? Well, it's back in the spotlight and the news is better than ever. According to this New York Times article:

Every tissue in the body, including the brain, heart, muscles and immune system, has receptors for vitamin D, meaning that this nutrient is needed at proper levels for these tissues to function well.

Studies indicate that the effects of a vitamin D deficiency include an elevated risk of developing (and dying from) cancers of the colon, breast and prostate; high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease; osteoarthritis; and immune-system abnormalities that can result in infections and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Unfortunately, for many, especially those of us living in the northern U.S. and Canada as well as much of Europe, it is difficult to get sufficient exposure to the sun and thus for our bodies to make sufficient quantities of Vitamin D.

There is still no definitive word on how much Vit. D we should take per day in the form of supplements. I know that 3,000 I.U. gets me to a normal level (yes, I was tested, was found deficient, started taking supplements and am no longer deficient). Something to think about.

And now, let's move on to something we too often forget in our quest to reduce calories: SODIUM.

Today's Globe and Mail has sodium on the front page. The article is entitled The Spoonful-a-Day Challenge. Canadians' daily intake of sodium is 3,400 mg. The maximum recommended daily intake is 1 teaspoonful or 2,300 mg.

According to the article, "nearly 80 per cent of the sodium most Canadians consume is added to food items by manufacturers."

The Toronto Star has an amusing and informative regular feature called "The Dish". The reporter checks out popular fast foods to see exactly what kind of nutritional bang people are getting for their buck. Today's Dish featured Jamaican beef patties. The reporter was pleasantly surprised to find out that beef patties served at Randy's Take-Out contained "only" 432 mg of sodium as compared to...hold on to your slice of Pizza Pizza pepperoni pizza, which gives you a whopping 1,632 mg of sodium, or...keep your hand on that hat...Taco Bell's 420-calorie beef burrito supreme, which will add 1,260 mg of sodium to your daily consumption. It should be noted that the Dish puts a reasonable daily allowance of sodium at 1,500 to 2,400. Put me down for the lower amount, please.

This is serious stuff for all of us, but I would say that those watching their weight should be particularly careful. Why? Because much of that delightful, processed, packaged diet food may be low in calories, but is often shockingly high in sodium. I found this article, written by someone who loves Weight Watchers, that alerts people to the high sodium content of some of WW's frozen meals. I'm sure that WW is not the only purveyor of packaged foods that tends to overload on the sodium. In fact, according to the article, WW is looking at how to lower sodium in their products. However, my message here is simple: be aware that while you're desperately trying to lose weight and protect your heart, you could be doing quite the opposite if you over-rely on packaged diet foods.

I believe in moderation. If you want to eat a Taco Bell burrito from time to time or a frozen "diet" meal on occasion, you're not going to drop dead of a heart attack. Just keep in mind that reducing calories is only part of the equation when it comes to improving your health.

1 comment:

  1. I've never understood why WW puts so much sodium in their food. Thank you for reminding folks that processed foods, while they're easy to track in food journals, aren't always the best option.

    On another sodium note, I'm in love with something I call "Crazy Janes." It adds loads of flavor to everything.