The Truth About Weight Loss Supplements

measuring tape next to assortment of pills

Can weight loss supplements help you lose weight?

Ask Dr. Google, and the search results will try to sell you a magic pill, supplement, or cocktail of products. After all, the weight-supplement industry is worth an estimated $60 billion in the United States alone. (1)

If you’ve just pulled out your credit card looking for a quick fat-loss fix wondering if this diet, pill or product will help you lose weight, here’s the simple answer.

It probably won’t. There’s no magic pill, weight-loss supplement or potion that can make excess pounds melt away.

But it’s a big issue for a lot of people. An estimated 74 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese. (2)

The Quick-Fix Fat-Loss Failure

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose weight, you might think taking a diet pill or supplement is all you need.

A lot of people do. In the U.S., an estimated 34 percent of adults have tried some type of weight loss supplement. Americans spend about $2.1 billion a year on weight-loss supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, softgels, and drinks. (3)

Most are made with ingredients that could improve metabolism or suppress appetite like:

  • Green tea extract
  • Chitosan
  • Guar gum
  • Conjugated linoleic acid
  • Caffeine

However, a recent study found that diet and weight-loss supplements typically fail to help people lose weight. (4)

Researchers looked at 315 weight-loss studies that put different supplements to the test. They found that most did not result in weight loss. And only a few tipped the scale in the right direction by just a few pounds or less.

Type-2 Diabetes Drugs Used for Weight Loss

Even with new weight loss medications originally used to manage type-2 diabetes showing some promise, the risk for negative side effects is high.

One recent study found that people using these weight-loss drugs have an increased risk for: (5)

  • Stomach paralysis
  • Pancreatitis
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Gallbladder problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Allergic reactions
  • Increase heart rate
  • Suicidal thoughts

6 Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Weight Loss

Long-term weight loss and maintenance doesn’t come in pill or powder form. It’s a lifelong process. If you want to lose weight, skip the diet supplements, save your money, and adopt these 6 lifestyle habits to lose weight and keep it off:

  1. Eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Avoid or limit sugary drinks, snacks, desserts, and candy high in calories.
  2. Be active. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.
  3. Drink more water instead of soda, juice, energy drinks, or other sugary beverages.
  4. Practice portion control by counting calories, keeping a food journal, and being mindful of your food choices.
  5. Get your Zzzs. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Why? Lack of sleep alters levels of hormones (ghrelin and leptin) linked to hunger and cravings. And if you stay up late, you’ll have more time for snacking.
  6. Don’t give up. If you miss a workout or overeat, it’s not that big of a deal. Don’t use that as an excuse to overeat or skip workouts. Instead, just get back on track and keep going.

If you need extra help to lose weight:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Join a weight-loss group for support
  • Ask your wellness coordinator for help, or…
  • Work with a trainer and dietitian

Getting help to develop a diet and exercise plan will help you tip the scale in the right direction and improve your overall health.

References

  1. Cadwallader, A., e tal. (2022). Which features of dietary supplemen industry, product trends, and regulations deserve physicians’ attention? AMA Journal of Ethics, 24(5):E410-418. From: https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/which-features-dietary-supplement-industry-product-trends-and-regulation-deserve-physicians/2022-05
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). Obesity and overweight. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2023). Dietary supplements for weight loss. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. From: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/
  4. Batsis, J., et al. (2021). A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, 29(7): 1102-1113. From: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.23110
  5. Sodhi, M., et al. (2023). Risk of gastrointestinal adverse events associated with glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists for weight loss. JAMA Network. From: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2810542

Caffeine Addiction: 7 Healthy Ways to Curb the Cravings

coffee in ceramic cups

Ready to beat your caffeine addiction? If you’re used to starting the day with a cup of coffee, energy drink, tea or supplements loaded with caffeine, you’re not alone.

An estimated 90% of adults in the U.S. drink caffeine every day. (1) Caffeine may offer a quick pick-me-up. Caffeine has some downsides, too.

Ready to beat your caffeine addiction, or at least curb the cravings to improve your health?

Let’s start by answering a simple question: What is caffeine?

It’s a stimulant naturally found in coffee beans, cacao‌ and guarana. It’s also added to drinks and nutrition supplements. (2) The most common sources of caffeine include:

  • Coffee drinks
  • Sodas and energy drinks
  • Tea
  • Chocolate
  • Guarana-based products
  • Supplements

How much caffeine is safe to consume?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends adults consume no more than 400mg of caffeine per day from all sources (drinks, food, supplements). (3)

Wondering how much caffeine you consume in a day?

Here’s how much caffeine is found in common drinks and supplements: (3)

  • Coffee: An 8-ounce cup of coffee has 95–200 mg of caffeine
  • Soda: A 12-ounce can of soda has 35–45 mg of caffeine
  • Energy drink: An 8-ounce energy drink has 70–150 mg of caffeine
  • Tea: An 8-ounce cup of tea has 14–60 mg of caffeine
  • Chocolate: A 1-ounce piece of dark chocolate has 10–20 mg of caffeine
  • Weight-loss supplements: Many weight-loss supplements contain caffeine, but the amount varies from 1–300 mg or more.
  • Caffeine tablets typically contain 100–200 mg of caffeine

What happens when you consume caffeine?

Everybody knows a shot of caffeine can be a quick way to boost energy and stay awake.

But what’s really happening when you consume caffeine?

There’s some short-term benefits, along with some less-than-healthy side effects:

Short-term benefits of caffeine

When you drink a cup of coffee, gulp down an energy drink‌ or take a supplement with caffeine, the short-term benefits are what keep most people coming back for more.

Consuming caffeine in small amounts can: (4)

  • Increase alertness
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Improve reaction times
  • Decrease appetite and support weight management
  • Improve mood and decrease depression

Consuming too much caffeine can have negative effects on your health, too. This can include: (4)

  • Increased anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Digestive problems
  • Consuming high amounts of caffeine can even be fatal
  • Note: For pregnant women, consuming more than 200mg of caffeine per day can increase the risk for low-birth weight and other problems during pregnancy.

Here’s what caffeine withdrawal looks like:

If you’ve been used to a daily dose of caffeine, your body and your brain start to expect it. Remember, it’s an addictive stimulant.

And if you call it quits on caffeine without a gradual reduction, there’s a good chance you’ll go through withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Fortunately, caffeine withdrawal symptoms are typically strongest the first few days after quitting. If you can make it through a week without caffeine, withdrawal symptoms typically subside.

6 Healthy Ways to Curb a Caffeine Addiction

Wondering how to curb your caffeine addiction to protect your health without major withdrawals?

Here are 6 healthy ways to curb caffeine cravings. (5)

  1. Track your caffeine consumption: Before you make any changes to the amount of caffeine you’re consuming, keep track of how much you’re consuming.
    • Remember, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends limiting caffeine consumption to‌ or less than 400 mg per day.
    • Once you know what your caffeine intake looks like, you can create a plan to make some changes.
  2. Check food labels for caffeine content: Not sure how much caffeine is in your coffee, energy drink, chocolate, or supplements?
    • Read the food label. Many products made with caffeine include the amount of caffeine it contains in milligrams.
    • Can’t find it on the label? Chances are pretty good you can look up the caffeine content in drinks and products online, too.
  3. Cut back slowly:  If you want to lessen withdrawal symptoms associated with cutting back on caffeine, make your exit gradually. For example:
    • Drink one less cup of coffee per day.
    • Instead of an energy drink with high levels of caffeine, switch to a soda with less caffeine. Or only drink half an energy drink or soda.
  4. Drink more water: Before you gulp down a cup of coffee, energy drink, soda or other caffeine sources, make sure you’re drinking enough water.
    • For most adults, that’s around 64 ounces of water per day.
    • You may need more water if you exercise a lot, have a physically-demanding job, work in hot weather or live in a hot climate
    • Instead of supporting hydration, caffeine has the opposite effect of drinking water and increases dehydration and urination.
  5. Get your Zzzs:A lot of people reach for caffeinated drinks and supplements to combat tiredness and fatigue. But it’s really just a temporary fix if you’re not getting enough sleep.
    • Instead of relying on caffeine to get you through the day, get enough sleep. Here’s how:
    • Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
    • Create a bedtime routine
    • Turn of all electronics and screens about an hour before bed
    • Stay away from caffeine late in the afternoon or evening
    • Go to bed at the same time every night, even on weekends.
  6. Be more active: One recent study found that just 20 minutes of exercise has the same effect on mood, focus and memory as a cup of coffee. (6)
    • Start your day with 20 to 30 minutes of exercise.
    • Or if you’re feeling tired, take a walk instead of gulping down a caffeinated drink.
  7. Eat healthy foods: Skipping meals or eating sugary sweets and snacks can cause rapid changes in blood sugar levels.(6) This can impact mood and energy levels. Caffeine might be a quick fix, but there’s a better way:
    • Eat more nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds‌ and legumes
    • Whole and fresh foods take longer to digest and help regulate blood sugar levels better than sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates.

Ready to curb caffeine cravings and improve your health?

Cut back on caffeine gradually, and adopt these healthy lifestyle habits. You’ll feel better, have more energy‌ and be healthier.

References

  1. American Heart Association. (2022). Is caffeine a friend or foe? From: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/08/08/is-caffeine-a-friend-or-foe
  2. Harvard University. (2020). Caffeine. Harvard School of Public Health. From: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
  3. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2023). Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? From: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much
  4. Walter, K. (2021). Caffeine and health. JAMA, 327(7): 693. From: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2789026
  5. Cleveland Clinic. (2023). How to quit caffeine without a headache? From: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-quit-caffeine
  6. Morava, A., et al. (2019). Effects of caffeine and acute aerobic exercise on working memory and caffeine withdrawal. Scientific Reports. From: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-56251-y

Get Your Zzzs: 5 Tips to Fall Asleep Faster

clock snoring on blue background

You’re ready for bed… teeth brushed… pajamas on. But after you pull back the covers and get into bed, sleep doesn’t come quickly. You toss and turn. You count sheep. You drink a glass of warm milk. And you try to drift off to dreamland, but it isn’t happening. Sound familiar?

Do you struggle with falling asleep? If you don’t get enough Zzzs (7 to 8 hours is best), you’re not alone. Research shows 28% of adults in the United States are short on sleep.(1)  And that’s a problem.

Lack of sleep raises the risk for:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Mental health problems

A few changes to your bedtime routine and lifestyle habits can help you fall asleep faster. Here are five things you can do:

  1. Go to bed at the same time every night: And wake up at the same time every morning…even on weekends. A regular sleep schedule helps control your body’s internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up.(2)
  2. Create a sleep-friendly room: Ready for bed? Your room should be quiet, dark, relaxing, and just the right temperature. If it’s not, take a minute to make a few changes, before you get into bed.
  3. Turn off all electronic devices before bed: If you watch TV in bed, use a tablet, computer, phone, or play video games, you’re exposed to short-wavelength blue light. Research shows exposure to this type of light before bed makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep. Unplug from all electronics 30 minutes to two hours before bed. (3)
  4. Avoid large meals, nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine: Why? Digesting a large meal before bed can keep you awake. Nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine make it hard to fall asleep. Avoid these a couple hours before bed to fall asleep faster.
  5. Be more active, just not right before bed: Aim for 30 minutes of exercise per day. In a recent study, researchers found that regular strength training helped improve sleep quality by 42 percent.(4)  Go to the gym, lift weights, do bodyweight exercises, or take a fitness class to get stronger. A few simple changes to your daily habits can help you get to sleep faster and sleep better. And when you get enough sleep, you have a lower risk for chronic disease. If you’re still having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about other options to help you get your Zzzs.

References

  1. Adjaye-Gbewonyo, D., et al. (2022). Percentage of adults aged ≥18 who sleep <7 hours on average in a 24-hour period, by sex and age group—National Health Interview Survey, United States, 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(10):393. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8912002/
  2. DiePietro, M. (2018). Circadium rhythm and sleep. American Sleep Association. From: https://sleepdoctor.com/sleep-disorders/circadian-rhythm-sleep-disorders/
  3. Wams, E., et al. (2017). Linking light exposure and subsequent sleep: A field polysomnography study in humans. Sleep, 40(12). From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5806586/
  4. American Heart Association. (2022). Resistance exercise may improve sleep more than aerobic exercise. From: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2022/03/03/resistance-exercise-may-improve-sleep-more-than-aerobic-exercise

Testosterone Therapy? 5 Benefits of Treatment for Men

Adult man curling dumb bell

Ever wonder if testosterone therapy is right for you?

If you’re a man age 40 or older, here’s a simple self assessment.

  • Do you feel tired and fatigued often?
  • Do you feel depressed or irritable?
  • Are you losing hair and lean muscle mass?
  • Do you have erectile dysfunction or low sex drive?
  • Are you overweight or obese?

If you answered “Yes” to one or more of these questions, you may have low testosterone levels.

  • Beginning around age 40, testosterone levels in men drop 1 to 2% per year, which can lead to hair loss, fatigue, changes in weight and body composition, depression, and more.(1)

Experiencing any of the above symptoms? Instead of calling it a mid-life crisis and doing something wild, get your testosterone levels tested. The symptoms of low testosterone levels (also called hypogonadism), can often be treated by testosterone replacement therapy.2

Start with a check-up

See your doctor or specialist to get your testosterone levels tested to:

  • Assess your hormone levels
  • Discuss your symptoms
  • Evaluate your lifestyle habits
  • Determine if testosterone replacement therapy is right for you

5 Benefits of Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Research shows testosterone replacement therapy can help older men in a variety of ways, including: (3)

Higher energy levels: Many men with low testosterone complain of persistent fatigue and low energy levels. Testosterone replacement therapy can help alleviate these symptoms, leading to increased vitality and motivation.

Increased muscle mass & strength: Testosterone plays a crucial role in promoting muscle growth and strength. Men on testosterone replacement therapy may notice an increase in muscle mass and improved physical performance.

Better mood & well-being: Testosterone is known to have a significant impact on mood and cognitive function. Research shows that men undergoing testosterone replacement therapy may experience reduced irritability, improved mood, and better mental clarity.

Improved sexual function: One of the most noticeable benefits of testosterone therapy is an improvement in libido and sexual function.

Stronger bones: Testosterone contributes to bone density, and its decline can lead to a higher risk of osteoporosis. Testosterone replacement therapy can help maintain and even improve bone health, reducing the risk of fractures and bone-related issues.

Risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy

Did you know an estimated 3 to 4% of men age 40 and older get testosterone replacement therapy?(4)

While more men are being treated for low testosterone levels, there are some risks with this drug therapy, including: (5)

  • Short-term risks for testosterone replacement therapy include acne, sleep apnea, swollen or tender breasts, swelling in the ankles.
  • Long-term risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy include increased risks for heart attack, stroke, prostate cancer.

Is testosterone therapy right for you? Ask your doctor. When administered under proper medical supervision, testosterone therapy can help men regain their vitality and improve their quality of life, making it an essential option for those affected by hormonal imbalances.

References

  1. LeWine, H.E. (2023). Testosterone: What it is and how it affects your health. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/testosterone–what-it-does-and-doesnt-do
  2. National Library of Medicine. (2022). Hypogonadism. From: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001195.htm
  3. Dos Santos, M.R., et al. (2020). Benefits and risks of testosterone treatment in men with age-related decline in testosterone. Annual Review of Medicine, 27(72): 75-91. From: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33217248/
  4. Kovac, J.R., et al. (2015). Patient satisfaction with testosterone replacement therapies: the reasons behind the choices. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11(2): 553-562. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946859/
  5. Harvard University. (2020). Is testosterone therapy safe? Take a breath before you take the plunge. Harvard Health Publishing. From: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/is-testosterone-therapy-safe-take-a-breath-before-you-take-the-plunge

10 Surprising Reasons to Eat More Leafy Greens

shelves full of leafy greens

Take a look at smart-eating plans or diets. Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, and cabbage are usually on the list of foods you should eat.

Mediterranean diet, check. Paleo diet, check. Keto diet, check. DASH diet, check.

Plus, recipes for leafy-green salads, smoothies, and side dishes are everywhere.

Why? Because leafy greens are good for you.

They’re packed with vitamins and nutrients. They’re low in calories. They’re affordable (unlike some diets that require buying expensive products).

You can add leafy greens to your diet with little to no prep time. And studies show leafy greens provide important health benefits such as: (1)

  • Reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke
  • Lower the risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Control blood pressure
  • Improve bone health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent certain types of cancer
  • Improve bowel health
  • Control hunger and aid in weight management
  • Prevent age-related memory loss

Are you eating enough leafy greens?

Probably not. Most adults don’t eat enough leafy greens and other vegetables. In fact only 10 percent do. (2)

If you want to change your eating habits, improve your health, and feel better, eating more leafy greens can help.

The goal: Eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, including leafy greens, like: (3)

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet greens
  • Watercress
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Endive
  • Bok choy
  • Turnip greens

9 easy ways to eat more leafy greens

Hungry for ways to eat healthier? Eating more leafy greens doesn’t have to be hard.

Check out these 9 easy ways to add more “green” to your diet.

  • Build a bowl – Add leafy greens to a burrito bowl.
  • Pizza topping – Use spinach as a topping for thin-crust pizza.
  • Breakfast of champions – Cook eggs or egg-whites with arugula
  • Splendid blended – Make a green smoothie with fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens
  • Dress up noodles – Add Bok choy to noodles
  • Soup’s on – Make soup that includes leafy greens
  • Munch n’ crunch – Bake your own kale chips
  • Dip it – Add spinach to homemade hummus
  • The classic – Eat more leafy-green salads

Want to be healthier, feel better, and live longer? Eat more leafy greens.

References

  1. Wang, D., et al. (2021). Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies of U.S. men and women and a meta-analysis of 26 cohort studies. Circulation, 143:00-00. From: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048996
  2. Lee, S.H., et al. (2022). Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(1): 1-9. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7101a1.htm
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2021). Vegetables. MyPlate. From: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables

5 Reasons to Take a Multivitamin

bowl of colorful vitamins

Ever wonder if taking a multivitamin is worth it?

Before you pop a pill, take a closer look at your diet.

Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and legumes is the best way to get all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs for best health.

But what if your diet isn’t perfect?

The truth: Most people could use a little help eating healthier foods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: (1)

  • Fruits. Only 12.3 percent of adults eat the recommended amount of fruits per day (1.5 to 2 cups per day)
  • Vegetables. Only 10 percent eat enough vegetables (2 to 3 cups per day).

And that means most adults come up short when it comes to vitamins and nutrients the body needs to promote health and prevent disease.

If you struggle to eat healthy, you’re not alone. So what can you do to get the vitamins and nutrients you need?

Taking a multivitamin can help, according to a recent study published the Journal of Functional Foods.2

In the study, researchers found taking a multivitamin for 30 days helped people (both men and women), improve:

  1. Vitamin B6: Your body uses vitamin B6 to break down proteins, fats and carbs from the food you eat. It’s also helps prevent heart disease, strengthens the immune system, and supports brain health
  2. Vitamin B12: Your body needs vitamin B12 to produce red blood cells. It also helps support brain function and nerves. Some research suggests higher levels of B12 can also help prevent bone fractures.
  3. Vitamin K: Your body uses vitamin K to form blood clots and strengthen bone tissue. It may also help prevent hardening of the arteries.
  4. Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps strengthen bones, reduces inflammation, and helps prevent and control infections. Vitamin D may also help prevent heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and early death.
  5. HDL cholesterol: Also known as good cholesterol. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol help lower the risk for heart attack and stroke by preventing plaque build-up that can damage arteries.

Do you need to take a multivitamin? It depends on a wide variety of factors.

  • Nutritional needs are different based on age and gender.
  • Your diet makes a difference.
  • If you’re taking medications or have health issues, your ability to absorb nutrients from food may be compromised.

Not sure? Talk to your doctor. A simple blood test can identify any nutrient deficiencies you may have.3 Then you can make a plan to improve your diet and lifestyle habits. And that could include taking a daily multivitamin.

Sources:

  1. L.H., S., et al. (2022). Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(1): 1-9. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7101a1.htm
  2. Levy, M., et al. (2019). Consumption of a multivitamin/multimineral supplement for 4 weeks improves nutritional status and markers of cardiovascular health. Journal of Functional Foods, 62:103511. From: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464619304359
  3. Harvard University. (2023). Should I take a daily multivitamin? The Nutrition Source. From: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/

5 Health Benefits of Omega-3 Fish-Oil Supplements

spilled bottle of pills

Should you take an omega-3 fish oil supplement?

Consider this real-life scenario…

You’re sitting in a restaurant looking over the menu trying to decide what to order.

  • Do you choose grilled salmon served with steamed broccoli and brown rice?
  • Or do you order the T-bone steak served with mashed potatoes and gravy and a pat of butter?

Before you rattle off your order to your server, consider making your decision based on which meal contains healthier fats.

  • The fish or the steak?
  • The leafy greens or the potatoes?

If you need a little help, here’s a hint: Not all fats are bad. The salmon dish served with steamed broccoli contains healthy fats known as omega-3 fatty acids that your body uses to:

  • Protect your heart
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Lower triglyceride levels
  • Control blood pressure, and…
  • Keep your brain healthy

Even if you order the salmon, here’s the thing: Most people don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

One recent study found that 67% of adults don’t get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.(1)

Take a closer look at your diet. How often are you eating foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids like:

  • Healthy oils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Certain types of vegetables
  • Legumes

If you’re not eating enough of these foods on a regular basis, taking an omega-3 supplement can help.

In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025), the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends most adults consume:2

450 to 500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per day

If you find that hard to do only from food sources, take an omega-3 fish oil supplement, and check out these 5 health benefits of getting enough omega-3s in your diet:

  1. Happy Heart: Omega-3s help lower your risk for heart problems, like heart disease. Fish oil supplements can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides, which is good news for your ticker.(3)
  2. Brainpower Boost: Omega-3s are like brain fuel. They help protect and improve brain function, memory and thinking. One of the omega-3s, called DHA, is like a building block for your brain. It helps you think and remember stuff.(4)
  3. Mood Management: Did you know omega-3s can also put you in a good mood? It’s true! Some studies say they can help with feelings like being sad, anxious or depressed.(5) These fatty acids can help your brain work right and make those happy chemicals. They’re not a magic cure, but they can give your mood a little boost.
  4. Joint-Pain Relief: Sometimes, our joints can ache, especially when we get older or have conditions like arthritis. Omega-3s can help. They help reduce inflammation, which is what makes your joints hurt. If you want to move comfortably and have less joint pain, omega-3 fish oil supplements may help.(6)
  5. Healthy Skin: Getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids from foods and supplement form can help improve skin health. It helps keep your skin hydrated and prevent dryness. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to help manage skin problems like eczema and psoriasis.(7) Getting most of your omega-3 fatty acids from food sources is the best way to go. But if that’s hard for you to do, adding an omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplement to balance things out can improve your health.

Sources:

  1. Murphy, R., et al. (2021). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acid serum concentrations across life stages in the USA: an analysis of NHANES 2011–2012. BMJ Open, 11(5): e043301. From: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/5/e043301.info
  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2020). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. From: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials
  3. National Institutes of Health. (2023). Omega-3 fatty acids. From: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/
  4. Dighriri, I., et al. (2022). Effects of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids on brain functions: A systematic review. Cureus, 14(10): e30091. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9641984/
  5. Liao, Y., et al. (2019). Efficacy of omega-3 PUFAs in depression: A meta-analysis. Translational Psychiatry, 9:190. From: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-019-0515-5
  6. Kostoglou-Athanassiou, I., et al. (2020). The effect of omega-3 fatty acids on rheumatoid arthritis. Mediterranean Journal of Rheumatology, 31(2): 190-194. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7362115/
  7. Sawada, Y., et al. (2020). Omega 3 fatty acid and skin diseases. Frontiers in Immunology, 11:623052. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7892455/

Can Burnt Food Cause Cancer?

burnt toast with sad face carved out of it placed on a plate

Ever grill up some burgers or fry some bacon that gets a little too crispy? Or maybe that toasted cheese sandwich or roasted potatoes are a little burned, but you enjoy it anyways.

Chances are pretty good you’ve eaten something burnt, charred, or even just a little crips around the edges. Maybe you take the last bite and wonder:

Can burnt food cause cancer? Here’s what you need to know:

The Culprit: Acrylamide

You know that crispy, charred, blackness of burnt food? It’s caused by a chemical called acrylamide that forms when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures.(1) Some foods that burn easily include:

  • Potatoes
  • French fries
  • Bread
  • Coffee
  • Grains

Beware of HCAs and PAHs

Acrylamide isn’t the only potential cancer-causing concern related to cooking.

There are other compounds to consider, too: (2)

  • Heterocyclic amines (HCAs)
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)

These compounds are formed when meat, poultry, or fish are cooked at high temperatures, especially when they’re exposed to open flames or smoke.

Burnt Food & Cancer Risk

Some research suggests that eating higher amounts of burnt food (acrylamide) may increase the risk for certain types of cancer, including: (3)

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Digestive system cancer
  • Renal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Respiratory system cancer

While acrylamide may cause certain types of cancer, the body is good at removing it. That means eating the occasional meal with burnt food, probably won’t raise your risk for cancer. But if you eat burnt food frequently, it may be time to turn down the heat.

How to Cook Healthier

Even though the risks for cancer caused by eating burnt food are minimal, it doesn’t hurt to take some precautions. You can reduce the formation of harmful chemicals in cooked food by adopting healthier methods. (4)

  • When cooking starchy foods like potatoes, try soaking them in water for a bit before frying or roasting.
  • If you love grilling or barbecuing, use aluminum foil as a barrier between your food and the flames
  • Marinate your meat with mixtures containing herbs, spices, and acidic ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice before cooking.
  • Keep an eye on cooking time and temperature. Overcooking or burning food increases acrylamide levels, so it’s a good idea to avoid excessively crispy or charred bits.

Bottom line: The occasional burnt French fry or well-done steak is unlikely to pose a significant cancer risk.

But if you eat a lot of burnt food, it may be time to turn down the temperature, pay closer attention to your food when cooking, and make some simple changes to your diet to eat healthier.

References

  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2022). Acrylamide Questions and Answers. From: https://www.fda.gov/food/process-contaminants-food/acrylamide-questions-and-answers
  2. National Cancer Institute. (2017). Chemicals in meat cooked at high temperatures and cancer risk. From: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cooked-meats-fact-sheet
  3. Basaran, B., et al. (2023). Dietary acrylamide exposure and cancer risk. A systematic approach to human epidemiological studies. Foods, 12(2): 346. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9858116/
  4. European Food Information Council. (2019). How to reduce acrylamide formation at home. From: https://www.eufic.org/en/food-safety/article/acrylamide-infographic-how-to-reduce-acrylamide-formation-at-home

Scratch Summer Sausage Off the Holiday Gift List

sausage crackers and cheese laid out on a wooden board

You’ve seen the summer sausage gift sets. They’re wrapped and packaged with holiday cheer, and don’t need to be refrigerated. Sometimes they even come with crackers, cookies, and decorative silverware.

If you’re heading to the mall, grocery store, or big box warehouse during the holiday season, you might stumble upon samples of summer sausage served on a toothpick.

But this year, scratch summer sausage off the gift list. Rethink your plans for sending fancy meats and cheeses to your mom.

Why? Research shows that the risk for certain types of cancer increases by eating processed meats like: (1)

  • Summer sausage
  • Bologna
  • Salami
  • Hot dogs
  • Canned meats

In the study, researchers looked at the link between cancer and processed meats. And the results were less than appetizing.

  • Processed meats may raise the risk for cancer as much as tobacco, asbestos, and diesel fumes.

So how much do a few slices of summer sausage raise your risk for cancer?

It depends. The less you eat, the lower your risk.

But a lot of people eat processed and red meats at least once a day, and sometimes more during the holidays. Here’s what researchers found…

  • Eating just 1.7 ounces of processed meat a day raises the risk for colon cancer by 18 percent.
  • Red meat wasn’t much better. Just 3.5 ounces each day raises the risk for colon cancer by 17 percent.
  • Here’s a little more food for thought. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. (2)  And colorectal cancer is among the top five most common forms of cancer.

Avoid processed meats: Choose healthier options

If you want to lower your risk for cancer, avoid or limit processed and red meats.

If you’re not ready to give up eating meat, replace red and processed meats with lean meats, fish, and skinless poultry.

References

  1. Bouvard, V., et al. (2015). Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. The Lancet, 16(16): 1599-1600. From: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045%2815%2900444-1/fulltext
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023) Leading causes of death. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm

Deck the Halls with Avocados: A Gift for the Heart

avocados in a bundle

Setting out a Christmas Eve snack for Santa? It’s no wonder the Jolly Old Elf is obese and packs a big, round belly in that red suit. There isn’t enough holiday magic in the world to turn a plate of cookies and a glass of whole milk into healthy foods.

In fact, dairy products, animal fats, and foods made with butter and cream are high in saturated fat. Too much raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Over time, this can block blood vessels and limit blood flow to the heart and brain. Bad cholesterol raises the risk for a heart attack or stroke. (1)

Maybe it’s time to give Santa something else to eat other than cookies and milk.

  • Question: What’s a heart healthy holiday snack? It’s good. It’s green. And it contains healthy fats that help lower bad cholesterol.
  • Answer: Deck the halls and your plate with avocados.

A recent study showed just how healthy avocados can be. Eating one a day for five weeks helped obese people lower bad cholesterol. (2)

Healthy fats and antioxidants in avocados can also help:

  • Prevent plaque build-up on artery walls
  • Reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke
  • Lower the risk for certain types of cancer
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Support brain function
  • Control hunger and aid in weight management

Hungry for better health this holiday season?

Here are three easy ways to add more avocados to your diet:

  • Spread avocado on whole-grain toast.
  • Try veggie dip made with avocado.
  • Add avocado slices to a salad or sandwich.

And leave a healthy snack for Santa and his crew: Guacamole for the Big Guy and carrot sticks for the reindeer.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023). LDL and HDL cholesterol and triglycerides. From: https://www.cdc.gov/cholesterol/ldl_hdl.htm
  2. Wang, L. et al. (2020). A moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day increases plasma antioxidants and decreases the oxidation of small, dense LDL in adults with overweight and obesity: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Nutrition, 150(2): 276-284. From: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31616932/

How to DASH Away High Blood Pressure

healthy assorted foods surrounding the word "dash"

Is your blood pressure naughty or nice? When Santa Claus finally takes a day off to get his blood pressure checked, he’s probably in for a surprise. All those cookies, eggnog, extra pounds, and sitting in the sleigh are bad for the heart.

If your blood pressure (or your belly) looks anything like a jolly, old elf you’ll need to make some changes.

You’re on the Naughty List if…your blood pressure is 120/80 or higher. In case you’re wondering, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure.1

High blood pressure: 7 reasons to stay off the Naughty List

So what’s the big deal with high blood pressure? It’s called the ‘silent killer,’ because there are often no symptoms, even though high blood pressure can take a toll on your body.

Left unchecked, high blood pressure can increase the risk for:

  • Damage to the circulatory system
  • Stroke
  • Vision loss
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney damage
  • Sexual dysfunction

But you can change that with the DASH diet…Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Research shows that the DASH diet can help lower blood pressure by 5 points or more in just four weeks.2 That could be low enough to put you on the Nice List!

DASH diet food guidelines

Ready to DASH away high blood pressure? Start by improving your diet. Here’s how:

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Include healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans and nuts
  • Use healthy oils for cooking (like olive oil or avocado oil)
  • Limit foods high in saturated fats like fried food, red or processed meats, or full-fat dairy products
  • Avoid or limit sugary drinks and snacks.

Making changes to your diet can help lower blood pressure and improve your health.
But don’t stop there. Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, too. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. And you may be on the Nice List soon.

References

  1. American Heart Association. (2023). The facts about high blood pressure. From: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure
  2. Juraschek, S., et al. (2017). Effects of sodium reduction and the DASH diet in relation to baseline blood
    pressure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70: 23. From: https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.10.011

The Breakfast Club: 4 Reasons a Healthy-Morning Meal Matters

assorted healthy breakfast foods

What’s for breakfast? If your morning meal looks anything like Buddy the Elf’s favorite dish, it’s time to pick some healthier options.

In the movie Elf, Buddy (played by Will Ferrell), piles a plate with spaghetti for breakfast. Then he tops it with marshmallows, sugary candy, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, and pastries.

Not exactly healthy, right? Maybe you should just skip breakfast.

That may not be the best option either, according to the American Heart Association. (1)

The trouble with skipping breakfast

An estimated 25 percent of people in the U.S. skip breakfast regularly. (2)

Many who bypass the morning meal do so because they’re running late. Some forgo breakfast because they think it will help control calories or support weight loss.

But research shows skipping breakfast is associated with:

  • Higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • Eating snacks and drinks high in sugar and sodium later in the day
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Lack of energy, or feeling of fatigue and tiredness
  • Depression
  • Increased levels of stress and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of exercise

4 reasons to make breakfast healthy

If you regularly skip breakfast, or you start the day with donuts, fast food, sugary coffee drinks or a heaping pile of pancakes with syrup, now is always a good time to make a change.

Hungry for better health? Check out these four reasons to start your day with a healthy breakfast:

1. Prevent weight gain

In the National Weight Control Registry, 78 percent of the 3,000 people who lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for a year said they ate breakfast every day. (3)

Plus, people who skip breakfast are 55 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

2. Control blood sugar levels

If you don’t have diabetes, you probably know someone who does. About 34 million people have type 2 diabetes. About 96 million have prediabetes.

Left unchecked, it can lead to poor circulation, heart disease, stroke, obesity, blindness, amputations, and early death.

Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can help prevent or control diabetes and regulate blood sugar levels. (4)

3. Lower cholesterol

Want to avoid a heart attack caused by blocked arteries? Keep your cholesterol under control.

In a recent study, researchers found that eating whole-grain oats daily helped lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol. (5)

4. Improve brain function

Want to start the day out right? Need help staying alert and engaged during that morning meeting? Start with breakfast. Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can have a positive impact on mood, memory, creativity, decision-making, and attention. (6)

10 healthy-breakfast ideas for busy people

If you’re among the millions who rush out the door without breakfast, or you’re inclined to go for pastries and sweets to start your day, you need a better breakfast plan.

Put these 10 fast & healthy breakfast ideas on your menu:

  1. The 3-Way: A banana, a handful of pecans, and low-fat yogurt.
  2. Whole-Grain Sweetness: Whole-grain cereal sprinkled with berries and slivered almonds.
  3. Yogi Surprise: Low-fat yogurt mixed with fruit and whole-grain granola.
  4. Egg + 2: Egg whites or egg substitute served with fresh fruit and whole-grain toast.
  5. Fruit-Blender Fun: A fruit smoothie made with frozen berries, banana, and ice.
  6. The Whole Spread: Whole-grain toast topped with peanut butter, avocado, or low-fat cream cheese.
  7. Smooth Move: A strawberry, melon, and yogurt smoothie with flaxseed.
  8. Healthy Double Trouble: Fruit salad and a whole-grain muffin.
  9. Oat That’s Sweet: Steel-cut oats with berries.
  10. Wrap It Up: Breakfast burrito (fill a whole-wheat tortilla with sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, yams, and tomatoes seasoned with garlic and thyme).

Eating a healthy breakfast isn’t hard. But you do need to do a little work to make it happen.

  • Make a shopping list of healthy breakfast foods that you like.
  • Go to the store to stock up on everything you need.

When you wake up in the morning, put together a healthy breakfast and be on your way. It’s that easy.

Sources

  1. American Heart Association. (2017). How to make breakfast a healthy habit. From: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-to-make-breakfast-a-healthy-habit
  2. Pengpid, S., et al. (2020). Skipping breakfast and its association with health risk behavior and mental health among university students in 28 countries. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. Targets and Therapy, 13:2889-2897. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7443458/
  3. Dow, C. (2015). Breakfast consumption and weight loss. American Society for Nutrition. From: https://nutrition.org/breakfast-consumption-weight-loss/
  4. Jakubowicz, D., et al. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized clinical trial. Dibetologia, 58(5):912-919. From: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9?sv1
  5. Hollaender, P., et al. (2015). Whole-grain and blood lipid changes in apparently healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(3):556-278. From: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523126955?via%3Dihub
  6. Tang, Z., et al. (2017). The effects of breakfast on short-term cognitive function among Chinese white-collar workers: protocol for a three-phase crossover study. BMC Public Health. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241917/