Doctor’s Best Diets for the New Year

At the beginning of every new year, it’s customary to make resolutions to improve our lives in some way. Usually near the top of the list of New Year’s resolutions the goal of losing weight. Our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter certainly applaud that one, because obesity negatively impacts our health in so many areas, from the possibility of type 2 diabetes to heart disease. 

But there are other reasons to adhere to a particular type of diet, which don’t necessarily relate to weight loss. Diet in this sense means a way of eating, whether it’s cultural or just for overall health.

Forbes 2023 Rankings

Forbes Health recently consulted a team of seven nutrition experts to rate 19 diets considering a range of factors, from weight loss to heart health. 

Which one is best for you depends on your reason for trying a new diet. Of the 19 diets reviewed, these made the top 10:

  • Best for overall health: Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fresh fruits, olive oil, nuts, and fish
  • Best non-meat diet: vegetarian, which generally doesn’t allow meat, poultry, or fish
  • Best for heart health: dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet, which focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy
  • Best commercial diet: Weight Watchers (now known as WW), emphasizing lower calories, with coaching and group support
  • Best commercial diet runner-up: Noom, an app that ranks food according to calories, with coaching and group support
  • Best non-meat diet runner-up: vegan, which allows no animal products of any kind
  • Best diet for flexibility: pescatarian, a type of vegetarianism that also allows fish and other seafood
  • Best diet for holistic health: Ornish diet, low-fat emphasis allowing no meat, fish, or poultry
  • Best diet for a brain boost: MIND diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets
  • Best diet for a nutrient boost: Nordic diet, consisting primarily of fish, berries, and winter vegetables, with a small amount of meat and sweets allowed

Other Views

The annual US News listing of best diets includes most of the above diets, in addition to Jenny Craig, Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet, the Mayo Clinic diet, volumetrics, the nutritarian diet, the South Beach diet, and the Plantstrong diet.

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on what makes a great diet.

For instance, Dr. Michael Greger told NBC’s TODAY that the worst diet is what he terms the CRAP diet: “calorie-rich and processed foods” that make health problems worse and weight loss impossible.

Instead, he recommends consuming a whole-food, plant-based diet, which is naturally high in fiber and low in calorie density and allows people to eat as much as they want—no calorie counting or portion control needed.

“It’s a diet that minimizes the intake of meat, eggs, dairy, and processed junk, and maximizes the intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes like beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, mushrooms—basically, real food that grows out of the ground. Those are our healthiest choices,” he told TODAY.

“The strategy is to improve the quality of food rather than restricting the quantity of food,” he added, “so it doesn’t leave you hungry. That’s a diet you can stick with. You get a boost of energy, better digestion, better sleep.”

Skip the Gimmicks

His approach is simple. And in contrast, notice what kinds of diets don’t show up on any of these lists.

The hugely popular keto diet is one example. Studies show that 80 percent of those who try it struggle to stick with it. Why, when it often results in huge and rapid amounts of weight loss?

Because it not only can it cause numerous side effects—body aches, headaches, light-headedness, nausea, fatigue and lethargy, constipation, and brain fog—but because everyone else is eating garlic bread and mashed potatoes (not cauliflower) with gravy and pasta. 

Because, in short, the keto diet is restrictive. It has a long list of very tasty foods that either aren’t allowed or are allowed only in small portions after a certain time.

“When you are on the keto diet, you drastically cut your carbs to only 20 per day. That’s less than one apple!” nutritionist Lisa Drayer, a CNN contributor, told the network.

Bottom Line

Above all, research shows that the most successful diet is the one that you yourself designed because it gives you a sense of control, rather than being at the mercy of a set of restrictive rules.

“You have to have joy and pleasure in food,” Stanford University professor of medicine Christopher Gardner told The Washington Post. He has conducted numerous randomized trials to test the success rate of various diets and found they are essentially the same.

“They agree more than they disagree,” he said. Instead, he counsels, “Limit added sugars and refined grains, and eat more non-starchy vegetables. [I]f you do those two things, you get 90 percent of the benefits.” 

If you enjoy what you eat, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with it for the rest of your life, he added.

Study Finds Another Possible Benefit from Intermittent Fasting

Diet fads come and go, especially on today’s social media. Our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter cringe whenever a new weight loss gimmick surfaces, because nearly all of them are unsupported by science, and—while they may achieve temporary weight loss—are nutritionally unsound.

One atypical approach to eating that seems to be generally accepted in the medical literature is the technique of intermittent fasting (IF). This is an eating pattern that includes hours or days of no or minimal food consumption without deprivation of essential nutrients.

The first approach, known as 16:8, is the most popular, which involves fasting for 16 hours a day and consuming all your meals within an eight-hour period.

Other popular types of Intermittent Fasting involve either fasting on alternate days, or 5:2 fasting, which involves eating normally five days a week and fasting for two non-consecutive days a week, consuming 500-600 calories on fasting days.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

Evidence from decades of animal and human research suggests wide-ranging health benefits from IF, according to a 2020 review of the research published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Researchers found that “eating in a six-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.”

And researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine also found numerous health benefits that result from Intermittent Fasting:

-improved working memory and verbal memory
-improved blood pressure and resting heart rates, as well as other heart-related measurements
-reduced tissue damage during and after surgery
-loss of fat while maintaining muscle mass

In addition, the Mayo Clinic reports: “Some research suggests that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial than other diets for reducing inflammation and improving conditions associated with inflammation, such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis, [and] stroke.”

And the American Heart Association recently reported in its journal Heart that “[r]egular fasting is associated with lower rates of heart failure and a longer life span, according to two new studies.”

Latest Finding

Finally, a new study published this month in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism showed that after an IF diet intervention, patients achieved complete diabetes remission, defined as an HbA1c (average blood sugar) level of less than 6.5 percent at least one year after stopping diabetes medication.

In this small study of 36 participants, researchers at Hunan Agricultural University in Changsha, China, placed participants who had type 2 diabetes from one year to 11 years on the more restrictive IF plan of five fasting days followed by 10 days of reintroducing everyday food items such as wheat, barley, rice, rye, and oats. Subjects ranged between 38 and 72 years of age and were using anti-diabetic drugs and/or insulin injections.

Known as the Chinese Medical Nutrition Therapy (CMNT) diet, the approach resulted in 47.2 percent of participants achieving diabetes remission, compared with 2.8 percent in the control group.

The study showed that “type 2 diabetes is not necessarily a permanent, lifelong disease,” Dongbo Liu, the study’s corresponding author and a professor at the University, said in a news release.

Dr. Robert Gabbay, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association (ADA), told UPI he found the study’s findings encouraging.

“This study, though small, adds to the emerging literature on the potential benefits of intermittent fasting for the diabetes community,” he told the news organization.

Some Caution Warranted

If you plan to follow an IF diet, we strongly suggest that you check with us first, because this type of eating plan isn’t for everyone.

For example, one small 2020 study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that those following the 16:8 IF diet over 12 weeks lost little weight but most of what they did lose was “lean mass” which includes muscle tissue, possibly because they were consuming less protein.

And Harvard Health Publishing notes several other potential side effects from IF:

  1. Depending on the length of the fasting period, you may experience headaches, lethargy, crankiness, or constipation.
  2. It may cause you to overeat “because your appetite hormones and hunger center in your brain go into overdrive when you are deprived of food.”
  3. It may be dangerous if you’re taking certain medications, including anti-diabetes drugs and medications for blood pressure or heart disease.

How to Intermittent Fast Safely

Registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, recommends easing into an IF plan to help your body adjust more easily.

“Slowly reduce the time window for eating, over a period of several months,” she advises.

She recommends you should also:

Continue your medication regimen as recommended by your doctor.
Stay hydrated with calorie-free beverages, such as water and black coffee.
Choose a modified fasting plan approved by your doctor if you need to take the medication with food.

Also, if you’re thinking, “If some fasting is good, more will be even better,” don’t. Longer periods without food can encourage your body to store more fat because it slips into starvation mode.

Finally, eating normally during the off-fast portion of the day or week doesn’t mean binging on junk food. Whether fasting or not, your body needs healthy, nutritious food to maintain health and a normal weight.

How and Why to Steer Clear of Ultra-Processed Foods

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter often suggest you consume healthy foods and avoid processed and ultra-processed foods. In the real world, of course, we know how difficult that is to do.

The question is, why? Why have ultra-processed foods come to dominate 60 percent of the American diet?

Ultra-processed foods are quick and convenient, for one thing, and for another, there’s no denying that, for the most part, these foods taste good. From frozen dinners, cookies, and cakes, to fast-food burgers and chicken, fried foods, deli meats, and sodas, many of us not only can’t quit them, but we also don’t want to.

And we convince ourselves that processed foods aren’t really all that bad for us. On that last point, we have to disagree. The one thing we know for sure is that processed and ultra-processed foods can trigger numerous health concerns.

What the Studies Say

For example, one study of more than 22,000 adults published this year in the journal BMJ found that subjects who consumed more ultra-processed foods had a 19 percent higher likelihood of early death and a 32 percent higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate fewer ultra-processed foods.

Another 2019 study published in BMJ followed more than 100,000 adults in France for five years. They found that those who ate the most processed foods were 23 percent more likely to experience a heart condition or stroke than those who consumed the lowest amounts.

A third study, also published in BMJ, tracked 20,000 Spanish adults over 20 years. Those who ate the most processed foods were 62 percent more likely to die during the study period than those who ate the lowest.

Other studies have linked processed and ultra-processed foods to a higher risk for colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

How are Foods Classified?

Researchers classify foods into roughly three categories:

“Unprocessed or minimally processed” foods include fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, legumes, meats, poultry, fish and seafood, yogurt, white rice and pasta, and natural juices (some classification systems divide these into two categories).

“Processed” foods include cheeses, bread, beer, wine, ham, and bacon.

“Ultra-processed” foods include potato chips, pizza, cookies, chorizo, sausages, mayonnaise, chocolates and candies, and artificially sweetened beverages.

They also created a separate category called “processed ingredients,” which includes salt, sugar, honey, olive oil, butter, and lard.

What’s Wrong with Processing?

The big mystery is why foods that are so convenient and taste so good are so bad for us. The problem seems to come from the processing itself, which changes foods from their natural state.

These tend to be high in poor-quality fats, additional sugar, salt, and chemical preservatives, and low in vitamins and fiber. The common factor can be summed up in the phrase “convenience foods”; that is, foods that are quick and easy to prepare at home or grab at a drive-through.

Some researchers believe that changing foods from their natural state leads to inflammation throughout the body, which puts us at risk for a host of diseases.

“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation,” Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Harvard Health Publishing.

“It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases,” he said.

How to Break the Addiction

Asking you to give up all these delicious foods might seem as if we’re condemning you to a life of bland, tasteless meals. But that’s because Big Food has spent billions of dollars getting you addicted to all its additives.

In addition, these ultra-processed foods leave our bodies so depleted of nutrients that we keep eating more and more to try to make up the shortfall, not unlike Star Trek’s famous tribbles, which “starved to death in a storage compartment full of grain.”

The fact is, humans have been eating non- or minimally processed food for millennia. When your taste buds reacclimate themselves to the real thing, you’ll be surprised how sweet a carrot can be, or how a locally grown tomato is bursting with tangy flavor.

Finally, when you begin eating better, you’ll likely begin sleeping better, looking younger, have more energy, and many of the aches and pains you thought you’d just have to live with may begin to decrease or disappear altogether.

Take it Easy

All this will make you want to keep on this new path, and eventually, you’ll lose your taste for processed and ultra-processed foods. When you’ve been eating lower- or no-salt foods for a while, for example, then dip into a package of potato chips, you’ll think the contents are half potatoes and half salt.

The key is to withdraw from these addictive substances gradually. Substitute french fries for sweet potato chips you’ve baked yourself, for instance, or swap out soda for water occasionally.

Shop the store’s perimeter as much as possible, where they keep the fruits and vegetables and fresh meat and seafood.

If you must visit a fast-food restaurant, opt for salads or baked chicken sandwiches if they offer them.

Finally, don’t agonize over everything you eat. Stress is bad for you, too. Simply prefer fresh food over processed as often as possible.

belly fat

From Fat Belly to Flat Belly: 3 Effective Ways to Slim Down

You think you’re doing all the right things: exercising, eating healthy, and keeping your weight in check. So why do you look down and see that bulge hanging over your belt line?

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter can’t promise that the following tips will give you a washboard abdomen, but we do know that you can at least reduce the problem area if you know what causes it and, therefore, how to combat it.

Read more
vit d

Vitamin D: Is It the ‘Cure-All’ Vitamin?

Studies surrounding vitamin D can be conflicting, often leading to confusion on the part of our patients. So our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter thought we’d take a look at some of the newest findings about this essential vitamin.

Dueling Conclusions

As an example of how different researchers can draw opposite conclusions even from the same study, one doctor recently wrote in The Washington Post that a study she led “found no statistically significant reduction in cardiovascular disease or cancer” in a nationwide randomized trial of 26,000 adults over five years.

Furthermore, she wrote, “My colleagues and I have conducted further studies from VITAL [the study’s title] showing that vitamin D supplements do not decrease the risk of cognitive decline, depression, macular degeneration, atrial fibrillation or several other health conditions. The most recent report showed no reduction in the rate of bone fractures—once the vitamin’s most commonly touted benefit.”

She concluded that the vast majority of Americans are already getting all the vitamin D they need from brief sun exposure and a normal diet.

“Is it necessary for you to spend money on the supplement? For most healthy adults, the answer is no,” JoAnn Manson wrote in The Post.

However, this same researcher told the Harvard Gazette in January of this year that the VITAL study showed subjects who took vitamin D, or vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, had a significantly lower rate of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis than those who took a placebo.

“Given the benefits of vitamin D and omega-3s for reducing inflammation, we were particularly in whether they could protect against autoimmune diseases,” she said.

More Confusion

So maybe the vitamin has some value after all, at least for some.

Yet in 2018, another study published in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Library of Medicine looked at the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in the U.S. population. In the introduction, the study’s authors wrote that, “Since foods containing natural vitamin D are rare, the primary source of the compound remains . . . exposure to ultraviolet rays in sunlight.”

It went on to assert that “subclinical vitamin D deficiency . . . plays a role in downstream clinical consequences, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and fractures.”

Why the frequent discrepancy among various studies? One 2020 clinical study published in the journal BMJ sought to answer that question. 

“Our analysis of pooled raw data from each of the 10,933 trial participants allowed us to address the question of why vitamin D ‘worked’ in some trials, but not in others,” Adrian Martineau, a professor at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and a lead researcher on the study, wrote in a release.

Those who have the lowest levels of vitamin D in their blood seem to show the largest benefit, he said, along with those who took it daily or weekly, as opposed to intermittently.

The Last Word?

A fact sheet on vitamin D produced by the NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) updated last month summarized numerous studies, including the VITAL study.

For each of the most common health claims connected to vitamin D it reached the following conclusions:

Bone health – All adults should consume recommended amounts of vitamin D and calcium from foods and supplements.

Cancer – Taken together, studies to date do not indicate that vitamin D with or without calcium supplementation reduces the incidence of cancer, but adequate or higher levels might reduce cancer mortality rates.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) – Overall, clinical trials show that vitamin D supplementation does not reduce CVD risk, even for people with low levels as measured in their blood.

Depression – Overall, clinical trials did not find that vitamin D supplements helped prevent or treat depressive symptoms or mild depression, especially in middle-aged to older adults who were not taking antidepressants.

Type 2 diabetes – Clinical trials provide little support for the benefits of vitamin D supplementation for glucose homeostasis.

Weight loss – Overall, the available research suggests that consuming higher amounts of vitamin D or taking vitamin D supplements does not promote weight loss.

And although the COVID-19 pandemic sparked hope that vitamin D could help prevent or reduce the severity of the illness, two new clinical studies released this month found that it didn’t help with the coronavirus or any other type of respiratory virus.

Vitamin D Overdose?

According to the NIH, the recommended daily allowances for vitamin D are:

  • 0-12 months: 10 mcg (400 IU)
  • 1-70 years: 15 mcg (600 IU)
  • >70 years: 20 mcg (800 IU)

And while many people who supplement with vitamin D take much higher doses than that, too much can be dangerous. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it tends to be stored in the body’s fat and can lead to accidental overdoses. 

The upper limit of safety appears to be 100 mcg (4,000 IU) daily.

Those who take more than that could experience side effects from supplementing with vitamin D, including nausea and vomiting, constipation, weakness, and kidney damage, among others.

Overall, most studies seem to show that supplementing with vitamin D doesn’t have much effect on various conditions. On the other hand, moderate doses from a reputable manufacturer are generally considered safe. So if you think you could benefit from vitamin D supplements, the decision is up to you.

organic

Some Common Questions About Organic Foods

Our concierge primary care doctors in Jupiter of course want our patients to eat healthy foods as much as possible.

This typically means a diet low in processed foods and high in fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, along with lean meats and fish.

Does it also mean eating organic foods as well? Many people hear the word “organic” and automatically think it equals “healthy,” but that may not always be the case. So let’s try to clear up the confusion around this widely available—and usually much more expensive—food.

What does the term “organic” mean?

The word “organic” refers to the way the food is grown and processed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created a set of standards that describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled organic.

The National Organic Program (NOP), an advisory committee that includes members of the public, develops these rules and regulations for the USDA.

They include several restrictions on farming practices and raising livestock and poultry, as well as on handling and labeling.

In general, the regulations restrict the types of pesticides, fertilizers, and seeds that can be used, and ensure healthy farming practices to protect the environment.

To receive the USDA Organic seal, a product must:

Improve soil and water quality.
Enable farm animals’ natural behaviors.
Cut pollution.
Promote a self-sustaining cycle of resources on a farm.

Certified organic products cannot use:

artificial fertilizers or sewage sludge as fertilizer
radiation to preserve food or get rid of pests or diseases
genetically modified or engineered materials to improve crop harvests or improve pest or disease resistance
antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock
most synthetic pesticides (except in special, USDA-approved circumstances)

Is organic food healthier?

You can find all kinds of persuasive arguments and testimonials online about how organic food is so much healthier for you to eat.

It’s certainly healthier for the environment, because of the sustainable practices organic farmers use.

It’s also undeniably better to avoid products from animals that have been fed antibiotics throughout their lifecycle to promote unnatural growth and suppress diseases that occur from overcrowded conditions. This is one of the things that contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.

Other than that, though, science has so far not been able to prove that organic foods contain more substantial nutrients than conventionally grown foods.

As reported by Harvard Health, one meta-study by Stanford researchers, for example, found little difference in nutritional content, except for slightly higher phosphorus levels and a higher omega-3 fatty acid content in organic milk and chicken. And the bacteria that can cause food poisoning were equally present in both organic and non-organic foods.

And according to the Mayo Clinic, studies have shown much lower cadmium levels in organically grown grains, but not fruits and vegetables. Cadmium is a toxic chemical found naturally in the soil and absorbed by plants as they grow.

Is the label ‘organic’ a guarantee?

If the food contains the USDA Certified Organic label, that means it was grown and processed according to federal guidelines.

According to the USDA, “Produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

“As for organic meat, regulations require that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behavior (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100 percent organic feed and forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.”

The agency performs more than 45,000 onsite inspections per year to ensure compliance with regulations. If foods are labeled “100 percent organic,” that means all ingredients are certified organic. Foods labeled “organic” contain at least 95 percent certified organic ingredients.

On the other hand, labels that say “made with organic” or “organic ingredients” can’t carry a USDA seal, because they contain less than 95 percent organic ingredients.

More confusion in labels

In addition, there is a difference between “organic” and “natural” on a product’s label. The term “natural” may simply refer to products or animals that have been minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients, but that doesn’t mean they’re organic.

Another confusing term is “grass-fed,” which means animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their entire life and have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. It does not mean they have been raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides on their feed.

Likewise, “cage-free” birds are able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle. “Free-range” birds are provided shelter in a building, room, or area with unlimited access to food and fresh water, as well as continuous access to the outdoors during their production cycle. But neither of these terms reveals whether they have been raised without antibiotics or hormones.

So is organic better for you? In some of the ways we’ve listed above, yes. But only you can decide whether the extra expense is worth the small gains in nutritional value, as well as the larger impact on the environment and the animal’s welfare.

pfas

How to Combat the Lingering Danger of ‘Forever Chemicals’

They’re called “forever chemicals” because they don’t break down fully in the environment, and this summer the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that they are more dangerous to human health than regulators knew.

Within weeks, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS) weighed in with its own 300-page report on these chemicals, known as perfluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances, urging doctors to test high-risk patients for PFAS contamination.

Because of the heightened attention on these chemicals, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter want to summarize for you what we’ve learned about them, and offer tips on how to reduce your exposure.

The Problems with PFAS

In 1946, DuPont introduced its revolutionary non-stick product, Teflon. By 1950, studies by DuPont and 3M showed that PFAS could build up in the blood, but chose to keep these results secret, according to the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Since 1998, when a class-action lawsuit against a West Virginia DuPont factory revealed the extent of the pollution from the factory, researchers have found probable links to such diseases as:

  • thyroid disease
  • high blood pressure
  • kidney cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • breast cancer
  • higher cholesterol levels
  • ulcerative colitis
  • weakened immune system 
  • vaccine interference
  • weight gain
  • changes in liver enzymes
  • decreased fertility
  • growth and learning delays in infants and children

The NAS report encourages doctors to conduct blood tests for these chemicals on patients who are worried about exposure or who are at high risk for exposure or who are in “vulnerable life stages”: during pregnancy, early childhood, and old age. 

They’re Everywhere

As we’ve seen with microplastics, PFAS can begin innocently enough and end up in unexpected places, including our water.

Recently, for example, Consumer Reports (CR) tested more than 100 food-packaging products from U.S. restaurants and supermarkets. They found dangerous PFAS chemicals in many of the products, including paper bags for french fries, hamburger wrappers, pizza boxes, molded fiber salad bowls, and single-use paper plates.

These chemicals are used in a wide variety of products, including waterproof and sweatproof makeup, nonstick cookware, cellphones, waterproof clothing, carpets, and—especially—fast-food containers, where their ability to make products grease-proof has led to their widespread use.

They are also used to make products water-repellent and resistant to high temperatures, as well as in fire-fighting foams used at military installations, floor wax, upholstery, and clothing. The qualities that make items containing PFAS so desirable, however, also make them long-lasting in the environment.

Lingering Threat

“These chemicals are ubiquitous in the American environment,” Ned Calonge, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health and chair of the NAS committee that wrote the report, told CNN.

“More than 2,800 communities in the U.S., including all 50 states and two territories, have documented PFAS contamination,” he said.

Researchers have even detected them in the snows of Mt. Everest, apparently shed from climbers’ waterproof tents and parkas. 

“You are not just exposed in one place or one source,” toxicologist Linda Birnbaum, former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, told The Washington Post. “They are everywhere.”

The problem is that these chemicals build up (or “bioaccumulate”) in the body over time. 

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has been conducting studies of the U.S. population, PFAS has been found in the blood of nearly all people they’ve tested. Since the risk appears to rise with the amount of exposure, it’s important to try to limit the amount we come in contact with.

What You Can Do

Because PFAS chemicals are found in so many consumer products, they’re next to impossible to avoid. But there are ways to reduce the amount you’re exposed to.

“The most dangerous way that people are exposed to PFAS is through drinking water,” says Don Huber, director of product safety at CR.

That’s why the NAS report recommended filtering tap water as a major step consumers could take to protect themselves.

“The water filters that are most effective for PFAS are reverse osmosis filters,” David Andrews, a senior scientist for the EWG, told CNN, adding that some carbon-based filters can also reduce some levels.

“The important part is that you have to keep changing those filters,” he said. “If you don’t change that filter, and it becomes saturated, the levels of PFAS in the filtered water can actually be above levels in the tap water.”

The NAS committee also offered these tips:

  • Stay away from stain-resistant carpets and upholstery, and don’t use waterproofing sprays.
  • Look for the ingredient PTFE or other “floro” ingredients on product labels.
  • Avoid nonstick cookware. Instead, use cast-iron, stainless steel, glass, or enamel products.
  • Boycott takeout containers and other food packaging. Instead, cook at home and eat more fresh foods.
  • Don’t eat microwave popcorn or greasy foods wrapped in paper.
  • Choose uncoated nylon or silk dental floss or one that is coated in natural wax.
health benefits of coffee

Coffee Scores Another Win for Improving Health

Besides water, our primary care concierge doctors in Jupiter are hard-pressed to think of another beverage that offers such a wide range of health benefits as coffee.

For example, research has found that regular coffee consumption has been linked to a lower risk of: 

  • heart disease and strokes
  • heart failure
  • melanoma
  • diabetes
  • liver and prostate cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease

Evidence piles up

Studies have also found that the caffeine in two cups of coffee a day provides significant protection against Alzheimer’s disease, as well as other types of dementia. A study released last year, for example, found that individuals who drank four to six cups of coffee or tea a day reduced their risk of stroke and dementia by 28 percent compared to those who did not drink either beverage.

Another study, published last year in the journal BMC Public Health, found that those who drink three to four cups of coffee a day (whether ground, instant, caffeinated or decaf) reduced their risk of chronic liver disease by 21 percent, compared with those who didn’t drink coffee at all.

A third study, also published last year in the American Heart Association (AHA) journal Circulation, found that drinking one or more cups of plain, caffeinated coffee a day was associated with a long-term reduced risk of heart failure.

The AHA researchers found that the risk of heart failure dropped between five percent and 12 percent for each cup of black coffee the subjects drank. The risk declined even more, to 30 percent, when subjects drank two or more cups daily in one of the studies. The study found, however, that decaffeinated coffee did not offer the same benefit. 

“The association between caffeine and heart failure risk reduction was surprising,” senior author Dr. David Kao, medical director of the Colorado Center for personalized Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, said in a statement.

“Coffee and caffeine are often considered by the general population to be ‘bad’ for the heart because people associate them with palpitations, high blood pressure, etc. The consistent relationship between increasing caffeine consumption and decreasing heart failure risk turns that assumption on its head,” he said.

Latest findings

The most recent research, published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that people who drink a moderate amount of coffee, defined as up to 3 1/2 cups a day, were up to 36 percent less likely to die from any cause over the seven-year period of the study than those who did not drink coffee.

It didn’t matter what type of coffee the subjects drank—ground, instant, caffeinated, or decaf—or even if they added a modest amount of sugar: The results were the same.

According to Johns Hopkins, there are also many other benefits from daily coffee consumption. For example:

  • Coffee may help your body process glucose better, meaning you may be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Coffee may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, and help those who have it control their movements better.
  • Coffee can help lower your risk of colon cancer.
  • Drinking dark-roast coffee has even been shown to decrease breakage in DNA strands, which helps protect against various cancers.

Some coffee caveats

It’s typical with humans, however, to think that if something is good for you, more of it is better. That’s rarely the case, including with coffee.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (U.S.D.A.) Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. An average eight-ounce cup contains 95 milligrams of caffeine.

Several studies—including those outlined above—have found that five cups of coffee a day appears to be the upper limit of safety. In fact, a 2009 study found a 17-21 percent increased risk of death among those who drank four or more cups a day.

Other possible negative effects of too much coffee include:

  • increased blood pressure
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • dehydration
  • increased heart rate
  • abnormal heart rhythm
  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • insomnia

In addition, a 2017 study found that pregnant women who drink more than four cups of coffee a day were more likely to experience low birth rate babies, preterm births, and stillbirths.

Another study linked coffee consumption with the possibility of increased bone loss in postmenopausal women if their diets lack sufficient calcium intake.

Finally, those who are sensitive to caffeine may experience many of these side effects with even small amounts of coffee. Older adults also may not be able to metabolize caffeine as well they did when they were younger.

And anyone who is taking certain drugs (like ephedrine, used in decongestants) can experience increased blood pressure, along with a higher stroke risk, when they consume coffee as well. 

But if you’re not caffeine-sensitive, and you don’t overdo it, our primary care doctors urge you to feel free to enjoy that third or fourth cup of the day without guilt.

1 2 3 7