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Medical News Notes – April 21, 2010

Posted Wednesday, Apr 21, 2010 by Allen B. Ury

Medical News NotesThe dangers of added sugar and salt. Lactose intolerance myths. These and other interesting stories from the world of health and medicine are in this week’s Medical News Notes!

Added Sugar = Fewer Years

Added sugars can take years off your life, according to an Emory University study to be published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association. The comprehensive study reveals that added sugars in everyday foods significantly lower HDL (so-called “good” cholesterol) and raise triglyceride levels, both conditions having been linked to heart disease and stroke. According to the report, almost 20 percent of Americans now get at least 25 percent of their calories from added sugar, which represents a major health hazard. The authors also note that “natural” sugars, such as those found in fruits and vegetables, do not cause these health problems. So next time you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, pass on the candy bar and grab a handful of grapes instead!

Group Seeks Federal Limits on Added Salt

Even as sugar is being pummeled in the press, salt is being given the old one-two by the Institute of Medicine, which wants the FDA to establish limits on the amount of salt manufacturers can add to prepared foods. “For 40 years we have known about the relationship between sodium and the development of hypertension and other life-threatening diseases,” an Institute spokeswoman said, noting that most Americans now consume far more salt than is considered necessary for life. The organization hopes the FDA will take a phased approach that will allow Americans to slowly become accustom to reduced salt in their diets.

Think You’re Lactose Intolerant? You May Just be Getting Older

According to surveys, 30 to 50 percent of Americans consider themselves “lactose intolerant” because they often have difficulty digesting milk and other dairy products, such as ice cream. But symptoms like gas, bloating, cramps and even diarrhea may not be signs of clinical lactose intolerance, but just the results of dairy-processing enzyme reductions that naturally come with age. This is the conclusion of a report just issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which warns people about avoiding dairy products that contain calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients critical to healthy bones. While lactose intolerance is a specific allergic condition that prohibits sufferers from ingesting dairy-based foods, the discomfort many people experience can be avoided by consuming dairy in smaller portions or buying milk products like Lactaide® that contain additional digestive enzymes.

Modest Weight Loss Can Have Big Effect on the Immune System

Australian researchers have demonstrated that losing just 6 kg (13 pounds) can eliminate many of the risk factors associated with obesity, especially those associated with Type 2 diabetes. Scientists have long known that excess body fat can trigger the production of “pro-inflammatory” immune cells that can travel through the bloodstream and damage a variety of organs, often leading to death. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology Metabolism, the Australian researchers show that, by eliminating excess weight, people can simultaneously eliminate many of the life-threatening dangers associated with these immune cells.

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