Every so often this column contains health tips people need to know about but which don’t each warrant a separate column:
Diabetes: In his book “How Not to Diet,” which came out earlier this year, Dr. Michael Greger presents evidence that a tablespoonful of vinegar (any kind) twice a day with meals helps decrease insulin resistance, the cause of type 2 diabetes. Within a week, fasting blood sugar is lowered by 16 points, which is better than non-insulin diabetes medications such as metformin. After three months, hemoglobin A1C levels (a measure of average blood sugars over the preceding three months) decrease significantly as well. Furthermore, vinegar when taken with a meal, increases satiety (feeling of fullness after a meal), resulting in weight loss.
Lung cancer: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S. The June University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter states that “screening people at high risk for lung cancer saves lives, a large clinical trial has confirmed,” but unfortunately few candidates are taking advantage of this. If you are a current or former smoker, find out if you are a candidate for a screening lung CT scan, by going to one of the following websites: tinyurl.com/WLNCItool, or ShouldIScreen.com. If you find that you are a candidate, you can obtain a screening lung scan locally at a hospital or at Compass Peak Imaging in Glenwood.
Coconut oil is unhealthy: Medical scientists have concerns about coconut products other than coconut water, because they contain over 90 percent harmful saturated fat, which among other things causes the liver to make more LDL (bad cholesterol). Many alternative health providers promote these products, claiming that coconut’s main fat, lauric acid, is beneficial because it’s a “medium chain fat.” The evidence-based Center For Science In The Public Interest is exactly what the name says it is. Its mission is to counteract misleading advertising by the food industry, and it publishes the Nutrition Action Health Letter monthly. A recent issue contained a piece about researchers who analyzed 14 randomized controlled trials that “pitted coconut oil against non-tropical vegetable oils like soybean, canola and olive.” Coconut oil raised LDL 11 points compared to the other oils. Furthermore, there was no evidence that coconut oil lowers body weight, body fat, blood sugar or inflammation — claims that coconut promoters make. The piece points out that biologically, coconut oil “acts more like a long-chain saturated fat.” (Note that for optimal cholesterol levels and health, it’s best to avoid all added oils).
Eggs and cholesterol: Neal Barnard, M.D. is founding president of PCRM (Physician Committee For Responsible Medicine), which publishes the quarterly journal Good Medicine. An article in a recent issue was titled “Egg Industry Scrambles Cholesterol Research.” Dr. Barnard evaluated all research studies published from 1950 to March, 2019, including studies sponsored by the egg industry (many of these reported conclusions that were “discordant with actual study results” and independent studies. His conclusion was: “Eggs raise cholesterol, period. The science is clear.”
Gluten: According to the Berkeley Health Letter, some athletes and celebrities are promoting a gluten-free diet for everyone. It’s imperative that people with celiac disease should avoid gluten, as should people with the poorly defined condition gluten sensitivity. For the rest of us, though, avoiding gluten does not provide any health benefits.
Our fragmented health care system and COVID cases/deaths: We’re living in the era of emerging infectious diseases. Experts feel that one of the many reasons that countries such as Canada have handled the current COVID pandemic so much better than we have in the U.S. is that they have a national, universal health care system.
Greg Feinsinger, M.D., is a retired family physician with a special interest in heart disease and diabetes prevention and reversal, ideally though lifestyle changes. He’s available for free, one-hour consultations—call 379-5718.