diabetes prevention

This tag is associated with 10 posts

Channel Your Inner Parisian…

…and hop on that bicyclette.

Recently, a study looked at the health benefits of riding a bicycle to do errands, like going to the store. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin analyzed, statistically, what would happen if the 31 million people living in the Upper Midwest did half their short-distance errands (defined as 2.5 miles one way) by bike instead of by car. Their conclusions?

If people ran even half these errands by bike instead of car, 1,100 deaths would be avoided each year. And there would be a $7 billion savings in health-care costs.

Now that’s a good reason to get on a bicycle. Although, really, even without this study, we all know this is a good idea, don’t we? 

I have been, embarassingly, without a bicycle for a couple of years now. Okay more than a couple. But my husband just bought me one for my birthday–a totally cute little black number with whitewall tires, an upright city bike with a basket, just like you’d see all over the Left Bank. So I’m pretty excited to cruise around town on it. And, since I’m lucky enough to live in a temperate climate where I can do that pretty much year-round (yay West Coast!), I’ll have lots of opportunity. Plus, I’m going to go ahead and read between the lines in this study–I think they’re actually encouraging us to go shopping on our bicycles.

Pretty sure. 

So…in fact, this is all about me going shopping. Not merely exercising.  

Now, speaking of European-style health ideas (my minor obsession)…

My Gestational Diabetes

My first pregnancy was picture-perfect. Right up until the emergency C-section, that is. (But that’s another story…)

My second pregnancy, five years later, was not so perfect.

About halfway through I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Surprise!

This came entirely out of left field for me, with no risk factors and no family history. And suddenly it was: doctor becomes patient.

Of course, I had a family physician’s knowledge of gestational diabetes. Which was decent, enough, from a medical point of view. But not nearly detailed enough for a living-it-day-to-day point of view. I suddenly found myself on a very steep learning curve, learning about gestational diabetes from the inside.

And it was fascinating.

I was referred to the diabetes education center and a dietitian who specialized in gestational diabetes. I picked her brain something fierce, in my quest for more info.

I made rapid changes to my diet. (And this is the thing about gestational diabetes, you have to figure it out and make the changes fast. You’ve only got a few weeks to get it right. But the motivation is great: it’s for your unborn baby!) And I gotta say, I have never felt so healthy and energetic. I was eating a lot of food: frequent meals and snacks. I never felt hungry. I felt way less bloated than I had been feeling earlier in my pregnancy. And, get this: although I was pregnant, I started losing a little weight! Which is not exactly what I wanted to do, in pregnancy, but it made me think about the effect this diet was having on my metabolism.

The most interesting thing was monitoring my blood sugar. I got immediate feedback about how healthy my food choices were, every time I had a meal.

So here were the things I did:

I ate smaller meals, and included snacks between meals and at bedtime. This is how you keep a nice even blood sugar level throughout the day. I did everything I could to not skip meals or snacks, because I found that if I was really late for a meal, after I eventually ate my blood sugar went crazy high.

I tried to include protein with most meals and snacks.

I became a Glycemic Index guru, and swapped all my high-GI carbs for low-GI carbs.

I avoided excess sugar. I cut out juice and pop and other forms of liquid sugar.

I (somewhat reluctantly) used Splenda in my coffee.

I ate lots of fiber-rich foods and lots of veggies.

I kept a detailed food diary (including my blood sugar recordings).

And…wait for it…

I cheated sometimes! Which is okay!! Cheating is normal, human, and helps stave off feelings of resentment and deprivation. As long as you don’t beat yourself up, and you get right back on that horse (and as long as you don’t cheat too often)…I say no problemo.

Artificial Sweeteners: A Good Idea?

When I became pregnant for the second time, I decided to eliminate artificial sweeteners from my diet. No more Splenda in my coffee. No more Diet Coke. And I felt great about that decision. Even though the evidence has not yet demonstrated a definite risk, I just felt better about keeping my diet as natural as possible. Then, about halfway through my pregnancy I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

Yeah, I know, I was shocked too. (I’m not overweight and I totally don’t fit the profile, except for, ahem, advanced maternal age).

Anyway, I then found myself having to re-evaluate the decision about sugar vs. sweeteners. I’d been happy to cut out the artificial chemicals of aspartame and Splenda. But now I knew for sure that plain ol’ sugar was harmful to my developing baby. I had to choose between the devil I knew and the devil I didn’t. So…I decided to eliminate the thing I knew was harmful (sugar) in favor of the thing that was only possibly harmful (sweeteners).

And this is how it is with decisions. We have to make decisions based on the best available evidence. Which is by no means all the evidence that will ever come to light as research, of course, is ongoing. In generations to come, pregnant women with gestational diabetes may have the definitive answer on the sugar/sweetener conundrum. But that doesn’t help anyone in the here and now.

Anyway, I discussed it with my diabetes dietitian, and she suggested I stick with the sweeteners that are the least controversial. Specifically, Splenda (sucralose). This is exactly what I did.

Now that I’m not pregnant, and my gestational diabetes has gone away, I’m free to consider my sugar-related options more openly.

Sugar is a contentious dietary issue that I’ve covered in the past. We crave sweetness, naturally, and I’m not one of those sugar-is-evil-must-eliminate-at-all-costs types. That being said, excess sugar is clearly not good for our health. As a solution to the sugar dilemma many people think: no problem. I’ll just have a sweetener instead, and that takes care of that.

But, sadly, it’s not so simple.

Recent studies have shown that people who drink even one diet soda a day have a higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease and diabetes. More irritatingly perhaps, recent studies are showing that diet soda doesn’t even seem to help people lose weight.

Huh? How does that make sense? Here’s the current thinking on this paradox:

One problem is that people view diet soft drinks as a license to overindulge in other ways. I’m saving calories on my Coke, so I can order the burger and fries without guilt, right? Right?


There are other theories, too. The caramel flavoring in diet cola might reduce your body’s ability to process blood glucose at a molecular level. Another possibility to explain the research: it might be that people who are already overweight, and therefore at risk for diabetes and heart disease, are more likely to already be drinking that diet soda (in an attempt to lose weight).

What about sweeteners in general, not just in diet soda? Well, there’s some evidence that artificial sweeteners actually cause weight gain. This might be because all that sweetness actually fuels your sweet tooth. Making your brownie cravings that much worse. It looks like artificial sweeteners only help with weight loss if people can curb the urge to overcompensate by indulging in high-calorie foods. Which, alas, is not easy.

All told, I’m not really a fan of sweeteners anymore. Essentially, it doesn’t feel like “real food” to me. (As I keep saying to my 1-year old when he repeatedly attempts to put items like the TV remote in his mouth: “not food, sweetheart”) And if there isn’t really a health advantage anyway, what’s the point? 

Me, I think I’ll stick to limited amounts of real sugar.


Losing Weight the French Way: Weighing In On The Dukan Diet

Everywhere I look these days I see something about the Dukan Diet. it’s the diet that, famously, Kate and her mother went on prior to the Royal Wedding. And it’s touted as the new French woman’s secret. Apparently it swept Europe after it was first published in 2000, and now it’s come to North America. I also read a claim that it was similar to Atkins but with a few key changes (like a “healthier Atkins”).

With all this attention, I decided I really had to look into it.

So I bought the book, read it completely, and here’s my summary:

Pierre Dukan is a French physician who developed his diet over 35 years in clinical practice.There are four phases to the diet.

1)The Attack Phase. This is where you eat what he calls “pure protein”. Only lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, nonfat dairy, and tofu. Plus 1 1/2 tbsp oat brain daily, at least 1 1/2 quarts water daily, and a 20 minute walk every day. The idea here is to kick-start your weight loss and give you some positive reinforcement. This phase lasts 2-7 days.

2)The Cruise Phase. Here you alternate 1 pure protein day with 1 protein + vegetables day (but not starchy eg, like potatoes, corn, and lentils). Plus oat bran (now 2 tbsp) and 30 minutes of walking daily. You stay on this diet until you’ve reached your target weight. Dukan reports that you should expect to lose around 2 pounds per week, although the weight loss may be faster in the initial stages of this phase. 

3)The Consolidation Phase. He also calls this the Transition Diet. The idea here is a very slow transition back to your “normal” or long-term eating plan. He says that this is a crucial phase, and ignoring this step (on any diet) is the reason so many people have rebound weight gain. The duration of this phase is 5 days for every pound you lost on the diet. Essentially, you’re slowly re-introducing the foods you eliminated from the first two phases. So what are you eating? All protein and vegetables from the previous phase, plus one serving of fruit per day, 2 slices of whole grain bread per day, 1 1/2 ounces of cheese per day, and 2 servings of starchy food per week. Plus 2 “celebration meals” per week, and 1 day of pure protein per week.

4)The Permanent Stabilization Phase. This is the eating plan you are supposed to maintain for life. It’s pretty simple: you eat “normally” 6 out of 7 days per week. Each week you have one day of pure protein, just like in the Attack Diet. He has three other guidelines: 1)no escalators or elevators. 2) eat 3 tbsp of oat bran a day. And 3) “Hold on to everything you have learned and the good habits you have acquired while completing the whole program”.

So after reading the book, I looked for some evidence or research that might have been done on this particular diet. And there was nothing. Nobody has researched the Dukan diet, specifically. Not even Dukan himself. Okay, well, except from his observations while using this diet with his patients for 35 years. But this experience is all anecdotal and observational. Which isn’t terrible, just not exactly rigorous research. But just because there isn’t a lot of research on something, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad. It could just mean scientists haven’t had a chance to study it yet. The truth–good or bad, or both–will come out eventually. But that doesn’t help us in the here and now.

There is rigorous research, on the other hand, for the general principle of low-carb diets. They are effective for weight loss, that much we know. And that’s Dukan’s underlying principle: low (or no) carb, and high protein.

The most radical part of this diet is the Attack Phase, where he advocates protein only. And this is where dietitians seem to get a little nervous (or scream & shout). But, the thing is, that phase only lasts 2-7 days. That’s pretty brief. If you’re generally healthy, it’s hard to imagine you doing any major damage to yourself in such a short time. Especially if you follow his advice and drink tons of water. After that, the alternating protein diet, he’s got you eating plenty of vegetables, which is a very healthy thing. And he emphasizes lean protein–which, to my mind, is a good thing (better than a bacon-cheese-egg diet which is a common interpretation of Atkins, the Zone, etc). The third phase is where I have a few more concerns. In principle, I think a very slow transition phase to allow your body to stabilize after weight loss is a great idea. But the rules in this phase are complicated, and I wonder how many people will be able to follow it properly. Also, going for so long with so little fruit has me worried, too. The fourth phase, for long-term maintenance, seems to be pretty sound. Again, I don’t think most people would be harmed by a protein day once a week. I’m just not sure it would be enough to keep people from regaining weight over the long-term. A lot would depend on what they’re eating the other days of the week.

Bottom line for me: I think this diet might work for weight loss for some people. The rules of the weight loss phases are pretty simple, and keeping things simple is very helpful for adherence to a diet. I’m going out on a bit of a limb here, given that my profession is evidence-based, and this diet is anything but. It’s pretty radical to go so low-carb, and not something I would advocate long-term. Vegetarians would have a difficult time with this diet. And I would not recommend it for anyone who isn’t generally healthy, especially people with kidney disease, and certainly not for pregnant/breastfeeding women or children. 

I guess what it comes down to is weighing the costs and the benefits. Do the benefits of weight loss to a person’s health, especially if they are obese (and thus at high risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes…well-documented stuff), outweigh the possible (and as yet, not exactly known) risks of a radical diet in the short-term? If a diet like this helps someone who is destined for bad health consequences down the road, is it worth the short-term complications (like constipation and bad breath on a high-protein diet)? Lots of questions, not a lot of answers at this point (from a research point of view). But, as with so many things, I think it comes down to individual factors–what works for one person may be a terrible idea for another. And vice versa. 

Anybody have any experience with the Dukan Diet? I’d love to hear about it.

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Why You Should Drink Tea

So I talk a lot about coffee. I love my Starbucks.

But what about tea?

Yes, I love tea too. At my house, 3 pm is definitely tea time. This is more a cultural thing than anything else, for me, having British parents and having spent two sabbaticals in the UK.

Most people have a vague sense that tea is good for you. But let’s dig into that a little.

Mountains of research link tea consumption to reduced cancer risk. Pretty much, name a kind of cancer, and tea has been shown to help prevent it.

Tea has also been demonstrated to reduce heart disease risk.

Diabetes? Yes, there are studies connecting tea intake with lower rates of diabetes.

Inflammation? Tea can help you beat it down. (read more about the anti-inflammatory diet here)

Green tea catechins have even been linked to weight loss, recently. Green tea just might increase metabolism–which is fabulous news, but the research is very young, indeed, and we’ll need to see how this one plays out.

Green tea, in particular, seems to get all the press. And I want to like it, I really do. But…I find so many green teas just taste, well, yuck. Too bitter, and overall kinda strange, like I’m drinking grass or something. I am on a hunt to find a green tea I like (and I’m narrowing in…the green tea I had when I went out for sushi last weekend was great. I had several cups and could have had more. I asked the waitress what kind of tea it was, exactly, and she said it was green tea with brown rice. So I’m looking for that. Anyone know any good sources?)

Meantime, though, how about my ordinary ol’ tea? Am I getting health benefits just from drinking my plain old orange pekoe? I know it’s not sexy and isn’t anything new. But…is it as good as green tea?

Well, looks like one confounding problem is that there are more studies on green tea than black. But, of the studies that have been done, the evidence seems to show that black tea is just as beneficial as green. We know that both green and black teas are rich sources of flavonoids. Black tea, however, has more caffeine than green does (although green tea certainly does have caffeine–something not a lot of people realize). Basically, until I find a green tea I like, I’m going to stick with my regular, boring old cup of tea.

And then there’s this: beyond the antioxidants, the catechins, the flavonoids…I think the de-stressing aspect of a nice cup of tea is significant. Is there anything more soothing? Ritual is a wonderful thing.

Want to know more? WebMD has a thorough primer on tea.

More of a coffee drinker? Check out what I’ve got to say about coffee here.

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Why You Should Eat Soy

In a study that was just reported this week, soy was associated with lowered systolic blood pressure. An interesting finding, and one that backs up what a lot of people already believe: that soy products are a health boon. Of course soy foods and tofu are excellent sources of protein, which is a key part of a healthy diet and a great way to feel full, improve energy, and maintain (or lose) weight. Soy has been a major staple in Asian diets for thousands of years. And yes, those are the populations that consistently outstrip North Americans in health and longevity.

So this recent study prompted me to review the evidence surrounding soy, and see what other benefits have been proven so far. Here’s what I found:

Cholesterol. Studies have shown soy to decrease total cholesterol, and LDL (bad cholesterol) in particular.

Diabetes. A huge study of over 64,000 women showed that consumption of legumes, soybeans in particular, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

Cancer. A meta-analysis was done in 2010, and found that soy was associated with a reduction in colorectal cancer risk in women.

Heart disease. Research showed that the intake of soy nuts in women with hypertension improved the inflammatory process that plays a role in atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease).

There’s more, but these were some of the key findings I unearthed. It must be said, though, that most of the health improvements attributed to soy intake were modest. Translation? Soy is good, but it’s not a magic bullet.

At any rate, it looks like including more soy in your diet is a good idea. And something I’m going to try to boost.

Now…I just need to find a soy product I actually like.

Soy milk? I’ve tried this one, straight and in my coffee…and, well, yuck. Not for me.

Tofu? I’ve also tried this one repeatedly (especially when I was a vegetarian for two years) and it always took various mind-tricks to get beyond the texture.

But on the other hand: Edamame? Yes. This I love. I could wolf down an entire bowlful of edamame.

And soy nuts are pretty good too, sprinkled on a salad. Yum.

My question: what’s your favorite soy recipe? Do you have a good way of including soy in your diet?

Bittersweet: What To Do About Sugar

How confused are you over sugar & sweeteners? Is sugar the devil? Does aspartame cause cancer?

To start, sugar is not inherently evil, in my opinion. And I’m not alone in that camp. However, there’s definitely controversy over this subject. In fact, the debate over sugar has been heating up for quite some time.

But until we have more definitive evidence against it, I’m going with a more intuitive approach (a term I’m going to borrow, here, from a fellow health blogger I greatly admire), which is all about listening to our bodies. Fact is, we crave sweetness. It’s a natural phenomenon. Our bodies are built for it. Right from day one, babies crave breast milk–a naturally very sweet food! 

So don’t feel bad about sugar cravings. Guilt? Not a healthy emotion.

That being said, you do need to be careful about sugar. Excessive sugar will make you gain weight, increase your risk of developing diabetes, and possibly cause even worse health consequences.

There are ways to handle your sugar intake. You just have to know what you’re doing.

In coming posts, I’ll cover various sugar substitutes and sweeteners, but let’s start with sugar itself. It comes in a variety of forms: white sugar and table sugar (technically known as sucrose), brown, raw, Demerara, cane sugar, fruit sugar, and everything in between.

Is there any difference, really, in all these forms? Not much, to be honest. I know it feels like ‘organic’ and ‘raw’ sugar should be better for you. But as far as we know right now, it’s a bit of propaganda that there’s any significant difference. You’ll just be fooling yourself that you’re eating healthfully. A better approach? Monitor your sugar intake, in all forms, and do what you can to cut down (without feeling like you have to cut it out entirely).

So how to do that?

  • Read ingredient labels. If sugar is listed as one of the top ingredients, the product probably contains a large amount of sugar. Tread carefully! 
  • Eat whole foods that are sweetened by nature (not a factory): fruit, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, dairy products…
  • Add less sugar to coffee and tea. You can modify your palate, to a certain degree. Get used to half as much sugar, then see if you can cut back even more.
  • Reduce sugar in foods you make at home. Try new recipes or modify your own. Start by reducing sugars gradually, and try adding spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, and ginger. Try this: spiced foods will taste sweeter if warmed.
  • Buy fewer soft drinks, fruity/sweetened drinks and sweet desserts. Remember: some low-fat desserts may be very high in sugar.

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What Is The Anti-Inflammatory Diet, and Why Should You Follow It?

In the short term, inflammation is not a problem. It’s the body’s normal response to injury, and it’s a healing response. It’s also part of our immune system, and how we fight infection. But when inflammation doesn’t shut off like it should, and becomes chronic? That’s a problem.

Why inflammation is bad for you

We’re not talking about the kind of swelling that occurs with an ankle sprain, here. No. We’re talking about the process that, increasingly, is turning up as the culprit in a plethora of serious diseases that you just don’t want: heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. This kind of smoldering inflammation occurs without our awareness. It leads a stealth attack on our own tissues and organs. It produces a cascade of chemicals (like prostaglandins) that seethe throughout our bodies. And unless we take steps to stop that inflammation, we’re going to end up aging faster and falling prey to chronic disease.

So, what to do?

Dear Inflammation: Your services will no longer be required

The good news is that you can modify your body’s own inflammatory reaction. Start here: with an anti-inflammatory diet. This is not a diet, per se, in that you’re aiming to lose weight (although you may find that happens naturally). This is a diet to help you improve your health.

Eat Less or Eliminate:

  • Saturated fat (bacon, steak, butter, cream, etc) These increase prostaglandins, inflammatory chemicals in the body
  • Vegetable oils that contain omega 6 fatty acids: eg. corn, sunflower, safflower oil (they also increase prostaglandins)
  • Hydrogenated fats (margarine, vegetable shortening, and anything made with these)
  • Processed food, junk food, fast food
  • Highly refined food (eg. white sugar, white flour)
  • Nitrites (in hot dogs, some cold cuts, sausages)

Eat More:

  • Whole foods
  • Monounsaturated fat: Olive oil, most importantly
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (cold water fish like salmon, herring, sardines; omega-3 fortified eggs; walnuts; flaxseed)
  • Vegetable protein, beans and soybeans in particular
  • Plenty of fruits & vegetables, with lots of colors: esp dark leafy greens (spinach, broccoli), tomatoes, berries, avocados
  • Green tea
  • Red wine
  • Small amounts of dark chocolate
  • Herbs & spices: ginger, oregano, turmeric

Truth be told, there’s a lot of crossover in this diet with the Mediterranean diet. No coincidence, there. People in the Mediterranean just so happen to have lower rates of many of the chronic diseases we’re trying to avoid, like heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you liked this article, you also might be interested in reading:

Looking for more information on the anti-inflammatory diet? Check out the good Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid here. (Most excellent.)

How Healthy Are You, Really?

So you feel, well, okay. But is okay good enough? Could you do better?

Time to be honest…with yourself. Because prevention, in my book, is far better than waiting for symptoms to appear.

Below you’ll find some questions to answer. Now, this is not a multiple choice quiz, with a cute classification scale at the end. These are open-ended questions. That’s because I’m assuming you’re a smart cookie. More important than a tidy little category is how you feel when you look at your answers all together, when you read them over, when you really start thinking about it.Most of us know, deep down, what we need to work on…we just need some prodding. And someone to pose the questions.

One further note: these questions are not intended to make you feel guilty. They are intended to jostle your brain, to give you something to think about. Perhaps to serve as a wake-up call. To get you thinking about what you are doing great (yay!) and what you could improve upon. This is a starting point. A time for reflection.

So, get out a notebook and get ready to jot some stuff down. Ask yourself:


Do you get enough sleep for you? This might be 8 hours, or more, or less. More important: do you wake up feeling groggy? Check your eyes: just how dark are those circles, darling?

How is your alcohol intake? One glass of wine a day = purrrfect. More than that? Hmmmm…

Do you smoke? Sweetheart, you really gotta quit. Gonna quote Skinny Bitch on this one: smoking is for losers.

Exercise: are you moving that bod enough? Come on, fess up.

Any idea what your BMI is? Here’s a handy little tool  for ya. (no excuses)


When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? High blood pressure is silent. You would never know, unless you checked.

When was your last Pap? Here are my thoughts on this: Yes, Pap smears are uncomfortable. Know what’s more uncomfortable? Cancer.

Have you had screening bloodwork done lately? Here are some things to consider having done, depending on your risk factors:

  • TSH level (a thyroid screen)
  • hemoglobin & ferritin (iron levels)
  • vitamin D levels
  • lipids (cholesterol)
  • fasting glucose
  • others…depending on your personal profile (which you need to discuss with your doctor)

And speaking of screening, if you’re over 40 have you had a mammogram? (screening recommendations might be different if you have a family history of breast cancer)

How about STD screening? Once again: silent. With nasty repercussions if left undiagnosed + untreated.


Look at your family history. If there’s a strong history of CAD, cancer, etc…are you being proactive about not following in their footsteps?

Are you taking care of your bones? Not just for the elderly–you need to build bone mass now.

Do you wear sunblock? All. The. Time?

Body + Soul

What about stress? I’m gonna go ahead and assume you’ve got stress (we all do, don’t we?)…but do you have a plan in place to cope with that stress? Short-term and long-term coping, I mean.

How often do you have sex?

Are you happy? Like, really content in your life? Here’s a quick test: how do you feel on your birthday? As though you’re exactly where you should be….or, vaguely dissatisfied/anxious/frustrated?

Do you do stuff that’s just for you? Like, go to the spa, read a book for pleasure, fill in the blank…?

Do you feel fulfilled? Are you bored? Are you pursuing your dreams? Are you working too much?


Eating habits? Big topic. Here’s some food for thought (ptp=pardon the pun)

  • do you eat breakfast? every day?
  • do you eat because of boredom?
  • do you eat when what you really need is sleep?
  • does food make the good times better? And, um, the bad times better?
  • do you have lean protein with most meals?
  • is processed food a staple in your diet?
  • do you drink enough water?
  • do you drink lots of soda or sugary drinks?
  • are you in control of your cravings? (or are they in control of you?)
  • do you skip meals?
  • do you eat when you’re not really hungry?

Now how about Vitamins + Supplements:

  • are you taking the right ones for you?
  • are you taking too many (popping unecessary stuff and going broke in the process?) 
  • do you really know what you’re taking, and why? Or are you just throwing capsules at your fatigue, bloating, etcetera?

Okay, ’nuff for now. There’s more, but I’m going to leave it for another day. Hope you’re not feeling too overwhelmed. Keep in mind: it’s important to take the time to reflect on this stuff and take stock. It’s your body, after all. And it’s your life.

Ya get but one.

Coffee: Does Your Body Good?

Coffee has long been one of my favorite indulgences. Actually, let’s be honest. I can’t get through my day without visiting Starbucks. Even so…my sipping usually comes with a teeny bit of guilt.

Reasonable? Turns out, probably not. In fact, it looks like I just might be doing myself some good with my daily dose.

There’s a growing body of research showing a boatload of benefits to coffee. I’ve been sifting through the evidence lately, and here’s the roundup:

  • Coffee appears to be good for your brain. It decreases the risks of Parkinson’s and dementia, including Alzheimers.
  • It’s good for your cardiovascular health. Seems coffee decreases your risks of stroke and cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal rhythms of the heart).
  • Coffee helps prevent cancer. There’s evidence for prevention of the following types of cancer: bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, liver, leukemia, pancreatic, prostate, oral cancers.

Prevention of dementia, strokes, and cancer? And all while enjoying my morning coffee? Me likey.

So what’s the deal? What makes coffee health food suddenly? The experts point to the multitude of phytochemicals in brewed coffee. Certainly there are plenty of antioxidants: polyphenols, flavonoids, and chlorogenic acid. Researchers have also isolated diterpenes in coffee, compounds known to be anticarcinogenic. What about the caffeine itself? More study is needed, but it looks like caffeine is one of the components that helps with brain health. For the other health benefits, it seems decaf might do the same job as full-caff versions.

What are the negatives? Well, if you overcaffeinate (more than 4 cups a day) your bone density can suffer. Coffee also increases heartburn, and worsens stomach conditions like ulcers. It also depends how you take your coffee: If you dump a whole lotta sugar in your cup, you’re going to be negating many of the health benefits. And if you’re pregnant? While studies suggest one cup a day is okay, more than that might increase your risk of miscarriage.

Bottom line: like so many things, don’t overdo it.

Vitamin Coffee? Drink up.

Dr. Kim Foster, MD. (photo credit: Tamea Burd Photography)

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The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. It is not a substitute for seeking medical advice or counseling. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should seek medical attention before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health program described on this website.