Common Chemicals in Nonstick Pans and Food Wrappers Could Hurt Your Health–and Your Waistline

Amanda MacMillan wrote . . . . . . .

A common class of chemicals that’s been linked to cancer, fertility problems, and thyroid dysfunction has now been tied to another major health issue: According to a new study in PLOS Medicine, women who have high levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their blood tend to gain back more unwanted weight after dieting.

The new study included both men and women who’d been enrolled in a two-year clinical trial and who lost weight by following a heart-healthy diet. But when researchers factored in the levels of PFAS in participants’ blood at the start of the study, they found that people with high levels tended to gain more of that weight back after initially losing it.

The association was found almost exclusively in women, and the researchers say that PFAS’ effects on estrogen in the body may be one reason why. But the study also found that people with high PFAS concentrations had lower resting metabolic rates; in other words, their metabolism was slower and they burned fewer calories doing daily activities.

The researchers concluded that PFAS may play a role in body weight regulation, and therefore in the country’s current obesity epidemic. “We all know it’s feasible to lose weight through diet or physical activity; however the challenging part is that almost no one can maintain that weight loss,” says senior study Qi Sun, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Now we’ve shown that PFAS level may actually determine how much weight people regain.”

But what exactly are these chemicals, and why are they in our bodies to begin with? Here’s what you need to know, and how you can reduce your exposure.

Ditch fast food and microwave popcorn

PFAS chemicals have water- and oil-repellant properties, which makes them valuable to the fast-food industry and for packaged foods like microwave popcorn. In a 2017 study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, researchers found that about half of the 400 food wrappers and containers they analyzed contained fluorine, an indicator of PFAS.

Previous studies have found that PFAS have the potential to leach into food—and that once PFAS enter the body, they stay there for years. That’s reason enough to avoid exposure whenever possible, says Laurel Schaider, PhD, an environmental chemist at the Silent Spring Institute and lead author of the food-wrapper study.

“I think we all already have some reasons to reduce how much fast food we consume, and this may be another one,” Schaider told Health in 2017. “If you’re going to eat it, you could try to get the food out of the wrapper as quickly as possible—that might help a little bit.”

Think twice about stain- or water-resistant products

Another common use for PFAS is making clothing, carpets, upholstery, and other textiles stain- or water-resistant. (Think of advertisements where spilled wine on a sofa beads up and wipes right off.) And while some older PFAS have been phased out of textile production because of associated health and environmental risks, some newer ones have taken their place, says Tom Brutton, PhD, a fellow and PFAS researcher at the Green Science Policy Institute—and their health effects are not yet known.

To be safe, Brutton recommends avoiding stain-, water-, soil-, or grease-repellant products whenever they’re not necessary. And when they are—in the case of a raincoat, for example—look for gear labeled PFAS-free or fluoro-free. “You’re starting to be able to find rain jackets and outdoor gear without these chemicals,” he says, “and I think there will be many more options in as little as two or three years.”

If you already own fabrics with PFAS, don’t panic. “The harm that’s going to happen to one person from the exposure of wearing a raincoat or sitting on a stain-resistant carpet is probably quite minimal,” says Brutton. “What we’re really concerned about are the chemicals released when these products are manufactured and also when they’re disposed of and end up in a landfill.” If consumers can make smarter choices so there are fewer of these products in circulation, he says, it will be better for our health, and for the environment as a whole.

Don’t buy another nonstick pan

The same advice goes for nonstick cookware: If you already own pots and pans with these chemicals, you don’t have to stop using them or throw them away—at least not until they’re scratched or damaged. But don’t buy a new set either. “The exposure to you from your use of that pan isn’t going to be so huge that it represents a significant health threat,” says Brutton. “But when it’s time to buy a new one, perhaps look for one that doesn’t contain PFAS.” Many experts recommend stainless steel, ceramic, or cast-iron cookware, or you can look for brands that advertise being PFAS-free.

Be smart about seafood

Because they’re so prevalent in the environment, PFAS can also accumulate in the tissue of animals that humans then consume for food. The chemicals have been found in contaminated seafood, for example, and Brutton says that buying organic won’t necessarily reduce your exposure.

What will help, however, is choosing fish that are lower on the food chain. You may already be doing that if you’re concerned about mercury and other heavy metals in seafood, says Brutton. Following those same rules will also help you avoid PFAS. “Instead of buying swordfish, for example, choose salmon,” he says.

Source: Health


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Ladies! Skip the Gym and Try the Stairs

Older women don’t have to hit the gym to stay healthy, because a stair-climbing workout appears to do the trick, researchers report.

Finding the right type of exercise can be difficult for postmenopausal women, according to the North American Menopause Society. For example, high-intensity resistance training reduces age-related muscle loss, but can increase blood pressure.

Combining aerobic and resistance training can minimize this problem. But many women say they don’t have the time, the money, access to a gym or decent weather for getting out.

“This study demonstrates how simple lifestyle interventions such as stair climbing can be effective in preventing or reducing the negative effects of menopause and age on the vascular system and leg muscles of postmenopausal women with hypertension,” JoAnn Pinkerton, the menopause society’s executive director, said in a society news release.

This doesn’t mean climbing just one or two flights of stairs a day, however. The study included postmenopausal women in Korea who climbed 192 steps, two to five times a day, four days a week.

A typical house in the United States has 13 steps per story. So you’d need to climb more than 14 flights of stairs several times a day to gain the reported benefits.

According to the study, this exercise program improved artery health, lowered blood pressure, and increased leg strength.

Additional benefits included fat loss, improved cholesterol profiles, and reduced risk of the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, the researchers said.

The results were published recently in the journal Menopause.

Source: HealthDay


Today’s Comic

Cruciferous Vegetables are Good for Your Health

What do kale, arugula and Brussels sprouts have in common? Aside from being the basis for trend-setting vegetable recipes, they’re all delicious cruciferous vegetables and pack a nutritional and inflammation-fighting one-two punch.

Cruciferous veggies are a diverse group that includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy, arugula, Brussels sprouts, collards, watercress and radishes. Fun fact: The name “cruciferous” is an informal classification for members of the mustard family and comes from the Latin cruciferae meaning “cross bearing,” because the four petals resemble a cross.

While these veggies grow in all different colors, shapes and sizes, they share several nutritional benefits. Most cruciferous veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin K. Dark green cruciferous veggies also are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They’re also rich in phytonutrients — plant-based compounds that may help to lower inflammation and reduce the risk of developing cancer. Cruciferous vegetables also are rich in fiber and low in calories, a combination that will help you feel full and satisfied without overeating.

It doesn’t take much to reap the benefits. Adults need at least 2½ cups of vegetables a day. One cup of raw and cooked veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, is equivalent to a 1-cup vegetable serving. Two cups of raw leafy vegetables, such as kale and bok choy, are the equivalent of a 1-cup vegetable serving.

Ready to add more cruciferous veggies into your diet? These tips will make packing in your vitamins and minerals easy and enjoyable.

Cauliflower

This versatile veggie is delicious in many ways beyond steaming. Try roasting florets or “steaks” of cauliflower to release its pleasant flavor. When pureed, it’s a great substitute to cream sauce. Other creative cauliflower options? Mash into a pizza crust, grate into a substitute for rice or pickle for a low-calorie salty, crunchy snack.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts practically beg to be in the oven. For a melt-in-your-mouth side, roast and toss with something sweet, such as dried fruit or maple syrup, as well as something savory — anything from Parmesan cheese to sliced olives.

Kale

The almighty kale is a wonderful green for salads. Remove the tough stem, slice into thin ribbons and toss with toppings, dressing and all. Best of all, this hearty green will not wilt for days, making it a great option for packing ahead. To balance the bitter bite, pair it with something sweet such as roasted carrots, diced apple or dried fruit. Kale also is a great addition to smoothies and can even be baked into crisp chips.

Arugula

Arugula is one of the easiest greens to grow in your garden or in a planter. Enjoy this spicy leaf pureed into a pesto with a kick, tossed onto whole-wheat pizza once it emerges from the oven or used in a variety of tossed salads. For a classic combination try fresh arugula paired with feta cheese, cubed watermelon and a balsamic dressing.

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Aspirin as Good a Clot Buster as Pricey Drugs After Joint Replacement

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . .

Good old aspirin is just as effective as newer, expensive drugs at preventing blood clots after hip or knee replacement, a new clinical trial suggests.

Researchers said the findings could change some doctors’ prescribing habits.

After knee or hip replacement surgery, there’s a risk of blood clots in the legs or lungs. So it’s routine for patients to take clot-preventing drugs for some time afterward.

Right now, some doctors choose powerful anti-clotting drugs like dabigatran (Pradaxa) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto), said Dr. David Anderson, the lead researcher on the new trial.

But it hasn’t been clear whether those expensive prescription drugs are any better than cheap, readily available aspirin, explained Anderson, of Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Canada.

Based on the new findings, they’re not.

Few patients in the study developed a blood clot after surgery, and those on aspirin fared just as well as those on rivaroxaban.

The caveat, Anderson said, was that all study patients received rivaroxaban for the first five days after surgery. After that, they either continued on the drug or switched to aspirin for another nine to 30 days.

“From this study, we have no evidence to support starting aspirin on day one,” Anderson said.

But after day five, he added, “it’s very reasonable to consider switching to aspirin.”

Over the past decade, surgeons have already been turning away from powerful anticoagulants toward aspirin and non-drug options for thwarting clots, said Dr. Alejandro Gonzalez Della Valle.

Gonzalez Della Valle specializes in hip and knee surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

These days, he said, patients have a generally low risk of blood clots after hip or knee replacement for a number of reasons. Those include shorter surgical times, and the use of regional anesthesia instead of general.

Clots can also be prevented by improving blood flow in patients’ legs right after surgery. So getting patients on their feet and moving early on is key, Gonzalez Della Valle explained. Similarly, pneumatic compression devices can be used to encourage blood flow in the lower limbs while patients are in their hospital beds.

Dr. Kevin Bozic, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), said that the AAOS guidelines already state that no one drug is better than another for preventing clots.

“This study reinforces that,” Bozic said.

He agreed that most surgeons have been turning to aspirin in the past 10 years because recovery times are shorter and people leave the hospital much sooner. Most people can have just aspirin, but some at high risk of blood clots — those with a history of clots, people who are very obese — might need an anticoagulant, Bozic added.

“The strategy for preventing clots should include medication and early mobilization,” he stressed.

The new study involved more than 3,400 patients undergoing hip or knee replacement at any of 15 Canadian hospitals. All took rivaroxaban — a once-daily pill — for five days. After that, they were randomly assigned to stick with the drug or switch to low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams a day).

Knee replacement patients took their medication for nine days. Hip replacement patients took it for 30 days.

Over three months, just over 0.6 percent of aspirin patients developed a blood clot serious enough to cause symptoms. That was true for 0.7 percent of rivaroxaban patients, according to the report.

One risk with any clot-preventing drug is that it can cause bleeding — in the stomach, for instance, or in the brain.

In this trial, about 1 percent of patients in both groups had a bleeding complication. In all cases, it was bleeding at the surgical site, the researchers reported.

So neither drug appeared better than the other — but aspirin has some obvious advantages, Anderson said.

“It doesn’t require a prescription, and it’s inexpensive,” he said.

What about people already taking low-dose aspirin before they have a hip or knee replacement?

In the study, these patients had their usual aspirin dose temporarily doubled after surgery. But, Anderson said, there was no evidence that that was more effective at preventing clots.

“So our recommendation would be for those patients to return to their usual aspirin regimen, rather than doubling the dose,” he said.

In general, Gonzalez Della Valle said, patients facing a hip or knee replacement should talk to their surgeon about their personal risk of blood clots, and what measures will be taken to lower it.

The trial was funded by the Canadian government. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


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FDA Warns Long-term Risks with Antibiotic Clarithromycin (Biaxin) in Heart Disease Patients

The antibiotic clarithromycin (brand name: Biaxin) may increase the long-term risk of heart problems and death in patients with heart disease, according to U.S. health officials.

As a result, the federal Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it’s recommending that doctors carefully weigh the benefits and risks of the drug before prescribing it to patients with heart problems.

The agency said its warning is based on a 10-year follow-up study of patients with coronary heart disease. The study found an unexpected and unexplained increase in deaths among heart disease patients who took clarithromycin for two weeks and were followed for one year or longer.

There’s no clear explanation for how clarithromycin would increase heart disease patients’ risk of death, the FDA said in a news release.

One heart specialist said this type of alert is worth heeding, however.

“It is important for health professionals and pharmacists to identify potential interactions between medications and eliminate prescription errors to prevent this risk,” said Dr. Marcin Kowalski. He directs cardiac electrophysiology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

The FDA said it has added a new warning about this increased risk for heart patients, and is advising doctors to consider prescribing other antibiotics to these patients. The agency added that it will continue to monitor safety reports in patients taking clarithromycin.

The antibiotic is used to treat many types of infections affecting the skin, ears, sinuses, lungs and other parts of the body.

Doctors should talk to their heart patients about the risks and benefits of clarithromycin and alternative treatments. If doctors prescribe clarithromycin to patients with heart disease, they should inform those patients about the signs and symptoms of cardiovascular problems, the FDA said.

And patients with heart disease should tell their doctor about their condition, especially when they are being prescribed an antibiotic to treat an infection.

Heart disease patients should not stop taking their heart disease medicine or antibiotic without first talking to their doctor, the FDA said.

Patients taking the antibiotic should seek immediate medical attention if they experience symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, such as chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, pain or weakness in one part or side of the body, or slurred speech, the agency said.

Dr. Satjit Bhusri is a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

He said, “Although this study suggests an association between this specific antibiotic, there have not been any direct correlations to increased heart disease.

“I would also extend this to all antibiotics in general. A short course of antibiotic therapy for a bacterial infection should be initiated if indicated by the physician; and a history of antibiotic therapy, at this time, should not be considered a risk factor for heart disease,” he said.

Source: HealthDay