GateHouse News Service's weekly Health Watch with tips on weight loss myths, folic acid preventing autism and the dangers of decongestants for those with high blood pressure.
Losing weight can dramatically improve your emotional and physical health, but it's often a slow process. Millions of American adults use dietary supplements to lose weight, choosing a range of products that claim to decrease appetite, block fat absorption or increase metabolism. But with hundreds of products on the market, how do you determine which one to choose?
Here are some myths and facts about weight loss and weight-loss supplements that may help you cut through the clutter:
Fiction: You can lose weight fast ... and keep it off.
Fact: It takes time to lose weight safely, and keep it off. Losing a pound or two per week is actually an excellent rate of weight loss. If you lose any more than that, then it is very likely that the weight loss will not be permanent -- it will come right back. Rapid weight loss is not healthy -- it often means you are losing water and lean muscle mass, not the desired fat mass. Intense weight loss of more than three pounds per week over several consecutive weeks can be damaging to your organs and cause health problems.
Be cautious about promises of quick results, such as "lose 10 pounds in one week" or "this celebrity sprinkled her way to weight loss." If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Look for overblown claims on the label, such as "miracle fat burner" or "miracle cure." If you're unsure about a product, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Or, research the supplement manufacturer to see if they have conducted studies to support the claims they are making. If you are not making lifestyle changes as well, your weight loss is less likely to be maintained.
Fiction: You have to overhaul your diet and give up your favorite foods.
Fact: You don't have to overhaul your diet. In fact, studies have shown that making significant changes in your diet does not work over time. It is very hard to stick to diets, especially fad diets. Instead, simple changes work, including portion control (eating less) and moderate exercise. If you eat fast food, don't supersize.
Fiction: All weight-loss supplements are the same.
Fact: There are no magic pills, but there are a few (very few) good ones. Many weight loss supplements and products on the market have no scientific backing and just rely on hype. When choosing a weight loss supplement, look to see if there are scientific studies behind it and whether they have been published in a scientific journal. Look for products that base their claims on clinical evidence for the formulation they are selling. For example, there is limited, if any, clinical evidence to support many of the most popular weight loss ingredients, such as green coffee, raspberry ketones or HCG.
Also, be wary of side effects. Many supplements on the market contain stimulants. Avoid products with excessive levels of caffeine, which can cause increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. Others cause gastrointestinal problems because they block the fat from entering your body. Check the label: If a supplement does not identify its ingredients or calls them a "secret formulation," steer clear of that supplement.
Researchers have found that taking folic acid early in pregnany may prevent autism. The study, done by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, focused on women who took folic acid between four weeks before and eight weeks after conception. The children of women who took folic acid during this period were less likely to evenutally be daignosed an autism spectrum disorder than women who did not take folic acid. Researchers caution that the timing of folic acid consumption is important, as taking folic acid late in pregnancy been associated with the child developng asthma.
-- Medical News Today
Supplements like fish oil that contain omega 3 fatty acids offer a host of health benefits, and are known to be good for your heart. People with high blood pressure are at increased risk of heart disease, so adding heart-healthy supplements to their diets may be beneficial.
Number to Know
68 million: Number of Americans with high blood pressure, according to the CDC. That's about 1 in every 3 adults.
If you're among the 68 million Americans who have high blood pressure, you may feel that taking your medicine, getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet means you're doing everything you can to manage your condition. But with cold season in full swing and many areas of the country recording record numbers of flu cases, it might be time for a medicine cabinet makeover as well -- a total renovation in which you toss out any over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain decongestants.
That's because the same ingredients in decongestants that help relieve the nasal swelling associated with congestion also affect other blood vessels in the body, causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise - a potentially dangerous situation for those with high blood pressure. Unfortunately, just 10 percent of those with high blood pressure are aware they should avoid decongestants, and nearly half don't know they should take a special OTC medicine when they have a cold or the flu, according to a survey by St. Joseph, makers of over-the-counter medications.
If you have high blood pressure, start your medicine cabinet makeover by replacing OTC medicines that contain decongestants with remedies that don't, such as St. Joseph's new line of cold and flu products. The brand's products for fever and pain contain acetaminophen, which will not interfere with aspirin's benefits if you're on an aspirin regimen.
Next, remove from your medicine cabinet, pantry or refrigerator dietary supplements that are high in sodium, as high levels of salt are commonly known to increase blood pressure. For example, many protein supplements contain hundreds of milligrams of sodium per serving.
Likewise, avoid supplements that contain extracts of grapefruit, and talk to your doctor about whether you should also remove grapefruit and grapefruit juice from your diet. Research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal points out that the number of medications that interact adversely with grapefruit is on the rise. There are now more than 85 drugs known to be affected by grapefruit, including calcium channel blockers that are used to treat high blood pressure, according to a CBC News report.
Once you've removed adverse products from your medicine cabinet, you'll have plenty of room for additions that are good for your heart, your high blood pressure and your overall health, including: