Archive for July, 2011


Saturday, July 23rd, 2011
I’m five foot nothing, and don’t weigh a hundred pounds soaking wet. I went into menopause on the early side, at 45, and when I did, I got my first bone scan. I know now that it showed I had a 17 percent loss of bone density in my spine and 15 percent in my hip, but my doctor at the time considered these results normal, and she never even called to give them to me.
So a whole year went by where I had no period, no estrogen, and no information. The next year, when my annual scan showed 23 percent bone loss in my spine and 16 percent in my hip, my doctor diagnosed me with osteopenia. She still said it was no big deal, and not to worry about it. She suggested I take calcium, but she didn’t breathe a word about vitamin D or magnesium or exercise or anything else I could do to help myself.
I’ve always been health-conscious. I’m a runner. I teach nutrition. So when I found out I wasn’t as healthy as I thought I was, I freaked out. I also knew there had to be a role for improved nutrition in keeping my bones strong. So I calmed down and got proactive. I started to get myself informed. I read every book I could find with sections on bone density. I searched the Internet. I checked out mainstream and alternative sources. The more I read, the more confused I got, and it started to seem that every new thing I read contradicted the last one. I went to a naturopath, and also to a mainstream doctor at a rehab center who specialized in exercise. That doctor asked for the results of both bone scans I’d had, and he was the one who told me about how much I had lost even at the time of my first scan. Then he told me I had the spine of an 81-year-old woman. I hit the roof. Of course, I’ve never gone back to my original doctor who neglected to alert me to the loss. But I can never get back that year when I could have been doing all the things I’ve since learned to do to prevent any further loss.
I really like my rehab doctor. He is a big believer in HRT, particularly for the first few years of menopause, but I have a knee-jerk reaction against the hormones even though I have no family history of breast cancer. So he listens to all my beefs and works with what I’m prepared to do. The naturopath, on the other hand, was hysterical at the mention of HRT. Even though I can relate to that, I wanted a more balanced, open-minded perspective. With all the information coming at you, in the end, you just have to go with your gut.
So 1 did start taking Fosamax. I increased my running to three times a week. I added in some exercises with hand weights. I take calcium supplements regularly, and other supplements—expensive trace minerals and extra vitamin D—with a bit less devotion. I have alfalfa and some Chinese herbs, and I started using a natural progesterone cream a year ago after I found out the “wild yam” stuff I was using doesn’t have enough active hormone to make any difference.
My diet is totally focused on calcium and my bones. I have a calcium chart stuck on my refrigerator, and I know spinach isn’t as good a source as kale, and so on. I eat tofu every single day. I buy extra-firm, not the jiggly, wiggly stuff, slice it thin, marinate it in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, and pan-fry or grill it. It keeps in the fridge for a week, and I eat some plain for lunch every day. When my students make faces at the thought of tofu, this is what I bring in to let them try—anything marinated this way will taste good—and they always love it. I eat at least one can of salmon every week, bones and all, and broccoli, sesame seeds, fortified soymilk, leafy greens, and so on often enough that I get about half of the 1,500 mg of calcium I aim for each day in my food, without relying too heavily on dairy products.
It’s all paying off. It’s been a year since that second scan threw me into action, so I just had my third bone density scan. It shows I stopped the loss, and recovered everything I’d lost in the year between my first and second scans. I’m back down to 17 percent low from average peak density.
My doctor recommends staying on Fosamax indefinitely. But he knows I can’t stand taking all this stuff, even supplements, even though I haven’t had side effects from any of it. My goal is to maintain my bone density through diet and exercise. So our compromise is that after another year, assuming I’ll be pretty close to normal density by then, I’ll stop the Fosamax, keep up with my diet and weight lifting, and increase my running to five days a week. I’ll get another scan after a year of that to make sure I’m still on the right track.


Monday, July 18th, 2011
Ideas about the cause of lung cancer have been so dominated by recognition of the effect of smoking for the last forty years that it is sometimes easy to forget that there may be other important causal factors and that lung cancer still occurs in non-smokers. The effect of smoking is so strong that it can be quite difficult to unravel other causes, because the presence of a few smokers in any group will so alter the statistics. However, there are undoubtedly other factors at work in the development of lung cancer and many of them can now be judged.
Once suspicion has been cast on an occupation it is a relatively straightforward, although laborious, task to examine the risk by comparing the incidence of lung cancer in workers in that occupation with that of the general population, and then doing more detailed work to look at the effect of the number of years spent in the occupation or the dose of the suspected agent to which the workers are exposed. Occupational hazard of lung cancer has been shown to be present for workers with asbestos, chrome, hydrocarbon chemicals in the old-style coke and gas industries, some chemicals used in the paint industry and for those who mine uranium (who are probably affected by radon gas from the rocks). New and effective regulations have been brought in to control these industries and the risks have been substantially reduced or eliminated. Careful monitoring remains necessary. Less certain risks have been suggested for workers with cadmium, nickel and vinyl chloride, and some fibres used in the textile industries, and precautions are now taken in industries based on these substances. Butchers appear to have a very small excess of lung cancer over the level which might be predicted. This is entirely unexplained and appears to be independent of smoking habits.


Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
All the best intentions and plans for eating healthfully can be defeated in the kitchen unless you change some of the ways you prepare food. The most important change you can make is to learn to cook with little or no oils or other fats. Here are 10 tips to get you started.
1. Look for low-fat recipes in cookbooks or magazines that provide a nutrition analysis for each recipe.
2. Invest in nonstick cookware to be able to “fry” or brown foods in no added fat. If you would normally add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a skillet, you save 120 calories and 14 grams of fat by using a nonstick skillet instead. Or use a 1-second spray of vegetable oil cooking spray, which adds about 1 gram of fat and few calories.
3. Add a few handy kitchen gadgets such as a garlic press, spice grater, lemon zester, egg separator, and vegetable steamer to expand or revamp your cooking habits.
4. Stock fat-free flavor enhancers such as onions, herbs and spices, colorful fresh peppers, fresh garlic, gingerroot, Dijon mustard: fresh lemons and limes, flavored vinegars, sherry or other wines, reduced-sodium soy sauce, bouillon granules, and plain, nonfat yogurt.
5. Saute onions, mushrooms, or celery in a small amount of wine broth, water, soy sauce, or Worcestershire sauce instead of butte oil.
6. Microwave or steam vegetables; then dress them up with flavored vinegars, herbs, spices, or butter flavored powders.
7. Cook fish in parchment paper (available at many supermarkets) or foil packets. This method seals in flavor and juices.
8. Poach fish or skinless poultry in broth, vegetable juice, flavored vinegars, dry wine, herbs, and spices. A covered roasting pan is an inexpensive alternative for a fish poacher.
9. Cut the amount of meat in casseroles and stews by one-third and add more vegetables, rice, pasta.
10. In recipes, substitute low-fat cream cheese, sour cream, or processed cheeses for their higher-fat, counterparts.