Michael Huckabee is professor and director of the physician assistant program at UNMC. He’s worked as a physician assistant for 30 years, primarily in rural Nebraska. He blogs every other Monday for livewellnebraska.com.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The adage may not be literal, but the principle still applies. Apples are rich in Vitamin C, low in calories and they contain phenols, which reduce bad cholesterol. A Dutch study followed over 20,000 people for 10 years to compare eating habits with chronic disease. Those who consumed at least 171 grams of “white” fruit (about the size of a medium apple or pear) had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke than those who ate less than 78 grams. The researchers admit that the study was based on self-reports; however, the large study population (and findings that agree with previous studies) make a strong case for the fruit.
The debate on the benefits of multivitamins continues, but most research supports popping some type of Flintstones. While the best source of all nutrients is a balanced, healthy diet, the typical American diet (lots of fast food, few fresh veggies, etc.) can result in microdeficiencies that may damage cellular DNA. A simple multivitamin can prevent this damage and help prevent chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease or vision loss. A recent study of Iowa women suggested daily vitamins may cause more harm than good, but experts have pointed out flaws in that report. Bottom line: If a person's diet routinely contains plenty of fruits and vegetables, plus whole grains and healthy fat and protein, a vitamin probably isn't necessary. Some call the multivitamin “nutrition insurance” and as long as one doesn't overdo it, the daily dose is often helpful.
Many people are advised to take a low does aspirin to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. However, the benefit comes with a risk: Aspirin can cause everything from mild indigestion to internal bleeding. Earlier this year, studies found that individuals taking daily aspirin may also have a lower risk of cancer, though the cause behind this is inconclusive.
No, this is not Skittles, sun, steroids or sex. “Vitamin S” refers to the statin group of once-a-day medications that lower cholesterol. They're typically prescribed only to those with elevated cholesterol levels, but some experts think anyone over the age of fifty should be on a statin. They've also been found to help prevent cardiovascular disease. However, there are side effects -- muscle pain, headaches, liver disease. Which is why there remains a call for large population studies to assure that the positive benefits exceed the risks.