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Add Omega 3's, but No Need to Limit Omega 6's

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in most whole grains and vegetable oils. An American Heart Association Panel found no evidence that omega-6s promote inflammation to increase heart attack risk, and they believe that reducing these fats could increase heart attack risk (Circulation, February 17, 2009).

The AHA panel analyzed 25 studies and found that 1) people who eat the most omega-6 fatty acids have lower rates of heart attacks than those who eat least; 2) people who have had heart attacks have lower blood levels of omega-6 than people without heart attacks; and 3) people in controlled trials who eat diets high in omega-6 are less likely to develop heart attacks than those on low omega-6 diets.

Fats are classified by their chemical structures into saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated. Polyunsaturated fats are sub-classified into omega-3s, 6s and 9s. Omega-3s are turned into prostaglandins that turn off inflammation, and there has been a theoretical concern that omega-6s would turn on inflammation which would increase heart attack risk. Just about every respected authority still agrees that omega-3 help to prevent heart attacks, but this latest report shows that omega-6s do not increase heart attack risk. The panel concludes that "Although increasing omega-3 tissue levels does reduce the risk of chronic heart disease, it does not follow that decreasing omega-6 levels will do the same."

I recommend a diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other seeds, and at least two servings of seafood per week. Reduce your intake of saturated fats, particularly in meat, and the partially hydrogenated fats that are still found in many processed foods. Increase the omega 3- fatty acids in your diet by eating fish and seeds.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: You recommend sunlight for vitamin D, but isn’t skin cancer a greater concern?

A single sunburn can cause malignant melanoma, but since 1940, the greatest increase in melanomas has occurred in office workers, not in people who work outdoors. FDA researchers believe that low vitamin D levels may be responsible (Medical Hypothesis, January 2009). Ultraviolet light is classified by wavelength into UVA and UVB. UVB rays cause skin to make vitamin D which helps the body to prevent cancers by inhibiting uncontrolled cell growth and restoring programable cells death called apoptosis. Since window glass block UVB almost completely, indoor office workers get up to nine times less UVB than people who spend more time outside and therefore, have far lower levels of vitamin D.

Since window glass allow UVA to pass through it, indoor workers have exposure to UVA which causes DNA damage and also breaks down what little vitamin D indoor workers get. The authors found indoor solar UVA irradiation to be 25 percent of what a person gets outdoors. So being indoors and exposing skin to the sun mostly through window glass reduces exposure to UVB that causes skin to make the vitamin D that prevents cancer, and increases relative exposure to UVA that destroys vitamin D in the skin and therefore increases cancer risk.

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Dear Dr. Mirkin: I’m not diabetic; why would my doctor order an HBA1C test?

HBA1C is a blood test that measures how much sugar is stuck on cells. When your blood sugar rises too high, sugar sticks to the surface membranes of cells and can never get off. It is eventually converted to sorbitol which destroys the cell to cause heart attacks, strokes, nerve damage and more.

A recent study from Australia followed women for just 3.5 years and showed that HBA1C is one of the most important predictors of heart attacks. Normal HBA1C is under 6.0. A woman who had a HBA1C of 5.7 had twice the chance of getting a heart attack as a woman whose HBA1C was below 5.1 (Obesity. January 2009). HBA1C was a better predictor of a future heart attack than fasting blood sugar or abdominal obesity.

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Recipe of the Week:
To serve a crowd, or just make plenty of leftovers (freezes well!)

Chafing Dish Chili

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

June 22nd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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