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Nuts are Healthful

Eating a handful of nuts each day may prolong your life. In a study from Spain, 7,216 men and women ages 55-80 were followed for almost five years (BMC Medicine, July 2013;11:164). Those taking three servings of nuts per week had a 39 percent lower death rate than those who did not eat nuts, a 55 percent lower risk of heart attack deaths, and a 40 percent lower risk of death from cancer. These results agree with the other major studies on nuts and health: the Adventist Health Study, the Iowa Women's Health Study and the Nurses' Health Study.

Characteristics of Nut Eaters

Those who ate nuts frequently were far less fat, had smaller bellies, were less likely to smoke, were more likely to exercise, were far less likely to be diabetic and were less likely to take medication for high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Also, nut eaters ate more vegetables, fruit and fish.

How Eating Nuts May Prolong Life

Eating nuts regularly is associated with reduced heart attack risk factors such as high cholesterol, high triglycerides, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (Arch Intern Med, 2010, 170:821-827). Many people think they should avoid nuts because of their high fat content, but most of the fat in nuts comes from the good fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. You will get the most health benefit from nuts if you eat them as a substitute for the saturated fats in meats and dairy products.

Nuts are high in fiber, minerals, vitamins and many bioactive compounds. All tree nuts are healthful: almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts and so forth. Walnuts are a good source of the healthful omega-3 fatty acids. Beans and other legumes such as peanuts are also healthful. Just don't coat them with sugar or chocolate.


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Multiple Partners Increase Risk of Cancer

One third of people diagnosed with throat cancer are infected with the Human Papilloma Virus (Journal of Clinical Oncology, 20 July, 2013). Other causes include smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Healthy people were followed for 10 years with blood tests and lifestyles. At the start of the study, everyone had blood drawn for the E6 antibody against HPV that helps the body protect itself from cancer caused by HPV. If you have the E6 antibody, HPV has already overcome your defense against HPV and you already have cancer.

After 10 years, 135 of the participants had developed mouth cancer, and 1,599 did not. Of those with throat cancer, 35 percent had E6 antibodies, meaning that 35 percent of the throat cancers were caused by HPV. Eighty-four percent of those with E6 were still alive five years after diagnosis, compared with 58 percent of those without E6. This shows that patients with oral cancer caused by HPV live longer than those with cancer caused by smoking or drinking.

• At any given time, seven percent of North Americans have HPV actively growing in their mouths. Transmission by casual, nonsexual contact is unusual (Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 25, 2012;307(4):335-421). The incidence of oral HPV is lower than that of genital HPV.

• HPV is found far more frequently in sexually-active people compared to abstainers. The most significant risk factor for being infected with these viruses is the lifetime number of sex partners. The more sexual partners in your lifetime, the more likely you are to carry HPV and suffer oral cancer.

• The younger you begin having sex, the greater your chances of carrying oral HPV.

• Men are three times more likely than women to have HPV in their mouths. The authors of one study believe that this is probably because the rate of men performing oral sex on women is higher than the rate of women performing oral sex on men (Emerg Infect Dis, 2008;14(6):888-894).

What are the Signs of HPV Infections?

HPV can cause cancers anywhere: on your skin, cervix, anus, vagina, penis, mouth, tongue, lymph node, throat or gums. You acquire HPV by rubbing skin on skin or with genital or oral contact. After a sexual partner infects you with the virus, you may have no symptoms at all. You may also have the symptoms caused by the other infections that your partner may have acquired with HPV. It is extremely common for a person to be infected with many venereal diseases at the same time.

The symptoms of mouth cancer are mouth ulcers, sores, or red or white patches that last longer than three weeks, persistent pain on swallowing, difficulty swallowing, a change in voice, ear pain, a feeling of a ball in the throat, a neck mass, or unexplained weight loss.

Prevention

HPV lives on the skin, genitals, mouth, and anus and travels in vaginal, saliva, and semen fluids. More than 150 different viruses belong to the HPV group. Most people will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives, but most will cure themselves. After you pick up HPV from a sexual contact, you will usually clear that virus in six to nine months. However, some people do not rid themselves of these viruses. They are the ones most likely to develop cancers later.

Two HPV strains are most likely to cause cancer - HPV-16 and HPV-18. HPV-16 causes 60 percent of cervical cancers, 80 percent of anal cancers and 60 percent of oral cancers.

No effective treatment exists today for HPV infections. The vaccines against HPV prevent those strains of HPV only if you receive them before you are exposed to that specific virus. Once you acquire the virus, the vaccine is ineffective. Condoms reduce HPV infections but do not provide complete protection.


Watch Out for Abdominal Obesity

People who store fat primarily in their bellies usually have lots of plaques in their arteries and are at very high risk for heart attacks (JAMA, July 17, 2013;3103(3):280-288). They are also at high risk for diabetes and almost always suffer from metabolic syndrome.

Having a big belly and big buttocks is better than having a big belly and small buttocks. Storing fat primarily in your belly means that you have high insulin blood levels, because insulin specifically causes fat to be deposited in your belly rather than being distributed more evenly throughout your body.

You have high insulin levels because your cells are not responding normally to insulin and your blood sugar levels are too high. As your blood sugar levels continue to rise, your pancreas puts out more insulin. High blood sugar levels damage every cell in your body.

If you have a big belly and small buttocks, you should immediately check with your doctor and try to lower blood sugar levels by:

• Exercising regularly

• Taking sugared drinks only during exercises lasting more than an hour

• Avoiding sugar-added foods except during exercise

• Avoiding red meat (blocks insulin receptors)

• Avoiding fried foods

• Eating lots of fruits and vegetables


This week's medical history:
Gordie Howe, the Toughest Athlete Ever

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries


Recipe of the Week:

Lentil-Carrot Soup

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


July 28th, 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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