vitamin

  1. Risky vitamins? Don't believe it!

    Based on the recent headlines, you'd think swallowing a vitamin is almost as bad as swallowing razorblades.

    Common, safe nutrients and ordinary multivitamins are being blamed for everything in the book -- and now, a new study claims any number of vitamins will cause women to die early.

    But don't panic, ladies -- because like the other studies that claim vitamins come with risks, this one's not even worth the paper it's printed on.

    First, the details meant to impress and frighten you at the same time: A study of some 39,000 women tracked for 19 years finds that those who took multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc, and/or copper had an ever-so-slightly higher risk of death from any cause than women who took no vitamins at all.

    But here are some details that aren't as prominent in the over-the-top coverage of this vitamin panic: The women were asked about their vitamin habits just three times in that 19-year period.

    No one was actually given vitamins or placebos... no one's habits were actually monitored... no one gave blood and the researchers don't even know much about the overall health of the individual women in the study beyond what they reported in those surveys.

    At best, you've got the weakest of all weak associations you could possibly make from an observational study -- but it's actually even worse than that.

    Much worse -- because an analysis by the Alliance for Natural Health finds that the supposed increase in death risk only appeared after some statistical "adjustments" that look to me more like statistical torture.

    For example, women who had a healthy lifestyle and took vitamin C lived longer -- but for that, the credit went to the healthy lifestyle.

    There was a similar adjustment for "healthy eating" despite the fact that only two of the three surveys -- spaced 18 years apart -- even asked about food.

    "(T)he authors just manipulated the data until they got what they wanted and more: Supplements not only didn't help--they were killers!" the ANH wrote in its analysis. "And the lazy, biased, or naïve major media took it from there."

    You can get the "rest of the story" right here.

    Here's the bottom line on vitamins: Over the past 27 years, there have been exactly 11 deaths blamed on vitamin overdose. Medications, on the other hand, killed more than 37,000 Americans in 2009 alone -- making legal drugs the nation's leading cause of accidental death.

    You tell me which is safer.

  2. The 'secret ingredient' in coffee

    I love a good mystery -- and there's one brewing right now in the world of coffee.

    You've probably already heard that java can help protect you against everything from dementia to Parkinson's to colon cancer.

    Now, a new study has found two ingredients in particular that seem to work together to protect you against Alzheimer's disease. One is caffeinate, and the other is...well, that's where the mystery comes in.

    Previous research had shown that pure caffeine itself improved cognition in mice with symptoms of Alzheimer's. But according to the results of this latest study, caffeinated coffee could give you an even bigger brain boost than caffeine alone. Take a look...

    Researchers from Tampa's University of South Florida gave mice either pure caffeine, regular coffee, or decaf coffee. They found that mice that got the "real" brew had the highest blood levels of granulocyte colony stimulating factor, or GCSF.

    That's a protein that plays a key role in the immune system. High levels of it has also been linked to better memory, and low levels have been tied to Alzheimer's.

    It's no wonder GCSF is such a powerhouse. The researchers say that it benefits your brain in three different ways.

    First, it suppresses the production of beta amyloid, the plaque that is believed to be the cause of Alzheimer's. But
    it doesn't stop there. GCSF also goes to work destroying any existing beta amyloid. Finally, it produces connections in your brain, and encourages the birth of new brain cells.

    Since pure caffeine alone didn't produce the same surge in GCSF, researchers believe it's the combination with the "mystery ingredient" that provides the boost.

    Coffee -- especially espresso -- is also one of the top natural sources of niacin, a key vitamin that can help prevent heart attacks and stroke.

    One recent study found women who drank more than a cup a day had a 25 percent lower risk of stroke than women who drank no coffee.

    And of course, one of coffee's most notable effects on your brain is its ability to wake it up each day. I know my own
    always seems to function just a little bit better after the second cup.

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