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Diet & Health

These 10 Food-Drug Combinations Can Harm or Kill You



Medicine you shouldn't take with food

Medications should be taken as prescribed and with proper care, but while most people know not to combine them with alcohol or other prohibited drugs, not many are aware that mixing certain medicine with certain food could also prove dangerous and even deadly.

Jack Fincham, a professor of pharmaceutical and administrative sciences at the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy in the United States, believes this lack of awareness is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. To help educate the public, he has put together a list of the 10 most common and dangerous food-drug combinations that should be avoided, and some might surprise you:

1. Warfarin and Leafy Greens

Raw spinach in brown bowl

Warfarin (Coumadin) is a powerful blood thinner (anticoagulant) generally used to prevent thrombosis, a condition that leads to the formation of blood clots in the blood vessels. The drug should not be consumed with leafy greens like Kale, beet greens, spinach and other greens that are rich in Vitamin K.

Apparently, too much Vitamin K can lead to blood clotting, which counteracts the anticlotting effects of Warfarin and increases the risk of developing a blood clot. Fincham says you don’t need to completely eliminate leafy greens from your diet while taking Coumadin, but their consumption should be limited.

2. Statin Drugs and Grapefruit

Cut Grapefruit

Statin drugs are designed to lower cholesterol, but a compound in grapefruit and grapefruit juice binds with the active ingredient in the drugs and prevents them from effectively doing their job.

Considering that cholesterol is formed when our bodies are at rest, Fincham advices people suffering from high cholesterol to take statin drugs at bedtime so that they can safely enjoy a grapefruit in the morning.

3. Blood Pressure Drugs and Dried Fruits

Dried Fruits

The main goal of blood pressure drugs is to control blood pressure and bring it back down to a normal level, a goal compromised by potassium.

Fincham warns people taking blood pressure drugs that are ACE inhibitors or diuretic to avoid potassium-rich food like dried fruits, bananas, avocados, oranges and leafy greens, as well any salt substitutes. Consuming too much potassium together with such medication can lead to an irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations.

4. Antibiotics and Dairy Products

Milk pouring into cereal

Antibiotics treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria; however, according to Dr. Richard Liebowitz, an internist at the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and other calcium-fortified foods (e.g. Orange Juice) impair the body’s ability to absorb the medicine and undermines their ability to cure infections.

If you’re going to take antibiotics, it’s best to consume the dairy product or calcium-fortified food of your choice an hour or two beforehand.

5. Antithyroid Drugs and High-Iodine Foods

Fresh seafood

Antithyroid drugs interfere with the body’s production of thyroid hormones by preventing iodine absorption in the stomach, thereby reducing common symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism.

People with a high-iodine diet require higher doses that result in a greater incidence of side effects, particularity rashes, hives and liver disease. Food with high iodine content include seafood and seaweed, such as kelp and nori, and to a lesser extent eggs, meat and dairy products

6. Digoxin, Herbs and High-Fiber Diets

Various whole wheat breads and grains

Digoxin help prevent heart failure by strengthening the contraction of the heart muscle, slowing the heart rate and promoting the elimination of fluid from body tissues. Dietary fiber — insoluble fibers like wheat bran, especially — can slow down the absorption of the medication and lessen its effectiveness.

To prevent this, it’s best to take Digoxin at least two hours before or after eating fiber-rich food.

7. MAO Inhibitors and Aged Cheeses

Cheese board and bread

MAO inhibitors are used to treat depression, Parkinson’s disease and a few other mental disorders. Consuming foods that are rich in tyramine (e.g. smoked meats or fish, red wines, aged cheeses, fermented or pickled foods, dried fruits, avocado, soy sauce, fava beans and chocolate) together with the drug could result in a dangerous spike in blood pressure.

Fincham advises people to avoid these foods while taking MAO inhibitor or anti-mycobacterial drugs because they “can lead to a hypertensive crisis.”

8. Anti-Mycobacterial Drugs and Tyramine-Rich Foods

Smoked sausages

Anti-mycobacterial drugs help kill bacteria that cause tuberculosis. As with MAO Inhibitors, they don’t mix well with foods rich in tyramine and can cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure.

Consult your doctor before mixing the two.

9. Erectile Dysfunction Drugs and Grapefruit

Sliced Grapefruit

Making the list for the second time, the usually-healthy grapefruit (even in small quantities) is also said to boost blood levels of erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra. While some men may see this as a boon, the interaction could trigger headaches symptomatic of fatal or near fatal conditions, flushing, or low blood pressure.

The Harvard Medical School advises grapefruit-addicts taking erectile dysfunction drugs to switch to orange juice or any other citrus fruit juice when it comes time for love-making.

10. Any Medicine and Alcohol

Alcohol and medicine

Considering that our bodies treat alcohol as a poison, mixing the substance with most prescription and non-prescription drugs not only decreases their effectiveness but may also make them harmful or even toxic.

Even a small amount of alcohol could intensify the negative side effects of medication, so you’d be best advised to avoid mixing the two.

Things to Remember

Old Woman Taking Medicine

According to the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a food and drug interaction occurs when the efficiency and effectiveness of a medicine is altered by the food taken with it. There are few things to remember about food-drug interactions:

  1. Always read the label of the medicine prescribed by your doctor or purchased over-the-counter and follow the instructions provided carefully to make sure you take them safely. Consult your physician or pharmacist if there is something you don’t understand.
  2. No matter how good of an idea it might seem, never take medication with alcohol. Alcohol intensifies the negative side effects of almost every medicine on the market.

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Diet & Health

Do Vitamins Have Calories? Will They Make You Fat?



Two vitamin supplement pills

Calories aside, a healthy serving of vitamins is essential for your health, so don’t skimp.

Taking vitamins supplements, as opposed to preferably getting them from wholesome foods, can help round out your diet and ensure that your daily requirements are met. As for the question of whether vitamins have calories, it’s just one of several important variables you must consider.

Purpose Of Vitamins

No, vitamins do not contain calories, nor do they provide your body with energy. This means you don’t have to worry about gaining weight, getting fat or even disrupting your intermittent fasting from taking too much of them.

After vitamins from supplements or food are absorbed, your body uses them for various health-enhancing processes , such as:

  • Absorbing and metabolizing other nutrients.
  • Energy production for your daily activities.
  • Promoting normal cell function
  • Encouraging normal growth and development
  • Keeping you immune system in tip-top condition to prevent disease

It goes without saying that vitamins add to your overall well-being. Vitamin D, for instance, helps your body absorb calcium and promote bone growth, and too little of it results in soft bones in children (rickets) and fragile, misshapen bones in adults (osteomalacia).

Vitamin D deficiency is a global epidemic that has also been linked to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, weight gain, and other maladies. In fact, studies have shown that people with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of disease.

Melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure, so if you are dark-skinned and live in a country without a lot of sunlight, especially during the winter months, or a home-body who doesn’t go out a lot, there is good chance you might be vitamin D deficient. It’s time you probably considered taking vitamin D supplements on a regular basis.

Types Of Vitamins

Life would be so much simpler if we had a single vitamin that served all of our bodily needs and can be taken whenever and wherever, but that’s not the world we live in, at least not yet. In other words, when it comes to getting the right vitamins and in the right quantities, eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods is paramount to good health.

As noted by Carol Byrd-Bredbenner in her book “Perspectives in Nutrition,” Vitamins come in two types — water-soluble and fat-soluble — which partly explains why our bodies don’t always absorb the majority of vitamin supplements we consume.

Fat-soluble vitamins are those that are transported by fats and include vitamins A, D, E and K. To get the most out of fat-soluble vitamins, it’s best to take them with meals containing some fat.

Water-soluble vitamins are those that dissolve in water and are readily absorbed into tissues for immediate use. They include the B vitamins and vitamin C.

I like to take all my vitamins during my meals, which usually include a healthy serving of avocados, eggs and sometimes fish and/or meat.

Myths About Vitamins

There is persisting misconception that if taking a little of a certain vitamin helps to improve symptoms of a condition, then taking more will result in greater improvement. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to taking vitamins.

According to “Krause’s Food and Nutrition Therapy,” the most respected nutrition text for over 50 years, the body can only absorb and use a certain amount of the vitamins we consume. Moreover, it cannot absorb man-made vitamin supplements as easily as vitamins in foods. These are other key reasons why you should not use vitamin supplements as a replacement for food.

Vitamin C is often touted as a natural cold remedy, with Nobel laureate Dr. Linus Pauling famously claiming that taking large doses of vitamin C helps thwart a cold. However, research has shown that vitamin C is only marginally beneficial when it comes to the common cold.

A 2017 study pooling the results of 29 different studies that looked at the effect of vitamin C on colds found that taking 200 milligrams of vitamin C every single day rather than just on days when you’re sick could make cold symptoms go away about one day sooner. But that’s where the benefits end.

Benefits Of Vitamins Supplements

Vitamins are a must for a properly-functioning body, but some people have more need for certain vitamins than other. Because vitamin B12 is  naturally found in animal products, vegans, for example, are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency and, therefore, can benefit from B-12 supplements.

On the same hand, parents concerned about the picky eaters in the family can give their children vitamin supplements to round out their diet.

Ideally, you should be getting all your vitamins from food because that’s what our bodies are accustomed to working with. It can’t be stressed enough that you should not use vitamin supplements as a replacement for food.

Be Careful With Vitamins

Gorging on vitamin supplements won’t make you fat or even gain weight, but that doesn’t mean you should. Taking excessively large doses of vitamins can result in adverse health effects.

Fat soluble vitamins, in particular, are stored in the body’s tissues and tend to remain there. They can build up in your system overtime if you consume too much, resulting in a potentially dangerous condition called hypervitaminosis.

Moreover, some water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C, can cause diarrhea if taken in excess.

You should, however, report any vitamins you are taking to your doctor if you are on medication. Vitamins can interact and interfere with medicine, which can cause the prescription to be ineffective or cause other adverse effects.

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Diet & Health

Here’s What The Future Of Food Could Look Like



Food Sensor Chip on Teeth

Devices like tooth sensors that measure sugar and alcohol intake, as well as monitor other health qualities, could revolutionize the food industry as we know it.

From new technologies detecting specific ingredients and allergens in food to the expansion of cell-cultured meat, the list of emerging technologies that help consumers understand what they are eating grows by the day.

According Max Elder, a researcher at the Institute for the Future’s Food Futures Lab, “the future is already here, and it’s about time the food industry faced it head first.

Elder believes that for Consumer packaged goods companies to prepare for new challenges, they will need to “work backwards” to come up with strategies for creating the industry they want.

Computer Circuit Chip Apple Fruit

The Future Of Food Technology

Too many of today’s packaged foods are filled with empty calories, and people are no longer able to rely on their five senses to get accurate information about what they’re eating. Products labels have traditionally been relied upon to provide said information, but they could be misleading and are often difficult to understand.

In fact, a 2018 study by the Center for Food Integrity also found that only 33% of survey respondents “strongly agree” that they are confident in the safety of the food they consume. Such a high level of distrust has prompted the development of a new suite of technologies that help consumers make better-informed decisions about their food, “radical” technologies that Elder says will likely be widespread over the next decade.

Examples of such devices include an ingestible sensor being by Carnegie Mellon University that monitors gastrointestinal health and a tiny tooth sensor from Tufts University that can measure glucose, sugar and alcohol intake.

But before sensors in guts or on teeth become ubiquitous, Elder said they will likely be situated outside the body. Chinese search engine company Baidu, for instance, has developed smart chopsticks that can detect the freshness of cooking oil.

Those suffering from celiac disease will find Nima especially useful. Nima is a small portable machine that uses a sensor to test for trace amounts of gluten when crumbs are placed into it, and the namesake company behind its creation is developing variants of the technology for other allergens, including peanuts and shellfish.

While the food knowledge consumer can gain from such new technology could pose a challenge to food companies, but it is also an opportunity for brands to get more information on what eaters want and tailor their products, services and communication accordingly.

Slab of red meat

More Sustainable, Humane Meat

We can’t talk about the future of food without mention of the lab-grown meat industry, which has the potential to expand despite regulatory setbacks.

There has been a rapidly growing movement towards and major investment in exploring more cellular food systems, and while it’s too early to know if cultured meat is as healthy or nutritious as conventionally-produced meat, the segment could potentially be a major part of the food of the future.

According to Paul Shapiro Author of Clean Meat and former vice president for The Humane Society of the United States, clean meat is better for the environment than raising and slaughtering animals, whether conventional, grass-fed or free-range. Instead pouring tons of resources into raising an entire animal that won’t be eaten in its entirety — horns, eyeballs, hooves, brains, etc. all go to waste — growing meat in a lab only results in the parts and calories consumers need.

The lab-grown meat industry is still in its infancy and the market is small, meaning cell-cultured meat commands a price premium over conventional meat. However, if the industry can eventually achieve price parity, the only issue it will have to contend with is how comfortable consumers are with eating meat produced in a lab.

Traditional Farming

Meeting Environmental Values

There has been a growing demand for transparency in the food industry, and many consumers desire to know what is in their food and actively look for ecolabels that align to their values (Fair Trade, Non-GMO, etc.). An increasing number of individuals are also reading the label to look for names they recognize and trust before they make a purchase.

That’s to say companies will have to cater to consumer’s environmental values more so than ever but must do so with caution. Not fully understanding the environmental impact of new types of food production could lead to some companies making claims they may not be able to hold up.

Like everything in life, the food industry is undergoing a transformation, and most certainly for the better. The future looks promising for the health- and environmentally-conscious consumer.

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Diet & Health

Science Has Found The Best Way To Wash Pesticides Off Apples



Apple on tree

Polishing an apple with your shirt might get rid of some dust and dirt, but removing the pesticides will require a little more work.

New research has found that washing apples with baking soda, the common yet miraculous household product, could be all you need to eliminate most of the residues on the surface of apples and other fruits.

Pesticides have long been used to increase crop yield, but rising concerns over their adverse effect on human health has many people talking. While the exact effects depend on the type of pesticides and the amount eaten, the World Health Organization says that certain pesticides could harm the developing nervous systems of fetuses and children.

A growing number of people have opted for organic food as way of avoiding the chemicals, but organic food usually command a price premium and there is no guarantee that pesticides were used. In fact, the organic, naturally-occurring pesticides that some organic farms use aren’t necessarily safer.

Washing has been and remains the standard practice used by both consumers and the food industry to remove pesticides, but some of the plant-protecting compounds that get absorbed by the skin of fruits and vegetables might be more resilient to current cleaning methods. To find the best method, Lili He, Assistant Professor at the ‎University of Massachusetts Amherst, and colleagues conducted a study in which they applied two common pesticides — the fungicide thiabendazole, which past research has shown can penetrate apple peels, and the insecticide phosmet — to organic Gala apples and then washed apples with three different liquids: tap water, a 1 percent baking soda/water solution, and a U.S.-EPA-approved commercial bleach solution often used on produce.

The baking soda solution proved the most effective at removing pesticides, eliminating 80 percent of the thiabendazole and 96 percent of the phosmet, respectively, after 12 and 15 minutes of the fruits being soaked. Plain tap water and the bleach solution were far less effective.

The different percentages are likely due to thiabendezole’s greater absorption into the apple. Mapping images showed that thiabendazole had penetrated up to 80 micrometers deep into the apples, while phosmet was detected at a depth of only 20 micrometers.

So, there you have it, if washing is your preferred method of removing pesticides off your fruits and vegetables, using a baking soda solution is the way to go. If all other options are to be considered, then peeling your produce is probably your best bet.

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