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CAN we live without eating red meat?

Red meat is not an essential food item.

Yes, we can live, and even have a healthier body, if we eat as little red meat as possible or, better yet, totally abstain from consuming red meat at all because they are high in saturated fats and bad cholesterol that are associated with heart attacks and stroke.

Contrary to the misconception resulting from dishonest marketing that pork is “white meat,” there is nothing farther from the truth.

Pork is red meat, just like meats from lamb, goat, deer, etc.

Meat from those with wings, like chicken, duck, birds, are white meat.

The dark meat in them (legs, thigh, wings) have more fat compared to the light breast meat.

Healthier alternatives as sources of proteins are fish, tofu, oat meal, vegetables (like broccoli, chickpeas, spinach, artichokes, potatoes) almonds, legumes (which include various types of beans, alfalfa, peas, lentils, lupins, peanuts, etc.).

Three ounces of red meat daily is associated with a 13 percent increased risk of premature deaths.

Processed red meats (bacon, hot dogs, etc.) jack up the risk for early deaths to 20 percent, from cardiovascular diseases and cancers (breast, pancreas, colon, etc.).

How much trans-fat is safe?

In my column seven years ago, on Oct. 9, 2006, we pointed out that the deadly trans-fat (many times hiding behind an alias: partially hydrogenated fats, etc.) was worse than saturated fats, which are found in red meats and egg yolk.

We stated seven years ago that no amount of trans-fat, no matter how small, was safe.

The news on CNN last week that the U.S. FDA has (finally!) banned trans-fat just shows how bureaucratic red tapes hamper the government’s efficiency and ability to protect the public in a prompt manner.

The medical community knew for some time that trans-fat was a killer.

I only hope our own government and health agencies in the Philippines would follow suit — soon.

People’s health and lives are at stake.

No amount of trans-fat is safe.

Is your blood pressure normal?

Decades ago, as medical students, we were taught that 120 to 139 mm Hg systolic and 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic, were the normal blood pressure levels.

Today, those levels are considered “prehypertensive” or “soon to be hypertensive if no lifestyle modification is made.”

In 1997, this medical dictum was revised, after decades of research showing the “cardiovascular effects” of the so-called normal blood pressure level, on almost everyone beyond their teenage years.

Obviously, those figures were still a bit too high, so it was proposed that normal blood pressure should be a systolic less than 115 and a diastolic less than 75 (or 114/74), according to the Harvard Medical School.

Studies show that “cardiovascular risks start to climb when the blood pressure goes up to 115/75, not 140/90, and the risks double for each 20 mm increase in systolic and for even 10 mm increase in the diastolic.”

This change will allow for an earlier medical intervention and prevent complications of hypertension.

Some seniors, whose arteries are hardened and not flexible, may feel better with a blood pressure that is around 130 to 140/90.

How much sugar is unhealthy?

They are not only the sugar you use for coffee or tea but the total sugar you consume each day that counts.

Many of us eat about 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is unsafe.

One teaspoon is about 16 calories, so that totals to 320 calories, which is about three times more than what is healthy for us.

For women, no more than six teaspoon, and for men, a maximum of nine teaspoon, are the recommendation.

All of us, not only those with diabetes, should watch our sugar and carbohydrate intake, otherwise we might soon join them.

Those with sweet tooth are at a higher risk to develop diabetes and “sweet” urine.

Are frozen food items germ-free?

No, frozen foods, unless they are canned, have latent bacteria in them, suspended in animation, but which will be active when thawed to the right temperature they could tolerate and multiply.

This is why it is dangerous to thaw frozen food and then re-frozen.

When a medical culture (swab) is done on frozen foods, and the specimen, at room temperature, is examined under the microscope, bacteria will be evident.

It is best for frozen foods to be washed thoroughly and cooked properly immediately after taking them out of the freezer.

Some items need to be thawed first, but they should also be cooked right after thawing and not allowed to linger in the kitchen.

As we reported in another column a couple of years ago, the kitchen is the dirtiest place, dirtier than the toilet, in any home.

Can food reflux cause cancer?

About 65 percent of Americans have heartburn, about 30 percent also have reflux esophagitis, where the food, acid and secretions in the stomach backs up to the food pipe causing severe irritation that could lead to severe complications.

Reflux (GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease or GERD) occurs among those with weak gastroesophageal sphincter, a valve between the food pipe and stomach, that normally prevents regurgitation of gastric contents upwards.

Chronic reflux esophagitis could cause stricture (scarring and narrowing) of a segment of the food pipe, leading to obstruction and eating problem.

Long-term esophageal reflux commonly develops into Barrett’s esophagus, a precursor to cancer in some people.

Other risk factors for the development of cancer of the esophagus include alcohol, tobacco, obesity, diet of red meat and very little vegetables and fruits, a condition called achalasia, and a rarer one called tylosis.

GERD must be treated.

Today, there are effective regimens available to treat GERD.

To begin with, stay away from spicy, fatty or fried foods, alcohol, tobacco, mint, etc.

Don’t lie down after eating; wait for at least four hours.

Elevation of the head part of the bed (with two bricks, or bed lifter cones under the foot of the bed) is a helpful strategy.

Pillow wedge for head elevation could cause spine twisting and back aches.

Prompt medical consultation is highly recommended.

How much sex is safe?

This is a very personal and individualized issue and applies to different persons and situations differently.

In general, sans medical or physical limitation, one can do it safely as much as he/she can, even among seniors.

Daily or more a day, especially among the young, every few days or weekly, monthly, etc.

All this depends on the mutual desire, comfort and ability of the partners.

There are no medical studies that quantify a normal or healthy number or limit for the frequency of sex.

A more important issue today is how to practice safe sex to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases, especially AIDS, which is practically a death sentence today.

***

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