Thursday, April 12, 2012

Supplementing Safely

Health and wellness are hot topics on the internet.  The news media regularly report on the most recent scientific findings about diet and nutrition.  The health and wellness industry pitches us their products, and friends, family members, and co-workers enthusiastically share their tips.  Within this tidal wave of health and wellness information are solid facts, working hypotheses, popular misconceptions, rumors, hoaxes, and sales pitches. 

When trying to choose dietary supplements, it is not always easy to sort the good advice from the bad.  The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Tips for the Savvy Supplement User” makes these suggestions:
  • Don’t confuse the newest study with personalized health advice.  News releases do not necessarily tell the whole story about a study’s results.
  • Before taking supplements, consult your health care provider if you take prescription or over-the-counter medications, or if you plan to have surgery.  Supplements can interact with medications and anesthesia.
  • Remember that supplements are not a replacement for a balanced diet.  Get nutritional information from a reliable source, like the National Academy of Sciences web site.
  • Avoid products with too-good-to-be-true claims.
  • Remember that dietary supplements are regulated differently than drugs.
  • The FDA does not test supplements before they go on the market.
  • Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of their products, as well as the truthfulness of their labeling.
  • You can contact the manufacturer for more information about safety, efficacy, and quality control before buying the product.
  • Products that are natural or lacking warnings on their labels are not necessarily safe.
If you have a serious adverse reaction to a supplement, you or your doctor can report it to the FDA by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or by filling out a MedWatch form on the FDA web site.

Despite all the misinformation available, there are trustworthy, informative sites to consult about supplements.  More information can be found at the following sites:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vitamin D and Sun Exposure: Weighing the Risks and Benefits

According to the National Center for Health Statistic’s March 2011 data brief, entitled “Vitamin D Status: United States, 2001-2006,” one-third of Americans are at risk for vitamin D inadequacy and 8% are at risk for vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D, which is vital for the maintenance for healthy bones and osteoporosis prevention, is synthesized by the skin in response to exposure to the sun.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 80%-90% of the vitamin D in our bodies comes from sun exposure. This fact has some of us wondering about the risks and benefits of sun exposure. The unseasonably warm and sunny spring in the Midwest has tempted many of us to venture out into the sun earlier in the year than usual, but keep in mind that NIH warn that the risk of skin cancer from UV rays outweighs the benefits of increased vitamin D production.  They recommend using sunscreen and protective clothing when going out into the sun for more than a few minutes, and instead relying on dietary intake or supplementation to maintain adequate levels of vitamin D.

There is some controversy over what constitutes adequate daily intake, but current recommendations from the Institute of Medicine are 200IU daily until the age of 50, 600IU for pregnant and breastfeeding women, 400IU daily for people aged 50-70, and 600IU for those over 70 years of age. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, and vitamin D fortified foods, or by taking vitamin D supplements.  To prevent osteoporosis, rather than getting some rays, the NIH suggests not smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, getting regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet with enough vitamin D and calcium.  For more information, see:

-Jamie Neuendorf

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Savor the Flavor-Meatless Mondays

If I told you that you could make a change that would improve your health, improve the health of your community, spice up your kitchen, and also be easy, would you do it? A new public health movement is afoot. It is called Meatless Mondays.

Why should I go meatless one day a week?
Besides the fact that creating meat free recipes is easy, fun, and delicious…

Going meatless one day a week is great for your personal physical health and the health of your family. According to John’s Hopkins, many preventable diseases such as cancer, obesity, heart attacks, and strokes are linked to diets high in meat content. Reducing your meat consumption by even a small amount, a mere one day per week, can reduce the likelihood that you will experience these chronic health conditions.

Eating less meat one day a week is also a great way to help the environment. Getting meat to market generates large amounts of fossil fuel use, water waste, and manure.

Isn’t eating meatless boring?

Eating a meat free diet one day a week does not have to be boring. When I signed on to go meatless one day a week, I had this sort of nightmare that I would eat iceberg lettuce salads and squishy tofu one day a week. To the contrary, I found the process of finding meatless recipes fascinating. Many other counties rely on meat far less than our culture. Going meatless allowed me to explore recipes from around the world. Many of these recipes were amazing.

Who is supporting this movement?

The Meatless Mondays Movement is supported by numerous organizations. Here is a list of a few of the organizations/people that have recognized the health benefits of Meatless Mondays. The list is pretty incredible.

Isn’t going meatless once a week hard?

Going meatless is extremely easy. Almost all of my favorite recipes have easy meat free alterations. I want to make going meatless easy for you. So, I am attaching a few of my favorite recipes to get you started including: sundried tomato pesto, tortilla soup, stuffed peppers and a resource for cooking meatless with kids. Try it one day a week. It is easy and fun.

Good luck and good eating.

For your eating pleasure:

Meatless recipes: 

History of the movement:

-Melissa A. Lemke, MA, Research Specialist, Zilber School of Public Health

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

It is "Wellness Wednesday" here at ZSPH, and for lunch some of the staff made omelets! We had all the fixings: fresh spinach, mushrooms, red, yellow & green peppers, avocados, ham and cheese. On the side we had wheat toast, and to drink, orange juice!

Our wonderful Development Director, Monika, made everyone's omelets!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Challenging Wisconsin’s Drinking Culture

 According to Vital Signs, the Centers for Disease Control’s monthly call to action on a pressing public health concern, binge drinking is a more pervasive and costly problem than previously estimated.  The report released earlier this month by the CDC indicates that 1 in 6 American adults binge drinks, defined as consuming 5 or more drinks in 2 hours for men and 4 or more drinks in 2 hours for women, putting them at increased risk for injury and disease.  Unfortunately, the numbers show that Wisconsin tops the list of binge-drinking states with 25.6% of adults reporting binge-drinking behavior.  This important report dispels many myths about binge drinking, which may help us better understand and tackle a largely ignored public health problem.  Despite controversies regarding the best way to manage binge drinking, it is important to acknowledge the problem and to start a discussion about changes that can be made on the individual level, as well as the policy level, to mitigate the damages caused by binge drinking.  See the complete report at:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Healthy eating along the highway

The Iowa Department of Public Health has received a grant to place healthy food options in highway rest area vending machines. They put traffic light colored stickers on each snack to let people know what snacks are the healthiest (green), healthy (yellow), and not healthy (red). A consultant to the program said they saw an increase in people choosing the green and yellow snacks after 16 weeks of trying out the program. They are looking to increase the amount of healthy choices in the vending machines to 30% by November of this year.

To read the full article, click here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Work it Out

If you are one of those people who enjoy the outdoors, and go for walks and runs until the snow storms comes, you tend to get cabin fever in the middle of winter. Fitness clubs have their best deals at the beginning of the new year, and many have a pay-as-you-go option! Benefit from the "no enrollment fee" advertisements and get yourself a winter gym pass!

Another alternative is to take advantage of indoor tracks at ice rinks. In Milwaukee, the Pettit National Ice Center is a cheap way to keep up your cardio fitness. For as little as $3, you can enjoy the 443-meter track daily!