Vaccines and variants
Marvel Comics specializes in mutant superheroes — from Hope Summers and Wolverine to Iceman and Storm. They’re only scary to the bad guys. Mutant viruses, on the other hand, are more troubling, and we know COVID-19 is mutating:
There is the British variant (officially called B.1.1.7), the South African strain (B.1.351), the Brazilian one (P.1) and, as of this writing, mumblings about a home-grown American one in New York City (B.1.526). These variants may become harder for your immune system to detect or to attack. They can make the infection more easily transmitted or more severe.
The good news is that some of the current vaccines knock out some of the mutations. Correspondence in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the Pfizer vaccine neutralizes both the British and Brazilian strains and is nearly as effective in countering the South African one. And Moderna announced it is shipping a vaccine that is tailored to knock out both the original and South African strains. Now, down the road, some folks may need booster shots (no big deal), but as we get to 80 percent to 90 percent vaccination rates, the virus will be less likely to mutate, since it will be reproducing less — and that limits mutations.
So where does that leave you if you’ve been vaccinated or are thinking about getting vaccinated? Feeling delighted you got a vaccine or committed to getting one ASAP! Also, following social distancing rules, wearing a mask when out of the house and washing your hands frequently. That’s really no strain at all. And check out info on variants at DoctorOz.com; search for “mutant strains.”
How to make smart changes when you have Type 2 diabetes
The French Chef, Julia Child, was a CIA intelligence officer before she moved to Paris with her husband at the age of 36 and discovered the joy of cooking. That’s a pretty big lifestyle change! Well, if you’re overweight or obese and have Type 2 diabetes, it’s also a great idea to make far-reaching lifestyle changes. A new study reveals how to do it safely, so you gain control of your diabetes and protect your heart.
Researchers have published a study in Diabetes Care that took a second — and more in-depth — look at data from the NIH’s Look AHEAD study. They found that for 85 percent of people in that study, lifestyle interventions that triggered weight loss and increased physical activity reduced potential cardiovascular problems and optimized the wide range of physical and emotional benefits that come from upgraded lifestyle habits.
But — and there’s always a but — for folks in that study who had poor blood sugar control, the lifestyle interventions were actually risky! It turns out that upgrading your lifestyle without first gaining control of blood sugar levels makes it 85 percent more likely you’ll have a cardiac event.
So if you’re ready to conquer your Type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor about first making sure your blood sugar is well controlled through medication and food choices. Once that is established, then you’re ready to start a weight loss and exercise program that will let you make as dramatic a shift in your life trajectory as Julia did. Time to check the numbers.
More proof that cancer is sweet on sugar
Beyonce made a cool $50 million partnering with Pepsi. Britney Spears also raked in a truckload as a famous frontperson. You wonder if they would have done it if they knew just how dangerous it is for them to drink sugar-sweetened sodas.
A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention shows that women who drink sugar-laced soda five or more times a week are 85 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than women who never or rarely drink sugary sodas. They were also 65 percent more likely to die from all causes than non-indulgers.
The researchers from the University of Buffalo followed 927 women, ages 25 to 79, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer for a median of nearly 19 years. They suggest that sodas are so lethal because they contain a lot of sucrose and fructose, which pump up both glucose levels and secretion of insulin. Those two are known to be associated with a higher risk of breast cancer, the researchers point out.
Opting for tea, coffee and water is the smart move. Some studies suggest drinking more than three cups of green tea a day is associated with a 27 percent reduction in your risk of breast cancer, and some say five cups of coffee can have breast cancer-fighting benefits too — although not everyone agrees. What we do know is that tea and coffee offer other benefits, ranging from boosting heart and brain health to strengthening your immune system and fighting inflammation — and no cancer risks.
Broadband protection: Promote heart health and KO cancer
Over 30 percent of U.S. adults watch movies on their digital devices several times a week thanks to broadband technology and higher connection speeds. Well, it turns out that you can get broadband health results flowing your way, too — through your cardiovascular connections! In a study published in JACC: CardioOncology, researchers found good heart health fights off cancer.
Looking at more than 20,000 patients ages 36 to 64 with an average BMI of 26.5 (slightly overweight) for around 15 years, they found traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated lousy LDL cholesterol, smoking and sedentary behavior, were independently associated with an increased risk of cancer. Those with the worst cardiovascular health tripled their cancer risk, compared to those with the healthiest heart. But folks who were heart healthy cut their risk of developing cancer almost in half.
To reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer, the researchers recommend following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 steps. You get two points for each step you stick with and that reduces your risk of cancer over the next 15 years by 10 percent!
■ Quit smoking or don’t start.
■ Maintain a healthy weight.
■ Get moderate-intensity exercise for at least 150 minutes a week.
■ Eat a plant-based diet.
■ Maintain healthy blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels (with medications if necessary).
Bonus: If you keep these health biomarkers and habits going, by age 55 your RealAge will be over 14 years younger than your calendar age; by age 75, you’ll be over 18 years younger.
Tom Robbins, author of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” once said, “You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.” A 1960s point of view, perhaps. The 2020s point of view is that you shouldn’t hesitate to trade cow’s milk in for a glass of soy, oat or almond milk. Is that a smart trade?
Almond milk contains no saturated fat and 2 grams mono- and polyunsaturated fats in an 8-ounce glass. Whole milk delivers 7.37 grams of fat, with 4.23 grams of saturated fat. Unsweetened almond milk also contains just 30 calories, in contrast to whole milk’s 136 calories, and serves up 1 gram of protein (whole milk has 8 grams), 1 gram carbs, 450 milligrams calcium, 160 milligrams potassium, 150 micrograms vitamin A and 200 IU of vitamin D.
Oat milk delivers 120 calories, 5 grams of fat (0.5 grams is sat fat), 3 grams of protein, 22 grams of carbs per 8-ounce serving, and 2 to 3 grams of fiber, although nutrition label info varies from brand to brand.
Soy milk’s popularity has plummeted because of news that its estrogen-like molecules can raise the risk of breast cancer. The Cleveland Clinic says there’s no evidence that’s so. A serving of soy milk contains 131 calories, 4.3 grams fat with 0.5 grams sat fat, 15 grams carbs, 8 grams protein and whatever added vitamins the manufacturer wants to put in; the USDA’s evaluation says it offers no A or D.
The bottom line: Always opt for unsweetened alternative milks, whichever you choose. And experiment with newer options, like pea, pecan, walnut and cashew milk.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.