Shellfish are low in cholesterol

October 04, 2007|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

There seems to be conflicting information on the relationship between consuming shellfish and cholesterol. What does the latest research show? If shellfish is a high-cholesterol food, how much is too much?

For years, dietitians counseled people to avoid foods high in cholesterol. The theory was that eating cholesterol would raise cholesterol in the blood. As a result, many avoided eggs and shellfish, even though there was little, if any, data to suggest that such foods posed a problem.

There was a flaw with this advice, however. The old tests that were used to determine that shellfish was high in cholesterol were inaccurate. Clams, lobster, mussels and crab contain relatively little cholesterol. Even shrimp is not considered worrisome anymore.

Eating cholesterol-rich foods, such as eggs, does not necessarily raise cholesterol (Journal of Nutrition, October 2006). In one study, people ate lots of red meat and eggs with almost no starch. Their bad LDL cholesterol did not go up, and their triglycerides actually down (Mayo Clinic Proceedings, November 2003).

You recently wrote about using sugar for slow-healing wounds and bedsores. As a nurse, I learned years ago that the best way to use this home remedy is to make a thick paste of antibiotic ointment and sugar and pack the wound with it. Old wives' tale or not, it works.

We heard from other nurses who have not forgotten this old-fashioned treatment. One wrote: "As a nursing student in 1961, I worked at a small hospital that routinely used a mixture of milk of magnesia and sugar to cure bedsores. It seemed to be successful in many cases."

Another objected to our terminology: "Using sugar for bedsores is not a wives' tale. I have been a registered nurse for 45 years. When I was a student, it was very common practice to use sugar packs."

Do you have any suggestions for relieving constipation? I have tried many different things, but nothing really seems to work for long.

For controlling constipation, the basics are fluid and fiber. If you can't get enough fiber from your diet, you might consider a product such as Metamucil, Citrucel or Unifiber with lots of water.

Some people find that simmering 2 tablespoons of flaxseed in 3 quarts of water for a quarter of an hour makes about 2 quarts of solution. Two ounces a day in juice is reported to move everything along. Sugar-free gum containing mannitol or sorbitol also can be useful.

My menopausal hot flashes are becoming unbearable and debilitating. I have tried many remedies. Some helped a little (like cutting down on caffeine), but others, like soy, did nothing.

I work with liver transplant patients, and the specialists say that the herb black cohosh can damage the liver. That's why I'm afraid to try it.

I finally tried an estrogen patch my doctor prescribed. I had an adverse reaction to it in less than a week. What can you recommend?

Although there are reports of liver problems associated with black cohosh, this appears to be an uncommon complication.

A new study suggests that a patented pine bark extract can help ease hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. The compound is Pycnogenol, derived from the French maritime pine.

The study included 155 women ages 45 to 55. After six months of treatment with Pycnogenol or placebo, those treated with the pine bark extract had significantly fewer symptoms and lower cholesterol levels than those taking placebo (Acta Obstetrics Gynecology Scandinavia, August 2007). It might be worth a try.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site: peoplespharmacy.com.

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