Dr. Oz Uses Red Palm Oil…Should You?

Red palm oil is being touted by some health gurus as a remedy for the effects of aging on the body. Dr. Oz calls it a “stop sign” for aging because of its deep orange-red color. However, most health care professionals look at these so-called magic bullets with a dose of skepticism. This document reviews the potential benefits and risks of using red palm oil.

What Is Red Palm Oil?

Red palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree. Palm kernel oil, which is different, comes from the seed of the oil palm tree.1 Red palm oil is a mixture (about 50/50) of saturated and unsaturated vegetable fats. Red palm oil also has vitamin E and vitamin A (aka carotenes). Carotenes cause the deep orange-red color of the oil.

Palm oil is also often found in foods. But the palm oil used in processed foods is different from red palm oil because it’s refined, with bleaching and deodorization. These processes destroy some of the carotene content. However, the fat composition of the oil remains the same.3

Despite the fact that red palm oil has saturated fat, it is said to behave more like an unsaturated fat, such as olive oil.1

Benefits of Red Palm Oil

The mainstream hype is that taking one or two tablespoons of red palm oil per day can lower cholesterol, protect the brain, improve circulation, help with weight loss, etc.

There are a number of lab and animal studies with red palm oil, palm oil, and constituents of palm oil. However, good quality evidence for any benefits, such as human studies looking at cardiovascular outcomes with the use of unmodified red palm oil, is lacking.

A number of human studies suggest palm oil may have an anticlotting effect.1 However, there is conflicting evidence for this with some sources reporting an increase in clotting.2

Downsides of Red Palm Oil

There are no side effects reported with red palm oil in clinical trials. There’s a hypothetical interaction with blood thinning drugs due to the possibility of red palm oil’s effects on clotting.

Despite a potential lack of adverse effects, growing and harvesting red palm oil may have negative effects on the environment. Oil palm plantations are replacing huge swaths of native rainforests in Asia. One of the results of this is a shrinking endangered orangutan habitat.

Conclusion

The only good evidence for using red palm oil is for preventing vitamin A deficiency, which makes sense due to its carotene content. However, good evidence for other health benefits is lacking.

Stick to improving your diet, exercising more and using drugs that have proven benefits  (like metformin for diabetics).

Does Bee Pollen Work (And Is It Safe) for Weight Loss?

Bee pollen is getting a lot of attention as a treatment for weight loss. Advocates claim that it helps reduce weight by providing the nutrients to stimulant metabolism. But some bee pollen products, Classic Zi Xiu Tang and Ultimate Formula Bee Pollen, have been found to be contaminated with the weight loss drug sibutramine (Meridia). This drug was recently withdrawn from the market due to safety concerns. Tell patients that there is no proof that taking bee pollen supplements alone reduces weight. Explain that weight loss claims that sound too good to be true, probably are.

Do Vitamin E Supplements Work for Alzheimer’s Dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. The disease causes a gradual, progressive decline in cognition (i.e. capacity to think) and behavior. Alzheimer’s also causes death. That is, patients with severe Alzheimer’s are unable to care for themselves, and, so, die from complications like pneumonia, sepsis, suffocation and trauma.

The signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are numerous. Common signs & symptoms are memory loss, loss of speech, disorientation, depression, hallucinations & repetitive mannerisms.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is poorly understood. Current research suggests Alzheimer’s occurs when specific brain cells die. Inflammation-causing plaques, which are called “Beta Amyloid Plaques” and excessive glutamate, a type of amino acid, may play a role in killing brain cells.

Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Other risk factors are: history of head injury, family history and old age.

Do vitamin E supplements work for Alzheimer’s?

Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant. So, theoretically, it can reduce the inflammation and cell damage caused by Beta Amyloid Plaques. However, in recent years, many studies (1) have found that vitamin E supplements do not improve or stabilize the signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, some studies (2) argue that vitamin E supplementation (dosage: 400 IU/day) increases your risk of prostate cancer in some men.

Pharmacist’s Tip: Medications like Aricept (Donepezil) & Ebixa (Memantine) can stabilize the signs & symptoms Alzheimer’s. You must try these medications for at least 8-10 weeks before seeing their optimal effects, however. Sadly, no medication will cure or improve the signs & symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Works Cited

  1. Isaac MG, Quinn R, Tabet N. Vitamin E for Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Jul 16;(3):CD002854.
  2. Klein EA, Thompson IM Jr, Tangen CM, Crowley JJ, Lucia MS, Goodman PJ, Minasian LM, et al. Vitamin E and the risk of prostate cancer: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT). JAMA. 2011 Oct 12;306(14):1549-56.

Study: Over Time, Even a Little Too Much Tylenol Can Kill

Study: Over Time, Even a Little Too Much Tylenol Can Kill

Discover magazine grossly exaggerates the harm associated with Tylenol. The patients in the study didn’t overdose on “little too much” Tylenol. In fact, on average, the patients in the study overdosed on greater than 20,000 mg of Tylenol (the recommended daily maximum dose is 4,000mg).

Nevertheless, Tylenol is among the most over-used drugs. To prevent over-use, please use the following pain management tips:

  1. Always use the lowest effective dose of your pain medication
  2. Tylenol is best for mild-moderate pain; moderate-severe pain usually requires stronger pain medications. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for better drugs.
  3. Pain due to inflammation is best treated with NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve).
  4. Alternating Tylenol and Advil doses is a reasonable option for pain that isn’t controlled by either drug alone.
  5. Be sure to check all your medications for accidental duplication

Why Don’t You Know Your Risk of Osteoporosis-related Fractures?

What is osteoporosis? In short, osteoporosis is the slow and progressive loss of bone strength. Although everyone’s bones lose strength with age, you’re officially diagnosed with “osteoporosis” if your bone mineral density score (your “T score”) is less than 2.5.

The major complications of osteoporosis are bone fractures. The primary goal of osteoporosis management is to prevent fractures.

What Increases Your Risk of Osteoporosis?

Several factors will increase your risk of osteoporosis and osteoporosis-related fractures. Here’s a list of the major risk factors:

  1. Age ≥65 y
  2. Vertebral compression fracture
  3. Fracture after age 40
  4. Medications (several medications can increase your risk of osteoporosis fractures)
  5. Parent with hip fracture
  6. Osteopenia (“pre-osteoporosis) identified on x-ray
  7. Current smoking
  8. High alcohol intake
  9. Low body weight ( <120 lbs) or major weight loss (>10% of weight at age 25)
  10. Rheumatoid arthritis

What Drugs Increase Your Risk for Osteoporosis or Fractures?

Several medications (SSRI antidepressants, bisphosphonates) are linked to low bone mineral density scores and/or fractures (hip & spine). Oral steroids, like prednisone, have been associated with fractures for a long time. High doses taken for greater than or equal to 3 months are increase your chances of an osteoporosis-related fracture

Other drugs that can cause osteoporosis or fractures include proton pump inhibitors (Nexium), antidepressants (Paxil), vitamin A & certain diabetes medications (Actos). A fall can, obviously, increase your risk of breaking a bone; so, any medication that increases your risk of falling will increase your risk of having fracture, too.

Pharmacist’s Tips

  • Use this post to make an inventory of your risk factors. Then, use the World Health Organization’s easy-to-use fracture calculator to calculate your risk of having a osteoporosis fracture in the next 10 years.
  • A diet high in vitamin D and calcium may lower your risk of osteoporosis and osteoporosis-related fractures
  • If you’re at very high risk for hip, spine or other fractures, medications like Actonel and Fosamax may be helpful.