Low vitamin D linked to weight gain in older women

Published: Monday, June 25, 2012 @ 4:32 PM

Older women with low blood levels of vitamin D may be more prone to pack on the pounds, when compared with women who have adequate vitamin D levels.

Of more than 4,600 women aged 65 and older, those with insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood gained about two pounds more than those who had adequate levels of the vitamin during a five-year study.

The women with insufficient levels of vitamin D also weighed more when the study began than women with normal vitamin D levels.

"Lower vitamin D levels are associated with more weight gain in older women, but the weight gain was relatively small," says researcher Erin LeBlanc, MD. She is an endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.

The findings appear in the Journal of Women's Health.

Most women in the study had less than 30 nanograms per millimeter (ng/ml) of vitamin D in their blood. Insufficient vitamin D levels are defined by The Endocrine Society panel as being below 30; vitamin D deficiency is defined as levels below 25.

The women with insufficient levels of vitamin D also weighed more when the study began than women whose vitamin D levels were 30 ng/ml or above.

In the group of 571 women who gained weight, those who had insufficient vitamin D levels gained about two pounds more than women who had sufficient vitamin D levels, the study shows.

The study can't say whether low vitamin D is causing the weight gain or just reflecting it. "The study is the first step that we need to evaluate whether vitamin D might be contributing to weight gain," LeBlanc says.

But there are some theoretical ways that low vitamin D could contribute to weight gain, she says. Fat cells do have vitamin D receptors. "Vitamin D could affect where fat cells shrink or get bigger."

"There is a lot that goes into vitamin D levels: sun exposure, age, diet, pigmentation," LeBlanc says. "Talk to your primary care providers about screening and whether or not you need to take supplements."

Besides weight gain, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of diseases and conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, and some autoimmune disorders.

Getting Enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D is called the sunlight vitamin because our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D is also added to milk and other foods, and is available in small amounts in fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and mackerel; beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. But it can be hard to get as much as we need from our diets. As a result, supplements are often needed.

The Institute of Medicine recently raised the recommended daily intake to 600 IU for people aged 1-70 and to 800 IU for adults older than 70. Other groups set the bar even higher.

Robert Graham, MD, says that the new study adds another piece to the vitamin D puzzle. He is an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "We can't say that vitamin D is the cause of weight gain or an effect of it," he says. "We can say that everyone should have sufficient blood levels of vitamin D."

His advice? Go get your levels tested -- and supplement if necessary to make sure your levels are 30 nanograms per millimeter or above. "Eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity is also key to maintain a healthy weight."

SOURCES: Erin LeBlanc, MD, endocrinologist and researcher at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.Robert Graham, MD, internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.LeBlanc, E.S. Journal of Women's Health, 2012, study received ahead of print.

© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

15 things everyone battling cancer must do

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

On July 14 — two days before her double mastectomy and the day before her son, Kier Dorman of Cincinnati, was deployed — the pair went skydiving at Start Skydiving, 1711 Run Way, in Middletown, Ohio. CONTRIBUTED
Contributing Writer
On July 14 — two days before her double mastectomy and the day before her son, Kier Dorman of Cincinnati, was deployed — the pair went skydiving at Start Skydiving, 1711 Run Way, in Middletown, Ohio. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

To those embarking on the cancer journey, know there is hope. You will find strength you never knew you had. You will grow in patience, love, faith and gratitude. You’ll learn what’s truly important and how to more deeply savor every moment. You will inspire others to do the same.

>> PERSONAL JOURNEY: The gift of cancer: Why I’ve never been luckier 

 Here are 15 things I’ve learned in my journey that I share with you — 15 things everyone with cancer should know and do.

1. Laugh — a lot. 

Humor can increase the antibody IgA (immunoglobulin A), helping fight disease. Vigorously amuse yourself. The boob jokes never got old. Neither did the hair jokes. At one point during chemo, I looked like Powder, that bald, pale-faced kid with ESP from the ʼ90s movie. I now have super-short hair, and the easiest Halloween costume ever: Eleven from “Stranger Things.” 

2. Cry — a lot. 

This is a wild and emotional ride. Peer support from the women I met through the Noble Circle Project helped immensely, and I’m still seeing a therapist. Writing in my journal also helped me unpack and process the many feelings, some of them surprising, that arose.

3. Know that everything is going to be OK. 

Call on your faith, beliefs, support network and everything that will help you stay positive and focused on healing.

4. Accept and appreciate your journey for what it is.

No one’s is the same. Be kind and patient with yourself and understand your body will heal in its own time.

Friends wore bald head caps from Foy’s costume store during Kristen Wicker’s head-shaving shindig at Derailed Hair Salon in the Oregon District. Pictured left to right: Katie Wedell, Alexis Larsen, Anthony Shoemaker, Kristen Wicker, Amelia Robinson, Mindy Finch, Amy Forsthoefel. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

5. Rally your crew. 

One of my BFFs set up an account on Lotsa Helping Hands to organize a meal train, flower brigade and other opportunities to help me out, as well as give updates on my progress. When people offer to help, make sure you have their contact info — and don’t be shy about calling upon them. People truly want to help you, and it brings them joy to do so. It’s a win-win.

6. Gather your caregivers. 

Identify your primary non-physician caregivers, such as a spouse, partner or friend. Provide them with your physicians’ contact information, a schedule of your appointments and details about your type of breast cancer so if you go down, they can step up with all the info they need in hand.

Kristen Wicker (right) shortly after going bald and her partner and primary caregiver, Matthew Leclaire, at home in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

7. Plan your coming out. 

Decide with your family how to tell others about your diagnosis. I had my hair cut short and when people complimented me, I’d say something like, “Wait until you see my wigs” as a way to lightheartedly break the news. Once my family knew, I posted something on social media — with a plea for all women to check their breasts and get regular mammograms.

8. Consider a fundraiser. 

I was resistant to this idea at first, but one of my BFFs created a Go Fund Me campaign and it’s been a lifesaver when it comes to those medical bills. Breast cancer is a very expensive venture.

9. Be your own best advocate. 

You are in charge of your body and care. The human body and medicine are so complex, there’s no way every doctor can know every single thing. Do your own research on credible websites and read books by those with the best credentials. I spent a lot of time researching, asking about and trying such complementary therapies as massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, yoga, nutrition, supplements and the Qigong I learned through Noble Circle. You also can get a temporary handicap parking tag if you develop mobility issues.

>> 10 things that truly helped me through my cancer journey

10. Get organized. 

Even if you just put stuff in a pile and sort through the details later, keep all your medical bills and records in one place. You might have a nurse navigator who can help walk you through the journey as well. You’ll be loaded up with a lot of information at your first appointment. Don’t get overwhelmed: Call on your support network to help you sort through and read everything.

11. Be patient with and love on yourself. 

I had to drop all volunteer work, which was difficult for me to do. But I now know there’s no way I could have kept up. Your No. 1 job now is healing.

12. Ask lots of questions. 

Do your homework before doctor’s appointments and come with a list of questions. Lists of suggested questions are on breast and other cancer websites. Always ask, “What can I do to help myself?” Take notes at each appointment and record your conversation with your docs. Bring one or two family members or friends along to milestone appointments. They often think of questions you’re too overwhelmed to imagine and remember things you forget.

13. Keep a journal. 

Whether verbal or written, digital or on paper, this is a good place to take notes from appointments and keep a list of medications, vitamins and supplements. Mine included blood pressure readings, daily notes about how I felt, poems and emotional purges.

14. Eat well and exercise.

It can be a struggle to get out of bed some days, but keep physically active as much as possible. Take advantage of available fitness resources. Focus on eating a healthy, whole food diet, avoiding sugar and processed foods.

15. Create a morning ritual of hope. 

Even on the days when I felt like dog poo, I tried to start with a positive affirmation or prayer. Sometimes, that was simply telling myself, “I’m going to have the best day possible and love myself today.”

Contact contributing writer Kristen Wicker at kristenmariawicker@gmail.com.”

10 things that truly helped me during my cancer journey

Published: Saturday, October 21, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Friends wore bald head caps from Foy’s costume store during Kristen Wicker’s head-shaving shindig at Derailed Hair Salon in the Oregon District. Pictured left to right: Katie Wedell, Alexis Larsen, Anthony Shoemaker, Kristen Wicker, Amelia Robinson, Mindy Finch, Amy Forsthoefel. CONTRIBUTED
Contributing Writer
Friends wore bald head caps from Foy’s costume store during Kristen Wicker’s head-shaving shindig at Derailed Hair Salon in the Oregon District. Pictured left to right: Katie Wedell, Alexis Larsen, Anthony Shoemaker, Kristen Wicker, Amelia Robinson, Mindy Finch, Amy Forsthoefel. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

When folks learned I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, their first response was almost always to offer help. Not everyone diagnosed knows what she might need or wants help from others — but I did. One of my BFFs joked I was going to become too lazy to ever do anything for myself again. I fear that may have actually happened.

Here are some things that helped me and ideas for how you can help others during a breast cancer journey.

1. Visit.

It gets lonely when you’re home sick, especially after the initial surge has waned. Indeed, the feelings of isolation and missing out were perhaps the most difficult part of this whole journey for me. Please, don’t just drop by — schedule a visit if possible. And know it might be canceled at the last minute, even as you’re ringing the doorbell. Many of us on breast cancer journeys don’t know how we’re going to feel from minute to minute, and even carefully made plans sometimes have to be rescheduled. Offer to be an on-call visitor: It’s nice to have people willing to visit on short notice when you need a lift. I wish I’d created a code word to text my BFFs, something like “goose poo,” that would mean, “Someone visit me now: I’m on the floor in my jammies sobbing.”

2. Randomly drop off something loved.

One of my absolute very favorite things is fresh flowers and receiving them really perked me up. For others, a fave thing might be chocolate or scented lotions. Whatever it is, bring it to us — but please don’t expect to visit when you’re dropping off. We might be sleeping, in too much pain or just not in the mood to talk.

>> 15 things everyone battling cancer must do

Kristen Wicker relaxes at home in Dayton during her cancer treatment. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

3. Share healthy food.

If a meal train has been organized, use it to avoid “over-fooding.” We received so much food, especially at the beginning of my journey, we had to move “buy fridge for basement” from No. 27 on our to-do list to No. 1. Drop off portions in several small containers so some can be frozen. The meal train also will help you learn what the person likes, as well as what she can’t eat. During chemo, many of us can’t eat raw food, such as sushi or even salad, or anything spicy. And while there’s certainly a temptation to eat nothing but macaroni and cheese and beer during chemo, our bodies need healthy whole, rather than processed, food.

4. Keep in touch.

Send cards, emails, texts, social media messages and make calls. Several friends, family members and co-workers sent me cards on the regular, and every card I received brightened my mood. We almost had to buy more furniture where I could prop my cards. I also loved receiving drawings from my friends’ kids. Nothing says “happy” and “live to the fullest” like a child’s coloring. Send anything funny, no matter how corny, that elicits a laugh. Anything hopeful and inspiring is great, too. Just hearing from folks and knowing they were rooting for me was so empowering. During some of my less-than-optimistic moments, I’d re-read the cards on my mantel and scroll back through Facebook posts and texts. It would remind me I had an A-list team walking with me.

5. Help with chores.

Grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, yard work — all the things you just love to do at your own home can be especially hard for a cancer patient to complete. One of my neighbors would text me as she was headed to the grocery, and I’d reply with a list and then just repay her. My yard will never look good as it did this summer after a crew of friends helped with landscaping and planting.

On March 1, during her first time receiving chemo at the Kettering Cancer Center, Kristen Wicker colored what she felt was a very appropriate page in her dirty words coloring book. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

6. Give from the heart.

I now have a collection of things I will always treasure from friends I just adore: a hand-knitted shawl, a rock with the word “courage,” artwork, stuffed animals, a thin silver bracelet with “never give up” stamped on top and one with a bead for each of my Noble Circle sisters, a medal with a pink ribbon that reads: “I kicked cancer’s butt: What’s your superpower?” I also received Reiki, restorative yoga and meditation sessions, and a foot massage from friends who are healers. A list of books, movies, TV shows and anything to stream on Netflix you love and think we might enjoy is also a useful and thoughtful gift. 

>> Ways to join the fight against cancer

7. Offer rides.

I couldn’t drive for long periods of time thanks to being on pain medications or just being in pain. Some of my trips to doctor appointments turned into lunch or shopping dates, adding a dose of fun to something that is anything but.

Kristen Wicker (left) is taking her first-time wig shopping seriously with friends (L-R) Mindy Finch, Alexis Larsen and Amelia Robinson at Beauty Outlet, 4599 Salem Ave. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

8. Make a play date.

Offer to take us out for some fun times so we can get out of our Hobbit hole and back into the real world. My adventures included pedicures and manicures, lots of wonderful meals, and attending a poetry class, festivals and art exhibits. Invite us out to do things you think we’ll enjoy, but that aren’t too physically taxing. If we can’t get out of the house, bring the adventures to our door. For example, two of my main gals brought over brunch stuff and cooked for me one day when I was really sick. It was such a relief to laugh with them without having to leave the comfort of my sleep recliner.

9. Help with organizing.

One thing’s for sure: Cancer patients have a lot of paper, whether it’s bills, receipts, care instructions or manuals about caring for wigs. It’s almost too much for one brain, especially one in a chemo fog, to process. Staying on top of things is tough when you’re sick. One of my friends helped gather addresses for thank you notes (which reminds me I still need to write those … ) and another created a Lotsa Helping Hands page for me to organize the assistance I needed to come out strong on the other side.

Kristen Wicker (right) shortly after going bald and her partner and primary caregiver, Matthew Leclaire, at home in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED(Contributing Writer)

10. Offer to help the primary caregiver.

Whether a spouse, partner, friend or family member, it’s likely one or two people are doing the bulk of the dirty work. And it’s definite those folks are stressed, too. My partner went to a lot of rock shows, played cards and went to movies with his friends to blow off steam. Drop off something for the primary caregiver along with those flowers. 

Why are more black women dying of breast cancer compared to white women?

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 12:58 PM

What You Need to Know: Breast Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women under 60 years old are more likely to die from breast cancer than white women in the same age group. In fact, data from 2015 showed black women had a 39 percent higher breast cancer death rate.

>> Read more trending news

New research from Emory University, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute points to differences in health insurance as the culprit.

The findings, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included data from the National Cancer Data Base on 563,497 black and white women between the ages of 18 and 64 who had been diagnosed with stage I to stage III breast cancer between 2004 and 2013.

The researchers examined five factors for the study:

  • Demographics (age, stage, state, year of diagnosis, etc.)
  • Comorbidities (other health conditions)
  • Insurance (lack of insurance, private insurance, Medicare/Medicaid, etc.)
  • Tumor characteristics (size, type, stage, etc.)
  • Treatment (chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, surgery, etc.)

The findings

They found that insurance explained one-third of the additional risk of death among the black women compared to white women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.

Additionally, almost three times as many black women (22.7 percent) were either uninsured or had Medicaid insurance compared to white women (8.4 percent).

“Lack of insurance is a barrier to receipt of timely and high-quality treatment and screening services,” study authors wrote.

Other major factors that explained the differences: tumor characteristics (23.2 percent), comorbidities (11.3 percent) and treatment (4.8 percent).

Nearly 80 percent of the women in the study had the most common type of breast cancer (hormone receptor-positive breast cancer) and according to the researchers, when matched for factors such as insurance, comorbidity and others, those factors accounted for a combined 76.3 percent of the total excess risk of death in black patients.

The authors noted that when it came to treatment differences, black and white women contrasted most for hormone therapy, which, according to ACS, is typically used after surgery to help reduce the chance of recurrence.

“Several studies reported that black women are less likely to complete chemotherapy and hormone therapy,” study author Ahmedin Jemal told the ACS. “This could be for many reasons, including problems with transportation or the inability to pay for medicine.”

Additionally, previous research has shown that black women get lower quality mammograms and are less likely to have a follow-up appointment after receiving abnormal mammograms.

(Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

And insurance is vital for both high-quality cancer care and for early detection.

“We know so much about cancer prevention and control,” Jemal, who is also vice president of the ACS surveillance and health services research program, said. “But we’re not applying it to the whole population equally. We have to make the standard of care available to everyone, including people with low income. And blacks are disproportionately represented in that group.”

Read the full study at ascopubs.org

Scientists engineer proteins that caused obese animals to lose weight and lower cholesterol

Published: Thursday, October 19, 2017 @ 3:03 PM

Oftentimes healthy eating and exercise are the first to go as life gets more and more hectic Nutrition is 80-90% of successful weight loss in your 30s You should eat 3 regular meals and 2 snacks per day Log your food intake and exercise to motivate you to move more and reassess the food you're eating Find time to make healthy eating and exercise work for you If you're trying to get back in the habit of training, don't overthink it. It's more important to get started Don't go and join a gym until you real

As the U.S. obesity rate has galloped toward 40 percent, doctors, drug designers and dispirited dieters have all wondered the same thing: What if a pill could deliver the benefits of weight-loss surgery, but without the knife?

New research brings that hope a notch closer.

Scientists from the biotechnology company Amgen Inc. report they have identified and improved upon a naturally occurring protein that brought about significant changes in obese mice and monkeys, including weight loss and rapid improvements on measures of metabolic and heart health.

The results, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine, approximate some of the mysteriously powerful effects of bariatric surgery, in which a surgeon reshapes the stomach and intestinal tract to reduce their capacity. Even before surgery patients lose a lot of weight, most see marked improvements in obesity-related conditions like insulin resistance, high circulating blood sugar and worrisome cholesterol levels.

>> How he came to weigh over 700 pounds — and then lose more than half of it

In mice who got a bioengineered version of the GDF15 protein, the researchers observed even more remarkable changes. These obese mice turned their noses up at extra-rich condensed milk — a treat that normally prompts mice to gorge themselves. Given the choice, the treated mice tended to opt for standard mouse chow instead, or at least lowered their intake of the fattening condensed milk.

After 35 days, obese mice treated with the bioengineered GDF15 proteins lost roughly 20 percent of their body weight, while mice getting a placebo gained about 6 percent over their starting weight, according to the study. When mice were offered the rich condensed milk, triglyceride levels remained at baseline or rose by about 20 percent in those who got the engineered proteins, while levels more than doubled in the untreated mice. Insulin levels and total cholesterol readings were also significantly better in treated animals than in their untreated counterparts.

The results suggest that the GDF15 engineered by researchers had the power to turn off the kind of reward-driven eating (think doughnuts, milkshakes or bacon cheeseburgers) that drives many of us to become obese, or to regain lost weight.

>> The sour truth about artificial sweeteners

Some of the weight-loss medications approved in recent years by the Food and Drug Administration — including Belviq, Contrave, Qsymia and Saxenda — appear to nudge the food preferences of obese patients in more healthful directions. But bariatric surgery has a pronounced effect in shifting patients’ preferences away from high-fat foods. Scientists just don’t know why.

The natural version of the GDF15 protein breaks down quickly in the blood. To be an effective weight-loss aid, it would need more staying power.

The Amgen researchers accomplished this by fusing the protein with other agents that would not break down so quickly. The two engineered versions of GDF15 remain biologically active in the blood for longer.

In the brains of the lab animals that received the treatment, the study authors detected activation in a population of brain-stem cells that transmits complex signals between the brain and gut.

In obese people, those signals — which urge us to eat when we’re hungry and to stop once we’ve eaten — become faulty, causing us to overeat and gain weight. Bariatric surgery appears to correct those signals.

So the suggestion that GDF15 might do the same is an exciting indication that a piece of bariatric surgery’s magic might be bottled up in a pill.

>> Woman's explicitly detailed grocery list leaves little room for error for husband

“This is a new system” involved in the regulation of appetite, said Dr. Ken Fujioka, a weight-loss specialist at Scripps Clinic Del Mar. “It’s not one we’ve seen before, and that’s a big deal.”

At the same time, the system manipulated by GDF15 is only one of the chemical signaling systems that goes awry in obesity, said Fujioka, an expert on brain-gut signaling who was not involved in the new research. If a drug is to help a wide range of patients with obesity — and to aid in the twin challenges of losing weight and keeping it off — it will need to activate many different systems at once.

While bariatric surgery has been shown to be effective in spurring weight loss and a broad range of other health improvements, it is invasive, costly and irreversible. And although about 196,000 Americans had the surgery in 2015, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, that’s only a tiny fraction of the roughly 100 million adults who are now considered obese.

On Wednesday, Amgen called the new research “early,” but said its focus on obesity fits with its interest in drugs to treat cardiovascular disease.

New findings like these help put effective treatment in reach for a growing number of the obese, Fujioka said. Obesity is a diabolically complex disease with many contributing factors, “but someday I personally think we really will be there,” he added.