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Health News from Tufts


Lethal Salt

Whether the salt comes from french fries or miso soup, people all over the world are getting more than the current recommendations. And, according to a study led by Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, that overabundance accounts for 1.65 million cardiovascular-related deaths each year. The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at existing data on sodium intake in 187 countries representing nearly three-quarters of the world’s adult population and analyzed more than one hundred previous clinical trials.

“These 1.65 million deaths represent nearly one in ten of all deaths from cardiovascular causes worldwide. No world region and few countries were spared,” Mozaffarian said. Some of the highest rates were in East Asia and Southeast Asia, where excess salt consumption was found to account for more than twenty percent of cardiovascular deaths in people under age seventy.

In the United States, the study noted, nearly fifty- eight thousand cardiovascular deaths each year could be attributed to daily sodium consumption that exceeds 2,000 milligrams. The average American consumes 3,600 milligrams per day, which is eighty percent higher than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2,000 milligrams, and fifty-seven percent higher than the 2,300 milligrams recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. (FROM TUFTS MEDICINE)


Fluoride 2.0

For cancer patients and others with complex medical issues—including Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that causes the salivary glands to malfunction, and dry mouth, which can be brought on by medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and other conditions—the sodium fluoride found in most toothpastes isn’t enough to prevent tooth decay, says Athena Papas, J66, the Erling Johansen Professor of Dental Research at Tufts. She recommends toothpaste or mouthwash containing stannous fluoride.

Both kinds of fluoride fight decay by strengthening and repairing enamel. But stannous fluoride has a major advantage over its more common cousin, Papas says, because it kills bacteria, too. Fewer bacteria mean less acid, and less acid can mean fewer cavities. Stannous fluoride also protects against periodontitis, the chronic bacterial infection of the gum tissue that can lead to gum recession and eventual tooth loss.

In a two-year randomized clinical trial, Papas and her colleagues, including Mabi Singh, DI07, an associate professor in the department of public health research and oral medicine, found that stannous fluoride performed as well as toothpaste containing the antibiotic triclosan in preventing gum disease in people with medication-induced dry mouth. The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, evaluated 334 patients with progressive periodontitis. Over the course of the first year, participants’ gum recession increased by nearly a millimeter. During the second year, both stannous fluoride and the triclosan toothpaste reversed gum recession by about three-quarters of a millimeter. (FROM TUFTS DENTAL MEDICINE)


Safe Rodent Control

Thanks partly to research out of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the EPA is limiting use of some highly potent rodenticides. But wildlife veterinarian Maureen Murray, V03, still advises a cautious approach to rodent control. She recommends starting by rodent-proofing your home. That entails removing or securely containing potential food sources for rodents and repairing holes or cracks that rodents could use to come inside. And consider alternatives to poison, like snap traps.

If you do decide to buy poison, check the ingredients, Murray says. Products with brodifacoum, which the EPA has deemed unsafe for general use, will still be available in stores through 2015. Opt for those that contain bromethalin, chlorophacinone, or diphacinone instead. In addition, avoid poisons in pellet form, which will also be prohibited by the EPA. Remember, too, that any poison used or stored improperly can harm children, pets, and wildlife.

Murray further notes that pest control professionals still have legal access to products that the EPA is cracking down on. If you hire them, request they not use brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, or difethialone. (FROM CUMMINGS VETERINARY MEDICINE)


Better Vitamin D Absorption

If you take a supplement to meet your requirement for vitamin D, you’ll get more out of it if you eat a little fat with it, according to a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics by Bess Dawson-Hughes, M75, director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

Dawson-Hughes gave fifty healthy men and women 50,000 international units of vitamin D3. Some subjects ate meals in which about thirty percent of calories came from fat, while others ate nonfat meals. Blood tests showed that the people who ate the meals with fat had absorbed thirty-two percent more vitamin D. Avocados, nuts, salmon, and vegetable oils are all good sources of the healthy unsaturated fats that will do the trick. (FROM TUFTS NUTRITION)

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