Monthly Archives: September 2016

New Dietary Guidelines

The federal government has issued the first update in five years of its “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” — but despite broad recognition of the U.S. obesity crisis, the update left the major cornerstones of the guidelines largely intact.

The recommendations for salt intake are likely to be among the most controversial elements in the 2010 edition, but it’s the absence of change that will be driving this controversy since the sodium recommendations hardly vary from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The sole difference is that the 1,500-mg/day sodium limit for individuals with hypertension or its risk factors was a “suggestion” in 2005 — but has now been promoted to a full-fledged recommendation that the document notes “applies to about half of the U.S. population, including children, and the majority of adults.”

Earlier this month, the American Heart Association called for an across-the-board, 1,500-mg/day limit for everyone — including people without risk factors for hypertension.

Other groups and individual researchers have also argued that the government’s 2,300-mg/day sodium target for the general population was too high.

The revision, a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), was released today — although it carries a 2010 date.

Basic recommendations for maximum intake of fats and cholesterol, sodium, potassium, and fiber remain unchanged from the last edition.

Instead, the “Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010” focused mainly on wording tweaks — reorganizing how some of the recommendations are presented.

For example, the recommendation to reduce calories from added sugar now gets separate emphasis. In the 2005 edition of the dietary guidelines, added sugar was lumped with other suggestions in a large section on carbohydrates.

The new edition of the dietary guidelines sets the following daily limits or targets:

  • Fat intake: 20 percent to 35 percent of total calories
  • Saturated fat: less than 10 percent of total calories (mono- and polyunsaturated fats may be substituted)
  • Trans-fats: less than 1percent of calories
  • Cholesterol: less than 300 mg
  • Fiber: 14 g per 1,000 calories
  • Potassium: 4,700 mg
  • Sodium: less than 1,500 mg for all African-Americans and those with hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease (including children), as well as persons older than 51; everyone else is advised to consume under 2,300 mg of sodium a day
  • Fruits and vegetables: at least 2.5 cups
  • Refined grains: less than 3 oz

Although most of these basic numeric targets are the same as before, the 2010 revision expands on them in new ways. For example, the new guidelines make numerous references to “solid fats” as an unhealthy food to be avoided. It also recommends substituting mono- and polyunsaturated fats and oils for solid and animal fats when possible.

The new edition also makes more suggestions of alternatives to refined grains and sugars and high-fat meats.

Some academic physicians contacted by MedPage Today and ABC News were skeptical about the guidelines’ ability to change the average American’s eating habits.

Dr. Goutham Rao, of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, stated his view of the likely impact in a single word: “Negligible.”

Basics of Bell Palsy

Imagine waking up in the morning, looking in the mirror and realizing that one side of your face is sagging, your eyelid is drooping, and you are drooling out the side of your mouth. If you have ever had this experience, you were probably experiencing Bell’s palsy.

Bell’s palsy is the most common cause of facial paralysis. Although Bell’s palsy duration is usually limited to a few months, the symptoms can certainly be disturbing.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s palsy can occur at any age but is most common at around age 40. Men and women are affected equally. Every year about 15 to 30 people out of 100,000 get Bell’s palsy. The cause of Bell’s palsy is not completely understood but is believed to be caused by a viral infection that causes swelling of the facial nerve.

A Sneak Peek Inside the Human Body

The two facial nerves are large nerves that branch out across the face and carry electrical impulses to the facial muscles. Each nerve contains 7,000 nerve fibers. When the nerve swells in response to an infection, the electrical impulses get weak and the facial muscles lose their movement. Branches of the facial nerve are also important for tear and saliva production, and they transmit some taste sensations from the tongue.

Although the exact cause of Bell’s palsy is not always clear, certain risk factors are known to increase the chances of getting Bell’s palsy. Risk factors include:

  • Being exposed to herpes simplex virus type 1
  • Having diabetes
  • Being pregnant
  • Having had a previous episode of Bell’s palsy

Bell’s Palsy Symptoms

Bell’s palsy usually only affects one side of the face. Bell’s palsy symptoms usually start suddenly and reach their peak in 48 hours. Symptoms can range from partial to total paralysis. Common symptoms include:

  • Weakness of the facial muscles causing loss of facial expression
  • Twitching of the facial muscles
  • Drooping of the eyelid with inability to close the eye
  • Dryness of the eye and mouth
  • Loss of taste
  • Drooling from the corner of the mouth
  • Difficulty speaking clearly

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bell’s Palsy

The typical symptoms and sudden onset of one-sided facial weakness are sufficient to make a diagnosis of Bell’s palsy. Other types of diagnostic tests are not usually needed. If Bell’s palsy does not seem to be getting better over time, a referral to a neurologist or an ear, nose, and throat doctor may be needed to rule out other causes of facial paralysis such as tumors, Lyme disease, or multiple sclerosis.

9 Surprising Things That Can Make You Sick

Even without treatment, more than 80 percent of people with Bell’s palsy start to get better within three weeks. An early sign of improvement is often the return of taste. Bell’s palsy duration is rarely longer than six months. Some studies show that treatment can shorten Bell’s palsy duration and improve symptoms. Bell’s palsy treatment includes:

  • Steroids. The anti-inflammatory drug prednisone may be used to reduce swelling of the facial nerve. Prednisone may be started as soon as the diagnosis is made and tapered off over 10 days.
  • Antiviral drugs. Oral acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) may be started within three days of Bell’s palsy symptoms and continued for seven days.
  • Eye care. Taping the eye closed, using an eye patch, and using artificial tears are helpful treatments to prevent eye irritation from excessive dryness.
  • Physical therapy. Messaging the face, exercising facial muscles, and applying gentle heat may help recovery.