June 9, 2009 [Volume 3, Issue 14]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
The Sunscreen Dilemma
No Substitute for Good Parenting
Three Ways to Fight Fatigue

The Sunscreen Dilemma

Experts have encouraged sunscreen use as protection against the skin damage that leads to malignant melanoma. Unfortunately, these sunscreens prevent the skin from making vitamin D from sunlight - and many studies now suggest that vitamin D is protective against cancer. Sunscreen is designed to block UV penetration into the skin. That's precisely why it prevents sunburn. This is also why it prevents production of vitamin D. Even relatively weak sunscreens (as low as SPF-8) will block UV and stop vitamin D production.

But does sunscreen help prevent skin cancer? A 1999 meta-analysis of 13 epidemiological studies on the relation of sunscreen use to melanoma risk found that three studies showed a decreased risk of melanoma, but four showed an increased risk and six were inconclusive. Why would it increase risk? The explanation is simple. Most chemical sunscreens block ultraviolet B (UVB), but are transparent to ultraviolet A (UVA). More than 90 percent of the ultraviolet light from the sun is UVA.

Sunscreens work very well to prevent your skin from getting red or sunburned. They allow us to stay out in the sun much longer than we would if we were getting burnt. As a result, the skin ends up more damaged than if we hadn't used sunscreen.

So, wearing sunscreen prevents sunburns, but research suggests it might not reduce your risk of developing cancer; in fact, it might actually increase your risk. That's the sunscreen dilemma. Is there an easy solution? Not necessarily. Applying sunscreen will prevent vitamin D production and result in more skin damage, since it enables you to increase your sun exposure without burning. On the other hand, staying out in the sun for hours without sunscreen certainly won't help you avoid skin cancer, either.

Perhaps the morale to this story is that sun exposure for as little as 10 minutes a day will stimulate ample vitamin D production, but is not likely (unless perhaps you are extremely fair skinned) to cause any sunburn or skin damage - and that's the best way to reduce your risk while still enjoying the health benefits of vitamin D. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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Vitamin Myths and Truths

Although countless research articles have been published and nearly everyone has consumed vitamin products at some point during their lives, there are still quite a few misconceptions regarding vitamins, particularly vitamins in supplemental form. Here are a few of the common myths and truths about vitamins so you can make more informed decisions when it comes to your health.

Myth: The more vitamins you take, the healthier you'll be.

Truth: We've been convinced, primarily through media-fostered misinformation, that mega-doses of vitamins are necessary for health. However, research has shown just the opposite is true. Since most supplements are colloidal (large molecule), synthetic, and contain inorganic elements, binders and fillers, most of the health benefits are lost or cannot be utilized properly.

Myth: If you take a daily multivitamin, you don't need to worry about what you eat.

Truth: Vitamins cannot function without the energy generated from complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and lean sources of protein. Therefore, it is important to consume a variety of foods that supply energy and vitamins naturally. If deficiencies exist, additional supplements in the right form and combination can compensate for these deficiencies.

Myth: If you take vitamins regularly, you don't need to exercise.

Truth: There is no substitute for exercise. The body requires proper nutrition and consistent physical activity to optimize function. The benefits of circuit training, a 30-minute walk, or other physical activity cannot be replaced - especially for people who are overweight or have high-blood pressure or a heart condition.

Myth: All vitamins are absorbed by the body equally, regardless of when they're taken and in what combination.

Truth: The type of vitamin and its source are crucial to how absorbable the vitamin really is. Many pill- and capsule-form vitamins simply are not absorbed properly due to the processed and compressed nutrients. Additionally, some nutrients are more effective depending on when they are taken. As a general rule, vitamins are best taken with meals, since most vitamins and minerals are derived from our food, and typically would be digested and absorbed best in the company of real food. That being said, B vitamins are best consumed at mealtime, as they make some people queasy when taken on an empty stomach. On the other hand, particular calcium supplements, such as calcium carbonate, are best taken immediately after a meal, and iron supplements should be taken on an empty stomach.

Remember to always consult with your doctor prior to taking any nutritional supplement, particularly if you are also taking prescription or over-the-counter medication for a pre-existing condition.

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What's on Your Spa Menu?

Need a little rest and relaxation? It may be time to head to your nearest spa or visit your health care provider, who may be offering massage, herbal therapy and skin care services as part of their treatment protocols. Here are a few of the traditional (and not so traditional) spa treatments currently being offered at five of the country's top-rated destination spas:

Deep-Tissue Massage – Deerfield Spa (East Stroudsburg, Pa.): "An intensive, invigorating treatment focusing on the deeper layers of tissue and muscle. It assists in the elimination of toxins. Recommended for highly active or stressed individuals."

Detoxifying Herbal Wrap – Canyon Ranch (Tucson, Ariz.): "In this treatment, you'll be wrapped in warm, steamy sheets soaked in herbs and receive a brief, calming massage to the face and scalp."

Hot Stone Massage – Cal-a-Vie Spa (Vista, Calif.): "Melt away your stress as smooth basalt stones glide effortlessly along your body. The heat from the stones relaxes the muscles deeply and allows your massage therapist to break down contracted muscle fibers, leaving you with a feeling of total relief."

Raindrop Therapy – Westglow Resort & Spa (Blowing Rock, N.C.): "This therapeutic technique of dropping oils directly onto the spine from a height of six inches above the body creates the sensation of warm raindrops falling onto the skin. Essential oils are then worked into the spine to stimulate impulses and disperse the oils along the nervous system and throughout the entire body."

Pearl Skin Polish – Green Valley Spa (St. George, Utah): "This slimming treatment uses exquisite powdered pearls and fine sun-drenched sand to gently exfoliate and enliven the skin's outer layer. Gentle compression alleviates bubbled, pocked-marked areas below the surface. A bath in frankincense, myrrh, and roses then generates new cell proliferation to counteract the loosening effects of aging."

While spa services used to be considered pampering for the rich and famous, research continues to suggest massage, herbal therapies and other spa offerings can provide a variety of health benefits. To learn more, visit the International Spa Association Web site: www.experienceispa.com.

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