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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Health benefits of Potassium

Potassium is an important mineral required by our human body to perform its various tasks. It also performs the role of an electrolycte. Read more below, an article which was extracted from the web page of http://www.organicfacts.net.

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The health benefits of potassium include stroke, blood pressure, anxiety and stress, muscular strength, metabolism, heart and kidney disorders, water balance, electrolytic functions, nervous system and other general health benefits of potassium.

Potassium, the third most abundant mineral in human body, is the synonym for health insurer. It contains the qualities for maintaining a high level of human well-being and a cheerful lifestyle. There is no way one should overlook the inclusion of potassium in routine diet plan. Apart from acting as an electrolyte, this mineral is required for keeping heart, brain, kidney, muscle tissues and other important organs of human body in good condition. Potassium chloride is the main variety of this mineral amongst others. It works in association with sodium to perform a number of critical body tasks.

Deficiency Symptoms : Deficiency of any nutrient in the body is not desirable and potassium is not an extension in this case. A diet deficient in potassium may lead to symptoms like fatigue and weakness in muscles. Other indications for deficiency of potassium include inactive reflexes, abnormal heartbeat, heart palpitations, anemia and severe headaches. The person may also experience high blood pressure, pain in intestine, swelling in glands and diabetes as serious effects of this deficiency.

Important Sources : A balanced diet must contain fair quantity of potassium, as per the recommendations of the health experts. In order to list most important dietary sources of potassium, one may begin with citrus fruits, vegetables and grains. Also, salmon, chicken, whole milk, fresh fruit juices and almonds are considered as rich sources of potassium. Apart from these, nuts, lime beans, potatoes and poultry are other products to be include dint he list. However, the most important source of potassium is bananas.

Benefits : Potassium may be looked upon as an essential health nutrient, due to a number of health benefits of potassium :
  • Stroke : Potassium plays an important role in keeping the working of brain in normal state. It is of great importance in preventing the occurrence of stroke in human brain. It is a fact that a person suffering from this dreadful disease may be found deficient in this essential body nutrient.
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  • Low blood sugar : Decrease in potassium level causes a drop in blood sugar level. Decrease in blood sugar level causes sweating, headache, weakness, trembling and nervousness. Intake of potassium chloride and sodium provides immediate relief from such situation.
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  •  Muscle disorders : Potassium plays an important role in regular muscle contraction. Right concentration of potassium, is required for the regular contraction and relaxation of the muscle. Most of the potassium ions of the human body are present inside the muscle cells. It maintains muscle function and optimal nerve.
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  •  Cramps : Muscle cramps result due to low level of potassium in the blood, a condition called as hypokalemia. Intake of a banana everyday prevents muscle cramp. Bananas are rich in potassium content.
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  •  Brain function : Potassium channels play a key role in maintaining the electrical conductivity of brain and affect the brain function. It is also involved in higher brain function like memory and learning. In addition to it, serious ailments like epilepsy are related to the functioning of potassium channels.
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  • Blood Pressure : Potassium is helpful in reversing the role of sodium in unbalancing the normal blood pressure. Thus, it acts as a vital component, which maintains the normality of blood pressure in human body. This further abolishes the possibilities of heart diseases and hypertension. Regulation of blood pressure is an important function of this mineral.
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  • Anxiety and Stress : Potassium is of great importance for people suffering from undesirable mental states like anxiety and stress. It is considered as a perfect stress buster and thus it ensures efficient mental performance of human body.
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  • Muscular Strength : This is in fact, one of the most appreciable benefits of potassium, as it ensures proper growth of muscle tissues and proper utilization of energy released during metabolism to add significant worth to muscular strength. The muscles, together with cardiac muscle, are prone to paralysis due to deficiency of potassium in diet.
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  • Metabolism : It assists in metabolic process of various nutrients like fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Thus, potassium is of great value in extracting the energy out of nutrients consumed by man.
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  • Heart and Kidney Disorders : The health benefits of potassium ensure good health for heart as well as kidneys. It plays an irreplaceable role in regulating the functions of potassium. Apart from this, this mineral assists kidneys to remove waste by the process of excretion. However, it is strictly advisable to consult your doctor to get recommendations about dosage.
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  • Water Balance : Potassium has another significant role to play in maintaining the desirable water balance in human body. There are different types of cells, which require having proper water balance for proper functioning and potassium aids these cells in regulating this balance.
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  • Electrolyte : Potassium plays the significant role as an electrolyte in human body. It helps in regulating the level of fluids in human body and thus performs a number of critical body functions.
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  • Nervous System : Potassium helps in boosting the spirit of nerve reflexes to transmit message from one body part to another. This in turn helps in muscle contraction to perform various activities every day.

What is this drug called Celebrex ?

More than often, patients (young and old) are been prescribed with this drug when they suffered muscle/tendon or arthritis pain around their upper or lower extremities. It may be effective and helpful in one way but, many patients does not really know, what else is in store for them should they continue to consume this drug for a longer period of time. Some patients may not be aware of their own underlying health problems and that will be disastrous. It is hoped that practisioners does proper checks before administering it.

I came across an article in the web page of http://www.drugs.com and I hope their explanation will be beneficial to everyone.

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Celebrex is in a group of drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It works by reducing hormones that cause inflammation and pain.

Celebrex is used to treat pain or inflammation caused by many conditions such as arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and menstrual pain. It is also used in the treatment of hereditary polyps in the colon.

Important information about Celebrex

Celebrex can increase your risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems, including heart attack or stroke. This risk will increase the longer you use Celebrex. Do not use this medicine just before or after having heart bypass surgery (also called coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG).

Seek emergency medical help if you have symptoms of heart or circulation problems, such as chest pain, weakness, shortness of breath, slurred speech, or problems with vision or balance.

This medicine can also increase your risk of serious effects on the stomach or intestines, including bleeding or perforation (forming of a hole). These conditions can be fatal and gastrointestinal effects can occur without warning at any time while you are taking Celebrex. Older adults may have an even greater risk of these serious gastrointestinal side effects.

Call your doctor at once if you have symptoms of bleeding in your stomach or intestines. This includes black, bloody, or tarry stools, or coughing up blood or vomit that looks like coffee grounds.

Do not drink alcohol while taking Celebrex. Alcohol can increase the risk of stomach bleeding caused by Celebrex. Do not use any other over-the-counter cold, allergy, or pain medication without first asking your doctor or pharmacist. Many pain medicines available over the counter contain aspirin or other medicines similar to Celebrex. If you take certain products together you may accidentally take too much of this type of medication.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking Celebrex ?

Taking an NSAID such as Celebrex can increase your risk of life-threatening heart or circulation problems, including heart attack or stroke. This risk will increase the longer you use an NSAID. Do not use this medicine just before or after having heart bypass surgery (also called coronary artery bypass graft, or CABG).

NSAIDs can also increase your risk of serious effects on the stomach or intestines, including bleeding or perforation (forming of a hole). These conditions can be fatal and gastrointestinal effects can occur without warning at any time while you are taking an NSAID. Older adults may have an even greater risk of these serious gastrointestinal side effects.

You should not use this medication if you are allergic to celecoxib, or if you have a history of allergic reaction to aspirin, sulfa drugs, or other NSAIDs.

Before taking Celebrex tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have :
  • a history of heart attack, stroke, or blood clot;
  • heart disease, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure;
  • a history of stomach ulcers or bleeding;
  • liver or kidney disease,
  • a seizure disorder such as epilepsy;
  • asthma;
  • polyps in your nose; or
  • a bleeding or blood clotting disorder.
If you have any of these conditions, you may need a dose adjustment or special tests to safely take Celebrex.
FDA pregnancy category C. This medication may be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. Taking Celebrex during the last 3 months of pregnancy may harm the unborn baby. Do not take Celebrex during pregnancy unless your doctor has told you to. Celecoxib passes into breast milk and may affect a nursing baby. Do not take Celebrex without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby. Do not give this medicine to a child younger than 2 years old without the advice of a doctor.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What is Homocysteine ?

[This a very informative article extracted from the web page of http://www.medicinenet.com]

Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body, usually as a byproduct of consuming meat. Amino acids are naturally made products, which are the building blocks of all the proteins in the body.

Elevated levels of homocysteine (>10 micromoles/liter) in the blood, may be associated with atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) as well as an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clot formation, and possibly Alzheimer's disease.

Theoretically, an elevated level of homocysteine in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) is believed to cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). This narrowing and hardening of the vessels is thought to occur through a variety of ways involving elevated homocysteine. The blood vessel narrowing in turn leads to diminished blood flow through the affected arteries.

Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood may also increase the tendency to excessive blood clotting. Blood clots inside the arteries can further diminish the flow of blood. The resultant lack of blood supply to the heart muscles may cause heart attacks, and the lack of blood supply to the brain causes strokes.

Elevated homocysteine levels also have been shown to be associated with formation of blood clots in veins (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism). The mechanism is complex, but it is similar to the way that they contribute to atherosclerosis. In some studies, even moderate levels of homocysteine level showed higher rates of repeated incidence of blood clot formation.

Homocysteine levels are measured in the blood by taking a blood sample. Normal levels are in the range between 5 to 15 micromoles (measurement unit of small amount of a molecule) per liter. Elevated levels are classified as follows :
  • 15-30 micromoles per liter as moderate
  • 30-100 micromoles per liter as intermediate
  • Greater than 100 micromoles per liter as severe
Homocysteine is chemically transformed into methionine and cysteine (similar amino acids) with the help of folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. This transformation utilizes a set of mediator molecules (called enzymes) and happens via a delicate sequence of specific steps.

Therefore, insufficient amounts of these vitamins in the body can hamper the natural breakdown of homocysteine. In addition, if there are any deficiencies in the mediator molecules, the breakdown is also hampered. This can cause homocysteine to accumulate in the blood because its breakdown is slow and inadequate.

Can nutritional problems cause elevated homocysteine levels ?

The other more common (5%-7% of the population) and less severe type of elevated homocysteine level may be caused by nutritional deficiencies in folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, chronic (long-term) kidney disease, and cigarette smoking.

As mentioned above, these vitamins are essential in the breakdown of homocysteine. In some studies, lower levels of these vitamins, especially folate, have been demonstrated in people with elevated homocysteine levels. On the other hand, other studies have suggested that adequate intake of folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 have resulted in lowering of the homocysteine level.
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How can homocysteine levels be lowered ?
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The consumption of folic acid supplements or cereals that are fortified with folic acid, and to a lesser extent vitamins B6 and B12, can lower blood homocysteine levels. These supplements may even be beneficial in people with mild genetic hyperhomocysteinemia to lower their homocysteine levels. However, it is noteworthy that so far there is no compelling data to support the treatment of hyperhomocysteinemia for prevention of heart disease or treatment of known heart disease or blood clots. There are many studies underway to determine whether there may be any benefit to treat high levels of homocysteine in patients with known heart disease or blood clots. Further recommendations may be available when these studies are completed.
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Does lowering homocysteine levels prevent heart attacks and
strokes ?
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Currently, there is no direct proof that taking folic acid and B vitamins to lower homocysteine levels prevents heart attacks and strokes. However, in a large population study involving women, those who had the highest consumption of folic acid (usually in the form of multivitamins) had fewer heart attacks than those who consumed the least amount of folic acid. In this study, the association between dietary intake of folate and vitamin B6 and risk of heart disease was more noticeable than between dietary intake of vitamin B12 and heart disease, which was minimal.
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What should I do to prevent heart attacks and strokes ?
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Losing excess weight, exercising regularly, controlling diabetes and high blood pressure, lowering the bad LDL cholesterol, and stopping cigarette smoking are crucial steps in preventing heart attacks and strokes. The association between homocysteine levels and atherosclerosis is generally weaker compared to the known risk factors of diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol level, and cigarette smoking.
It is recommended that healthy adults eat more fresh fruits and vegetable, eat less saturated fat and cholesterol.

To summarize
Homocysteine is an amino acid (a building block of protein) that is produced in the human body.

High homocysteine levels in the blood can damage the lining of the arteries. In addition, high homocysteine levels may make blood clot more easily than it should. This can increase the risk of blood vessel blockages. A clot inside your blood vessel is called a thrombus. A thrombus can travel in the bloodstream and get stuck in your lungs (called a pulmonary embolism), in your brain (which can cause a stroke) or in your heart (which can cause a heart attack.) People who have very high levels of homocysteine are at an increased risk for coronary artery disease.

Homocysteine is normally changed into other amino acids for use by the body. If your homocysteine level is too high, you may not be getting enough B vitamins to help your body use the homocysteine.

Most people who have a high homocysteine level don't get enough folate (also called folic acid), vitamin B6 or vitamin B12 in their diet. Replacing these vitamins often helps return the homocysteine level to normal. Other possible causes of a high homocysteine level include low levels of thyroid hormone, kidney disease, psoriasis, some medicines or when the condition runs in your family.

Homocysteine is measured using a simple blood test. You don't have to prepare in any special way for the blood test.

If your homocysteine level is too high, you need to lower it, especially if you have blockages in your blood vessels. If you have no other major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and you do not have atherosclerosis (a buildup of plaque in your arteries), your doctor may take a watchful waiting approach and monitor the level closely. If your homosysteine level increases further, you may need to lower it.

While no studies have shown that lowering homocysteine levels helps reduce strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions, it is a good idea to lower a high homocysteine level because it is a risk for heart disease.

Eating more fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables) can help lower your homocysteine level by increasing how much folate you get in your diet. Good sources of folate include many breakfast cereals, fortified grain products, lentils, asparagus, spinach and most beans.

If you don't have enough vitamin B-6 in your diet, foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) and chicken are good sources. Dairy products, organ meats (such as liver), beef and some types of fish are good sources of vitamin B-12 .

If adjusting your diet is not enough to lower your homocysteine, your doctor may suggest that you take a folate supplement. You may also need to take a vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 supplement.Eating more fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables) can help lower your homocysteine level by increasing how much folate you get in your diet. Good sources of folate include many breakfast cereals, fortified grain products, lentils, asparagus, spinach and most beans.

If you don't have enough vitamin B-6 in your diet, foods such as fortified breakfast cereals, potatoes, bananas, garbanzo beans (also called chickpeas) and chicken are good sources. Dairy products, organ meats (such as liver), beef and some types of fish are good sources of vitamin B-12 .

If adjusting your diet is not enough to lower your homocysteine, your doctor may suggest that you take a folate supplement. You may also need to take a vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 supplement.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Health Benefits of Goji Berries (Wolfberries)


[Extracted from the web page of http://www.bewellbuzz.com for everyone's information]

Goji berries are typically found in China and Europe and in traditional Chinese medicine, they have been used in many medicinal preparations for thousands of years, proving its efficacy as a medicinal herb/plant.

These longish red berries also go by the name Wolfberry, desert thorn and matrimony vine while the Chinese name is gou qi zi. These berries are often dried and eaten like raisins. Goji berries grow well in harsh weather and can even survive the desert environment. These deep red berries are chockfull of nutrients and have a huge number of benefits.


Goji juice has gained a lot of popularity in recent times as people in the West are waking up to the fantastic benefits offered by this plant. The good thing about Goji berries is that it can be consumed directly or incorporated into recipes and used as food.

Here’s a list of the benefits offered by this amazing berry :

Benefits
The benefits offered by Goji berries are numerous and a few studies have been conducted on human patients as part of research to determine the efficacy of these berries. However, here are some of the amazing benefits offered by the goji berries and going by the look of them, it’s no wonder they’ve become so popular on the health front.

As we all know, goji berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta carotene and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are greatly helpful in protecting the retina of the eye and improving eye sight. In fact, foods rich in zeaxanthin have been known to prevent loss of eyesight in people over the age of 65.



Goji berries are also a good choice when it comes to protecting the liver and kidneys.

One of the primary benefits of goji berries is that they help in boosting the immune system and help us stay healthy for longer.

The polysaccharides in goji berries works wonders with the pituitary gland and stimulates it to release HGH, the Human Growth Hormone. This is in fact the main hormone which controls others and can even reverse the effects of aging, making us look and feel younger.

Goji berries also have a high ORAC value which is extremely important in preventing oxidation and in preserving the cells thereby preventing aging.

Goji berries prevent fatigue and tiredness which are the most common by product of a busy and full life that most of us lead today. It also helps in relieving headaches and insomnia.

Health and fitness freaks consume goji berries regularly because they help greatly in weight loss and keep the body fit and young.

Research has shown that goji berries are exceedingly good to enhance fertility and improve sexual function, particularly in men.

Goji berries are known to improve circulation and help people live longer lives.

With their high vitamin and mineral content, goji berries reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Some people claim that goji berries can even prevent cancer although this aspect still needs more verification.


Side effects
Goji berries are known to be mostly safe but the usual precautions prevail. In addition, goji berries could possibly interact with anticoagulant drugs or blood thinners such as warfarin and it could lead to some adverse effects.

Uses
The ways in which goji berries can be consumed are several. Since it is pretty much like raisins, it can be munched as a snack directly or from a trail mix that is available at most health stores. Many people are making goji berries a part of their lifestyle by incorporating it into their breakfast by using it as a topping for cereal instead of raisins. Some people also swear by goji juice and how beneficial it is. Health stores are full of variants of goji juice available in bottles and people can consume them as juice.

Some people also brew goji berry tea and drink it as it provides the same amount of benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries can be added to soups or its liquid extracts are often provided to the patient. There are numerous other goji berry products available in health stores, such as goji berry powder etc. Most people use these to add to their milkshakes or smoothies for the extra zing and the burst of health it offers.

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Below article is written by Britt Gillette

Goji Berries is often also known as Mother Nature's Vine-Grown Vitamins

The people of Tibet and Mongolia hold a two-week annual festival in honor of the goji berry. Many of them have nicknamed the goji berry “happy berry” because in common folklore “to eat goji in the morning will lead to smiles all day”.

The goji berry has been used for hundreds of years as a tonic in Chinese medicine. During the Tang dynasty (A.D. 772-842), poet Liu Yuxi wrote a poem celebrating the nourishment of “body and spirit” brought about by the goji berry. Without a doubt, the people of this region of the world love the goji berry. But the goji berry’s introduction to the Western world is still fairly recent, so the berry remains a relatively unknown fruit for a large fraction of the world’s population. So what is a Goji berry ? And why is it so loved ?

Goji berries grow on small green-leafed vines that yield a bright red fruit with a shape most resembling a raisin. The berries are extremely delicate, and during harvest, they are shaken from the vine rather than being picked. To avoid spoiling, they are slowly dried in the shade. The texture of a goji berry is very chewy, and its taste is often described as a cross between a raisin and a cranberry.

What makes the goji berry so potent ?

Goji berries are believed to be a rich source of vitamins and nutrients with each goji berry purported to contain 18 different amino acids and vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, and E. It is believed that goji berries contain more beta carotene than is found in carrots of equal size. And the goji berry is touted as one of the richest sources of vitamin C in the world, trailing only the Australian billygoat plum and the South American camu camu. Goji berries are also believed to contain zinc, iron, calcium, phosphorus, selenium, and germanium in varying quantities. As a rich source of many of the vitamins and minerals essential to nutrition, goji berries are filled with antioxidants.



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Potassium and its Health Benefits

[Got the below extract from the web page of The University of Maryland Medical Centre. The information attached herewith, are beneficial to everyone]

Potassium is a very important mineral for the proper function of all cells, tissues, and organs in the human body. It is also an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function, too. Many foods contain potassium, including all meats, some types of fish (such as salmon, cod, and flounder), and many fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Dairy products are also good sources of potassium.
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Having too much potassium in the blood is called hyperkalemia; having too little is known as hypokalemia. Keeping the right potassium balance in the body depends on the amount of sodium and magnesium in the blood. Too much sodium -- common in Western diets that use a lot of salt -- may increase the need for potassium. Diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, malnutrition, malabsorption syndromes (such as Crohn's disease) can also cause potassium deficiency, as well as use of a kind of heart medicine called loop diuretics.
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Most people get all of the potassium they need from a healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits. Older people have a greater risk of hyperkalemia because our kidneys are less efficient at eliminating potassium as we age. Older people should be careful when taking medication that may affect potassium levels, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and ACE inhibitors (see section on Interactions).
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Whatever your age, talk to your doctor before taking potassium supplements.
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Bone Health
At least one study shows a positive link between a diet rich in potassium and bone health. More research is needed to determine whether a diet high in potassium can reduce bone turnover in people.
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Hypokalemia
The most important use of potassium is to treat the symptoms of hypokalemia (low potassium), which include weakness, lack of energy, muscle cramps, stomach disturbances, an irregular heartbeat, and an abnormal EKG (electrocardiogram, a test that measures heart function). Hypokalemia is usually caused by the body losing too much potassium in the urine or intestines; it's rarely caused by a lack of potassium in the diet. Hypokalemia can be life-threatening and should always be treated by a doctor.
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High Blood Pressure
Some studies have linked low levels of potassium in the diet with high blood pressure. And there is some evidence that potassium supplements might cause a slight drop in blood pressure. But not all studies agree -- two large studies found no effect on blood pressure. It may be that taking potassium only helps lower blood pressure if you're not getting enough of this mineral to start with. Before taking potassium or any supplement for high blood pressure, talk to your doctor.
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Stroke
People who get a lot of potassium in their diet have a lower risk of stroke. However, potassium supplements don't seem to have the same benefit.
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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
People with IBD (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease) often have trouble absorbing nutrients from their intestine, and may have low levels of potassium and other important nutrients. If you have IBD, your doctor may check your potassium levels and recommend a supplement.
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Dietary Sources

Good sources of potassium include bananas, citrus juices (such as orange juice), avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, flounder, salmon, cod, chicken, and other meats.

Several potassium supplements are on the market, including potassium acetate, potassium bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium chloride, and potassium gluconate. It is available in tablets, capsules, effervescent tablets, powders, and liquids.
Potassium can also be found in multivitamins.
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How to Take It
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Potassium supplements, other than the small amount included in a multivitamin, should be taken only under your doctor's supervision. Do not give potassium supplements to a child unless your doctor tells you to.
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The recommended daily intakes of dietary potassium are listed below :
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Pediatric

  • Infants birth - 6 months: 500 mg or 13 mEq
  • Infants 7 months - 12 months: 700 mg or 18 mEq
  • Children 1 year: 1,000 mg or 26 mEq
  • Children 2 - 5 years: 1,400 mg or 36 mEq
  • Children 6 - 9 years: 1,600 mg or 41 mEq
  • Children over 10 years: 2,000 mg or 51 mEq*

    Adult
  • 2,000 mg or 51 Meq, including for pregnant and nursing women

Precautions

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, you should take dietary supplements only under the supervision of a knowledgeable health care provider.
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Older adults should talk to their doctor before taking potassium supplements.
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Side effects can include diarrhea, stomach irritation, and nausea. At higher doses, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate, and abnormal heart rhythm may occur. Contact your health care provider if you develop severe stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or other symptoms.

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People with hyperkalemia or kidney disease should not take potassium supplements.
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People who take ACE inhibitors, potassium-sparing diuretics, or the antibiotic trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra) should not take potassium.

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Possible Interactions

If you are being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use potassium without first talking to your health care provider.
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The following medications may cause potassium levels to rise :
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): People who have poor kidney function and take NSAIDs are at higher risk.
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  • ACE inhibitors: These drugs treat high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, some chronic kidney diseases, migraines, and scleroderma. People who take ACE inhibitors and also take NSAIDs, potassium-sparing diuretics, or salt substitutes may be particularly vulnerable to hyperkalemia (too much potassium). A rise in potassium from ACE inhibitors may also be more likely in people with poor kidney function and diabetes. ACE inhibitors include :
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    • Benazepril (Lotensin)
    • Captopril (Capoten)
    • Enlapril (Vasotec)
    • Fosinopril (Monopril)
    • Lisinopril (Zestril)
    • Moexipril (Univasc)
    • Peridopril (Aceon)
    • Ramipril (Altace)
    • Trandolapril (Mavik)
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  • Heparin (used for blood clots)
  • Cyclosporine (used to suppress the immune system)
  • Trimethoprimand sulfamethoxazole, called Bactrim or Septra (an antibiotic)
  • Beta-blockers: Used to treat high blood pressure, glaucoma, migraines

    • Atenolol (Tenormin)
    • Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL)
    • Propranolol (Inderal)
The following medications may cause potassium levels to decrease :
  • Thiazide diuretics
    • Hydrochlorothiazide
    • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
    • Indapamide (Lozol)
    • Metolzaone (Zaroxolyn)
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  • Loop diuretics
    • Furosemide (Lasix)
    • Bumetanide (Bumex)
    • Torsemide (Demadex)
    • Ethacrynic acid (Edecrin)
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  • Corticosteroids
  • Amphotericin B (Fungizone)
  • Antacids
  • Insulin
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan): Used to treat fungal infections
  • Theophylline (TheoDur): Used for asthma
  • Laxatives
If you are taking any of these medications, it is important for your doctor to test your potassium levels to see whether or not you need a supplement. Do not start taking a supplement on your own.
Other potential interactions include :
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Digoxin - Low blood levels of potassium increase the likelihood of toxic effects from digoxin, a medication used to treat abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. Your doctor will test your potassium levels to make sure they stay normal.

What causes Watermelons to explode in China ?

Latest spotlight on Chinese farming practices as reported in http://www.guardian.co.uk

New food scandal as fields of watermelons are destroyed after farmers mistakenly apply growth accelerator.

The flying pips, shattered shells and wet shrapnel still haunt farmer Liu Mingsuo after an effort to chemically boost his fruit crop went spectacularly wrong.



Fields of watermelons exploded when he and other agricultural workers in eastern China mistakenly applied forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator. The incident has become a focus of a Chinese media drive to expose the lax farming practices, shortcuts and excessive use of fertiliser behind a rash of food safety scandals.
It follows discoveries of the heavy metal cadmium in rice, toxic melamine in milk, arsenic in soy sauce, bleach in mushrooms, and the detergent borax in pork, added to make it resemble beef.

Compared to such cases of dangerous contamination, Liu's transgression was minor, but it has gained notoriety after being picked up by the state broadcaster, CCTV. The broadcaster blamed the bursting of the fruit on the legal chemical forchlorfenuron, which stimulates cell separation but often leaves melons misshapen and turns the seeds white.

The report said the farmers sprayed the fruit too late in the season and during wet conditions, which caused the melons to explode like "landmines". After losing three hectares (eight acres), Liu said he was unable to sleep because he could not shake the image of the fruit bursting. "On 7 May, I came out and counted 80 [burst watermelons] but by the afternoon it was 100," he said. "Two days later I didn't bother to count any more." About 20 farmers and 45 hectares around Danyang were affected. The fruit could not be sold and was instead fed to fish and pigs.

Farmers claim forchlorfenuron can bring the harvest forward by two weeks and increase the size and price of the fruit by more than 20%. Agricultural experts say forchlorfenuron has been widely used in China since the 1980s. Some said it was unsuitable for this fruit, but there was probably little health risk.

"In general we don't suggest chemicals with plant hormones be used on watermelons, as they are very sensitive. They might end up looking very strange and people will not want to buy them," said Cui Jian, director of the vegetable research institute at Qingdao Academy of Agricultural Science. "The taste won't be as good and storage is more difficult, but it should not harm anyone's health."

Environment groups say the overuse of agricultural chemicals is a problem that goes beyond growth stimulants.

Pan Jing of Greenpeace said farmers depended on fertilisers because many doubled as migrant workers and had less time for their crops. This dependency was promoted by state subsidies keeping fertilisers cheap. "The government is aware of the environmental problems caused by chemical fertiliser, but they are also concerned about food output."

Many farmers grow their own food separately from the chemically-raised crops they sell. "I feel there is nothing safe I can eat now because people are in too much of a hurry to make money," said Huang Zhanliang, a farmer in Hebei.

Concerns about food safety have lingered despite government promises to deal with the problem after six babies died and thousands became ill because of melamine-tainted milk in 2008.

The authorities appear to have mixed feelings about the role of the media and public opinion in naming and shaming culprits. In the wake of the melamine scandal, police jailed one of the parents, Zhao Lianhai, who had set up a website to expose the problem and appeal for justice. Recently, however, officials have encouraged coverage of food safety issues.

Zhang Yong, head of a new cabinet-level food safety commission, praised the media's "important watchdog role".

In the past week, the People's Daily website has run stories of human birth control chemicals being used on cucumber plants in Xian, China Daily has reported Sichuan peppers releasing red dye in water, and the Sina news portal revealed that barite powder had been injected into chickens in Guizhou to increase their weight.
More alarming still was a study by researchers at Nanjing Agricultural University that estimated a tenth of China's rice may be tainted with the cadmium, a heavy metal that can affect the nervous system. This caused a stir when it was published earlier this year in the pioneering Caixin magazine.

Many wary consumers choose to buy foreign products, which are seen as safer. But this is also vulnerable to mislabelling. The Fruit Industry Association of Guangdong province told reporters this week that "most 'imported' fruit are grown in China".

Monday, May 2, 2011

What causes Muscle Cramp ?

[The accompanied article is extracted from the webpage of http://www.medicinenet.com. It is useful to take note of this painful occurence and how to resolve it]

A muscle cramp is an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not relax. When we use the muscles that can be controlled voluntarily, such as those of our arms and legs, they alternately contract and relax as we move our limbs. Muscles that support our head, neck, and trunk contract similarly in a synchronized fashion to maintain our posture. A muscle (or even a few fibers of a muscle) that involuntarily (without consciously willing it) contracts is in a "spasm." If the spasm is forceful and sustained, it becomes a cramp. Muscle cramps cause a visible or palpable hardening of the involved muscle.

Muscle cramps can last anywhere from a few seconds to a quarter of an hour or occasionally longer. It is not uncommon for a cramp to recur multiple times until it finally goes away. The cramp may involve a part of a muscle, the entire muscle, or several muscles that usually act together, such as those that flex adjacent fingers. Some cramps involve the simultaneous contraction of muscles that ordinarily move body parts in opposite directions.

Cramps are extremely common. Almost everyone (one estimate is about 95%) experiences a cramp at some time in their life. Cramps are common in adults and become increasingly frequent with aging. However, children also experience cramps.

Any of the muscles that are under our voluntary control (skeletal muscles) can cramp. Cramps of the extremities, especially the legs and feet, and most particularly the calf (the classic "charley horse"), are very common. Involuntary muscles of the various organs (uterus, blood vessel wall, bowels, bile and urine passages, bronchial tree, etc.) are also subject to cramps. Cramps of the involuntary muscles will not be further considered in this review. This article focuses on cramps of skeletal muscle.
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What are the types and causes of muscle cramps ?
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Skeletal muscle cramps can be categorized into four major types. These include "true" cramps, tetany, contractures, and dystonic cramps. Cramps are categorized according to their different causes and the muscle groups they affect.

True cramps
True cramps involve part or all of a single muscle or a group of muscles that generally act together, such as the muscles that flex several adjacent fingers. Most authorities agree that true cramps are caused by hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate the muscles. They are overwhelmingly the most common type of skeletal muscle cramps. True cramps can occur in a variety of circumstances as follows.

Injury : Persistent muscle spasm may occur as a protective mechanism following an injury, such as a broken bone. In this instance, the spasm tends to minimize movement and stabilize the area of injury. Injury of the muscle alone may cause the muscle to spasm.

Vigorous activity : True cramps are commonly associated with the vigorous use of muscles and muscle fatigue (in sports or with unaccustomed activities). Such cramps may come during the activity or later, sometimes many hours later. Likewise, muscle fatigue from sitting or lying for an extended period in an awkward position or any repetitive use can cause cramps. Older adults are at risk for cramps when performing vigorous or strenuous physical activities.


Rest cramps : Cramps at rest are very common, especially in older adults, but may be experienced at any age, including childhood. Rest cramps often occur during the night. While not life-threatening, night cramps (commonly known as nocturnal cramps) can be painful, disruptive of sleep, and they can recur frequently (that is, many times a night, and/or many nights each week). The actual cause of night cramps is unknown. Sometimes, such cramps are initiated by making a movement that shortens the muscle. An example is pointing the toe down while lying in bed, which shortens the calf muscle, a common site of cramps.

Dehydration : Sports and other vigorous activities can cause excessive fluid loss from perspiration. This kind of dehydration increases the likelihood of true cramps. These cramps are more likely to occur in warm weather and can be an early sign of heat stroke. Chronic volume depletion of body fluids from diuretics (medicine that promote urination) and poor fluid intake may act similarly to predispose to cramps, especially in older people. Sodium depletion has also been associated with cramps. Loss of sodium, the most abundant chemical constituent of body fluids outside the cell, is usually a function of dehydration.

Body fluid shifts : True cramps also may be experienced in other conditions that feature an unusual distribution of body fluids. An example is cirrhosis of the liver, which leads to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity (ascites). Similarly, cramps are a relatively frequent complication of the rapid body fluid changes that occur during dialysis for kidney failure.

Low blood calcium, magnesium : Low blood levels of either calcium or magnesium directly increase the excitability of both the nerve endings and the muscles they stimulate. This may be a predisposing factor for the spontaneous true cramps experienced by many older adults, as well as for those that are commonly noted during pregnancy. Low levels of calcium and magnesium are common in pregnant women unless these minerals are supplemented in the diet. Cramps are seen in any circumstance that decreases the availability of calcium or magnesium in body fluids, such as taking diuretics, hyperventilation (overbreathing), excessive vomiting, inadequate calcium and/or magnesium in the diet, inadequate calcium absorption due to vitamin D deficiency, poor function of the parathyroid glands (tiny glands in the neck that regulate calcium balance), and other conditions.

Low potassium : Low potassium levels occasionally cause muscle cramps, although it is more common for low potassium to be associated with muscle weakness.

Tetany
In tetany, all of the nerve cells in the body are activated, which then stimulate the muscles. This reaction causes spasms or cramps throughout the body. The name tetany is derived from the effect of the tetanus toxin on the nerves. However, the name is now commonly applied to muscle cramping from other conditions, such as low blood levels of calcium and magnesium. Low calcium and low magnesium, which increase the activity of nerve tissue nonspecifically, also can produce tetanic cramps. Often, such cramps are accompanied by evidence of hyperactivity of other nerve functions in addition to muscle stimulation. For instance, low blood calcium not only causes spasm of the muscles of the hands and wrists, but it can also cause a sensation of numbness and tingling around the mouth and other areas.

Sometimes, tetanic cramps are indistinguishable from true cramps. The accompanying changes of sensation or other nerve functions that occurs with tetany may not be apparent because the cramp pain is masking or distracting from it.

Contractures
Contractures result when the muscles are unable to relax for an even more extended period than a common muscle cramp. The constant spasms are caused by a depletion of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy chemical within the cell. This prevents muscle fiber relaxation. The nerves are inactive in this form of muscle spasm.

Contractures can result from inherited (for example, McArdle's disease, which is a defect of the breakdown of glycogen to sugar within the muscle cell) or from acquired conditions (for example, hyperthyroid myopathy, which is a muscle disease that is associated with an overactive thyroid). Cramps of this category are uncommon.


Dystonic cramps
The final category is dystonic cramps, in which muscles that are not needed for the intended movement are stimulated to contract. Muscles that are affected by this type of cramping include those that ordinarily work in the opposite direction of the intended movement, and/or others that exaggerate the movement. Some dystonic cramps usually affect small groups of muscles (eyelids, jaws, neck, larynx, etc.). The hands and arms may be affected during the performance of repetitive activities such as those associated with handwriting (writer's cramp), typing, playing certain musical instruments, and many others. Each of these repetitive activities may also produce true cramps from muscle fatigue. Dystonic cramps are not as common as true cramps.
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Can poor circulation cause muscle cramps ?
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Poor circulation to the legs, which results in inadequate oxygen to the muscle tissue, can cause severe pain in the muscle (sometimes known as claudication pain or intermittent claudication) that occurs with walking or exercise. This commonly occurs in the calf muscles. While the pain feels virtually identical to that of a severely cramped muscle, the pain does not seem to be a result of the actual muscle cramping. This pain may be due to accumulation of lactic acid and other chemicals in the muscle tissues. It's important to see your doctor if you have pain like this.
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What are the symptoms of common muscle cramps ? How are they diagnosed ?
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Characteristically, a cramp is painful, often severely so. Usually, the sufferer must stop whatever activity is under way and seek relief from the cramp; the person is unable to use the affected muscle while it is cramping. Severe cramps may be associated with soreness and swelling, which can occasionally persist up to several days after the cramp has subsided. At the time of cramping, the knotted muscle will bulge, feel very firm, and may be tender.

There are no special tests for cramps. Nevertheless, the diagnosis of muscle cramps is relatively easy. Most people know what cramps are and when they have one. If present during a cramp, the doctor, or any other bystander, can feel the tense, firm bulge of the cramped muscle.
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What is the treatment of skeletal muscle cramps
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Most cramps can be stopped if the muscle can be stretched. For many cramps of the feet and legs, this stretching can often be accomplished by standing up and walking around. For a calf muscle cramp, the person can stand about 2 to 2.5 feet from a wall (possibly farther for a tall person) and lean into the wall to place the forearms against the wall with the knees and back straight and the heels in contact with the floor. (It is best to learn this maneuver at a time when you don't have the cramp.) Another technique involves flexing the ankle by pulling the toes up toward the head while still lying in bed with the leg as straight as possible. For writer's cramp (contractures in the hand), pressing the hand on a wall with the fingers facing down will stretch the cramping finger flexor muscles.

Gently massaging the muscle will often help it to relax, as will applying warmth from a heating pad or hot soak. If the cramp is associated with fluid loss, as is often the case with vigorous physical activity, fluid and electrolyte (especially sodium and potassium) replacement is essential. Medicines are not generally needed to treat an ordinary cramp that is active since most cramps subside spontaneously before enough medicine would be absorbed to even have an effect.
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How can muscle cramps be prevented ?
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Activity
: Authorities recommend stretching before and after exercise or sports, along with an adequate warm-up and cooldown, to prevent cramps that are caused by vigorous physical activity. Good hydration before, during, and after the activity is important, especially if the duration exceeds one hour, and replacement of lost electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium, which are major components of perspiration) can also be helpful. Excessive fatigue, especially in warm weather, should be avoided.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Vitamin A and Carotenoids

[Extracted from the webpage from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamina/]

Vitamin A is a group of compounds that play an important role in vision, bone growth, reproduction, cell division, and cell differentiation (in which a cell becomes part of the brain, muscle, lungs, blood, or other specialized tissue.) Vitamin A helps regulate the immune system, which helps prevent or fight off infections by making white blood cells that destroy harmful bacteria and viruses. Vitamin A also may help lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) fight infections more effectively.

Vitamin A promotes healthy surface linings of the eyes and the respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts. When those linings break down, it becomes easier for bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. Vitamin A also helps the skin and mucous membranes function as a barrier to bacteria and viruses.

In general, there are two categories of vitamin A, depending on whether the food source is an animal or a plant.

Vitamin A found in foods that come from animals is called preformed vitamin A. It is absorbed in the form of retinol, one of the most usable (active) forms of vitamin A. Sources include liver, whole milk, and some fortified food products. Retinol can be made into retinal and retinoic acid (other active forms of vitamin A) in the body.

Vitamin A that is found in colorful fruits and vegetables is called provitamin A carotenoid. They can be made into retinol in the body. In the United States, approximately 26% of vitamin A consumed by men and 34% of vitamin A consumed by women is in the form of provitamin A carotenoids. Common provitamin A carotenoids found in foods that come from plants are beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. Among these, beta-carotene is most efficiently made into retinol. Alpha-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are also converted to vitamin A, but only half as efficiently as beta-carotene.

Of the 563 identified carotenoids, fewer than 10% can be made into vitamin A in the body. Lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that do not have vitamin A activity but have other health promoting properties. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) encourages consumption of all carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables for their health-promoting benefits.

Some provitamin A carotenoids have been shown to function as antioxidants in laboratory studies; however, this role has not been consistently demonstrated in humans. Antioxidants protect cells from free radicals, which are potentially damaging by-products of oxygen metabolism that may contribute to the development of some chronic diseases.
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What foods provide vitamin A
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Retinol is found in foods that come from animals such as whole eggs, milk, and liver. Most fat-free milk and dried nonfat milk solids sold in the United States are fortified with vitamin A to replace the amount lost when the fat is removed. Fortified foods such as fortified breakfast cereals also provide vitamin A. Provitamin A carotenoids are abundant in darkly colored fruits and vegetables. The 2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicated that major dietary contributors of retinol are milk, margarine, eggs, beef liver and fortified breakfast cereals, whereas major contributors of provitamin A carotenoids are carrots, cantaloupes, sweet potatoes, and spinach.

Vitamin A in foods that come from animals is well absorbed and used efficiently by the body. Vitamin A in foods that come from plants is not as well absorbed as animal sources of vitamin A. Tables 1 and 2 suggest many sources of vitamin A and provitamin A carotenoids.

Table 1: Selected animal sources of vitamin A
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FoodVitamin A (IU)*%DV**
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces27,185545
Liver, chicken, cooked, 3 ounces12,325245
Milk, fortified skim, 1 cup50010
Cheese, cheddar, 1 ounce2846
Milk, whole (3.25% fat), 1 cup2495
Egg substitute, ¼ cup2265


Table 2: Selected plant sources of vitamin A (from beta-carotene)
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FoodVitamin A (IU)*%DV**
Carrot juice, canned, ½ cup22,567450
Carrots, boiled, ½ cup slices13,418270
Spinach, frozen, boiled, ½ cup11,458230
Kale, frozen, boiled, ½ cup9,558190
Carrots, 1 raw (7½ inches)8,666175
Vegetable soup, canned, chunky, ready-to-serve, 1 cup5,820115
Cantaloupe, 1 cup cubes5,411110
Spinach, raw, 1 cup2,81355
Apricots with skin, juice pack, ½ cup2,06340
Apricot nectar, canned, ½ cup1,65135
Papaya, 1 cup cubes1,53230
Mango, 1 cup sliced1,26225
Oatmeal, instant, fortified, plain, prepared with water, 1 cup1,25225
Peas, frozen, boiled, ½ cup1,05020
Tomato juice, canned, 6 ounces81915
Peaches, canned, juice pack, ½ cup halves or slices47310
Peach, 1 medium3196
Pepper, sweet, red, raw, 1 ring (3 inches diameter by ¼ inch thick)3136

* IU = International Units
** DV = Daily Value. DVs are reference numbers based on the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs). They were developed to help consumers determine if a food contains a lot or a little of a nutrient. The DV for vitamin A is 5,000 IU. Most food labels do not list vitamin A content. The percent DV (%DV) column in the table above indicates the percentage of the DV provided in one serving. A food providing 5% or less of the DV is a low source while a food that provides 10% to 19% of the DV is a good source. A food that provides 20% or more of the DV is high in that nutrient. It is important to remember that foods that provide lower percentages of the DV also contribute to a healthful diet. For foods not listed in this table, refer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database
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What are the health risks of too much vitamin A
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Hypervitaminosis A refers to high storage levels of vitamin A in the body that can lead to toxic symptoms. There are four major adverse effects of hypervitaminosis A: birth defects, liver abnormalities, reduced bone mineral density that may result in osteoporosis (see the previous section), and central nervous system disorders.

Toxic symptoms can also arise after consuming very large amounts of preformed vitamin A over a short period of time. Signs of acute toxicity include nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscular uncoordination. Although hypervitaminosis A can occur when large amounts of liver are regularly consumed, most cases result from taking excess amounts of the nutrient in supplements.
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What are the health risks of too many Carotenoids
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Provitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene are generally considered safe because they are not associated with specific adverse health effects. Their conversion to vitamin A decreases when body stores are full. A high intake of provitamin A carotenoids can turn the skin yellow, but this is not considered dangerous to health.