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FOR WOMEN -- It has recently been discovered that dietary calcium temporarily blocks the body's absorption of iron. Research done at the University of Goteborg (Sweden) had volunteers eat iron-rich vegetables along with low-fat milk. The women who abstained from milk at lunch were able to absorb up to 50% more iron than the women who drank the milk. The rate of iron deficiency could halve if women followed a similar eating plan. The ideal diet would have milk products featured at two meals of the day and the iron-rich vegetables (cabbage, peppers, and broccoli) served at the third meal. If you use both calcium and iron supplements, the researchers say, take one in the morning and the other in the evening for maximum benefit.
CALCIUM REQUIRED DURING PREGNANCY -- Studies have found that pregnant women who consumed 1,500 mg. of calcium a day (four servings of dairy products) reduced their incidence of high blood pressure by 70%. The incidence of pre-eclampsia, which can be fatal to a woman and her unborn baby, dropped by 62%.
NEWS FOR WOMEN -- Applying antiperspirant to your underarms before a mammogram can lead to a false reading. Antiperspirants contain metals that can be mistaken on a mammogram for calcium deposits, which can be a sign of cancer.
FYI -- Pregnant women who develop high blood pressure may be at risk of developing chronic hypertension later in life. One study found pregnant women who developed hypertension were more likely to have high blood pressure after childbirth than women who weren't hypertensive while pregnant.
FOR WOMEN -- Pap smear tests detect about 95% of cervical cancers, usually in the precancerous stages when likelihood of a cure is greatest. For the best results, the test should be scheduled between the 12th and the 16th day of a woman's menstrual cycle.
WOMEN SHOULD TAKE FOLIC ACID -- Despite a Public Health Service (PHS) recommendation that all women of child-bearing potential take 400 mcg of folic acid daily, less than one-third do so, according to a recent report from CDC.
PHS made this recommendation in 1992, because folic acid can reduce the incidence of spina bifida and anencephaly in infants by at least 50% when taken daily by women before conception and during pregnancy. But to what extent are women following this advice?
The CDC report, published in the February 27 edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, summarizes findings of a survey conducted in early 1997.
Commissioned by the March of Dimes and conducted by the Gallup Organization, the survey assessed respondents'familiarity with folic acid and determined the prevalence of vitamin supplement use by 2,001 American women aged 18 to 45.
Some 32.2% of women of childbearing age in the response group consumed a supplement containing folic acid on a daily basis. Among those younger than 25, daily use was 22.8%. Daily use was 19.6% among women with less than a high school education, 26.1 % among unmarried women, and 28.8% among those who had not heard of the PHS recommendation, compared with 45.2% among women who were familiar with it.
For women who occasionally (less than daily) took folic acid supplements, forgetting to take the vitamin was the most frequent reason cited for less than daily use (49%).
Women may also obtain the recommended amount of folic acid by eating a fortified breakfast cereal containing 100% of the Daily Value of folic acid. (As of January 1, the FDA requires that all enriched cereal grains be fortified with folic acid.) Alternatively, women can increase their consumption of other foods fortified with folic acid, including bread, rice, and pasta, or foods naturally rich in folates, such as orange juice and green vegetables.
Pharmacy Today - April 1998
FORTIFIED GRAINS STILL LOW IN FOLIC ACID -- A new government requirement for adding folic acid to food is set too low to reduce the risk of heart disease, researchers report.
In an accompanying editorial, Godfrey Oakley of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the government's minimum standard may also be too low to prevent birth defects. "This new data should provide a rationale for increasing the levels of fortification," he writes.
USA Today Health -April 8, 1998
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