Getting antioxidant fix without drinking coffee
Turmeric aids reader with shoulder pain; avocados squash cholesterol for some; and relief for dry eyes
Does anyone make a coffee extract pill that contains all the good ingredients while eliminating the caffeine? That way I could get coffee's benefits without actually having to drink it.
A: There are several decaffeinated coffee extracts on the market intended for use primarily in cooking and baking. Some are used as concentrates for preparing coffee. None is exactly what you are seeking.
Although coffee provides lots of antioxidants in the American diet, that is partly because so many people drink it. You can get natural antioxidants from fruits and vegetables that you like. The darker the color, the richer the plant usually is in these compounds.
Some of the best sources include blackberries, blueberries, chocolate, green tea, beans, cherries, grapefruit, onions, apples and kale. A review of the research concluded that it is better to get antioxidants from the diet than from pills (Advances in Nutrition, January 2011).
Q: I am a 50-year-old police officer with severe osteoarthritis in my shoulder and neck joints from work-related injuries. I had shoulder surgery 10 weeks ago, and I was still struggling with the pain until recently.
Two years of NSAIDs and other pain relievers have not helped, but I started taking curcumin capsules three days ago. I am now 50 percent pain-free, with a much-improved range of motion. Most unbelievable, I can sleep without discomfort. I have not experienced any side effects.
A: Curcumin is the active component in turmeric, the yellow spice in curry powder. It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and is being tested against cancer as well as joint pain and psoriasis (Molecules, June 3, 2011; Journal of Family Practice, March 2011). Many health professionals are not familiar with its healing properties, except in India.
Your success with the capsules is encouraging. Some people might prefer to incorporate turmeric into their daily meals.
Q: Despite Lipitor, diet and exercise, I have been fighting genetic cholesterol numbers for many years, often higher than 200. I started eating an avocado every week, and my cholesterol dropped from 203 in August to 183 at this week's blood test. Although the LDL continues to be just slightly above normal, the triglycerides and HDL numbers have gone from excellent to numbers my doctor says "other patients would kill for."
A: Because avocados are high in fat, nutrition experts used to warn against eating them. The fear was that fat would raise blood cholesterol. But the fat in avocados is mostly monounsaturated, which means it is healthier than previously believed. Animal research suggests that avocado consumption can reduce triglycerides and raise good HDL cholesterol (Archivos de Cardiologia de Mexico, January-March 2007).
It may also be possible to control your cholesterol with different drugs or with other dietary changes. Foods that can be helpful include pomegranates, walnuts, fish and olive oil. Medications such as niacin or psyllium may help.
Q: I have very dry eyes that are red and sore. My doctor said to use artificial tears, but they have not made much improvement. Any suggestions?
A: Eye doctors we have consulted recommend Systane Balance and Soothe XP. These formulations are designed to protect the surface of the eye and replenish the tear film lipid layer (Clinical Ophthalmology online, June 10, 2011).
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Send questions to them via peoplespharmacy.com.