Itchy Ears? It Could Be Your Artisan Earrings

Study shows local artists’ earrings are more likely to contain nickel, a common cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

So Steady as She Goes

A woman came to see me recently with red, itchy, scaly earlobes. She thought she had psoriasis. She didn’t. She had hand-crafted earrings.

Many earrings contain nickel, one of the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis. Developing an allergy to something requires that you are exposed to it, often repeatedly, which is why nickel allergy is more common in women. Though still used extensively here in the US, there are restrictions on nickel in jewelry in Europe.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that locally crafted earrings were more likely to contain excessive levels of nickel as compared to store-bought earrings. They did not, however, find that there was a relationship between the price of the earrings and whether or not they contained nickel. The study found that   69% of earrings purchased from local artists contained nickel while only 24% of earrings in chain stores contained the metal.

The authors recommended that all jewelry be labelled as containing nickel or being nickel- free to increase public awareness and to help those who are known to have a nickel allergy. Until then, there is a test that you can buy to determine if a metal contains nickel. It’s called dimethylglyoxime (DMG), and can be purchased over the counter or online. When DMG is applied to nickel, it turns the DMG red or pink.

So, should you toss your favorite earrings if they contain nickel? If you have a true nickel allergy, probably so. Unless you don’t mind developing an itchy, red crusty rash. But before you toss (or re-gift) them, you can try to seal the nickel in the jewelry so it doesn’t contact your skin: One way is to paint the metal part with 3-4 coats of clear nail polish. Or you can purchase a nickel protectant, which might work better.

Photo credit: FCC, Evil Erin

The Healthiest Thing You Can Do For Yourself

The best thing you can do for your health is exercise. Regular exercise is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s and can even help you live longer.


An overweight patient of mine who is frustrated that exercising isn’t helping her lose enough weight told me that she plans to stop exercising and just keep dieting. Can you relate? I know that slow weight loss can be disheartening. But, if there is one change you make in 2013, please have it be to start exercising every day.

We humans were never meant to live the sedentary lifestyle we do. Our prehistoric ancestors had to hunt and forage to survive. We order take-out from the comfort of our couches and have it delivered. And our bodies don’t like it. That’s part of the reason why 1 in 3 Americans is obese.

Here’s the truth about weight loss: Diets alone can help you lose weight. But a combination of diet and exercise will help you become healthier in many ways and live a happier, longer life.

The best part is that even if you’re older or overweight, exercise still has clear health benefits. An August 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that people who were most fit in midlife were at a reduced risk for developing chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s longer. Why? Researchers believe that regular exercise leads to strong cardiovascular health and improved cellular function.

And if reducing your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s isn’t enough, a November 2012 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that regular exercise can literally add years to your life — anywhere from 2.5 to 4.5 years — even if you’re obese. Indeed, they found that obese people who exercised were healthier than their thinner couch potato counterparts. That’s because exercise, even without weight loss, is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Physically fit people also suffer fewer side effects from illness.

By the end of our appointment, I felt like I had convinced my patient to not give up on exercise, despite her slow weight loss. I also shared with her some other surprising health benefits of exercise such as a reduced risk for skin cancer, which she was happy to learn about. I also hope that by the end of this post, I’ve inspired you to exercise for your overall health. If not, I’ll keep working at it because you’re worth it.

Photo credit: FCC, ozanhatipoglu

Food Friday: Burn More Fat? Eat More Apples

A recent study from the University of Iowa found that ursolic acid, which is found in apple peels, is related to increased fat burning and reduced obesity.

Apple Planet

Don’t peel that apple.

A recent study from the University of Iowa found that a compound called ursolic acid which is found in apple peels, is related to increased fat burning. In the study, mice given ursolic acid built more muscle mass which led to increased metabolism and calories burned. They also had increased levels of brown fat which is a superior calorie burner. Researchers were pleased to find that the mice had reduced obesity, pre-diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all promising findings that could eventually lead to helping patients.

Photo credit: FCC, leoncillosabino

Food Friday: Grandpa, Don’t Eat That Bread

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

Old Man of Lisboa

A new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, shows that older people who eat a lot of carbs have nearly four times the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.

All I can say is, thank goodness my Italian grandmother never lived to hear about this. The woman ate pasta about four times a week and bread every day her life and lived to her 90’s, still sharp as a tack.

Yet, as the study shows, there might be a link between high carb intake and MCI. Study participants who ate the most carbs showed early signs of cognitive impairment including problems with memory, language, and thinking and judging. The study’s lead author said that although not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s, many will. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects over 5 million US adults, so researchers are keen to find ways to stop MCI from progressing.

The study also found that those with diets highest in fats (nuts and healthy oils) were 42% less likely to get cognitive impairment. And those with the highest protein diets (chicken, meat, fish) had a 21% reduced risk.

So what does this mean for you?

  • It doesn’t mean carbohydrates cause dementia or Alzheimer’s. More studies need to be done to determine causality.
  • Don’t throw away all your pasta and bread. Like most things in life, moderation is key. The American Diabetes Association has some good information on carb counting and serving size.
  • Eat as many non-starchy vegetables as possible, including broccoli, Swiss chard, spinach, and salad greens, which are some of the healthiest carbs you can eat.
  • Remember, that many different foods contain carbs including less healthy crackers, chips, and pastries as well as healthier milk, yogurt, and beans. So rather than banish carbs from your diet, choose smart, healthy carbs like these recommended from The Harvard School of Public Health. You might also like to read WebMD’s article on “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs,” and why they matter to you.

Photo credit: FCC, KevinPoh

There Is No Such Thing as a Safe Tan

There is no such thing as a safe tan. Tanned skin is damaged skin and increases your risk for melanoma.

Too much sun!

Tanned skin is damaged skin. It’s that simple.

Lots of people think that getting a “light” tan is protective against sunburns. It’s faulty logic. When your skin tans, or (more aptly, burns), it’s the direct result of DNA changes in your skin cells. Those cells are permanently damaged.

A new study from the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences shows a direct link between UV-induced melanin formation (tanning) and the formation of melanoma in mammals. Skin melanoma is the deadliest of all skin cancers. Look at these statistics:

  • One person dies of melanoma every hour in the US.
  • In the US the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer in 25-29 year olds.
  • Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in 15-29 year olds.
  • Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group.
The only safe tan you can get is no tan at all.

For more information about melanoma, visit the American Melanoma Foundation and the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Photo credit: FCC, Alan Light

Can a Caffeine Cream Banish Cellulite?

Researchers in Brazil say a cream containing caffeine may make women’s thighs smaller. It makes for a nice headline, except:

It was not clear from a news release on the study if the work was a true experiment, with a control group and subjects randomly getting the treatment or a placebo.

Whether caffeine banishes cellulite is less clear. The researchers assessed cellulite changes with a handheld imaging instrument that reveals microcirculation in fat tissue. Imaging showed little change in cellulite, even in the hips and thighs that slimmed down.

Sound too good to be true? I’m sure it is. However, if you apply the caffeine cream immediately before doing 30 minutes on the elliptical five times a week for 10 weeks, then you’ll see those thick thighs melt away.

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