Q: I am so confused. I am a vegetarian with high cholesterol. My glucose is climbing and may put me at risk for diabetes.
I decided to change my diet after reading that a vegan diet with no fat is the best way to lower cholesterol. I have dropped weight since going on a vegan diet, but I really miss avocados.
Help! I see my doctor next week and really want to avoid cholesterol-lowering medication.
A: There is growing evidence that the war on fat was misguided. One of the best studies to date compared a Mediterranean-type diet with added olive oil (at least 4 tablespoons daily) or nuts (a large handful daily) to a low-fat “prudent” diet. People consuming extra fat from olive oil or nuts had fewer heart attacks, strokes and deaths from cardiovascular causes (New England Journal of Medicine, April 4, 2013).
Not only did the Mediterranean diet with extra monounsaturated fats reduce heart risk, it also lowered the likelihood of developing diabetes (Annals of Internal Medicine, Jan. 7, 2014). There are more specifics about the Mediterranean diet and cholesterol-lowering foods in our book “Quick and Handy Home Remedies” (available online at PeoplesPharmacy.com). Because avocados are rich in monounsaturated fat, there is no reason to deprive yourself.
Q: I’m 40 years old and recently started playing competitive tennis. The wear and tear on my knees was causing a lot of problems, especially with my left knee. I was in a lot of pain, having to wear tape 24 hours a day, and having to see my chiropractor on a weekly basis.
I started eating the gin-soaked raisins I read about in your column, and within two weeks I was pain-free. I no longer needed the tape and was able to stop seeing the chiropractor. Thanks for the great tip!
A: We have been writing about gin-soaked raisins for joint pain for 20 years. Some people report great success, while others don’t find this remedy especially helpful.
To make the remedy, put golden raisins into a shallow bowl and pour gin over them until they are barely covered. Allow the gin to evaporate. This may take a week to 10 days. Then eat nine gin-soaked raisins daily. There are more details about alternative treatments for arthritis at www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q: At 39, I developed solar urticaria. This is a skin allergy to sunlight, with pain and severe itching for days after sun exposure.
One of my friends recently mentioned that taking borage oil helped her depression. I also have depression, so I looked up borage oil and found it has gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) in it. I discovered that evening primrose oil also contains GLA. It often is recommended for skin problems such as eczema, autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis and women’s hormonal problems such as menopausal hot flashes.
I decided to try evening primrose oil, and I was shocked. Just four days of taking the pills has made my solar urticaria go away.
I’m a biologist, and I know all about placebos, but I can’t imagine that this uncomfortable condition could be cleared up by blind faith in an herbal remedy. If this information can help just one other person with solar urticaria, I would be thrilled.
A: Solar urticaria is a rare condition in which exposure to sun can produce dramatic hives. Doctors often recommend antihistamines or, in severe cases, immune-suppressing drugs.
Although preliminary data support the use of evening primrose oil or GLA for diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and hypertension, there is not much solid research. One large analysis suggests that this supplement might suppress the immune system and could interact dangerously with the anticoagulant warfarin (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Nov. 13, 2013).
Your experience with evening primrose oil is fascinating and might lead to a new way to manage this uncomfortable skin condition.
Q: Here’s how I get the benefits of chocolate without the fat and sugar: I stir ½ teaspoon of pure cocoa powder into a serving of low-calorie Greek yogurt. Sometimes I add fresh sliced strawberries.
A: We agree that sounds delicious, and it is a great low-calorie way to get beneficial cocoa compounds. They have been shown to keep blood vessels flexible, lower blood pressure, raise good HDL cholesterol and help prevent blood clots.
Write to Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website: PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”