HEALTH - Healthy Holiday Treats: Chocolate



Eating chocolate regularly could cut your risk of a heart attack by 37 percent, a stroke by 29 percent and even diabetes by 29 percent.  Its natural ingredients have the benefit of keeping your arteries young and flexible.  These same ingredients also discourage blood clots and ease blood pressure.  To not overdo and undo all these benefits, try eating one or two Hershey’s Kisses a day.  A cup of Christmas hot cocoa can do some good, yet try to avoid chocolate made with palm or coconut oil and choose dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content for the most benefits.

by Dr. John J. Pierce, D.O.

What is it?  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.  It is also produced naturally when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.  Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and maintains adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations to enable normal mineralization of bone and to prevent hypocalcemic tetany.  It is also needed for bone growth and bone remodeling.  Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.  Vitamin D sufficiency prevents rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.  Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older adults from osteoporosis. Vitamin D has other roles in the body, including modulation of cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and reduction of inflammation.

How much is enough?  Serum concentration of 25(OH)D is the best indicator of vitamin D status.  It reflects vitamin D produced by the skin and that obtained from food and supplements.  Practically all people are sufficient at levels between 50-120 ng/ml.  The USRDA (U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance) for vitamin D is currently set at 400 IU for adults and children age 4 and older.  I feel that, in general, this recommendation is much too low.  Approximately 90% of the patients I see in my clinic are deficient in vitamin D.  I generally recommend between 4,000 to 10,000 iu’s of vitamin D3 a day.  We do follow these levels with lab work to ensure that toxic levels are not reached. 

Where can I get it?  Most people meet at least some of their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight.  Season, time of day, length of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are among the factors that affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis.  Complete cloud cover reduces UV energy by 50%; shade (including that produced by severe pollution) reduces it by 60%.  UVB radiation does not penetrate glass, so exposure to sunshine indoors through a window does not produce vitamin D.  Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more appear to block vitamin D-producing UV rays, although in practice, people generally do not apply sufficient amounts, cover all sun-exposed skin, or reapply sunscreen regularly.  Therefore, skin likely synthesizes some vitamin D, even when it is protected by sunscreen as typically applied.  The factors that affect UV radiation exposure and research to date on the amount of sun exposure needed to maintain adequate vitamin D levels make it difficult to provide general guidelines.  It has been suggested by some vitamin D researchers, for example, that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis, and that the moderate use of commercial tanning beds that emit 2%–6% UVB radiation is also effective.  Very few foods in nature contain vitamin D.  The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources.  Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.  Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet.  For example, almost all of the U.S. milk supply is voluntarily fortified with 100 IU/cup.  In the 1930s, a milk fortification program was implemented in the United States to combat rickets, then a major public health problem.  Other dairy products made from milk, such as cheese and ice cream, are generally not fortified.  Ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other food products.  The best source of vitamin D is through supplementation with vitamin D3.  Some of the higher quality multi-vitamins provide 2,000 iu’s of vitamin D3.  Again, I generally recommend 5,000- 10,000 iu’s of vitamin D3 daily to my patients, so there is generally an additional supplement needed to achieve that recommendation.  I also recommend taking vitamin D3, 8-12 hours after your multivitamin, as D3 competes with Vitamin A for the same receptors.  If you take your multi twice a day, then take the D3 with the smaller portion of your daily multi. 

What are the Benefits?  Milk was fortified with vitamin D in the 1930’s and as such led to the practical eradication of rickets.  Thus, vitamin D helps to improve bone strength.  This means lower risk for development of osteoporosis and osteopenia.  Research has found that men with low levels of vitamin D in the blood were at increased risk for heart attack compared to those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for other risk factors and physical activity.  The same association was not seen among women;  the reason for this is unclear, but one possible explanation given is that women may need higher intake of vitamin D because they tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than men, and vitamin D is fat soluble.  Higher levels of vitamin D have been associated with reduction of colds and the flu.  Influenza A (seasonal flu) incidence was reduced by 42% in one study.  There was no effect on influenza B, which is less common than influenza A, and is not seasonal.  On a personal note, I do not take the flu shot and I have not gotten the flu, even when I worked in the emergency room, since I started regular supplementation with vitamin D.  My 90-year-old mother also takes vitamin D, and she rarely gets ill, even though she lives in an assisted living facility with approximately 200 other older folks.  She does not get the flu shot either. 

Other studies show correlations with diseases such as depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Parkinson’s disease, certain types of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and type 2 diabetes (DMII), with low serum 25(OH) vitamin D levels. 

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Most men are candidates for vasectomy reversal.  When life changes, (a new marriage, the loss of a child), men are surprised to find out they have the option to restore their fertility.  Vasectomy reversal is quick (about two hours) and simple with minimally invasive microsurgery techniques.  Sperm never stopped being produced – it simply needs its passageway created once again.  Time is not a factor.  If your original vasectomy went smoothly, a reversal can be achieved decades later with success.  You’ll need about three weeks after surgery to heal (while abstaining from sex), and some couples report conceiving literally three weeks to the day after a vasectomy reversal.



We know toxins are bad for us – but did you know that toxins like PCBs and dioxins can actually lower your sperm count and your testosterone?  Men can make sure to protect their package by following these easy steps:

• THROW AWAY ALL OLD LAWN TREATMENTS (any product with chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate proved to reduce testosterone in men).

• WEAR A MASK (when working construction on old stone or cement walls – especially caulking from the 60’s and 70’s, which can release dangerous PCB levels when smashed).

• AVOID GELLED RUBBER (fishing lures, and sadly, some sex toys can contain phthalates that can enter the body and decrease semen quality).

• GET A WIDER BIKE SEAT (narrow seats force pressure on your perineum, and can cause erectile dysfunction).

• GO ORGANIC (pesticides get into your system a little at a time, and can kill your testosterone levels over time). 

• AVOID LAVENDER AND TEA-TREE OIL (a connection has been found between these natural ingredients often found in beauty and health products and the development of breast tissue in boys. 



With the headline: “Blood Test From Prostate Cancer Test Gets a ‘D’ From Panel,” the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended men not get the PSA blood test, because it had no benefit.  A study showed PSA prevents only 0-1 deaths per 1,000 men from prostate cancers, which are slow growing and the millions of men who have been screened were not necessarily told that by their doctors.  The treatment prescribed could have been worse than any benefit, but it’s up to each man to determine if the screening is for him.



Surprisingly, nearly one-third of the 5,527 teenage boys that were studied across the U.S. admitted to infrequent binge eating, purging, or overeating.  If you weigh yourself incessantly, go on binges and feel bad about them later and purge, at any age, these are warning signs that you may have an eating disorder, which goes hand-in-hand with other problems, like depression and anxiety.  National Eating Disorder Assoc. confidential helpline: 800-931-2237.



Teens with high blood pressure or those who drink excessively are at risk of getting dementia before the age of 65.  Other risk factors include drug intoxication, having a close family member who suffered dementia, and low cognitive function.  Previous research has seen that physical activity and mental stimulation, along with lifelong factors, play a role, and that behaviors at an early age matter, and might be protective against dementia.   



This disease is where scar tissue inside the penis causes penile shortening and painful erections, generally from ruptured small blood vessels in the penis due to injury during sex, athletics or an accident.  When there’s pain and difficulty maintaining an erection, see your doctor.  It’s rare in young men, but can surprisingly affect 1% - 23% of men aged 40 to 70.  About 13% will go away without treatment and doctors usually delay surgery for at least a year.  An enzyme that breaks down scar tissue called “collagenase” is being studied as an alternative treatment, but so far, nothing has been as effective as surgery.


Both genders can experience incredible pleasure through orgasms, yet they can have some interesting differences.

• Men have the longer end of the stick:  Orgasmic bliss in men, (on average), tends to last about 22 seconds (about two seconds longer than women).

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