Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Go ahead, celebrate this season's delicate asparagus spears by digging into a big pile. Why? Your pancreas will thank you.

Seems that getting lots of folate specifically from food, not so much from supplements -- may help protect you from pancreatic cancer. And just half a cup of asparagus delivers 190 micrograms of the stuff, more than 25 percent of what you need.

Your Pancreas, and More
Folate is a member of the B-vitamin group, and it has long been touted as a heart helper. Some early research also links high folate intake to a lower risk of colon, breast, ovarian, and lung cancers. Pancreatic cancer prevention is just the newest member of the why-we-love-folate list. (Do you know what pancreatitis is? What is chronic pancreatitis?

Chronic pancreatitis is an ongoing or repeated inflammation of the pancreas.

The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach. It produces digestive enzymes and insulin. The digestive enzymes flow into the small intestine to help break down food. Insulin is released into the blood to control the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Acute pancreatitis occurs as one sudden episode. After acute pancreatitis the pancreas usually returns to its normal condition. Chronic pancreatitis means ongoing or repeated bouts of pancreatitis in which there is permanent damage to the pancreas. The damaged pancreas gradually becomes unable to produce normal digestive enzymes and insulin.

How does it occur?
Chronic pancreatitis may result from:

drinking too much alcohol (the most common cause)
gallstones, which block the normal flow of pancreatic secretions into the intestines
too much fat in the blood.
In rare cases pancreatitis is inherited.

What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of chronic pancreatitis are:

severe pain in the stomach area that extends to the back
vomiting. The pain is usually a constant, dull pain that gets worse when you eat food or drink alcohol. The pain may lessen when you sit up and lean forward. As the disease gets worse, attacks of pain last longer and happen more often. Attacks may last a few hours or as long as several weeks.

Weight loss is another common symptom.

As the pancreas becomes damaged, it produces fewer digestive enzymes for the intestines. As a result, food is poorly absorbed. Bowel movements become frequent and foul smelling.

If the pancreas is unable to produce the hormone insulin, diabetes may develop, causing these symptoms:

increased thirst
increased appetite
increased urination
weight loss

Food Is a Factor
Folate from both food and the stuff found in supplements (folic acid) helps your heart. But in a study, when it came to defending against pancreatic cancer, only food sources seemed to have an effect. Folate-rich foods aren’t hard to come by if you go for the green -- as in artichokes, brussels sprouts, lima beans, avocados, soybeans, and broccoli. And of course, asparagus -- which is in season in many U.S. markets. Trim away the woody ends of succulent stalks, and serve them up in one of these three ways: Steam them, and then garnish with fresh tomato for a salad alternative. Here's a recipe from EatingWell that shows you how. Snip them into 1-inch pieces to make this creamy-yet-creamless Asparagus Soup.
Chop and boil them briefly, and then use the chunks to fill an omelet. (Did you know that eggs are back on the good-for-you list?)

RealAge Benefit: Getting 700 micrograms of folate (folic acid) a day from your diet or a supplement can make your RealAge 0.8 years younger.



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