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America’s Nutrition Coach: Where Diet and Nutrition Intersect

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Rovenia Brock a/k/a Dr. Ro

By Dr. Ro
NNPA Columnist

 

I get lots of questions about what, when, and how much food to eat in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. As your nutrition coach, I know that even with a balanced diet and your meals planned for the week, you sometimes need a little extra support. Enter nutrient supplementation. This is where dietary “rubber” meets the nutritional road.

At this point, nutritional supplements take on the role of bit players to your healthy diet. With a lifestyle of constant motion and the on-the-go demands on your busy schedule you may feel the need to grab food wherever you can get it, including the fast food lane. I get that this is a real-life experience for many of you, even your best intentions may result in missed meals or worse yet, incomplete or inadequate nutritional support. For this reason, I generally recommend taking a multivitamin with antioxidants, calcium and iron (for women of child bearing-age) as an insurance policy to protect against poor food choices.

So why is this important to you? African Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and conditions such as lactose intolerance, at disproportionate rates, compared to other groups, and therefor may benefit from supplements along with the inclusion of specific foods to prevent or treat these illnesses.

The first line of defense for nutrition should always be food, but because many people fall short, supplementing your balanced diet may be in order.

 

DISCLAIMER:

If you choose to take nutritional supplements, check with your doctor to confirm that they will not interfere with any medications you may be taking and do not exceed the recommended daily allowance of the nutrient.

Here is my short primer of nutrient supplements and the reasons they should matter to you:


Magnesium
– needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including a healthy immune system. This macro-mineral helps to maintain normal nerve and muscle function helps to keep your bones strong, protects the heart, helping it to beat steadily, regulates blood sugar levels, and steadies blood pressure.

These functions are especially important to African Americans who routinely have higher than average rates of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and high-blood pressure. In fact, there is continued ongoing research underway on the role of magnesium in preventing and managing high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes disorders.

Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) for Magnesium:

Adult females: 310 – 320 milligrams/D

– Pregnancy: 350 – 400 milligrams/D

-Breastfeeding: 310 – 360 milligrams/D

Adult males: 400 – 420 milligrams

Your Food Rx for Magnesium:

Include more magnesium in your diet with dark, leafy green vegetables, and fruits: bananas, dried apricots, and avocado; include nuts: raw almonds, pine nuts, and cashews; peas , beans, seeds like pumpkin seeds, and legumes such as peanuts, and whole grains such as millet, and fish (think mackerel).

 


Calcium-
needed not only healthy bones and teeth, but calcium may also be helpful in the prevention of heart disease and there is good evidence that calcium is also useful in the prevention an control hypertension, obesity and it helps protect against breast and colon cancer, all diseases and conditions with which African Americans struggle at greater, often 2 or 3 times the rate of white Americans.

Adequate Intakes (AI) for Calcium from food:

Adults 18 years: 1,300 mg/D

Adult Women: 19-50+ years: 1,000 mg/D

Adult Men: 50+: 1,200 mg/D

Tolerable Upper Limits (UL) for Calcium from Supplements:

Adults and Children at leas 1yr. old: 2,500 mg/D

* Take calcium supplements with food and break into 500 mg doses for best absorption.

Your Food Rx for Calcium:

Include more low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, broccoli, kale, bok choy, calcium-fortified juices

 


Vitamin D-
needed for bone health, a healthy immune system, even fighting depression. Its primary source is the sun, but there are a few foods that provide good amounts of vitamin D as well. Most people in the U.S. are known to have sufficient vitamin D, but studies show that African Americans have lower blood levels of vitamin D compared to other groups. The latest NHANES –III data found that 54%-76% blacks in the southern region of the U.S. had low blood levels of Vitamin D compared to 8%-33% of whites. One reason that may explain the disparity in part is the fact that melanin, responsible for our skin pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin. But another reason has everything to do with diet. From puberty well into adulthood, black people are well below the recommended vitamin D intake at every age group. This is probably related to the problem or in some cases, the perception and self-diagnosis of lactose intolerance, an issue easily rectified with lactose-free milk, or lactaid capsules (taken with meals and before consuming dairy products).

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D:

Adults up to 70: 600 IU/D

Adults 70+ years old: 800 IU/D

Your Food Rx for Vitamin D:

Include more low-fat milk and cheese in your diet. If you are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies, try and vitamin D-fortified nut milks such as almond and cashew, or coconut milk. Other options are canned salmon with bones, packed in oil, canned tuna in water, mackerel, cod liver oil (generally 1 tsp/D) , beef, egg yolks, and calves liver.

 

Rovenia Brock, Ph.D. is a medical advisory board member and contributor to the “Dr. Oz Show,” where she helped more than a half-million Americans lose more than 5 million pounds. She is the author of “Dr. Ro’s Ten Secrets To Livin’ Healthy (Bantam). For more health, nutrition, and fitness tips, join Dr. Ro and her social media community and get a FREE Download of her new eBook of super-easy tips, “You Healthy and Happy” at www.everythingro.com.

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Bay Area

Oakland Healthcare Unions Denounce CDC and California’s New Guidelines

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

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Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.
Oakland Highland Hospital screening tent at the emergency entrance on July 5, 2021. Photo by Zack Haber.

By Zack Haber

Two unions representing healthcare professionals have denounced recent moves by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and The California Department of Public Health that have eased, or in some cases temporarily eliminated, quarantining guidelines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been directly exposed to the virus.

“Part of why there’s this rise in transmission is that people aren’t quite well and they’re able to come out and mingle with the public,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez in an interview. Triunfo-Cortez has worked as a registered nurse for 42 years, and she’s the president of National Nurses United (NNU), a registered nurses’ union with over 175,000 members.

On December 22 of last year, as news that the CDC was considering shortening their COVID-19 quarantine duration guidelines from 10 days to five days was spreading, the NNU published an open letter to the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, that urged her to maintain the 10-day quarantine period.

“Weakening COVID-19 guidance now, in the face of what could be the most devastating COVID-19 surge yet,” the letter reads, “will only result in further transmission, illness and death.”

On December 23, the CDC changed their guidelines for healthcare workers. To address staffing shortages, the new guidelines stated that medical facilities could have both vaccinated and unvaccinated healthcare workers who test positive for the virus return to their jobs immediately without quarantining in certain crisis situations as long as they were either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

On December 27, the CDC changed their guidelines for the rest of the population, shortening the quarantining period from 10 to five days. The new guidelines stated that as long as a COVID-positive person has no symptoms or their symptoms are resolving and they don’t have a fever, they can end their quarantine on the sixth day.

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of [COVID-19] transmission occurs early in the course of the illness,” reads a statement from the CDC about the reduced quarantine guideline, “generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and 2-3 days after.”

In their letter, the NNU pointed to the extremely contagious Omicron variant, and warned “Now is not the time to relax protections.” They mentioned pressure from businesses to maintain profits “without regard for science or the health of employees or the public” as the primary motivation for shortening the quarantine time. The letter included a link to a story about Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian asking the CDC to consider such a change.

Data from Alameda County, and California show that after the Omicron variant of COVID-19 began to become widespread in mid-December, local and statewide cases surged. By late December, average daily case rates were higher than they ever had been before.

Hospitalizations also rose sharply. Then cases and hospitalizations continued to rise through early January and have continued to rise. At the time of publication, information on recent COVID-19 deaths is unclear as the county and the state are updating that data.

“It’s stressful because some of our co-workers might be coming into work sick,” said Sonya Allen-Smith in an interview on January 7 about working under the new guidelines. She’s been an X-ray technologist at a Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland for 13 years and is a member of the SEIU UHW union for healthcare workers.

“We think about if we’re going to take it home to our families,” she said. “My husband’s immune system is compromised. If I bring it home to him, he definitely will not make it.”

The Oakland Post obtained a flow chart Kaiser e-mailed to their employees on January 7 that guided them through the quarantine process the company required them to enter into if they tested positive for COVID-19.

It showed Kaiser employees had to quarantine for five days and could return on the sixth day if they tested negative for the virus with an antigen test. Allen-Smith said she felt the quarantine period was too short.

“We’re not giving people enough time to heal or recover,” Allen-Smith said. “Weakening the guidelines is not going to stop the staff shortage. It may increase it because people will spread it.”

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that they’re “implementing CDC and CDHP guidance and isolation with considerations to vaccination status and staffing levels.” It also stated that “all employees coming back or continuing to work, wear the appropriate PPE and follow all infection prevention measures.”

On January 8, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) decided to temporarily adopt the guidance for healthcare workers the CDC had released on December 23 to address staffing shortages at healthcare facilities.

“From January 8, 2022 until February 1, 2022, healthcare professionals who test positive for [COVID-19] and are asymptomatic,” reads their statement announcing the new guidelines, ”may return to work immediately without isolation and without testing.”

The statement also said such returning employees would have to wear N95 masks while working and that these new guidelines could again change as information becomes available.

Both the NNU and the SEIU-UHW unions immediately denounced CDHP’s decision.

“For healthcare workers on the frontline it is very disappointing to see the State of California bypass common sense safety measures,” said Gabe Montoya, an emergency room technician, in a statement SEIU-UHW released. “No patient wants to be cared for by someone who has COVID-19 or was just exposed to it.”

While federal and California state guidelines now allow healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 to return to work without quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic until at least February 1, it’s unclear what this will mean for several Oakland healthcare facilities.

When asked for a statement about their Bay Area healthcare facilities, Sutter Health’s media team wrote an email stating: “Consistent with CDC contingency tiered guidelines released in late December, and in response to critical staffing conditions, we have revised our process for how employees who work at patient care sites return after they have been sick with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. It’s important to note that symptomatic employees are not returning to work until their symptoms improve.”

When asked directly if asymptomatic COVID positive employees were currently returning to work, Sutter Health’s media team did not respond.

When asked about their current COVID-19 quarantine policies, Alameda Health System’s media and communications manager Eleanor Ajala wrote “Alameda Health System is reviewing guidance” and that they planned to attend a meeting with the state to discuss the issue.

On January 11, Allen-Smith said she hadn’t heard of any change to Kaiser Permanente’s quarantine policy, but that she knows three co-workers sick with COVID-19 who had just returned after five-day quarantines.

In an e-mail, Kaiser Permanente’s media team wrote that to address staffing shortages they were “employing traveling nurses, adjusting elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures as needed, and offering our industry-leading telehealth capabilities in addition to in-person care.”

The media team did not directly answer when asked if Kaiser was allowing asymptomatic COVID positive employees to return to the job at Bay Area healthcare facilities.

Allen-Smith is unhappy about the guidelines changing and is unsure if Kaiser’s policy will further change in the near future due to CDHP’s recent announcement.

“A lot of us are confused and sad and just don’t feel safe in the workplace,” she said.

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Activism

Friendship Christian Center Provides Tests, Vaccines to Thousands

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.
A lone forms outside the Friendship Christian Center on a recent, rainy cold day in Oakland. Photo courtesy of FCCC.

Friendship Christian Center Church (FCCC), pastored by Dr. Gerald Agee, is located at 1904 Adeline St. and is one of the dozens of Black churches across the state of California, who, in conjunction with the California Health Agencies and California Black Media, has stood on the front line, with the Black Press for over a year providing COVID-19 testing and vaccinations to minority communities.

FCCC has served thousands with lines forming an hour-and-a-half before opening to get tested and vaccinated with one of the three vaccines, boosters, and vaccines for children. Agee said it has been going at this pace for over a month, with the new Omicron variant surging.

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Commentary

Gov. Newsom Proposes $2.7 Billion for COVID Response; Activates National Guard

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Governor Newsom said. “Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

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California state Capitol. File photo.
California state Capitol. File photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

On January 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he is proposing a $2.7 billion investment to boost the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The request is included in the state budget Gov. Newsom is sending to the State Legislature this week. He is asking lawmakers to take action on it immediately.

The emergency response package includes money for more testing, more vaccinations, including boosters, and support for health care professionals.

“From Day One, California has taken swift and direct action to battle COVID-19 with policies that have saved tens of thousands of lives, but there’s more work to be done,” Newsom said.

“Our proposed COVID-19 Emergency Response Package will support our testing capacity, accelerate vaccination and booster efforts, support frontline workers and health care systems and battle misinformation, with a focus on the hardest-hit communities,” the governor added.

Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, said the new influx of cash comes at a “pivotal time” when the state and country are confronting a new surge in Omicron variant cases.

Currently, California has a positivity rate of 21.7%, according to the California Department of Public Health. Omicron variant infections account for 80% of those cases. And over the last seven days, there has been an average of 124.5 cases per 100,000 people.

“We commend the governor for taking these decisive actions to help protect the health and well-being of local communities through the expansion of vaccines, testing, and booster shots and efforts to combat misinformation that has caused unnecessary deaths and illness,” Gibbons said. “These actions will ultimately help save lives, which remains a top priority for local public health.

Last weekend, Gov. Newsom also deployed 200 California National Guardsman at testing sites to assist with the state’s response.

“California is deploying the National Guard to testing sites to help expand capacity. If you’re feeling sick, don’t hesitate to get tested,” Newsom tweeted.

On Jan. 3, the FDA approved booster eligibility for children ages 12 to 15.

Newsom expressed support for this expansion on Twitter.

“Great news — more protection for more people. Boosters are our best defense against Omicron. If you’re eligible, get yours today,” Newsom tweeted.

As people experience COVID-19 home test kit shortages across California, the state has announced plans to remedy the situation.

“California is expanding access to testing for students by providing 1–2 rapid tests for each K–12 public school student to keep our schools safe and open,” tweeted Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, surgeon general of California.

Harris emphasized that, “Testing is a critical part of California’s pandemic response and a key reason our cumulative COVID-19 death rate is the lowest of the large states.”

Newsom’s office said the tests are already on their way.

“More tests are en route for California’s students! These at-home test kits arrived last night at our warehouse and will immediately be sent to counties for distribution through county offices of education,” Newsom’s office tweeted.

The California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) responded to this claim with anticipation.

“Great news! Our county offices are ready to have the torch passed so we can get these important test kits out to our students,” the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA) tweeted. “We pledged to help keep schools open and having these kits distributed quickly is another way our county office teams are stepping up to make this happen.”

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