Iron Supplements: Do You Need Them?


A poll result published on 26 Nov 2015 indicates that nearly 50% of females in Singapore may not be aware that they have iron deficiency. Doctors said that symptoms such as physical and mental fatigue, hair loss, brittle nails, may point to iron deficiency – but most people may put them down to stress and/or lack of sleep.

Iron deficiency is more often found in women who have heavy menstruations or are pregnant. While iron supplements may be readily available, doctors recommend a balanced diet as the best way to maintain healthy iron levels.

iron supplements

How about the reverse – iron overload?

In the article published by PhysiciansCommittee, iron is called a double-edged sword.

The body requires iron for healthy blood cells but beyond a certain level, iron becomes a dangerous substance as it acts as a catalyst for the formation of free radicals. Once the excess iron is absorbed by the digestive tract, the body stores it. Because of this, research studies have shown that higher amounts of iron in the blood mean higher risk of cancer.

In spite of advertising from health supplement manufacturers, iron overload exists and the tendency is higher for men and for women after menopause.


Major contributors to iron excess are taking vitamin and mineral supplements that contain iron. Some people may be taking certain multi-vitamins without knowing that there is iron in it. Other factors include eating excessive red meat and to some extent, processed foods that have iron added.

It was mentioned earlier that women with heavy menstruations may have iron deficiency. The reverse may be true for women after menopause or women who don’t menstruate regularly. Which explains why men have a higher tendency of iron overload – because they don’t menstruate!

Hence, it is prudent to have your doctor check your iron level before taking any supplements containing iron.

What are the symptoms of iron overload?

  • stomach pain
  • heart palpitations or chest pains
  • unexplained weakness
  • joint pain
  • unexplained fatigue

joint pain

The test used to check one’s iron level is known as ferritin. Ferritin is a protein that stores iron, releasing it when the body needs it. Ferritin is stored in the body’s cells until it’s time to make more red blood cells. Thus, if a person has an iron overload, it may take months before the normal level can be reached.

It’s an inexpensive test, likely costing less than a bottle of iron supplements, and it can help ensure that you do not over or under-consume iron.

For more information on integrated health management, visit www.vitalay.earth

Contributed by LayYong, Wellness Entrepreneur.


The Straits Times “Women not aware of iron deficiency”, Nov 26 2015

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Iron: The Double Edged Sword, www.pcrm.org

Photo credits: Pixabay and JustSaying.Asia

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The Shocking Truth of How Foetal Cells Affect Mothers

As we celebrate Mothers’ Day today, we’d like to take this chance to truly show how truly wonderful motherhood is. It is often said that mothers have a certain “maternal instinct” and how magical the bond is that mother and child(ren) share. While we all agree that this mother-child born happens naturally, there is an actual scientific explanation for why maternal instincts exists and it boils down to cells.

Of course, it’s not quite as simple and what happens is that during pregnancy, some of the foetus’ cells cross over from the placenta into the mother’s body. This process is called microchimerism and normally, the foetus’ cells which crosses over are  ‘cleaned’ up by the mother’s body once the baby is born but they often remain in the mother’s body, eventually becoming part of the mother’s body.

This phenomenon isn’t so weird among mammals; in fact, it’s been around since the first placental mammals roamed the earth. It was first discovered in humans several decades ago when a DNA report showed male cells inside of a woman’s bloodstream. The discovery caused an uproar, but they were unable to make further research due to a lack of technology at the time.

All of that has changed now. Thanks to deep-sequencing, researchers can go through a person’s DNA by exploring their genomes individually, allowing them to take a closer look at each gene that makes them.

Genes associated with immunity stand out in particular as they are unique to every person, thus making it easier to figure out who they belongs to.

However, this hasn’t stopped scientists’, such as Dr Amy Boddy and her team, curiosity in wanting to know why microchrimerism happens and how it can affect women who give birth.

Boddy explains that the reason for microchimerism comes when foetal cells from the baby can cross the placenta and enter the mother’s bloodstream. These foetal cells act like stem cells and are thus able to take on shelter among other tissues and can even take up that fabric’s form with the help of chemical cues. However, it’s still hard to tell why these processes happen in the first place.

There have been many effects listed when it comes to microchimerism. For example, a study on mice showed how foetal cells lodged in mammary glands can help improve the flow and quality of breast milk or how they can assist the mother’s healing mechanism.

There are still many aspects of it that biologists want to investigate, however, chief among them how a mother who has undergone multiple pregnancies can be affected and how it affects the babies as well.

David Haig, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University talks of the possibility that foetal cells from past pregnancies could influence the rate in which a mother can get pregnant again, they could even hinder other babies’ growth or delay their birth.

That’s not all, while some good things come out of microchimerism, scientists have also noted the adverse effects that can come from it. Chief among them is the fact that foetal cells can act in a similar way to cancer cells, meaning that they can increase the likelihood of developing some form of cancer.

Scientists are also trying to figure out exactly where foetal cells allocate once they enter the body. Scientists believe that aside from the breasts, these foetal cells can also enter the thyroid, which will then affect metabolism and thus, transfer more heat to the baby and the brain, which could potentially influence the attachment that a mother has to her children.

That is probably why a lot of mothers say that they often feel like their children are still part of them even after having given birth!

While all this is still in the midst of medical research, what does not change is how amazing pregnancy and motherhood are. We are grateful and thankful to all mothers and would once more like to wish them a Happy Mothers’ Day!

Photo Credits: Babble, Safety Kart, Forbes

Reference: Smithsonian

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Real Men Play With (Barbie) Dolls

Who said that real men don’t play with dolls? Gone are the days where gender stereotypes were reinforced, especially by the patriarch of the family. In fact, studies have shown that fathers who take the time to play with their daughters helped their girls develop a higher sense of self-worth and confidence. The brand that is really trying to break its own stereotypes is Mattel, specifically for Barbie. Besides its new and updated look, Mattel saw fit to recognise and celebrate all the dads who take the time to play Barbie with their little girls with their new #DadsWhoPlaywithBarbie campaign.

The campaign focuses on showcasing actual fathers and daughters playing together, with the father, in particular, playing with a Barbie of his own. They released the first advertisement during the NFL’s AFC Championship game on 22nd January  (because what better time to grab the attention of fathers everywhere). The ad consisted of a 30-second video called “Doctor” which showcased a father playing Barbie with his daughter, with the father saying lines such as, “I’m a typical man’s man” and “Sundays are always football, and now that gets interrupted with a little Barbie time.”

This is the next step in a series of marketing campaigns that are trying to modernise people’s perception of Barbies and to give girls a new way to imagine themselves and their futures, while also increasing the public’s positive opinion of the doll.

This is fitting too, as Barbie had been gaining a lot of ire over the last few decades due to her lack of diversity and unrealistic body proportions which have been attributed to teaching young girls about negative body image.

Though it does make you wonder, why focus on fathers playing Barbies with their girls? And the answer is quite simple. Mattel has a partnership with Wake Forest University to do research on how girls’ development can be affected for the purpose of new narrative ideas. This study found that girls with fathers who contributed in their childhood (playing with them being amongst that) developed higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence, which affects how they see and conduct themselves during adulthood.

That’s not the only reason, however. Mattel is also trying to change its focus so that it doesn’t just feature toys for girls. They want to make sure to shatter gender norms with their new campaign, amongst that being the famous “men don’t play with dolls” phrase that gets turned around and taught to boys from a very young age. This way both boys and girls can grow up believing that they can be anything they put their mind to.

The campaign has been a success so far. Ever since it’s airing in January, it has become very popular and has increased expectations of the brand by 20 percent; something that only increased even more with the release of subsequent ads.

This is a nice way to move forward in giving children (and even adults) a chance to see that the world is diverse and that fathers too, play a very important part in shaping their children’s lives. Hopefully with this push, more fathers will try to play more with their daughters and be a bigger part of their lives as important role models.

Photo Credits: Mattel

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How a Celebrity Trainer Made Us Consider the Difference Between Health and Fitness

Athletes and fitness experts are people who we look up to as they’ve managed to achieve certain things that we might aspire to someday, whether it’d be getting fit or just leading a healthier life. It’s because of that that it becomes shocking when we find out that they can still go through some of the health problems we might face, even though they’re supposed to be healthier. That issue came into the limelight recently when professional fitness guru and host of the American TV show, The Biggest Loser, Bob Harper suffered a heart attack that left the whole world talking.


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What We Never Knew About Diabetes

A recent study from Umea University in Sweden, published in JAMA Internal Medicine has come up with some impressive results. In one part of the study, researchers were able to discover that in a group of 4046 genetically identical twins, the twin with a higher BMI (Body Mass Index) does not have an increased risk of mortality or heart disease. At the same time, they discovered that losing weight might not have any effect on reducing your chances of suffering from a heart attack. Does this mean that we are given the green light to load up on chips, burgers and all things fatty and decadent?


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Are Humans Able to Absorb Energy from Each Other?

We often say thing such as “that person sucked the energy out of me” and the term introverts and extroverts are also related to how one gains energy either within one’s self or through human interaction. On a more traditional medicine point of view, we hear about qi (or chi) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and about chakras from India. Thus, a related question is this: can living beings such as humans absorb energy from each other?

A bit of a viral controversy resulted from that question late last year when an article on this site became popular. The article in question talks about a study that was held at Bielefeld University and published back on 20th November 2012, with some impressive results.

The study had the purpose of researching whether or not a species of algae, the Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, was able to absorb energy and nutrients from each other. The result was astounding to the scientists behind the project, who were able to deduce that, aside from photosynthesis, the algae were able to draw energy from other plants around them, allowing them to grow even in sub-optimal growing conditions.

Professor Kruse, the man in charge of the study, explained that this type of behaviour had never been seen in a vegetable organism before and that the results even contradicted what is in textbooks. He also went on to say that the resulting cellulose could be used to form carbon for things such as biofuel – something that can only be done through growing certain fungi at the moment.

However, does this mean that humans could be able to draw energy from each other as well?

Unfortunately for those who are hoping that’s the case, this is not really the case. The study only looked into how these algae can absorb energy from other plants and the process that goes into it, as well as the possible implications for this. There’s no mention of humans or other living organisms being able to do the same thing. But if so, then why did people start thinking that way?

Well, on 22nd November 2012, an article regarding the study was released. However, instead of objectively commenting on the results, the article mentioned a Olivia Bader-Lee (who supposedly is part of the team who conducted the study) who said that it might be possible for humans also to absorb the energy of others. However, there is no mention of any such person in the actual study, so it is believed that this Olivia Bader-Lee was entirely made up by the author.

The Chlamydomonas reinhardtii can create food for themselves by feeding off from others, meaning that it’s a form of cannibalism. Not sure about you, but we wouldn’t want that to happen with humans.

Good to know for sure that in the physical realm at least, one can’t be an energy vampire and feed off others’ energies to sustain life. That’s not to say the same in the spiritual sense…which we will leave to the other experts to tackle.

Photo Credits: Your Green Review, Protist Information Server, e-Buddism

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The Benefits of Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil, you continue to elude us on whether you are right or wrong for our health. We’ve written about coconut oil once before, specifically about how it’s high in saturated fats. We also wrote about how a lot of people thought it could cure Alzheimer’s or other diseases. While that last one is still seemingly untrue, there are things that remain about how Coconut Oil can affect us.

All of this comes courtesy of Dr Mark Hyman from this site, where he wrote about some of the misunderstandings of Coconut Oil. We’ll be talking about those benefits and how they add up to what we have said before right here.

In our last article, we talked about how the saturated fats found in coconut oil are medium-chain triglycerides or MCT. MCTs make sure to protect and support your immune system while also helping with your metabolism. There is also proof that MCT can reduce fat and triglycerides much more so than other types of vegetable oils claim to do. A study (because we like to have scientific back us up) was done to check on the benefits between MCT from Coconut Oil and the omega-6 that vegetable oils contain, and interestingly enough, the study found that the group fed with more MCT oil had lost weight, body fat and had a 15% drop in triglycerides and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol).

But at the same time, there have also been claims that MCT increases cholesterol levels, which influence into causing heart disease. So then what’s true?

Well, to answer that question we have to look at cholesterol a bit differently than how we usually do. There are two types of cholesterol to consider, the first one being HDL, or good cholesterol; and the second one LDL which is treated as bad cholesterol. Different foods and substances affect our cholesterol levels differently, and some might raise one or the other.

Saturated fats like the ones that come from MCT do raise our LDL, but they also increase our HDL just as much, which makes them beneficial in fighting against heart disease. There are even studies that show that people who live in countries that consume more coconut have a lower risk of heart disease. There are even some that think coconut oil does more to raise HDL than LDL.

But then what about people who still have high LDL cholesterol? Well, it turns out that that might not be the fault of coconut oil. Instead, a diet high in red meats and sugar have been found to increase LDL levels instead of the amounts of fats. Which is why, we mentioned in our “Foods Rich In Fat That You Should Eat” article, not all fats are made equal nor are they to be blamed for cholesterol levels.

At the end of the day, what we’ve learnt is that not everything is quite as simple. Coconut Oil might not be some miracle superfood as some market it to be, but it’s also not as bad as it might seem, it’s just a manner of how much you consume and how it affects you. A well balanced diet with regular exercise is definitely more important.

Photo Credits: Authority Nutrition, Medical News Today, ProSource

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Could The State of Your Workplace Influence Your Productivity

We’ve all heard how our workplace can affect our motivation before. Whether it’d be a dirty workplace or just the fact that your brain isn’t getting enough activity, it and many other factors are a constant concern for business, and it even has its field of study. But just how true are these assumptions and what could be a way to solve these issues?

A recently published study by Joseph Grzywacs, a Florida State University researcher, has revealed some interesting results. The test was carried out with a total of 4,963 adult subjects, of which 47% were male, and 58% were female.

The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, carried out by Grzywacs and his crew obtained results that point towards a possible increase in the cognitive function of adults.

The research was grounded, Grzywacs and his colleagues decided to investigate how their environment and the work they were made to do influenced their ability to complete tasks, learning and maintaining new information and even functioning skills.

Among the results of the research was how the brain was able to give a better cognitive performance if the person in question, particularly women, were engaged in activities that kept their minds focused and allowed them to expand their knowledge.

The other results, however, showed the opposite effect. They were able to confirm that adults who worked in dirty or uncomfortable environments were more likely to underperform, and their cognitive functions took a dive to match this.

Part of these effects is also thought to be something that can become more likely with age. It’s no surprise that as people get older, they lose their ability to retain knowledge, this is the case if they’re not motivated, can become hard.

The study also offers a way to remedy this, of course. Aside from trying to keep workplaces ordered and clean. Businesses are pushed towards giving their workers more important roles or activities that can keep them focused and open-minded, help in keeping their cognitive abilities up as well as their motivation.

The workers can also make sure their work area is clean and ordered; they can even bring some stuff to help them feel more comfortable, as long as it’s not something that’s distracting them.

Other factors influence how people can work as well, though. Aside from cleanliness, there’s also illumination and sound, among other things that can affect a person’s motivation and focus.

In the end, it’s up to everyone to try and figure out a better way for them to work, regardless of age or gender if everyone focuses on making their workplace a better place, then productivity can only go up. For senior management, this is an important note on  why it is important to ensure that your office has a conducive environment – after all, you want them happy and productive!

Photo Credits: LinkedIn, Adt Décor, Keyword Suggests, Brand Discover

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