Ask the Pharmacist, Pt 2

Here are two more questions I have received from patients recently that I would like to share:

What’s the big deal about the new sunscreen labels?

Over 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer annually…and sunburns in kids and young adults are proven to increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Sunscreens don’t always reliably provide optimal protection. We now know that both UVA and UVB contribute to skin damage. New labeling makes it easier for people to choose an effective product.

Here’s some label tips:
 
 Broad spectrum means the product protects against both UVB and UVA rays. The label can only say “broad spectrum” if the product has passed specific FDA tests. 
 SPF will now have an upper limit. 50+ is the highest category. There’s no evidence that an SPF over 50 provides any greater protection. Sweating, swimming, etc. often cause sunscreen to rub off, so reapplication provides more effective protection than any SPF over 50.
 Water resistant is the only term you’ll see on new labels for products designed to stay on during outdoor activities. Explain that “waterproof” and “sweatproof” don’t mean much because all sunscreens eventually wash off. Pick a water resistant product that matches your plans. The labeling will list it lasting for either 40 or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating.

REMEMBER:

-ALL sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every 2 hours…even if they’re water resistant..
 -Use enough sunscreen. When covering all exposed areas, patients should use about a shot glassful of lotion. Most people only apply 25% to 50% of what they should. — If a bug repellant is also used, I recommend the sunscreen be applied first so it can bind properly to the skin.
 -Worries about vitamin D levels aren’t a reason to avoid sunscreen. Sunscreens do limit the amount of vitamin D the body produces…but it’s usually not nearly enough to cause deficiency. If deficiency is a concern, suggest testing and a supplement if necessary.

I generally will recommend an SPF 30 that’s broad spectrum and water resistant. I also tell parents to avoid using oxybenzone sunscreens for their children. They may have weak estrogenic effects.

Are Chia seeds really the ultimate in super foods?

When I was a kid, chia seeds were what put the “hair” on my little clay pots. Now chia seeds are everywhere… chia oil, whole seeds, flour to make bread and muffins, drinks, in nutrition bars, baked goods, and snack foods. People are eating the nutty-flavored grains in hopes of reducing their risk of heart disease. Chia contains more omega-3 fatty acids than flaxseed, more fiber than bran, and more protein than soy. It also contains calcium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants. Data shows that type 2 diabetes patients who eat 37 grams/day of a variety of chia called Salba for 3 months will see drops in blood pressure, A1c, and other cardiovascular risk factors.

Chia is a good alternative to replace other grains in a balanced diet. However, I caution patients with high triglycerides to keep tabs on their levels. Chia contains a high concentration of alpha-linolenic acid…which MIGHT increase triglyceride levels and potentially worsen hypertriglyceridemia.

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