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July 2009 Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource Highlights Food Storage Safety, Energy Therapies and Vitamins and Minerals

Food Storage Safety: Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning

ROCHESTER, Minn., July 22 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Here are highlights from the July issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. You may cite this publication as often as you wish. Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource attribution is required. Reprinting is allowed for a fee. Include the following subscription information as your editorial policies permit: Visit or call toll-free for subscription information, 1-800-876-8633, extension 9751.

Foods may look, smell and even taste fine -- and still harbor bacteria that can cause food poisoning. The July issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource provides an overview of food storage safety and how to avoid bad bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Safe food storage matters. While diarrhea and vomiting caused by food poisoning usually resolve without treatment, about 325,000 people in the United States are hospitalized every year because of food poisoning. And, 5,000 people die.

Consider these food safety reminders:

  • Observe the "two-hour" rule. Foods requiring refrigeration, including poultry, meat, eggs, cooked seafood, produce, leftovers and takeout food, shouldn't be at room temperature longer than two hours. When the air temperature is above 90 F, perishables should be refrigerated within one hour.
  • Store leftovers safely. Hot foods can go straight into the refrigerator or freezer. They shouldn't be left out to cool on the counter. Hot foods can be rapidly cooled by dipping the bowl or container in ice or a cold-water bath. Leftovers from a large pot will cool more quickly when divided into smaller, shallower containers. In general, leftovers should be used or frozen within three to five days.
  • Don't crowd. A refrigerator that is too full blocks air circulation, hampering the cooling process.
  • Know when to toss. An opened package of luncheon meat can be safely stored in the refrigerator three to five days. Unopened, it will keep for two weeks. Three to five days is a safe storage time for deli or homemade egg, chicken, ham, tuna or pasta salads. Cooked or uncooked fish should be tossed after one to two days. The same goes for fresh sausage and uncooked ground beef.
  • Set the temperature. A refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40 F. The freezer should be kept at 0 F.
  • If in doubt, throw it out. Any foods that look or smell suspicious should be tossed.

Energy Therapies -- A Complementary Approach to Promote Well-Being

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Energy therapies such as healing touch, qi gong and reiki are low-risk, relatively inexpensive techniques that may help improve health and well-being, according to the July issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource.

Energy therapies are considered complementary and alternative health practices. Acupuncture is the best known, but others are gradually being integrated into health care practices in the United States.

Energy therapies come from many cultures and are based on ideas about natural energy fields. They aim to create a free flow of energy by clearing, balancing and stimulating the human energy system. Though energy therapies are not well understood or always embraced by traditional medical providers, proponents believe that a balanced energy system encourages wholeness -- emotional, physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource provides a synopsis of three energy therapies:

Healing touch: Also known as therapeutic touch, healing touch is meant to stimulate the body's self-healing processes. Gentle touching moves energy from the practitioner to the recipient, strengthening and reorienting the recipient's energy flow within and around the body. Some people find healing touch relaxing. There's little evidence to suggest other health benefits.

Qi gong: The Chinese word "qi gong" combines the term "qi" (chee), which means life force or vital energy, and "gong" (kung), meaning accomplishment or skill. Qi gong has many forms and is a common health practice throughout China. Two of the most common forms are tai chi and kung fu. In general, qi gong combines rhythmic movements, breathing techniques and focused intentions. Some approaches increase energy while others are used to cleanse and heal the body.

Reiki: In a reiki session, the practitioner's hands are positioned either on or a few inches above the recipient's body. The goal is to raise the amount of "ki", or life force energy, in and around the person. The reiki practitioner uses between 12 and 15 different hand positions, holding each one for several minutes until the flow of energy slows or stops.

Like healing touch, reiki can promote relaxation. One study suggests it may positively affect blood pressure and heart and respiration rates.

Because of a lack of research, it's hard to say for certain that energy therapies are completely safe and work or don't work. Still, for people drawn to these approaches, they may be worth a try.

Vitamins and Minerals from A to Zinc

Are you getting enough (or too) much of important vitamins?

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Vitamin supplements offer important nutrition but may not ward off serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. That's just one of the research findings covered in the Special Report on Vitamins and Minerals, a supplement to the July issue of Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource. The Special Report covers information and issues related to vitamins and minerals, including when supplements are needed, highest safe doses and research on benefits and risks.

Some findings include:

Vitamin B-3 (niacin): Niacin helps the body convert food to energy and helps improve circulation and cholesterol levels. Researchers have found that, in high doses, niacin can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) and triglycerides and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol. However, the doses needed for these effects, usually greater than 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day, can cause liver damage. High doses of niacin should be considered a prescribed medication and taken only under a doctor's supervision.

Vitamin C: Studies have shown that eating food high in vitamin C can lower rates of cancer and heart disease. It's unclear whether vitamin C supplements provide the same benefits.

Studies have shown that vitamin C supplements, taken with some other antioxidants and zinc, may slow the progress of age-related macular degeneration. However, there's little evidence that vitamin C prevents colds or lessens cold symptoms.

Vitamin D: It's called the sunshine vitamin because the body can produce it when exposed to sunshine. Yet, an increasing number of Americans are deficient in vitamin D.

It's been well established that adequate vitamin D and calcium can prevent or slow osteoporosis and reduce bone fractures. New research highlights other potential benefits of vitamin D, including reducing the risk of muscle pain and weakness, autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis), cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The U.S. government recommends adults get anywhere from 200 to 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day, depending on age. With new knowledge about the benefits of vitamin D, many experts now say that intake should be at least 800 to 1,000 IU a day.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects red blood cells and may play a role in the body's immune function. It's long been thought that diets rich in antioxidants, such as vitamin E, could help lower the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Recent studies suggest that vitamin E supplements don't provide the same health benefits as dietary sources do and may even by harmful to health. High-dose vitamin E supplements may increase the risk of health failure or death.

Patients should talk to their care providers about vitamin supplements, their benefits and risks, and recommended doses.

Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource is published monthly to help women enjoy healthier, more productive lives. Revenue from subscriptions is used to support medical research at Mayo Clinic. To subscribe, please call 1-800-876-8633, extension 9751, (toll-free) or visit

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