Times Colonist

Canola or olive oil still best for health

- DR. PAUL DONOHUE Your Good Health

Dear Dr. Donohue: I have noticed that many packaged cookies, doughnuts, cakes, candy, crackers and whipped-cream toppings contain palm oil, palm kernel oil or coconut oil. Where do these oils come from? What effect do they have on our health?

R.C. Those “tropical” oils come from various parts of the palm tree. Palm oil is added to foods like peanut butter to prevent the ingredient­s from separating. It’s called an emulsifier. I suppose that’s why it’s in whipped cream. Palm oil is high in saturated fat, the kind of fat that raises a person’s cholestero­l. Palm kernel oil comes from the seeds of the palm tree fruit. It, too, has a high concentrat­ion of saturated fat. Coconut oil, from the coconut palm tree, has the highest amount of saturated fat. Some years back, these tropical oils were widely used in baked goods. They took the place of butter, margarine and other such cooking materials, as they were cheaper and kept the products from going stale quickly.

The tropical oils were supplanted by fats called trans fats, fats that are now considered even greater boosters of blood cholestero­l. Since this informatio­n became known, the tropical oils have made a comeback. One reason for their revival is newer evidence that palmitic acid, the main ingredient in tropical oils, appears to have not as great an effect on cholestero­l as was once thought.

Even though these oils have been partially exonerated, experts still say to use them sparingly. Vegetable oils — olive oil, canola oil and safflower oil — don’t have any effect on cholestero­l and are preferable for use in baking and cooking when they can be used.

Dear Dr. Donohue: What can I do to relieve dry, itchy scalp? I have tried many different shampoos with only limited success.


Purchase Head and Shoulders shampoo (the kind that says on the container “itchy scalp care”) or Selsun Blue shampoo. Use either product three times a week for two weeks. To use the shampoos correctly, you need to massage them into the scalp and leave them on the head for five minutes before washing them off. If, after two weeks, the itching has lessened, you can use them less frequently.

While you’re at the store, buy Scalpicin. You’ll find it in the same section as the shampoos. It’s a liquid that contains cortisone. It can be applied to the scalp three or four times a day to curtail the itch. It’s most helpful in the early days of your treatment.

If, after two weeks, you notice little improvemen­t, switch to Nizoral A-D, a shampoo that contains an antifungal medicine called ketoconazo­le. The fungus Malassezia is partly responsibl­e for the itchiness.

If Nizoral fails, then you’ll have to see your family doctor for prescripti­on medicines. Remember, other conditions such as psoriasis and head lice cause itching, too.

Dear Dr. Donohue: I have been on statins for several years. When my cholestero­l reached 282 mg/dl (7.3 mmol/l), I changed my diet and exercised more, but it did not get below 230. (Normal is 200 mg, 5.2 mmol.)

My doctor insisted on my taking Crestor. It brought down my cholestero­l, but I did not feel good after I started taking it. When I complained, the doctor changed me to Lipitor, which kept my cholestero­l in check but made me feel bad, with no energy and easily tired. I stopped taking the medicine. My doctor was really upset. I went back on Crestor. Now I have to stop during my walk because I am tired and my legs ache. Why do you have to take these medicines for life? What should I do?

When diet, exercise and weight loss fail to lower cholestero­l, then the only option is medicine. The statin drugs such as Crestor and Lipitor are the most reliable cholestero­l-lowering medicines we have. They generally have to be taken for life, since they don’t enable the body to dispose of cholestero­l on its own.

Making your diet almost a vegetarian diet — lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, and little red meats or whole dairy products — might budge your cholestero­l. If it doesn’t, then medicines such as Questran, Colestid and Welchol can be tried. They are not related to the statin drugs.

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