Q. I love tuna fish and salmon and eat at least four or five servings a week (especially tuna). I am trying to get pregnant and read that a pregnant woman should limit her intake of fish. Is that true?
A. There is a growing concern that mercury in certain fish could pose a problem for the developing fetus. For some time the FDA has warned pregnant women to avoid shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish. Such big fish are higher in mercury.
Now experts are warning that pregnant women should also limit their consumption of relatively safe fish, such as canned tuna, to no more than 12 ounces a week. That’s two cans of tuna–or just one can plus another serving of fresh fish, which might include salmon.
Q. I’ve never seen red yeast rice discussed in your column. I started taking it a few months ago and my cholesterol has dropped 20 points. I have not noticed any side effects. Should I have a liver test along with the lipid profile every six months?
A. Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese food flavoring as well as a botanical medicine. Studies have shown it lowers cholesterol as well as some medicines. In fact, red yeast rice naturally contains small amounts of lovastatin, which is prescribed under the name Mevacor.
The FDA has prohibited sale of red yeast rice on the grounds that it is an “unapproved new drug.” Although some people buy it in health food stores or on the Web, we encourage medical supervision and blood tests for liver function.
We are sending you our People’s Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies which has more information on red yeast rice and other natural ways to control cholesterol. Anyone who would like a copy of this paperback ($8.99 including shipping) may call (800) 732-2334.
Q. I have a great solution for smelly feet. My husband ended his foot odor by putting baking soda in all his shoes. Other men friends have tried the same approach. After about a week, the odor is gone and it doesn’t seem to be necessary to keep using the bicarb.
A. Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) has been used for centuries to clean and deodorize. Many people keep an opened box in the refrigerator to absorb odors. We’re not surprised that it would work for smelly feet as well.
One reader suggested baking soda for athlete’s foot. He says, “back when I was a teenager I contracted athlete’s foot at the public swimming pool. My sister told me to put baking soda on my feet. It burned, but the athlete’s foot was gone in no time.”
Q. What’s the word on cashews these days? In the past I’d heard they were somewhat beneficial to include in the diet; others say “no.”
Just this afternoon I read that including some nuts in the diet could help bring down cholesterol levels. Are cashews in that group?
A. There’s growing evidence that certain nuts can be heart healthy. They include walnuts, almonds and pecans. Peanuts, which aren’t really nuts at all, have recently been shown to lower triglycerides and raises magnesium, which is an essential mineral.
Cashews are not nuts either. They are seeds from tropical trees. They are high in monounsaturated fat, which is part of a heart healthy diet. Don’t overdo, though, as they are also high in calories.

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