Nibble Nuts in the New Year

What is the deal with nuts?  Since when did nuts, and pistachios in particular, rate their own commercials?

As it turns out, there’s a good reason to include nibbling nuts as one of your resolutions this year.  They can help you live longer.  Take a look and see how….


What’s up with Vitamin D?!

Vitamin D has been getting a lot of hype lately.  It’s been in the news, docs are talking about it, and we at Student Health Services even offer an OIY (Order it Yourself) Vitamin D test.  Vitamin D is something that is made by our bodies from the sun, so why is there all this talk about vitamin D deficiencies?

It turns out that living in Ohio is not very conducive for vitamin D production, at least not in the colder months.  The amount of vitamin D you can get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends upon 4 factors:

  • Time of day
  • Where you live
  • Color of your skin
  • Amount of exposed skin

Time of Day:  Think of the whole sun rising in the east and setting in the west thing.  When the sun is rising and setting it’s coming at us from an angle and it turns out that is not a good thing as far as vitamin D goes.  When the sun is angled the atmosphere blocks the UVB part of the rays which are what produces vitamin D.  The closer to midday the better the angle and the more vitamin D.

Where you live:  The closer to the equator the easier is it to produce vitamin D.  Again back to the angle thing – the further from the equator the greater the angle and the less UVB exposure.

So, consider Ohio in the winter.  Yeah.  Far from the equator and the sun is almost always angled which means rarely is there an opportunity for UVB exposure.

Color of your skin:  Melanin in our skin protects us from skin damage from too much UVB exposure.  As a result darker skin with more melanin allows less UVB to enter the skin, meaning less vitamin D is produced.  The darker the skin, the more time that must be spent in the sun to product vitamin D.

Amount of exposed skin:  It’s going to take a lot longer to made vitamin D if just your face and arms are exposed than if your back is exposed.

OK, so putting this all together, and assuming that 25% of your skin is exposed and its summer in Ohio, an individual with pale skin that tans fairly easily would need approximately 1 hour of exposure to the sun during midday to produce 1,000 IU.  An individual with dark skin would need approximately 2 hours of exposure to produce the same amount.  During the winter, it’s not possible to make vitamin D, regardless of skin type.

Oh and if you’re thinking that you can hang out in a nice air conditioned sun room and get your vitamin D through the glass – forget it!  Glass blocks all UVB.

So, how much vitamin D do you need?  The institute of Medicine recommends that adults ages 19-70 get 600 IU daily.  Not a problem if you spend time outside during the summer, but what to do in the winter?  Vitamin D can be obtained from foods, but it’s nearly impossible to get enough.  Foods that contain vitamin D are:

  • Fatty fish
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified milk and orange juice
  • Fortified cereals

The only other option is supplements.  If you choose to take a supplement make sure that it is D3, not D2.  D3 is what would be produced by your body when exposed to sunlight.  The amount to take varies depending on where you look, but a good rule of thumb is 600 IU daily. 

If you have concerns about your vitamin D or believe that you might be deficient, come see us at Student Health or schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.  They can test your vitamin D levels and direct you as to your best course of action.

For more information on Vitamin D, check out the Vitamin D Council website.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.

Medical Mythbusters – Poisonous Poinsettas!

True or False: Poinsettias are poisonous to kids and pets.


This is one of those holiday myths that just refuses to die. It supposedly began back in 1919 when a 2-year-old boy was found dead after eating a poinsettia leaf – it was just assumed that the plant had killed him. However, since that time, many studies have shown that kids (and pets) that are exposed to poinsettia plants do just fine.

The sap of the plant is mildly irritating but according to POISINDEX (the resource used by Poison Control Centers) a 50-pound kiddo would have to eat about 500 leaves to have any toxic effects.  And while I myself have never dined on a poinsettia salad, the leaves are reportedly not very tasty, so it’s highly unlikely that kids or even hyperactive pets would be willing to eat that many! The most common side effects that have been reported from poinsettia ingestions are upset stomach and vomiting, and some people with serious latex allergies have had a skin reaction after touching the leaves.

If you or any of your relatives happen to nibble on a poinsettia (or any other plant for that matter) and you are concerned, you can always call your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 to speak with an expert.  But in the mean time, go ahead and get decorating for the holidays – with your crazy Uncle Louie coming over to celebrate with his famous High Octane Egg Nog, the plants are the least of your worries!   

Angela Walker (OSU COM)

John A. Vaughn, MD (OSU SHS)

The Holiday Blues

 The Holidays.  That time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s full of celebration, family and friends.  Everywhere we are told that this should be a joyous time filled with happiness, fellowship and harmony, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes the holidays are just, well, blue. 

Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and Psychology Today for dealing with those blues:

  • Be reasonable with your schedule – don’t overbook yourself. This will only make you more stressed and tired which will in turn make you cranky and irritable.
  • Be realistic – things don’t have to be perfect or just like they’ve been in the past. Be open to creating new traditions.
  • Be on a budget – decide how much you are going to spend during the holidays and stick to it. Remember that some of the best gifts are when you give of yourself.
  • Be with others – if you are unable to join with family or friends, find ways to reach out to others. Volunteer to serve a holiday meal, visit a nursing home.
  • Be open to the simple pleasures – enjoy an evening at home watching a movie, eating cookies, and drinking hot chocolate. Take a tour of your neighborhood and enjoy the decorations.
  • Be accommodating – accept your family and friends as they are and be understanding that they, too, may be experiencing the same holiday stressors.
  • Be half full – when you start to feel blue, take a few gratitude moments. Think of all the positives around you, a brilliant blue sky, a sparkling snow fall, a day off from work, and allow yourself to be content.


You can read more at:

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Study Smarter – Not Longer


Finals are quickly approaching and there are just not enough hours in the day to finish all of your papers and study for exams.  What can you do to get that top grade?  WebMD reports the following:

  • Log off Facebook: A recent study at The Ohio State University found that students who use Facebook spend less time studying and as a result have a lower GPA than those who do not frequent the social media site.
  • Change Locations: Studies show that you retain more information if you very your studying locations. Part of what your brain does when processing your notes and readings is to connect it to the environment you are in. By changing locations you associate the material with a lot of different cues which gives you more triggers for retrieving the information. Just make sure the locations you choose are free of distractions so you can concentrate.
  • Take Naps: A study in Israel found that sleeping for 90 minutes after learning new information helps to cement this knowledge into your long term memory.
  • Space Out: Retention rates are better when you allow yourself time to forget information and relearn rather than pulling an all-nighter or trying to cram it all in the day before. Instead read through your notes say 4 days ahead of time, then again 3 days ahead of time, then 2 days, etc.
  • Exercise: Short bursts of exercise, such as jumping jacks or push-ups improves the ability to remember information you just learned. Nothing big, as little as 6 minutes will do the trick.

If you want to read this article, it can be found in the Fall 2013 WebMD Campus magazine.