Hello again, dear readers! Once again, you've kept our mailboxes brimming, so let's get right to work.
On the subject of dark chocolate, which continues to tantalize scientists with potential positive effects on the heart, mood and memory, a number of readers wrote to ask whether cocoa powder also offers the same health benefits. Because those powders have been so heavily processed, it's believed that they may not offer the same benefits as those of regular dark chocolate. As to how much dark chocolate to eat (another very popular question), the current thinking is no more than 1 to 2 ounces per day.
A reader who relies on Tang, the fruit-flavored drink powder, to help him drink enough water every day wonders whether going through 2 pounds of the product each month is OK. On one hand, the powder is fortified with minerals and contains fewer calories than fruit juice. However, the sugar content in Tang is akin to that of a soft drink. We think it would be wise to wean yourself from the habit and switch to water instead. Flavor boosters like a squeeze of lemon or lime, a few slices of cucumber or a quick grate of ginger can help you make the transition.
We heard from several readers regarding a column about the herpes virus. Specifically, they asked us to include information about L-lysine, an amino acid that some studies have shown to be effective in easing symptoms in herpes outbreaks. A reader in Ventura, California, wrote, "I and two other women I know deal with outbreaks, pain and itching by taking L-Lysine. It helps heal the sores and cuts back on the itching and is also very effective for taking care of cold sores. It's not expensive, and you can find it at your local drug store." A reader from Florida reports that taking L-lysine for several days at first sign of herpes symptoms, typically localized tingling, will head off the infection.
After reading a column about weight loss strategies, a reader shared her own recent experience. "I'm 83, 5 feet 7 inches and weighed 130 pounds, so I didn't need to lose a lot of weight, but I wanted my clothes to fit better," she wrote. "I eliminated alcohol, beef, pasta, potatoes, wheat and sugar from my diet, and continued to eat as much as I wanted of everything else. Snacks were nuts and fruit. The result -- I lost 5 pounds in about three weeks and have maintained this weight, even though I now eat whole grain wheat again."
And, finally, we heard from a reader in Sun City, Arizona, responding to a column about sunlight and mood. "I come from the Midwest, where we went for days without sunlight and it was depressing," she wrote. "Now, I live where we have sunlight almost every day. I find that I don't have to go outside to enjoy it -- just seeing it makes me have a good feeling and a good day."
Thank you all for your kind words, and for your suggestions, criticisms and thoughts. We love hearing from you.
(Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)