Friday, 30 August 2013

Traits young entrepreneurs need to succeed

It is true that limited access to funds has been a major setback for businesses in Nigeria.
The situation is particularly bad for small-sized firms.
“Nigerian small and medium-sized enterprises’ access to finance is low compared to other African countries like Kenya. Most working capital is financed through internal funds,” the Head, Finance and Private Sector Development, World Bank, Michael Wong, said at a meeting organised by the Nigerian Association of Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises in Lagos on Wednesday.
Several entrepreneurs with tales of failure have often blamed their inability to transform their business ideas to thriving companies on this.
Experts are, however, quick to note that access to funds and a great business idea are not all it takes for a business to succeed.
Successful entrepreneurs admit that such things as hard work and passion are equally important.
According to the Chief Executive Officer, Zanibal On-Demand Business Solutions, an indigenous software development company, Mr. UchennaIgwebuike, an individual requires the following traits, among others, to be successful in business:
Clarity of purpose
According Igwebuike, for an entrepreneur to succeed, he or she needs to understand the purpose of the business, and focus is key in that regard.
He says, “One of the things needed is focus. You need to have focus. You need to have an understanding of where you want to go and focus on that irrespective of the challenges along the way.”
Ability to manage failure
Igwebuike says any entrepreneur who wants to succeed in business and in life has to embrace failure and realise that failure is just a way of learning and guiding an individual to get it right eventually.
The Zanibal CEO adds that integrity is also very important to succeed. “When I say integrity, I mean in every aspect of it – as an intellectual individual. People can look at you and even if they disagree with you in terms of what your opinion is, they will actually realise that what you are saying is based on you advancing what is the best opinion about what you perceive.
Hard work
Hard work is another trait that Igwebuike says entrepreneurs need. According to him, there is the need for people to be willing to go all the way and give ‘150 per cent’ to get things done.
Ability to execute plans
Here, he says good ideas are not all it takes. “It is really not about having ideas on what you need to do, but having the discipline, the focus to stay on course and get things done.
Networking skills
In today’s knowledge-based world, the ability to connect easily with people is very important, according to Igwebuike.
“Sometimes, you want to do certain things or source for fund, you find out that having access to people who will help you to do a whole lot of things can really smoothen your way to being successful,” he says.
He adds that the ability to recognise opportunities and seize them is also vital.
Co-founder, InventRight, LLC, a United States-based company that educates entrepreneurs on how to bring ideas to market, Stephen Key, writes in that the following traits are important:
An unwavering passion
The advice to do what you love has become a bit of a cliché. Everyone says, “Find your passion.” But that’s easier said than done.
According to him, being an entrepreneur demands commitment and dedication more than most jobs do.
“If you’re ambivalent or mildly enthused about your product or service, that’s not going to sustain you through the highs and lows that will inevitably occur. If you find something you love enough to want to share with others, that love will fuel and give you purpose,” he writes.
Key explains that the most successful entrepreneurs he knows always remember how much they can learn from others. “They ask for advice. They’re flexible. They soak up the best practices around them like a sponge. Fear of failure can make it easy to grip onto your vision with an iron fist, but rigidity won’t serve you.”
The desire to be an expert
According to Key, entrepreneurs like a challenge. He explains, “If they didn’t, they’d probably have chosen another line of work. But as exciting as it is to consider a new field, high-achieving entrepreneurs know that the benefits of staying in the same industry for a while are immense. When you spend years in the same industry, you learn its history.
“Knowing what’s been done before can help you to identify how it can and should move forward. In the meantime, you’ll build a network of relationships to support yourself in future endeavours, especially when times are lean. Those relationships are invaluable.”
A forward-looking approach
Here, Key explains that it is important for people to know where they are headed as that will keep them from losing focus.
He writes, “Successful entrepreneurs are always thinking ahead. They may stray from their roadmap, and that’s okay, but they have one in mind. Having a clearly established set of goals will keep you from getting stuck. Your goals may be constantly evolving, but if you don’t know where you want to go, chances are, you won’t get anywhere.”
A constant flow of ideas
One more trait successful entrepreneurs have, according to Key, is that they avoid becoming complacent. He says, “Having one project that’s doing well is great. But the successful entrepreneurs I know don’t rest on their laurels. Instead, they’re constantly asking themselves, “What’s next?” They understand that being a successful entrepreneur is a lifestyle choice, not a destination.”
More qualities
For the Managing Director, Enterprise Stockbrokers Plc, Mr. RotimiFakayejo, an entrepreneur who wants to be successful needs the following traits: passion, the grace of God, proper training, support from family and friends, resilience and professional guidance.

Culled from Punch

Be kind to your heart

The holy book says, “Guard your heart jealously, because out of it comes the good things of life.”
Medical experts agree with this golden advice. They say these words of wisdom apply literally and figuratively to how we should protect our heart from danger in our day-to-day activities.
They note that protecting your heart goes beyond avoiding heartbreak or running away from sin and Satan; and stress that a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate way to reduce one’s chances of developing heart-related diseases.
 A cardiologist (heart specialist) with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Dr. Jane Ajuluchukwu, says what an individual does daily would determine whether he/she would develop health complications like diabetes, stroke or kidney failure in future.
She notes that protecting your heart involves reducing your risks for cardiovascular diseases that could kill you before your time.
Doctors on say if you want to enjoy your pension allowances or be present at the ceremony to mark your 50th birthday and not die suddenly of a heart attack, cardiac arrest or cardiovascular diseases, some habits must go. They include the following:
A cardiologist and medical director of the New York University Women’s Heart Programme, Nieca Goldberg, says a major cause of heart disease is smoking.
Goldberg says smoking raises blood pressure, causes blood clots, and makes it harder to exercise.
Again, the American Heart Association warns that smoking is the number one preventable cause of death in the world.
Experts warn that even though it may be one of the most difficult habits to quit, the rewards of stopping smoking are perhaps the greatest and most immediate.
“When you toss the smokes, your heart disease risk goes down within just a few days of quitting. Within a year, your risk is cut by half. After 10 years of living smoke-free, it’s as if you never smoked at all,” the scientists assure.
Ignoring that chest pain
Goldberg, who, in her book entitled, Complete Guide to Women’s Health, warns that when your heart literally aches and you don’t know why, it’s time to get it checked out.
“If you have chest pains while working, walking, or exercising, that’s a red flag. But if it happens after a heavy meal, it’s more likely to be your stomach causing trouble.
“If you feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest and you start sweating, it is an urgent matter; go to a doctor or, better still, rush to the hospital. It is a sign of heart attack.
“Heart pain can feel more like a pressure rather than actual pain. People tend to feel it in the front of their chest, with the sensation sometimes extending into the shoulders, up into the jaw, or down the left arm,” Goldberg warns.
Eating with abandon
Ajuluchukwu notes that being obese or being overweight contributes to heart disease, heart failure, and a shorter lifespan. She says careless eating, especially in the 21st century where junk foods are readily available, may be injurious to your heart.
She adds, “Aim for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and nuts; low in saturated fat and cholesterol; and with almost no trans fats. This does not mean you need to avoid fat altogether. Fats found in fish, olives and olive oil, nuts and avocados are heart-healthy and should be eaten in moderation.”
Avoiding the hospital
If the sight of injections or drugs is what is keeping you from the hospital, you may want to have a rethink.
Goldberg says when you don’t get checked out regularly by a doctor, you might not realise if you have some of the silent heart risk factors that are hard to detect.
“Some of the most common, symptom-free cardiovascular issues are also some of the most easily treated, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
“If the cost of a yearly medical check-up is holding you back, look for where they are doing free screening or tests in your community or local government. In fact, you can save a portion of your earnings for it,” She counsels.
Being a couch potato
Goldberg in her book notes that lack of physical exercise increases an individual’s risk for heart diseases.
Goldberg says, “Physical activity simply translates into living longer. Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, encourages weight loss, benefits blood vessel function, and cuts stress, among other things.
“Even if you haven’t been active for the last 20 years, it’s never too late to make an impact with exercise. Just be sure to talk to a doctor before you start a new fitness regimen. Tell your doctor exactly what you plan to do, or ask his or her advice, if you’re looking for suggestions.”
Neglecting your expanding waistline
If your belt size is slowly getting bigger, that’s something to worry about, physicians warn.
They say that excess fat tissue in the midsection (giving you an apple-shape figure) could mean you are already developing metabolic syndrome — a group of health problems that can increase your risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, through the hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, and inflammation.
“A hefty waistline is linked to doubling your risk of heart disease,” Goldberg says. That’s good reason to redouble your efforts to get in shape through a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just about your clothes size.
Letting your blood pressure run amok
“A good way to wreck your heart is to leave your blood pressure elevated and untreated,” Goldberg notes.
She says allowing blood pressure to get out of hand makes the heart work harder and to enlarge, leading to heart failure; while it can also cause hardened arteries, thus raising your risks for heart attack, stroke, and other problems.
Physicians say even though symptoms of high blood pressure are rare, it’s relatively easy to diagnose. You can even check it yourself with a home blood pressure monitor. Diet, exercise, and medications (if needed) can also be used to treat high blood pressure. So, make the decision to live right.
Culled from Punch

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Tips for better customer service

After toiling for years, you have set up your dream business, albeit on a small scale. You have even come up with an excellent marketing strategy and it is rewarding you with patronage, causing you to show up at ‘work’ every day with a smile on your face. But how long will the good times last? Will the customers come back? Will they multiply? These are questions experts say an entrepreneur needs to keep in mind. Doing that, they explain, will help them to avoid suffering the same fate as small businesses that succeed in attracting huge patronage only to realise that they are ill-prepared to cope with the pressure of a huge clientele.
 For a business to succeed and to keep customers coming back while attracting more patronage, experts say it requires an excellent customer service. They add that, no matter how good the service is, there is the need for it to be improved upon regularly. Doing so will prevent them from inadvertently causing their customers to patronise their competitors, thereby reducing their chances of survival and growth.
Amanda McCormick, of explains that delivering excellent customer service can be achieved easily.
She recommends the following steps:
Target a niche
According to her, occupying a niche means you won’t be competing with a lot of similar businesses solely on price.
“And because you will be selling products and services that are customised to the specific needs and predispositions of a select group of people, you can often charge more. Your products and services serve a market that can’t easily find alternatives,” she says.
Connect with your community
This is another step McCormick says an entrepreneur can take to deliver excellent customer care. According to her, this involves offering freebies on special occasions.
Citing ice cream makers Ben & Jerry as an example, she explains that while quality products helps to attract customers, keeping them may require more than that.
She recalls, “The original scoop shop became a community favourite thanks to its rich ice cream and creative flavours. Ben and Jerry also made it a point to connect with the community, hosting a free film festival and giving away free scoops on the first anniversary of the store, a tradition that still continues. In 1980, the duo began making pints to sell to local grocers. In 1981, they expanded this operation.”
She also recommended the following steps in her article on customer care.
Create a “Red Velvet Rope” policy
According to her, the book, ‘Book Yourself Solid,’ argues that it’s essential for freelancers and consultants to create a “Red Velvet Rope” and be very selective about working with clients.
She adds that author Michael Port believes that having only “star clients” that inspire and energise your work will help you to do the calibre of work that will help you to attract more star clients.
“The solution is to separate your clients into three groups – duds, mid-range and stars. Cut loose your dud clients, and decide if you can develop your mid-range clients into stars. Within the book is a series of exercises on deciding what exactly constitutes a ‘star’ client for you,” she explains.
Get digital
While stressing the need for you to be tech savvy, she quotes Columbia Business School’s David Rogers, as writing, “From smartphones to social networks, today’s digital tools are helping your customers connect, create, and interact with one another on a global scale.
“This is changing your customers’ relationships with one another, and with every business, no matter the size or industry. In the past, businesses relied on a broadcast model to influence customers with mass marketing, projected out one-way, to as many consumers as possible. To succeed today, businesses need a network model, one that takes advantage of customers’ ability to engage, interact, and even collaborate with your organisation and one another.”
Check the customer’s pulse
Neil Newcomb of IMC, a magazine for customer service professionals, says it is important to determine how happy a customer is. He writes, “Every time you interact with a customer, in person or over the phone, initiate a quick discussion to gauge how they are feeling. And as you begin to build a relationship with a customer (and get a feel for their perception of your business), consider doing a quick survey or comment card. This will easily demonstrate to customers, employees and competitors alike, that you intend to continually improve on your service.”
Newcomb says it is also important to:
Understand obstacles customers face
According to him, many managers forget (or don’t know) what it is like to be a customer of their own business.
To do this, he stresses that observation is important.
“Watch your customers’ movements and behaviour when they are in your organisation. Are they visibly annoyed? Do they stand in line, looking at their watch? Can you tell by their body language that they would rather be somewhere else? Do your frontline staff seem attentive to their needs? Gather this information as you go about your daily tasks,” he explains.
The following tips were among five recommended by Forbes Magazine Contributor, Sunday Steinkirchner, in an article published in 2012:
Be available
If a customer can’t get hold of you when they need to, you could lose them forever. We recently changed both our insurance provider and web developer, and the decisions were based on availability and accountability. With the new companies, we get the owner on the phone every time, and they’re there day or night if a catastrophe happens. In our own business, we value face-to-face interaction with customers, which is often a rarity these days. Whether it’s travelling across the country for trade shows or taking time for a quick coffee or Skype session, our strongest relationships are with the customers we know personally and keep in contact with regularly.
 Offer knowledge
Building strong relationships with our customers is great, but we also get to offer and trade knowledge with them. In our trade, a customer can compare several competing copies of a book online, but they won’t get a conversation about the title’s complicated printing history. When we’re speaking with customers, we spend the majority of time talking about the merchandise itself, trends in the market, and the customer’s own collecting habits. Afterward, we negotiate a deal. A customer can even know more than you do on a particular topic! Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more.
Trade shows are another great way you can offer knowledge to your customers. Organise seminars with expert speakers to draw potential customers interested in your product or services.
culled from Punch

Foods you should eat with the peel on

We regularly discard the peels and skins of whole foods, not realising how beneficial they can be for us. The next time you eat these four foods, keep the peel on.

Almonds: Next time you buy almonds, don’t go for the slivered variety. The brown skin of almonds promotes good bacteria in the gut, thus helping the digestive process.
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition reports that the skin of almond has essential flavonoids that combine with the Vitamin E in the meat of the nut to deliver powerful cholesterol-lowering benefits. When you eat an almond without the skin, the nut’s LDL-reducing power is diminished.

Citrus fruit: Grate organic orange zest onto desserts. Try some lemon zest in your pasta. Let the grated skin of grapefruit add flavour to your salads. Orange peel covered in dark chocolate is not only delicious but good for you. That’s because the skin of citrus fruit contains about four times more fibre than the fruit itself. Furthermore, a 2003 study on the benefits of orange peel observed that it contains a natural compound that can fight cancer.

Apples: The deeper you cut into an apple, the fewer nutrients you are going to get. Put away the peeler, and enjoy the fruit, whole. Studies have shown that apple peel can lower bad cholesterol and reduce other blood fats, thus protecting you from heart disease, obesity and diabetes. The peel also nourishes muscles, preventing muscle atrophy in the late years of life.

Onions: This is a surprising one for many of us, but research studies have shown that onion skins contain powerful health-boosting flavonoids, anti-inflammatory substances and antioxidants. Simmer your soups with onions, skin and all.
Culled from Punch

Home remedies for stretch marks

Stretch marks are not a medical cause for concern, but they can be unsightly and lead to embarrassment. Although there are a number of treatments for stretch marks, including laser removal, dermabrasion, and retinoid creams, these can be prohibitively expensive and are not altogether natural.
Fortunately, there are also a number of home remedies for stretch marks, which can deal with the scars in a less aggressive manner. Let’s take a look at the best of those remedies now.

Tea tree oil
Due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and antibiotic properties, tea tree oil is a popular home remedy for a number of ailments. For the best results, apply tea tree oil to the affected areas every night. Although it has a strong medicinal smell, bear with it and you’ll see a noticeable difference in your stretch marks.

Aloe vera
Apply the aloe vera gel directly to the affected area every morning. Allow it to soak into the skin until it completely dries. Although it won’t completely get rid of stretch marks, it will help a great deal.

Cocoa butter
Cocoa butter is used for a wide range of skin treatments, including anti-wrinkling, anti-ageing, and yes, stretch marks. Cocoa butter works by moisturising your skin, increasing circulation, and improving its natural elasticity. To use the butter most effectively, apply to the affected area at least twice a day.

Olive oil
Effective use of olive in the treatment of stretch marks includes rubbing warm olive oil on the affected areas and consuming an appropriate quantity for your diet. In addition to aiding discoloration, olive oil will help moisturise your skin, thereby keeping it smooth and healthy.
Culled from Punch

Monday, 19 August 2013

How debt can affect your health

When debts become a serious problem, it’s not only financial stability that suffers. Debt worries can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing, both mentally and physically.
Debts can become a symptom of illness
Medical experts agree that worrying about debt can lead to illness. The term ‘worried sick over debts’ is not just a saying, it is a reality that affects thousands of debtors. Debt stress can lead to physical and mental illness that can strike without warning. Doctors have reported rising levels in debt-related illness due to the recent credit crunch. It seems that eliminating debts may be one of the only ways to help alleviate this type of illness.
Common illnesses caused by debt stress
Debt related stress can be the cause of a number of health problems. Anxiety, back pain and migraines are three of the most common health complaints. Depression and ulcers are also known to be associated with debt stress. Doctors have also reported a rise in patient health problems such as weight gain, mood swings and digestive disorders with debt stress being a common factor. Constant sleeplessness due to worrying over debts can also leave people run down, stressed and prone to mood swings.
The knock-on effect of debt stress
Serious debts can in themselves be a vicious circle, and this circle can also extend to debt-related health problems. Stress is a major factor in alcohol and narcotic dependency with people self-medicating to relieve their worries. This can then lead to time off work and in the worst case scenario many people have lost employment due to absenteeism. There have been reports of people actually suffering strokes and heart attacks due to the long term stresses caused by money worries.
Debt related illnesses can hit any age bracket
Debt related stress can hit at any age as more people achieve high levels of debt earlier in their lives. Students and young people are prone to living beyond their means and succumbing to the easy cash provided by loans. Students are also leaving their university courses laden with debt and taking low paying jobs just to make ends meet. More retirees than ever before are living on the poverty line and relying on credit well into their golden years. The stresses and ill health connected to debt does not pertain to any one age group.
Mental problems associated with debt stress
Many people in serious debt can become depressed but mild depression can be just the tip of the iceberg. Becoming depressed over debts is a normal reaction, and if the debt problem is alleviated then depression will usually disappear. But constant harassment from debt collectors, threats of losing a home and bankruptcy have led to more serious consequences. The media have reported numerous cases of debtors taking their own lives over mounting debt problems. Some people can handle debt pressures but for others depression can take over their lives and suicide can seem like the only option.
Spotting the signs of depression
The person affected by depression may not actually notice the signs creeping up but these signs may be apparent to family and friends. People who are suffering may not want to talk about their problems and may begin to become reclusive. They may also start taking time off work and be prone to mood swings and irritability. It may also be the case that those suffering from depression will lose or gain weight rapidly and may turn to alcohol or drugs. They may also complain about unexplained aches and pains such as headaches, stomach pains and back pains.
Culled from Punch

Eat soya for healing and nutrition

More often than not, when you have the opportunity to speak with aged people — say people in their 80s, the most important question that usually comes to mind is the secret of their longevity, especially in this part of the world where life expectancy is less than 50.
One thing usually stands out in their answers, and it’s the fact that they eat more plant foods and less of animal protein — in addition to other healthy habits that they have maintained over the years, such as not smoking, and not taking alcoholic or sugary beverages.
And in these days of ‘preventive medicine’ which aims at nipping diseases in the bud before they find time to thrive in the human body, physicians also encourage us to dump junk and processed foods in favour of natural, lightly cooked foods.
There are many foods which, when taken in reasonable quantity, can yield maximum health benefits in a lifetime. One of such foods is soya beans, which nutritionists describe as not only versatile but also nutritional in many ways than one.
Nutritionists say soya beans are legumes. Other foods in the legume family include peanut, navy beans, kidney beans, lima beans, string beans, pinto beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), lentils, peas, black-eyed peas, and licorice.

Soya-based foods
Consultant nutritionist, Dr. Simeon Oladimeji, notes that soya could be eaten as a meal, or processed into oil to make what is popularly known as soya bean oil; it can be made into flour for variety of foods such as bread and cake. And it can also be used to enrich local staples such as amala, tuwo, semovita/semolina, masara and lafun (cassava flour).

The online portal,, writes that soya could be processed into dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt; or you could have soya burger and soya ice cream. For vegetarians and vegans, soya also comes handy as meat substitute, such as the protein-rich tofu (soft cheese-like food).
Soya beans could also be made into truly nourishing baby formula, experts say. And, as animal feeds, scientists say soya could be processed into non-fattening animal feed for poultry, livestock and aquatic animals such as fish.

For malnutrition
Scientists say that in regions where people are severely malnourished due to lack of access to nourishing foods, consuming soya-based meals will not only reverse the health implications of malnutrition, it will also restore good health and help in maintaining sound health as the victim continues to eat the meals.
This much is confirmed by scientists at the World Initiative for Soya in Human Health. The WISHH scientists enthuse, “Bringing soya protein to the over 800 million undernourished people worldwide, including 200 million children, can make a difference in lives today and in the future. This is because soya is well suited to provide the protein, calories and other nutritional needs of such people.”

Reduced disease risks
Beyond solving the problem of malnourishment, researchers say, eating soya meals can confer cardiovascular health on people. Researchers at Deakin University, Australia, disclose that though oestrogen may protect women against coronary heart disease during their reproductive years, rates of coronary heart disease do increase remarkably after menopause.
“Soya beans have been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, both known risk factors for coronary heart disease,” the researcher says.
They explain further that in a study, they discovered that people who ate soya-based meals showed evidence of lowered blood pressure, and also had improvements in their blood vessels, such as greater elasticity of artery walls.
“Also, there was evidence of reduced risk of osteoporosis, protection against various cancers, including those of the breast, colon, prostate and skin; and in the management of endometriosis,” the researchers say.
 Again, the Marketing Manager of All Tech Nutrients Limited, a food additives and concentrates company, Mr. Chimezie Obialor, says scientific researchers have shown variously that eating soya-based meals can reduce the risk of some health problems, including coronary heart disease.
“This is because soya beans contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. As such, health benefits for menopausal women may include fewer hot flushes and lowered risk of osteoporosis,” Obialor says.
Nutritionist Oladimeji says this is because whole soya foods such as soya milk, soya yoghurt, soya bread and tofu are high in phytoestrogens — oestrogen-like chemicals found in plant foods.
Indeed, the United States agency, Food and Drug Administration, officially recognised the cholesterol-lowering effects of soya protein in 1999.

Prevents hair loss, prostate cancer
Men who live in mortal fear of alopecia (hair loss) and prostate cancer also have some hope in soya beans, experts say.
According to a study published in the journal Biology of Reproduction, both prostate cancer and hair loss in men can be prevented by consuming soya products. The researchers say this is because eating soya-based foods leads to the creation of a unique molecule in the intestines called equol.
“This equol blocks the function of dihydrotestosterone — a male sex hormone responsible for stimulating prostate cancer and causing male pattern baldness,” the researchers say.
Scientists also found that when men eat soya meals regularly, the isoflavones found in soya can help in lowering incidence of prostate cancer.
Indeed, a study of human prostate cancer cells demonstrated that isoflavones block cell cycling, thereby helping to protect the body from the proliferation of cancerous cells in the prostate.
“At high concentrations, isoflavones induce apoptosis, the appropriate self-destruction of worn-out or abnormal cells. In healthy men, isoflavones protect cells from free radical damage,” researchers say.

For diabetics
Apart from tofu, another meat-replacement food that can be made from soya is tempeh (chunky, tender, fermented soybean ‘cake’). Oladimeji says tempeh is an excellent meal that people who have diabetes can count on.
The online portal,, notes that the high protein and fibre in tempeh can help to stabilise blood sugar at healthy levels, making it an excellent choice for diabetics.
“Since diabetics are susceptible to atherosclerosis and heart disease, keeping cholesterol levels low with foods like tempeh may be useful for preventing these problems,” nutritionists say.
They also reveal that tempeh lowers high triglyceride levels. Physicians say triglycerides are a type of fat that the body generates, in part, when we take in too many calories than we actually need.
 “High triglyceride level may lead to atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls), which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke; while it may also cause inflammation of the pancreas — the gland that produces juices that help break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Eating the soya-based tempeh will help these organs to function optimally,” Obialor notes.

Mineral magnet
Oladimeji says by replacing meat and dairy with tofu and tempeh, alongside other soya foods, an individual can significantly improve his intake of folate, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and iron.
He explains further, “At the same time, replacement of all meat and dairy with soya-based foods will lower your average cholesterol and saturated fat intake appreciably.”
As infant formula, physicians say, soya-based baby milk is good for babies. And while many mothers fear that their babies might not tolerate soya infant formula, researchers say many infants can outgrow their allergy, but that if the allergic reactions persist, the formula should be discontinued and medical help sought. They also warn that a baby that is allergic to soya might also be allergic to other foods in the legume family.

Last word
To get all the health benefits of soya, scientists advise, eat it fermented — that is after it may have been processed into the various types of foods that could be made from the wonder beans.

Author: Solaade Ayo-Aderele

Culled from Punch

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Parents, know the signs of autism

Autism is a group of serious developmental problems called autism spectrum disorders. They appear in early childhood, usually before age three.

This brain disorder, which slows down physical, locomotive and mental development in a child till adulthood, if not managed earlier, is no more a rare development.

In fact, a recent study by the International Society of Paediatrics states that autism affects at least one out of every 88 children globally.

The condition, which has no symptoms at birth but manifests a few years after, also limits a person’s ability to communicate and relate to other people.

Adults living with autism struggle with speech and majorly have to be assisted to do things that other kids take for granted.

For instance, according to child care experts on, a three-year old boy who has  one of the autism spectrum disorders may need a year with  intense private teaching to be able to write or say the first five letters of the alphabet.

Because there are no obvious signs at birth to show if a child is autistic, early detection of this disorder in children is a big challenge for parents.

However, as tricky as the autism symptoms are, experts say  they can still be spotted if parents, care givers, teachers, doctors and persons who have one thing or the other to do with children are aware of the  early signs of autism.

One of them is the Director and Founder, Patrick Speech and Language Centre, in Lagos, a school for children living with autism spectrum disorders, Mrs. Dotun Akande. She states that since the number of children diagnosed with autism appears to be rising, just as there are yet no medical reasons as to why children are born with this disorder and how it can be prevented, parents must pay more attention to the growth and development of their children for early intervention.

Akande, a mother of a boy with autism, says intensive and early treatment may make a big difference in the lives of many children affected by this disorder.

According to her, it is the parents’ responsibility to pay more attention to some signs that suggest that their kids may have autism.

Early warning signs
A paediatrician on the online portal,, Dr. Lisa Jo-Rudy, says it is possible, if parents are observant, to discover that their child has autism before he/she turns three.
At age one, Jo-Rudy says, an early sign of autism in children is their inability to relate or play with their peers or family members.
She notes that babies who avoid physical or body contact with their parents, siblings or peers, and those who have delay in talking, such that they keep repeating words or phrases in an usual manner, may have autism.
“If you have a baby between 18 and 24 months, who gets upset at minor changes in the environment or does not turn when he hears the mother’s voice and also avoids eye contact, then you must watch it. Something is wrong when a baby does not smile or respond to social cues from others. Even young infants are very social. It is best to contact your doctor right away with any concerns,” she adds.
Physicians say the signs of autism are more noticeable in a child’s second year. Jo-Rudy notes that while other children are forming their first words and pointing to things they want, a child with autism remains detached from learning.
She states that an autistic child would not be able to pronounce a single word by 16 months and would only be able to manage single-word phrases by age two. In severe cases, Jo-Rudy says, autistic children totally lose language skills and show no interest when adults point out objects, such as a plane flying overhead, to get their attention.
However, at the age of three, experts say, physical signs and symptoms are more obvious to help a parent safely suspect that their child may have autism.
Jo-Rudy notes that physical symptoms such as digestive problems, inability to walk or run, constipation and sleep problems, especially among boys in this age bracket, should not be wished away.
She explains that autism affects parts of the brain that control emotions, communication and body movements; adding that by the toddler years, some children with ASDs have unusually large heads and brains — which may be because of problems with brain growth.
Jo-Rudy says, “Autism affects the brain. Since most nerves and tissues that control movement are in the brain, affected children may have poor coordination of the large muscles used for running and climbing, or the smaller muscles of the hand. About a third of people with autism also often have seizures. These are more obvious than the earlier years.”
The paediatrician says apart from consulting a specialist, parents  should also notify their children’s teachers, school authorities and neighbours about their children’s developmental challenges to avoid stigmatisation.
She says, “And if your child is autistic, I can tell you that, yes, it will be hard at first. But you won’t love your child any less. In time, your child will show you a whole new perspective on the world that you never dreamed possible. And one day you’ll look back and understand why you were afraid but tell yourself at the same time that you made the right, and best, decision of your life. Because your child really will be that important to you.”
culled from Punch
Author: Bukola Adebayo

Lending money to friends who hardly pay back

A friend recently complained about a colleague who cried that his wife was going into labour and needed a loan of N100, 000 with a promise to repay by month end. One year down the line and the stories keep changing. In fact, the matter has threatened to ruin their relationship with my friend considering taking the matter to the Human Resource Department.
How often do you find yourself in a position where you lend money to a friend or family member and never get it back? They approach you with cries of desperation and promise to pay back after a specified period only to come up with stories when its time to repay. I get approached too and often fall victim. I have learnt from been a victim and often use this tips to avoid falling again.
Number one rule is to remember it is easier to borrow and lend than to return after lending
If you have this at the back of your mind all the time then your default response will always be a NO. But there are cases that require compassion too. When they arise your adamant nature will warrant that you reverse the notion by making it difficult to lend and easier to refund after lending.
Create a barrier by introducing third parties to the transaction
People who borrow money or seek your money for investment always come with compelling and convincing tales. They are also very much in a hurry to get the money from you giving you the impression that all hell is about to let loose if you don’t act quickly. The problem however is that, when it comes to getting your money back, that urgency is suddenly transforms to pestering. So for those who are vulnerable to sweet talks, one way of deflecting a suitor is to refer him or her to a third party.  Tell your borrower you understand the situation and want to genuinely help but your lawyer or accountant has to work out the details. That way someone else who is neutral and less biased is suddenly the decision maker in all of this. Whilst in real terms the final decision lies with you, a third party may help you see other risk that you may have missed and also put the borrower under pressure to convince another person.
Ask for a guarantee or security
Just as above, to make it difficult for the suitor/borrower, give them conditions that must be fulfilled before you part with your money. For example, ask for collateral or a guarantee from a recognised cleric. You will be shocked that even a common request for an application letter can often be difficult for borrower to produce which in no small measure sends them away naturally.  A borrower who doesn’t show seriousness to meet this conditions will more often that not break their promise to refund.
Confirm as reasonably as you can proof of need for the money
This can be difficult and not applicable in some cases but if applied it can help avoid any incidence of fraud or default. For example, if they come to you for money to finance a Local Purchase Order, simply ask for a copy of the LPO. If they do not have it, then don’t give and if they do, ensure that it is the borrowers name that is on it and not a third party.
Obtain quasi-security documents like post dated cheques
Most loans to friends and family hardly get covered by collateral. However, you can still request for other documents such as post dated cheques, promissory notes etc. Whilst subordinate to registered collateral such as land, they can be quite useful in terms of settlement. A bounced cheque for example is an offence punishable by law. A serial borrower who issues a dud cheque is therefore at risk of going to jail which serves as a good deterrent.
Keep in touch regularly and pester where necessary
Most of us make the mistake of not keeping in touch with our debtors. Because they are friends we hesitate to bring up the issue even when we are constantly in touch. Finance experts advise that we continue to pester and remind our debtors that they owe us. This creates a lingering sense of responsibility, which can only help you recover your money.
Never lend to a previous defaulter
Once beaten twice shy. Ironically borrowers are often shameless and will not think twice about coming back to you again for another loan. If the borrower is someone who never repays or takes time to, then you may do yourself a lot of good by not lending to them again no matter the circumstance.
If you are soft hearted then only lend what you can afford to let go
Some of us are very vulnerable to bad debts because we are just too compassionate to say no. However, being compassionate does not mean we loose all sense of responsibility. If you are compassionate then just lend what you can afford to let go.
Culled from Punch
Author: Ugodre Obi-Chukwu

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Till debt do us part

The author of ‘Practical Steps to Financial Freedom and Independence’, Mr. Usiere Uko, writes about how families can manage their debts.

Taking a loan simply means accessing money you are yet to earn, and spending tomorrow’s money today. What makes the difference is what you use the money for. Spending more than you earn has put many families in financial difficulty. Among the poor and middle class, money is the biggest cause of marital discord and eventual break up. Since most couples hardly discuss money, most money battles are fought in other arenas – in-laws, marital bed, friends, child discipline etc.  Financial frustrations are vented in the wrong places.

Love does not solve money problems
Most couples dive headlong into marriage without discussing and agreeing on how they intend to manage money as a couple. Most believe that love conquers all; once there is love, the money will take care of itself. Most have found out rather late in the game that love does not solve money problems.  As a matter of fact, the goose pimples that come with the feeling of love can stand in the way of sound decision making. Many wives know how to get things out of their husbands, things they may not get under normal circumstances.  They extract a promise from the husband at a moment of weakness, and hold on to it when common sense returns. I know someone who wakes the husband at 2am to make a request. Of course the poor guy will say yes in order to get back to sleep, only to wake up in the morning to be reminded of a commitment made in the wee hours.

Many husbands have borrowed money to please their wives, buying gifts they cannot afford or going on holiday funded by credit card.  Everything goes smoothly until the bills start to arrive. As the husband struggles to keep up with payments, resentment sets in, and this sets the stage for quarrels at the least provocation.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but the lack of money is the root of bitterness. Money may not buy love but without money, love can suffocate. Like it or dislike it, you cannot ignore money. Financial independence is the springboard to other freedoms. If you do not handle your finances properly, your love nest can turn to a matrimonial shouting festival and in some instances, boxing ring and domestic violence.

Lack of communication
Very often the husband or wife wracks up debt for the family. The husband rather than put his foot down when the wife or children demand for what he cannot afford takes the line of least resistance and borrows to please his loved ones, without letting his wife know where the money is coming from. Sometimes the wife buys on credit without informing the husband. Some husbands do not get to know until the creditor come calling. It can be very frustrating when one partner is trying hard to build while the other is busy pulling it all down.

Many wives do not know how much their husbands earn. Some husbands keep the information away from their wives in a bid to reduce demands from their wives.  They believe if their wives don’t know, then they will make less demands. However this lack of knowledge will keep the wife guessing. Some wives think the husband earns more than he really does, and may keep spending, piling up debt for the husband to settle.
You have a situation whereby both partners do not know the true financial state of things.  Every partner is doing his or her thing while the pile of debt keeps going up, creating more tension in the home.

Economic separation
Most families do not have a plan to achieve financial independence. The running of the family depends on one or both incomes (husband and wife working).  There is no additional source of income. If the husband loses his job, the wife becomes the bread winner while the husband looks for another job.

This has led to many families separating for economic reasons.  The husband or wife leaves the rest of the family behind to travel abroad to work and support the family. This has resulted in many unintended consequences. The spouse left behind becomes a single parent and in some instances, the children become uncontrollable. In some cases, infidelity creeps in, things fall apart and the centre no longer holds.

Sometimes the separation is local – the spouse works in another town and visits only on weekends.  The partners may end up leading separate lives.  Financial pressure has led many to do things they would not do under normal circumstances, just to make ends meet are maintain their current lifestyle.

Finances have enormous impact on our lives and the consequences of financial mismanagement can shake the foundations of our lives, including divorce. If we do not exercise proper control over our finances, it can cost us our homes, businesses, values, friendships, marriage, sanity and even our lives (due to inability to access the right medical care on time). It is a very heavy price to pay because of financial indiscretion. That is why it makes no sense to mortgage our future in order to please people in the present.

Good debt and bad debt
Though debt may be a scary word, not all debts are bad. There are two kinds of debt – good debt and bad debt. Good debt makes you richer while bad debt makes you poorer. The kind of debt most folks are used to is the bad debt variety – consumer debt – borrowing to consume rather than borrowing to invest for income.

Bad debt is debt you incur and pay for by yourself. The item you spent the money on does not repay the loan. You have to take more money out of your pocket to repay the loan.  Very often, there will be nothing to show years down the line.

Good debt is debt you incur but is repaid by others. That means the item pays for itself. For example, if you borrow money to buy a car for car hire, haulage etc and the car pays for itself and returns a profit, then you have good debt.

More good debts mean more income while more bad debts mean more money from your pocket.  Borrowing money to acquire liabilities is misappropriation of funds. It reduces the family’s cash flow, wipes out savings, puts you under pressure, prevents the family from achieving financial independence, leads to quarrels in the home and may ultimately put asunder what God has joined together.
Author: Usiere Uko
Culled from Punch

Benefits of male circumcision

When I received a phone call from a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who is in private practice, I thought it was a call for assistance to resuscitate an asphyxiated baby; but I was wrong. It was meant to inform me of a dying male neonate bleeding from complications of circumcision.

After all the interventions to stop the bleeding proved abortive, the doctor decided to refer the patient via a phone call due to the urgency involved. The baby and the parents were well received, as I had prepared for them, based on all the information from the telephone conversation between me and the obstetrician.
Immediately they arrived, I placed the baby on admission in the paediatric centre where I was working. We nursed him by placing him head down in order to maintain blood flow to the brain. We also placed him on fluid and a drug to control the bleeding.

We obtained his blood sample, which we took to the laboratory for urgent blood level, group and cross-matching in order to enable us give him a fresh blood.
We discovered that the patient’s packed cell volume (blood level) was 21 per cent, whereas the normal level for that age group is 45-54. We counselled the parents on the need for urgent blood transfusion, but their religion forbade it. They refused blood transfusion and rather asked for treatment based on blood substitute. I was left helpless because it was night time.

The baby survived without the blood, while the blood substitute did not come till the following day. After this incidence, I made it a point of duty to tell every parent whose son is going for circumcision the risk of bleeding as a complication of circumcision and the need to be prepared.

Why circumcise?
The event also made me to ponder the benefits of male circumcision: Is it really worth the pain and the stress on the nursing mother?

Circumcision is a religious or cultural ritual for many Jewish and Islamic families, as well as certain tribes in Africa. It can also be a matter of family tradition, personal hygiene or preventive health care. It is probably the world’s most widely performed procedure.

Medical specialists in western world believe that there is no medical reason for routine circumcision of newborn male infants as it is done in this part of the world. However, the World Health Organisation recommends circumcision as part of a comprehensive HIV-prevention programme in areas with endemic rates of HIV transmission.

Male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin; the foreskin is opened and then separated from the glans after inspection. The circumcision device, called Plastibel (a plastic ring) is worn on the penis, starving the foreskin of blood. This makes the foreskin to slowly eat away until the ring falls off in a healthy circumcision exercise.

Sometimes, there is a medical need for circumcision, such as when the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back (retracted) over the glans. This is not a problem in this part of the world, as routine circumcision is done for over 90 per cent of the male population.

Pain management
The circumcision procedure causes pain; and for newborns, this pain may interfere with mother-infant interaction or cause other behavioural changes. Consequently, physicians advocate the use of analgesics.
In practice, localised or regional pain-blocking injections and topical analgesic creams are effective for pain. For adults, anaesthesia is required, and the procedure is often performed without a specialised circumcision device.

Health benefits
• Circumcision aids personal hygiene, as it makes it simpler to wash the penis.
• Though the risk of urinary tract infection in males is low, it is more common in uncircumcised males. Circumcision therefore prevents urinary tract infection.
• Prevention of sexually transmitted infections: Circumcised men might have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In some instances, circumcision is recommended for older boys or men in order to reduce the risk of certain sexually transmitted infections.
• Prevention of penile problems: Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can lead to inflammation of the foreskin or the head of the penis. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it is less common in circumcised men.

Circumcision is contraindicated in premature infants, those who are not clinically stable and those who are not in good health. The same goes for those with certain genital structural abnormalities, such as a misplaced urethral opening, curvature of the head of the penis, ambiguous genitalia, and those with family history of serious bleeding disorders (hemophilia).

The most common complications associated with circumcision are bleeding and infection. Circumcision may also result in foreskin problems, as the foreskin might be cut too short or too long.
The foreskin might also fail to heal properly. When this happens, the remaining foreskin might reattach to the end of the penis, requiring minor surgical repair.
To save the day, circumcision must be performed in a sterile, hygienic environment, with sterile instruments, in order to avoid risk of tetanus, hepatitis and sepsis.

In conclusion, biblically, Leviticus 12:3 says, “On the eighth day, the flesh of (a male child’s) foreskin shall be circumcised.”
This is also supported by medical science, which notes that there is more vitamin K and prothrombin present in the blood on the eighth day, which means less pain, less bleeding, and a better healing process. Prothrombin deficiency usually leads to the slowing down of the blood clotting process.
Routine newborn circumcision should, therefore, not be done before the baby is eight days old.
Author: Rotimi Adesanya
Culled from Punch

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Securing your WordPress blog

Is your WordPress blog safe from malicious people? Would you like to make your WordPress blog more secure?
Most often, people don’t think about security measures until it’s too late. But there are some simple steps you can take to keep your blog safe.

Why Secure Your WordPress Blog?
A blog that has been hacked can suffer from loss of content, stolen data and expensive downtime. Maintaining the security of your blog helps you protect your reputation and provide your visitors with the best service possible.
Because WordPress is such a popular platform for blogging, it’s a regular target for hacking attacks launched by people who find and exploit weaknesses and vulnerabilities in websites.
Here are five simple security measures that you should implement on your blog today to protect it from hacking attacks:

Delete the “Admin” username
Hackers look for blogs that use the default WordPress admin username because it’s half of the information they need to gain entry to your blog. When you use “Admin” as your username, you save the hacker a lot of time.
All they’d need to do next is to figure out your password. Once that happens, they can enter your blog and do whatever they want.
The first step in making your blog secure is to create a new user profile for yourself and delete the default admin username. This makes it more difficult for someone to hack into your business blog.
To create a new username profile, open the WordPress admin navigation, go into Users and click on Add New.
Fill in your details and make sure to give yourself the role of an administrator so you have the ability to make any necessary changes on your blog. After your new username is created, log out of your WordPress dashboard and log back in with your new user details.
Go back into Users and delete the default admin user. At this stage, WordPress gives you the option to transfer the posts authored by the admin user to your new user profile; choose that and you won’t lose any of your content or data.

Use a strong user password
No matter how much awareness is raised around the danger of using a simple password, many people continue to use simple passwords that are easy for them to remember. Unfortunately, this also makes those passwords easier to crack.
It’s important that you use a strong and secure password. It should be a minimum of eight characters long with uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
To change your WordPress password to a stronger character string, go into Users and choose Your Profile. At the bottom of that page, fill in the New Password fields.

Update to the latest WordPress version
In response to security vulnerabilities, the WordPress software, themes and plugins are regularly updated with the latest patches and fixes.
When a WordPress update is available, you’ll see a prominent notification across the top of your dashboard.
Updating is a simple 1-click process in your dashboard so you won’t need to leave your browser or do any manual uploading via FTP.

Back up your blog database
Backing up your database is an important part of keeping your blog secure. WordPress makes the backup process simple with both free and paid options. WP-DB-Backup, a free option, is one of the most downloaded WordPress backup plugins and is a simple solution for beginners.
To install WP-DB-Backup, go into Plugins and choose Add New. Type “WP-DB-Backup” in the search box. Click Install Now and then click OK. From the Plugins screen, Activate the plugin.
After the plugin has been activated, you’ll have a new addition to your navigation in Tools named Backup. From Backup, you can either back up your database immediately or you can set the backup to occur on a regular schedule. The backup files can be downloaded to your hard drive or sent to your server via email.
You’ll appreciate knowing you always have an up-to-date backup of your blog in the event something does happen.
Culled from Punch

20 things 20-year-olds don’t get

I started Docstoc in my 20’s, made the cover of one of those cliché “20 Under 20” lists, and today I employ an amazing group of 20-somethings.  Call me a curmudgeon, but at 34, how I came up seems so different from what this millennial generation expects.  I made a lot of mistakes along the way, and I see this generation making their own.  In response, here are my 20 things 20-year-olds don’t get.

Time is not a limitless commodity
 I so rarely find young professionals that have a heightened sense of urgency to get to the next level.  In our 20s we think we have all the time in the world to A) figure it out and B) get what we want.  Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance, and can never get back.  Make the most of the opportunities you have today, because there will be a time when you have no more of it.

You’re talented, but talent is overrated
Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable & multi-tasking generation yet.  As my father says, “I’ll Give You a Sh-t Medal.”  Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential.  There’s no prize for talent, just results.  Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success.  (Tip: read “Talent is Overrated”)

We’re more productive in the morning
During my first 2 years at Docstoc (while I was still in my 20’s) I prided myself on staying at the office until 3am on a regular basis.  I thought I got so much work done in those hours long after everyone else was gone.  But in retrospect I got more menial, task-based items done, not the more complicated strategic planning, phone calls or meetings that needed to happen during business hours.  Now I stress an office-wide early start time because I know, for the most part, we’re more productive as a team in those early hours of the day.

Social media is not a career
These job titles won’t exist in five years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both.  Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue.  It’s not an end in itself.  I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.

Pick up the phone
Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person.  It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.  And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home.  Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.

Be the first in and last to leave
I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career.  You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove.  There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.

Don’t wait to be told what to do
You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility.  You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do.  Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure.  Err on the side of doing too much, not too little.

Take responsibility for your mistakes
You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career.  But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution.  Stop trying to justify your F-ups.  You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.

You should be getting your butt kicked
Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have.  This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career.  Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success.

A new job a year isn’t a good thing
One year stints don’t tell me that you’re so talented that you keep outgrowing your company.  It tells me that you don’t have the discipline to see your own learning curve through to completion.  It takes about two-three years to master any new critical skill, give yourself at least that much time before you jump ship.  Otherwise your resume reads as a series of red flags on why not to be hired.
Culled from Punch

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Don’t overdose on dietary supplements

Nothing beats eating a balanced diet all the time. For one, experts say, a healthy diet may help to prevent certain chronic (long-term) diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Eating good meals that are rich in essential minerals and vitamins may also help in reducing the risk of developing some cancers, as well as help keep a healthy weight.
Physicians also say that in the event of sickness, eating a healthy diet may help you to recover more quickly.

Nutritionists say eating a healthy diet regularly is one proven way of preventing obesity and overweight; and for those who are already making the scale to groan under their unwieldy weight, experts say eating a healthy diet can help you lose weight.

Gastroenterologists advise that as humans, the body needs energy to work normally and keep you alive. We derive necessary energy from nutrients in the food we eat, mostly made up of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Physicians actually warn that dietary supplements are not intended to be a food substitute because they cannot replicate all of the nutrients and benefits derivable from eating whole foods.
“Unlike vitamin supplements, many foods have fibre, antioxidants and phytochemicals that can improve your health and ward off disease,” experts advise.

They note further that though there is definitely a place for vitamin or mineral supplements in our diets, their primary function is to “fill in small nutrient gaps.”
In reality, research indicates that most of the vitamins derivable from the food we eat are better than those contained in pills.

General Practitioner, Dr. Akinlolu Adedolapo, however says while it is important to get the right balance between these different nutrients in order to get maximum health benefits, it is also possible to overdose on these essential vitamins and minerals, which may lead to dangerous consequences.
“I’d say a diet rich in nuts, liver, eggs, milk, fish and whole wheat, in addition to assorted fruits and vegetables, should be sufficient for the normal needs of a healthy body. Supplements are intended to boost the diet, not to take the place of real food or a healthy meal plan,” Adedolapo warns.
He is of the view that mixing certain vitamins and minerals can interfere with absorption. He warns that dietary supplements may interact with prescription drugs and make it more difficult to manage medical conditions.
Researchers contend that a food component that has a particular effect on the body may not have the same effect when it is isolated and taken as a supplement, hence the need to source our nutritional needs by eating good foods.
An online portal, Better Health Channel, argues that phytochemicals are an important component of food and are thought to reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease. “Supplements do not provide the benefits of phytochemicals and other components found in food. As such, taking vitamin and mineral supplements is no substitute for a varied diet,” it submits.
Experts enthuse that those who eat balanced diets regularly must be careful of how much dietary supplements they take, while those who are under- or malnourished must be careful not to abuse supplements, which are regarded as drugs in real terms.
Too much iron
Adedolapo says, for instance, those who eat iron-rich foods such as red meats, fish, and poultry, as well as iron-rich plant foods such as lentils, beans, and spinach, have no need of iron supplements.
“Too much iron can lead to hemochromatosis — iron overload. And it is as bad as having too little iron,” the doctor warns.
Indeed, a 2011 analysis of data on nearly 40,000 women found that those who took dietary supplements — especially iron — were actually at slightly higher risk of dying, The study author/assistant professor at Montefiore Medical Centre in the Bronx, New York, Dr. Garry Rogg, advises that if you want to take supplements, you should take them in moderation, and stick to the recommended daily doses.
Researchers at the Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, note that the symptoms of hemochromatosis tend to manifest themselves in middle age, because it takes time for iron build-up to cause problems.
Worse still, they say, hemochromatosis can mimic many other ailments, including iron deficiency. However, they say the commonest symptoms of iron overdose include fatigue, weakness, arthritic aches and pains (including swelling and tenderness around the joints), irregular heartbeats, changes in skin pigment, impotence or loss of interest in sex, late-onset diabetes due to iron-induced pancreatic damage, irregular menstruation and premature menopause.
Also, they say, iron toxicity can cause gastrointestinal upset, nausea and black poop. In severe cases, they warn, toxicity due to iron overdose can lead to coma and even death.
Vitamin overdose
Foods that are rich in Vitamin A include organ meats, carrots, sweet potato, spinach and beef, among others. So, if you eat these foods in reasonable quantity regularly, you may not need to take supplements that contain this vitamin, experts say.
Shedding light on the possible consequences of overdosing on Vitamin A, scientists at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, led by Prof. Thomas Edes, explain that many people mistakenly take large doses of supplements, which can cause too much of the vitamin to store in the body.
“Too much vitamin A, for example, can cause reduced bone strength, hair and skin problems, liver damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, blurred vision and irritability.
“Overuse of vitamin D supplements can cause kidney stones, tiredness, deafness, nausea, loss of appetite, weak bones, hypertension, high cholesterol and mental health problems.
“Vitamin C is an exception in the water-soluble category, as too much of it can cause diarrhoea, kidney stones and gastrointestinal problems,” the Edes team warns.
Calcium mega dose
Foods that are rich in calcium include cheese, yogurt, milk, sardines, dark leafy green vegetables, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice, soybeans, and enriched breads, among others.
With high levels of calcium in the blood or urine, however, physicians say it may lead to nephrocalcinosis, whereby calcium deposits form in the kidney tissue itself, sometimes affecting both kidneys.
Physicians warn that excessive calcium intake does inhibit absorption of iron and possibly other trace elements.
In conclusion, the physicians say it is advisable to seek the opinion of a physician or a nutritionist before taking vitamin supplements.
Author:  Solaade Ayo-Aderele
Culled from Punch

Live right, prevent heart defects in babies

Open the pages of newspapers these days, and you are likely to find beleaguered parents — mostly mothers — soliciting financial help for their babies who were born with holes in the heart.
Physicians say holes in the heart — aka congenital heart defects — is a problem with the heart’s structure that is present at birth. They note that these defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart.

A study led by Prof. Bernard Keavney of the University of Manchester, and published in Nature Genetics, submits that CHDs occur in seven out of 1,000 babies born, and that it is one of the major causes of childhood death and illness.
“CHDs change the normal flow of blood through the heart,” experts say.
Scientists say the heart has two sides, separated by an inner wall called the septum.
They explain as follows: “With each heartbeat, the right side of the heart receives oxygen-poor blood from the body and pumps it to the lungs. The left side of the heart receives oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumps it to the body. The septum prevents mixing of blood between the two sides of the heart. However, some babies are born with holes in the upper or lower septum.”
Child and Public Health Physician with St. Ives Specialist Hospital, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, notes that a hole in the septum between the heart’s two upper chambers is called an atrial septal defect, while a hole in the septum between the heart’s two lower chambers is called a ventricular septal defect.
He says both ASD and VSD allow blood to pass from the left side of the heart to the right side, making oxygen-rich blood to mix with oxygen-poor blood. “As a result, some oxygen-rich blood is pumped to the lungs instead of the body,” Adesanya says.
General practitioner, Dr. Emmanuel Ogbebor, notes that children who have simple congenital heart defects can survive to adulthood, and that they can live normal, active lives because their heart defects will close on their own and even if this doesn’t happen, the defect can be repaired.
But then, what causes heart defects in unborn babies? Experts say, broadly, there are two ways a child in the womb can develop heart issues — the first is unavoidable, while the second is avoidable.
Adesanya says heredity is the first unavoidable cause of congenital heart defects. He explains: “A parent who has a congenital heart defect is slightly more likely than other people to have a child who has the problem.”
However, Ogbebor says it’s very rare for more than one child in a family to be born with a heart defect, even where heredity is concerned.
Other unavoidable causes of heart defect are chromosomal abnormalities, Adesanya warns. “More than one-third of children with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, often have hole in the heart,” the paediatrician says.
Scientists at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, California, USA, disclose that other chromosomal abnormalities that could contribute to having heart defects include Turner’s syndrome (a genetic disorder that affects a girl’s development, making her infertile); Cri du chat syndrome (a disorder that causes many symptoms, most of which affect facial features and motor skills); Wolf-Hirshhorn syndrome (a developmental disorder that affects many parts of the body, with characteristic facial appearance, delayed growth and development, intellectual disability, and seizures); and DiGeorge syndrome (a genetic disorder with varying effects on facial appearance, lack of/or underdeveloped thymus and parathyroid glands).
Ogbebor adds that though scientists continue to search for the causes of congenital heart defects, certain unhealthy but avoidable habits could predispose an unborn child to the disorder. For instance, the physician says, smoking during pregnancy has been linked to several CHDs, including septal defects.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can also lead to having babies with foetal alcohol syndrome, a situation that often makes babies have CHDs, Adesanya says.
Professor of Anatomy, Oladapo Ashiru, also warns that women who are exposed to organic solvents are three times more likely to give birth to a baby with congenital heart disease than the general population.
Experts say organic solvents are chemicals found in a wide range of products and substances such as paint, ink, nail polish, glue, household cleaners, etc.
The physicians also warn that taking certain medications while pregnant, especially in the first 13 weeks when the baby’s heart is still developing, can cause birth defects, including hole in the heart.
“Such drugs include benzodiazepines and lithium for seizure (epilepsy) control; isotretinoin and topical retinoids for treating acne; as well as analgesics (painkillers).
“That is why pregnant women are advised to consult their physicians before taking any medications whatsoever,” Ogbebor warns.
The Stanford scientists also say that mothers who have phenylketonuria but who do not adhere to the special diet necessary to manage the disease during pregnancy have a higher risk of having a child with CHD.
Phenylketonuria is a genetic disorder in which the body can’t process part of a protein called phenylalanine, which is present in almost all foods.
Diabetologist/Medical Director of Rainbow Specialist Medical Centre, Lekki, Dr. Afokoghene Isiavwe, also adds that women with insulin-dependent diabetes (particularly if the diabetes is not well-controlled) may have a higher risk of having a child with heart defects.
All the physicians urge women with these chronic illnesses to undergo medical counselling before becoming pregnant.

Author: Solaade Ayo-Aderele

Culled from Punch