Health Points: Friday

Imaging technology shows that people who practice meditation that focuses on kindness and compassion actually undergo changes in areas of the brain that make them more in tune to what others are feeling.

"Potentially one can train oneself to behave in a way which is more benevolent and altruistic," said study co-author Antoine Lutz, an associate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

How far this idea can be extrapolated remains in question, though.
FDA said it is reviewing reports of mood changes, suicidal behavior and suicide in patients who have taken the drug, which was Merck's best-selling product last year.


In the past year Merck has updated the drug's labeling four times to include information on tremors, anxiousness, depression and suicidal behavior reported in some patients.
The runner’s-high hypothesis proposed that there were real biochemical effects of exercise on the brain. Chemicals were released that could change an athlete’s mood, and those chemicals were endorphins, the brain’s naturally occurring opiates. Running was not the only way to get the feeling; it could also occur with most intense or endurance exercise.


The problem with the hypothesis was that it was not feasible to do a spinal tap before and after someone exercised to look for a flood of endorphins in the brain. Researchers could detect endorphins in people’s blood after a run, but those endorphins were part of the body’s stress response and could not travel from the blood to the brain. They were not responsible for elevating one’s mood. So for more than 30 years, the runner’s high remained an unproved hypothesis.

But now medical technology has caught up with exercise lore. Researchers in Germany, using advances in neuroscience, report in the current issue of the journal Cerebral Cortex that the folk belief is true: Running does elicit a flood of endorphins in the brain. The endorphins are associated with mood changes, and the more endorphins a runner’s body pumps out, the greater the effect.
     
People who have big bellies in their 40s are much more likely to get Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia in their 70s, according to new research that links the middle-age spread to fading minds for the first time.


The study of more than 6,000 people found the more fat they had in their guts in their early- to mid-40s, the greater their chances of becoming forgetful or confused or showing other signs of senility as they aged. Those who had the most impressive midsections faced more than twice the risk of the leanest.
Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and colleagues found that many college students engaged in eating behaviors that could make them sick, like eating raw homemade cookie dough or runny eggs.


While people are becoming increasingly aware of food safety issues, Byrd-Bredbenner and her team note, surveys still show a substantial proportion run the risk of food poisoning by eating raw eggs, undercooked hamburger and other foods that may harbor harmful bacteria.
The disclosure of hidden tobacco money behind a big study suggesting that lung scans might help save smokers from cancer has shocked the research community and raised fresh concern about industry influence in important science.


Two medical journals that published studies by Weill Cornell Medical College researchers in 2006 are looking into tobacco cash and other financial ties that weren't revealed. The studies reported benefits from lung scans, which the Cornell team has long touted.
The IARC has labeled these occupations as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a classification the agency reserves for those exposures backed by fairly strong evidence. In 1993, the IARC found that hairdressers and barbers were probably exposed to cancer-causing substances, but at that time, evidence of an increased cancer risk in this population was "inadequate." This week's report, published in the Lancet Oncology, is based on a review of epidemiological studies published since that time.


Some of the products used by hairdressers and barbers--such as dyes, pigments, rubber chemicals, and curing agents—have been found to cause tumors in rats in laboratory studies or have been known to cause bladder cancer in humans. In some studies, increased risk has been associated with permanent dyes and use of darker-colored hair dyes.

Rodents Love Junk Food

This does not speak well for our population. Apparently, mice love high-calorie sugary foods. Mind you, these mice lack the ability to taste. Randy Dotinga of HealthDay News reports:
Fattening foods taste good, but a new study suggests you might also like them because you subconsciously realize they're full of calories.


Scientists report that mice without a sense of taste still developed a preference for sugar water compared to ordinary water. The finding suggests the mice had a way of sensing that the sugar water had calories -- energy for their bodies -- and the other water didn't.

Humans, of course, could be different.

Still, it indicates that "taste isn't the only reason we like high-calorie foods," said study author Ivan E. de Araujo. "Even in the complete absence of taste, it's possible to develop a preference for high-calorie foods."

De Araujo, an assistant fellow at The John B. Pierce Laboratory at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and his colleagues at Duke University reported their findings in the March 27 issue of Neuron. De Araujo was at Duke when the research was conducted.
“Humans, of course, could be different.” That’s an interesting line. Not sure I agree. Consider this video from Dr. Fuhrman’s friend Jeff Novick, MS, RD. Take a look:


Notice how food producers added sugar and salt to make “fat-free” food more appealing. Maybe we are mice—blind mice—because despite the facts, most Americans continue to eat bad food. From Dr. Fuhrman:
Many of the animal products consumed, such as cheese and red meat, are exceptionally high in saturated fat. High saturated fat intake increases the risk of certain cancers and promotes high cholesterol, leading to heart disease. To add insult to injury, many of the processed foods we eat are high in trans fat, a man-made fat that is linked to cancer and heart disease…


…Since more than 40 percent of the calories in the American diet are derived from sugar or refined grains, both of which are nutrient-depleted, Americans are severely malnourished. Refined sugars cause us to be malnourished in direct proportion to how much we consume them. They are partially to blame for the high cancer and heart attack rates we see in America.
Millions of people just gorging themselves on garbage—aren’t lemmings a rodent?

Fitness, Cheating, Neighborhoods, and Eli

A new study has examined how the neighborhood you live in might influence your activity level. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports:
The researchers found that people who live in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty, lower levels of education, and more families headed by women are less likely than others to exercise. But this doesn't mean that poorer people are least likely to exercise, said the researchers, who found that individual income wasn't as important as neighborhood in determining exercise levels.


"We can't encourage people to exercise more without looking at the neighborhood environment in which they live," study co-author Christopher Browning, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a prepared statement. "Some people may have the personal resources and desire to exercise but don't live in a neighborhood in which they feel comfortable to go outside for activities."

Neighborhood-related factors that influenced exercise levels included: amount of trust among neighbors, perceived violence in the community, and beliefs that neighbors help each other. The study also found that neighborhood was more important for women than men in determining exercise levels.
Interesting, but regardless of how much or how little you exercise—don’t cheat at it! More from Chris Sparling of That’s Fit:
When you "cheat," it basically means that you have passed the point of technical failure and are now calling upon other muscles to help the muscles that are being trained. For example, if you're banging out a set of bench press and you start arching your back to push the weight up for a few more reps, that's cheating.


But, unlike relationships, cheating isn't always a bad thing. Forcing out a few more reps can tax the muscle beyond its comfort zone, resulting in an increased "pump." This, over time, will lead to sustained muscle growth. The trick with cheating is to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk of injury. This is why forcing out those extra reps is okay to do once and a while, but for the most part your goal should be to reach, and stop at, the point of technical failure.
Personally, I never work to muscle failure—don’t like harming my body—but what do I know? I’m an idiot. So, maybe you prefer getting your fitness tips from Super Bowl winning quarterback of the New York Giants, Eli Manning. From The Washington Post:



All I can say is—BOO! JaMarcus Russell is the man. Just win baby! Oh! And JaMarcus, stop eating—PLEASE!

Health Points: Tuesday

Of 216 reported cases so far, 68 have been confirmed by lab results, public information officer Jim Shires said. Nine people have been hospitalized, but only one was believed to still be in the hospital, Shires said.

Shires is part of a nine-person incident management team from Jefferson County that arrived to help Alamosa officials respond to the outbreak, which health officials said may be caused by the municipal water system.
Children who take vitamin D supplements may be less likely to develop type 1 diabetes later in life, according to researchers who analyzed the findings of five previously published studies.


The researchers found that children who were given additional vitamin D were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than children who didn't receive vitamin D supplements. The evidence also indicated that the higher and more regular the dose of vitamin D, the lower the risk of developing diabetes.
It is tempting to look for a quick fix to cellulite, especially when so many advertisements claim to provide a solution. Unfortunately, there is no overnight cure. Nothing can get below the surface of the skin and rearrange the connective tissue or fat cells underneath. Because fat is compressible, some procedures, such as body wraps, may appear to provide a solution to smoothing the skin. But any visible effects will be temporary -- unlikely to last more than 24 hours…


…You can diminish the appearance of cellulite or reduce the chances you will get it with regular exercise, especially strength training. A good strength-training program will increase your chances of maintaining lean muscle as you get older, and this in turn reduces your chances of increasing the size of your fat cells.
But as I think about it more, I realize that when organic really pays is when this money—the very money we raised the other night—goes to fund new research that then gets into the hands of the people who really need it, such as a mom who learns that feeding their children organic foods can reduce their dietary pesticide exposure by 97 percent, and then makes the immediate switch to organic baby food. Or, people who learn that of the 11 most important nutrients, organic foods contain, on average, 25 percent higher concentrations of these nutrients, and then switch to organics in order to feed their bodies more nutrient-dense foods. How about the farmer who learns that even very low levels of organophosphate insecticides can disrupt developing brains and nervous systems, and then immediately stops spraying his crops for the sake of the health of his grandbabies growing up in a house across the field. Or a diabetes sufferer who learns that eating vegetables rich in fiber, antioxidants, and magnesium could lead to a 28 percent lower risk of Type-2 diabetes, and then starts serving his children more vegetables, so they don’t have to suffer the way mom and dad did.
"Just what the world doesn't need is another way to get as much food as they want whenever they want it," said Jeanne Goldberg, a professor of nutrition science at Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition.


The unlimited quantity has turned some sporting events into games of can-you-top-this in the stands, with fans competing to see who can shovel the most hot dogs down their gullets. But for the most part, the scene is the same as in any other section.

"People knocking that stuff back isn't exactly the prettiest thing to watch," Drew Nurenberg, 30, of Malvern, Pennsylvania, who bought all-you-can-eat seats with his wife for a Philadelphia Flyers game last month, said. He added: "People looked like they were taking advantage of it, but not overly taking advantage."
The problem of obesity cannot be reduced simply to genetics, the researchers said, and it also cannot be blamed solely on our environments or learned behaviors. Media coverage, they advised, should highlight that the obesity epidemic is the result of a variety of factors, and that change requires a comprehensive approach that tackles the problem from all sides.


"Obesity's not rocket science," said Dr. Diane Finegood, director of CIHR's Institute for Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes. "It's a lot more complex."
Is this news? Not to T. Colin Campbell, author of the book "The China Study," which details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer.


"I get frustrated when I see articles like this--time and time again--being published by researchers who know not that much of their findings have already been shown before," Campbell said, when I asked him if he'd seen the study.

"These earlier results are simply ignored, thus awaiting rediscovery by some future researcher or medical practitioner. This is the main question for so many similar reports...why haven't we heard this before?"
It used to be that the only teens seen at a gym were students on athletic teams, intent on additional training.


But in recent years, some Chicago-area gyms have become preferred hangouts for a growing number of high school students who want to be fit and healthy. Many also have discovered that gyms provide something equally important: a place to gossip, flirt and socialize with peers.

Alzheimer's: The Five Million Mark

Preventing age-related mental decline is actually pretty easy. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Japanese studies have found the same relationships: individuals with low consumption of vegetables and high consumption of meat were found to be the ones most likely to develop Alzheimer’s.1
Apparently we didn’t get the memo. According to a new report more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's. Reuters reports:
An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and it could steal the minds of one out of eight baby boomers, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association.


The report found there were 411,000 new cases of Alzheimer's in 2000, a number expected to grow to 454,000 new cases a year by 2010. By 2050, 959,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease every year, the report predicts…

…That includes 16 percent of women and 11 percent of men in that age group.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

It starts out with mild memory loss and confusion but escalates into complete memory loss and an inability to care for oneself. There is no cure and the handful of drugs that can treat Alzheimer's only slow its progression for a short time.
Now, Dr. Fuhrman makes it perfectly clear. Eating well is our primary defense against Alzheimer's and dementia. Check it out:
Just as in the case of heart disease, the world’s leading researchers on the subject consider diets high in animal fat to be the major factor in the causation of Alzheimer’s. Oxidative stress to our brain tissue from the combination of a diet rich in saturated fat and low in the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables lays the groundwork for brain damage later in life. Deficiencies of DHA (a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid) which often are found in Alzheimer’s patients, also have been shown to promote dementia.2 Inadequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids found in flax and hemp seeds, walnuts, leafy greens, and certain fish also are implicated in the etiology of Alzheimer’s.
Makes me feel great about the walnuts and leafy greens I had with breakfast!
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Bad Diet, Good Diet: Sugar vs. Vegan

According to a new study eating a diet rich in sugar and sweets has been linked to asthma in kids. Charlene Laino of WebMD Medical News is on it:
Sugar might do more than just plump up our children, it could also help give them asthma, animal research suggests.


Asthma now affects nearly 9% of children and teens, a figure that has doubled since the 1980s, according to a study published last year.

Poor eating habits, including frequent consumption of candy and other sugary foods, are among factors blamed for the increase of asthma in children and teens, says Sonja Kierstein, PhD, of the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Kierstein and colleagues hypothesized that a sugar-rich diet may prime the immune system of the airways to allergic inflammation. The inflammation, in turn, can cause a narrowing of the airways and mucus production, resulting in asthma symptoms, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

Kierstein, who performed the study while at the University of Pennsylvania, presented the findings here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Okay, better news. Research has determined that a plant food rich vegan diet may help ease rheumatoid arthritis. Reuters reports:
A gluten-free vegan diet full of nuts, sunflower seeds, fruit and vegetables appears to offer protection against heart attacks and strokes for people with rheumatoid arthritis, Swedish researchers said on Tuesday.


The diet appeared to lower cholesterol and also affect the immune system, easing some symptoms associated with the painful joint condition, they said.

The study suggested diet could play an important role for people with rheumatoid arthritis who are often more prone to heart attacks, strokes and clogged arteries, said a team from Sweden's Karolinska Institute.

"These findings are compatible with previous results of vegetarian/vegan dietary regimens in non-rheumatoid arthritis subjects which have shown lower blood pressure, lower body mass index and lower incidence of cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote in the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy.
Don’t eat sugar, and, eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables—sounds like a fantastic idea!

Outbreaks Aside, U.S. Eating More Greens

No doubt, the E. coli outbreak scared the heck out of people, but apparently not THAT much. Because according to this report Americans are actually eating more green vegetables. Maggie Fox of Reuters explains:
An increase in the number of foodborne illnesses caused by contaminated spinach or lettuce over the past 35 years cannot be explained by increases in salad consumption over the same period, U.S. government researchers said on Monday.


They said the findings reinforce the need for local, state and federal health authorities to monitor preparation of leafy green vegetables from the point of harvest all the way through the food preparation process…

…U.S. leafy green consumption rose 17 percent during 1986-1995 compared with the previous decade, but outbreaks of foodborne disease caused by leafy greens increased by 60 percent in that period.

In the 1996-2005 time frame, leafy green consumption rose 9 percent over the prior decade, but foodborne diseases outbreaks increased by 39 percent.
Hey, you got to love news like this. Especially since green veggies are nutritional superstars. Did you know leafy greens sock it to cancer? Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Green vegetables have demonstrated the most dramatic protection against cancer. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, collards, arugala, watercress, and cabbage) contain a symphony of phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer effects.
Just feast your eyes on all these nutrients:


So, why not give these salads a try, a delicious way to get your dose of phytonutrients. Check them out:
Very Veggie Salad
15 ounces or 10 cups mixed greens or baby salad greens
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
left over steamed vegetables (optional)
1/2 15-ounce can lentils, drained, or 1 cups cooked lentils
2 medium carrots, grated
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dressing of choice
Distribute greens, vegetables (except carrots), and lentils on dinner plates. Then distribute grated carrots. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and pour dressing over salads. Serves 2.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad
3 ounces romaine lettuce
5 ounces organic baby spinach
12 ounces frozen strawberries, thawed, reserving juice
Pile the lettuce and spinach leaves on a plate and lay the defrosted strawberries on top. Pour the juice from the thawed strawberries over the greens. Serves 2.
But, be sure not to sabotage these salads with oily dressings. Not a good idea! More from Dr. Fuhrman:
I know you were told that olive oil is health food. It is not. Keep in mind, oil is processed food, it is not a natural whole food. Oils, even if they are monounsaturated, should not be health food because they are low in nutrients and contain 120 calories per tablespoon, promoting weight gain.


Sure, olive oil and almond oil are improvements over animal fats and margarine, but they still are a contributor to our overweight modern world. Overweight Americans consume and average of three tablespoons of oil in their daily diet, adding and extra 360 calories to their food each day. You need to reach a thinner, ideal weight to achieve maximum protection against heart disease and to reverse heart disease. Use oil, even olive oil sparingly or not at all; certainly, do not have more than one teaspoon per day.
Try these salad dressings instead:
Orange Cashew Dressing
2 peeled navel oranges
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tbsp. of blood orange vinegar or pear vinegar
Blend ingredients until silkly smooth. Use liberally on salad or as vegetable dip. Serves 4-6.

Pistachio Mustard Salad Dressing
1/3 cup raw shelled pistachio nuts
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. Vegi-Zest or low salt vegetable seasoning
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
Blend all ingredients until smooth in a high powered blender. Serves 4-6.
Now, if these don’t strike your fancy—or you’re just feeling lazy—why not pay one of these Eating to Live on the Outside favorites a visit:
Personally, I go through more Romaine lettuce and spinach then any rabbit I know!

Health Points: Monday

When he became a psychiatrist in the 1970s, John Ratey didn't expect to evolve into an exercise buff. But today, the Harvard University professor and expert in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder calls exercise the single most important tool people have to optimize brain function…

…Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, can improve cognitive performance, soften the effects of stress, help fend off addiction-related cravings and tone down the negative consequences of women's hormonal changes, Ratey says. When it comes to psychiatric disorders, he calls exercise "one of the best treatments we have."
Bacteria can cause rhinosinusitis -- an inflammation of the sinuses -- but a virus such as the common cold is often a more likely culprit so antibiotics seldom work, the researchers reported in the journal Lancet.


Yet doctors still dole out the drugs more than they should. In the United States, for instance, 80 percent of sinus patients are prescribed an antibiotic while the proportion ranges from 72 percent to 92 percent in Europe.

"What tends to happen in practice is when patients have had symptoms for a while and go see their family doctor, the doctor assumes they have a bacterial infection and gives them antibiotics," said James Young, a statistician at the University Hospital Basel, who led the study.
In the new study of about 5,000 adults, the college-educated with household incomes of more than $75,000 a year had much less of a blood protein linked to heart disease than did the poorer or less educated - as long as they weren't overweight.


But as weight crept up, so did C-reactive protein in the blood, a sign of inflamed tissue that can lead to blocked coronary arteries, says Cathy Bykowski, a psychologist at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

That's not surprising, because excess body fat is known to increase the protein, she says.
New research suggests that people who don't get enough sleep tend to weigh more -- and that sleep can affect levels of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin.


"There is a dynamic balance between proper sleep and proper health. Sleep deprivation affects weight and a lot of other things. If you cheat sleep, there are a number of consequences, including affecting your hormones, appetite and mood," said Dr. Patrick Strollo, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Sleep Medicine Center.
At first glance, the $45 session just looked like a bunch of boys having fun, not surprising since Lego Club members have good language skills and average or above-average intelligence. In contrast, children at the severe end of the autism spectrum may be mute and have catatonic behaviors.


But signs of problems were soon evident. A boy wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt stood amid the hubbub, staring at the floor, obsessively pulling the hem of his shirt - until leader Greg Shugar gently drew him into an activity. At a table, Lily Brown, another leader, helped two boys revise their "script" - a sheet of lined paper covered with angry scratch-outs and scribbles.

Jonathan Shanahan, 13, of Riverton, rocked from foot to foot and acknowledged that earlier that day, in school, he threw a pencil at a classmate.

"He's my archrival," Jonathan declared, holding a winged Lego beast he had created.
Breast-fed babies appear to be less likely to develop type 2 diabetes when they reach adolescence, according to findings published in the medical journal Diabetes Care.


"Dramatic increases in childhood obesity and the emergence of type 2 diabetes in youth motivate research to identify lifestyle approaches to primary prevention of both conditions," write Dr. Elizabeth J. Mayer-Davis of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and colleagues.
Folate
Use: To improve heart health


Why it works: Folate and other B vitamins help break down excess homocysteine -- an amino acid that can damage the inner lining of arteries -- possibly reducing the risk of heart disease.

Daily intake: 400 mcg

Best food sources: 1/2 cup cooked asparagus (134 mcg), 1 cup raw spinach (58 mcg), 1/2 cup cooked lentils (179 mcg)
Type 1 diabetes occurs because of pancreatic beta cell damage. These cells are responsible for insulin hormone production. The disease is becoming more common and it is expected to increase by 40% in 2010, compared to 2000.


The study showed that those suffering from type 1 diabetes have lower levels of vitamin D and are common in countries with less sunlight. It is well known that sunlight exposure stimulates vitamin D production and that supplement intake without sunlight exposure doesn't mean anything.

Lack of vitamin D is previously linked to autoimmune disorders, and this new study shows another key role of vitamins in health.
Breast cancer patients who are overweight have more aggressive disease and are likely to die sooner, U.S. researchers reported on Friday.


A dangerous type of breast cancer, known as inflammatory breast cancer, was seen in 45 percent of obese patients, compared with 30 percent of overweight patients and 15 percent of patients of healthy weight.

"The more obese a patient is, the more aggressive the disease," said Dr. Massimo Cristofanilli of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who led the study.

Mixed News on Caffeine and Pregnancy

“Proper nutrition and good health habits are more important than ever during pregnancy and can help in maintaining good health for both mother and baby,” explains Dr. Fuhrman. He’s especially concerned about caffeine. Take a look:
Evidence clearly concludes that heavy coffee drinkers have an increased risk of miscarriage and low birth weight infants, but evidence is not clear for moderate users of caffeine.1 Nevertheless, is wise to stay away from as many potentially harmful substances as possible.
In fact, back in January a study confirmed the link between caffeine and miscarriage. Here’s some of the AFP report:
US researchers said Monday they have conclusive proof to show that women who drink a lot of caffeine on a daily basis in the early months of pregnancy have an elevated risk of miscarriage, settling a longstanding debate over the issue.


To be absolutely safe, expectant mothers should avoid caffeinated beverages of any kind during the first five months of pregnancy, the researchers said in a paper published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Again, “It is important to eat healthfully prior to conception as well as once pregnancy has begun,” Dr. Fuhrman insists. But, the research continues to be mixed. Nancy Tones of TheNestBaby.com offers up two conflicting caffeine-pregnancy studies. Check them out:
In the last few months, two studies about the relationship between caffeine and miscarriages have come out. Which should you believe? We've ground it all down to size and asked the experts for some answers:


Study one Cool it on the caffeine
Gulping down 200 milligrams or more of caffeine per day (two or more cups of coffee or five 12-ounce cans of soda) doubled the risk of miscarriage (compared with women who cut out caffeine) in a study of over 1,000 women by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

Study two Some caffeine is safe
When women drank less than two cups of coffee a day, their babies fared just fine, according to a study of 2,407 women in the journal Epidemiology. Though higher caffeine intake wasn't studied, moderate amounts didn't seem to be associated with miscarriages.
And this report by Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times casts more confusion over the link between caffeine and pregnancy dangers. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the more unnerving studies was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2000. It looked at more than 1,000 pregnant Swedish women and found that those who drank the equivalent of one to three cups of coffee a day had a 30 percent increased risk of miscarriage, while those who had the equivalent of at least five cups had more than double the risk.


But a majority of studies have suggested that any risk might apply only to high levels of caffeine intake. One study carried out by the National Institutes of Health in 1999 looked closely at the blood levels of caffeine in tens of thousands of pregnant women and found that those who consumed the equivalent of more than five cups of coffee a day did have an increased risk, while those who drank one or two cups did not. Other studies have had similar findings.
Clearly, there’s some doubt here. So in the end, maybe its just best to take Dr. Fuhrman’s advice, “The bottom line, if in doubt, don’t do it.” I think we can all agree with that.
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Health Points: Friday

The Food and Drug Administration listed poor sanitation and other deficiencies in 47% of 199 inspections from January 2001 to February 2007, according to a report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. None of the cases was referred to the FDA's enforcement arm for further action.

E. coli bacteria in bagged spinach from California killed three people and sickened at least 205 in 2006. The spinach may have been tainted when feral pigs roamed through cattle feces at a nearby ranch and crossed into the spinach fields, investigators from the FDA and California said last year.
The best that Dr. Julie Gilchrist, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and one of the study’s authors, can offer is a few guidelines and observations about why studies have yet to answer the stretching questions.


If your goal is to prevent injury, Dr. Gilchrist said, stretching does not seem to be enough. Warming up, though, can help. If you start out by moving through a range of motions that you’ll use during activity, you are less likely to be injured.

In fact, Dr. Gilchrist said, in her review of published papers, every one of the handful of studies that concluded that stretching prevented injuries included warm-ups with the stretches.
The legislation is aimed at curbing the fallout from Americans' unhealthy eating habits, seen in rising rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. The hope is that the labels will help people make healthier choices when they're eating out.


But dozens of studies have produced mixed results on whether nutrition labeling improves consumers' eating habits. It can't hurt to make the information available, nutritionists say, however, the truth is, if people want a Big Mac for lunch, knowing that it has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat probably isn't going to stop them.
Scientists said they, too, are concerned about the findings of the water testing commissioned by the Associated Press, but several said that there is no need for people to stop drinking tap water.


The contaminants present are "in the parts-per-billion level and essentially at homeopathic doses," said Phyllis Gardner, a Stanford University physician and pharmacologist. "It can't possibly have an effect."

The fact that the substances are in tap water at all concerns Gardner and others. "I wish they weren't there," said Mary Vore, a professor of toxicology at the University of Kentucky. "But I will keep drinking the water."
New rules announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will tighten air quality standards set a decade ago, reflecting a growing amount of research indicating that smog poses greater health risks than previously thought.


The air in Chicago, which met federal smog standards for the first time last year, will fail again under the new limit.

Under the regulations outlined by top EPA officials, the allowable level of smog in the air will be 75 parts per billion, down from the current standard of 85 parts per billion but higher than 60 parts per billion recommended by pediatricians and environmental groups to protect children and the elderly.
A recent study of the PACE (People with Arthritis Can Exercise) program by researchers at the University of North Carolina showed significant improvements in reducing pain and fatigue among those who completed the eight-week course, with benefits persisting for up to six months after completion of the course.


"I liked it because it's not just an exercise program," said Laurie Maietta, who taught the PACE course last fall at Panther Physical Therapy in Hampton. "You have the exercise program, an educational program, and a relaxation component as well."

Arthritis sufferers tend to be less fit than seniors who don't suffer from this condition. Which is too bad, said Dr. Moira Davenport, director of sports and emergency medicine for Allegheny General Hospital, because "exercise can definitely help people suffering from arthritis. It strengthens the muscle around the affected joints, and takes away some of the pressure and pain."
The study, by researchers at the U.S. National Cancer Institute, found that men and women who were severely obese were 45 percent more likely than normal-weight adults to develop pancreatic cancer over five years…


…Pancreatic cancer is difficult to catch early, and 95 percent of patients die within five years of being diagnosed. Because of this dismal prognosis, researchers consider it particularly important to pinpoint the modifiable risk factors for the disease.
In many ways, pediatricians do know more than parents. When your doctor says your newborn needs to ride in a rear-facing car seat, don't argue. When he says your 2-month-old with a 105-degree fever needs to get to the doctor's office -- and fast -- you'd better listen.


But there are far more areas that are gray and have no science, or not very good science, to back them up, says our panel of pediatric experts. They say that sometimes, this means your pediatrician is giving you his or her opinion, not medical fact.

"There are several ways to approach many issues in pediatrics. There isn't one clear-cut way," says Dr. Robert Needlman, co-author of the latest edition of "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care." "Pediatricians really should make a distinction between what's based on research and what's based on our own particular beliefs."
The U.S. federal standards for acceptable levels of pharmaceutical residue in bottled water are the same as those for tap water -- there aren't any.


The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the $12 billion bottled water industry in the United States, sets limits for chemicals, bacteria and radiation, but doesn't address pharmaceuticals.

Some water that's bottled comes from pristine, often underground rural sources; other brands have a source no more remote than local tap water. Either way, bottlers insist their products are safe and say they generally clean the water with advanced treatments, though not explicitly for pharmaceuticals.
Tests on mice show that diacetyl, a component of artificial butter flavoring, can cause a condition known as lymphocytic bronchiolitis, said the team at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.


The condition can lead to obliterative bronchiolitis -- or "popcorn lung" -- a rare and debilitating disease seen in workers at microwave popcorn packaging plants and at least one consumer.

At least two microwave popcorn makers -- ConAgra Foods Inc and Weaver Popcorn Co Inc -- have said recently they would stop using diacetyl.

Not-So Sleepy Americans

Last week research insisted that we are overworked and under-slept—I’m inclined to agree—but a new study contends Americans are actually getting plenty of sleep. Rick Weiss of The Washington Post is on it:
Americans are not as sleep-deprived as they think they are and, in fact, appear to be getting more Z's these days than they got a few years ago, according to an independent analysis of government statistics.


The new findings run counter to the widespread public perception that Americans are getting less and less sleep because of increasing workplace demands and the plethora of distractions available around the clock on the Internet and cable television.

"Many Americans work too much, but most do not seem to be cutting corners on their sleep to do so," said John P. Robinson, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, who led the analysis with faculty colleague Steven Martin.

Their report, "Not So Deprived: Sleep in America, 1965-2005," scheduled for release by the university today, finds that Americans on average got 59 hours of sleep per week in 2005, the latest year for which precise statistics are available. That is three hours more than in 2000.
Sometimes I’m like a chimpanzee—pictures help me comprehend better. So, get a load of this chart. Again, from The Washington Post:
Let the researchers argue all they want, just be sure to get your Z’s. Remember, sleep and rest are very important to your health. Dr. Fuhrman explains:
Recuperation through sleep is responsible for rebuilding and preparing the body to handle the increasing demands. Rest and sleep enable the body to recover from the effects of these waking stresses, because the body can concentrate its repair efforts most effectively at this time when fewer demands are placed upon it.
I could use this advice today, I’m fading fast, I'm still drained from creating this masterpiece, or should I say, monstrosity.
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Fear of Carbs: A Myth Debunked...Again!

Yeah, Followhealthlife is no fan of the low-carb fad. Most people know it’s just a big money-making scam. Now, fear of carbs is one of the nutrition myths Maggie Vink of That’sFit decided to debunk. Take a look:

Eating carbohydrates causes weight gain. MYTH! The anti-carb crusade has really gotten out of control. Calories make you gain weight. Carbs are actually your body's preferred choice of fuel. The trick is to choose healthful complex carbs such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Simple, refined carbs like candy offer little to no nutrition and are just empty calories.

Quite frankly, it’s unnatural to avoid carbs. “Our bodies need carbohydrates more than any other substance. Our muscle cells and brains are designed to run on carbohydrates,” explains Dr. Fuhrman. Here’s more:

When you eat high-carbohydrate foods, such as fresh fruits and beans, you eat more food and still keep your caloric intake relatively low. The high fiber content of (unrefined) carbohydrate-rich food is another crucial reason you will feel more satisfied and not crave more food when you make unrefined carbohydrates the main source of calories in your diet. Carbohydrate-rich foods, when consumed in their natural state, are low in calories and high in fiber compared with fatty foods, processed foods, or animal products.

The real culprits are refined carbohydrates and animal products—i.e. meat, fat, and dairy—are not saviors. Of course, you’re really goofing up if you find yourself consuming both of these. Dr. Fuhrman talks about it:

The combination of fat and refined carbohydrates has an extremely powerful effect on driving the signals that promote fat accumulation on the body. Refined foods cause a swift and excessive rise in blood sugar, which in turn triggers insulin surges to drive the sugar out of the blood and into our cells. Unfortunately, insulin also promotes the storage of fat on the body and encourages your fat cells to swell.

And yes, I feel like a bully picking on the low-carb nonsense—but it’s just so darn easy!

Junk Food, Rotting Teeth

It seems middle schoolers have got some nasty teeth and soft drinks and sweet juices are to blame. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports:
"This study is important, because it confirms our suspicions of the high prevalence of dental erosion in this country and, more importantly, brings awareness to dental practitioners and patients of its prevalence, causes, prevention and treatment," study co-author Bennett T. Amaechi, an associate professor of community dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, said in a prepared statement.


Amaechi led the San Antonio portion of the study, which also included researchers at Indiana University and the University of California, San Francisco. They looked at 900 middle school students (aged 10 to 14), and found that about 30 percent of them had the condition.

Dental erosion is caused by acids found in many common products, including soft drinks, sports drinks, some fruit juices and herbal teas.
I can still hear my mom saying, “I’m not buying you juices boxes! That’s junk.”

Drug Sales Slow

I’m not a big fan of handing Big Pharma your paycheck. So this made me smile. In 2007 U.S. drugs sales grew at their slowest rate since 1961. Reuters reports:
Total U.S. prescription drug sales reached $286.5 billion last year with slowing growth blamed on factors including patent expirations of lucrative medicines that opened the door to cheaper generic versions.


Other reasons cited by IMS in its annual U.S. Pharmaceutical Market Performance Review were fewer new product approvals, safety concerns, and the leveling of year-over-year growth from the Medicare Part D program.

The 3.8 percent growth rate compares to 8 percent growth seen in 2006.

"The moderating growth trend that began in 2001 resumed last year following the one-time impact on market growth in 2006 from the implementation of Medicare Part D," Murray Aitken, IMS's senior vice president for healthcare insight, said in a statement.
All I can say is—tough noogies!

Pregnancy and Alcohol: Just One Drink...

Back in November the American Cancer Society published a report with suggestions to help people decrease their cancer risk. Here’s an excerpt:
The report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: A Global Perspective, urges people to stay at a healthy weight, which means having a body mass index (or BMI, a ratio of weight to height) between 18.5 and 24.9. And it recommends regular physical activity as a way to control weight…


…The report also makes recommendations for eating more healthfully to reduce cancer risk. It says people should eat mostly foods from plants, limit red meat and alcohol, and avoid processed meats like bacon, sausage, and lunchmeat.
And as Dr. Fuhrman points out, alcohol isn’t exactly health-promoting. Its basically drink at your own risk. More form Dr. Fuhrman:
Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of two drinks for men. Consuming more than this is associated with increased fat around the waist and other potential problems.1 For example, alcohol consumption leads to mild withdrawal sensations the next day that are commonly mistaken for hunger, which leads people to eat more than is genuinely necessary, resulting in weight gain.
Okay, as far as pregnancy is concerned, Dr. Fuhrman considers alcohol “really risky for you and your unborn children.” Here’s his list of no-no’s:
  • Caffeine
  • Nicotine, including secondhand smoke
  • Alcohol
  • Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription drugs
  • Herbs and high-dose supplements, vitamin A
  • Fish, mollusks and shellfish, sushi (raw fish)
  • Hot tubs and saunas
  • Radiation
  • Household clear, paint thinners
  • Cat litter
  • Raw milk and cheese
  • Soft cheese and blue-veined cheeses such as feta, Roquefort, and Brie
  • Artificial colors, nitrates, and MSG
  • Deli meats, luncheon meats, hot dogs, and undercooked meats
Now, this new research sends a confusing message. A Swedish Study says its okay for moms to have a few swigs while breastfeeding. More from the AFP:
"There is no medical reason to abstain completely from alcohol while breastfeeding," Annica Sohlstroem, head of the agency's nutrition department, said in a statement.


"The amount of alcohol that the child can ingest through the breastmilk is small if you drink one or two glasses of wine" per week, she said.

The new advice is an about-face for the agency, which has for the past decade or so advised women to avoid alcohol while breastfeeding, and is based on current medical research.
I think pairing alcohol with pregnancy and breastfeeding is just a bad idea. In fact, past research determined that alcohol may alter a child’s mind. From HealthDay News:
In their study, researchers at San Diego State University (SDSU) examined 22 children and adolescents (ages 8 to 18 years) -- 13 with and 9 without histories of heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. The participants were part of a larger study at the Center for Behavioral Teratology, SDSU...


"...We found two regions within the prefrontal cortex where the youth with alcohol-exposure histories had increased brain activation and one area in the subcortex (called the caudate nucleus) where the alcohol-exposed youth had decreased brain activation," study co-author Susanna L. Fryer, a graduate student in the SDSU/University of California, San Diego, joint doctoral program in clinical psychology, said in a prepared statement.
I won’t be faced with this decision, but, I hope my wife would totally abstain from alcohol while she was pregnant and breastfeeding—I’d easily give it up right along side her!
Continue Reading...

Dairy Dumb for Weight-Loss

Do you remember when dairy consumption was dumped for weight-loss? Kim Severson of The New York Times reported:
The assertion that there is a link between weight loss and dairy consumption has long been contested by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [PCRM], an advocacy and research group that promotes a diet free of animal products.


The group petitioned the F.T.C. in 2005 to argue that the advertisements were misleading. In a May 3 letter to the group, Lydia Parnes, director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said Agriculture Department representatives and milk producers and processors had agreed to change the advertisements and related marketing materials “until further research provides stronger, more conclusive evidence of an association between dairy consumption and weight loss.”

As of Thursday, the National Dairy Council still had a section of its Web site devoted to the weight-loss claim. But the site, along with some of the advertisements, will be changed, said Greg Miller, who is executive vice president of the council and has a doctorate in nutrition.
According to Dr. Fuhrman dairy, is NOT good for weight-loss and not exactly health-promoting either. More from Dr. Fuhrman:
Fifty years of heavy advertising by an economically powerful industry has shaped the public's perception, illustrating the power of one-sided advertising, but the reality and true health effects is a different story. Besides the link between high-saturated-fat foods (dairy fat) and cancer, there is a body of scientific literature linking the consumption of cow's milk to many other diseases.
But some people still insist that cow juice is a good idea. Check it out from Chris Sparling of That’sFit:
Unless you've taken a dietary (or even ideological) stance against dairy, you'd do well to include it into your diet every day. Worried that it may get in the way of your efforts at weight loss? No need to fear, say researchers from Harvard Medical School. No need at all, in fact.


Researchers found that people who consumed three servings of dairy per day (providing them with around 1,200mg of calcium) were 60 percent less likely to be overweight. This is because calcium-rich foods actually burn many calories during their digestion.
More junk science in action, in fact the study is from 2005; Study backs dairy weight loss claims. How current? More Dr. Fuhrman on dairy:
Using weight instead of calories in nutrient-analysis tables has evolved into a ploy to hide how nutritionally unsound many foods are. The role of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was originally to promote the products of the animal agriculture industry.1 Over fifty years ago, the USDA began promoting the so-called four basic food groups, with meat and dairy products in the number one and two spots on the list. Financed by the meat and dairy industry and backed by nutritional scientists on the payroll of the meat and dairy industry, this promotion ignored science.2
I think milk and dairy products are just another food that Americans are chronically addicted too—WAKE UP—and get over it. Continue Reading...

Health Points: Wednesday

Inhaling diesel exhaust triggers a stress response in the brain that may have damaging long-term effects on brain function, Dutch researchers said on Tuesday.

Previous studies have found very small particles of soot, or nanoparticles, are able to travel from the nose and lodge in the brain. But this is the first time researchers have demonstrated a change in brain activity.
"Convergent evidence now strongly links a class of chemicals -- acetylcholinesterase inhibitors -- to illness in Gulf War veterans," Dr. Beatrice Golomb of the University of California, San Diego, said in e-mailed comments.


She said some of the chemicals linked to these illnesses continue to be used in agriculture, and in homes and offices for pest control in the United States and throughout the world.
“It takes strength to do them, and it takes endurance to do a lot of them,” said Jack LaLanne, 93, the fitness pioneer who astounded television viewers in the 1950s with his fingertip push-ups. “It’s a good indication of what kind of physical condition you’re in.”


The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit.
A recent study suggests that possibly harmful bacteria is in the freshest fallen snow. After learning about this study I started thinking about whether or not I would allow my boys to continue eating snow. We have never allowed our kids to eat snow off of the ground but we have let them pick up snow off of something like a table or chair outside thinking that the snow there was cleaner. Our kids, like many others, have also turned their faces to the sky and let the snowflakes fall right into their mouths. Chances are that many of you, myself included, did just the same as kids and we turned out OK ;)
However, now research suggests that the snow is just plain dirty and that it may have harmful bacteria no matter how you eat it or where you eat it from.
"We knew that some data found yoga helped reduce hot flashes among healthy women but no one had studied the effects among cancer survivors," Duke University's Laura Porter, Ph.D., says in a news release.


Breast cancer survivors aren't good candidates for hormone replacement therapy. And some breast cancer treatments, such as tamoxifen, "tend to induce or exacerbate menopausal symptoms," write Porter and colleagues at Duke and Oregon Health & Science University.
In fact, those with more than 12 years of education -- more than a high school diploma -- can expect to live to 82; for those with 12 or fewer years of education, life expectancy is 75.


"If you look in recent decades, you will find that life expectancy has been increasing, which is good, but when you split this out by better-educated groups, the life expectancy gained is really occurring much more so in the better-educated groups," said lead researcher Ellen R. Meara, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School.

"The puzzle is why we have been successful in extending life span for some groups. Why haven't we been successful in getting that for less advantaged groups?" Meara said.
A new state ban on smoking in restaurants and other nightspots contains an exception for performers in theatrical productions. So some bars are getting around the ban by printing up playbills, encouraging customers to come in costume and pronouncing them "actors."


The customers are playing right along, merrily puffing away -- and sometimes speaking in funny accents and doing a little improvisation too.

The state Health Department is threatening to bring the curtain down on these sham productions. But for now, it's on with the show.
Their reassuring finding: women who are too fat when pregnant are probably not somehow driving the obesity epidemic by programming their children to be fat.


But there is a strong link between overweight mothers and overweight children that still needs to be explained, Debbie Lawlor of Britain's University of Bristol and colleagues said.

Lawlor's team looked at the developmental overnutrition hypothesis -- the idea that if a woman is overweight during pregnancy, the higher levels of sugar and fatty acids in her blood would affect the developing fetus, dooming or at least predisposing the child to poor appetite control and a slower metabolism.

Fruit: Power of the Tropics

“Antioxidants fuel a defensive system that removes toxic cellular metabolites that age us,” explains Dr. Fuhrman. Here he tells us why antioxidants are an important cornerstone of good health. Take a look:
Cancer may be promoted by toxic compounds, but we have cellular machinery, fueled by phytochemicals, to detoxify and remove noxious agents and to repair any damage done. Our body is self-healing and self-repairing when given sufficient nutrient support to maximize efficiency of protective cellular machinery. But, only when we consume large amounts of green vegetables and a diversity of natural plant foods can we maximize phytochemical delivery to our tissues.
Now, it seems tropical fruits are a major source of antioxidants. Emily Sohn of The Los Angeles Times tells us all about mangosteens, açaí, noni, pomegranates, and goji berries. Check it out:
There are many thousands of plant-based antioxidants, called phytochemicals, and these compounds appear in various combinations in different types of produce. Blueberries, red wine and açaí, for example, are high in anthocyanins. Tea has lots of catechins. Mangosteens are rich in xanthones. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids.


Plenty of studies now show that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of chronic disease and might even help us live longer. So, companies that market superfruits often tout the high antioxidant concentrations of their star ingredients. Their findings are sometimes at odds with each other.

In several studies published or presented at meetings, for example, Pom Wonderful (which has poured $23 million into researching the 'Wonderful' variety of pomegranates that the company grows on orchards in Central California's San Joaquin Valley), found that its 100% pomegranate juice had more antioxidant activity than more than a dozen other beverages, including blueberry, grape, açaí and orange juices. The next nearest competitor, red wine, had 17% fewer polyphenol antioxidants and neutralized 54 fewer free radicals than the juice did.
Okay, this is all well and good, but, we shouldn’t consider one or two exotic fruits as miracle cures. Dr. Fuhrman talks about it:
Juices and extracts of exotic fruits and vegetables such as mangosteen, gogi berries, Chinese lycium, acia, Siberian pineapple, cili, noni, guarana, and black currant are touted as wondrous super foods with a myriad of health claims. Certainly, eating exotic fruits from all over the globe can add valuable phytochemical compounds with the potential for beneficial effects. I see no reason why these fruits and their juices should not be used as part of a varied diet with a wide assortment of phytonutrients. Broadening our variety of health-supporting nutrients from exotic foods has value in building a strong immune defense against cancer.


The confusion arises when marketers claim that the juices can cure cancer or kill cancer cells on the basis of studies that show that some component in the juice or other part of the plant has been shown to kill cancer cells. Just because a concentrated chemical derived from a food can kill cancer cells in a test tube does not make that food a cure for cancer.
For more on this, be sure to brush up on Ineffective Anti-Cancer Remedies: Exotic Tropical Fruit Juices.

Diabetes, Exercise, Insulin, and Fat

Exercise seems to boost insulin-making cells. Reuters reports:
After the exercise period, study participants' sensitivity to insulin had increased by 53 percent, on average, while a measure of beta cell function called the disposition index had risen by 28 percent. However there were no changes in their fat mass, levels of fat in the blood, or other factors that might explain the effect of exercise on beta cells.


"Longer-term exercise training studies are required and are currently in progress to evaluate further exercise training effects on beta cell function in age-related glucose intolerance," the researchers note.
Yup, exercise is good for diabetics. Dr. Fuhrman’s on it:
The most effective prescription for diabetes is exercise. An essential component of my prescription for diabetes is daily exercise; it is more important than daily medication. Two hundred calories a day of formal exercise on an incline treadmill and an elliptical machine are a great goal to shoot for. It is not an official recommendation of anyone except me.
But research has determined fat is bad for diabetes. More from Reuters:
Fat mass in adulthood was the only measurement that showed a significant association with insulin sensitivity, the researchers found. After they used statistical techniques to control for age, sex and body size in adulthood, the group of men and women who were born small but caught up as adults had significantly lower insulin sensitivity than the control group.


Based on the results, Dr. R.W.J. Leunissen of Erasmus Medical Centre-Sophia, Children's Hospital and colleagues propose a "fat accumulation hypothesis," which states that "an increased accumulation of fat during childhood, independent of birth size, will result in reduced insulin sensitivity."
Yeah, you don’t want to be overweight and diabetic. Here’s Dr. Fuhrman again:
If the person is obese, with more than fifty pounds of additional fat weight, his body will demand huge loads of insulin from the pancreas, even as much as ten times more than a person of normal weight needs. So what do you think happens after five to ten years of forcing the pancreas to work so hard? You guessed it — pancreatic poop-out.
Exercise and stay thin—sounds win-win to me!

Drugs...In the Water!

This report should make you mental! Antibiotics, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones can all be found in America’s water supply—YUM! Sigh. The Associated Press reports:
Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public "doesn't know how to interpret the information" and might be unduly alarmed…


…People take pills. Their bodies absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet. The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue…

"…We recognize it is a growing concern and we're taking it very seriously," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Personally, I filter the HECK out of my water. Ever since living in a college dorm for four years, I look at public water with an elevated degree of caution—eek!

Breastfeeding: Weight Disparities

“Just because you were not breast fed for a prolonged period when you were a child, does not mean you are destined for fatness,” explains Dr. Fuhrman. Of course this contradicts a new study citing a link between lower rates of breastfeeding and obesity among minority children in the United States. Reuters reports:
Researchers found that among 739 10- to 19-year-olds, those who had been breastfed for more than four months had a lower average body mass index (BMI), and lower odds of being overweight.


This was true regardless of race or parents' education levels, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. However, the study found, there were disparities when it came to rates of breastfeeding; 40 percent of white adolescents but only 11 percent of black children had been breastfed for at least four months.

There was a similar difference when the researchers looked at parents' education levels, a marker of socioeconomic status. Forty percent of children with college-educated parents had been breastfed for at least four months, versus 18 percent of those with less-educated parents.

"This really does suggest that if we could somehow increase the frequency and duration of breastfeeding in these groups, we could reduce disparities in (obesity)," said researcher Dr. Jessica G. Woo of Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Clearly, a rough start is no reason to grow up to live a life of condemned health. “Optimal nutrition and regular rigorous exercise still works and is necessary for optimal health whether you are overweight or not, and whether you were breast fed or not,” insists Dr. Fuhrman.

Obesity, What Obesity?

“If the current trend continues by the year 2030 all adults in the United States will be obese,” warns Dr. Fuhrman. Pretty scary, Dr. Fuhrman goes onto explain WHY this might happen. Take a look:
Americans have been among the first people worldwide to have the luxury of bombarding themselves with nutrient-deficient, high-calorie food, often called empty-calorie. By “empty-calorie,” I mean food that is deficient in nutrients and fiber. More Americans than ever before are eating these rich, high-calorie foods while remaining inactive—a dangerous combination.
Now, you don’t have to be a doctor to notice that Americans make poor dietary decisions. Heck, even comedian George Carlin would agree—Americans love bad food! Here’s one of his classic rants. Enjoy:
Americans love to eat. They are fatally attracted to the slow death of fast food: hotdogs, corndogs, triple-bacon cheeseburgers, deep-fried butter dipped pork fat and Cheez-Whiz, mayonnaise soaked barbecued mozzarella patty melts—Americans will eat anything, anything!
Dr. Fuhrman and George Carlin are onto something. Junk food is ruining our national health. Take soda for example, Americans are drinking more of it, and, paying the fatty consequence. From the Center for Science in the Public Interest:

The empty calories of soft drinks are likely contributing to health problems, particularly overweight and obesity. Those conditions have become far more prevalent during the period in which soft drink consumption has soared. Several scientific studies have provided experimental evidence that soft drinks are directly related to weight gain. That weight gain, in turn, is a prime risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which, for the first time, is becoming a problem for teens as well as adults. As people get older, excess weight also contributes to heart attacks, strokes, and cancer.
So, when you consider all this—and all the other obesity news—how can anyone downplay obesity? Well, Dr. Vincent Marks of the University of Surrey believes, “The obesity epidemic has absolutely been exaggerated.” The Associated Press reports:
Marks is among a minority of skeptics who doubt the severity of the obesity problem. They claim that the data about the dangers of obesity are mixed and there is little proof that being fat causes problems including high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.

Such views contradict nearly everything doctors have been saying for years…

…But obesity contrarians say that there's no data proving why being fat — in itself — would be dangerous. "There's no good causal connection," said Eric Oliver, author of Fat Politics and a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Blaming obesity for diabetes and heart attacks, Oliver says, is like blaming lung cancer on bad breath rather than on smoking. Excess weight may actually be a red herring, Oliver says, since other factors like exercise, diet or genetic predispositions towards diseases are harder to measure than weight.
Oliver and Marks are insane! The American diet primes us for an obesity crisis (and related health problems). Dr. Fuhrman explains, “The standard diet is so nutrient-poor that it leads to a tremendous drive to over eat calories.” Which leads to weight-gain, which leads to obesity—right?

Nutrition: Beef, Very Wimpy

Julie Upton, RD has grown leery of beef. She’s not eating it anymore, and, she recently discovered that as far as nutrients are concerned, beef doesn’t measure up—even when compared to burger alternatives. From Poked & Prodded:
The chart below shows that an 80% lean ground chuck broiled burger doesn’t measure up to eight popular meat-free patties (made from soy and/or veggies): The vegetarian options are a calorie and fat bargain and offer a good dose of fiber. Their only significant downfall: sodium. There’s less protein too, but most people who eat a balanced diet get plenty.

Red meat is a nutritional lightweight—with more cons than pros. Now, Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t recommend eating too many meat alternatives, but he’s all for eating lots and lots greens and in terms of nutrition, green veggies trounce beef. Check it out:


It really makes me mental when people insist red meat is an amazing source of nutrients. Sure, its got nutrients, but it’s far from the Holy Grail, more like a Dixie cup.

Sleep America, Sleep...

Eek! The Associated Press reports that one-third of U.S. workers are sleeping on the job. Take a look:
The survey of 1,000 people found participants average six hours and 40 minutes of sleep a night on weeknights, even though they estimated they'd need roughly another 40 minutes of sleep to be at their best…


…While sleepy workers know they're not performing as well as they could during the day, work is what's keeping them up nights, according to the survey, which found workdays are getting longer and time spent working from home averages close to four-and-a-half hours each week.
Now, Dr. Fuhrman recommends getting sufficient rest, i.e. sleep. Here are two posts that explain why:
Need more reasons to get your Z’s? Check out these recent reports about the importance of sleep. Enjoy:
Reuters: Lack of sleep may raise risk of heart attacks, stroke
“A 17-year analysis of 10,000 government workers showed those who cut their sleeping from seven hours a night to five or less faced a 1.7-fold increased risk in mortality from all causes and more than double the risk of cardiovascular death.”

NY Times: Study Ties Too Little Sleep With Too Much Weight

“A study of 7-year-olds has found that sleeping less than nine hours a night was associated with being overweight or obese, even after accounting for amounts of television watching and physical exercise.”


Associated Press: Lack of sleep may lead to fatter children
“The less sleep they got, the more likely the children were to be obese in sixth grade, no matter what the child's weight was in third grade, said Dr. Julie Lumeng of the University of Michigan, who led the research.”

HealthDay News: Good Sleep Wakes Up Memory
“Researchers found that sleep not only protects memories from outside interferences, it also helps strengthen them.”
Clearly, we all need a nap.
Continue Reading...
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Health Points: Wednesday

"Using technology to modify television viewing eliminates parental vigilance needed to enforce family rules and reduces the disciplinary action needed if a child exceeds his or her sedentary behavior limits," the authors concluded. "Perhaps most important, the device puts the choice of when to watch television in the child's control, as opposed to a rule such as 'no television time until homework is completed.'"

Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University School of Medicine Prevention Research Center, said the study, "shows the upside to this ominous mix -- reducing screen time can help prevent childhood obesity by several mechanisms. Less screen time may be even more important to dietary pattern than to physical activity pattern. But by either means, the ends here are encouraging and highlight the importance of this strategy."
Investigations comparing caffeine with water or placebo seldom found a statistical difference in urine volume, the author wrote. “In the 10 studies reviewed, consumption of a caffeinated beverage resulted in 0 to 84 percent retention of the initial volume ingested, whereas consumption of water resulted in 0 to 81 percent retention.”


Another study, in the same journal in 2005, involved scientists following 59 active adults over 11 days while controlling their caffeine intake. They were given caffeine in capsule form on some days and on other days were given a placebo. Researchers found no significant differences in levels of excreted electrolytes or urine volume.
They're not the first; several other states have similar laws on the books, including Arkansas, which was the first in 2003.


Children will be weighed twice a year, in private. Their BMI will be tracked but kept confidential. "Sally, step into the office, step up on the scale, that's about as invasive as it gets," said Senator Joseph Carter, who sponsored the bill. "The presence of childhood obesity is staggering," he added.

Not everyone is a fan of the idea, however. Senator Preston Smith wants to keep the government out of the weight loss business and worries that pressure from schools will do more harm than good. "Come on, pick it up fat kid, we're not going to get money if you don't!" he said, mimicking what he thought school officials would say.
  • Seat Belt Pillow: There are new and cool ways to go incorporate green and recycled materials into your house. These pillows are made of end-of-the line seat belt webbing otherwise destined for the landfill. A little expensive at $114, but very innovative.
  • Recycled glass bowls and vase from Pier 1: You can take the green theme to other parts of your home. And one great way to do this is to decorate green. Pier 1 has a new line of hand-painted glass bowls and vases that are made from 100 percent recycled glass. They are beautiful and eco-conscious.
  • Cork Bowls: This bowl is made 100 percent recycled cork (reclaimed waste material from the bottle-stopper industry). Cork is also a great choice for flooring, and made of tree bark, which is an eco-responsible alternative to petroleum-based vinyl flooring and slow-growing hardwoods such as oak.
The researchers cautioned that further studies were needed to consider factors such as diet, exercise, cholesterol levels and smoking habits that affect the risk of heart disease.


The study focused on more than 65,000 workers employed between 1946 and 2002 at four sites operated by British Nuclear Fuels plc and its predecessors. The team analyzed non-cancer death rates and cumulative radiation exposure using the workers' personal dosimeter badges.

Comparing the some 42,000 workers exposed to relatively high levels of radiation to office workers and other employees pointed to an increased heart disease risk, the researchers said.
Drinking alcohol, even moderate amounts, may boost blood pressure more than previously thought, British researchers said on Tuesday.


People with a genetic mutation that makes it difficult to consume alcohol had significantly lower blood pressure than regular or heavy drinkers, the researchers found.

People without the mutation who had about 3 drinks per day had "strikingly" higher blood pressure than people with the genetic change who tended to drink only small amounts or nothing at all.
The study involved 2,216 adolescents in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area of Minnesota whose eating patterns, weight and other lifestyle issues were tracked for five years. They were just under 15 years old when they entered the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics.


The more regularly the teens ate breakfast, the lower their body mass index was, according to the study. BMI is a measure of body weight relative to height. Those who always skipped breakfast on average weighed about 5 pounds more than their peers who ate the meal every day.
Their study involved 77,721 people in Washington state ages 50 to 76, tracking their use over the prior decade of supplemental multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E and folate to see if this would offer protection from lung cancer.


None of the vitamins looked at in the study was tied to a reduced risk of lung cancer. In fact, people who took high doses of vitamin E, especially smokers, had a small but statistically significant elevated risk, the researchers said.
Originating in the Mediterranean and then spreading to the United States and Europe, rosemary was used for centuries to treat nervous system ailments, says Discovery Health. Healthwise, it's used today in aromatherapy to enhance senses and boost memory and it just happens to contain those magical antioxidants -- carnosol is its strongest -- which help prevent cancer and high cholesterol. It also helps stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and improves digestion, according to The World's Healthiest Foods site. It contains anti-inflammatory compounds, increases blood flow to the head and brain, and improve concentration. Whew. That's some pretty good stuff.
  • There is an ideal range of flexibility in each joint. People who are too flexible may be just as susceptible to injury as those who are too tight as they often lack adequate stability.
  • Relative flexibility is a key factor: Often when we are tight in one joint, the adjacent joint is too flexible. The key is to try and stabilize what is too loose and release what is too tight.
  • Asymmetry of flexibility is a more likely cause of injury than tightness (i.e. if one hamstring muscle is far tighter than the other).

Five Cholesterol-Fighting Foods

MSN offers up a list of foods that fight cholesterol. I liked these three. Check them out:

Oatmeal: You’ve seen the commercials with people proclaiming dramatic drops in their cholesterol numbers thanks to a daily serving of this hot cereal. Those great results are due to the high levels of soluble fiber found in oatmeal.


Almonds: Studies have found that eating just a quarter cup of almonds a day can lower your LDL by 4.4 percent, according to dietitian Leslie Bonci, who is also the director of sports nutrition at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Eating nuts, especially almonds, which are high in good-for-you monounsaturated fat, is better than simply eating a low-fat snack like pretzels,” says Bonci.


Soy: Soybeans, soy nuts and edamame, plus any products made from soy (like tofu, soymilk, etc.) can help to reduce the production of new cholesterol.
HealthandMen rounds out the rest of the list. Take a look:
Fish: Another no brainer. Omega 3 fatty acids.


Red Wine: Red wine contains Flavanols which have anti-inflammatory properties that help to lower cholesterol and fight heart disease. Once again, moderation.
I’m a little leery of these two. Here’s what Dr. Fuhrman has to say about fish:
Choose fish over other animal products, but be aware that the place where it was caught, and the type of fish, matters. Don't accept recreational fish from questionable waters. Farmed fish is safer. Never eat high-mercury-content fish. Don't eat fish more than twice a week, and if you have a family history of hemorrhagic stroke, limit it further to only once a month.
And now, Dr. Fuhrman talks about wine:
A few years ago the University of California’s Berkeley Wellness Letter reported on new research about the so-called heart-healthy “benefits” of alcohol consumption. Previous studies had led to a recommendation that moderate consumption of red wine—but not other alcoholic beverages—helped reduce the risk of heart attack. What did the new research reveal?


If we were to rely on the Berkeley Wellness Letter for this information, the latest news would be that moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage—red or white wine, even beer and spirits—can be heart-healthy. Unfortunately, their latest news is still woefully out-of-date. More recent studies show that even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to significantly increased incidence of atrial fibrillation,1 a condition that can lead to stroke, and to higher rates of breast cancer.2,3

Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy. It simply has anti-clotting effects, much like aspirin.
I think MSN might want to revisit their list—got to look at the whole picture—you know?
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Exercise Your Exhaustion Away?

Here’s an interesting study. Researchers believe that exercise might be the key to treating fatigue. Tara Parker-Pope of Well is on it:
University of Georgia researchers decided to study whether exercise can be used to treat fatigue. The research, which appears in the February issue of the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, involved 36 volunteers who were not regular exercisers but who complained of persistent fatigue.


One group of fatigued volunteers was prescribed 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks. The second group engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for the same time period, while a third control group did not exercise.

The study volunteers used exercise bikes that allowed the researchers to control their level of exertion. The low-intensity exercise was equivalent to a leisurely, easy walk. The more intense exercise was similar to a fast-paced walk up hills. Patients with fatigue due to serious medical conditions, such as those with chronic fatigue syndrome, weren’t included in the study.

Both of the exercise groups had a 20 percent increase in energy levels by the end of the study, compared to the control group. However, the researchers found that more intense exercise isn’t the best way to reduce fatigue. The low-intensity group reported a 65 percent drop in feelings of fatigue, compared to a 49 percent drop in the group doing more intense exercise.
I’m inclined to agree. I feel very empowered and spunky from my exercise regime—how about you?

Food Scoring Guide: Unnatural Foods

Knowing that the right micronutrients in the right proportions are easily available to us in whole, natural foods is wonderful. But we not longer get our foods in natural form from the wild. Most of the food we eat is concocted in factories. These processed foods do not contain the level and diversity of the vitamins and minerals we get in natural foods. For example, the fruits and vegetables that primates eat in the wild are loaded with micronutrients, giving these primates a diet far richer in many essential vitamins and minerals than the diets consumed by any humans in the modern world.

A study of monkey diets carried out at the University of California, Berkeley, by anthropologist Katharine Milton found, for instance, that the average 15-pound wild monkey takes in 600 milligrams per day of vitamin C, 10 times more than that 60-million recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the average 150-pound human. Differences on that order also were found for intakes of other micronutrients, such as fiber, magnesium, potassium, and beta-carotene. The monkey’s diet is amazingly rich in nutrients. The foods that primates in the wild eat include green leaves of many kinds of fruits such as figs, plums, berries, and grapes. The study also reported that the dark green vegetables the monkeys eat contain the complete array of essential amino acids, similar to meat.

The RDAs set by the government were determined by investigating the foods modern humans eat, and they should not be considered representative of the amount of nutrients that would be found in an ideal diet. Unfortunately, most people don’t even take in the very low levels recommended in the RDAs. The researchers in the monkey study concluded that “throughout history, humans have suffered all sorts of diet-related diseases. If we paid more attention to what our wild, primate relatives are eating today, perhaps we could learn new things about our own dietary needs that would help reduce health problems throughout the world.”

The modern diet, especially the one most Americans eat, is too low in minerals and not even close to what we should be consuming for optimal health. Despite consuming almost twice as many calories (macronutrients) as we need, fewer than 18% of adults and 2% of children consume the minimum daily requirements of micronutrients recommended.

Scientists Say, Cigarettes Cause Cancer

Wow! Alert the press on this one. Apparently scientists have determined that the hydrogen peroxide in cigarette smoke is what promotes cancerous cells. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports:
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, said their findings may help lead to new treatments for lung cancer and may help the tobacco industry develop "safer" cigarettes by eliminating such substances in the smoke.


"With the five-year survival rate for people with lung cancer at a dismally low 15.5 percent, we hope this study will provide better insight into the identification of new therapeutic targets," senior author Tzipora Goldkorn said in a prepared statement.

In this laboratory study, the researchers exposed different sets of human lung cells to cigarette smoke or hydrogen peroxide and then incubated the cells for one to two days. The cells were then compared to unexposed airway cells. The cells exposed to cigarette smoke and those exposed to hydrogen peroxide showed the same molecular signatures of cancer development. The unexposed cells showed no such changes.
Apparently Britney Spears didn’t get the memo—dummy.