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Wednesday
Jul302014

Getting Enough Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Video)

Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to optimal brain and nervous system development in the fetus. Dr. Weil discusses how we have an imbalance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids due to our diet. Dr. Weil also suggests taking an omega-3 supplement derived from molecularly distilled fish oils that are naturally high in both EPA and DHA and low in contaminants.

Want new videos from Dr. Weil? Subscribe to his YouTube channel for weekly videos!

Tuesday
Jul292014

Can Vitamin A Prevent Breast Cancer?

Sweet potatoes and carrots provide us with carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Our bodies convert these naturally occurring compounds to vitamin A, and new research suggests that one form of these derivatives, retinoic acid, may help protect against breast cancer. A study from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia showed that exposing pre-cancerous cells to retinoic acid turns them back into normal cells with a normal genetic signature. No such effect was seen when the researchers exposed cancerous and aggressive breast cancer cells to retinoic acids, which the researchers said suggests a small window of opportunity for retinoic acid to play its cancer-protective role. They also reported that lower concentrations of retinoic acid than the one used in this study had no effect and that higher doses actually yielded a smaller effect. Now, the researchers plan to investigate whether the amount of retinoic acid used will work in animals. If it does, human tests of the effects would come next. In addition to carrots and sweet potatoes, foods that contain carotenoids include broccoli, squash, cantaloupe, mangos and apricots, while vitamin A as retinoic acid can be found in beef liver and other organ meats, salmon, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Sources:
M.F. Arisi et al, “All trans-retinoic acid (ATRA) induces re-differentiation of early transformed breast epithelial cells,” International Journal of Oncology, DOI: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2354, 2014.

Monday
Jul282014

Beans for Bad Cholesterol

How often do you eat lentils, kidney beans, hummus (made with chickpeas) or split pea soup? These are all examples of “pulses” or foods based upon them. Each pulse is part of the legume family, but the term refers only to dried, low-fat seeds, so it excludes both fresh beans and fatty seeds such as peanuts.

New research from Canada shows that one ¾ cup daily serving of pulses could lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by as much as five percent. And that drop would result in a five to six percent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease, according to study leader John Sievenpiper, M.D., Ph.D. Unfortunately, the average consumption of pulses is only about a half serving per day in the U.S. and Canada, the team reported. To reach their conclusion, the investigators reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that gathered data on 1,037 people. They found that adding pulses to the diet benefitted men more than women, possibly because their cholesterol levels were generally higher and their diets poorer. The researchers found that participants in some of the studies they analyzed complained of bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation when they first added pulses to their diets, but the symptoms subsided over the course of the study.

My take? There are many important advantages to adding pulses to your diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber; are enjoyable additions to meals if prepared properly; and are among the most inexpensive foods you can buy - the ultimate refutation of the notion that "you have to be rich to eat healthy." Legumes are also heart-healthy; their high fiber content lowers cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels. A study of more than 15,000 middle-aged men across the U.S., Europe and Japan for 25 years found the consumption of legumes was associated with an 82 percent reduction in risk of death from heart disease. Most varieties of beans and lentils are also high in folate, a vitamin that helps prevent the build-up of the amino acid homocysteine - elevated levels of which are a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Whether you enjoy pluses as dips and spreads like hummus, paired with nutritious whole grains such as the ever-popular beans and rice, or merely to bulk up soups, stews and salads, they deserve a prominent place in your anti-inflammatory kitchen!

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Sources:
John L. Sievenpiper et al, “Effect of dietary pulse intake on established therapeutic lipid targets for cardiovascular risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials,” CMAJ, 2014 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.131727

Friday
Jul252014

How Often Do You Use Sunscreen? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed sunscreen and the best forms of sun protection while outside: Sunscreen Snafu? Check out the article and let us know when and how often you use sunscreen.

Thursday
Jul242014

Female Fertility: The Stress Factor

When pregnancy just isn’t happening, the problem could be a stressed-out prospective mother. A new study from Ohio State found that an enzyme that signals stress shows up more often in the saliva of women who fail to conceive after 12 months of trying than in women who have less trouble getting pregnant. The researchers followed 500 American women age 18 to 40 who had no known fertility problems when they began trying to conceive. The women were followed for 12 months or until they became pregnant. Researchers took saliva samples when the study began and again in the morning after the first day of the women’s first menstrual period after joining the study. Those who had higher levels of alpha-amylase were 29 percent less likely to conceive each month and twice as likely not to conceive after trying for a year. An earlier study in the U.K. concluded with the same results. The Ohio State researchers noted that stress is not the only or the most important impediment to pregnancy, but suggested that women who are having trouble getting pregnant consider stress-management techniques including yoga, meditation and mindfulness.

Sources:
C.D. Lynch et al, “Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study—the LIFE study,” Human Reproduction, doi: 10.1093/humrep/deu032

Wednesday
Jul232014

Compression of Morbidity (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses Compression of Morbidity - the idea of trying to reduce the risk and delay the onset of certain age-related diseases. While aging is inevitable, the dying process should be as compressed as possible to provide a healthy aging process. Dr. Weil provides some insight into the idea and discusses ways to increase the Compression of Morbidity in the aging process.

Want new videos from Dr. Weil? Subscribe to his YouTube channel for weekly videos!

Tuesday
Jul222014

The Early Bird Stays Slim

If you’re watching your weight, you might consider getting up early and going outside. A new study from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine showed that people whose exposure to bright natural light was mainly early in the day – between 8 a.m. and noon – had a lower body mass index than people whose light exposure occurs mostly in the late afternoon. All told, the difference in weight between early birds and not-so-early types could be as much as 30 pounds, stemming entirely from the influence and timing of their light exposure, the study found. The Northwestern researchers recruited 54 people, average age 30 who wore wrist monitors that tracked their light exposure and sleep time for a week. The study participants kept logs of what they ate and how often and how much they exercised. The researchers said that the light exposure could come from various sources, including through car windows. Bright light later in the day or at night has the opposite effect – it has been linked to obesity.

Sources:
Phyllis Zee et al, “Timing and Intensity of Light Correlate with Body Weight in Adults, PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092251

Monday
Jul212014

More Worries About Diet Drinks

Middle-aged women who consume more than two diet drinks a day may be setting themselves up for heart attacks, stroke or other cardiovascular problems according to research results presented at the March 29-31 scientific meeting of the American College of Cardiology. The new findings come from a study including nearly 60,000 postmenopausal women who described their weekly consumption of diet sodas and diet fruit drinks over a three-month period. Analysis of the data gathered showed that women who consumed two or more drinks a day were 30 percent more likely to develop a cardiovascular problem and 50 percent more likely to die from a heart-related disease than women who rarely or never drank diet beverages. The researchers determined after nearly nine years of follow up that 8.5 percent of the women who drank the most diet drinks developed cardiovascular conditions compared to 6.9 percent of those who reported having five to seven diet drinks per week, 6.8 percent of those who had one to four diet drinks per week, and 7.2 percent of those who had zero to three of these drinks per month. The findings persisted even after researchers adjusted for smoking, BMI, hormone therapy use, physical activity, diabetes, high blood pressure and other risks for cardiovascular disease. Women who had a history of cardiovascular disease were not included in the study.

My take? This isn’t the first bad news about diet drinks. In 2012, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that the risk of heart attack and stroke or other vascular event was 43 percent higher among individuals who had a daily diet soda habit than those who didn’t consume these drinks, or who did so infrequently. Research at Harvard has suggested that drinking two or more diet sodas daily is associated with a decline in a measure of kidney function in women, and a Danish study found that the risk of giving birth prematurely increased by 38 percent among women who drank diet soda daily and by 78 percent among those who drank four or more diet sodas per day. There’s also evidence linking diet sodas to weight gain. Over the course of nine years, epidemiologists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found a 70 percent greater increase in weight circumference among participants in a study of aging who drank diet soda compared to those who didn’t. Bottom line: sodas, and diet sodas in particular, have no place in a healthy diet.

Sources:
Ankur Vyas et al,  "Too many diet drinks may spell heart trouble for older women, study suggests." American College of Cardiology, http://www.cardiosource.org/en/News-Media/Media-Center/News-Releases/2014/03/Vyas-Diet-Drinks.aspx March 29-31, 2014.