At present, all we know is that people with high blood levels of B6 are about half as likely to develop lung cancer as those with the lowest levels, regardless of smoking history. The same goes for levels of methionine, an amino acid found in red meat, fish and beans. This new finding comes from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which looked at data from more than 500,000 Europeans recruited between 1992 and 2000. The investigators reached their conclusions by comparing 899 people in the study who developed lung cancer with 1,770 matched individuals who didn't. At this stage, all the researchers can report is that there seems to be an association between blood levels of these nutrients and lung cancer. The study didn't look at whether or not taking vitamin B6 or methionine will lower the risk. And it didn't change the fact that the best way to protect against lung cancer hasn't changed: don't smoke.
Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine and the skin of grapes, has been studied for its effects in extending longevity (at least in mice), and new research indicates that it may also help prevent and treat certain human eye diseases. Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis have reported that resveratrol stopped formation of damaging new blood vessels in the eyes (of mice), suggesting that it could be used to treat and prevent macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, both of which can cause vision loss. The investigators gave resveratrol to mice that developed abnormal blood vessels in the retina after laser treatment. They observed that the abnormal blood vessels began to disappear and that resveratrol apparently prevented development of new abnormal blood vessels. The investigators also found that the pathway through which resveratrol worked in their study differs from the one seen in longevity studies. If these findings hold up, resveratrol could help prevent and treat these diseases of the eye. The investigators suggested that the pathway identified might also be active in some types of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol would have to be given in pill form – you couldn’t drink enough wine to equal the amount of resveratrol provided in the studies.
More on resveratrol and red wine.
File this one under "you just can’t win": If you take reusable bags to the supermarket, you may be bringing home more than you bargained for. New research from the University of Arizona shows that more than half of 84 reusable bags collected from shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, including e.coli, a bug found in fecal matter. The contamination occurs when liquid from raw meat or other food leaks onto the bag. The concern is that the fabric can then contaminate other food if you don’t wash the bag before its next use. The study has been criticized because it was funded by the American Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers. However, co-author Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor, says researchers were only interested in the possibility of cross-contamination, not in discouraging people from using the bags. However, he recommends washing bags after each use and against storing them in the trunk of your car, a hot breeding ground for germs in the summer.
Once you bring your groceries back into your kitchen, even more opportunities for germs abound. Read my post on Simpler Steps for a Safer Kitchen.
Looking for a healthy alternative to pasta? Consider millet, a grain native to Africa and a staple of the North African diet. It is also widely consumed in China and India, where it is used to make flatbreads. In North America, millet is usually found in birdseed, although farmers here do grow pearl (or pearled) millet for human consumption. Millet is a nutritious alternative to wheat products for those who are sensitive to gluten, and can be substituted in recipes for buckwheat, rice or quinoa. It is roughly equal to wheat in protein content, and also provides niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid along with some calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.
To cook millet, simply simmer 1/2 cup of the grain in 1 1/2 cups of liquid. If you leave it alone as it cooks, you'll get fluffy grains like rice; if you stir frequently and add a little extra liquid during cooking, you'll get a dish that resembles mashed potatoes. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare.
Try using millet in my Toasted Grain Pilaf.
Laughter yoga is based on a simple truth that all children know: laughter makes you feel better (children laugh about 400 times a day; adults, 15 times). Developed by Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, laughter yoga is spreading across the United States and the world. Some typical exercises include:
- Greeting laughter: Laughing while shaking hands with at least four or five people in a group.
- Appreciation laughter: Joining the index finger with the thumb to make the universal “okay” sign to other group members while laughing simultaneously.
Laughter yoga is not really about humor (or yoga), but rather exploits the natural human tendency to laugh when others laugh - so when a group of people forces laughter, it quickly transitions to real, spontaneous laughing. I find this trend fascinating, and have no doubt that boosting the daily laughter quotient is indeed healthy, especially in adults.
More on laughter's power to relieve stress.
Folliculitis is the medical term for inflammation of the hair follicles, which is usually due to an infection with staphylococcus bacteria or a fungus. Folliculitis can occur on the scalp, as well as the arms, in the armpits, or on the legs. Chronic skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis can put you at risk for folliculitis, as can diabetes, tight clothing, living in unsanitary conditions, and heat and humidity.
Basic treatments for folliculitis may include:
- Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments applied topically to the affected area (if the area is large, an oral antibiotic may be recommended).
- Frequent shampooing to prevent recurrence. Look for shampoo made with tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), an effective germicidal and antibacterial agent which can also used to treat fungal infections of the skin.
If folliculitis is a recurring problem, I recommend considering:
- Hypnotherapy. Clinical hypnosis can be very effective for addressing skin conditions - look for a hypnotherapist with experience in dealing with these disorders.
- Supplementing your diet with GLA (gamma-linolenic acid). This essential fatty acid is hard to come by in the diet - the best sources are evening primrose oil and black currant oil.
- Increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, fortified eggs, freshly ground flaxseeds or walnuts, are all good dietary sources.
Learn more about folliculitis.
Feel free to make peanuts a part of your diet, just don't go too nuts; foods like peanut butter with high levels of monounsaturated fats may prevent heart disease and promote weight loss, but as always, should be consumed in moderation.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that is common in American and European men over the age of 50. While the actual cause of the tissue growth is not completely understood, experts believe it is closely linked to hormone levels. Try the following to help reduce the risk of BPH:
- Eat a diet low in saturated and trans-fats, focusing instead on the healthier monounsaturated and omega-3 fats.
- Eat more whole soy foods. Asian men have a lower incidence of BPH and some researchers believe it is related to their intake of whole soy foods.
- Avoid symptom triggers such as caffeine and alcohol, which increase the need to urinate and may irritate the bladder. Avoid constipation by increasing fiber in your diet. The pressure from constipation may make the symptoms of BPH worse.
- Have regular check-ups. The National Institute on Aging recommends that men get regular medical checkups including a prostate exam.
More information on BPH.