The amino acid methionine found in red meats, fish, beans, eggs, garlic, lentils, onions, yogurt and seeds could increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia noted that our bodies transform high levels of methionine into another amino acid, homocysteine and that high levels of homocysteine are associated with a higher than normal risk of developing dementia. The investigators explored this connection in a study in which they fed seven-month old mice that had the mouse version of Alzheimer's a high methionine diet and while a similar group of mice ate their regular diet. After eight months, the mice on the normal diet had normal homocysteine levels but those on the high methionine diet had increased levels of homocysteine plus up to 40 percent more plaque in their brains (plaque is characteristic of Alzheimer's). The high homocysteine mice also were less able to learn new tasks. Methionine is an essential amino acid for humans so it isn't advisable to avoid foods that contain it. However, a diet high in red meat could put you at added risk because it is associated with high levels of circulating homocysteine.
Conventional medical wisdom holds that the symptoms of heart attacks in women can be very different from the ones men experience. Maybe not. A Canadian researcher who challenged this belief has found evidence to show that heart attack symptoms don't actually vary dramatically between the sexes. The investigator, Martha Mackay, a cardiac nurse, studied 305 consecutive patients undergoing angioplasty (a procedure to open clogged coronary arteries), which briefly causes symptoms similar to those of a heart attack. Her team found no gender differences in rates of chest discomfort or other typical symptoms such as arm discomfort, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, clammy skin and indigestion-like feelings. However, she found that women were more likely than men to experience the classic symptoms of heart attack plus throat, jaw and neck discomfort. Commenting on the study, a spokesperson for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada noted that while women may describe their pain differently than men, their most common symptom is still chest pain. She also noted that women are less likely to believe they're having a heart attack and therefore more likely to put off seeking treatment.
My take? While women often don't realize that heart disease is as much of a threat to them as it is to men, that's not the only obstacle women heart patients face. Doctors tend to treat them less aggressively - women are less likely than men to receive such drugs as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors or even aspirin after a heart attack; rates of angioplasties and coronary artery bypass surgery are far lower among women than men. And women make up only 25 percent of all participants in heart-related research studies. Clearly, physicians and researchers need some consciousness-raising about heart disease in women.
While whole grains in general are healthy, oatmeal has additional benefits: It's naturally high in fiber, which helps keep blood-sugar levels stable and contains B vitamins, which are essential to convert carbohydrates into energy. Choose steel cut or Irish oatmeal over rolled oats. Oatmeal is a great high-energy food. Try it with almond milk and fresh or dried fruit.
A tasty recipe with oatmeal: Multi-Grain Scones.
Lentils are a wonderful source of protein, calcium and iron. They are a staple ingredient in Indian cooking, and combine well with many different seasonings. You may be most familiar with brown or green lentils, but did you know lentils can also be black, yellow and pink? Look for these more exotic varieties in Indian and specialty food stores. Similarly, not all curry powders are the same, ranging from quite mild to very hot. In making this dish, start with a small amount and taste it to be sure your dish meets the comfort and taste level of your guests. This dish is filled with exotic flavor and can be served as an entrée with rice or as a side dish alone.
1 pound pink lentils
1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cup cabbage, chopped
Curry powder to taste
4 cloves garlic, mashed
1 tablespoon chopped gingerroot
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
4 cups hot cooked rice
- Pick over lentils, removing any stones or foreign matter. Place in a bowl or colander and rinse thoroughly. Place lentils in pot with enough cold water to cover well. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook, partially covered, until lentils become a thick mush (about one hour).
- Meanwhile, heat canola oil in skillet, add vegetables and a little water, stir and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are barely tender.
- Add curry powder, garlic and ginger. Stir, then replace cover and simmer until vegetables are tender.
- Add vegetables and soy sauce to lentil mixture. Toss together, correct seasonings, and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors.
- Serve with rice.
Food as Medicine: Turmeric is a major component of curry. In a recent study, two important enzymes (UDP glucuronyl transferase and glutathione-S-transferase) that help the liver detoxify blood were elevated in rats that were fed turmeric as opposed to the controls. This suggests turmeric can support liver function.
New evidence suggests that bisphenol-A (BPA) can cause sexual dysfunction in men, especially those exposed to high levels at work. Investigators from Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, CA, who reviewed the health records of 550 factory workers in China found that those who worked with BPA were four times more likely to report some type of sexual dysfunction than were men in the factory who didn't work with the chemical. This is the first study to link BPA to harm in humans. Other research has demonstrated developmental changes in animals exposed to the chemical. In the new study, 15.5 percent of men exposed to BPA reported erectile dysfunction more than half the time compared to only 4.4 percent of men who weren't exposed to BPA. In addition, 13.9 percent of the men exposed to BPA complained of difficulty ejaculating compared to 2.5 percent of men who weren't exposed. However, the BPA levels in question were about 50 times what the average individual experiences. Don't look for any change in policies pertaining to BPA as a result of this study. More evidence from other human studies will be needed to determine what levels, if any, of BPA are safe for humans.
My take? Until we know more about any human health risks, I recommend avoiding plastics containing BPA. Substitute those made with polypropylene (#5 PP), high-density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low-density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). You can also reduce your exposure by buying foods and beverages frozen or packed in glass jars or bottles instead of cans lined with an epoxy containing BPA.
This bright green, crunchy salad is bursting with Asian flavors and is so easy to prepare. Look for fresh, plump organic green beans if you can find them. Cook them until they are bright green and still crunchy-tender. At this point you can keep the green beans refrigerated. Toss them with the dressing just before serving or the acid in the dressing will dull the bright green color. Ginger root, one of the main flavors in this salad, is actually a rhizome, an underground stem of a tropical plant, Zingiber officinale, which is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties and as a treatment for nausea. You can use ginger in many forms and reap its benefits. Look for other recipes that use crystallized ginger, the dried powder, the fresh form (used here) or even ginger tea.
1 pound fresh green beans, organic if possible
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger root
1 cup slivered red onion
4 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dark-roasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons of sugar
- Trim and cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths. Cook in rapidly boiling water, about 5 minutes or until crunchy-tender.
- Drain beans, immerse in cold water to stop the cooking until they are cool, then drain well.
- Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk until well blended.
- Toss the green beans with the ginger root, red onion and dressing. Serve immediately.
Food as Medicine: Green beans are low in calories - just 44 per cup - but rich in vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.
Here's another reason to watch out for high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), the ubiquitous, cheap, sweetener used in soft drinks and a wide range of processed foods such as salad dressings, ketchup, jams, jellies, ice cream, even bread. In addition to promoting weight gain, it may also raise your blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Colorado Denver Health Sciences Center queried more than 4,500 adults, age 18 and up, about their eating habits. Then, the investigators calculated their study participants' consumption of HCFS by looking at the amount of fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products and candy they reported eating daily. The researchers found that individuals who ate or drank more than 74 grams of HCFS per day (the amount found in 2.5 servings of sugary soft drinks) were at increased risk of developing hypertension and that HCFS is "significantly and independently associated with higher blood pressure" in adults with no previous history of hypertension. More studies will be needed to see if cutting down on HCFS consumption can bring blood pressure back to normal.
My take? HCFS is a contributor to the obesity epidemic, may have disruptive effects on metabolism, and appears to elevate triglycerides (blood fats that increase the risk of heart disease) in men (but not women). Avoiding foods containing HCFS will benefit your health and help control your weight - and, it now appears, your blood pressure.
More information on lowering high blood pressure.