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Healthy Eating May Prevent Cataracts

This news comes from a study involving more than 1,800 postmenopausal women. Results showed that the women whose diets were healthiest were 37 percent less likely to develop cataracts than others in the study. In addition to poor diet, smoking and obesity were identified as factors that put women at higher risk.

 However, the researchers, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, reported that diet was the strongest risk factor linked to the incidence of cataracts and suggested that a healthy diet, as well as not smoking and avoiding obesity could lower the need for cataract surgery among postmenopausal women. Earlier studies zeroed in on the carotenoids lutein (found in mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards and bok choy) and zeaxanthin (found in orange bell peppers, oranges, corn and honeydew melon) and the use of multivitamins as the factors consistently related to a lower risk of cataracts.

More about the carotenoid lutein's power to protect against age-related eye disorders.


Are You Addicted to the Internet?

 That's a good question. Some research does suggest that internet addiction is real and occurs particularly among adolescents. Unfortunately, if this is a genuine addiction, it is tricky to treat - computers are now part of our daily lives. You can't avoid them as readily as you can alcohol, drugs or gambling. If your time spent online is interfering with other aspects of your life, and if most - if not all - of your leisure time is devoted to computer usage, you certainly could have a problem. Recognizing it is the first step toward overcoming it.

Here's how I set limits on personal technology use.


Eggplant Dip

This Eggplant Dip has a great texture with a tangy, vinegary, seasoned taste that is mellowed with the pita. You also can smear the dip inside warm crepes for a different kind of presentation.


1 eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium onion, grated or finely chopped
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 
4 pitas
1 tomato, peeled


1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Set the eggplant on a baking pan or dish and pierce it a few times with a knife. Bake it until it becomes soft, about 30 minutes; it should pierce easily with a fork. Remove it from the oven and let cool. When completely cooled, peel the skin off and put the flesh into a blender or food processor. Add the onions, capers, and lemon juice. Turn on the machine, then gradually add the olive oil. Continue to blend until the eggplant is smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the oregano, salt, pepper, and vinegar.

3. Warm the pitas briefly on a baking sheet, then cut each of them into 8 wedges. Arrange them on a plate or platter. Just before serving, stir the tomato and parsley into the dip.

Food as Medicine: Rich color in vegetables usually indicates abundant heart-healthy antioxidants, and deep-purple eggplant is no exception. Eggplant is a particularly good source of an antioxidant called chlorogenic acid, which is among the most potent plant-based free-radical scavengers ever discovered.


Finding Arizona

I've posted about my formative years directly after medical school, but in this interview, I share how I came to make my home in Arizona.


Guided Imagery and Surgery

Guided imagery is the practice of concentrating on vivid mental pictures - which may be evoked by a practitioner or by an audio recording - to promote healing. If you are considering or facing surgery, you may want to add guided imagery to your list of preparations. There is a growing body of compelling evidence for the supportive role of the mind-body connection in facilitating healing, and guided imagery, in particular, may help augment the recovery process for surgical patients by:

  1. Decreasing post surgical pain and the need for pain medication
  2. Reducing the side effects and complications of surgery
  3. Lessening stress and anxiety before and after procedures
  4. Reducing recovery time
  5. Improving sleep
  6. Strengthening the immune system
  7. Boosting self-confidence and self-control

If you wish to try guided imagery, consult an experienced practitioner about your challenges and goals. You may also choose to create and play personalized imagery CDs or MP3s both before and after surgery.

Read more about guided imagery.


Vitamin D for Your Heart

Need (another) reason to keep your vitamin D intake up? New research suggests that those with low levels of this essential nutrient may have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Researchers in Utah followed 27,000 men and women over the age of 50 who had no previous history of heart disease. After a year, they found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were:

  1. 77 percent more likely to die than those with adequate levels of vitamin D.
  2. 45 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease than those with adequate levels of vitamin D.
  3. 78 percent more likely to have a stroke than those with adequate levels of vitamin D.
  4. Twice as likely to develop heart failure than those with normal levels of vitamin D.

The study, from the Intermountain Medical Center, was presented at the Nov. 16, 2009, session of the American Heart Association's Scientific Conference. Dr. Weil recommends prudent daily sun exposure to support the natural production of Vitamin D in our skin, as well as speaking to your doctor about checking vitamin D levels and supplementing if necessary.

Sunlight exposure causes our bodies to make vitamin D, so soak it up--whether you're working in the garden or exercising outdoors.


What's Witch Hazel?

Witch hazel is a liquid distillation of the leaves, bark and twigs of a common shrub (Hamamelis virginiana) which is native to North America. It can usually be found on drugstore shelves next to rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, yet many people aren't familiar with it.

In spite of its relative anonymity, there are many uses for witch hazel that you may find surprising. To treat irritated skin, douse an organically grown cotton pad with witch hazel and apply it to the area. This treatment is good for insect bites as well as sun and wind burn, and even hemorrhoids. You can also use it in the same manner to disinfect minor cuts and abrasions, and for general skin care such as cleansing, toning and refreshing the face. In addition, it can be rubbed into arms or legs for muscle soreness. Witch hazel has no drug interactions and may be used safely by both children and adults.

Learn more about witch hazel, as well as other powerful botanicals, in my index of herbs.


Omega-3 Could Help Beat Major Depression

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help treat mild to moderate depression, and now a study from Canada suggests that these essential fatty acids might also help people suffering from major depression. Researchers at the University of Montreal and other participating medical centers in Canada recruited 432 men and women suffering from unipolar depression for a randomized, double-blind study testing omega-3 supplements against a placebo. Many of the patients had complex and difficult to treat depression, and many hadn’t responded to earlier treatment with prescribed antidepressants. After eight weeks, the investigators saw a "clear benefit" in patients who suffered from depression alone, but not in those who also had anxiety disorders. The investigators noted that the improvements were comparable to those generally seen with conventional anti-depressant treatment and concluded that additional research will be needed to test omega-3s head to head against antidepressants. The daily doses used in the study were 1,050 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 150 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

My take? A number of studies have suggested that a deficit of omega-3s may predispose to depression. I recommend two to threegrams of fish oil a day, providing both EPA and DHA in a ratio of about three or four to one for mild to moderate depression along with other approaches including regular exercise, at least 30 minutes five days a week. Exercise is the most effective treatment I know for mild to moderate depression. Results of the study on the effectiveness of fish oil for patients with major depression appear promising. I look forward to future studies comparing this treatment with pharmaceutical anti-depressants.

Here's what I have to say about omega-3s for vegetarians and vegans.