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How Do You Prefer Your Chocolate? (Poll)

A recent Q&A looked at the benefits of cocoa: Is Cocoa as Healthy as Dark Chocolate? Check out the article and let us know your favorite ways of enjoying this delictable treat!


Omega-3s Reduce Anxiety, Inflammation

Fish oil from salmon and other cold-water species is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, and according to a new study, can help reduce both inflammation and anxiety. A research team from Ohio State University reported that daily doses of omega-3 supplements, providing about four to five times the amount of fish oil found in a daily serving of salmon, reduced anxiety among a group of medical students. The original aim of the study was to determine whether omega-3s would bring about a reduction in stress levels, but due to a change in the medical school curriculum, the 68 students participating weren't as stressed out during their exam period as had been expected. Earlier studies by the same investigators had shown that stress related to exams lowered students' immune status. In the new study, the team found that the 34 students who received the omega-3s were 20 percent less anxious than were the 34 who were given a placebo. The investigators also saw a 14 percent reduction in inflammation-promoting compounds called cytokines in the students who took omega-3s. Inflammation can foster diseases ranging from arthritis to cancer and heart disease. The researchers noted that if taking omega-3s brings about positive changes in young med school students, seniors and people at high risk for certain diseases might benefit even more. The study was published online on July 19, 2011 by the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

My take? We've known for some time that omega-3s help tone down inflammation, and may help reduce the risk and symptoms of a number of disorders influenced by inflammation. We also know that people with memory loss, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), may benefit from omega-3s, so it makes sense that these fats would also help reduce anxiety. To get adequate omega-3s, I recommend eating oily fleshed, wild-caught, cold water fish two to three times per week. If you use fish oil capsules, take two grams daily of a brand that contains both EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).


Wine & Grapes May Protect Skin

No joke: researchers in Spain have suggested that drinking red wine or eating grapes may help defend your skin against the damaging effects of sunburn. The investigators report that antioxidant compounds found in grapes can protect skin by undermining formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). If left unchecked, these byproducts of normal metabolism set off a chemical reaction that kills off cells and as a result, damages skin exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Researchers at the University of Barcelona and the Spanish National Research Council studied the chemical reaction that leads to sunburn and then looked at the effects of flavonoids on this process. They suggested that grapes could protect against both burns and skin cancer. Don't be too quick to trade your sunscreen for a bottle of Spanish red: the grapes may turn out to work best when incorporated into skin creams to guard us from sunburn. The study was published in the May 11, 2011 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.


Exercise and Your Heart: A Little Bit'll Do It

It doesn't take much exercise to help reduce your risk of heart disease. A new review of 33 earlier studies on the benefits of exercise found that people who get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week reduce their risk of heart disease by 14 percent compared to inactive people (150 minutes comes out to 30 minutes a day, five days a week). Of course, more is better, and with additional physical activity (five hours of exercise per week) you can lower your risk by as much 20 percent (again, compared to inactive folks). The review found that women benefit more from exercise than men, but the researchers aren’t sure why and have suggested that the difference may be due to a statistical quirk. You might also achieve an additional risk reduction of five percent if you're up for exercising 12.5 hours per week, but the researchers conceded that the extra five percent may not be worth all that added effort. The study was published online August 1 in Circulation.


These Foods May Promote Colon Health

A new study from a California research team suggests that eating more legumes (dried beans, dried peas and lentils) at least three times a week can cut the risk of developing colon polyps (which can lead to cancer) by 33 percent. Brown rice reduces the risk, too, by 40 percent. Researchers at Loma Linda University also found that eating cooked green vegetables at least once a day, and dried fruit at least three times a week offers additional protection. The researchers analyzed data from more than 2,800 adults in the Adventist Health Study-1 performed in 1976-77, including information on participants who responded to a follow up study 26 years later. The first study asked participants how often they consumed specific foods. The investigators also considered other factors that could influence colon cancer risk, including family history of the disease, education, physical activity level, and constipation. They also checked alcohol intake, how often the participants ate sweets, used pain medication and took multivitamins. The study was published in the May 2011 issue of Nutrition and Cancer.

My take? These new findings provide welcome support for dietary strategies that aim to help prevent both colon polyps and colon cancer. In addition to eating the high fiber foods associated with lower risks of colon polyps seen in this study, we already know that avoiding red meat can reduce the risks of polyps and colon cancer. I also recommend limiting alcohol intake - research has suggested that the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of developing colon cancer. Another dietary tip: Make green tea your beverage of choice. Regular consumption of green tea is linked with lower incidence of many kinds of cancer.


Want to Have a Baby? See Your Dentist

For some women who are having trouble getting pregnant, the problem could be gum disease. A new study from Australia involving more than 3,500 pregnant women, found that those who had gum disease took about two months longer to conceive than the average among women who didn't have gum disease. The delay was even longer - more than a year - among non-Caucasian women, the researcher from the University of Western Australian reported at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology meeting in July. Gum disease causes inflammation that can pass into the blood stream and has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and kidney disease and pregnancy problems including miscarriage and premature birth, the study noted. The investigator reported that the effect of gum disease on fertility is equal to the negative influence of obesity. Bottom line: when considering pregnancy stop smoking, avoid alcohol, maintain a healthy weight, take folic acid supplements and see your dentist.


How Do You Make Tea? (Poll)


Vegetarian Diet and Digestive Disease

New evidence from Britain suggests that vegetarians are one-third less likely to develop diverticular disease than are meat eaters. This disorder, affects the colon and has been associated with diets that are low in fiber. Symptoms include painful abdominal cramps, bloating, flatulence, constipation and diarrhea. A research team from the University of Oxford looked at more than 47,000 British adults participating in a European study of cancer and nutrition; more than 15,000 of them reported that they were vegetarians. After more than 11 years of follow up and adjusting for such factors as alcohol consumption, smoking and body mass index (BMI), the investigators found that the rate of diverticular disease among the vegetarians was one-third lower than that of other study participants. They also found that those whose consumption of dietary fiber was about 25 grams a day were at lower risk of being hospitalized or dying from diverticular disease than study participants who consumed less than 14 grams of fiber daily. Diverticular disease may also worsen into a condition known as diverticulitis. The findings were published online on July 19th on the British Medical Journal's website.