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Saturday
May152010

Vitamin K May Lower Lymphoma Risk

Word from the Mayo Clinic is that people whose diets provide higher levels of vitamin K have an approximately 45 percent lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, an immune system cancer, than those whose "K" intake is lowest. The investigators compared food questionnaires from 603 newly diagnosed patients with the disease as well as from 1,007 cancer-free controls. The questionnaire asked about the intake of 120 food items two years prior to the cancer diagnosis or enrollment in the study. The researchers also asked about a variety of supplements in order to estimate overall vitamin K intake. The team leader described the findings as "fairly strong" but cautioned that they need to be confirmed by further studies. The data showed that increasing intake of "K" via supplements was protective, but that the highest intake from supplements provided no extra advantage, suggesting that taking high doses isn’t likely to be helpful. Good dietary sources of "K" include leaf lettuce and spinach.

Friday
May142010

Orange Juice and Inflammation

Planning to splurge on a high fat, high carb meal? Washing it down with orange juice might prevent any harm. New research from the State University of New York at Buffalo suggests that drinking orange juice can help counteract the inflammatory effects on the body of an unhealthy meal. Researchers tested this idea on three groups of 10 normal, healthy individuals. Everyone in the study ate a 900 calorie fast food type meal of egg and sausage muffins and hash brown potatoes. Along with their meal, one group drank water, one a 300 calorie glucose/water drink and the third three cups of orange juice. The researchers took blood samples from all the participants before the meals and again about five hours later. The second round of tests found significant increases in markers of inflammatory stress in the groups that received water and the water/glucose drink. However, no such changes showed up in those who drank orange juice. The researchers suggested that the orange juice effect is probably due to the flavonoids it contains - natural compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. The study was published online on March 3, 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

My take? A few years ago researchers at the University of California at Davis found that plant sterols added to orange juice lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a substance in blood that is a marker for inflammation. (Plant sterols are compounds chemically similar to the good cholesterol the body produces and can help lower cholesterol levels.) Despite these findings and those of the latest study, I wouldn't rely on orange juice to counteract the inflammatory effects of unhealthy meals. For long-term control of the harmful consequences of inflammation the best strategy is an anti-inflammatory diet.

Thursday
May132010

A Note on Strawberries

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, strawberries are full of antioxidants that can help promote heart and vision health, and protect against cancer and inflammatory diseases. Because pesticides are commonly used on conventionally grown varieties, you should use organically grown strawberries whenever possible.

Quick Tip: Wash strawberries right before eating or using in prepared dishes, as they are very perishable. And don't remove the stems until after you wash them, to prevent water absorption which can affect the texture and flavor.

Try Lemon Olive Oil Cake with strawberries and Greek yogurt.

Thursday
May132010

Fear of Fat

Many women may think they have no real issues with body image - but you can't fool an MRI. Researchers at Brigham Young University used functional brain imaging to see what really was going on in the heads of women who easily passed psychological tests relating to body image. The idea was to use these images from healthy women's brains as a point of "normal" reference when screening anorexic and bulimic women. But the MRIs revealed that when shown photos of overweight female strangers the brain's self-reflection center (the medial prefrontal cortex) of the "no-body-image-issues" women lit up in ways suggesting extreme unhappiness, even self-loathing. The measured response wasn't as dramatic as it is among anorexic and bulimic patients, but it was closer to the pattern seen in these diseases than it was to responses seen in men (who were given MRIs and didn't show anything like the changes seen in women). The findings were published in the May issue of the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

Wednesday
May122010

B Vitamin Benefits

Eating more foods rich in folate and vitamin B6 seems to lower women's risk of dying from stroke and heart disease and to reduce men's risk of death from heart failure, according to new research from Japan. Investigators analyzed food questionnaires completed by 23,119 men and 35,611 women age 40-79. After about 14 years of follow up, the researchers found that 986 participants died from stroke, 424 from heart disease and 2,087 from all diseases related to the cardiovascular system. When they looked at levels of B vitamin intake from the questionnaires, they found that men whose consumption of folate and vitamin B6 was highest had significantly fewer deaths from heart failure and that women whose reported folate and B6 intake was highest had significantly fewer deaths from stroke, heart disease and total cardiovascular diseases. Vitamin B12, another nutrient the researchers looked at, wasn't associated with any reduced risk. Even after the adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors and for dietary supplement use, the investigators found that folate and B6 remained protective. The report was published online April 15 in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Tuesday
May112010

High Fructose Corn Syrup and Your Liver

As many as 30 percent of adult Americans have Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH) also called Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), possibly as a result of consuming too many foods and beverages containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Whatever you call it, this disorder can cause scarring and hardening of the liver, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer. Because of rising rates of obesity, NAFLD has become increasingly common. The newly-identified link to HFCS comes from a study at Duke University Medical Center. Researchers looked at dietary questionnaires completed by 427 adults with NAFLD. Only 19 percent of these patients reported no consumption of fructose containing beverages; 52 percent consumed between one and six drinks per week; and 29 percent consumed beverages that contained HFCS daily. There's no treatment for NAFLD - all you can do is lose weight and lower your triglycerides if they're elevated. The Duke study's findings may suggest another strategy - "healthier diets that are more holistic," said study leader Manal Abdelmalek, M.D., MPH - and less HFCS.

My take? High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is definitely bad for you. I believe that it is a major driver of the obesity epidemic, and there's an environmental impact to consider. Journalist and agriculture industry critic Michael Pollen notes that growing all the corn needed for HFCS depletes soil nutrients, which increases the need for pesticides and fertilizer. Giving up products containing HFCS will benefit your health, help control your weight, and if enough people get the message, protect the planet as well.

Friday
May072010

Cherry Blossoms in Japan

Cherry blossoms (sakura) during Japan's Golden Week

I've just finished uploading many more images from my recent trip to Japan on my Flickr page

Wednesday
May052010

Overcoming Exercise Excuses

It's fairly simple: getting regular, moderate exercise for 30 to 45 minutes every day will help to keep your body and mind healthy and resilient. Use these four tips to overcome any excuses:

  1. Excuse: You don't have time for it. Physical activity is one of the most important investments you can make in long-term health and healthy aging.  It has to be a priority. Aim for 30 to 45 minutes a day of aerobic activity, 30 minutes of strength training two or three times a week, and aim for the same number of minutes for flexibility and balance training.
  2. Excuse: You're too old to start. Sports physiology has demonstrated that the body can build muscle and improve strength well into the ninth decade. At whatever age you commit to regular physical activity, the benefits will accrue. It is never too late to start.
  3. Excuse: You don't know how. Read books, watch DVDs, work with trainers, and take classes. All are great introductions to a variety of exercises.
  4. Excuse: You just don't like it. Most people who are not in the habit of exercising have to struggle at first to build positive inertia. The inactive body can be lazy and sluggish. Most people who stick with their physical activity routines soon find them rewarding. Physical activity makes you feel better, physically and emotionally, in part, perhaps, because of endorphin release and changes in metabolism. Even if you feel sluggish when you start your aerobic exercise, it is likely to soon become pleasurable.

Information courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.