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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.


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


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.


Transcendental Meditation and Depression

We know that meditation can help lower blood pressure, decrease heart and respiratory rates and increase blood flow, and now two new studies suggest that Transcendental Meditation can help reduce symptoms of depression. Research at Charles Drew University in Los Angeles and the University of Hawaii in Kohala each gathered a group of study participants, age 55 or older who were at risk for cardiovascular disease and found to be depressed on the basis of a standard clinical test. Both groups were able to reduce their depressive symptoms by 48 percent by practicing Transcendental Meditation. The Los Angeles study group included 59 African American men and women; the Hawaiian study included 53 native Hawaiian men. The significance of these initial findings is that they may help point the way to improving mental health without drugs or psychotherapy in older people at risk for cardiovascular disease. The results of the two studies were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Seattle on April 9, 2010.


Four Heart Health Tips

  1. Get your exercise: Regular, moderate exercise helps maintain the health of blood vessels; strengthens the heart muscle; and can help reduce cardiac risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, and stress. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week.
  2. Schedule a test: If you have a family history of heart disease, schedule a screening test for high blood pressure this week. It is fast, simple, and important for optimal heart health.
  3. Surround yourself with positive people: Start with our spiritual assessment, and create a list of people in your life who make you feel more alive, happy, and optimistic, then make an effort to spend more time with them now and in the future. Studies indicate that people who are upbeat and stay connected socially enjoy better health.
  4. Don't smoke. Not only is smoking a major risk factor for heart disease, it has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your taste buds to your energy levels to your skin. Seek support and guidance when quitting. If you quit now, you'll reduce your risk of heart attack by one-third within just two years.

Information courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.


A Note on Spinach

This bright green vegetable is a veritable powerhouse of nutrients, and one that I recommend you have on hand in your kitchen not only for its taste, but for its health benefits as well: Spinach may help promote gastrointestinal health and healthy vision, and help prevent osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer and inflammatory disorders.

Try Spinach Toasts, and learn more about growing spinach in your garden.


Asian Coleslaw

Cabbage is chock full of nutrients including vitamin C and indoles, important cancer-fighting compounds. In addition, red cabbage also contains anthocyanins, the purple pigment with strong antioxidant activity commonly found in blueberries. In the winter months, cabbage is an abundant nutritional resource when other fresh produce is either expensive or unavailable. This recipe calls for a lot of salt, but it is used in this dish to soften the cabbage. Then it is thoroughly rinsed off so the recipe doesn't provide too much sodium. This coleslaw is colorful and makes a delightful accompaniment to any meal, fish or vegetarian main dish. The garnish of minced scallions and toasted sesame seeds brings out the flavor of the slaw and adds additional crunch.


1 medium head green cabbage
1 medium head red cabbage
3 tablespoons sea salt
3 large carrots
1/4 cup minced scallions
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

2/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons dark-roasted sesame oil


  1. Discard the outer leaves of cabbages. Cut heads in quarters; remove and discard cores. Slice cabbage thinly or shred in a food processor. Layer the cabbage in a large bowl with the sea salt. Toss to distribute salt evenly and let cabbage sit for 1 hour to soften.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the carrots and grate them into thin shreds.
  3. Drain off any liquid produced by the cabbage and rinse the cabbage well in several changes of cold water to remove excess salt. Taste the cabbage; if it is still too salty, rinse it again.
  4. Add carrots to the cabbage and mix well.
  5. Whisk the rice vinegar, brown sugar and sesame oil together in a small bowl.
  6. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and mix well. Let chill.

Garnish with minced scallions and toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Food as Medicine: When cabbage is sliced or chopped, anti-carcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates are formed, but cooking denatures the enzyme that creates these compounds, stopping their production. So to maximize its healthful properties, cabbage should be eaten raw (as in this recipe) or cooked for less than five minutes.


Vitamin E in Contact Lenses May Help Fight Glaucoma

One basic approach to improve therapies for glaucoma is to keep eye drops used to treat the disease in contact with the eye longer than current methods permit. (Glaucoma, a form of optic nerve damage, is second only to cataracts as a cause of vision loss and blindness.) Researchers at the University of Florida in Gainesville found that special contact lenses treated with vitamin E can keep glaucoma medication near the eye much longer than is presently possible. In general, within two to five minutes of putting drops in the eye, tears wash the drug away so that only about one to five percent of it reaches the targeted tissue, said Anuj Chauhan, Ph.D., the research team leader. Incorporating vitamin E into contacts creates a barrier that slows the escape of the drug. In animal studies, the vitamin E packed lenses kept the drugs in close proximity to the eyes 100 times longer than most commercial lenses, the researchers said. Dr. Chauhan noted clinical trials of the vitamin E lenses could be completed within a year or two. She presented the findings at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in March in San Francisco.

Learn more about glaucoma and vitamin E.