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Saturday
Apr252009

Health News About Broccoli Sprouts

The active constituent is sulforaphane, a component of broccoli sprouts that interferes with the activity of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). These bugs live in the gastrointestinal tract and can cause stomach ulcers (which are treated with antibiotics) and gastritis, two conditions that are associated with stomach cancer. In a small study in Japan, researchers from Johns Hopkins gave 25 subjects infected with H. pylori two and a half ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months. Another 25 infected individuals received alfalfa sprouts instead. The study subjects were monitored with breath, blood and stool sample tests before, during and after the study to check the severity of their H. pylori infections, colonization by the bacteria and the degree of inflammation in the stomach lining. After two months, levels of a substance that indicates the presence of H. pylori had dropped 40 percent in the broccoli group, but remained unchanged in the subjects eating alfalfa sprouts. Eight weeks after the study ended H. pylori levels returned to where they had been in the first place, suggesting that the sulforaphane they contain reduces H. pylori colonization but doesn’t eliminate it. The study was published in the April 6, 2009 issue of Cancer Prevention Research.

Friday
Apr242009

The Best Walking Pace

The benefits of moderate physical activity to general health and well-being have been widely publicized, but what, exactly, constitutes moderate activity? Now, researchers have a specific answer: walking at a rate of at least 100 steps per minute.

This means that a simple pedometer-based recommendation of workouts consisting of 3,000 steps in 30 minutes can get people started on a meaningful, moderate exercise program. The study reaching this conclusion was published in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers monitored oxygen intakes as a study group of 58 woman and 39 men completed four six-minute sessions at different treadmill speeds of between 65 and 110 meters per minute. All wore pedometers and their heart rates were recorded. Using 3 METs, or metabolic equivalents, as the minimum level of oxygen demand which approximates moderate exercise, participants were monitored to determine whether, and when, participants had reached the moderate-exercise level. The researchers found that for men, step counts associated with walking at 3 METs were between 92 and 102 steps per minute. For women, the range was between 91 and 115 steps per minute.

This is very useful information. Too often, people put off starting an exercise program because they simply don’t know how much they should do, or how vigorously they should do it. Now, an inexpensive pedometer and a wristwatch are all you need to begin walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, confident that you are meeting the minimum requirement. You can, as I do, vary your walking regime with swimming, biking or even vigorous yard work for equivalent periods of time, but many people find that walking fits into their lifestyle most comfortably. Enjoy!

Thursday
Apr232009

Insomnia Can Raise Your Blood Pressure

Tossing and turning through the night is bad enough, but a new study published in the April 1, 2009 issue of SLEEP showed that getting inadequate sleep at night can have more serious consequences than daytime tiredness. The researchers demonstrated that insomnia can raise the risk of high blood pressure 500 percent higher in individuals who got less than five hours sleep compared to study participants who slept more than six hours and didn't suffer from insomnia. The investigators also found that insomniacs who slept five to six hours a night had a risk for high blood pressure 350 percent higher than normal sleepers. But insomniacs who slept for six hours or more had no higher risk for hypertension, nor did individuals who slept less than six hours but didn't complain about insomnia. The researchers, from Penn State's College of Medicine, emphasized that you can't judge your risk based on the amount of sleep you think you get - as that belief doesn’t necessarily conform to actual sleep time as measured scientifically in a sleep center. But the researchers said that if you have persistent insomnia with short sleep duration, you should discuss your blood pressure and general health with your physician.

Read more about insomnia treatment.

Wednesday
Apr222009

Omega-3s Battle Tumors

Add this to the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids: Egyptian researchers have found that docosahexanoic acid (DHA), one of the primary omega-3s, reduced the size of solid tumors in mice and increased the efficacy of a chemotherapy drug. The new findings, published in the April 2, 2009 issue of Cell Division, may lead to the use of DHA combined with chemo in treating solid tumors. DHA may also work against tumors by itself, the researchers said. More specifically, the Egyptian team reported that at the molecular level, DHA reduces the accumulation of white blood cells, moderated systemic inflammation and also helped check oxidative stress, all of which have been linked to tumor growth. The investigators further noted that DHA reduced toxicity and damage to the kidney caused by cisplatin, the chemotherapy drug used against tumors in mice. Omega-3s are found in salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines as well as plant-derived foods such as walnuts. The Egyptian findings came just after U.S. researchers reported that a diet high in omega-3s protected against advanced prostate cancer, even in men at high risk.

Tuesday
Apr212009

14 Ingredients to Avoid

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Tape this list to your fridge!

An important step in creating a healthy kitchen is to read and understand food labels. When you begin restocking your pantry, food labels are your best resource to assess what to keep and what to toss. This practice will also give you an overview of your choices in the supermarket, and is a good starting point to modify your shopping habits. Use the list below to determine which items to discard. Many of these ingredients are considered pro-inflammatory and therefore unfavorable to healthy aging. If the list of ingredients contains one or more of these undesirables, toss and don't buy again!

  1. Animal fat, such as lard
  2. Artificial sweeteners or non-nutritive sweeteners
  3. Coconut oil
  4. Corn oil
  5. Cottonseed oil
  6. Fractionated oil
  7. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  8. Hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil or vegetable shortening
  9. Margarine
  10. Palm or palm kernel oil
  11. Blended vegetable oils
  12. Safflower oil
  13. Soybean oil
  14. Sunflower oil

Note: High-oleic versions of sunflower or safflower oils are acceptable, as they have fatty acid profiles closer to that of olive oil. 

Learn more about an anti-inflammatory diet. 

Monday
Apr202009

How Does Turmeric Work?

I have long promoted the healing powers of turmeric, the brilliantly hued spice that's an integral part of the traditional Indian diet. Turmeric's main ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to have a wide array of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Indeed, eating turmeric in their daily curries appears to be one of the main reasons that elderly citizens of India have very low rates of Alzheimer's disease

Now, we are gaining some insight into how curcumin exerts its benefits. University of Michigan researchers have discovered that curcumin incorporates itself into cell membranes and makes them more orderly. This allows the membranes to more effectively control the flow of substances in and out of cells, which improves cells' resistance to infection and malignancy. The findings were published online March 3, 2009, for the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

I am always interesting in, and heartened by, scientific discoveries revealing the mechanism behind natural healing. Slowly, we are developing a sophisticated body of knowledge about the biochemistry of foods, which will help to usher in the day when physicians the world over will become just as likely - or, perhaps, even more likely - to prescribe dietary changes rather than medications.

Monday
Apr202009

The Sunshine Vitamin and Why You Need It

Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine vitamin" because the body synthesizes it with exposure to sunlight. This important hormone is used throughout the body, and:

  1. Helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
  2. Assists in the absorption of calcium and promotes bone mineralization, which may prevent or slow the progression of osteoporosis.
  3. Strengthens the immune system and protects against a number of serious diseases, including rickets and osteomalacia.
  4. May provide protection from hypertension, psoriasis and several autoimmune diseases (including multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis).
  5. Plays a role in defending against cancer (studies link a deficiency of vitamin D to as many as 18 different cancers).

It isn't easy to get enough vitamin D from your diet alone, though fortified foods (milk and cereals), eggs, salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are all good sources. Even if you receive regular sun exposure (for most of us 20-30 minutes a day is adequate), I recommend taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D per day - look for supplements that provide D3 (cholecalciferol) rather than D2 (ergocalciferol). 

Friday
Apr172009

Raspberry Evening Spritzer

This simple blend of fruit, natural sweeteners, tea, and seltzer water is an ideal afternoon or evening drink for a casual gathering with friends or an afternoon refresher during the work week.

Ingredients

1 cup purified water
6 ounces raspberries
1 teaspoon herbal or black tea leaves
1 cup honey
1 small orange, washed and cut into 8 thin slices
8 cups chilled seltzer water

Instructions

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan and drop in the raspberries. Lower heat and simmer for three minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and sprinkle the tea into the pan. Cover and let steep for two minutes.
  3. Strain the warm liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small saucepan, using the back of a large spoon to break up the pulp of the berries and push the liquid through. Add the honey. Stir for about two minutes, then chill in the refrigerator.
  4. Place one orange slice at the bottom of eight tall glasses. Pour one tablespoon of the chilled raspberry syrup and one cup of cold seltzer water into each glass. Stir, add ice, and serve immediately. If you wish, stick a couple of colorful straws in each glass for added color and fun.