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Mustard - Spices in the Kitchen (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses mustard seeds and the various types available for culinary use. There are three species for mustard that are most-commonly used: black, white, and brown. Black mustard is the most pungent and originated in the Middle East. Brown mustard is used to make Dijon mustard and is native to the Himalayas. White mustard is the mildest, native to the eastern Mediterranean, and is used to make traditional yellow mustard. Medicinally, mustard is used to treat gastrointestinal issues as well as joint-related aches and pains.

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Menopause Can Give You a Headache

Here’s some news that will vindicate every woman who blames menopause for migraine headaches. A new investigation suggests that the headaches can begin or worsen in the years just before menopause and, according to the researchers, can now be considered a symptom of menopause, right up there with hot flashes. The monthly decline of estrogen before menstruation has long been blamed for menstrual migraines. Now, the low estrogen typical of menopause, as well as other hormonal fluctuations as menopause approaches, may be the trigger for migraines that occur at this time of life in some women. The migraine and menopause investigation was part of the larger American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study, a survey of 120,000 U.S. households. The researchers gathered data on 3,603 women ages 35 to 65 who have migraines, and classified them based on headache frequency and on whether the women were premenopausal, peri-menopausal or postmenopausal. The question now, the researchers said, is how to best treat these menopause migraines. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Headache Society annual meeting in Los Angeles.

Mary Mcvean, “Women: You are having more headaches around menopause, researchers say.” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 2014,, accessed July 5, 2014


Less Sleep, Faster Brain Aging

This troubling finding comes from a Singapore-based study showing that losing sleep with advancing age elicits changes in a region of the brain that is a marker for faster cognitive decline. The 66 Chinese seniors who participated had MRIs to measure their brain volume in conjunction with an evaluation of their cognitive function every two years. They also reported how many hours they typically slept. The researchers, from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, reported that study participants who slept fewer hours showed evidence of brain ventricle enlargement and declines in cognitive performance. This study was the first to look at the effect of sleep on brain ventricle enlargement, a known sign of cognitive decline. The investigators cited research elsewhere as showing that seven hours of sleep is associated with the best cognitive test scores in more than 150,000 adults, but noted that it is not yet known whether seven hours is optimum for overall physiology and long term brain health.

My take? This study adds a serious risk to the list of dangers posed by sleep deprivation throughout life. We know that lack of sleep increases the risk of accidents caused by fatigue and that not getting enough sleep is a risk factor for weight gain, perhaps by disrupting production of the appetite regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin. Sleep deprivation can also disrupt the body's regulation of blood sugar, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. And laboratory studies suggest that not getting adequate rest may also elevate levels of stress hormones, boost blood pressure, and increase inflammation - all changes that may lead or contribute to health concerns later in life. If you’re not getting enough sleep, the sooner you establish new habits, the better for the long-term health of your mind and body. Here are my recommendations for getting optimal sleep.

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June C. Lo et al, “Sleep Duration and Age-Related Changes in Brain Structure and Cognitive Performance.” SLEEP, 2014; DOI: 10.5665/sleep.3832


How Do You Store Your Food? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the health concerns and safety of using food packaging to store food: How Safe is Food Packaging? Check out the article and let us know what you use when storing food.


Having Baby “Late” in Life May Signal Longevity

Here’s some good news for women who have had babies after the age of 33: odds are they’ll live longer than women whose last child was born before they reached 30. The age at last childbirth can indicate the rate of biological aging, according to a study of families with members who lived exceptionally long lives. “The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” researcher Thomas Perls, M.D., M.P.H. explained in a press release. The genetic variants that allow women to have babies naturally after age 33 might also be responsible for exceptionally long life spans, the study suggested. The findings came from an analysis of data from the Long Life Family Study (LLFS)—a biopsychosocial and genetic study of 551 families with multiple members who attained exceptionally old ages. The researchers determined the ages at which 462 women had their last child, and correlated that age with their longevity. They found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 years had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older compared with women who had their last child by age 29. Earlier data from this study showed that women who gave birth naturally after age 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had their last child earlier in life.

Thomas T. Perls et al, “Extended maternal age at birth of last child and women's longevity in the Long Life Family Study.” Menopause, The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, June 23, 2014


Nutmeg - Spices in the Kitchen (Video)

Dr. Weil discusses the spice nutmeg and its natural health benefits. The egg-shaped nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, a tree native to Indonesia. Traditionally, nutmeg has been used orally for digestive issues such as flatulence, nausea and diarrhea. Topically, nutmeg has been use to treat mouth sores and toothache. Ground nutmeg is often used in baked goods due to its pungent and sweet taste.

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Warning: Sunbathing May Be Addictive

While you were basking on the beach, researchers have been trying to figure out why it is so hard to convince people to break the skin cancer-causing sunbathing habit. One theory: ultraviolet (UV) light can be addictive. Some studies have found that giving an opiod blocker to frequent tanners produced withdrawal-like symptoms, results that imply, but don't necessarily prove, that opiod pathways and reward centers in the brain are involved in their tanning activities. The latest evidence in support of the UV addiction theory comes from a study with mice at Massachusetts General Hospital. Researchers there exposed a group of lab mice to a daily dose of UV light equivalent to the exposure of fair-skinned humans to 20 to 30 minutes of midday Florida sun. The dose was calibrated to tan, but not burn, the shaved backs of the mice. Within a week of daily exposure, feel-good beta-endorphin levels in the mice’s blood increased significantly, and didn’t drop until the UV exposure ended. When treated with a drug that blocked the opiod effect, the critters went into mouse withdrawal, complete with shaking and teeth chattering.

David E Fisher, et al, ”Skin β-Endorphin Mediates Addiction to UV Light,” Cell,


Surprising Health Risks of a TV Habit

Most of us recognize that spending too much time watching television isn’t healthy, but two new investigations have shown that excessive hours in front of the tube can double the risk of premature death or dramatically increase the risk of colon or endometrial cancer. The link to the two types of cancers comes from a German review of 43 studies concluding that being sedentary was associated with a 24 percent increased risk of colon cancer and a 32 percent higher risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer. To make matters worse, the researchers calculated that for each two-hour increase in daily time spent simply sitting, the colon cancer risk rises by eight percent and the endometrial cancer risk by 10 percent. They also found that when the sitting was done in front of the television screen, colon cancer risk increased by 54 percent and the endometrial cancer risk by 66 percent. These risks appeared to be applicable to all of the four million people whose data was included in the 43 studies reviewed, including those who were physically active. More bad news came from researchers in Spain who found that watching three or more hours of television daily can double the risk of premature death among relatively young people. The study focused on over 13,000 college graduates.

My take? A number of studies in recent years have found that too much sitting isn’t good for us. Research has shown that sitting at work (where it may be unavoidable), while driving, and at home are lifestyle habits linked to type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome, which increase the risk of diabetes. In addition, heart disease, stroke, and the appearance of fat deposits linked to heart disease have been tied to prolonged sitting. Too much television has been associated with a long list of problems in kids including obesity, tobacco use, drug and alcohol use, poor achievement in school, and sexual and attention problems.

I'm not against spending a few leisure hours in front of the television. I often watch movies in the evenings, but enjoyable as that can be, it is no substitute for the relaxation techniques that I recommend as the best means of reducing stress, or for the short- and long-term benefits that regular physical activity provide. As we understand more about how moving effects our health, it has become apparent that even small amounts of activity add up in positive ways. Even if your job requires you to be relatively stationary, I encourage everyone to get up and move as much as possible.

Daniela Schmid and Michael F. Leitzmann, “Television Viewing and Time Spent Sedentary in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Meta-analysis” Journal of the National Cancer Institute, doi: 10.1093/jnci/dju098

Miguel Martinez-Gonzalez,  “Watching too much TV may increase risk of early death in adults,” Journal of the American Heart Association, June 25, 2014 doi: 10.1161/JAHA.114.000864