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Farm Vegetable Salad (Video)

This salad is best seen as a canvas upon which to paint the best of the season's bounty. Chef Michael Stebner of True Food Kitchen restaurant uses heirloom tomatoes, carrots and beets in his rendition of this healthy appetizer - but the possibilities are endless.

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Cheery News About Aging

Population researchers have come up with a new way of looking at age, and it doesn’t have much to do with the year you were born. Instead, a study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is aimed at refocusing the way demographers view, and report on, the world’s aging population. Instead of relying on chronology, the new framework encompasses such factors as health, cognitive function, and life expectancy. Demographers have traditionally used chronological age as a proxy for those aspects of aging, but as lifespans lengthen and enjoying good health into later decades becomes more common, age in years no longer correlates with such characteristics, the study found. “We should not consider someone who is 60 or 65 to be an older person,” said researcher Sergei Scherbov in an IIASA press release. “People now are much healthier and much ‘younger’ than people were at the same age in previous generations… (Saying) that ‘40 is the new 30’ truer than people know.” The study was published online on December 5, 2013 in the journal Population and Development Review.

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Warren C. Sanderson, Sergei Scherbov, “The Characteristics Approach to the Measurement of Population Aging,” Population and Development Review December DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2013.00633.x


Zapping Away Migraines

A new device marketed for relieving migraine headaches and approved by the FDA could eliminate headache pain within two hours for some patients, but others may have to wait as long as an excruciating 24 hours, and many may not be helped at all. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t address the debilitating symptoms that often go along with migraines including nausea, sensitivity to light and sensitivity to sound, the FDA noted. The device provides transcranial magnetic stimulation. To deal with a headache, patients have to hold the device to the back of the head and push a button. This results in two magnetic pulses that last less than a millisecond each, 30 seconds apart. In a study of the effectiveness of the stimulator, 38 percent of patients reported relief within two hours, 34 percent were headache-free 24 hours later, and 28 percent were not helped at all. Of patients who received a sham device, 17 percent reported relief within two hours and 10 percent within 24 hours, the FDA said. The most common side effect of the new treatment is dizziness. Patients with metal implants or devices with magnetic components and those with epilepsy or a personal or family history of seizures should not use the device, the FDA warned.

My take? This new approach to treating migraines isn’t perfect, which is also true of the drugs available to relieve the headaches. Nothing works perfectly for all migraine patients. In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers for the headaches, I suggest eliminating caffeine from your diet so you can use coffee or other forms of caffeine as an effective and immediate migraine treatment. Drink one or two cups of strong coffee at the first sign of an attack, then lie down in a dark, quiet room. I also recommend considering preventive measures such as biofeedback; taking feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), 100-150 mg daily; coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10); 400 mg daily of riboflavin (the high dose needs to be prescribed by a physician); or the herb butterbur (50-100 mg twice daily with meals).

Richard B.  Lipton et al, “Single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation for acute treatment of migraine with aura: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, sham-controlled trial,” The Lancet Neurology, doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(10)70054-5


Would You Let Your Child Play Contact Sports? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed concussions and the effects on children who play contact sports: How Dangerous Are Concussions? Check out the article and tell us your opinion on whether you would let your child play contact sports or not.


Hops for Hot Flashes, Weight Loss and Cancer Prevention

Researchers at Oregon State University are looking into the cancer protective effects of a flavonoid found in hops, the plants that give beer its bitter flavor. The flavonoid, xanthohumol, can help protect against cancer, at least in cell culture. Investigators at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State have found xanthohumol to be active against breast, colon, and ovarian cancer when these cancer cell lines were grown and treated under lab conditions. The flavonoid might also help prevent prostate cancer. In addition, hops appears to have other health benefits: an extract has been shown to decrease hot flashes in menopausal women, and ongoing studies of the effect of one hops compound may lead to a new approach to weight loss. In animal studies, the compound promoted either outright weight loss or prevented the animals from gaining as much weight as untreated animals. Don’t stock up on beer yet, though, as it doesn’t contain enough xanthohumol to provide any of the potential health benefits. How much xanthohumol would be needed to protect against cancer, control hot flashes and help us lose weight is still being investigated.

“An interview with Fred Stevens, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Medicinal Chemistry LPI Principal Investigator,” Linus Pauling Institute Research Newsletter, accessed December 6, 2013,

“Hops”, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center website, accessed December 7, 2013,


Importance of Macronutrients (Video)

We need all three classes of macronutrients - carbohydrates, proteins, and fats - to be truly healthy, and we need them in the proper balance, as Dr. Weil explains.

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Singing for Your Health

Singing in the shower may perk you up for the day, but if you really want to be happy, consider joining a choir. British researchers examined how singing affects our feelings of well-being by reviewing data gathered from an on-line survey of 375 people who sang in choirs, sang solo or belonged to a sports team. The investigators found that all three activities had a positive impact on mental well-being, but that singing in a choir topped singing alone, in or out of the shower. What’s more, the choir members felt even closer to their fellow singers than athletes felt about their teammates. The study didn’t delve into why, exactly, singing buoys us, but lead author Nick Stewart of Oxford Brookes University said that “further research could look at how moving and breathing in synchrony with others might be responsible for creating a unique well-being effect.” He also suggested that joining a choir “could be a cost-effective way to improve people’s well-being.” The survey results were presented on December 5, 2013 at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Clinical Psychology.

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Hayley Dickson, “Choir Singing Boosts Your Mental Health", The Telegraph, December 4, 2013,


How to Splurge on Food and Stay Healthy

A new study from Great Britain suggests that you might be able to splurge on food without endangering your health. The secret, of course, is daily exercise. Researchers from the University of Bath recruited 26 young men who exercised regularly. None was obese, and none had any health problems that could contribute to diabetes. Half the volunteers were asked to spend 45 minutes a day running on a treadmill at a “moderately intense pace.” In addition, both groups of men were instructed to wear pedometers and cut their daily walking from an average of more than 10,000 steps a day to 4,000 or less (this didn’t count the treadmill time). All the men were told to start overeating substantially. The men who did not exercise on the treadmill were assigned to increase their daily caloric intake by 50 percent, while the men who exercised increased their intake by almost 75 percent. After a week, the researchers ran a series of tests on all of the volunteers. The upshot? The tests showed a decline in blood sugar control among the men who didn’t exercise, and genetic tests found unhealthy changes in the genes associated with metabolic processes. Meanwhile, the men who had exercised daily had no such negative changes, despite all the overeating.

My take? I am a great believer in the benefits of sensible, moderate exercise for healthy living and prudent weight loss. As someone who dreaded exercise for much of his life, I now don’t feel right if a day goes by without performing some type of physical activity. Here is a practical tip: If you want to unlearn old habits and develop new behaviors for a healthy lifestyle, spend time with people who have the habits you want. Your choice of friends and acquaintances is a powerful influence on your behavior. If you want exercise to be a part of your life, keep company with people who exercise regularly and enjoy it. This new study comes just in time to give us compelling new evidence that daily exercise can even help your health withstand the brief and occasional splurge.

J.P. Walter et al, “Exercise counteracts the effects of short-term overfeeding and reduced physical activity independent of energy imbalance in healthy young men,” Journal of Physiology, published online on November 25, 2013.