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Why You Shouldn't Ever Quit Exercising

Here’s another good reason to continue exercising as you get older: it helps keep muscles strong and protects against sarcopenia, an age-related disease resulting in the loss of skeletal muscle mass and muscle strength or function that can lead to disability, poor quality of life and premature death. Researchers at Tokyo University assessed the prevalence of sarcopenia and its effects on physical performance in 1,000 Japanese men and women, age 65 and older enrolled in an ongoing study of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. The investigators measured the participants’ handgrip strength, gait speed, and skeletal muscle mass and collected information on their midlife exercise habits. They found sarcopenia in 13.8 of the men and 12.4 of the women, but the condition was less prevalent in study participants who reported exercising in middle age. In addition, the researchers said that midlife exercise was significantly associated with measures of grip strength, gait speed and one-leg standing after adjusting for age, sex and BMI. The study was presented at the International Osteoporosis Foundation Regionals 4th Asia-Pacific Osteoporosis Meeting, in Hong Kong December 12–15, 2013.

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How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

A new analysis from England puts the recommended sugar limit at five percent or less of your total daily intake of calories. Be aware that total includes all the “free sugar” in your diet – the sugar you put in your coffee or tea, and the amounts added to foods in cooking - in addition to the sugar contained in processed foods such as honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. According to the report from Newcastle University, limiting intake to five percent (about five teaspoons for most people) can help protect your teeth from decay and minimize the risk of cavities for life. Previous estimates of sugar limits were based on the average risks of developing decay in three or fewer teeth in 12-year-olds, the Newcastle researchers noted, adding that by looking at patterns of tooth decay in populations over time “we now know that children with less than three cavities at age 12 go on to develop a high number of cavities in adulthood.” The new estimate is based on looking at data on dental caries and sugar intake gathered from studies across several decades. The researchers said that sugary foods that used to be an occasional treat are now staples in many people’s diet, and that while fluoride protects against tooth decay, it does not eliminate the cause – dietary sugars.

My take? Virtually all Americans consume too much sugar. In addition to being bad for the teeth, sugar may predispose some women to yeast infections, may aggravate some kinds of arthritis and asthma, and may raise triglyceride levels. In people genetically susceptible to developing insulin resistance, high-sugar diets may drive obesity and high blood pressure and increase risks of type 2 diabetes. Although conventional medical studies haven't shown that sugar causes hyperactivity in children, in many cases limiting sugar intake improves kids' behavior and attention. Recent research also indicates that sugar, rather than saturated fat, is the primary culprit in America's high rates of cardiovascular disease. It is important to bear in mind that sugar's negative impact on health can slowly, insidiously accumulate over the years. The best way to satisfy a sweet tooth is with foods that contain sugar as part of a whole food, such as fresh or dried fruit, because the sugars are bound in a matrix of fiber that slows digestion and limits rapid increases in blood glucose.

Paula J. Moynihan and Sarah A. M. Kelly. “Effect on Caries of Restricting Sugars Intake: Systematic Review to Inform WHO Guidelines”. Journal of Dental Research, 2013; 93 (1): 8 DOI: 10.1177/0022034513508954


How Often Do You Suffer From Insomnia? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed the relationship between insomnia and depression: Does Insomnia Cause Depression? Check out the article and tell us how often you suffer from insomnia.


Dad’s Diet Key for Healthy Kids

We have known for some time that adequate folate (vitamin B9) in women’s diets can protect against miscarriage and birth defects in their babies, but a new animal study suggests that a father’s folate levels may be just as important. The research from Canada’s McGill University concluded that men eating high-fat, fast food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolize folate in the same way as those with optimal levels of the vitamin. Working with mice, the researchers compared the offspring of fathers with insufficient folate in their diets with the offspring of fathers whose diets contained sufficient folate levels. They observed that a folate deficiency in the male mice was associated with an almost 30 percent increase in birth defects of various kinds in their offspring, compared to the offspring of fathers with diets containing adequate folate. Foods containing folate include spinach, green vegetables and beans as well as fortified products such as orange juice, baked goods, and cereals. Other natural sources of folate include asparagus, bananas, melons, lemons, legumes, yeast, and mushrooms.

Sarah Kimmins et al, "Low paternal dietary folate alters the mouse sperm epigenome and is associated with negative pregnancy outcomes," Nature Communications 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3889


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.

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