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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.


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,

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