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Sunday, October 26, 2014

5 Questions You Need to Ask About Electrolytes

The Steuben Courier Advocate

Posted Sep. 7, 2014 @ 12:01 am
Updated Sep 7, 2014 at 11:26 PM

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard of electrolytes. They’re commonly found in sports drinks or used as medical supplements, but “plain” water and even wine spritzers also tout added electrolytes as a selling point. Read on to find out everything you need to know about electrolytes, and whether or not these electrolyte-enhanced products are worth it.

What are electrolytes and how do they work?

While all the hydration marketing may make electrolytes sound sexy and mysterious, they’re actually just minerals in your body that have an electrical charge (common electrolytes include potassium, sodium, and calcium). This electrical charge allows electrolytes to regulate a host of processes: managing blood pressure and pH, rebuilding damaged tissue, contracting muscles, monitoring hydration, and so on. For example, muscles contract because of electrical impulses, but cells can’t send these impulses unless they each maintain the right voltage across their membranes. Electrolytes are the mechanism the body uses to maintain the proper cell voltages, which in turn lets your muscles contract how and when you want them to. Electrolytes are generally found circulating through the blood, the liquid in and around cells, and other bodily fluids.

How does an electrolyte imbalance affect my body?

Your kidneys work together with several hormones to keep each of your electrolytes balanced at the correct levels. Since they control so many bodily processes, having an electrolyte imbalance can wreak havoc on your health, and even develop into a life-threatening condition. Electrolyte imbalances can be temporary and mild or prolonged and severe, and usually involve one of the “big three” electrolytes: potassium, sodium, and calcium. Symptoms of a temporary disturbance include dizziness, exhaustion, and muscle problems such as cramps, twitching, numbness, and fatigue. Some people may also suffer from stomach cramps and nausea, dark urine, dry mouth, and swelling from fluid retention. Signs of a more several imbalance are irregular heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, mental confusion, and seizures or convulsions. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately.

When should I be looking out for electrolyte imbalances?

Since electrolytes are contained in bodily fluids, any time you get rid of said fluids, you’re probably getting rid of some electrolytes too. Sweating, vomiting, diarrhea, and even urination are all different ways you can lose electrolytes. That’s why you feel so depleted after a hard workout or a bout of stomach flu — you’ve suddenly lost a lot of electrolytes through fluids. Other times to watch out for electrolyte imbalances include prolonged dehydration, high fevers, kidney problems, physical trauma such as burns, and switching medications or starting a new one. Health conditions such as kidney or heart disease or diabetes can also increase your chances of developing an electrolyte imbalance, as well as eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa.

How should I be replenishing my electrolytes?

Electrolyte-enhanced marketing has concentrated on the hydration market, but you get your electrolytes through the food you eat as well as through the beverages you drink. However, unless you’re exercising intensely for more than an hour and sweating a lot, you can skip the pricey electrolyte elixirs and focus on replenishing them through food instead (many popular sports drinks contain too much sugar anyways). Bananas are a good option for replenishing potassium; milk or yogurt restores calcium; and salty foods or table salt replace lost sodium (just don’t overdo it, as the typical American diet already contains a lot of sodium). In regards to restoring a couple other important electrolytes through food, magnesium can be found in nuts and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach, while chloride is found in produce such as tomatoes, lettuce, and celery. And as for that electrolyte-laced wine spritzer, while alcohol does deplete your electrolytes, after a night of drinking you don’t just need a quick electrolyte boost — you need to drink a lot of water, since alcohol interferes with fluid absorption and seriously dehydrates you. So if you were looking for a magic potion that would let you drink a lot of alcohol without any side effects, this probably isn’t it.

Who should be most concerned about electrolyte imbalances?

Athletes or extreme fitness enthusiasts who lose a lot of sweat in a short amount of time may experience temporary electrolyte imbalances, often in the form of muscle cramps. This is because you lose a lot of sodium (an important electrolyte) through sweat, which is incidentally why sweat tastes so salty. Elderly people are also at risk for electrolyte imbalances since the kidneys’ function tends to deteriorate with age. Illness, particular medications, and declining cognitive abilities can all contribute to the creation of electrolyte imbalances in the elderly. Cancer patients, particularly those undergoing chemotherapy, can also experience electrolyte imbalances due to a variety of factors, including loss of bodily fluids and malabsorption. This article originally appeared as on Spry Living

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Top 10 Companies Against GMO Labeling to Boycott

It Doesn't Take Much Sugar to Wreak Havoc on Your Body


At least a can of soda per day is safe, right? Nope, much much less, according to the World Health Organization. 


Nicolette Hahn Niman, author of Righteous Porkchop, coined a new catchphrase that ought to go viral: “Sugar is NOT just an empty calorie.”

Her statement contradicts the notion we’ve had for years that the worst thing about sugar is its lack of nutrients. Either you’re eating sugar in addition to all of the calories you need to stay healthy, or you’re eating it instead of them. In the former case, you’re getting too many calories; in the latter, you’re getting too few nutrients. This idea is so dominant it was recently cited in an anti-sugar op-ed in the Guardian.

Even if that was the case, we’re eating too much sugar. Or, more specifically, too much added sugar. Sugars that are naturally present in whole foods like fruit are okay; it’s the sugar added to whole foods that we must worry about. Previously, the World Health Organization said we should limit consumption of added sugars to 10 percent of calories. Even then, more than seven in 10 Americans ate too much sugar. On average, about 15 percent of our calories came from added sugars.

But now WHO is considering cutting its recommendation in half. That means limiting sugar consumption to five teaspoons, the amount found in half a can of soda. The American Heart Association has long recommended that women limit added sugars to six teaspoons and men stick with nine or less. (For those looking for a loophole, this means all added sugars, including so-called healthier sweeteners like maple syrup, agave, honey, or even fruit juice.)

Niman was examining the health impacts of sugar at the same time as WHO. In researching and writing her latest book, she dug into studies that found evidence sugar does more than just lack nutrients. “The sugar is going to actually damage your body. It’s not just that you’re not going to get the nutrients,” she said.

The link between sugar and disease is not a new one. Decades ago, nutrition professor John Yudkin wrote a book called Pure, White, and Deadly in which he posited that sugar was the culprit behind heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The food industry fought back. This was the era of lowfat, not low sugar. (In his book, Yudkin even quotes a sugar industry advertisement claiming that sugar makes you thin. Go figure that out.)

The general term "sugar" can mean any number of things. Table sugar, or sucrose, is composed of a glucose molecule bonded to a fructose molecule. Glucose is what plants make during photosynthesis and it’s half as sweet as table sugar. Fructose, naturally found in honey and many fruits, is 70 percent sweeter than table sugar.

On your tongue, you taste a difference in sweetness between glucose and fructose. Once in your body, the difference continues. Glucose is metabolized by every cell in your body. After you eat, your blood glucose levels rise, and your body releases insulin. The insulin helps your muscles, fat and liver absorb the glucose, decreasing your blood sugar. Levels of another hormone, leptin, also rise. Leptin regulates your appetite; once you’ve eaten and your body has plenty of fuel to keep going, leptin tells you to stop. Another hormone, ghrelin, decreases. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite, and after you’ve eaten, it’s already done its job.

Fructose, on the other hand, is only metabolized by your liver. The title of a 2004 study says it all: “Dietary fructose reduces circulating insulin and leptin, attenuates postprandial suppression of ghrelin, and increases triglycerides in women.” In other words, after you eat fructose, your body never gets the message, “You’ve eaten enough, now stop.” As for those increased triglycerides, well… another word for triglyceride is “fat.”

In scientist-speak, “Compared with glucose, the hepatic metabolism of fructose favors lipogenesis, which may contribute to hyperlipidemia and obesity.” Translated, that says when fructose is metabolized in your liver, it is often converted to fat.

These facts about fructose are often cited in arguments against high-fructose corn syrup, but remember that sucrose, honey and even apple juice contain lots of fructose too.

One consequence of overdoing it on sweets is called “metabolic syndrome.” That’s a medical term for a number of risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke: a large waistline, bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar. In fact, fructose and sucrose are such reliable causes of metabolic syndrome that scientific papers often use the terms “fructose-induced metabolic syndrome” or “sucrose-induced metabolic syndrome.”

Some scientists add other evils to the list, including kidney disease and stroke. A 2010 study found that “Fructose feeding has now been shown to alter gene expression patterns… alter satiety factors in the brain, increase inflammation… and induce leptin resistance.”

If that sounds so bad that you decide to switch your sweetener to pure glucose (sold under the name corn syrup, and not the high-fructose variety), keep in mind that an influx of glucose into your body spikes your blood sugar, followed by a crash. This is especially true when the sugar comes in liquid form. Your body also breaks down complex carbohydrates like whole grains into glucose, but then the glucose is released more slowly into your bloodstream. In 2013, scientists found that lower blood sugar may even improve memory.

All in all, one report estimates “30%-40% of healthcare expenditures in the USA go to help address issues that are closely tied to the excess consumption of sugar.”

The sad truth is that there’s no free lunch. Even when you eat “sugar-free” cake sweetened with honey or fruit juice, it’s all sugar to your body. (However, raw unprocessed honey provides some health benefits, whereas refined sugars do not.) For an experiment, go a day with only six teaspoons of sugar (25g) if you’re a woman, or nine teaspoons (38g) if you’re a man. Don’t forget to check foods you wouldn’t expect for hidden sugars, like bread, salad dressing, pasta sauce, and ketchup. Suddenly, the amount of sugar we eat in our normal diets becomes staggering.

Longer term, if a complete sugar makeover sounds unimaginable to you, start by cutting out sugary drinks, including fruit juice. You might want to skip the diet sodas too, since research shows they can be even worse than the “real thing.”
If your heart is palpitating with dread at the very thought of giving up sugar, you’ve arrived at one of the reasons why we eat so darn much of it. Some say it’s addictive, and a 2007 study found it gives your brain a reward even greater than that of cocaine.

In his book The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, former FDA commissioner David Kessler examined what drives wanting in food. “Liking is pleasure but wanting is an urge to it," he explains. “I need it, I need it to make me feel better. We looked in animals to see what was the most reinforcing. Was it the sweetness? Was it the fat? Was it the flavor? We found that sweetness drives wanting more than anything else. It drives—if you look at animals or people—how much effort they'll expend for it. How hard they will work for it.”

You’ve heard the old adage, “A moment on your lips, a lifetime on your hips.” The pleasure gained from food is so fleeting. If I eat a cookie now, I will experience a few moments of pleasure, and then no more. I can extend that pleasure briefly by eating a second cookie. And then it’s gone. To keep feeling that pleasure, I would have to keep eating cookies—at least until I feel sick from eating too many. Yet many of us are more than willing to continue jamming cookies down our throats even if we want to be healthy and we know that cookies are not health food, for the ephemeral bliss they provide.

“We know that sweetness can increase the pleasure centers of the brain, the opioid centers,” Kessler continues. “We know it can serve as a mild pain relief… I'm eating something that is sweet—it can change how I feel. So it's salient. It is powerful. It's directly hard-wired from our sensory receptors in our mouth to our brain. You don't even have to go through the bloodstream. It's a very powerful molecule because it's directly wired to our brain. And it can drive want.”

He adds that, “Sweetness isn't the only driver of wanting. Add fat to that, it becomes more powerful. Add color, add texture, add temperature, add mouthfeel. Kids’ candies are just very simple, but as you get older you want more levels of stimulation. But at the core of most foods that are hard to resist there is sweetness. Now a lot of that has to do with past learning and past memory. It's not always sweetness, depending on your past learning—but there's no doubt that sweetness is driving.”

Kessler goes into even greater detail in his book. He looks at the impact of priming, when a single taste of a food triggers what he calls “conditioned hypereating.” He points out how the food industry taunts us, “Bet you can’t eat just one.” Sadly, that is probably true. Even if you’re not particularly hungry, after a friend convinces you to have “just a taste” of ice cream, you’re more likely to order an entire cone. Why do you think Whole Foods is so generous at giving you free samples of its cakes and gelato?

Kessler, and later Michael Moss (in his book Salt Sugar Fat) examine how the food industry capitalizes on our hardwired drive for sugar (and salt and fat). Moss details food manufacturers’ efforts to improve their products nutritionally without sacrificing flavor (or sales) or increasing price. Sometimes, a healthier but higher priced substitute, like an herb, could compensate for salt, sugar and fat. More often, when the manufacturers reduce one of those three elements, they compensate by boosting one or both of the other two.

In response to her research, Nicolette Hahn Niman almost entirely gave up sugar. She limits herself to a few squares of dark chocolate each day, and she reports that she’s kicked her sugar habit, and the cravings that would make her fall back to it.

Eschewing sugar is not impossible, particularly after the initial cravings go away, but it can be difficult in our society unless you cook all of your own food. Even then, it can come off as socially gauche when you’re dining with friends or co-workers and you’re the only one who isn’t gushing over the triple chocolate mousse cake someone brought to the party.

That said, there are other flavors out there, including salty, bitter, spicy, sour, and umami. Perhaps we Americans would do well to explore them.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of "Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Are Telomeres The Key To Aging And Cancer?


Are Telomeres The Key To Aging And Cancer?

Fluoresence-stained chromosomes Fluorescence-stained chromosomes (red) on a microscope slide. Telomeres (yellow) sit at the ends of each chromosome. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Moyzis, UC Irvine, US Human Genome Program

Inside the nucleus of a cell, our genes are arranged along twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they keep chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to each other, which would destroy or scramble an organism's genetic information.

Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or "senescent" or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse.

What are telomeres?

Like the rest of a chromosome, including its genes, telomeres are sequences of DNA — chains of chemical code. Like all DNA, they are made of four nucleic acid bases: G for guanine, A for adenine, T for thymine, and C for cytosine.
Telomeres are made of repeating sequences of TTAGGG on one strand paired with AATCCC on the other strand. Thus, one section of telomere is a "repeat" made of six "base pairs."

In white blood cells, the length of telomeres ranges from 8,000 base pairs in newborns to 3,000 base pairs in adults and as low as 1,500 in elderly people. (An entire chromosome has about 150 million base pairs.) Each time it divides, an average cell loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of its telomeres.

Cells normally can divide only about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres getting progressively shorter until the cells become senescent or die.

Telomeres do not shorten in tissues where cells do not continually divide, such as heart muscle.

What are Telomeres

Why do chromosomes have telomeres?

Without telomeres, the main part of the chromosome — the part with genes essential for life — would get shorter each time a cell divides. So telomeres allow cells to divide without losing genes. Cell division is necessary for growing new skin, blood, bone, and other cells.

Without telomeres, chromosome ends could fuse together and corrupt the cell's genetic blueprint, possibly causing malfunction, cancer, or cell death. Because broken DNA is dangerous, a cell has the ability to sense and repair chromosome damage. Without telomeres, the ends of chromosomes would look like broken DNA, and the cell would try to fix something that wasn't broken. That also would make them stop dividing and eventually die.
Broken DNA

Why do telomeres get shorter each time a cell divides?

Before a cell can divide, it makes copies of its chromosomes so that both new cells will have identical genetic material. To be copied, a chromosome's two DNA strands must unwind and separate. An enzyme (DNA polymerase) then reads the existing strands to build two new strands. It begins the process with the help of short pieces of RNA. When each new matching strand is complete, it is a bit shorter than the original strand because of the room needed at the end for this small piece of RNA. It is like someone who paints himself into a corner and cannot paint the corner.

Telomerase counteracts telomere shortening

An enzyme named telomerase adds bases to the ends of telomeres. In young cells, telomerase keeps telomeres from wearing down too much. But as cells divide repeatedly, there is not enough telomerase, so the telomeres grow shorter and the cells age.

Telomerase remains active in sperm and eggs, which are passed from one generation to the next. If reproductive cells did not have telomerase to maintain the length of their telomeres, any organism with such cells would soon go extinct.

Telomeres and cancer

As a cell begins to become cancerous, it divides more often, and its telomeres become very short. If its telomeres get too short, the cell may die. Often times, these cells escape death by making more telomerase enzyme, which prevents the telomeres from getting even shorter.

Many cancers have shortened telomeres, including pancreatic, bone, prostate, bladder, lung, kidney, and head and neck.

Measuring telomerase may be a way to detect cancer. And if scientists can learn how to stop telomerase, they might be able to fight cancer by making cancer cells age and die. In one experiment, researchers blocked telomerase activity in human breast and prostate cancer cells growing in the laboratory, prompting the tumor cells to die. But there are risks. Blocking telomerase could impair fertility, wound healing, and production of blood cells and immune system cells.

Telomeres and aging

Geneticist Richard Cawthon and colleagues at the University of Utah found shorter telomeres are associated with shorter lives. Among people older than 60, those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease.
While telomere shortening has been linked to the aging process, it is not yet known whether shorter telomeres are just a sign of aging — like gray hair — or actually contribute to aging.

If telomerase makes cancer cells immortal, could it prevent normal cells from aging? Could we extend lifespan by preserving or restoring the length of telomeres with telomerase? If so, would that increase our risk of getting cancer?
Scientists are not yet sure. But they have been able to use telomerase in the lab to keep human cells dividing far beyond their normal limit, and the cells do not become cancerous.

If we used telomerase to "immortalize" human cells, we may be able to mass produce cells for transplantation, including insulin-producing cells to cure diabetes, muscle cells for treating muscular dystrophy, cartilage cells for certain kinds of arthritis, and skin cells for healing severe burns and wounds. An unlimited supply of normal human cells grown in the laboratory would also help efforts to test new drugs and gene therapies.

How big is the role of telomeres in aging?

Some long-lived species like humans have telomeres that are much shorter than species like mice, which live only a few years. Nobody knows why. But it's evidence that telomeres alone do not dictate lifespan.

Cawthon's study found that when people are divided into two groups based on telomere length, the half with longer telomeres lives an average of five years longer than those with shorter telomeres. This study suggests that lifespan could be increased five years by increasing the length of telomeres in people with shorter ones.

People with longer telomeres still experience telomere shortening as they age. How many years might be added to our lifespan by completely stopping telomere shortening? Cawthon believes 10 years and perhaps 30 years.

After age 60, the risk of death doubles every 8 years. So a 68-year-old has twice the chance of dying within a year compared with a 60-year-old. Cawthon's study found that differences in telomere length accounted for only 4% of that difference. And while intuition tells us older people have a higher risk of death, only 6% is due purely to chronological age. When telomere length, chronological age, and gender are combined (women live longer than men), those factors account for 37% of the variation in the risk of dying over age 60. So what causes the other 63%?

A major cause of aging is "oxidative stress." It is the damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids (fats) caused by oxidants, which are highly reactive substances containing oxygen. These oxidants are produced normally when we breathe, and also result from inflammation, infection, and consumption of alcohol and cigarettes. In one study, scientists exposed worms to two substances that neutralize oxidants, and the worms' lifespan increased an average 44%.

Another factor in aging is "glycation." It happens when glucose, the main sugar we use as energy, binds to some of our DNA, proteins, and lipids, leaving them unable to do their jobs. The problem becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, resulting in disease and death. Glycation may explain why studies in laboratory animals indicate that restricting calorie intake extends lifespan.

Most likely oxidative stress, glycation, telomere shortening, and chronological age — along with various genes — all work together to cause aging.

Telomeres and other diseases

People with a disease named dyskeratosis congenita have telomeres that get short much more quickly than normal. These people endure premature aging and death. They face a higher risk of life-threatening infections, leukemia and other blood cancers, intestinal disorders, cirrhosis of the liver, and pulmonary fibrosis, a deadly stiffening of lung tissue. They also are more likely to endure gray hair, balding, poor wound healing, spots on the skin, intestinal disorders, softening of the bones, and learning disabilities. The implication is that telomeres may play a role in all those conditions, because they all involve tissues in which cells divide often. There also is some evidence linking shortened telomeres to Alzheimer disease, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.

What are the prospects for human immortality?

Human lifespan has increased considerably since the 1600s, when the average lifespan was 30 years. By 2012, the average US life expectancy was nearly 79. Reasons for the increase include sewers and other sanitation measures, antibiotics, clean water, refrigeration, vaccines and other medical efforts to prevent children and babies from dying, improved diets, and better health care.
Some scientists predict average life expectancy will continue to increase, although many doubt the average will ever be much higher than 90. But a few say vastly longer lifespans are possible.

Cawthon says that if all processes of aging could be eliminated and oxidative stress damage could be repaired, "one estimate is people could live 1,000 years."

Friday, October 17, 2014

10 Foods You're Eating Wrong



Not all potatoes are created equal.


Imagine the following scenario. You're engaged in conversation at a dinner party with friends that you feel comfortable enough to discuss "hot button" topics with. Politics, religion, and parenting techniques probably come up and most likely, the views vary by person. When I attend dinner parties, however, the issue of food is often the hot topic of the night, and even hotter, the opinions surrounding the right and wrong way to eat. It's not enough these days that we are eating more kale (thank you trendy farmers markets and Hollywood celebrities!), we have to now dissect the right and wrong way to eat it as well. It was discussions like these that motivated me to write this blog. After all, my career surrounds helping people to simply eat better -- to get, what I call, the most bang for their nutritional buck. There are many factors that impact the amount of nutrients that you will derive from a food. Things such as cooking and ripening method, food pairing and even your own gut flora may impact how much benefit you get from plant-based foods. Different varieties of foods affect this as well. Not all nuts, apples or as you'll read in my first example, potatoes are created equal. If you're interested in knowing how science views the best way to eat, then read on. Spoiler alert: Raw is not always the right way to go!


Think you're getting the benefits of the potato vegetable when you consume French fries, mashed or baked potatoes from white potatoes? Think again! One study found that it was purple potatoes that gave the best benefits, like lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk for cancer. Further, a 2014 study found that purple potatoes surpassed their white counterparts when it came to high amounts of polyphenols and decreased effect on overall blood sugar response.


As fall gears up, our love of soup increases as well. Next time you're making a batch of chicken noodle soup, resist the urge to cut up your carrots. One study found that cutting carrots increased surface size and allowed more nutrients to leach out. That means after washing and peeling, your carrots should hit the water in their whole form. Keep cooking (vs. raw) though. One study found that cooking carrots increased the bioavailability of carotenoids.


If you want high nutrient absorption with your high tea, then forget about doing as the Brits do it! Several studies have shown that adding milk to your tea may actually take away some of the cardiovascular benefits that tea provide. Going with green tea? Add a little juice instead to sweeten. The vitamin C in juice may help to increase the bioavailability of green tea's nutrients.


Don't rush your garlic, CRUSH your garlic! Research indicates that crushing your garlic and allowing to sit for at least ten minutes released an enzyme called allicin that has been shown to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by making platelets less sticky or more likely to flow freely through the cardiovascular system.

Salad dressing 

Fat free dressing may seem like a good idea in theory, but when you look at what you give up; it's no match for the full fat counterpart. Several studies have shown the benefits that fat has when dressing your greens, from keeping you fuller and more satisfied after consumption to getting more nutrient absorption from your salad (specifically from lutein, lycopene, beta-carotene and zeaxanthin).

Apples & Pears 

Let your fruit ripen up a bit! One study found that the ripening process allowed the breakdown of chlorophyll in ripening apples and pears which, in turn, produced more "highly active" antioxidants in the fruit.


Broccoli is, without doubt one of the best foods you can feed your body! Broccoli is part of the brassica family of foods, a family that has shown to be quite effective in terms of prevention of certain cancers from breast cancer to skin cancer , but how you prepare your broccoli makes all the difference in the world. A 2008 study found that steaming was the only cooking method that completely preserved, and even increased, the cancer fighting components of broccoli. Boiling and frying were found to be the worst cooking methods. Still don't want to ditch the boiled broccoli? Pairing with a spicy food may help! A 2012 study found that adding spicy foods to broccoli increased its cancer fighting power and the spicier the better according to the study authors!


Mustard in any form is a fabulous condiment to add to sauces, salads and sandwiches, but if you're interested in decreasing overall inflammation as well as reducing your risk for certain cancers then you better keep your mustard choices simple. That's right! It's the cheap yellow mustard options that have the best benefits. Why? Because they contain a compound called curcumin (that's the active ingredient in turmeric) that not only gives cheap yellow mustard its yellow color, but all of its potential health benefits as well!

While the factors discussed in this blog have an impact on the best ways to consume your foods, the truth is, simply adding these foods to your diet is a huge step in the right direction. Once you have mastered a liking for these healthier food options, the next logical step is to prepare in the best way for maximum nutrient density!

US Diet Improves, but Gap Widens Between Rich and Poor

Diet quality in the United States improved during a recent 12-year period, reflecting positive changes in consumers' food choices and food processing, according to a new article published online September 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The overall quality of the diet remains poor, however, continuing to leave people at risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes — and an existing gap widened further between high- and low-socioeconomic-status (SES) individuals, the researchers write.

Dong D. Wang, MD, MSc, of the department of nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues analyzed data on a nationally representative sample of 29,124 adults aged 20 to 85 years collected through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the years 1999 to 2010.

"Overall, this is encouraging news for clinicians because there has been kind of a misperception that the population cannot change their dietary habits," coauthor Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, told Medscape Medical News in a telephone interview.

"There has been an improvement in diet quality, and professionals can play a major role in improving the diet quality of their patients and their families, [who are] more inclined to follow the advice of their doctor," he continued. "Clinicians and professionals can play a major role in educating the patient, helping them make healthier choices."

Gap Between Rich and Poor Widens
The researchers collected dietary data during in-person and telephone interviews conducted as part of NHANES surveys. They assessed nutrient intake using US Department of Agriculture (USDA) databases. They also categorized data by groups according to income, education level, age, race/ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI).

And they benchmarked the data according to the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI-2010) and the US Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid Equivalents Database (MPED), assessing diet quality according to an AHEI-2010 score range of 0 to 110. A higher AHEI-2010 score indicated a more healthful diet. "For fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes, long-chain (omega-3) fats, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, a higher score corresponded to higher intake. For trans fats, sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juices, red and/or processed meat, and sodium, a higher score corresponded to lower intake," the authors note.
The analysis shows that the energy-adjusted mean AHEI-2010 overall score increased from 39.9 during 1999–2000 to 46.8 during 2009–2010 (linear trend P < 0.001).

A reduction in consumption of trans fats accounted for more than 50% of the increased score.

As to individual components:
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages increased by 0.9 points, reflecting a decline in consumption.
  • Whole fruit increased by 0.7 points, reflecting an increase in consumption.
  • Whole grains increased by 0.5 points.
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids increased by 0.5 points.
  • Nuts and legumes increased by 0.4 points.
  • Sodium significantly decreased by 0.5 points (reflecting an increase in consumption).
Diet quality scores for high-SES groups, based on income and education level, were consistently higher than for low-SES groups, and the gap widened over time.
For the high-SES group, scores increased from 3.9 during 1999–2000 to 7.8 during 2009–2010. The researchers observed no significant temporal trend for the low-SES group.
Among other categories:
  • •Women's scores were significantly higher than men's.
  • •Mexican Americans scored higher than non-Hispanic whites.
  • •Lower BMI was associated with better diet quality scores.

Overall Picture: Some Good News but Much Room for Improvement 
The authors say public-policy changes regarding trans fat, including labeling requirements, efforts by some cities and other governments to limit use of trans fat, as well as some manufacturers' reformulation of food processes, have likely played a role in overall improvements.

"Science-based nutrition policies can make a huge difference in improving the nutrition quality of the population," Dr. Hu said.
"Diet quality in the general population has been improving moderately but steadily. One of the most important changes has been reduction in consumption of soft drinks or sugar-sweetened beverages," he noted.

"But consumption is still high, and there's still a lot of room to improve. Some areas haven't changed that much. One area that is going in the wrong direction is the consumption of sodium, which has increased in the population, which may reflect increasing consumption of processed food. Most sodium, or salt, comes from highly processed food."

"The most disconcerting finding is the gap between the poor and the rich widened over time in terms of diet quality. This may explain the increasing disparity in chronic disease between people in the high-SES and the low-SES groups," he added.

In order to effect change, Dr. Hu says, "The environment has to be improved so that healthy foods become more affordable and more accessible to people in the low-SES groups. Federal nutrition programs may need to pay more attention to diet quality and food qualities, not just quantities or the total amount of calories."

Food "Deserts": Poorer People Need Policies to Help Them
In accompanying invited commentary, Takehiro Suglyama, MD, PhD, of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Tokyo, Japan, and Martin F. Shapiro, MD, of the University of Tokyo, agree. They write that people of lower SES tend to have less access to healthy food; "food deserts" denote poorer communities where residents may have difficulty getting nutritious food.

Higher prices also keep poorer people from buying more healthful food, they say, and lower-SES individuals also may have limited knowledge about the effect of an unhealthy diet on their health.

They conclude, "We urgently need to support multipronged initiatives to improve diet quality for persons of lower SES."

Neither the authors nor the commentators have reported any relevant financial relationships.
JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 1, 2014. Abstract, Commentary

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Is Scary, But These 6 Things Are a Lot Scarier


Most Americans are just not at that much risk. Here are the real killers.

October 15, 2014

Ebola is scary. No doubt about it. Now that a second Dallas health worker has been diagnosed with Ebola, many people are justifiably frightened of the terrible disease—particularly healthcare workers who might find themselves taking care of Ebola patients. In Western Africa, the virus is spreading and nowhere near under control.

However, most Americans are just not at that much risk of catching Ebola, though you wouldn’t know it from the media. America has not seen fearmongering on this scale since the early days of  the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Then, as now, a little-understood disease made people afraid of even being in the same vicinity as an unfortunate victim. As with AIDS, rumors and paranoia have begun to circulate.

In Georgia, home of the Centers for Disease Control, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that people should just wash their hands, because water kills the Ebola virus. (Wrong: chlorine bleach kills the virus.) Singer Chris Brown tweeted to his over 13 million followers that Ebola was unleashed as a means to population control. (Wrong, needless to say.) Right-wing radio commentator Michael Savage spewed that Obama was sending soldiers to Africa not to help in the crisis but to infect soldiers who could bring the virus back to the United States and wipe out Americans. Seriously, people, get a grip.

Of course, America does not have a corner on dangerous rumors and crazy theories. In Nigeria, rumors abound that Ebola doesn’t even exist. Obviously wrong. In Liberia, a country that is getting crushed under the spreading disease, there’s a rumor that kissing a dead victim of Ebola will immunize you. (Very wrong: It’ll probably infect you.) Meanwhile Fox News, CNN, the major broadcast networks, and local news stations are all buying into and promoting the hysteria, breathlessly spreading panic while ignoring actual doctors, researchers and health professionals even as they interview them. Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s "Daily Show" rather brilliantly skewered this irresponsible “journalism” last week.

Ebola is a very deadly disease. There is no doubt it deserves the fearful respect it is given. But it is time, at least for Americans (and most of the world, actually, outside of Western Africa) to take a step back, breath deeply, and gain some perspective. Three cases of Ebola in Texas makes for a pretty crappy zombie apocalypse. One of the cases was directly exposed to Ebola in Liberia. The other two were in contact with the patient as caregivers. Healthcare professional after healthcare professional has assured us over and over again: Ebola is very hard to get. Period. Unless a victim’s blood, vomit, or other bodily fluid gets into your body via your eye, mouth, nose, or open cut, you cannot get Ebola. It is not transmitted via the air.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni recently interviewed Jeffrey Duchin, chairman of the public health committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “People get very fearful and stressed out and have a lot of anxiety about things like Ebola that aren’t a general health risk. Just look at causes of death in the United States. Everything is higher than Ebola, and there are things that we can do about many of them,” said Duchin, sensibly putting things into perspective.

Americans tend to worry a great deal about illnesses they shouldn’t worry about, while at the same time not worrying about very real threats to their health.
  1. According to the CDC, nearly 48% of deaths in the U.S. are caused by cancer and heart disease. The leading cause of cancer is, by a country mile, smoking, yet 25% of American still smoke. Over 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed every year and 10,000 people die yet we still pursue the tan and skimp on the sunblock. 
  2. The best way to prevent heart disease is exercise and sensible eating, yet America is besieged by an obesity epidemic, with over 78 million people considered obese, including 1 in 5 children under 19 years of age. Instead of fruits and vegetables, we still chow down on burgers and fries.
  3. The fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. is by car accident. Many if not most of those deaths are preventable simply by wearing your seatbelt, yet countless Americans complain about seatbelt comfort and forego wearing them.
  4. Influenza is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and almost completely preventable by simply getting a yearly flu vaccine. Instead we are facing a growing anti-vaccine movement that propagates the complete falsehood that vaccines cause autism.
  5. Over 88,000 deaths each year are related to drinking alcohol, and half of those are due to binge drinking. According to the CDC 38 million adults binge drink at least four times a month (averaging eight drinks at a time), and most are not alcoholics. By choice these people over-imbibe and proceed to kill thousands of innocent bystanders.
  6. Gun violence is a national plague in which thousands of people lose their lives in order for the NRA to “defend” our second amendment right to own guns and kill thousands of people.
The point of all this is that we can be understandably concerned about Ebola without losing perspective. Ebola is not the thing to worry about. Right-wing politicians, who ignorantly talk about quarantining all of Africa (which health professionals have warned would make it harder to track the disease, not easier), and about children bringing Ebola across the border from Central America (where Ebola is unknown), and about washing your hands with water to kill Ebola, would serve us better if they turned their influence to things that really kill Americans. So far, at least, Ebola is not one of them.

Larry Schwartz is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with a focus on health, science and nutrition. He works at Scholastic Inc. in the classroom magazine division on Superscience and Science World.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Top 10 Foods You Should Always Have in Your House

about health

Frozen vegetables on wooden spoon - FotografiaBasica/E+/Getty Images

Updated October 14, 2014.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board

It is easy to realize why cooking your own meals is so beneficial - control of ingredients, limited fat, portion control, and guaranteed freshness. But, it is impossible to put together a meal when you don't have any food in the house. Keeping the fridge fully stocked can be tough, especially if you have an erratic schedule and often wind up throwing food in the garbage due to spoilage. But, just a few simple ingredients can go a long way. If you have certain food items in your house, you are guaranteed to be able to throw together a meal that is tasty, healthy and diabetes friendly.

Frozen vegetables: Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables can be just as good as fresh vegetables. They are frozen at their peak freshness, making them rich in vitamins and minerals. Due to their high water and fiber content, vegetables provide bulk to meals and should be used as a base or the foundation of your plate. Filling up on non-starchy vegetables can help to reduce blood pressure, weight and blood sugars. Aim to make 1/2 of your plate non-starchy vegetables. Purchase those without any added sauces, butter, or salt.
  • How to Prepare: Pop them in the microwave or steam them with a few tablespoons of water. Sprinkle with olive oil and garlic powder (if you don't have fresh).
  • What to do with them: Toss them into salads and soups or use as sandwiches toppers. Build your plate by making vegetables the base, followed by lean protein and a complex carbohydrate. Add leftover vegetables to egg white omelets or an egg scramble.
Canned beans: Beans are rich in filling fiber, lean protein and folate. I prefer to use dried beans, but not everyone has time to cook them. Instead, use canned beans - be sure to rinse them well (to help rid some of the sodium).
  • How to Prepare them: No preparation needed. Just open the can, rinse and use. If you'd like to get creative, you can puree them and make them into a spread.
  • What to do with them: Add beans to an egg scramble, toss them into a salad, or spread a smear onto a sandwich. Beans can also be added into soups, stews, and side dishes. While beans are healthy they do contain carbohydrate so be sure to factor the carbohydrates into your meal plan. 1/2 cup is about 20g of carbohydrate.
Eggs: Eggs are rich in vitamin D, lutein (a carotenoid that promotes eye health), and protein. While many people avoid eggs due to their cholesterol content, research has led us to understand that it may not be dietary cholesterol that increases blood cholesterol, rather saturated and trans fat intake. If you have high cholesterol, it's best to limit your yolk intake to no more than about 2-3 per week. On the other hand, egg whites are fat free and can be eaten daily.
  • How to Prepare: Scramble over low until cooked evenly, or boil in cold water for 5 minutes and rinse under cold water. For more tips on cooking eggs, click here.
  • What to do with them: Eggs are versatile - eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Scramble eggs with vegetables and black beans for a ranchero flare or hard boil them and chop them into a salad. Make a vegetable frittata for the week and eat at any time. 
Canned tuna in water: Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein, tuna is a wonderful addition to lunch and dinner meals. While the FDA has recommended that we increase our intake of fish, it's important to monitor weekly intake to safely avoid high levels of mercury. To reduce mercury intake, choose light tuna (as opposed to albacore). Consumer reports suggests that a 150lb person can safely eat 5oz of albacore tuna and about 13oz of light tuna weekly. For more information, check out this article.
  • How to prepare: Open the can and drain the water (do not get cans in oil) and voila - done.
  • What to do with it: Mix tuna with avocado for a healthier version of "tuna salad". Add tuna to whole grain pasta with broccoli for a hearty, high protein, high fiber meal. Mix tuna into salads or make a low-fat tuna melt with low-fat cheese, whole grain bread and mustard instead of mayonnaise.
Whole grain bread: Any bread that has the 100% whole grain stamp or the world whole as the first ingredient is considered a whole grain. Whole grain bread is rich in fiber and b-vitamins. When purchasing, aim to choose one with limited ingredients and opt for those with 90 calories or less. Two slices of bread is about 30 g of carbohydrate so be mindful of your portions. Bread can serve as the carbohydrate in any meal.
  • How to prepare: Toast, grill, bake or place in sandwich maker to change things up a bit.
  • What to do with it: Use whole grain bread to make french toast or use as a substitute for a bun or bagel (high in carbohydrates and low in fiber).
Quinoa: A gluten-free ancient grain, quinoa comes in a variety of colors - red, white, black. Quinoa is a low glycemic index food rich in protein and fiber. It contains only 160 calories and 30 g of carbohydrate per 1 cup serving (~60 calories less and 15 g carbohydrate less than pasta and rice).
  • How to prepare: Read the back of the package, but generally speaking quinoa is prepared: rinse and drain quinoa thoroughly in cold water before cooking. Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until water in thoroughly absorbed for about 15 minutes. When done the grain appears soft and translucent.
  • What to do with it: Add diced vegetables and beans to eat as a meal or side dish. Toss into salads or eat as hot cereal - a great alternative to oatmeal. I like to heat 2/3 cup cooked white quinoa with 3/4 cup blueberries, 1 tablespoon almond butter and a splash of low-fat milk.
Low-fat Greek yogurt: A great source of calcium, vitamin D and lean protein, Greek yogurt is rich in flavor and smooth in texture.
  • How to prepare: Eat as is or freeze and use as a dessert. You can also make dips out of Greek yogurt which can be used as marinades or dipping sauces. 
  • What to do with eat: Make parfaits mixed with fresh fruit and chopped nuts for breakfast, toss into your morning smoothie for added protein punch or mix into salad dressings to add creaminess. Low-fat Greek yogurt can serve as substitute for sour cream.
Extra Virgin Olive oil: Rich in monounsaturated fat, olive oil is great for bringing out flavor in salads and vegetables.
  • How to prepare: Measure and use. 
  • What to do with it: Use a teaspoon in marinades for meat and in salad dressings. Substitute butter for olive oil when roasting vegetables to reduce the saturated fat content.
All natural nut butter: A must have in my house. Peanut, Almond, Cashew, Sunflower butter - all these spreads are rich in healthy fat and protein. Make sure to read the labels because most need to be stirred and refrigerated after opening to prevent spoilage.
  • How to prepare: No prep needed, but a good stir is. Because all-natural nut butter contains nothing except nuts and salt, the oil separates and rests on top. Stir well and refrigerate after opening.
  • What do with it: For dessert or snack - drizzle some on an apple or 1/2 of a banana. Spread over whole grain toast, or a whole grain waffle and top with slices berries, scoop a tablespoon into hot cereal for an added protein boost or dollup a tablespoon into your morning smoothie. Remember to watch your portion as 1 tablespoon is generally 100 calories and 14 grams of fat (good fat).
100% Pure Canned pumpkin: A nutrition powerhouse, canned pumpkin is rich in vitamin A (can help to promote eye health) and fiber.
  • How to prepare it: Check the expiration and open. No additional prep needed. If you want to use a whole pumpkin - you'll have more options: cooking low-carb with pumpkin
  • What to do with it: Use in soups, stews and chili or desserts or even breakfast! Use as a substitute for squash in a recipe. Pumpkin is extremely versatile as it can take on savory or sweet flavor. Check out this awesome hot pumpkin cereal recipe!


Djouss√© L, Kamineni A, Nelson TL, Carnethon M, Mozaffarian D, Siscovick D, Mukamal KJ. Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in older adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Accessed on-line: September 8, 2014.
American Heart Association. Eat more chicken, fish, and beans than red meat. Accessed on-line. September 8, 2014.