A Good Reason to Avoid Healthy Recipes

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Food advice seems to change drastically every few years. Fat was bad. It was good. No, it was a little bit bad, but that was only the saturated fat. Next, we heard that saturated fats were OK, Dr. Atkins said so. Lately, people are starting to pick on olive oil—the veritable saint of fats and foundation of the mighty Mediterranean Diet.

That's just one category of confusion. But some diet and food advice should be pretty clear.

For instance, suppose I tell you that you should try this for breakfast... take 1 ½ cups of oatmeal. Now top that with a cup of sugar. Some of it can be brown sugar.

You're thinking I'm crazy, right?

How about if I tell you to add a half cup of cup of chocolate chips?

Still not convinced this is health food? OK, then, throw in a half cup of creamy sugar-sweetened peanut butter.

Don't look at me like that. I got this recipe from a famous national newspaper article on cookies that are secretly nutritious. Although it also included some spices and a bit of flour, even the power of oatmeal has its limitations as a health food. An equal volume of sugar and chocolate chips are definitely over the limit.

Sometimes food trends are more fickle than Parisian fashion. It can be hard to know what to do, even when we don't have newspapers telling us chocolate chips and sugar are health foods. Take potatoes.

Or not.

Harvard Health has proof from 50,000 nurses that potatoes are two of the top seven most fast-causing foods implicated in weight gains over a lifetime. They appear on the list once as chips, and once as just “potatoes,” which includes French fries. Even butter and dessert didn't get credit for packing on so many pounds.

And yet there is the little matter of satiety. Potatoes are exceptionally good at making people feel full. Much better than pasta or rice, so we are apt to eat less of them.

Potatoes that have been boiled and chilled are also a source of resistant starch. Meaning they resist digestion in the stomach. Thus, they do not cause blood glucose or insulin spikes and they tend to feed the good bacteria in your digestive system rather than the bad ones.

Potatoes have highly respectable amounts of fiber and vitamins as well. One potato offers half your daily B6 requirement and 45% of the recommended Vitamin C, along with 5 times as much calcium as rice.

There are lots of reasons why dietary advice is so changeable and hard to follow. The main one is the history of the US Department of Agriculture. Unrealized by many, it's not a health agency. Its mission is to help farmers, and that means helping them sell product.

So the USDA continues to recommend 2-3 servings of dairy products per day, despite the fact that 65% of the human population is lactose intolerant!

USDA might be a good source for information on canning and preserving food, but for dietary advice, well we are reminded of those cute little Chik-fil-A cows that advise you to Eat Mor Chikin. Vested interest, much?

Ultimately, the best answer to the question, “what's healthy” may come from the new field of nutritional genomics. Some companies are already offering to test your blood to find out what your genes say you should be eating. But the science is complicated.

Very few of our food reactions are a matter of one gene causing one particular kind of reaction. There are some 150 genes that are related to the development of Type 2 diabetes and 300 that are related to obesity, according to Jose Ordovas, director of the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at Tufts University. Taking a cheek swab or blood sample to a geneticist for a personalized diet will one day be a valuable tool. But for now, there are more unknowns than knowns.

With the field in such disarray, what do you do?

You should probably lean on your own instincts. You know without consulting a dietician that a cup of oatmeal mixed with more than a cup of sugar and topped with chocolate chips is not health food.

Obviously, if milk makes you sick, then the USDA is wrong.

There are very few real rules about eating that seem to hold up. Unfortunately, the link between bologna, bacon, fatty red meat and cancer looks like a keeper. So set some limits on those. Eat more vegetables, have more fruit for dessert.

No, we don't mean Fruit Loops and jelly beans.

And even though the idea comes from the USDA, the best advice might be something close to the MyPlate design, a little more than half your food coming from fruits and vegetables, less than a fourth from protein, and slightly more than a fourth from grains.

 

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The oral health-blood pressure connection

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After undergoing periodontal surgery, comedian and television personality Whoopi Goldberg returned to her seat on "The View" and admitted to the public that, despite her excellent dental insurance, she's never taken care of her teeth and is paying the price. "Your mouth is connected to your entire system," she told viewers. "If you do not take care of your mouth, then you are not taking care of your body, and it will kill you."

Mountains of research show that poor oral health increases your risk for many maladies, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and head and neck cancers. And now, new research has emerged that shows that good dental care (brushing and flossing your teeth daily and getting regular checkups) could prevent or help reduce high blood pressure.

The study published in the journal Hypertension found that people with healthier gums and little tooth decay have lower blood pressure. It also revealed that folks taking high blood pressure medications get more benefit from the meds if their gums are healthy. Specifically, patients being treated for high blood pressure who have inflamed gums are 20 percent less likely to have their blood pressure in a healthy range than patients with no signs of periodontal disease.

So, if you have periodontal disease, have your blood pressure monitored regularly, and get to your periodontist pronto! If you have high blood pressure, remember that maintaining good dental hygiene is as important for protecting your heart as eating fiber regularly or increasing your steps from 8,000 to 12,000 daily. 

(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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Sleeping In Cars Is Bad for Your Legs

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Everyone with a history of deep vein thrombosis knows the plane drill. Flying is hard on people who are at risk of getting blood clots in their legs.

And we now have real-world proof that sleeping in cars is a bad idea, too. For all of us. 

In April 2017, after the Kumamoto earthquake, thousands of Japanese were afraid to return to their homes because a large number of aftershocks were still rumbling through the area. Shelters were crowded, so many people opted to sleep in their cars.

That was the beginning of KEEP—the Kumamoto Earthquake Thrombosis and Embolism Protection project.

The project came about because, after the Kumamoto earthquake, an unusually high number of people developed clots in their legs. For some, the clots broke loose and went to their lungs as venous thromboembolism (VTE).

The KEEP team found 51 patients who were admitted to hospitals for troublesome clots and asked them what they had done in the days beforehand. An astounding 42 patients (82%) in the group had spent a night in their car.

More surprising, and definitely more worrisome, 35 of these people developed a VTE.

What is most compelling about this is the clear link between inactivity and VTEs. Nine of the people in the study who showed up at Kumamoto area hospitals reported that they had not slept in their cars. Three of them (33%) developed VTEs.

But among the 42 people who did report they had slept in their cars, 35 of them (83%) developed VTEs.

This is not to say that sleeping in cars will definitely lead to clots in your legs or a VTE. But if you have a risk factor, you should be concerned. Ditto flying.

"This is a dramatic example of the risks inherent in spending prolonged periods immobilized in a cramped position," commented Stanley Nattel, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, which published the results.

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We'd all prefer to avoid earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and natural disasters, of course. But sometimes the only way to get where we want to go in a reasonable amount of time is to fly.

We looked at recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control in the US and the National Health Service in Britain. It turns out that a lot of us should be aware of the risk of blood clots when we are forced to stay fairly inactive and cooped up in a small space.

Here's what doctors say:

You might be at risk even if you've never had a clot before. You are at higher risk if you smoke, have cancer, have had recent surgery in the pelvic area or legs, have varicose veins, are obese, or have any history of heart disease.

For women, being pregnant, using hormone replacement therapy, and using estrogen-containing birth control also increase your risk.

To lower your risk of a clot, this is what the doctors advise:

Dress comfortably in loose clothing (there will be an additional reason for this). Avoid alcohol or sleeping pills (yeah, we know), and drink plenty of water.

Also, consider compression stockings if your legs tend to swell or feel extra tired after inactivity and travel. NHS recommends a 14-17 mmHg pressure at the ankle. That's a low to moderate amount of compression. NHS also notes that these stockings need to be measured and fitted correctly or you could increase your risk of a deep vein thrombosis.

Your second line of defense is on the plane. Or in the car, if you really must sleep there.

When possible, stand for a while once per hour, walk around a bit if you can. On a plane, an aisle seat is best if you can snag one. But no matter what, do some leg exercises. The simplest one is ankle circles. Also, stretch your legs and flex your ankles (pull them toward you).

The reason for comfy clothes, and pants, in particular, is that you might want to do this one more exercise sometimes recommended by the airlines. Grab one knee with both hands and pull it up toward your chest. Hold for a count of 15. Repeat 10 times. Then do the other leg.

That's not something we recommend in a dress or a kilt. Bon voyage!


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The itch-scratch-itch cycle

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In "The Itchy & Scratchy Show," a cartoon featured on "The Simpsons," Itchy (Dan Castellaneta), a blue mouse, repeatedly kills Scratchy (Harry Shearer), a black cat. It's an endless cycle of torment. Creator Matt Groening really got that itchy and scratchy thing right. Just ask anyone who's ever had chronic dry skin, eczema or mosquito or fire ant bites. You gotta scratch, but the scratching just causes more itching!

Now there's proof: A study out of the Center for the Study of Itch (we kid you not!) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has identified how scratching damages the top layer of your skin and causes signaling proteins (inflammatory cytokines, for example) to be released. They activate the skin's itch-sensory neurons, which in turn produce signals that trigger inflammation and cause more scratching. In short, your skin barrier, your immune system and your peripheral nervous system all gang up on you.

What works to break the cycle? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you apply a cold, wet cloth or an ice pack to itchy areas for 5-10 minutes. Moisturize with a cream free of additives and fragrances. Apply topical anesthetics with pramoxine and cooling agents such as menthol or calamine.

For itchiness that just won't stop, the itch researchers say a drug called nalfurafine hydrochloride may be the answer. It targets certain opioid receptors on spinal cord neurons. The drug is already approved in Japan to alleviate itching in dialysis patients and folks with severe liver disease. Ahh! Relief.  

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   (c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

Seeing Orange Could Keep Insomniacs From Seeing Blue and Maybe Trim the Waist As Well

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Light comes into the eye, hits the retina, and you see. The concept is pretty simple when it comes to vision. Lights on, you can see. Lights off, you're literally in the dark.

But a few cells in the retina aren't involved in seeing. They interpret prolonged light as a time to tell the brain, “wake up,” which they do by generating a protein called melanopsin.

It takes just 10 minutes of prolonged light exposure for the melanopsin-producing cells to start the process. Melanopsin signals your brain that it's daytime. The brain, in turn, signals your pituitary gland to stop producing melatonin.

You probably know something about the hormone melatonin from the drugstore...it makes you sleepy. Melatonin in a bottle is widely recommended for jet lag and insomnia.

We've long known what melatonin does and how to use it to encourage sleep. But until recent work at Salk Institute, the exact mechanics of the melanopsin-melatonin process has been unclear.

Like many other cells in your body, the cells in the retina can be “down-regulated,” or turned off by other chemicals called arrestins.

But the Salk Professor, Satchin Panda, found that the expected arrestin process doesn't work as expected with the melanopsin cells in the retina.

There are two varieties of arrestins involved, it seems. One of them follows the normal pattern to shut down activity. But the surprise that Professor Panda and his team at Salk found was that the other arrestin didn't behave as it “should” on the melanopsin cells. Instead of shutting down melanopsin production, the arrestin made it increase. Increased melanopsin causes wakefulness because it suppresses melatonin. 

OK, that's enough of a science lesson for today. This is what matters...

It's two things, actually. The new findings at Salk finally explain how your computer is keeping you awake, and, further, they could eventually lead to effective treatments for migraines, insomnia, jet lag and circadian disorders that may also play a role in obesity, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive problems.

The research results, which were just published in the Nov. 27 issue of Cell Reports, explains why using computers, cell phones, and television after dark are especially bad for your sleep, much worse than simply reading an exciting mystery under normal lamplight. 

All these electronics emit large doses of blue light, and your melanopsin cells are especially sensitive to that color. They interpret light from the blue end of the spectrum as if it is full, blazing daylight.

You know what happens next. When it's daytime to your eyes, your brain will get a wake-up call and you will lie in bed praying for sleep.

If you are not likely to turn off the television and walk away from your computer or cell phone after dark, however, you have defenses.

The hands-down best one is to get glasses with blue-blocker lenses.

In fact, you don't need to spend $50 (nonprescription) or $300 (prescription) for help. Consumer Reports tested three brands of nonprescription blue-blocking glasses. The winner was the basic orange safety glasses. Cost $8. Go to a Home Depot near you.

The nice thing about the big orange safety glasses is that you are also protected from flying debris, should that happen around your house. Say champagne corks on New Years' Eve? But on a typical evening, they give your surroundings a lovely calming glow. It's like seeing the world by firelight. 

It's a cheap fix, and it actually works.

An article published in the European Journal of Neuroscience (December 2018) found that on workdays,a decrease in evening blue light exposure led to an advance in melatonin and sleep onset.”  Even for “late chronotypes,” which most of us call night owls, “controlling light exposure at home can be effective in advancing melatonin secretion and sleep.” The researchers used plain safety goggles and room darkening shades to test reactions. The safety goggles worked best.

Naturally, computers aren't the only thing that keeps people awake at night. Avoiding late-night screaming crowds at a sports arena, overdoing the Christmas punch, and resisting a snack of jalapeno poppers right before bedtime is also advisable if you want a gentle night's sleep.

But if your lifestyle doesn't include meditation before bedtime and dinner before sunset—or turning off the computer early—some sporty orange safety goggles are definitely worth the price.

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Talking truthfully to your doc -- not easy, but essential

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Comedian Rodney Dangerfield loved to complain about his physician, Dr. Vinnie Boombatz, whose careless instructions often left Dangerfield in worse condition. "He told me to run five miles a day for eight weeks," Dangerfield gripes. "I called him up and I said 'Doc, I'm 70 miles from my house!'"

Dangerfield isn't the only patient who has suffered from miscommunication with a physician ... and the miscommunication goes both ways.

From Doc to Patient: A survey published in JAMA finds more than a third of patients fail to tell their doctor if they disagree with treatment recommendations or don't understand them. That puts your health in jeopardy, and it's a major cause of hospital readmission!

 From Patient to Doc: The study also found that 80 percent of people have lied to their doctors in ways that could affect their health and medical treatment. The top reason? To avoid being judged.

What to Do: When your doc suggests treatment, make SURE you understand. Demand clear explanations. And if you have a bad feeling about something, express it! 

Now, when it comes to being honest with your doc: Your health history and lifestyle habits can be hard to discuss openly, especially if you've made poor choices, such as smoking, not exercising or drinking excessively. But you need to get that info to your doc (ask him or her not to put it in the electronic record), so appropriate care can be offered! Most docs are not judgmental; they just want to help you get and stay healthy. Trust us, we know these doctors exist!

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   (c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

When Your Favorite Things Aren't Needles, Flowers Could Help

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Here at Renown Health our habit of scanning the scientific literature sometimes leads to unexpected treasures. If you hate getting a shot and needles scare you, there's good news.

Did you know that painting decorations on needles make people like them better? A  lot better.

This discovery is not likely to show up in an RHP product, because we don't use needles, but it might help someone you know who hates them. 

Needle aversion, it turns out is a serious medical concern. The DSM-IV bible of psychiatric terms now lists aichmophobia as a recognized diagnosis. It's also called belonephobia or trypanophobia. Use that in a conversation to impress your friends!

Here are some interesting things we learned about needle phobia:

                     In some cases it's genetic—that probably applies to 4% to 10% of the population. For these people, it's definitely not “all in their heads”.

                     Classic needle phobia caused by a bad experience affects most young children, 20% to 50% of adolescents, and 20% to 30% of young adults.

                     About 40% of all adults have significant anxiety about needles

                     One in every five people with a full-blown needle phobia avoids getting medical treatment, including flu shots, as a result.

                     People who pass out at the sight of a needle are suffering “vasovagal reflex reaction”. They faint because their blood pressure drops drastically. Interestingly this response rarely occurs in children under 10.

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Dr. James Hamilton of Duke University in Durham, NC, has studied needle phobias for years.  He has found 63 symptoms related to it, including transient psychosis, combativeness, random motor movements, rolling eyeballs, involuntary loss of bowel or bladder control, seizures, clenching of the jaw muscles, loss of responsiveness and transient coma.

Hamilton himself has the phobia. So do his brother, uncle, and two of his first cousins. They're all doctors.

But as promised earlier, there might be help. Six researchers at the University of New Mexico decided to see whether decorating syringes and butterfly needles would make a difference.

And how! They tested their theory on sixty patients. The mix was two-thirds female, one-third male with slightly more than half of them adults, 41% children. That represents the typical population that walks into an outpatient clinic.

For patients who got shots from decorated syringes, their aversion scores fell 79%. Their fear dropped by 53%, and their anxiety decreased by 51%.

The most effective design was pictures of musical notes. Flowers were next. Smiley faces also worked, but not as well as the suggestion of a song.

Results with butterfly needles—the kind used with IV's—were similar. In this case, the researchers literally decorated the needles with life-size butterfly designs. Again fear and anxiety fell by 53%.

You won't find decorated needles at your local doctor's office yet. But results like these suggest they could show up sooner rather than later.

Until then, thousands of children and adults have turned to Buzzy, a device that seems to be quite effective in reducing the pain and fear. It combines coldness and vibration to reduce pain at the injection site. For children, parents can even order Buzzy kits that come with distraction cards to divert attention.

Hungry Mice Live Longer, Hungry People Might, Too

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Can you starve your way to a long life and great health? According to several studies on calorie restriction in mice, possibly so.

Obviously, that's a plan that can go too far. Anorexia kills. And the consequences are dire even among the cured. Canadian researchers have calculated that girls who were anorexic at age 15 and recovered would cut 25 years off their life span.

But for those of us well above the anorexic level, what about all those studies that show calorie-restricted (CR) diets are linked to living longer? 

It's a pertinent question because roughly 40% of Americans are obese. And, 70% of us are at least a little overweight. People whose weights are “normal” on height-weight charts are actually a minority.

There are plenty of logical reasons for us to shed pounds. Obesity is highly correlated with some kinds of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, knee and back pains, asthma, sleep apnea...

Yet, Americans keep getting heavier. And those of us who do shed a few pounds almost always regain them.

Except for those who believe in CR. The CR advantage probably comes down to attitude:

                     Why diet to lose weight: Eat less to gradually get skinny because if you're fat you might get sick from one of many possible things (some of which could happen to you whether you diet or not) some day in the future.

                     Why CR: Eat less so you will live longer. Getting thin is a nice bonus.

CR can be approached in many ways. Some people just cut calories by a significant amount every day. That can range from 10% less than your normal intake to 30% less. Others choose to eat regularly for 5 days a week and fast or drastically reduce their calories on the other two.  Yet others fast on a different schedule.

The CR idea is so widely touted and has been “proven” so many times:

                     Nematodes (worms) lived longer when their calories were restricted and they were receiving resveratrol at the same time.

                     Another experiment on yeast and flies also showed they lived longer on restricted calories, again results were best when the subjects were fed resveratrol.

                     A new experiment just showed that mice also lived longer when fed only once a day, presumably because that meant they fasted longer as well as receiving fewer calories overall.

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Over the years, CR experiments have focused on mice, flies, worms, and fungi because their short lifespans make it easy to follow subjects through whole generations.

We don't know nearly as much about the effect on humans. There has never been an experiment where researchers began restricting the calories of dozens of children, kept them on restriction for the rest of their lives, and followed them all the way from cradle to grave. There never will be. 

The best we have are some correlations. Based on data from 900,000 western European and North American adults body mass is strongly associated with lifespan. Among the morbidly obese, half died by age 70. Among the lean, less than a quarter had died by age 70.

There have also been some short-term experiments. Valter Longo at USC had subjects cut their calories in half five days per month. After three months, they managed to lower their triglycerides, cholesterol, and body mass. Their blood glucose levels improved, too.

That seemed promising. Alas, the diet wasn't popular. A fourth of the subjects dropped out of the experiment before the three-month mark. The odds that millions of us would use this approach for our entire lives, as Longo suggests we should, are somewhere between dismal and impossible.

Now the good news... Everything we know about CR so far doesn't suggest you should go that route if you don't want to. While the disadvantages of obesity are real, the advantages of CR are still in question.

Let's start with the obvious. You are not a mouse.

Murine—mouse—studies are significant and very helpful, but they're limited. It's one thing to test the chemistry and physiology of a drug on mice with their similar biology. It's quite another to use mice to test lifestyle choices when their lives differ so greatly from ours.

Those long-living mice existed in a highly protected environment with no predators, food shortages, crummy bosses, bills due... you get the idea. So far there are no perfectly controlled studies that prove any one of us will live longer with a CR lifestyle. All we know for sure is that being obese is not good.

Second, there is definite support for the importance of resveratrol in life extension, and it seems especially helpful when cutting calories.

And finally, newer research with primates and studies on human data sets expand the story. Longevity may have a better relationship to maintaining muscle mass than it does to maintaining the waist you had when you were 18 years old and in your physical prime.

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Merry Sugarness to All

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Tell the truth. How many cookies have you had so far? That includes the broken pieces.

And, we know you have stoically resisted the fruitcake, but what about the gift box of Aunt Bessie's double-dark-chocolate homemade fudge? You couldn't hurt her feelings, could you?

It's the holiday season. We're surrounded by seasonal sweets at the office, at home, and at every party.

They're good, too. Only the Grinch would use this occasion to insist that sugar is bad for you and you should give it all up.

That would be unnatural.

The sweet taste exists in nature for a reason. It's not just your imagination or a regrettable character weakness—Mother Nature is tempting you. “Biochemistry,”a college textbook by Jeremy Berg et al. that has been around so long it's now in its 8th edition, makes quick work of that point:

Five primary tastes are perceived: bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and umami (the taste of glutamate from the Japanese word for “deliciousness”). These five tastes serve to classify compounds into potentially nutritive and beneficial (sweet, salty, umami) or potentially harmful or toxic (bitter, sour).”

See? Mother Nature is on your side if you would rather have a brownie instead of seconds on kale.

So, have a little sugar. Not too much. Sugar adds calories, and we are never in favor of packing on extra pounds if you can avoid it. Needless to say, if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, extreme self-discipline is needed.

But a little extra, occasional, sugar won't kill you. In fact, this time of year, sugary treats tend to come with one of life's greatest gifts—the company of friends and family. The smile of a friend and a cookie is a fair trade for sitting home alone. Especially during these short, dark days of the year when many of us feel more depressed than usual.

Still, you will no doubt encounter well-meaning people who make a point of letting you know they wouldn't indulge—because sugar's just bad for you always, forever, period, amen.

One of the favorite arguments by the sugar police is that sugar feeds cancer.

Well, it's time to tackle that myth. The sugar police are stretching the truth a bit.

Excess sugar does lead to obesity. And obesity is definitely implicated in some kinds of cancer. 

But there is no direct link from eating sugar to getting cancer. Or growing cancer. Just as there is no direct link from pumping gas into the tanks of hearses cause a prevalence of caskets inside.

In fact, you can hardly avoid ingesting sugar if you eat a normal diet. It is abundant in healthy fruit like apples. Milk has it. So do carrots, peas, corn, wheat, and potatoes.

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The modern problem is not sugar, it's excessive added sugar. And even then, the sugar-cancer link has been rejected in one high-quality study after another. What you have is a case of guilt by association.

A researcher named Otto Warburger first suggested that sugar caused cancer in 1924 because cancer cells use sugar (glucose) in a different way from regular cells. He got the science wrong, but the myth lives on.

The fact is, all the cells in your body use glucose—not just cancer cells. Your survival depends on it. 

Because they grow so much faster, however, cancer cells are real glucose hogs. Unfortunately, you can't starve your cancer cells by cutting all the sugar out of your diet. There's no way to tell those strawberries to head to your good cells and not your cancer cells.

That's the realm of science, and it may be possible with some drugs in the future.

Oncologists at Brunel  University in London have found a link between glucose and cancer cells that might be the answer. Cancer cells overproduce a protein named PARP 14. The protein allows cancer cells to grab enormous amounts of glucose from the system to fuel their rapid growth. The interesting thing with PARP14 is that it allows cancer cells to use glucose in a different manner than normal cells do. The scientists are looking for ways to block PARP14 production. In turn, that would prevent cancer cells from using the body's glucose stores while healthy cells could still access it.

Success along those lines is still years down the road.

In the meantime, a moderate amount of sugar is OK. Celebrate the season. Enjoy a cookie or two—but not dozens.

There's always New Year's Day for new resolutions. And in addition to cutting back on sugar, you could vow to eat more blueberries.

Because there is one thing that sugar is notorious for—dry skin. A rush of sugar causes an insulin spike, which causes inflammation, which leads to redness, dryness, and wrinkles through the process of glycation. Hence the blueberries...

Blueberries are chock full of vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids that are good for your skin. Your face will love you for it.

And while you're at it, treat yourself to a nice face cream, too.


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How to microwave your dinner safely

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According to some accounts, in 1953 C.A. Swanson & Sons had over 500,000 pounds of unsold turkey after Thanksgiving. One employee suggested they cook the leftovers, along with some favorite side dishes, package the meals in compartmented aluminum trays and freeze them. That was the first TV dinner.

The impulse to pull something pre-made out of the freezer, heat it up and eat it while watching a favorite show is now a way of life for millions. And these days microwave technology can make it happen very quickly (Netflix and chili, anyone?). But there are potential dangers in the foods' plastic containers and in under-heated foods.

Dr. Oz did his own investigation at the Good Housekeeping test lab (watch it at DoctorOz.com; search for "microwave dinners") and discovered that the plastic packaging stayed intact if the food was zapped when frozen, but if the food was thawed then microwaved, the plastic melted! That's toxic. Also, even intact plastics contain potentially harmful chemicals, especially hormone-disrupting BPA/BPS. But thankfully, the microwaved meals the show had tested by an independent lab didn't have BPA in the food.

Another risk from microwaving frozen precooked meals or uncooked foods: Uneven heating creates hot and cold spots, leaving you exposed to disease-causing bacteria (if they happen to be lurking there) and raising your risk of food poisoning.

The bottom line: Don't microwave in plastic. Transfer the foods to glass. For precooked foods, use a meat thermometer to make sure all areas are at least 140 F. For cooking raw foods, follow your microwave's safety guidelines.

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   (c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

A Flu Pandemic Is Bearing Your Way, Should You Sneeze Like Dracula?

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Brace yourself. The world will have a flu pandemic.

Probably not this year. We can still hope this season, which won't peak until January or February, will be kinder than last year.

But a pandemic is coming. Syra Madad, who heads the Special Pathogens Program at NYC Health + Hospitals told the Wall Street Journal “It is not a matter of if it will happen, it is a matter of when it will happen.”

If you have already had your flu shot, smart move.

That may not prevent flu germs from finding you, but it does reduce your chances of succumbing. Flu shots slash the likelihood of getting the bug by 40% to 70%. It varies by year, depending on which flu strains are flying around. Last year was a nasty one, the vaccine only reduced the odds by 40%.

There's another factor to consider, though. Flu shots also have a well-established record of keeping sick patients from getting deathly ill. Repeat that thought. Even if you get the flu, you are likely to be less sick and recover sooner if you had a flu shot.

Last year's flu shot cut the risk of being hospitalized with flu by 71% overall. For people over age 50, it was even better—cutting their hospitalization risk by 77%.

Apart from that, there are some interesting ideas on how to evade a flu attack.

Clorox, of course, recommends lots of bleach. Most of us prefer to swab our hands with a gentle dab of  Purell, however. Ladies are advised to put away cloth purses and opt for materials that can be wiped down after an outing in the germ-ridden public. And everyone who bites his or her nails—quit it!

Oatmeal brings beta glucan, zinc, and selenium to the task, according to some sources. They all serve to support healthy immune systems.

Sneezing into your elbow instead of your hand, however, won't do much to help you. It's a kindness to others because you don't touch everything from door handles to credit card swipe machines with your elbows. You touch them with your germy hands... and get whatever germs the people before you left behind.

Even that is questionable comfort, though. ABC News tested coughing styles and found that the “Dracula move” coughing into your elbow still sent sneeze particles 8.5 feet away. Coughing into hands only sent particles 3.5 feet afield. The best technique by far was coughing into a paper tissue (Kleenex to most of us). Nothing spread through the air.

Then wash your hands and throw the tissue away, of course.

Speaking of Dracula, garlic is supposed to ward off flu as well as vampires.

The best course of action, though, is to maintain the best health you can every day. Drink plenty of water, always. Eat well. Take the right vitamins and supplements. Exercise. Laugh. Hang out with friends. All these positive habits are immune-system friendly.

And when it's flu season, a strong immune system is good to have.

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Your Star Supplement Deserves a Brilliant Supporting Cast

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For safety and efficiency, nature designed the human body to be complex. Your vitamins and supplements need to respect that wisdom, too.

Think about it... Your feet can't drag your body down the road all by themselves. They need the help of your spine to balance your body overhead, bones to support it, and a brain to decide where to head. 

Your fingers may add a pinch of salt to your french fries, but your kidneys moderate it goes from your stomach to your bloodstream or gets washed out.

Yet we often talk about our vitamins and supplements as if each one was a standalone... Vitamin C is the one that is good for colds. Iron is the mineral that enriches the blood. Calcium is the one that supports healthy bones. And ashwagandha is terrific for anxiety. Or so we believe.

The truth is, vitamins and supplements need an entourage to work their best. Your body is complex and anything that goes into balancing or healing it needs to be well thought out. 

The term “entourage effect” was invented by Dr. Ralph Mechoulam, who is the world's leading cannabis researcher. It refers to compounds that have a better or different effect when they work together. There's no reason the hemp and cannabis people should have that term all to themselves, though. Because it's true for vitamins, minerals, and herbals, too. 

You have probably noticed a particular case of this in the past few years. Has your doctor checked your Vitamin D level? Vitamin D affects your energy level, but that's not why your physician makes this a routine check.

He's concerned about your bone density. Studies have shown that no matter how much calcium you ingest, it won't do the job of building bone unless your vitamin D levels are sufficient. Calcium is a star player for bone mass density, but it needs Vitamin D in its entourage.

As we said, the human body is a complex and marvelous instrument. We remember that at Renown Health Products.

If you look at the label on any Renown Health product, you will never, ever find that we have sent you a single-ingredient product.  We believe every star deserves an entourage. Our work always recognizes that all the herbals, minerals, and vitamins you take need support to support one another work their best.

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This is a far different prospect than the shotgun approach taken by makers of daily multiple vitamins. Multivitamins throw every known vitamin at your body in hopes that anything you lack is supplied and anything you don't need won't hurt you.

Multivitamins spectacularly fail to target dosages for specific uses. Vitamin C is a good example...

You may need 75 mg of vitamin C if you are a  typical adult woman, 90 mg if you are an adult male. But a nursing mom needs closer to 120 mg, and a smoker needs 110 to 125 mg of Vitamin C. People with macular degeneration responded positively to 500 mg doses in one study. 

And to complicate matters even more, people with iron overload, a disease called hematochromatosis, should not supplement with Vitamin C at all!

You will notice that Renown Health doesn't sell multivitamins. We offer you well-crafted products that are laser-targeted on specific health goals.   

For instance, our Cerbrexum has 2000 IU of vitamin D3 because it's intended to aid in mental alertness. That calls for high levels. The vitamin D3 in the formula is also supported by ashwagandha, an herb that is sometimes called Indian ginseng. It has a long tradition in Ayurvedic practice for memory and concentration.

But here's the magic of entourage thinking... The Cerbrexum formula also includes Bioperine.  It not only opens capillaries, good for the brain, it also enhances the action of vitamins and supplements like curcumin. And, of course, curcumin is part of Cerebrexum —which is found in the turmeric root powder in the formula. Curcumin is important in Chinese medicine and recent research has shown it aids cognitive function. All the ingredients focus on a clear mission... and there are no “kitchen sink” extras that you don't need.

In contrast, Renown Health's  Isoprex also has Vitamin D3, but much less of it—500 IU. That is exactly what is appropriate to support the calcium in this product. Other Renown Health products don't include D3 at all because as wonderful as vitamin D may be, it's not on mission in those other formulas.

The next time you are standing at the pharmacy looking at rows of B vitamins (was it 7 or 8 that's good for shiny hair?), Vitamin K (no! Not with Warfarin!), Milk Thistle (but not if you are allergic to ragweed), Licorice Root (wait, that raises blood pressure, doesn't it?) and fifty other choices you will probably feel like you need an expert to choose the right combination of bottles.

We couldn't agree more!  Trust us.


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Should You Put Crisco on Your Face?

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Some lovely ladies swear by it. Even some he-men think Crisco is great for rough elbows and dry feet.

 

But Crisco on your face? You're probably thinking, no way, yuck, won't you smell like a pie? Or worse, a french fry.

 

Surprisingly, you'd smell just fine. And Crisco has been the “secret” beauty regime for more than a few older women who greet the day with glowing skin at any age. Even celebrity dermatologist Dr. Jessica Wu has said that if you don't have anything else on hand, Crisco's fine.

 

Just a tiny brush of it on your fingertips, well massaged, won't even leave a grease spot on your pillow. As for the smell, you can add a drop of soothing essential oils like bergamot (mmm-mm, orange) or frankincense that are OK to use on the skin.

 

Crisco won't do you any harm unless you are an acne-prone teenager. The ingredients are pure vegetable oils. And when you think about it, something safe to eat isn't likely to poison your skin.

Crisco doesn't even have trans-fats in it anymore. J.M. Sucker, the company that owns Crisco, took the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils that were the culprit out of the formula in 2007.

 

To be fair to Crisco, the trans-fats were originally thought to be healthy. They were introduced as an alternative to saturated fats, especially that old-timey baking staple called lard.

 

So there's no harm in Crisco, and it means well. But the little old ladies with glowing skin who swear by it probably have amazing genetics in their corner. They'd probably look just as good with a nightly Campbell's Tomato Soup rubdown. Maybe just a bit pinker, which is always a nice touch, too.

 

Still, Crisco isn't actually likely to do you any good beyond the basics. It's a temporary moisturizer at best... a fair performer at sealing in moisture after a shower or bath, but not a healing or long-term solution.

 

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Crisco lacks several traits that true beauty creams should have.

 

Moisturizing. Crisco, Vaseline, and many greasy products can temporarily trap internal moisture to prevent it from leaving your skin. Assuming there's enough moisture to capture, that can be helpful. But real moisturizing is most effective when the product is humectant.

 

Humectants like hyaluronic acid (HA) attract moisture to the skin and then hang on to it. One molecule of HA can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water, keeping your skin moist and plumped all day long.

 

Wrinkle-Fighting. Rubbing Crisco into wrinkles would result in shiny wrinkles. That might be a nice look for an alligator purse, but effective creams reduce wrinkles with sustained use. The best ingredient on that score is resveratrol.

 

Firming. Moist and unwrinkled skin is good. Now it needs support. White tea extract is one of the ingredients that improve sagging skin.

 

Healing. With all the pollutants in the environment, plus all the soaps, cleaners, toners, sunscreens, and makeup that we slather on, even well-behaved skin can get red and itchy. Ahhh, cocoa butter to the rescue.

 

The Ultimate—Building New Collagen. The other qualities are enough to make an outstanding beauty treatment, but products that encourage new collagen can make people wonder how you turned back the clock. Look for peptides in premium products to do just that.

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When men have body image problems -- and they do!

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When Chris Pratt went from the pudgy (up to 300 pounds!) funny guy Andy Dwyer in "Parks & Recreation" to the ripped space scoundrel Peter Quill in 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy," fans wondered how he transformed himself. He says: "There wasn't any trick or secret. You cannot do it in a month. It takes a year -- or a lifetime -- of consistency, every day."

 He did it right; he's maintaining a healthy weight and good nutritional habits. But a new study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that many men who get into weight loss and muscle building become trapped in a cycle of obsessive exercise, hyper food regulation and distorted body image, and develop what's called bigorexia or muscle dysmorphia. 

The researchers looked at data from the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) on 2,460 males ages 18 to 32. A third of the men had been on a diet in the past year. Not so they could run faster or improve their health, but to "look better." They also were more likely to binge drink and be depressed. 

 How many guys are affected? A study in Military Medicine found that in a group of 1,150 new enlistees 13 percent of males had body dysmorphic disorder and 12.7 percent had MD.

Signs of MD include extreme exercise routines, being convinced that your body isn't lean enough or muscular enough and using supplements excessively. Overcoming MD requires a commitment to change, ongoing talk therapy, medical support and patience. That's something to build on!

 

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                  (c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

  

Is Your Immune System Trying to Kill You? Rare Disease Might Solve the Pain in Your Knees

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If your immune system doesn't cure you, it could kill you. More likely it will make you hurt all over. 

 

Inflammation that refuses to turn off is the real reason behind the pain of arthritis. It's an immune response gone awry. Now the proof piles up that inflammation and misdirected immunity also lead to burning pains in the feet, deafness, loss of muscle control, poor night vision, eventual blindness and cataracts caused by a rare disease known as PHARC. 

 

The disease is so rare, most doctors don't know about it. But research on it may bring pain relief to the millions of us that don't have it.

 

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute have linked PHARC to the lack of a specific protein, ABHD12. Until this research, scientists were not sure what that the ABHD12 protein was for. Now they know it acts as a brake on the immune system to keep it from being overactive, and that's the discovery that could lead to help for millions of us with everyday afflictions like migraines and arthritis.

 

Eventually, researchers hope their discoveries could help them develop drugs to target ABHD12, which most people have, in order to treat cancer and chronic viral diseases.

 

Benjamin Cravatt, the head researcher says, “it is now known that the immune system plays a big role in many brain diseases including neurogenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. There have also been hints of immune involvement in developmental brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.” 

 

No drug to tame the release of the ABHD12 protein exists yet. But if it did, its action would likely mimic several natural healing agents that control inflammation such as bromelain, oregano, and baikal skullcap. These natural sources subdue pain by acting directly on the body to regulate inflammatory proteins.

 

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Three Super-Healthy New Things You Can Do with that Orange in Your Fruit Bowl

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Some plants were born to be superstars. Lately, hemp and cannabis have been hogging the news, but it's time to honor the orange. Besides delicious fruit and everyone's favorite breakfast juice, oranges have dozens of uses.

 

Here are three of our favorites you may be overlooking.

 

1. Make Orange Vinegar for the Freshest House In Town

 

Orange-scented cleaning products seem to have replaced lemon. The smell is great, but the chemicals in commercial products aren't always something you really should be spreading all over the house.

 

There's a natural alternative that does the trick just as well. It's so cheap it's almost free, too. Make an orange-scented vinegar solution for cleaning. Save those orange peels until you can fill a glass container with a lid. Stuff them in, and cover with white vinegar. Now seal the lid and send the bottle to storage for two weeks to a month. A dark corner of the cupboard is fine. To use the solution, strain out all the orange peels.

 

You can put ¼ cup to ½ cup of your new vinegar essence in water for a great all-purpose cleaner. And once you've strained out the orange peels, they make great garbage disposal deodorizer-cleaners, too.

 

By the way, if you like something a little more complex, add some sprigs of rosemary, cedar, or pine to spike your orange scent. You'll love how the house smells. But warning, it could make you hungry!

 

2. Work Out Your Arthritis Kinks

 

There are drugs and natural remedies to treat the pain of arthritis. But even with those in your medicine cabinet for pain or swelling, a little self-management can go a long way to keeping your fingers and hands functioning smoothly.

 

These routines will leave you feeling more like you had a massage than a workout. You can do them with a tennis ball, but an orange is even friendlier to hurting hands.

 

The easiest one is the big squeeze. Palm the orange and wrap your fingers around it evenly. Now squeeze gently if you are really sore. Hold each squeeze to the count of 5 then release. Repeat 10 times. On your good days, you can squeeze with all your might to build hand strength.

 

Now try the claw pinch. Put all your fingers together and place your clustered fingertips down on the top of the orange. Put the tip of your thumb below. Pinch the orange as if trying to dent it. Gently if needed. Hard if you can.  Hold each pinch 5 seconds and do 10 of them altogether.

 

Next come the solo finger presses... Put your thumb under the orange and place just your index fingertip on top, opposite your thumb. Keep the other fingers relaxed, they'll have to wait for their turn Now squeeze your thumb and index finger together for 5 seconds. When your index finger is done, move on to your middle finger and thumb. When that's done, do a press with your thumb and ring finger. Finish up with a thumb and pinky face off, and you've completed the first series. Try to reach 10 series of finger presses, 15 if you're feeling spunky.

 

Finish your routine with the unbender, because all you need after this squeezing is a good stretch.  Put the orange in the palm of one hand. Place the index finger of your other hand on top of the orange. Keep your finger straight, and use the orange to push your finger back as far as you can comfortably move it.

 

People usually do this last exercise by pushing on the fingers of one hand with the other, but it's easier to overdo it that way. The orange keeps it gentle.

 

3. Eat Them

 

Not exactly a new use, you say. Maybe so, but we're going to add an orange twist. Eat the peel.

 

Orange peels are rich in nutrients. Gram for gram, the peel of an orange contains about twice as much vitamin C as the fruit. Orange peels also include the B-complex vitamins riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, pyridoxine, and folate along with Vitamin A.

 

Needless to say, but we'll say it anyway—only eat the peels of organic oranges. And wash them first.

 

Oranges are powerful. In addition to all those vitamins, they are a natural source for diosmin, a flavone with a strong pharmaceutical demand, especially for achy legs.


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