It stands to reason that some
foods are good for you—salads, spinach, carrots, that kind of thing. But it's even better when your favorite
pleasures turn out to be advisable.
Millions of Brits are surely glad to know that their tea is full of antioxidants. Count me among those who are pleased to note that a glass of red wine is good for cholesterol and the heart.
Then there's chocolate. For millions, the news that chocolate was full of flavanols that might lower cholesterol and reduce blood pressure was the best news since Adam and Even figured out where babies came from.
That doesn't mean a Snickers bar, of course. The health claims are reserved for dark chocolate with high cocoa content and cocoa powder.
The claims are probably overblown. Two years ago, a search and metanalysis of the Cochrane database turned up 40 pilot studies on chocolate and health. The improvements in blood pressure were there—but they were small.
Cochrane's is a database of all the studies it can find around the world on natural health supplements and therapies. It's massive and there's no better source anywhere. But even a search through Cochrane's couldn't come up with good randomized, controlled studies that linked chocolate to a reduction in heart attacks or strokes.
Then a few days ago, an article published in Trends in Food Science and Technology piled on. Scientists at the University of Manitoba reviewed 17 studies on chocolate that were conducted over the past 20 years to investigate whether cocoa flavanols lowered blood pressure.
This is not going to make chocoholics happy. The evidence was “inconsistent” and “conflicting.” Nine of the 17 studies showed a small decrease in blood pressure. Eight studies did not.
The bottom line in all this is that there is no scientific evidence to justify an “authorized health claim” for chocolate in either the US or Canada, where the latest bad results came in.
Then again, your friends probably don't know about the cachet of an “authorized health claim.”
To gain that status, the claims must be backed by strong scientific evidence and then approved by FDA after a thorough review. It's not easy. FDA has approved only 12 such claims since 1990. But those claims are valuable because food and supplement makers can point to them in marketing and on product labels. An example of this kind of claim is “Adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.”
Canada says chocolate isn't worthy of a claim like that yet, and it doesn't appear that one will be coming anytime soon.
But if you love chocolate, there is other good news from England. Professor Alyn Morice at the University of Hull says chocolate is better than codeine for suppressing a cough. It coats the throat and soothes. He should know, Professor Morice is the head of Respiratory Medicine at Hull Medical school and an international authority on treating coughs.
The catch is that he bases his opinion on research on a sticky cough medicine with cocoa in the ingredients. Sipping a warm cup of cocoa won't keep the throat coated and do the same.
Unless you are a saint or a
neurotic, you've probably lost a bottle of vitamins for a while. But should you
take them when you find them again and see they've passed their sell-by date?
Saints, of course, always put the bottle in the same spot and take their vitamins at the same time every day, every week, every year.... neurotics have an advantage over those of us who are less perfectly organized, too. They wouldn't miss a dose for fear of what would happen.
But suppose you got a buy-one-get-one deal on adult gummies then forget that second bottle when you put it in the closet behind the Band-Aids? Guilty.
Prevention Magazine did us a favor and took a look at the issue.
One of the most interesting things about vitamins is how little-controlled this industry is. It's why the source is so important. In the US, the FDA does not even require manufacturers to put sell-by or expiration dates on vitamins as they are sold.
Fortunately for us, responsible companies choose to put dates on their products.
Generally speaking, vitamins don't rot, but they do degrade. So taking vitamins that have expired is not going to hurt you... as long as you got your vitamins from a respectable company in the first place.
That said, they might not do you a lot of good.
The first question is where you mislaid that bottle before you rediscovered it. If it fell under the front seat of your car, forget it. Even the medicine cabinet is suspect unless the bottle has been tightly sealed. Good storage for vitamins means a place with low humidity, low light, and moderate to low temperatures. The humidity and temperatures—think steamy shower—usually rule out the bathroom as a good place to keep vitamins.
But if storage was suitable, your vitamins are probably fine to take for a few weeks past the expiration date. They won't make you sick.
Whether they will do you a lot of good depends on what is in them. If that bottle happens to be high-potency B-complex that you depend on for energy and other health benefits, you are out of luck. Water soluble vitamins like B-12 and vitamin C expire most rapidly. Fat soluble ones like Vitamin D have a long shelf life.
The question always is this—why are you taking vitamins? If they are simply a good health habit that you take for a little extra insurance you can gum your forgotten gummies. However, there are reasons to just regret the loss and toss the vitamins.
Prevention didn't take the issue this far, but if you have certain habits, then you need good, healthy, potent doses of key vitamins. Don't take expired ones. Here are a few issues to watch:
Heavy drinkers should be aware that alcohol destroys vitamin A, B1(thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), folic acid, B12, pantothenic acid and biotin.
By the way, wait a couple of hours after having that glass of wine if you normally take vitamins later in the day. If you drink more than two glasses of wine, 2 beers, or the equivalent per day, then throw away old vitamins. You should have the freshest and best.
Caffeine also kills nutrients... the same ones that alcohol destroys. So keep your vitamins fresh if you're a fiend for coffee.
Antibiotics destroy B3
Aspirin compromises Vitamin C and K. If you take a prophylactic aspirin you could be diminishing your stores of these vitamins.
Birth control pills reduce levels of vitamins B6 and E.
Stress targets B1, folic acid and calcium.
As the morning starts, the day goes.
If I had my preference, I'd always sleep in a bedroom with an east-facing window and wake to the morning light. My husband prefers the blinds drawn and nailed shut, fully-darkened approach to sleeping. Fortunately, our dog, Sally, is on the job to tell me when the sun is up.
It's not that I am actually a morning person. Just try talking to me and you'll soon give up. But I like a slow, calm start. Coffee, toast, reading, prayer. Walk the dog.
Then tai chi. Walking the dog is not always a calm thing. There are squirrels out there. Sometimes iguanas. People to say hello to. But tai chi puts me back into balance and gets the day going right.
A few years ago, for probably the third time, I signed up for classes—and what a difference a truly accomplished teacher made. It wasn't just the sequence of moves, it was the breathing, the exact tension in the hands, where my balance was... all revealed with kindness and encouragement.
Tai chi instructors at that level are rare and hard to find in most of the country. At best, you may find a yoga or taekwondo instructor who has learned the moves and added classes. The exercise itself is so valuable, even that will be a plus for you.
But if you have no instructor, then what? As I learned after spending my own money, most videos aren't very helpful. Books—some of them quite beautiful—are hard to follow because they can't show the flow of changes as they happen.
There's also the question of pacing. If you're like me, you will probably move too fast. The best benefits come from slow transitions from one position to another.
Now that I've brought up all those negatives, I will tell you where I found the best source ever for tackling tai chi when you can't find an instructor. It's a video that explains every move extremely clearly. So if you have to practice alone, this is the one video I would recommend for a complete beginner or even someone who wants to review his or her form:
Yang Tai Chi for Beginners Part 1, DVD from YMAA Publication Center
The instructor is Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming.
This is available from Amazon, and cheap! Only $8.99. I keep it on my Kindle Fire for use.
If you are already doing tai chi, you will know why I recommend taking it up. If you've just thought about it, here's why starting a tai chi practice is a wonderful gift to give yourself.
What you get from tai chi
• It's a moving meditation
• It's excellent for developing and preserving functional balance
• It has been proven to help people with back pain
• It is suitable for the fit and the not-fit because of its gentle, slow movements
• Nonetheless, it is real exercise
• It improves blood and lymph circulation
• In one randomized, controlled trial, tai chi was as effective as physical therapy for people with knee osteoarthritis
• It improves posture, which may also reduce neck pain
• It lowers blood pressure
• It helps with depression
• It helps cognition, making decisions and other mental tasks
• In one study on 400 people already showing signs of dementia, tai chi slowed the disease
And if you're lucky like me, it also makes the dog bark. That's a lot of benefit and entertainment to start the day.
Quite a few savvy environmentalists are against genetically
modified (GMO) plants for any reason.
There are definitely real concerns. But would you consider a GMO version of ivy that cleans chloroform and benzenes out of the air better than a HEPA filter? What if your baby was breathing that stuff in? If you have city water or an attached garage, the baby is definitely getting a dose of both.
Household air is usually more tainted than the air in offices and schools. Toxic substances off-gas from fabrics, furniture, cookware, and cooking. Chlorinated water means your home has chloroform in the air. A lawn mower or car in the garage contributes benzenes. Particle board furniture and wrinkle-free fabrics pile on with formaldehyde. A fireplace or poorly adjusted gas burner on your stove adds carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide.
You have probably heard that houseplants are good for indoor air. They do take out the carbon dioxide and add oxygen. But they aren't very efficient at fighting the other pollutants. It takes about 20 houseplants to clear the formaldehyde found in a typical living room.
I'm not sure how anyone got the brilliant idea, “hmm rabbit plus ivy might work.” But it does. When Professor Stuart Strand at the University of Washington tried introducing the P450 2e1 gene from a rabbit into the common houseplant known as pothos or devil's ivy, he had a winner. In mammals, that gene produces an enzyme that helps break down chemicals. In an ivy plant, it's extremely effective at clearing the air.
Strand and team tested the modified ivy in a container to measure how well it worked. Compared to a regular plant, or no plant at all, the GMO ivy was a star. It broke down 75% of benzene within 8 days. It was even better at making formaldehyde go away. Within 6 days, the pollutant was barely detectable.
The work looks like it has a lot of potential, but no one knows yet how well these plants might work in a regular room or how many it would take to clear the air.
That's not the only concern. GMO plants have a habit of escaping their designated slots. A type of GMO bent grass intended for golf courses has escaped its bounds to clog irrigation systems in Oregon. GMO canola plants from Canada have invaded the Dakotas. Because canola can hybridize easily with other plants, it can become an invasive weed that farmers cannot control, thanks to its built-in resistance to RoundUp.
A Harvard study has concluded beyond any reasonable doubt that RoundUp-ready plants have played a big role in the loss of wild bees.
Most botanists saw that potential trouble coming, but other adverse effects are more shocking surprises.
Who foresaw that GMO crops would lead to more suicides in India? But they have, according to the country's Agricultural Ministry. Farming is hard there. It depends on adequate rain during the monsoon season. But Monsanto's GMO seeds require twice as much water. In years when monsoon rains are a little light, crops fail. Worse, the expensive seeds are often not even capable of resisting pests. They were developed for Western nemesis, not for Indian boll-worms.
We are careful about product sources at Renown Health. It's the reason all our products are made in the US, where we can be sure we know the quality and integrity of anything we use. We do not use GMO plant sources.
As a natural health company, we take the environment seriously. It's where we source everything from feverfew to grape skin extracts to mango seed butter. We think that as a person who uses natural healing products, that's important to you, too.
So, much as we like the idea of formaldehyde-eating ivy plants, we're not hanging any around the office.
US News and World Report has made a second career for itself ranking things. They rate colleges and hospital systems, places to live, places to retire, credit cards, and SUV's.
And diets. In 2018, two diet systems share top honors as the best according to US News—DASH and Mediterranean.
The worst were Keto and Dukan—both plans that emphasize protein and fat.
As usual, USNWR has a system it uses to keep the scoring honest. For rating the different diet plans, a group of experts scored them on how easy they were to follow and maintain, how effective they were for short term weight loss, and more important to many of us, how well they did at long term weight loss.
The ranking makes perfect sense. Almost anyone who has tried an extremely low-carb diet knows that variety and reality are the downsides. Yes, I've done Atkins, and truthfully, by the fourth day, I'm a live wire, in a good way. I sleep like a contented baby, I wake up fresh, I have so much energy it annoys my husband.
And by the fifth day, I am dreaming about strawberries and apples. By the sixth day, say the words “fresh peach” and watch me drool helplessly. Much as I love a good steak, Atkins is boring. Ditto keto. But my tummy stops grumbling all the time and I do lose weight. Until I stop.
That's the beauty of DASH and Mediterranean. Both diets include a balance of lean meats in moderate amounts, especially fish, not much red meat, with plentiful whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. This is real food that you can eat for your entire lifetime. And unless you are stranded in a land where only McDonald's is available, it's easy to find the right food. Any salad bar will do.
The DASH diet is the creation of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. DASH stands for dietary approaches to stop hypertension. It's about controlling blood pressure, so you know right away this is a diet meant to increase your health as you lose weight. There is no single “Mediterranean” diet. The idea is to eat like the people of Greece, Cyprus, France, somewhere over there where fishermen bring in lovely catch and olive gardens are not part of a restaurant chain.
The USNWR rankings seem smart, but why should there be such a list at all? Humans have put a man on the moon, and if we can believe the Chinese, they've parked a vehicle on the back side of Mars. And after how many million years on the planet we're still figuring out what to eat?
That debate isn't over yet, but there is one thing I am certain of based on our work here at Renown Health. Fruits and veggies matter. Many of the best healing natural herbs, botanicals, and vitamins are effective because of the tiny polyphenols and flavonoids in them. For instance, white willow bark contains the same chemical as aspirin, but aspirin is all synthetic. That is probably why when willow bark treats a headache just as effectively, it doesn't damage the stomach lining.
We may react differently to different diets. But any eating plan that puts vegetables and fruits on the “do not eat” list is one to avoid.
Way to go, US News, and thank you.
I'm not sure what capabilities the guys in IT have. They may
know what websites I visit, but truly, the stopover at Larry Brown Sports was work-related.
I was looking for new developments in knee care.
That led to an item about New York Giants wide receiver Jawill Davis. He's out for the rest of the 2018-2019 season, placed on injured reserve.
Davis sustained a knee injury, which is not unusual among football players, but in this case no action on the field was involved. Davis was either dancing, or just plain horsing around, in the locker room when he slightly dislocated his knee.
Admittedly, Davis only played in four games for the Giants through the end of December. He's not a superstar. Still, even the least noticed athlete who makes it to any pro sport is well-conditioned, strong, and flexible. You wouldn't expect dancing to do them in.
Davis now has the distinction of owning the most embarrassing injury in sports for 2018. Larry Brown Sports Weird Injuries also lists such runners up as Kansas City pitcher Mike Moustakas who hurt his back picking up one of his kids. Or there was St. Louis pitcher Luke Weaver who missed a start after he cut his finger taking the aluminum foil off a food tray.
Pitcher Aaron Sanchez of the Toronto Blue Jays may win the prize for hiding the truth longest. He had a finger injury that kept him out of the game for two months. The reason was too embarrassing to share, he said. Probably what everyone was imagining was so bad, he finally 'fessed up that he caught his finger in his suitcase as it was falling off the bed.
But back to knees. They're really vulnerable. Even for athletes. Larry Brown Sports also reported that “On the eve of Opening Day, [Kansas City] Royals catcher Salvador Perez tore his MCL while carrying luggage, and is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks of action.” That's the medial collateral ligament, which runs along the inside of the knee.
If this can happen to healthy 20-somethings, should the rest of us just conclude our knees are dead dodos, bound to be injured sooner or later?
Despite weird injuries like those suffered by Davis and Perez, when you consider the extreme physical challenges professional athletes face, they don't have nearly as many knee injuries as you'd expect. There's a lesson in that. Athletes prepare for it.If your knees are healthy now, dance with abandon, your knees can take it if you take care of them. If your knees already hurt, see your trainer or physical therapist for help and get ready to dance, even if you have to go gently.
Did you ever wonder why all those women were squeezing rolls of toilet paper in those absurd Charmin' ads from years ago? It wasn't the TP, no matter what Mr. Whipple said when he told them to stop. It must have been the baby on the wrapper.
The term for that impulse is cute aggression, and it's a real thing.
Proctor & Gamble made a fortune on the phenomenon of cute aggression before it was even known to science. If you're over 30, you probably remember the ads where crazy housewives were pulling packages of Charmin' toilet paper off the shelf to squeeze them. Out comes grocery manager “Mr. Whipple” to make them stop. Of course, after he sends them all away, he squeezes the Charmin' in secret.
The ads ran from 1965 to 1989, 504 of them. Proctor & Gamble brought Mr. Whipple out of retirement briefly in 1999 after the company took the cute baby picture off the label and switched to the cute Charmin' bears. The ad campaign made Dick Wilson, the actor who played Mr. Whipple, one of the most recognized characters of all time. Silly, yes. But it worked because it touched a deep human urge.
In 2012, Yale scientists, Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon, investigated the urge to squeeze, bite, or show aggression toward adorably cute baby animals and human babies (but not toilet paper). They originated the term “cute aggression”.
You've seen it or done it. People pinch baby cheeks, which doesn't seem like a very loving gesture when you think about it. We pretend to growl at puppies, another not so friendly gesture.
You've surely heard someone say tell a baby, “I just want to bite your little toes off; I could eat you right up!” Or coo toward a puppy, “Oooh, I could squeeze you to death.” And they may be telling the literal truth if they say, “Oooh, I can't stand it!”
In 2015, neuroscientist Anna Brooks told a reporter that cute aggression is probably a natural mechanism to dial down feeling too good around cuteness.
People who are helplessly flooded with excessive levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine aren't functioning at their logical best. They could spend so much emotional energy feeling the love that they forget to do their chores, like change diapers and feed the baby.
Just recently, new research upheld that theory and added some details to the mystery of why some of us want to kill, maim, bite and squeeze cute things. As part of the testing, they asked participants to rate their response to cute and non-cute animals and babies then evaluate their reactions. They were asked about the statements “I can't stand it,” “I can't handle it” along with reactions of wanting to hold it and protect it.
This is what is most interesting: The higher the “I can't stand it” rating participants gave each picture, the more the reward centers in their brains lit up, and the more cute aggression they reported.
That strongly suggests that the early theory that cute aggression is a reaction to being emotionally overwhelmed.
It should be noted if you are shaking your head that all of us don't experience a high degree of cute aggression. I, for one, have never felt the urge to pinch baby cheeks or bite toes. OK, belly bubbles, yes, who could resist that? But my daughters give me pretty high marks for mothering, despite declining to eat them all up as infants.
And some people in the recent research group said they only felt the cute aggression urge toward animals and not toward babies. But I must admit, I've never squeezed a puppy, either, and I love dogs of all sizes and kinds. I do, however, force Squeaky, the tiny cat, to endure kitty kisses on her head. Sorry Squeaks, Mother Nature made me do it.
At any rate, the next time you hear someone threatening to squeeze a baby to death, it's probably all fine. Very much fine.
Katherine K.M. Stavropoulos and Laura A. Albo. “It’s so Cute I Could Crush It!”: Understanding Neural Mechanisms of Cute Aggression. Front. Behav. Neurosci., 04 December 2018. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2018.00300
Today, I want you to step away briefly from this message, for just a moment, and test your balance.
Of course, balance matters, and good balance prevents falls. But the reason for this test today is that balance is also a marker for how old you really are... in body, not on the calendar.
So here we go...
Stand near something you can grab if need be because you will close your eyes for this test.
When your eyes are closed stand on one foot and start counting. Go!
You can open your eyes after you're back on two feet.
How long did you last before toppling over?
Here's the correlation between your ability to keep your balance on one foot with your eyes closed and your functional age:
28 seconds = 25-30y
22 seconds= 30-35y
16 seconds = 40y
12 seconds = 45y
9 seconds = 50y
8 seconds = 55y
7 seconds = 60y
6 seconds = 65y
4 seconds = 70y
The numbers come from ShareCare, the team of health professionals that has devised the RealAge test.
If you have never taken the RealAge test, we encourage you to do that sometime soon (but read to the end of this first, OK?).
Physical balance has obvious benefits related to the quality of your life, especially as you get older. We may have a good chuckle at the old “help, I've fallen and I can't get up” commercials, but the truth is scary...
Emergency rooms treat about 3 million people a year who fall and hurt themselves. If you fall, the odds are one in five you will injure yourself beyond a simple bruise or skinned knee. And most startling: about 95% of all hip fractures come from falling, not from simple weakened bones as you might expect.
If your test of standing on your leg with your eyes closed was bad news, start improving now. Here are a few tips from Gaiam, the maker of bosu, exercise balls, and yoga mats for gently improving your balance:
Anytime you make the surface underneath you smaller or less stable, you are going to have to use more balance. For example, balancing on one foot gives you a smaller base, and standing on a thick yoga mat can produce a less stable surface. Try these exercises, with or without training aids, to start improving your balance.
• Try standing on one foot and moving your arms around. Once you’ve mastered that, try standing on one foot and bending down to pick something up in front of you (like a book or some keys), all while keeping your balance.
• Traditional lunges and squats are also good ways to test and gain your balance. Focus on keeping your core strong to combat wobble.
There's a new way to lower your risk of diabetes: If you're a night owl, tell the boss you'll be in late. That's just one of the benefits of living in sync with your natural internal clock. Some of us are early birds, some are night owls, and it's risky to change.
It's obvious that all of us humans don't have our body clocks in sync because of some internal force. In my own family, my brother was literally up with the birds. I suspect he's the one who told the rooster to get a move on it. As an adult, he liked to head into work at 4 a.m. to beat the traffic. I pull the blanket over my head and hold out as long as possible. We both had the same childhood schedules, the same breakfast, school, and bedtime routines. But we have remained different all our lives.
Society hasn't made it easy for us to accommodate our different clocks, however. Ever since Benjamin Franklin observed that early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, night owls have borne a slightly unsavory reputation. School hours favor people like my brother. Ditto most workplaces. Nightclubs are for night owls. So are parties, concerts, and most baseball games.
Whichever style you are, you now have science to make your case that you should follow your own clock. A Harvard study almost says it all in the title: “Mismatch of Sleep and Work Timing and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes.” The only word missing word is “causes,” but the report hints as much.
Harvard found that late chronotypes, or night owls, had higher rates of diabetes after several years of shift work that ran counter their natural schedule. Early birds were slightly affected by a mismatch, but not as much.
The work world is catching on. In Germany, a Thyssenkrupp steel factory put its morning people on the day shift and gave its night owls the evening shift. As a result, everyone got extra sleep, about an hour's worth per day on average.
“They got 16 percent more sleep, almost a full night’s length over the course of the week. That is enormous,” Till Roenneberg, a chronobiologist at Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich, told the New York Times.
Dr. Roenneberg believes that inefficiencies caused by workers laboring out of sync with their own clocks may cost society about 1% of GDP.
As the New York Times put it, “if you rely on an alarm clock to wake you up, you're out of sync with your own body”.
And your body will fight back.
Isn't it just a little weird? Sixty-second commercials for ED
run on family television channels.
But we don't talk about constipation--a problem that is so common almost everyone suffers it occasionally.
Chronic constipation affects 15% to 20% of Americans—42 million people according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institute of Health.
That should give you a clue that those dry runs in the bathroom are not just uncomfortable and embarrassing. It's serious enough for the government to study.
Most of the time, constipation has innocent causes: too little exercise, the wrong food, not enough water, a medication that binds you up, pregnancy, and just plain bad habits like resisting the urge when it's not convenient to go.
It can be a sign something more serious is wrong. You should see your doctor if you have blood in your stools, excessive pain, unexplained weight loss or this is new and unusual for you. But for the rest of us, constipation is usually a problem we can solve ourselves.
Constipation really isn't funny. It's miserable. Fortunately, there's a lot you can do. Here is some of the best and most respected advice, with a little extra insight.
1. Hydrate—Why this matters: not what you probably think. As we get older, our bodies hold water. Also, our thirst signals become less reliable as we age. So drink plentifully whether you feel thirsty or not. You may not be as well hydrated as you think you are. You don't have to glug down a quart of pure water at a time to stay healthy. Multiple small additions of beverages that you like throughout the day are ideal. It will make all your systems function better. Proper hydration benefits your skin, blood pressure, heart rate and metabolism. And helps soften stools, too.
2. Move—exercise helps speed up your digestive system and supports the muscles involved in pushing food through your system. Your colon is a muscle. Although doctors often advise constipated patients to exercise more, there is surprisingly little actual research on the topic.
• Strain #1 prevents harmful pathogens from entering your bloodstream
• Strain #2 promotes lactose intolerance, a very common problem
• Strain #3 gets past the stomach to prevent loose stools—AND CONSTIPATION!
• Strain #4 promotes regularity and overall immune system strength
• Strain #5 encourages your gut to produce lactase again, to naturally aid in digesting dairy products (including things like whey found in cookies and protein bars)
• Strain #6 seeks out and destroys toxins and helps maintain the correct pH in your gut
But the star of the show—Strain #7—is Saccharomyces boulardii... It's a powerful agent in restoring a healthy balance of gut bacteria. And this is the missing ingredient you won't find in cheap, grocery store products.
In science, nothing is ever final. Brain training is still under investigation.
Several studies between 2010 and 2013 reported to our joy that doing crossword puzzles might delay mental aging and preserve memory and cognitive function. Maybe even hold back the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
That proved less than gospel. Next came “scientific brain training” exercises.
Companies like Luminosity attracted thousands of paying subscribers who did daily exercises. And then the doubters came. Luminosity ended up paying a $2 million fine for false advertising. Later, a large-scale study showed that games of the sort online training companies were touting didn't work.
Still, the feeling remains that “use it or lose it” must have some truth to it. We all had classmates who weren't mental giants in high school, didn't get any sharper as they aged, and seemed old before their time.
We also know people who stay interested and interesting all their lives. The proverbial grandmother who is sharp as a tack, the elderly professor who misses nothing...
Our instincts may have a basis. A new paper in the British Journal of Medicine explains why people who don't work their brains overly hard seem to go downhill faster while the curious and mentally active remain alert much longer.
Playing problem-solving games and learning new things help people stay mentally sharp longer. In effect, they are a sort of insurance policy on mental acuity. In the words of the study's lead researcher, Dr. Roger Staff:
"These results indicate that engagement in problem-solving does not protect an individual from decline, but imparts a higher starting point from which decline is observed and offsets the point at which impairment becomes significant."
No doubt, there will be more scientific research on this topic ahead. But for now, your instincts are right. Using your brain is good for your brain.
In fact, there are activities that have proved even better than solving crosswords or Sudoku puzzles.
Try learning another language. In a group of Alzheimer's patients, scientist Ellen Bialystok at the University of York found that those who were bilingual experienced the onset of Alzheimer's about four years later than patients who never learned a second language. Another study on 648 patients in India found that learning a second language delayed Alzheimer's by 4.5 years.
The patients in these studies had been bilingual since childhood. But Thomas Bak, who led the Indian study, thinks that learning a second language later in life may have the same benefits. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden found that learning a language when older actually led to brain improvements. They took MRI's that proved it.
And if crosswords, Sudoku, and a second language aren't your thing—try music.
Because the other activity that is especially good for brain health is learning a musical instrument. If you always saw yourself as a rock guitar star, or sedately strumming a heavenly harp, you have a good excuse to get started.
For a health company, the very idea of rethinking organic seems blasphemous.
If this were still 1977, I wouldn't consider backing off from a quest for as much organic food in my family's market basket as possible.
But extremely dangerous chemicals have been outlawed. Chlordane was banned years ago. Ditto DDT. Paraquat is still around, but even its use is highly regulated.
We also have the Environmental Working Group (EWG) watching our food supply. It constantly tests the levels of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables.
The EWG is a great example of how time has moved on for organic produce and food safety.
EWG compiles a new “Dirty Dozen” list of produce every year. These are the foods most likely to be tainted with pesticides when they reach the market. You should always buy organic (or grow your own) if the food appears on EWG's Dirty Dozen list.
For the record, the current Dirty Dozen are spinach, strawberries, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, and potatoes. Buy organic. Always.
On the other hand, and back to our original question, EWG also has a “clean” list each year. These are fruits and vegetables that rarely have pesticide residues. You can safely buy conventional (non-organic) produce from this list.
EWG's “Clean 15” includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, cabbage, onions, frozen sweet peas, papayas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, honeydew melons, kiwi, cantaloupe, cauliflower, and broccoli. Save your money and feel free to buy conventionally grown produce from this list if you wish.
But now there's another twist on our original question—should we reconsider organic?
This one is a real gut-wrencher. Unhappily, organic crops are not as climate-friendly.
Scientists researching the issue calculated that organic peas have a 50% greater impact on the climate than conventionally raised ones do. For some crops such as winter wheat, the organic version has as much as a 70% greater impact.
The reason for this is land use. Fields of crops raised organically have lower yields. And that means that more deforestation must take place to create larger growing areas.
The bottom line is this—yes, it is time to rethink organic. You can argue that buying some produce, like conventional broccoli, from the Clean 15 list is environmentally responsible. So is sustainable-raised or harvested seafood, and swapping out beef for chicken and pork, which have a lower carbon footprint.
At least it's good to know that Maine lobster and non-organic guacamole are righteous choices.
The 1944 classic winter song, “Baby It's Cold Outside,” has stirred plenty of controversies lately.
The thing is, whether you choose to stay in where it's warm or venture out, you need your immune system in crack shape during the winter months.
But are you really more likely to get a cold in winter? Doctors usually say this is a myth. You don't come down with a cold because you got cold. Except that in a roundabout way, you do.
The viruses that cause colds multiply faster at somewhat lower temperatures. In winter, as you inhale colder air outdoors, it temporarily reduces the temperature in your nose, which encourages the viruses to multiply more rapidly and infect you more easily.
Another study that confirms we're prone to more colds in winter comes from a different angle. It turns out that your genes change seasonally. In winter, our DNA dials up the activity in our genes that control inflammation. Thus we are more likely to respond to germs around us with swelling, mucus, achiness, low-grade fever, and other signs of inflammation at work to fight off cold germs.
This is an interesting reaction that seems to apply no matter where you live... with some local variations. That's what makes it even more likely that our bodies prepare to get more colds when it's cold outside. The scientists collected data on about 1,000 people distributed across six countries: the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Iceland, and the Gambia, in West Africa.
People's immune systems and inflammatory processes revved up during the winter in the countries that had cold winters. But the Gambia is hot all year. In the Gambia, DNA dialed up the inflammatory readiness in the summer rainy season when mosquitoes abound.
You can increase your immunity by simply not doing the things that lower it. Get enough sleep, eat well, exercise moderately.
The other good thing you can do for yourself is to try Isoprex this winter. Inflammation to fight germs is a good thing—until the system goes into overdrive and fails to turn off. Then it causes havoc throughout the body. One way that shows up in middle age and later is in the pain of arthritis. It can also mean a stuffier nose and more fever than your body really needs to fight a cold.
Isoprex supports the body to keep the right balance—allowing your genes to do what they should, then helping them remember to shut off.
Your cold could thank you. If you even get one.
(Type 2) is the health risk constantly in the news, but our awareness doesn't
seem to be helping much.
American Diabetes Assn predicted there would be a 165% growth in the number of people with diabetes from 2000 to 2050. We're on track to prove that prediction correct. Even more worrisome, it is estimated that 90% of the people who are pre-diabetic right now don't know it.
The hot question in the medical field right now is whether Type 2 diabetes can be cured.
Most doctors say, no. That includes mainstream opinion from WebMD to the American Diabetes Association.
But other equally respected sources say there's hope and a cure may be possible.
The Lancet, published in England, is the most respected medical journal in the world. In December 2017, Lancet published results of the DiRECT study on 306 people in Scotland and England with Type 2 diabetes. The news was good.
All the patients in the study had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes within the past six years. All of them had a body mass index of 27 (decidedly overweight) or higher. The team put half the recruits on a strict diet and took them off all their oral anti-diabetic and anti-hypertension medicines at the outset. That was a precaution because sudden calorie restriction can send blood pressure down too rapidly. If needed, the blood pressure drugs were reintroduced... but they usually were not needed!
Scientists are shy about making bold statements. At least until an idea has been proved many times over. That's what makes the DiRECT conclusion so unusual and so promising. To quote:
“Our findings confirm that type 2 diabetes of up to 6 years' duration is not necessarily a permanent, lifelong condition. Weight loss sufficient to achieve remission can be attained in many individuals by use of an evidence-based structured weight management programme delivered in a non-specialty community setting by routine primary care staff”.... almost half had remission of diabetes, off diabetic medicine.
In short, losing enough weight can put type 2 diabetes into remission. Caught early enough, that could amount to a cure.
To make the proof even more convincing, the DiRECT results were highly consistent from person to person. There was a clear, systematic relationship between how much weight patients lost and how well they did. For patients who met the goal of losing 15 kg (33 pounds), 86% saw their diabetes go into remission. Not one of the patients in the study who gained weight saw their diabetes improve.
That makes losing weight the first thing you should consider if you are pre-diabetic or have type 2 diabetes already. It also has the beauty of being one of the safest things you could try. But coordinate with your doctor before and during your mission to be sure your medications are correct and all is well.
The DiRECT finding is consistent with more drastic means of weight loss, such as bariatric surgery, that has helped some patients manage their diabetes.
Cleveland Clinic is doing substantial work in that area. It has said that for some patients with more recent and milder symptoms, gastric bypass surgery has even led to “complete resolution of diabetes mellitus.” Overall, in a study on 80,000 patients who had a gastric bypass, 84% “experienced a complete reversal of their type 2 diabetes.”
There's also the possibility of zapping diabetes into submission.
GE and DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) are now conducting a $2.9 million study on neuromodulation for type 2 diabetes. Essentially the idea is that electrical stimulation of the right nerves might accomplish the same things as drugs—without the side effects and with much greater precision. Neuromodulation is often used for pain management, so this treatment is an expansion on a practice with considerable success behind it.
A fourth avenue that might pay off is stem cell therapy. This is still in very early exploration. So far, studies using stem cells haven't been helpful for type 2 diabetes, but there are hints that experiments using pancreatic stem cells to treat type 1 diabetes may work. And if that approach works, it may help type 2 patients as well.
Meanwhile, if you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, the information we have today says that diet is your first line of defense. And the sooner you shed pounds the better.
Second, if you are thinking about bariatric surgery, you should know that it is no longer a rare or extreme measure, and it has been extremely successful. Bariatric surgery is now considered to be safer than gall-bladder removal or a hip replacement. The risks are certainly lower than living with active diabetes. Type 2 diabetics who have a gastric bypass may get positive results within hours to days after surgery, including ditching insulin.
Until DARPA can zap you into good health our options are limited, but they're good.
If you're thinking about starting (or expanding) your family and would like an excuse to go to a taping of "The Dr. Oz. Show," come to NYC and you might get a two-fer. It seems that sperm counts everywhere (researchers also looked at Los Angeles; Palo Alto, California; Houston; Boston; and Indianapolis -- the Brit publication Daily Mail reports the same holds true in Europe) are plummeting, except in the Big Apple. The reason for decline in the West? Exposure to chemicals and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.
But why is NYC exempt? As Dr. Peter Schlegel -- president-elect of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and New York resident -- said: "The exceptionalism of New York sperm donors is intriguing, but maybe not so surprising. New Yorkers tend to be physically active [walking culture] and our water system provides some of the cleanest and highest quality water in the U.S." He also added that NYC has the best pizza and the best bagels, both of which could owe their superiority to the water, too. In Boston, while total sperm count didn't decline, there were declines in categories such as average concentration and total motile sperm.
So men, to keep your swimming-sperm count up to speed (that's the motile count), get in your 10,000 steps a day (New Yorkers do it regularly), stay away from pesticides and processed foods, and bring your bride to "The Dr. Oz Show." Then stop for a slice and a whole-wheat bagel with lox, too. You'll be glad you did.
(c) 2018 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Scientists have found a group of people in their 70s who have
muscles and aerobic capacities that would be the envy of healthy 20-somethings.
In fact, when they compared them to a group of 20-year-olds, they were just as
The simple anti-aging elixir they used was one we can all access—regular exercise. The catch is that these super-fit 70-year-olds kept it up for five decades.
To find these fitness superstars, researchers at Ball State University went looking for senior men and women who had begun exercising vigorously in the 1970s when jogging and fitness were a big trend. They located 28 people who began exercising in the 1970s and continued to work out at a high level every day for the next five decades.
When researchers brought them into the lab to test muscles and aerobic capacity, the older crew had muscle strength as good as the youngsters. Their aerobic capacity was slightly lower but still impressive. Compared to a control group of people their own age who had not been as active, however. The high exercisers were fitness heroes. They had 40% greater lung capacity compared to their inactive peers.
Five decades of steady, strong exercise is a difficult prescription for those of us who already let a few decades go by. But there is hope.
Even starting exercise later in life does pay off. Strength training is effective in keeping youthful muscle mass and balance to any age.
Your aerobic condition benefits from exercise as well, but it seems to need a bit more help. That's where nutrition comes in.
Adding natural life-enhancing herbs such as baikal skullcap to your daily routine could be your smartest move to keep up easy breathing. This herb derived from a flowering perennial that has been widely used in traditional medicine in Korea and China. It is used for upper respiratory tract infections, allergic rhinitis, and bronchial diseases.
Baikal skullcap is not easy to find. It doesn't even make the list of 100 most popular medicinal herbs, but it is an important ingredient in Renown Health's Isoprex.