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Understanding Vision Changes as You Age

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You may barely notice the changes at first. Maybe you’ve found yourself reaching more often for your glasses to see up close. You might have trouble adjusting to glaring lights or reading when the light is dim. You may even have put on blue socks thinking they were black. These are some of the normal changes to your eyes and vision as you age.

As more Americans head toward retirement and beyond, scientists expect the number of people with age-related eye problems to rise dramatically. You can’t prevent all age-related changes to your eyes. But you can take steps to protect your vision and reduce your risk for serious eye disease in the future. Effective treatments are now available for many disorders that may lead to blindness or visual impairment. You can also learn how to make the most of the vision you have.

“Vision impairment and blindness are among the top 5 causes of disability in older adults,” says Dr. Cynthia Owsley, an eye researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Vision changes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading the mail, shopping, cooking, walking safely and driving. “Losing your vision may not be life-threatening, but it certainly affects your quality of life,” Owsley says.

The clear, curved lens at the front of your eye may be one of the first parts of your body to show signs of age. The lens bends to focus light and form images on the retina at the back of your eye. This flexibility lets you see at different distances—up close or far away. But the lens hardens with age. The change may begin as early as your 20s, but it can come so gradually it may take decades to notice.

Eventually, age-related stiffening and clouding of the lens affect just about everyone. You’ll have trouble focusing on up-close objects, a condition called presbyopia. Anyone over age 35 is at risk for presbyopia.

“You might find you’re holding your book farther away to read it. You might even start thinking your arms just aren’t long enough,” says Dr. Emily Chew, a clinical researcher at NIH’s National Eye Institute. “A good and simple treatment for presbyopia is reading glasses.”

Cloudy areas in the lens, called cataracts, are another common eye problem that comes with age. More than 22 million Americans have cataracts. By age 80, more than half of us will have had them. Some cataracts stay small and have little effect on eyesight, but others become large and interfere with vision. Symptoms include blurriness, difficulty seeing well at night, lights that seem too bright and faded color vision. There are no specific steps to prevent cataracts, but tobacco use and exposure to sunlight raise your risk of developing them. Cataract surgery is a safe and common treatment that can restore good vision.

The passage of time can also weaken the tiny muscles that control your eye’s pupil size. The pupil becomes smaller and less responsive to changes in light. That’s why people in their 60s need 3 times more light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s. Smaller pupils make it more difficult to see at night.

Trouble seeing at night, coupled with a normal loss of peripheral vision as you age, can affect many daily activities, including your ability to drive safely. Loss of peripheral vision increases your risk for automobile accidents, so you need to be more cautious when driving.

“Keeping older adults active and on the road as drivers, as long as they’re safely able to do so, is considered important to their health and psychological well-being,” says
Owsley. But she notes that tests for motor vehicle licenses tend to focus on visual acuity—how well you can read the letters on an eye chart.

“Visual acuity tests may not be the best way to identify drivers at risk for crashes,” she says. “Other issues are also important, like contrast sensitivity, your peripheral vision and your visual processing speed—how quickly you can process visual information and make decisions behind the wheel.”

To find better ways to assess driver safety, Owsley and her colleagues gave 2,000 older drivers different types of vision screening tests, including tests of visual processing speed. By tracking their driving records for several years, the scientists can figure out which tests were best at predicting safe or dangerous driving, including car crashes. These findings might eventually lead to more accurate screening tests to identify potentially unsafe drivers.

If you’re not convinced you should have regular eye exams, consider that some of the more serious age-related eye diseases—like Glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease—may have no warning signs or symptoms in their early stages.

Glaucoma comes from increased fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve. “Glaucoma can slowly steal your peripheral vision. You may not notice it until it’s advanced,” says Chew. It can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. If not treated, however, it can lead to vision loss and blindness.

AMD causes gradual loss of vision in the center of your eyesight. “AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 65,” says Chew.

A large NIH-supported clinical study by Chew and others found that a specific combination of vitamins and minerals can prevent AMD from progressing to a more severe form. Scientists also found that people who eat diets rich in green, leafy vegetables—such as kale and spinach—or fish are less likely to have advanced AMD. A larger study of 4,000 AMD patients is now testing to see if fish oil or a vitamin/mineral combination might slow progress of the disease.

Diabetic eye disease, another leading cause of blindness, can damage the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help prevent or slow the problem.

The only way to detect these serious eye diseases before they cause vision loss or blindness is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional will put drops in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils and then look for signs of disease. “Having regular comprehensive eye care gives your doctor a chance to identify a problem very early on and then treat it,” says Owsley. Annual eye exams are especially important if you have diabetes.

 “Many of the healthy behaviors that help reduce your risk for long-term diseases, like heart disease and cancer, can also help to protect your eyesight,” says Owsley. These include not smoking, eating a healthy diet and controlling conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. “It’s nice to know that healthy living not only adds years to your life, but also protects your vision as you get older,” Owsley says.

We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health as the source


%code1%   Webinar: Educating Older Americans About Their Aging Eyes


Ringing, Clicking, Buzzing, Roaring, Whooshing Noise in Ears

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but some people also hear it as a roaring, clicking, hissing or buzzing. It may be soft or loud, and it might affect both of your ears or only one. For some people, it’s a minor annoyance. For others, it can interfere with sleep and grow to be a source of mental and emotional anguish.

Tinnitus can also be a high-pitched tone in one or both ears and sounds like a whooshing sound. While tinnitus isn’t fully understood, it’s known to be a sign that something is wrong in the sound processing system. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus, but it can also come from a number of health conditions—for example, from hearing loss after being exposed to loud noise.

Each year about 1 in 10 adults nationwide has an episode of tinnitus that lasts longer than 3 months. Tinnitus isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom that something is wrong with your auditory system. The problem may exist somewhere in your ear, in the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain or in the parts of the brain that make sense of sounds.

Scientists still aren’t entirely sure what happens in the auditory system to cause tinnitus. But somehow, the networks of nerve cells that process sounds have been thrown out of balance in a way that creates the illusion of sound where there is none.

Because tinnitus can arise from so many conditions, ranging from hearing loss to high blood pressure to medications, diagnosing the cause or causes can be challenging. For many people, the ringing in their ears begins for no apparent reason.

Although there’s no cure for tinnitus, several treatments can make it easier to cope with. Hearing aids may help those who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. Behavioral therapy with counseling helps people learn how to live with the noise. Wearable sound generators—small electronic devices that fit in the ear—use a soft, pleasant sound to help mask the tinnitus and offer relief.

Some people with tinnitus use tabletop sound generators to help them relax or fall asleep. Antidepressants and antianxiety drugs may be prescribed to improve mood and sleep patterns. Most doctors offer a combination of these treatments, depending on the severity of the tinnitus and the daily activities it affects the most.

Researchers have been working on new ways to treat tinnitus. One NIH-sponsored study has just begun recruiting active and retired military personnel of the U.S. Armed Forces to test the effectiveness of experimental tinnitus therapy. Soldiers exposed to loud noise, including bomb blasts, can develop tinnitus due to tissue damage in hearing-related areas of the brain and ear. In fact, tinnitus is one of the most common service-related injuries among military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The experimental treatment in this study combines educational counseling with a sound-generation device.

Called tinnitus retraining therapy, the approach has shown promise in earlier trials and appears to ease the annoyance of tinnitus and its impact on people’s lives. Learn more about the study at

Scientists were able to eliminate tinnitus—a persistent ringing in the ears—in rats by stimulating a nerve in the neck while playing various tones. The finding gives hope for a future tinnitus cure in humans.

While tinnitus isn’t fully understood, it’s known to be a sign that something is wrong in the sound processing system. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus, but it can also come from a number of health conditions—for example, from hearing loss after being exposed to loud noise.

The researchers used vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), a technique known to release chemicals that encourage changes in the brain. They paired it with the playing of different tones other than the tinnitus frequency. This technique, the scientists reasoned, might induce brain cells to tune to frequencies other than the tinnitus one.

The researchers played various tones during VNS to noise-exposed rats with tinnitus 300 times a day for about 3 weeks. Both the rats’ behavior and brain activity tests showed that their tinnitus had disappeared.

“The key is that, unlike previous treatments, we’re not masking the tinnitus,” says Dr. Michael Kilgard of the University of Texas, one of the lead researchers. “We are eliminating the source of the tinnitus.”

VNS is already used to treat people with certain other conditions. The scientists are now planning to conduct clinical studies of VNS paired with tones in tinnitus patients.

Talk to your doctor if you’ve had ringing in your ears for more than 3 months. Your physician will ask about your symptoms and look into your ear to search for possible causes. You may be referred to an otolaryngologist (a doctor specializing in conditions of the ear, nose, and throat) for further evaluation.

We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health as the source


%code1%         Tinnitus and age-related hearing loss: Mayo Clinic Radio

Osteoporosis- What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know to Prevent and Treat Osteoporosis

Our bones are alive. We might not think of them that way—but to keep themselves strong and usable, our bones are always changing.

“Bone is living, growing tissue,” says Dr. Joan McGowan, a scientist at NIH. “It’s constantly breaking down and building up. It keeps refreshing itself.”

But as you get older, your bones may be at increased risk for osteoporosis (oss-tee-oh-pore-OH-sis), when the bones become weak, fragile and more likely to break. And once they break, they take longer to heal. This can be both painful and expensive.

Current estimates suggest that around 10 million people in the U.S. have osteoporosis, and 34 million more have low bone mass, which places them at increased risk.

Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease. You may not realize you have it until a sudden strain, twist or fall causes a broken bone (also called a “fracture”). With osteoporosis, even a minor tumble can be serious, requiring surgery and hospitalization.

It’s normal for bones to break in bad accidents. But if your bones are dense enough, they should be able to stand up to most falls. Bones weakened by osteoporosis, though, are more likely to break.

“It’s just like any other engineering material,” says Dr. Joan McGowan, an NIH expert on osteoporosis. If you fall and slam your weight onto a fragile bone, “it reaches a point where the structures aren’t adequate to support the weight you’re putting on them.” If the bone breaks, it’s a major hint that an older person has osteoporosis.

If you have osteoporosis, you can get a broken bone even though you haven’t fallen—by shoveling snow, for example. A spinal fracture, a break in one of the small bones in your back, may be subtle and go unnoticed. Or it may cause back pain, which you shouldn’t ignore.

“A large part of osteoporosis and fracture risk is inherited,” says McGowan. “If close relatives have suffered a fracture in their later years, this may be a clue to think carefully about your own risk. But diet and physical activity are major ways to build and maintain the best possible skeleton.”

NIH-funded research shows that childhood is the best time to build up bone tissue. Most bone is built by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.

Start with a well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. Most of our bone is made of a rigid protein framework. Calcium (a mineral) adds strength and hardens that framework. Vitamin D helps the intestine absorb calcium.

Calcium is found in many foods, but the most common source for Americans is milk and other dairy products. One 8-ounce glass of milk provides about one-third of the recommended intake for younger children and about one-fourth of the recommended intake for teens.

Calcium is a mineral that helps bones stay strong. It can come from the foods you eat—including milk and milk products, dark green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens—or from dietary supplements. Women over age 50 need 1,200 mg of calcium a day. Men need 1,000 mg a day from ages 51 to 70 and 1,200 mg a day after that.

Your body makes vitamin D in the skin when you’re out in the sun. Some people get all they need from sunlight, but others need to take vitamin D pills. Talk to your doctor or see the chart at to find out how much calcium and vitamin D you should get each day.

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. As you grow older, your body needs more vitamin D, which is made by your skin when you’re in the sun. You can also get vitamin D from dietary supplements and from certain foods, such as milk, eggs, fatty fish, and fortified cereals. Talk with your health care provider to make sure you’re getting a healthy amount of vitamin D. Problems can arise if you’re getting too little or too much.

Physical activity is also important for building bone. The more work bones do, the stronger they get. That’s why it’s so important for kids to run and play.

Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise, helps bones, too. Weight-bearing exercises include jogging, walking, tennis, and dancing. The pull of muscles is a reminder to the cells in your bones that they need to keep the tissue dense.

“There is good evidence,” says McGowan, “that you can build the best skeleton by doing physical activity in childhood: jumping rope, playing basketball and running around. The trend now—of not having physical education in school and playing computer games instead of tag—may be a serious threat to bone health.”

But no matter what your age, McGowan says, “It’s never too late to promote bone health.” Increase your load-bearing exercise, like walking, and make good food choices, rich in calcium and vitamin D.

Smoking, in contrast, weakens bones. Heavy drinking does too—and makes people more likely to fall. Certain drugs may also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Having family members with osteoporosis can raise your risk for the condition as well.

Unfortunately, some factors are beyond your control. Women are more likely to have osteoporosis and related fractures, particularly Caucasian and Asian women. Osteoporosis becomes more common as you get older. Low body weight can also increase your risk. And so can certain medications (such as steroids) and certain diseases and conditions (such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, thyroid disease and depression).   

“But even if you have osteoporosis, you can do things to prevent fractures,” McGowan says.

Talk to your doctor well before the age of 50 about your risk. One out of 2 women and 1 out of 4 men over age 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.

“We know that all women over the age of 65 should have a bone mineral density test,” McGowan says. The test uses a tiny amount of radiation to look at how dense your bones are. It isn’t painful, and there’s usually no need to undress. However, she says that researchers haven’t yet come up with universal recommendations about when you should get this test. That depends on your risk factors.

The hormone estrogen helps to make and rebuild bones. A woman’s estrogen levels drop after menopause, and bone loss speeds up. That’s why osteoporosis is most common among older women. But men get osteoporosis, too.

“A third of all hip fractures occur in men, yet the problem of osteoporosis in men is frequently downplayed or ignored,” says Dr. Eric Orwoll, a physician-researcher who studies osteoporosis at Oregon Health and Science University. Men tend to do worse than women after a hip fracture, Orwoll says.

Experts suggest that women start getting screened for osteoporosis at age 65. Women younger than age 65 who are at high risk for fractures should also be screened. Men should discuss screening recommendations with their health care providers.

Screening is done with a bone mineral density test at the hip and spine. The most common test is known as DXA, for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. It’s painless, like having an X-ray. Your results are often reported as a T-score, which compares your bone density to that of a healthy young woman. A T-score of −2.5 or lower indicates osteoporosis.

“We need to make sure that all involved in this disease—patients, physicians and scientists—maintain an awareness and progress in combating it,” says NIH-funded scientist Dr. Sundeep Khosla of the Mayo Clinic.

So ask your doctor about osteoporosis. And don’t forget to mention the medications you’re taking that might increase your risk.

Remember that osteoporosis remains silent—until there’s a fracture. “A big red flag is when a person over age 50 has a fracture of any kind,” McGowan says. “Doctors should follow up.” 

The good news is, even if you already have osteoporosis, it’s not too late to start taking care of your bones. Since your bones are rebuilding themselves all the time, you can help push the balance toward more bone growth by giving them exercise, calcium, and vitamin D.

Several medications can also help fight bone loss. The most widely used are bisphosphonates. These drugs are generally prescribed to people diagnosed with osteoporosis after a DXA test, or to those who’ve had a fracture that suggests their bones are too weak. Bisphosphonates have been tested more thoroughly in women, but are approved for men too.

Researchers are trying to develop drugs that increase bone growth. For now, there’s only one available: parathyroid hormone. It’s effective at building bone and is approved for women and men with osteoporosis who are at high risk for having a fracture.

Another important way to avoid broken bones is to prevent falling and occasions for fracture in the first place. Unfortunately, more than 2 million so-called fragility fractures (which wouldn’t have happened if the bones had been stronger) occur nationwide each year. “To reduce the societal burden of fracture, it’s going to take a combined approach of not only focusing on the skeleton but focusing on fall prevention,” says Dr. Kristine Ensrud, a physician-researcher who studies aging-related disorders at the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Many things can affect the risk for a fall, such as how good a person’s balance is and how many trip hazards are in the environment. The kind of fall matters, too. Wrist fractures often occur when a person falls forward or backward. “It’s the active older person who trips and puts her hand out,” McGowan says. Hip fractures often arise when a person falls to the side. Your hip may be strong enough to handle weight that goes up and down, but not an impact from another direction.

“That’s why exercise that builds balance and confidence is very good at preventing fractures,” McGowan says. For example, she says, tai chi won’t provide the loads needed to build bone mass, but it can increase balance and coordination—and make you more likely to catch yourself before you topple.

NIH-funded researchers are looking for better ways to tell how strong your bones are, and how high your chances are of breaking a bone. For now, though, the DXA test is the best measure, and many seniors, even older women, don’t get it, Ensrud says. If you’re concerned about your bone health, she adds, “Ask your health care provider about the possibility of a bone density test.”

We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health as the source

%code1%  Beatrice Edwards, MD: The Best Way to Treat Osteoporosis

Understanding Dietary Supplements?

A Look at Vitamins, Minerals, Botanicals and More


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When you reach for that bottle of vitamin C or fish oil pills, you might wonder how well they’ll work and if they’re safe. The first thing to ask yourself is whether you need them in the first place.

More than half of all Americans take one or more dietary supplements daily or on occasion. Supplements are available without a prescription and usually come in pill, powder or liquid form. Common supplements include vitamins, minerals and herbal products, also known as botanicals.

People take these supplements to make sure they get enough essential nutrients and to maintain or improve their health. But not everyone needs to take supplements.

“It’s possible to get all of the nutrients you need by eating a variety of healthy foods, so you don’t have to take one,” says Carol Haggans, a registered dietitian and consultant to NIH. “But supplements can be useful for filling in gaps in your diet.”

Some supplements may have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. Supplements can also cause problems if you have certain health conditions. And the effects of many supplements haven’t been tested in children, pregnant women and other groups. So talk with your health care provider if you’re thinking about taking dietary supplements.

“You should discuss with your doctor what supplements you’re taking so your care can be integrated and managed,” advises Dr. Craig Hopp, an expert in botanicals research at NIH.

Dietary supplements are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as foods, not as drugs. The label may claim certain health benefits. But unlike medicines, supplements can’t claim to cure, treat or prevent a disease.

“There’s little evidence that any supplement can reverse the course of any chronic disease,” says Hopp. “Don’t take supplements with that expectation.”

Evidence does suggest that some supplements can enhance health in different ways. The most popular nutrient supplements are multivitamins, calcium and vitamins B, C and D. Calcium supports bone health, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants—molecules that prevent cell damage and help to maintain health.

Women need iron during pregnancy, and breastfed infants need vitamin D. Folic acid—400 micrograms daily, whether from supplements or fortified food—is important for all women of childbearing age.

Vitamin B12 keeps nerve and blood cells healthy. “Vitamin B12 mostly comes from meat, fish and dairy foods, so vegans may consider taking a supplement to be sure to get enough of it,” Haggans says.

Research suggests that fish oil can promote heart health. Of the supplements not derived from vitamins and minerals, Hopp says, “fish oil probably has the most scientific evidence to support its use.”

The health effects of some other common supplements need more study. These include glucosamine (for joint pain) and herbal supplements such as echinacea (immune health) and flaxseed oil (digestion).

Many supplements have mild effects with few risks. But use caution. Vitamin K, for example, will reduce the ability of blood thinners to work. Ginkgo can increase blood thinning. The herb St. John’s wort is sometimes used to ease depression, anxiety or nerve pain, but it can also speed the breakdown of many drugs—such as antidepressants and birth control pills—and make them less effective.

Just because a supplement is promoted as “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. The herbs comfrey and kava, for example, can seriously damage the liver.

“It’s important to know the chemical makeup, how it’s prepared, and how it works in the body—especially for herbs, but also for nutrients,” says Haggans. “Talk to a health care provider for advice on whether you need a supplement in the first place, the dose and possible interactions with medicine you’re already taking.”

For vitamins and minerals, check the % Daily Value (DV) for each nutrient to make sure you’re not getting too much. “It’s important to consider the DV and upper limit,” says Haggans. Too much of certain supplements can be harmful.

Scientists still have much to learn even about common vitamins. One recent study found unexpected evidence about vitamin E. Earlier research suggested that men who took vitamin E supplements might have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. “But much to our surprise, a large NIH-funded clinical trial of more than 29,000 men found that taking supplements of vitamin E actually raised—not reduced—their risk of this disease,” says Dr. Paul M. Coates, director of NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements. That’s why it’s important to conduct clinical studies of supplements to confirm their effects.

Because supplements are regulated as foods, not as drugs, the FDA doesn’t evaluate the quality of supplements or assess their effects on the body. If a product is found to be unsafe after it reaches the market, the FDA can restrict or ban its use.

Manufacturers are also responsible for the product’s purity, and they must accurately list ingredients and their amounts. But there’s no regulatory agency that makes sure that labels match what’s in the bottles. You risk getting less, or sometimes more, of the listed ingredients. All of the ingredients may not even be listed.

A few independent organizations conduct quality tests of supplements and offer seals of approval. This doesn’t guarantee the product works or is safe; it just assures the product was properly made and contains the listed ingredients.

“Products sold nationally in the stores and online where you usually shop should be fine,” Coates says. “According to the FDA, supplement products most likely to be contaminated with pharmaceutical ingredients are herbal remedies promoted for weight loss and for sexual or athletic performance enhancement.”

To make it easy to find reliable information, NIH has fact sheets on dietary supplements at NIH also recently launched an online Dietary Supplement Label Database at This free database lets you look up the ingredients of thousands of dietary supplements. It includes information from the label on dosage, health claims and cautions.

For more personalized, on-the-go information about dietary supplements, check out NIH’s free updated app for your smart phone or tablet: My Dietary Supplements (MyDS).

The MyDS app provides the latest supplement information and lets you keep track of the vitamins, minerals, herbs and other products you take. You can even keep track of supplements taken by your parents, spouse or children.

“Deciding whether to take dietary supplements and which ones to take is a serious matter,” says Coates. “Learn about their potential benefits and any risks they may pose first. Speak to your health care providers about products of interest and decide together what might be best for you to take, if anything, for your overall health.”

Safe Use of Supplements

  • Tell all of your health care providers about any dietary supplements you use. Some supplements can interact with medications or affect medical conditions.
  • Read the label instructions for use.
  • “Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. For up-to-date news about the safety of particular supplements, check
  • Too much might be harmful. Don’t take more than the recommended dose.


We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health as the source


%code1%         Why Does Your Body Need Nutritional Supplements?





Healthy Memory Function as You Age

Alt: (Brain Illustration)


Getting older can bring many changes, both physically and mentally. Even when you’re healthy, your brain and body start slowing down. Maintaining your cognitive health—the ability to clearly think, learn, and remember—is essential for your overall well-being. Many things influence memory health. Your genes, lifestyle, and environment can all impact your thinking skills and ability to perform everyday tasks.

It’s common to experience some decline in cognitive function as you get older. That may mean occasionally losing things, forgetting words, or briefly forgetting what day it is. Or you may notice that it takes longer to learn new things. Such symptoms don’t necessarily mean that you’re developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

“I like to think about the brain as a computer disk for memory and thinking,” explains Dr. Marie Bernard, an aging expert at NIH. “As you get older, it gets fuller and fuller. So, it can get more difficult to retrieve data and add data to it. But you’re still able to learn and grow.”

Aging is bound to bring changes. But there are many things you can do to protect your cognitive health as you age. That includes knowing what puts your well-being at risk.

Staying Aware

It’s not only occasional memory problems that older adults are more likely to experience. Aging can bring other changes to the way the brain works. These changes can impact your ability to deal with complex social situations. That can put you at higher risk of being scammed.

“Older adults are often targeted by scam artists,” says Dr. Patricia Boyle, who studies the aging brain at Rush University.

Older adults are also more likely than younger ones to pick up the phone without knowing who’s calling, she explains. “Simply by doing that, you’re opening yourself up to a conversation with someone who may be an unscrupulous person trying to steal from you.”

Common scams targeting older adults include identity theft, risky or fake investments, charity scams, and people posing as relatives in distress to ask for money.

Any adult can fall victim to these sorts of scams. But Boyle and her team recently found that low awareness scam artists’ tactics may be an early indicator of worsening brain function.

In their study, people with low scam awareness were about twice as likely to later develop Alzheimer’s disease as those with high scam awareness.

People should verify any investment proposal or request for money before acting, Boyle explains. Trusted family members or friends may be able to help with this. “Take the time to look into financial propositions and make sure they are legitimate,” she says.

Reversing Changes

Many things can cause memory or other thinking problems. Depression, anxiety, an infection, or even certain medications can cause cognitive changes. Sometimes these types of issues can be resolved with treatment.

If you experience a sudden change in thinking, memory, or mood, it may be caused by a new medication. Some drugs may not cause cognitive changes when taken on their own but can do so when combined with other medicines. Even common supplements or over-the-counter remedies can cause these types of interactions.

Sometimes, if you have more than one doctor, you might not know what the others prescribed. “Older adults really benefit from having a list of all their over-the-counter, herbal, and prescribed medications with them whenever they see a health care professional,” says Bernard.

Certain medications can also have dangerous or even deadly effects when combined with alcohol. And alcohol alone poses risks for the older brain. It can take less alcohol to alter judgment, coordination, balance, or sleep patterns in an older adult.

Dangerous drinking habits have been rising among older adults in the U.S. A recent NIH-funded study found that 1 in 10 Americans aged 65 or older binge drinks regularly. That means drinking four or more drinks on the same occasion for women and five or more for men.

Older adults may change their drinking habits to cope with a partner or other loved one’s death or because they’re lonely. But drinking can also be part of social activities for older adults, explains Dr. Edith Sullivan, an alcohol researcher at Stanford University.

“Older adults might feel that ‘well, I’m old now, it’s OK for me to drink,” Sullivan says. But older brains and bodies are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, she adds.

A recent study by Sullivan and her team used brain imaging to see how alcohol affects the brain. They found that older adults who misused alcohol had more significant brain tissue loss than their peers who didn’t drink. This was true even if they started misusing alcohol later in life.

The good news, she explains, is that some problems with thinking or memory caused by medications or alcohol misuse can be reversed. “That’s different from classical dementia, which is a one-way street of decline,” says Sullivan.

Building Brain Power

There are many things you can do to protect your brain as you age. “Cognitive activity, physical activity, and social engagement are associated with better cognitive functioning in older adulthood,” Boyle explains.

Managing your health conditions is essential. Controlling your blood pressure, for example, reduces the risk of having a small stroke (bleeding from blood vessels in the brain).  Small strokes can cause temporary or permanent cognitive problems.

Feeling a sense of purpose in one’s life also helps protect older adults from cognitive decline. A study from Boyle and her colleagues found that people who felt more purpose in life had fewer symptoms from brain changes linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

“The aging brain can accumulate Alzheimer’s changes, but if you’re stimulating your brain and strengthening it like a muscle, you may be better able to tolerate those changes,” she says.

Bernard stresses that getting older can also bring cognitive advantages you might not know about.

“Older adults have greater verbal ability than younger adults. They’re better problem solvers. And accumulated experiences are very helpful,” she says.

“Think about the positive things that come with aging,” Bernard says. “It’s a great time to become engaged in meaningful activities, maintain connections to friends and family, develop new connections, and be physically active. And in turn, all of these things can enhance one’s quality of life and one’s aging.”

How to Protect Your Brain’s Health

Good overall health can help you maintain your brain health. These tips can help you stay active and healthier physically and mentally:

  • Choose healthy foods whenever possible
  • Drink enough fluid
  • Limit your use of alcohol
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco products
  • Get enough sleep
  • Make physical activity part of your routine
  • Keep your mind active with learning, teaching, and volunteering
  • Stay connected with loved ones, friends, and your community
  • Manage chronic health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol


%code1%           Ways To Keep Your Brain Sharp As You Age: | TIME


We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health



Anxiety – When Panic, Fear, and Worries Overwhelm

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Many of us worry from time to time. We fret over finances, feel anxious about job interviews, or get nervous about social gatherings. These feelings can be normal or even helpful. They may give us a boost of energy or help us focus. But for people with anxiety disorders, they can be overwhelming. You might feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before taking a test, or before making an important decision. But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. For a person with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can worsen over time. The symptoms can interfere with daily activities such as job performance, school work, and relationships.

Anxiety disorders affect nearly 1 in 5 American adults each year. People with these disorders have feelings of fear and uncertainty that interfere with everyday activities and last for 6 months or more. Anxiety disorders can also raise your risk for other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, and depression.

Fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in their lives, such as social interactions, school, and work.

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Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
  • Being irritable
  • Having muscle tension
  • Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
  • Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep

People with panic disorder have recurrent unexpected panic attacks. Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that come on quickly and reach their peak within minutes. Attacks can occur unexpectedly or can be brought on by a trigger, such as a feared object or situation.

During a panic attack, people may experience:

  • Heart palpitations, a pounding heartbeat, or an accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath, smothering or choking
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Feelings of being out of control

People with panic disorder often worry about when the next attack will happen and actively try to prevent future attacks by avoiding places, situations, or behaviors associated with panic attacks. Worry about panic attacks and the effort spent trying to prevent attacks cause significant problems in various areas of the person’s life, including the development of agoraphobia

People with panic disorder often worry about when the next attack will happen and actively try to prevent future attacks by avoiding places, situations, or behaviors associated with panic attacks. Worry about panic attacks and the effort spent trying to avoid attacks cause significant problems in various areas of the person’s life, including the development of agoraphobia (see below).

Phobia-related disorders

A phobia is an intense fear of—or aversion to—specific objects or situations. Although it can be realistic to be anxious in some circumstances, the fear people with phobias feel is out of proportion to the actual danger caused by the situation or object.

People with a phobia:

  • May have an irrational or excessive worry about encountering the feared object or situation
  • Take active steps to avoid the feared object or situation
  • Experience immediate, intense anxiety upon encountering the feared object or situation
  • Endure unavoidable objects and situations with intense anxiety

There are several types of phobias and phobia-related disorders:

Specific Phobias (sometimes called simple phobias): As the name suggests, people who have a specific phobia have an intense fear of or feel intense anxiety about specific types of objects or situations. Some examples of specific phobias include the fear of:

  • Flying
  • Heights
  • Specific animals, such as spiders, dogs, or snakes
  • Receiving injections
  • Blood

Social anxiety disorder (previously called social phobia): People with social anxiety disorder have a general intense fear of, or anxiety toward, social or performance situations. They worry that actions or behaviors associated with their anxiety will be negatively evaluated by others, leading them to feel embarrassed. This worry often causes people with social anxiety to avoid social situations. Social anxiety disorder can manifest in various situations, such as within the workplace or the school environment.

Agoraphobia: People with agoraphobia have an intense fear of two or more of the following situations:

  • Using public transportation
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in enclosed spaces
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the home alone

People with agoraphobia often avoid these situations, in part, because they think being able to leave might be difficult or impossible in the event they have panic-like reactions or other embarrassing symptoms. In the most severe form of agoraphobia, an individual can become housebound.

Separation anxiety disorder: Separation anxiety is often thought of as something that only children deal with; however, adults can also be diagnosed with a separation anxiety disorder. People who have separation anxiety disorder have fears about being parted from people they are attached to. They often worry that some sort of harm or something untoward will happen to their attachment figures while they are separated. This fear leads them to avoid being separated from their attachment figures and avoid being alone. People with separation anxiety may have nightmares about being separated from attachment figures or experience physical symptoms when separation occurs or is anticipated.

The good news is that most anxiety disorders get better with therapy. The course of treatment depends on the type of anxiety disorder. Medications, psychotherapy (“talk therapy”), or a combination of both can usually relieve troubling symptoms.

“Anxiety disorders are one of the most treatable mental health problems we see,” says Dr. Daniel Pine, an NIH neuroscientist, and psychiatrist. “Still, for reasons we don’t fully understand, most people who have these problems don’t get the treatments that could really help them.”

One of the most common anxiety disorder types is a social anxiety disorder or social phobia. It affects both women and men equally—a total of about 15 million U.S. adults. Without treatment, social phobia can last for years or even a lifetime. People with social phobia may worry for days or weeks before a social event. They’re often embarrassed, self-conscious, and afraid of being judged. They find it hard to talk to others. They may blush, sweat, tremble, or feel sick to their stomach when around other people.

Other common types of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, which affects nearly 7 million American adults, and panic disorder, which affects about 6 million. Both are twice as common in women as in men.

People with generalized anxiety disorder worry endlessly over everyday issues—like health, money, or family problems—even if they realize there’s little cause for concern. They startle easily, can’t relax, and can’t concentrate. They find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. They may get headaches, muscle aches, or unexplained pains. Symptoms often get worse during times of stress.

People with panic disorder have sudden, repeated bouts of fear—called panic attacks—that last several minutes or more. During a panic attack, they may feel that they can’t breathe or have a heart attack. They may fear a loss of control or feel a sense of unreality. Not everyone who has panic attacks will develop panic disorder. But if the attacks recur without warning, creating fear of having another attack at any time, then it’s likely panic disorder.

Treatments and Therapies

Anxiety disorders are generally treated with psychotherapy, medication, or both. There are many ways to treat anxiety, and people should work with their doctor to choose the best treatment for them.


Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can help people with anxiety disorders. To be effective, psychotherapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and tailored to their needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an example of one type of psychotherapy that can help people with anxiety disorders. It teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations. CBT can also help people learn and practice social skills, which is vital for treating social anxiety disorder.

Cognitive therapy and exposure therapy are two CBT methods that are often used, together or by themselves, to treat social anxiety disorder. Cognitive therapy focuses on identifying, challenging, and then neutralizing unhelpful or distorted thoughts underlying anxiety disorders. Exposure therapy focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding. Exposure therapy is sometimes used along with relaxation exercises and/or imagery.

CBT can be conducted individually or with a group of people with similar difficulties. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions.


Medication does not cure anxiety disorders but can help relieve symptoms. Medication for anxiety is prescribed by doctors, such as a psychiatrist or primary care provider. Some states also allow psychologists who have received specialized training to prescribe psychiatric medications. The most common classes of medications used to combat anxiety disorders are anti-anxiety drugs (such as benzodiazepines), antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, or extreme fear and worry. The most common anti-anxiety medications are called benzodiazepines. Although benzodiazepines are sometimes used as first-line treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, they have both benefits and drawbacks.

Some benefits of benzodiazepines are that they effectively relieve anxiety and take effect more quickly than antidepressant medications often prescribed for anxiety. Some drawbacks of benzodiazepines are that people can build up a tolerance to them if they are taken over a long time and may need higher and higher doses to get the same effect. Some people may even become dependent on them.

To avoid these problems, doctors usually prescribe benzodiazepines for short periods, a practice that is especially helpful for older adults, people who have substance abuse problems, and people who become dependent on medication easily.

If people suddenly stop taking benzodiazepines, they may have withdrawal symptoms, or their anxiety may return. Therefore, benzodiazepines should be tapered off slowly. When you and your doctor have decided it is time to stop the medication, the doctor will help you slowly and safely decrease your dose.

For long-term use, benzodiazepines are often considered a second-line treatment for anxiety (with antidepressants being considered a first-line treatment) as well as an “as-needed” treatment for any distressing flare-ups of symptoms.

A different type of anti-anxiety medication is buspirone. Buspirone is a non-benzodiazepine medication specifically indicated for treating chronic anxiety, although it does not help everyone.


Antidepressants are used to treat depression, but they can also help treat anxiety disorders. They may help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood or stress. You may need to try several different antidepressant medicines before finding the one that improves your symptoms and has manageable side effects. A medication that has helped you or a close family member in the past will often be considered.

Antidepressants can take time to work, so it’s important to give the medication a chance before reaching a conclusion about its effectiveness. If you begin taking antidepressants, do not stop taking them without a doctor’s help. When you and your doctor have decided it is time to stop the medication, the doctor will help you slowly and safely decrease your dose. Stopping them abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms.

Antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly used as first-line treatments for anxiety. Less-commonly used — but effective — treatments for anxiety disorders are older classes of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).


Although beta-blockers are most often used to treat high blood pressure, they can also help relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, shaking, trembling, and blushing. When taken for a short period of time, these medications can help people keep physical symptoms under control. They can also be used “as needed” to reduce acute anxiety, including preventive intervention for some predictable forms of performance anxieties.

Choosing the Right Medication

Some types of drugs may work better for specific types of anxiety disorders, so people should work closely with their doctor to identify which medication is best for them. Certain substances such as caffeine, some over-the-counter cold medicines, illicit drugs, and herbal supplements may aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders or interact with prescribed medication. Patients should talk with their doctor to learn which substances are safe and which to avoid.

Choosing the right medication, medication dose, and treatment plan should be done under an expert’s care and based on a person’s needs and medical situation. Your doctor may try several medicines before finding the right one.

You and your doctor should discuss:

  • How well medications are working or might work to improve your symptoms
  • Benefits and side effects of each medication
  • The risk for serious side effects based on your medical history
  • The likelihood of the medications requiring lifestyle changes
  • Costs of each medication
  • Other alternative therapies, medications, vitamins, and supplements you are taking and how these may affect your treatment; a combination of medication and psychotherapy is the best approach for many people with anxiety disorders
  • The medication should be stopped (Some drugs can’t be stopped abruptly and must be tapered off slowly under a doctor’s supervision).

For more information, please visit Mental Health Medications Health Topic webpage. Please note that any information on this website regarding medications is provided for educational purposes only and may be outdated. Diagnosis and treatment decisions should be made in consultation with your doctor. Information about medications changes frequently. Please visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for the latest information on warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.

We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health



Mental Health and Well-Being of Biomedical Researchers: Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders–NIH OITE


Sleep, Importance of an Important Life Process

Adequate sleep allows your body and brain to sustain a healthy mental, physical, cognitive, and emotional existence.


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Sleep is a period of rest that alternates with wakefulness. You have internal body clocks that control when you are awake and when your body is ready for sleep. These clocks have cycles of approximately 24 hours. The watches are regulated by multiple factors, including light, darkness, and sleep schedules. Once asleep, you cycle through sleep stages throughout the night in a predictable pattern.

Sleep is an essential part of your daily routine—you spend about one-third of your time doing it. Sleep is important because it affects many of your body’s systems. Not getting enough sleep or enough quality sleep raises your risk for heart and respiratory problems and affects your metabolism and ability to think clearly and focus on tasks.

Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly.

Sleep is important to several brain functions, including how nerve cells (neurons) communicate.  In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep.  Recent findings suggest that sleep plays a housekeeping role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake. 

Everyone needs sleep, but its biological purpose remains a mystery.  Sleep affects almost every tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.  Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.

Sleep is a complex and dynamic process that affects how you function in ways scientists are now beginning to understand.  This booklet describes how your need for sleep is regulated and what happens in the brain during sleep.


Your Sleep/Wake Cycle

Many factors play a role in preparing your body to fall asleep and wake up. Your body has several internal clocks, called circadian clocks. These typically follow a 24-hour repeating rhythm, called the circadian rhythm. This rhythm affects every cell, tissue, and organ in your body and how they work. Learn more in our Circadian Rhythms Disorders Health Topic.

Your central circadian clock, located in your brain, tells you when it is time for sleep. Other circadian clocks are located in organs throughout your body. Your body’s internal clocks are in sync with certain cues in the environment. Light, darkness, and other cues help determine when you feel awake and when you feel drowsy. Artificial light and caffeine can disrupt this process by giving your body false wakefulness cues

Your body has a biological need for sleep that increases when you have been awake for a long time. This is controlled by homeostasis, the process by which your body keeps your systems, such as your internal body temperature, steady. A compound called adenosine is linked to this need for sleep. While you are awake, the level of adenosine in your brain continues to rise. The rising levels signal a shift toward sleep. Caffeine and certain drugs can interrupt this process by blocking adenosine.

Stages of Sleep

When you sleep, you cycle through two phases of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM sleep. The cycle starts over every 80 to 100 minutes. Usually, there are four to six cycles per night. You may wake up briefly between cycles. Sleep studies use sensors to record eye movements and brain activity, which classify sleep phases and stages.


During REM sleep, your eyes twitch, and your brain is active. Brain activity measured during REM sleep is similar to your brain’s activity during waking hours. Dreaming usually happens during REM sleep. Your muscles naturally become limp to prevent you from acting out your dreams. You typically have more REM sleep later in the night, but you do not have as much REM sleep in colder temperatures. This is because, during REM sleep, your body does not regulate its temperature properly.

How do our patterns of sleep change as we age?

The patterns and types of sleep change as people mature. For example, newborns spend more time in REM sleep. The amount of slow-wave sleep peaks in early childhood and then drops sharply in the teenage years. Slow-wave sleep continues to decrease through adulthood, and older people may not have any slow-wave sleep at all.

Importance of Sleep

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and wellbeing throughout your life. The way you feel while you are awake depends on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body supports healthy brain function and maintains your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. Getting inadequate sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Learn how sleep affects your heart and circulatory system, metabolism, respiratory system, and immune system and how much sleep is enough.

When you fall asleep and enter non-REM sleep, your blood pressure and heart rate fall. During sleep, your parasympathetic system controls your body, and your heart does not work as hard as it does when you are awake. During REM sleep and when waking, your sympathetic system is activated, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure to the normal levels when you are awake and relaxed. A sharp increase in blood pressure and heart rate upon waking has been linked to angina and heart attacks.

People who do not sleep enough or wake up frequently may have a higher risk of:


Your body makes different hormones at different times of the day. This may be related to your sleep pattern or your circadian clocks. In the morning, your body releases hormones that promote alertness, such as cortisol, which helps you wake up. Other hormones have 24-hour patterns that vary throughout your life; for example, in children, the hormones that tell the glands to release testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone are made in pulses at night, and the pulses get bigger as puberty approaches.

The way your body handles fat varies according to various circadian clocks, including those in the liver, fat, and muscle. For example, the circadian clocks make sure that your liver is prepared to help digest fats at appropriate times. Your body may handle fat differently if you eat at unusual times.

Studies have shown that not getting enough quality sleep can lead to:


  • Increased levels of hormones that control hunger, including leptin and ghrelin, inside your body
  • Decreased ability to respond to insulin
  • Increased consumption of food, especially fatty, sweet, and salty foods
  • Decreased physical activity
  • Metabolic syndrome

All of these contribute to overweight and obesity.

You breathe less often and less deeply during sleep and take in less oxygen. These changes can cause problems in people with health problems such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Asthma symptoms are usually worse during early morning sleep. Likewise, breathing problems in people who have lung diseases such as COPD can worsen during sleep.

Sleep also affects different parts of your immune system, which become more active at different times of the day. For example, when you sleep, a particular type of immune cell works harder. That is why people who do not sleep enough may be more likely to get colds and other infections.

Sleep helps with learning and the formation of long-term memories. Not getting enough sleep or enough high-quality sleep can lead to problems focusing on tasks and thinking clearly. Read our Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency Health Topic for more information on how lack of sleep affects daily activities’ performance, including driving and schoolwork.

Sleep promotes your overall wellbeing. Try approaching an interview, test, or important meeting without a good night’s sleep. See how your comprehensive self is depleted and how focus, concentration, problem-solving, memory decision-making, and lean ability are reduced by sacrificing a good night’s sleep.

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Experts recommend that adults sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night. Adults who sleep less than 7 hours a night may have more health issues than those who sleep 7 or more hours a night. Sleeping more than 9 hours a night is not necessarily harmful and may help young adults, people who are recovering from sleep deprivation, and sick people.

How much sleep children should get depends on their age. Sleep experts consider naps to be appropriate for children under age 7. Below you can find the recommended hours of sleep, including naps, for different ages.


  • For newborns younger than 4 months, sleep patterns vary widely.
  • Babies 4 months to 1 year old should sleep 12 to 16 hours per day.
  • Children 1 to 2 years old should sleep 11 to 14 hours per day.
  • Children 3 to 5 years old should sleep 10 to 13 hours per day.
  • Children 6 to 12 years old should sleep 9 to 12 hours per day.
  • Teens 13 to 18 years old should sleep 8 to 10 hours per day.
  • Adults 18 to 60 years should sleep 7 or more hours per day.
  • Adults 61 to 64 years should sleep 7 to 9 hours per day.
  •  Adults 65 years and older should sleep 7 to 8 hours per day.

Talk to your doctor or your child’s doctor if you think you or your child is sleeping too much or too little.


%CODE1%  Why Sleep is Important and What Happens When You Don't Get Enough?



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We would like to acknowledge NIH News in Health



Science May Be On The Verge Of Curing AIDS!

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“London Patient in Remission” Second HIV patient in remission, after being treated with stem cell therapy offering hope that this miraculous treatment may lead to a permanent cure to AIDS.

It’s both a miracle and the result of accelerating technologies, Physicians referring to a “London Patient” a man with HIV has become the second person in the world who has been cured of the virus since the global AIDS epidemic began decades ago.

A new approach of transplanting stem cells from a donor with a specific profile that is believed to make them immune to getting HIV to those with the HIV infection appears to have made history. The “London Patient” has been declared HIV free three years after receiving bone marrow stem cells from an HIV-resistant donor and about a year and a half after coming off antiretroviral drugs.

This fantastic accomplishment according to researchers from around the world could mean that humanity is on the verge of developing a cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

During a Reuter’s interview with Ravindra Gupta, an HIV biologist who helped treat the man insisted that the patient is “in remission” but cautioned that it’s…

“Too early to say he’s cured.”

The “London Patient” is choosing to remain anonymous for now. The reference to his location is similar to the first known case of a cured HIV-positive patient Timothy Brown, an American man, who was known as “The Berlin Patient.”  The first person ever to get a stem cell bone marrow transplant for leukemia treatment in Germany more than a dozen years ago. That transplant to date has also appeared to wipe out any trace to his HIV infection.

The Brown case lead to many tests in which scientists tried for 12 years to copy the result with other HIV-positive cancer patients but were unsuccessful. The “London patient,” who had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is the first adult to be cleared of HIV since Brown.

HIV remains a serious epidemic in the United States and around the world. It’s estimated that there are about 39,000 new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2017 and that approximately 37 million people worldwide who are currently living with HIV. An estimated 35 million had died of AIDS since early 1980 were when the disease became an epidemic.

Scientists who have studied the London patient will be publishing a full report this week in the journal Nature. A presentation is also planned in Seattle at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, taking place this week.

Bone marrow, stem cell base transplants, as an HIV therapy, can have some harsh side effects but scientists believe it may be possible to treat patients with similar HIV-resistant immune cells; making the treatment easier on patients as well as more cost-effective. Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at University Medical Center Utrecht during an interview with the New York Times, said….

“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream. It’s reachable.”

Nightmarish Drug-Resistant Fungal Infections Threaten To Become Pandemic

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As many as 41% of those infected with this deadly fungal infection in one recent outbreak in a Spanish hospital died within 30 days of being diagnosed. People who contract these drug-resistant diseases typically die soon after contracting them because of their untreatable nature.

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs – germs that evolve so quickly that existing treatment protocols can’t keep up and an estimated 23,000 Americans die from them every year. The danger of one of these superbugs becoming so resistant to antibiotics, so contagious and lethal that the danger of them of their becoming a worldwide pandemic that’s capable of killing millions, tens of millions, even as many as a hundred million people grows every day.

If that wasn’t enough of a potential nightmare, medical experts are now warning a similar nightmare is starting to grow with deadly drug-resistant fungal infections. Right now a deadly, drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris is spreading around the globe and is so dangerous it's being described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it’s being called an "urgent threat."

This drug-resistant fungus called Candida auris was first discovered in 2009 and was found in the ear discharge of a patient. The fungus is now spreading around the world and has been reported in the US, Colombia, India, South Korea and now threatens to become a pandemic according to the CDC.

The first reported cases of Candida auris in the United States was reported by the CDC in August 2016. By May 2017, a total of 77 cases were reported in New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma. After looking at people in contact with those first 77 cases, the CDC determined that the quick-spreading fungus had infected 45 more.

Now the deadly fungus is reaching a point where it could become an epidemic. The CDC reported in February 2019; there are 587 confirmed cases of Candida auris in the United States alone.

As is the case with this kind of antibiotic-resistant illness, people who have weakened immune systems are especially at risk for infection!

People who contract who are in the hospital already are suffering from a severe illness, according to the CDC. C. auris outbreaks are now one of the biggest health risks for hospitals and healthcare centers worldwide.

In the UK, an intensive care unit was forced to shut down after the hospital discovered 72 people there were infected with C. auris.

In Spain, a hospital found that 372 patients had the fungus. 41% of those infected Spanish hospital patients affected died within 30 days of being diagnosed.

The implications and risk with C. auris have healthcare experts alarmed and warning the numbers of those infected could grow geometrically because the fungal infection as of yet, can't be contained with existing drug treatments.

The danger of C. auris is best illustrated by the fact the fungus can survive on surfaces like walls and furniture for literally weeks, even more than a month, according to the CDC.

People are infected by drug-resistant diseases typically die soon after contracting them because of their untreatable nature. While it’s true that most fungal and bacterial infections can be stopped using drugs, it’s also true that drug-resistant fungi and bacteria have a genetic ability to evolve so quickly that the treatment that works for one patient, may not work for another. While at the same time this ability to change rapidly so also helps it survive and spread at an alarming rate.

Making the danger even greater, these drug-resistant diseases and fungus are extremely difficult for physicians to diagnosis. Often carriers infect others even before they know they’re infected!

The CDC is now saying 1 in 10 people the agency screened for superbugs carried a drug-resistant disease without even knowing it.

People who have C. auris rarely realize they are infected until they are very sick. The CDC reports people that are infected usually report…

Fever and chills that don't go away following over the counter and physician-prescribed drug treatment and until the symptoms of the fungus get so bad sufferers don’t usually get diagnosed until they are hospitalized and are tested for fungus through a lab test.

Some experts believe pesticides, and over the use of antibiotic drugs are creating these superbugs and sooner or later will cause the worst pandemic in human history, capable of killing millions of people.

Physicians and researchers insist they don’t know what is causing the rapid rise of these drug-resistant illnesses. One of the scariest aspects of this drug-resistant fungus is that there are different strains of C. auris in different parts of the world, which means this fungus didn't come from a single origin. They are being created around the globe at the same time.

Many physicians and researchers suspect heavy use of pesticides and other antifungal treatments caused C. auris to pop up in a variety of locations around the same time….

Researchers in 2013 reported another drug-resistant fungus called Aspergillus and noted that the fungus existed in places where a pesticide that had been used to target and kill that specific fungus was used.

As pesticides, antifungals, and antibiotics continue to be heavily used on crops and in livestock, it's possible that the fungi and bacteria they're targeting adapt and evolve in spite of the treatments to kill them.

The CDC is urging people to use soap and hand sanitizer before and after touching any patients, and reporting cases to public health departments immediately when they are detected.


Treating Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases by Manipulating Immune Cells

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Scientists have discovered a new drug that modulates the cell's defenses of the body and can stop the autoimmunity and stimulate the body to kill cancer cells.

New research has shown that T cells play a fundamental role in the fight against cancer. T cells are part of the defense cells of the body that are responsible for destroying potentially harmful agents for our bodies, such as bacteria, viruses, and even malignant cells.

 A new study reveals that a molecule called tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) regulates the growth of T cells in the immune system.

The study was led by researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA) in Vienna and by scientists at Boston Children's Hospital in Massachusetts. The results of this research were recently published by the journal Nature.

"A fascinating feature of our discovery is that a system that was previously known only for its importance in neurobiology can also play a key role in T cell biology," says co-senior author Josef M. Penninger, the scientific and founding director of IMBA.

Cancer and autoimmunity

These findings can lead to a wide variety of therapeutic applications such as the control of autoimmune diseases (asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, allergies, etc.) and even trigger an immune response against cancer.

Harnessing the body's own healing mechanisms to fight disease is a rapidly growing field in medical research.

Recently, two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for 2018 after developing an approach to cancer therapy that stimulates the inherent ability of the immune system to destroy tumor cells.

These discoveries have revolutionized anticancer therapy, as it allows us to take advantage of the activity of our immune system to selectively destroy neoplastic cells and avoid the use of drugs that destroy both healthy cells and cancer cells.

Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people around the world and has a significant impact on society. The National Cancer Institute estimates that by 2018, doctors will diagnose more than 1,735,350 new cases of cancer and that 609,640 people will die of the disease in the United States.

Many diseases can originate due to the inadequate activity of the immune system. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases which arise due to an overactive immune system that causes the body's defense cells to attack healthy tissues.

Among the most frequent autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, type I diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease and ulcerative rectocolitis).

A report from the National Institute of Health (NIH) published in 2005 estimated that up to 23.5 million people in the US suffer from an autoimmune disease. However, the NIH figures only take into account 24 autoimmune diseases. Therefore there is an underreporting of these diseases.

BH4 Blockers

In this new study, it was evidenced that the reduction of BH4 severely limits the proliferation of T cells in humans. Apparently, T cells require BH4 to regulate iron intracellular concentrations and energy production. These findings are consistent with previous research linking iron deficiency with alterations of the immune system.

The research team found that the increase in BH4 in mice with cancer caused the proliferation of T cells and the reduction of tumors. Apparently, BH4 exerts this effect by suppressing the activity of a molecule called kynurenine that inhibits the action of T cells on malignant tumors.

The researchers used some blockers of BH4 mice with autoimmune diseases. These drugs stopped the autoaggressive activity of the T cells, stopped the allergic inflammation and prevented the T cells from causing autoimmune attacks in the intestine and the brain.

Steam treatment reduces enlarged prostate

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The prostate is an exclusive gland of the male genitourinary apparatus, formed by muscle and glandular tissue and weighing approximately 20 grams. It is located in front of the rectum, surrounds the bladder and urethra, and participates in the production of the seminal fluid, along with the periurethral glands and the seminal vesicles.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an entity characterized by an increase in glandular size and by the presence of an obstructive and irritative component that causes lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and alterations in the quality of life of patients. It mainly affects men over 50 years of age. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a very common entity worldwide, is the main reason for urological consultation in men. BPH is one of the most frequent benign tumors in direct relationship with age. In the US, the prevalence is 8% between 31 and 40 years and over 80% in those over 80 years. The prevalence in Europe presents a range of 14% in subjects of 40 years of age to 30-40% from 60 years.

The consultation for symptoms secondary to BPH is very frequent in outpatient practice. Obstructive symptoms include difficulty in initiating urination, decreased strength and caliber of the voiding stream, post-void dribbling, and incomplete voiding. Irritative symptoms include urgency, urinary frequency, and nocturia. It is worth noting that dysuria or burning during urination is also considered an irritative symptom, but patients with BPH rarely complain of dysuria, except when they have an overactive urinary tract infection.

The treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia is aimed at reducing urinary symptoms and improving the quality of life of the patient. Will come conditioned by the clinic, comorbidities and the patient's expectations. The three available therapeutic options are watchful waiting, medical treatment, and surgical treatment, and the therapeutic decision will be conditioned, in addition to the above aspects, by the effectiveness and safety of the treatment, by the best cost-effectiveness ratio, and by the patient’s preferences.

Surgical treatment is the method that offers a better response for symptoms but carries a higher risk of complications. Transurethral resection of the prostate was until recently the most effective therapeutic option for those patients who do not respond favorably, or who do not accept pharmacological therapy.

Current procedures used to reduce the size of the prostate, while effective, can lead to highly feared side effects such as loss of sexual function, bleeding, and incontinence, and patients must stay in the hospital for days after the surgery.

If you are one of the millions of men who are not satisfied with your current treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) (such as medication or surgery), water vapor therapy, called Rezūm, is a new, safe and effective option designed to transform your experience regarding the treatment of BPH.

A study conducted in British patients showed that this procedure reduced the size of the prostate by 36%, these results are similar to those obtained with other treatments, but the detestable side effects mentioned above are avoided.

Rezūm uses the natural energy stored in the water vapor. It is a safe and effective procedure, available for the treatment of symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia. During each treatment, the sterile water vapor is released into the enlarged prostate tissue. When the steam turns into water, all the stored energy is released, which causes the death of the cells. Over time, your body's immune system removes the dead cells, reducing the size of the prostate. With the removal of the prostatic tissue, the urethra is unclogged, reducing the symptoms of BPH. Most patients begin to experience relief of symptoms in only two weeks, and maximum benefits are reached within three months.

Before the procedure, your doctor may ask you to stop using anticoagulants a few days or a week before the procedure. The procedure is completed in just a few minutes; however, keep in mind that the total duration of the consultation with your doctor will be approximately 2 hours. After the procedure, your doctor will prescribe analgesics and antibiotics orally for 3 to 5 days. The doctor may recommend the use of a urethral catheter for a few days to facilitate urination during the recovery process.

What can I do to prevent kidney stones?

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Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders worldwide, approximately 10% of the population has suffered at least one occasion of kidney stones at some time in their lives. Men suffer from kidney stones more often than women. Children can also develop kidney stones; this may be due to genetic factors, low birth weight, intravenous feeding, and deformities or abnormal anatomy of the urinary tract. However, children are also at risk of developing kidney stones if they do not drink enough fluids or eat foods with high salt content.

Kidney stones are crystallized masses that form in the kidney. The development of the stones depends on the chemicals found in the urine. Certain substances can accelerate the formation of stones, while others prevent the formation of these.

Most stones are composed of calcium oxalate, but others can be made up of uric acid, phosphate, and other chemicals. These start being small and get bigger over time. The stones can remain in the kidney or can move through the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Stones can also form in the bladder or urethra (the tube that carries urine to the outside of the body).

Risk factors for developing kidney stones

        Family history of kidney stones

        Having previously undergone a kidney stone

        Obesity (a BMI greater than 30)

        Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease, ulcerative rectocolitis)

        Patients undergoing bariatric surgery, since the body absorbs less calcium after gastric bypass procedures

Below are some recommendations to prevent the formation of kidney stones:

Drink enough fluids throughout the day: Insufficient fluid intake contributes to the formation of stones. If you do not drink enough water, the urine will have less fluid and a higher concentration of chemicals that form the stones. That's why drinking more water may help prevent the combination of those chemicals that make up the stones. This recommendation is especially important during the summer when kidney stones are more likely to develop due to dehydration.

It is recommended that adults consume one ounce of liquid daily for every two pounds of body weight. For example, a 200-pound man should drink 100 ounces of fluid per day. We must bear in mind that not all liquids are beneficial, coffee, iced tea, and many soft drinks contain caffeine, which can cause dehydration if consumed in excess. The soda contributes to the accumulation of calcium oxalate, so it is better to avoid consuming it. The reduction of intake of sugary soft drinks significantly decreases the risk of suffering a lithiasis recurrence. Particularly in the reduction of those drinks acidified with phosphoric acid. The consumption of alcoholic beverages also increases the risk of kidney stones.

Decrease your salt intake: High salt intake negatively affects the composition of urine as it increases the excretion of calcium and decreases urinary citrate, favoring the formation of sodium urate crystals. Adults with hypertension or a history of kidney stones should limit sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Avoid foods rich in oxalate: The union of oxalate with calcium in the urine is one of the most important stages in the formation of kidney stones, therefore by decreasing the intake of oxalate-rich foods reduces the formation of kidney stones.  Among the foods with the highest oxalate content are spinach, rhubarb, sweet potato, beet, chocolate, kale, and peanuts.

In addition, excessive consumption of animal proteins such as beef, cheese, eggs, pork contributes to the crystallization of uric acid. Establishing a vegetarian diet at least twice a week allows replacing part of the animal protein with beans, dried peas, and lentils, which are high protein and low oxalate foods.

Monitor added sugars: Added sugars, especially in the form of corn syrup with high fructose content, contribute to the crystallization of uric acid. The natural sugars in fruits are perfectly fine for daily consumption.

Avoid vitamin C supplements: The consumption of more than 500 mg per day of vitamin C predisposes to the formation of greater amounts of oxalate.

Do not be afraid of calcium: contrary to what many people believe, the restriction in calcium intake may increase the risk of stone formation. Calcium binds to oxalate in the intestine; its deficiency causes it to increase oxalate absorption and with it an increase in urinary excretion, thus favoring the formation of kidney stones. Therefore, it is recommended to ingest approximately 1000 to 1200mg of calcium per day.

Baking Soda Could be a Solution for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Stop Autoimmune Responses!

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An inexpensive, household product found in most kitchens can promote an anti-inflammatory environment that could be a treatment to a life-changing autoimmune disease.

Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate) has become a very popular product due to its multiple uses, ranging from household cleaning to dental care and more. Also, the usefulness of bicarbonate in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was recently demonstrated.

Maintaining a balanced pH is essential for the proper functioning of the organism; an excessively alkaline or excessively acidic environment leads to a wide range of physical disorders.

Sodium bicarbonate allows alkalizing an acidic environment in the organism. Several types of scientific research corroborate that our organism works in a better way in a slightly alkaline environment. However, it is important to take into account that any of the extremes (acid-alkaline) can be harmful to health.

In September of this year, the Journal of Immunology published a study, which concluded that drinking water mixed with sodium bicarbonate reduces the chances of developing diseases such as RA and lupus.

During this study, the researchers orally administered a mixture of bicarbonate and water to two populations in the study that included healthy men and rats. After 15 days of treatment, the scientists showed that the cells of the immune system (macrophages) began to play an anti-inflammatory function.

Researchers concluded that sodium bicarbonate acted as a natural stimulant of the anti-inflammatory response of macrophages. Many diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis can benefit from these anti-inflammatory properties.

How sodium bicarbonate works

Baking soda stops the autoimmune response, in which the body's defense cells attack their own tissues.

After the administration of sodium bicarbonate, the researchers noticed a decrease in autoimmune activity and an increase in anti-inflammatory activity in the stomach, spleen, kidneys and peripheral blood.

This effect is partly due to a change in the regulation of T cells and increased activity of cytokines and anti-inflammatory cells.

This combination of processes reduces the immune response and could help prevent the immune system from attacking its own tissues.

Cheap solution

Sodium bicarbonate could be an economical, safe, and effective way to relieve the symptoms associated with RA and other autoimmune diseases, but it is essential that you consult with your doctor before starting any therapeutic regimen.

It is important to mention that people at risk of alkalosis (ph <7.35) do not benefit from the intake of sodium bicarbonate, even their consumption can be harmful.

"Baking soda is a really safe way to treat inflammatory disease," said Paul O'Connor, director of the physiology graduate program at Augusta University in Georgia, and lead author of the study.

That's not all that has been shown to do, either.

Sodium bicarbonate has also been used to treat acid reflux. Some research even recommends the intake of sodium bicarbonate as a method to prevent certain forms of cancer.

Michelle Neilly, a health coach at Integrative Nutrition in Pennsylvania, said: "While there is no miracle cure-all fix out there, some home remedies like baking soda could help patients with RA."

Inflammation Can Ensure a Long and Healthy Life

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For several years inflammation has been considered a harmful process involved in the development of a large number of pathologies that compromise the quality of life of people such as arthritis, diabetes, atherosclerosis, asthma, and even Alzheimer's disease. However, inflammation is a natural process of the body that is put on the skin to protect the body; therefore there is much confusion around the idea of whether the inflammation is good or bad. Below we will clarify certain aspects regarding inflammation, what it is, how it manifests itself and how it is affecting you.

What is inflammation?

The immune system is the defense system of the body, which is made up of a set of organs and cells responsible for defending the body from any potentially harmful situation. The immune system is also able to eliminate cells that no longer work or function poorly. If a tumor cell is detected, the immune system induces its apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Inflammation is a process triggered by the immune system to protect and repair tissues from any injury caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, etc. When there is a tissue injury, for example, a wound, the immune system activates a set of mechanisms that lead to inflammation and subsequent healing of the injured tissue.

When does it happen?

When the organism identifies damage or a foreign agent, the inflammatory process is initiated, which begins with the migration of white blood cells to the affected area, these cells are responsible for destroying microorganisms and limiting tissue damage. Subsequently, the synthesis of collagen and other proteins necessary for the repair of injured tissues occurs, this process is carried out by connective tissue cells called fibroblasts. Inflammation is a necessary process, without it we would be defenseless against viruses and bacteria and could never be cured.

When is it not good?

Although inflammation is an important part of the body's defense mechanisms, when there is an imbalance in its regulation, it can cause great damage to the organism. Like everything in life, it is necessary that there is a balance between the proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory elements.

What causes harmful inflammation?

The reality is that many of the habits of modern life are capable of triggering a chronic and uncontrolled inflammatory process that compromises the health of the individual. Stress, poor diet, smoking, and not getting enough sleep are the main factors that lead to this situation.

How can I avoid 'bad' inflammation?

Several studies have shown that trans fats increase oxidative stress and the production of free radicals, which promotes an inflammatory environment in the body. In addition, the excess in the consumption of simple carbohydrates and processed sugars considerably raise the levels of pro-inflammatory hormones such as insulin. The additives and preservatives present in some foods are capable of altering the intestinal microbiome, which profoundly influences the immune system. If you want to avoid inflammation, we recommend you stay away from this type of food and start a healthy diet.

What foods fight inflammation?

It is recommended to maintain a diet with high fiber content as it displaces unwanted foods and allows the elimination of toxins. The healthy fats present in olive oil, avocado, and nuts are a great ally. Also, it is also recommended to incorporate more protein of vegetable origin into the diet and increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

What else can I do?

Sleeping well not only reduces inflammation, but it also improves your cardiovascular health, decreases depression, and balances your immune system.

Eliminate stress is essential to combat inflammation; we recommend doing yoga, meditation or take aromatic baths three times a week.

Exercise is another powerful anti-inflammatory, especially when practiced regularly. It has been proven that aerobic exercise can reduce insulin and cholesterol levels, which reduces inflammation and increases blood flow to the tissues.


Biogen Kills Late-Stage Trial Of Its Alzheimer’s Drug

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Biotech giant Biogen (
BIIB) took a nose-dive last month after the company announced that it would be pulling the plug on the late-stage trial of its Alzheimer’s drug, Aducanumab.

Biogen was in partnership with a Japanese pharmaceutical company, Eisai, on its Alzheimer’s drug candidate, Aducanumab, but both companies agreed to discontinue the phase 3 trial after an independent data-monitoring committee concluded that the drug would NOT “meet their primary endpoint.”

This is a catastrophic blow for Biogen who was hoping this Alzheimer’s drug, Aducanumab, would become the blockbuster profit center of its drug pipeline. Wall Street analysts had bet big on Biogen’s progress in its attempt to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The hunt for drug treatment for Alzheimer’s has become one of the holy grails of bioscience. Finding a reliable drug to target the beta-amyloid protein, the main component of the amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer patients, has the potential of being a multi-billion a year product. Biogen is only one of many major pharmaceuticals to have tried and failed in attempting to tackle this human health scourge.

Jefferies Financial Group Inc. (JEF) said in its latest note to clients…


“This was a clear part of the potential downside risk and consistent with our HOLD rating thesis. We think the base business is worth $225-$250 w/o any pipeline. However, on a trading basis, we think the stock could trade down as low as $200-$230 with the removal of the program from the valuation,”

“They will have to now be overly-aggressive on M&A due to desperation.”

Meanwhile, Citi bank analysts released an update warning this Biogen failure will be a setback that will have adverse ripple effects across the bigger biotech space

 “With Aducanumab removed as the major pipeline catalysts, large-cap biotech’s ability to grow will remain in question.”

Sweet Fix, How Much Sugar Is OK?

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The signs of an addictive substance include bingeing, craving, tolerance, withdrawal, cross-sensitization, cross-tolerance, cross-dependence, reward and opioid effects.

And that’s why a recent article in the British Journal of Medicine concluded that sugar is addictive.

If you have a sweet tooth, this probably is not news. But it has been a contested topic in food and medical science for some time. No one gets the D.T.’s if they skip a candy bar. But they may get a headache, feel tired, or suffer distractive urges to run out and get their fix.

They may even hide their stash.

Lately, sugar “purges” are a celebrity trend. Do we need to copy that? Is craving sugar really an addiction that will wreck your health?

Time to take it easy… For people who are not diabetic or pre-diabetic, a little sugar is harmless. We evolved to seek out sweet tastes because it goes along with fruits and vegetables that are ripe and therefore at peak nutrition.

Wanting something sweet is not the real issue. The problem is that we no longer get a little sugar each day. We eat a lot of it. The average American devours 94 grams of sugar a day. That is the equivalent of 23.5 teaspoons of sugar. 

It’s so far beyond our basic needs that coming into line may seem like punishment to sugar lovers.

The American Heart Association recommends an added sugar intake of 6 tsp or less per day for women, 9 tsp for men. That’s 24 grams for women, 36 grams for men.

Or to put that another way, a  teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, so the AHA recommendation comes to 1 1/2 tsp for women and 2 ¼ for men. You probably had that much before noon.

Even if you never put sugar in your coffee, eat Count Chocula for breakfast, or grab a donut on the way to the office,  you are probably busting the AHA limit every day.

Some sources are obvious. If that fruit-enriched yogurt includes jam on the bottom to stir in, it’s a sugar bomb. One serving of Dannon strawberry yogurt contains 15 grams of sugar, almost four teaspoonfuls. This is fairly mild among flavored yogurts.  Yoplait’s chocolate almond contains 22 grams of sugar. Fage split cup honey has 29 grams of added sugar.

Even if you stick to the AHA guidance, sugar intake is a tricky subject. Tracking only your added sugar can be misleading if you gravitate to naturally sweet foods. Bananas and grapes pack a wallop, but they also contain fiber, which ameliorates potential sugar spikes. In addition, the sugar in fruit is primarily fructose, which does not stimulate insulin production as glucose does.

But fruit juices are a special problem. Apple juice is nearly as sweet as a cola drink. Grape juice is sweeter than a Coke.

If you want to keep your added sugar under control, you can spot these culprits easily. It shouldn’t be a surprise that most granola is not health food, it is healthy food with sugar added, usually honey.  Blueberry muffins and Pop Tarts don’t really fool anyone. But some foods do.

A few of the most common sugar culprits may surprise you.

Ketchup with those fries will cost you. One ounce of ketchup is worth 1 ½ tsp of sugar.

A bowl of corn flakes is worth a teaspoon of sugar… before you sprinkle any on top.

At lunch, a Big Mac will give you 8 grams, or 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Or maybe you could choose a half-cup of pulled pork on a potato roll—we’re talking a small sandwich. Count that for 26 grams of added sugar, almost 6 teaspoons.  If you’re eating that pulled pork in a restaurant, though, it’s probably going to come in at twice that much.

Added sugar appears everywhere—peanut butter, barbecue sauce, pasta sauce, any drink that is not labeled 0-calorie, canned fruit, bread, canned soup, frozen dinners, chocolate sauce, lunch meats, and baked beans, to name a few.

Cooking everything for yourself would solve a lot of this issue, but we don’t always have time to do that. We can take small steps, though.

For example, if you have a thing for “sweet tea” as they say in the south, make your own.  You can even reduce the sugar slowly over time. It will certainly be better than a big, 16-ounce, glass of Arizona tea with 48 grams of sugar!

Anything you bake from scratch can be trimmed, too. Most cakes, quick bread, and muffins taste perfectly fine, maybe even better, with the sugar reduced by 1/3 to 1/2.

And just for the record, if you are tracking your sugar, it all counts. Despite its golden aura, honey is sugar. So are agave, corn syrup, maple syrup, and molasses.

Before you eat prepared food, read the label. Then keep track. You can also compare brands thanks to nutrition labels. For instance, most commercial bread contains far more sugar than necessary to make the yeast rise, but some brands are lower than others. Typically, rye bread has much less sugar, so if you enjoy it, that’s a great choice.

Bottom line: if it’s prepared food, read the label, even if you think it’s not a sweet. You might be surprised how much sugar is lurking.

Beet Juice to Jump Higher and Bike Longer

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News from Sweden by way of England: a glass of beet juice could help you work out longer and feel better.  It can make those fast-twitch muscles more powerful, too.

Somewhere in the world, there must be six people besides me who are thinking, “Wow! Beet juice! Hooray, I’ll take two glasses!”

My husband jibes me for ordering from restaurant menus based on the side dishes. Pork or venison tonight? I’ll take the one that comes with beets, please.

This beet-juice research should be in the “news you can use “category, but for one problem. Much to my surprise, most people hate beets. Ranker puts them third on the list of most disliked vegetables. Evidently, people would far rather eat parsnips and okra. Amazing.

The Swedish research happened in 2007 based on a comparison of triathletes and endurance cyclists who took either sodium nitrate or table salt before a workout. In 2009, researchers in England found the effect puzzling enough to run their own experiments. Instead of a chemical, they used beet juice because beets are naturally high in sodium nitrate. Beet juice was a winner. Cyclists who imbibed could pedal longer before reaching exhaustion. Their systolic blood pressure dropped 6 points. And their oxygen demand fell an impressive 19%.

Even with this proof, there was no worldwide breakout of beet-juice drinks crowding your grocery store. Beet juice never reached the dizzy heights of pomegranate juice.

 I suspect a cadre of beet haters suppressed it. The glory of beets stayed buried for a long time, though there are many elite and serious athletes who do swear by it.

 Then in 2018, Andrew Jones and team at the University of Exeter in England published an extensive review on dietary nitrates and physical performance in the Annual Review of Nutrition.  Beets were the main focus because they are an abundant natural source of sodium nitrate.

Sodium nitrate is one of those chemicals we have all been warned to avoid. It was supposed to be the devil in processed meats, a carcinogen.   It is now believed that the cancer risk exists, but was overstated.

Apart from that, we need sodium nitrate, and it is common in the foods we eat—especially spinach, arugula, chard, and beets. One reason to seek out the chemical is that it is involved in producing nitric oxide (NO) which our bodies must have. NO helps keep blood vessels dilated, helps regulate glucose and calcium, and plays a role in reenergizing mitochondria and muscle contraction.

Beets boost NO and have more benefits than the first Swedish research team realized. They focused on elite endurance athletes. More recent research suggests the benefits to that group can be iffy, but the rest of us may benefit a lot. Beets seem to have an even greater ability to support fast-twitch muscles. That’s useful for sudden bursts of activity, such as sprints or sports that require explosive movements, like soccer. Or jumping.

The most exciting thing about the work being done on beet juice and nitrates is that they may particularly help older people overcome exercise intolerance. The inability to exercise hard and long is not just a “use it or lose it” matter.  It’s caused by low NO levels in the body as we age along with less capacity to turn natural arginine into useful nitrates.

A couple of glasses of beet juice could help. And if drinking beet juice doesn’t appeal, eating one cup of spinach or beets should have the same effect.

How to Think Your Way to Better Sex

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Sex issues can be complicated, but they’re not uncommon. It takes a doctor’s help to overcome obstacles such as medicines that put the kibosh on the libido.  It might take a financial counselor or a budget to solve money worries that cause fizzle where there should be sizzle.

But two of the most common issues are problems you can take care of yourself. They are all about attitude.

The first one is sometimes called “performance anxiety.” I prefer to say it straight up—it’s embarrassment.

Worrying about your ability to perform is actually a case of worrying about whether you are OK, whether you measure up. And let’s face it, we all want to be heroes with our beloved partners.

The odd thing about this anxiety is that members of the opposite sex are not usually as disturbed as their partners worry they may be. 

For instance, it is extremely common for women to become less moist as they grow older, especially after menopause. A lubricant is a simple, easy answer, yet many women hesitate to introduce the idea.

A woman who does suggest she needs help, even though her pleasure and interest is as high as ever, could be surprised to find her partner is more than happy to oblige. Most men have no aversion whatsoever experimenting with different creams, gels, or lubricants to find one that both partners like. It can even add new sizzle to the dynamic.

Not to stereotype anyone, but telling your man, “honey, would you mind browsing the sex store for me?” is like asking your dog if he would care to have a raw steak.

From the opposite side of the bed, men can worry about ED even when they don’t have it.  With age, the penis gets less hard when engorged. It can thus be shorter or have less girth. The constant urge may also calm down into a more occasional urge in maturity. Women are not as put off by these natural changes as their men fear. Even sex with softness is real sex to them if the spirit is willing.

Plus, the solution to less stamina and hardness might be as simple as more foreplay something most women who love their men would never veto.

The second overwhelming mental block to good sex has to do with embarrassment, too. It’s about your body image.  Parts that should be firm, flop. Parts that should be flat, grow round, and parts that should be round, grow flat. You may have noticed the word “should” in all those sentences. The “should” applies to your ideal teen and 20-something self. After that, give yourself a little leeway.

Ideally, for our overall health as well as our sexual health, we would exercise and control our weight. But if we slide, the fix takes time. You can’t lose 20 pounds overnight without surgery. And even then, it’s a daunting task.

You can fix your attitude faster. If your partner is not criticizing you or shunning you, then cut yourself some slack. Sexy is not a size; it’s an attitude.

Baby Powder Replacements You’ll Love

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Johnson & Johnson is facing class action lawsuits for its iconic baby powder.

This only happened because baby powder is the rare infant product we never want to give up. What’s in the talc, sometimes a taint of asbestos, is wrong. But it is the long-term exposure that implicates baby powder in diseases like ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. 

We’re addicted. Grown men sprinkle it in their sneakers and underwear. Women prize it for a million reasons from keeping thighs from chafing, to freshening hair between shampoos, to setting makeup. Moms learn to sprinkle it on their kids’ feet at the beach to brush off sand more effectively.  It can even calm squeaky floorboards. It’s a fine dry pet shampoo, too.

You probably already know that you can use baking powder or corn starch for many of those things, but it’s not completely satisfying, is it?

Because… the smell. There are people who hate baby powder smell. But for many of us, it has a strong association with that after-bath feeling of being clean.

As it turns out, “baby powder smell” is so popular, one company has blended an essential oil with the fragrance. It’s called Young Living's Gentle Baby Essential Oil Blend. If you don’t see it wherever you usually shop for essential oils, there’s always Amazon. I checked. They have it.

If you’d like to experiment with your own blend, the probable fragrance notes are vanilla, rose, honeysuckle, jasmine, geranium, and lavender. Then again, some claim that violet essential oil is exactly the thing.

The next step is getting the smell into a nice powder.

If you are completely addicted to talc, you can carry on. It is possible to buy odor-free talcum powder that is also asbestos free. This, too, can be ordered online, but you may also find it at a well-stocked aromatherapy store or wherever candle-making and soap-making supplies are sold.

Just a word, here, though. Some of the health effects that are associated with baby powder are related to breathing in particulates. If you choose to continue with talc, sprinkle without undue exuberance and avoid breathing deeply until it settles. Also, it is not a good idea to use this in the perineal area if you are a woman because of the suspected link to ovarian cancer.

If you want to avoid talc, your best bet depends on the feel you like and the purpose you have in mind.

Baking soda—great for controlling odor. Perfect for smelly dogs and shoes, controlling rashes, and absorbing moisture.  The downside is that it doesn’t have the silky luxurious feel of powder, but it is safe and natural. You can get some smoothness by mixing baking soda with a softer substance like arrowroot or rice powder.

Cornstarch—this has the exquisite feel many prize for a powder that helps prevent chafing where the body rubs, such as inner thighs. Cornstarch is the main ingredient in the most popular and highly rated J&J alternatives Burt’s Bees Dusting Powder.  It’s ideal for soothing itchy spots including bug bites, and it’s a champ at absorbing moisture. It’s naturally fragrance-free. If cornstarch has a downside, it is that it is so light and airy it can be messy to control in a shaker. For a deodorant, cornstarch needs a little help, blend with baking soda.

Rice Powder— an alternative many people don’t think of immediately. Our grandmothers may have known it as a face powder. It has several unusual properties. For instance, it is something of a sunscreen. Not as effective as the dedicated product, but it can be mixed into a paste and used on the skin to give some sun protection. Over time, however, this practice can also whiten skin, which is admired in some parts of the world, but not where bold suntans are the ideal. An oil and rice powder paste can also lighten under-eye circles. As a face powder, it’s a little coarse, so needs blending with cornstarch.

Arrowroot Powder—This is even silkier than cornstarch. You can also buy it knowing that arrowroot is never genetically modified, corn products usually are. Arrowroot deodorizes and absorbs moisture and oils well.

The final step—getting the smell and the powder together—is easy. You can’t just pout the oils on top because you would create a paste. So pour several drops of the oils or your favorite perfume on a few cotton balls. Put them in the bottom of a glass container you can close tightly. Pour your powder blend on top, screw down the lid, and shake. Fill the jar only half full so there’s plenty of room for shaking action. Let your new powder mix sit for a few days and you’ll have the scent and feel you want, without unhealthy consequences.

Aspirin, Who Should Take It, Who Should Not

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Aspirin is one of the most prescribed drugs by physicians since it was synthesized in 1890. Aspirin is used in a wide variety of situations due to its broad pharmacological properties.

This drug is an anti-inflammatory; therefore it helps relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Due to its antiplatelet properties (prevents the formation of thrombi) it is administered in patients who have suffered a heart attack, stroke, or after undergoing cardiovascular surgeries such as stent placement or catheterization. Aspirin also works as an analgesic and antipyretic, and some studies have linked the use of aspirin with a lower chance of developing colon cancer.

However, despite its numerous qualities, recent clinical trials such as ARRIVE, ASCEND, and ASPREE suggest that the consumption of aspirin could have important adverse effects.

The trials mentioned above evaluated the administration of aspirin at low doses (100mg per day) in patients without known cardiovascular disease, with the aim of determining whether the daily intake of aspirin provides any benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

The ARRIVE trial concluded that the daily administration of aspirin did not provide any benefit in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. However, it led to an increased risk of stroke.

In the ASPREE trial, aspirin was administered daily to patients over 70 years of age for 5 years. The study showed that aspirin does not prolong the life of patients compared to placebo; on the contrary, it increases the risk of death from cancer.

In the ASCEND study, it was observed that aspirin decreased the rate of ischemic cerebrovascular events in patients with diabetes, however, the incidence of bleeding increased.

It is clear that the indiscriminate use of aspirin can lead to a wide variety of adverse effects. However, we should not demonize this drug, which can be very useful when used correctly. Below are some tips, based on recognized scientific studies, about who should take aspirin and who should not.

If you had a heart attack or had cardiovascular surgery such as stenting, daily aspirin use will help prevent a new heart attack.

If you are over 70 years old and do not suffer from any cardiovascular disease, do not consume aspirin on a daily basis since consuming this drug preventively does not prolong your life expectancy.

If you have diabetes mellitus but have not suffered from an ischemic event (heart attack or ischemic stroke), taking aspirin will increase the risk of bleeding.

Aspirin should not be administered to children. In the 70s, a presentation of aspirin for children was commercialized, which caused a rare but deadly disease called Reye's syndrome.

If you have had cardiovascular surgery, your doctor may advise you to use aspirin in combination with an anticoagulant such as Plavix, to prevent an ischemic event.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen, interfere with the effects of aspirin, To avoid this situation, take your aspirin at least 30 minutes before taking an NSAID, or take your aspirin at least six hours after taking an NSAID.

It is important to emphasize that the adverse effects of aspirin mentioned above occur with the daily and prolonged use of the drug, aspirin is entirely safe for adults in the treatment of fever or other ailments.


Reducing Anxiety through a Simple Tapping Exercise

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Sometimes there’s a solution beyond taking drugs to help resolve anxiety. In some cases, a simple exercise can solve a serious problem. All you need is proper advice and instructions.

Tapping is a technique that helps fight stress, anxiety and contributes to focus mentally on those feelings that are positive and to discard everything that prevents you from continuing with a full life.

This practice consists of tapping the fingers on precise parts of the body to release the stagnant emotions. Tapping is based on the premise that all problems, whether physical, economic, emotional, etc., are rooted in an energy imbalance within the person who suffers. The purpose of Tapping is to eliminate this imbalance, by stimulating certain points of the body. Like acupuncture, this technique acts on the energy points of the body.

Experts in meditation say that when stimulating energy points signals are emitted to the brain that reduces emotional tension and allows relaxation. As soon as this happens, the anxiety is immediately reduced, allowing you to move forward more calmly.

This technique of emotional liberation has gained great popularity in recent years given the collective awareness of the importance of personal and spiritual care. One of the main advantages of Tapping is that it can be carried out in any place since it is a discrete method that does not require the use of force to achieve the desired effect.

It has been proven that Tapping can alleviate a wide variety of negative afflictions, such as chronic pain, emotional problems, addictions, phobias, post-traumatic stress, and even physical illnesses.

How is the tapping done?

The first step to practice Tapping is to identify the problem you want to address. It can be a general situation that produces anxiety or a specific concern.

After assessing from 1 to 10 the level of anxiety felt, the person begins to hit with the tips of the fingers at certain points of the body, while saying positive statements about themselves.

What points must be hit?

The tapping points coincide with points of beginning or end of acupuncture meridians, and they are the following:

        0: The side of the hand, between the base of the little finger and the wrist.

        1: The top of the head.

        2: The inner end of the eyebrow.

        3: The lateral of the eye.

        4: The bone under the eye.

        5: Between the nose and the upper lip.

        6: The point between the chin and the lower lip.

        7: The tip of the inner end of the clavicle.

        8: About four fingers below the armpit.

        9: The inner angle of the nail of the thumb.

        10: The inner angle of the nail of the index finger.

        11: The inner angle of the nail of the middle finger.

        12: The inner corner of the fingernail.

The points from 0 to 8 are the basic points of tapping and are always used. In contrast, the finger points (from 9 to 12) are optional. In principle, they are not used, but if you see that with the basic points you do not get good results, you can add them.

Do not worry too much about the accuracy of the points, hitting the area is enough. You just have to hit the points on one side of the body.

A tapping sequence to relieve stress.

Tap each point about seven times and repeat the following sentences out loud.

Point 0: "Even though I feel overwhelmed and afraid, I accept who I am and how I feel." Repeat it three times.

Continue touching on the other points with adjacent phrases:

Point 1: I know I can move through this

Point 2: I know that I have the inner strength

Point 3: I choose to believe that I will overcome this

Point 4: I know I can find my power inside

Point 5: I think this is my trip now

Point 6: I know I can go through this

Point 7: And to feel good about me again

Point 8: I choose to believe in my inner strength


Eating Healthy with Farm-Raised Fish

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Unless you’re vegan, you should eat fish twice a week for good health.

It’s what the American Heart Association recommends.  Ditto researchers at the NIH/National Institute for Arthritis.  The US Department of Agriculture agrees. So do thousands of doctors and dieticians.

This is one of the rare bits of diet advice that is almost universally accepted. The reason is omega-3 fatty acids. They abound in cold-water fish like tuna, cod, mackerel, mahi-mahi, salmon, pollack, and anchovies.

Studies have shown that regularly eating these kinds of fish can lower heart disease and stroke risk because of the omega-3 content. The habit may also improve arthritis, supply critical growth hormones to developing children, and ward off cognitive declines.

But if the benefit of eating cold-water fish is ingesting plentiful omega-3 fatty acids, so is the problem.

Here’s how: Numerous foods contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids, or PUFAs. Omega-6’s are more concentrated in grains, seeds, nuts, beef, and vegetables like avocados and soybeans, including tofu. Most cooking oils are high in it—one exception being olive oil, which is monounsaturated and full of omega-9’s. Only a few oils are rich in omega-3. These include canola, walnut, and fish oils like that wonderful-tasting (not!) cod liver oil. 

The issue is balance. The ideal diet for humans is a ratio somewhere between 1:1 or 4:1 of omega-6 to omega-3.

Our caveman forefathers were probably right at the 1:1 ratio. Some primitive societies get closer to the 4:1 range.

But today’s ratio is about 20:1 for most developed countries. That’s badly out of balance and invites numerous health problems. It is not simply a matter of too little omega-3; it’s also a case of too much omega-6. The two PUFAs have opposing effects in the body.

For instance, omega-3 is anti-inflammatory. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory. Omega-3 helps control weight. Omega-6 helps to gain it.

Gaining weight was an important biological edge in cave times where getting food was chancy from day to day. It’s not a good thing for us, where grocery stores, food trucks, and restaurants beckon us with constant temptation to eat and eat again. For most of us, gaining weight is the easiest thing in the world.

Eating more fish and less beef, lamb, and pork is a good way to bring your diet back into balance. Unfortunately, if you are choosing farm-raised fish, you may not be getting the omega-3 content you thought you were.

That’s because many fish farming operations feed their fish on grain products. And those fish will grow up to be high in omega 3 just like the grains that make up their diet, and low in omega 6.

The easiest way to make sure the fish you eat are as healthy as you hoped is to opt for wild-caught fish when you can. In the wild, cold water fish feed on other fish and algae. But you don’t have to make every serving of fish wild caught. There are responsible farming operations.

Farm-raised fish have become an environmental necessity, and it can be done right. It’s not all bad. Catching some species in the wild even means a lot of fuel burned to get to the fishing grounds and back for small hauls. In other causes, overfishing has meant that farm raising can be good for the species’ survival. In Norway, extensive cod farming has decreased the waste in this fish which loses some of its delicate appeal if frozen.

Good farming operations are careful to avoid using any pesticide-treated food stock, antibiotics, or unnatural foods like grains. It can be hard to know where supermarket fish originates, and how the owners work, however.

If you shop at an independent fish market, your purveyor can probably guide you right. Strike up a relationship, and try to shop when it’s not during peak hours. Friday afternoon is not the time to tie up the fishmonger for a long, philosophical chat. Nor will he want to guide you away from any choice when there’s a whole line of other customers standing around to hear every word.

Talking to your “fish guy” is not an option for everyone, alas. So if you are on your own, here are some general rules.

Sockeye salmon are never farmed, so you can buy knowing they will be wild caught.

Farmed fish that are usually responsibly raised, meaning no pesticide or antibiotics, no mercury concentrations, and proper sanitation and environmental impact include:

·         Barramundi farmed in the US and Australia

·         Bass farmed in the US

·         Catfish from the US

·         Char (Atlantic)

·         Farmed mussels--worldwide

·         Farmed oysters--worldwide

·         Farmed Pacific rainbow trout

·         Farmed sturgeon from the US and Canada

·         Farmed tilapia from Canada, Ecuador, and the US

Move More, Live Better for Longer

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We’re all so healthy now compared to 100 years ago. An American born today has a life expectancy of 78. Before 1900 it was only 47.

The reason our grandparents had shorter lives was not, as many propose, mainly owing because of childbirth and childhood diseases. More than half of adult deaths in 1900 could be laid to pneumonia, tuberculosis, and intestinal infections. Accidental deaths occurred twice as often as they do now.

We can thank modern medicine and science for this change. We know how to avoid flu, get over pneumonia, and set a broken leg. Cholera hardly exists. Even kidney failure, another disease that plagued our grandparents, is treatable now.

With so many extra years added to our lifespans, the new challenge is reaching beyond thinking about our lifespan to the idea of a long “healthspan.” None of us wants an extra 20 years of pain, debility and mental confusion if we can avoid them.

Will those years be good ones? Will you be active, useful, mentally vital and engaged with life all the way to the end?

Medicine can give you a long lifespan; you have to give yourself a long healthspan.

 At a minimum that includes eating healthily, treating depression if it shadows you, avoiding stupid risks like riding a motorcycle without a helmet, building a network of friends and family, not smoking, and learning to deal with stress.

And exercise.

If you ever suspected that Americans were couch potatoes, the World Health Organization has the proof. In the US, 40% of adults fail to get minimal sufficient exercise every week. The Germans are even worse, at 42%.

On a global scale, the relationship of exercise to life expectancy isn’t simple. Poor countries like Uganda and Lesotho rank high for exercise, but healthcare and high HIV/AIDS rates devastate the population. China, which has a very active population also has world-class pollution that is presumed to knock three years of life off its people.

But overall, there is a positive relationship among developed nations between more exercise and longer lives. In Europe, the countries with the fewest couch potatoes—Sweden, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and Spain—have one to two years longer life expectancies than less active countries like Ireland, the UK, and Germany. Canadians with high rates of physical activity also have four more years of life expectancy than their US neighbors.

Those trends are complicated, as mentioned. But there’s plentiful research on individuals and the effects of exercise. More is better, as long as you are not trying to out-achieve super athletes.

When the WHO looked at the problem of inactivity, it also set guidelines for how much exercise is needed to keep people healthier. It’s actually a modest prescription. If you walk a dog and convince him to quit smelling the bushes and hup hup, you’re halfway there. All it takes for a start is a little more than 20 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity, a little resistance work, and some balancing exercises to help prevent falls.

Herewith, the guidelines:

150 minutes or more per week in moderate-intensity aerobic activity

That could include brisk walking at 4 mph, swimming, heavy cleaning, biking 10-12 mph, mowing the lawn with a power mower, volleyball, gardening, badminton, tennis doubles, or any similar effort)

Do all aerobic activity performed in bouts of 10 minutes or longer

Seek to increase this to 300 minutes a week for even more benefits

Balance exercises

Do these at least 3 days a week

You can keep it simple, like standing on one foot or heel-to-toe walking

Muscle strengthening

Do resistance exercises 2 or more days a week       

You can use resistance bands, weights, or body weight

If you don’t know what to do, find a trainer or class to get started

MSG Myths and Facts

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These days almost every Chinese restaurant has a notice somewhere on the menu proclaiming it does not use MSG.  

Millions of people believe they are allergic to MSG, monosodium glutamate. Probably ten times as many believe it’s a harmful substance that ranks right up there with Red Dye #4 and propyl paraben.  

So a Chinese restaurant goer, we’ll call him Charley, is happy to know he is safe at his favorite MSG-free restaurant.

But perhaps not as safe as he thought Charley was a little hungry before going to dinner, so he grabbed a few cheesy goldfish crackers at home. At the restaurant, he started with a fried wonton app and dunked them in a dipping sauce. His wife chose the egg drop soup. When it came to the mains, Charley ordered chicken in garlic sauce, extra spicy; his wife went for the sweet and sour pork.  Both douse their rice with the tableside soy sauce.

Between them, Charley and his wife have just eaten at least seven different items with MSG in them—the goldfish, the soy sauce, probably the cream cheese, the dipping sauce, the tomatoes in the sweet and sour, the chicken broth used in cooking, and the mushrooms in the Szechuan dish.

Charley leaves happily, and he doesn’t get the headache he swears he always gets when he eats MSG.

MSG danger ranks right up there with the number of words Eskimos have for snow as one of the most often repeated and misinformed myths we all know. MSG goes by many names on packages, MSG, monosodium glutamate, autolyzed yeast, glutamic acid, soy protein, yeast food, gelatin, and whey protein to name a few. Several stabilizers and thickeners like carrageenan, guar gum, and pectin often have MSG. Most Americans eat it several times a week if not daily.

It’s not some crazy thing invented in a test tube. It’s not a preservative that creates Frankenfoods that never rot.

In fact, MSG is all the rage these days as the fifth flavor—sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Umami is glutamate. Parmesan cheese is a rich source of umami and MSG. Roquefort and cheddar are sources, too. Know what else is rich in glutamate? Green tea.

Fear of MSG originated with a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1968  that  linked it to “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It was not established in a clinical trial or widely reported. It began with one person assuming an association between one ingredient in his dinner rather than a dozen other things. But the idea of Chinese Restaurant Syndrome was picked up and broadly repeated despite the lack of any human trials to back it up. Today numerous health blogs include MSG on their dangerous foods to avoid lists.

Is it dangerous? For a lot of people? For a few?

Eventually, scientists did perform research on the topic, but trial after trial failed to establish the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome as legitimate. The World Health Organization investigated the matter twice, in 1971 and 1987, and found no risk at normal consumption rates.

Nonetheless, there are hardly any foods that do not cause allergies in some people. So it’s more than likely that at least some people are affected by MSG.  

But it remains stubbornly unproven.

In 2016, yet one more attempt to get to the facts of the matter resulted in a meta-analysis on the topic. Yoko Obayashi and Yoichi Nagamura looked through the Medline and FTSA databases for all the human trials they could find.  It’s a wide net, FTSA abstracts more than 2,200 journals; Medline more than 5,600. If there was confirmed evidence, they were bound to find it. They were interested in papers written in English, of studies carried out in clinical trials on humans, that reported the incidence of headaches, and had a good statistical analysis or the data needed for one. They found ten papers that met their criteria.

There were five studies that gave MSG with food. Three of these were properly blinded (the researchers and the subjects didn’t know which food had the MSG and which didn’t). Two of these studies, however, used MSG in such high concentrations that some people might have detected it by taste. Even so, none of these studies found ANY proof of MSG causing headaches. Some of these studies also measured clinical data like blood pressure and pulse rate—also no proof.

In seven other studies that administered MSG given without food, researchers did find a few reports of headaches following MSG ingestion.  But once again, in the studies where subjects reported headaches, it happened with doses that were much higher than anyone would use in regular cooking. The subjects could easily tell which broth had the MSG and react according to their pre-set bias.

These adverse reactions occurred when the MSG was giving in a drink or broth at a concentration of 2% or higher. At a concentration of 1.2%, its flavor is detectable.

The usual concentration in food is much lower, 0.2% to 0.8%.

The bottom line—most people who believe they are allergic to MSG probably aren’t. But some few people could be. If you have a can of Accent or Sazon at home, don’t sprinkle it in the soup you feed to your guests unless you know it’s OK with them.

But to say MSG is bad for you is like saying shrimp are bad for you because someone somewhere is allergic to it. Lots of people are allergic to shrimp, but there’s no hysteria about it. Restaurants don’t post signs about it.  

The use of MSG was encouraged at one time to help people cut back on salt as a seasoning. It has about one-third as much sodium as table salt and sea salt. And if sodium is an issue for you, especially if you have high blood pressure, then a little MSG could do you some good if it helps you cut back on salt.

And if you are allergic to MSG, skip it in all forms, including the parmesan and the goldfish crackers. 


Oatmeal Revised – Still a Premium Source of Fiber

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Oatmeal is one of those love/hate breakfast foods. The warm, full stomach that some people enjoy looks like a bowl of slimy glop to others.

I understand. Regular, boiled-in-the-pan oatmeal really is a gray, gelatinous pile of glop with lumps in it. If you’re fine with that and content with the usual brown sugar, nuts, and banana trimmings, bless you. You are doing yourself a lot of good. You are a saint.

You’re eating smart, too. Women should consume 25 grams of fiber per day, men 38 grams. One cup of oatmeal for breakfast will give you 8 grams of fiber. An average “bowl” of oatmeal is bigger than that for most people, however. It should bring you 12-16 grams of fiber.

The usual trimmings help. A medium banana adds another 3 grams. Or a half cup of blueberries is worth a little less than 2 grams of fiber. A few walnuts would add another gram.

If you prefer to go in the fruit and nuts direction, though, consider dates. A half cup is worth almost 6 grams of fiber.

Brown sugar provides no fiber, nor does milk, but they complete the traditional breakfast oatmeal offering. Which works fine for people who like oatmeal.

Now for the rest of us. There are other ways to eat oats, and you might succeed in taking a more savory approach. I don’t run well when I start my day with sweets, so I found a way to make that work for me. While I never liked oatmeal, grits with salt, pepper, and butter are in my wheelhouse. That seemed like a possibility worth trying for oats—sans butter. Success! Good quality oatmeal, cooked thick, and served with salt and pepper tastes just fine. It’s not glop. Add a scoop of fat-free cottage cheese on the side, and you have a protein bomb, too.

Other ideas I’ve found palatable for an oatmeal avoider… You can also stir in a large handful of spinach leaves toward the end of cooking. Siracha works well to liven oats if you can stand a hot, hot breakfast. This concoction goes well with avocado slices on top. Some people tell me that crumbled bacon and a soft poached egg are delicious, but this is supposed to be a health blog, so we’ll just pretend that bacon never happens, OK?

Another interesting way to add oatmeal to your daily regime is to make a batch and pour it into a pie pan or baking dish to set, let it chill until firm. Now it can be sliced and sautéed in very light oil. Sprinkle with any flavorings you like—chili works—or you can top it with yogurt, nuts, whatever hits your imagination.

I hope one of those ideas works for you. And if not, there’s always quinoa.


Seeing Better Prevents Falls, Especially If You’re 50+

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The older we get, the more likely we are to fall. There is a bona fide public health problem in that issue.

But it is not these things:

·         25% of people over age 65 fall at least once a year

·         40% of hospital admissions for people over 65 are linked to injuries from a fall

·         8% of people age 70+ who show up in emergency rooms after falling will die from their injuries

·         If you exclude traffic accidents, falls are responsible for 80% of disabilities caused by an unintentional injury among patients age 50 or older

Those are all horrible stats. The public health issue is that most falls are avoidable, and we’re not doing enough to help people avoid them.

The injuries and fatalities visited on the elderly don’t have to happen to people just because they have celebrated more birthdays. Better balance and better vision are two things that could radically improve those awful statistics.

Falling is a risk of walking upright for all of us. There’s no age limit on tripping over a loose manhole cover. Anyone can slide when they step on an unexpected patch of ice.  I once owned a pair of shoes that turned into ice skates every time I got to a wheelchair ramp at the end of a sidewalk. A toy on the stairs can undo anyone.  

But while these mishaps can lead to severe injuries to people of any age, younger people are more likely to recover their balance in time to avoid splatting. A reasonable amount of muscle tone and good stability are all it takes. A healthy 80-year old can stumble, regain footing and go on without falling just like a teenager can.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t retain the strength or agility we enjoyed at age 16 when we’re 30 or 40 and certainly not when we’re 50+.  

In addition to recovering our balance under duress, we could often avoid falling if we see the risk in time. That’s why cataracts are strongly implicated in falling and being injured. Surgery to improve eyesight prevents accidents. In one British study, 97 patients who were scheduled for surgery on their cataracts were followed for three months before and three months after the operation to see if it made a difference.

Among the patients in the survey, 31 had fallen before surgery. In the months after surgery, only six of the fallers had another fall. And one of those was related to dizziness caused by medication. Among the patients who were not fallers before surgery, they were just as stable afterward. The study clearly showed that the risk factor for falling was not the patients’ ages—nobody got younger—it was their vision.

In the past, it was a common belief that if you had cataracts, you should wait for them to “ripen” before undergoing surgery. Some people still believe that, but it is no longer what doctors recommend.

The new thinking is about function. When your performance is affected, it’s time to take care of the problem. If you find your field of vision is fuzzy, if you don't see everyday things as sharply as you should even with glasses, then it’s time.

As Effective Antibiotics Fail, This Research Could Help

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Germs cheat.  They’ve always been cheats, and they’re getting better at it.

Like all cheaters, they have an advantage in working outside the law. Bacteria don’t have to go through FDA approval to put a new variety out in the world. But the antibiotics that we develop to fight them have to play by strict rules. Even vabomere, a combination antibiotic released in 2017 took 8 years to get through FDA’s “expedited” approval process. One of the components in the combo was an already-approved antibiotic, the other was just an enabler to make it work better.

This mismatch between the wily and the lawful is becoming a frightening problem.

Penicillin was invented in 1928 and the first resistant staph germs didn’t show up until 1940. Penicillin-resistant pneumonia came along in 1965. In its early days, not many people got penicillin, which probably gave it a longer lead before resistant bacteria caught up.

But tetracycline was introduced in 1950, and a resistant form of shigella appeared in 1959. The record for fast retaliation was a near-simultaneous volley and return. In 1996, the FDA approved a new antibiotic, levofloxacin. A resistant strain of pneumonia arose the same year.

The problem of antibiotic resistance is so acute that, in 2017, the World Health Organization warned that we could run out of antibiotics.

We’ve all been taught the basic mechanics of the problem. It’s why our doctors and dentists warn us to take every last pill in our prescription. You get a strep throat or a urinary tract infection. Antibiotics begin to kill off the bacteria that cause your illness. The weakest ones go first.  Then, if you stop too soon, the strongest survive and multiply. In a few generations, those stronger iterations become antibiotic resistant.

There isn’t much science can do about that situation. At best, doctors can hit the pause button before prescribing antibiotics for minor ailments. Patients can be more careful to take their meds as directed.

Beyond that, the basic answer has been the medical equivalent of “throw a bigger rock.” If penicillin fails, move on to erythromycin. If that fails, proceed to methicillin…

The alternative would be to discover what is happening to make antibiotics more resistant. The “stronger germs live to multiply” explanation.  

Researchers are working feverishly to get ahead of bacteria, but as noted, germs cheat. Although several new antibiotics are in development, there has not been a whole new class of antibiotics since 1980.  If the approval process is not expedited, it can take decades of work to get a new antibiotic to market. Germs work faster.

But physicists at McMaster University in Canada have taken images that reveal what is going on micro-level. The images capture the cell processes at a resolution as fine as 1-millionth of a hair. What they discovered is how resistant bacteria hold off antibiotics. The usual process is that an antibiotic attacks bacterial cell walls, punching holes in them. The cell then dies. But the resistant bacteria behave as if they are armored. Their walls are more rigid and harder to penetrate.

As lead researcher Andree Khondker put it, “it’s like going from cutting Jello to cutting through rock.” In addition, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria had less intense negative charges on their surface. That made them harder for antibiotic molecules to find and less sticky.

The beauty of this kind of research is that it could lead the way to developing a mechanism that would apply to all bacteria.

That’s still a long ways away. But this kind of research is apt to be followed avidly. The antibiotic problem gets more urgent every day.

Resveratrol + Exercise Renews Youth in Muscles

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The usual definition of “sarcopenia” is muscle loss related to aging. That’s grossly misleading because sarcopenia starts when we’re still officially young, sometime in our 30s.

People who do not exercise strenuously lose about 3% to 5% of their muscle mass every decade from age 30 onward. Those who do exercise also lose muscle mass, but somewhat less than that.

Sarcopenia is one of the reasons we tend to gain weight with age. Then, if we do gain a bit of weight, sarcopenia also makes it harder to shed those pounds. Less muscle mass means a lower calorie burn.

For instance, a six-foot male who weighed 180 in his youth (age 30) and was slightly active, could maintain that weight on 2500 calories per day. Now advance him to age 60 and a weight that has crept upward at just 1% a year. Now he weighs 242 pounds. Getting back to his youthful 180-pound weight would require dropping his intake to 2100 calories to lose weight slowly, over 18 months. If he wanted a “fast” loss, he could drop down to 1600 calories and make his goal weight in 8 months. That would more or less take a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs out of the diet.  

Most dieters want something faster than that, however. If this man wanted to shed his 62 pounds in 90 days with diet alone, he would need to cut his calories to less than 1,000 per day!

Women usually start at a lower weight, with less muscle mass, which means fewer allowable calories to begin with. Thus the effects of time and slow weight gain accrue even more bitterly. A 5’5” young woman weighing 120 pounds who is slightly active can maintain her weight on 1900 calories. But at age 60, after gaining 1% per year and becoming inactive, this woman would be at 161 pounds. Getting back to her earlier weight without exercise would limit her to only 1,017 calories per day for rapid weight loss or 1,350 to bring it down slowly in just under a year. A “rapid” 2-lb a week loss without adding heavy exercise is out of the question if she wants to maintain her health because the calorie allowance would be too low. 

This is why recent research on resveratrol alongside exercise is so encouraging. It can turn back the clock on your muscles. And that could speed up weight loss—just as if you were young again.

In an experiment at the University of West Virginia, researchers divided 12 men and 18 women into groups that undertook exercise alone or exercise combined with 500 mg per day of resveratrol.

The resveratrol did not lower their cardiovascular risk any more than exercise alone did, but it greatly enhanced their physical condition. The group that took resveratrol alongside exercise saw significant increases in their muscle fiber area, a boost in their maximal oxygen consumption, and an improvement in mitochondrial structure and density.

That last item is important for weight loss. The mitochondria in our cells control cell respiration and energy production. So an increase in well-formed mitochondria translates into better energy—a potentially higher metabolism—that essentially pushes the aging clock in the muscle cells backward.

Should you want to try this at home, the team at WVU had the exercise groups do moderate aerobic and resistance training that they felt was consistent with what a person age 65-80 (as their subjects were) could do on their own.

Walking Is Good for You, And This Makes It Better

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Few activities have as much to say for themselves as walking does. It’s suitable for anyone age 2 to 100. You can meditate and gain peace while ambling around, or you can socialize and laugh while you walk with friends. Beyond suitable shoes, you don’t need elaborate gear or training.

Even that’s a minimal requirement if you are fairly healthy with good balance. I confess to regular five-mile hikes in flip flops, although it’s usually sturdy sandals. That said, sneaker-style walking shoes are probably a better choice. Do as I say, and all that…

If you live in a neighborhood like mine, walking can seem a little undemanding for physical activity. Where I live, riding a bike requires the purchase of skin-tight neon spandex clothes. Golf, beyond clubs, requires pastels and a different kind of clothes. Yoga, it seems simply cannot be done in cargo shorts and a snug tee shirt for modesty while doing shoulder stands.

Sometimes, I wonder what my mother was thinking, letting me grow up wearing the same kind of shorts and tops for working in the garden, biking, horseback riding, sailing, camping, and playing softball.

So if you feel walking doesn’t offer nearly enough shopping potential, I am glad to tell you that you can buy something special for your next walk to make it better—a set of Nordic poles.

The difference between regular walking and pole walking comes down to muscle engagement. According to Dr. Klaus Schwanbeck, regular walking uses 45% of the muscles in your body, almost all in the lower body. Pole walking uses 90% and engages the upper body as well. He claims that this also increases cardiovascular benefits by 22% compared to regular walking and burns 46% more calories.

 The increase in calories burned is incentive enough for many of us, but for people who are recovering from back surgery or anyone prone to lower back pain, walking with a pair of Nordic poles is more comfortable as well. Poles help you offload weight from your lower body—the hips, knees, and lower back—and transfers it to the upper body. That not only eases pain in the lower body but also increases the beneficial exercise in the upper body.

One older woman claims Nordic pole walking went beyond the known benefits to core and abdominal muscles and helped erase back fat and upper arm flab.

Anecdotes like this are encouraging, but we also have research confirming the benefits. Researchers at the University of Montreal recruited 128 walkers age 60 and older. Half undertook a 12-week program of Nordic pole walking. The rest served as a control group. The pole walkers gained significant strength in legs and arms. Those in the control group who did not exercise showed a measured loss in grip strength and walking speed after 12 weeks. That’s not so surprising, but the Nordic pole walkers also showed some improvement in cognitive function.

Another group of researchers put pole walkers on a treadmill then used electromyography to see what was happening in the muscles. When they raised the angle of the treadmill, the regular walkers and the pole walkers used their muscles alike. But when they sped it up, the pole walkers experienced more activation in the external oblique (EO) and rectus abdominus (RA) muscles.

The EO runs along your side and waistline from just below the ribcage to the top of the pelvis. The RA is the muscle that gives superfit young men and women washboard abs.

There’s another subtle benefit that’s worth mentioning, too. Walking with a cane might be a good idea for many older people and anyone of any age with hip, knee, ankle or foot problems that might interfere with their stability. But a cane looks “old,” and hence a lot of people refuse to adopt the habit even if it would be a good idea. Walking with TWO canes, called Nordic poles, however, looks pretty darn sexy.

So young or old, in need of support or not, there’s a lot to be said for taking up pole walking.

Helping Your Hair Survive Shampoo and Sunlight

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California blondes. That’s all I need to say for you to get a picture of a nearly-mythical, natural, golden beauty with shiny, sun-streaked, beach-waved hair, a person who glows with good health. There’s a mythically gorgeous male surfer dude counterpart as well. Brazilian blondes of the female variety are all that Californians are, with perfect makeup.   

Mythic is the operative word here. We already know that unfettered time in the sun is bad for your skin. Scientists in Brazil just proved it’s not good for your hair, either. It doesn’t matter whether that hair is still a natural color or already gray. Sunlight causes morphological (structural) changes.

The outer part of the hair shaft, the cuticle, is where most of the damage happens. When the cuticle’s structure changes, the result is hair that is rough, dull, frizzy and rife with split ends.

Sun alone is damaging, but lots of men and women spritz their locks with salt to encourage waviness or lemon juice to lighten them. In the short run, these home-style treatments work. In the longer run, they can do so much damage the only solution is a shave to the scalp and starting over.   

So if you omit the salt and lemon juice abuse, then a nice gentle shampoo and conditioner after sunning restores your hair to glory, right?

Actually, shampoos tend to make the sun problem worse.

In an experiment to find out how sun and shampoo impact hair health, the Brazilian researchers literally split hairs. They kept half of each hair as a control then tested what happened with the other half. Some hairs got irradiation (light) from mercury lamps that mimicked sunlight. Some got light followed by hand washing. And some were only washed.

And the verdict? Sun does more damage than shampooing.  It causes fracturing and cavities in the hair shaft and cell lifting on the cuticle. But the combination of light and suds was the worst.

The interesting thing, however, is that while mainstream scientists have spent some time investigating what damages hair, they don’t report any cures. Published research on how to fix the damage is nearly nonexistent.  That work is done at cosmetic companies, and the likes of L’Oreal and Estee Lauder aren’t about to share their formulas.  

So what can you do to protect your hair in the sun? You can hardly smear it with a gob of zinc oxide. But some skin products are suitable for hair. Clarins makes a sun care spray-on oil that claims to work from head to toe. Opinions vary on whether it’s nice or gross on hair, however. Those who have very fine hair seem to object. Those with thicker, wavy hair love it. People with fine or colored hair seem to prefer Drybar’s Hot Toddy product. That one also includes protection from chlorine if you are a pool person.

It may take some trial and error to find a sunscreen for your hair that you like, but for most of us, it takes some experimentation to find a sunscreen that feels good on our skin, too, and this is no different. If you spend time in the sun and still want to have healthy looking hair, the search is worth it.

The alternative, if you hate hair products, of course, is to keep your hair covered with a hat or scarf. If that’s your option, you are in luck because you have thousands of variations to choose from.  Any hat will physically block at least some sunlight, but some hats and scarves are made with sunscreen-infused fibers for extra protection.

If you are fortunate enough to have a good head of hair, give it some protection.

Why Your Food Should Mostly Be Processed

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A French study in the news this week warns that the risk of early death increases by 14% for every 10% increase in ultra-processed foods in your diet.

According to reports, Americans are devouring 61% of their diet as processed foods, followed closely by Canadians at 62% and the Brits at 63%. So, if the new study is right, we’ve just saddled ourselves with an 84% increase in the risk for an early death because of how we eat. That’s quite a feat considering that American lifespans have been increasing for two decades. 

Getting at the truth about food processing and health is complicated. It’s not surprising reporters pounce on the latest titillating research announcement and pass it along as a series of bad generalizations.

They’re not the only ones. Michael Pollan, who has done great work on nutrition education, has also been guilty of oversimplifying. A few of his rules that need rethinking…

Don’t eat food with more than five ingredients: Well, goodbye tossed salad. Au revoir ratatouille.

Don’t eat anything a third-grader can’t pronounce: So if the package promises Agaricus bisporus, put it back. But if it says mushrooms, keep it. Disregard the fact that they’re the same. Pronunciation is all.

Don’t eat anything your grandmother wouldn’t recognize: That’s it for you, tofu. Grammy didn’t do sushi, chia seeds or quinoa, either. Fortunately, given my vast food knowledge today, my grandchildren will be able to partake of them all in the future.

Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot: That might take sauerkraut out of the diet. I’ve never seen rotten sauerkraut, and I’ve forgotten a lot of things in my refrigerator over the years.

My personal favorite Pollan rule is “buy your snacks at the farmer’s market.” Yippee! Have you been to a farmer’s market lately? I adore pecan pie.

A CNN story on the same French research illustrated the embargo on processed food with a picture of sausage patties. And smack in the middle of that, on the same page, it ran a photo of bread for an article touting the health benefits of fiber.

Let’s see how they stack up with regards to processing—

Fresh sausage: kill hog, grind up, add salt and spices like sage, cook in a pan over moderate heat.

Fresh bread: thresh wheat, clean, moisten and condition for 24 hours, grind, bleach (if you want white bread), grist with other wheat to get the right gluten levels, enrich with niacin, thiamine, and folate. Harvest barley, soak to partially germinate the seeds, dry, heat, grind. (Malted barley flour is in every brand of all-purpose, bread, whole wheat, and plain white flours.) Combine the finished wheat flour with sugar, yeast, salt, and milk. Knead for a long time, let rise, punch down, let rise again, shape, bake in the oven.

I’m inclined to believe bread is healthier in general than sausage, but to call it “less processed” is a prodigious feat of food delusion.

And by the way, though whole wheat flour is healthier, it is not a bit less processed.

When I looked up “overly processed foods”  for some examples and a good definition, I found that included chicken nuggets. OK. That’s probably fair.

But this all reminds me of the brouhaha over eating carbs—perpetrated by people who somehow don’t realize celery and lettuce are pure carbs. Did you know that washing food is technically considered “processing?” I highly recommend it nonetheless.

Altogether, the public advice on processed foods is a royal mess. The fact that we humans largely don’t die off before our 30th birthday is closely linked to processing our food. Fire kills bugs. Salt delays rot. Acid preserves produce so we can keep eating through the winter. So does canning, something my grannies both did. Numerous studies have established that frozen vegetables often have more intact nutrients than much of the “fresh” produce in grocery stores do after a long trip from field to processor, to warehouse, to distribution center, to local store.

Processed food includes canned tomatoes, black beans, and tuna. It also includes orange-dyed, banana-flavored marshmallow peanuts. This category is too vague to make any sense at all. 

No matter which scientific studies capture headlines, the secret to eating healthy will not come down to such an ambiguous concept as “processed” food.

Instead, we need to look at food content. Salt is good within limits. Keep the daily dose under control. Fat is fine, as long as there’s not too much fat in your diet.

In contrast, additives with known problems, like sodium nitrate and BHT, are best avoided.

And who says more processing is always worse? It takes months of “processing” and many steps to create a delicious bleu cheese and hardly anything beyond a knife and fork to turn an avocado into guacamole. But I’m apt to put a mere schmear of bleu cheese on my crackers and gobble the guac on fried tortilla chips by the spoonful. So I ask you, which one is healthier?

False categories don’t help us. Eat lots of veggies, and I don’t care if you cook and puree them even though that is double-processing. Enjoy some fruit every day. Oatmeal to start the day is nice, even if it is a “breakfast cereal” and breakfast cereals seem to be on all the lists of taboo processed foods. Have a bit of cheese, but remember to keep the portion small—not because it’s processed, but because it is calorie dense, high in saturated fats and cholesterol with only modest nutritional value.  Limit sugar, control salt and watch the fat. Of course, a pickle is less nutritious than a fresh cucumber, but a fresh cuke’s no powerhouse, either, since it’s mostly water.

We’re all searching for the best food for health. The answer is not to avoid “processed” foods in general. Avoid too much frying, excessive salting, and prodigious amounts of sugar. Pretty simple.

Prevent Bloating, Gas, and Stomach Pain—This Is What Most Doctors Miss

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When you feel like you’ve been pumped full of air and just want to sit on the couch and groan, who cares how you got that way? Relief is the first order of business. We suggested several tactics that work in the previous article.

Now, we’ll look at how to prevent bloat, gas, and associated stomach pains. There are a lot of tactics that may help you. So let’s run through them and end up with the one doctors are most likely to miss. It’s the one most likely to solve the problem if none of the more conventional answers work.

What you’re doing wrong to cause bloating and pain can be pretty obvious when you’ve gone to a chili cook-off and sampled everything on offer. In other cases, the reason you get bloated can be surprising. And even when you think you know what it is, the culprit may be hidden.

A case in point is the food additive inulin. It’s perfectly safe and is naturally contained in onions, wheat, bananas, artichokes, asparagus, and many other fruits and vegetables. It’s often added to prepared foods to increase fiber content. In that case, it was probably derived from chicory root. But here’s the thing…. Say, you think wheat bothers you, so you buy gluten-free bread. That’s smart. However, some of them also contain inulin, which could be another thing that bothers your digestion. In fact, if wheat is a problem, inulin may very well be an issue, too.

There are a host of small things that can cause bloat. Stop doing them; problem solved for many people. For instance, chewing gum.  Or drinking through a straw. Also soft drinks and carbonated beverages. These all cause you to swallow air.

Do you talk a lot when you eat? Eat on the run and bolt your food down? That will do it for many people because those habits also cause you to swallow air. Air in the gut is gas, and the effect is bloat. Slow down. Put your sandwich down, or your fork on the plate, swallow first, then talk.

Another tactic you may try is dividing your intake into smaller meals. This isn’t for some mythical “natural way to eat” or “key to weight loss” reason. Here’s why that can really help a lot of people who suffer frequent rounds of bloat and gas: As with irritable bowel syndrome, there is some evidence that the misery of bloating is actually a sensitivity to your own digestive processes. It is believed that some of us simply feel what is going on in our stomach and colons more acutely than most people do.  

Sugar can be a culprit in bloating and gas as well. But don’t think honey is an automatic pass, or that sugar-free candies are the perfect solution because they all contain different kinds of sugar (fructose in honey; mannitol, xylitol, etc. in candies) that cause problems of their own for many people.

After these simple causes have been eliminated, your next step is to see whether there is an allergy or food sensitivity involved. Now you are in for some work, and unfortunately, you may have to take the lead here and do a lot of problem-solving yourself. But there is a place to get help

If you have persistent bloating and gas, have tried everything above, and have already had a clean colonoscopy, your doctor is very likely to check out on you. Even good doctors. He/she will say something like, “try cutting out dairy, a lot of people have trouble with that.” Or “wheat could be the problem.” But there’s something else that really could be at issue besides wheat and dairy.

It took me two years and several doctors before anyone said, “FODMAP.” The acronym stands for fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These are all forms of sugar alcohol, and they are present in almost all foods.

If you are desperate and willing to do a bit of work, a FODMAP investigation is absolutely worth trying. In the time it takes to investigate what is bothering you, a low FODMAP diet won’t do you any harm. Even if it takes many weeks.

Basically, you go on a very strict low-FODMAP diet to clear the system. Only after you are reliably free of any gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, borborygmi ( that’s fancy for “stomach rumbling”) do you proceed. At that point, you begin to test a few foods to find out what you react to.

It’s important that in each test, or “challenge” you only look at one kind of FODMAP at a time. For instance, to see if the problem is sorbitol, which is one of the polyols, you will introduce high-sorbitol foods like blackberries and avocados. Nothing else in the FODMAP universe. This is not the time to slide in a bite of pizza.

Food sensitivities can be so puzzling; it’s critical to test only one thing at a time.

Ideally, you can work with a dietician, but even many dieticians aren’t very well trained in this procedure, so check credentials.

Medical schools are notorious for not doing a very good job in nutrition training. On top of that the first paper published on FODMAPs was in 2005, so most textbooks say nothing about it.

Let me give you a bit of encouragement if all the normal treatments like eating slower or avoiding dairy fail to help.  The process of a thorough FODMAP evaluation will take weeks, but when you are tired of hurting, you’ll try anything. And it is completely worth the effort. In fact, if you find one thing that you can say for certain causes a problem, keep going. Most people with FODMAP issues react to more than one category of sugar alcohols and you may be very surprised by what you find.

I was shocked. Truly.

 For me, dairy products –the most common intolerance—are no trouble at all. Despite four different doctors suggesting that.  Wheat is, which I already knew,  but my FODMAP tests showed me that wheat wasn’t the main problem.  

The big surprise was that fruit was making me feel lousy. Yes, fruit.

I used to eat fruit every day, striving for three servings or more, but always getting at least two.  It turns out that polyols and fructose are my weak spots. It was the daily apple and the frequent peaches and cherries that were getting me down. I never realized they were an issue because they were always in my diet. I also discovered that honey is a trigger for trouble. In fact, once I cleared myself of symptoms and tested honey, I discovered it causes a reaction almost instantly for me.

If you want to do this, I highly recommend buying the book “The IBS Elimination Diet and Cookbook: The Proven Low-FODMAP Plan for Eating Well and Feeling Great,” by Patsy Catsos. It will explain everything and walk you through the whole program. See if you can find a dietician also.  And good luck.

How to Make Bloat Go Away Fast

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Bloat isn’t fat, thank goodness, it’s only gas. So it passes. Literally.

But it may be even more miserable when it’s around. Sometimes it comes with a stomach ache. Sometimes you just feel like a Macy’s parade balloon that was accidentally filled with cement. If you’ve been lounging in sweats or yoga wear for a few days, zipping up regular pants can be alarming.

For the most part, time alone will take care of it—that’s how millions of us cope with Thanksgiving every year. The problem is, Thanksgiving gluttony aside, you may keep on doing whatever it was that caused the problem in the first place.

Want to get rid of bloat fast? Antacids can help, particularly old-fashioned Alka-Seltzer when you want immediate relief from the gas and have a stomach ache.

Even more old fashioned, you can add a bit of lemon juice to a teaspoon of baking soda in a bit of room-temperature water. Many sources suggest a glass of water, but frankly, this remedy is not delicious. Dissolve the lemon and soda in as little water as you can tolerate then follow up with nice clear water to wash the nasty out of your mouth. Lots of water, because water is also good for bloat.

Or you can go extreme. A rather scary farm wife once dosed me with a heaping tablespoon of straight baking soda. In the mouth, as is, no water. It was as nasty as you might expect, but immediately relieving. But warning, the gas comes up as belching, so definitely try this at home, but never in public.

Less urgent, but far more pleasant, some teas do a nice job. The best choices are ginger tea, peppermint tea, rosemary tea, and turmeric tea. Peppermint is most likely to work fastest to relieve the feeling of pressure, but ginger is especially good for any feeling of nausea. Try whichever one sounds best and experiment to find one you like. If you are simply feeling a little sick from too much rich food, even a cup of hot black tea seems to help. Provided you like tea.

Although dairy foods and milk, in particular, can be the source of many people’s stomach woes, buttermilk is good for bloat. Some people with lactose intolerance can handle buttermilk as it is low in lactose. If you can, then Ayurvedic medicine has a remedy for you:  ¼ teaspoon of cumin and ¼ teaspoon of asafetida (should you have it around) in a glass of buttermilk. Blend well and drink. Asafetida alone is also good for bloat, too. It’s a garlicky-oniony substitute that is a staple in Indian cookery. The “fetida” in the name is related to the smell, which goes away with cooking.

Now that we’ve covered what to do when in trouble, how about preventing bloating? That’s the subject of the next article.

Vitamins, Minerals, Antioxidants That Help You Lose Weight

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Ever since Alice wandered into Wonderland and partook of the cake that made her grow bigger and the elixir that made her shrink, we’ve given food and drink almost magical status. Thousands of grandmothers have promised their balky offspring that eating carrots would ensure good eyesight and fish, being brain food, would make them smart.  

A good deal of research has actually gone into looking for food magic, as well. More specifically, it’s investigated whether different micronutrients can help us take control of our weight, Type 2 diabetes, or metabolic syndrome.

Many different vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals, and anti-inflammatories do have a relationship to weight control that is much stronger than mere coincidence. Sometimes it seems that obesity itself leads to a vitamin or nutritional deficit. Other times, the order appears to be reversed, where it’s the deficit that may lead to obesity.

Before going down the list of what works, however, we’d like to put guilt and shame behind us. Almost everyone who is overweight is well aware of it. Most people who decide to do something about it make that decision many times. Even research on the matter has shown that trying a score of different exercise plans and eating patterns is the norm. So is finding out that (a) most diets don’t work, or (b) they worked but only while doing something so difficult or restrictive it’s impossible to maintain it as a lifestyle, (c) you can’t exercise pounds away without changing your diet, too, and (d) the weight usually comes back, anyway.

Failure doesn’t have to happen though. There are a lot of success stories and yours might start with a little vitamin support.

Here’s a rundown on what science has to say:

Vitamin C—is a powerful antioxidant. That’s important because if you are overweight, you are also very likely to have or to develop high cholesterol, which antioxidants help manage. Also, a diet that is strong in antioxidant-rich foods can help speed up metabolism and decrease inflammation. Both of those actions support your weight loss goals.

So Vitamin C doesn’t cause you to lose weight, but it helps manage the side effects of being overweight and supports the things that do help you lose. For instance, people with adequate levels of vitamin C oxidize 30% more fat during exercise than people with low levels[1]. 

Vitamin C also decreases the risk of diabetes and helps in controlling blood pressure. It’s best to get Vitamin C from your food rather than from supplementation if possible.  In addition to citrus fruit, guava, bell peppers, broccoli, kiwi, strawberries, tomatoes and kale are rich in vitamin C.

Vitamin E—Another antioxidant, vitamin E works in tandem with vitamin C. Everything above applies. It’s useful for controlling blood pressure…and it’s also better to acquire it from the diet if possible. Get it from sunflower seeds, spinach, avocados, almonds, butternut squash, kiwi, trout and shrimp.

Coenzyme Q10—Alas, despite claims, the proof that CoQ10 controls weight is not good. It has shown benefits for blood pressure and glycemic control, though. It’s also good for the heart among many other benefits. It just won’t make you skinny. This nutrient will probably need to come from a supplement if you are older since it’s hard to eat enough oil, seeds, and cold-water fish to bring levels up if they are seriously depleted. And even though it may not make you shed pounds, this micronutrient is getting a serious study for potential benefits in slowing Alzheimer’s, reducing migraines, and easing muscle pains.

Zinc—Taken as supplements or with adequate food zinc can improve blood lipid profiles—in other words, cholesterol and triglycerides. It seems to be especially beneficial for people who are obese or diabetic.

Cinnamon—Natural cinnamon varies widely in chemistry, which makes studies on its effects hard to compare. The region where it was grown, the amount of rain it got, the specific variety can all affect its strength. That said, it has been shown to improve fasting blood glucose levels, counter oxidative stress and may reduce fat. Cinnamon is a polyphenol. Other foods in this class include apples, cranberries, red beans, almonds and peanuts, but they have not been as widely studied for weight control yet.

Green tea—This may be the winner on the list. Green tea has shown that it can increase thermogenesis and fat oxidation. Thermogenesis is heat production and when it happens it burns calories.

Green coffee & chlorogenic acid—Though it doesn’t sound savory, chlorogenic acid is a component of green coffee, plums, peaches and dates. More studies are needed, but this shows promise for helping to lose weight. The fruits also contain ferulic acid, which is an antioxidant. Beware, however, that dates are high in sugar and thus a high-calorie snack.

Green coffee may be a champ, but studies so far have been small or lacked control groups. This looks very promising, so we will continue to monitor this situation and let you know if any new studies shed further light.

Lycopene—No help with weight loss, but it does help with glucose tolerance. Lycopene is found in guava, papaya, watermelon, tomatoes, eggplant and potatoes. But we already knew potatoes were not a weight loss food, didn’t we?

Antioxidants—Antioxidants do play a supporting role in weight loss. They help control low-grade inflammation which is associated with obesity and diabetes.

[1] C.S. Johnston, Strategies for healthy weight loss: from vitamin C to the glycemic response. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2005 Jun 24(3), pages 158-65

Let Us Praise Sleep and Get More of It

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Not too long ago, we ran an article on the problem of blue light and poor quality sleep.

Recently, the Washington Post made sleep a front-page topic-- “Wake Up to a Health Crisis: We Need More Sleep.” Subhead, “Brain researchers warn that our lack of shut-eye may be making us sick.”

Sleep, it seems, is a hot topic with the brain research community now. As it should be.

A few highlights from the WaPo story illustrate how important good sleep is at every age. We’ll quote directly:

·         Preschoolers who skip naps are worse at a memory game than those who snooze

·         Poor sleep may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s

·         Even a single night of sleep deprivation boosts brain levels of the proteins that form toxic clumps in Alzheimer’s patients

·         All-nighters push anxiety to clinical levels

·         Even modest sleep reductions are linked to increased feelings of social isolation and loneliness

·         Adults over 50 with lots of insomnia were more likely to fall[1]

That’s the gist of the news from the Post. The question as always is how to get that sleep.

The first step, of course, is to go to bed. That may be the hardest one when there’s a late game running into overtime or a movie you want to watch to the end, a party that’s too much fun to leave. 

But assuming you have put your body into bed in a timely manner, comfort comes next. For most people, a cool bedroom helps. And banish the TV if you have the least trouble with sleep quantity or quality.

Then there’s the mattress. Good ones are expensive so we tend to hang on to them longer than we should. Stop it.  

There’s one other thing that matters more than you might think, as well—your pillow.

Every few years there seems to be a pillow fad. Once it was memory foam, which every woman of a certain age soon came to realize made hot flashes worse. A couple of years ago, it was a type of shredded foam that was “better than down.”

Speaking of down, and feathers, that may or may not be a good idea. Some of us clog up at night on a bed of chicken feathers, which is what the cheaper feather-foam pillows use. Hotels for instance.

Size and fluffiness count, too. If you sleep on your back all night a very soft or flat pillow will be good for your neck and not push your head out of position. But if you’re a side sleeper, you need a nice tall, firm pillow to fill in between shoulder and head and keep you aligned well.

Earlier today, I looked all over the Internet for pillow suggestions. You can buy foam, feathers, down, polyester, and latex. I’d suggest the choice is one of those personal things.

But nowhere did I see anyone recommend my own favorite—buckwheat.

 Yeah, that’s strange, I know. But if no other pillow ever seems to be just right, you hate hot pillows, you like your neck supported, and you want your pillow to stay in place, give it some thought. You can’t get one at your local mattress store, but they are available at

Be warned, however, buckwheat pillows are hard as rocks. Not suitable for pillow fights. You could probably be arrested for throwing one of those babies around. And while hardness sounds like a bad idea, it’s actually comfortable… as if someone’s hands were propping your head in perfect position and keeping it there all night. With a buckwheat pillow, you actually push it into the shape you like and it stays there.

The other good thing about them is that you can push them to be thick enough for side sleeping, flat enough for back sleeping, and curved enough for stomach sleeping. The bad thing for some people, however, is that a fresh new buckwheat pillow will make a bit of sound as you shift. But if nothing else seems just right, it’s worth a try.

You may get so addicted you start taking it on trips with you.

[1]  Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post, page 1. Jan 24, 2019.

Those Expensive Eggs Might Be Worth It—If You Have the Right Ones

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A lot of factors come into play when you push a shopping cart around the grocery store. First of all—will your family eat it? If no one is ever going to take even one bite of those excellent canned sardines, it doesn’t matter how much calcium, selenium, Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids they have.

Then there’s quality. Blind comparisons at Serious Eats have established that Betty Crocker Instant Mashed Potatoes are markedly superior to Hungry Jack. So they say.

There’s also the question of whether you want to avoid GMO ingredients. And flavor preferences. I am personally certain that Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is the only way to go. In fact, I am so certain of that, that I have never bought or tasted a competing brand. How’s that for objectivity?

But when it comes to ingredients that seem much the same from brand to brand—like eggs—is it worthwhile to pay more?

Honestly, the thought of chickens crowded in cages so small they can’t turn around is more than enough to keep me away from the brands known for their animal cruelty.  I’m not even going to mention some of the worst abuses because they are stomach turning. Let’s just say that for me there are reasons to avoid the cheapest eggs.

That doesn’t automatically mean the most expensive eggs are the best, however. I’ve tried top-dollar, cage-free, organic, small-farm eggs that turned out to be old and unworthy.  Organic foods protect you from exposure to pesticides, herbicides and growth hormones. They do not protect you from E. coli or other bacteria. That’s up to careful handling.

But what about those very pricey eggs that claim to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids?

This is a case where, if your budget has room, paying up is a good idea. For your health, a diet that is close to a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids is best.

We don’t usually get that without making some effort because our diet is now tilted toward rich omega-6 foods and low in omega-3s. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average for Americans is about 4 ounces per week. Not enough.  The “average” also hides the fact that most of that consumption comes from just a portion of us. Only 10% of Americans get two or more servings of fish per week.

But they do eat a lot of things fried in vegetable oils, meats, and grains. Only canola oil or fish oils are high in omega-3.

Eggs that claim to be high in omega-3 fatty acids were raised to purposely achieve that. The hens were fed diets that include omega-3 sources like flaxseed or fish oil.

Now here is where it gets interesting. Different brands of omega-3 enriched eggs have different levels in the final product.  Research done by Nutrition Advance revealed these levels of omega 3 for different egg brands:

Organic Valley                   225 mg omega-3 per large egg

Christopher                        660 mg

4 Grain                               150 mg

Sauder’s Eggs                    325 mg

Eggland’s                           115 mg

Fresh & Easy                     160 mg

Gold Circle Farms             150 mg

Smart Balance                   192 mg

Now, you know that missives like this on health topics sometimes carry a caution: “This is not medical advice. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.”

Good thing. Because I just realized I was buying the wrong brand. Hope we all learned something useful today. Yours in good health—Lynn.

Hands Hurt? Bring on the Frankincense

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Arthritis gets to most people sooner or later. Usually later. But “hand arthritis” can come very early.  

It’s a stress-related woe, and there’s no lower age limit on busy hands.

Believe me, I know. I will never forget the winter I decided to knit sweaters for four boys.   With a Christmas deadline, it was a nonstop venture, and my hands screamed.  Those were young hands. Finger exercises, stretching and ibuprofen was all I could do at the time. Because I didn’t know there was a better answer. 

That’s not surprising. Just try googling “hand stress arthritis” and you won’t get a lot of help—instead, your search engine will lead you into numerous blind alleys, and you’ll end up with articles on rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

This kind of pain isn’t osteoarthritis, bursitis or rheumatism. It disappears within a day or two when you stop overworking a joint and comes back when resuming your abuse.   For some people, ”hand stress” may be carpal tunnel syndrome that lands in the fingers instead of the more usual wrist area. But again, this is a pain that—unlike carpal tunnel—goes away if you stop doing whatever caused it.

That’s an obvious treatment: end the abuse. But what if you have an activity that you really, really need to pursue?

“Hand stress arthritis” doesn’t seem to be a medical condition that gets any attention. It doesn’t matter a lot, though, because if you’ve felt it, you know it’s definitely something real.  Stretching the fingers like a concert pianist warming up may help.

So does boswellia. At long last, the Italian journal, Edison Minerva Medica, reported on an experiment with young subjects who had this kind of pain. The researchers divided them into two groups. One got the standard medical treatment, basically physical therapy. The other got a boswellia supplement.

After two weeks the pain decreased significantly for the patients who got boswellia. Swelling was reduced more as well and their hands functioned better than the control group. Some of the control group had to resort to pain medications because the therapy alone was not enough, but none of the subjects who got boswellia needed any pain medication.

Boswellia, or boswellia serrata, to give the supplement its full name, is the plant that also yields the famous resin beloved of wise men—frankincense.

Finding this study was an interesting addition to what we already know about boswellia. At Renown Health, it is included in Isoprex, our solution for joint health.  It’s part of a formula that puts the brakes on a reaction called the “membrane attack complex” or MAC.

Most people think that the pain from arthritis is a simple mechanical problem. There’s nothing to cushion the cartilage between joints once the synovial fluid has been destroyed. But cartilage doesn’t have nerve cells. It’s the swelling and irritation in the muscles and tissues around the joint that cause the pain and set off a MAC attack. 

I still don’t have arthritis—knock on wood—but the next time I decide to knit four sweaters in six weeks, I know just what to do. Meanwhile, I can see why Isoprex gets such rave reviews from people with chronic problems. Boswellia is good stuff. 

Remembering Pain Makes It Worse. Now, Guess Who Remembers It Best

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Men and woman are so different that John Gray became a rock star among self-help authors when he wrote a book with the catchy title, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” It resonated with those of us from both persuasions.

In the musical, My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins wants to know “Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?” I can promise you that some women might reverse that question. But the French just wisely shrug their shoulders and say, “Viva la difference.” I can agree to that.

Men and women walk differently, talk differently, and now science has established that they tend to remember pain differently, too.

This applies, by the way, not only to male humans but male mice as well.

It matters because research has established that the memory of earlier pain plays a role in chronic pain. Male mice and humans clearly remember painful experiences very clearly. Take them back to the location where it happened and they will react with signs of stress and discomfort.

The researchers at McGill University and University of Toronto Mississauga are experts on pain, but this came as a surprise to them. At first, they noticed the difference between male and female mice, which they had not expected. When they tested humans, they found the same division.

One of the researchers opined that “because it is well known that women are both more sensitive to pain than men and that they are also generally more stressed out," they were gobsmacked by the results.

Naturally, the scientist who offered that opinion was a man. Would Human Resources please ask him to stop by for some sensitivity training?

In humans, the test consisted of strapping patients into a blood pressure cuff and blowing it up to be very tight. With the cuff in place, they were then asked to exercise their arms for 20 minutes and rate the pain.

That hurt so much that only 7 of the 80 people in the test rated the pain at lower than 50 on a 100-point scale.

Men and women both felt the pain acutely, the difference came the next day. Researchers either took the subjects back to the same room the next day or to a different one. When they returned to the same room, men rated the pain even worse the next day. That did not happen to men who were sent to a different room or to women in the test group. 

It suggests that the memory of pain may make chronic pain worse, especially for men.

At this point, you may be connecting some obvious dots. It is commonly said that women tend to forget the pain of childbirth. Some believe there might be an evolutionary reason for this difference in pain perception.

Alas, scientists have looked at that question before and consider it something of a myth.

Karolinska Institute studies found that about half of women do forget the level of pain, but only when conditions are right. It was only the women who felt they had a caring staff and good support and who viewed their experience as positive at the time of giving birth who were more likely to forget the pain over the years.

So, despite gender differences, we humans all don't like to be hurt once, and we really, really hurt when old pains take another jab. The difference between us may be that women tend to give more weight to the emotional elements and men to the physical.

Someone should test that. It could be one of those Mars-Venus things.


Oh No, Canada... Chocolate's Not Health Food?

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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.

How To Tai Chi When You Can't Find a Teacher

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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.

It Doesn't Plug In or Use a Fan, But This Air Purifier is GMO

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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.

Copy an Athlete, Knees Need Help to Stay Strong

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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.

Squeezing Charmin', Pinching Baby Cheeks, Hugging Puppies... Just Normal Cute Aggression

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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.


Ignoring Your Internal Clock Is Risky

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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.

The Rude Truth: Constipation Isn't Funny

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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.

However, a study on psychiatric patients in South Korea proved there was a strong reason to start exercising for better digestion. The constipated men who did both aerobic and strength exercises cut their colon transit time by almost half. That's ideal. The control group (no exercise regime) had no improvement at all.

3.      Increase fiber, perhaps—I'd be willing to bet you are not getting enough fiber. A study reported in The Journal of Nutrition claims that only 3% of Americans are on target. But if you want to do better, be careful with foods that have added fiber. Xanthum and inulin, which are added to foods to increase fiber content, for instance, can cause a gastric disturbance in people who are sensitive to them. Instead, increase your “herbivore” foods. Add a banana to your day. Grab a bowl of oatmeal, snack on raisins, love your lentils, or put some quinoa in your daily diet. If you work this right, you can decree your oatmeal cookies a necessary health food. Especially if you use applesauce or banana instead of sugar as a sweetener.

4.      This Is The Big One. FEED YOUR GUT RIGHT—Your colon muscles can weaken gradually, but the most critical element in digesting food, the bacteria in your gut, can go wrong overnight.  A round of antibiotics, stress, infections, drugs, surgery, changes in your diet, moving, travel, being around new plants and animals, there are dozens of reasons why your gut microbes can suddenly die off or change to a less favorable mix. It matters.

Feeding your gut is one of the most important and easiest measures you can take. Yes, it can solve a lot of problems, including constipation. A healthy microbiome—the community of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that normally live in our bodies – is the center of our health. According to Scientific American, there are 10 times more bacteria in your body than there are human cells. The right mix is critical.

Renown Health Products' Prosentials is designed to encourage the right microbiome in your digestive system.

It's radically different from anything you'll see in the drugstore. We have selected seven different microbes that support digestive health by a number of different means.

                     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.

See what Prosentials can do for you. You have our 100% guarantee as always.

Here's to your health!

Science Revises Its Brain Training Message Again

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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.

Baby, It's Cold Outside, Get Your Immunity in Gear

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.

Healthy sperm is declining everywhere -- except in NYC

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.

These 70-Year-Olds Have Muscles and Lungs Like 20-Year-Olds—Here's Their Secret

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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 strong.

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.

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.

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.  

   (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 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.

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!

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

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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; 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.

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

                   Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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.

Cerbrexum: Goodbye to 'Brain Fog' Forever! SHOP NOW

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.

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!


                  (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.


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!