IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  January 1, 2006

Use Good-for-you Ginger

If you've puzzled over uses for those knotty-looking ginger roots in the produce department, just put one into your shopping cart. Then check your cookbook for recipes that begin with the word "ginger."

Ginger has been revered around the world for more than 7,000 years. It has slightly pungent natural taste that adds a touch of its flavor and enhances all other flavors in a recipe. Ground ginger has a different flavor and is not interchangeable with fresh ginger.

In China and many other parts of the world, ginger is well-known for its power to calm an upset stomach. Common anti-nausea medications work through the central nervous system, causing drowsiness. Ginger acts directly on the digestive tract. In one study, people who took 1 gram of ginger before surgery had less nausea afterward. It is useful for chemotherapy patients and for pregnant women having morning sickness because it will not harm the fetus.

Ginger's reputation as a remedy for motion sickness and seasickness is well documented by a famous Danish study. Ginger extract is available in health-food stores.

Next time you're feeling a little queasy, brew a cup of ginger tea. Slice some ginger root. Put it in a tea ball and place in a teapot. Pour boiling water over the tea ball and let it sit for 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey.


Know How to Talk to Your Doctor

Your doctor may not be able to correctly treat your medical problem unless you can describe it effectively. Here are some questions you should be prepared to answer:

  • Can you pinpoint exactly where the pain is?
  • Can you describe how it feels?
  • Can you compare it to another type of pain?
  • How often does it occur?
  • How long does it last?
  • Is there anything you can do that changes it?
  • What makes it worse?
  • When did you first notice the pain?
  • What were you doing at the time?

    Patients today are expected to know how their bodies work and to be active . An easy flow of conversation can provide the doctor with the necessary information.

    Most doctors make an initial diagnosis within one minute of talking to a patient. Questions asked after that are important and may change the initial diagnosis.


    Exercise to Think Better and Faster

    If your job requires good judgment and quick thinking, you'll do it better if you exercise regularly.

    Some people think regular exercise is for self-centered people who want to improve their appearance, but studies show that it increases brain function. As a "side effect," exercise reduces anxiety and depression and helps to ward off the mental effects of aging.

    A report published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology looked at fitness scores of 884,000 students. They compared them to state-mandated test scores and found the fittest students scored much better than others.

    A study of the cognitive consequences of exercise published in the journal Acta Psychologica shows that exercise facilitates thinking, especially information processing.

    Other research shows that exercise can make the brains of older people act younger. Magnetic resonance imaging scans before and after six months of aerobic exercise show that the brain activity of older people was similar to that of 20-year-olds, according to the University of Illinois.


  • Chronic Conditions Can Cause Depression

    It is estimated that about 30 percent of people with a serious medical condition also have depression.

    Studies reported in Social Science & Medicine show that it often affects those with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Increasingly, people realize that depression does not go away on its own. Those who are persistently sad and unable to enjoy life should report this to their doctors and get medication.


    A Bloodless Cholesterol Test

    PREVU, the new bloodless cholesterol test, can be done without a 12-hour fast and without drawing blood.

    A foam pad is placed in the palm of the hand. A special liquid is added. The foam pad changes color, then an electronic wand reads the color change. The amount of sterol in the skin can be determined in five minutes. Sterol levels correlate with cholesterol levels.

    Doctors discussed PREVU at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology. They hope the test will encourage more people to take preventive heart attack and stroke measures such as exercising and eating well.

    New Therapy for Lung Cancer

    Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 87 percent of lung cancer diagnoses. About 40 percent of patients are diagnosed after the disease has spread to the lymph nodes. Such patients in the past have been given a 5- to 20-percent chance for five-year survival.

    The National Cancer Institute now reports that concurrent radiation, chemotherapy, and lobectomy doubles an NSCLC patient's chances of survival for five years or more.

    NSCLC usually begins in the trachea or bronchi and spreads rapidly to the rest of the body.

    Diet Wards Off Problems

    What you eat can help you prevent deadly blood clots and blindness. Experts at the University of Minnesota say it's fruits, vegetables, and fish that can ward off VTE (venous thomboembolism). These blood clots can be a problem for travelers in airplanes and cars who sit still for hours at a time.

    Virtually the same diet can help to prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over age 50. But add sources of vitamin A, including liver, egg yolks, and dairy products, say doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Chicago.


    Holiday Weight Gain May Last a Lifetime

    There's a difference between the temporary weight gain from one big dinner and permanent weight gain. A few days of sensible eating can erase the temporary gain, but overeating again and again is a problem.

    Though most people think they gain five to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's, studies show that their weight a week or two later is significantly less. Unfortunately, one to two pounds may not ever come off.

    Studies show that people gain an average of .04 to 1.8 pounds each year during their adult lives. Between October and March, participants had a weight gain of 1.04 pounds. It doesn't sound like much, but that weight gain was permanent. (At 10 pounds a decade, it adds up.)

    People who were already overweight gain more than those who are not.


    Eating the Right Stuff to Beat Cholesterol

    Doctors have focused on recommending a diet that is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. In many cases, however, that diet has not produced the results they and their patients hoped for. Something was missing.

    Health authorities at Stanford Prevention Research Center now say part of the reason is that they were so focused on the negative that they failed to focus on what to include.

    A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that a low-fat diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans has twice the cholesterol-lowering power of a conventional low-fat diet.

    It has long been known that a plant-based diet lowered cholesterol partly because those who use it typically consumed less saturated fat.

    A plant-based diet is not a vegetarian diet, but includes whole grains, beans and vegetables with color such as bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and red cabbage.


    What to Wear in the Shower

    If you don't wear flip-flops in the gym shower, you risk coming down with a number of unpleasant ailments. The most common are athletes foot and plantar warts, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.

    Athletes foot is a fungus that causes dryness or cracking, along with a whitish color and little blisters. Less common are infections like staph and strep. Wear your flip-flops!


    For Better Health: Laugh!

    We have heard that laughter is good for us, but various studies show that it also boosts immunity, signals the body to release feel-good chemicals, plus chemicals that reduce blood clotting and inflammation. It is a pain reliever. A mild chuckle has benefits. But laughter researcher William Fry found it took 10 minutes on a rowing machine to elevate heart rate as high a good belly laugh.

    High-fat Diet and Dementia

    Middle-age spread could mean more than buying clothes a few sizes larger, especially if it moves to actual obesity. At Kaiser Permanente Northern California, new studies show that long-term obesity increases the risk of dementia in later years.

    You don't have to be really fat to increase your risk. It begins to rise with a BMI (body mass Index) of 25, and rises higher with each point thereafter.

    Women have a somewhat greater risk than men. Those with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 were 35 percent more likely to suffer dementia later in life. Men with the same numbers have a 30 percent greater risk. The Alzheimer's Association says a high-fat diet may damage the brain.

    No TV Just Before Bed

    Watching the bright light of a television or a computer screen less than an hour before bed is enough light to upset your circadian rhythm and delay sleep.

    Studies in the U.S. and Taiwan show that listening to relaxing music for 45 minutes before bed for 3 weeks improved sleep quality. If you try it, nix the fast music because it's not really relaxing.

    Kava, Valerian Not Effective

    Kava and valerian are two of the top 10 herbs sold in the United States. Users buy kava to treat anxiety and valerian to treat insomnia. Studies at the University of California-San Francisco, however, show that these herbs were no more effective than a placebo and could be a waste of money.