IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  January 1, 2007


All you need for dinner beef barley soup from a slow cooker.

Some say it's strictly a Southern dish. Others say it's a truck stop favorite. Whichever the case may be, when travelers know where to find good beef barley soup on a frequently traveled route, they plan to stop at that restaurant for sure.

There's no need to save the pleasure for your travels, because you can put the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and have a great dinner ready when you get home from work.
The health benefits of beef, onions, carrots, and celery are well known, but few people realize the powerhouse hidden in those little grains of barley.

Barley is one of the richest sources of the antioxidant tocotrienol, a form of vitamin E which reduces free radicals that damage the body, say researchers at the University of Toronto. In fact, they have 50 percent more power than other forms of vitamin E.
In addition to stopping free radical oxidation, this nutrient works in the liver to reduce the body's production of dangerous cholesterol.
Barley also contains lignans, compounds that have antioxidant ability, providing even more protection. And barley is rich in fiber content.

Though pearl barley found in grocery stores is a healthful food, its nutrients have been decreased by refining. It still makes a great soup, but hulled barley is richer in B vitamins. It is found in health food stores.

Oxygen for your eyes

Contact lenses limit the flow of oxygen to your corneas, at least a little.

Andrew Caster, author of The Eye Laser Miracle, The Complete Guide to Better Vision, advises: Wear your glasses instead of contacts for a full day every other week. Wearing glasses gives your eyes a chance to soak up more oxygen and other nutrients.

Chase the lone wolf

Here's one type of food binge that you don't often hear about.
Plan to eat with other people as often as you can when you know you will be alone at dinner. Whether that means sharing the cooking job or eating out, you will be less likely to avoid binges and "lone wolf" eating habits.

Avoid eating late at night, recommends the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. It's bad for digestion and disturbs sleep.

Salt that lowers heart risk

A new report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that replacing regular salt with a potassium-fortified salt could help to lower the risk of death from heart disease.

The salt alternative that is half sodium chloride (salt) and half potassium chloride enabled men to lower salt intake while increasing potassium levels. A 30-month study in Taiwan veterans' retirement homes showed that test subjects were 40 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

Morton salt company and others make the half-salt, half-potassium table salt. If you have kidney problems or take ACE inhibitors, be careful not to overdose on potassium, caution doctors at Tufts University.

Walk-in clinics are OK

Retail health clinics are spreading rapidly to supermarkets, drug stores, and retailers. Don't be afraid to use one.

They are staffed by nurse practitioners who are licensed to treat a wide range of minor illnesses, prescribe medications, and give vaccinations.


'Dry mouth' can cause big problems

If your mouth feels dry when you wake up in the morning, usually a glass of water and brushing your teeth will make it feel good again.
For a large number of people, this is not the case. They may have chronic dry mouth, which can cause the tongue to feel hot, sore throat, and difficulty swallowing dry foods.

Saliva is an important part of the immune system. It contains antibodies, enzymes, and minerals. Saliva works to eliminate oral bacteria, start the digestion of food, and helps you taste food. It protects the teeth from mouth acids and makes it possible for teeth to remineralize, which is essential to dental health.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Centers say many medications can cause the dry-mouth feeling. Common drugs that can cause it include antidepressants, antihypertensives, diuretics, decongestants such as Sudafed, sedatives, and anti-Parkinson drugs.

If you think a medication is causing your mouth to feel dry, ask your doctor for a different medicine.

Be sure to take steps to protect your teeth. Get frequent dental checkups and fluoride treatments.

Follow a low-sugar diet and include plenty of fruits, soups, and other foods high in water content. Avoid dry snacks.

Try chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production, and don't smoke or drink much alcohol.

Use a dehumidifier at home, sip water frequently, and have a bottle of water by your bed.

Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste and floss frequently.


Fatty livers can cause inflammation and more

Doctors say it's the 'silent' liver disease.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease has doctors worried. By some estimates it may affect up to one-third of adult Americans.

It's similar to alcoholic liver disease but occurs in people who drink little or no alcohol. As the incidence of overweight and diabetes increase, so do cases of liver disease.

In mild cases, fat accumulates around the liver but doesn't cause damage. It is commonly diagnosed in middle-aged people who are overweight, may have diabetes, and do have elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

People with mild cases may develop serious liver problems within 10 years if the condition isn't treated.

They could develop nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which causes liver-damaging inflammation and formation of fibrous tissue. This can lead to cirrhosis or cancer of the liver.

Treatment for mild cases, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic: Weight loss through diet and exercise. Adopt a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Diabetes control. Management with diet and medication to lower blood sugar may prevent further damage.

Cholesterol control. Control with diet, exercise, and cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins.

Avoidance of toxic substances. It means not drinking alcohol and avoiding other toxic substances.

Getting tested. Get a simple liver function blood test that checks for enzymes released by a fatty liver.


Other Drugs have weight-loss side effects

A new type of "diet pill" is growing popular in off-label use.

Some doctors are prescribing antidepressants for diabetes and antiseizure medications for people who don't have those conditions. Instead they have a health-threatening weight problem.

The drugs include Adderall and Ritalin (used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), Wellbutrin (depression), Glucophage and Byetta (diabetes), Provigil (sleep disorders), and Zyban (smoking).

Doctors and patients say these drugs are being used increasingly by Americans of all sizes from obese to anorexic. But they can have unpleasant side effects. The Web site FatNews.com shows the weight-loss effects of the drugs.

Lens implants/laser surgery

Near-sighted people may want to get rid of their glasses but don't want the hassle of contact lenses. Now they have a new alternative: lens implants.

In this new surgical alternative, a lens is implanted permanently in the eye as a supplement to the eye's natural lens. It's especially useful for people with serious nearsightedness.

If the patient is not satisfied with the surgery, however, the lenses can be removed. With laser surgery, if you are not satisfied, it can sometimes be corrected with further surgery or eye glasses.

The lenses made by Staar Surgical Co. and Medical Optics take about 15 minutes to implant under local anesthetic.

Unfortunately, as yet, the new lenses are often not covered by insurance.

Good news about coffee

A review of studies published by the American Medical Association concludes that habitual drinking of coffee or decaffeinated coffee is consistently associated with a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Other research suggests drinking several cups of coffee per day cuts heart disease and cirrhosis risks, and the risk of death from all causes.


AMD and the glycemic index

A 10-year study by researchers at Tufts University shows that eating high-glycemic foods (like french fries, donuts, and white bread) greatly increases the risk of early age-related macular degeneration.

They recommend eating carbohydrates from whole grains and vegetables instead. It's not how much carbohydrates you eat but what kind that makes the difference.


Beef Barley Soup

If your crockpot is large, this recipe can be doubled.

Cut one pound of lean stew meat into 1/2-inch cubes. (If chuck roast or chuck steak is on sale, that can be used.)

Put it into the crockpot and add 1/2 cup chopped onion, 2 ribs of celery, 2 medium carrots, 3/4 cup barley, 1 bay leaf, 6 cups of beef broth, 1 teaspoon salt, or salt and pepper to taste.

Cook beef and barley soup on LOW in the crockpot for 6 to 8 hours.

Taste, and add any additional salt and pepper you need to please your taste buds. Remember that barley expands to four times its original size. Be sure your cooker is large enough.