IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  February 1, 2006

Wild Rice Benefits

Wild rice is more than a delicacy, it has big health benefits.

In some parts of the world, the word for "to eat" literally means "to eat rice." It may be the world's most popular food, supplying as much as half of the daily calories for half of the world's population.
The most nutritious kinds of rice are brown and wild rice, say doctors at Louisiana State University. They have high amounts of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and essential B vitamins. And they contain a compound that reduces the amount of cholesterol produced by the body.

In the mineral department, a cup of wild or brown rice contains half the daily value of manganese, 27 percent of selenium, 20 percent of magnesium, and 18 percent of a person's daily requirement of tryptophan.

Half a cup of brown rice contains two grams of fiber. This means it passes quickly through the colon, reducing the risk of cancer.

The fiber in brown and wild rice binds with estrogen so there is less of the hormone circulating in the bloodstream. High levels of estrogen have been shown to trigger changes in the cells that can lead to breast cancer.

While white rice is softer and fortified to contain B vitamins, it lacks fiber, containing only 1/10th the amount in brown rice.

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What You Should Know About Your Back

If you have ever said, "Oh, my aching back!" you are in good company. About 90 percent of Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives.

Knowing facts about your back could keep you from injury or help your aching back feel better.

  • An inactive lifestyle is one of the main causes of back injuries. Inactivity weakens key muscles increasing your risk.
  • Only about one in six back problems starts with heavy lifting. Weak muscles are more often the cause.
  • Strength training and aerobic exercise are among the most effective treatments for back pain. Do exercises that don't make the pain worse.
  • Only one in 20 back problems require surgery. Always get a second opinion before opting for surgery.
  • Doctors quoted in Prevention say the old advice about sleeping on a hard mattress doesn't apply. Sleep on a mattress with a little more cushioning.
  • Most episodes of back pain clear up within a month.

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    Feds Define 'Preventive Care'

    High deductibles on health insurance policies could mean that people avoid care because they can't afford it.

    Many health insurance companies cover preventive care, but what they will pay for varies from one company to another. Before entering a health program or taking a test, ask whether your health insurance plan will pay for it.

    When it comes to health-savings-account plans, the federal government says these expenses can be covered before the deductible is met:

  • Child and adult immunizations.
  • Tobacco cessation programs.
  • Obesity weight-loss programs.
  • Prenatal and well-child care.
  • Health evaluations, including tests and diagnostic procedures ordered in connection with routine examinations.
  • Screening services, such as Pap smears and screening for prostate cancer.

    Vegetables and Cholesterol

    A study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that people who ate a low-fat diet that included many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains experienced twice the drop in total cholesterol as people who ate a low-fat diet based on reduced fat prepared foods.
    Some doctors say vegetables are the "new statin."

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  • Beer Shown to Have Health Benefits

    If you like to down a six-pack, you're out of luck when it comes to health benefits. If you are a man who likes to drink up to two beers, or a woman who likes just one, you are doing something good for your health.

    The hops in beer contain important antioxidants. Xanthohumol shows promise as a cancer preventive, and 8-prenylnaringenin has been linked to reduced rates of heart disease and cancer.
    Researchers at Rayne Institute in London say the hops and barley in beer are big sources of dietary silicon, which can increase bone formation.

    The blood-thinning properties in beer can help to prevent heart disease.

    For women, the phytoestrogen in hops is known to help level out hormones, including estrogen. A deficiency of estrogen is linked to hot flashes in the early stages of menopause.

    As reported in Health, the Rayne Institute study shows no difference in various beers' health benefits. Lighter colored beers and dark beers had the same effects.

    The American Heart Association says moderate drinking means one 12-ounce beer for women and two for men.

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    Not a Bad Idea: Weigh Every Day

    Though focusing on the scale has been discouraged for many dieters, some doctors say it's OK. It's especially OK for people who have lost weight and don't want to gain it back.

    According to the North American Association for the Study of Obesity, weight losers who weighed at the same time every day could spot weight gain right away and take steps to stop it.

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    Preschoolers Get the Flu First

    A Massachusetts study involving 400,000 people shows that 3- and 4-year-olds who are in preschool or day care are the first members of a family to come down with the flu. They then pass the flu to siblings and parents.

    Doctors at Vanderbilt University and the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices say the study results back up their recommendation for vaccinating preschoolers.

    Strength and Osteoarthritis

    New data suggest that an 8-week strength-training program can reduce pain and immobility in people with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee.

    Doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Centers say the benefits of exercise for the knee are well documented, but studies of the hip are rare. This one included people over age 55 who did one-hour weekly group exercise sessions with fitness equipment plus home exercises.

    Vitamin E in Walnuts, Pecans

    Sesame seeds, walnuts, and pecans, could one day be targeted as valuable tools in the prevention and treatment of both lung cancer and prostate cancer.

    The nuts contain gamma tocopherol, an unusual form of vitamin E that is found in some plant seeds and nuts. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that prostate and lung cancer cells treated with gamma tocopherol in a laboratory caused the cancer cells' death.

    Doctors heading the Purdue University study say healthy cells were left intact.

    Shingles Vaccine Coming Soon

    Each year more than a million Americans develop the painful skin and nerve condition known as shingles.

    A new vaccine call Zostavax will be available early this year. In studies by the San Francisco VA and the University of California, San Diego, incidence of shingles was reduced by half. Those who did get shingles had less-serious cases.

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    What to Do About IBS

    Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects 10 percent to 20 percent of the general population. It is a "functional" disorder, one that is caused by the way the body works rather than by an infection or structural abnormality.

    Symptoms of IBS include abdominal pain or discomfort associated with a change in bowel pattern, such as loose bowels or constipation.

    The problem is that IBS is not caused by a single food, but by any food that is high in fat, insoluble fiber, caffeine, is carbonated, or contains alcohol. All of these are either GI stimulants or irritants that can cause violent reactions in the muscles in the colon. Those reactions are painful.

    Fat is the greatest digestive tract stimulant. It triggers the gastrocolic reflex more powerfully than any other food. This reflex causes the colon to start contracting. In IBS sufferers, it can cause pain, constipation, or diarrhea.

    Meat, dairy products, and egg yolks are dangerous for all aspects of IBS. They pose high risks and may be best eliminated from the diet. For some people, wheat is also a trigger food.

    IBS varies in cause and severity from one person to another. That's one reason it's difficult to treat. Most patients keep a food diary until they are certain of what causes colon spasms.

    There are treatment options available to manage IBS, whether symptoms are mild, moderate, or severe.

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    By Prevent Blindness America

    With other medical problems, you realize that something is wrong. You have symptoms like a cough or a pain. That isn't so with glaucoma. At first, your vision is OK and you don't feel any pain. It could be years before you know something is wrong. By that time, you have lost much of your peripheral vision and you'll never get it back.

    About 120,000 Americans are totally blind because of glaucoma. Each year, more than 300,000 cases are diagnosed and 5,400 more people will suffer complete blindness.

    Ophthalmologists at Stanford University say people think of glaucoma only as a disease of high eye pressure. Actually, it is the most common optic nerve disease in the world.

    Since it has no symptoms, regular screening is the only way to detect it. Ophthalmologists find it when they dilate the eye and look directly at the optic nerve to examine it for damage.

    Tonometry is a test done by optometrists with an instrument that measures pressure inside the eye.

    Pachymetry is a test in which the doctor uses ultrasonic waves to measure the thickness of the cornea. Anyone can get glaucoma, but these people have a higher risk:

  • Everyone over age 40.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma.
  • People who are nearsighted.
  • Those who have had an eye injury or have had eye surgery.
  • People with high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Those who must take drugs such as steroids.

    An examination by an ophthalmologist who dilates the eye is best but it's expensive. Doctors of optometry can do early screening when you get glasses.

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    Stay Active to Be Happy, Have More Energy

    It's cold outside, you've barely recovered from the holidays, and a lot of people have the sniffles. You might not feel like working out, but it's just what you should do now, according to new federal research.

    They say one week without exercise increases fatigue by up to 20 percent. After two weeks, their study subjects started to show signs of depression.

    If you can't make yourself go to the gym, do a lower-intensity routine in your living room. After a few sessions, you'll feel more like working out.