IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  February 1, 2009

Making a romantic Valentine's Day breakfast

Many nutritional experts assert that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It provides early energy and satisfies the hunger that is built up during the nighttime sleep hours.

Throughout the ages, breakfast has been the foundation of tradition in the military, whether cooked over a campfire or in a mess hall. Armies are said to "travel on their stomachs." For sailors breakfast is a test of the body's tolerance for a stormy day at sea. The Navy has traditionally added fish and other seafood to this recipe.

A simple breakfast casserole can be a meal in itself or the center of a larger morning feast. It furnishes an abundance of protein, dairy products and cereal needs in the form of bread.

The foundation of this casserole is eggs, milk and cheese, but it can be enhanced by any other ingredient that might be included in an omelet.

On Valentine's Day, why not make it as a special breakfast in bed for your significant other?

Simple Breakfast Casserole

4 slices of bread, crusts trimmed
3 large eggs
18-ounce package of shredded sharp cheddar cheese or other favorite cheese (Gouda or Edam make this dish elegantly richer)
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Optional ingredients can be bacon, peppers, onions, mushrooms, ham, sausage, tomatoes or bacon bits. Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper and any other optional ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Trim the bread of crusts. Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish. Float the bread on the liquid and cover it with the shredded cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees until top of casserole starts to turn brown and mixture begins to firm. Serves four.

The casserole can be prepared ahead and reheated in the microwave. It is great the second or third day.

Increase leptin to decrease hunger

When frequent hunger pangs come to you, it's hard to change your diet and lose weight. You could be low on the weight loss hormone leptin, which tells our brain to suppress hunger. A shortage of leptin may be caused by elevated triglycerides in the blood. Here's how to increase leptin production. Eat food low in triglycerides. Skip the whole milk and ice cream, which is 98 percent triglycerides.

Take fish oil. It may lower triglycerides and facilitate leptin's passage to the brain.

Sleep eight hours. Less sleep is associated with lower leptin levels.

Exercise often. It lowers triglycerides and helps the brain absorb leptin.

The size of one serving

The American Cancer Society says:

1 ounce meat is the size of a matchbox (eat 3 to 4 ounces)
3 ounces fish: size of a checkbook
2 tablespoons peanut butter: the size of a ping-pong ball
1 ounce cheese: the size of four dice
1/2 cup pasta: size of a tennis ball

1 apple or orange: size of a tennis ball
1 cup vegetables or fruit: size of a baseball
1 medium potato: size of a computer mouse
1/4 cup dried fruit: a small handful.


Chuckles Corner

Here's news about your heart and vitamin D

You may already be watching your vitamin D intake because it's needed to help your body absorb calcium. The D and calcium together protect your bones.

Now, many studies point to the fact that lack of this sun-derived nutrient is tied to increased heart disease risk.

Reporting in Business Week, Dr. James O'Keefe says low vitamin D levels are associated with major heart-risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and stiffening of the left ventricle of the heart and its blood vessels.

A low vitamin D level is also associated with increased inflammation, a big heart risk.

According to O'Keefe, about half of all adults and 30 percent of children are vitamin D deficient. There are several ways to get more.

Just ten minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day is enough for whites to reach the recommended level. People with darker skins need somewhat longer exposure.

If you will have more than 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure, be sure to wear sun block.

Salmon and deepwater fish are rich in vitamin D. Milk is fortified, but you would need to drink 10 to 20 glasses of milk to get enough D, says O'Keefe.

Dr. Robert Simpson, professor of pharmacology at the University of Michigan, whose group was the first to identify vitamin D receptors in heart cells, says vitamin D isn't just another vitamin. It is a precursor to a hormone, that is a cardiovascular regulator.

He recommends supplementation because you probably won't get enough vitamin D from food.


Your heart is asking: What have you done for me lately?

The heart goes about its work without saying much. Though it might have a lot to complain about, it might not give you a clue until it quits.

Don't wait. If you haven't done anything for your heart lately, this is a good time to start. February is American Heart Month. There are many things you can do without investing a lot of time or money. Consider these heart-pleasing steps:

  • Check your number, your blood pressure reading, that is. If it's too high, it can kill your heart over time. If it's borderline, you can reduce it a few points by eating more fruits and vegetables, especially those with potassium or magnesium. Try bananas, baked potatoes and spinach. Blood pressure will decline if you relax for a half hour each day and get enough sleep.

  • Get more fit. Aerobic fitness is a key predictor of longevity, say physiologists at the University of Virginia. Even if you don't lose weight and do have other heart-risk factors, just taking a 25-minute walk three times a week increases fitness and helps your heart. If you're a TV addict, do something during commercials like walking in place, getting up and down from the chair, or doing push-ups. It adds up.

  • Lower your LDL, the bad cholesterol. You'll do your heart a favor. With a high LDL level, it can be deposited as plaque in arteries, including those in the heart.
  • Quit smoking. Everybody knows that it's bad for the heart.
  • Lose weight when you should. It will help keep diabetes away, a big heart disease risk factor.

    If you put more movement into your life, control your blood pressure and cholesterol and eat better, you'll be doing a lot for your heart.

    There are risk factors you can't control. If you have any of these, the previous advice is even more important: Heredity (it runs in the family), you are African American, you are a man, or you are a woman over age 50


    Over-the-counter canker sore treatment

    The common canker sore can be pretty painful. A new medicated oral disc is the first OTC product that can speed healing. Canker sores can be caused by stress, allegries,braces, or cold temperatures.

    CankerMelt discs contain licorice root extract and collagen. They heal the sores significantly faster than doing nothing. They consist of tiny adhesive discs that dissolve in two to six hours. You replace them until the sore is healed. Available at drug stores or at oralhealth.com for $!6.

  • NSAID cream works for knee pain

    Researchers have found that rubbing anti-inflammatory (NSAID) cream on your painful knees is as effective as taking a pill and has fewer side effects.

    Studies reported in the journal Health Technologies Assessment show NSAID creams to have an equal effect. And those who used them had no side effects such as indigestion, increased blood pressure or asthma flare ups.

    Doctors do say, however, that people with more widespread pain would benefit more from a pain-relieving pill.

    A study of people age 40 to 75 by the Postgraduate Medical School in Prague, Czech Republic, showed that pain strips containing about 200 mg of ibuprofen were good pain relievers.

    Old-time medications may still work for your knee pain. Absorbine Jr claims to be America's top-selling pain reliever since 1892

    Sold at drug stores, the bottle has a sponge on top so it can be spread without getting any on your hands. It's especially handy for relieving pain at night.

    Absorbine's active ingredient is menthol. It puts deep heat on the knee to relieve pain.

    Some studies show that taking fish oil seems to prevent some joint pain.


    Aspirin and bone health

    If you have been wondering whether taking a baby aspirin every day is good for your heart, it probably is. Here's another plus to taking one.

    According to PloS One, a journal from the Public Library of Science, many doctors have noticed that people on regular aspirin therapy tend to have stronger bones.

    More than one study supports this observation. In one study of mice, aspirin helped to rebuild bones in two ways. It promoted the growth of new bone cells and it prevented existing bone from being broken down and reabsorbed by the body. Scientists hope the findings will result in a new osteoporosis therapy.

    Dentists using fewer antibiotics

    In the past, newspapers have carried stories about healthy people developing sometimes fatal infective endocarditis (IE), an infection in the heart, after dental work. Dentists have given many patients antibiotics in the hope of preventing the infection.

    That policy is changing. The American Heart Association (AHA) says even people who already have heart disease don't need this precaution. Their study of all cases of IE from 1950 through 2006 shows that only patients at high risk for serious complications from IE should take preventive antibiotics, a decision that will result in a 90 percent reduction in antibiotic use by dentists.

    Doctors at John Hopkins Medical Centers say those who should take preventive antibiotics are people who have had IE, artificial heart valve replacement, valve problems after a heart attack or congenital heart defects. Penicillin or an alternative is usually given.

    A recent study published in Heart shows the risks of antibiotic use outweigh the benefits because people are more likely to have an allergic reaction to the antibiotic than to develop IE.

    Most patients can control bacteria by brushing and flossing.


    Women's poor sleep habits can lead to heart disease

    Doctors at Duke University questioned hundreds of men and women in detail about their sleep habits. They found a consistent association between poor sleep and heart disease risk factors. But only in women.

    Their poor sleep customs resulted in higher levels of fasting insulin, glucose, insulin resistance and overweight, all of which are risk factors for type II diabetes, which increases heart disease risk.

    Women who did not sleep enough or did not sleep well also had higher levels of other harmful substances in their bodies and higher rates of depression and stress. Insufficient sleep creates a form of stress in women that is an ideal condition for cardiac problems.

    Doctors think testosterone could be protective for men. They found that men reporting the most difficulty sleeping had the highest levels of testosterone, which is known to reduce levels of heart-damaging proteins.

    The researchers didn't say for certain that getting enough restful sleep will prevent heart disease in women. They did say that the study results should prompt women to pay more attention to their sleep habits.

    Doctors at the sleep disorders center at Northwestern University say patients should be encouraged to sleep well just as they are encouraged to eat well and exercise. For women, it's more than just beauty sleep that's involved.