IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  March 1, 2009

Pizza taste, hold the carbs

Often ideas drawn from more than one culture can make for an interesting dish. This recipe is a European marriage of the Sicilian pizza and the Hungarian stuffed pepper. It uses the ingredients normally found on your favorite pizza but stuffed into a bell pepper.

Among those nations boasting ethnic recipes for stuffed peppers are Hungary, Germany, Russian Siberia, and Macedonia, while Sicily has claimed the origin of the pizza pie. You can combine them for unique taste and a healthy new food genre.

The usual Northern European concoctions contain ingredients such as ground beef, tomatoes, rice and, of course, paprika. Macedonian and Middle Eastern varieties mix rice with ingredients like olives and feta cheese.

This recipe combines traditional pizza ingredients in a shell of a colorful bell pepper without adding the calories and carbohydrates in the traditional homemade, frozen or delivered pizzas. Kids love it, but if you don't like the taste of green bell peppers, chow down on the hot and delicious stuffing.

Crustless Pizza

4 green bell peppers (or red for a sweeter taste and festive color)

1 4-ounce package pepperoni slices
1 medium tomato, diced
4 medium button mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup of diced yellow onions
1/2 cup diced black olives
8-ouncepackage of Mozzarella cheese
2 teaspoons of olive or canola oil
1 teaspoon of pizza spice.

Cut the top off of each pepper and remove the seeds and white interior ribs.

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all other ingredients, with the exception of the oil. Stuff the mixture into the peppers and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon oil over the top of each. A small portion of cheese may also be saved to sprinkle on the top of the pepper. Bake at 350 degrees in a pre-heated oven until the cheese is melted and the outsides of the peppers start to wrinkle. Serves four.


Nuts and popcorn may reduce diverticulitis risk

About half of the population has colon pouches by age 60 or before.

Most of the time, they have no symptoms, but in10 percent to 25 percent of the population, the pouches become inflamed at one time or another. It causes a painful condition call diverticulitis.

It has long been thought and recommended by many doctors, that those at risk for the condition should not eat nuts, corn or popcorn. They were thought to damage the colon lining or to lodge in the pouches.

Now, doctors at the University of Washington and Harvard say there is no evidence that these foods are harmful. In their study, men who ate the most nuts and popcorn were at a reduced risk of having the painful condition.

Over 18 years of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, there was no evidence that these foods were harmful to the 47,422 male subjects involved.

Instead, researchers reported that men who ate nuts twice a week were actually 20 percent less likely to develop diverticulitis. Those who ate the most popcorn reduced risk by 28 percent.


Take medications with water

Patients are advised to take their medications with a full glass of water. Cool water helps dissolve the pill, and cool water is emptied quickly into the stomach. There it can easily get into the bloodstream.

Doctors at the University of Western Ontario found that grapefruit juice, orange juice, apple juice and apple products can diminish the absorption of anti-cancer drugs and some antibiotics.

Chuckles Corner

Cat owners get fewer heart attacks and strokes?

Today's world can be a stressful place, so much so that it can make both blood pressure and cholesterol levels rise.

A number of studies show that owning a cat can help to prevent cardiovascular disease. Now, new evidence reported at the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association suggests that cat owners also have a lower risk of suffering a stroke.

The association reported on a 10-year study of men and women aged 30 to 75 who showed no evidence of cardiovascular disease at the beginning of the project.

Researchers found that those who did not own a cat, or never owned one, had a 40 percent higher risk of having a heart attack. Their risk of dying from other heart diseases, such as stroke, was 30 percent higher.

By comparison, other research found that taking cholesterol-lowering drugs is associated with a 29 percent decrease in heart attacks among people without chest pain.
Cat ownership was shown to reduce the risk of depression and stroke.

Not everyone has time to care for a feline friend. For those who do, doctors say a cat could ultimately improve their quality of life.


Protect your bones

A one-year study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that dieters who just cut calories lost weight but also lost bone mineral density.

Dieters who cut the same number of calories and lost similar amounts of weight, but exercised while dieting, did not lose any bone mineral density.


Brain injuries easier to find

Researchers at the University of California-San Diego report that by combining two advanced brain scanning techniques, MEG and DTI, they can detect brain injuries that an MRI and CT did not find.

The patients diagnosed included people who were injured in explosions, such as soldiers returning from combat, and people who were injured in sports-related accidents.
University of Miami researchers have had similar success in detecting brain damage that is difficult to find. They developed a new whole-brain method using MRSI to detect first-time or widespread brain damage.

New therapy slows progression of Alzheimer's

Using the drug memantine plus cholinesterase inhibitor drugs, doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital found their Alzheimer's patients had a significantly lower rate of cognitive impairment than other patients in their study.

In 10 to 15 percent of patients, symptoms were reversed or partially reversed. In others, development of symptoms was slowed. Patients in the study were tracked for two-and-a-half years. Then, using computer projections, they were able to predict what their progress would be four years after beginning the study.

Diets that lower cholesterol

Researchers reporting in the New England Journal of Medicine were surprised to find that a low-carbohydrate diet improves the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol more than a low-fat diet.

Low-fat diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, recommend no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. They restrict calories and promote whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

Low-carb diets include the Atkins diet, which helps people lose weight, but also improves cholesterol ratios.


Debunking health myths

The British Medical Journal has compiled a list of studies debunking commonly held beliefs. Among them:

  • A 35-year study shows no increase in suicides during or after the holidays.
  • Researchers at Indiana University say there is no evidence that poinsettias are poisonous for people or animals.
  • Douching with Coca-Cola will not prevent pregnancy, according to Boston University School of Medicine. It could if it's done before sex because of Coke's acidity.
  • Several studies show that children who consume large amounts of sugar are no more hyperactive than those who don't, though parents think they are.
  • Not wearing a hat does not result in excessive loss of body heat.
  • Eating at night will not cause you to gain more weight than eating the same foods during the day.
  • There is no cure for a hangover.


  • A treat for the feet and more: shoe inserts

    Whether you're a 40-something, a young sports player, or an older person with back pain, an insert could make you more comfortable in your shoes.

    The National Shoe Retailers Association says there are hundreds of products on the market that could help. Driving the demand are middle-agers who walk and play more and overweight people with stressed feet.

    Dr. Scholl's has many varieties and sizes of inserts.
    Superfeet Performance Insoles are a top-selling brand for athletic types. They hold the heel in alignment and reduce strain on knees, ankles, hips and lower back. They cost about $35 a pair.

    Podiatrists and orthopedic specialists say simple inserts are fine for comfort. They warn, however, that if they comfort rather than correct a serious foot condition, they can cause problems.

    A Mayo Clinic doctor treated a woman with hip pain by prescribing a heel lift. It corrected a discrepancy in leg length that caused the hip pain. A difference in leg length can be caused by having a leg bone break during growing years, having a bone heal incorrectly, or by curvature of the spine that causes the pelvis to tilt, all of which can create the same mechanical effect as leg-length discrepancy.

    Heel cups are prescribed to treat foot pain, heel pain and plantar fasciitis.

    Mayo suggests visiting a specialty shoe business, known as a pedorthic shop, to get custom-fitted shoe lifts.

    Arch supports and orthotics prescribed by a podiatrist are usually covered by health insurance.


    Prevent formation of bunions or stop pain

    Sometimes a formation of a bunion is not your fault. They often occur because of a hereditary tendency for foot pronation.

    Pronation occurs when, as a person walks, the ankle rotates internally and the forefoot rotates externally. Pronation causes an abnormal pull on the foot's tendons and bones, say doctors of Orthopaedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Centers.

    Sometimes formation of a painful bunion is your fault. Narrow or poorly-fitting shoes play a role by pushing toes into an abnormal position and putting pressure on toe joints.

    High-heeled shoes are often the cause, but shoes that are too small or too narrow can create the problem for both men and women. People don't realize that, over time, feet grow larger as ligaments loosen and arches flatten somewhat.

    Here's a test for the correct size. Stand barefoot on the floor and have someone draw an outline of your foot. Then put your shoe on the outline. If your foot is larger than the shoe, you are wearing the wrong size.

    New shoes may relieve bunion pain, but doctors may prescribe custom-made orthotics that fit in shoes and prevent the foot from overpronating.

    To relieve any pain and swelling, take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Elevate the feet whenever possible, and avoid high-impact exercise such as running. Walking, water aerobics or stationary biking are better choices.

    Bunions will never go away, but most people find relief through conservative treatments. If pain continues, a one-hour outpatient surgery can be recommended.


    FDA approves herb to sweeten drinks

    In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new sweetener for use in foods, beverages and tabletop use.

    Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Inc. and other companies have rushed to market a variety of products using the all natural herb stevia.

    Coke offers a new version of Sprite and the new Sprite Green. Pepsi is launching three flavors of a zero-calorie SoBe Lifewater and an orange drink.

    The FDA approval applies only to a highly purified form of stevia known as rebaudioside A.


    Have your earwax checked

    The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation has issued the first guidelines to help identify patients with impacted earwax. Impacted patients will not hear well, and wax could cause pain or odor.

    The new guidelines state that doctors should routinely check for impacted earwax, which should always be treated by a professional. To remove it, doctors use a dissolving agent, irrigation or ear syringing, and manual removal with an instrument or suction device.