IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  August 1, 2006

Olive Oil

He called it 'liquid gold; we call it olive oil.

Few foods have the foundation in history that olive oil has. Homer called it "liquid gold." Greek athletes rubbed it over their bodies. It was used as medicine, food, and cosmetic. Olive branches are still emblems of peace.

Today, the venerated olive is playing a major role in the area of health. Until recently, it was valued primarily for its monounsaturated fat, which makes blood cholesterol and blood pressure go down. And olive oil strengthens omega-3 fatty acid's anti-inflammatory effects.

New research reported by the American Institute for Cancer Research shows that many of olive oil's health benefits also come from the more than 30 plant compounds it contains. Its antioxidants and anti-inflammatories promote heart health.

Additionally, olive oil contains compounds that increase enzymes, which block development of cancer cells and increase their rate of self-destruction.

All types of olive oil provide monounsaturated fat, but to get the highest levels of protective plant compounds, extra virgin or virgin oil are the best.

Light olive and pure olive oil are lighter in flavor and color but not in fat or calorie content. They have fewer phytochemicals and fewer of protective qualities. Extra virgin or virgin have more.

To keep olive oil fresh and its protective compounds intact, store it in the refrigerator or a dark, cool place.

Lemon-rosemary olive oil dressing.

Place a sprig of fresh rosemary and a small clove of garlic on a cutting board and crush with the side of a heavy knife. Put the rosemary, garlic, and a 1" by 1/2" strip of lemon rind in a clean bottle with a tight-fitting cap.

Pour 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into the bottle. Cap the bottle and shake well. Refrigerate if not using right away. Lasts about one week in the fridge.

Shake before serving. Put on vegetables, fish, seafood, pasta, or salads.


Coffee and antioxidants

Recent newspaper stories claim that coffee is the number-one source of antioxidants in the American diet.

Researchers at the University of Scranton, however, say coffee has some antioxidants, though not nearly as much as fruits and vegetables.

Good sources of antioxidants include tomatoes, bananas, and potatoes.


Top 10 foods for brain power

Like every other system in the body, the brain needs good food. It uses 20 to 25 percent of the total energy a person consumes, and the better you feed the brain, the better it works. According to the New Jersey Medical College, these are the top 10 best foods for our brain.

The first five are: low-fat milk or yogurt, eggs, lean meats such as flank steak, chicken and other poultry, spinach and other leafy greens.

The last five are: whole-wheat bread, oranges, black beans and other legumes, enriched brown rice, and salmon.

Look good, feel good:

Get going In summer you should be able to find an activity you can enjoy for 30 minutes at least three times a week. What about walking or running with friends? Think about gardening, lifting weights, or cycling. A pick-up hoops game is good too, or romp with kids in the park.

It's nice to look good and feel good in summer, but the real beauty of exercise shows up inside. Besides making you feel upbeat, many studies show that exercise can help elevate good HDL cholesterol levels and lower the bad kind.

Now, new evidence also shows that being active actually shrinks the fat cells that cause inflammation, which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension.


Food Poisoning Self-defense

Poultry: More than 60 percent of raw poultry sold in the U.S. contains bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella. Thoroughly cook poultry until juices run clear and there is no sign of pink. Cooking kills the bacteria.

Stews, soups, and gravies: Those containing meat, poultry, or their juices are a breeding ground for several dangerous bacteria. To reduce risk, refrigerate these foods in small containers to cool them faster. Bring to a boil when reheating.

Ground beef: E. coli bacteria can be present on the surface of beef. Cooking steak kills bacteria on the surface. With ground meat, the surface gets mixed and could end up in the middle of the hamburger. Cook ground meat thoroughly to kill E. coli bacteria.

Deli meats: Set your refrigerator just above freezing to store deli meats. Eat or freeze within five days to avoid Listeria bacteria.

Leftovers: Discard any that have been unrefrigerated for two hours. When reheating, bring to a temperature of 165 degrees or more.


Value your family, friends, co-workers

Loneliness can be hard on your blood pressure.

Research suggests that more than 11 million Americans age 50 and over often feel isolated, left out, or lonely.

A new study by scientists at the University of Chicago shows that people who were lonely had blood pressure readings as much as 30 points higher than those who weren't. The effect was as great as being overweight or sedentary.

The results build on earlier research by co-author John Cacioppo who found that in younger adults, loneliness was linked with blood vessel problems that could lead to high blood pressure.

Harvard doctors linked loneliness in men with increased blood levels of inflammatory markers associated with heart disease. And a Duke University study found increased risk of death in isolated patients with heart disease.

The magnitude of the association in people age 50 and over is "stunning," according to Louise Hawkle, the Chicago study's lead author.

The study says something important about social connection in our everyday lives. The researchers say part of living a healthy life is paying attention to friends and family.

The doctors recommend joining a club or doing volunteer work to increase contact with people.


Guarding Your Health

Getting remarried? Choose well, make it work.

Scientists have named a new category in their appraisal of health. It's called "marital biography."

A study funded by the National Institute on Aging shows that the longer you spend in a divorced or widowed state, the higher your risk of heart or lung disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and mobility problems. The figures were true regardless of age.

People who were married at the time of the study had 20 percent fewer chronic conditions than those who had been divorced, after controlling for age, gender, and race. The study suggests the stresses of divorce and its aftermath have health effects that may not show up in a person until years later.

If you are going to remarry, be sure you get it right. People in low-quality remarriages, as gauged by how much participants say they enjoy being together, are no better off than people who remain divorced, researchers found.

Many studies have found a link between a satisfying marriage, longevity, and health. You can't undo damage caused by stress of a divorce, but choosing the right new partner will make a difference in your future health.


Handling 'dirty money'

It's an established fact that virtually all paper money in circulation carries bacteria, including those that cause sore throats, urinary tract infections, and food poisoning. If you handle money in your work, wash your hands several times a day. If you don't handle money very often, you could follow the example of the Chinese during the SARS epidemic:

When you receive money, put it away, then wash your hands. Don't touch it again for at least 24 hours, during which most bacteria will die.

Kitty could catch bird flu

In the future, if birds in your area are found to have bird flu, keep your feline pet inside. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says a cat that eats a sick bird could get bird flu and die.

Cats have been known to become infected with H5N1 virus and can give it to other cats.

At this time, nobody knows whether they could transmit it to people or to poultry. Doctors at the University of Michigan say it's premature to suggest keeping cats indoors at this time in order to avoid bird flu.

Hepatitis C and Sex

Evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald says there are growing signs that sexual contact can transmit hepatitis C, the liver-destroying virus which kills up to 10,000 Americans each year.

Ewald, Director, Program in Evolutionary Medicine at the University of Louisville, says the virus mainly spreads via infected blood, but some strains appear capable of spreading via sex. As these strains evolve, they could trigger a major wave of hepatitis C. In coming decades, thousands of cases of liver cancer could be the result.

This is another reason to use protection during intimate contact. Quoted in Fortune, Ewald is also the author of Plague Time: A New Golden Age of Medicine (Anchor).

Statin Reverses Artery Blockage

For the first time, doctors have shrunk plaques that clog arteries supplying the heart by treating patients with a high-dose cholesterol-lowering statin.

Over a two-year period, the treatment with Crestor reduced plaque by 6 percent to 9 percent, according to the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. The new study is the first to show that aggressive treatment can reverse the process that leads to heart disease and stroke.

The drug also increased good cholesterol by 14 percent.


Metabolic syndrome: Causes and Cures

Some doctors wonder if there is actually a disease called metabolic syndrome. Others say it is simply a physical condition in which people have three or more of these health problems:

  • A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women, or 40 inches for men.
  • A fasting blood triglyceride level of 150 milligrams or higher.
  • A "good" (HDL) cholesterol level of less than 50 milligrams for women or 40 milligrams for men.
  • Blood pressure of at least 130/85.
  • Fasting glucose of at least 110 milligrams.

    A combination of three or more of these places you in danger of developing diabetes and heart disease. And it classifies you as having metabolic syndrome, also called syndrome X.

    Recent surveys show that a quarter of all Americans have it, and 44 percent of those age 50 and older have it.

    For treatment, physicians agree that lifestyle changes work best, but you don't have to take drastic steps. A study published in Obesity Research shows that being moderately active for 30 minutes a day can be a life saver, and it doesn't have to be done all at once.

    It's important to include more vegetables and fruits in your diet. While you shouldn't overdo fat, don't go below 20 percent of total calories. Less means you are probably eating too many carbohydrates, which can mean higher triglyceride and blood glucose levels.

    While the experts decide whether the syndrome is actually a disease in itself, if you have factors, do something about them now. Eat right and exercise. Start now while you still can.


    The ABCs of summer skin protection

    To reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging of the skin caused by exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun:

    A is for Away. Stay away from the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

    B is for Block. Use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more. Apply it 20 minutes before going out. Reapply it every two hours. Cover lips and ears.

    C is for Cover. Cover up with a wide brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. Stay in the shade whenever it's possible.

    S is for Speak Out. Spread the word to your family and friends. Share the sunscreen with your companions.

    About 80 percent of damage done by sun exposure occurs during the first 18 years of life. Protect your children by smoothing sunscreen on their skin before they go out.