IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  August 1, 2012

Shrimp and asparagus are likened to ambrosia

In Greek mythology, ambrosia is referred to as the food or drink of the gods. It was so delicious it was often depicted as conferring ageless immortality upon whoever consumed it.

Shrimp and asparagus on the same menu can make a delicious and healthy meal. When both are used in the same dish, itís like the food of the gods, ambrosia.

This recipe combines those great ingredients with a hint of garlic and a topping of Hollandaise sauce.

Shrimp, asparagus and mushrooms on a bed of angel hair spaghetti.

1 pound shelled, deveined and cooked shrimp
1 pound fresh, thin asparagus, cut to 1 1/2 inches
1 pkg. sliced brown mushrooms
1 tsp. garlic buds
2 1/2 cups melted butter or light buttery spread, divided
1 pound angel hair spaghetti
1 tbs. olive oil
1 packet dry Hollandaise sauce mix.

Salt and pepper to taste Boil the spaghetti in a large pan with several dashes of salt and the olive oil. Cook until firm, but do not overcook.

Place the butter and garlic buds in a microwaveable dish and melt without boiling. Mix thoroughly. Pour three tablespoons of the garlic butter over the spaghetti and toss until well mixed. Set aside on a warming tray.

In a medium-sized pan, place the rest of the garlic butter, the shrimp, asparagus (trimmed and washed), and mushrooms. Heat over moderate setting (but do not boil) for about 15 minutes.

Prepare the Hollandaise sauce according the directions on the packet.
Pour the shrimp mixture across the spaghetti. Top with the sauce and serve. Makes four large servings.

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Antibiotics for appendicitis?

British researchers say doctors might want to reconsider their initial treatment for uncomplicated appendicitis (when the appendix hasn't ruptured)

Doctors from Johns Hopkins say the researchers found that a course of antibiotics may be safer than appendix removal because of the risk of surgical complications. Patients given antibiotics were able to avoid the surgery.

The downside for them was that appendicitis recurred within the next year for 20 percent of patients.

Still, that meant that 80 percent were able to avoid the surgery for a year or longer, maybe for many years.


Why heart disease is still the No. 1 killer

In spite of awareness of the key contributors to heart disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans haven't been getting much better at preventing heart disease.

Of the seven major heart risk factors (high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, high glucose levels, an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and being overweight), most of us succeed at keeping only three or four of them under control. That hasn't changed much since 1988. Here is the average distribution of the percentage of Americans keeping one or more of seven risk factors in check between 2005 and 2011:

one factor: 7.3 percent,
two factors: 18.0 percent,
three factors 25.5 percent,
four factors, 22.4 percent,
five factors, 16.6 percent,
six factors, 7.5 percent,
seven factors, 1.2 percent.


Chuckles Corner

Desk workers should put activity in their day

Sometimes, workers who are very busy don't rise except when absolutely necessary, and then they get a sandwich so they can continue to work at lunchtime.

Not a good idea. To stay healthy, desk workers need to find ways to put activity into their work day.

It could start with parking their cars the equivalent of a block away and walking to the front door. Regardless of how busy they are, their bosses encourage them to take time for lunch and use 15 minutes or more to walk around.

Inactivity studies are still in their early stages, but already they have linked sedentary lifestyle to a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and some cancers.

Even those who get regular exercise away from work are at risk. Researchers say sitting 63 hours a week is very unhealthy, regardless of which hours are at work and which are watching television. The hours do add up, but researchers say injecting even a minute or two of walking into work and TV time, several times a day, decreases health risk.

Sitting for a couple of hours causes the calorie-burning rate to drop, enzymes responsible for ridding the bloodstream of fat to plunge and insulin effectiveness to be reduced.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say there are ways to keep on the move, including pacing while talking on the phone, standing up while talking, walking to the water fountain, cooking, climbing stairs and doing chair exercises.

Some offices have adjustable height work stations so computer users can stand up for part of the day.


Personalized' cancer treatment is promising

There is a growing conviction among researchers that the secret to treating tumors lies not in the part of the body they occur, but in genetic glitches that drive tumor growth.

The new strategy is to match the mutation in any part of the body with a drug that targets the underlying gene mutation, such as Pfizer's Xalkori, which is used in adults with lung cancer.

Xalkori is now showing promise against childhood cancers. All children who were cured with Xalkori had defects in a gene known as ALK, the same gene that Xalkori targets in adult lung cancer.

The drug eradicated cancer in eight out of 10 kids with lymphoma and two children with deadly neuroblastoma.

Though these numbers are small, they are a milestone in cancer treatment.


Vitamin D could be a factor in diabetes prevention

People diagnosed with prediabetes have always searched for ways to prevent the condition from moving to full-blown type 2 diabetes.

Doctors at Tufts University could have a partial answer for them. Their new study, Diabetes Care, shows that high-risk patients with the highest levels of vitamin D were 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest levels.

While they say the study has promising results, the doctors don't recommend vitamin D supplements across the board for prediabetes patients. Cautiously, they say this study finding may not apply to all patients.

Still, one part of their study showed that in comparing 608 women newly diagnosed with diabetes to 559 women without the condition, after adjusting for other factors, those with the highest vitamin D levels were 48 percent less likely to have developed the disease than those with the lowest levels.

In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011, Tufts researchers found overweight prediabetes patients who took a 2,000 IU vitamin D supplement for 10 weeks had a 26 percent improvement in functioning of the pancreas cells that produce insulin.


More applause for raisins

Research reported in Duke University Health News shows that high potassium levels in raisins can help to lower blood pressure, but raisins can do more.

They are high in the antioxidants that help protect body cells. They contain the mineral boron, which is associated with increased bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.

Raisins are rich in iron and copper, both of which are necessary in the formation of red blood cells.

Raisins help correct iron deficiency anemia, and they promote blood clotting during wound healing. Other components in raisins protect vision.


Surprising facts about the benefits of exercise

You might know the common benefits of exercise: it makes you feel great, protects your heart and makes you look better. But somehow these benefits haven't nudged you into doing it.

Maybe these new discoveries will.

  • Exercise may erase your genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease. A Washington University study of people aged 45-88 identified those with a genetic risk for Alzheimer's. But the risk carriers who were physically active and meeting the American Heart Association guidelines for regular exercise showed no buildup of amyloid plaques.
  • Both leisure and on-the-job activity protect against heart attacks. A Swedish study, reported by Tufts University, shows both light and moderate work activity created a reduced risk of heart attacks when compared to sedentary people.
  • As expected, all leisure time physical activity was associated with a reduced heart attack risk.
  • Even 15 minutes of daily exercise prolongs your life. An eight-year study of 416,175 people in Taiwan showed that 15 minutes a day of physical activity, or 90 minutes a week, benefited both men and women. It showed a 4 percent lower risk of death from any cause during the study period.


    Skip the prostate cancer test

    The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that no men receive routine PSA screening at any age. The advice is based on two large trials lasting up to 14 years.

    The results indicate that regular screening doesn't always save lives once you account for the high rate of PSA false-positive test results.

    False positives increase men's risk of serious complications and death from biopsies and from treatment of tumors that would never have killed them.


    Exercise doesn't cause joint damage in heavy people

    People who are overweight or obese often wonder whether exercise can damage their knees and hips. A Norwegian study of 30,000 men and women was done from 1984 to 1997. One-third of the subjects exercised and were considered to be physically active.

    The study showed that heavy people generally had a higher risk of knee osteoarthritis, but exercise, in people of any body weight, did not increase their osteoarthritis risk.


    Doctors ask a new question that helps patients move forward

    In the past, doctors focused on telling their patients how they could live longer in the future. The talked about blood sugar numbers and such things as their cholesterol averages.

    Doctors still keep track of these factors, but, today, they are asking a new question:

    How is your health affecting your quality of life?

    They could follow up with: "Is your condition changing your life" or, "Does it make it harder to cope day to day?"

    Researchers have found that people are more likely to manage chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, if they have immediate goals, like being able to do more at work or keep up with their children, instead of focusing on abstract targets like blood-pressure levels.

    That leads to better health. Studies show that when people have a higher sense of well-being, they have fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits, miss fewer days at work and use less medication. They are also more productive at work and more involved in the community.

    Programs such as the University of Michigan's Women Breathe Free have had great results. As one participant said, she speaks with program counselors who are "sounding boards" about her concerns. They helped her better understand her medications and how to take them. They helped her overcome fear and depression related to her asthma.

    Recently, her doctor said she had the best pulmonary function test since 2006. She has a much better outlook on life and takes better care of herself.
    In another case, a patient with a hip problem thought he was doing pretty well.

    The "big question" made him realize he had less pain because he was doing little more than sitting around, no exercising or gardening, no walking and not much activity of any kind.

    He realized his condition was greatly affecting his quality of life and that he needed further treatment right now.

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    Healthy eating costs less

    A Department of Agriculture study shows it costs less to eat fruits, vegetables and healthy foods than those that are high in fat, sugar and salt. That means bananas, carrots and beans cost less per portion than French fries, soft drinks, ice cream, potato chips and hamburgers.