IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date: October 1, 2005
Attention, Coffee Bashers
Caffeine researchers for the U.S. Army say coffee makes you think better. Even in
the sleep-deprived it improves decision-making, memory, and learning.
And it improves mood.
Other research shows the caffeine in coffee reduces
jet lag, aids headache relief, fights tooth decay, and reduces the risk
of kidney stones.
You've heard those stories about Russian country people who live more than 100
years. Some claim to be 120 years old.
It could be the lowly beet that's responsible for
this longevity. Borscht, the traditional Russian soup made mainly of
beets, contains powerful compounds that help protect against heart
disease, birth defects and certain cancers, especially colon cancer.
Ancient Romans were the first to cultivate beets and use their roots as
food. Tribes that invaded Rome were responsible for spreading beet
consumption throughout northern Europe. In the 19th century, it was
discovered that beets were a concentrated source of sugar, and the first
beet sugar factory was built in Poland.
Scientists say the pigment that gives beets their
rich color, betacyanin, is a powerful cancer-fighting agent. The
antioxidant glutathione peroxidase in beets is a strong bodyguard for
the liver. As the liver breaks up toxic substances, it generates a lot
of free radicals, which this antioxidant can destroy.
Antioxidants help to protect against heart disease, but beets also aid
the heart health by lowering levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising
levels of beneficial cholesterol, called HDL.
Beets are rich sources of important minerals such as
manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Their high levels of folate help
expectant mothers avoid birth defects in newborns. A cup of beets
contains only 74 calories and has high levels of vitamin C.
More Time for Angioplasty
Cardiologists have believed that they have only 12 hours
in which to perform angioplasty after a heart attack. During that
period, it could reopen clogged arteries and save the heart muscle from
Now, a European study shows that there
can be significant improvement for heart attack patients by doing an
angioplasty 12 to 48 hours after a heart attack. As many as 40 percent
of heart attack patients seek treatment beyond the 12-hour window. In
the U.S. alone, that is more the 300,000 who could benefit from later
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic say this is an important
contribution to current knowledge.
DHEA for Depression
DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone whose
production by the adrenal glands decreases with age. But treatment for
depression with a synthetic over-the-counter version is effective and
causes no side effects.
A National Institute of Mental Health study shows that
DHEA produced a significant reduction in depression among half of the
group of middle-aged subjects studied. Subjects took 90 milligrams daily
for the first three weeks and 450 for three weeks more.
DHEA is sometimes used to help prevent and treat metabolic syndrome,
which is characterized by unhealthy levels of abdominal fat.
Whooping Cough Shots
The FDA has approved a second booster shot for
immunization against whopping cough. Cases among adolescents and adults
have increased dramatically. Babies and young children are protected by
early vaccination, but the immunization wears off.
Approved boosters are GlaxoSmithKline's Boostrix for 10 to 18-year-olds
and Sanofi-Adventis Adadel for ages 11 to 64.
Doctors wait to administer new inoculations until they are FDA approved
so shots will be covered by health insurance.
Drink milk to lose weight
A dairy-rich diet combined with calorie control can
almost double body-fat reduction and weight loss. And it helps prevent
weight gain says researcher Michael Zemel of the University of
Zemel, author of The Calcium Key (John Wiley &
Sons) says the calcitriol in dairy helps conserve calcium for stronger
bones while telling fat cells to convert less sugar to fat and burn more
body fat. He was quoted in Health magazine.
Carbonated Drinks and Reflux
The Sleep Heart Health Study by the
University of Arizona shows that avoiding nocturnal gastroesophageal
reflux (nighttime heartburn) could be as simple as avoiding carbonated
It is estimated that 44 percent of
Americans experience nighttime heartburn at least once a month. It's
more serious than daytime heartburn. It causes more damage to the
esophagus and is more likely to lead to esophageal cancer.
The study showed that sufferers were
more likely to consume one or more carbonated drinks daily. Heartburn
was also associated with being overweight, snoring, hypertension, and
asthma. According to The Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, the
study did not link smoking or alcohol to a greater incidence of
Other causes may include coffee,
chocolate, whole milk, peppermint, spearmint, citrus fruits, and
It is recommended that
people who have the problem eat a smaller evening meal and avoid a prone
position for several hours after eating.
Avoid Complacency About Extra Pounds
Study shows that some overweight can be good?
A controversial study
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
seems to indicate that being a little overweight is OK.
The study found a small decrease in
death rates for people with a Body Mass Index that was between 25 and
29.9. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study
prompted them to cut the estimate of obesity-related deaths to 112,000
annually, a large decrease from the their previous estimate of 400,000.
One factor not apparent in the study is the fact that
most people die after age 70. In the elderly, extra fat gives rise to
bone and muscle, which is protective in a medical crisis. The CDC also
says that medical advances could be partly responsible for lengthening
the lives of overweight people.
The CDC has apologized for any
confusion the study causes. They say it definitely is not OK to be
overweight. Note that it is also not OK to be underweight. The study
shows that people with a BMI below 18.5 had the same mortality rate as
those with a Body Mass Index of 40 or more.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that
waist size is an important factor in health. Muscular people, for
example, may have a BMI over 30, but still have a small waist. Those who
have a BMI over 30 but have a waist size of 35 inches for women or 40
inches for men have a much lower risk of obesity-related diseases such
as type 2 diabetes.
For those with trim waists, the
Institute advises weight loss if they have two other risk factors such
as high cholesterol, blood sugar, or blood pressure.
Brain Health and Exercise
Regular exercise has long been considered helpful in
preventing dementia. Now a new report in the American Journal of
Epidemiology says studies show that exercise variety matters more than
intensity. Variety makes the brain work more so it stays healthier.
Don't Wash Meat, Poultry
New guidelines by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
discourage washing of meats and poultry before cooking.
The risk of cross-contamination from handling the food as it's washed
outweighs any benefits. Bacteria in raw meat and poultry juices can be
spread to other foods, utensils, and surfaces.
could become just as bacteria-laden as the surface of the food.
Bacteria on the food is destroyed by cooking to a temperature of 160
Older Smokers Risk AMD
A British study found that older smokers were twice as
likely to suffer age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as non-smokers.
AMD blurs the central vision by affecting the macula. AMD is the leading
cause of blindness in older adults, according to Tufts University Health
and Nutrition Letter.
More Statins Recommended
Only half of patients with moderate to high risk of
heart disease are prescribed statin drugs by their doctors, according to
Stanford School of Medicine.
Stanford researchers recommend that doctors aggressively
examine patients to see whether statins or beta blockers for high blood
pressure are appropriate.
Heart disease is one of the
nation's leading killers, along with cancer. Each year, more than half a
million people die from heart disease.
Strength Training Benefits People of Every Age
Everyone can benefit from resistance training for strength and flexibility.
Professors of exercise science at the University of San Francisco say
their studies prove the value of strength training in mature adults. Are
you age 45, 50, 60, or more? No problem.
University program of strength training reduced knee pain caused by
osteoarthritis by 43 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention says strength training can reduce the symptoms of arthritis,
diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, back pain, and depression. In fact,
lifting weights could be more beneficial for older people than younger
Machines are good, but free weights are
inexpensive and versatile. Begin with 3-, 5-, or 8- pound weights. One
suggested routine from HealthNews:
Squats for the upper legs and buttocks. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms down, palms in, feet at hip width. Slowly bend your knees until upper legs are parallel to the floor, then return to the starting position.
Curls for the upper arms. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms down, palms in, and feet apart. Bring the weight up by bending your elbows and rotating your wrists toward the chest. Slowly return and repeat the curls.
Shrugs for the shoulders: Hold dumbbells arms down, palms in, feet apart. Shrug your shoulders up and as high as possible, return and repeat.
Heel raises for the lower legs. Hold dumbbells arms down, palms in, toes on a secure surface. Raise slowly onto your toes. Keep body erect and knees straight. Return and do it again.
Check with your doctor, then get instruction on technique from a
trainer. Start with eight reps and increase no more than 10 percent a
Sleep On A Problem, It Really Works
When Gone With the Wind's Scarlett O'Hara said she'd think about this
tomorrow, researchers say that was a good plan. They have discovered
that a good night's sleep can almost double a person's problem-solving
Scientists at the University of Lubeck in
Germany gave test subjects a complicated mathematical problem. Hidden in
the problem was a trick that could cut their solving time dramatically.
A good night's sleep more than doubled the probability that participants
caught on to the trick.
All of the subjects solved the problem. Sleep wasn't
absolutely necessary, but it was a big help. Some 23 percent found the
trick, but after a good night's sleep, 59 percent found it.
Doctors at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif.,
say sleep is a series of repeated cycles of pruning and strengthening
brain connections. This allows you to learn new things without
forgetting old ones. Apparently, it's better to be unconscious while
that's going on.
Other scientists think the brain just
needs to shut down for eight hours or so every night.
Free 'Lazy Eye' Test For Babies
Members of the American Optometric Association offer a free test for amblyopia
(lazy eye) for babies ages 6 months to a year.
To find an optometrist in your area, visit
www.infantsee.org. The doctor also checks for nearsightedness.
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