IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  October 1, 2008

Oysters are the real pearls of the sea

They are one of the great treasures of the sea. Many love oysters. Others hate the sight of them. If you are one of the former, what better way to take the chill off an autumn's eve than to enjoy a lunch or supper accompanied by a warming hearty oyster stew.

Ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, sprang from the ocean on an oyster shell. It was the Greeks who first linked oysters to the power of love.

Some Romans actually bought oysters according to their weight in gold. At one point, they launched ships full of slaves to harvest them from the English Channel.

Oysters are nutritionally well-balanced, containing protein and carbohydrates. They are recommended by the American Heart and Lung Association for inclusion in a low-fat diet.

Oysters are also rich in vitamins, containing B1, B2, B3, and vitamins C and D. Four to five oysters contain the body's daily needs for iron, copper and magnesium.

Oyster Stew Recipe

1 pint fresh oysters or one 8-ounce can
1 four-ounce can of condensed milk
3 cups milk
4 tablespoons of butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons of corn starch
1 teaspoon pepper
2 dashes of nutmeg

Place all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler or in a one-quart pan. Heat slowly over a medium heat, stirring constantly.

Don't let it boil.

Ladle the hot stew into four bowls. Add oyster or regular crackers if you like. It's great as a light fare with your favorite sandwich or wrap.

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New procedure for Barrette's esophagus

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona think a new procedure for Barrette's esophagus will help to prevent surgery. Barrette's is caused when stomach acid reflux burns the esophagus.

Standard treatment for the condition, which affects about 3 million people in the U.S., is acid blocking drugs, or in extreme cases, removal of part of the esophagus. About 5 percent of patients with advanced cases develop cancer.

In the new treatment, the doctor threads a thin scope down the throat and inflates a balloon next to abnormal cells in the esophagus. Electromagnetic coils on the surface of the balloon the burn away the abnormal cells.

Reducing biological age

An analysis of studies in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that a program of aerobic fitness may delay biological aging by 10 to 12 years.

While this is important for people of all ages, it is particularly important for those in their later years. With age, the deterioration of aerobic fitness continues at a steady and predictable rate unless action is taken to reverse the decline, say doctors at the University of Toronto.

For retired people, aerobic activity can enhance the ability to perform daily functions and stave off chronic disease.

Babies diagnosed with GERD

More babies who often cry hard after eating are being diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The number of prescriptions written for GERD has soared in the last decade. Some experts say it's being overdiagnosed. Others say it isn't being taken seriously enough.

Most babies happily spit up some liquid because the valve to the stomach from the esophagus isn't fully closed.

Colic is still a problem for some babies up to three months old, but GERD is a separate issue.


Chuckles Corner

That powerful component of life: Sleep!

"Live long and prosper." That was the Vulcan's farewell words on Star Trek. But you don't need pointy ears to take advantage of that advice.

What you do need is sleep. If you don't get enough, you will tend to have higher blood pressure. High BP can lead to heart problems and your overall health could decline. Doctors at the University of Chicago even found that the flu shot worked better for people who get enough sleep.

  • Want to look good? Encourage your growth hormone by getting enough sleep. That's the number one way to do it. Growth hormone brings better-looking skin and more muscle mass.
  • Reduce stress to increase good feelings. Half of adults surveyed by the National Sleep Foundation said they have insomnia a few nights a week. Do what you can to solve this problem. It can make you feel stressed, depressed, forgetful and less able to concentrate.
  • Have a healthier weight. Michael Beus, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor's 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health, says sleep loss leads to a lower level of leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full, and increases ghrelin, the hormone that make you feel hungry.

    Not everyone needs a full eight hours of sleep, but some people need a little more. A Washington State University study suggests the need may be determined by genetics.

    Get what you need to feel bright and properly rested each day.


    Swollen feet should be checked out

    Edema could be a minor problem or could foretell a more serious condition

    If you can hardly get your swollen feet back into your shoes after a long airplane flight, but can put them on easily within 24 hours, you're probably OK.

    Edema, a medical term for swelling, can occur in any part of the body or in the entire body, but it's usually noticed in the legs and feet.

    Sitting still or standing for a long period of time can cause temporary swelling. Or swelling could be caused by eating a very salty dinner. But if your feet and ankles are still swollen days later, it's time to see your doctor.

  • A blood clot. This is suspected if swelling occurs only in one leg.
  • Heart failure. Many things can cause the right side of the heart to weaken, losing its ability to effectively pump blood, which leads to swelling, say doctors at the Mayo Clinic.
  • Liver damage (cirrhosis). The flow of blood through the liver can get backed up. Swelling caused by liver damage first occurs in the abdomen.
  • Kidney problems. Damaged kidneys may not properly remove water and sodium from your blood. The result could be swelling throughout the body.

    Less-common causes of swelling include other heart problems, thyroid conditions, hormone imbalance, and malnutrition.

    Swelling itself can be treated by limiting salt, taking diuretic drugs (water pills), and exercising. Elevating the affected limb above the level of the heart for about 30 minutes or longer up to three times a day can help.

    Whatever the cause, get it checked. Long-standing edema can cause other problems.

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    Testosterone helps prevent osteoporosis in men

    Men with very low testosterone levels are at an increased risk for thinning bones. They may be able to improve their bone density with testosterone replacement.

    Testosterone appears to be an important factor in the development and maintenance of bone strength in men, say researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

    Light exercise beats fatigue

    New studies show that light exercise, as little as 10 minutes a day, can do more to boost energy levels than resting on the sofa.
    Researchers at the University of Georgia found that regular, low-intensity workouts, such as a leisurely stroll increased participants energy levels by 20 percent.

    Reported by Tufts University, the light workouts fought fatigue even more, with 65 percent of participants reporting decreased fatigue.
    Study subjects were sedentary but otherwise healthy people who reported persistent feelings of fatigue. The researchers say about 25 percent of the population suffers such fatigue.

  • Encouraging brain growth over a lifetime

    Have you noticed the brain games that target retirees? They may have a positive effect, but people of all ages can do more to perk up their gray matter.

    In the last decade, scientists have discovered that people generate new brain cells and new connections between them throughout life. Building these mental reserves can serve you well both now and much later in life.

    P. Murali Doraiswamy, chief of biological psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center, says it's like having more cell towers to send messages along. The more towers you have, the fewer calls you'll miss.

    Doraiswamy is co-author of a new book, The Alzheimer's Action Plan, which gives advice on keeping brains in good health and improving how they work.

    The late neurologist Lawrence Katz came up with the term "neurobics" for activities that challenge the brain. They can be as simple as brushing your teeth or dialing the phone with your non-dominant hand to strengthen pathways in the opposite site of the brain.

    Learning to play a musical instrument or speak a foreign language stimulates the brain, as do games like chess, bridge, and board games like Stratego or Napoleon's Triumph that require thinking and socializing at the same time. The brain likes novelty.

    Exercise is known to be beneficial in boosting brain health. It improves blood flow to the brain, which encourages neural growth and connectivity for people of all ages.

    Getting enough sleep is vital. REM sleep is when we consolidate memory in the brain, says Marianne J. Legato of Columbia University. Quoted in The Wall Street Journal, she says untreated sleep apnea can be harmful.

    Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for preventing Alzheimer's disease. But these strategies are good for your overall health, are good for your brain right now, and may increase your defenses against cognitive decline in later life.


    October is National Liver awareness month

    Guard your liver: It's big, but not very tough. It's the largest organ you have. The liver is about the size of a football, but not nearly as tough. There's another big difference: You can live without a football, but you'll die without a liver.

    Weighing three or more pounds and located behind your lower ribs on the right side, it's the body's refinery, says the American Liver Foundation. It filters out and disposes of harmful substances, and it converts vitamins, minerals and sugars into things the body can use. The liver quietly goes about its many jobs with little attention from you. All it needs is your protection. Here are some ways to guard your liver.

  • Don't overwork it. Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and obesity can increase your risk of fatty liver disease.
  • Be careful with chemicals, including pesticides, aerosol cleaners and paint sprays. Avoid inhaling chemicals or letting them come into contact with your skin. Skin absorbs chemicals.
  • Prevent the liver diseases hepatitis A, B and C.They can be spread through contaminated tattoo and other needles and shared razors, toothbrushes or nail clippers.
  • Practice safe sex. Unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners increases the risk for hepatitis B and C.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B if you are at risk.
  • Stay away from street drugs such as heroin and cocaine, which seriously damage the liver.
  • Use alcohol responsibly. Too much too often can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, often a fatal condition.


    Fight bacteria in the kitchen

    New and old advice from the University of California, Davis:

  • Don't rinse chicken in the kitchen sink, recommends the USDA. A chicken may have salmonella or other harmful bacteria on it. The bacteria could remain in the sink or splash onto other food or the counter and utensils.
  • Use a paper towel to wipe up food and juice spills, then throw the paper towel away. This avoids contact with a bacteria-infected sponge or dishcloth. The bacteria will feed on the food or drink, making the sponge dangerous.
  • Cold water is OK for washing hands. There is no evidence that hot water works better.
  • Microwave your kitchen sponge for one minute on high to sterilize it.