IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  October 1, 2012

Streusel baked apples sweeten autumn dinners

There’s no better time to try several of the 2,500 U.S. grown varieties than in October, National Apple Month. Harvesting is at its peak.

Health-conscious? A medium apple, only 80 calories, is as nutritious as it is delicious. There’s no better way to enjoy apples as a dessert than as a low-fat baked apple with a few added healthy nutrients.

The best apples for baking have a lower sugar content than eating apples and are usually tarter. Most home cooks use Granny Smiths, but test kitchens learned they collapse and turn to mush. Try the Honeycrisp, which retains its shape, texture and full apple flavor, or Rome Beauty, Jonagold, or Spartan.

Streusel baked apples

1/3 cup walnuts and
1/3 cup pecans, chopped medium fine
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground pumpkin pie spice (or cardamom)
1/4 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoon cold, cubed butter
6 medium Pink Lady apples
1 1/2 cups apple cider.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine walnuts, pecans, raisins, sugar, salt, spices and oats in a small bowl. Add butter cubes and toss.

Peel the top third of each apple. Scoop out the stem, seeds and enough of the apple core to leave 1/2-inch thick walls, using a melonballer. Stuff each with filling, mounding it on top.

Place in a 2-quart baking dish and pour cider into the pan. Cover the pan with foil. Bake 45 minutes, removing foil every 15 minutes to baste the apples. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes, continuing to baste, until the apples are easily pierced with a sharp knife.

Drizzle with sauce from the pan.

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New class of sleeping pills will prevent next-day drowsiness

A sleeping pill that works like Ambien or Lunesta, but doesn't create next-day drowsiness or disorientation, is every drug-maker's dream.

Merck now thinks it has developed one. Suvorexant works differently from the leading drugs. Rather than boosting the brain's entire sleep system, it uses a precise approach to block a tiny group of receptors that keep the body alert.

About 70 million Americans, one-third of all adults, have trouble either falling or staying asleep, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Since 2005, other drug makers have had sleep products approved, but they weren't successful because they had serious side effects. That clears the way for Merck's Suvorexant, which is part of a potentially new drug class known as orexin receptor antagonists, says Bloomberg Businessweek.

Thomas Roth, director of research at the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, worked with Merck on the studies. He says, "The theory of insomnia has changed from trying to augment the power of the sleep system to trying to inhibit the wake system."


Chuckles Corner

The Flu shot: Your best bet for avoiding influenza

A flu shot protects you from coming down with influenza. While it may not always provide total protection, it's certainly worth getting.

Influenza is a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, and flu immunizations are the most effective way to prevent it. The Centers for.

Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually.

The influenza viruses selected for inclusion in the seasonal flu vaccine are updated each year based on information about which viruses are being found, how they are spreading, and how well the previous season's vaccine might protect against new viruses discovered in the current year.

National influenza centers in over 100 countries conduct year-round surveillance for influenza viruses and disease activity. These laboratories send found viruses for additional analyses to the five World Health.

Organization Collaborating Centers, which are located in the following places:

Atlanta, Georgia, the CDC; London, the National Institute for Medical Research;

Melbourne, Australia's Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory;

Tokyo, Japan's National Institute for Infectious Diseases; and.

Beijing, China's National Institute for Viral Disease Control.

The fall seasonal vaccine protects against the three main groups of viruses currently circulating in humans.


Safest NSAIDs for your heart

According to Johns Hopkins University, naproxen in both prescription and over-the-counter doses are safest for both high-and low-risk individuals.

Brand names are Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan and Naprosyn.

Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nupin) is also safe, but cardiac risk rises with prescription doses of 1,200 mg a day.

Celecoxib (Celebrex) in both high and low doses showed a slightly increased cardiac risk.


This allergy desensitizing treatment doesn't require shots

Allergy shots can decrease or eliminate the serious effects of allergies. But because of having to get a shot by a doctor once or twice a week for months, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology says only about 5 percent of allergy sufferers take them.

An increasingly popular alternative is called "sublingual immunotherapy." It's available in Europe in pill form. The patient dissolves the pill under the tongue once a week for a certain period of time. European studies show that taking the therapy for three years has long-term benefits.

In the United States, doctors repurpose liquid extracts of allergens used in shots. They are delivered under the tongue with an eyedropper, syringe or hand pump. Both adults and children can take advantage of the therapy.

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't yet approved sublingual allergy therapy, but doctors can legally use the material that's approved for shots in other ways.

At the Sinus Center of the University of Michigan, the director says the new therapy is a great option for people whose lifestyle doesn't allow time to go into the doctor's office once or twice a week for several months.

Another advantage is that sublingual immunotherapy carries a lower risk of anaphylaxis, which is a severe allergic reaction that has caused death in people getting allergy shots.

There is proven success for sublingual immunotherapy in treating allergies to grass and ragweed. FDA required proof of success for dust mite and cat allergies is near completion.

Several U.S. companies are funding big studies with the aim of getting FDA approval for their pills in coming years, says The Wall Street Journal.
Note that doctors at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine still recommend shots for those who have several allergies.


Lack of sleep can increase stroke risk

Getting six or fewer hours of sleep per night, a new study says, will make you four times more likely to suffer a stroke. Seven to nine hours are recommended, but 30 percent of Americans get six hours or less, according to a recent government study. The new study focuses on people of normal weight and health.

People know how important diet and exercise are in preventing strokes, but they are less aware of the impact of insufficient sleep, according to the University of Alabama in Birmingham.

The number of people who report getting eight hours or more of sleep a night has dropped from 38 percent in 2001 to 28 percent, says the National Sleep Foundation.


Walking sticks for Christmas?

Nordic walking is fun, burns a lot of calories.

It's no longer unusual to see people in the park walking with "poles." It's called Nordic walking, and was developed in Scandinavian countries as a training exercise for cross-country skiers.

Skiers start with basic walking with moderate pole pushing and moved on to more and more exaggerated walking with more powerful pole pushes.

In Nordic walking, you use more energy than in ordinary walking of similar intensity. Your breathing increases. Your body consumes more oxygen, and burns 20 percent more calories. Still, after a one-mile course, participants in a Mayo Clinic study reported no significant difference in the sense of exertion.

The extra calorie burn is caused by working the muscles of your arms, shoulders, chest, back and torso. When you walk with poles, you get the benefits of any ordinary walk with an upper body workout.

Nordic walkers find the exercise is easier on the hips, knees and lower back than ordinary walking. It promotes balance and posture, and it gives anyone, the confidence to use walking as exercise.

When choosing poles, get those with a strap covering most of the palm and back of your hand. They allow you to let go of the pole as your swing it back, which is proper Nordic technique. As you swing your arm forward, the pole snaps back into your hand.

In terms of length, your forearm should be about level with the ground when you plant the pole vertically.

Rubber pole tips are helpful.


Bad cholesterol (LDL) still trumps the good kind (HDL)

Researchers at Duke University have found that efforts to increase HDL, the good cholesterol, have little effect on lowering cardiovascular disease risk.

They were surprised to find that having a high good cholesterol number did not protect against having a heart attack.

The researchers also found that people with very low levels of good cholesterol were more likely to have a heart attack, but efforts to raise HDL didn't make much difference.

At the same time, they say doctors and patients should focus on reducing bad cholesterol numbers with such steps as stopping smoking, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and taking a statin if it's recommended.


One obesity specialist says the government's got it wrong

One expert says the government's claim that we eat too much and don't exercise, which causes us to get fat, is mostly wrong.

Gary Taubes, the author of Why We Get Fat and an independent investigator in health policy at the University of California, Berkeley, says there are many examples of why it doesn't work.

In 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, there was barely enough to eat, but there were so many fat kids in New York City, a childhood obesity clinic was founded at Columbia University. What people did eat were inexpensive, starchy or sweet foods that made them gain weight.

There are many examples of obesity epidemics in populations that barely had enough food for people to eat. One theory has been around for decades but has largely been ignored. It implicates refined sugars and grains because of their effect on the hormone insulin, which regulates fat accumulation. The interaction can be found in medical textbooks.

A recent study by the National Institutes of Health shows that a low-carbohydrate diet, which reduces bread, pasta and sweets, but emphasizes red meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, is successful in preventing weight gain and achieving weight loss.

The government is right in saying we shouldn't eat huge amounts of food, but what we do eat makes a big difference.


Be aware of the arthritis-anxiety-depression link

Doctors at Johns Hopkins University say about one-third of arthritis patients over age 45 also suffer from anxiety, depression or both. Most don't seek help for their mood disorder.

About 50 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus or fibromyalgia. Together these conditions are the leading cause of disability in the United States.

Studies by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that depression is common among all people with chronic pain, but the CDC was surprised that anxiety was almost twice as common in people with arthritis.

Anxiety can be caused by arthritis' physical limitations, but lack of confidence to perform everyday tasks contributes to it. They are obstacles to making lifestyle changes, like physical activity, which can reduce pain.

The CDC says arthritis patients who believe they can manage or influence their symptoms are more likely to have better outcomes than those who don't believe they can. For information on exercise, visit www.arthritis.com/exercise on the Web.