IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  November 1, 2007

Spaghetti protein dinner

Many restaurants serve spaghetti portions that are half the size of a basketball. Eating that much very often is not a good idea.

Spaghetti contains only 180 calories per cup. Those calories are in the form of complex carbohydrates, the kind recommended by Food and Drug Administration. Complex carbs provide energy and keep hunger away for hours.

Adding meat to the sauce has the added benefit of protein, an important dietary ingredient which increases spaghetti's staying power.

The sauce contains tomatoes, onions, and garlic, all of which rank high on any list of healthful foods. Tomatoes contain vitamin C and lycopene, an antioxidant and cancer fighter.

Traditional Italian cooks may think nothing can equal their day-long sauce preparation. But today there are high-quality bottled sauces that come very close. By adding ground beef and possibly customizing the sauce, results are certain to be appetizing and healthful.

While the following recipe can be done in half an hour or less, preparing to entertain will take longer. It includes spiffing up the house, setting an attractive table, making a great salad, chopping ingredients to customize the sauce, and getting dressed for dinner.

For all of this, allow 2 hours.

Company-style spaghetti

Cook 1 pound of at least 80 percent lean ground beef in a frying pan until just done. In a sieve, wash under hot water to remove any extra fat.

If desired, chop a green pepper, fresh garlic, and half an onion to add a fresh taste. Put in the same pan and cook slightly.

Add a 26 ounce jar of high-quality spaghetti sauce and the ground beef. Bring to a boil, then cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Add some water if it's too thick. Keep warm until served.

Cook 1 pound of spaghetti according to directions. If it will not be served immediately, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix to prevent sticking.

This recipe serves 4. For big eaters, or more people, double the recipe.

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Zinc and type 2 diabetes

A Finnish study reported by Johns Hopkins Health Alerts followed type 2 diabetes patients between the ages of 45 and 64. Those who had lowest levels of zinc in their blood at the start of the study were more likely to have a heart attack or die during the 7-year period.

Foods containing high levels of zinc include meat, seafood, chicken, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, beans, and peas.

Avoid macular degeneration

Although age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people age 65 and over, ophthalmologists have found the first stages begin earlier in life.

There are two types of AMD. Dry AMD is caused by a breakdown of light-sensitive cells in the center of the retina. Wet AMD is triggered by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula that can leak blood and fluid and damage the macula.

To prevent AMD or keep it from progressing, studies reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology suggest getting adequate amounts of vitamin D and fish can help. In their studies, people who ate more than two four-ounce servings of broiled fish per week, or one four-ounce serving of baked or broiled fish, were more than 40 percent less likely to develop advanced AMD. The same was true for those who had high levels of vitamin D in their blood.

Weight loss maintained

Information published in the journal Obesity shows that reducing the number of calories in a diet is more important than exercising for maintaining weight loss. About 80 percent of those who participated had maintained their weight loss at a two-year checkup by sticking to a low-calorie (or low-energy density) diet, including those who did not exercise at the recommended level. Doctors say exercise plus diet is still the best advice.

Low-energy density foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.


More kids have low levels of vitamin D

A study of children in the northeastern U.S. shows that 55 percent had low levels of vitamin D, rising to 68 percent during winter.

About 90 percent of black children had low levels, probably because of the sun-filtering effect of dark pigments in their skin, according to Science News.

Vitamin D is needed by the immune system. A deficiency can also cause poor absorption of bone minerals, which can contribute to cancer, multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and type 1 diabetes.

The study was made by the Nutrition and Growth Laboratory of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Study subjects were from 6 to 21 years old.

Exposure to sunshine is the best way to boost vitamin D levels in the blood, the researchers say. The best dietary source is fortified milk.

Though sunlight exposure wasn't measured in the study, the doctors think that lower vitamin D levels in older children are probably related to decreased outdoor activity.


Benefits of omega-3s found in fish oil

Sometimes it's difficult to believe that one substance can have many benefits. As with statins, however, omega-3 fatty acids are one such substance.

Beginning with 1970 studies showing that Eskimos who ate a lot of fish had low cardiac disease risk, omega-3s in fish oil have been recommended for heart health.

New research shows omega-3s to be beneficial in many more ways. Unfortunately, only a quarter of the U.S. population consumes any omega-3 on any given day. Benefits include:

Heart: In addition to already-known heart benefits, a study reported by Tufts University links fish consumption and omega-3s to improved electrical function in heart cells. They protect against abnormal heart rhythms.

Brain: The DHA in fish oil is the most prominent fatty acid in the brain, especially in the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for memory, language, and thinking. Dementia, Alzheimer's disease: The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center reports their study subjects with the highest DHA levels reduced their risk of dementia by 47 percent and of Alzheimer's by 39 percent.

Eyes: According to the Archives of Ophthalmology, dietary omega-3 intake is associated with a 39 percent reduction in age-related macular degeneration. Those who take fish oil supplements for dry eye may be able to cease other medications.

Joints: It has been known for some time that omega-3s can reduce joint tenderness and the need for corticosteroids in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

A daily fish oil supplement could be helpful for the heart, brain, joints, and eyes.

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Weight-loss surgery may cure diabetes

New studies show that 76.8 percent of type 2 diabetes patients have seen their disease disappear after they have bariatric surgery. They go on to live without insulin or other medicines. Additionally, 70 percent had abnormal cholesterol resolved and 85 percent were cured of sleep apnea, according to the American Medical Association.

In the surgery, the size of the stomach is decreased, and in some cases, the intestines are rerouted. As with all types of surgery, it is not without risk.

Some doctors believe weight-loss surgery is a new weapon against a disease that affects 20 million people in the U.S. and 250 million worldwide.

Laser liposuction is easier

In a new procedure, some surgeons are using laser liposuction which is performed under local or oral sedation. The surgeon makes a tiny incision, inserts a tiny laser probe, and aims it at fat.
In small areas, the liquefied fat cells are reabsorbed by the body. For larger areas, fat is drawn out. There is virtually no pain or bruising.

The laser also encourages body sculpting. There is immediate tightening as the body responds to the laser heating. It encourages new collagen formation, say authorities at the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation and Tufts University.


Depression and heart failure

Older patients with symptoms of depression are 50 percent more likely to die or be hospitalized for heart problems than those who are not depressed.

Doctors at Duke University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina say those with depression should be treated for heart problems at the same time. Over a three-year period, 26 percent with both conditions died and 48 percent were admitted to hospitals for heart problems.


Sleep habits have health effects

Doctors are worried. They say sleep disorders and sleep deprivation are an unmet public health problem. One reason: Many otherwise health-conscious Americans consider sleep to be an expendable luxury. It's a serious error in judgment and planning.

New studies have discovered these facts about sleep deprivation.
An American Heart Association report concludes people who get five hours of sleep per night are twice as likely to have high blood pressure than those who get the recommended seven or eight hours.
Sleep apnea should be treated. People with severe cases have more than twice the risk of ischemic stroke. Older people are more vulnerable than the young.

A Northwestern University study found that poor sleep and sleep debt were associated with poor glucose control among subjects with type 2 diabetes. Poor sleep could even cause the disease itself.

Quoted in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers said not only does voluntary chronic partial sleep deprivation increase the risk of diabetes, but continuing the pattern makes it difficult to treat the condition.

Inadequate sleep is associated with overweight. A study of 68,000 women showed that those who slept just five hours per night gained 30-plus pounds during the 16-year study. Sleep deprivation alters the hormones leptin and ghrelin, both of which are involved in appetite control and metabolism.

If you slept poorly last night and today you want to eat all the time, you are feeling the effects of leptin and ghrelin, researchers say.


Exercise guidelines updated

There's some good news for couch potatoes: Even a little activity is better than none. Walk around during TV commercials if nothing else.
Many people will not have the time or inclination to follow all of the following recommendations, but doing a little on a regular basis will improve general health and cardiovascular capabilities. Almost any amount of exercise provides some benefits.

The American College of Sports Medicine, along with the American Heart Association, has updated physical-activity guidelines for the first time in 12 years. They recommend:

  • Moderately intense cardio, like walking fast, for 30 minutes five days a week, or running for 20 minutes three times a week.
  • Eight to 10 different strength-training exercises like push-ups or stomach crunches (eight to 12 each) twice a week, or lifting weights.
  • People over age 65 should add stretching twice a week and consider balance exercises to reduce the risk of falling.



    Antioxidants are known for their ability to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and macular degeneration. Antioxidants are found in vitamins C, E, carotene, lutein, and other substances.

    Researchers at the Mayo Clinic now report that taking antioxidant supplements gives far fewer benefits than getting antioxidants from food. Foods are a better choice for good reason. They contain an array of antioxidant substances while a nutritional supplement contains only one form.

    Scientists say vitamin A, for example, has several hundred forms of antioxidants and it's not known which of them confer the greatest benefits. Further, researchers think antioxidants in food may form chemical networks that interact with our own particular genetic and cellular patterns.

    Many foods contain antioxidants:

  • Berries of all kinds.
  • Beans, including red, kidney, pinto, and black beans.
  • Fruits such as whole apples,
  • pears, plums, oranges.
  • Vegetables with high contentinclude spinach, whole potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, and red cabbage.
  • Beverages such as tea, coffee, wine, and fruit juices.
  • Nuts such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds.
  • Don't forget oats and dark chocolate. Both are high in antioxidants.