IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  December 1, 2008

New dessert idea for the holidays

Here is a festive cake that departs from the usual candied fruit cakes and stollens. It's great for those who have intolerance to milk products. It is rich in appearance and texture and stays moist for days.

It has two spices traditional to spice cakes, cinnamon and ground cloves. The cake freezes well for make-ahead storage. It's great for Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations or for New Year's Day.

And it works well as a breakfast sweet.

Eggless, Butterless, Milkless Cake

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons hard
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of seedless raisins
(pieces of dates can be substituted)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda.

Boil the brown sugar, water, shortening, salt, raisins and spices together for five minutes, stirring constantly. When cooled, add the flour and soda that is dissolved in a teaspoon of hot water. The recipe makes two layers.

Cut round pieces of wax paper to fit layer cake pans. Place on bottom of pans and pour in batter. Bake 45 minutes in 325-degree oven.

Top with rich penuche icing or other frosting.

Penuche Icing

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 cup milk
1 3/4 cups of confectioners sugar.

Melt the butter. Add brown sugar. Boil over low heat for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Stir in the milk. Stir until it comes to a boil.

Cool to lukewarm. Gradually add sifted confectioners sugar. Beat until spreading consistency. If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water.

The icing may be topped with maraschino cherries, butterscotch bits or colored icing decorations.

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Brain boosting yoga

Some yoga poses may boost brain function by stimulating pressure points on the earlobes, say Yale-trained neurobiologists.

Here's how to do it.

  • Cross your arms with left arm over right. Place your left thumb on the right earlobe and right thumb on the left, with the thumbnails pointed out. Press both earlobes at once, making sure your left arm is close to your chest.
  • As you press the earlobes, squat about half way to a sitting position with your back straight. Inhale going down and exhale going up. Do 10 to 12 squats. Place a chair under you as a safety precaution. Do it every day.

    To learn more, read Superbrain Yoga by Master Choa Kok Sui.

    Chuckles Corner

  • 'Virtual colonoscopy' is effective, less expensive, easier

    Scientists are excited about the long-awaited X-ray alternative to the dreaded colonoscopy. Medicare is considering paying for the procedure.

    Doctors predict that this cheaper, easier option could persuade more people to be screened for cancer's second-largest killer. A new federal study, the largest of its kind, confirms the effectiveness of the virtual colonoscopy for diagnosing colon cancer.

    The study focused on CT colonography with a super X-ray. Though the test didn't predict all cancers, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine says that the technique was excellent at ruling out cancer.

    It also was valuable for targeting patients with questionable results, who are then referred for a traditional colonoscopy. That requires preparation to clean out the bowel, general sedation, and a missed day of work. The cost of the procedure is up to $3,000

    The X-ray test also requires cleaning out the bowel, but the procedure is not invasive and it requires no general sedation. The cost is $300 to $800

    The X-ray test should be available before very long.


    Doctors hesitate to discuss end-of-life care

    Physicians often don't want to depress terminal ill patients by discussing end-of life care. A study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's recent annual meeting, however, suggests that those who receive the information become no more depressed than those who do not.

    Patients who were given end-of-life care advice were more likely to acknowledge being terminally ill and value comfort more than life extension. Their families reported feeling more at peace with the knowledge that making the patient comfortable was all they could do.

    Other research that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that 15 to 20 percent of cancer patients nationwide, who have incurable cancers, receive chemotherapy within 14 days of their death. It would have virtually no chance of helping at that point.

    Having correct information about the patient's prognosis would have prevented further chemotherapy, allowed the patient to be more comfortable and have an easier transition toward death.


    Eat more, weigh less, rev up your metabolism

    If you're beginning to notice a touch of middle-age spread, there's a good reason for it. It's not that you are eating more than you used to. In fact, you could be eating less and gaining weight.

    Doctors at the Weight Management Center of the University of Pittsburgh say metabolism slows by 5 percent every decade after age 25. You will burn 100 calories less at age 35, 200 calories less at age 45, and it continues after that.

    With age, muscle mass declines with your metabolic rate, the number of calories you burn in 24 hours including sleeping and active time. Muscle burns more calories than fat.

    When you want to lose weight, it pays to lose slowly, say researchers at McMaster University in Ontario. Reduce calories but not dramatically and include more protein from chicken, fish and lean meat in your diet. Protein will help to preserve your muscle mass.

    Exercise, but don't just do cardio. Walking, biking and swimming help the heart and lungs but in most cases, they don't build much muscle.

    Pumping iron does. Regular strength training builds muscles that burn more calories day and night. And muscle takes less space. Replace three pounds of fat with three pounds of muscle, and you'll be smaller.

    Fidgeting and incidental movement make a difference. It's called non-exercise thermogenesis.

    Take advantage of thermogenesis by moving as often as possible. Get up from the couch frequently, walk the dog or pump a few dumbbells during a TV commercial. People with high thermogenesis energy burn about 350 more calories a day than those who don't.


    Live longer: Have a cup of coffee (or two)

    Is there a link between drinking coffee and living longer? A recent analysis of study data suggests that.

    Analyzing study data, researchers found that, during an 18-year period, the relative risk of death decreased among study subjects in direct proportion to the amount of coffee they drank.

    The coffee consumption was self-reported among the 41,736 men and 86,214 women in the Nurse's Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Researchers divided subjects into six categories ranging from less than one cup per month to more than six cups per day. They found that the relative risk of death from all causes decreased in proportion to higher coffee intake. The decrease in deaths was primarily due to fewer cardiovascular deaths.


    Vegetables with brain food

    If you think celery has few nutrients and green peppers are just for salad lovers, you're wrong. Both celery and green peppers are rich in luteolin, a plant compound that can prevent inflammation in the brain. Inflammation is a factor in such diseases as Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis, say researchers at the University of Illinois.

    Celery and green pepper slices are a fine snack, especially with a little peanut butter, cheese or hummus. And both are great ingredients in a salad.

    Fighting memory problems

    A decade ago, scientists discovered that the brain continues to regenerate itself, good news for those who can't remember someone's name. As you age, however, it may not be regenerating important areas fast enough, like areas responsible for memory.

    To significantly increase neuron regeneration, psychologists at the Saulk Institute and Columbia University say people who exercise more will regenerate more brain cells, but it has to be exercise that raises the heart rate.

    Another finding: People who had a lot of belly fat were 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia in later life.


    More heart attacks occur on Christmas and New Year's

    No one wants to interrupt the excitement of opening gifts or watching the Rose Bowl, least of all with a trip to the emergency room.

    People tend to simply ignore heart attack symptoms on Christmas and New Year's Day, which is why more heart attacks occur on those days than any other day of the year. Cardiologists at the University of California San Francisco say they see only the sickest patients on those days.

    There are about five percent more fatal heart attacks on Christmas and New Year's Day, mainly because people don't seek treatment soon enough. In denial, they shrug off symptoms and call them indigestion. Some hospitals say they begin to see a spike in heart attacks on Thanksgiving weekend.

    Doctors at Washington (D.C.) Hospital Center say there is a short window of opportunity to save heart muscle. Their cardiac team is on duty 24 hours a day, and they aim to start clearing victims' arteries within 15 minutes of their arrival at the ER.Doctors at Vanderbilt University say there are many factors involved in the holiday heart attacks. Being "too busy" to seek treatment is a key excuse they hear from patients.

    Forgetting to take medications is another factor. Sometimes people neglect to take them while traveling, or they run out of medications and are unable to get refills far from home.
    High-fat meals stress the heart as they are digested. Blood pressure and heart rates increase. Arteries may be temporarily more clot-prone. Too much salt or alcohol are also factors.
    People with heart-attack symptoms shouldn't ignore them, no matter where they are or what they are doing.