IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  December 1, 2009

Stollens make Christmas special

Commonly known throughout the world as a Christmas Stollen, this tasty dessert bread is laced with candied fruits and nuts.

It was first baked in Germany and Austria in the 1400s, but at the time people used up their meat and meat by-products, such as butter and milk, before the fasting period of Advent. Because of this, the Stollens of the era were fairly tasteless.

In 1650, bakers in Dresden appealed to Prince Ernst von Sachsen, who successfully petitioned Pope Urban VIII to allow the use of butter before Christmas, creating a rich taste and a lasting baking tradition in seasonal Stollens.

Christmas Stollen

1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
5 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ounce active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup candied citrus peel
1/2 cup almond slivers
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar.

Scald milk. Add granulated sugar, butter and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Add 2 whole eggs, and 2 yolks. Mix.

Add to 3 cups flour and yeast in food processor. Process and let rise until double.

Add spices, raisins, citron, almonds, and rest of flour. Process and put on floured board and knead. Let the dough rise in greased bowl.

When risen, cut into 3-4 pieces. Roll each into an oval, butter, and fold in half lengthwise. Put on greased baking sheet, cover, and let rise until double.

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove to rack. When cool, dust with confectioner's (powdered) sugar.

As an option, the dough may be cut in half and a mixture of marzipan or other filling inserted before baking.

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'Keyhole' surgery may provide long-term benefits for GERD patients

People suffering serious and painful heartburn may have tried every possible remedy with only temporary relief. For some, "keyhole" surgery could provide a lasting solution.

A study published in a recent issue of the Archives of Surgery found the results of keyhole surgery to be successful in 71 percent of cases. Of successful surgeries, an improved quality of life was reported. Some occasionally used anti-reflex medication at some point during the five-year follow-up. Three patients required a second procedure.

The surgery for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) was reported to give patients satisfactory results for five years. Patients in the study had the procedure between 1997 and 2006.
Keyhole surgery tightens the circular band of muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach.

Study authors conclude that in selected people, it is an excellent treatment option that provides a good quality of life for at least five years.


Chuckles Corner

'Tis the season for 'holiday heart'

Whether you're strong or weak, young or not-so-young, your heart will get a workout over the holidays.

The double-whammy of overeating and overdrinking can have serious consequences for anyone, whether it's just one overindulgence or a combination of the two.

Doctors and emergency rooms all over the country expect to be treating cases of "holiday heart."

In its mild form, it's an abnormal heart rhythm that can be caused by even moderate amounts of alcohol. Fortunately, the symptoms are harmless and subside as the alcohol leaves the body.

The second type of arrhythmia is serious atrial fibrillation. It can be caused by having four or more drinks for several days in a row. During AF, the two upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating in rhythm. It's especially dangerous if other heart disease is involved. A clot could form, which could migrate to the brain and cause a stroke.

Overeating can lead to serious heart problems, but during the holidays, overeating is common. One Mayo Clinic study found that within two hours of eating a huge meal, the risk of a heart attack increases fourfold.

It pays to plan your eating and drinking over the holidays.

Decide, for example, that you will only have a before-dinner drink and an after-dinner drink. If someone is pouring drinks, be sure they use one shot of alcohol, not two or more in every drink.

At a big dinner, eat more vegetables than meat, avoid fatty foods, and just eat part of the dessert.

During the holidays, it pays to eat, drink and be wary.


Four nutrients linked to lower Alzheimer's risk

A study by Columbia University analyzed seven studies of healthy seniors in New York. Their goal was to identify nutrients and dietary patterns related to Alzheimer's disease risk.

Those who ate more cruciferous and green-leafy vegetables, tomatoes, nuts and fish, but less meat and high-fat dairy products had a lower risk. Omega-3, omega-6, folate and vitamin E in the dietary pattern were found to decrease Alzheimer's risk. Saturated fat and (surprise!) vitamin B12 increased risk. Doctors, however, say B12 might have raised risk because it's found in meat, and those eating more meat might also be getting a lot of saturated fat.

Apples protect aging brain

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but drinking apple juice can keep your brain sharp as you age.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell say drinking apple juice increases the production of an essential neurotransmitter in the brain. It permits communication between nerve cells.

Doctors at Tufts University say maintaining strong communication between cells is essential for the health of the brain as well as the body.

Exercising one to three times a month helps the heart

For men in the Physicians Health Study, a little weight loss or a little exercise significantly reduced their heart failure risk. Their average age was 53

Losing a few pounds and exercising just one to three times a month made surprising differences.

Men who were lean but never exercised increased heart failure risk by 19 percent. If they were overweight and never exercised, their heart failure risk was 78 percent higher.

For those who were overweight but did exercise, the heart failure risk was 49 percent higher than it was for a lean man who exercised vigorously just one to three times a month.


Get your vitamin D anyway

In winter, getting your quota of vitamin D by exposing your skin to sunlight for 15 or 20 minutes a day is difficult. Studies show people have lower levels of D in cold months.

A supplement could be the answer. For those up to age 50, 200 IU is recommended, and for those age 51 to 70, 400 IU is recommended.

New studies at the University of Cambridge show that D is important for mental health. Vitamin D is well known for its role in bone health.


H1N1: The good news

Everyone who is contemplating immunization for the swine flu (H1N1) should be relieved by this news.

Adults won't have to get two shots of the vaccine. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health say one dose of the new vaccine is strong enough to protect most people.

The important part of this announcement is that people will not have to line up for shots three times this year but just twice: once for seasonal flu and once for H1N1.

At this time, studies on whether children will need both shots are not yet complete.


The so-called swine flu may be contagious for a longer time than previously thought. Scientists at the Institute of Public Health in Quebec say their study shows it could be contagious for a week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's flu chief says, however, that long breaks from work or school don't seem worth it for a virus that seems to cause mostly mild illness.

The flu is spreading so widely now that confining the sick does less good. It's virtually impossible not to have the virus introduced into settings such as school, universities and workplaces where people come into close contact with others.


This situation may prompt more people to take the trouble to get the swine flu immunization.

At least, it could prompt more people to do frequent hand washing in an attempt to prevent the H1N1.


May be better than olive oil

Studies show polyunsaturated fats are best for heart health

When it comes to calories, all fats are created equal at about 120 calories per tablespoon.

For some time, olive oil, known to be high in monounsaturated fats and highly promoted by its makers, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a heart-healthy substitute for butter, which it certainly is.

New studies, however, show that vegetable oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats are an effective substitute for fighting heart disease. Polyunsaturates may be better for heart health than the monounsaturated fats found in olive oil.

A report that reviews 11 studies totaling more than 340,000 participants was recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The report shows that switching from saturated fat, such as in butter, to polyunsaturated fat reduced the risk of coronary events by 13 percent and the risk of coronary death by 26 percent.

The same study review shows that switching from butter-type fats to olive oil may have actually increased the risk of coronary events. Doctors at Tufts University are awaiting further findings before making a recommendation. Still, polyunsaturated fats appear to be better for the heart.

Products that are high in beneficial polyunsaturated fats include soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil and peanut oil.

Always avoid products that are described as partially hydrogenated. They contain unhealthy trans fats.

Be sure to check the number of calories in products that are described as low fat. People who are watching their weight, which is almost everyone, may think the low-fat designation makes them a diet food.

Such products usually have just as many calories as the original form, and just what kind of fats they have may be a mystery.

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We wish you the many joys of the holiday season

It's time to celebrate. The holidays are here.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25 with its traditions and customs, including the appearance of Santa, that jolly old elf.

Hanukkah celebrates the lives of a people who refused to give up. The Festival of Lights commemorates the Jews' rededicating the Temple of Jerusalem after a great battle.

The lights of Christmas and Hanukkah come as a welcome relief since by Dec. 21, the winter solstice brings the shortest, darkest day of the year.

We wish you the joys of the season and thank you for being a member of the world-wide IFA family