Saturday, 30 December 2006

Dieting may lead to bone loss

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In yet another example of why exercise is far healthier than dieting alone, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that those who merely restrict calorie-intake lose bone-density as they lose weight.

The study involved three groups, one with a calorie-restricted diet, one maintaining normal calorie-intake while starting an exercise program, and one that received information on healthy lifestyles when they requested it.

One year later, both the low-calorie and increased exercise groups lost weight, but the low-calorie group also lost an average of 2.2% of their bone density in the lower spine, 2.2% in the hip, and 2.1% at the tip of the femur. The exercise and healthy lifestyle groups showed no significant loss in bone density.

On the contrary, exercise actually stimulates bone growth. So, for those of you looking to lose weight while protecting your bones, a combination of dieting and exercise is the healthiest way to accomplish your fitness goals.

Fighting infections: an innovative approach

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I think this falls under the "why didn't I think of that" category. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have a new strategy for fighting bacteria -- removing it's "hair".

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a major issue in medicine today. Most hospital-acquired infections are caused by bacteria that are resistant to at least one antibiotic, so looking for ways to fight bacteria with out killing them -- and possibly causing them to be resistant -- is important.

The group focused on urinary tract infe ctions -- usually caused by E. coli -- which are common and frequently occur in women. The bacteria are coated in pili -- tiny hair-like structures that help them infiltrate healthy cells. Instead of attacking and killing the bacteria, these researchers are working on a drug that inhibits the bacteria's ability to grow pili. Being bald leaves them "happy and healthy," but unable to "stick" and create infection.

Researchers are hopeful that methods like this one will render bacteria harmless without inciting a reaction that causes them to mutate and become resistant, like antibiotics can do. Innovative, don't you think?

Easy ways to de-stress

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The holidays are almost over but that doesn't mean that the stress is gone from your life. Sure, you can relax now that you don't have to rush around finding the perfect gifts and planning fabulous feasts. But there's still the stress of every day life, which might be intensified by those holiday bills.

Now that you have some extra time, it's the perfect opportunity to start de-stressing. De-stressing is easy -- it 's just finding the time for yourself that presents a problem for many. Here are some tips: laugh, cry, exercise, meditate, eat well and sleep. These are all things that help us relax and help us feel better every day. And for further inspiration, check out our Stress Less feature.

What tips do you have on de-stressing?

Don't ignore bleeding gums

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Have you ever had bleeding gums before? Many of us know that bleeding gums are a sign of dental or periodontal disease -- and that should not be taken lightly just like any other tell-tale signs of ailments or disease anywhere on the body.

Although bleeding gums are often caused by a buildup of plaque along the gumline, the lack of proper dental care may cause plaque may harden to form tartar -- and that is difficult to remove without a dentist picking in your mouth with a sharp, pointed metal rod. That does not bring up pleasant thoughts at all. For me, anyway.

Fetuses risk more problems when expectant moms eat too much fish

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A new study by Taiwanese researchers shows that pregnant women who eat fish more than three times a week could be putting their baby at risk.

How can that be, when fish is supposed to be healthy for anyone? The answer is simple -- it's due to pollution of the oceans with high mercury levels. Eat more fish -- not from pristine waters and the like -- and you'll ingest more toxic mercury as a result, and exposure to this dangerous substance to fetuses is very dangerous.

Weekend warriors: Are you one?

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For me, I spend the weekdays working like crazy and then heading to the gym and sweating away until I collapse into bed exhausted. But on weekends, I have trouble convincing myself to work hard at anything. After all, I deserve a break, don't I? Other people have the opposite routine. Dubbed 'Weekend Warriors', they sit at desks all week and once the weekend rolls around, they become very active, whether it's completing heavy-duty around-the-house chores or doing some strenuous activities with the kids. And while it's good to be active, being a weekend warrior can be a bit dangerous because those muscles that rarely get used during the week are prone to strain and sprain.

Are you a weekend warrior? If so,

Americans support public policy change to curb obesity

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Would you exercise if your employer had on-site equipment? Would you visit with a nutritionist if your company sponsored it? If so, you're in the majority -- a study in the recent American Journal of Preventative Medicine shows. Using telephone surveys to question over 1000 people, the study found that 85% of participants supported tax breaks for companies that provide exercise equipment to employees.

Other ideas the participants supported include tax breaks for employers who reduced insurance costs for those living a healthy lifestyle and requiring insura nce companies to cover medical costs associated with obesity.

The article points out that these changes might motivate companies, but may not be enough to motivate employees themselves. What do you think about this issue? I question what would constitute a "healthy lifestyle" -- a certain weight? BMI? Cholesterol or blood pressure readings? I think that they might have a problem trying to define that. But putting that aside, would making these kinds of changes motivate you to make healthier choices? If not, what changes in public policy could be made that would motivate you?

Daily Fit Tip: Get good shoes

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Shoes can have an enormous impact on your health in so many ways, whether you're a fitness buff or not. But obviously finding the right shoes, and finding good quality shoes, is that much more important if you are involved in a fitness or workout routine because your feet, legs, and body need that much more extra support.

But you walk into the shoe store and are overwhelmed by the number of shoes available, all different brands and colors and types. How do you pick the best shoe for you?

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Get good shoes

Fit Factor: Get fit to the core with Pilates

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A few years ago, when the yoga class at my gym was full, I decided to try Pilates. At the time, I was doing 100 crunches a day and working out frequently, and I thought it would be a piece of cake for me. I was wrong. While I found that the abdominal strength I already had helped me through the class, the class wasn't really about strength; it was about endurance, namely the ability to hold a pose for a while and move slowly through the movements. That was the hard part for me, and it's something I still struggle with, years later.

These days, pilates is trendy, practiced among many A-list celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. It's a grea t class for beginners, but I think it has even greater benefits for people who are already active. Until I took pilates, I never realized how big a role my core plays in everything I do. Since I've taken pilates, I'm much more aware of my core strength and try to integrate it into every sport and activity I participate in. Using my core, I'm better at many things, including wakeboarding, snowboarding, volleyball and even yoga. I'm hoping to try surfing this year and know my core will play a huge part in that so I better start preparing.

Continue reading Fit Factor: Get fit to the core with Pilates

Verb yellowball gets kids moving

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If you have children in elementary school, you've probably heard of the character Flat Stanley. Stanley was flattened by a bulletin board and takes advantage of his new shape to travel the world in an envelope. Students make their own version of Flat Stanley with accompanying journal, then send him on an adventure that they hear about through letters, pictures, and email.

The CDC has put this same concept to work to encourage play and physical activity in children. Calling the campaign Yellowball, the department has handed out thousands of yellow activity balls around the country. Children play with them, then log int o the website to blog about what they did. When they're done, they pass the ball on to someone else. You can wait around for a yellow ball to find you, or you can enter your zip code to see who has one in your area.

The department's website Verb also has lots of fitness and activity ideas for children -- my favorite being the winter games generator. Take three activities (season doesn't matter), put them into the generator and click "winterize," and it creates a game that you can play in the snow. Parents with children on winter break -- get kids to the Verb website today help them find some new outdoor fun!

Quick tips on reading produce labels

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If you're anything like me, you're interested in knowing where your food comes from and how it's grown. I want to know, for instance, if the wheat in my cereal has been genetically modified to glow when it's thirsty. Unfortunately, with the labeling system we have today, it's not always possible to know when there are genetically modified foods in the processed food we eat. But did you know that produce is now routinely labeled?

The next time you're in your produce aisle, pick up the nearest fruit or vegetable. You're likely to find a sticker with a four or five digit number on it. This number can tell you how the food was grown:
  • Conventionally grown produce: 4 digits, usually starts with a 3 or 4
  • Organic produce: 5 digit number, starting with a 9
  • Genetically modified produce: 5 digit number, staring with an 8
The article uses bananas as an example. A conventionally grown banana will be labeled 4011, an organic banana 94011, and genetically modified banana, 84011.

Continue reading Quick tips on reading produce labels

Another take on eating cloned animals

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Bethany talked about the decision this week to allow proponents of animal cloning to vouch for food safety of cloned animals, so I started reading into the details.I'm not sure how to feel about this, but since I don't eat a heckuva lot of meat, it won't affect me in a huge way -- but I am in the minority.

Are there more ethical implications here -- or more implications that nobody has thought of yet? Just this past Thursday, the FDA issued a draft rule that found that meat from cloned cattle, pigs, and goats was as saf e to eat as any other meat.

I'm not sure I agree with that statement since we are so close to just the beginning of he way cloning will infiltrate our daily lives. "FDA is essentially giving a couple of cloning companies a Christmas present at the expense of consumers and the dairy industry," said Joe Mendelson, legal director at the Center for Food Safety. At this point, I think I agree with him.

Living near traffic causes breathing problems

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In a new study out of Switzerland, researchers have discovered that living near a busy street or high-traffic area increases a person's risk for various respiratory conditions and disorders. Although it's been widely known for a long time that auto emissions and other air pollutants are bad for us, this is the first study to take a look specifically at how health is affected by living close to main roads.

Almost 10,000 people participated in the study back in 1991 and again in 2002. The results showed clearly that the closer people lived to main streets and traffic the more respiratory symptoms they experienced. For example, people who lived within 20 meters of a busy road were 15% more likely to have phlegm in their throat and lungs. Yuck!

But there was some good news discovered. The second part of the study, done in 2002, showed somewhat less respiratory symptoms compared to the earlier study in 1991 -- researchers believe this is due to stricter auto emission regulations over recent years.

Definitely makes you think.

Sugar: 10 good reasons to avoid it

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As a pre-New Year's resolution, I gave up sweets and table sugar on December 26. Today as I busied myself with my day, I realized that I felt unusually good. I have a notorious sweet tooth and it takes giving up sugar to make me realize how bad sweets make me feel -- tired, headachey, and moody. Worse, the more sugar I eat, the more I want, which is a self-defeating cycle. Though I know I won't be able to avoid sugar forever, keeping it out of my every day diet is an important part of my health and nutrition goals.

I don't believe a treat here and there will hurt you, but this list makes a pretty good case for making sure that sugar is, in fact, just an occasional treat and not a major staple in your diet. Tooth decay, obesity, impaired immune function, faster aging...eek! There's a lot of good information there -- for instance, in the early 80s, New York City Public Schools reduced the amount of table sugar in their school lunches and eliminated artificial colors and preservatives. Their national academic rating shot up a whopping 15.7%.

Sugar is sneaky. Not only is it in a lot of products that don't seem sweet, it has a lot of different names. If you want to reduce or eliminate it from your diet, read food labels carefully.

If you have kids, better check your fat intake

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Do you have kids? If so, you may be eating more fat than adults in childless homes, according to a new study. The study suggested that the fat intake of adults living with under-17 children was five grams higher per day than childless adults.

"It's not a large amount, but if you do that every day, over time that adds up to be a lot of fat," says Helena Laroche, MD, an author of the study. I agree -- five grams a fat per day is not that much. But, over a long period of time, it can add up to quite a bit of fat.

It makes sense that the die tary habits of kids affects the eating habits of adults in the same household -- even though the reverse has been studied for years.

The worst foods: Things you should always avoid

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Ever wonder what the worst foods out there are? If so, you're in luck -- eDiets has compiled a list of foods that they advise you to never eat. What made the list? Doughnuts, for being high in fat and sugar and low in nutrients; Cheeseburgers and fries, for being high in saturated (and possibly trans) fats, cholesterol and refined carbs; Fried chicken for also being high in saturated and trans fats; Oscar Meyer Lunchables, for containing processed meats and cheese that are high in saturated fat, not to mention refined carbs, sugary treats and massive amounts of sodium; Sugary cereals, for being low in nutrients, high in pro cessed carbs and extremely high in sugar; processed meats for containing the least appetizing parts of the animal (blech) and being high in carcinogens (yikes!); and finally canned soup (really?!) for being often containing trans fats and being extremely high in sodium.

What do you think of this list? Are they really the worst foods for you?

Virtual reality helps young burn patients

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The multiple ways in which technology can help certain patients with medical issues never ceases to amaze me -- and it gets neater and more productive all the time.

Young patients with burn injuries can sometimes have a difficult trip back to normalcy -- but in new studies, exposing these kids to alternative forms of treatment -- virtual treatment -- can do wonders for their recovery.

Distraction from the daily torment of rehabilitation -- much of it painful -- can be largely distressing to younger burn victims -- but giving a very real diversion during these processes can be lifesavers according to some of the parents of young burn victims.

New clues to cancer found

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In some recent findings, it was found that the same mechanism that drives tumor development can also suppress tumor growth. In other words, learning to harness how to grow tumors may lead to an understanding on how to suppress them.

Mice were studied by a team at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine students. the students looked at mice that had cells with one or more extra or missing chromosomes. This is a common feature of cancer cells.

Don Cleveland, a professor of medicine at that university, explained that "W e found that, with age, having cells which inherited the wrong composition of chromosomes resulted in a larger number of spontaneous tumors."

Will this turn into a potential new area for cancer research? Quite possibly.

What's the deal with cortisol-reducing diets and supplements?

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Laid up with a bout of flu, I spent a couple of days channel surfing recently, something I rarely ever do. I can across a bright, flashy ad for a Cortisol-reducing supplement, which explained to me in an energetic TV voice that by reducing cortisol, it would reduce my belly fat. So I decided to figure out just what this cortisol stuff is anyway?

Turn out, Cortisol is a hormone that, in response to stress, increases appetite and in turn, belly fat. So weight-loss companies have drawn the conclusion that by reducing cortisol, appetite and therefore belly fat can also be reduced. It seems like an obvious conclusion but there doesn't seem to be any conclusive evidence that Cortisol-reducing products help with weight loss. A better way to reduce cortisol would be to reduce your stress.

Have you seen any results from using Cortisol-reducing products?

FDA approves new wrinkle treatment

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Radiesse is not actually new, having been used since 2002 in facial reconstructive surgeries, but the FDA has now approved it for a couple of new treatments. One is for HIV/AIDS patients who have suffered severe fat loss in their faces as a result of the disease, and the other -- more for the mainstream population -- is that it can now be used cosmetically to improve the appearance of moderate to severe frown lines. Supposedly Radiesse is longer-lasting than current wrinkle fillers, and has additional properties that stimulate the face to produce more collagen -- which in turn gives the face improved structure and fullness.

Yeah, we'll see! I won't be the first in line.