Friday, 12 January 2007

The common cold virus could fight cancer

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The Guardian is reporting on a revolutionary new way to possibly fight cancer in the future using the common cold virus of all things. By injecting the infected tissue with a cold, British researchers are hoping that this method may complement other popular ways of fighting cancer like chemotherapy.

Because cancer naturally stops a person's immune system from killing it off, a cold virus would find the cellular environment of a tumor very appealing since there is no immune response. Scientists say they would only need to inject a small amount of virus cells because they would quickly replicate and burst the tumor cells. After that it's just a mat ter of repetition and reproduction.

This way of combating cancer would hopefully target the secondary variety called metastases which goes on to kill 75% of malignant cancer patients. We've still got several years of clinical trials before this could become a new weapon. Even so, any lucky break with these stealth viruses could revolutionize how doctors fight cancer.

We're surrounded by plastic, but is it safe?

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It's everywhere we look -- our kitchens, our desktops, our cars, our children's toy boxes. Plastic -- in today's modern world, it simply can't be avoided. But should we be avoiding it?

According to recent research, probably. It's not the plastic itself, but the chemicals that are used in the making of it. When plastics become worn, those same chemicals can leach into our foods, drinks, and homes. In fact, a recent study of Canadian citizens found that levels of 68 different types of chemicals were found in adults, and scarily, even higher levels in children.

There are "good" plastics and then there are very bad plastics, like PVC. PVC -- or vinyl -- is found in a variety of products, including personal care products and children's toys. Vinyl has been found to leach phthalates -- known endocrine disruptors -- as well as mercury and dioxins over its lifetime. Though numerous agencies agree that PVC should be monitored, there are few regulations in place.

Continue reading We're surrounded by plastic, but is it safe?

Blood test predicts heart attack risk

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If you're at risk of having a heart attack, did you know that a simple blood test may be able to give you a clue that helps you identify this risk? According to a new test, heart patients that are at risk of developing heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure may have a simple way to determine that ahead of time.

The test measures blood levels of a protein called NT-proBNP.Once administered, the test was turned out to be a fairly good way to predicts cardiovascular events. The test's study involved 1,000 heart patients.

In what seems to be pretty conclusive evidence, patients with the highest levels of the protein in their blood were eight times as likely as patients with the lowest levels to die or suffer a heart attack.

Will this kind of test be used in hospitals as a screener mechanism for incoming heart patients? Perhaps.

Snowshoeing: fun, low-impact, outrageous calorie burn!

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Tis the season of limited outdoor activities. Not so much where I live (we're having a much warmer than average winter here in the Midwest) but generally speaking winter is the worst time of year for outdoor fitness and sports. Jogging and walking can get waylaid by snow and ice, and skiing definitely isn't for everybody. But snowshoeing might be.

Snowshoeing offers a low-impact total body workout that gets you outdoors, gives you an awesome energy burn (600 cals/hour), and best of all -- it's fun! Today's snowshoes are lighter and more comfortable than they used to be, and it's so easy anybody can do it.

See this video clip from to learn more, and even get some beginner pointers.

'Pluripotent' stem cells found in amniotic fluid

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With the ongoing debate about stem cells being re-energized in the halls of the U.S. Congress right now, it appears that stem cells have now been found in discarded amniotic fluid.

that is significant because if used, these stem cells -- like stem cells harvested from other areas of the human body -- may hold the key to new treatments for disease and injury. Is it fine to use these cells from discarded amniotic fluid?

The findings from Wake Forest University state that these amniotic fluid stem cells may not be "pluripotent" (capable of forming every type of adult tissue). However, that does not mean they could not be useful When these pluripotent cells are grown in the right environment, they can become all kinds of cells -- from fat cells to bone cells to brain cells.

Do you like formula better than breast milk for your baby?

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Do you prefer to feed your baby infant or baby formula or actual breast milk? It seems that a larger number of Americans think that infant formula is as good as breast milk.

More Americans -- according to the CDC -- are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with mothers breast-feeding their infants in public. I find this ridiculous -- that is the natural way to feed an infant and if some citizens are offended by that, well -- don't watch.

Dr. Rowe Li from the CDC said that "The findings underscore the need to educate the general public that breast-feeding is the best method of feeding and nurturing infants."

I agree with Dr. Li -- why can't we accept that breast feeding is the way babies have been fed for as long as anyone can remember? Not that infant formula is bad, but it's not better than the natural way to feed babies in my opinion. YMMV.

Simple ways to lighten up your favorite recipes

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If you're trying to lose weight or are just interested in improving your eating habits, making a few changes in your favorite recipes is a good place to start. Many people don't want to completely give up the foods they love, and with a little tweaking, you shouldn't have to.

Here's a great article outlining 20 tips for making any meal lighter and healthier. There's a lot of helpful information here ranging from simple -- using a smaller plate to reduce portion sizes -- to the more complicated idea of comparing your recipe to similar versions in a low-calorie cook book. My favorite ideas fall in the substitution category -- using less of a more flavorful cheese and putting chocolate chips on top of cookies instead of mixing them into the batter.

Though this article recommends canola oil for sauteing, I've found success sauteing onions, garlic, and ginger in vegetable broth as well. What kinds of cooking tricks do you use in your kitchen to lighten up your favorite meals?

What do you sleep on?

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I've talked to a few people recently who have purchased mattresses using "viscoelastic" memory foam. You know, the kind made famous by Tempur-Pedic?

After a few nights of these people resting on their new viscoelastic mattress covers (and entire mattresses), so of these friends and associates felt light-headed and weak, although they love the mattress feel of the foam itself.

Are these mattresses made of some kind of preservative or is there glue involved that may be of a toxic nature? It's odd to see that regular mattresses did not elicit any kind of "sickly" response like these new viscoel astic mattresses did, so I am wanting to hear from any readers that have one of these mattresses and find it to cause some kind of reaction -- besides a good night's sleep.

Any takers?

Living with kids increases the fat in your diet

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A new study shows that having children in your home could be hurting your diet, if you're not careful. I think everyone would agree that most "kid friendly" kitchens are stocked with things like hot dogs, mac and cheese, and Oreo cookies. Having these things around makes it easier for the adults in the house to eat them also, not to mention families with young children make more visits to fast food restaurants. One researcher was quoted as saying "Adults pick up foods the kids want, so the kids end up driving the nutritio n habits of the household instead of parents." According to the study adults living with children eat an average of 5 more grams of fat per day than someone who doesn't have kids around. That's equal to an extra personal-size pizza each week!

More women depressed if chronic headaches occur regularly

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If you're a female that suffers from chronic headaches, did you know that you may be at greater risk for depression that a woman who does not suffer from chronic headaches?

A recent study just published in the journal Neurology estimated that 18 million American women have chronic headaches -- and that they may also suffer from regular bouts of depression as a result.

The study -- which featured 1,032 women at headache clinics in five states -- found that 439 reported having more than 15 headaches a month. This group was also found to report sympt oms of major depression.

Yoga is the same as the devil, according to some parents

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As first reported on Blogging Baby, some Christian parents in British Columbia are fighting to get yoga taken out of schools because they don't want their children to be exposed to other religions, including Yoga. I wasn't aware that yoga was a religion -- I thought it was a practice designed to increase flexibility, strength and body-mind awareness. Though I wonder if the parents mentioned are dealing with a full deck, as o ne says equates teaching yoga to kids with letting the Devil in to their life. Huh?

I don't think anything that promotes compassion, healthy living and calmness of mind can be a bad thing. I practice yoga and I don't consider myself partial to any religion, be it Buddhism or Christianity. In terms of schools, I think yoga is used more as a fitness technique than a religion, and taking that away from kids in the wake of an obesity epidemic might be doing them a disservice.

What do you think?

Bad for you and just plain gross -- eDiet's Hall of Shame

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Maybe you've heard of it: eDiet's has this outrageous weekly feature called the 'Food Hall of Shame'. It's a compilation of the most unhealthy, not to mention most bizarre, food combinations. They've just compiled the nominees for worst foods of 2006. Pretty much everything listed is fried in copious amounts of animal fat and coated in sugar or more fat. It's a pretty gross read but it's worth a gander. You can check it out here.

So now it's your turn: what are your most bizarre/disgusting/unhealthy food combinations? I used to melt butter and add a bunch of brown and white sugar and eat that for dessert -- yech! And my dad and brother love to pile half and inch of butter on saltine crackers and smoother it with ketchup -- I've never understood that one. Your turn!

Recipe Rehab: Pizza on a Diet, Part I

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Our weekly feature, Recipe Rehab, takes a recipe -- sometimes basic, sometimes decadent and sometimes just plain unhealthy -- and turns it into a scrumptious and healthy dish, pumped up with nutrition. Sometimes all it takes is a few alterations to prepare a dish that would make even your nutritionist proud.

It's New Years, which means most of us have made some sort of resolution to get fit and eat a healthier diet. This is always a goo d plan, but it's hard to stick with when it's cold outside and most of us are staying in, watching football and the upcoming awards ceremonies. For many people, that means pizza, which is a big diet no-no. But with this recipe, you can have your pizza and your diet too, especially if you pair it with a healthy salad, and it's fun to make as a family or with friends. If you don't have time to make the crust, you can buy whole wheat pizza dough at places like Trader Joes or Whole Foods.

Don't like sausage? Wait for next week, when we'll feature a pizza recipe for vegetarians.

Sausage and Cheese Pizza

For dough:

1 package yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup very warm water (125ºto 130ºF)
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
no-stick cooking spray

For topping:

1 26 ounce jar or can can low sodium sauce
2 cups part skim milk mozzarella cheese -- grated
1 pound turkey Italian sausage
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
fresh garlic and crushed red pepper, if desired

In large bowl, combine first four ingredients and let sit for 10 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface of the water. Add salt and slowly stir in the flour until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Return to the bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about two hours. Divide into two balls and let rise until doubled in size again

While the dough is rising, brown the sausage and drain off any fat.

Preheat the over to 450 degrees.

Spray two 12 inch pizza pans with cooking spray. Roll out a ball onto each pan until it reaches the edges. Alternatively, make one ball with all the dough and roll it out to cover a large cookie sheet.

Divide the sauce between the two crusts and spread until it evenly covers the crust. Top each pizza with half the sausage and then half the cheese. Sprinkle with oregano and fennel, additional garlic and crushed red pepper if desired. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted. Serve hot.

Rehab Rundown

  • Half the flour in the dough was replaced with whole wheat flour, adding B-vitamins and fiber
  • The olive oil and salt in the crust were reduced by half, cutting down on fat and sodium
  • Turkey sausage was used instead of traditional pork sausage and the amount was reduced, cutting down fat and calories while sacrificing none of the flavor
  • Low sodium tomato sauce cuts down on salt, while still providing lots of flavor and antioxidants
  • Part skim mozzarella cheese cuts down on the fat and the total amount was reduced, to cut down on the calories
  • Extra garlic, fennel and hot pepper add flavor without additional calories

Rehab Reveal

Based on 1/12 of recipe




324 (34% from fat)

231 (28% from fat)




Saturated Fat















Continue reading Recipe Rehab: Pizza on a Diet, Part I

Fit Factor: drop the Buddha belly and tone your abs

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Ok, here's the deal. I work go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, I do yoga on a regular basis and I walk a lot. I eat healthy, I weigh a healthy weight and my body is fairly toned overall. Yet I can't seem to get rid of the little paunch I have in my midsection. It's bad. So bad that I've had people ask me when I'm due. 'No baby,' I say, 'just fat.' Actually, it's more embarrassing for them than for me. But I do feel a wave of cringe pass over me when ever I see myself in a picture wearing something even slightly revealing. Or when I see myself in the mirror at yoga (those yoga pants are great but they don't conceal much.) I'm pretty envious of people with six pack abs. And though I've learned to not beat myself up over my Buddha Belly, that doesn't mean I wouldn't love to get rid of it.

As part of their 30 Day Jumpstart feature, AOL has posted a section on flattening the belly. They have a number of exercises listed, including ones that you can do with a bad back and ones that you can do at your desk (!), where I happen to spend a lot of time. Of course, you can't really go wrong with a good old crunch, can you? Well, no, but keep in mind that it's quality, not quantity that's important when it comes to crunches. Most people focus on the 'six pack' muscles when it comes to working their abs, but it's important to target all abdominal muscles -- including the obliques (the ones on eith er side of your torso) and the transverse abdominus (the deep muscle layer, far below what you can see.) For some more ab workout ideas, check this out.

Continue reading Fit Factor: drop the Buddha belly and tone your abs

Daily Fit Tip: "Fat-proof" your home

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You could be sabotaging yourself everyday, and not even know it! If you need some help staying on track with eating right and working out regularly (and who doesn't) then consider this: your house could be making you fat. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but when you

Toddlers need fruit, especially at meal time

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One of the smartest things I've done as a parent (and we won't be discussing some of the dumbest things, ahem) is also one of the simplest. I keep a bowl of fresh fruit washed and ready to go on our kitchen table. Whenever one of my kids wanders in and says, "I'm hungry," they tend to head first to the colorful and eye appealing mound of apples, mangoes, avocados, bananas, and oranges at their eye level. With all that sweet and yummy goodness in front of them, they're less likely to ask for a sugary snack. So I was interested when I read an a rticle today that said while fruit at snack time is great, it's better served at meal time.

Many people think we get the vast majority of our iron from meat, but actually it comes from grains, breads, and cereals. Vitamin C aids in the absorption of iron, so it makes sense that when you pair fruit with a meal, more of the iron is absorbed. This study appeared to prove that theory, and found that children who ate fruit at meal time rather than as a snack were less likely to be iron deficient. Iron deficiency is a common problem of young children, and can lead to poor brain development and trouble learning.

Fruit is an excellent addition to breakfast -- chopped strawberries over cereal or oatmeal, blueberry pancakes, or a side of sliced peaches or mango with toast and eggs give children a little burst of energy in the morning. Whole apples, pears, and bananas are easy to stick into a lunc hbox or to slice up for a hungry toddler. If you prefer vegetables at dinner time, consider serving fruit for desert. (And it must be said that, though the article didn't mention them, plenty of vegetables -- such as broccoli, green pepper, and peas -- are rich in vitamin C as well.)

Barefoot running: a trend to skip?

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Barefoot running goes against everything we've been taught about supporting our foot and protecting ourselves from injury while training. So why is this trend growing in popularity, with barefoot running clubs popping up across the nation, athletes swearing by its benefits, and some runners even competing in entire marathons wearing no shoes?

While the risks of running without shoes range from blisters to serious bone injury, the benefits can be tempting. For runners looking to improve their form and stride, running barefoot can be extremely helpful. Supporters of barefoot running say it makes them more in touch with their own movement and strengthens muscles i n the feet and legs that aren't usually used.

If you're intrigued, don't just set out running down the street without shoes on. A physician or personal trainer experienced in barefoot running can recommend ways to get started as safely as possible, like running in soft grass for short amounts of time for the first few weeks to see how your body adjusts.

Snoring hinders sleep and hurts relationships

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All the jokes and sitcom situations making light of couples fighting over one or the other's snoring habit may not be so funny after all: a recent study suggests that snoring not only interferes with getting enough sleep, for all people involved, but can also tear relationships apart. And sadly, the two play off each other -- lack of sleep making both parties tired, irritable, and less likely to be interested in intimacy.

There are treatments for chronic snoring, including everything from simple earplugs to more drastic measures like surgery. Experts warn that splitting into separate bedrooms should be viewed as a temporary fix for a problem like this one, and both should agree on a clear "plan of attack" for returning to a shared situation as soon as possible. For many couples, the time spent catching up on the day and visiting with each other while getting into bed is some of the only "alone time" they get all day.

So if this is something you're dealing with, be proactive! Don't let a little snoring action ruin your relationship.

Active kids means a tax break for Canadian parents

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In light of the high rates of obesity in children, I think it's about time the government took steps to do something about before it's too late. So it's great to hear about the Canadian children's fitness tax credit, given to parents of children who are signed up for extracurricular sports. I'll admit, I'm a Canadian and I've never heard of such a credit, but then again, I don't have kids. Is this a well-known tax credit?

Anyway, it's a great idea because I think it will motivate parents to encourage more activity in their children, and by working activity into their routine while they're young, th ey're on the road to ensuring that activity is an important part of their adult life too. But if a child is active, and his or her parents aren't, it doesn't set a good example for the kids and they may want to give up on sport. So I propose that parents get active too -- if not for themselves then to motivate their kids.

Does Jolie's workout give her those veiny arms?

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Like most Hollywood actresses, Angelina Jolie has an intense fitness routine to keep her in shape. Recently, however, the star's punishing workouts have been attributed to the bulging veins in the star's arms, wrists and finger.

It boils down to this: if you don't eat enough, and you workout like crazy, bad things will happen.

According to Steve Mongey, head trainer at a posh West London gym, "If you don't keep your eating up and do a lot of exercise the fat gets stripped away and the veins become exposed."

This isn't to say exercise -- even the fanatical exercise that stars like Jolie engage in -- is bad for you. But if you are going to push yourself, make sure the body has the fuel that it needs. If your fitness routine isn't keeping you healthy, what's the point?