Friday, 19 January 2007

Are drug companies denying us the cure for Cancer?

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Curing cancer is an ultimately important, yet seemingly unattainable goal of organizations and individuals worldwide. But what if the answer was as simple as using a drug that has been around for age? Amazingly, that's what some scientists may believe to the be the key to curing the dreaded disease. Here's the explanation: It was discovered years ago that an inefficient process called glycolysis was used to generate energy in cancerous cells, while healthy cells utilized specialized mechani sms called mitochondria . Glycolysis was always thought to be a symptom of cancerous cells, but some researchers have started to wonder: what if it's the cause?

Studies show that when given a drug called dichloroacetate (DCA for short,) normally used to treat people with mitochondrial diseases, was given to cancer cells, glycolysis stopped and normal the mitochondria process resumed. And, when given to rats, the drugs decreased the size of tumors.

There's a problem though. DCA can't be patented, so drug companies are hesitant to run trials on it because, well, they don't stand to profit from it. So, I may be over simplifying here, but a drug that could change the world is being denied to the public because of the almighty dollar? That's more than a little infuriating -- it's downright disgusting. In the meantime, while drug companies race to find an alternative drug that can be patented and has similar effects to DCA, which will no doubt be outrageous ly expensive and subsequently not available to the people that need it the most, we'll wait and hope we and our loved ones don't get taken down by the Big C. For some of use, my father for instance, it will be too late.

Beat the afternoon brain drain

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This is the point in the day where my brain starts to give out. I can't focus, I'm not not motivated, and more coffee just isn't going to help. Sound familiar? Try some protein for lunch.

The neurons in your brain -- essentially made of fat -- communicate with other via the proteins that you eat. They send messages to one another called neurotransmitters, which are generally comprised of amino acids -- the basic components of protein.

In addition, when you eat protein you increase your brain's levels of tyrosine, another amino acid, which helps the brain generate norepinephrine and dopamine. These chemicals are similar to serotonin, in that they also promote alertness.

But remember, there's no such thing as a cure all. If you're not sleeping enough, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, or eating too much sugar, you're still going to feel sluggish. So get some sleep. Eat some protein. Ditch the coffee. Get back to work.

Super slow workout builds muscle without the sweat

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Exercise can be tough to squeeze in when your schedule fills up. If you're working a lot of hours, it's hard to pencil in a trip to the gym or another kind of workout -- especially if you have to shower and get cleaned up to run off to another meeting.

But what if you could workout in your office for 20 minutes -- with no sweating -- and still get muscle-building results? Proponents of the Super Slow method of weight lifting say that you can do just that. Super Slow workouts work each muscle just one time -- lifting and lower for 10 long seconds until the muscle fatigues. Supposedly, the slowness of the lift minimizes stress on the joints and eliminates swing or momentum. Not only that, it can build strength just as fast as a traditional workout. The best part is that because the movements are so slow, most people don't even break a sweat. So you can do the workout right in your office during your lunch hour and still be fresh for that important afternoon meeting.

Franchises like Super Slow Zone have popped up around the country, but you can try this method all on your own. Get out a stop watch or a clock with a second hand to help you judge exactly how long 10 seconds lasts. Now start your regular lifting routine and make sure each lift and lower lasts a full 10 seconds. Haven't lifted weights before? That's ok! This easily adaptable technique can be done by anyone -- even if you've never worked out before (but remember to check with your doctor if you're new to exercise.) Grab some some soup cans and give the technique a try; if you like it, you can upgrade t o weights tomorrow!

Caffeine helps with workout pain?

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If you are an avid exerciser -- but are an avid morning coffee drinker as well -- those two used to sound like ire opposites. That is, until now.

New research says that drinking the equivalent of two cups before exercise may reduce postworkout muscle pain by nearly 50%. To the "no pain, no gain" crowd, this may not be that important.

To the rest of us, it's quite intriguing. Although post-workout pain dissolves after your bones and muscles are used to exercise, pain from exercise is pretty evident when just starting out. Although caffeine is said to re duce pain here, yo make the call on a few cups right before you work out.

Going to college can reduce your risk of stroke

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A study done in Europe shows that being well-educated lowers the risk of stroke for women. 48,000 Swedish women were followed over 10 years, and the data shows that those with less education had a much higher risk -- as much as two times greater -- of having a stroke than those with higher educations.

Researchers attribute the difference mainly to socio-economic status and associated lifestyle choices, like smoking and drinking alcohol. Many people are encouraged by this study because it confirms that educating people really can improve quality of life, and that making an effort to reduce your risk factors for stroke can have a huge impact.

Putting yourself at the top of your priorities

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How often do you put your whole self into doing something for another person, fulfilling a promise or ticking off a task from someone else's to-do list? And how often do you invest that much effort, time and energy in yourself?

For many of us, investing in ourselves is a much bigger challenge than taking care of another person's needs. Just think how many times you've jumped to handle a crisis for your boss while your own urgent work sits unattended on your desk. Or how many months you've put off getting your own haircut even though everyone else in the household's haircut is a top priority.

It is all too easy for our own fitness and nutrition goals to slide down the list as well. That is why I love the idea of making a pledge to put the changes I desire into action. By creating my own pledge, I am not only committing my goals to paper (which feels a lot more official than bouncing around in my head), I'm also making a commitment to prioritize myself.

Just like every job has its own set of responsibilities, the beauty of having your very own pledge is that you can set your challenges according to what feels right for you and where you are this month, this week or even just today (making your day planner a lot more fun, I think).

Perhaps some people need specifics: I will run the 5K in March and to get there, I will do my best to train three times this week.

Perhaps some people need reassurance: I will not beat myself up for falling off the fitness wagon. I will just get back on the next day.

Perhaps some people need rewards: I will get a haircut every time I reach a ten-pound goal.

For me, I need a gentle reminder in the form of a Post-It on my bathroom mirror: Do something good for yourself today.

There's a lot of wiggle room in my statement, and this month, that feels right. Next month, when I've made self-care more routine than rare, I will add in a new statement (maybe to give that belly dancing DVD a try or try two new recipes a week from my new Ayurvedic cookbook). The goal is to live healthier, of course, but it is also live at the top of my own list.

Do you really know what is in that Hoodia supplement?

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Are most of the hoodia gordonii supplements and pills sold in the U.S. counterfeit or otherwise lacking in the actual component of hoodia itself?

As always, you usually get what you pay for. I am always skeptical with supplements unless the manufacturer can supply verifiable data and research that shows where their raw materials come from. In other words, I rarely buy vitamins and supplements at a grocery store, since I believe most of those products are a waste of time and money.

There are many fillers manufacturers can use to stuff pills with while including a tiny amount of actual vitamins or minerals, so you are best to research your chosen supplements very carefully or you could be swallowing sawdust for all you know.

Ten foods you should NEVER eat!

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Okay, so "never" is pretty strong language, but the mentality here is that these select foods are some of the most detrimental to your healthy diet. Unfortunately, these foods are also very practical and it may just break your heart to learn that Pepperidge Farm's roasted chicken pot pie packs over 1,000 calories and 31 grams of fat. Even if you consumed the daily allowance for saturated fat, you'd be eating more than a day's worth in this single meal!

So what else was on the list? Well, the The Cheesecake Factory's 6 Carb Cheesecake throws up a red flag. Six carbs may not sound bad, but at 29 grams of fat and over 600 calori es, it's more like eating a prime rib for dessert. Also on the list is Campbell's Chunky, Select, and other condensed soups. What could be so bad about them? Well, it isn't in the caloric intake, but rather the sodium content. A single can averages an individual's daily allotment for salt.

There are healthier alternatives to most of the foods talked about here. For instance, you can pick up Campbell's Healthy Request featuring much less sodium just as easy as the other kind. And don't worry: eating these foods won't kill you. It wouldn't hurt to nibble on a Mrs. Fields Milk Chocolate & Walnuts cookie if it was in moderation, just like anything else.

Survivors of downsizing suffer from stress too

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I have a friend who looked up from his desk one day to see the head of HR -- who normally worked in another city -- going cubicle to cubicle. He'd stop every now and then to ask an employee to come to his office. The company was downsizing, and because employees didn't know what was happening or who was being laid off, it appeared to be random. My friend said that, because the director was dressed all in black that day, it was like the Grim Reaper going through the office plucking victims from their chairs. He was joking, but the stress in his voice was evident, as was the relief he wasn't one of the "chosen."

Down sizing is devastating on those who lose their jobs, there's no argument there. But what about those who remain at a company after downsizing has occurred? Not surprisingly, survivors of employee cuts are at greater risk of suffering mental health issues as well, according to a recent study done in Finland. Studying 27,000 municipal workers over a six year time period, researchers discovered that men who lost their jobs were most likely to seek out a prescription for psychotropic drugs like sleeping pills, anti-anxiety drugs, or antidepressants. They also found that men whose jobs survived the cuts were 50% more likely to seek out prescriptions for those same drugs, compared to men whose units weren't downsized at all.

When downsizing occurs, experts say, employees left behind feel an increase in demands being placed on them as well as heightened insecurity about the future, which may explain these findings. Interestingly, this study was done in Finland -- a country with universal health care and a strong social safety net. I'm curious what the same study would turn up if it was repeated in the United States. What do you think?


Playing video games fulfills deep human need

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The roads have been frozen over where I live, so the last couple days, I've been holed up in my house, playing my old Nintendo 64. I thought I was just killing time, but apparently I was satisfying a deep psychological need. Who knew?

Researchers at a Florida-based virtual environment think tank recently discovered that the more a game fulfills a player's sense of independence, achievement and connectedness to others, the better it makes them feel.

"Video games we think have tremendous potential to impact people, particularly today's video games which are incredibly rich and complex," said researcher Dr. Scott Rigby. "This creates very fertile ground psychologically."

Now, before you buy a Nintendo Wii and fire your psychiatrist, this study isn't saying "video games are good for you." It does, however, give us an idea of why people play them, and helps understand how they effect us emotionally.

Mario Kart, anyone?

As you get older, make your home safer

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Growing older is inevitable, but moving out of your home someday because you just can't get around safely anymore doesn't have to be. The statistics are scary: falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries for people over age 65, one in three people over 65 will fall each year, and the majority of hip fractures are causes by falls at home.

But as disconcerting as those figures may be, the good news is that there are many things you can do to minimize your risk of falling or getting hurt in your own place. This article goes over several of the topics from two books on fall prevention, including simple things to do like having your stair railings extended, taking a close look at the kind of carpeting you have, and even the effects fear and other mental factors can have.

Most falls are preventable, despite aging and it's difficulties. But unfortunately for me, the article doesn't mention anything about falls from plain clumsiness.

Eat more to lose weight?

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This concept contradicts what a lot of people think - that you have to eat less to lose weight. But this diet concept is part of the popular Three Hour Diet, which Tyra Banks publicized last year, and it's also one of the steps in the 30 Day Jumpstart go ing on right now at AOL.

I always thought it sounded too good to be true, until I tried it. Like this article explains, it's not only how often you eat, but what you eat during those meals. So you can't just eat pizza every few hours and expect to lose weight. Instead, you eat small, frequent meals of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. The idea is to stabilize your blood sugar and insulin levels, which helps to prevent cravings and massive swings in your blood sugar. And you know what - it works! Sure, it was hard for the first few weeks to give up french fries and cookies, but after that, I wasn't hungry and I wasn't craving sugar and I stopped wanting things like cookies. I lost fifteen pounds, and the healthy habits I learned help keep it off today.
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Daily Fit Tip: Stop feeling fat

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Feeling fat has become so common in our society that's it's almost uncool not to feel ugly and overweight. If you're standing around the water cooler with a group of colleagues and somebody complains about how gross they feel and that they're planning on starting a new diet, everybody chimes in with how and why they hate their own bodies. Nobody like's the person who stands there and says, "Yeah, I don't worry about what I eat cuz I'm already so hot." Stuck up fatty...

Now there's nothing wrong with being confident, although it does go best with some humility. But the important thing is not to let the negativity of people around you drag you down, and not to let "feeling fat" become a sneaky term for other emotional issues like being unhappy or lonely. It's difficult, if not impossible, to achieve anything positive if all you've got is negative energy. Start by changing how you talk to yourself, the actual words you use. Be kind (or funny) with yourself, but not self-loathing or critical. Become that confident happy person you imagine yourself to be if you were thinner, and before you know it your body will catch up with your thinking.

Recipe Rehab: Pizza on a diet, Part II

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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.

Last week, we featured a sausage and cheese pizza . If you're a vegetarian, that doesn't work for you, but don't think just because you're eating vegetables, that pizza is necessarily good for you. Many of them feature vegetables fried in oil and high fat cheeses. Even most salad pizzas, like today's recipe, have high fat dressings, cheeses and meats like prosciutto, which are high in both fat and sodium. The point of eating salad is for it to be good for you, and taste good too. This recipe is vegetarian, but you can modify it by adding lean grilled meat if you like.

Remember, 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.

Healthy Salad Pizza

For dough:

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

For topping:
1/2 cup part skim milk mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup Romano cheese
3 cups mixed baby greens, preferably red leaf, tatsoi, spinach and other dark leafy greens
1 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
1 whole peeled cucumber (1 medium) -- sliced
1 whole green pepper -- sliced
1/2 cup sliced red onion
1 cup fat-free Italian salad dressing


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

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 cheeses in half and sprinkle both over the two pizzas. Bake for 10 minutes or until the crust has browned and the cheese is melted.

While the pizza is baking, mix together the dressing, basil and mixed greens. When the pizza is done, divide the greens between the two baked crusts and cover with the remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

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
  • Fat free dressing was substituted for the standard italian dressing, reducing the fat and calories without sacrificing any flavor
  • Part skim mozzarella cheese cuts down on the fat and the total amount was reduced, to cut down on the calories
  • Mixed dark leafy greens were substituted for iceberg lettuce, adding vitamins and fiber
Rehab Reveal

Based on 1/12 recipe

Original

Adapted

Calories

282 (48% from fat)

181 (19% from fat)

Fat

15g

4g

Saturated Fat

4g

2g

Protein

7g

13g

Carbohydrate

31g

7g

Fiber

2g

4g

Sodium

390mg

390mg

Fit Factor: What not to do

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You've taken the all-important step of establishing a workout routine, and getting active is never a bad thing, but there are some things you need to keep in mind when working out at the gym, both in the interest of results and your personal safety. Here they are in no particular order:

5) Weight overload: Some people are naturally competitive, and feel the need to impress people with the amount of weight they can lift. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, as I am a tad competitive myself and believe that occasionally, some healthy competition can be a good thing, as it keeps you on your toes. However, competition is not helpful when you're hurting yourse lf to beat the other person. I heard a personal trainer once give this rule of thumb: If you're not struggling at all, you need more weight; if your muscles are shaking badly, you need less. Don't try to be a tough guy (or gal) -- stepping down for the sake of your body is just as noble.

Continue reading Fit Factor: What not to do

A new kind of report card: BMI scores for school-age children

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When I was young, I received a kinder and gentler version of a report card. There were no grades, no percentages, instead there were rankings like Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor. Now, with today's push for academics, I can get behind a more accurate grading scale, but when schools feel the need to report on a child's Body Mass Index, I wonder if things have gone too far.

Several school districts in states like Delaware, South Carolina, and Tennessee have what they think is a new weapon in the battle against childhood obesity -- mass weigh ins. Children are measured and the results are sent home in a letter to parents. Though the childhood scale doesn't use words like "obese," these BMI "report cards" are damaging to some nonetheless.

I can see this issue from both sides. On one hand, childhood obesity is a major health issue in our country and I think the public school system has a responsibility to get involved. But in many of the school districts involved, they are handing out these letters in one hand and serving up funnel cakes and fried school lunches in the other. Wouldn't the funding be better spent on improving the quality of foods served in the cafeteria? Couldn't the purpose be just as well served by sending home a general educational letter on the dangers of obesity? What about sending home the BMI formula so that parents and children could find their BMI together? That might even spur on whole families to get into shape (and teach a little math in the process.)

What do you think? Do you think BMI report cards ar e a trend that should continue, or are they just setting kids up for heartache as they compare (or silently choose not to share) the "number" they received?

How to get the results you're looking for

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I don' t know what the exact number is, but I do know that the vast majority of weight loss and fitness related New Year's resolutions have already ended in failure. And it isn't even February yet, how sad! Truth is that even though many people are good at supporting and motivating their friends and family, they suck at helping themselves. If you are your own worst enemy when it comes to keeping yourself on track, then maybe you just need to learn how to be kinder to yourself and focus some of that caregiver energy inwa rd. This article has 10 tips that seem to share the theme of developing positive habits and coping methods -- like signing an actual pledge to yourself that you'll reach your goal, and calling on your own personal "911 squad" whenever you're about to do something self-destructive.

In theory, losing weight and getting fit should be one of the easiest things in the world for anybody to do: by eating less and exercising more. But something hangs us all up and makes it one of the hardest things instead. Just think, though, how successful you could be if you could only learn to conquer your own inner demons.

Faking your way to portion control

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Why does it always seem to come down to portion control?

And why is it so hard to eyeball a good amount of food (note that I said good, not fabulous, humongous or basically non-existent)? How in the world do solid tricks - like comparing chicken breasts to a deck of cards or peanut butter to the tip of our thumb - elude us in those critical moments between pan and plate?

Because all of this business both boggles and challenges me, I was delighted by another idea that might just cement good portion sizes into my mind: Fake food.

Perhaps like me, you've visited a dietitian's office or been to a weight loss program where fake food has been pulled out to demonstrate what a healthy meal looks like. And perhaps like me, you've been amazed at how real it looks (and how strangely rubbery it feels). Until I read this, it never occurred to me that purchasing my own set of fake food would be a weight loss aide.

The downside of this miracle tool is that fake food is rather spendy. The best part of faux cuisine, however, is that it gives you a definitive measurement for your food and drinks. Unlike the amazingly expanding deck of cards in your mind, there will be no doubt left in your mind if your rice overfloweth.

If you can get over setting an extra place at the table for your imaginary meal or pulling an imitation glass of merlot out of your purse at a restaurant, perhaps fake food will help you measure your way to weight loss success.

If it all seems a bit too quirky for your personal portion controlling, then perhaps purchasing a bit of this will be all the motivation you need!

Could aspirin prevent adult-onset asthma?

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We all know that baby aspirin is a typical therapy used to reduce the risk of heart attack. But can it possibly reduce the risk of adult-onset asthma as well? It appears so, after this study found that when adults regularly took 325 mg of aspirin per day, the incidence of asthma fell by 22%.

I think that this news is interesting, but that there's also the possibility of a dangerous misconception. Aspirin aggravates asthma in about 4 to 11% of asthmatics. So it's important to point out here that aspirin is no t a treatment for asthma and if you're aspirin-sensitive you definitely shouldn't start taking it.

The greatest reduction was found in those who didn't smoke and who were older than 45 years old when they started the study. I'm curious about two things: 1) why do you suppose aspirin prevents asthma in some people and 2) why does the aspirin appear to be more helpful if started later in life? Is there anyone in the medical field out there willing to shed light on this theory? As an asthmatic, I'm always interested to see where new research leads.

What would it take for you to become a vegan?

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VegetablesWould you become a vegan to protect your heart health? Studies have shown that if you eat less meat, your heart will thank you for it. From lower blood pressure to less heart disease and cancer, a vegetarian lifestyle could work for some people.

If you are thinking of cutting some animal products out of your diet, ThirdAge's article gives lo ts of alternatives to meats so that you can be sure you are balancing your nutrition. Get your iron from lentils, for example, or your calcium from leafy greens.

Is vegan the way to go for everyone? If you are like me, your body may just not do well on an all-plant diet. I need animal protein for energy. But I am not talking about eating the steak that John Candy devoured in The great Outdoors (am I dating myself with that reference?) every night. Instead, small amounts of healthy meats each week, intermingled with vegetarian choices, work for me. What do I mean by healthy meats? I mean grass fed beef, free range poultry, naturally raised game meats and wild Alaskan salmon.

Some expert opinions don't believe veganism is the way to go at all for optimum health. For another point of view, peruse Weston Price's website, especially t his article about the myths of beef. Maybe beef is the health food after all . . .

So I ask again, would you become a vegan to protect your heart health?