Monday, 28 May 2007

Dairy industry sued over dairy diets

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Are you a dairy fan? Cheese and yogurt can be hard to give up and those products can be really tasty -- but are they a good foundation for a healthy diet?

The dairy industry loves to tell us the health benefits of a diet high in dairy (I'm unconvinced, by the way), but fans of dairy products listen intently and follow that industry's advice. Except for one woman, who gained weight on a dairy-based diet and is suing the dairy industry because of it.

I'm not sure what kind of research stated that eating a diet high in dairy can lead to weight loss (biased research, perhaps), so I'm interested to see how this case unfolds. The sheer amount of saturated fat in most dairy product alone is enough to make most healthy people do a double take, but losing weight eating dairy? C'mon!

Chinese organic produce: do your research

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Eat a lot of frozen organic produce? My guess is that a good portion of that is actually imported from China, like many foods are these days. Organic generally denotes the lack of chemicals and hormones in the food along with sustainable agriculture practices -- but that's organic from the U.S. Are there measurements like this in China in connection with the term "organic?"

Chinese food imports have been under the radar for a while now until recently (the dog food contamination mess), but food from this country is now being scrutinized heavily in the wake of many high-profile issues with food imported from there. What about "organic" food from China? Is if safe?

There is really no easy answer for that, although I would guess that organic food from China is not any worse that organically-recognized food grown here in the U.S. -- but that is only an uneducated guess. Do you trust Chinese organic imports?

Healthy weight loss tips help shun past faliures

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Weight loss can be destructive. The yo-yo effect can cause loss of motivation and the rapid way in which many of us try to lose weight can cause undue stress on the body. Gradual moderation is key in any "healthy" weight loss that is planned and scheduled as to not cause actual harm to your health (which can happen).

Why is is that some people can lose weight and keep it off for years, while other bounce in and out of diets (and evening dress sizes) 20 times a year? There are a plethora of variables that come into play here. As always, it comes down to the details of each dieter's diet.

Finding out what doesn't work comes through experience -- but wouldn't it be nice to know what works from the start and save yourself oodles of frustration? See this and get the lowdown on healthy weight loss. Yes, it's there waiting for you.

Altruism is good for you

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Why should help others? Do we get good karma? Are we morally obligated? Is it simply "'the right thing to do?"

A recent study suggests that we do it because it's a basic human need. Altruism, according to researchers, activates a part of the brain that normally responds only to food or sex. In short, it's one of the most primitive ways in which humans find pleasure.

In this way, neuroscience appears to be investigating and explaining the very foundation of human morality. For a person's brain to recognize altruistic behavior as pleasurable, that person must be able to empathize with another -- to understand what that person is going through. And, say neuroscientists, that's the basic building blocks of how most people form their ideas of right and wrong.

So, rather than viewing morality as something that's handed down though generations -- or something that's taught by philosophers, clergy, etc -- we should instead think of morality as something that stems from basic brain activities. Essentially, says one Harvard neuroscientist, it's something that's "handed up."

It's a very interesting, and incredibly complex concept, well-outlined by this Washington Post article. Well worth a read for anyone interested in the brain, human behavior, or philosophy.

Looking at allergies vs. intolerances

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Have a food allergy? Many allergies -- to things like wheat, peanuts and milk -- are often not allergies at all, but just simple intolerances. Sound the same, don't they?

In wheat, the "gluten" part may be the cause of an allergic reaction instead of the wheat itself (but since gluten is part of the wheat stalk, wheat is often banned from many pantries).

Defining an intolerance is as easy as saying that there is no immune system response from the body. In an allergy, the immune system's response is what causes those rashes and dry heaves. Want to know more? See this.

Tips to help keep you from overeating

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Food is meant to be nothing more than fuel for us but there's so much yummy stuff out there that we often over-indulge in things that are tasty and eat more than we need to sustain our energy. This is why we gain weight. It's all down to simple math: you need to burn off what you consume to maintain your weight.

So if we all stopped over-eating, would that be the end to our weight woes? Theoretically, yes ... we could eat anything--ice cream, cake, Big Macs--and as long as we only ate as much as our body needed, we wouldn't gain weight. So how do we stop ourselves from over-eating?

The first step is identifying how much we should be eating. After that, follow these helpful tips from WebMD on how to control your eating. What tricks have helped keep you from over-eating?

Cluck off: Why you shouldn't be eating chicken wings

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Chicken wings are one of my favourite indulgences. I like salt and pepper wings with a side of ranch -- I'm drooling just thinking about it. But what was previously a 'once-a-week' indulgence for me has become more like a 'once-a-year' indulgence because as it turns out, they're terrible for you.

Don't get me wrong ... if you domestically inclined, you can probably find a way to make them less unhealthy. Don't deep-fry them, for one. I like barbecued or baked wings as much as regular ones. And it might be a good idea to remove the skin, although that doesn't leave much meat left.

But if you're watching your weight, stay away from restaurant chicken wings. Far away. They're deep-fried unless otherwise stated. And usually breaded. For 10 wings, your going to cost yourself between 800 and 2000 calories, and at least 60 g of fat (more like 100). For more shocking wing facts, check out this article and let me know your thoughts.

Shiny, happy people

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Are you wanting to "shine" this summer? Summer is when we shed our long pants, clunky shoes and long-sleeved shirts in favor of shorts, sandals and t-shirts.Nothing is quite invigorating as sitting under the sun enjoying a breeze with a minimum of clothes to weight you down.

But, are you embarrassed about those toenails or skin marks? Pedicures, skin exfoliations and other treatments may make your external look "come alive" -- and recent studies say that if you do this, you'll be happier too.

So, take charge of harnessing your external beauty this summer and be "shiny". This doesn't mean tan until you're dark brown -- just accentuate what you already have. It's there waiting.

New alcohol warnings help you know your limits

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By 2008, all alcoholic drinks in the UK will carry new warning labels that outline safe drinking limits for men and women. While the labels won't be as strong as those used for cigarettes in Britain (for example, some packs simply read: "Smoking kills"), they will advocate more responsible drinking.

The government is working with the alcohol industry on exactly how the label will read, and -- at least for now -- the program is voluntary, so it's not clear how many beverage-makers will sign up. However, if the majority of the industry doesn't get behind the initiative, the government plans to make it required by law.

While many already know the maximum number of "units" they should consume per day (3 to 4 for men, 2 to 3 for women), some don't understand what a "unit" is in the first place -- as that can change depending on the percentage of alcohol a drink contains. The hope is, that these labels will make that clear.

But, even if this is a good first step, is it really enough? Some say the small-print labels won't make any difference overall consumption, while others point out that the information will be largely unnoticed in bars where people drink beer on tap.

At this point, it seems, something is better is nothing.

Discount programs encourage gym memberships

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Everyone loves a discount, right? When it comes to gym memberships, Blue Cross of Minnesota -- who offered $20 a month off health club fees if participants met a monthly attendance goal -- recently found that discount programs work. Nearly 50% of their participants said they took part in the program because of the reduced cost.

A recent review of the program found that the discount program may have paid off for everyone involved. Users who visited the gym at least 8 times a month for the 9-month study claimed 17.8% fewer health care costs and were less likely to visit the ER or be hospitalized than those who didn't participate in the program.

So could insurance-sponsored discount programs motivate people to better health? It's possible, but the study also found that those who took part in the program were more likely to live within 2 miles of a gym or health club, and that those who declined the program were likely to live 3.5 miles or more from the gym. So if you don't have a gym nearby, the program might not be any use to you. I wonder if insurance providers could come up with an alternative incentive plan for those who don't use a gym to build their fitness?

Natural skim milk straight from the cow?

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Are you a fan of cow's milk but prefer the lower-fat and healthier skim milk rather than whole milk? Instead of using equipment to make skim milk, scientists say they are breeding cows to produce skimmed milk naturally. That's right -- straight from the udder.

The scientist team has found a cow which naturally produces lower levels of saturated fat in her milk -- and they plan on using her to breed that characteristic into other cows to produce "natural" cow's milk.

If you are one to like the taste of whole milk but who does not like all the saturated fat content, natural skim milk may be your answer, if it's ever commercialized.

Hope or hype? It's a confusing weight loss world

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My outlook, when it comes to weight loss and beauty fads, is a kind of mix between realistic skepticism and dreamy hopefulness. It's no fun to go through life all pessimistic and negative, shooting down every new invention and medical breakthrough before it even has a chance, but on the flip side you don't want to fall victim to random fads and gimmicks either. But how to know when they're just gimmicks and when they might be the real thing? After all, if that tube of lotion really does melt fat right off I don't want to be the one missing out!

Obviously there's no good answer to that question, except that if a product really does what it says it can then you'll definitely hear about it. But other than that, trying stuff out (and avoiding claims that seem to good to be true) is really the only way, and thankfully there are plenty of people out there willing to do that and share what they think. Case in point? This article from the Seattle Times, where three lotions claiming weight loss and firming properties were tested by real ladies, who share their thoughts and opinions to hopefully save us all some time and potential grief.

And let me encourage you all to please feel free to share your own experiences, so we can all know more of what works and what doesn't!

Going green? The best clean foods

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Besides improving the nutrition of my and my family's meals, one of my main goals right now is to make those meals as "clean" as possible. Clean foods are those that are grown organically and in a sustainable manner, whether they be fruits and vegetables, fish, or coffee. To reach our goal of a "cleaner plate," we joined a food co-op a little over a year ago, will be regulars at our local farmer's market this summer, and planted our own (tiny) vegetable garden this year so that we can freeze veggies to use during the cold winter months. I've been working to tackle one product at a time to make sure that the foods we eat most frequently come from sources I can feel good about. While we aren't there yet, I've seen a vast improvement in the quality and variety of the food we're eating, and my kids are eating things they would have never touched just a few months ago.

If you're interested in a cleaner plate, here's an excellent slide show for the beginner. It covers basic information such as what exactly "organic" means and how to properly read labels, genetically-modified foods, ocean-safe fish, and how to reduce the amount of packaging in the food you buy. When we were getting started, it was overwhelming, but if you choose just one thing to work on at a time, you'll be well on your way to cleaning up your own plate in no time!

I've linked to The Cleaner Plate Club before, but if you're looking to eat in a more eco-friendly way, Ali's got it all: tons of research, well-written posts, and recipes to boot. Check her out!

Apricots: a perfect summer food

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If you are a grape or apple fan, you may know that those fruits (and their skins) are some of the healthiest things you can eat these days. Fruits like tangerines and apricots are a little more exotic, but have immense health benefits as well.

Not only do many fruits -- including apricots -- combat cancer, they are good for helping prevent heart disease as well as helping to prevent cataracts.

In other words, if you're not eating a daily dose of fresh fruit, what are you waiting for? The benefits are simply tremendous. The taste is not bad either! Start a healthy habit this summer and get hooked on apricots.

Use cables to spice up your strength training

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Walking into the gym is scary enough, and that's only step one. Once you've gotten that far you still have to get in there and use the equipment, which can be intimidating if you're not exactly sure what you're doing and there's a burly sweaty type hanging out waiting for you to finish.

Cables can be a great way to add a little spice to your strength-training routine, and they're fairly easy to use with some basic knowledge. Read these tips and pointers on what attachments and bars are used for what moves -- you'll open up a whole new set of workout possibilities, get better results, and feel that much more confident!

Daily Fit Tip: get those daily stretches in!

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Let's face it -- we're all busy these days.Many of us don't have the time to get in regular exercise every day. We sit behind a desk and let out muscles get hard and inflexible and then we pull something on the weekend when water skiing or something.

Sound familiar? Here's a tip to help prevent that: try stretching every day. You may not have time to get in a full dose of regular exercise, but everyone can stretch in some form or fashion. Even stretching in your work clothes (in your office) can be helpful.

The point here is to keep your muscles in prime, flexible condition so that the limberness your body needs when not working (but when playing) is ready and able. Otherwise, it's like stretching an old rubberband. Sometimes, they break before they should.

Jumpstart Your Fitness: By planning your day

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It doesn't matter how many good wishes you have, or good intentions, towards exercising more and eating better to lose weight -- if you leave it up to chance to happen it never will. And you may not even realize you're leaving it up to chance, but every time you fail to plan that's exactly what you're doing. Come on now, really, what are the odds you're going to get up early to workout and have a healthy lunch to bring with you to work if you don't think about it until your alarm is going off Monday morning? Slim to none I'm willing to bet.

Honestly you can't expect yourself to just magically start developing new habits -- you have to plan them! You have to do them on purpose, at least in the beginning until they become a natural part of your life.

To simplify things down to just the nitty gritty, making weight loss and fitness happen breaks down into two areas: planning out your new eating habits and planning out your new exercise/activity habits.

Step One: Plan out your daily meals and snacks.

Continue reading Jumpstart Your Fitness: By planning your day

Seeking action heroes only: Parkour extreme sporting

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How many times have you been watching an action movie when one of those chase scenes comes up that makes you think "yeah right!" as the hero miraculously leaps from rooftop to rooftop and hoists himself into a helicopter after dangling by just one pinky finger. Oh whatever, that is soooo unrealistic!

Or is it? Believe it or not there's an extreme sport that's been gaining in popularity, Parkour, that focuses on just those types of skills (okay, maybe not the 'dangling by a pinky finger' thing), but it's all about running, rolling, jumping, sliding, and even leaping from high buildings without getting hurt. It's the stuff of Hollywood chase scenes, in real life. And Parkour has actually been used in movies -- the opening of "Casino Royale" for one.

As it gains a name for itself there's even talk of Parkour being included in the Olympics! Now that would be fun to watch.

Why going to the beach may be good for your health

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Think of the last time you were at the shore: the soft sand under your feet, the smell of salt (or not, if your "shore" is a freshwater lake), the crashing waves. What is it about the beach that brings us so much harmony? What is it about water that calms us down and brings us peace? It's not the teeny bikinis, the six-pack abs, or suntanned bodies; researchers believe our connection to the surf and sand runs deeper than that.

Studies have found that just looking at pictures of water helps to calm people down, and though it's long been known that being in the great outdoors can decrease stress levels, being near a body of water seems to have an especially potent affect. It isn't clear exactly what it is about water that's so special, but some experts believe it could be sensory -- smell, color, sound -- or even evolutionary. Being near water means having food to eat and water to drink, and that may bring about a calming response in us, left over from the days when we had to hunt and fish for our food and running water meant quenching our thirst.

Check out this article from the L.A. Times about our love affair with the water and why going to the beach is often so much more than just a fun afternoon in the sun.

Now we want to WEAR our TVs?

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My first reaction to reading about the world's smallest wearable TV was something like "how desperate are we to watch TV? Now we have to wear it and take it with us everywhere?" Yep, apparently having videos on an iPod wasn't enough, after all you do have to hold the iPod to view it. That's too hard! We want to wear our televisions! On our faces!!

This is both really cool and really ridiculous at the same time. The only handy feature I can think of is if they make a version to be used during walking or jogging -- it could be the perfect "excuse buster" for that couch potato type who can't pull themselves away long enough to get up and exercise. Just be sure to watch where you're going.

Trying to lose weight? Your cell phone may help!

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I've tried food journaling in the past, and I've found it to be very effective. If I was trying to lose weight, it was the perfect tool to help me find where I was eating extra calories and what my trouble spots were. But though food journals are nearly essential to beginning weight loss, they are also tedious.

That's why this new service intrigues me. People can take a picture of their meal with their cell phone and email the image to their nutritionist. The nutritionist then helps them learn more about portion sizes and about making better food choices. The program was developed in Japan, where obesity is on the rise. It was first offered to heart patients, but now diabetes and obesity patients are using it as well.

If this seems like a little too much hand-holding to you, keep in mind that users only email their pictures for 3 to 7 days. The nutritionist analyzes them and then helps patients develop a balanced eating plan. In the United States, there's a similar service called MyFoodPhone where users email their pictures into their daily food log.

(via Diet-Blog)

Kids who drink heavily make bad decisions

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Have a child in college? Chances are he or she has seen some drinking activity while there. Binge drinking and other types of entertainment seem to be pretty prevalent these days. Does it affect your child's education, though?

A recent showed that activities like binge drinking may cause bad decision making among those who partake in it, when compared to peers who don't engage in the activity.

In addition to that main finding, the study also said that the earlier a person begins to binge drink, the stronger the tie to poor decision-making skills. College (and those years) should be filled with the enjoyment of getting older and moving into an independent frame of mind. That is, unless you drink heavily.

Looking at sunscreen myths and truths

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Does sunscreen really block all the UV rays from the sun that all those product manufacturers claim on those labels? Some of the better known sunscreen makers are being sued for false and misleading advertising related to wording that says these products prevent skin cancer and skin damage. Do they?

I highly doubt these product claims are true, but just what do sunscreens do then? What is their purpose? To block the sun's ultraviolet rays from reaching your skin -- yes. But it's just a piece of the overall sun protection picture.

Want to know myths and truths about the overall sunscreen protection picture? Click here for a handy list of tips and get a better feel for protecting yourself while under the sun this summer.

Just the facts: fitness basics

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There's a lot of information out there about how to get fit and the benefits a healthy lifestyle provides. Sometimes all we need is a little motivation. Here's a list of 10 fitness facts from Discovery Health that might help you realize that just taking that first step toward fitness means you've instantly started improving your health. Some highlights:
  • Almost anyone can benefit from some form of exercise.
  • Walking briskly burns nearly as many calories as jogging.
  • Walking briskly for 3 or more hours a week can cut your risk of heart disease by over half.
  • It takes 12 weeks to see significant change in any fitness program, but you'll notice improvement right away.
  • Fitness has four components: aerobic, strength, flexibility, and body composition. To be truly fit, you need to address all four.
Now that you know how simple getting fit can be, here's a list of 11 ways to motivate yourself. Strap on those shoes and take the first step towards a new, fitter you. What do you have to lose?

The stylish way to keep fresh fruit

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I came across this handy kitchen gadget and thought it was a great idea: the Fruit Stack! Although I love bowls of fruit, they take up space and sometimes the fruits on the bottom don't ripen evenly or they get bruised up. This idea, which is really just a stainless steel base with four posts sticking up, not only allows for an interesting display of fruit (having it out where you can see it is always a good reminder to snack healthy!) but also sidesteps some of the hassles of storing other ways, like mold sneaking in unnoticed to the back of the refrigerator or the bottom of the bowl.

Although I would love it at home, I honestly think the best use for something like this would be at work. Keeping fruit at the office is a great way to ward off afternoon visits to the vending machine, and this is both space-saving and interesting to look at.

Via CribCandy

Want some live toad with that salad?

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No, this isn't some exotic foreign delicacy, nor is it an offbeat culinary trend in a high-end LA restaurants. In fact, it was from a regular-old UK supermarket that Jessane De'Ath purchased an ordinary salad bag -- complete with a live toad.

"I really couldn't believe that there was something alive and jumping about inside my salad," De'Ath told the Daily Mail.

She then poked some holes in the bag, and took it took her local environmental health officers -- where, presumably, the toad was set free.

Of course both the health regulators and the supermarket are calling this a freak accident (and it almost certainly is), but it's definitely a little creepy. I'm very lazy when it comes to food prep, so when I eat salad, it's usually because someone else made it for me, or I bought it pre-packaged.

I'll be paying a little extra attention to those packages from now on, however. As much as I'd like to consider myself an adventurous eater, I don't think live frog will ever be on the menu.

Avandia patient? Remain calm.

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If you are an Avandia patient who is taking the drug for the treatment of diabetes, there's no urgent need to quit taking the drug, even with recent revelations of heart damage from those that take it.

There's no need to panic, says the doctor who brought up the words about Avandia, and he's joined by other medical experts. In other words, the words "heart damage" should not cause patients to stop taking Avandia out of being scared.

Dr. Steve Nissen, who sounded the alarm on Avandia, said that his findings are valid but must be confirmed by other studies first.

Virtual human helps doctors and patients understand disease

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The study of certain diseases just got a little easier with the development of a new 4-D virtual human model known as CAVEman. The model, which has over 3,000 body parts, can be used to plan surgeries, teach medical students, or even to teach patients about their disease in a way never possible before. A patient's visuals -- such as CAT scans and MRIs -- can be layered on to the model so that a person can see exactly how a disease is behaving inside their body. CAVEman will also help scientists better understand some diseases, like cancer, diabetes, and MS.

A model that can be sold to hospitals is in development, so look for CAVEman coming soon to a hospital near you!

Can cartoon characters fight childhood obesity?

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As part of the fight against childhood obesity, the World Cancer Research Fund is now using cartoons to get kids interested in eating right, and getting active. Much like Captain Planet taught children about protecting the environment, the WCRF hopes Snack the dog, Professor Foodsmart and the Great Grub Club Gang can teach them about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

The idea is to target 4 to 7-year-olds, in order to preempt disease and obesity later in life. This latest initiative comes after news that children only eat 2 of their recommended 5 daily portions of fruits and vegetables, and that 92% of kids eat too much saturated fat.

However, while it seems like a great way to educate kids, the question remains: is it fun? Children will identify with a cartoon initially, but if it isn't entertaining, I imagine the initiative will quickly lose steam -- or only succeed with families who were already interested in healthy eating and physical fitness.