Archive | July, 2007

A word about water – Get the Facts

30 Jul

Certainly, bottled water is a convenience that helps us stay hydrated while on the go. But convenience aside, bottled water isn’t necessarily more virtuous than tap water. In fact, did you know that bottled water is sometimes nothing more than purified tap water? Fortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strict labeling rules for bottled water, but it’s up to you to learn the differences between various terms and what they mean. There are three major types of bottled water: Purified water is water that has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as “demineralized water.” Spring water is water that flows naturally from the earth and is collected directly from its natural source. Mineral water is spring water that contains dissolved minerals and other trace elements (at least 250 parts per million) that come directly from the source. In general, safety standards for bottled water and tap water are the same with a few exceptions. For example, because tap water may become contaminated with lead as it travels through pipes, the government limits the amount of lead in tap water to 15 parts per billion whereas the limit is set below 5 parts per billion for bottled water. Another major difference is that tap water is fluoridated, but most bottled waters do not contain fluoride. Most people can safely (and inexpensively!) drink water straight from the tap. If you want to improve the taste of tap water, you can purchase a water filtration pitcher, which reduces the amount of chlorine in the tap water. If you prefer the taste of bottled water and you’re serving it to your family, let your dentist know because young children require fluoride for healthy teeth. Finally, Dr. Agatston advises drinking when you’re thirsty to stay sufficiently hydrated. Keep a bottle or glass of water nearby so you can quench your thirst as needed

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Drink tomato soup for super sperms

30 Jul

Drink tomato soup for super sperms

29 Jul 2007, 0021

Scientists have discovered that lycopene, which gives tomatoes their bright red colour, can turn sperm into super-sperm. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth studied the effect of lycopene in the diet on a random group of six healthy men, with an average age of 42. The men were asked to consume a 400g tin of Heinz cream of tomato soup every day for two weeks. The researchers, from the university’s biomedical science department, said that during the two weeks, levels of lycopene in the men’s semen rose between seven and 12 per cent, which was ‘significant’. They added that further studies should be carried out to discover whether the same boost would be seen in infertile men. The results, published in the British Journal of Urology, said that infertile men have lower levels of lycopene in their sperm. The study suggests that higher levels of lycopene are associated with increased fertility. It is not known what part lycopene actually plays in fertility, although it has been suggested that the antioxidant may mop up harmful free radicals in the body which can affect fertility. Tomato products have been thought for some time to have beneficial health properties because of their high concentration of lycopene, but this is the first time they have been shown to boost fertility. Other fruits and vegetables that are high in lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya and rosehip. Lycopene has previously been identified as a potential aid in conditions ranging from exercise-induced asthma to prostate cancer. However, earlier this month, the US Food and Drug Administration said it has found almost no evidence that lycopene has any effect on cancer prevention. A review, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, examined 81 studies of lycopene and concluded that none produced any credible evidence to support a relationship between consumption of the antioxidant and the risk of developing cancer. About 2.6 million men in the United Kingdom have a low sperm count and doctors have suggested a healthier lifestyle can increase the chances of conceiving. Nigel Dickie, a spokesman for Heinz said: “It’s good to know that our tomato soup could give guys extra oomph.”

Season Sense

30 Jul

Season Sense 28 Jul 2007, Get seasonally right on your fruits and vegetables with the help of Vijaya Venkat Non-seasonal fruits and vegetables may be a growing trend particularly among city folk, but if you are acq u a i n t e d with the fact that these foods are loaded with h a r m f u l ch e m i c a l s and preservatives , you’d p ro b ably think twice before putting them on your table.

MANGOES: Mango is an essential body builder, purifier and vitalizer. It’s highly nourishing and is traditionally used to treat disorders of the stomach, eyes and infections.

WATERMELON: A watermelon juice is considered more pure than mountain water. It is not only filling but it also has the capacity to cleanse and replenish the body.

 CHERRIES: Cherries are best known as anti-oxidants . In addition to being good cholesterol lowering compounds , they are also famously used as anti-ageing supplements.

CABBAGE: Cabbage is known to contain a lot of iron which makes it perfect food for anemic people and pregnant women. However, the best way to preserve it’s nutritional content is to pickle cabbage. Over cooking the vegetable is also known to reduce the nutritional value.

 DUDHI / BOTTLE GOURD: It is best for those who want to lose weight as it is low in saturated fats and high in dietary fibers. It is cooling and refreshing. It is also good to maintain optimum health. Other summer fruits and vegetables are tinda, tori, cucumber , plums, peaches and targola.

BANANA: It is the most ideal food; easily digested, wholesome and its richness and live nutrients cleanse the body. In terms of productivity and weight, bananas supply human needs far better than animal products.

POMEGRANATE: They maintain the balance in the body. They are known as the safer and healthier alternatives to antibiotics and immunizations . They can be stored for months as nourishment.

PAPAYA: It is also called the complete food. A ripe papaya acts like an instant energizer propelling the body tow a rd s greater efficiency . It is a delicious protector against infections

BRINJALS Brinjals are used to control cholesterol . Salting and then rinsing the sliced eggplant will soften and remove much of the bitterness. They absorb large amounts of cooking oil, and sauces very fast.

L E M O N S : Lemons are used in aromatherapy as they are known to reduce stress. They also have anti-carcinogens and are used as alternative medicine for skin.

O N I O N S : Onions are packed with a whole lot of good nutrients. They are known to cure boils and blisters. It contains anti-inflammatory substances. Other rainy fruits and vegetables are pineapples, apples, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and mint.

FIG: It is full of protein and iron and natural sugars. One can live off figs and no other food for a considerable time. It is known as a body building element.

GUAVA: It is easier to consume guavas than leafy vegetables . It keeps the body cool and quenched and helps avoid constipation.

ORANGE: Its immediate absorption in the body and utilization makes it ideal for strengthening and refreshing both the invalids and healthy.

STRAWBERRY: It makes an excellent remedy for children’s ailments. It can be used externally as a wash as well.

GRAPES: It is high in water and fiber content . They help loosen hardened deposits in the body thereby aiding in circulationn . Soaking grapes before eating is advisable.

BEETROOT: Beetroot can be peeled, steamed, and then eaten warm with butter as a delicacy. In every form it is highly nutritional. It is known to be good for your skin too.

LADY’S FINGER: Lady’s finger seeds may be roasted and ground to form a non-caffeinated substitute for coffee. The other winter vegetables are French beans, red pumpkin, carrots, cauliflower , spinach and peas.

MONSOON Monsoon foods are more on the sweeter and citric side packed with a lot of nutrients that provide the necessary comfort. Vegetables can be eaten raw against the common belief that they should be well cooked, as they bring out the actual taste.

WHY BUY SEASONAL? This has the advantage of our bodies receiving the nutrients we need at a particular time, for none of us is truly aware of the subtle changes that take place within that necessitates an adjustment in our intake of food.

Fruits and vegetables will not only be cheaper but also at their flavour and nutritional peaks.The larger benefit of buying seasonal is the good it does the environment.

WHY STEER CLEAR OF NON-SEASONAL FRUITS AND VEGGIES? They lose their nutritional value due to preservatives like diphosphides , sulphides and formic acids.

The consumption of chemically treated off season fruits and vegetables primarily affects children. They also contain chemical colours that can affect the stomach, kidney and liver. Buying non-seasonal also means a hit on your pocket.

CBS) Diners these days are confused: They’re encouraged to eat fish for their health, but it seems like the news is full of stories about the potential dangers of seafood. With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what to make for dinner.

29 Jul

fishyproblem.jpgCBS) 

Diners these days are confused: They’re encouraged to eat fish for their health, but it seems like the news is full of stories about the potential dangers of seafood. With so much conflicting information, it’s hard to know what to make for dinner.

Dr. Mallika Marshall dropped by The Saturday Early Show to help separate fact from fiction.

Americans eat an astounding 1 billion pounds of canned tuna per year; it’s our most popular fish.

Tuna has “become a staple in the American diet. Who doesn’t love a basic tuna fish sandwich?” asks Marshall. “And now sushi has become one of our favorite ethnic foods, with hamachi or raw tuna being a big part of that cuisine. Also, seared ahi tuna is on many restaurant menus.”

But mercury is present in our water supply, and fish absorb the mercury, she points out. “The mercury is both naturally occurring in the environment and used in farming and manufacturing,” said Marshall. “Almost every type of fish contains some level of mercury, and larger fish, like tuna, contain higher amounts than other types. So because tuna is eaten in such large amounts by Americans and because it contains moderate levels of mercury … it can pose a risk for some people.”

For most of us, the level of mercury absorbed by normal consumption of tuna sandwiches or the occasional sushi dinner will cause no harm.

“But for a developing fetus or for young children, exposure to significant levels of mercury can lead to severe nerve and brain damage as well as milder intellectual, motor and psychosocial development. So it’s the developing fetus in a pregnant woman and young children that we’re most concerned with,” says Marshall.

Is there any kind of tuna that’s less potentially harmful? Marshall says light canned tuna has the lowest levels of mercury. “That’s because canned light tuna tends to be the meat of smaller tuna … and smaller fish tend to have lower levels of mercury,” she says.

“Albacore tuna comes from larger tuna which accumulate more mercury in ocean waters, so canned albacore tuna is higher in mercury than light. And tuna steaks and tuna used for sushi tends to have the highest levels of mercury because they also come from large tuna.”

The way that tuna is prepared — cooked, raw, or marinated — has no effect on the level of mercury.

There are some fish that seem to have lower levels of mercury: tilapia, mahi mahi, flounder, shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish, for example.

If you must have tuna, how much is safe to eat? According to Marshall, “For men, non-pregnant or lactating women, and older children … it’s generally recommended that they get at least 2-3 servings of fish a week. It doesn’t have to be tuna, but tuna certainly counts.

“The FDA and EPA recommend that pregnant women, women who may become pregnant, nursing moms, and young children in particular eat no more than two six-ounce servings per week of tuna lower in mercury, like canned light tuna. A six-ounce serving is about the size of two decks of cards.”

Overall, the benefits outweigh the risks if care is taken, said Marshall. “We know that fish is a wonderful lean source of protein, and even the fattier fish, like salmon, sardines and tuna, are loaded with good fats, those omega-3 fatty acids that we know are good for your heart and your brain,” she says.

“And there is recent research to suggest that eating fish during pregnancy can have beneficial affects on the brain development on the fetus. So we have to strike a balance between getting the health benefits from fish without overdoing it on the mercury for pregnant women and young children.”

Find Yourself Packing It On? Blame Friends

27 Jul

July 26, 2007

Obesity can spread from person to person, much like a virus, researchers are reporting today. When one person gains weight, close friends tend to gain weight, too.

Their study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved a detailed analysis of a large social network of 12,067 people who had been closely followed for 32 years, from 1971 to 2003.

The investigators knew who was friends with whom as well as who was a spouse or sibling or neighbor, and they knew how much each person weighed at various times over three decades. That let them reconstruct what happened over the years as individuals became obese. Did their friends also become obese? Did family members? Or neighbors?

The answer, the researchers report, was that people were most likely to become obese when a friend became obese. That increased a person’s chances of becoming obese by 57 percent. There was no effect when a neighbor gained or lost weight, however, and family members had less influence than friends.

It did not even matter if the friend was hundreds of miles away, the influence remained. And the greatest influence of all was between close mutual friends. There, if one became obese, the other had a 171 percent increased chance of becoming obese, too.

The same effect seemed to occur for weight loss, the investigators say. But since most people were gaining, not losing, over the 32 years, the result was, on average, that people grew fatter.

Dr. Nicholas A. Christakis, a physician and professor of medical sociology at Harvard Medical School and a principal investigator in the new study, said one explanation was that friends affected each others’ perception of fatness. When a close friend becomes obese, obesity may not look so bad.

“You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you,” Dr. Christakis said.

The investigators say their findings can help explain why Americans have become fatter in recent years — each person who became obese was likely to drag along some friends.

Their analysis was unique, Dr. Christakis said, because it moved beyond a simple analysis of one person and his or her social contacts and instead examined an entire social network at once, looking at how a person’s friend’s friends, or a spouse’s sibling’s friends, could have an influence on a person’s weight.

The effects, he said, “highlight the importance of a spreading process, a kind of social contagion, that spreads through the network.”

Of course, the investigators say, social networks are not the only factors that affect body weight. There is a strong genetic component at work, too.

Science has shown that individuals have genetically determined ranges of weights, spanning perhaps 30 or so pounds for each person. But that leaves a large role for the environment in determining whether a person’s weight is near the top of his or her range or near the bottom. As people have gotten fatter, it appears that many are edging toward the top of their ranges. The question has been why.

If the new research is correct, it may say that something in the environment seeded what some call an obesity epidemic, making a few people gain weight. Then social networks let the obesity spread rapidly.

It may also mean that the way to avoid becoming fat is to avoid having fat friends.

That is not the message they mean to convey, say the study investigators, Dr. Christakis and his colleague, James H. Fowler, an associate professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.

You do not want to lose a friend who becomes obese, Dr. Christakis said. Friends are good for your overall health, he explained. So why not make friends with a thin person, he suggested, and let the thin person’s behavior influence you and your obese friend?

That answer does not satisfy obesity researchers like Kelly D. Brownell, director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University.

“I think there’s a great risk here in blaming obese people even more for things that are caused by a terrible environment,” Dr. Brownell said.

On average, the investigators said, their rough calculations show that a person who became obese gained 17 pounds and the newly obese person’s friend gained five. But some gained less or did not gain weight at all, while others gained much more. Those extra pounds were added onto the natural increases in weight that occur when people get older.

What usually happened was that peoples’ weights got high enough to push them over the boundary, a body mass index of 30, that divides overweight and obese. (For example, a 6-foot-tall man who went from 220 pounds to 225 would go from being overweight to obese.)

While other researchers were surprised by the findings, the big surprise for Dr. Christakis was that he could do the study at all. He got the idea for it from all the talk of an obesity epidemic.

“One day I said: ‘Maybe it really is an epidemic. Maybe it spreads from person to person,’ ” Dr. Christakis recalled.

It was only by chance that he discovered a way to find out. He learned that the data he needed were in a large federal study of heart disease, the Framingham Heart Study, that had followed the population of Framingham, Mass., for decades, keeping track of nearly every one of its participants.

The study’s records included each participant’s address and the names of family members. To ensure that researchers would not lose track of their subjects, each subject was asked to name a close friend who would know where the person was at the time of the next exam, in roughly four years.

Since much of the town and most of the subjects’ relatives were participating, the data contained all that Dr. Christakis and his colleagues needed to reconstruct the social network and track it through 32 years.

Their research has taken obesity specialists and social scientists aback. But many say the finding is pathbreaking and can shed light on how and why people have gotten so fat so fast.

“It is an extraordinarily subtle and sophisticated way of getting a handle on aspects of the environment that are not normally considered,” said Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University.

Richard M. Suzman, who directs the office of behavioral and social research programs at the National Institute on Aging, called the research “one of the most exciting studies to come out of medical sociology in decades.” The National Institute on Aging financed the study.

But Dr. Stephen O’Rahilly, an obesity researcher at the University of Cambridge, said the very uniqueness of the Framingham data would make it hard to try to replicate the new findings. No other study that he knows of has the same sort of long-term and detailed data on social interactions.

“I don’t want to look like an old curmudgeon,” Dr. O’Rahilly said, “but when you come upon things that inherently look a bit implausible, you raise the bar for standards of proof. Good science is all about replication, but it is hard to see how science will ever replicate this.”

“Boy,” he said, “is the Framingham Study unique.”

Eating for two is old school idea

27 Jul

July 24, 2007

Personal Health

Dispelling Pregnancy Myths: Eating for 1.5

Ivy had been eating tuna sushi almost every day. But before becoming pregnant, she wisely had a checkup, which revealed high levels of mercury in her blood that could damage a fetus. Shocked, she stopped eating tuna and postponed pregnancy until the mercury had cleared her system. Last month she gave birth to a full-term healthy boy.

Mercury from eating certain kinds of seafood is just one of many nutrition-related hazards that can confront a pregnant woman or one who wishes to become pregnant. At the same time, some pregnant women worry needlessly about nonexistent nutritional risks.

The March of Dimes, which strives to make every pregnancy as well-planned and successful as Ivy’s, is making a new push to dispel nutritional misinformation and replace it with advice based on solid scientific evidence. Some of the advice may come as a distressing surprise to women, who may be fond of foods or drinks that could endanger their pregnancy.

For example, pregnant women are advised to steer clear of deli meats, including sliced turkey, unless they are fully cooked again before being eaten. But the March of Dimes, among other experts, suggests that it is safe to drink one or two cups of caffeinated coffee a day during pregnancy, whereas consuming too much herbal tea (and three or more cups of coffee a day) can be risky and may result in a miscarriage.

A Healthy Diet

The organization is also concerned about the current notion among some women that it is O.K. to gain 40 or more pounds when pregnant with one baby. Excessive weight gain in pregnancy not only makes it harder to shed the extra pounds after childbirth. It also increases the risk to the mother of gestational diabetes, dangerous rises in blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), the need for a Caesarean delivery and postpartum infection. For the baby, a mother’s excessive weight gain raises the risk of neural tube defects, birth trauma and fetal death near term.

Studies of tens of thousands of pregnancies showed that how much a pregnant woman should gain for the best chance of a healthy outcome for both mother and baby depends on how much she weighed before becoming pregnant.

Accordingly, the March of Dimes suggests that normal-weight women should gain 25 to 35 pounds; overweight women 15 to 25 pounds, and underweight women 28 to 40 pounds. But a woman having a multiple birth should gain more, depending on how many babies she is carrying.

When a woman is eating for two, or better yet, when she is contemplating getting pregnant, is an ideal time to learn the principles of good nutrition and put them into practice. The basics of a healthy diet during pregnancy are the same as what everyone should eat at any time of life:

¶Whole grains, like brown rice, whole wheat bread or whole oat cereal: 6 to 11 servings a day

¶Dairy products, like low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt or hard cheese: 3 to 4 servings a day

¶Protein, like meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts or eggs: 3 to 4 servings a day

¶Vegetables, like broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes or beets: 3 to 5 servings a day

¶Fruits, like oranges, bananas or apples: 2 to 4 servings a day

The trick is to know what a portion means because “eating for two” does not mean a woman should double her caloric intake. Only 300 additional calories a day are needed to sustain a healthy pregnancy, provided those calories come from nutritious foods.

Here are some examples of a single serving: one slice of bread, a half-cup of rice or pasta, one cup cold cereal; one cup milk or yogurt, two one-inch cubes of cheese; two ounces of cooked meat, poultry or fish, a half-cup of cooked dried beans, two tablespoons peanut butter; a half-cup of cooked or cut-up vegetables, one cup salad greens, three-quarters cup of vegetable juice; one apple, banana or orange, a half-cup of cut-up fruit, three-quarters cup of fruit juice.

Be sure, too, to drink plenty of water — up to 64 ounces a day — and get regular exercise. Pregnant women can walk, dance, swim and do yoga, but should avoid high-risk activities like scuba diving and skiing.

Foods to Avoid

Many popular foods are potentially dangerous during pregnancy. Pregnant women should refrain from the following:

Raw fish and shellfish, a possible source of the parasite Toxoplasma that can cause fetal blindness and brain damage.

Large predatory fish like swordfish, shark, king mackerel and albacore tuna (fresh or canned), which can contain risky levels of mercury. The Food and Drug Administration says to limit albacore tuna to 6 ounces a week, but it is acceptable to eat up to 12 ounces a week of chunk light tuna, shrimp, salmon, pollock and catfish.

Undercooked or raw meat, poultry and seafood. Use a meat thermometer and cook pork and ground beef to 160 degrees; beef, veal and lamb to 145 degrees; whole poultry to 180 degrees; and chicken breasts to 170 degrees.

Unpasteurized milk and soft cheeses — feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, queso blanco, queso fresco and Panela, unless the label says “made with pasteurized milk.” They may contain the food-poisoning bacteria Listeria that can cause miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or fatal newborn illness.

Hot dogs and deli meats, unless cooked until steaming hot. These can become contaminated with Listeria after processing.

Refrigerated pâtés, meat spreads and smoked seafood (unless it is cooked before you eat it). Canned versions are safe.

Soft-scrambled eggs and foods like homemade salad dressing and eggnog made with raw or lightly cooked eggs. Cook eggs until the white and yolk are firm to avoid salmonella poisoning.

Raw sprouts, including alfalfa, clover, radish and mung bean.

Herbal teas and supplements. Their safety in pregnancy is unstudied. Some, like black cohosh or large amounts of chamomile tea, can raise the risk of miscarriage or premature birth.

Alcohol, which can cause fetal damage, including mental retardation and abnormal behavior. Although an occasional drink may be all right, no safe amount has been established.

Extra Vitamins Needed

Pregnant women and those contemplating pregnancy are advised to take a daily prenatal vitamin that contains 400 micrograms to 600 micrograms of folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects, as well as 18 milligrams to 27 milligrams of iron to prevent iron-deficiency anemia, linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies.

But prenatal supplements do not contain enough calcium; 1,000 milligrams a day are needed to protect a pregnant woman’s bones and build strong bones and teeth in her baby. Be sure to eat enough calcium-rich foods, like milk, cheese and leafy greens, or take a calcium supplement daily.

Confused about Lowcarb? Here a bit of clarity

26 Jul

Low-carb clarity

Get the facts and understand the myths surrounding low-carb products

Filling your shopping cart with the newest low-carb foods might not save you calories—or cash. There are 12 times as many low-carb products on grocery store shelves today as there were in 1999, as bread, chocolate and beer manufacturers race to keep up with the demand for Atkins-friendly foods. But regular fare may be just as good for your figure.

No magic bullet

Many studies have already disputed the science behind weight-loss plans that advocate eating as little as 20 grams of carbohydrates daily. “Cutting carbs isn’t a magic bullet—the magic is that you’re eating fewer calories,” says Len Piché, nutrition professor at Brescia University College at the University of Western Ontario in London. And you can’t discount the value of exercise in a weight-loss program. A recent study by NPD Group food researchers found that only 40 per cent of people who were reducing carbs were also exercising at least three times a week. Health Canada recommends at least half an hour of moderate exercise, four times a week.

Low carb, high calorie?

There’s also no regulated definition of low carb in North America, and many products labelled as such deliver almost the same number of calories as their regular counterparts. “These products often have nearly as many carbs as well,” says Kristyn Hall, a registered dietitian in Calgary, “but the labels disguise this—they’ll subtract certain carbs, such as fibre or sugar alcohols, and list a lower number, often called ‘net carbs.'” You won’t lose weight eating these products since the calorie count remains the same.Some low-carb versions of bread and chips, for instance, have been reformulated with added soy proteins, containing the same calories per gram as carbohydrates. A low-carb pancake mix has less sugar but added oil, which contains two and a half times more calories per gram. Low-carb ice cream and chocolates replace sugar with sucralose, a sugar alcohol. “They taste all right,” says Piché, “but watch out for uncomfortable bloating and gas if you eat too much.” A sugar-free version of the same product might offer the same nutrition and calorie value at a lower cost, so read and compare labels to make the right choice.

Low carb, low nutrients?

There’s another reason to put carbs in your shopping cart: they provide energy to fuel the body—particularly the brain, kidneys and red and white blood cells. The recommended daily intake for women aged 25 to 45 is 130 grams. “If you take the carbs out, you’re losing vitamins, nutrients and fibre,” says Piché. So, wheel through the produce, cereal and bread aisles for fruit, vegetables and whole grain products with at least four grams of fibre per serving to lower your chances of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

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