Category: Health

Choice of Afternoon Snack Can Make or Break Weight Loss Goals

Posted on Mar 30, 2015 by No Comments

I’m an afternoon snacker. As much as I try not to be, those efforts just don’t last. So instead of playing the “don’t eat a snack” mind games that only make me think about having something to eat even more, I’ve moved on to have a planned stack.

Planning a stack is different than impulsively going to the refrigerator because I’m stressing over meeting a deadline or having to clean house when I don’t feel like it. Now I’ve learned that what I choose as a snack can really make a difference, too.

When it comes to maintaining or losing weight, there’s more to planning an afternoon snack than how many calories it contains. A UCLA Center for Human Nutrition a study showed that snacking on pistachio nuts reduced triglycerides and body weight by comparison to a refined carbohydrate snack.

For this study, the researchers divided participants into two groups. Each group ate an almost identical low-calorie diet for 12 weeks. The only difference was what they ate for an afternoon snack.

One group consumed 220 calories of pretzels, while the other group enjoyed 240 calories worth of pistachios.

If you’ve ever counted calories you know how every single calorie counts, so it defies logic that the 240-calorie snackers would lose more weight than the 240-calorie snackers. But that’s exactly what happened.

Only four weeks into the study, the pistachio group had reduced their BMI by a point while the pretzel-eating group stayed the same.

This is significant. Plus their cholesterol and triglycerides levels showed improvement, too. This study adds fuel to the controversy that a calorie is a calorie, because the pistachio group was actually consuming more calories and showed better results.

The difference was only 20 calories a day, but by the end of the week that’s an extra 140 calories a week and 560 for the four weeks in which they showed these remarkable results.

The researchers conclude that “pistachios can be consumed as a portion-controlled snack for individuals restricting calories to lose weight without concern that pistachios will cause weight gain. By comparison to refined carbohydrate snacks such as pretzels, pistachios may have beneficial effects on triglycerides as well.”

For me another plus is that I like pistachios!

Photo credits: wikimedia

Can Grapefruit Really Help You Lose Weight?

Posted on Mar 27, 2015 by No Comments

Remember when the Grapefruit Diet was all the rage? Actually, that fad diet has been around since the 1930s making claims that grapefruit contains specific enzymes which, when eaten before other foods, can burn off fat.

Since its inception, there have been many variations of this diet, all claiming that you’ll lose up to 10 pounds in just 10-12 days. Claims which have not been backed up with facts. However, the grapefruit itself can help you shrink your waistline.

We don’t need to make any one food the center of our diet, but we also don’t have to dismiss grapefruit as a weight loss “aid” just because it is associated with a fad diet.

A study published in the journal Metabolism shows that eating a half a grapefruit before a meal can actually boost your body’s fat-burning function, however, it isn’t shown to actually help you lose weight.

According to the study, adding the half grapefruit to your before meal warm up can actually shrink your waistline by up to an inch in only six weeks. The scientists accredit these results to the grapefruits’ fat-zapping phytochemicals. Sounds like a great plan for those of us apple-shaped individuals who tend to gain around our middles.

Just eat a half of grapefruit before breakfast, add grapefruit sections to your salads, and according to this study, it will make a difference and help fight that mid-section girth.

However, it is important to talk to your doctor before you add the grapefruit to your diet, because it can interact negatively with certain medications.

Equipped with this new information, I can see that the “grapefruit diet” had some things right. It cut back on sugar and carbs like rice, potatoes, and pasta, increased protein intake, and it added grapefruit to every meal.

While it doesn’t need to be called the grapefruit diet, adding this fruit to your meals, might just help you trim that waistline before summer!

Photo credits: wikipedia

Angelina Elects to Have Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes Removed

Posted on Mar 26, 2015 by 2 Comments

Angelina Jolie has undergone preventive surgery for a second time. This time the Oscar-winning actress revealed the news in an op-ed published in The New York Times, letting her fans know she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in hopes of reducing her risk of cancer.

Two years ago she chose to have a preventive double mastectomy when a blood test revealed she carried a mutation in the BRCA1 gene. That mutation upped her risk to an estimated 87 percent for breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.

But for Jolie, it’s even more than that. She lost her mother, grandmother and an aunt to cancer. She hopes to sidestep cancer to live a long life with her husband and children.

Regarding the removal of her ovaries and fallopian tubes, she had decided to go ahead with this preventive surgery for the same reasons. However, even though she had discussed it with her doctor, she thought it was months out. She had time.

But two weeks ago that changed. She received a call from doctors with results of her most recent blood test. The test showed markers that could be a sign of early cancer.

“I went through what I imagine thousands of other women have felt. I told myself to stay calm, to be strong, and that I had no reason to think I wouldn’t live to see my children grow up and to meet my grandchildren,” Jolie said.

She called her husband, Brad Pitt, and he was at her side within hours. Together they worked through the news and found clarity. Jolie said, “You know what you live for and what matters. It is polarizing, and it is peaceful.”

She went to the same surgeon who treated her mother, who died of ovarian cancer at 56, for additional tests. Five days later, she learned the tumor test was negative, BUT “There was still a chance of early stage cancer.”

She said, “To my relief, I still had the option of removing my ovaries and fallopian tubes and I chose to do it.” While this surgery was a less complex procedure than her double mastectomy, Jolie says, the “effects are more severe” because it “puts a woman into forced menopause.”

However, with all that, the one thing she can be assured of is that her children will never have to be told they lost their mother to ovarian cancer.

Photo credits: wikipedia

Is Your Environment Making You Fat?

Posted on Mar 18, 2015 by 1 Comment

It seems with each decade I live, it becomes easier to gain weight and harder to lose it. The thing is, it isn’t just about eating too much or being too sedentary.

I understand we lose muscle as we age, and I’ve read about stress and lack of sleep contributing to this problem but now more research reveals there are a number of lifestyle and environmental factors that can influence our metabolism and contribute to our struggle with weight.

One of these environmental factors is artificial additives found in processed food. According to recent research at Georgia State University, evidence shows that artificial preservatives found in the processed foods we eat may be associated with metabolic problems including glucose intolerance and obesity.

While this study was done using rodents, the scientists believe the effects are due to changes in gut bacteria, which results in a breakdown in the mucus that lines and protects the gut. As a result unhealthy bacteria triggers inflammation and the result is a change in metabolism.

This research is only preliminary, but it certainly gives us another good reason to eat less processed foods and to read food labels.

Along with that, some additives in food can increase our appetite and sabotage our efforts to eat less. So when you do read those labels, look for ingredients you recognize. Like natural potato chips would read: potatoes, salt, oil.

While artificial additives are at least food related, that makes sense when it comes to affecting our weight. But according to a study on flame retardants by a nutrition professor from University of New Hampshire, these environmental chemicals can also trigger metabolic and liver problems which can to lead to insulin resistance and may even be a major cause of obesity.

Again rats were the subjects of this study, so the finding are preliminary. For the study, the rodents were broken into two groups and the rats exposed to these chemicals experienced dramatic physiological changes in just one month of being exposed to the flame retardants.

These changes included a drop in the levels of a key enzyme responsible for sugar and fat metabolism. It didn’t just drop slightly, either. It fell by 50 percent.

According to this researcher, the average person has about 300 man-made chemicals in their body. We are just beginning to understand some of the possible ramifications.

In our current world, there is no way we can totally eliminate our exposure to all the synthetic substances out there unless we go live in a cave in a rain forest, but we can shop for more natural products including cosmetics, cleaning supplies, toys, etc.

Along with making us fat, some say these environmental chemicals can also contribute to depression and feeling tired. I see this as a more difficult factor to control than reducing calories, but it certainly motivates me to make changes. How about you?

Photo credits: AFP news agency

Wine Color Makes a Difference with Weight Loss

Posted on Mar 13, 2015 by No Comments

With dieting, it can get really confusing trying to figure out what’s good for us and what’s not. One day coffee is bad and the next it’s good. Grains are good, oh wait, they are bad, too.

When it comes to losing weight wine is bad … or was bad. Now Purdue University researchers are saying the shade of the wine we drink actually makes a difference of whether or not it may help us lose weight.

According to this latest research, we can’t lump all wines in to the good or bad category. Red wine actually contains a compound called piceatannol which binds to bat cells’ insulin receptors and stops them from growing and maturing.

So if you’re trying to lose weight and want a glass of wine, red should be the color of choice. It could help block the growth of new fat cells.

But this is one of those cases where more is not better. It is suggested women limit their wine to one drink a day and the number is two for men.

This isn’t totally new information though. For years, red varieties of wine have been the recommended choice because it contains high concentrations of resveratrol which is found in the skin of grapes.

This compound is said to have various health properties including the fact that it breaks down fats and reduces the amount of fat in your body. Thus, the conclusion is that the high resveratrol content in red wine can help you drop that unwanted weight.

So if you’re on a diet, and would like to have a glass of wine to relax in the evening, choose a red wine. It will help you burn fat. The key, though, is to limit yourself to just one glass if you’re a woman and two for men.

Photo credits: Mick Stephenson

10 Facts About Earwax You May Not Know

Posted on Mar 11, 2015 by No Comments

I’ve heard jokes about being as useless as earwax, but it turns out that earwax isn’t really useless at all.

It’s a yellowish, sticky, substance secreted in our ear canal and it actually has a purpose. It protects the sensitive skin in the ear canal, and actually helps in cleaning and lubrication. It’s like a protection barrier against bacteria, fungi, insects, and water!

10 Facts About Earwax You May Not Know

  1. The medical term for earwax is cerumen
  2. Earwax is made up of sloughed-off skin cells from inside the ear and secretions from the cerumenous glands in the outer ear canal.
  3. Earwax works like a shield that protects our ears from outside invaders including: dust, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
  4. Earwax is actually a natural lubricant inside the year. According to Penn Medicine, the wax may keep ears from feeling dry or itchy.
  5. Earwax comes in two varieties: wet and dry. The dry, flaky type may mean you lack a specific chemical in your sweat that leads to body odor.
  6. One of the practical sides of earwax is that it seems to lubricate the ears, according to Penn Medicine, the way that tears lubricate the eyes. The wax may keep ears from feeling dry or itchy.
  7. Chewing and moving the jaw helps keep earwax gently churning from the eardrum to the ear opening. Here it either dries up, flakes off, or fall out.
  8. Stress can increase the production of earwax (just like it can make you sweat more).
  9. We should never “clean” our ears with a cotton swab. In fact we should never stick anything in our ears.
  10. If you stick something into your ear to scratch an itch or remove wax, you actually risk the change of pushing wax deeper into the ear where it can become blocked. (Earwax blockage is the most common cause of hearing loss.)

In today’s culture we think earwax is something to clean up, when it fact it is the thing cleaning the inside of our ears. If you experience an earwax blockage there are home kits available to help remove it, but it’s a good idea to talk to your primary care physician first.

Photo credits: Gregory F Maxwsell

How to Reduce Chance of Varicose Veins

Posted on Mar 9, 2015 by 1 Comment

When I was younger I admit, I ignored a lot of advice that now I wish I would have listened to. Like wearing sunscreen.

Some damage can only be reduced with an expensive medical procedure. The same holds true for varicose veins. I don’t have them, but my mother has suffered with them almost as far back as I can remember.

She recently has undergone a series of surgeries to get rid of them because they’d grown so painful. She had them. I don’t. So for me it raised the question of what causes them?

I heard that crossing your legs can cause varicose veins. To avoid the problem, I was told we should just cross our ankles. So is this true or is it one of those old wives tales?

According to Dr. Debbie Yi, Emergency Medicine at UPenn Hospital, “It’s never been shown that crossing your legs causes varicose veins.”

So with that possibility crossed of the list, it left me wondering what does cause the painful and unattractive condition. Turns out that the answer differs in men and women.

For men, Dr. Yi says the cause “is smoking and low physical activity.” For women, “It’s lack of exercise, high blood pressure, and obesity.”

My mom doesn’t meet any of those criteria, but Yi also cited a study which shows women who are on their feet all day and pregnant women have higher instances of varicose veins. Now that’s my mother. She gave birth to eight of us.

So for women, if we want to reduce our chances of developing varicose veins, we need to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and watch our blood pressure. And to understand that when we are pregnant our risk goes up.

For this one issue, we can feel free to cross our legs if we want. But according to my chiropractor, that’s not a good idea unless you want to develop back issues.

Photo credits: wikipedia

An App to Test for HIV and Syphilis

Posted on Mar 6, 2015 by No Comments

The other day my husband and I were talking about how we no longer live in our parent’s world. Things change faster and faster. Advanced technology we used to see in Sci-fi are now daily realities.

I remember back when Star Trek the Next Generation was being made, how the writers talked about trying to stay ahead of technology to keep things futuristic. Now when you watch reruns seeing the characters using a tablet and talking via steaming, it is all technology we recognize and use.

One of the gadgets I always looked at as innovative on that show was the medical tricorder. All you had to do is wave it over the patient and you could find out what the problem was.

While we don’t have that technology yet, there’s a new iPhone and Android accessory that moves us in that direction.

According to a Science Daily report, researches at Columbia University have found a way to turn a smartphone running iOS or Android into a tool that can quickly test for HIV and syphilis. And the gadget, known as a dongle, only costs $34 to make.

I’m sure it will cost us more to buy, but it certainly should be less than the $18,000 plus that ELISA machine costs that is needed for HIV testing in the lab.

The accessory connects to your phone using the headphone jack to transmit data from a drop of blood to the app installed on your phone. According to the report, it will be able to tests simultaneiously for HIV antibodies, treponemal-specific antibodies for syphilis, and non-treponemal antibodies for active syphilis infections.

This really is ground-breaking technology. Not only can it do all this, but it is said to be user friendly. That in itself is ground-breaking! It’s good news for many, because its portable, and has the potential for getting results quicker and cheaper.

The real question for this kind of technology is whether or not it will be available to the public or is this something only labs and doctor offices will be able to get their hands on. And if that is the case, will the price of our lab tests reflect the savings?

Photo credits: Sia Lab

Healthy Steps that Don’t Add to Your Busy Life

Posted on Mar 4, 2015 by 1 Comment

Women today lead busy lives. While we know about the importance of health, it is easy to overlook behaviors that put us at risk. We want to eat right and exercise, but it is so easy to make exceptions because of time or should I say lack of time?

There are all kinds of things that increase our risk for future health problems. One of them that is easy to see is our expanding waistline.

If most of our fat gathers around our waistline we are at higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the risk goes up with our waist size. Those of us apple-shaped people who pack on the pounds are at higher risk for health problems than our pear-shaped friends.

I know my waistline is a marker pointing to poor choices and higher risks and yet I struggle to change it. So what can we do to help get our waistlines down to a healthy size that don’t take a lot of time?

There are actually some things we can do to help us conquer our expanding waistlines without trying to fit more into our schedules.

For instance, it takes 15 or 20 minutes for our brains to catch up to how full we are. So instead of wolfing down our meals, we should eat slowly. Make choices that include vegetables and fruits that give us a fuller feeling.

If you sit a lot, try to get up and move around. Consider getting a standing workstation. There’s even a calculator that will let you see how many extra calories you’ll burn by standing versus sitting. I’ve even made it a habit to walk whenever I’m on the phone.

Set your goal to eat less and move more. The ideal waist size for women is said to be 32 ½ inches, and for men it is 35 inches. For more information, you can use a handy online BMI calculator to see how your waist size impacts your overall health.

Photo credits: pixabay