Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mixed Enthusiasm for Antioxidants

Mega-doses of antioxidants seem to be the norm these days. On a recent trip to the health food store, I couldn’t find any Vitamin C tablets containing less than 500 milligrams. Yet the research on the effectiveness of antioxidants is mixed, according to the current issue of Environmental Nutrition. In fact, some studies have suggested that taking too many antioxidants can even cause harm. Low levels of oxidation serve a purpose in the body. For example, free radicals may help decrease the production of low-density lipoprotein ( LDL) or “bad” cholesterol. And there is reason to believe that excessive intake of antioxidants may have the reverse effect, fueling free-radical production. Unless you’re taking these supplements for a specific reason, consider getting your daily dose of Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene through plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Cell Phone Radiation Check

While there's a lot of contradictory research regarding the health effects of cell phone use, it's certain that some amount of radiofrequency energy is absorbed by the body. For a phone to pass FCC certification, the specific absorption rate, known as the SAR, must be below 1.6 watts per kilogram. To check on your phone's SAR level, consult the chart linked from the headline above.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Can Coffee Help Prevent Cancer?

For millions of people, coffee's main "health benefit" is that it helps their brains function each morning. However, two new studies, reported in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, show a link between coffee and the prevention of two common types of cancer. In the first study, researchers in Japan found that regular coffee drinkers had about half the incidence of liver cancer as people who never drank coffee. And an unrelated study, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, showed that drinking decaf -- but not caffeinated -- coffee had a similar correlation to colorectal cancer risk.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Diet May Be as Effective as Drugs in Reducing Cholesterol

Canadian researchers have developed a diet rich in fiber and vegetables that has been proven as effective as statin drugs in lowering cholesterol. Their "portfolio diet" consists of soy protein, almonds, and cereal fiber as well as plant sterols. The diet was tested on 34 overweight men and women and compared to a low-fat diet and a normal diet plus the generic statin drug lovastatin. Each of the volunteers followed each regimen for a month, with a break in between each treatment cycle. The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that the low-fat diet lowered LDL -- the low-density lipoprotein commonly known as "bad" cholesterol -- by 8.5 percent after a month. Statins lowered LDL by 33 percent and the "portfolio" diet lowered LDL by nearly 30 percent. According to the research, a quarter of the group actually achieved their lowest LDL levels from being on the portfolio diet.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

In Praise of Chocolate

Having been considered the “food of the gods” for centuries and used for everything from relgious ceremonies to love potions, it makes sense that chocolate is the gift of choice for wooing partners on Valentine's Day. Beyond the feelings of euphoria that it seems to induce, chocolate also offers several health benefits. It's rich in anti-oxidants and contains minor amounts of B vitamins, copper, magnesium, iron and zinc. But not all chocolate is created equal. Opt for high-quality dark chocolate (the fewer added ingredients, the better). And remember that, given its high calorie and fat content, it's no health food.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Carbs and Protein Buck Hunger Best

Contrary to the trend of limiting carbs to control hunger and weight, a new study shows that a diet rich in whole carbohydrates and/or protein is most effective in suppressing the "hunger hormone" gherlin. The study, published in the February issue of Endocrinology, found that protein and carbohydrate infusions in mice suppressed ghrelin (and, subsequently, feelings of hunger) faster and more effectively than infustions of fat. As a result, researchers claim that high-fat diets may not be an effective way of curbing appetite for those trying to lose weight.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Cholesterol Quiz

If you're like most people, you realize that your diet impacts your cholesterol level but are a bit fuzzy on the details. The Mayo Clinic has designed an online quiz to test your savvy. Just click on the header above and find out how much you know about what impacts your blood cholesterol level. Whether you guess correctly or not, this helpful site will guide you through the basics of cholesterol control.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Pose for the Blues

Got the winter blahs? Taking a minute or so to step out of your mind and into your body could help alleviate some of the symptoms. Yogis count relief from mild depression and fatigue among the many benefits offered by Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (better known as Upward Dog). Even if you're not a regular on the yoga mat, the Upward Dog pose is basic enough to do on your living room rug. Simply follow the directions on the link above.