Breastfeeding by Diabetic Moms Cuts Babies Obesity Risk

Breastfeeding for six months or more may reduce the risk that babies born to diabetic mothers become obese later in life, a new study shows.

“This is perhaps the first study to show that, indeed, if these babies are breastfed as recommended, or more, then their increased risk of obesity is reduced to levels seen in offspring not exposed to diabetes during pregnancy,” says study researcher Dana Dabelea, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Other experts hailed the study, which is published in Diabetes Care, as well-designed and important.

“I really think they did an excellent job,” says Kathleen Marinelli, MD, director of lactation support services at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford and member of the United States Breastfeeding Committee. “It was very clever the way they defined their breast milk intake or their exclusivity. … A sticking point in all studies on breastfeeding is ‘How do you define how much breast milk the baby actually got?’ And I thought this was very cleverly done and well done.”

“They thought they might see a big difference between those babies whose mothers did not have diabetes and those babies whose mothers did have diabetes in terms of obesity protection down the road, depending on how much breast milk they got,” says Marinelli, who was not involved in the study. “And if they got more than six months of breast milk, they didn’t. And that’s actually a good thing, because it shows that you can sort of wipe out that negative potential effect on the baby, if you breastfeed long enough.”

And experts say the metabolic benefits of breastfeeding extend to mom, too, by helping her recover from gestational diabetes and protecting her against developing diabetes again later in life.

Maternal Diabetes and Childhood Obesity

In the womb, babies of mothers who have diabetes are exposed to more glucose and free fatty acids than babies whose mothers don’t have diabetes.

“So these fetuses are over nourished, even before the babies are born, so that makes them more heavy at birth, but also they have a higher percent of fat mass, not just a higher birth weight at birth,” Dabelea tells WebMD.

“Now the interesting question is why do these effects persist over the life course? And here is where we don’t quite know everything,” Dabelea says, “But one of the proposed mechanisms is that since these offspring are over nourished in utero, this hyper nutrition changes their satiety point so they only feel full when they’re overfed.”

“And they tend to consume increased amounts of food throughout their life because their satiety point has been altered, permanently,” she adds.

Breastfeeding Combats Obesity

For the study, Dabelea and her colleagues compared the fat distribution, height, waist measurements, and body mass index (BMI) of 89 children born to diabetic mothers to those of 379 children who had not been exposed to diabetes in utero. The average age of the children in the study was 10.

Mothers were asked about whether they breastfed their babies or used formula. They were also asked how long they breastfed and when they introduced solid foods and other beverages.

Because so many moms mixed breast milk and formula feedings, the researchers developed a sliding scale, between 0 and 1, which they used to statistically weight each child’s exposure to breast milk.

The researchers found that among those children who were exposed to diabetes in the womb, those who were breastfed for less than six months had significantly higher BMIs, had thicker waists, and stored more fat around their midsections compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.

What’s more, when they compared children who were exposed to diabetes to those who weren’t, they only saw significant differences in those who were breastfed for less than six months. The groups looked nearly the same when they were breastfed for six months or more, indicating that the disadvantage conveyed by being exposed to diabetes had been wiped out.

Breastfeeding May Protect Mother and Infant

“What we wanted to do was look at what we would consider a high-risk group and to see if breastfeeding had an impact on obesity in that setting,” says study researcher Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital in Denver. “And what we found, in fact, is that breastfeeding does seem to be protective.”

“Certainly all women should be breastfeeding, but women who have diabetes and who have babies that are exposed to diabetes in utero should be especially aware that breastfeeding could have an important benefit to their child over time,” Daniels tells WebMD.

And other research suggests that the benefits may extend to mom, as well.

“If a mother has gestational diabetes and she nurses her baby, she lowers her risk for developing diabetes down the road,” Marinelli says. “Real diabetes, not just diabetes during the pregnancy, so that’s her benefit. If she breastfeeds her baby, she lowers her baby’s risk for becoming obese. And she lowers her baby’s risk for not only becoming obese, but for developing diabetes, because there is a genetic component to diabetes so if you’re born to a parent who has diabetes, you are at risk for getting diabetes. But if you’re breastfed, that risk is lowered.”

The important thing to remember, Marinelli notes, is that the benefits appear to be related to how long a mom continues; the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for six months or longer after their babies are born.

“The longer you do it, the more benefit you accrue,” she says.

What is Food Poisoning?

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating foods that have harmful organisms in them. These harmful germs can include bacteria, parasites, and viruses. They are mostly found in raw meat, chicken, fish, and eggs, but they can spread to any type of food. They can also grow on food that is left out on counters or outdoors or is stored too long before you eat it. Sometimes food poisoning happens when people do not wash their hands before they touch food.

Most of the time, food poisoning is mild and goes away after a few days. All you can do is wait for your body to get rid of the germ that is causing the illness. But some types of food poisoning may be more serious, and you may need to see a doctor.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptom of food poisoning is usually diarrhea. You may also feel sick to your stomach, vomit, or have stomach cramps. How you feel when you have food poisoning mostly depends on how healthy you are and what germ is making you sick.

If you vomit or have diarrhea a lot, you can get dehydrated. Dehydration means that your body has lost too much fluid. Watch for signs of dehydration, which include having a dry mouth, feeling lightheaded, and passing only a little dark urine. Children and the elderly can get dehydrated very quickly and should be watched closely. Pregnant women should always call a doctor if they think they may have food poisoning.

How do harmful germs get into food?

Germs can get into food when:

  • Meat is processed. It is normal to find bacteria in the intestines of healthy animals that we use for food. Sometimes the bacteria get mixed up with the parts of those animals that we eat.
  • The food is watered or washed. If the water used to irrigate or wash fresh fruits and vegetables has germs from animal manure or human sewage in it, those germs can get on the fruits and vegetables.
  • The food is prepared. When someone who has germs on his or her hands touches the food, or if the food touches other food that has germs on it, the germs can spread. For example, if you use the same cutting board for chopping vegetables and preparing raw meat, germs from the raw meat can get on the vegetables.

How will you know if you have food poisoning?

Because most food poisoning is mild and goes away after a few days, most people do not go to the doctor. You can usually assume that you have food poisoning if other people who ate the same food also got sick.

If you think you have food poisoning, call your local health department to report it. This could help keep others from getting sick.

Call your doctor if you think you may have a serious illness. If your diarrhea or vomiting is very bad or if you do not start to get better after a few days, you may need to see your doctor.

If you do go to the doctor, he or she will ask you about your symptoms (diarrhea, feeling sick to your stomach, or throwing up), ask about your health in general, and do a physical exam. Your doctor will ask about where you have been eating and whether anyone who ate the same foods is also sick. Sometimes the doctor will take stool or blood samples and have them tested.

How is it treated?

In most cases, food poisoning goes away on its own in 2 to 3 days. All you need to do is rest and get plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink a cup of water or rehydration drink (such as Lytren, Pedialyte, or Rehydralyte) each time you have a large, loose stool. You can also use a sports drink, such as Gatorade. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and should not be used to rehydrate. Doctors recommend trying to eat normally as soon as possible. When you can eat without vomiting, try to eat the kind of foods you usually do. But try to stay away from foods that are high in fat or sugar.

Antibiotics are usually not used to treat food poisoning. Medicines that stop diarrhea (antidiarrheals) can be helpful, but they should not be given to infants or young children.

If you think you are severely dehydrated, you may need to go to the hospital. And in some severe cases, such as for botulism or E. coli infection, you may need medical care right away.

How can you prevent food poisoning?

You can prevent most cases of food poisoning with these simple steps:

  • Clean. Wash your hands often and always before you touch food. Keep your knives, cutting boards, and counters clean. You can wash them with hot, soapy water, or put items in the dishwasher and use a disinfectant on your counter. Wash fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Separate. Keep germs from raw meat from getting on fruits, vegetables, and other foods. Put cooked meat on a clean platter, not back on the one that held the raw meat.
  • Cook. Make sure that meat, chicken, fish, and eggs are fully cooked.
  • Chill. Refrigerate leftovers right away. Don’t leave cut fruits and vegetables at room temperature for a long time.
  • When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure if a food is safe, don’t eat it.

6 Healthy Spices and Herbs

Gone are the days of seasoning food with just salt and pepper or of jars of herbs and spices collecting dust for a decade in a kitchen cabinet.

The exciting era of herbs and spices has begun and you can either let it boost your home cooking to a higher level of flavor and health or be left behind clutching your jar of Old Bay Seasoning.

There’s a whole world of exotic herbs and spices available to you now over the Internet or at specialty stores that you might not know about because they aren’t called for in Grandma Martha’s recipes. You might not even see the following up-and-coming herbs and spices in magazine and cookbook recipes either — yet.

Herbs and spices aren’t just about adding flavor. They may also have health perks related to their antioxidants. And using herbs and spices in your foods may help you cut back on fat, sugar, and salt, which could help your waistline, blood pressure, and overall health.

Here are six herbs and spices that you probably aren’t using yet, but should.

1. Smoked Serrano Chili Powder

Serrano chili peppers are known for their bold, spicy heat. Now you can find Serrano chilies that are smoked and ground into a fragrant powder.

How it improves dishes: Smoked Serrano chili powder adds a rich, smoky flavor and lively heat to your favorite dishes, including a variety of Mexican and Southwestern dishes, stews, casseroles, egg dishes, and chili.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric, a favorite ingredient since ancient times, is the root stalk of a tropical plant in the ginger family. It adds a bright golden color and a pungent flavor found in everything from Indian curry powder to traditional American mustard.

How it improves dishes: Turmeric can be added to Southeast Asian recipes including curries; soups; rice and pilaf dishes; and vegetable, chicken, or lentil dishes. It can also be used to add some punch to relishes and chutneys.

3. Saigon Cinnamon

Cinnamon is not a new spice, but Saigon cinnamon, prized for its sweet and spicy taste and aroma, is considered the finest and most flavorful cinnamon in the world.

How it improves dishes: Cinnamon is an old favorite called for in fancy coffee drinks, hot oatmeal, cookies, and fruit crisps. It’s also a popular spice for main dishes (including chicken, seafood, and lamb) from international cuisines such as Indian, Greek, Mexican, and Middle Eastern. Saigon cinnamon is an important ingredient in the popular Vietnamese noodle soup called pho.

4. Vanilla Paste

Vanilla extract is ubiquitous in dessert recipes, but the next generation of recipes might start calling for vanilla paste instead. Vanilla paste is much more preferable to vanilla extract because of flavorful flecks of vanilla bean dispersed throughout its syrup consistency. Vanilla paste has the benefits of using the actual vanilla bean (where you cut the long, thin bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the center) but is so much easier.

How it improves dishes: Vanilla paste has a more concentrated flavor than extract, and the flecks of vanilla bean can be particularly appetizing used in single-color dishes such as ice cream, sugar cookies, and vanilla frosting. It’s a treat to see and taste those flavor-packed little black dots.

5. Epazote

This is an up-and-coming herb, according to the Spice Island Marketplace at the Culinary Institute of America. Although this is a relatively new herb to many American cooks, epazote has been used in Mexico for cooking and medicinal purposes for thousands of years.

In Mexico, Epazote is best known for flavoring bean dishes and making herb tea. One new use, suggested by the Spice Island Marketplace, is to drizzle some olive oil on top of flat bread, and then sprinkle epazote over the top, heat, then serve.

How it improves dishes: Epazote has a powerful flavor similar to licorice and can be used in bean dishes as well as eggs, burritos, rice, soups and stews, salad, quesadillas, and meat dishes. There is one way that epazote may improve your bean dishes beyond flavor: It’s known in Mexico for helping to diffuse the gas-inducing effect of beans.

6. Herbs de Provence

Herbs de Provence (also called Herbs of Provence) is a blend of five or six herbs reminiscent of France’s sunny Provence region. The herbs included in the blend vary by brand but usually include thyme, basil, savory, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, and/or lavender. When you buy it in a blend, the individual herbs are already in balanced amounts ready to inspire flavorful and convenient cooking.

How it improves dishes: This sweet and fragrant aromatic herb blend adds depth and complexity to your hot dishes. It can be used as a rub on roast, meats, and fish and works great on the grill. It can be added to marinades, sprinkled into sautés, omelets, vegetable dishes, sauces, and soups.

Tips for Buying, Using, and Storing Dried Herbs

If your grocery store doesn’t stock the spices or herbs mentioned in this story, try searching for them online.

  1. Store dried herbs in a cool, dark place, especially if they come in a clear glass container.
  2. Dried herbs are usually stronger-tasting than fresh. So if a recipe calls for fresh herbs and you’re using dried instead, use about 1/3 less. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, a teaspoon of dried herbs will do.
  3. Dried herbs lose flavor over time. If stored correctly, they will last about a year. Sniff the herbs before you use them. If you can’t smell anything, they’re past their prime.

Myths Related to Spring Allergies

WASHINGTON – Not satisfied with the kind of information available pertaining to spring allergies and need something reliable? Well, here’s what you need to read. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members, who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma, have offered the following myth-busting advice: myth: over-the-counter (OTC, or nonprescription) oral antihistamines are just as effective as prescription medicines in controlling your stuffy nose. Act: TC antihistamines can help control some allergy symptoms but they have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or the inflammation that often occurs with allergies. They also can make you drowsy. If your OTC medicine is not helping your stuffy nose or is causing side effects, your best bet is to see an allergist.

“We can prescribe more effective anti-inflammatory medications. But more importantly than that, also we can find the source of your suffering rather than just treating the symptoms,” said allergist Myron Zitt, of ACAAI.yth: TC decongestant nasal sprays are addictive act: TC decongestant nasal sprays are not technically addictive. However, if you overuse them, it may seem as though they are because you may need to use more and more to get relief from the congestion. To combat this, don’t use an OTC decongestant nasal spray more than three days in a row, and talk to your allergist about prescription nasal sprays containing steroids.yth:

Eating local honey will combat spring allergies.

Fact:

Local honey is made from the pollen of local flowers, so it might seem logical that eating it would increase your allergy tolerance. However, the pollens that cause spring allergies are produced by trees, grasses and weeds, not the showy flowers that bees buzz around. In fact, eating honey can be risky for some people, who could have an allergic reaction.

Myth:

Pollen allergy won’t lead to food allergy.

Fact:

Actually, about one third of people with pollen allergies also may react to certain foods. The reaction – called oral allergy syndrome or pollen-food allergy – is usually mild, including an itchy, tingling mouth, throat or lips. It has to do with similar proteins in the pollens.

Myth:

Allergy shots require too much time and are more expensive than taking medicine to relieve symptoms.

Fact:

Depending on how bothersome your allergies are, immunotherapy (allergy shots) may actually save you money and improve your quality of life. In fact, a recent study showed that immunotherapy reduced total health care costs in children with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) by one-third, and prescription costs by 16 percent.

Myth:

A blood test is the best test to diagnose allergies.

Fact:

Actually skin tests are more sensitive than blood tests. In skin testing, the skin on the inside of the arms or the back is pricked with a tiny bit of an allergen. If you’re allergic, the site will become red and swollen. Skin testing is very safe when performed by an allergist, even in infants and young children. But no single test alone provides the entire picture.

Radiation Significantly Raising Cancer Risk for Dialysis Patients

High and frequent doses of radiation for dialysis patients many of whom suffer from other illnesses and require radiation for diagnosis and treatments, put them at serious and significant risk of developing cancer, Italian scientists wrote in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Their findings will trigger discussions on whether doctors should reduce the use radiation for diagnosis purposes.

Many patients receive high doses of radiation often over long periods, the scientists found, both risk factors for cancer.

Marco Brambilla, PhD, Andreana De Mauri, MD, from the University Hospital “Maggiore della Carità,” Novara, Italy and team tracked 106 dialysis patients for approximately three years. They gathered data from hospital records and calculated their radiation exposure.

On average, patients received the equivalent of approximately 1000 chest radiograms per year. Computed tomography (CT) scans accounted for 76% of the total radiation dose, while accounting for only 19% of the total number of radiological procedures. The researchers found that 22 patients received low doses of radiation each year, 51 received moderate doses, 22 received high doses, and 11 received very high doses. Seventeen patients were exposed to radiation at levels associated with a substantial increase in risk for cancer-related death. The investigators also noted that radiation doses were higher in younger patients and in patients on transplant waiting lists.

“These findings emphasize the need to begin tracking at least the CT-related exposure to develop and implement alternative strategies to reduce patient-specific radiation burden. The retrospective nature of this study does not allow us to draw conclusive inferences about the percentage of CT studies that could have been avoided. However, the significant number of examinations that resulted in non-notable findings or in negative results – about 60% – points toward the need of a more stringent process of justification of CT referral,” said Dr. Brambilla.

Study co-authors include Doriana Chiarinotti, MD, Roberta Matheoud, PhD, Alessandro Carriero, MD, and Martino De Leo, MD (University Hospital “Maggiore della Carità,” in Novara, Italy).

In reviewing this study in an accompanying editorial, David Pickens, PhD and Martin Sandler, MD (Vanderbilt School of Medicine) noted that it is an example of what is often seen in patient care settings where individuals of varying clinical experience order diagnostic imaging procedures. “In general, certain types of procedures are often overused because they are relatively easy to perform and a large amount of information is provided very quickly,” they wrote. “The particular example described here, that of CT scans, can produce substantial cumulative doses of radiation when used multiple times.” They noted that radiation appropriately used and calibrated provides great benefit to patients, but proper knowledge of procedures, dosage, effects, alternatives, and expected results is imperative to avoid potential overuse.

Targeting Enzyme Could Reduce Breast Cancer Spread

Blocking key chemical stops disease from attacking other organs

UK scientists have discovered that blocking the actions of a key chemical can stop the spread of breast cancer to other organs.

The chemical, an enzyme called lysyl oxidase-like 2 (LOXL2), is needed for tumor cells to escape from the breast and invade surrounding tissues, allowing cancer cells to spread to other organs.

The spread of cancer is known as metastasis. Once breast cancer metastases are detected in a patient with breast cancer, the average survival is less than two years.

However, in laboratory models, scientists found that blocking the function of this enzyme decreased the spread of the cancer from the breast to the lungs, liver and bone.

The enzyme is thought to play a role in controlling the amounts of other molecules called TIMP1 and MMP9, which have previously been linked to the spread of cancer.

The findings pave the way for the development of drug designed to block the actions of the LOXL2 enzyme, which could be used to treat women with advanced breast cancer.

When the team from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) looked at levels of the enzyme in tissue samples from breast cancer patients, they found that high levels were associated with cancer spread and poor survival rates. This means that LOLX2 levels could also be used to predict whether a woman’s breast cancer is likely to be of an aggressive type.

As LOXL2 has also been linked to the spread of other cancers including cancer of the colon and oesophagus and squamous cell cancers, the study has important implications for treating many cancer types, the scientists said.

Dr Janine Erler from the ICR, who led the study, said: “Around 12,000 women die from breast cancer in the UK each year, most because their cancer has spread to other parts of their body.

“Our study shows that inhibiting the action of LOXL2 can significantly reduce the spread of breast cancer, suggesting that drugs which block this enzyme may be effective in preventing patients’ cancer from spreading.”

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer spread is an important problem in breast and other cancers, and scientists are searching to find new ways to stop cancer spread and save many more lives.

“The team has shown that targeting the molecule LOXL2, which plays a key role in spread, could offer new approaches to tackle this problem.”

The findings are published in the journal Cancer Research.

6 Surprising Ways to Heart Longevity

February is Heart Health month, and by now, you’ve read all about the heart-healthy benefits of good fats, whole grains, and stress reduction — but did you know that you can protect your heart by flossing your teeth or topping your toast with marmalade? Read on to find out more surprising ways to keep your heart pumping strong!

Take this advice to heart, but if you have heart issues, don’t stop taking your medications; always consult with your physician any time you begin a new health regime.

1. Floss Your Teeth, Save Your Heart

Your dentist has been telling you for years about the importance of flossing. It turns out that flossing not only protects your teeth and gums, but also potentially your heart. For a long time, observational studies have found that people with periodontal disease have significantly higher odds of developing cardiovascular disease. While experts are not sure exactly why taking care of your teeth is linked with better heart health, they speculate that bacteria from your mouth may stick to the fatty plaques in your bloodstream, directly contributing to blockages. Another theory is that these oral bacteria travel through your body, triggering inflammation that causes the blood cells to swell, then narrowing an artery. While more studies are needed to confirm the connection, it’s never a bad idea to floss once a day!

2. A Nap a Day Keeps Heart Disease Away

One of the best ways to lower stress on your heart is to take a nap during the middle of the day. Chinese medicine has long observed that, in the body’s circadian rhythms, noontime is the peak hour for the heart. Therefore, Chinese doctors advise calming activities and rest at this time of day to maintain the health of the cardiovascular system. Researchers have found that men who napped at least thirty minutes a day were 30 percent less likely to develop heart disease than those who didn’t nap. A siesta is a sign of wisdom, not laziness!

3. Pets: Heartwarming and Heart Protecting

Getting a pet is a great boon to heart health. A study reported in the Medical Journal of Australia found that, in general, pet owners have lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels than people who do not own pets. Having a cat companion could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one third! According to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed over 4,000 cat owners during a 10-year period, being a feline owner can significantly decrease the chance of dying from heart disease. Another study, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, found that male dog owners were significantly less likely to die within one year after a heart attack than those who did not own a dog. Man’s best friend helps your heart in yet another way — all those daily walks add up to real cardiovascular benefits.

4. Peel Away Cholesterol with Orange Rind

Plaque in your arteries narrows the artery over time, impairing blood flow and dramatically increasing your risk for heart disease. Here’s a simple way to keep your arteries healthy: grate a little orange peel into your food regularly. In Chinese medicine, orange peel has been traditionally used to improve digestion of fatty and rich foods, and it is often found in traditional Chinese dishes with red meat. It turns out that orange peel may actually lower cholesterol better than some current medications, and without the side effects. Studies show that compounds called polymethosylated flavones (PMFs), found in pigments of orange and tangerines, reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) without altering the level of good cholesterol (HDL). Who would guess that orange-peel laden marmalade would also be good for lowering LDL cholesterol?

5. Celery: Just Juice It

High blood pressure is often the root cause of stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure. A time-tested Chinese remedy for this condition is fresh celery juice, which can be made with a blender or a juicer. Drinking one to two large glasses a day can help prevent high blood pressure or restore it to normal in those who already have high blood pressure. Studies have found that celery stalks are packed with more than a dozen anti-inflammatory agents, including apigenin, a cox2-inhibiting compound similar to some anti-inflammatory drugs.

6. Heart Health with Hawthorn Berries

Widely used since the seventeenth century by European herbalists, the hawthorn berry was traditionally considered a digestive aid for heavy meats and rich foods, as well as a potent activator of the circulatory system. Today it is used to cleanse the blood of plaque and other toxins. Recent European studies of this bioflavanoid-rich plant have confirmed its cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure during exertion, strengthening the heart muscle, and improving blood flow to the heart and throughout the body. Additionally, hawthorn has also been shown to lower cholesterol and balance blood sugar. You can make hawthorn berry tea or take it in supplement form. Available in powder, capsules, and liquid extracts, a typical dosage is up to 500 mg daily.

Bonus Tip: If you want to take your heart health one step further, you can try taking tonic herbs that support a robust and open cardiovascular system, such as Super Clarity.

You can find many more ways to protect your heart and live to 100 in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. If you are interested in a lifestyle program, designed to transform your health and lengthen your years, check out my new book Secrets of Longevity 8-Week Program.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Courtesy of Dr. Mao

Improving the Way Food Allergic & Gluten-Intolerant Diners Eat Out

AllergyEats, the biggest and fastest growing source for finding allergy-friendly restaurants, is celebrating its first anniversary. Over the past year, this peer-based resource has significantly improved the way food allergic and gluten-intolerant diners eat out.

AllergyEats, a free website, lists well over 600,000 restaurants nationwide, which food allergic diners can rate. The site also offers information on restaurants’ menus (including gluten-free menus), allergen lists, nutrition information, certifications, web links, directions and more.

“Since its February 2010 launch, AllergyEats has ramped up to more than 10,000 users each month and continues to see significant growth as visitors from all 50 states rate the allergy-friendliness of their restaurant experiences,” said Paul Antico, founder of AllergyEats. “Our tremendous, ongoing growth demonstrates that the site is meeting a huge need within the food allergy community.”

“Additionally, we’ve experienced a tremendous surge of interest on our social media sites, with more than 8,000 Facebook views daily, and 3,000+ food-allergic fans regularly sharing ideas, recommendations and feedback on Facebook, Twitter and the AllergyEats Blog,” Antico continued.

As a successful mutual fund manager at Fidelity Investments, Antico was used to problem-solving during high pressure situations. But one night a few years ago, the father of five faced a different sort of challenge – driving around for more than two hours with his hungry, grumpy children in the backseat, searching for a restaurant that could accommodate their food allergies.

“I was frustrated with the inconsistencies in restaurants – some were willing to cook meals without dairy, nuts, eggs and my kids’ other ‘trigger foods,’ and some were not – and I wondered why there wasn’t a quick, easy online restaurant guide that indicated where food-allergic individuals could more comfortably eat. So I created one,” Antico explained.

This free, user-friendly website provides valuable peer-based feedback about how well (or poorly) restaurants accommodate the needs of food-allergic customers. The peer ratings and feedback allow food-allergic and gluten-intolerant diners to quickly and easily find restaurants that will cater to their special dietary requirements – and avoid those that won’t.

Most restaurant review sites include information about establishments’ food, ambiance or service, but AllergyEats is singularly focused on food allergies, with peer reviews spotlighting where people with food allergies or intolerances have more comfortably eaten.

More than 12 million Americans have food allergies, which is one in 25 people or 4% of the population. The numbers are higher for children under the age of 3, as a staggering 6% have been diagnosed with food allergies. An additional 3 million people have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance.

Raw Milk Debate Simmers as States, FDA Mull Rules

Clifford Hatch cares for about 20 cows at his family-run farm, producing fresh raw milk that is at the center of controversy over its sale and safety.

Hatch sells raw, or unpasteurized, milk products from a retail shop at his dairy farm, which state regulations allow him to do because the business is located on the same property where his Ayrshire cattle are milked.

He said he might sell 40 to 50 gallons a day at his Upinngill Farm, which started producing raw milk and cheese years ago when local residents began seeking an alternative to dairy from big, industrialized producers whose use of artificial bovine growth hormones was widespread then.

“The system is pretty sensible and reasonably well-enforced,” Hatch said.

But debate is swirling over raw milk in many U.S. states, and the thought of tighter federal rules on its production and sale makes independent producers such as Hatch uneasy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both strongly warn the public against drinking raw milk. They see potential health risks from pathogens like E. coli bacteria, which in some instances can get into milk from an animal’s manure.

But raw dairy advocates say unpasteurized milk is at least as safe as the “superheated” varieties because of the dedication small-batch farmers have to maintaining hygienic facilities.

Some people prefer raw milk, saying it is sweeter and has more vitamins and minerals, “healthy” bacteria and digestive enzymes. They say pasteurizing milk, or heating it to above 160 degrees Fahrenheit, destroys most of those features.

Part of the debate centers on cheese, which is legal under federal law if it is aged at least 60 days to kill bacteria such as E. coli.

But the FDA is mulling extending the aging requirement past 60 days which could, in effect, outlaw some popular raw milk cheeses as well as pasteurized ripened cheeses.

An FDA spokeswoman said on Wednesday the agency is looking at whether the aging requirements for cheese “are sufficient to minimize pathogens,” including salmonella and E. coli.

The FDA’s review could take until late in the year, when it would release results of its risk study, she said.

Some raw dairy proponents fear the FDA could outlaw raw milk production altogether.

“Their policy certainly is very anti-raw milk. It’s always a concern,” said Winton Pitcoff, raw milk network coordinator for the Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFAMass).

Some U.S. states are restricting raw milk use already.

Vermont has both deep agricultural roots and a newer local-food renaissance boosting the economy. But the state this month suspended workshops led by an advocacy group teaching people how to turn unpasteurized milk into butter and cheese.

Vermont’s agriculture agency says the state’s 2009 raw milk law limits farmers to selling it to customers for fluid consumption only. But the agency says it will not interfere with how people use or consume raw milk in their own homes.

In ten states, including California, Maine, Connecticut and New Hampshire, people can buy raw milk in grocery stores. But sales are banned in many other states, including dairy giant Wisconsin. Federal law also bans interstate sales of raw milk.

A few states are considering legalization or loosening regulations, among them Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Massachusetts does not allow raw milk sales in grocery stores, but it is considering a bill to let farmers deliver to customers and sell at stands away from their farms.

Raw milk producers can sell a gallon of fresh milk for $6 to $12 – about four times what processors pay dairy farmers for milk they truck to processing plants.

Farmers say the heftier price can make the difference between a farm being profitable or needing to shut down.

The number of dairy farms nationwide has dwindled. In Massachusetts, about 5,000 farms existed in 1950 but today fewer than 180 remain, NOFAMass says.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/02/24/raw-milk-debate-simmers-states-fda-mull-rules/#ixzz1EzZDKmMx

4 of the Most Dangerous Myths about Washing Your Hands

Hot water is better than cold water for effective hand washing

Scientists have found that various temperatures had “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.” Not only does hot water not show any benefit, but it might increase the “irritant capacity” of some soaps, causing dermatitis.

Hand sanitizers kill germs more effectively than soap

Using alcohol-based hand-hygiene products is in general not more effective than washing your hands with plain soap and water.

Frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizers promotes healthy skin

In fact, contact dermatitis can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, exposure to chemicals and glove use.

Soap with triclosan is an effective antimicrobial for handwashing

A recent study compared an antibacterial soap containing triclosan with a non-antibacterial soap.  The results showed that the antibacterial soap did not provide any additional benefit.  In addition, concerns have been raised about the use of triclosan because of the potential development of bacterial resistance.

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

Did you know that antibacterial soaps are tied to a public health crisis?  It’s true. The fervent use of antibacterial soaps and other antimicrobial products significantly contribute to a growing scourge: antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Antibiotic-resistant disease is a problem that few pay attention to, despite the fact that it’s been a known, growing phenomenon for several decades. It’s now become one of the most serious public health threats of the 21st Century. Antibiotic-resistant infections now claim more lives each year than the “modern plague” of AIDS, and cost the American health care system some $20 billion a year.

According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 18,600 people died from invasive MRSA infections in the United States in 2005. And that’s just ONE antibiotic-resistant bug. The list of resistant microbes is steadily growing.

What will it take before it’s taken seriously?

A Shift in Thinking is Required to Quell Growing Health Threat

It may seem like there’s nothing you, as an individual, can do about the rise in antibiotic-resistant disease, but that’s not true. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem when it comes to the rampant over-use of antibiotic drugs and antibacterial products.

Drug companies keep pushing the use of antibiotics; doctors keep prescribing these drugs for viral infections they can’t treat; patients keep asking for them for every ill; parents and schools keep insisting on using antibacterial cleansers and wipes; and the food industry keeps injecting them into their livestock, which eventually ends up on your dinner plate…

But you can be part of the solution in each and every one of these scenarios.

You can turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to drug advertisements; you can question your doctor’s prescription; you can resist asking for an antibiotic unless absolutely necessary and appropriate; you can avoid buying conventional farm-raised beef; and you can avoid using antibacterial products in your own home.

The last recommendation in particular is one of the easiest, and it will save you money to boot.  Proper hygiene does NOT require you to use harsh antibacterial agents. On the contrary, they can cause far more harm than good, both in the long- and short-term.

Hand washing—Your First Line of Defense Against Infectious Disease

Washing your hands is your number one protection against the acquisition and spread of infectious disease. But you do not need to use antimicrobial soap to get the job done.  Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use regular soaps.

Part of the reason for this is because most of these symptoms are actually caused by viruses, which antibacterial soaps can’t kill.

But even for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, those who used regular soaps still had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products. So, the rational conclusion is antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary for the purpose of washing away bacteria.

A 2007 systematic review published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases confirmed that antibacterial soap containing triclosan did not provide any additional benefit compared with a non-antibacterial soap.

The authors concluded:

“The lack of an additional health benefit associated with the use of triclosan-containing consumer soaps over regular soap, coupled with laboratory data demonstrating a potential risk of selecting for drug resistance, warrants further evaluation by governmental regulators regarding antibacterial product claims and advertising.”

There have been no changes made to the claims products are allowed to make, or how they’re allowed to advertise these products, but why wait for federal regulation that may or may not come?  It’s been repeatedly shown that washing your hands with plain soap and water can kill germs that cause:

  • The common cold
  • Influenza
  • Pneumonia
  • Hepatitis A
  • Acute gastroenteritis
  • Stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus
  • Other contagious illnesses and surgical wound complications, including MRSA

Proper Hand Washing Technique

However, it’s important to use proper hand washing technique. To make sure you’re actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow these guidelines:

  1. Use warm water
  2. Use a mild soap
  3. Work up a good lather, all the way up to your wrists, for at least 20 seconds
  4. Make sure you cover all surfaces, including the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and around and below your fingernails
  5. Rinse thoroughly under running water
  6. Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry
  7. In public places, use a paper towel to open the door as a protection from germs that the handles may harbor

Also remember that your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria, not the soap, so resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. Over-washing can easily reduce the protective oils in your skin (especially in the winter and dry dessert environments)  and cause your skin to crack—offering easy entry for bacteria and viruses into your body.

Instead, simply wash your hands when they look dirty, and prior to, or after, performing certain tasks that could spread infection, such as in these instances:

  • Before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw meat and poultry
  • Before eating
  • Before and after treating wounds or taking/giving medicine
  • Before touching a sick or injured person
  • Before inserting contact lenses
  • After using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • After touching an animal, its toys, leashes, or waste
  • After blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into your hands
  • After handling garbage or potentially contaminated waste

Antibacterial Products Pose Several Health Risks

Once you understand that good-old-fashioned soap and water are just as effective as modern antibacterials, the second issue becomes that of side effects. Traditional soap will not harm your health, other than perhaps dry your skin if used too frequently, whereas antibacterial products like triclosan comes with an array of potentially dangerous side effects.

In a recent press release, Dr. Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council is quoted as saying:

“It’s about time FDA has finally stated its concerns about antibacterial chemicals like triclosan.

The public deserves to know that these so-called antibacterial products are no more effective in preventing infections than regular soap and water and may, in fact, be dangerous to their health in the long run.”

This truth may be tough to swallow for some people because of highly successful advertising, but it’s true nonetheless. Please understand that the idea that “clean” equals sterile is not based in reality. A massive, highly profitable market has been created based on the premise that germs must be eradicated and that they’re hard to kill.

As a result, many, particularly the younger generations, have been brainwashed into believing that regular soap isn’t good enough; you need that “magic ingredient” that will ensure your safety and cleanliness. Unfortunately, you’re just paying extra for the privilege of having been hoodwinked by slick advertising.

You’re also paying more while putting your health at risk in a number of ways, including:

  1. Contributing to the creation of hardier, more resistant bacterial strains. The antimicrobial triclosan, for example, is known to promote the growth of resistant bacteria. Even the American Medical Association (AMA) does not recommend antibacterial soaps for this very reason.
  2. Adding to your body’s toxic burden.
  3. Triclosan, the active ingredient in most antibacterial soap, not only kills bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells, and has been shown to act as an endocrine disrupter.
  4. In addition, these products kill both bad AND good bacteria, which is another explanation for how they contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and potentially also to allergic diseases like asthma and hay fever.
  5. A child raised in an environment devoid of dirt and germs, and who is given antibiotics that kill off all of the good and bad bacteria in his gut, is not able to build up natural resistance to disease, and becomes vulnerable to illnesses later in life. This theory, known as the hygiene hypothesis, is likely one reason why many allergies and immune-system diseases have doubled, tripled or even quadrupled in the last few decades.

Antibacterial Soap Mixed with Chlorinated Water is a Dangerous Mix

As if that wasn’t enough, when triclosan mixes with the chlorine in your tap water, chloroform is formed, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified as a probable human carcinogen. I warned about this compounding danger over five years ago.

In tests that closely mirror typical dishwashing habits and conditions, researchers have found that triclosan reacts with free chlorine to generate more than 50 parts per billion (ppb) of chloroform in your dishwater. And, when combined with other disinfection byproducts (DBPs), the additional chloroform could easily drive the concentration of total trihalomethanes above the EPA’s maximum allowable amount.

As I’ve discussed before, trihalomethanes are some of the most dangerous chemical byproducts there are. The maximum annual average of THMs in your local water supply cannot exceed 80 ppb (parts-per-billion), but there really is no “safe” level of these chemicals.

Trihalomethanes (THMs) are Cancer Group B carcinogens, meaning they’ve been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Disinfection byproducts (DPBs) have also been linked to reproductive problems in both animals and humans.

Furthermore, once these antimicrobial chemicals flow down your drain, they contaminate the environment and become part of the food chain. Researchers have determined that about 75 percent of another popular antimicrobial, triclocarban (TCC), resists water treatments meant to break it down and ends up in surface water and in municipal sludge used as fertilizer.

TCC is also known to cause cancer and reproductive problems.

So, the release of antimicrobials into the environment is yet another way that these products contribute to the increase in resistance of pathogens to clinical antibiotics.

Why Use Something that Has NO Clear Health Benefits and Plenty of Health Hazards?

The research clearly shows that you do not need antimicrobial soap to effectively protect yourself from germs. All you need is plain soap and warm water. Ditto for your dishes and your laundry.

So please, avoid using antibacterial soaps and other products containing these hazardous ingredients. They’re just harming you, the environment, and adding to a significant public health problem. They also cost more.

Instead, just use a gentle, chemical-free soap. Local health food stores typically carry a variety of natural soaps that will do the trick without harsh chemicals.

Courtesy of Dr.Mercola

Tasty, Easy, and Healthy

One of the most common questions I get asked is about how to cook fish properly. There is a fear that surrounds the preparation of it from the novice in the kitchen to even the most advanced home chefs. The good news is, if you are willing to push past your fear, it has to be one of the simplest proteins to cook.

Not only is it fast and easy, the health benefits are numerous.  It is considered to be one of the keys to brain health. The amount of Omega 3 fatty acids found in many fish can’t be matched by many other foods.

According to WebMD:

“A protein source associated with a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega 3 fatty acids, essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: higher dietary omega 3 fatty acids are linked to lower dementia and stroke risks; slower mental decline; and may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older. For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.”

Ideally, purchase your fish from a source that knows where the fish is coming from — a local fish market is your best bet. Also, look for fresh and wild and not farm raised. Sometimes you may not have that option due to where you live or the season, but that should not stop you from giving it a try. You can find wild salmon steaks frozen at many markets.

Fish does well in a hot oven or under a broiler. Some fish are fantastic grilled. Mahi mahi, salmon, halibut, and most fish that are thicker and have a meatier texture are the best to grill. One of the keys to cooking great fish is not overcooking it. A thin piece of fish like sole or tilapia can cook under a broiler in as little as three minutes!

The amount of time a particular fish takes to cook has a lot to do with how thick it is. A general rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness…no matter the cooking technique. So, if you have a ½ inch thick fillet of salmon, five minutes under the broiler should do it. This type of timing will ensure that your fish doesn’t get dried out. However, if you pull out your fish and it is a bit under what you prefer, pop back in for a few minutes. You can always add time but you can never go backwards.

Most all fish are fantastic with citrus, especially lemon and lime. Generously squeeze fresh juice over your fillets or steaks before cooking and then add another squeeze after cooking. Add sea or kosher salt, cracked pepper, or even a spice rub and you are set.

You can also finish with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of fresh chopped herbs. Mint, basil, cilantro and dill all go great with fish.

The next time you are thinking of making chicken, switch it up and see how simple and delicious a fish dinner can be.

What your Legs Say about your Heart Health

WASHINGTON – When it comes to heart health, you shouldn’t ignore your legs, say experts.

The Vascular Disease Foundation and its P.A.D. Coalition are urging people to listen to the legs and be alert to the signs of peripheral arterial disease, or P.A.D.

P.A.D. occurs when arteries in the legs become narrowed or clogged with fatty deposits, reducing blood flow to the legs. This can result in leg muscle pain when walking, disability, amputation, and poor quality of life.

If you have blocked arteries somewhere in the body, you are likely to have them elsewhere.

Thus, P.A.D. is a red flag that other arteries, including those in the heart, are likely affected-increasing the risk of a heart disease, heart attack and even death.

People with P.A.D. may have one or more of the following symptoms: ‘Claudicating’ – fatigue, heaviness, tiredness or cramping in the leg muscles (calf, thigh or buttocks) that occurs during activity such as walking and goes away with rest.

Foot or toe pains at rest that often disturbs sleep kin wounds or ulcers on the feet or toes that are slow to heal (or that do not heal for 8 to 12 weeks).

“Often, people think leg discomfort or slow healing sores are just a part of aging, yet they can be signs of a serious disease. Through early detection and proper treatment, we can reduce the devastating consequences of P.A.D. and improve the nation’s cardiovascular health,” said Joseph Caporusso of the P.A.D. Coalition.

Drugs, Overeating, Anger and Sex Are Main Triggers of Heart Attacks

New research has shown that the main triggers of heart attacks are drugs, overeating, anger and sex – in that order, reports the Independent.

A heart attack trigger is a factor, which explains why a heart attack occurs on a particular day or time. It is the final straw that triggers the attack and is distinct from the underlying cause, which may be a combination of smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise or being overweight.

According to the new ranking of these triggers, cocaine use increases the risk 23-fold, and a cup of coffee raises it 50 per cent.

Some triggers lead to a big increase in risk – limited exposure reduces it.

As relatively few people take cocaine, despite the high risk to individual users, the drug triggers less than 1 per cent of all heart attacks.

Coffee is widely drunk, so despite the relatively low risk to coffee drinkers, the beverage triggers one in 20 heart attacks. More than 2 per cent of heart attacks occur during or after sex (the exertion which triggers it).

Professor David Spiegelhalter at Cambridge University noted that if everyone stopped having sex, heart attacks could be reduced, but that is unlikely to be a popular public health message.

He was commenting on the study by Belgian researchers, published in the Lancet.

It showed that the biggest factor, in population terms, was traffic fumes, which triggers more than 7 per cent of all heart attacks.

Urinary Protein Linked to Cognitive Decline in Elderly Women

WASHINGTON – A new study has found that low amounts of albumin in the urine strongly predict faster cognitive decline in older women.

The study involved more than 1,200 women who were phoned every two years for three cycles and tested for general cognition, verbal/word memory, verbal fluency, and working/short-term memory.

Julie Lin of Brigham and Women’s Hospital) and colleagues found that participants with low urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio experienced cognitive decline at a rate 2 to 7 times faster in all cognitive measures than that attributed to aging alone over an average 6 years of follow-up.

“The strongest association was seen with a decline in the verbal fluency score, which has been attributed to progressive small vessel disease in the brain, which supports the view that albuminuria is an early marker of diffuse vascular disease,” said Lin.

What Immune System Natural Killer Cells Do

Our immune systems contain three fundamentally different types of cell: B-cells, T-cells and the mysteriously named Natural Killer cells (NK cells), which are known to be involved in killing tumor cells and other infected cells. Experiments to investigate the function of NK cells have proven difficult to interpret because the interactions between the various components of the immune system make it almost impossible to isolate effects of individual cell types. This has changed with the development of a mouse in which individual genes can be knocked out (eliminated) only in NK cells, thereby providing scientists with a tool to study the importance of NK cells and indeed of individual pathways in these cells. The mouse was generated in the group of Veronika Sexl, who has recently moved from the Medical University of Vienna to the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. An initial characterization is presented in the current issue of the journal Blood.

The development of a tool alone would not normally generate headlines but this case is different: the new mouse can be used to knock out any gene completely and exclusively in NK cells. It thus permits researchers to examine the functions of NK cells in the entire organism or even to investigate the importance of individual genes in this particular cell-type.

Sexl herself has naturally used the tool already. She has been able to show that a particular transcription factor known as Stat5 is essential for the correct development of NK cells – when this factor is eliminated, the cells fail to develop properly. The upshot is a mouse with an immune system that lacks NK cells but is otherwise fully intact. This is the first time it has proven possible to remove this particular cell type without affecting the rest of the animal. Finally, then, it is possible to learn what NK cells actually do in the intact organism.

Sexl and her collaborators have shown that mice lacking NK cells have normal T-cell responses to tumours, although their NK cell-mediated responses are naturally dramatically reduced. This experiment proves conclusively that the mouse can be used to untangle the web of interactions among the various cells of the immune system.

Sexl’s work has immediate implications for the treatment of cancer in humans. As an example, leukemia is sometimes treated by inhibiting the STAT5 protein. Sexl’s findings make it clear that this approach has a real drawback: inhibition of STAT5 will lead to a drop in the number of NK cells and so interfere with one of the body’s own mechanisms for fighting the cancer. It will be important to assess whether NK cells normally play a part in fighting diseases before inhibiting STAT5. For the first time, the newly developed mouse provides a tool to do so. Not surprisingly, it is already attracting a great deal of interest – as Sexl says, “They’ve been going like hot cakes ever since the word got out.”