Desirable Behavior Should Be Instilled by Parents and not from Television or the Computer

Parents that allow their children to spend lots of time on the computer and in front of the television may be inadvertently contributing to an epidemic rise in “multiple-risk behaviors” (MRBs) among adolescents, suggests a new study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine. High computer use, say researchers, can lead to a 50 percent increased risk of developing MRBs like drug use, drunkenness, and unprotected sex.

When children are exposed to violence, wild partying, and other negative things through video games, television shows, and various internet content, they tend to adopt those behaviors themselves. Rather than develop life habits through natural exposure to family and friends, media-addicted youth  Continue reading

Virtual Doctor Visits Can Be Effective

It’s up for debate whether Internet helps or hurts doctors’ ability to treat patients. While sites like WebMD bring out the hypochondriac in us all, researchers out of a hospital clinic in Barcelona may have found a way that the Web and medicine can mesh. This week, they presented results of their telemedicine program “Hospital Virtual,” which successfully treated HIV patients using an Internet-based home care system.

The team cared for 200 HIV patients over five years, providing consultations via the Internet. The results of the study show that the medical, psychological and pharmaceutical needs for the participants were met as satisfactorily  Continue reading

What Is in your Fast Food Fried Chicken?

Frying chicken is fairly simple, if a little messy. You dip pieces of chicken into a mix of egg and milk, roll them around in flour and spices, and then cook the chicken in sizzling hot oil until the pieces are brown, crispy and delicious.

But wait! Don’t forget to add a dash of dimethylpolysiloxane, an anti-foaming agent made of silicone that is also used in Silly Putty and cosmetics.

Now add a heaping spoonful of tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), which is a chemical preservative and a form of butane (AKA lighter fluid). One gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse,” according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives. Five grams of TBHQ can kill you.

Sprinkle on thirteen other corn-derived ingredients, and you’re only about twenty shy as many ingredients as a single chicken nugget from McDonald’s. And you were using pulverized chicken skin and mechanically reclaimed meat for your chicken, right?

No one in his or her right mind would cook chicken like this. Yet every day, hoards of Americans consume these ingredients in Chicken McNuggets, which McDonalds claims are “made with white meat, wrapped up in a crisp tempura batter.”

However chicken only accounts for about 50% of a Chicken McNugget. The other 50% includes a large percentage of corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents and other completely synthetic ingredients, meaning that parts of the nugget do not come from a field or farm at all. They come from a petroleum plant. Hungry?

Scariest perhaps is the fact that this recipe is a new and improved, “healthier” Chicken McNugget launched in 2003 after a federal judge called the deep-fried poultry bites “a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.” Also terrifying is the fact that these McFrankenuggets are overwhelmingly marketed to children who love their fun shapes and kid-friendly size.

While McDonald’s is of course the poster child for fast food ire, if you look at the nutritional information for chicken at any fast food restaurant, the ingredient list will be dozens of items longer than the egg, flour, chicken and oil recipe you might use at home.

Eating fast food is a habit, but it is one that you can break? No doubt you rarely plan to have a delicious meal at Arby’s for dinner, a lingering lunch at Carl’s Jr. or a special breakfast at the Burger King in the airport. It just happens. You are late, tired, hungry, broke, or all of the above. You have no time, and you must find something to eat before you crash. All of a sudden a bright, friendly sign beckons from the side of the road: Drive-through!

In five minutes you are happily chowing down on an inexpensive, filling meal. But don’t be fooled – the true cost of fast food does not come out of your wallet, but out of your body, your health, and your years on this earth.

You can break the unhealthy fast food habit: educate yourself about the true ingredients of fast food items, plan ahead for your meals, carry healthy snacks like nuts to ward off hunger and cook healthy chicken recipes at home. Convince yourself that fast food is the most disgusting stuff on the planet and is harmful to you and to those you love. After reading this, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Full ingredient list for a Chicken McNugget (from McDonald’s website):

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Full ingredient list for my mother’s fried chicken:

Bone-in chicken pieces, egg, milk, flour, canola oil, salt & pepper.

Virtual Desktop Program Helps Connect the Autism Spectrum

Andrew Gajkowski, 17, is living with autism. The disorder impacts every aspect of the bright Phoenix teenager’s life and affects how Andrew interacts with the world and how the world interacts with Andrew. Autism Spectrum Disorder affects one in every 110 American children under the age of eight. While great strides have been made in the treatment and teaching options for those living with autism, there are still many gaps.

Andrew fell into one of those gaps.

At school, Andrew performed well academically, but his social skills and difficulty with sensory input made the classroom a difficult place for him to learn. Andrew and his parents met with a variety of school administrators and health care providers to address his challenges at school, but were unsuccessful in identifying a workable solution.

“There are a lack of programs to support highly functioning autistic students in the school system,” said Sandi Sybrant, Andrew’s mother, whose search for treatment options for Andrew led to Touchstone Behavioral Health, a Phoenix-based treatment center that specializes in working with children. “We were fortunate to have the team at Touchstone’s Family-Centered Autism Program evaluate Andrew, identify where he was on the autism spectrum, and reach him by building trust and providing a safe place to learn social skills.”

Early in his program, the Touchstone team identified Andrew’s aptitude and passion for Information Technology. To further his development, the Touchstone team had Andrew start working with Steve Porter, Chief Information Officer at Touchstone Behavioral Health. Porter had worked with many people like Andrew and was constantly exploring new and different ways to overcome some of the barriers to successful treatment.

“We’ve been looking for ways to integrate virtual desktop technology into some of our autism programs for a couple of years now,” said Porter. “With Virtuon’s most recent refinements, the vPresence virtual desktop gives Andrew and me the freedom to work safely and securely on his social and computer skills without being locked in a computer lab.”

Remote access to specialized autism treatment tools allows therapists and patients like Andrew to continue developing real-world life skills outside of traditional clinical environments. In Andrew’s specific case, his natural interest in computers allows Steve to use technology to expand Andrew’s social skills in an environment where he can thrive. The result is that Andrew is more outgoing with an expanded social skill set, and while he lives with the disorder, autism no longer challenges his ability to interact in the real world to the same extent.

“Virtuon’s vPresence was designed to have a positive impact in people’s lives, and this natural autism treatment link is part of its continued evolution,” said Forrest Blair, CEO of Virtuon. “Seeing the role our virtual desktop technology has played in helping Andrew overcome the challenges he has faced his entire life is truly encouraging, and we’re happy to be a part of his success.”

Beyond his autism treatment, Virtuon’s vPresence has allowed Andrew to set and reach other life goals, including challenging an IT certification exam as he pursues a career in the IT world and enrolling in Northern Arizona University’s Bachelor of Science in Technology Management program. Further to that, Andrew is now working with Steve to mentor other children with autism as they integrate vPresence into their treatment.

“This virtual desktop has helped me to find my place in the world,” said Andrew. “When I’m working on IT, I’m powerful in my own world, and that’s what’s missing for a lot of (autistic) kids.”

Neotame, The Newest Dangerous Sweetener to Hit your Food Shelves

Since 2002 an artificial sweetener called neotame has been approved for use in food and drink products around the world, although so far its use appears to be very limited.

Neotame is a chemical derivative of aspartame, and judging by the chemicals used in its manufacturing, it appears even more toxic than aspartame, although the proponents of neotame claim that increased toxicity is not a concern, because less of it is needed to achieve the desired effect.

Neotame is bad science brought to you by the Monsanto Company.

If Monsano truly had nothing to fear with either of these artificial chemical sweeteners, they would have funded rigorous independent testing for safety. To date they have not, and they won’t, because virtually every independent analysis of aspartame not conducted by Monsanto partners has revealed a long list of disturbing side effects, mostly neurological in nature.

Monsanto also has now sold the NutraSweet Company to someone else, but the approval of neotame came under Monsanto’s ownership, and was most likely a result of Monsanto’s cozy relationship with the FDA.

My recommendation for neotame is the same as that for aspartame, which is: it should be avoided if you care about your health.

Why is Neotame Dangerous?

Hopefully by now you are aware of the dangers of aspartame, if you aren’t, please review this previous article.

But as if aspartame wasn’t bad enough, NutraSweet (a Monsanto subsidiary at the time of neotame’s approval) “improved” the aspartame formula, making neotame 7,000-13,000 times sweeter than sugar (sucrose) and 30-60 times sweeter than aspartame.

How did they do this?

In 1998, Monsanto applied for FDA approval for neotame, “based on the aspartame formula” with one critical addition: 3-dimethylbutyl, which just happens to be listed on the EPA’s most hazardous chemical list.

So not only is neotame potentially more devastating to your health than aspartame, it is also approved for use in a wider array of food products, including baked goods, because it is more stable at higher temperatures.

What is 3-Dimethylbutyl?

Neotame is manufactured by combining aspartame with 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyd, which was added to block enzymes that break the peptide bond between aspartic acid and phenylalanine, thereby reducing the availability of phenylalanine.

This eliminates the need for a warning on labels directed at people who cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine.

However, 3,3-Dimethylbutyraldehyde is categorized as both highly flammable and an irritant, and carries risk statements for handling including irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory system.

In other words, the NutraSweet company assures you that neotame is perfectly safe, while at the same time they manufacture neotame through a chemical reaction between aspartame and a substance that is highly flammable and a skin, eye and respiratory irritant (that must be handled with extreme caution by anyone involved in the manufacturing process).

Does this sound like something you want to put into your body?

Why are These Chemicals Approved for Human Consumption?

Many people actually consider the FDA to be a “subsidiary” of the Monsanto Company. It sounds impossible, but when you look at all the Monsanto executives who have gone through the revolving door between private industry and government oversight, a truly disturbing picture emerges of the foxes guarding the henhouse..

The FDA is packed by pro-business, pro-corporation advocates who often have massive conflicts of interest when it comes to protecting the health of the public.

In fact, the revolving door between private industry and government oversight agencies is so well established these days, it has become business as usual to read about scandal, conflicts of interest and blatant pro-industry bias, even when it flies in the face of science or the law.

A few examples include:

* FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, a former dental amalgam company executive, helped subvert a federal judge’s order to label mercury fillings as a hazard to children and pregnant women.

* The FDA’s top medical-device regulator, Daniel Schultz, resigned following internal dissent over decisions that his critics said were too friendly to industry.

* Janet Woodcock, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, was accused of a massive conflict of interest stemming from an ethics complaint filed by Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc.

* The agency’s list of corruptions and collusions is now a mile long. And each piece of new legislation aimed to improve its function seems to do just the opposite—making the FDA even more dependent upon financial support by Big Pharma.

Why Aspartame and Neotame are NOT a Dieters Best Friend

On of the biggest marketing and PR tactics for man-made chemical sweeteners has been the claim that they help in the battle against obesity. Folks, they don’t. They never have and they never will.

The research and the epidemiologic data suggest the opposite is true, and that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and neotame tend to lead to weight gain. As I’ve often said, there’s more to weight gain or weight loss than mere calorie intake.

One reason for aspartame and neotame’s potential to cause weight gain is because phenylalanine and aspartic acid – the two amino acids that make up 90 percent of aspartame and are also present in neotame — are known to rapidly stimulate the release of insulin and leptin; two hormones that are intricately involved with satiety and fat storage.

Insulin and leptin are also the primary hormones that regulate your metabolism.

So although you’re not ingesting calories in the form of sugar, aspartame and neotame can still raise your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels, in turn, are two of the driving forces behind obesity, diabetes, and a number of our current chronic disease epidemics.

Over time, if your body is exposed to too much leptin, it will become resistant to it, just as your body can become resistant to insulin, and once that happens, your body can no longer “hear” the hormonal messages instructing your body to stop eating, burn fat, and maintain good sensitivity to sweet tastes in your taste buds.

What happens then?

You remain hungry; you crave sweets, and your body stores more fat.

Leptin-resistance also causes an increase in visceral fat, sending you on a vicious cycle of hunger, fat storage and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and more.

The Real Reason Artificial Sweetener Use Has Exploded

If you want some answers in scenarios like this it is typically useful to follow the money trail. Aspartame currently has the largest market share of all artificial sweeteners, and the people at NutraSweet would like to keep it that way.

Artificial sweeteners cost a great deal less than real sugar, corn syrup or molasses, so the processed food and beverage industry saves money by using LESS of these man-made chemicals to create MORE sweetness in their products.

Neotame is manufactured from aspartame, and builds on aspartame’s ability to provide more sweetness from less raw material, as it is 30-60 times sweeter than aspartame.

Unfortunately, one byproduct your body creates by breaking down aspartame is formaldehyde, which is extremely toxic to your health even in very small doses. The NutraSweet Company claims the addition of 3,3-Dimethylbutyraldehyde to aspartame makes it more stable at higher temperatures, and reduces the availability of phenylalanine. But nowhere do they discuss the formation of formaldehyde when your body breaks down aspartame, which is the main ingredient of neotame.

In a search of, the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which has over 11 million medical citations, neotame returns zero double-blind scientific studies on toxicity in humans or animals.

If neotame was indeed completely safe to ingest, you would think the NutraSweet Company would have published at least one double-blind safety study in the public domain? They haven’t.

You have to ask yourself “why not?”

Have You Experienced a Bad Aspartame or Neotame Reaction? Be Heard!

Did you know that only a fraction of all adverse food reactions are ever reported to the FDA? This is a problem that only you as the consumer can have an impact upon.

In order to truly alert the FDA to a problem with a product they’ve approved, they must be notified – by as many people as possible who believe they have experienced a side effect. This mean you can take action against the manufacturers of these chemicals that continue to put your optimal health at risk, if you feel you have had a bad reaction to their product.

I urge you, if you believe you have experienced side effects from aspartame or neotame, let the FDA know about it!

Please go to the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator page, find the phone number listed for your state, and report your adverse reaction.

There’s no telling just how many reports they might need before considering taking another look at the safety of aspartame or neotame, but the only way to press them is by reporting any and all adverse effects!

And in the meantime, do your health and the health of your family a favor and treat all foods and drinks that contain aspartame or neotame as if they were deleterious to your optimal health. Because, in my opinion, they are.

Courtesy of Dr Mercola

This Robot Will be Elderly People’s Caregiver

WELLINGTON – A company in New Zealand has developed a robot that reminds the aged people about their medication, monitors their vital signs, and will soon be able to entertain them too while encouraging exercise and mobility.

Christchurch-based gaming company Stickmen Studios has developed a game – Kung Fu Funk – that can help rehabilitate people who have suffered brain injuries.

Stickmen Studios and the University of Auckland have teamed up to customize the robot with gaming facilities that will help elderly people stay active through interactive games, reported the New Zealand Herald Monday.

The robot, Eldercare, has been developed with the Intelligent Robot Division of South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute to reduce the strain on healthcare resources as the aging population grows and to improve the lives of people who are dependent on care.

According to David Cotter, business development manager of UniServices – a division of Auckland University that commercializes its research – the robot could monitor a person’s blood pressure or insulin levels and then transmit the data to a centre using wireless connections where a nurse or doctor can access it.

The robot can also fetch and carry and monitor, when a person has fallen over, through a bracelet that communicates with it. It then decides whether emergency services are needed.

Cotter said the robot, which is still in a development phase, would help balance out the volume of elderly people to caregivers.

“We can use technology to help keep people active and in their own homes (for longer periods). The robot can also be used to monitor spiking insulin levels and monitor readings. Telecommunication medicine is the next generation of rest homes,” Cotter said.

Valentine’s Day: Calculated Plot to Destroy Romance?

Think about it: There’s nothing more romantic than a spontaneous outpouring of love. But that’s one thing you can’t have on V-day, when we’re all supposed to move in lockstep formation down to the jewelry/flower/stationery store. How about cozying up over an intimate dinner for two? Every restaurant in town is packed to the gills and about as romantic as the mosh pit at a Green Day concert. And what about being fit, healthy, and ready for loving’? Good-bye, sexy body: There’s nothing like an enormous cardboard heart filled with carbohydrates to ruin the way your belly looks, and feels.

When it comes to chocolate disaster, temptation is everywhere. From the coworker who sets out a community bowl, to the aisles lined with sweets at your local grocery store, there’s no love for your waistline.

But I have good news: If you know what to look for and can exercise a little self-discipline, indulging your sweet tooth isn’t nearly as sinful as you might think. That’s why I’ve dedicated this post to arming you with the knowledge you need to enjoy a romantic evening, compliments of the new Eat This, Not That! And Cook This, Not That!. Here’s how to embrace the sweet (and still guilt-free) side of life:

Ghirardelli Milk & Caramel Squares Not That!

Ghirardelli Milk & Caramel Chocolate Squares (1 square)

73 calories

4 g fat (2 g saturated, < 1 g trans)

8 g sugar

These chocolates are troubling for two reasons: Aside from the fact that a single square has 73 calories, Ghirardelli uses enough partially hydrogenated oil to make eating three pieces—the recommended serving size—result in the consumption of 0.5 grams of trans fat, or a quarter of your day’s daily allowance. Candy heart: Okay. Candy heart disease: Not so good.

Eat This Instead!

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight Squares, 72% Cacao (1 square)

55 calories

5 g fat (3 g saturated)

3 g sugars

FOOD SECRET: White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, since it contains no cocoa solids; it’s mostly just fat and sugar.

International Telemedicine Up-Date

‘Next generation’ wrist-worn telemedicine device will check lung, blood pressure Hospitals routinely use electrocardiogram (ECG) tests to check a patient’s heart condition. Now a cardiac telemedicine company hopes to extend that care to a patient’s lungs, blood pressure and body temperature. Manchester, United Kingdom-based Broomwell Healthwatch is developing a “next generation” monitoring system for lung disease sufferers, who can wear a wrist unit at home to monitor their blood pressure, temperature, pulse, oxygen saturation, heart rate and breathing. Data is then transmitted to physicians via Internet or phone line. As with the ECG version, the system is expected to speed up analysis of a patient’s medical condition, and eliminate unnecessary referrals. According to BH Chairperson Joshua Rowe, the system can be combined with existing monitoring care effort for persons dealing with heart, stroke or diabetes. The system is currently being tested at 31 of the UK’s 152 Primary Care Trusts.

FCC on verge of approving bandwidth for first Mobile Body Area Networks Mobile body area networks (MBANs) are a step closer to reality, with the Aerospace & Flight Test Radio Coordinating Council (AFTRCC) now favoring the idea of allocating additional broadband width for medical devices. In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a plan to set aside bandwidth for MBANs, which allows healthcare professionals to remotely monitor patients’ body temperature, blood pressure, blood glucose level and other vitals through disposable wireless devices, using short-length radio waves. AFTRCC opposed the proposal because it would use the same radio bands that aircraft manufacturers do for testing planes, according to Delroy Smith, technical product design lead for Philips Healthcare’s informatics and patient-monitoring business. In the past six months, however, healthcare industry officials and AFTRCC, which represents manufacturers such as Raytheon, Boeing and Cessna, reached an agreement on mitigation measures that would help manage any interference that could result from sharing the wireless spectrum. The FCC is expected to decide on the MBAN final rules later this year.

At-home medication dispenser to keep patients on track with prescription drugs A Canadian manufacturer of remote healthcare technologies is developing an at-home drug dispenser to help ensure patients have access to and take medication when they need to. The National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program awarded $300,000 to Ottawa, Ontario-based PharmaTrust Inc. to build the “MedHome” unit, a home version of the $1.5 million pharmacy-style MedCentre it developed in 2009. According to Minister of Industry Tony Clement, MedHome will dispense medical doses personalized to the patient at preset times and sends out reminders, which is particularly effective for people with dementia. The technology also includes an Internet connectable monitoring system, including a monitoring bracelet that can send medical information about the patient to a healthcare provider such as a physician or pharmacist, Clement said. PharmaTrust hopes to have the product in the commercial trial stage this summer, company Chief Executive Officer Don Waugh said.

Thailand to launch first online doctor-patient consultation system A new online medical system will allow residents in Thailand to communicate and consult with doctors while at home, a first for the tiny Asian country. According to Khanat Kruthkul, manager of Ramathibodi Hospital Cardiovascular and Metabolic Centre in Bangkok, the “Home Medical” project will be launched this year, with an initial focus on Ramathibodi’s elderly and disabled patients. Initially, those patients will be able to use the Web to access and communicate with doctors, and the doctors can monitor patients’ conditions and ask them to describe symptoms while they are home, Kruthkul said. Home Medical will “help reduce the complexity of patient information among hospitals, which will lead to reduced time needed when consulting a doctor,” Kruthkul added.

Absence of health IT means less-effective healthcare for rural and ethnic Americans Lack of health information technology affects healthcare for rural and Native Americans, ethnic minorities in poor, urban communities and Alaskan Natives more than other ethnicities, according to a series of reports by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) Foundation. The results indicate that absence of different forms of health IT–including telehealth and mobile health technologies–lead to inferior health outcomes for those groups. AHIMA’s reports examined the use of health IT in diabetes and self-health management, challenges to the use of health IT among minorities, the role of mobile healthcare in linguistically diverse populations, and efforts to improve provision of telemedicine by facilities in Georgia and Alaska. The reports appear in the Winter 2011 edition of AHIMA’s Perspectives in Health Information Management.

Wireless patient monitoring to top $6 billion by 2012, grow 26 percent per year The remote and wireless patient monitoring market is expected to grow by 26 percent annually through 2014, according to a report from New York City-based healthcare market research publisher Kalorama Information. The report notes that the growth is expected to result from increased concern over extreme wait times at doctors’ offices, to the point where “some employees may have to take a sick or personal day to see the physician for what might be a routine visit. Technology might help avoid that scenario.” One example cited is at Houston-based NuPhysicia, which uses video telemedicine to connect board-certified doctors with employee patients for examinations, diagnoses, medical care and wellness coaching. The company asserts that its service can minimize sick days for employees and improve efficiency. Such innovation will help the wireless patient monitoring market surpass $6 billion in 2012, the report notes.

Baby boomers’ demand for wireless and mHealth products to hit $12 billion by 2020 Aging, tech-savvy baby boomers who want to retain control over their own lives will lead to a near-tripling of their adoption of wireless and mobile health (mHealth) products by 2020, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Enterprise Forum of the Northwest. Study lead author lead author Michael Gallelli notes that the nation’s 78 million baby boomers–the oldest of whom turn 65 this year–will help the mHealth information technology market grow to $4.6 billion by 2014 and to $12 billion by 2020. Most of these boomers, like the generation of Xers behind them, have expressed a “high willingness” to use home-based health monitoring devices, particularly health and fitness software; mobile health applications; personal emergency response services; remote monitoring tools; and telemedicine technology. The growth in connected health, along with soaring healthcare costs coupled with rapid adoption of mobile technologies will create an “explosion of personal data,” creating numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs, Gallelli said.

FDA to revise system for granting 510(k) marketing approval of medical devices In March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will implement a plan with more than two dozen ways to revise the 35-year-old system used to approve most telehealth-related medical devices before they can go to market. According to Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, the 25 planned actions will result in “a smarter medical device program that supports innovation, keeps jobs here at home, and brings important, safe, and effective technologies to patients quickly.” The new process includes streamlining the review process for certain innovative, lower-risk medical devices; clarifying when clinical data should be submitted in a premarket submission; and establishing a new Center Science Council of senior FDA experts to “assure timely and consistent science-based decision making.” While the FDA notes that the changes will make it easier for the agency to revoke 510(k) approval for products that prove ineffective or unsafe, manufacturers argue that they will make approvals longer and more expensive. About 4,000 devices, including those for e-health and pharmaceuticals, are cleared every year under the 510(k) system.

European Parliament approves use of cross-border healthcare, telemedicine The European Parliament has passed a directive that allows European Union-nation residents to seek healthcare anywhere within the EU, regardless of international borders. The action helps patients with rare diseases seeking advanced treatments, people living along borders where the nearest hospital is across the line, or those who work in one country but want to get treatment near family members in another country. The directive applies whether the patient receives treatment in person or remotely through telemedicine, according to French EP Member Francoise Grossetete. To protect against a surge in foreign patients at various healthcare facilities, health services can request prior authorization from doctors in the patient’s home country when a hospital stay is required. The intention, according to the parliament, “is absolutely not to encourage cross-border healthcare as such, but to ensure its availability, safety and quality.”

Mobile health device manufacturers should move ahead with new products Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is deciding how best to tackle new challenges brought about by connected health devices, makers of mobile health products should not wait to bring their products to market, according to one of the agency’s department heads. Dan Schultz, former director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said people should not be “sitting and waiting” for the FDA to revise the way it handles wireless health products, but should instead take the opportunity to develop products that demonstrate how responsible manufacturers can be. “Then, should there be changes and more specific regulatory policies, then at least they have something to go back to and say that they didn’t just go out there willy-nilly and market a product that was a device without going to the (FDA),” Schultz said. The FDA last week issued a set of revised protocols for approval of medical devices, but they are not expected to be fully in place until summer at the earliest.

Softer, Younger Skin All Winter Long

Are your hands starting to feel like your pet lizard? With winter’s outdoor cold, dry, windy weather and indoor blazing heat, your skin can take a beating, looking older than your years and feeling dryer than a desert. Luckily, you don’t have to suffer anymore this winter. Follow these tips to smooth your way into softer skin and save those flakes for Mr. Snowman!

1. Eat your way to soft, supple skin

Healthy, moisturized skin starts internally, so make sure to consume a diet rich in anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids.

• Women of ancient Babylon would eat a mixture of sesame seeds and honey, called halva, to extend youth and beauty. Indeed, sesame is a favorite food among Chinese women for promoting beautiful hair and skin, prized for its nourishing qualities.

• Oily fish like salmon and sardines, walnuts, and flaxseeds are all rich in omega–3 fatty acids. An abundance of mono- and poly-unsaturated oils are also beneficial, especially unrefined organic coconut, sesame, and olive oils.

• Eat up to two small handfuls of nuts and seeds, especially hazelnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, sunflowers seeds, every day between meals.

• Avocado is rich in good fats, and also abundant in gluthione, the antioxidant compound that helps reverse premature aging of cells.

• The imperial empress of China included sea cucumber as an ingredient in her skin-beautifying recipes. A relative of the starfish, sea cucumber contains essential amino acids that are the building blocks of collagen and elastin. It can be found in dried form in Chinese food stores, ready to be used in soups. If food form is a little too adventurous, it is also available as a supplement; a typical dose is between 700 to 1,000 mg daily.

• Use healing herbs to get exquisite skin. Exquisite Skin is a traditional Chinese herbal combination that tones, nourishes and lubricates your skin, while expelling impurities.

2. Water your skin

In addition to consuming the right foods, the amount of water you drink affects your skin. Think about your house plants: without sufficient water, they slowly begin to wither away, so to prevent a sallow, wilted complexion, make sure to enjoy at least eight 8-ounce glasses of filtered water daily. Water will keep your whole body hydrated, helping to irrigate your skin and promote healthy bowel habits for eliminating toxins. Be sure to limit your intake of famous skin-dehydrators coffee and alcohol.

3. Moisturize as nature intended

A little lotion makes fine lines look better — provided the lotion is nourishing to your skin. That pumpkin pie-scented body lotion may smell delicious, but beware of the hidden chemicals within! Many commercial moisturizers contain harsh chemicals that can do more harm than good, stripping your skin of lipids and moisture. Our skin is the largest organ on our body and has thousands of pores through which toxins can enter or exit. In other words, if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin.

• Organic coconut oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil are all excellent choices to use as body moisturizers.

• Massage some olive or coconut oil onto your cuticles to look like you’ve just stepped out of the salon.

• To bring relief from tight, itchy skin, mix ten drops of Tonic Oil (wintergreen, eucalyptus, menthol, fennel, and sesame oil) with fresh aloe gel; apply liberally and frequently!

• For a deeply moisturizing treatment, gently rub your skin with calendula oil twice a day. Calendula has been shown to speed healing of wounds, and is thought helpful for eczema and psoriasis.

• Be on the watch for toxins. It is best to avoid using products that contain: parabens, mineral oil, paraffin, petroleum, sodium lauryl or lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, phenol carbolic acid, dioxane, and toulene.

• Nurture your skin cells and minimize the appearance of aging with the powerful healing herbs in Rejuvenation Cream.

4. Easy-does-it cleansing for beautiful skin

On a frigid day, a long, steamy, hot shower or bath may seem to be just what the doctor ordered. However, hot water can strip our skin of its natural oils, which may lead to even more dry skin. Keep bath time under 15 minutes and opt for warm water rather than scalding hot. Also, use natural soap made from vegetable and plant-based oils that won’t dry out your skin. Is your body soap or facial cleanser too harsh? The test: After cleansing, your skin should never feel tight or dry. Wash and softly pat your skin dry with a cotton towel.

5. Protect your skin

Don’t let sun damage and dry, cold, windy weather rob your skin of vital moisture and circulation, leading to prematurely older-looking skin. Wear sunscreen, even in the winter, and bundle up from the windy cold: gloves, hat, and a scarf to protect your face — the whole nine yards! The clothing layer closest to your skin should be cotton or other natural fabrics that breathe well and are soft on skin.

6. Steer clear of stress

Also, depression, anxiety, and stress create tension in your skin, particularly on the face, causing uneven blotches and lines. Relax, breathe deeply, and release tension with gentle exercise. Make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of zzz’s in every night.

I hope that these tips will bring you young-looking, moisturized skin well into the winter! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

You can find many more anti-aging strategies in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. Also, my new book, Secrets of Longevity 8-Week Program can assist you in achieving your longevity goals.

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

—Dr. Mao

Re-print from Dr. Mao.

An Extra 5 Years Of Life An Unexpected Benefit Of Osteoporosis Treatment

Osteoporosis is a serious and disabling condition that affects around 2 million Australians. Someone is admitted to hospital with an osteoporotic fracture every 5-6 minutes, averaging 262 hospitalizations each day. It has already been shown by Garvan and others that osteoporotic fractures increase a person’s risk of dying, even after relatively minor fractures if that person is elderly.

“Osteoporosis is a big societal burden and remains a poorly understood and severely undertreated disease in Australia,” said Eisman.

“Only about 30% of women and 10% of men with osteoporosis receive treatment, which is unacceptable when you consider that people could be helped, and death could be delayed by several years. There is good evidence – even without this study – that treating osteoporosis reduces fractures and reduces mortality.”

“While osteoporosis is clearly under-recognized and under-treated, the findings of this study are important to better understanding the benefits of these treatments and may directly influence doctors’ practice. It was unexpected and remarkable to find that not only osteoporosis but also life expectancy appear to be improved for people taking bisphosphonates,” said Dr Christine Bennett, Chair of the Bupa Health Foundation Steering Committee and Bupa Australia’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Bupa Health Foundation is proud to have supported this valuable research since 2005 and we see its findings as a major breakthrough that can now guide doctors’ treatment decisions for these very vulnerable older people.”

Like any pharmaceutical product, bisphosphonates may have unpredictable side effects in a small minority of people and should only be used for their approved purpose.

*Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study

The Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study is an ongoing population-based study that started in 1989 in Dubbo, a city with a population of 32,000 in regional New South Wales. The study cohort is women (1223) and men (898) over the age of 60. Approximately 60% of eligible people were recruited into the study.

Acknowledgements And Disclosure Summary

This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council Australia, The Bupa Health Foundation, the Ernst Heine Foundation, and untied grants from Amgen, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Sanofi- Aventis, Servier and Novartis. There was no financial compensation paid to any of the participants in the study. The study sponsors had no role in the study design, nor the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data.

Family Mealtimes Play Key Role in Asthmatic Kids’ Health

WASHINGTON – A new study has found that the quality of family interactions during mealtime affects the health of children with asthma.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York, looked at 200 families with children ages 5 to 12 who had persistent asthma, observing how they interacted during a video-recorded meal in their homes.

Although mealtimes lasted on average only 18 minutes, the study found that the quality of social interactions as families ate was directly related to the children’s health, including how their lungs worked, their asthma symptoms, and the quality of their lives.

Simply put, in families that spent mealtimes talking about the day’s events, showing genuine concern about their children’s activities, and turning off electronic devices, children had better health.

Families in which the primary caregiver had less education, minority families, and single-parent families experienced more disruptions during mealtime-including watching TV and talking on cell phones-and spent less time talking about the day’s events.

This led to a more disorganized mealtime, which, in turn, was related to poorer health for the children in these families.

“Mealtimes represent a regular event for the vast majority of families with young, school-age, and adolescent children,” noted Barbara H. Fiese of the University of Illinois.

“They provide an optimal setting for public health initiatives and prevention efforts, and can be considered by policymakers and practitioners as a straightforward and accessible way to improve the health and wellbeing of children with asthma,” she added.

The study has appeared in the January/February issue of the journal, Child Development.

Revisiting the Grapefruit Diet

Grapefruit has a long history of association with various weight-loss regimens. Some of you might be old enough to remember “The Grapefruit Diet”; maybe you even tried it yourself, only to find after you quit that you quickly regained the weight you lost, and then some. But now a few recent findings have made me take a second look at this citrus fruit.

A possible weight-loss aid?

A study from the University of Western Ontario a few years back, for instance, suggested that an antioxidant compound in grapefruit called naringenin–it’s classed as a flavenoid, or plant-based bioactive molecule–might be capable of preventing weight gain, as well as decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

This research was conducted on two groups of mice, both of which were fed identical high-fat/Western diets with the exact same amounts of fat and calories. The mice in one of these groups, however (let’s call it Group 2), were also given high doses of naringenin, and the scientists found that their bodies were able to lower elevated blood levels of triglyceride (fat) and cholesterol. These Group-2 mice also didn’t develop insulin resistance and were able to normalize glucose metabolism.

By study’s end, the significant obesity usually seen in mice fed a high-fat/Western diet was entirely absent in the naringenin group. The Ontario researchers theorized that the compound grants these benefits by genetically reprogramming the liver to burn up extra fat instead of merely storing it.

Large doses needed to produce these results

It’s important to note that the animals in this study were administered much higher doses of naringenin than what you’d normally eat in your food. This compound, therefore, might turn out to be what’s called a nutraceutical, a natural substance found in food that, when it’s given in large pharmacologic doses, can cause specific or overall health benefits.

At any rate, the Ontario team plans to continue studying naringenin to find out if clinical trials in humans might one day be feasible. If so, they’ll be able to test whether the compound really does help with the treatment of obesity, as well as with other health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.

One more intriguing study

I’ve found one other report too by a research team studying naringenin, this one published online in the August 25 issue of PLoS One (Public Library of Science). The work involved collaboration between Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Center for Engineering in Medicine, and The Shriner’s Burn Hospital (Boston), as well as universities in both France and Israel.

The report states that naringenin might play a role not only in normalizing blood lipids (fats) in people with diabetes, but also in lowering high cholesterol and regulating weight. The researchers found that naringenin induced a “fasting-like” state in the liver cells of rats, which suggests that the compound might increase the oxidation of fatty acids. (They also said it might inhibit cells associated with hepatitis C.)

My take on these naringenin research studies

  • More research is needed but naringenin appears to be an antioxidant that might play a part in achieving a healthy weight, as well as in lowering the risks associated with some other diseases.
  • Regularly including in your diet the best sources of naringenin–namely, citrus fruits such as grapefruit, oranges, limes, and lemons–is a good idea since they can help increase the natural antioxidants in your diet.
  • Consider adding a high-quality antioxidant vitamin/mineral supplement to your diet (look for liquid or chewable supplements) to help decrease your risk of getting sick.
  • There are even dietary supplements available online now that contain naringenin, along with other bioflavenoids, or sometimes as part of a vitamin C supplement. Although this may sound like a great idea, these pills might not be for everyone (please see warning below).

And a warning

Please check with your doctor before adding grapefruit or grapefruit juice to your diet, since it should not be taken together with certain medications. (Ironically, some of the cholesterol-lowering drugs don’t do well with grapefruit.) This is because grapefruit juice contains substances that can interfere with the action of certain key enzymes in your intestinal wall and liver, enzymes responsible for breaking down particular drugs into forms the body can readily use and then get rid of. By changing how certain drugs are absorbed by the body, grapefruit can cause these meds to build up in the blood to potentially dangerous levels.

Gynecological Problems

Millions of women (and a whole lot of doctors) are perplexed by pelvic problems. Learn how to help your physician spot and deal with gynecological maladies that affect women the most.

6.3 Million Suffer from Endometriosis

When Senie Byrne, 25, of Manassas, Virginia, was 15 her periods were accompanied by vomiting and cramps so bad she would often pass out from the pain. She went from doctor to doctor until finally, at age 21, she found out she had endometriosis, a uterine disease that can take a decade to diagnose.

When a woman has endometriosis, the uterine lining (the one you’re supposed to shed each month during your period) gets stuck elsewhere. It can travel down through your cervix and vagina, but also up through your fallopian tubes, where it can attach to your bowel, bladder, or ovaries. The latter path can disrupt hormonal cycles and lead to thick scarring, inflammation and heavy bleeding during menstruation, says Tommaso Falcone, M.D., chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Cleveland Clinic. It can also result in killer cramps, painful sex, diarrhea, or constipation—or no aches at all. “The peculiar thing is that the amount of pain you’re in may have no correlation to the amount of endometriosis you have,” says ob-gyn Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., of the Yale University School of Medicine.

You 101: How much do you really know about your most private parts?

But even pain-free patients are at risk of a troubling side effect: infertility. About 38 percent of infertile women can blame endometriosis, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, often because of scarring or inflammation. Endometrial tissue also releases fluid that can mess with egg-sperm interaction. The best way to preserve fertility is to catch and treat the problem early.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly what causes endometriosis, but they do know that genetics plays a leading role in risk (if your mom or sister has it, your chances increase six fold); exposure to pollutants such as dioxin, a chemical used in pesticides and bleached paper, might also be a prime risk factor. For now, the only way to score a definitive diagnosis is through surgery. “To be sure, we have to physically see this tissue living where it doesn’t belong,” explains ob-gyn Shari Brasner, M.D., of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. This procedure involves general anesthesia and a camera exploring the inner abdomen and pelvis. If a physician finds any wayward tissue, it can often be removed right then, though it can grow back. The good news: Less-invasive diagnostic procedures (including in-office biopsies and blood tests to measure inflammation levels) should be available within three to five years, says Falcone.

Of course, after getting the diagnosis, you still have to live with the condition, which can come and go or persist for as long as you menstruate. Birth control can decrease the pain and bleeding, and hormone-manipulating drugs such as danazol and Lupron can shrink the growths by “turning off” the ovaries. (Similarly, “pregnancy will keep endometrial tissue quiet because your hormones aren’t cycling,” says Brasner.) Scientists are now studying how anti-progesterone and breast-cancer drugs may help.

If Rx medicines don’t yield relief, alternative treatments like acupuncture may ease pain. And if nothing else works, more surgery may be in order. But the crucial thing is for each endometriosis patient to receive a tailored health plan that lets her move past the pain and get on with her life.
Transform your body; you’re eating habits and your workout into your best shape ever this year.

5 to 7 Million Have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Its calling cards are irregular periods, acne, excessive facial and body hair, and weight gain. But each of those symptoms could signal a variety of issues, especially during teenage years, when PCOS—the most common hormonal illness in young women—typically first strikes. That’s why many patients spend years searching for a diagnosis, says Andrea Dunaif, M.D., an endocrinologist at Northwestern University in Chicago. And that’s worrisome because women with PCOS—especially if it’s left untreated— are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and endometrial cancer.

Though the root causes remain unknown, PCOS happens when the ovaries produce an unusually high amount of male hormones like testosterone, which tamper with ovulation and in many cases, the body’s sensitivity to insulin. For Katy Teer, 32, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, the condition led to strange facial hair and an ever-expanding waistline, starting at age 13. “I rarely had normal periods, but doctors always blamed that on my weight,” she says. At age 28, she finally got a diagnosis. Because there’s no definitive blood or imaging test, Katy’s docs looked at three criteria: irregular periods, elevated male hormones, and ovarian cysts seen on ultrasounds.

PCOS has no cure or FDA-approved drug—docs can only treat the major symptoms. Oral contraceptives can help suppress male hormones and normalize cycles, says Richard S. Legro, M.D., an ob-gyn at the Penn State College of Medicine. And physicians often use spironolactone, a kidney drug, off-label to nix unwanted hair growth. PCOS patients who struggle with fertility are also sometimes prescribed Clomid, a drug that induces ovulation; the diabetes med metformin is often given to help restore regular cycles and reduce diabetes risk.

If that sounds like a lot of pills, it is. But PCOS symptoms, especially weight gain, can also be controlled through diet and exercise. “Many patients find that a diet moderate in carbs and high in lean protein helps them handle their hunger and consume fewer calories,” says Hillary Wright, R.D., a nutrition counselor in Boston and author of The PCOS Diet Plan. Plus, “losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lead to the resumption of normal periods and lower male hormone levels,” says Dunaif.

As with every illness, the most important step is working together with your M.D. on a plan that’s right for you. Once Katy Teer started taking metformin and a low-dose birth-control pill, her day-today life became much more manageable. “I lost more than 40 pounds,” she says. “I’m still overweight, even though I walk four miles a day, but I stopped getting facial hair, my periods are more regular, and my blood pressure is under control.” So is her fertility: In 2007, she became a mother.

124 Million May Have Uterine Fibroids

Fibroids’ main symptom, bigtime bloat, can make you look knocked up when you’re not. And like endometriosis and PCOS, they can cause extra-heavy bleeding and gutwrenching cramps during your period, as well as constant pressure on your bladder or rectum. That said, some sufferers show zero symptoms.

Doctors aren’t sure what causes these balls of muscle (which can range from the size of a grape to a honeydew melon) to grow in the uterus, but new research suggests that exposure to phthalates (chemicals found in plastics and personal-care products) may play a part. Because fibroids feed on estrogen, they can become a nuisance during pregnancy, when female hormone levels run high, says Lissa Rankin, M.D., an ob-gyn in Mill Valley, California. They also share living space with the fetus, increasing the risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.

While fibroids are relatively simple to diagnose—usually with an ultrasound or MRI— deciding on a treatment isn’t so easy. Birth-control pills and hormone-disrupting meds can shrink the masses, but the ultimate fix is a hysterectomy— a drastic step for young women. However, there are newer, lesssevere treatments that can help eliminate fibroids: myolysis (laser removal), myomectomy (surgical removal), and uterine artery embolization (the injection of foam into arteries to cut off fibroids’ blood supply). Also showing early promise are two noninvasive experimental treatments: radiofrequency ablation, which uses heat energy to destroy any unwarranted growths, and MRI-guided ultrasound surgery, which blasts fibroids into smithereens.

2011 Forecast: Year of the Rabbit

Welcome to the year of the Rabbit! For almost 20 years I have given yearly forecasts based on the ancient Tao system of the Five Elements energetic phases, which predicts the global trends that affect us on a personal level. How do you benefit from this forecast? By taking note of the predictions for health, relationships, and finances, you can make some positive changes to dodge any potential negative effects.

This ancient system has its roots in the I-Ching, known here as the Book of Changes, system of predictive probabilities based on nature’s cyclical rhythms; the Taoist sages of China observed and practiced, and eventually gave the modern world the binary language of 0’s and 1’s—the basis for computer language. In other words we don’t need to look any further than the universe to predict our future. So what’s in store for 2011?

Get Ready for the Rabbit

The Year of the Rabbit officially begins on February 3rd, 2011 and the elemental energies are again metal and wood, similar to the Tiger year we’re leaving behind. Therefore, some of the unpredictability and conflicts of the Tiger year will carry over to the New Year; however, Rabbit years are usually calm, creative, and positive — a much-desired change from the volatile Tiger! Rabbit is a peace-seeking symbol, and we can expect that there will most likely be more effort at diplomacy politically. But don’t expect everything to go smoothly, because any accord is always underscored by discord.

The focus of this year will orient towards reviving the arts and culture, getting our financial house in order, cultivating intimate relationships, and building family and community. As a result, industries that will likely benefit include entertainment, finance, energy, especially alternative energy, commodities like metals and agricultural products, mining, shipping, transportation, and hotels. Industries that will continue to lag include forestry, textiles, media, newspapers, and magazines. Due to the still-weak economic conditions of the West, environmental protection may unfortunately take a backseat to economic priorities. Because of the inward focus on the Rabbit, domestic agendas at home will trump those outside of the border and the appetite for playing Big Brother internationally will assuredly wane.

Prediction for your health

Chinese calendar year 2011, like last year, is represented by the elements metal and wood. The metal element corresponds to the respiratory and immune systems, while the wood element correlates to the digestive and nervous systems. These organs and systems will be vulnerable for breakdown so be on the lookout for frequent colds and flu that turn into bronchitis and pneumonia, digestive disorders including acid reflux, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, diverticulitis, liver and gall bladder diseases, and injury and pain related to the neck and spine.

Here are some tips to keep you in tip-top shape!

1. Stay Healthy with Healing Foods and Herbs

Chinese medicine is based on the concept that you can prevent illness from occurring in the first place by eating foods and taking herbs that possess healing properties.

• Defend against assaults on your immune and respiratory systems by eating plenty of antioxidant-rich vegetables of all colors every day, and eat grains like amaranth, quinoa, and brown rice.

• Keep your digestion flowing with herbs that settle the stomach. Drink a digestive tea an hour after meals: mint, gentian, ginger, chamomile, and licorice are excellent choices.

• To prevent diseases and counteract imbalances in the above organ systems, I suggest staying away from smoking and pollution, avoid consuming alcohol, caffeine, sugar, dairy products, deep fried, fatty foods, overly spicy foods, and gluten grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats, and processed refined foods.

• Traditional Chinese herbal formulas like Breathe Ease, Immunity, Acid Stomach, Colon Clear, Internal Cleanse, and Calmfort may be helpful as part of a health supportive program.

2. Exercise tips for Year of the Rabbit

Be sure to exercise regularly to increase lung capacity, strengthen the immune function, and reinforce the core abdominal and back muscles to protect your spine.

• I especially recommend learning and practicing mind-body exercises like tai chi or qigong. These gentle, but powerful exercises engage deep breathing to increase your lung capacity, lower your stress hormones, and help strengthen your core muscles. To learn Tai Chi and Qigong, you can work with a teacher or use instructional DVDs.

• Practice meditation and other calming body-mind exercises to reduce tension on the nervous system. Start small if need be: For five minutes every day, close your eyes and take deep, slow breaths.

3. Focus on Art, Family, and Finances

Now is a good time to start your art and spend time exploring cultural opportunities. Because it is also a good time to focus on relationships and family, consider bringing your special someone(s) along to an art show, on a historic walk, or perhaps try a culturally themed meal together. Strengthen your personal financial foundation by laying your finances all out on paper as they are now. Make a realistic saving goal and a reasonable paying off debt goal; then keep weekly track of your evolving financial picture.

In summary, the year of the Rabbit will be considerably calmer from the volatility and conflicts of the past Tiger year. You will still need to be on guard, like the rabbit, for sudden, unexpected changes that may throw you off balance. The good news is that peace, love, and family are the natural traits of Rabbits. Defend against assaults on your immune and respiratory systems and take care to keep your nervous system calm and your digestion flowing. Finally, work on your inner self spiritually so that no matter what challenges occur, you shall be connected to your unshakable faith in the positive, constructive, and creative energies of the divine universe as expressed through you and manifest in your life.

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

Courtesy of Dr. Mao

Foods That Fight Sickness

Nobody plans to get sick. On the contrary, your efforts to avoid it sometimes seem borderline OCD: Don’t sneeze into your hands, always cook your chicken to exactly 170 degrees, and hose down every germ-carrying preschooler in sight with soap and water. And yet, no matter how many times you gargle with salt before bedtime or coat yourself in antibacterial hand cleanser, now and again the inevitable rumble in your tummy or tickle in your throat hits. Hard. Suddenly, you’re down for the count and up to date on the daytime soaps. What are you doing wrong? Probably nothing. But you can do a few more things right. Certain foods and drinks have a natural immunity boost; to tap their benefits, just open up and say, “Ahh.”

Tea Off Against Colds
Not just any hot tea, though. Chamomile, according to researchers from London’s Imperial College, is the one that’ll help prevent sickness. In a recent study, they found people who drank five cups of the brew a day for 2 weeks had increased blood levels of plant-based compounds called polyphenols, some of which have been associated with increased antibacterial activity. Levels remained high for 2 weeks after subjects stopped drinking the tea, says lead researcher Elaine Holmes, Ph.D. (Bonus: chamomile tea also raised levels of glycine, a mild nerve relaxant and sedative.)

Knock ’em Dead
There’s a killer living in all of us. Known as a macrophage and produced deep in your bone marrow, it’s a white blood cell that roams the body, picking fights with bacteria, viruses, or any other intruders. But it only works if you help it. These killer cells are activated by beta-glucans, a component of fiber foods. The best source? Oats, says David Grotto, R.D., director of nutrition education at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Illinois. So eat your oatmeal. The steel-cut oats, like McCann’s Irish Oatmeal, have double the amount found in the rolled, quick-cooking kind.

Dressing for Success
Eating a salad for lunch is smart. Drowning it in fat-free dressing isn’t. A recent study from Iowa State University found that without dietary fat, your body doesn’t absorb some of the disease-fighting nutrients in vegetables. Researchers fed seven people salad for 12 weeks and tested their blood after each meal. Those who topped their salads with fat-free dressing consistently failed to absorb carotenoids, antioxidants that have been linked to improved immunity. Fat is necessary for the carotenoids to reach the absorptive intestinal cells, says lead researcher Wendy White, Ph.D. Choose dressings with healthy fats from olive or nut oils, such as Many Seeds of Change (available at Whole Foods or in the crunchy section of your neighborhood market) and many Annie’s Naturals dressings. If you’re feeling adventuresome, try making your own. For an Italianate, try 2 or 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar; for something with an Asian influence, go 3 parts sesame oil to 1 part rice wine vinegar.

Fight Bugs this Whey
A shot of whiskey might be one way to feel better, but whey protein is a much more effective immune-boosting cocktail. Whey is rich in an amino acid called cysteine, which converts to glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that fortifies cells against bacterial or viral infection. For the highest concentration of protein, try something called powdered whey protein isolate, which is more pure—and more expensive—than concentrate. Fortify your morning smoothie with whey protein powder or try another source: yogurt. The clear liquid that forms on top of most cartons of yogurt is pure whey protein—so don’t drain it off, just stir it back into the yogurt.

Tomato Trumps Chicken
To beat back a cold, you slurp chicken noodle soup. To avoid getting sick in the first place, ladle out some tomato. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 10 subjects ate a tomato-rich diet for 3 weeks, followed by a tomato-free diet for 3 more weeks. While subjects were on the tomato diet, their infection-fighting white blood cells sustained 38 percent less damage from free radicals—atoms in the body that damage and destabilize cells—than when they ate no tomato products. Researchers speculate that the lycopene in tomatoes acts as an antioxidant, helping white blood cells resist the damaging effects of free radicals.

Give Ma Nature a Taste of Her Own Medicine
Butterbur may sound like something that makes you sneeze. But the herbal supplement actually helps you fight allergies. Scottish researchers found that patients with grass and pollen allergies who popped 50 mg of the plant extract twice daily had 13 percent better nasal airflow than those who took a placebo. Another study published in the British Medical Journal reported that butterbur treated seasonal allergies nearly as well as the prescription medication Zyrtec. It’s effective against all symptoms of allergic rhinitis, including sneezing, itching, and conjunctivitis, says Andreas Schapowal, M.D., Ph.D., the author of the study. Butterbur is believed to block leukotriene, a chemical that causes allergic reactions, while at the same time controlling eosinophils, the white blood cells that accumulate when allergic reactions take place, says Dr. Schapowal. What’s more, there’s no drowsy effect with butterbur. You can buy the supplement ($25 for 60 capsules) at most health food stores or at

Down a Sports Drink
Not only will guzzling Gatorade help your body recover from a tough workout, but it may also protect you from the latest strain of the flu. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition, when 10 triathletes drank more than 1 cup of sports drink every 15 minutes during intense exercise, they had significantly better immune response than they did when they drank a placebo.

Wine, then Dine
Drinking wine with your meal, in addition to being good for your heart, may help ward off food poisoning before it happens. Scientists at Oregon State University recently found that wine can put the kibosh on three common food pathogens: E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. In lab studies, the wine’s combination of ethanol, organic acids, and low pH appeared to scramble the bugs’ genetic material. All wines have some effect, say researchers, but reds are the most potent.

Feel the Burn
Several animal and laboratory studies have shown that capsaicin—the compound that gives chili peppers their fire—can help stop sickness before it starts. Mice in one study were given a daily dose of capsaicin and had nearly three times more antibody-producing cells after 3 weeks than those given no capsaicin. More antibodies mean fewer colds and infections. Results of other studies suggest that eating food containing hot components such as capsaicin may improve immune status, says Rina Yu, Ph.D., of the University of Ulsan in South Korea, the lead researcher. The point is, it can’t hurt. At the very least, a dash or two of hot sauce might help flush out some toxins.

Change Your Numbers Game
Losing a little extra baggage will not only reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but also will help shape up your immune system. Researchers at Tufts University asked a group of slightly overweight people to cut 100 to 200 calories from their daily food intake. The result, in addition to weight loss and a drop in cholesterol counts? Participants boosted their immune system response to disease-causing microorganisms. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but speculate that the benefit comes from a combination of effects. One thing is certain: Cutting 200 calories out of your daily diet is easy. At your next restaurant meal, ditch the baked potato with sour cream and order steamed vegetables instead.