Archive for the ‘General Health findings’ Category

Big Downsides to Super-Sized Meals

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

You usually watch your diet. But today you’re at a wedding, overindulging in fatty and caloric foods. Can one super-sized meal hurt? It might, recent research has found.

Large fatty meals can have a variety of immediate adverse effects, which are most risky if you already have heart disease or risk factors for it. Here are five troubles you may experience from just one splurge:

• Stiffer arteries, reduced blood flow. Large high-fat meals can impair the ability of blood vessels to dilate or expand when necessary. That helps explain why people who have cardiovascular disease and who eat a large meal and then exercise sometimes get angina or even a heart attack. Digesting any kind of large meal also causes your heart rate to increase because of the increased demands from the digestive tract.

• Higher blood pressure. A super-sized meal can trigger the re­­lease of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that can raise blood pressure and heart rate.

• High triglycerides. Any meal will raise levels of these fats in the blood, but after a large meal (especially one rich in fat or refined carbohydrates) levels rise the most and can remain elevated for six to twelve hours. Accompany the food with alcohol, and triglycerides will rise even more.

• Blood sugar effects. If you have diabetes, a super-sized meal can impair your body’s ability to process glucose.

• Heartburn. If you are prone to heartburn, the larger the meal, the more gastric reflux you’re likely to have.

Antidotes to super-sized meals?

Years ago, a small study found that taking high doses of vitamin C and E right before a high-fat meal helped maintain arterial blood flow. But it has never been shown that these or any other antioxidants can protect your heart in the short term or long term. Another small study found that when young healthy people walked briskly for 45 minutes after eating a large fatty meal (almost 1,000 calories), the exercise helped restore their arteries’ ability to dilate. Still, exercise won’t cancel out all the bad effects of overeating. In addition, the same effects may not occur in older or less healthy people; for them, exercise after a heavy meal may first cause problems.

Words to the wise: If you’re healthy, overindulging occasionally shouldn’t be a problem. But if you have undesirable cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, or pre-existing heart disease, or if you are very overweight or smoke, super-sized meals are a bad idea. At parties and family gatherings, don’t arrive ravenous, and don’t hover near the buffet. Eat slowly, since it takes time for your body to signal your brain that you’re full. Eat lots of filling foods with a high water content, such as salads, soups, fruits, and vegetables. And it can’t hurt to take that after-dinner walk.

Article from Berkeley Wellness Alerts
Proper nutrition is important for your oral health and your overall health. Please call or email us with any questions or concerns about how to achieve proper dental health.


Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

After more than a decade of guzzling Red Bull and other supercharged beverages, are Americans ready to slow down? Many marketers are betting on it with their bevy of so-called “calming” or “anti-energy” drinks.

Dozens of these non-alcoholic products have appeared in the past few years, with names like iChill, Mini Chill, Slow Cow, and Mary Jane’s Relaxing Soda. They promise to help you “unwind from the grind,” “slow your roll,” get an “acupuncture session in every can,” and even enjoy a “vacation in a bottle.”

Two in particular, Purple Stuff and Drank, have caused some controversy because they appear to allude to Purple Drank, an illegal recreational drug made from prescription-strength cough syrup.

Calming drinks (which range from 2-ounce shots to larger cans and bottles) contain herbs or other compounds that purport to promote relaxation, ease anxiety, and improve mood. Ingredients include kava, valerian, melatonin, GABA, and L-theanine.

There’s no credible research to back up the manufacturers’ claims, however. It’s not even clear how much of the active compounds are in the beverages. And if there are significant amounts, some of the ingredients can cause side effects, such as excessive drowsiness.

The FDA issued a warning to the manufacturer of Drank over its use of melatonin, a hormone that’s become a popular insomnia and jet lag remedy but is not approved as a food additive. It can produce dizziness and confusion in some people and the long-term safety of melatonin supplements is a big question.

Other potentially unsafe ingredients in calming drinks include kava, which can interact with medication and has been linked to liver toxicity, kidney damage, and high blood pressure. Valerian can cause mild side effects, such as headaches, dizziness, and upset stomach.

Words to the wise: If you are looking for ways to relax, there are healthy alternatives to calming drinks. Try meditating, taking a long walk, or practicing tai chi.


Monday, January 30th, 2012

Before you pop open a can of soda — as refreshing as soda might sound — think twice. While you may already know that both regular and diet drinks have been tied to obesity and high blood pressure; colas to bone loss; and full-sugar sodas to type 2 diabetes, lousy teeth (especially citrus sodas), and more, this next finding may come as a surprise. It turns out there’s something in regular soda that’s particularly bad for women. So, if you’re female, listen up.

New research shows that just two cans a day make you more likely to add inches to your waist, get into blood sugar trouble, have soaring triglycerides, and develop heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes — even if you don’t gain a pound. Throw in kidney damage, too. It’s also been tied to a soda habit. This isn’t the first evidence of these links, but it’s the first to spot how vulnerable women are. Why? That’s as clear as muddy waters. Maybe it’s because women burn fewer calories than guys, replace more healthy foods with useless fizzy stuff, or always eat sweets with soda. Or: something no one’s figured out yet.

Wondering what to drink instead? Switch to water (or caffeinated water), seltzer with fruit, hot/iced tea, or coffee, which is giving tea real competition as the world’s number one health drink. Check out this cherry-mint spritzer and tea buyer’s guide from EatingWell.

Healthy Fast-Food Choices for Kids

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Here are six busy-night dinner options that give kids food they like and nutrition they need, minus the junk.

Here are six busy-night dinner options that give kids food they like and nutrition they need, minus the junk.

Soccer in 20 minutes? Marching band in 30? Shuttling kids between doctor appointments, play dates, and music lessons sometimes means everybody’s gotta eat on the run or not at all. That’s when your no-fast-food promise to yourself usually flies out the car window. No worries. A now-and-then fast-food meal can be had without a humongous overload of fat, sugar, sodium, and empty calories. We promise.

Related: Softie or drill sergeant: What’s your parenting style?

The trouble with most pit-stop food isn’t just the fat, salt, and calories. It’s what’s missing. Think about it. When was the last time you had a meal to go that included whole grains, fruit, and vegetables? In a recent survey of 3,000 children’s meals at chain restaurants, over 95% didn’t meet the basic nutritional guidelines for preschool and school-aged kids.

But the good stuff’s out there if you pause for a moment and order smart. One caveat: Excess sodium seems to be a fast-food given. Even in kids’ meals, sodium may amount to nearly half or more of their daily limit. So watch how much salt they are eating throughout the day, knowing they’re likely to get more than you like when eating on the run.

Related: Learn why we love salt . . . and how not to.

Here are six busy-night dinner options that give kids food they like and nutrition they need, minus the junk. They’re listed in order, starting with the healthiest.

1. Subway: Roast Beef Kids Meal; the sandwich (hold the cheese) on whole-wheat bread; apple slices; 100% juice
Calories: 335 (9 from sat fat); sodium: 515; healthy stuff: whole grains, fruit, calcium

2. Burger King: Kids macaroni and cheese, apple fries (skip the caramel sauce), fat-free milk
Calories: 285 (14 from sat fat); sodium: 490 mg; healthy stuff: calcium, fruit

3. KFC: Grilled chicken drumstick, corn on the cob, unsweetened tea, string cheese
Calories: 270 (23 from sat fat); sodium: 545 mg ; healthy stuff: vegetables, calcium

4. Sonic: Corn dog, apple slices, low-fat milk
Calories: 355 (45 from sat fat); sodium: 660 mg ; healthy stuff: fruit, calcium

5. McDonald’s: Plain hamburger, apple dippers (without the caramel sauce), low-fat milk
Calories: 385 (45 from sat fat); sodium: 645 mg ; healthy stuff: fruit, calcium

6. Panera: Kids Roast Beef Sandwich on whole grain bread (no cheese), fresh apple, reduced-fat milk
Calories: 450 (45 from sat fat); sodium: 650 mg.; healthy stuff: whole grains, fruit, calcium


Friday, January 6th, 2012

Feel like your life has done a number on your fun factor? You’re not alone. Deadlines, bills, and crazy-busy schedules keep most of us from cutting loose and getting silly. All work and no play isn’t just dull. It negates something that’s hardwired into the human psyche, say “play experts.” So we’re giving you an assignment: Carve out some time for playtime. Find something that makes you feel like you’re floating free, happy, and totally absorbed in your own play land.

Here are some ways that a busy grown-up can cut loose, play, and even learn something new along the way.

Find your inner artist. Haul out your water-color set, old sewing machine, or woodworking tools. Feeling musical? Dust off your old clarinet, take a guitar class, or join a band. As long as you’re having a good time with no high-pressure expectations, it’s play. (Find other ways to look young and stay sharp.)

Flex your green thumb. Gardening doesn’t just produce beautiful flowers and produce, it can also be a relaxing way to get your daily dose of exercise in a stress-free way. Once the ground thaws, make a pact to plan and plant a plot this year. Learn other simple ways to be more active.

Turn your workout into play. Haven’t found a physical activity that you dig? Don’t give up. Be brave in your search. Consider outside-the box activities, such as roller skating, salsa, or hula hoop, or join a sports league at work or in your community. Kickball, anyone? Find out how a video game can help you get fit and have fun.

Learn a new language. The ability to chat in Thai, Greek, or Arabic is good for more than ordering coffee abroad. Learning a new language as an adult or picking up where 10th grade Spanish left off exercises your brain cells in ways that guard against memory loss and fuzzy thinking. Play one of these online games to boost your brainpower.

Tapping into your spontaneous, inner-child packs big benefits for your health, mood, mind, and job, as well as relationships. A recent study shows it eases job strain, connects you with others, and makes you laugh. So what are you waiting for? It’s fun time!

5 Major Health Threats That Your Dentist Can Predict

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

When you look in your mouth you may see teeth that need whitening, but a dentist may see signs of heart disease. A study published in the Journal of Dental Research found that many dental problems can be signs of serious health complications. University of Washington School of Dentistry professor Philippe P. Hujoel, DDS, PhD, says the sugar and carbohydrates in food, known as “fermentable carbohydrates,” are to blame. Found in sugary drinks, snack foods like potato chips, and simple grains like white bread and corn, these carbs are fermented by bacteria in your mouth, which produces the acids that cause tooth decay. “Those dental diseases are a marker for an unhealthy diet, and an unhealthy diet may predict future health complications,” Dr. Hujoel notes.

#1: Obesity
“If a kid has tooth decay and cavities, he probably has high exposure to fermentable carbs,” Dr. Hujoel says. “He’s really having too many snacks and candy, and this may very well be the kid that ends up obese.” For adults, too, an increase in cavities could mean you’re eating too many unhealthy foods, which also puts you at risk for obesity. A dentist who knows your medical history may ask about your eating habits, but you should feel free to ask if what’s happening to your teeth might be a sign of other problems.

Are You At Risk Of Diabetes?

#2: Cardiovascular disease
The same carbs in snack foods and sugary drinks that get dentists drilling are often found in the company of unhealthy ingredients like trans fatty acids. While trans fats themselves don’t cause cavities, they’re often used in foods with high amounts of cavity-causing fermentable carbs, and they have been associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease. Whenever you can, replace processed, packaged food with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For those sweet treats you can’t give up, check the labels to make sure they’re trans fat free.

It’s also possible for cavities themselves to threaten your heart, if the bacteria that produce them find their way into your cardiovascular system. Bacteria associated with tooth and gum disease may also be involved in stroke, diabetes, and respiratory problems—so brush and floss every day.

5 Excuses That Kill Your Heart

#3: Diabetes
The fermentable carbohydrates in sugary drinks and snacks loaded with carbs increase your blood sugar level drastically, raising the risk of type 2 diabetes, Dr. Hujoel says. Which is one more reason to switch to a diet that produces fewer cavities. “Lifelong usage of high fermentable carbohydrates first leads to dental disease, and then, long-term, leads to other health outcomes,” Dr. Hujoel adds.

#4: Cancer
Not only does a tooth-unhealthy diet put you at risk for obesity, which is a risk factor for certain cancers, harmful lifestyle habits like smoking can produce tooth discoloration and periodontal destruction. Abnormalities in your mouth, including bleeding gums and cavities, should be a natural alarm bell, Dr. Hujoel says. So always ask your dentist if your tooth problems could point toward a wider problem.

Four Eating Strategies that Prevent Cancer

#5: Alzheimer’s disease
In a study just published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, people who lost most of their teeth were more likely to develop dementia problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease, later on. It will take more research to clarify what the connection between tooth loss and brain health may be. But is seems that keeping your teeth as healthy possible has benefits that go far beyond your mouth.

Putting Fish Oil To The Test

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Studies on fish and fish oil (omega-3) supplements regularly make news. Often the results are encouraging—but not always.

Most of these were large well-designed clinical trials, which are few and far between in the world of dietary supplements.

• Heart disease: In a Dutch study of people who had already had a heart attack, omega-3 fish oil supplements did not reduce the risk of cardiovascular events over a 40-month period. This conflicts with some prior studies that did find a protective effect, and with advice from the American Heart Association that heart attack patients should take omega-3s. But unlike the older research, this New England Journal of Medicine study included mainly people on “state-of-the-art” medication, such as statins and blood pressure drugs, which could help explain the lack of effect of the supplements.

• Atrial fibrillation: In a study of people with this heart rhythm abnormality, high-dose omega-3 fish oil supplements did not reduce the risk of recurrence over a six-month period. It has been theorized that one way omega-3s from fish or supplements may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease is by preventing heart rhythm problems, and some previous studies have suggested this. This study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), was the largest clinical trial to test this theory.

• Pregnancy: Though pregnant women are often advised to take omega-3 supplements (DHA, in particular, the main omega-3 fat in the brain) to boost their children’s mental development and prevent postpartum depression, DHA capsules have neither effect, according to a large Australian clinical trial in JAMA.

• Alzheimer’s disease: Omega-3 fish oil supplements do not help slow the progression of the disease, according to a study (also in JAMA) of Alzheimer’s patients in Oregon, who took either DHA or a placebo for 18 months. Some previous observational studies suggested that high intakes of DHA can help prevent or slow dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

• Cognitive decline: In contrast, another placebo-controlled study, in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, found that DHA supple­ments, taken for 24 weeks, helped improve memory and brain function in people over 55 with mild cognitive impairment. This suggests that, to help the brain, the supplements need to be started early, before mental decline progresses too much.

• Gum disease: A Harvard study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that people who consumed moderate amounts of fish oil omega-3s had a lower risk of developing periodontitis, an inflammatory disease that causes gum recession and tooth loss. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory effects.


Friday, November 11th, 2011


According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), potassium is a very important mineral in the human body. It is involved in both electrical and cellular functions, and is necessary for healthy heart activity, proper carbohydrate metabolism, building muscle and much more. Here are some potassium-rich foods that you can easily add to your diet:

Vegetables. Healthy amounts of potassium can be found in broccoli, peas, winter squashes, potatoes (especially the skins), sweet potatoes and lima beans. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) notes that eating potassium-rich vegetables may lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and decrease bone loss.
Fruits.Not only is fruit delicious, it gives your body important doses of potassium. Try citrus fruits, bananas, prunes, kiwi and cantaloupe. Interestingly, dried apricots contain more potassium than fresh apricots, and they make great snacks at school, work or on the go.
Milk and yogurt. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists an eight-ounce container of plain, non-fat yogurt as having 579 mg of potassium and only 127 calories. One cup of non-fat milk has 83 calories and 382 mg of potassium. Both are what the NLM and NIH describe as “excellent sources” of potassium.
Nuts and seeds. According to the Mayo Clinic, nuts are good sources of potassium and they contain valuable magnesium, fiber, protein and healthy fats. Almonds and sunflower seeds both offer good amounts of potassium.

It’s important to note that the human body can have too much (hyperkalemia) or too little (hypokalemia) potassium. These imbalances can be caused by a variety of diseases, medications, conditions and more, so talk to your doctor before increasing your potassium levels or drastically changing your diet in any way. For more information about potassium and other nutrients, visit the USDA at


Friday, November 4th, 2011

If you have high cholesterol, could your morning cup of Joe be at least partly to blame? Maybe, depending on how your coffee is brewed and how much you drink.

Most research has found that coffee drinking in general does not increase blood cholesterol or cardiovascular risk. But since the mid-1980s, studies have consistently linked unfiltered coffee to increases in cholesterol. Much of the evidence comes from Scandinavia, where coffee typically is made by boiling the grounds in hot water and is not filtered.

What’s in your cup of coffee?

Diterpene compounds in coffee beans—notably cafestol—are responsible for the cholesterol-raising effect. The longer the coffee grounds come in contact with the brewing water, and the hotter the water, the greater the amount of diterpenes released. Scandinavian-style boiled coffee has the most diterpenes, studies have shown—followed by Turkish/Greek coffee, French-press (cafetière or plunger-pot) coffee and then espresso. American-style “drip” coffee has virtually none because the paper filters trap the compounds. Percolated and instant coffees also have negligible amounts. Decaffeinating coffee does not reduce diterpenes.

Still, it takes a fair amount of unfiltered coffee to have a significant effect on cholesterol. Daily consumption of 10 milligrams of cafestol—the amount in about four 5-ounce cups of French-press coffee—has been shown to raise cholesterol by 8 to 10 percent in four weeks, mostly due to increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Some people are affected more than others, and the effects may be greater in those who have higher cholesterol to begin with.

The sunny side of coffee

All coffee, no matter how it’s brewed, contains a complex mix of phytochemicals, many of which are potentially beneficial. In fact, coffee is the No. 1 source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, because we drink so much of it. Coffee has been shown to guard against oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which makes LDL less harmful. And it’s been linked to reduced risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and some other disorders. Cafestol may even have anti-cancer properties, at least in lab studies.

Bottoms up

An occasional cup of unfiltered coffee won’t raise your cholesterol significantly, if at all. But you may be consuming more unfiltered coffee than you realize because many coffee drinks—cappuccinos or lattes, for instance—are made with espresso, sometimes more than one shot. If your cholesterol is high, you might want to limit espresso to one or two a day and not go overboard with French-press coffee.


Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I get a monthly subscription to UC Berkeley Wellness Letter. I would like to share some quick facts that may be interesting to people regarding your health.

* Prehypertension is when your blood pressure is between 120-139/80-89. Compared with people who have normal blood pressure, those with prehypertension are 2x as likely to develop full-blown hypertension, and 3.5x more likely to suffer heart attacks. Fortunately, lifestyle measures can make a real impact on lowering blood pressure.

* Since the early 1970′s American men have increased their daily calorie intake by an average of 179 calories, and women by 199 calories. Nearly all of those added calories came from carbohydrates, according to a recent study in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”.During this time, the obesity rate more than doubled.

* People with high HDL (“good”) cholesterol are more likely to live to age 85 and are less likely to develop colon cancer, according to 2 recent studies.

* Frequent business travelers are at higher risk for health problems, suggests a large new study from Columbia University. It found that people who travel 14 days or more a month for work were more likely to be obese and report their health as poor or fair than those who travel less often, after controlling for age, sex, race and ethnicity.

* If you can’t multitask as well as you used to, it’s not your imagination. The ability to switch between tasks decreases with age.

* Not only are smoking rates in the U.S. half what they were 45 years ago, but the remaining smokers light up much less- especially in California, according to a recent study in the “Journal of the American Medical Association”.

* Keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors under control may slow memory loss.

I hope you thought these were interesting facts. If you would like to hear more updated facts in the future, please let me know. I would like to thank UCB Wellness Letter for supplying the facts for this article.