Monday, July 31, 2006

Watermelon More Nutritious When NOT Refridgerated

Watermelon is more nutritious when stored at room temperature, as opposed to being refrigerated. According to a report by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, and reported by CNN, watermelons continue to produce nutrients after they are picked, but this process can be inhibited by low temperatures.

For example, watermelon stored at room temperature for two weeks gained 40 percent more lycopene and up to 139 perent more beta-carotene than refrigerated ones. Beta-carotene is converted by your body into vitamin A; and lycopene is thought to protect your body from some forms of heart disease and cancer.

Interestingly enough, researchers also found that watermelon decays faster at lower temperatures.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Too Fat for X-Rays? Time for Gov Action?

It's a small fraction, but about .15 percent of radiological tests (like X-Ray, MRI and PET scans) over the past year come back "limited due to body habitus." In plain English, this means that the patient was too fat for the test to work. The rate of this problem has doubled in the last 15 years, and is expected to get worse as 64 percent of the U.S. population is obese, reports CNN.

In addition to tests limited by "body habitus," some tests can't even be performed because patients are too large to fit into current scanning machines. While bigger machines are being manufactured, they're expensive, and may only show up in the largest hospitals.

Meanwhile, over in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Tony Blair, has said that, "People must take more responsibility for their health to relieve pressure on the National Health Service (NHS),"
according to a new BBC report.

The NHS is like our Department of Health and Human Services, and its beginning to feel the strain from obesity, smoking and other health issues related to poor individual decisions.

Blair isn't advocating the government "stop treating people" or "force people to do things," but "government has to play an active role in precisely the way the enabling state should work and that is empowering people, setting the conditions in which they can choose responsibly."

This gentle, "enabling" approach sounds just enough, but what do you do when increasing numbers of people are too obese for X-Rays to work on their bodies? Maybe "force," or something similar, is required.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mom: Drop the Smokes, Breastfeed, and DON'T Make Jr. Clean His Plate

New research shows some not-so-surprising, but interesting results: kids whose parents force them to clean their plates are fatter and breastfed kids have higher IQs. Also, mothers who smoke when they're pregnant endanger their kid's health. But it's not the findings of this study that truly surprised me. Read on to learn what really raised my eyebrows.

Strict parents have fatter kids
Whether it’s the stress in households where strict parents call the shots, or the better decision-making skills that kids develop in flexible environments, kids with strict parents end up fatter than those with "flexible rule-setter" moms and dads. According to a new study from the Boston University School of Medicine,
reported by CNN, 17 percent of children with "strict disciplinarians" for parents are overweight while just 3.9 percent of kids with flexible folks are chubby. Right in the middle, about 10 percent of kids with "neglectful" or push-over parents were husky.

Breastfed kids are smarter, healthier
According to a new study,
which I first read at the New York Times, "not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby's health." Apparently, breast feeding improves infant vulnerability to a range of infectious disease and protects them from sudden infant death syndrome. Later in life, kids that were breast fed were less susceptible to developing asthma, diabetes, leukemia and lymphoma. Kids that breast feed even scored better on IQ tests, perhaps because breast milk "contains certain fatty acids that aid brain development."

I shouldn't even have to write this, but…
It's common knowledge that smoking is one of the most dangerous habits you can pick up. But new research
reported by CNN shows that "the effects of smoking during pregnancy last up to age 12." And from there, the kids are still doomed because, "individuals with parents and siblings who smoke will have started smoking themselves by their teen years." According to the "Pollution and the Young Study," smoking mothers had kids that were "more likely to have poor lung function."

No surprises right?

Well, the reason I'm blogging on the smoking study is not so much the findings, but what the research is dependent on: mothers that smoke, and mothers that smoke with young kids. Are you kidding me? In 2006, a study like this should not even be possible.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Scientist Argues Difference Between Men & Women's Brains

Do you believe that there's a difference between the brains and physiology of men and women? If you do, then depending on who you ask, you could be sexist, smart or dead wrong.

According to neuropsychiartist Louann Brizendine of San Francisco's Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, you'd be wise to believe that a difference exists between the minds of men and women,
reports the July 31st edition of Newsweek.

In her new book, "The Female Brain," Brizendine argues that women's hormones and unique brain structure have a strong influence over their behavior. Said Brizendine, "I believe that women actually perceive the world differently than men. If women attend to those differences, they can make better decisions about how to manage their lives."

But her findings, based on decades of psychiatric experience and the research of other scientists, are not without controversy. Opposing scientists maintain that there is "close to zero" difference between the sexes.

However, Brizidine's critics some convincing facts to contend with. For example, "women have 11 percent more neurons in the area of the brain devoted to emotions and memory," and, "because they have more 'mirror neurons' they are also better at observing emotions in others," Brizendine told Newsweek.

Monday, July 24, 2006

New Weapons Against Tumors: Bubbles

The day is approaching when doctors may use bubbles as "corks" to suffocate tumors, this according to a press release at EurekAlert.org.

In the past, embolization, or "the process of blocking blood flow to a tumor," was conducted with solids like special gels or clotted blood. But researchers at the University of Michigan are working on a process that uses gas.

Here's how it works. First, a perfluorocarbon droplet is added to the bloodstream by way of intravenous injection. Next, doctors use ultrasound to track the droplet as it travels through a patient's body. When the droplet reaches a blood vessel that's feeding a tumor, scientists fire a "high intensity ultrasound" beam. The blast causes the perfluorocarbon droplet to expand into a gas bubble that blocks blood flow to the tumor. Without blood, the tumor dies.

According to the report, this type of embolotherapy may be most valuable in combating a form of liver cancer that claims over a million lives each year.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Off to the Beach? Bring sunscreen… and Antibiotics

A new study by researchers at UCLA and Stanford finds that 1.5 million people are sickened by Southern California beaches each year costing millions of dollars in public healthcare costs, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

The study covered 100 miles of So Cal shoreline and found that, of those who visited these beaches, almost 1.5 million more people developed gastrointestinal illnesses than what would normally be expected.

But 1.5 million is a lowball estimate. According to the Mercury News, "Gastrointestinal illness is most commonly associated with swimming in contaminated water… the study did not examine the prevalence of other illnesses associated with polluted water."

The excess gastrointestinal illnesses caused by ocean exposure cost an estimated 21 to 414 million dollars according to the UCLA/Stanford study.

So the next time you run out to the beach, don't forget the sunscreen, your copy of the Da Vinci Code that you've been meaning to read, a blanket, sunglasses and now… a bottle of antibiotics.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Couch Potatoes: It's Not Too Late

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that sedentary lifestyles can kill. Yes, choosing to be a couch potato can shave years off your life. But if you're in your forties, it's not too late to make a change and delay your date with the Grim Reaper.

In a study reported by Scientific American, potatoes that managed to peel themselves off the couch after the age of 40 cut their chances of expiring due to cardiovascular problems by 55 percent. That's just slightly less than people who were active for their entire lives. The most active among us are just 60 percent less likely to develop heart disease.

This is good news and bad news. It's good news because it shows that it's (almost) never too late to improve health with an active lifestyle. But it's bad news because now you have a great excuse to be a lazy bum until you're about 45 years old. And despite what the study implies, I refuse to believe that's a good idea.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bottled vs. Tap Water

Twenty years ago, people were arguing between Coke and Pepsi as the beverage of choice. But since 1977, "consumption of sugared beverages has climbed threefold from an average of 50 calories per day… to nearly 150," reports the LA Times this week. That doesn't sound like much, but it's "enough to pile on about 15 pounds per year."

These days, people may still argue over Coke vs. Pepsi, but the hot debate is over water: that which comes from the bottle and the stuff that comes from the tap. Which tastes better? Which is better for you?

The short, boring answer is: it depends on the tap and the bottle.

In
a taste test done by ABC news show 20/20, New York City tap water tied for third place against five bottled waters. Evian came in last. Kmart's "American Fare" brand bottled water, the cheapest of the bottles, came in first.

For me, personally, I can drink water from the tap at home (though it tastes a little like sulfur), but I can't drink it at work where it tastes like someone poured metal shavings into your glass. I don't think it's the city water department's fault, I think it's the building's pipes.

But what about health? According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC),
reported by the LA Times, tap water may be safer for you. In the study, the NRDC found that 60 to 70 percent of bottled water is "exempt from FDA bottled water standards." And even if they are regulated by FDA standards, the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, which apply to tap water, are stronger.

Given that, I was surprised to hear that,
when 20/20 sent bottled water and tap water to a microbiologist, test results showed that their was no difference at all.

As far as the vitamins you think you're getting in enhanced waters, "independent tests show that some bottled waters don't contain what they claim," reports the LA Times. "Only one -- Propel Fitness Water -- provided the amount of vitamins listed on its label."

So why are people spending 10 billion dollars to drink 8 billion gallons of bottled water annually? In some cases, say you buy Evian, you're paying more for water than gas. But what's the point?

I think we can credit a large chunk of annual spending on bottled water to clever advertising. The rest may be people with bad pipes and terrible tasting tap water.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Tension Sparks Between Religion & Patients' Rights

Imagine you went to the doctor for a perfectly legal drug or procedure, but medical professionals refused to serve you. It's happening across the country in what the Washington Post calls, "an intense, complex and often bitter debate over religious freedom vs. patients' rights." In a Post report, they cite the following skirmishes in this escalating conflict:

  • "In Chicago, an ambulance driver refused to transport a patient for an abortion."
  • "In California, fertility specialists rebuffed a gay woman seeking artificial insemination."
  • "In Texas, a pharmacist turned away a rape victim seeking the morning-after pill."

According to the Post, these episodes are driven by "medicine's push into controversial new areas," combined with "religious expression and its political prominence in the United States."

This concerns me. When I go to the doctor, I want every legal drug and procedure available to me to be, well, available. At the same time, I can empathize with health workers who do not want to be forced to make decisions that violate their religious values.

So, to these health care workers, may I suggest something? Quit. Find another job.

Apparently, there are a few that are doing just that. "Some health-care workers avoid or transfer out of jobs that present moral quandaries," reports the Post.

When I read this story, a quote from the new Iraq War documentary came to mind. It was a line by Army reservist Sergeant Zack Bazzi, "I love being a soldier -- the only thing about the army is, you can't pick your war." Nope, you just fight. It's your job. Healthcare workers have a job, too. And they need to do it.

As one bioethecist and lawyer told the Washington Post, "You are not supposed to use your professional status as a vehicle for cultural conquest."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

US vs. France: The Better Wine Comes From…

Wine and cheese: love it or hate it, there's no way the cultureless Fed Ex, Slurpee and Britney Spears-obsessed United States could beat the prouder, older, and more refined culinary expertise of the French. Or could it?

Well, in a blind taste test, U.S. wines trounced French varieties.

"The result was seen as a blow to French national pride and shocked the country's wine industry," read a BBC report.

But how could the French be so shocked? In a similar contest 30 years ago, called the "Judgment of Paris," the U.S. beat the French handily. There wine was second-rate then, and it's still second-rate today.

The loss is just the latest in a string of bad news for French wine lovers. According to the BBC, "The French wine industry has suffered badly in recent years… thousands of hectares of vines in France have been destroyed to deal with over-production, with some Bordeaux wines even being turned back into industrial alcohol."

While this victory is nice for a bunch of reality TV watching, Cheetos eating and psychic hotline calling Yanks, we shouldn't get to comfortable over here. Be humble, my fellow Americans. Someday, the best hamburgers, blue jeans and surf boards may come from China or India.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Believe It: Rich People Live Longer

A very close friend of mine thinks that I am obsessed with money. While I disagree with this person, let's say they are correct. Is that wrong? Given the scientific evidence, an obsession with money is not necessarily an obsession with material things, but an obsession with living a long, healthy life.

Some time ago, I blogged about a study that showed the less you earn, the more stressed out you are. Now, a more recent study reported by the BBC shows rich people live longer.

The rich aren't just living three or four years longer, but 11 years. That's eleven more years at the beach with your grandkids, eleven more seasons relaxing at the ball park and 11 more years to burn through my millions and millions of dollars. (Which I don't have yet; and am no where close to earning; but a man has to dream, right?) Remember, optimism is one of Forbes' "15 Ways to Live Longer.")

"Lifespan should not be determined by wealth in 2006," said one researcher. He also called on the healthcare industry to "ensure that length of life is more equitable across the UK" with new "ill-health prevention strategies." In the meantime, a good defense against premature death is a nice, fat paycheck.

For the record: Males in the poor Gloasgow City area of the UK lived an average of 69.3 years. Men in the more affluent East Dorset area lived to be 80.8 years old.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bunch of liars!

We all lie. Anyone that tells you that they don't lie is lying. At least, that's my opinion. Personally, I lie all the time. For example, if I'm feeling a little sick, and someone asks me how I'm doing, I smile and say, "great!" If a friend of mine just ran up a flight of stairs, they look disheveled and swarthy, and they ask me how they look, I smile and say, "great!" I could go on. The point is, sometimes white lies are important for protecting good relationships, other peoples feelings and so on.

Now, if you're cheating on your partner and they ask you about it, and you lie, that's bad. If you stole money from your friend, and they ask you about it, and you lie, that's bad, too. Again, I could go on. The point is, there are all kinds of lies. Some are innocent white lies, others are mean, some protect lives and others cause very dangerous situations.

Despite my feelings on this matter, a recent AP-Ipsos poll, reported by CNN, found that half of respondents think lying is "never justified." However, two-thirds think it's "okay to lie in certain situations." That means that one quarter of people are a little dumb, or they were lying.

The poll also found that 40 percent of people think it's okay to lie to "make a story more interesting"; around 33 percent think it's fine to lie about your age; and the same number think it's okay to get out of work by lying.

The groups of people most likely to say lying is okay are aged 18-29, college graduates and have higher household incomes. And no, I don't think that these people are more dishonest, I think they are more honest about their dishonesty. We're all dishonest to some degree, and we should embrace it, be aware of it and make sure we know where to draw the line.

Another interesting result in the study, reported by CNN: "Four in 10 people answered that they'd never had to lie or cheat. But one in 10 of THOSE people said in the very next answer that yes, they might have told a lie in the past week."

The CNN report concluded that, either they "misunderstood the question" (are a little dumb), or, "they may have lied." May have?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Un-Supersize It

Americans eat too much. According to a recent New York Times features, we spend $46 billion annually on diets, but obesity rates in kids and adults are "doubling and tripling."

One reason may be portion size. And in the New York Times article, "
Forget the Second Helpings. It's the First Ones That Count," we learn that food producers are working against you. For example, bagels in this country have bloated to between five and six ounces; that's five to six servings of bread (remember you just need six to eleven in a day); and they pack around 500 calories, "not counting cream cheese or butter," reports the Times.

And what about those irresistible muffins at Starbucks? According to the Times, "muffin tins from my childhood produce muffins one-third the size of those at Starbucks." I don't know when the author, Jane E. Brody, was born, but I can pretty much guarantee that Americans aren't three times as active today as they were when she was a kid. And I'm pretty sure Americans aren't sharing their muffins, quitting at one-third of the muffin and tossing it, or cutting the extra calories from other portions of their diets (unless it’s the fruit and vegetable part), as evidence by rising obesity rates.

Money, or getting your money's worth also plays a role. "The cheapest dining establishments serve the most food," reports the Times. Also, "Drinks are in 24-ounce sizes or larger, often with free refills. And most people eat and drink what they pay for."

How can you fight back? The Times piece suggests looking for foods that are less energy-dense. According to the Times, "The more energy-dense a food is -- that is, the more calories per ounce or gram -- the more calories people tend to consume." And, according to a recent Pennsylvania State University study reported by the Times, "All other factors being equal, people eat about the same weight of food each day."

Thus, the more calorie dense your diet, the more weight you are likely to gain. So, try switching out some "meat, cheese, pizza and French fries" for "soup, green salad, nonstarchy vegetables and fruit."

Two tips. Look for foods naturally high in water like broccoli or watermelon. "The main ingredient that influences energy density is water," points out the Times. Also, load up on fiber. "Fiber adds noncaloric bulk to foods. It is filling, it holds water, and it slows the absorption of food, so people are more likely to feel satisfied before they overeat."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Forbes: "15 Ways to Live Longer"

"It's been said that a man dies simply because he doesn't know how to live longer," opens an article from Forbes Health News entitled, "15 Ways to Live Longer." Can it be that simple? What about genetics? Sure, your genes play a big role in longevity, however as one doctor told Forbes, "There's a saying that genetics load the gun, but it's the environment that pulls the trigger."

No doubt, there's a middle ground in there, someplace between genetics and life choices that leads to a long, healthy life. And here are some tips that Forbes dug up for finding that hallowed territory:

Don't Oversleep: But don't undersleep either. The optimal amount is six to seven hours. People who sleep more than eight hours or less than four have higher death rates.

Be Optimistic: A positive outlook means less stress, lower blood pressure and, according to a 2002 study, optimists have "a 50 percent decreased risk of early death"

More Sex: Making love reduces stress, makes you happier and lets you rest better. "All factors can lower blood pressure and protect against stroke and heart disease."

Get a Pet: People with pets, especially dogs, visit physicians less, live 12 percent longer and have lower blood pressure due to "an array of psychological factors."

Get a VAP: This advanced cholesterol test can detect maladies that standard tests miss.

Be Rich: Better food, housing and health care means just 6 percent of rich folks are "limited" by chronic disease whereas 24 percent of poor folks are.

Stop Smoking: Don't be stupid.

Chill Out: Anger leads to high blood pressure, which could explain why men with high levels of anger in response to stress are three times as likely to get early heart disease.

Eat Your Antioxidants: These can neutralize free radicals "whose unstable chemical nature accelerates the effect of aging"

Marry Well: This won't help you, but it will help your kids. Studies show longevity can be inherited, so "pick a spouse whose grandparents are still alive."

Exercise: Maintain weight, improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones, increase endorphins (energy hormones), and ward off stress and disease with exercise.

Laugh: This reduces levels of stress hormones, boosts endorphins, raises circulation, relaxes blood vessels, and lowers other predictors of heart disease.

Loose Weight: Obesity increases risk for heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. "For people who are overweight or obese, life is a ticking time bomb."

Manage Stress: "Constant stress produces high levels of cortisol, which has been shown to impair cognitive functioning and weaken the immune system."

Meditate: A powerful antidote for stress, "fifteen minutes of meditation has been shown to produce a much more relaxed state of mind than one hour of the deepest sleep."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Your Sunscreen May be Letting You Down

As the skin cancer death rate climbs, a lawsuit has been brought against sunscreen makers.

Before we get into the lawsuits, let's look at the how, what and why of skin cancer.

First of all, the sun's ultraviolet rays put you at risk of sun cancer. Should you be overexposed, you may develop one of two basic types of skin cancer: nonmelanoma (basal cell and squamous cell cancers) or melanoma.

Nonmelanoma occurs at the surface of the skin, and is less deadly than melanoma. Still, 1 million people are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancer and 2,800 people die from it each year, according to
a recent report at Forbes Health News.

Melanoma, on the other hand, has caused 7,910 this year so far. And it's killing at a faster rate than ever. According to the American Cancer Society, and reported by Forbes, "the mortality rate for the disease has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s."

There are certain things you can do to protect yourself from skin cancer. For example, avoid exposure to the sun between 10AM and 2PM, wear sunglasses, hats and of course, apply sunscreen. But is your sunscreen really protecting you?

A new lawsuit filed in California by a group of lawyers alleges sunscreen makers are guilty of "fraud, negligence and intentional deception in the marketing and labeling of some products,"
reports CNN. Those who filed the suit believe labels like "all day," "waterproof," even "SPF" are misleading.

With regard to "all day" and "waterproof," one dermatologist told CNN, "There is no 'all day,' there is no 'waterproof' product. It doesn't exist." Makes sense. This is just sunscreen, it's not superglue, if you go swimming, sweat or rub against stuff, sunscreen is going to come off.

But even when it stays on your skin, many sunscreens may only be protecting you from half of the sun's harmful rays. What's worse, insufficient sunscreens are not shielding you from the most dangerous rays. According to the CNN report, damaging sun rays come in UVA and UVB rays. UVA cause nonmelanoma skin cancer. UVB cause melanoma (the deadlier) skin cancer. And when you see "SPF" on a bottle, it only indicates UVA protection.

Use caution when you buy sunscreen. Make sure you're getting something that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and please, re-apply this stuff frequently.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Your body changes with the seasons

A new study reported by Discovery News found that, "seasonal changes cause fat to shift locations in our body, thus altering the shape of our figures at certain times of the year."

The culprit is fluctuating testosterone levels in our body. During the fall, testosterone levels are at their highest. In the spring, they're lowest. When testosterone levels are high, fat in women shifts to their waists. For men, low testosterone causes fat to load up in their abdominal region.

For men, they look their manliest in the spring when "waist and hip size becomes more uniform and less feminine." Since fat moves into their wastes, women appear slightly less "curvaceous" in the fall, the study implies.

While some men admire curvaceous women, in general, previous research has found that curvy women (with high waist-to-hip ratios) are less attractive to men in Western cultures, explained the report. And there may be some evolutional basis for this. According to the Discovery article, "a large body of research finds that lower waist-to-hip ratios are associated with better fertility parameters and health parameters."

The big question still remains unanswered: why does this seasonal change occur? Some possible reasons, noted by the report, are "health, immune function, fertility and behavior."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Cow Brains and other Healthy, Disgusting Foods

Ask Men recently posted a feature titled "Disgusting Foods that are Good for You." And I couldn't resist but add a write up to this blog.

Oily Fish
Slimy, stinky and a taste that lingers in your mouth for hours (if not days), herring, sardines and mackerel deserve the attention of health-conscious eaters. These fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids which boost HDL (good) cholesterol and lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Also, Ask Men points out that, "these 'good fats' improve blood vessel function and reduce the risk of blood clots, thereby lowering the risk of heart disease."

If you've got a date planned, keep this in mind. The taste of these fish is so potent that, "if you were to take a bite of one and then touch your lips to a water glass, the entire glass would smell like fish even after you washed it," according to Ask Men.

Kimchee
Call it "fermented" if you want, but kimchee is rotted cabbage and vegetables that smells like "sweaty feet." It sounds more disgusting than it tastes. I like the taste, myself. And if you do too, then you're in luck because kimchee is packed with vitamin B, vitamin C, it may reduce some types of cancer and the stuff keeps you regular, too. Also, as I blogged earlier,
kimchee may protect against bird flu.

Should you feel adventurous and pick up some kimchee, beware. Not only does kimchee have an odor resembling sweaty feet, "after you’ve eaten kimchee, you smell like sweaty feet," reports Ask Men.

Beef Brains
If you can stand the sensation (or thought) of cow brains in your mouth, then you may add this great source of niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin C and iron to your diet. Ask Men also explains that beef brains are packed with protein, low on calories and, if you're still on the Atkins diet, rejoice: cow brains have zero carbs.

Marmite
Unless you're from the UK or Australia, you probably haven't heard of Marmite (or its cousin, Vegemite). Perhaps that's because American grocery stores are a bit leery of carrying "concentrated yeast paste" that you're supposed to spread on your toast. What's unpleasant about marmite is the odor and, unless you like very salty flavors, the taste. Ask Men compares the odor of marmite to "old socks." (Not to be confused with kimchee which smells like sweaty feet, I suppose, because it has a riper stench.)

However, should you get past the smell and taste, marmite is loaded with vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid. Marmite is also free of animal products, and "nearly fat-and sugar-free," says Ask Men.

And just think, you used to complain when your mom put broccoli on your plate.

Pound360 Archive

About Me

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.