Note: This article was originally published in the June 2010 issue of the Denver publication Community News.
Hello again, everyone! It's been quite a while since I last sat down to compile one of my longer lists of health news items for you. But now the numerous health articles I've been saving are practically begging me to summarize them for Community News, so here goes. More such compilations will come later.
1. Cloves are the best natural antioxidant, according to a Spanish study. Researchers at Miguel Hern�ndez University studied the beneficial health effects of five spices and herbs that are part of the typical Mediterranean diet: cloves, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. They all exhibit high antioxidant capacity, but cloves come out on top. Many Indian and Middle Eastern meat dishes use cloves, and I well remember the delicious hams studded with cloves that my mother used to bake.
The Mediterranean diet is famously heart-healthy. Some of its key components include several daily servings of fruits and vegetables, olive oil instead of butter, herbs and spices for flavor instead of lots of salt, little red meat, fish or shellfish at least twice a week, pasta, rice, and small amounts of red wine for those who drink alcohol.
Here are some other benefits of cloves. They're anti-inflammatory, high in manganese and numerous other nutrients, improve digestion, boost the immune system, and help control blood glucose levels. Clove oil (or eucalyptus oil) mixed with lotion is a natural mosquito repellent. I use Cur�l lotion for this. (Source for the article on the antioxidant properties of cloves: ScienceDaily.com, 3/19/10)
2. Early balding: less prostate cancer, more testosterone / This is good news for millions of men around the world. Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine have found that men who start to go bald early, in their 20s and 30s, have a 29% to 45% reduction in their risk of prostate cancer later in life. Men with high levels of testosterone are the ones who are more likely to lose their hair. That's because baldness is caused by hair follicles becoming exposed to too much DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a chemical produced by testosterone. (BBC News / Health, 3/16/10)
3. Erectile dysfunction (ED) and death from heart disease / If you suffer from ED, don't rush out to buy the "little blue pill" or some other chemical or mechanical remedy. Instead, get to your doctor for a thorough checkup and possibly a cardiology workup, if that is indicated. That's because ED is an early predictor of cardiovascular disease. ED drugs treat symptoms; they do nothing for the underlying problems, which need to be investigated and then treated. ED can also be a sign of diabetes and hypertension.
Dr. Robert Stein, professor of cardiology at the New York University School of Medicine, says, "If I suffered from ED, I would start changing my lifestyle. Eat better, watch my cholesterol, stop smoking, exercise, and see my doctor. This is important for all men, not just those with cardiovascular problems." (CNN.com, 3/15/10)
4. Food portion sizes in paintings of the Last Supper have increased steadily over the last 1,000 years. According to a Cornell University study published in the April 2010 issue of The International Journal of Obesity, an analysis of more than four dozen paintings of the Last Supper reveal a steady increase in the size of the plates, entr�es, and bread portions relative to the average size of the heads in the paintings. The plate size increased by some 66%, the entr�e size by 69%, and the bread size by 23%. These depictions mirror the dramatic increase in the availability and abundance of food over the last 1,000 years. (EurekAlert, 3/22/10)
My comments: Many people now believe that the big increase in average portion sizes and the average size of plates, bowls, and cups over the last 30 years or so is one factor behind the current obesity epidemic. A common piece of advice from weight-loss experts is to buy smaller dishes, which help you control portion size. Or just try eating your meals off the salad plates you already own. I've also read that eating off blue dishes helps you control your appetite. Orange is particularly stimulating to the appetite.
5. Green tea may help fight common eye diseases / Given that I have glaucoma (currently well controlled with prescription drops) and also enjoy various types of green tea, I was happy to read that green tea catechins are among a number of antioxidants that appear to be capable of protecting the eye. The other antioxidants are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zeazanthin, and lutein. My eye doctor also mentioned the beneficial effects of lutein, an inexpensive supplement available in capsule form.
The lens, retina, and other eye tissues absorb catechins. In studies with lab rats, the green tea catechins reduced harmful oxidative stress in the eyes for up to 20 hours. So a couple of cups of green tea per day could do your eyes a lot of good. (EurekAlert, 2/18/10, originally from the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry)
Notes: Asian markets, such as those in Denver's Far East Center, at Federal and Alameda, are wonderful sources of many varieties of tea at very low prices. We've bought several boxes of 100 tea bags there for $5.00 or less per box. / Go to www.swansonvitamins.com to find hundreds of high-quality, low-priced supplements. You can save a lot of money by buying from Swanson's rather than from a health food store.
6. Interval training: more benefit in a lot less time / I've been trying this challenging, fun exercise method for a while, now, with good results. I have yet to lose weight with it, but it's making me feel stronger and more energetic in general.
The method is simple: exercise, rest, exercise, rest, one minute each, for 20 minutes total. Details: Do one minute of aerobic exercise as hard and fast as you can. Ride a stationary bicycle, or run on a treadmill or outdoors. I simply walk very fast on my home treadmill, up to 4.2 mph or faster. (That's quite a bit faster than I go for longer workouts.) Then just walk around or stretch for one minute. You could also do calisthenics, such as push-ups or abdominal exercises. Given that I have lots of free weights, I often do one or two sets of a dumbbell exercise for the arms during each "resting" minute. Then do another minute of hard aerobic exercise. Then walk around, stretch, or do another exercise of your choice for another minute. And so on, constantly alternating, until you have exercised for 20 minutes total. And that's it!
A study at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, which had the male study subjects use stationary bicycles, indicated that you can get as much benefit from 20 minutes of interval training as you can from a full hour of less intense aerobic training. I believe it. After interval training, my heart rate is as high as 160 beats a minute: very high for someone in her mid-60s. My muscles also feel much more fatigued, but in a good way. I also feel very energized for quite a while afterwards.
Of course, insofar as possible, you should also continue to do more sustained aerobic workouts (long, brisk walks outdoors are my favorites) and longer workouts with weights. And stretching, particularly after a workout, is always beneficial. But these short, high-intensity workouts are great if you are pressed for time.
The study's lead investigator, Dr. Martin Gibala, emphasizes that such high-intensity exercise can even help lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. That's because it raises the number of mitochondria in your cells to a level previously seen only in people who do endurance training for 4-5 hours per week. Mitochondria are the cell's power producers. The more mitochondria in the cells, the lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. (Source: pagingdrgupta.blogs.cnn.com, 3/16/10) Also, regular exercise is now known to be a key element in helping to prevent breast cancer. See item #9 below.
7. My weight training classes / I've taught weight training classes, which also include stretches and calisthenics, since 1976. For details of my current three classes per week, including photos of my home workout space, and/or to read the many articles on fitness and nutrition that I've written for Community News, please click here. Classes are only $8/hr.
8. Packing your troubles away - literally / A study from the Rotman School of Management confirms the psychological benefit of a seemingly simple act. It consists of gathering up all the documents, photos, or other items connected with some painful episode in your past, such as a failed relationship, a bad business decision, or a failed ambition, and then putting them away in an envelope or a box: literally boxing them up and putting them away, separating them from your present life. Don't include anything that is not directly connected to the person or event in question. If you don't have tangible, physical reminders of the event or person that made you sad or angry, write about it (or him or her) and how it (or he or she) made you feel, and put that written record away.
My suggestion based on my own experience: If you really want to lose all that negativity for good, then bury, burn, tear up, cut up, sell, or just throw out the reminders. Nowadays, sometimes it's just old e-mails from certain people that need to be deleted. Just click and poof, that person vanishes from your life. However you choose to do it, the result will be an astonishing amount of relief.
One of the co-authors of the above-mentioned study, Dr. Dilip Soman, believes that there might even be commercial opportunities here. He proposes a pick-up courier service to literally cart your troubles away, or the manufacture of special products for enclosing your most negative reminders. Perhaps an assortment of whimsically decorated cardboard coffins, which can then be buried or burned? That's my suggestion. (EurekAlert, 3/24/10)
9. Ways to help avoid breast cancer / Experts now agree: up to one-third of breast cancer cases in Western countries could be avoided if women simply took better care of themselves. Guidelines include avoiding being overweight (especially after menopause), getting regular exercise, and drinking little or no alcohol. Obese women are up to 60% more likely to get breast cancer than normal-weight women are. Other risk factors include simply being female, getting older, and a family history of the disease. (Yahoo! News, 3/25/10)