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A life-changing breakfast?

The Watermelon Cooler at Le Pain Quotidien--made with cucumber, lemon and mint--is our new favorite way to hydrate and imbibe phytonutrients. One compound in watermelon promotes circulation; another--lycopene (most commonly associated with tomatoes)--was recently found to reduce stroke risk.

New research shows meditators place a greater value on being calm than non-meditators. However, the shift in values does not necessarily translate to reality.

Might a pill one day improve Alzheimer's in just hours? A new study offers hope.

The American Botanical Council criticizes report linking ginkgo biloba to cancer.

A new study raises questions about the safety of taking gingko biloba.
Watch the trailer for A Place At the Table, chef Tom Colicchio's film about hunger in America.

We love this video from the NRDC explaining the issue of toxic chemicals used in couch manufacture.  It's a gentle video for a scary topic. 

This image from a Brita water filter campaign says more about the benefits of using a water filter than 1,000 words. But as a consumer it's tough to judge which filter to buy. Now the Environmental Working Group Water Filter Buying Guide does the work for you. We give it a huge thumbs up.

Flu+You: Take a look at how much worse this year's flu is than last year's, from The Education Database Online.

Read about Jaimal Yogis, author of Saltwater Buddha, whose new book, The Fear Project, is attracting lots of buzz.

This may be an aggressive red, but RGB Cosmetics has come up with its carcinogen-free formula, which is gentle enough for sensitive souls. Read more about it.

Always on the lookout for hot drinks to sustain us while working on iwellville, Matcha Latte--find one recipe in this month's Bon Appetit--is a winner. We like it without sweetener. Tea fanatics we know like to drink it cold--just make sure to shake well.

Underberg Bitters, made from Gentian, an herb used for centuries in the Alps to stimulate digestive juices after a big meal, were the bestselling item of 2012 at Smallflower (one of our favorite sources of all things herbal.)  We are a big fan of bitters of all sorts, but could their popularity on Smallflower have something to do with this quirky video?

Watch Dean Ornish's definitive TED Talk on the pursuit of happiness and healing through diet.

Mark Lynas, journalist, author and an early anti-GMO activist has changed his mind, saying he "discovered science" and learned that Genetically Modified crops can be a force for good. Check out his NPR interview.

A non-profit initiative to unite, educate and mobilize the yoga community around the issue of sex-trafficing, Yoga Freedom Project (founded in conjunction with the Somaly Mam Foundation) holds its first master class in New York City. 

The Girl Scouts' new Mango Creme cookie contains shitake mushrooms, among other healthful ingredients. And the blogosphere disapproves.

Finally, mothers can outsource their nagging to a smartphone: The LumoBack is a new posture-correcting device that slips around the waist, and signals you (and your smartphone) when you are slouching. Watch how it works.

In a remarkable study, mindfulness meditation reduced sick days from acute respiratory infection (like pneumonia) by a whopping 76%.

We've just discovered the Cold Warrior from Juice Generation. It's a hot drink with green tea, orange juice, ginger, Echinacea, vitamin C and zinc--all good for the immune system. It's like a blankie and a hug in a cup.

A wristband that does more than trumpet a good cause; it might just change your life. The FitBit Flex monitors fitness and quality of sleep, among other things, and saves it all wirelessly to your smartphone.

Watch how this state-of-the-art digital globe brings global warming and other planetary phenomenon to life.

Might this friendly bacteria known as Lactobacillus GG save you from a life-threatening antibiotic side-effect? New research says it can.

A pain doctor who helped fuel the rise in the use of pain drugs changes his mind.

"If I were of child-rearing age now, or the parent of young children, I would make every effort to buy organic food," writes Mark Bittman, in his latest "Opinionator" blog for the New York Times.

Researchers are developing less painful shots, inspired by porcupine quills.

Should you have your genome analyzed? Here's one argument in favor, from an unlikely source.

The Hidden Costs of Soda graphically illustrates the intractable soda obsession of Americans, who drink an average 900 cups of sugary, bubbly syrup a year. 

Do Teavana teas have pesticides?

How refreshing! In "The Antidote" British journalist Oliver Burkeman challenges the notion that having a positive attitude leads to happiness. Watch his video.

A bicycle that churns ice cream from Peddler's Creamery in L.A.

Writer Hannah Brencher is trying to harness the healing power of love letters. Watch her rage against the digital age.

The One World Futbol, an indestructible soccer ball, is saving childhoods, one goal at a time.

In the hopes of unlocking medical mysteries, The Swedish Twins Registry has some 45,000 DNA samples of twins (though probably not from these particular Olsens) in its biobank freezers, collected over the last half century.

This physician says she reversed her MS by eating a diet that includes organ meats (kidneys, tongue gizzards!) and copious fruits and vegetables. Watch her TEDx talk. 

Instagram your every bite? Here's one woman who begs you to stop.

It may come as no shock to women everywhere, but the FDA just figured out these products don't live up to the hype. Read the story.

Lycopene, an antioxidant in the vitamin A family abundant in tomatoes, helps protect against stroke. Read about the study.

The new movie about the mess that is modern medicine. Watch the trailer.

In the latest issue of Bazaar, Rihanna says dieting has jeapordized one of her more valuable assets.

Miniature pigs have their own rescue fund, Lil' Orphan Hammies. 

It's not all in their legs: New study finds soccer players rank as high as brain surgeons in executive function, multi-tasking and creativity.

Stinging Nettle for dinner? In Foraged Foods, a chef and his muse tell us this weed has a deep herbal flavor with hints of celery and mint.

Sharapova: In fine form at the French Open, talks about her workout.

Turkey Tail Mushrooms: Read about Andrew Weil's favorite mushroom guru's adventures with this mushroom and its ability to help the immune system attack cancer.

On viewing the Transit of Venus.
An update on a classic cookbook - warning, not all of the recipes are vegetarian.

Beyonce's return to fighting form.

One secret to Hemsworth's physique.

Andre Agassi, a new gym class hero.

Nature's Art: an extremely thin slice of Kohlrabi root.

Calling all carcinogens: California regulators force Coke, Pepsi and other colas to change the way a common coloring agent is made. 

The garden at Esalen, where organic farming has been sustained for half a Century.

Just five months after surviving a horrifying goring, one of Spain's top bullfighters returns to the ring.

Fitness pays.

Flatworms may hold a secret to immortality.

Alcohol and Xanax, both found in Whitney Houston's hotel room right after she died, inhibit the central nervous system and depend on the same enzyme for bodily clearance. Read more.

A new study says investment bankers have more health risks than others.

Jeremy Lin at the peak of of his game, is lifting others with him.

 Organic famers are mad and they're not going to take it anymore. Read about the revolt against Monsanto.

Here's a breakfast cookie recipe (using almonds, cranberries and quinoa) from Bon Appetit that satisfies morning sweet cravings and provides decent nutrition...even the pickiest in our household loved it. 
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck is an innovative cookbook for those who are made sick by wheat or who are just plain sick of wheat.

Bed of nails? These plastic discs embedded into a yoga mat are said to stimulate acupressure points and promote relaxation.

Take a tour through Virginia Tech's Lumenhaus, a solar-powered-home that won the 2010 Solar Decathlon Europe.

Did becoming a Vegan--and getting off drugs--soothe this once savage beast?

Vitamin C, viewed through a microscope with a polarizing lens, from Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking (The Cooking Lab, 2011) by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet "This book will change the way we under­stand the kitchen.” — Ferran Adrià

A new map gives a view of the "Diabetes Belt" in the South, suggesting the U.S. contains micro-cultures that promote diabetes.

The best childhood predictor of longevity, according to these authors, is a quality best defined as conscientiousness: "the often complex pattern of persistence, prudence, hard work, close involvement with friends and communities" that produces a well-organized person who is "somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree." Read more...

A rare display of one of Kobe's secret weapons.

Watch the story of Bluefin Tuna; learn about a food choice you can make to help the planet.

Chocolate lovers eagerly anticipate the first bars made from this recently discovered rare cacao variety.

Read about Chess-Boxing, a hot sport in Europe that some social scientists in the U.S. believe may hold exciting potential for the future of aggression management.

Lab Notes: New stem cell strategy cures diabetes in mice.

Secret NFL Play: Acupuncture

 The fat-busting properties of herbs and spices.

The retrovirus that causes chronic fatigue? Scientists want it out of the nation's blood supply. 

In pursuit of artificial flavoring.

Mark Bittman's Butternut Squash Salad: Once the squash has been tamed, it's the easiest, healthy Fall dish you can make. Watch the recipe.

A new cookbook by a French Culinary Institute chef offers sophisticated recipes that don't cause heartburn.

The Runaway Success of the Barefoot Shoe.

Hunting Clones in the Caucuses.

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`Shrooms To the Rescue!

With the CDC having declared a flu epidemic early in the season, and the flu shot only partially effective against the H3N2 virus currently circling the globe, we have become moderately obsessed with mushrooms as a weapon for neutralizing the viral threat.

Mushrooms of all varieties--including button, shitake and most powerfully maitake--contain numerous medicinal compounds with antiviral and antimicrobial effects. Most relevant to flu fighting are immune modulating long-chain polysaccharides found in abundance in mushrooms. Also helpful: the uncanny ability of mushrooms to increase Vitamin D levels.

Nutritional supplements containing mushroom extracts that concentrate the good stuff are most efficient at building the immune system, but the key compounds are notoriously difficult to isolate. Look for supplements like Immune Builder from JHS Natural Products, with pharmaceutical grade manufacturing and polysaccharide levels detailed on the label.

Then there's always the option to eat more mushrooms. Nutrition experts recommend buying organic mushrooms. As creatures of the soil, fungi tend to concentrate pollutants. 

Our favorite new mushroom recipe works as a side-dish, or as a main course topped with even a simple protein like a poached egg.

Quinoa with Asian Mushrooms and Black Truffle Oil

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Bill and Melinda's New Year's Resolution: Wellness for All

Proof that money doesn't necessarily breed greed: In their 2015 Annual Letter, Bill and Melinda Gates explain their smart and simple vision for a healthier, happier world. These two have been leading the charge to cure people in poor countries of illnesses erased from wealthy countries last Century. Now, they want to heal us all by suggesting everyone join the effort.

Studies show that service to others is a powerful immune boosting activity, and even confers longevity: though recent research suggests such health benefits only come when one is motivated by true concern for others and not a desire to benefit the self.

With a long, strong track record of service, it's safe to say the Gates duo will likely reap the health benefits of volunteering while improving the health of tens of millions of their fellow global citizens. Not bad for a second career!


Tom Brady's Secret Weapon...Garlic?

He's defying age--with no signs of slowing at age 37--and now he's defied the common cold. Tom Brady showed heroism in the face of the Rhinovirus, downing "lots of garlic" to fight off a cold just days before his Super Bowl command performance. Speaking with, we must admit, an adorably stuffy-nosed voice on media day, he let it be known that he was just like any other Dad soldiering on with a household of mucous-laden toddlers: 

"I've had it for four or five days. My kids got sick and my wife is pretty sick right now. I brought it unfortunately to Phoenix but I'll be fine. I'll be good. I'll be 100 percent. I'm not worried about it at all."

Brady is known for seeking holistic cures, with the help of his "body coach" Alex Guerrero (as detailed in The New York Times)--and no doubt with a big assist from Brazilian home remedies courtesy of Mrs. Brady--he's managed to avoid sick days for even the most intractable tendon pulls. As for his head cold, the NFL super-star turned to that most powerful of all super-foods...garlic.

"It's been lingering, so I'm just trying to get some rest. A lot of garlic, old remedies, everything I can," Brady said. 

We agree with his approach. And suggest the following easy-to-make soup: Click here for the recipe.

Immune Boost Soup

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Frozen Fever, In Which the Princess Gets a Cold

Catching a cold is rarely cause for an internet feeding frenzy, but Frozen fans (and their parents) freaked out yesterday when Disney released a sneak peek of stills from the upcoming follow-up to the mega-hit fairy tale. In the short film--to debut March 13 as a 7-minute bon bon in front of the new Cinderella--the plot turns on a severe head cold Elsa develops on the day she is to throw sister Anna a birthday party.

Co-Director Jennifer Lee told USA Today, "Elsa doesn't get a cold in the usual way. She's special. Surprising things occur that wreak a little havoc."

We doubt she'll have puffy eyes and a red nose like we mere mortals. But we wonder if the film makers will take the chance to offer realistic cures.

Might we suggest fresh squeezed orange juice, chicken soup, herbal tea, at least 1000 milligrams of Vitamin C and homeopathic Cold Calm by Boiron daily until she's back on her tiny little feet.


New Study: Facebook Undermines Well-Being

A new study from the Psychology Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor found a dose-response relationship between Facebook use and subjective well-being (a well-studied variable that predicts a range of benefits including health and longevity.)

The more college students used Facebook, the worse their sense of self-reported well-being and the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. 

The study methods were straightforward: The researchers had  a ready cohort of reliable Facebook users at the University of Michigan, where they recruited 82 students with the average age of 19.5. They text-messaged them five times per day for 14-days to track their Facebook use, well-being and life-satisfaction.

In the texts the researchers asked, "How do you feel right now?"; "How worried are you right now?"; "How lonely are you right now?"; "How much time have you interacted with other people 'directly' since the last time we asked?"; and "How much have you used Facebook since the last time we asked?" With this they were able to tease out Facebook's affect on well-being.

Ah, but you might ask, is there not a chicken-and-egg issue here? Researchers wondered the same thing, saying an "alternative explanation for these results is that people use Facebook when they feel bad." To compensate, they applied statistics to control for loneliness and depression, in essence removing feeling bad from the equation. "Neither worry nor loneliness interacted signficantly with Facebook use to predict changes in affective or cognitive well-being." In other words, people identified as worried or lonely were not necessarily the people who used Facebook more and felt worse.

One might also wonder if having a lot of Facebook friends made a difference; the answer was "no." Irregardless of the number of Facebook friends and independent of feelings of loneliness or low self-esteem, "The more people used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time." 

The author's conclude: "The human need for social connection is well established, as are the benefits that people derive from such connections. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling such needs by allowing people to instantly connect. Rather than enhancing well-being, as frequent interactions with supportive "offline" social networks powerfully do, the current findings demonstrate that interacting with Facebook may predict the opposite result for young adults--it may undermine it."

Further Reading: Scientific American, "Scientists Show Facebook Is a Downer"



To Ace Your Opponent Get A Good Night's Sleep

Maybe Roger Federer's bed at the Carlyle in New York needs an upgrade? According to a new study, lack of sleep could explain his erratic play at the U.S. Open. In this British study--conducted about 100 miles from Wimbledon--researchers found that sleep deprivation impaired elite tennis players' ability to serve. The deleterious effect was stronger for women than it was for men, and caffeine (permitted even in Grand Slam events) did not help.Maybe sleep was the problem.

In this study, participants (who were 18-22 years old and at the height of their neuromuscular powers) hit 40 serves into a small target area after sleeping a full eight hours overnight, and then again after sleeping for only five hours.

It turns out the players hit the target significantly fewer times with five hours of sleep than they did with eight hours of sleep. On average women hit the target 13 times with a full nights' sleep and only eight times when sleep-deprived. Men fared a bit better, hitting the target 18 times with a good nights' sleep and 14 times with just five hours of sleep.

In a second phase of the study, participants were asked to drink precisely 80 milligrams of caffeine 30 minutes before playing. Turns out caffeine did not compensate for sleep loss, and the tired players missed just as many shots after drinking the equivalent of a single can of Red Bull.

The takeaway for all tennis players, and especially for women: for your best serve get a good night's sleep.


It's Not Just Sugar: New Study Links Diabetes to Red Meat

As if you need another reason not to eat red meat. A new study-- from researcher An Pan Ph.D. of the National University of Singapore--published in the gold-standard JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) establishes a robust link between eating red meat and developing adult-onset diabetes (known as type-2 diabetes mellitus), which is the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.--ranked just behind Alzheimer's and fatal accidents.Nitrosamines, found in hot dogs and other processed meats, might be contributing to a diabetes epidemic. 

By digging into reams of data from the massive long-term Harvard group studies, Pan was able to analyze health stats from 149,000 American men and women representing 1.9 million "person years" of follow-up. In research terms this is a powerful study.

Click to read more ...


Swine Flu Vaccine in Europe LInked to Narcolepsy

Remember back in early 2010 when the swine flu (H1N1) vaccine was the hottest ticket in town? People were calling in favors just to get their children vaccinated against what promised to be a deadly flu outbreak, though fortunately it never really lived up to the hype.The masks may look silly, but at least they are free from harmful side effects.

Now new research (conducted in Finland) offers hard evidence of a 3-5 fold increase in the incidence of narcolepsy for children and adults in Europe during the eight months following injection with the Pandemrix swine flu shot manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK.) The Pandemrix vaccine was not administered in the U.S. according to the CDC.

Narcolepsy is often confused with insomnia, but it's more serious. A chronic neurological disorder, narcolepsy is characterized by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally, and can lead to debilitating fatigue and daytime cognitive dysfunction.

Evidence linking the European swine flue vaccine to heightened risk of narcolepsy emerged piecemeal over the past few years. It began in 2011 linking the vaccine to narcolepsy in kids and has since expanded to suggest adults are at risk too. The FDA recently called for a re-review of a proposed GSK flu vaccine in the U.S. that was to use the same adjuvant (used to boost the vaccine's potency) as Pandemrix.

Read more about the research at

Here is the CDC's take on the study.


Triceps (and Deltoids) are the New Abs

For most of the last decade the "Six Pack" has been shorthand for being fit, as in 7-figure-salary-worthy-celebrity-fit. But now--thanks to Michelle Obama, Jennifer Aniston and Kelly Ripa (three of the top-5 arm-icons named by women seeking arm-lifts from plastic surgeons)--arms are the new abs. Upper-arm lift procedures have shot up 4,378 percent over the past decade, according to a new report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons

Not everyone can raise their arms in public like Michelle Obama, pictured in The New York Post.Last year about 15,000 women (and a few men) had liposuction of the upper arms to remove fat from around muscles, or a surgical procedure called brachioplasty to remove flabby loose upper-arm skin--the scourge of women in evening gowns everywhere. Just a dozen years ago, only 300 people had such procedures over the course of a year.

While the growing popularity of weight-loss surgery has created legions of newly thin people with excess skin on the arms (losing 80 pounds or more can leave a lot of flesh hanging); the rise of famous women with the triceps of Adonis (yes a Greek god, not a goddess) also has a lot to do with the trend.

According to the poll commissioned by plastic surgeons, a full one-third of women want the arms of Michelle Obama, followed by Jennifer Aniston (29 percent), Jessica Biel (16), Kelly Ripa (13) and Demi Moore (11).

Perhaps shelling out $8,000 for a sculpting procedure is the fastest way to get a smokin' hot pair of "guns"--as Raphael Nadal calls his formidable biceps, triceps and deltoids. But we doubt that's how Kelly Ripa does it.

Spinners at cult spinning studio SoulCycle in Manhattan report frequent (ie. 5 days-a-week and sometimes Saturday mornings) sightings of Ripa in killer spinning classes. Let's face it, if you really want to reduce body fat there's no substitute for aerobics, sweat and tears.


The Crazy Amount of Sugar Hiding in Everyday Foods

This Buzzfeed video is a reminder to think before you eat. 


Probiotics May Help People With IBS Get Through Stressful Events Without Tummy Upsets

For those who have the sensitive gut issue known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), it's a given that stress makes it worse, but until now scientists have not understood why this is true. Now a University of Michigan Health System study has found the missing link that explains why a stressful event like a job interview can send IBS sufferers running to the bathroom at an inopportune moment. Even better, the researchers were able to halt the tummy trouble with probiotics, the live bacteria found in yogurt that help grow the gut-dwelling good bacteria.Probiotics, like Align, may help prevent stress from upsetting the gut.

During stress, the body produces a hormone (corticotropin-releasing hormone) that prevents immune system molecules from policing the microbiome in the gut. This group of immune system molecules known as inflammasomes maintain a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria, but when stress hits--say, when you are about to give that big speech--the body releases a hormone that suppresses inflammasomes.

With repeated stressors, the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut can get out of whack, causing bloating, cramping and diarrhea.

The good news is researchers were able to prevent the destructive effects of stress with probiotics. In the study, pretreatment with probiotic therapy reduced inflammation in mice with stress-induced small bowel inflammation.

The take home, then, is to take preventive probiotics (such as Align, Culturelle or Ultraflora, especially in the weeks before stressful events.


The Hunger Game: It's Not What You Eat, But What You Think You Eat

By Kathy Merrell

One of my college roommates had an odd habit.  As the lights were turned out and we were settling into sleep she'd recite everything she'd eaten that day. Eventually, she pulled me into counting calories instead of sheep, and after a few months I found that I did in fact become more aware of what I was eating. I wouldn't say it made me lose weight, but at a time when everyone else was packing on pounds with beer and pizza we did not.The tiny Hippocampus, which helps us record new experiences, may have a big impact on what we eat.

These late night food confessions came to mind with a new and intriguing bit of research about satiety and "memory for recent eating"--a hot research topic in the weight loss world--that showed people's perception of how much they ate had a stronger influence on subsequent hunger than the amount of food they actually ate.

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How About Some Wire Mesh With That Annie's Pizza?

Classic: you try to avoid pesticides and you get metal fragments instead. Annie's--of organic Mac-n-Cheese fame (not Amy's, which practically invented the organic frozen pizza)--has initiated a voluntary recall of Annie's Homegrown Frozen Pizza due to the possible presence of fragments of metal in the dough.  

According to the FDA, "The company announced the recall after learning a fine metal mesh screen failed at a third-party flour mill and fragments of flexible metal mesh were found in the flour and pizza dough." Annie's says they haven't found metal in their products, but are recalling as a precaution.

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What to do When You Have the Flu: Dr. Merrell's Guide to Treatment

By Woodson Merrell, M.D.

My integrative approach to conquering the flu tackles the problem from two angles, with the conventional approach of targeting the virus and the complementary approach of strengthening the immune system. The goal is always to treat as gently as possible with medicines and supplements that help the body's natural tendency to heal itself.

For all of these remedies, you must contact your health care provider first to make sure of the safety and appropriateness for your use.

Attack the Influenza Virus 

The drug Tamiflu can help kill the flu virus if taken in the early stages.See Your Doctor for a Prescription of Anti-Viral Flu Medication: These medications are helpful for reducing the virus's severity and duration. Ask your doctor about Tamiflu (preferred), Flumadine, Relenza (inhaled formor Amantadine. The earlier you can get one of these medications on board the more effective they will be.

Help Your Immune System Recognize and Kill the Flu Virus with the Homeopathic Remedy, Oscillococcinum:  Much like a natural vaccination, Oscillococcinum--homeopathic pellets available in most drug stores--provides an infinitesimal dose of a non-threatening flu-like molecule that prompts the body to mount a response. In order to work it must be taken at the first sign of symptoms. One vial of pellets under the tongue three times a day for the first two to three days of symptoms.

Gird Your Immune System for the Fight

For general immune support, in order of preference; more than one supplement from each category at a time may be used synergistically (see note, below, for supplement purchasing resources): 

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Keeping the Flu At Bay; Dr. Merrell's Guide to Prevention

By Woodson Merrell, M.D.

(Precautionary Note: Always check with your primary care provider before using any supplement or OTC/ prescription remedy, especially if on medications, pregnant or you have a serious medical condition.)

If you don't have the flu, and want to stay healthy:

An herb based hand sanitizer has been shown to kill germs as well as alcohol based counterpartsMake a Force-Field: While most of us have the wits to steer clear of people who are wheezing and coughing, it's the invisible traces of virus they leave behind that usually get us....public transportation; any door or handle in a public place; desks; chairs, telephones spinning bikes are all potential flu breeding grounds.

At the very least, don't touch your face when you are out in public--your hands can't catch the flu, but they can bring it to your face where it finds a way into your system. Get as paranoid as your mother--use paper towels to turn off public sinks after hand washing, and when you open public bathroom doors on your way out.

Use a hand sanitizer like Purell; or I am partial to CleanWell, a thyme based hand sanitizer. The volatile oils in thyme have demonstrable anti-microbial compounds that are gentler on the skin than alcohol.


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A New Idea For Heart Health: The Micro-Workout

A brief run--say, for the train or plane---may help your heart, according to new research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This novel look at a group of participants in the behemoth Framingham Heart Study has discovered that the cumulative effect of short bouts of exercise of less than 10 minutes duration confers cardiovascular benefits equal to more prolonged workouts.  The only catch: short bursts of exercise--taking the stairs briskly, jogging in place at your desk, running between meetings--must add up to the established heart healthy guideline of roughly 30 minutes moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week. 

The finding that micro-workouts improve heart health magically transformed this study cohort of 2,109 middle-aged Americans from sedentary to active. When short bouts of exercise were excluded only 10% of men and 15% of women met the U.S. guideline of performing 150 minutes of exercise weekly. But when researchers broadened the definition of exercise to include physical activity of less than 10 minutes duration (and outfitted participants with accelerometers to monitor movement) they found 56% of men and 47% of women met the 150 minute weekly target.

This begged the question: do short bouts of exercise improve heart health? And the answer from this study is a qualified yes.

As long as participants moved for 150 minutes a week, those who met the target with multiple short bouts of less than 10 minutes of exercise showed statistically significant reduction in cardiovascular risk factors similar to those who reached the exercise goal with longer bouts of exercise. 

This means you don't have to don your workout gear every day--and obsessively watch the clock on the treadmill--to keep your heart healthy. Walking briskly, heavy cleaning, badminton and golf were considered in this study to be "moderate" activities that support heart health; hiking, jogging, farming and shoveling were among activities classified as "vigorous."

The researchers used a strict measure of success that included classic cardiovascular targets: elevated HDL, lower triglycerides, reduced waist circumference and lowered Body Mass Index. Clearly, if you are training for, say, a half marathon the fitness target and program would be different.


Nothing (except, perhaps, Anne Wojcicki) Comes Between Me and My Genes

If Anne Wojcicki has her way, all of us will one day soon carry the details of our genome on our iPads.  With a financial assist from her husband, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Wojcicki has built a company, 23andMe, that can analyze people's DNA SNPs (not the whole genome, but many of the important bits that differ from the "norm" and make us distinct as well as susceptible to certain diseases) for an absurdly affordable $99. If she really gets her way, all of us will be helping to cure our own diseases.Anne Wojcici, medical suffragette, co-founder of 23andMe.

One of the perks of having a joint checking account with a Google founder is you can gain access to an Illumina OmniExpress Plus Genotyping BeadChip--a top-of-the-line SNP genotyping device that determines variations in genetic sequences and is normally found in university research labs and biotech companies. Wojcicki (pronounced woh-jit-skee) is making the Illumina BeadChip's powers of analysis available to the general public, and she's hired super-smart scientists to program her nifty little machine to ask questions she's interested in; for example, about the gene patterns associated with Parkinson's Disease, which runs strongly in her husband's family.  

Wojcicki (who holds a B.S. in biology from Yale and is the daughter of a Stanford physics professor) is a disruptor, with a big idea that will probably seem quite obvious in a couple of decades. In her vision, rather than guessing what disease tendencies are hidden in our 23 pairs of chromosomes (hence the company name), we will know for sure--and benefit from ongoing research into causes and prevention. The idea is that knowing your genetic weaknesses will help you figure out how to overcome them. The pro basketball player Muggsy Bogues (whose height at 5'3" is practically a disease in the NBA) is the 23andMe mascot for beating genetic odds. Equally as important, because research is constantly yielding new insights into genetic variations in drug metabolism (from chemotherapy to blood thinners), knowing the details of one's genome will help doctors target drugs and tailor dosages to fit one's genetic blueprint.

Talk about empowering patients! Wojcicki is a medical suffragette--she wants us all to participate in determining our medical destinies.

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Is There Weight Loss In A "Natural" Pill?

Just Maybe: Especially this time of year it seems impossible to stay trim without an assist from our functional food pals. Many supplements claim to help burn fat and squelch appetite--two things that are hard to do in the season of gingerbread and eggnog. Here, a few supplements that intrigue us, and why.

The plucky little raspberry may hold the key to releasing fat stored in cells.Raspberry Ketone:  Dr. Oz kicked off raspberry ketone hysteria when he talked about this compound's ability to increase the breakdown of fat in some rat fat cells. The rats' abdominal fat purportedly melted away, which is of course what we all dream of as we struggle through crunches.

The supplement is said to work through two weight regulating mechanisms: the breakdown of fat by norepinephrine; and the release of adiponectin, the fat-busting hormone that regulates fat and sugar metabolism (having low adiponectin is associated with obesity and diabetes.) Intriguingly, research indicates raspberry ketone has the potential to activate "brown" fat; good body fat that revs the metabolism and is the type of fat thin people have in small doses.

Since Dr. Oz mentioned the supplement the market has been flooded with products; our interest is piqued by 250 mg Raspberry Ketone tablets from Natural Sport (manufactured by Utah based Nutraceutical Corporation), which contains two amino acids (L-phenylalanine and L-tyrosine) that support the production of norepinephrine, thus giving a bit more bang for the ketone buck. (Caution: People with PKU [an inborn metabolic error] cannot take phenylalanine and will have to find another raspberry ketone product from a reputable vendor, see below.)

The heat in peppers may help burn calories.Capsaicin (cayenne pepper):  As previously reported in iwellville, Korean researchers have demonstrated that capsaicin (the active compound responsible for the hot sensation in chile peppers) boosts the activity of genes associated with turning up the body's furnace

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A New Link Between Toxins and Fertility, Especially for Men

A new study raises the specter that environmental damage inflicted by persistent pollutants, even from pesticides banned long ago, is responsible for a general decline in fertility in the U.S.  Previous research has demonstrated that sperm carries bio-markers of a mother's--and even a grandmother's--exposure to environmental toxins.A chemical in microwave popcorn bags might be making it harder for couples to get pregnant,

Now this powerful new study published in the peer reviewed journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (a branch of the NIH) makes an association between fertility and exposure to persistent environmental toxins like pesticides, PBDEs (the flame retardants found in most all upholstered furniture) and PFOAs (ubiquitous chemicals from a range of sources including stain resistant carpet, household dust and microwave popcorn bags.) 

The presence of these chemicals in the bloodstream was associated with a decline in the crucial measure of fertility (known as "time to pregnancy") that is equivalent to that of age, smoking and obesity.

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Telomeres, Biological Markers of Stress, Linked to Lifespan

Researchers have theorized that telomeres are the key to immortality. And linking telomeres--protective caps at the ends of chromosomes--to lifespan is a Holy Grail of anti-aging research. A Nobel prize has already been awarded for research showing that chronic stress (such as taking care of a partner with dementia) is associated with shortened telomeres. And now along comes this intriguing new finding from the Kaiser Permanente Research Program on Genes, Environment and Health.Heavy drinking was associated with shorter telomeres, which increases the risk of dying.

Reporting at the November 8 annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, Kaiser Permanente researchers measured telomere length in an unusually large sampling of 110,266 people in northern California, and found that the 10 percent of people with the shortest telomeres had a more than 20 percent higher risk of dying than people with longer telomeres.

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