Salon Forum™...Women Gathering for Connection and Personal Enrichment
Here are some excerpts of articles I thought you might find to be of value.  (See list to the left and just click on whatever interests you.) Please note that this in no way should be considered "medical advice" but only things that I have read and follow for myself based on the sources listed as well as other supporting material which I have read.

9 Ways to Add 30 Years to Your Life

How long will you live? While good genes help, fully 70% of your longevity is determined by lifestyle.  These tips for adding years to your life were compiled from three sources:
--Dr. Sanjay Gupta's book "Chasing Life"
--Dr. Thomas Perls' longevity calculator

Many of these you probably know, but reading them all together might  encourage positive  shifts or greater commitment to stay on track.

 TO ADD...

5 years: Don't smoke
It's not cool to smoke. You smell, your teeth turn yellow, your skin looks like leather and your voice gets low and raspy. It also gives you lung cancer. Ick.


5 years: Eat power foods
It's all about the antioxidants. Every day you should eat a handful of dark chocolate and almonds, as well as fruits, vegetables, garlic and even a glass of wine.

4 years: Skip the fast food
Drive past the McDonald's and Wendy's without stopping and you'll live a lot longer since you're not ingesting all that fat and cholesterol.


3 years: Get moving
Run for 30 minutes, five days a week and you can live up to four years longer. If you walk, you'll add three years.


3 years: Get married (ed. note: Do I have to?)
Numerous studies have shown that married people are happier and healthier. Why? They take care of each other. Face it, most men see a doctor because their wives made the appointment and told them to go.

3 years: Eat salmon twice a week
Eating fatty fish that contains omega 3 fatty acids, such as wild salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines, not only appears to lower your risk of Alzheimer's disease, but also helps control triglyceride levels and inflammation.

3 years: Lose the fat
You'll not only look and feel better, but you'll be healthier if you lose weight. Being overweight increases your risk of death by 20 to 40%. Now that's motivation!

3 years: Have sex
Having sex two to three times a week helps you live longer by cutting in half your risk for heart disease and stroke. How? Sexual intercourse burns about 200 calories, which is the same as running for 30 minutes.


1 year: Floss daily
The greatest benefit of regular flossing is healthy gums. Research has shown that gum inflammation is linked to heart disease. Keep your gums healthy and your heart may follow.



In the October 20, 2008 LA Times, the Health “Cancer Issue,” there was an excellent column on “Common, Frequent Early Symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. “It used to be felt that women with early-stage disease did not have symptoms. Now, it’s looking like up to 90% of women have early symptoms.”

Here’s what they are:

Back pain
Uninary problems
Abdominal pain
Bloating and increased abdominal size

43% of women with ovarian cancer responding to a study indicated that they had three of these—bloating, increased abdominal size, and urinary tract problems—simultaneously.

The women with ovarian cancer complained of having several symptoms every day compared to the control group, who complained of one or two symptoms several times a month.

So, be vigilant! Listen to your body and check out the above symptoms with your gynecologist immediately.

Addendum from one Salonista:

An additional challenge is getting the physicians to listen to women who present with these symptoms. My mother went to a gyn with specific symptoms and tremendous discomfort, but was told she was in excellent health. Within four weeks of that visit, she was given her diagnosis of stage III ovarian cancer. Doctors need to really listen...the disease whispers, but most women shout about their bodies.


Foods That Fight Cancer

By Kristin Kloberdanz

Will eating certain foods help reduce my chances of getting cancer?

Yes. And since fully one-third of cancer deaths each year are attributed to a poor diet, eating right is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself. Start by loading up on fruits and vegetables. Studies show that people who eat the most produce run just half the cancer risk faced by people who eat the least.

Many foods from the garden contain nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E , and selenium, which act as antioxidants; they trap and absorb free radicals, unstable oxygen molecules that form when cells burn off energy during normal metabolism. Left unchecked, free radicals can damage cells and lead to cancer.

Antioxidants are also abundant in tea. A 2005 Swedish study showed that the more cups of black or green tea you drink, the less risk you have of developing ovarian cancer. Epidemiologists reviewed the data from 61,057 women between the ages of 40 and 76 who had completed a food frequency questionnaire, and were followed for cancer incidence for an average of 15 years. Women who drank one cup of tea a day had a 24 percent reduced risk of ovarian cancer as compared to women who never or seldom drank tea. Tea lovers who drank two or more cups of tea had reduced their risk of ovarian cancer by 46 percent, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Other substances, called phytochemicals, may work by preventing carcinogens from forming in the body. Which cancer-fighting foods are best? They're all good, but here are a few stars of the produce aisle:

  • Dark leafy greens and deep yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, yams, and squash get their sunny pigment from antioxidants called carotenoids.


  • Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussels sprouts contain the phytochemical sulforaphane.

  • Garlic, onions, leeks, and shallots block carcinogens with organosulfides, the chemicals that give these vegetables their pungent odor.

  • Cooked into a sauce, tomatoes release lycopene, which seems to cut the risk of stomach, bladder, colon, and prostate cancer.

  • Red-hot capsaicin, which lends a kick to chili peppers, may offer protection against lung cancer by blocking damage to your genes from the carcinogens in food and cigarette smoke.

  • Cherries, plums, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and grapes get their deep hues from anthocyanins, chemicals that can neutralize carcinogens.

  • Citrus fruits are rich in limonene, which seems to stimulate your immune system to fight cancer cells.
  • Tea leaves (black as well as green) contain antioxidants called polyphenols.

Your cancer-fighting arsenal should also contain grains and legumes. Beans, nuts, and whole-grain breads and cereals can shield you from pancreatic and stomach cancer. They boast plenty of fiber to speed waste out of the body, giving harmful substances less time to damage the cells lining your digestive system. And if you strip away the soybean's plain facade, you'll find a potent tumor fighter called genistein, which may protect against reproductive cancers by interfering with the effects of estrogen.

How much of these foods should I eat?

Aim for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables every day — fresh, frozen, canned, dried, or made into juice. For grains and beans, the goal is 6 to 11 servings a day. That may sound like a lot of food, but one serving size is generally small — half a cup of veggies or a slice of bread.

Why can't I just get the nutrients I need from supplements?

The verdict is still out on supplements' cancer-fighting potential. On the promising side, one study of selenium supplements suggested that they may cut the risk of lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer, and vitamin E has lowered prostate cancer and death among smokers. But other studies aren't so encouraging. Scientists in the United States and Europe were alarmed to find that giving beta-carotene supplements to smokers actually increased their chances of getting lung cancer.

The problem is that although researchers have started to identify various compounds in food that can disarm cancer cells in the lab, they still don't know how these substances act inside the body. So far, no single food or chemical has been proved to work on its own.

Until more is known about supplements, it's probably smarter to get cancer-fighting protection from a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains, which will deliver a range of nutrients and keep you from taking in large and possibly harmful amounts of any one substance. The same goes for fiber supplements. The health benefits may come from a combination of elements rather than the fiber alone, so it's better to get your fiber from the real thing.

What foods should I avoid?

Cut back on fat. A high-fat diet has been linked to an increased risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. You should get less than 30 percent of your daily calories from fat. (In the average American diet, 37 percent of calories come from fat). Cut down most of all on saturated fat, the kind that hardens at room temperature and is found in animal products like meat and butter.

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Drinking raises your risk of cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, lungs, liver, and colon. If you're a man, hold the line at two drinks a day. If you're a woman, your body metabolizes alcohol differently, so you need to limit yourself to no more than one can of beer, one glass of wine, or one hard drink a day.

Eat processed meats sparingly; such items as hot dogs and lunch meats contain nitrates and nitrites. These preservatives have been linked to cancer of the esophagus and stomach in countries like Iceland, China, and Japan, where people eat large amounts of smoked, salted, or cured meat.

Don't overdo the barbecued meats. The longer you leave your meat on the barbie, the more carcinogens form in it. To reduce cooking time on the grill, first thaw meat or partly cook it in the microwave.

If I do get cancer, can any foods help treat or cure it?

There are tantalizing hints that diet can play a role in cancer treatment. A small Japanese study published in 1998, for instance, found that breast cancer was about half as likely to recur or metastasize in women who drank four or more cups of green tea a day. But there's no solid evidence yet that any particular food or diet can cure cancer. Until there is, one of the best ways to boost your immune system is to make sure that you're getting plenty of nutrients by eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Consider working with a registered dietitian to devise a meal plan that's right for you.

Kristin Kloberdanz, M.A., a former associate editor for Consumer Health Interactive, is an editor at Book magazine in New York City.



Exerpted from "Healthbeat," a Harvard Medical School publication

September 25, 2007

There are several forms of Vitamin D but the most powerful in terms of health benefits is Vitamin D3.  Vitamin D2 is what is typcially added to, not found naturally in milk as most people think.  (Some more health-oriented brands of milk, like Lactaid, contain Vitamin D3.)

The high rate of natural production of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) in the skin is the single most important fact every person should know about vitamin D because it has such profound implications for the natural human condition.  For years, most of us wrongly assumed we'd be fine if we drank a little milk and took a multivitamin pill. Now, studies are reporting most of us are vitamin D deficient and those deficiencies may well be causing numerous illnesses, especially cancer.

Vitamin D is a steroid hormone precursor that has recently been found to play a role in a wide variety of diseases. Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of cancer as well as heart disease, stroke, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, depression, chronic pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, birth defects, and periodontal disease—and it probably doesn't stop there, there is still much more research that needs to be done.

This does not mean that vitamin D deficiency is the only cause of these diseases, or that you will not get them if you take vitamin D. What it does mean is that vitamin D, and the many ways in which it affects a person's health, can no longer be overlooked by the health care industry nor by individuals striving to achieve and maintain a greater state of health. 

Vitamin D has long been recognized as vital to bone health because the body needs it to absorb calcium. But research has suggested that it may be good for a lot more than just bones. Ample intake of vitamin D may help fend off a wide range of conditions, including colon cancer, diabetes, and physical weakness in old age.

Meanwhile, another batch of studies has found that many people, especially as they grow older, have low levels of vitamin D in their blood. Our skin has an amazing ability to produce vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight, but with age, the skin becomes less productive. The problem is made worse by older people spending more time indoors.  Younger people absorb twice as much vitamin D than older people given the same exposure to sunlight.

Other factors that contribute to low vitamin D levels include living in the upper latitudes, where winters are long, and having darker skin. Rickets is the classic children’s disease caused by vitamin D deficiency. It has re-emerged as a problem in some African American communities.

Because of the evidence for shortfalls and the possibility of added benefits, some experts think the recommendations for vitamin D are set way too low. The vitamin D enthusiasts say adults should be getting at least 1,000 IU (International Units) a day.

The committees of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine to set daily nutrition requirements also calculate an upper limit (the technical term is Tolerable Upper Intake Level). It’s the too-much-of-a-good-thing level at which a normally healthful nutrient becomes possibly toxic.

An article published in the January 2007 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed dozens of vitamin D toxicity studies, including some that involved volunteers taking a whopping 100,000 IU a day. The authors concluded that the upper limit for daily intake of vitamin D could safely be set at 10,000 IU.

Still, a group of 15 nutrition experts cited the study in an editorial in the March 2007 issue of the same journal that called for an overhaul of vitamin D guidelines, although they stopped short of recommending definite amounts.

The experts — who include Dr. Walter C. Willett, chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department — noted that 400 IU doesn’t increase the amount of vitamin D circulating in the blood very much. Depending on how much a person started out with, they said a daily intake of about 2,000 IU  is necessary before blood levels get high enough for vitamin D to have its full disease-fighting effects.

Current vitamin D guidelines

Ages 19–50: 200 IU
51–70: 400 IU
71 and older: 600 IU

Calcium supplements often include some vitamin D. And you can buy separate vitamin D pills that contain 1,000 IU or more. Some multi-vitamins have started using the more potent vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the form that is used most often to fortify milk and other foods, such as breakfast cereals.

Getting more sun exposure is another way to increase vitamin D levels, although doing so means changing the advice to avoid sun and wear sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and other forms of skin damage. Some analysis shows that any increase in skin cancer from adding a small amount of unprotected sun exposure would be offset by declines in other forms of cancer.

Some vitamin D researchers want to see “safe sun” recommendations that would actively encourage people to get 15 minutes or so of sun a few times a week — without sunscreen, which blocks the UV radiation that triggers vitamin D production in the skin.

The pressure to revise vitamin D recommendations is building. The American Cancer Society is preparing its first comprehensive set of guidelines for skin cancer prevention. So stay tuned. 
There’s been a lot of disappointing news about vitamins, but vitamin D, and particularly vitamin D3, stands out as a bright spot.


Vitamin D Levels Linked to Breast Cancer

By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 16, 2008

Patients with deficient levels at the time of diagnosis are more likely to have their cancer metastasize and turn deadly, researchers say. But experts caution against treating cancer with supplements.

Women who had a vitamin D deficiency when they were diagnosed with breast cancer were 94% more likely to have their cancer metastasize and 73% more likely to die within 10 years, Canadian researchers reported Thursday.

The team also found that only 24% of the women in its study had what are normally considered adequate levels of vitamin D at the time of the diagnosis.  The study represents "the first time that vitamin D has been linked to breast cancer progression," said Dr. Pamela Goodwin of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, who led the study.

The results are "very provocative," said Dr. Joanne Mortimer, a breast cancer specialist at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, who was not involved in the study.  "There is some evidence that some of the drugs we use to treat breast cancer, such as aromatase inhibitors, need vitamin D to be activated and metabolized."

Some women who take the drugs get joint aches, Mortimer said, and when they are put on vitamin D, "they get better."  Experts cautioned, however, that it was too soon to recommend vitamin D supplements as a general treatment for breast cancer.
"We have no idea whether correcting a vitamin D deficiency will in any way alter these outcomes," said Dr. Julie Gralow of the University of Washington, who was not involved in the study.

The study was released by the American Society for Clinical Oncology. It will be presented next month in Chicago at the society's annual meeting.  Separately, a team from UC San Diego reported Thursday in the Breast Journal that global breast cancer incidence was linked to the amount of sunlight received annually. The skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

The vitamin is also found in certain foods, but in a less effective form than the vitamin D manufactured by the body.  Earlier studies have suggested that vitamin D may prevent prostate and colon cancer. In laboratory dishes and animals, the chemical blocks the formation of new blood vessels feeding tumors and interferes with the growth of abnormal cells.

About 215,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year and 41,000 women die from it.  In the Canadian study, sponsored by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Goodwin and her colleagues studied 512 Toronto women who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1989 and 1995, using stored blood samples taken at the time of diagnosis.

They found that 37.5% of the women were deficient in vitamin D and 38.5% had levels considered insufficient.  Ten years after their diagnosis, 83% of those who had adequate vitamin D levels were still alive, compared with 79% of those with insufficient levels and 69% of those who were deficient.  None of the patients were given vitamin D supplements.

Worldwide, approximately 1,150,000 women develop breast cancer each year and 410,000 die from it. 

Epidemiologist Frank C. Garland, of the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego, and his colleagues used data that recently became available from an international database of cancer incidence, called Globocan, developed by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

They plotted countrywide incidence of breast cancer for each country against that country's latitude.  Controlling for known variables such as meat, vegetable and alcohol intake, cigarette consumption, weight and fertility, they found that breast cancer incidence rose with increasing distance from the equator -- and thus with decreasing exposure to sunlight.

Incidence rates were about 30 cases per 100,000 at the equator and reached 90 to 100 per 100,000 at latitudes that encompassed New Zealand, Uruguay, France, Iceland and the United States.


This Food Prevents High Blood Pressure
Quick! Go get a glass of skim milk and a container of low-fat yogurt.

A two-year study of nearly 5,900 adults who ranged in age from 20 to 90 years old concludes that middle-aged adults who drink skim milk and eat other low-fat dairy foods have lower blood pressure than others their age. Mind you, these dairy foods don't lower high blood pressure, but rather seem to prevent it from ever occurring.

Researchers from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain found that those who had the highest intake of low-fat dairy products were 54 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure as those who consumed the fewest, reports Reuters. Even when other factors, such as overall diet, exercise, body weight and smoking, were included, the amount of dairy foods in the diet had a significant protective effect against hypertension. What didn't have an impact were high-fat dairy foods, such as whole milk and ice cream.

Lead study author Dr. Alvaro Alonso, who is now with the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told Reuters that while previous research has linked low-fat dairy consumption to lower blood pressure in children and young adults, this is the first study to focus on middle-aged adults, a time of life when blood pressure often spikes.

It's important to note that the study conclusions do not prove that low-fat dairy foods have a direct benefit on blood pressure, but the results are tantalizing even if it's not clear why they have this effect. While calcium surely plays some role, it's not the only magic ingredient. The research team speculates that the proteins in milk, including caseins and whey, may act much like drugs that lower blood pressure by converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors.


From the European Journal of Neuroscience
September, 2007

One drink--more than any other--will keep your brain young. And that drink is tea. Green tea or black tea. Hot tea or iced tea. It doesn't matter. Tea may be the brain's fountain of youth.

Regular consumption of either green or black tea seems to reduce the risk of age-related degenerative brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers from the Douglas Hospital Research Centre at McGill University in Canada. That's right. You may be able to protect your brain later from the ravages of dementia by drinking tea now.

How does tea do this? Catechins, an antioxidant in the tea, actually prevents neurons from dying, combating an underlying cause of Alzheimer's. Led by Rémi Quirion, the team used cultured nerve cells (also called neurons) and exposed them to amyloid, a protein believed to cause Alzheimer's disease. This molecule was toxic and caused cell death in the cultures; however, cell cultures that received the deadly amyloid followed by an administration of tea extracts and catechins were rescued and survived.

It's important to note the human clinical trials have not been conducted. Still, co-author Stéphane Bastianetto is encouraged. "This research does suggest that a regular consumption of tea, green or black, may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's."

The best way to make a cup of tea: For a great afternoon pick-me-up, brew a cup of tea and make it extra rich in antioxidants. To do this, use more tea leaves per cup or use less water. Brew it longer, and stir the leaves as the tea brews.

Superfoods for Heart Health

Wondering what you can do to take care of your heart? The answer may be as close as your refrigerator. With all the talk about cutting back on things like cholesterol and trans fats, don’t forget that what you do eat is just as important as what you don’t. Here are some great dietary choices to boost your heart health and help keep it that way.

It’s been used for its medicinal properties for centuries, but these days the hype on garlic is all about heart health.

You may have seen oatmeal ads touting its heart-healthy benefits. That’s because it contains a special type of fiber called beta-glucan that’s known to support healthy cholesterol levels. In fact, studies have shown that individuals can lower their total cholesterol by as much as 23 percent just by eating a bowl of oatmeal every day. And that’s pretty significant news when you consider the fact that even a one percent drop in cholesterol can measurably help support heart health. Oats also contain a unique antioxidant compound called avenanthramides, which helps prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol that can contribute to heart disease.

If you’re not eating fish a couple times a week, you’re missing out on some serious health benefits. Fatty types of fish are rich in good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids. And the news on omega-3s is particularly compelling if you’re concerned about heart health. There’s evidence that these fatty acids may help maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range and reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. For the most benefit, try fatty, coldwater fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines or herring.


Loaded with antioxidants like anthocyanins, blueberries help guard against free radical damage. In fact, they deliver 38 percent more of this cardio-protective compound than red wine. To get the full benefit of blueberries, eat them fresh rather than having them in processed foods or juices.

Nuts and Seeds
If you avoid nuts and seeds just because of their fat content, it’s time to give them another try.  While they tend to be high in fat and calories, eating nuts in moderation is actually good for you. That’s because they’re rich in monounsaturated fat, which helps lower bad cholesterol without reducing the good.  Unsaturated fatty acids like omega-3s also promote healthy blood vessels and help maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Plus, nuts and seeds are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, as well as amino acids that help keep artery walls healthy. To get your fill, eat a small handful of almonds, walnuts or flaxseeds each day.


Don’t let their small size deceive you. Soybeans are packed with protein, calcium, fiber, vitamin B and iron. Plus, they also contain protective plant chemicals called isoflavones, which may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. These plant chemicals inhibit the cell growth that causes plaque to form on the arteries and may also help lower cholesterol. Legumes like soy are loaded with protein and contain no cholesterol. Couple that with the fact that they’re low in fat, and you’ve got a great meat substitute that’s also good for your heart.

Avocados are yet another example of a food that’s high in fat but still good for you. Like nuts and seeds, avocados are a great source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. They also contain phytonutrients that help slow cholesterol absorption while guarding against hypertension. And they’re a good source of potassium and folate, which promote heart health and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Olive Oil

If you substitute extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter and other oils when cooking, you’re doing more than just making your food taste good. A study of olive oil use in Greece found that using olive oil exclusively in cooking was associated with a much lower likelihood of having heart disease. Another study found that LDL cholesterol that contained monounsaturated fats of olive oil was more resistant to oxidation. And given the fact that oxidation is what causes cholesterol to stick to artery walls, consuming olive oil may be a good way to prevent the damage that could lead to a heart attack or stroke. In addition to cooking with it, you can also use olive oil instead of butter as a condiment on breads and other foods.

Plant Sterols and Stanols
If you’re not yet familiar with these terms, you probably will be soon. As you might have guessed, plant sterols and stanols are derived from plants. Researchers have found that they help reduce cholesterol by preventing it from being absorbed in the intestinal tract. Found in many grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, soybeans, nuts and seeds, plant sterols and stanols are now commonly used to fortify margarine. If you do decide to incorporate fortified margarine in your diet though, do so in moderation. Since margarine is often hydrogenated and contains trans fats, a little goes a long way.

Dark Chocolate

As if you didn’t already have enough excuses to eat dark chocolate, you can add heart health to the list. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and flavonols that help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Just don’t overdo it or you’ll negate the health benefits.


How the French Stay Slim
Netscape News
October 2007

It's not fair. The French eat food that is bathed in thick, creamy sauces and then top it off with rich, buttery desserts. We Americans scarf down steaks on the grill and super-sized baked potatoes. The French definitely consume more fat than Americans, but just 7 percent of the French are obese, compared with 30 percent of Americans.

Question: It's called the "French paradox." Why are Americans so fat and the French so slim?

Answer: The French eat less. A lot less. And they have some lessons to teach Americans on how to eat very well and not gain weight while doing it.

How much less the French eat is actually eye-popping. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania compared typical portion sizes in Paris and Philadelphia on everything from candy bars to take-out food to soft drinks, reports Science Daily.

Put a fork in this:

The average portion size in Paris is 25 percent smaller than in Philadelphia.  Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia serve meals that are 72 percent larger than Chinese restaurants in Paris.

A candy bar in Philadelphia is 41 percent larger than the same candy bar sold in Paris.

A soft drink is 52 percent larger in Philadelphia than in Paris, while a hot dog is 63 percent larger and a carton of yogurt is a whopping 82 percent larger.

Even the American version of the cookbook "The Joy of Cooking" produced larger meat and soup portions than the French version, "Je Sais Cuisiner." Only vegetable dishes were smaller in the English-language edition.

The French also take a longer time to eat and savor their food, which is a known way to actually eat less. On average, Parisians spent 22 minutes eating their meals at McDonald's, compared to the 14 minutes Philadelphians took to scarf down their Big Macs. (Remember, kids, it's not a race.)

"The results suggest...that if served somewhat less than they would normally eat, people may be satisfied," lead researcher Paul Rozin reported in the journal Psychological Science. But here's the catch. The portions McDonald's and other restaurants serve in France are much smaller than in the United States--so much smaller that most Americans wouldn't buy them. They would think it wasn't a good value for their buck.

"Advice on Dire Diagnoses From a Survivor"

New York Times, Personal Health, by Jane Brody
July 3, 2007

Everyone knows lightning is not supposed to strike in the same place twice, let alone four times. Yet it did for Jessie Gruman, 53, the founder and president of the Center for the Advancement of Health, in Washington. She knows all too well what it's like to be on the receiving end of bad health news: first at age 20 with a diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease, 10 years later with cervical cancer, then five years ago with viral pericarditis (a potentially fatal infection of the heart's lining) and just three years ago with colon cancer.

With each diagnosis, knowing her life hung in the balance, she was ''stunned, then anguished'' and astonished by ''how much energy it takes to get from the bad news to actually starting on the return path to health.''

But following all four bouts with life-threatening illness, return to health she did, and the lessons she learned prompted her to write ''AfterShock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You -- or Someone You Love -- a Devastating Diagnosis.''

I consider this book so valuable I plan to keep it on my bedside table should I need it later on. Its recommendations are based not just on the author's experiences with illness, but also on interviews with more than 250 others: patients, family members, nurses, doctors, health plan administrators, managers of busy practices and nonprofit leaders.

The First 48 Hours

When confronted with a life-threatening diagnosis, most people feel a need to do something fast. But Dr. Gruman, who has a doctorate in social psychology, warns patients to ''slow down'' -- take time to confirm the diagnosis, seek a second opinion, consider the various treatment options and their potential side effects and long-term consequences. Doing a little homework before rushing into treatment can help you get the treatment that will work best for you.

Rather than mull over what you might have done to cause the condition, Dr. Gruman points out that the past is past and that the problem now is how to handle the future. Nor should you worry about being less than optimistic. It's normal to be depressed when you get terrible news about your future. As Dr. Gruman writes, ''Expressing fear, sadness, anger or guilt will not make your disease worse.''

Her common-sense suggestions for getting through those first two days include the following:

Recognize that this is a crisis and treat it as one. Don't act as if nothing is happening. If you want to be with family or friends, tell them. If you don't, tell them you need to be alone. And because memory is often slippery during a crisis, write down things you need to remember.

Protect yourself. Talk if you want to, cry if you need to. You don't have to explain to anyone what you decide to do. And if you find the information online confusing or frightening, stop searching.

Don't rush to form a treatment plan. Your main job now is to make the next doctor appointment and write down questions for your doctor, employer and insurance company.

Eat and rest. Emotional stress is exhausting. Try to nap, or if you're too agitated, go for a walk. Take some deep breaths and pursue your usual exercise if you feel like it. If sleep is elusive, ask your doctor for a temporary sleep aid.

Next, learn as much as you can about your condition and its potential treatments so that you can make an informed choice. How does the disease affect the body? What may cause it to get worse? How does it usually progress? What treatments are available, and how does each affect the disease? What complications and side effects are likely with each treatment?

But Dr. Gruman cautions against doing an exhaustive search for information to avoid taking the next step, since ''you are always going to have less than the optimal amount of information to make a decision.''

Enlist the Help You Need

When a good friend or family member is in trouble, people want -- and usually offer -- to help. And their help, both physical and emotional, can be very valuable, so take advantage of it.

Some people are also too ready to give advice and to tell about others they know who faced a similar predicament. If this is not what you want to hear, nip it in the bud without offending the person by saying, ''Thank you, but each patient is unique, and I'm going by what my doctor tells me.''

To get the help you really need, you will have to tell people what you are up against and give those who offer help something to do. Dr. Gruman suggests listing the necessary tasks that you may not be able to accomplish on your own, like grocery shopping; picking the children up at school, getting them to play dates or taking them for an outing or sleepover; and making meals. You should also include on your list the possible need for someone to accompany you to doctor appointments, transport you to a treatment center or simply take you out for a restorative lunch or walk in the park.

Try to match the tasks to individuals best able to achieve them. But don't be surprised if some say, ''Is there anything I can do to help?'' and then fail to follow through. You'll soon discover whom you can count on.

At the Doctor's Office

Taking someone with you to doctor appointments can be the most important thing you do. Under stress, memory is unreliable and even hearing can fail you. Dr. Gruman lists the characteristics of a person best suited to help at this time. Your partner should be free for at least two hours beyond when the appointment should end (delays are common); go over transportation and destination arrangements a day ahead of time; be willing to play whatever role you consider appropriate, like sitting quietly, taking notes or asking questions; and agree not to discuss the situation with others without your permission.

Of course, you should come to all doctor appointments with a list of all your questions and, if no one else is able to write down what the doctor says, you should tape-record the session so you can listen to it again at home and replay it for others if you choose to.

I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough. As Harry, a 78-year-old who accompanied his daughter to all her doctor appointments, put it to Dr. Gruman: ''Even if there are three of us in the room, we each remember different things that were said -- and sometimes the things we remember have different meanings to us'' and need to be sorted out or clarified by the doctor.

As Dr. Gruman notes, it is difficult to absorb unfamiliar technical information that you may have to weigh as you make decisions. Distress about your diagnosis and what it means for your future can impair your ability to listen and understand. You may find it hard to question, disagree or advocate for your own best interests when you feel your life is in the doctor's hands. And you may tend to dwell on the best-case or worst-case scenario, but having a record of what the doctor really said can provide a more realistic view of what lies ahead.

Slow Burn: How Aging Affects Metabolism

by Marin Gazzaniga for MSN Health & FitnesS

If you think you’ve put on a few extra pounds because your metabolism has slowed down, you may be only half right. It could be you who’s slowed down. Does metabolism really slow with age? Can things like green tea or diet aids speed it up? What works? Here’s a refresher on how your body burns energy and what you need to do to take those pounds off.

What is metabolism, anyway?

Most of us think of metabolism as the rate at which we burn calories. That’s only part of the story. “Metabolism is the breakdown of metabolic fuels we have in the diet,” explains Christopher Newgard, director of the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Duke University Medical School. “The primary nutrients in foodstuff can be classified as fats, proteins or carbohydrates. I think of metabolism as the way the cells, organs and tissues in our bodies handle those kinds of fuels.” In other words, it's not just about burning up the food we eat, but about how the various nutrients from that food help us maintain a healthy body.

Ever feel like you’re fighting a losing battle to shed pounds? At some level, you are. Basically, our bodies are built to store fat. It’s not just about energy in versus energy out. Newgard gives the example of primitive man who manages to kill a woolly mammoth. “There’s a feast, but then the food source becomes scarce. So we have pathways that allow us to store in times of plenty to be ready for times of deprivation.

Unfortunately, today we have ‘feast and feast some more and then feast again.’ That creates problems because our bodies are designed to store fat efficiently.”

Does metabolism slow or do we?

Both. But the slowing of metabolism is a real thing. “The primary thing that seems to occur is that mitochondria in the cells slow down with age,” says Newgard. (Think of mitochondria as little energy factories in cells that convert nutrients to power.)

And that’s not all. Barry Stein of Wake Forest University School of Medicine is writing a book about staying fit after 50. As he explains, “As we age, we are subject to sarcopenia—muscle wasting. Since muscle burns more energy than fat, this means the metabolic load goes down and metabolism reflects that.” That is, if you do nothing about your loss of muscle with age, it will take you longer to burn off a candy bar at age 60 than at 20.

Being overweight due to what Newgard calls the “feast and feast economy” seems to slow metabolism as well. An overweight person burns fat even less efficiently. Moreover, all the calories that aren’t used get converted to fat for storage—all in preparation for the famine that never comes. It’s a vicious cycle.

Add to this the fact that we tend to become less active as the years go by, and you can see why the inches start to gather around your waist.

How to slow the slowing?

If you’re tempted to throw up your arms and give in to the extra inches, think twice. There are things you can do to keep your metabolism efficient. Exercise is No. 1. “Exercise actually increases the number of mitochondria. And also increases their metabolic activity,” explains Newgard.

Exercise also simply burns calories. Twins Tammy and Lyssie Lakotos, authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism, recommend both cardiovascular activity and weight training. “Cardiovascular activity burns calories while you do it. Additionally, you could burn about 20-30 additional calories afterwards, which may not seem like a big amount daily, but adds up over a lifetime,” says Tammy Lakotos.

Strength training is effective long after you’ve put down the barbells because muscle burns more calories than fat while you’re at rest.

Eat balanced meals

It may sound simple and boring, but there’s good reason that balanced diets are what the nutrition experts always recommend. “Each of the primary food fuels has important individual contributions to make to the whole metabolic scheme,” Newgard says. Fatty acids are important in the synthesis of cell membranes. Carbs are a quick energy source and used for a whole plethora of biochemical reactions, including building DNA. Amino acids build protein—the structural basis of our cells. Again, all of this is part of metabolism—converting and using nutrients to maintain healthy cells, organs and tissues.

Diets that eliminate an entire food group will take a toll on the body in the long run.  The twins recommend having whole-grain carbs with each meal (for brain and muscle fuel), but also including protein, which takes longer to digest and will keep you going longer. This means a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with mustard or whole-wheat pasta with chicken and veggies.

Eat often

Don’t skip meals, say the twins. “You can get away with it in your 20s but eventually your body gets smart and starts to conserve when you go for awhile without eating. Skipping meals can lead to overeating because you’re hungry and then you are taking in extra calories when your body is starting to conserve,” adds Tammy.

“I describe it as the fed and fast states,” says Newgard. “ ‘Fed’ is when you’ve eaten a meal and there is energy coming into your system, whereas ‘fast’ is Saturday morning at 10 after eating at 7 the night before, so you’ve had no nutrients for 12 to 15 hours.” Your biochemistry is different in these two states and that directly affects when you feel hungry and full. “You may think that your cravings are controlled by you and your willpower. But in fact there’s a whole hormonal circuitry that controls these feelings.” So give your willpower a boost by eating a healthy breakfast.

Drink water

“Every process in the body takes place in water,” says Lyssie Lakotos. “Drinking water helps with digestion and metabolism efficiency.” Plus, when you are dehydrated, you feel lethargic, you move less. “You don’t get up out of your office chair, and burn less energy that way too,” she adds.

What about green tea or diet aids? Do they speed metabolism?

You have to be careful with supplements that have caffeine and other herbs, as they are not necessarily safe. The twins steer people away from bitter orange (also known as citrus aurantium), which is especially popular now that ephedra is banned. “[Bitter orange] may increase risk of heart irregularities, increase blood pressure and interfere with some medications,” Tammy warns. When it comes to green tea, on the other hand, drink up. Studies have indicated that drinking about five cups of green tea a day may increase metabolism slightly. Plus it’s a great source of antioxidants.

In the end, age will slow us down. But by staying active and eating well, the experts agree: You can slow the effects of a slowing metabolism.

"Big Yawn, Cooler Brain? Researchers Say Yes"

From Vital Signs, New York Times
July 3, 2007

Over the years, there have been many theories for why people yawn. It has been associated with sleepiness and boredom, and, incorrectly, with low oxygen levels in the blood.

''No one knows why we yawn,'' says Andrew C. Gallup, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Albany.  Now Dr. Gallup and fellow researchers have a new explanation: yawning, they said, is a way for the body to cool the brain.

Writing in the May issue of Evolutionary Psychology, they reported that volunteers yawned more often in situations in which their brains were likely to be warmer.

To prove their theory that yawning regulates brain temperature when other systems in the body are not doing enough, the researchers took advantage of the well-established tendency of people to yawn when those around them do -- the so-called contagious yawn.

The volunteers were asked to step into a room by themselves and watch a video showing people behaving neutrally, laughing or yawning. Observers watching through a one-way mirror counted how many times the volunteers yawned.

Some volunteers were asked to breathe only through their noses as they watched. Later, volunteers were asked to press warm or cold packs on their foreheads.

''The two conditions thought to promote brain cooling (nasal breathing and forehead cooling) practically eliminated contagious yawning,'' the researchers wrote.  The study may also help explain why yawning spreads from person to person.  A cooler brain, Dr. Gallup said, is a clearer brain.

So yawning actually appears to be a way to stay more alert. And contagious yawning, he said, may have evolved to help groups remain vigilant against danger.

Women Are Happiest at THIS Age.

From "Netscape News" June 2, 2007

Women are happiest between the ages of 50 and 70, a finding that is likely to surprise a lot of people. (Ed. Note: But not the women of Salon Forum!) That's the word from Chicago-based TrendSight Group, a consulting think tank, that conducted in-depth interviews with 50 women and supplemented that information with the results of a 30-year lifestyle study.

The results? They found that women in this age group are more than just content with life. They also believe they're in the prime of their life. Why? They feel liberated! They are not only happier, more confident, more involved and more socially active than their mothers were at this age, but also compared to today's younger women.

"The majority of today's older women don't experience midlife as a 'crisis'-- the way some men typically do," says lead study author Marti Barletta and author of "PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Business of Boomer Big Spenders." "They truly feel at their peak--personally, professionally, financially and psychologically. They are what I've come to call The PrimeTime Women." The 50-plus population is growing, while the under-50 population is shrinking. Barletta advises that "younger generations need to know aging isn't a dirty word; with it can come incredible confidence, strength and freedom."

According to Barletta's research, older women are more content with their lives than younger women. Overall, older women say this is a time of new freedom, since they no longer feel constrained by familial and societal pressures to be, act or think a certain way. Only 42% of older women felt they were under a great deal of pressure most of the time, compared with 65% of younger women.

Older women know adversity will come, but feel they have the tools and skills to handle it. "PrimeTime Women experience what I call a 'liberation from expectation.' They have a newfound control over their lives," says Barletta. "Our research confirmed what numerous studies have indicated, but that society has chosen to ignore--the 50s and 60s are the happiest decades of life."

Older women are involved with their family, work, community and society more deeply and passionately than younger women. Fifty-eight percent of women 50 to 70 consider their work "a career" rather than just a job, compared to 51% of women 25 to 49. Moreover, 66% of older women say they enjoy their work "a lot" compared to 56% of younger women. This is real optimism: Fully 59% of women ages 50 to 70 feel their greatest achievements are still ahead of them. (Right about that one!!)