Friday, February 29, 2008

This Mineral May Prevent Weight Gain

Calcium not only keeps our bones strong, but also it appears to fight middle-aged spread, according to a new study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Women in their 50s who took more than 500 milligrams of calcium supplements daily gained 4 pounds less over 10 years than women who didn't use supplements, reports Reuters.

Don't get too excited and start popping calcium tablets. Lead study author Dr. Alejandro J. Gonzalez says more research and randomized clinical trials are needed before calcium can be recommended as a weight maintenance tool. Still, there is evidence that calcium can help you stay slimmer even if it's not yet conclusive. Specifically, when there is a low calcium intake, the amount of calcium contained inside the body's cells is actually boosted. That turns on certain genes that are involved in fat formation, while at the same time suppressing the breakdown of fat.

To find out what role calcium played in weight maintenance, the Seattle team analyzed weight gain and calcium intake in 10,591 men and women ages 53 to 57 over eight to 12 years. They found that while calcium had no relationship in weight gain or loss for men, it did have an effect for women. Specifically, women who consumed more than 500 milligrams of calcium supplements daily gained 11.2 pounds over 10 years, compared with 15.2 pounds for those who didn't take supplements.

"Although more evidence from randomized clinical trials is needed before calcium supplements can be recommended specifically for weight loss, this study suggests that calcium supplements taken for other reasons (e.g., prevention of osteoporosis) may have a small beneficial influence on reducing weight gain, particularly among women approaching midlife," Gonzalez wrote in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

-----from the editors at Netscape

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

How to Lose Weight and Eat Anything

You can eat basically anything you want, and you'll lose weight if you religiously take a brisk 30-minute walk six days a week. According to new research from the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., that much exercise is enough to trim your waistline and cut your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a common condition linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle that raises the odds of heart disease, diabetes and stroke, reports Reuters Health. "Our study shows that you'll benefit even if you don't make any dietary changes," study leader Johanna L. Johnson said in a statement.

The study: The Duke team examined results from the STRRIDE study (Studies of a Targeted Risk Reduction Intervention through Defined Exercise), which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. In this study, 171 middle-aged and overweight men and women were examined for the effects of varying amounts and intensity of exercise.

The results: They found that 41 percent of the participants had metabolic syndrome before they began exercising regularly. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of five conditions: a large waistline, high blood pressure, high levels of harmful triglycerides, low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol and high blood sugar. But after eight months of exercise, only 27 percent still had metabolic syndrome. "That's a significant decline in prevalence," said Johnson. "It's also encouraging news for sedentary, middle-aged adults who want to improve their health. It means they don't have to go out running four or five days a week; they can get significant health benefits by simply walking around the neighborhood after dinner every night." In addition, the Duke team found there was a greater health benefit to doing exercise of moderate intensity most days of the week over more intense activity just a few days a week.

The takeaway: Duke cardiologist Dr. William E. Kraus, the study's principal investigator, told Reuters, "The results of our study underscore what we have known for a long time. Some exercise is better than none, more exercise is generally better than less, and no exercise can be disastrous." The study findings were published in the American Journal of Cardiology this month.


If you want to walk while staying in the comfort of your home, choose a treadmill instead! The se are the top-rated at Wal-Mart:

Ironman 220t Treadmill
A compact, low-maintenance way to burn calories, the Ironman 220t treadmill has a shock-assist, fold-up design which easily stores away when not in use. It also has a large 20" W x 56" L running surface and with its handlebar-controlled speed and incline toggle switches, it offers a safe, self-controlled workout. Plus, a clever 2-speed fitness fan makes sure you won't overheat! With a powerful 2.25 hp motor and 5-window LED matrix display.

Healthrider Pro H450i Treadmill
With built-in weight loss workouts and a pair of three-pound hand weights, the HealthRider Pro H450i takes your weight loss goals seriously.

Gold's Gym Cross Trainer 600 Treadmill
Maximize your weight loss while building lean, long muscles with the Gold's Gym Cross Trainer 600 treadmill. Features an Audio Crosstrainer with audible and visual prompts that help you perform a variety of strength-training exercises throughout 6 cross-training workouts to help you target trouble spots and tone and tighten your entire body.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Product of the day: CigBanz™

Quitting smoking can be a difficult process and most of the time people need a little help. CigBanz™ is a set of cards that, when placed over a pack of cigarettes, helps one cut down or quit smoking. The CigBanz program approaches addiction at the moment of indulgence, helping to effectively break down behavior and psychological associations.

CigBanz contains 112 individual messages printed on 28 double-sided cards, which range in tone from gentle coaching to strong statements. Each card presents a personal reason why one should not smoke. Some cards focus on a variety of motivations including health, family and quality of life. Simply place a card over the top of the pack, securing both message panels inside the clear cellophane wrapper. The card must be removed before a cigarette can be pulled from the pack.

Additional features:

  • Contains 112 individual messages on 28 double-sided cards
  • Two blank cards are included to hold up to eight personal messages
  • Also includes 6-step Quit-Smoking instruction guide
Available at Unseen on TV

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Okinawa 8-Week Diet Plan

Okinawa: lean people, long, healthy lives

N'kashin tchu nu kutuba ya, amari fusuko neran.
The wisdom of the ancients is still true and applicable.

Far off in the East China Sea, between the main islands of Japan and Taiwan, is an archipelago of 161 beautiful, lush green islands known as Okinawa. The beaches are a dazzling powdery white; the waters are crystal turquoise, and the pristine subtropical rain forests house a huge variety of exotic flora and fauna. But while Okinawa has all the makings of a tropical paradise, it is in fact something even more special-Okinawa is more like a "real-life Shangri-la."1 Why?

Because the islands are home to the longest-lived population in the world.2 It's a place where the aging process seems to have slowed and age-related diseases common in the West are kept to a minimum (see figure 1.1). Great-grandfathers practice martial arts. Energetic great-grandmothers garden and perform traditional dance. And some centenarians of both sexes even run businesses and lead socially fulfilling and wonderfully independent lives. You can see them daily as you stroll the streets. Here, a lean, wiry woman who appears to be sixty walks with a container of freshly made Okinawan tofu perched on her head-she's ninety-nine years old. There, a slender, tanned "seventy-something" woman sells traditional bright red, yellow, and blue Okinawan kimonos in the thriving marketplace-she's actually 101. And there, a spry woman pushing an overloaded wheelbarrow collects bottles for her recycling company-she's 102 years old. And over there, a fit-looking, older man with a floppy straw hat threshes sugarcane. He is 103 years old. This is life as usual in Okinawa.

Ihope to live to 120... To tell the truth, I really only feel like eighty.
--Ushi Okushima, 100 years old

Okinawa, in fact, has the highest concentration of centenarians worldwide, some of them 110 years old and older, including the world's oldest living citizen, Kamato Hongo, still going at age 116.3 These so-called supercentenarians now account for more than 15 percent of the world's documented living supercentenarians-despite Okinawa's paltry 0.0002 percent contribution to the world's population.4 When you consider that the United States counts only about 10 centenarians per 100,000 people, while Okinawa has 40 per 100,000, you begin to see the significance of these numbers.5

My brother and I first began investigating this amazing phenomenon a decade ago when we joined Dr. Makoto Suzuki as part of the research team for the landmark Okinawa Centenarian Study, which had been established in 1976 to uncover the secrets of the elders' successful aging. But we had been fascinated by reports of unusually hale and hearty Okinawan elders all through our university days. It was in 1994, in fact, upon meeting one of these elders, Mr. Toku Oyakawa, while doing a research project as medical and graduate students at the University of Toronto that we initially felt compelled to go to Okinawa.

We had been studying the impact of body fat on hormone-associated cancers, and because the Japanese had among the lowest risks of breast, prostate, and colon cancers in the world, we had wanted to include as many Japanese (and Japanese-Canadians) in our study as possible.6 Mr. Oyakawa, who had been raised in Okinawa and had immigrated to Canada more than half a century earlier, graciously agreed to an interview. At the time, he was 105 years old and likely the oldest man in Canada.

When we arrived at his home in the Ontario countryside, Mr. Oyakawa was just coming back from fishing-one of his regular favorite pastimes. As he walked over to greet us, fresh catch in hand, we were flabbergasted. This 105-year-old man was lean and vital. He had twinkly eyes and tan, supple skin, and he moved with a grace and ease that any seventy-year-old would envy. After talking with him for only a few minutes, it was obvious that his mind was as youthful as his body.

As Mr. Oyakawa recounted stories of his unusually long life and told us about Okinawa, we were more fascinated than ever. One fact that especially caught our attention was that Mr. Oyakawa and his ninety-two-year-old wife (who was also in incredible shape) had maintained a near-traditional Okinawan diet during all their years in Canada. Dietary habits were an important part of our study, and if indeed there was an entire population of people who had the same eating patterns as Mr. Oyakawa and were as fit, slim, and healthy as he was, we absolutely needed to find out more. With the help of a research grant from the Medical Research Council of Canada, we were soon on our way to the East China Sea.

Okinawa has been a big part of our lives ever since-and it's even more magical for us now than it was in the beginning. Amid the physical beauty of the islands, we've discovered a rich, wondrous culture with fascinating shamanistic traditions and inspiring holistic beliefs. It's a land where good health is viewed as a natural right, women play the dominant role in religion, the elderly are honored and revered, and ancient healing herbs and tonics are smoothly integrated with Western medicines. And the people are truly exceptional.

The men and women we've met, interviewed, and befriended over the years-many of whom we introduced to you in our last book, The Okinawa Program-are remarkable individuals in their eighties, nineties, and beyond, who in many ways are much like Mr. Oyakawa. Their minds are lucid, their bodies are slim, their movements are fluid, and their zest for life is infectious. And, of course, their health is superb for their years. Not only do these long-lived people have among the lowest rates of the West's leading killers-cancer, heart disease, and stroke-but they also have the world's longest disability-free life expectancy.7 While Americans have about seven years of disability at the end of their lives, Okinawans have only 2.6 years of disability-even though they live longer than Americans. This means that Okinawans are not just living longer but living longer in good health-and that's really the secret to successful aging. I think we'd all agree that longevity tends to lose its appeal if it means years of infirmity and dependency.

Other Shangri-la Contenders

Of course, we've heard stories of such Shangri-la populations before. Long-lived people supposedly lived in abundance in Pakistan's Hunza Valley, in the mountainous village of Vilcabamba in Ecuador, and in the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union, where yogurt was supposed to be the magic elixir. (The TV commercial featuring an ancient Soviet Georgian crone sweetly coaxing her octogenarian son to eat his yogurt is a classic.) Unfortunately, none of those longevity claims held up to scientific scrutiny.8 On close examination, it turned out that age exaggeration was rampant and that birth certificates-the sine qua non of credibility in studies of long-lived people-were few and far between.

Okinawa, however, is a different story. Every town, city, and village has an official family register system (koseki) that has been recording all births, marriages, and deaths since 1879. Pertinent data, including birth certificates, are highly reliable. There's no doubt that Okinawan centenarians have beaten the odds to ascend the peak of the world's longevity scale. The question is, How did they do it.

The Okinawa Centenarian Study

That question continues to be addressed and answered by the Okinawa Centenarian Study. The study, now entering its twenty-eighth year, is the world's longest-running population-based study of centenarians and has spawned more than two hundred scientific papers.9 Over the years, we've interviewed and examined more than seven hundred Okinawan centenarians and hundreds of "youngsters" in their seventies, eighties, and nineties, looking for any and all commonalities in their diets, exercise habits, genetics, psychospiritual practices, and social structures that could possibly explain their long-term vitality and exceptionally healthy longevity. And we've found many of them.

We shared a good number of these discoveries with you in The Okinawa Program as we explored the elders' life-affirming worldviews, supportive social structures, and inspiring psychospiritual practices, examined their restorative eating and exercise habits, and developed a holistic health program geared toward healthy longevity.10 Now we have more to share with you. Since the highly successful publication of that book, our ongoing study has continued to reveal even more secrets of the Okinawans' healthy lifestyle. Our latest findings are not only among the most outstanding-they could make a huge difference in your life.

Discovery: Okinawan Elders are lean for life

We've always been impressed by how slim and fit the Okinawan elders are, but recently we discovered something even more impressive. The Okinawans are not just lean; they are lean for life. Okinawan elders constitute one of the only known adequately nourished large-scale populations that have not gained significant weight with age.11,12 While most of us struggle daily to keep off the pounds, the Okinawan elders have done it naturally all their lives, without dieting and without giving it a second thought. In fact, many of the healthy, slim centenarians we've interviewed over the years are not even familiar with the concept of dieting.

This was a startling discovery as well as a watershed in gerontology research. To get accurate data on a population's long-term weight gain and eating habits, researchers have to carefully follow a group of people over a long period and check them at regular intervals. That's why these kinds of studies are expensive and rarely undertaken. But the ancestors must have been smiling on us with the Okinawans. Like the fortunate existence of birth certificates that verified their ages, we found records that gave us impressive data on the Okinawans' health and dietary statistics over the years.

Our search first took us back to early Japanese government dietary surveys, which we meticulously studied and compared with the dietary surveys of elder Okinawans we ourselves had compiled over twenty-eight years in our Okinawa Centenarian Study. Then we flew to Washington, D.C., and pored over thousands of documents from the National Archives for health and nutrition data on the Okinawans. (Because Okinawa was an American territory from 1945 to 1972, the National Archives are a storehouse of useful historical data.) All our weeks in the paper trenches paid off. We discovered stacks of records listing the actual kinds of foods Okinawans ate, its caloric content, and the heights and weights of the people surveyed.

This was an awesome find. Joining this treasure trove with other data we had collected from old anthropological records and the modern data we've been collecting since the 1970s, we were able to piece together fascinating statistics that all led to the same conclusion: Unlike the rest of us, Okinawans who followed their traditional diet simply did not gain weight as they aged.11,12 No matter how we ran the numbers, that conclusion was inescapable. While the Harvard Alumni Study,13 one of the best ongoing, long-term exercise- and weight-related gerontology studies, revealed that American men gain an average of twenty-two pounds between the ages of twenty and sixty and the Cooper Clinic studies showed that American women average a twelve-pound gain,13 our statistics showed that Okinawans actually lost about five pounds during those years, consistent with the fact that older people require fewer calories as they age (see figure 1.2).

This discovery promises enormous potential benefits for all of us fighting the battle of the bulge. Once we establish exactly how Okinawan elders stay lean all their lives, we can do it too-and greatly reduce our risk for weight- and age-related diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. We'll have a potential solution to America's epidemic obesity problem, and we'll be able to get off the psychologically debilitating dieting treadmill that has us running from one trendy weight-loss plan to another, only to end up right back where we started-or even heavier. Eating the Okinawa way could be the answer to our prayers.

Excerpted from

The Okinawa 8-Week Diet Plan: Eat Better, Live Longer, and Never Feel Hungry
by D. Craig Willcox
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Friday, February 22, 2008


We eat to live.

It's a simple, obvious truth. We need food for the basics of everyday life -- to pump blood, move muscles, think thoughts.

But we can also eat to live well and live longer. By making the right choices, you will help yourself avoid some of the things we think of as the inevitable penalties of getting older. A healthy diet teamed up with regular exercise and no smoking can eliminate 80 percent of heart disease and 70 percent of some cancers. Making poor choices -- eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and too little of the right kinds, or too much food altogether -- increases your chances of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, and aging-related loss of vision. An unhealthy diet during pregnancy can even cause some birth defects.

Separating what's good from what's bad can be a discouraging task. Each day you have to choose from an ever increasing number of foods and products, some good, most not so good. Maybe the time you have to prepare food, or even to eat, seems to shrink by the month. To make matters worse, you may feel overwhelmed by contradictory advice on what to eat. Your daily newspaper or TV newscast routinely serves up results from the latest nutrition studies. Magazines trumpet the hottest diets complete with heartfelt testimonials. One new diet or nutrition book hits the bookshelves every other day. Even supermarkets and fast-food restaurants offer advice, as do cereal boxes and a sea of Internet sites. This jumble of information quickly turns into nutritional white noise that many people tune out.


For no-nonsense, rock-solid nutrition information, people often look to the Food Guide Pyramid developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It is supposed to offer straight talk that rises above the jungle of misinformation and contradictory claims.

That's a shame, because the USDA Pyramid is wrong. It was built on shaky scientific ground back in 1992. Since then it has been steadily eroded by new research from all parts of the globe. Scores of large and small research projects have chipped away at the foundation (carbohydrates), the middle (meat and milk), and the apex (fats). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are supposed to serve as the detailed blueprint for the USDA Pyramid, are a bit better. They are updated every five years and sometimes include ready-for-prime-time research. But the USDA Pyramid hasn't really changed in spite of important advances in what we know about nutrition and health.

At best, the USDA Pyramid offers wishy-washy, scientifically unfounded advice on an absolutely vital topic -- what to eat. At worst, the misinformation contributes to overweight, poor health, and unnecessary early deaths. In either case it stands as a missed opportunity to improve the health of millions of people.


I wrote this book to show you where the USDA Pyramid is wrong and why it is wrong. I wanted to offer a new healthy eating guide based on the best scientific evidence, a guide that fixes the fundamental flaws of the USDA Pyramid and helps you make better choices about what you eat. I also wanted to give you the latest information on new discoveries that should have profound effects on our eating patterns.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid is just as simple as the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. You don't have to weigh your food or tally up fat grams. There are no complicated food exchange tables to follow. You needn't eat odd combinations of foods or religiously avoid a particular type of food. Instead, our pyramid aims to nudge you toward eating mostly familiar foods that have been shown to improve health and reduce the risk of chronic disease. It involves simple changes you can make one at a time. Because it's an eating strategy aimed at improving your health instead of a diet aimed solely at helping you shed pounds, and because the changes suggested in this book can make your meals and snacks tastier, it is something you can stick with for years.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid isn't a single cute idea dolled up in a catchy graphic. It is the distillation of evidence from many different lines of research. This shouldn't be an important point, but it is. Few of the diets used by millions of Americans today are built on this kind of solid evidence. That was certainly clear from the "Great Nutrition Debate" sponsored by the USDA in February 2000. It brought together several authors of best-selling diet books for a lively, but mostly evidence-free, food fight. The wildly different recommendations presented in that three-hour session -- eat lots of meat, don't eat any meat, eat lots of carbohydrates, don't eat any carbohydrates, cut your intake of fat to under 20 percent of calories, eat as much fat as you want, stay away from sugar, eat potatoes -- neatly captured the chaos that we get in place of sound, sensible, and solid advice on healthy eating. This jumble of contradictions prompted USDA undersecretary Shirley Watkins to say afterward, "We will stand behind the Pyramid." But the USDA Pyramid isn't much better than most of these unsubstantiated diets!


Some recommendations on diet and nutrition are misguided because they are based on inadequate or incomplete information. Not the USDA Pyramid. It is wrong because it ignores the evidence that has been carefully assembled over the past forty years. Here are the USDA Pyramid's main and most health-damaging faults:

All fats are bad. There's no question that two types of fat -- saturated fat, the kind that's abundant in whole milk or red meat, and trans fats, which are found in many margarines and vegetable shortenings -- contribute to the artery-clogging process that leads to heart disease, stroke, and other problems. But the USDA Pyramid's recommendation to use fats "sparingly" ignores the fact that two other kinds of fat -- the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in olive oil and other vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, other plant products, and fish -- are good for your heart.

All "complex" carbohydrates are good. Carbohydrates form the base of the USDA Pyramid. It suggests six to eleven servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta a day. But as with fats, this advice is too simplistic and overlooks essential research showing that the types of carbohydrates you eat matters a lot.

Most dietary guidelines recommend limiting simple carbohydrates (sugars) and eating plenty of complex carbohydrates (starches). White bread, potatoes, pasta, and white rice all fit this description and are the main sources of carbohydrates in the American diet. While the terms simple and complex have a specific chemical meaning, they don't mean much inside your body. In fact, your digestive system turns white bread, a baked potato, or white rice into glucose and pumps this sugar into the bloodstream almost as fast as it delivers the sugar in a cocktail of pure glucose. Swift, high spikes in blood sugar are followed by similar surges in insulin. As all this insulin forces glucose into muscle and fat cells, blood sugar levels plummet, triggering the unmistakable signals of hunger. To make matters worse, these high levels of blood sugar and insulin surges are now implicated as part of the perilous pathway to heart disease and diabetes. The harmful effects of these rapidly digested carbohydrates are especially serious for people who are overweight.

The carbohydrates that should form the keystones of a healthy diet come from whole grains, like brown rice or oats, from foods made with whole grains, like whole-wheat pasta or bread, or from beans. Your body takes longer to digest these carbohydrate packages, especially when they are coarsely ground or intact. That means they have a slow, low, and steady effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, which protects against heart disease and diabetes. They make you feel full longer and so keep you from getting hungry right away. They also give you important fiber plus plenty of vitamins and minerals.

The central message in the USDA Pyramid is that you should feel good about eating carbohydrates, especially if you are eating them in place of fats. But if you eat too much of the wrong kinds of carbohydrates and too little of the good kinds of fats, you can set yourself up for the same problems you may be trying to solve.

Protein is protein. The protein group occupies one of the upper chambers of the USDA Pyramid. You need this type of nutrient every day and can get it from a variety of sources. The USDA Pyramid serves up as equals red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. All are excellent sources of protein. But red meat is a poor protein package because of all the saturated fat and cholesterol that come along. Red meat may also give you too much iron in a form you absorb whether you need it or not. Chicken and turkey give you less saturated fat. The same is true for fish, which delivers some important unsaturated fats as well. As protein sources, beans and nuts have some advantages over animal sources. They give you fiber, vitamins, minerals, and healthy unsaturated fats. Like fruits and vegetables, they also give you a host of phytochemicals, an ever expanding collection of plant products that help protect you from a variety of chronic diseases.

Dairy products are essential. The USDA Pyramid includes two to three servings of dairy products a day. It's a message that the hip "Got Milk?" and even hipper "milk mustache" ads (all sponsored by the dairy industry) hammer home to every possible demographic group. As a prime source of calcium, dairy products have been enlisted to fight the so-called calcium emergency that is threatening Americans' bones. Only there isn't a calcium emergency. Americans get more calcium than the residents of almost every other country except Holland and the Scandinavian countries. And despite plenty of urgent public service announcements, there's little evidence that getting high amounts of calcium prevents broken bones in old age. Further complicating the issue are some studies suggesting that drinking or eating a lot of dairy products may increase a woman's chances of developing ovarian cancer or a man's chances of developing prostate cancer.

If you need extra calcium, there are cheaper, easier, and healthier ways to get it than dairy products. Whole-milk dairy products are loaded with the kind of saturated fat that is most powerful at raising cholesterol levels. One percent and skim milk are clearly better choices. Spinach, broccoli, tofu, and calcium-fortified orange juice and breakfast cereals are good sources of calcium and have other advantages -- they are lower in unhealthy fat than most dairy products, and they give you many extra nutrients. Finally, dairy products are an expensive way to get calcium. Calcium supplements or calcium-based antacids cost pennies a day (and they are mostly calorie-free, to boot) compared with up to a dollar a day for two to three servings of dairy products.

Eat your potatoes. According to the USDA, the average American eats 140 pounds of potatoes a year, making the spud the most popular vegetable in America. It is one of the few vegetables to be mentioned by name in the Dietary Guidelines -- except it shouldn't be classified as a vegetable. Potatoes are mostly starch -- easily digested starch at that -- and so should be part of the carbohydrate group. While more than two hundred studies have shown that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables decrease their chances of having heart attacks or strokes, of developing a variety of cancers, or of suffering from constipation or other digestive problems, the same body of evidence shows that potatoes don't contribute to this benefit.

Nutritionists and diet books alike often call potatoes a "perfect food." But while eating potatoes on a daily basis may be fine for lean people who exercise a lot or who do regular manual labor, for everyone else potatoes should be an occasional food consumed in modest amounts, not a daily vegetable. The venerable baked potato increases levels of blood sugar and insulin more quickly and to higher levels than an equal amount of calories from pure table sugar. French fries as they are usually sold do much the same thing, while also typically packing an unhealthy wallop of trans fats.

No guidance on weight, exercise, alcohol, and vitamins. Like the Sphinx, the USDA Pyramid is silent on four things you need to know about -- the importance of not gaining weight, the necessity of daily exercise, the potential health benefits of a daily alcoholic drink, and what you can gain by taking a daily multivitamin.


In Rudyard Kipling's classic children's story, the satiable Elephant's Child got its long trunk in a terrific tug-of-war, with Crocodile clamped on to its nose and Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake wrapped around its legs. That's pretty much how the USDA Pyramid got its structure -- yanked this way and that by competing powerful interests, few of which had your health as a central goal.

The thing to keep in mind about the USDA Pyramid is that it comes from the Department of Agriculture, the agency responsible for promoting American agriculture, not from agencies established to monitor and protect our health, like the Department of Health and Human Services, or the National Institutes of Health, or the Institute of Medicine. And there's the root of the problem -- what's good for some agricultural interests isn't necessarily good for the people who eat their products. (This schizophrenic split isn't unique to the USDA. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for example, is charged with the often contradictory tasks of promoting nuclear power and regulating its use.)

Serving two masters is tricky business, especially when one of them includes persuasive and well-connected representatives of the formidable meat, dairy, and sugar industries. The end result of their tug-of-war is a set of positive, feel-good, all-inclusive recommendations that completely distort what could be the single most important tool for improving your health and the health of the nation.


You deserve more accurate, less biased, and more helpful information than that found in the USDA Pyramid. I have tried to collect exactly that in the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Without question, I have the advantage of starting with a lot more information than the USDA Pyramid builders had ten years ago. Equally important, I didn't have to negotiate with any special-interest groups when it came time to design this Pyramid.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid isn't set in stone. I don't have all the answers, nor can I predict what nutrition researchers will turn up in the decade ahead. But I can give you a solid sense of state-of-the-art healthy eating today and point out where things are heading. This isn't the only alternative to the USDA Food Guide Pyramid. The Asian, Latin, Mediterranean, and vegetarian pyramids promoted by Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust are also good, evidence-based guides for healthy eating. But the Healthy Eating Pyramid takes advantage of even more extensive research and offers a broader guide that is not based on a specific culture.

About the only thing that the Healthy Eating Pyramid and the USDA Food Guide Pyramid share is their emphasis on vegetables and fruits. Other than that, they are different on almost every level. In the chapters that follow, I will lay out the evidence that shaped this blueprint for healthy eating and will also chart out extra information to help people with special nutritional needs get the most benefit from what they eat. These people include pregnant women, older people, and people with, or at high risk of, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and some other chronic conditions.

For now, though, the following list of the seven healthiest changes you can make in your diet offers an overview that describes how the Healthy Eating Pyramid differs from the USDA Pyramid. Topping the list is controlling your weight.

Watch your weight. When it comes to long-term health, keeping your weight from creeping up on you is more important than the exact ratio of fats to carbohydrates or the types and amounts of antioxidants in your food. The lower and more stable your weight, the lower your chances of having or dying from a heart attack, stroke, or other type of cardiovascular disease; of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes; of being diagnosed with postmenopausal breast cancer, cancer of the endometrium, colon, or kidney; or of being afflicted with some other chronic condition. Yes, it is possible to be too thin, as in the case of anorexia nervosa, but otherwise very few American adults fall into this category.

Eat fewer bad fats and more good fats. One of the most striking differences is the placement of healthy fats in the foundation of the Healthy Eating Pyramid instead of relegating all fats to the "Use Sparingly" spot at the top. The message here is almost as simple as the USDA's and far better for you: Fats from nuts, seeds, grains, fish, and liquid oils (including olive, canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, peanut, and other vegetable oils) are good for you, especially when you eat them in place of saturated and trans fat.

The all-fat-is-bad message has started a huge national experiment, with us as the guinea pigs. As people cut back on fat, they usually eat more carbohydrates. In America today, that means more highly refined or easily digested foods like sugar, white bread, white rice, and potatoes. This switch usually fails to yield the hoped-for weight loss or lower cholesterol levels. Instead it often leads to weight gain and potentially dangerous changes in blood fats -- lower high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the so-called good or protective cholesterol, and higher triglycerides (a major type of blood fat).

Substituting unsaturated fats for saturated fats, though, improves cholesterol levels across the board. It may also protect the heart against rhythm disturbances that can end in sudden death.

The bottom line is this: It is perfectly fine to get more than 30 percent of your daily calories from fats as long as most of those fats are unsaturated. The Healthy Eating Pyramid highlights the importance of keeping saturated and trans fats to a minimum by putting red meat, whole-milk dairy products, butter, and hydrogenated vegetable oils in the "Use Sparingly" section at the top.

Eat fewer refined-grain carbohydrates and more whole-grain carbohydrates. The Healthy Eating Pyramid has two carbohydrate building blocks -- whole grains that are slowly digested as part of the foundation and highly refined, rapidly digested carbohydrates at the very top.

For almost twenty years our research team has been one of several groups studying the health effects of foods made from refined and intact grains. The result of this work is compelling. Eating lots of carbohydrates that are quickly digested and absorbed increases levels of blood sugar and insulin, raises levels of triglycerides, and lowers levels of HDL cholesterol. Over the long run, these changes lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In contrast, eating whole-grain foods is clearly better for long-term good health and offers protection against diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and gastrointestinal problems such as diverticulosis and constipation. Other research around the world points to the same conclusions.

Choose healthier sources of proteins. In the Healthy Eating Pyramid, red meat occupies the pointy tip to highlight the fact that something about red meat -- its particular combination of saturated fats or the potentially cancer-causing compounds that form when red meat is grilled or fried -- is connected to a variety of chronic diseases. In this pyramid, the best sources of protein are beans and nuts, along with fish, poultry, and eggs. It separates vegetable and animal protein sources and makes the latter optional for people who want to follow a vegetarian diet.

Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, but hold the potatoes. Vegetables and fruits are essential ingredients in almost every cuisine. If you let them play starring roles in your diet, they will reward you with many benefits besides great taste, terrific textures, and welcome variety. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables will lower your blood pressure, decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke, help protect you against a variety of cancers, guard against constipation and other gastrointestinal problems, and limit your chances of developing aging-related problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, the most common causes of vision loss among people over age sixty-five. I've plucked potatoes out of the vegetable category and put them in the "Use Sparingly" category because of their dramatic effect on levels of blood sugar and insulin.

Use alcohol in moderation. When the first reports appeared linking moderate alcohol consumption with lower rates of heart disease, many scientists thought that some other habit shared by drinkers, not the drinking, accounted for the benefit. Today the evidence strongly points to alcohol itself. Based on the best estimates available, one drink a day for women and one or two a day for men cuts the chances of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease by about a third and also decreases the risk of having a clot-caused (ischemic) stroke.

Like many drugs, alcohol's effects depend on the dose. A little bit can be beneficial. A lot can eventually destroy the liver, lead to various cancers, boost blood pressure, trigger so-called bleeding (hemorrhagic) strokes, progressively weaken the heart muscle, scramble the brain, harm unborn children, and damage lives.

The clear and ever present dangers of alcohol and alcohol addiction make the recommendation of moderate drinking a political hot potato. While I acknowledge the problems with alcohol, I think it is important to point out its possible benefits for middle-aged and older people.

If you don't drink alcohol, you shouldn't feel compelled to start. You can get similar benefits by beginning to exercise (if you don't already) or boosting the intensity and duration of your physical activity, in addition to following the eating strategy we describe. But if you are an adult with no history of depression or alcoholism who is at high risk for heart disease, a daily alcoholic drink may help reduce that risk. This is especially true for people with type 2 diabetes or those with low HDL that just won't budge upward with diet and exercise. If you already drink alcohol, keep it moderate.

Take a multivitamin for insurance. Several of the ingredients in a standard multivitamin -- especially vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid, and vitamin D -- are essential players in preventing heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. At about a nickel a day, a multivitamin is a cheap and effective genuine "life insurance" policy. It won't make up for the sins of an unhealthy diet, but it can fill in the nutritional holes that can plague even the most conscientious eaters. A daily multivitamin is especially important for people who have trouble absorbing vitamins from their food and for those who can't, or don't, get out in the sun every day. A daily multivitamin is also important for people who drink alcohol because it provides extra folic acid. Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of this key vitamin.


Throughout this book I will talk about "the evidence." I hope I won't sound like an old, scratched record, repeating that there is or is not enough evidence on the benefits or risks of this or that strategy. But the evidence is what matters. Without it, recommendations are little more than opinions and educated guesses, and they may or may not accomplish what they set out to do.

In the ten years since the USDA Pyramid was designed and built, it has never been updated to reflect the wealth of new information that's become available on diet and health. Nor has it ever been tested to see if it really works. Until now.

A few years ago, the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion devised a score sheet called the Healthy Eating Index "to measure how well American diets conform to recommended healthy eating patterns." This index assigns scores of 0 to 10 for each of ten dietary components. Five come from the USDA Pyramid (number of daily servings of grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products), and five come from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (total fat in the diet, percentage of calories from saturated fat, cholesterol intake, sodium intake, and variety of the diet). A score of 100 would mean perfect adherence to the USDA's recommendations, while a score of 0 would mean total disregard for them.

My colleagues and I used the government's Healthy Eating Index to test whether people who follow the recommendations laid out in the USDA Pyramid are healthier than those who don't follow these guidelines. They aren't. Among over 121,000 female nurses who are participating in a long-term study of diet you'll be hearing more about in later chapters, those with the highest scores on the Healthy Eating Index were no less likely to develop a major illness or die than those with the lowest scores over a twelve-year period. Women scoring high on the Healthy Eating Index were only slightly less likely to have a heart attack. The pattern was similar for more than 50,000 male health professionals participating in a separate long-term study.

These dismal results shouldn't come as a surprise since the USDA Pyramid ignores the extensive body of evidence linking certain eating patterns with long-term health. Instead they should be a warning that the current USDA Pyramid won't help you eat to live well or live longer.

To be fair, we are now in the process of testing the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Because each of its building blocks comes from the finest possible quarry -- solid evidence amassed by researchers from around the world -- it has already passed the most important tests. I'm confident that the findings from this research will show that it can help keep you healthy.


Between the covers of this book is the latest thinking about diet and health. To give you a quick and easy guide, I distilled as much information as possible into the Healthy Eating Pyramid. But I also wanted you to see the blueprint -- the scientific evidence -- on which it is based. This is detailed in chapters 3 through 11. Along the way, I describe cutting-edge research that may radically change healthy eating patterns, including new information on the benefits of n-3 fatty acids found in some oils and nuts; on lycopene, a possible cancer-fighting substance found in tomatoes; on the potential hazards of getting too much calcium; and on why it makes sense to take a daily multivitamin.

This book also helps you incorporate this information into your snacks and meals with practical tips on buying healthy foods and eating defensively and a section that offers more than fifty tested, tasty recipes.

This information isn't meant to take the place of advice you get from your physician, especially if you have a medical condition that requires a specific diet. Instead I encourage you to talk about your diet with your health care provider or share what you've learned from this book with her or him to make sure you are on the same wavelength. Unfortunately, the pressures of modern medicine and health care often make it difficult for clinicians to spend time talking about healthy food choices with their patients.

Excerpted from

Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating
Copyright © 2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A diet high in fiber CAN prevent cancer

A diet high in fiber--that's fruits, vegetables, and cereals--significantly lowers the risk of bowel cancer, according to a massive study of European eating habits by the British Medical Research Council's Dunn Human Nutrition Unit in Cambridge, England.

Involving more than a half-million people in 10 European countries, the research is the biggest study ever done on diet and cancer and showed that no matter the food source, fiber protects against bowel cancer, a disease that kills nearly 1 million people worldwide each year.

No doubt you've heard the "five a day" promotion that encourages us all to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. The European study findings suggest that if you're currently eating less than that and you double the amount of fruits, vegetables, and cereals you are eating, you'll slash your risk of bowel cancer by a whopping 40 percent.

"You want loads of fruits and vegetables on your plate and whole-meal pasta and less fats and less meat," the study's lead author, Sheila Bingham, told Reuters.

And the more fiber you eat, the better. People with the lowest risk were eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day plus the equivalent of five slices of whole-meal bread. In addition, previous research has shown that just two slices a day of dark bread, such as wheat, rye, and pumpernickel, as well as fiber-packed cereals significantly lowers elderly adults' risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

The European research was confirmed by U.S. researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Rockville, Md., in a study of more than 37,000 people, 3,600 of whom had non-malignant colon adenoma, which are polyps that can be precursors of bowel cancer. "In our study, high intakes of dietary fiber, especially from grains, cereals, and fruits, was associated with lower risk of colon adenoma," explained lead author Ulrike Peters in the study.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Worst Thing You Could Ever Eat

The worst thing you could ever eat is carrot cake, a milkshake or any other food loaded with saturated fat. In other words, anything good.

Even occasional treats like these are enough to diminish your body's ability to defend itself against heart disease is the discouraging word from researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia.

HealthDay News reports that the small study was led by Dr. David Celermajer, a professor of cardiology, and involved just 14 participants, all of whom were healthy and between the ages of 18 and 40. Each of the 14 people ate a fat-laden feast of one piece of high-fat carrot cake and a milkshake containing a total of 68 grams of fat.

The result? The sudden infusion of saturated fat compromised their arteries' ability to expand to increased blood flow. It also hindered the effects of the "good" HDL cholesterol to protect the inner lining of the arteries from inflammatory agents that promote the build-up of fatty plaques, which over time clog blood vessels and cause heart disease.

One month later, the same group of 14 volunteers ate another piece of carrot cake and drank a milkshake, but this time the treats were made with polyunsaturated safflower oil that contained just 9 percent fat, compared with the first meal's 90 percent saturated fat. The anti-inflammatory properties improved after the healthier polyunsaturated fat meal. While the negative heart health effects of high-fat foods are probably temporary, Celermajer is concerned because it occurs over and over, each time a person eats a high-fat meal.

In what foods does saturated fat lurk?

  • Meat
  • Full-fat milk
  • Full-fat dairy products, especially ice cream
  • Processed foods and snacks

The study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

--From the Editors at Netscape

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Garlic may help preventing prostate cancer

Who Knew Garlic Had This Effect?

Eat garlic as a regular part of your diet, and it may help prevent prostate and other cancers. Not only does it give food a special zing, but also garlic seems to have broad anti-cancer effects throughout our bodies, according to new research from the National Cancer Institute.

Numerous studies in the laboratory involving cells and animals, as well as studies examining large human populations, have confirmed garlic's cancer-fighting powers, reports MSNBC. And it doesn't take much to do the trick. Less than a clove of garlic every day is enough to cut a man's risk of prostate cancer in half, when compared to men who eat no garlic. And that's not all. Garlic has also been shown to prevent cancers of the colon, stomach, and possibly breast.

Which just leaves this question: Is it better to consume garlic with food or as a pill supplement? That is currently being studied and the early results point to food. It seems whole garlic offers the best protection. Since very little garlic is needed for maximum benefit--as little as four to five cloves a week will suffice--researchers think adding a bit of garlic to your vegetable stir-fry or tucked in the roasted chicken may be better than popping a pill.

Cool Trick: When garlic is cooked, it can lose many of it's cancer-fighting enzymes. But you don't have to eat it raw to reap all the health benefits. Instead, do this: Peel and crush the garlic in a garlic press. Let the garlic rest for 15 minutes. Then cook it.

Can't stand garlic? There's good news! Onions also fight cancer in much the same way as garlic. MSNBC reports: "Studies have shown that while garlic, onions, scallions, and leeks contain slightly different compounds, the substances that block cancer-promoting enzymes, promote DNA repair and regulate the cell life cycle are found in all these foods."

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fitness for Expectant Mothers: Part 3

Buff Mom Guidelines

Before you get started, carefully read the following exercise guidelines. I advise my clients to use common sense when exercising: don't try something that's unrealistic, and err on the side of caution.

DIf you have never exercised before, get the OK from your doctor and start slowly. Keep a close eye on overexerting yourself and overheating.

-If you know the difference between a treadmill and a windmill, you should be able to maintain your exercise program throughout your pregnancy.

-So you're an exercise pro. That does not give you the OK to exercise to the point of exhaustion. When working out, make sure you can have a conversation and breathe easily. Remember, you have a baby growing inside, and he or she needs oxygen too.

-Now's the time to treat yourself with some new exercise clothes. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Stay away from the spandex. Invest in a good pair of sneakers that offer stability and support. And, please, don't forget the support bra.

-Water, water, water! Before and after a workout.

-Remember what I said about common sense? When choosing a sport or aerobic activity, don't do anything that can put you in a potentially dangerous situation. You may want to think twice about waterskiing and ice hockey.

-Since your body is now releasing a good amount of relaxin, your joints may be a bit looser. Be careful of all activities that require quick changes of direction, stepping, jumping, and leaping. Any aerobic activities that involve rough, uneven surfaces should also be avoided.

-Don't forget stretching. I devote a whole chapter to stretches that are beneficial before and after your labor.

-The word "diet" should be removed from your vocabulary. Your menu should be chock-full of veggies, fruits, and complex carbohydrates.

-Since you want to keep a careful eye on your heart rate, it may not be a bad idea to invest in a heart rate monitor. I have included the ACOG guidelines for the target heart rate for pregnant women in Chapter 5, as well as target-heart-rate guidelines for women postpartum.

Excerpted from

Buff Moms-to-Be: The Complete Guide to Fitness for Expectant Mothers
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble


Friday, February 15, 2008

Selecting a Blood Glucose Meter

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When selecting your glucose meter there are several things you may want to keep in mind as there are dozens of prodcuts to choose from and each has it's own distinct features to suite your personal needs.

When reviewing meter descriptions and their features there are a definitions you should know that will help you when making your purchasing decision.

  • Plasma vs. Whole Blood - Whether the measurement is the whole blood measurement or the plasma measurement. All blood glucose meters actually measure whole blood, but translate the result into plasma measurement numbers, which are what your blood tests at a doctors office will be measured in. This makes for easier comparison.
  • Drop Size (in Microliters) - The amount of blood required for the glucose meter to accurately perform its test. The less blood a meter requires, the less painful and difficult it usually is.
  • Range (mg/dl) - The range of blood sugar levels the meter can read.
  • Test Time Seconds - The amount of time the glucose meter needs to complete its test. Shorter times can be more convenient, especially when away from home.
  • Strip - The brand or type of test strips the glucose meter uses. The type of strips a meter uses are very important, as differences in strip price over many years can greatly affect the cost of using a certain type of meter.
  • Battery - The type of battery the glucose meter uses. If you meter uses a more exotic battery it may be harder to replace, but it also may offset that difficulty my offering a longer life.
  • Features:The special features each glucose meter offers.
    • Download capable - If it is possible to download results from the meter to another device, such as a computer
    • Amount of Memory - Number of tests the meter can store
    • Approved for Alternate Site Testing - Whether or not the meter is approved for use in areas besides your fingers
    • Averaging Method - The different time frames the unit can average your results over, which can show long term trends
    • No Coding Required - Means that the meter can detect on its own the code of the inserted strip

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lack of 1 Vitamin Can Cause Alzheimer's

It's time to start eating fortified cereal, pasta, bread and rice, as well as lentils, spinach, asparagus, chickpeas and kidney beans. These foods are all rich in folate, also called vitamin B-9, and people who have a folate deficiency have triple the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease in old age, according to a report published in the British Medical Association's Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Folate is essential for the creation of new cells in the body.

the onset of dementia was significantly associated with an exaggerated decline in folate

Agence France Presse reports that South Korean researchers from Chonnam National University in Kwangju measured naturally occurring folate levels in 518 elderly persons and then followed them for more than two years. At the start of the study, none of them displayed any signs of dementia. By the end of the study period, 45 had developed dementia, including 34 with Alzheimer's disease. Even after other factors were taken into account, including age, disability, alcohol consumption, weight change, "the onset of dementia was significantly associated with an exaggerated decline in folate," the researchers, led by Jin-Sang Yoon, concluded.

Previous research has shown that 800 micrograms of folic acid daily--twice the recommended dosage--helps boost short-term memory, mental agility and verbal fluency in those over 50. It has also long been known to help prevent certain types of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord, including spina bifida.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

As seen on Oprah: Omega-3 High fiber content helps curb hunger. Organic Kosher

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