Speed Learning Helps Brain Growth

Considering learning another language? Here’s another reason to go forward with it. Learning languages appears to be a good way to keep your brain in shape according to a study published in the journal NeuroImage that examined brain size of those who were learning a new language at a very fast pace.

Learning a new language over a short time seems to make the brain grow according to the study that involved recruits at the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy who routinely go from having no understanding of a language like Arabic, Russian or Dari to speaking it fluently in just 13 months. This program goes at a pace that’s not found in any other language programs.

As you might expect, these service members studied from morning to night, on both weekdays and the weekends. The recruits were compared to a control group of other students in medicine and cognitive science at Umeå University. The control group studied hard to be sure, but was not learning a language as part of their studies.

Both groups had magnetic resonance imaging, MRI for short, scans of the brain before and after a period of intense study that lasted a full three months. The scans demonstrated that the structure of the brain remained unchanged in the control group, but some parts of the brains of the language-learning students actually got larger. The area involved was the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning new things and spatial navigation, as well as three other areas of the cerebral cortex.

Interesting that among the recruits, the subjects who naturally took to learning new language had bigger growth in the hippocampus and other areas related to learning a language. Those who had to put more effort in had greater increase in size in the motor area of the cerebral cortex. It was a surprise to the researchers that different parts of the brain actually developed differently based on how the subject performed and how much effort they had to put in.

There is earlier research that’s found bilingual and multilingual people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at a later age, perhaps as much as five years later, than those who only speak one language. It appears these people can handle two times as much brain damage (atrophy) before showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This might be because those who speak more than one language are always using their brains… and this regular activity helps the brain architecture remain robust, enriches blood flow and enhances neuronal action… all of which helps the brain stay healthy over the years.

Experts tell us that almost anyone can learn a new language quickly. The key to success is to pick the right language and the right technique. The most tried and true technique for learning a language is the immersion technique – just start speaking the language the first day of class. Nearly all programs use some form of this as part of their instruction. You’ll also want to pick a language that isn’t extremely different from the one you know… so that it will be easier to learn quickly.

To your good health,

10-Mins To Help Sleep

Just ten minutes spent doing an easy to learn technique will not only reduce your tension from the day, but also make it easier to get a good night’s sleep. The approach involves focusing on a serene and inviting place. Things like waves on the shore, a quiet lake at sunrise, a forest or beautiful mountaintop… whatever place you like. Immerse yourself in this vision and take slow, deep breaths. Keep it up for those last ten minutes before bed and you’ll be asleep before you know it.

Sleep issues are a serious problem for many. The U.S. National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that 30% to 40% of adults have some symptoms of insomnia during a typical year. Another 10% to 15% suffer from chronic insomnia.

The recent study on tension and sleep included 135 men and 199 women of an average age of 56 who had either served in the military or were dependents of these service members. A small number had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety condition that can come on after exposure to any event that brings psychological trauma. Study subjects filled out a 14 item questionnaire to measure how stressed they were. They also completed a second survey about their sleep quality, how long it took them to fall asleep and if they used any sleeping medications.

The subjects then took part in a “Tension Tamer” session that included a half hour introductory workshop that was followed up by four 30-minute visits with a stress management specialist so subjects could practice the technique. After the subjects finished the program, they were given the two surveys again and the answers compared.

The team saw that 65% of the subjects improved their perceived stress by a full 6.6 points, but 34% worsened their stress levels by 4.6 points. Those who did reduce their stress also showed big differences in sleep quality, needing less time to fall asleep and feeling less fatigued during the day.

We know that stress is a negative when it comes to sleep according to Dr. Arn Eliasson who is a research consultant at the Integrative Cardiac Health Project, a program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Unfortunately we understand less about the effect of stress on the risks for heart disease than we do about the dangers of smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol on this condition.

You should know that while the research used a fancy name – Tension Tamer – the technique isn’t anything new, and reducing stress has always had a role in helping sleep. There’s always a reason for insomnia – mood issues or depression, digestive issues, medications, pain or other things. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you need to identify why this is happening. Unless you get to the bottom of the problem, no technique will be fully effective.

Still, a short time to wind down from the day – to relax and shut off the worries and stimuli – is a smart idea. Making sleep a priority in your life can help in so many ways, giving both body and mind a chance to recharge and be ready to face the next day.

To your good health,

The Best Way To Protect Aging Brain

How can you stay mentally healthy as you get older? Contrary to what you might think… being frail and suffering mental decline are not normal parts of aging. What we are learning is that being physically active trumps being mentally active when it comes to staying sharp later on according to new research appearing in the journal Neurology. Those who stayed physically active well into their later years tended to have a larger brain size than those who didn’t workout on a regular basis. This is only the latest research to suggest that exercise is good for your body and brain.

The new study included just about 700 people in the United Kingdom who had brain scans at the age of 73 years old. Three years before this, the participants were questioned about what leisure activities and exercises they did. Those who said they were the most physically active tended to have a bigger brain volume of both gray and normal white matter than did those who were least physically active. Physical activity was also associated with less brain atrophy and appeared to protect against the formation of white matter lesions associated with thinking and memory declines.

Leisure activities that weren’t physical didn’t appear to do anything for the brain in terms of shrinkage. This suggests that mental activity might be less important than being physically active in terms of keeping the brain healthy and sharp into old age. Of course more work is needed to be sure.

Science tells us that the adult brain typically shrinks in late adulthood, and this is thought to play a role in age related memory decline. Once doctors thought that the brain got less malleable and able to change as you age. But the new thinking is that the brain stays plastic even later in life. So it’s never too late to do something to help your brain get stronger and sharper.

Exercise is one of the most potent things we can do to protect the aging brain according to Kirk Erickson, Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh who wasn’t part of the study. His own work in this area involved recruiting 120 older, inactive adults who had no evidence of dementia. Half started a modest exercise program that involved walking at a moderate pace for 30 to 45 minutes, three times each week. The other half of the subjects did stretching and toning.

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The Best Way To Protect Aging Brain Continued…

One year later, MRI brain scans found that a key part of the brain involved with memory (hippocampus) was slightly larger in the walkers, while it shrank slightly in the stretching group.

Of course the UK research does have limitations you should be aware of; the findings are based on responses to questionnaires, using a subjects’ memory which can sometimes be unreliable. There’s also the consideration that must be given to the idea that those in better health are able to exercise more than those whose health is in decline.

Beyond aerobic exercises like walking, jogging or biking, there may also be benefit to the older brain from resistance training to build muscle, especially in those with mild cognitive impairment. This type of exercise hasn’t been studied so much for its effect on the brain, but research has shown benefits to the body from this type of workout.

If you’re looking to keep your own brain sharp (and who isn’t?) as the years pass… you’ve never had more reason to get up and off that couch.

To your good health,

Can Beans Reduce Diabetes Risk?

If you’re a diabetic who’s trying to eat healthy, there’s news you need to hear. A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine finds that adding more beans and legumes to the diet does two important things for diabetes – helps control blood sugar and lowers the heart disease risk.

The researchers assigned half the subjects, a total of 121 women and men who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, to eat one of two diets. One was a healthy diet high in wheat fiber – whole grain cereals, low-fat dairy, fruits and veggies… all the good stuff. The other was an equally healthy diet that also included a cup of legumes a day, about two servings, of items like chickpeas, beans or lentils. Both the bean and non-bean diet groups got a checklist of recommended foods and appropriate quantities they should be eating each day during the three-month trial.

The bean diet did more to improve control of blood sugar as assessed by a value known as HbA1C, a measurement of the average blood sugar control over the last few months. Those who have diabetes want to keep their level under 7%. The values in the study subjects went down by .5% in those eating the cup of daily beans, and .3% for those who ate the high wheat fiber diet. A drop of .3% to .4% is thought to be important according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The average for blood sugar control on both diets at the end of the study was 6.9%, but the high wheat fiber diet eaters started at 7.2%, the bean diet eaters started at 7.4%. So the bean diet brought values down from a higher place… intriguing.

The bean diet also brought down the predicted risk of heart disease for these subjects, but in a rather surprising way- because of the effect on blood pressure from eating these foods. To measure heart disease risk, researcher David J.A. Jenkins, MD, Ph.D. DSc who is a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital and his team used a standard equation that relies on blood pressure numbers and other measures of health. Those eating the beans had a bigger risk reduction than those eating the high wheat fiber diet.

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Can Beans Reduce Diabetes Risk? Continued…

The bean diet also brought down the predicted risk of heart disease for these subjects, but in a rather surprising way- because of the effect on blood pressure from eating these foods. To measure heart disease risk, researcher David J.A. Jenkins, MD, Ph.D. DSc who is a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto and St. Michael’s Hospital and his team used a standard equation that relies on blood pressure numbers and other measures of health. Those eating the beans had a bigger risk reduction than those eating the high wheat fiber diet.

The bean diet eaters started at an average blood pressure reading of 122/72, ending at a reading of 118/69… a drop that might seem slight, but is significant to doctors, especially since a reading of 120/80 is considered normal. The high wheat fiber diet eaters starting blood pressure averaged 118/70 at both the beginning and end of the research.

Minneapolis based nutrition consultant Marion Franz, RD provided an invited commentary that appears with the research, point out that it may not be the beans that deserve all the credit here. The results could also come from the high amounts of fiber that are a natural part of the bean-loaded diet. What’s more, while beans can be part of a healthy diet, it might not be possible, or palatable for most people to eat a full cup of beans a day every day.

If you’re dealing with diabetes, you know how important it is to manage your condition, and that what you eat is a big part of that. It can do no harm to give beans a try… perhaps switch a meat meal for a bean stew, or try some lentil soup or bean chili for something different.

To your good health,

Big Calories Burnt With Short Interval Training

Chances are, what keeps you form exercising is finding the time in a schedule already stuffed with commitments. It’s not easy to get that recommended amount – 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise – in each week. Here’s some great news on this front. Rather than fitting a half hour on the treadmill into your busy day, you can burn the same number of calories with a few quick bursts on a stationary bike. This comes from a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society.

The findings might just make exercise more manageable for many of us.

The research included 10 active young men, between the ages of 25 and 31 years old who were examined via exercise stress tests to be sure they were healthy enough to be studied. Body composition and resting metabolism were also measured.

For three days the subjects ate an energy balanced diet, meaning that the calories in matched the calories burned. After this, the subjects checked into a facility at the University of Colorado Anschultz Medical Campus. The rooms looked a lot like a typical hospital room but were completely enclosed. While still on the energy neutral diet, each subject stayed for two days in these sealed chambers doing mostly sedentary activities like watching TV or working on the computer. In these special chambers water, oxygen and CO2 levels could be reliably measured, a dependable way of calculating calories burned.

On one of the days, the subjects did a sprint interval workout that called for them to pedal as fast as they could on a stationary bike that was set to high resistance. They pedaled for five 30-second periods, encouraged over intercom by the researchers to give all the effort possible. These intense periods were separated by four-minute periods of recovery where they pedaled slowly on the bikes with little resistance.

The team saw that when the subjects were just sitting watching TV, they burned 2,200 calories a day. They burned 200 more on days when they did those sprint interval workouts. The researchers can’t say if these extra calories would translate into pounds lost.

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Big Calories Burnt With Short Interval Training Continued…

Still, intense, but short bursts of exercise could help in maintaining your weight, and will be especially effective against that pound or two most Americans gain every year.

Earlier research in this area shows that sprint training like this can do big things for fitness and athletic performance but that’s not all. Until now, little research had been done on how this type of exercise impacts how energy is expended. We know as well that short interval training also improves the response of the body to blood sugar, perhaps helping to hold off diabetes.

Understand that these short, intense bursts of exercise aren’t easy… keeping up this pace is a real challenge. You’ll start to sweat and breathe hard. The study subjects were urged on. If you’re not regularly active, talk to your doctor to be sure the intensity is safe for you. You might want to do some regular intensity exercise before you start doing these type of workouts, to build your strength. You can do intense workouts on any cardio machine or with an outdoor activity like walking, running or biking.

To your good health,

4 Keys To Healthy Aging

Successful aging… later years free of disease or chronic illness, being independent, active and in good mental health is something we’re all hoping to achieve. The chances of healthy aging increase when people eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly and stay away from smoking and drinking alcohol to excess and other bad habits. Doing a few good things is certainly better than doing none, but a new study finds that you’re missing out on the full benefits to be had when not doing four key things to live a healthy lifestyle. This research is among the first of its kind to look at the outcomes associated with combinations of actions during midlife, rather than specific health measures that come from unhealthy behaviors.

The study appearing in the Canadian Medial Association Journal included 5,100 middle aged British civil servants who did four key healthy things. They didn’t smoke, they exercised regularly, they were moderate drinkers and they ate lots of fruits and veggies every day – and were found to be three times more likely to avoid disability, a chronic illness or suffering with mental health issues over a 16 year period when compared to subjects who did none of these four things.

The researchers defined successful aging using five dimensions of health – cognitive, mental state, physical state, respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Each of the four key behaviors, on their own, upped the odds of successful aging by 30% to as much as 50%. But, when done all together, the compound benefit was greater than the sum of the benefits for individual healthy living behaviors. The combined impact of living healthy is pretty substantial says lead study author Séverine Sabia, who is an epidemiology and public health researcher at University College London. More than one healthy behavior appears to increase the chance or attaining an old age that’s free of disease and leaves you fully functional.

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4 Keys To Healthy Aging Continued…

A healthy lifestyle may well be like collecting compound interest on an investment. By taking care of the body and avoiding substances that can harm it you are more likely to see the health effects of your choices compounded. You don’t smoke so you keep dangerous chemicals out of the body; your lungs stay healthy and strong. This makes vigorous exercise more do-able which gives the body the many benefits of fitness and you the feeling of accomplishment.

Over time, being free of disability and feeling fit gives you more energy so that you can live more fully, more independently and more happily.

Important to point out that there are some limitations of the work. It was an observational study that shows an association but not a cause and effect relationship between health behaviors and outcomes over time. Some of the subjects were just 60 years old at the end of the study and it’s hard to know if the findings about mental ability would hold over time. Still, the work suggests that doing all you can to live healthy will bring the most benefit to you over time.

You might not be 21 again… but this way you can have the energy, optimism and drive to accomplish things you want to get done.

To your good health,

This Raises Risk of Hospitalization

Hate hospitals? Then you’ll want to read this. Even after accounting for lifestyle and other factors, Australian researchers have found that heavier people are more likely than lean people to be admitted to the hospital for a variety of conditions. This wasn’t just for those considered obese, but those who fall into the overweight category as well. The study appears in the International Journal of Obesity.

The researchers recruited just about 250,000 subjects age 45 and over who lived in New South Wales. After measuring their height, weight and collecting other health and lifestyle data, the team kept track of the subjects through hospital data. After 2 years, there were more than 61,000 hospitalizations that lasted at least one night.

For those who were in the normal range of BMI there were 120 hospitalizations for every 1,000 men and 102 for every 1,000 women. For the severely obese with BMIs over 30.0, there were 203 hospitalizations for every 1,000 men and 183 for every 1,000 women on average. The moderately obese or overweight subjects had rates somewhere in between.

For middle-aged people the research team saw that every extra body mass index (BMI) point was associated with a 4% higher chance of hospitalization over the two-year study period. There’s a gradual increase in hospitalization risk as BMI goes up, and more surprisingly, the risk begins for those in the overweight (BMI from 25.0 to 29.9) category. There’s plenty of evidence that severe obesity is trouble for your health, making you prone to higher rates of disease, and thus forcing these patients to use more health services, take more medications, and face higher death rates according to study lead Rosemary Korda who is from the Australian National University.

The pattern of obesity increasing hospitalizations held even after accounting for if subjects smoked, how active they were and how generally healthy they were at the start of the study. Weight played a special role in a subject’s chances of being hospitalized for asthma, arthritis, diabetes, chest pain or heart disease.

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This Raises Risk of Hospitalization Continued…

This Australian research gives people one more reason to make an effort to lose weight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that just about 30% of American adults weigh enough to be considered obese. Another 33% fall into the overweight category. Such patients are more likely than those weighing less to be diagnosed with lifestyle related conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – all linked to dangerous heart problems. Extra pounds also impact breathing conditions like asthma and other ailments like arthritis.

The good news is that a gradual weight loss will slowly but surely bring down your risk of getting admitted to the hospital or being diagnosed with a serious disease. Talk with your doctor and take the time to find a weight loss plan that works for you – be as active as you can on as many days of the week as possible. Before you know it, the pounds will be falling off, and your risk of spending time in a hospital will be decreasing as well.

To your good health,

Multivitamins And Cancer Prevention

Now hear this… taking a daily multivitamin for years may also bring down your risk of cancer – so says some new research that appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association that followed nearly 15,000 middle aged and older men for almost 11 years. The main finding from the work was a drop in total cancer of 8% reports researcher J. Michael Gaziano, MD, MPH who is from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston’s Harvard Medical School.

The subjects were taking part in the Physicians’ Health Study (PHS) which was a project aimed at examining the long term affects of taking a multivitamin and the prevention of chronic diseases, cancer included. About half of the 15,000 subjects took a daily vitamin (Centrum Silver) the other half took a placebo pill. At the start of the study, no subject was 50 or older. When the work began, 1,312 of the subjects had a history of cancer but nobody had active disease. The team followed the men to see who got cancers, except for skin cancers.

Here’s how things worked out…

- 1,290 of the vitamin takers were diagnosed with cancers.

- 1,379 of the placebo group were diagnosed with cancers.

Almost half of the cancers in both groups were of the prostate. This may have been due to the increase in screening for prostate cancer that came about during the study period. The good news is that most of the cancers were early stage with higher survival rates. In all the researchers saw an 8% reduction in cancers overall. There was no effect on prostate cancer from the vitamins. When taking out prostate cancer there was a 12% reduction in the incidence of cancers for the subjects.

The National Institutes of Health funded study, the first large research into multivitamins and cancer, saw no difference in the death risk from cancer between the groups. Earlier work that looked at high doses of specific vitamins and effects on preventing cancer have had mixed results. Some have even shown the possibility of harm. A combination of vitamins and minerals might just mirror the ingredients in a plant-based diet.

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Multivitamins And Cancer Prevention Continued…

So how long does it take for the cancer prevention effect of multivitamins to kick in? At least several years of daily intake, if not a decade.

While the main reason for taking a multivitamin is to keep from having a nutritional deficiency, there may be a modes benefit in terms of cancer reduction in men over 50 years old. Researchers can’t say that the same effect would apply to women.

Typically experts like to see these types of findings reproduced by other studies before feeling comfortable with recommending a multivitamin for prevention of cancer or other diseases. The American Cancer Society suggests you get your nutrients from the foods you eat as part of a healthy, natural diet. If you do decide to add a supplement, the best is one that’s balanced and with no more than 100% of the Daily Value of the nutrients listed on the label.

To your good health,

Antioxidants In Tea, Fruit, Veggies Fight Prostate Cancer

Important news. Prostate cancer patients who routinely ate lots of flavonoid compounds that are a natural part of plant based foods before their diagnosis may be at a lower risk of the most aggressive type of the disease according to some new research. The study does have limitations however, and the team says it’s too soon to say that a plant-based diet is any protection against this form of cancer. That’s because the work didn’t include a healthy group of subjects, instead using patients who have low aggressive disease and those who had highly aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

Flavonoids are a natural part of veggies and fruits, as well as a part of tea, wine, juices and cocoa. They are thought to help cut cancer risk by fighting inflammation, cell death, oxidation and tumor growth. They do have an impact according to study lead Susan Steck, an associate professor at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. So while it might be that eating more fruits and veggies improves the odds of not getting an aggressive form of prostate cancer, the study didn’t prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But we do see, thanks to the research, the potential value of flavonoids.

The researchers examined self-reported dietary habits that were in place at the time of diagnosis in a pool of patients that included 920 black men, 977 white men. Subjects were enrolled in the North Carolina Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project.

The study, involving almost 1,900 patients who were newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, saw that those who ate the most amounts of flavonoids as part of their diets before diagnosis were 25% less likely to be diagnosed with the fastest moving, harshest type of disease compared to those who took in the least flavonoids. The study also saw that smokers and men under 65 appeared to get the most protective benefit from a consumption of flavonoids.

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Antioxidants In Tea, Fruit, Veggies Fight Prostate Cancer Continued…

The researchers identified the following drinks as prime sources of flavonoids… green and black tea, orange and grapefruit juice. The foods included strawberries, cooked greens, onions, kale and broccoli. While no single class of plant based foods was identified on its own to offer a protective effect. It may be that the effect comes from a dietary mix of flavonoids. Experts feel that the results of the study, a backward look at a patient’s recollections of what they ate, are not enough to warrant recommending a plant based diet to treat or prevent prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cause of death of cancer in men over 75 years old. It’s rare to find this disease in men under 40. You’re most at risk if you are an African American man, are over 60 years old, or have a father/brother with the disease. If you’ve been around agent orange, drink too much alcohol, work a farm in a tire plant, painters or those who’ve been around cadmium, or eat a diet high in fat, especially animal fat.

The research on prostate cancer and flavonoids was presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research.

To your good health,

Skip Breakfast Primes The Brain To Look For Fat

If you’re a regular breakfast skipper… here’s news that might have you changing your ways. Brain scans conducted at Imperial College London have found that not eating this first meal of the day makes fatty, high calorie foods look so much more attractive later on.

Nutritionists tell us that eating breakfast takes the edge off appetite and researchers wanted to learn about what goes on in the brain to alter the foods we choose to eat. The results of this intriguing research were presented at the Neuroscience 2012 conference.

The study involved scans of 21 subjects, all of normal weight who were shown photos of calorie packed foods while inside a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. The team saw that the brain was more attracted to food if breakfast was skipped and also causing a subject to eat more at lunchtime. Obvious this makes losing weight pretty challenging… especially if calorie rich choices actually appeal to us more.

On one day the subjects were given no breakfast before the scans, while on a different day they were served a huge, 730 calorie breakfast an hour and a half before going into the MRI scanner. Skipping breakfast appeared to create a bias in the brain in favor of calorie-laden foods, changing how the brain reacted to pictures of high calorie foods, while not reacting as strongly to low calorie ones. The part of the brain thought to be involved in food appeal (the orbitofrontal cortex) was more active on an empty stomach.

When the subjects were offered lunch at the end of the period in the scanners, they ate a full fifth more calories if they hadn’t eaten breakfast. Dr. Tony Goldstone points out that fasting makes people hungrier, upping the appeal of high calorie foods and how much someone might eat at the next meal.

Many agree that eating breakfast takes the edge off your hunger, and keeps blood sugar levels stabile. A healthy breakfast refuels you and replenishes the glycogen stores that give your muscles energy. This helps keep dieters on track to make healthier choices for the rest of the day. Breakfast eaters tend to eat a diet that’s more nutritious and lower in fat. They also have more energy and the fuel to be more active during the rest of the day.

Eating breakfast on a regular basis may help with keeping the weight off over the long haul according to survey respondents from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for a year or more. When it came to strategies to keep the pounds away a full 78% ate breakfast every day while a mere 4% of successful weight losers never ate breakfast.

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Skip Breakfast Primes The Brain To Look For Fat Continued…

Some good breakfast choices to try…

- Ready to eat cereals, high fiber varieties with 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving are best, though if sugar cereals are your only choice, that’s better than nothing. You can also mix sweetened with unsweetened cereal for a healthier breakfast option. Don’t forget the low fat milk and fresh or frozen fruit.

- 1 cup of oatmeal, ½ cup of low-fat milk, 1 cup of sliced strawberries or another fresh/frozen fruit, and 1 tablespoon of walnuts.

- Two multi-grain waffles, with 1 cup of blueberries, 3 tablespoons of light syrup, and 1 cup of plain low-fat yogurt.

- Banana sliced and spread with peanut butter or sliced and mixed into plain yogurt.

- Small tortilla with a few tablespoons of peanut butter and chopped strawberries, roll it up, slice and serve

- Breakfast smoothies that include berries, ice and low fat milk or yogurt go along and are healthy too.

- If you can’t give up that bagel, go for half or the smaller sizes. Spread with some almond or cashew butter rather than cream cheese, or at least buy the low-fat variety.

Future work will look at how obese people might be affected by skipping that first, all-important meal of the day.

To your good health,