Category Archives: Myths

Unexpected News: People Can Be Fat And Fit

It goes against all we’ve heard, yet new research appearing in the European Heart Journal finds that people can be considered obese yet still be physically healthy and fit, and at no bigger risk of either heart disease or cancer than those of normal weight. You may have hard the “fit but fat” descriptions used yourself. It appears that fitness, rather than weight, may be the reason for staying healthier and free of disease according to this largest study of its kind into the phenomenon.

The key appears to be metabolic fitness – an intriguing condition where despite being categorized as obese, there is no high blood pressure, high cholesterol or elevated blood sugar levels. The team of researchers identified this condition after examining data from more than 43,000 US adults (more than a third who were obese) who took part in the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study from 1979 to 2003.

Each subject filled out a questionnaire on their lifestyle and medical history, had a physical exam that included a test of cardio-respiratory fitness and were measured for height, weight, waist circumference and body fat. Blood pressure, fasting glucose and cholesterol levels were also checked. The participants were followed from when they entered the study until their death, or the year 2003, whichever came first.

The University of South Carolina researchers focused on the 18,500 subjects considered obese yet metabolically healthy. At baseline, these people had higher fitness levels than obese subjects who were metabolically abnormal, they also were found to have a lower risk of death when compared to unfit obese people, and no significantly higher death risk than fit, normal weight subjects.

Bottom line? Getting more exercise, even if you’re carrying a lot of extra weight, can benefit you according to lead researcher Dr. Francisco Ortega, currently working at Spain’s University of Granada. Once again a study has shown how important physical fitness is to overall health.

Since most of the study subjects came from a similar background, and most were men, researchers caution us not to apply these findings about fitness and weight to the whole population. The research population used here were well educated, nearly all Caucasian, mostly male and employed in either executive or professional jobs.

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Unexpected News: People Can Be Fat And Fit Continued…

Studies like this bring home the point that it’s not all about how much weight you carry, but rather where this fat is on your body that may be most important. Extra fat around the middle is the most dangerous, most active kind and produces toxic substances that bring on the damage that leads to heart disease. So don’t get too caught up in the number on the scale, or in your clothing, so long as you’re eating a mostly healthy diet and getting regular exercise the odds of staying fit are in your favor.

The findings also suggest that obesity is not necessarily always accompanied by metabolic abnormalities like high blood pressure or bad cholesterol numbers. In other words, being fat may not always mean you’re unhealthy. Doctors might need to take into account fitness level when deciding if an obese patient is at risk of the dangerous conditions we normally associate with too much weight – things like heart disease and cancer.



To your good health,

Study Questions Health Benefits Of Organic Foods

We’ve been told that eating organic foods is healthier, but is it? A new review that appears in the Annals of Internal Medicine examined evidence from hundreds (230 to be exact) of studies conducted in both the U.S. and Europe on organics, hoping to find evidence of health benefits from eating these foods. Are we getting our money’s worth in terms of health when we buy these products?

Some of the work reviewed compared organic milk, eggs, meats and produce to non-organic items. The research measured the nutrients naturally in these items as well as the levels of contaminants like pesticides and bacteria. A few other studies looked for health differences between those who ate only organic and those who didn’t.

This latest review found that organic meats are far less likely to have so called “superbug” organisms that are resistant to treatment with traditional antibiotics. These bacteria cannot pass to people from eating contaminated food – we tend to get antibiotic resistant infections from our own over-use of antibiotics.

Non-organic veggies and fruits were 30% more likely to have pesticides than their organic counterparts. Reducing the amount of this exposure is increasingly thought to be of benefit to the body. But it’s important to understand that the FDA has set safety limits for pesticides so it’s rare to find any U.S. produce with pesticide levels over safety limits. Could reducing an already small exposure make any difference?

The Stanford researchers contend that there’s no evidence organic diets make you any healthier than a non-organic diet.

Organic food fans point out that there are many reasons people choose these foods – health benefits rarely enter into it. Concerns over animal welfare or the environment are more pressing motivators. Some say organic foods simply taste better. Of course, there are also the benefits of eating foods that are pesticide and antibiotic free.

To be considered organic, fruits, veggies, grains, dairy and meat are grown using less synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, without antibiotics or growth hormones. The farming techniques used encourage soil and water conservation and are intended to be less polluting. The foods produced look the same, though they can cost two times as much as conventionally grown options. It may be the higher price that gives the buyer a sense that organic choices are better for you.

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Study Questions Health Benefits Of Organic Foods Continued…

This research makes the case that the health benefits from organic foods are far from proven.

Other experts support choosing organic foods, no matter what the latest research shows. In fact, there was another definitive analysis of literature on the nutrition content of conventional versus organic food published just last year. In this study researchers from Newcastle University looked at a lot of the same research and concluded that organic fruits and veggies had from 12% to as much as 16% more nutrients able to fight disease than non organic options. Those researchers considered choosing organic as a way to give yourself at least a 12% boost in nutrition.

When you’re shopping for organic foods you should know that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, has a certification program that calls for all organic foods to meet very strict standards on how they are grown, handled and processed. Look for the USDA certification on the organic products you buy. If you can’t afford organic choices, buy foods that are as healthy and natural as possible. The more fruits and veggies (organic or non-organic), lean meats and whole grains you can get into your diet, the better.

To your good health,

Diet Busters That Could Ruin Your Weightloss Efforts

If you’re planning to lose weight after the holidays, you know how important eating healthily is to your goal. The problem is, there are changes you might be encouraged to make by well meaning friends or relatives that don’t help you reach that goal, and might actually make things worse! Here are some of the most common diet busters and the truth about each of them.

1. Two percent milk is much lower in fat than whole milk. While this one sounds good, the truth is that 2% milk isn’t all that much lower in fat than the whole milk beside it in the dairy case. Whole milk has 3% fat. To be considered low fat, a food must have 3 grams of fat (or less) per serving, and the 2% variety of milk brings a hefty 4.9 grams of fat with each serving.

2. Brown eggs are healthier. Sadly, when it comes to eggs, the color of the shell has nothing to do with the nutritional value of the inside. Brown and white-shelled eggs are the same in terms of nutrition, but the brown ones generally cost more. Instead, choose brands that mention omega-3 fats on the labels (typically a part of the hen’s feed). You’ll pay more, but you’ll actually be getting something of value for your money.

3. Turkey bacon has less fat/sodium than traditional bacon. Although turkey is leaner than pork to start, that’s misleading in terms of the end product. You need to look at what’s been added to make the turkey taste like the pork bacon we all know (and love). Generally the salt, fat and calories of the two kinds are virtually the same, though some turkey varieties can be higher. You’ll want to shop around, read labels carefully to find brands that are truly lower in salt and fat.

4. Fresh produce is always a better choice than frozen. Frozen is a great option when the fresh varieties of your favorites are out of season. Think about this, when you buy out of season, you’re buying items that have been transported and stored, and thus have lost some of their nutrient value. Frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at their peak ripeness. Look for a brand that doesn’t add sugar, or any mix that is loaded with sauce. If you must buy canned, choose the low salt varieties for veggies, and look for fruits packed in natural juices. Rinsing canned veggies under cold water also cuts down on the sodium before you cook.

5. Salad is always a low calorie choice. A staple of diets, salads are quite often a delicious, good for you option, but not always the low calorie meal you think. Not after you load on meat (grilled or crispy) or the creamy dressing, now you’re taking in loads of extra calories along with those greens. Opt for the dressings with less fat, such as balsamic vinaigrette or Italian, and have them on the side, so you can control the amount you take in. To keep calories in check, avoid toppings like croutons, bacon, cheese or anything crispy, as they are sure to have more calories and fat then you want.

6. Margarine is better than butter. This is not a new debate, but what you need to understand is that depending on the type of margarine you buy, you could be using something that’s even worse for you than butter. Margarine is made with trans fats that raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol and lower the good (HDL) kind. A pat of butter (half a tablespoon) is just 45 calories and has no trans fats. If you simply must have your margarine, look for brands made with plant stanols as a healthier alternative.

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9 Healthy Eating Myths That Will Ruin Your Diet… Continued…

7. Switching to juice from soda saves on sugar. While no one will argue that cutting back on your soda intake is good, drinking juice isn’t always an improvement in terms of your weight. A can of soda has almost the same amount of sugar as a cup of unsweetened apple or orange juice. And while 100% fruit juice can bring you many good things (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) too much can add inches to the waistline. Limit yourself to no more than 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice a day and drink refreshing, no calorie water more often.

8. Reduced fat peanut butter is healthier. Not so. The reduced fat variety of peanut butter isn’t necessarily a better, healthier choice. There’s more sugar and sodium added to improve the taste and shelf life of the reduced fat content product. Read the fine print on the labels as many of these products contain trans fatty acids or partially hydrogenated oils and really aren’t all that good for you… certainly no better than limiting your intake of the regular kind of peanut butter.

9. Swapping frozen yogurt for ice cream will save calories. You might think because it’s yogurt, it has to be healthier, but then you eat more of it, taking in just as many calories as if you’d had the ice cream in the first place. There are actually some brands of frozen yogurt that have nearly double the calories of a light, slow churned ice cream. Your best bet is to read labels and watch those portion sizes to avoid these diet busters.

Heart Disease Risks: Myths Busted

Even though the heart is one of the most important organs in the body, most of us make assumptions about heart disease risks, sometimes founded on only a morsel of truth, that are dangerous to that oh-so-vital organ.

As with anything that concerns your health, knowledge is power… getting to the bottom of those popular myths, and understanding the truth, is a key to keeping your heart healthy, or recognizing signs of danger, before it’s too late.

Here are six well-worn myths along with the facts to set you straight.

MYTH #1: You’d “know” if you had high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Because, after all, you do have supernatural powers, right?

Truth is, unless you get a blood pressure reading or a cholesterol test you won’t know where you stand. Risks for heart disease are usually silent and symptomless… they don’t call hypertension the “silent” killer for nothing. It is silent, and deadly. And even those who are thin and in shape can (and do) have high cholesterol numbers… quietly damaging the body you think is in the best of health.

MYTH #2: Heart disease treats men and women alike. We all have hearts, after all, don’t we? Unfortunately heart disease affects men and women very differently; women are more likely to have less traditional heart attack symptoms than men.

In 2003, a study appearing in the journal Circulation examined the symptoms that 515 women had before a heart attack. The study found that at least a month before the attack, the women felt unusual fatigue (70%), weakness, sleep disturbances or shortness of breath (50%), and a surprising percentage (43% to be exact) had no chest pain at the time of their heart attack.

This doesn’t mean you need to worry over unusual symptoms, but if you have risk factors for heart trouble, you need to pay attention to how you feel. Anything new needs to be brought to your doctor’s attention.

MYTH #3: Younger women aren’t at risk for heart disease. Women may think they’re not vulnerable to heart problems, believing this is a problem for older people… those in their 40s and 50s also think they’re safe. Yet heart disease is the number one killer of U.S. women, and not all of those patients are elderly.

What’s more, risk factors like obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are showing up earlier in females, and heart disease might well follow suit. According to Rita Redberg, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, men are likely to get heart attack in their mid 50s, while women are more prone to heart attack in their mid 60s.

Continues below…


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Busted! 6 Common Heart Health Myths… Continued…

MYTH #4: Once I have heart disease, that’s it. So not true. You can make changes today that have been shown in studies to undo the damage.

It’s your lifestyle, choices you make every day, that’s a critical part of turning things around. Exercising, eating right (healthy, balanced meals with lots of fruits/veggies) and not smoking (and avoiding second hand smoke) are all things you can do, today, to restore your heart and keep it healthy.

MYTH #5: Exercise is too risky if you have heart disease. Nice try, but this is almost always false.

Within 2 weeks of a heart attack, patients are usually encouraged to get into rehab and start working out; very few patients have significant restrictions. And we know exercise reduces the progression of heart disease, and makes it less likely these patients will have another heart attack. Start with 10 minutes a day and work up from there, by 10 minutes a week until you’re getting at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise on most days.

MYTH #6: Aspirin and omega-3 fatty acids do nothing but good. For the most part this is true, but there are some important caveats to the heart healthy benefits. For example, aspirin can exacerbate stomach issues and some are even allergic. In some cases the risks outweigh the potential benefit.

The American Heart Association (AHA) does recommend eating fatty fish at least two times a week, or taking up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids in a daily supplement to reduce heart disease risks. However, it’s important to note that higher doses are not better, and can cause problems, so don’t over do it.

Avoid These Healthy Diet Plan Mistakes

When it comes to following a healthy diet plan, there are pitfalls waiting for the newbie and the experienced healthy eater alike, especially if you don’t have the time to research what you hear on the news. Eating right is a lifelong commitment according to Sari Greaves, RD, nutrition director at Step Ahead Weight Loss Center and an American Dietetic Association spokesperson.

Here are eight diet mis-steps Greaves says anyone can make…

1. One food solves all - a promise that eating a single food (watermelon, cabbage soup, grapefruit) can help you drop weight. Not so. Extreme short-term diets set you up to fail… to be super hungry and then binge. Cutting out entire food groups also leaves you open to nutritional shortfalls, unpleasant side effects, not to mention boredom. You’re going to start craving the foods you’re leaving out. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Weight loss of a half to a pound a week, by eating a well-rounded diet, is what you’re after.

2. Misguided vegetarianism - more than 7 million people in the U.S. follow a diet that can be considered vegetarian. Some love animals too much, others are seeking a healthier lifestyle, and a balanced vegetarian diet has been associated with lower rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. But vegetarian isn’t always low fat or low calorie and you could end up taking in more calories if you’re eating carbs or starch rich foods like cheese, pasta and smoothies. You want to make veggies the centerpiece of each meal, add whole grains, fruit and other non-meat foods like beans, nuts and tofu as side dishes.

3. Too Much Of A Superfood - things that the latest research touts as beneficial like chocolate, red wine, olive oil, avocados and nuts need to be added to your diet with care and moderation. While these foods, or others to be named later, do have health benefits, they generally have a down side too. Add the latest new “superfood” to your diet in moderation… as a single part of your overall healthy eating strategy.

4. Snubbing Bad Foods - carbs are just one of the foods that have been demonized, but if you take them out of your diet, you could pay a nutritional price. The U.S. government’s food pyramid calls for half of your grains being whole grain. You don’t want to cut carbs, or other such foods entirely from your diet. Remember, balance is key.

5. Staying Fat Free - we’ve all seen the labels with “low fat” and “fat free”, but fat is no longer considered a dietary bad guy. Experts tell us that fats are good for us, and are needed by the body, a component of every cell we have. Fat helps you stay full, and too little has your blood sugar fluctuating and hunger returning sooner. Healthy fats are the key, unsaturated fats from plants are best, and remember, not too much.

Continues below…


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Avoid These 8 Common Healthy Eating Pitfalls… Continued…

6. Diet As Punishment - how often do you punish yourself for putting on a few pounds after vacation or the holidays by denying ourselves sweets, fats and just about any food or drink you love. Trouble is, cutting out these favorites just sets you up to fail… if you’re hungry and deprived all the time, you’re more likely to binge. Your best bet is not to give up your favorite foods in a fit of self-denial, but eat them in moderation and in controlled portions. Try to combine treats with healthy foods – chocolate and fruits for instance.

7. Grazing - another new diet trend is eating six small snacks instead of the traditional three meals a day. While grazing does have advantages in terms of keeping blood sugar stable and your appetite under control, you make it much more likely that you’ll consume too many calories over the course of the day. To avoid this, eat the mini meals on at least a two to three hour schedule, and limit them to 200-300 calories each.

8. Unsustainable Approach To Weight Loss - your approach to eating healthy has to be done in a way that’s going to last… that you can do over the long haul, or the pounds are going to keep coming back. Find a way of eating that suits the way you live… and ask yourself when you consider a diet if you can eat this way for the rest of your life. If you can’t, look for another diet.

Your best bet when it comes to following a healthy diet plan is to make small changes… add fresh fruits and veggies to meals for a while. Also, be sure you start your day by eating a healthy breakfast. Once you’re eating better you’ll have the energy (and desire) to get more active – aiming for 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day – and then you’ll really drop the pounds and keep them off!

Too Much TV Leads To Earlier Death

According to a new Australian study set to appear in the January 26, 2009 print edition of the journal Circulation, watching too much TV won’t just leave you brain dead – It may actually take years off your life.

In fact, the more time you spend in front of the tube, the greater your risk of dying at an earlier age.

Earlier work had found a link between the time we spend sitting and heart disease (and death), but this is the first research to look specifically at TV watching, one of our most common activities.

Adults in Australia average about three hours of television watching each day, but in the U.S. the average is estimated to be as much as five hours a day.

Interestingly other activities that require sitting, like reading or doing homework, don’t seem to be linked to the risks of early death as much as time spent in front of the TV.

Maybe it’s the inactivity and the snacks…

The latest work, which controlled for diet quality and calorie intake, involved a six-year follow up of 8,800 adults (284 died during the study) who didn’t have any history of heart disease.

Those who watched four hours or more of TV a day were 80% more likely to die from heart disease; 46% more likely to die early from any cause, as those who watched less than two hours of television each day.

Each added hour in front of the TV upped the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 18%, and the overall risk of early death by 11%.

The pattern held up even after the researchers accounted for overall health and the education levels of the subjects. Age, smoking history, cholesterol numbers and blood pressure were also considered.

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This Doctor Dropped 10 Sizes – Discover Her Shocking Secret

There’s an overwhelming body of research that shows most diets aren’t effective in the long term because they work AGAINST the body…

In fact most people who diet end up putting ON more weight than when they started.

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Too Much TV Leads To Earlier Death Continued…

And if you think that exercising will counter the damage of too much TV, the research found that being active didn’t necessarily make up for the long hours in front of the TV. Watching burns about as many calories as sleeping, and this reduces how much overall energy you body puts out, as well as stops the body from using muscles and processing sugars and fats.

Even when the team compared groups of adults who exercised the same amount, but watched different amounts of TV, they found that those who watched more TV were still at a higher risk of dying earlier than those who watched less. A little exercise, while better than one at all, is just not enough.

It’s not that TV is replacing exercise time, but it does cut down on everyday movements like standing and walking around, and study lead author David Dunstan, Ph.D., the head of the physical activity lab at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Victoria, Australia, believes the positive health benefits of these actions are underestimated.

“Prolonged watching of television equals a lot of sitting, which invariably means there’s an absence of muscle movement,” says Dunstan. Muscles that stay inactive for too long can disrupt your metabolism, but he cautions that TV isn’t the only thing to blame for our lack of activity.

More and more of us sit behind desks at work all day, technology like e-mail and instant messaging have made it easier to stay put – Appliances make everyday chores faster and less physically demanding, and all these things have combined to make our lifestyles less active overall.

To avoid long periods of sitting, you might try…

- Propping your monitor up with a few books so that you need to stand up for a while.

- Stand while on the phone.

- At regular intervals, get up and move around – take a walk, stretch, get a drink.

- Get up during commercials – fold laundry, feed a pet, empty the trash.


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What Pet Choice Says About You

Almost 37% of American households are firmly in the dog lover camp; 32% are cat owners and lovers.

According to 2007 data from the American Veterinary Medical Association the cat population is 82 million felines, while the dog population tops out at 72 million. Experts believe the larger numbers of cats are the result of households owning more than one.

A team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has now tried to answer the question on what makes cat lovers and dog lovers different.

They posted an online questionnaire as part of a larger study on personality known as the Gosling-Potter Internet Personality Project, and about 4,500 people answered questions that were designed to measure personality in five areas – openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

The subjects also indicated whether they considered themselves to be dog people, cat people, both or neither. No data was collected on which of these pets, if any, the subjects actually owned.

It turns out that dog people tended to be more social and outgoing and scored much higher on extraversion, agreeableness and conscientiousness; lower on neuroticism and openness than cat people.

Cat people were more neurotic but also creative, philosophical or nontraditional. These effects seemed to hold regardless of gender, working for both men and women.

“Once you know the findings, it kind of falls into place,” says psychologist Sam Gosling of the University of Texas. “You think, of course, agreeableness and extraversion – dogs are companionable, they hang out, they like to be with you, they like your company, whereas cats like it for as long as they want it, and then they’re off.”

Of course the findings are generalizations and certainly don’t apply to everyone. Earlier research has shown that often the type of animal you were raised with is the animal you’re drawn to in adulthood.

One past study even found that the animal you like is the one your grandparents owned and lived with. The results of this latest study might help you choose the right pet based on your personality, and could also be helpful in terms of pet therapy.

Continues below…


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What Pet Choice Says About You Continued…

Beyond personality characteristics, we may have physical features in common with the animals we own or prefer. A study by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia found that women with long hair liked Springer spaniels and beagles, and these breeds have long ears.

Short haired women liked the short eared basenjis and huskies.

Another study by Michael Roy and Nicholas Christenfeld found that subjects could match pictures of owners and their purebred dogs about 67% of the time. There was no relationship between how long the owners had had the animals, and how alike they looked. This suggests that people chose a dog that looked like them, rather than growing to look like the dogs over time.

Both studies are part of the book Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why it is So Hard to Think Straight About Animals written by Hal Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University.

Herzog believes there are other reasons why a cat person would choose a dog, or a dog person might own a cat. Allergies, lifestyle factors and space for the animal all come into play.

The cat vs. dog people study will appear in the September 2010 issue of the journal Anthrozoos. The field of anthrozoology is the study of how people and animals relate to each other and has only recently gotten more attention.

Which Is Healthier – Farmed Or Wild Fish

Adding fish to the diet is a natural source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, but may also raise concerns about contamination.

Many believe that farmed fish are healthier than those caught out in the wild, polluted ocean.

Always to be counted on for an opinion when it comes to animals and the environment, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is asking all of us to refrain from killing and eating these tasty storehouses of good nutrition, launching an all out effort to rename them “sea kittens” instead.

All this might have you wondering if increasing the amount of fish in your diet is such a good idea after all.

Even CNNHealth’s nutrition expert, Dr. Melina Jampolis, was drawn into the controversy when urging people to limit farm salmon eating to once a week in the absence of the fresh, wild kind.

So this prompted a closer look at the farm vs. fresh debate.

Salmon is a fantastic source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat and protein, while also low in calories and saturated fat.

The good for you omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to cut the risk of sudden cardiac death, and are also linked to better cholesterol numbers.

In fact, six ounces of East Coast Atlantic salmon has more DHA and EPA (omega-3 fatty acids) than the same amount of wild salmon, shrimp, chicken or beef. And with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the U.S., there’s no time like right now to make salmon, or another tasty fish like mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna a regular part of your diet.

It’s these benefits to the heart that have the American Heart Association calling for all of us to eat fish two times per week, especially the fatty fish like salmon.

It’s also important to trim the skin and fat (you reduce toxins by 12 to 40% by trimming fat at the belly and back) as much as you can, and either grill or broiling to keep the preparation method as free from added fats as possible.

Confusing the issue are the studies that found certain species of fish contaminated with methylmercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

A 2003 Environmental Working Group report showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs. Another study, widely publicized at the time, in January 2004′s journal Science, found that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxins than wild Pacific salmon.

This news brought the importation of farmed Atlantic salmon in the U.S. down by 20% in early 2004. Since then, experts have found that the majority of PCBs that we take in each day are more likely to come from other animal products (beef and chicken, for instance) rather than fish.

Continues below…


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Which Is Healthier, Farmed Or Wild Fish? Continued…

As to the environmental impact of farming fish, consider this. To produce one farmed salmon, you have to feed it, and it eats more than its own weight in smaller fish. If these fish are contaminated, the salmon eating them will retain that toxicity.

What’s more, the farm’s need for food actually causes a net loss of fish from the sea. We don’t know what this might do to delicate ecosystems science is just now beginning to understand.

The good news for salmon (and other fish lovers) is that the latest research has found that the potential health benefits of both the farmed and wild salmon far exceed the risks.

Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of a study that appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2006, found that PCB levels in farmed salmon were not anything to worry about compared to the many benefits that come from eating this delicious fish.

“It’s clear that if there is any risk, the benefit is still in the range of 300 to 1,000 times greater from the fact that you’re getting the omega-3s,” he said.

You might also think about trying smaller fish – anchovies, mackerel and sardines are all good choices. These creatures live shorter lives, so they don’t have the same opportunity as larger fish to pick up toxins.

If you’re at all worried about contamination, David Love, project director at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, suggests you find out where your fish came from, and investigate any potential contamination problems in that area.


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8 Remarkable Facts About Cholesterol

Most people, when they think cholesterol, picture fatty foods, plaque coated artery walls and heart disease. But there are more than a few things about this waxy substance that might surprise you.

1. Sky high cholesterol may be partly due to genetics – for some families it’s inevitable that LDL (bad) cholesterol will be in the unhealthy zone. Known technically as familial hypercholesterolemia, it’s an issue for 1 in 500 of us and increase the risk for early heart attack. Some who inherit defective genes from each parent (much rarer, affecting 1 in 1,000,000) can have total cholesterol numbers over 1000 mg/dL. Numbers this high can signal early death, often before 20 years old.

2. Clogged arteries look like butter – LDL (bad) cholesterol slowly builds up on artery walls, leaving a thick plaque that narrows arteries, restricts blood flow and can lead to blood clots. Once arteries start to thicken and become rigid, they take on the yellow color of cholesterol, leaving them looking as though they are lined with a layer of frozen butter.

3. You can see high cholesterol on your skin – look for reddish-yellowish bumps on your skin surface, known to medicine as xanthomas, that vary in size and can show up all over the body including your eyelids, joints and hands. Often they appear in older folks or those with diabetes or other health issues.

4. Your total cholesterol number can be too low – and at these levels, just as unhealthy as high cholesterol. While your total cholesterol number should be under 200 mg/dL; numbers below 160 mg/dL are associated with health risks like cancer. Experts still cannot say if the health problems cause the low cholesterol or vice versa. Some work has also found that pregnant women with low total cholesterol are more apt to give birth prematurely. Low total cholesterol, as well as LDL levels have each been linked to anxiety and depression.

5. Our total cholesterol numbers are dropping – unlike the obesity epidemic, total cholesterol numbers have gone down over the last few years. And while elevated cholesterol wasn’t recognized as a serious health problem 50 years ago, the numbers are dropping now mostly because more of us are aware of the dangers – we’re screened more, there are healthier dietary options available and the widespread use of statin drugs all combine to keep those numbers in check.

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8 Remarkable Facts About Cholesterol Continued…

6. Exercise boosts good cholesterol – just one of the many good things regular exercise can do, a recent study in the Journal of Lipid Research suggests that those workouts might affect cholesterol differently depending on the race and gender of the patient. In each of the groups the researchers studied, physical activity equal to an extra hour of mild exercise or a half hour of moderate exercise per week, was linked to an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. The bad (LDL) cholesterol dropped only in women, and total cholesterol dropped only in African-American women.

7. Cholesterol free food can still raise cholesterol – only in animal based foods like milk, eggs and meat, even though you’ll see foods that can honestly say they are “cholesterol free”, that doesn’t mean they’re exactly good for your cholesterol levels. Fried foods and baked goods are loaded with trans fats (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) and these, along with saturated fats, are the biggest causes of getting high cholesterol from food – yet they aren’t listed as cholesterol on any package. Read labels with care, looking for fat as well as cholesterol content before deciding if a food is a healthy option.

8. High cholesterol can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) – high cholesterol numbers have been linked to a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, kidney failure and even Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study found that diets high in cholesterol brought an increased risk of developing cirrhosis of the live or liver cancer. A Swedish study from 2005 suggests that men with total cholesterol of around 270 mg/dL and over were 4.5 times more likely to develop testicular cancer than men with total cholesterol numbers of 220 mg/dL or below.


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A Triple Dose Of Studies Highlight PCB Toxins Dangers

Exposure to specific toxins in the environment, also known as PCBs (technically called polychlorinated biphenyls), appears to have an effect on the development of brain cells according to not one or two, but three new studies.

These toxic substances in our world have long been associated with problems in children, but science could never explain precisely how PCB toxins affected the brain.

Once PCBs were used in everything from pesticides, caulking, flame retardants and electronic components, though the U.S. banned their use in the 1970s. And though that seems like long ago, these chemicals hang around in the environment because they aren’t easily broken down.

They’re still found in the air, are seeping into our water, the ground and contaminating foods like fish that we eat. This is why PCBs are still detectable in all of us, even today.

The latest group of studies has found that these environmental toxins negatively affect the development of brain cells and overexcite brain circuits. This has been linked by earlier work to developmental problems.

“We think we have identified the way in which a broad class of environmental contaminants influences the developing nervous system and may contribute to neuro-developmental impairments such as hyperactivity, seizure disorders, and autism,” explains researcher Isaac N. Pessah, PhD. The latest of the three studies appears in the April 2009 online issue of PLoS-Biology.

One surprise that came from the research is that lower levels of PCB exposures sometimes were more harmful than higher level exposures.

The first of the three studies found that exposures to low doses of PCBs impaired animal subjects’ ability to learn to navigate a maze, a common way to test learning in the lab.

It seems that even low doses of PCBs adversely affected the plasticity of the dendrites, which are key to learning and memory. Problems in this area have been implicated in conditions like autism, schizophrenia and even mental retardation.

The first study was published in the March 2009 issue of Environmental and Health Perspectives.

For the second of the studies, tissue from the animal’s hippocampus (part of the brain that manages memory and emotion) was examined in order to measure the excitability of neurons before and during exposures to two different PCBs.

The normal brain needs to strike a balance between excitation and inhibition of the neurons, as too much excitability isn’t a good thing. Disorders like autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may in fact involve an imbalance between the two states.

The report on the second study appears in the March 2009 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology.

The third study took things to the cellular level, looking at specifically how PCBs might change the cell development (as they saw from the first study) and the level of excitement (what they found from that second study).

This time, the team exposed receptors in the brain cells that regulate the release of calcium (key to keeping signaling normal from cell to cell) to PCBs. Looking with electron microscopes, they found that PCBs bind to the receptors and hinders the release of calcium.

It’s this that may account for the findings in the other two studies.

“I think that these studies represent a kind of a turning point for our recognition of how these chemicals, PCBs, can interfere with brain development,” says R. Thomas Zoeller, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

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A Triple Dose Of Studies Highlight PCB Dangers continued

Now that there’s a lab backed explanation of how PCBs do their damage, this adds even more weight to the work researchers have done to link exposures to these environmental toxins and developmental problems.

It may also help to come up with a way to evaluate the safety of other chemicals that have taken the place of PCBs, perhaps weed out the dangerous ones before they become widely used.

What’s more, the work shows us that even lower dose exposures to PCB toxins aren’t always better and may not be safe at all.