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Database Has Nutrition Info on 80,000 Food Items

by Bob Curley on October 29, 2014

FoodScorespoptartsA comprehensive new database called Food Scores not only can tell you the ingredients and nutritional value of most foods you buy, but also provides information on the degree to which each item has been processed. Each item is scored on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the least nutritious and most processed.

The New York Times reported Oct. 29 that the database unveiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) contains information on more than 80,000 items and products. The information comes from manufacturers as well as EWG’s research on pesticides and food additives.

“We know that consumers care a lot about what’s in the foods they buy, and we also know that if foods are highly processed, that can have an impact on nutrition in ways that don’t always show up on the information panels on labels,” said EWG’s Renée Sharp. “You can see if a product is gluten-free, whether it potentially contains genetically modified ingredients, how it stacks up against its competition.”

Only branded and processed foods are included, so you won’t find information on loose fruit or vegetables, for example.


Arsenic in Drinking Water Threatens Heart Health

by Bob Curley on October 31, 2014

tapwaterLuisFlickrPeople with high levels of arsenic in their system — often from drinking contaminated well water — are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease, the New York Times reported Oct. 30.

The findings were drawn from a study of Native Americans who relied on well water, which is not subject to the arsenic standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for public water systems (maximum 10 parts per billion).

In the case of well water, arsenic contamination often comes from natural sources. However, arsenic is also a component of industrial air pollution.

Experts say even low levels of arsenic can cause free radical damage to cells, stress  blood vessels and thicken arterial walls.

“We need more cardiologists to be thinking about environmental effects on the heart,” said Gervasio Lamas, chief of cardiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami. “It’s not just some abstract EPA problem. It’s actually affecting our patients.”

The findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

(Photo © Luis/CC by 2.0)


Half of Americans Say They Lack Economic Security

by Bob Curley on October 31, 2014

moneybillsMeddygarnetFlickrMany Americans say they are hurting financially and see no way to recover in the near future, NBC News reported Oct. 29.

A new Harris poll found that:

  • more than half of Americans call themselves lower-middle class or working class, with low economic security
  • 75 percent said factors like credit-card debt and healthcare and housing costs are holding them back financially
  • 45 percent don’t expect their finances to recover to where they were before the 2008 financial crisis
  • 44 percent report having less than $2,000 in savings, and 21 percent had no savings
  • 53 percent have $10,000 or more in debt, and 32 percent had more than $20,000

(Photo © meddygarnet/CC by 2.0)

Kids Given Placebo Cough Less

by Bob Curley on October 31, 2014

honeypurplesherbertflickrIf your child has a cough, try giving them a little water flavored with honey or agave nectar: studies show that the placebo effect can provide relief for children with coughs.

U.S. News reported Oct. 28 that a study found that kids given a placebo or pasteurized agave nectar coughed less than those given no treatment.

“It is possible that giving a sweet liquid ‘placebo’ is preferred for families and children than doing nothing or, even worse, taking an unnecessary antibiotic,” said lead researcher Ian Paul, chief of the Division of Academic General Pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine.

Parents also should keep kids with coughs well-hydrated, doctors say.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

(Photo © Purple Sherbert Photography/CC by 2.0)

Energy Drinks Should Be More Regulated: Report

by Bob Curley on October 31, 2014

energydrinkHaWeeFlickrEnergy drink need to be more highly regulated due to their high caffeine content and dangers associated with consumption with alcoholic beverages, a new report contends.

Reuters reported Oct. 23 that the study led by Joao Breda of the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe noted that there are more than 500 brands of energy drinks released each year, many containing poorly researched ingredients like taurine and guarana. In fact, there are few studies at all about the health impact of energy drinks, Breda said.

A review of past research did find that:

  • energy drinks are responsible for 43 percent of the caffeine consumed by European children, and 18 percent of the caffeine consumed by teens
  • teens who consumed energy drinks were more likely to use alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
  • 70 percent of young adults who use energy drinks mix them with alcohol

The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

(Photo © Ha-Wee/CC by 2.0)


How to Make Fish Even Healthier

by Bob Curley on October 31, 2014

grilledfishRalphDailyFlickrFish in general is a good dietary choice — but deep-fried fish and chips really isn’t. Health reported Oct. 30 on five ways to make your fish as healthy as possible, including:

  • Use healthier fats: cook with olive oil, or add avocado or nuts to your dish, for example.
  • Add herbs and spices for flavor (rather than butter, for example).
  • Layer your fish with other filling, healthy ingredients, like hummus, sautéed spinach, roasted tomatoes, wild rice, mashed sweet potatos, or spaghetti squash.
  • Chill your leftovers and use them to top a salad later.
  • Add fish to stews, stir-frys or tacos in place of meat.

(Photo © Ralph Daily/CC by 2.0)

Allspice and Nutmeg are Healthy Fall Flavors

The allspice and nutmeg that tend to make an appearance in fall dishes and desserts also have a long history as traditional medicines, Fox News reported Oct. 29. Allspice, the fruit of an evergreen shrub, has been used to relieve digestive complaints, while nutmeg, a tree seed, has been used to cure indigestion, as a sleep aid, […]

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Visiting the Hospital? Wash Your Hands!

Do you wash your hands before and after visiting the hospital? Research shows that few patients do so, Reuters reported Oct. 23. Researchers found that less than one-third of patients washed their hands after using the bathroom, and that hand sanitizers were only rarely used by patients and visitors entering or leaving hospital rooms. Specifically, […]

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Some Colleges Offer On-Campus Tanning Beds

Despite the well-reported risks of skin cancer, some U.S. colleges provide students with access to tanning beds on campus, NBC News reported Oct. 29. A recent survey found that 12 percent of the nation’s top colleges had tanning beds on campus, and even more have them at off-campus facilities like student housing complexes. In some […]

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Make Your Home a True Sanctuary from Allergens

Tempted to hide inside during allergy season? Cocooning yourself indoors might actually make your allergies worse, Fox News reported Oct. 28. Pets and clothing can easily carry pollen, dust, bacteria and other allergens into the house, so if you don’t take steps to keep this stuff out, you’ll just be trapping yourself inside an unhealthy […]

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Evanston, Ill., Raises Tobacco Purchase Age to 21

The tobacco industry could lose $2 billion annually if every U.S. state raised its legal tobacco-purchase age from 18 to 21, as some communities have, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 28. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has been encouraging — with some success — the adoption of age-21 tobacco laws at the city and […]

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