A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

Americans' Eating Habits Take a Healthier Turn, Study Finds

(Wall Street Journal) Years of warnings by health officials and grim news on the bathroom scale appear to finally be having an impact on the nation's eating habits. While there is no sign the high level of obesity has fallen, Americans say they are consuming fewer calories and cutting back on fast food, cholesterol and fat.
Working-age adults consumed an average of 118 fewer calories a day in the 2009-10 period than four years earlier, according to a study released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Americans also reported eating more home-cooked meals with their families and fewer in restaurants—though the economy played a role—and reading nutritional labels on food at grocery stores more often.
The latest findings add to growing evidence that suggests the nation's eating habits may be taking a more healthful turn. Other studies also have found that caloric intake has declined in recent years.
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People Want Healthy Food! Restaurants Aren't Listening! Supermarkets Are!

(The Supermarket Guru) People want to eat healthier! In the soon to be released 2014 NGA SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey, more than one consumer in five (20.4%) say that dietitians are a “very/somewhat important” influence in their choice of a primary supermarket and that 80.8% of consumers consider health claims “almost always” or “sometimes” when considering purchase of a new food item.
Some of the nation's largest food companies have cut daily calorie counts [in their consumer packaged goods (CPGs)] by an average of 78 per person, according to a new study sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. And this is greater than four times the amount the industry pledged to slash by next year.
But there is a problem. Just about half of the foods and beverages are consumed away from home; and a recent study… found that the entrees at some popular chain restaurants are far from what one would consider nutritious. Meals were loaded with sodium and nearly void of fiber…
Since when are the rules different for packaged foods and fast food or chain restaurants?  Especially since it appears that packaged foods come under a lot more scrutiny from both consumers and [watchdog organizations] than do fast food and chain eateries?
Is it because Americans don’t want to be bothered when eating out to check how many calories or fat are actually in their meal – but when buying and eating packaged foods the information confronts them every time the look at the box?
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Netherlands is country with most plentiful, healthy food - Oxfam

(Reuters) The Netherlands nudged past France and Switzerland as the country with the most nutritious, plentiful and healthy food, while the United States and Japan failed to make it into the top 20, a new ranking released by Oxfam on Tuesday showed…
"The Netherlands have created a good market that enables people to get enough to eat. Prices are relatively low and stable and the type of food people are eating is balanced," Deborah Hardoon, a senior researcher at Oxfam who compiled the results, said in an interview.
"They've got the fundamentals right and in a way that is better than most other countries all over the world."
Oxfam ranked the nations on the availability, quality and affordability of food and dietary health. It also looked at the percentage of underweight children, food diversity and access to clean water, as well as negative health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes.
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Handheld Device TellSpec Can Detect Allergens, Chemicals, and Nutrients in Food

(Singularity Hub) The industrialization of food production freed people up to pursue careers other than farming. But it also incentivized food companies and restaurants to use low-cost ingredients that taste or look good but often are neither healthful nor natural. For people with food allergies or diet-related diseases such as Celiac and diabetes, eating foods with unknown ingredients is a high-risk activity. All of these diseases are on the rise in the United States and other developed countries, according to some researchers due to the same lack of exposure to livestock and soil.
For this particular ill of the post-War era, there’s now a 21st-century workaround: a hand-held spectrometer that can determine exactly what is in the user’s food and display it on his or her smartphone.
A Toronto company called TellSpec has developed a spectroscopy data-crunching algorithm that runs in the cloud and delivers nuggets of useful information to the user through a smartphone app. The idea for the device came from co-founder Isabel Hoffman’s daughter, who suffers from gluten intolerance and other food allergies.
“Until recently, spectrometers were large and expensive, but now they are available as tiny affordable chips,” explained Hoffman.
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Recipes

MyRecipes.com:
Seared Lamb with Balsamic Sauce
Get a healthy taste of the Mediterranean when you serve these hearty sweet-savory chops over rice pilaf.
EatingWell:
Marsala Chicken Stew
This Marsala chicken stew recipe gets its richness from plenty of mushrooms and onions. Make it a meal: Soak up all the saucy goodness with whole-wheat egg noodles and serve with a green salad.
Appetite for Health:
Sweet Potato Casserole (…made with clean ingredients)
If you want a great side-dish to go with poultry, try this healthy sweet potato casserole.  We’ve nixed the marshmallows and used only wholesome clean ingredients, like honey, natural spices, and pecans.
Super Easy Guacamole Recipe (…it’s healthier too!)
Avocados are nutritional all-stars that provide nearly 20 different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re also rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats which are known to be good for your heart’s health.
Andrew Weil, M.D.:
White Bean Spread
White beans are an especially good source of fiber. Eaten as part of a meal, they slow the metabolism of glucose, making these beans an excellent dietary choice for diabetics or pre-diabetics.
The Supermarket Guru:
'Stolen with permission' from chef and owner Stephanie Sokolove, we're in Boston this week, at Stephanie's on Newbury. Stephanie compliments her cozy dining room - fireplace and all - with sophisticated comfort foods like this Rack Roasted Double Thick Pork Chop with Polenta Fries. You'll love this savory dish whether you're at Stephanie's on Newbury in the sky-lit dining area or in the comfort of your own home.
SouthBeachDiet.com:
Burger and Fries Makeover
Give this favorite combo a healthy makeover by using lean ground sirloin, turkey, or chicken breast for the burger. Stuff or top the burger with reduced-fat cheese. Skip the bun if you’re on Phase 1 and serve the burger on a Bibb lettuce leaf along with celery or jícama sticks instead of fries. On Phase 2, enjoy the burger on half a whole-wheat bun, whole-wheat pita, or whole-wheat English muffin. For a classic Phase 2accompaniment, bake some sweet-potato fries in the oven with a sprinkling of paprika or cayenne for a spicy kick.
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Superfoods in play: We challenge chefs to design recipes using nutritious ingredients

(Washington Post) Nick Palermo, of Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac … describes himself as someone who likes to cook in his own castle and likes to modernize classic American comfort food, without going “crazy or super-chemical” in the kitchen…
He roasted avocado quarters and used them to fill the side of the plate where a starchy carb might otherwise reside. The combination of a well-executed pork chop — which could just as well be a roasted chicken breast or piece of fish, he says — sauteed broccoli and a sherry vinaigrette that graces all of the components could seriously upgrade a weeknight meal without much fuss.
Turkey was not an obvious choice for him. “I don’t even really eat the stuff,” he says. The lean protein contains heart-healthy minerals that are said to aid our immune system and metabolism. Palermo managed to make it a flavor bomb in his turkey curry, bolstered by a quick-ish broth and brief infusion of kaffir lime leaves. The dark meat cooks just long enough to become pull-apart tender. His turkey cassoulet fits the season; leaner and less daunting than a three-page Julia Child rendition, it still manages to evoke the richness of the French casserole.
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The Unbelievable Amount Of Sugar In 'Healthy' Juice

(Huffington Post) January is the month of juice: Your Instagram feed is full of cleansing acquaintances clutching their juice bottles in an effort to lose weight and your inbox is overflowing with offers from the biggest juice companies. Maybe even your coworkers are in on it-- suggesting you all "flush out the toxins" together.
Unfortunately, all of this is a bit of magical thinking on the part of your friends -- and marketing on the part of juice companies. There's nothing we can eat that will "detoxify" us -- our kidneys, liver and colon do that work for us. And chances are any weight loss is merely water coming off as you starve yourself. What's more, as the Mayo Clinic explains, juicing can actually lead to weight gain, thanks to mega-doses of sugar without any of fruit's naturally occurring fiber, which helps to mitigate the sugar during digestion. And, unfortunately, the isolated sugar from fruit looks very much like sugar from any other source -- it is merely a mixture of fructose and glucose, to which your body responds identically. At the very least, it can lead to a pretty epic blood sugar crash: Juice is also absent of protein and fat, which play a role in regulating blood sugar.
Just how much sugar? We decided to see. We picked some of the trendiest juice companies around, looked for their most nutritious-sounding juices and started calculating the sugar. We found that healthy-sounding juices sometimes carried with them a whopping 39 grams of sugar -- the same as more than five standard chocolate chip cookies we'd picked up from our office's cafe.
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Are bananas bad for me too?

(CNN) Bananas contain about 14 grams of sugar… [But the] good thing about fruit is that the sugar often comes with fiber, which slows digestion and gives the body time to use it as fuel instead of storing it as fat.
Every long-distance runner knows the power of a good banana. The fruit contains high levels of potassium and magnesium -- two nutrients athletes lose when they sweat.
Bananas also have a chemical property that may help control stomach pain and reduce your risk of diarrhea or constipation, according to LiveStrong.com.
That's not all. One banana offers about 25% of your daily need for vitamin B6. B6 is important for about 100 different metabolic enzyme reactions, according to the National Institutes for Health, and is involved in brain development during pregnancy and infancy.
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Food tasting different? Why this may be happening.

(NIH Senior Health, via email) If your food is tasting different, it could be because of a problem with smell. When smell is impaired, people usually have problems appreciating the subtle flavors of food. Learn what can cause smell problems and see how smell problems are diagnosed.
To learn more, watch “Older Adults and Smell Loss.”
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Vitamin D can help fibromyalgia

(The Australian) VITAMIN D supplements can improve the symptoms of a debilitating chronic pain disorder that affects around one in 25 people, mostly women.
Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) causes widespread muscle pain and tiredness, and is associated with anxiety and depression…
The incurable condition, often confused with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or ME, is believed to be triggered by abnormally sensitive nerves…
Boosting vitamin D levels led to dramatic reductions in the treated group's experience of pain, as measured using a standard scale based on self-reported symptoms.
Read more.                                   
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Heavy Drinking in Middle Age May Speed Memory Loss by Up to Six Years in Men

(Science Daily) Middle-aged men who drink more than 36 grams of alcohol, or two and a half US drinks per day, may speed their memory loss by up to six years later on, according to a study… On the other hand, the study found no differences in memory and executive function in men who do not drink, former drinkers and light or moderate drinkers. Executive function deals with attention and reasoning skills in achieving a goal.
“Much of the research evidence about drinking and a relationship to memory and executive function is based on older populations,” said study author Séverine Sabia, PhD, of the University College London in the United Kingdom. “Our study focused on middle-aged participants and suggests that heavy drinking is associated with faster decline in all areas of cognitive function in men.”
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Smoking in the News

(Reuters) Fifty years after the first U.S. surgeon general's report declared smoking a hazard to human health, the tally of smoking-related effects keeps rising, with liver and colorectal cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even erectile dysfunction joining the list, according to a report released on Friday.
(Los Angeles Times) The U.S. surgeon general is calling on Hollywood to kick the tobacco habit, saying too many youth-rated films contain harmful images of tobacco use. In a new report on smoking released Friday, acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak and other U.S. health officials greatly expanded the list of tobacco's damaging health effects and urged renewed focus on reducing national smoking rates. Among dozens of findings and recommendations, the report found that media images of smoking had become more common in the last two years, with young people being exposed to almost 15 million images of tobacco use in youth-rated films.
(MedPage Today) Cutting the nicotine content of tobacco products and "bans on entire categories of tobacco products” are just two of the strategies for an "endgame” to stop all tobacco use suggested in a federal report released Friday.
(CSPnet.com) Despite a brief setback in December, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has succeeded in banning electronic cigarette use in restaurants, bars and most other indoor public places in Chicago.
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University suggests ways to stay healthy during flu season

(UPI) The best way to guard against influenza -- getting a flu shot -- often isn't 100 percent effective, so the University of Alberta suggests ways to stay healthy…
-- Wash hands often…
-- Cover your mouth with your elbow if you have to cough or sneeze…
-- Avoid rubbing your eyes, wiping your mouth, or touching your nose before washing your hands.
-- Avoid sharing water bottles, lip balm, or that pen you chew on. And if you have a reusable handkerchief ... keep it to yourself.
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FDA: Acetaminophen doses over 325 mg might lead to liver damage

(CNN) You're in pain after surgery, and your doctor prescribes you Vicodin, or maybe Percocet. But when you get home, the pain hasn't subsided and you decide to pop some Extra Strength Tylenol.
Unknowingly, you may have just taken more of the drug acetaminophen than is safe…
"Many consumers are often unaware that many products (both prescription and OTC) contain acetaminophen, making it easy to accidentally take too much," the FDA said in a statement Tuesday.
The warning does not apply to over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen. The FDA said it will address over-the-counter products in another regulatory action.
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Statins Linked to Less Delirium in the ICU

(MedPage Today) Delirium risk was lower for critically ill patients kept on their preexisting statin therapy, an observational study showed.
Statin administration the prior evening was associated with 2.28-fold greater odds of being assessed as free of delirium the next day…, Valerie Page, MBChB, … and colleagues found…
"These results suggest that in patients receiving statins prior to ICU [intensive care unit] admission, statin therapy should be continued to prevent delirium, albeit with appropriate safety monitoring," they concluded.
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Two Weeks Into Health Law's Rollout, Few Problems, Few Patients

(Wall Street Journal) Two weeks into the full rollout of the Affordable Care Act, hospitals and doctors say they are coping with the trickle of new patients relatively smoothly, but one of the biggest issues is making sure enrollees get insurance cards.
The 2010 health law represented the biggest expansion of insurance coverage in a generation. Nonetheless, the number of people signing up so far for private coverage or Medicaid under the law is still a tiny fraction of all Americans with health insurance, partly because computer snafus hindered early enrollment.
"We are definitely seeing an impact, but it's a small number compared to the overall population," said Mark Newton, the chief executive of Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. Mr. Newton said his hospital saw at least 25 newly insured patients the first week in January and performed two surgeries on people who were waiting for new coverage to kick in on Jan. 1.
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Medicaid expansion improves health care services for prison population

(Lifespan) As Medicaid eligibility expands under the Affordable Care Act, prison systems are increasingly supporting prisoners' enrollment in Medicaid as a way to help lower prison system costs and improve prisoners' access to health care upon release. These are the findings of a nationwide survey of state prison administrators that was led by Josiah D. Rich, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, based at The Miriam Hospital…
"This study is unique because of the timing with the expansion of Medicaid. We know that an increasing number of prison systems, although far from all, are helping prisoners enroll in Medicaid in preparation for their return to the community," explained Rich. "Enrollment improves access to basic health services, including substance use and mental health services, and can in turn benefit the health of the communities and families to which prisoners return. There is a possibility that there will be decreased recidivism as people get treatment for their mental illness and addiction."
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Is the U.S. too corrupt for single-payer health care?

(Ezra Klein, Wonkblog, Washington Post) The key to a single-payer system is that the government sets prices. Usually, it empowers boards of independent experts who set those prices low. Reinhardt's argument is that in the United States, health industry interests have so much sway over Congress that the prices would end up being set by health-care interests.
"When you go to Taiwan or Canada," [Princeton's Uwe] Reinhardt said, "the kind of lobbying we have here is illegal there. You can’t pay money to influence the party the same way. Therefore the bureaucrats who run these systems are pretty much insulated from these pressures. Here you have basically a board of directors in the House Ways and Means Committee that gets money from lobbyists both at the regulatory writing stage and during normal operations. And they can call an administrator and demand they stop something from happening."…
Obamacare sets up [an]independent board to drive pricing in Medicare. As of a few months ago, that board looked doomed. Republicans were going to filibuster every possible appointee. But now that the filibuster has been eliminated for executive-branch nominations, it seems much likelier that the Obama administration will be able to staff the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- and that the board will actually be close to independent. How that board operates over the next decade or so will be a good test of Reinhardt's theory.
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Mediterranean diet linked to lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

(Los Angeles Times) Even without weight loss, adhering to a diet rich in fresh produce, chicken, fish and olive oil is 40% more effective in heading off the development of Type 2 diabetes than following a low-fat diet, a new study has found.
The research suggests that for the nation's 78 million obese adults, a diet that minimizes red meat and sweets but incorporates plant-based fats may be a sustainable way to improve health — even if permanent weight reduction proves elusive.
The findings add to mounting research that suggests a traditional Mediterranean diet may be easier to adhere to and more likely to improve health than more restrictive regimens.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes.
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How Fiber Prevents Diabetes, Obesity

(Science Daily) Scientists have known for the past twenty years that a fiber-rich diet protects the organism against obesity and diabetes but the mechanisms involved have so far eluded them. A French-Swedish team … has succeeded in elucidating this mechanism, which involves the intestinal flora and the ability of the intestine to produce glucose between meals.
These results … also clarify the role of the intestine and its associated microorganisms in maintaining glycaemia. They will give rise to new dietary recommendations to prevent diabetes and obesity.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes.
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Muscle training linked to diabetes prevention

(Los Angeles Times) Women might consider aiming for those Kelly Ripa sculpted muscles – it’s not just jogging that will keep Type 2 diabetes at bay, scientists said in a study Tuesday.
The benefits of aerobic exercise such as running and swimming to help prevent Type 2 diabetes have been established, but with a study of thousands of middle-aged and older women, researchers say that weight-lifting and other muscle-strengthening exercise including yoga were associated with lower levels of the disease.
That [doesn’t] mean you should hang up your running shoes or swimsuit.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes.
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Fish Derived Serum Omega-3 Fatty Acids Help Reduce Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

(Science Daily) High concentrations of serum long-chain omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a University of Eastern Finland study published recently… The sources of these fatty acids are fish and fish oils…
The study sheds new light on the association between fish consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes. A well-balanced diet should include at least two fish meals per week, preferably fatty fish. Fish rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, rainbow trout, vendace, bream, herring, anchovy, sardine and mackerel, whereas for example saithe and Atlantic cod are not so good alternatives. Weight management, increased exercise and a well-rounded diet built around dietary recommendations constitute the cornerstones of diabetes prevention.
Community: Tuna is also a source of this healthy oil.
There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or reduce the severity of type 2 diabetes.
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More Information and Recent Research on Diabetes

(The Supermarket Guru) Here's a view of what life could be like after diagnosis -- to help inspire people not to become statistics like these… 1.  Inflammation… Medical science implicates inflammation in almost every disease process these days… 2.  Brain Health… Spikes and dips in sugar and glucose levels, along with the inflammation associated with diabetes (and pre-diabetes), can upset brain health… 3.  Mood Swings. Blood sugar fluctuations can cause major mood shifts… 4.  Blindness… ADA says diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74 years… 5.  Amputations. Another possible grim outcome: more than 60 percent of non-traumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes, notes ADA.
(Reuters Health) Less than half of people with diabetes-related eye disease have been told about it, which means they're also missing out on treatment that could save their sight, U.S. researchers say… It's important to catch the signs of diabetic macular edema (DME) early because it can be treated, Dr. Neil M. Bressler said.
Community: NIH Senior Health has more information on diabetic retinopathy, and its prevention and treatment.
(Reuters Health) Contrary to a popular theory, adults who are overweight when they are diagnosed with diabetes are not protected against dying early, a large new study shows.
(University of Alberta) Medical researchers with the University of Alberta played an important role in a Massachusetts General Hospital-led discovery that a blood test could pinpoint those at risk of developing diabetes—more than 10 years before the onset of the disease. The team discovered a biomarker in the blood that accumulated at higher levels in those at risk of developing diabetes.
(Science Daily) Torontonians living in neighborhoods that aren't conducive to walking have a 33 per cent greater risk of developing diabetes or being obese, according to new research.
(Science Daily) "Our research shows that very low doses of anticancer drugs used to treat lymphoma -- so-called lysine deacetylase inhibitors -- can reset the immune response to not attack the insulin-producing cells. We find fewer immune cells in the pancreas, and more insulin is produced when we give the medicine in the drinking water to mice that would otherwise develop type 1 diabetes," says postdoc Dan Ploug Christensen
(Science Daily) Perfluorinated compounds are environmental toxins that are found in fire extinguishing foam and water-repellent textiles and, for example. In a new study, a research team led from Uppsala University has seen links between high levels of perfluorinated compounds in the blood and diabetes.
More . . .

Recipes

Cooking Light:
300-Calorie Dinners
We gave these recipes a real workout: very satisfying food, very light.
MyRecipes.com:
Cincinnati Turkey Chili
Ladle bowlfuls of inspired Midwestern chili for your next casual dinner party or football gathering.
EatingWell:
Five-Spice Turkey & Lettuce Wraps
Based on a popular Chinese dish, these fun wraps also make appealing appetizers for entertaining. Make it a meal: Serve with chile-garlic sauce and rice vinegar for extra zip; toss diced mango and strawberries with lime juice for a quick dessert.
SouthBeachDiet.com:
Preparing Stuffed Vegetables
Some stuffed vegetables, like our Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed with Low-Fat Cottage Cheese, make a delicious snack. Others, such as our Tomato Stuffed with Tuna Salad, make an energizing and delicious lunch or dinner that’s ready in just 10 minutes.
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Expert: Many foods can contain unexpected high levels of sugar

(UPI) Simple sugars -- such as in cookies and candy -- not only add to weight gain, but contribute to wrinkles, acne and skin conditions, a U.S. expert says…
[Dr. Michael F.] Roizen wrote in the U.S. News & World Report some unexpected sources of simple sugars include:
-- Chocolate milk can contain 30 grams of sugar per cup.
-- Energy bars can contain 30 to 50 grams of sugar.
-- Sports drinks can contain 55 grams of sugar.
-- Non-fat fruit-flavored yogurt can contain 47 grams of sugar.
-- Granola can contain 14 grams of added sugar in half a cup.
-- Bottled fat-free salad dressings can contain 2 to 6 grams of sugar per 2-tablespoon serving.
-- Ketchup and BBQ sauce can contain 6 grams of sugar per ounce, or about four squeeze-packets' worth.
-- Fruit juice can contain 22 to 36 grams of sugar in one cup.
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Combatting ads by chewing (Video)

(The Supermarket Guru) Are you a sucker for TV ads? Do you fall for anything anyone is trying to sell? Well here’s a solution… Chew!
A study from the University of Cologne … found that the act of chewing can make people immune to advertising!  Because the brain is occupied with chewing, it’s distracted, and misses all those subtle sales pushes!  Good news for your wallet… and your health!  If you replace junky snacks with healthy snacks, such as carrots or celery sticks or a handful of nuts, you’ll be keeping your purse strings and your waistline slim!
Read more or watch the video.
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Pro-GMO Lobby Sues To Overturn Campaign Finance Laws After Getting Caught Breaking Them

(ThinkProgress) During last year’s heavily moneyed campaign to defeat a Washington ballot initiative to label genetically modified foods, the Grocery Manufacturers Association was caught breaking Washington’s campaign finance laws by hiding the identities of its donors. After successfully killing the GMO labeling proposal, GMA is now arguing that those same campaign finance laws violated the lobbying group’s civil rights and should be overturned.
GMA got in trouble last fall because the group did not disclose its donors, as is required by Washington law. After being threatened with a lawsuit from the Washington Attorney General, GMA revealed that food companies including Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kellogg, General Mills, ConAgra, Welch Foods, Land O’Lakes, and Hershey had secretly poured more than $10 million into a special fund to kill GMO labeling.
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The Latest from The People’s Pharmacy

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New Genital Herpes Treatment Shows Promise

(LiveScience) A new drug appears to combat the virus that causes genital herpes, suggesting it could one day be used as a treatment for people with the condition, according to a new study.
In the study, the drug pritelivir reduced the replication of herpes simplex virus type 2 (which causes genital herpes) in patients with the condition, as well as the number of days patients experienced genital lesions.
Those who took 75 milligrams of the drug each day for about a month experienced viral shedding (which indicates the virus is active and replicating in the body) on just 2.1 percent of days, compared to 16.6 percent of days in those who took a placebo.
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Gene Therapy Improves Vision for Some with Rare Disease

(LiveScience) Two adults with a rare disease that causes gradual loss of eyesight had their vision improved after being treated with a new gene therapy, according to preliminary results from a new study.
The study involved six patients ages 35 to 63 with choroideremia, an inherited condition with no cure that causes vision problems early in life, and eventually leads to blindness. Patients have a mutation in a gene called CHM, which causes light-sensitive cells in the eye to slowly stop working.
The goal behind the new gene therapy is to use a safe virus to deliver a working copy of the gene to the right part of the eye to prevent the cells from degenerating.
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Exposures to Some Phthalates Fall After Federal Ban

(UC San Francisco) Americans are being exposed to significantly lower levels of some phthalates that were banned from children’s articles in 2008, but exposures to other forms of these chemicals are rising steeply, according to a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco.
Phthalates, which are used to soften plastic, can be found in nail polish, fragrances, plastics and building materials, as well as the food supply. An accumulating body of scientific evidence suggests they can disrupt the endocrine system, which secretes hormones, and may have serious long-term health consequences.
Phthalate exposures to adult men have been linked to DNA damage in sperm and lower sperm quality, while exposures to pregnant women have been linked to alterations in the genital development of their male children, as well as cognitive and behavioral problems in boys and girls.
The paper … is the first to examine how phthalate exposures have changed over time in a large, representative sample of the U.S. population.
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Op/Ed: Hospital of the Future Will Be a Health Delivery Network

(Deborah DiSanzo, CEO of Philips Healthcare) To envision and build tomorrow’s hospital, one thing is clear: We’ll only get so far by re-engineering the hospital of the present.
The hospital of the future will not be a hospital at all. Instead, it will be an inventive health delivery network that will require all of us -- industry, clinicians, caregivers, families, and patients -- to coordinate efforts in new ways, so we work together more efficiently to serve more people, with better outcomes at lower costs and higher quality standards.
We must break with traditional models and norms and challenge ourselves about how and where care is offered. We need to cooperate through arrangements like private-public-government partnerships that make powerful and meaningful associations among all people, technology, services, situations and costs involved in health delivery.
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Results Mixed for Patient-Centered Medical Homes

(MedPage Today) An analysis of patient-centered medical home (PCMH) studies showed sparse levels of improvement in overutilization and patient satisfaction, but stakeholders say the delivery model is still the right direction to move in.
A review of 20 peer-reviewed and industry reports about the effect of PCMHs found eight studies (40%) reported fewer hospital admissions and three (15%) showed fewer 30-day readmissions. Only five (25%) reported improved access to care, the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative (PCPCC) said.
Meanwhile, four (20%) showed increase in patient satisfaction and six (30%) showed an increase in preventive services, the PCPCC, a Washington-based advocacy group for PCMHs, said in an analysis of the model's costs and quality. The report looked at studies released or published between August 2012 and December 2013.
Reducing costs was one area in which success was easier to come by for PCMHs.
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Four Major Insurers Accused Of Discriminating Against Women In Long-Term Care Plans

(ThinkProgress) The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), an advocacy group for women, is filing federal sex discrimination complaints against four of the largest American insurance companies for discriminating against women in their long-term care insurance plans. NWLC contends the companies’ plans to charge women more for the policies violates Obamacare protections barring sex discrimination in insurance plans.
The long-term care industry has long maintained that Obamacare’s rules barring insurers from charging women more for their health care don’t apply to them. Early last year, the nation’s largest long-term care insurer announced that it be charging women between 20 and 40 percent more in monthly premiums.
Industry experts predicted the practice would become a trend — a prediction that has proven true. NWLC’s complaints are targeting Genworth Financial, John Hancock, Transamerica, and Mutual of Omaha.
“By gender rating their long-term care insurance policies, these companies are charging women 20 to 40 percent more than men for the same product,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger in a statement. “Requiring women to pay higher prices just because they are women is wrong, unfair and, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, is now illegal sex discrimination.”
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Affordable Care Act News

(Reuters) The late-December surge that pushed enrollment in private health insurance plans under Obamacare past 2.1 million people continued into 2014, officials of several state-run insurance marketplaces said on Wednesday. It was encouraging news for White House hopes of signing up 7 million Americans by March 31, the deadline for 2014 coverage under President Barack Obama's healthcare law.
(ABC News) In its latest quest to get people younger than 30 to enroll under the president’s health care law, the Obama administration is out with a new ad campaign. But instead of enlisting contemporary basketball rock stars like LeBron James or Kevin Durant to help, the White House turned to two former NBA titans – Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Alonzo Mourning – to make the sell on health care.
(Reuters) A judge on Wednesday upheld subsidies at the heart of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, rejecting one of the main legal challenges to the policy by conservatives opposed to an expansion of the federal government. A ruling in favor of a lawsuit brought by individuals and businesses in Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia would have crippled the implementation of the law by making health insurance unaffordable for many people.
(Wall Street Journal) The health-care overhaul was supposed to eliminate insurance plans that offer skimpy coverage at cut rates. But a quirk in the law stands to help some companies keep them going for years to come… As long as companies offer at least one plan that complies with the law's requirements, they are free to keep offering ones that don't.
(Consumer Reports) Sorry, you can’t unless you live in Arkansas or Iowa… They applied for and were granted special federal permission to use their Medicaid money (the federal government is footing 100 percent of the bill for the first three years, and 90 percent thereafter) to enroll beneficiaries in the same private health plans sold to higher-income people through the state marketplaces.
(Kaiser Health News) KHN's consumer columnist reports family members can opt for separate plans and still qualify for premium subsidies, but they need to consider some other important details. 
(Politico Pro, via Kaiser Health News) The deal to fund the government leaves Obamacare high and dry, raising questions about how the Obama administration will fund ongoing repair efforts and development costs for the misbegotten signup portal.
More . . .

Congress Is Poised To Change Medicare Payment Policy. What Does That Mean For Patients And Doctors?

(Kaiser Health News) After years of legislative wrangling and last-minute patches, expectations are high among physician groups, lawmakers and Medicare beneficiaries that Congress could act this year to permanently replace the current Medicare physician payment formula. While committees in both chambers have approved their own "doc fix" proposals, the approaches have yet to be reconciled, and none have identified how they would pay for a repeal.
Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about the formula – known as the "sustainable growth rate" – and how Congress may change it.
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We know what makes human beings healthy

(David Katz, M.D., Yale Prevention Research Center) The evidence indicating what is most likely to endow us with more years in life, more life in years, and the vitality that makes life better and more fun- is nothing less than staggering.
We have epidemiologic analysis showing, repeatedly, that roughly 80 percent of all chronic disease and related premature death is attributable to what we do with our feet, forks and fingers. Be active, eat well and don't smoke -- and close to 80 percent of your lifetime risk of any major chronic disease could go away. Add to that list three more -- sleep (get enough); stress (manage it); and love (share some) -- and the benefits are even greater.
There are epidemiologic studies in diverse populations corroborating these effects again, and again, and again, and again, and... Truly, the list of supporting studies is far too long to capture here. Prove it to yourself by going to PubMed and typing any variant on the theme of "lifestyle factors AND health" in the search box, and then perusing the thousands of citations retrieved. Yes, it will be thousands.
There is, as well, the Blue Zones project which gives us a window to the cultures and habits of the longest-lived, most vital and happiest populations around the world. The findings here correspond perfectly with a focus on feet, forks, fingers, sleep, stress and love.
To the extent that diet is the complicated variable on the list, we make it far more so than it needs to be. As long as we eat wholesome foods, mostly plants, we can eat relatively high fat or low, relatively high carb or low, relatively high protein or low, include or exclude dairy, include or exclude meat, include or exclude grains -- and be healthy. We can also adopt any of these competing theories, populate it with highly processed junk foods, and eat badly. By ignoring the basic theme of healthful eating and fixating on details, we predictably risk losing the forest for the trees. Public health nutrition has for just this reason been lost in the woods for decades.
Community: Dr. Katz’s latest book is Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well.
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