Blueberries for brain health

blueberriesFor years I’ve heard that blueberries are good for brain health. Which is great, because I love blueberries and try to work them into my diet several times a week.

So I was happy to read the results of some new research that supports the connection between blueberries and the human brain.

Most blueberry studies to date have been performed on animals, but two recent studies—funded in part by the National Institute on Aging and the blueberry industry—used human subjects.

One study used adults over the age of 68. Half ate the equivalent of 1 cup of blueberries daily for … Continue reading

Michael Pollan – “Cooked”

cookedIf you have Netflix, I highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s new series, Cooked.

Based on his book of the same name, Cooked, in typical Pollan style, shows us a fresher, healthier, and more enjoyable way to eat. He focuses not only on the nutritional value of foods, but also the culture of preparing and sharing meals.

The series is divided into four parts: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. Each episode features mouth-watering meals from a variety of countries and cultures.

Pollan also offers theories as to how America’s diet and food culture got so completely messed up.

Related post:
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Sleep deprivation

March 6th to 13th is National Sleep Awareness Week.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) sponsors the week (#7Days4BetterSleep) to raise awareness of the health benefits of a good night’s sleep.

As if we didn’t know!

But if you need a reminder, here’s a TED-Ed video about the effects of sleep deprivation:

Good sleep habits are best learned at a young age. If you are a parent, help your kids find a healthy balance between all their activities and their sleep needs.

The NSF has lots of information about sleep, as well as sleep tips … Continue reading

How much sugar is in that beverage?

Ever since watching That Sugar Film, I’m trying to be more aware of how much sugar I eat or drink every day.

Because there is more and more evidence that too much sugar is bad for us, we all need to be more aware of what we’re eating and drinking.

I think we need to be especially careful with beverages. The trend is to sell larger and larger cup sizes (a Double Gulp is a whopping 55 ounces!) and bottle sizes, so we are probably drinking way more sugar than we are eating it.

The Centers for Disease Continue reading

Protect yourself from food poisoning

Cases of food poisoning, or food-borne illnesses, have been on the rise.

A lot of media attention was on the restaurant chain Chipotle recently because of an outbreak of the potentially deadly bacteria E. coli.

But it seems there is always a story in the news about contaminated foods, food recalls and outbreaks of the most common culprits of food poisoning: E. coli, salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A.

As the health news website Medscape reports:

Contaminated-food recalls in 2015 were on pace to exceed those from 2014, with bacteria discovered in everything from ice cream to spinach. Companies in

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“It’s Just Life”

The United States isn’t the only country that is burdened with too much medicine (and subsequent out-of-control health care costs).

I belong to a network of health care professionals around the world who are having a dialogue about overscreening, overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and what to do about it.

A physician from Spain shared this amusing YouTube video, “Así es la Vida” (It’s Just Life):

The subtitles are in English, but I had to translate for myself the words on the “prescription” box of medicine given to each patient:

No little pill can solve the reality Continue reading

Smoking pot hurts your brain

A couple years ago my state, Washington, legalized pot.

It’s been a boon for tax revenue, for sure (almost $83 million in the first year). And the state reports that it has saved millions of dollars by freeing up law enforcement resources.

Judging from the lines in front of the pot stores (green crosses are everywhere!), pot is really popular here, across a wide range of ages.

But apart from its commercial success, and the fact that it’s given us more stoned drivers, the law concerns me because it seems to promote the idea that smoking pot … Continue reading

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

A friend and I were discussing the documentary That Sugar Film the other day and she asked me about the claim in the movie that artificial sweeteners were bad for you, too, because they actually made you eat more.

I couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the film, but decided to do a little research on my own to answer her question.

The FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), neotame, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet One) and stevia (Truvia).

Because they are “low-energy” sweeteners and don’t contain any calories, it seems a no brainer … Continue reading

Traveling overseas? Get vaccinated!

In the dreary days of winter many people choose to travel overseas, especially to sunnier and warmer locations, such as Southeast Asia, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

If you’re planning such a trip, take a moment to learn more about what health risks you might face in a particular country and if any vaccinations are recommended before you go. Some vaccines take several weeks to be most effective, so plan ahead.

Related story from Live Science: Many Americans don’t get recommended vaccines before travel

The most useful vaccine for everyone, I think, for is the Hepatitis A vaccine. … Continue reading

Do “brain games” prevent dementia?

I like playing the brain games of Lumosity online and on my phone.

I like puzzles and words games in general, and Lumosity offers a fun and convenient way to play and keep track of my improvement in a variety of challenges.

I’ve never paid the costly $15 a month subscription, because I’ve never bought into the idea that playing these “brain games”—Lumosity calls it “brain training”—by themselves is enough to prevent dementia as I age.

But many people, apparently, were influenced by Lumosity’s advertising.

Two weeks ago, the creators of Lumosity settled a $50 million lawsuit with the Federal Continue reading

PBS – “In Defense of Food”

If you’re interested in starting out the New Year with a better eating plan, check out the PBS production of Michael Pollan’s best-selling book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.

What is Pollan’s manifesto? Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Advice for healthy eating doesn’t get much simpler than that.

In Defense of Food premiers Wednesday, December 30th. Check your local listings for the time. Here’s the trailer:

Michael Pollan hosts the program himself and examines how the typical high-calorie, low-nutrient American diet came to pass and what we can do to reclaim … Continue reading

“That Sugar Film”

that sugar filmIt probably wasn’t the best idea to watch this documentary just a few days before one of the most sugar-laden holidays of the year.

On the other hand, I will definitely be more conscious about how much sugar I eat and will hopefully avoid a huge sugar hangover—that slightly sick, tired, yucky feeling I get after eating too many sweet foods.

That Sugar Film is one of several sugar documentaries that have come out recently that attempt to show us just how bad sugar is for our health.

Related story from Time: Sugar is definitely toxic, a new study saysContinue reading

Health benefits of coffee and tea

Now that the days are dark, wet and cold, I find myself drinking a couple extra cups of coffee or tea every day.

Luckily for me most evidence supports the health benefits of both coffee and tea (black or green). Dr. Aaron Carroll over at Healthcare Triage recently made two videos to reassure us coffee lovers that moderate consumption of both coffee and tea is a good thing!

Coffee! It’s Not Bad for You, and It might Even be Good!

Is Drinking Tea Good for You?

As always, Dr. Carroll … Continue reading

I love my Fitbit Zip!

fitbit zipI’m not a gadget person, and I don’t embrace the “quantified self” movement, which seeks to keep track of everything measurable about the human body—weight, body mass index, blood pressure, heart rate, calories consumed, miles walked, jogged, biked, etc.

But ever since I wrote the post Why sitting is bad for your health I’ve been more committed to racking up 10,000 steps every day.

Now, the 10,000 steps a day recommendation is not an exact science, but it’s a reasonable goal for a healthy adult. Also, to reach that goal, I have to move a lot throughout the … Continue reading

The high cost of dementia

November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of—and scared of—dementia**. Or who hasn’t had a family member or friend stricken by it.

Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that damages not only the individual, but family and friends, as well, especially the primary care giver—most often the spouse.

Adding insult to injury is the incredible cost of getting help. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms what many already know—Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost families way more than almost any other disease.

Why? Cancer is one of Continue reading