Fun Food

Blue Burger

Image of Earth on Top

Really Blue Buns

The burgers are available at a cafe in Tokyo for a limited time only. The price is 470 Yen (about US$4.50).

Older Adults Who Volunteer Are Happier, Healthier

Systematic review of 73 published studies yields promising evidence and a call for new research to investigate if volunteering reduces dementia risk.

Older adults who stay active by volunteering are getting more out of it than just an altruistic feeling – they are receiving a health boost!

A new study, led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences and published online this week in Psychological Bulletin, is the first to take a broad-brush look at all the available peer-reviewed evidence regarding the psychosocial health benefits of formal volunteering for older adults.

Senior Couple Working As Part Of Volunteer GroupLead investigator Dr. Nicole Anderson, together with scientists from Canadian and American academic centres, examined 73 studies published over the last 45 years involving adults aged 50-plus who were in formal volunteering roles.

To be included in the review, studies had to measure psychosocial, physical and/or cognitive outcomes associated with formal volunteering – such as happiness, physical health, depression, cognitive functioning, feelings of social support and life satisfaction.

“Our goal was to obtain a more comprehensive view of the current state of knowledge on the benefits of volunteering among older adults,” said Dr. Anderson, a senior scientist with Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and associate professor, University of Toronto. “We discovered a number of trends in the results that paint a compelling picture of volunteering as an important lifestyle component for maintaining health and wellbeing in later years.”

Among the key findings:

  • Volunteering is associated with reductions in symptoms of depression, better overall health, fewer functional limitations, and greater longevity.
  • Health benefits may depend on a moderate level of volunteering. There appears to be a tipping point after which greater benefits no longer accrue. The “sweet spot” appears to be at about 100 annual hours, or 2-3 hours per week.
  • More vulnerable seniors (i.e. those with chronic health conditions) may benefit the most from volunteering.
  • Feeling appreciated or needed as a volunteer appears to amplify the relationship between volunteering and psychosocial wellbeing.

“Taken together, these results suggest that volunteering is associated with health improvements and increased physical activity – changes that one would expect to offer protection against a variety of health conditions,” said Dr. Anderson. Indeed, a moderate amount of volunteering has been shown to be related to less hypertension and fewer hip fractures among seniors who volunteer compared to their matched non-volunteering peers.

One troubling finding for the research team was that “very few studies” have examined the benefits of volunteering on cognitive functioning in older adults. The report noted that “not a single study” has examined the association between volunteering and risk of dementia, or the association between volunteering and a host of other health conditions that put seniors at higher risk for dementia, such as diabetes and stroke.

With dementia prevalence projected to double over 20 years, from over 30 million people worldwide today to more than 65 million people in 2030 (Alzheimer’s Disease International and World Health Organization, 2012), Dr. Anderson called it a “startling omission” that the field of neuroscience research has yet to investigate the capacity of volunteering to mitigate dementia risk or delay onset.

“We encourage investigators to include more objective measures of cognitive functioning in future studies. Particularly interesting would be the inclusion of a more comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests, so that the association of volunteering with the risks of various forms of dementia and its precursor, mild cognitive impairment, could be ascertained,” the report concluded.


Red Pepper Soup


1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp sherry
3 large red peppers, seeded, cored and cut into strips
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
2½ tbsp tomato paste
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
4½ cups hot beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper


2 tbsp plain yogurt
sprigs of parsley


  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the onion over moderate heat for 4 to 5 minutes., stirring once or twice. Add garlic and the sherry. Stir well.
  2. Stir in the peppers, potato, tomato paste, tomatoes and the stock. Add bay leaf and bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well.
  3. Bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove 2 spoonfuls of red pepper and set aside.
  5. Discard the bay leaf and bouquet garni. Liquidize the soup with a hand blender.
  6. Return red pepper to the soup and stir to mix. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with swirls of yogurt and parsley. Serve hot.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Cooking Naturally

Today’s Comic

In Pictures: Fruit and Vegetable Engraving

Playing Video Game May Boost MS Patients’ Balance: Study

Research suggests regular use of Wii accessory might rewire the brain.

An exercise component of the popular Nintendo Wii video game may help multiple sclerosis (MS) patients improve their balance by rewiring their brains, a new study suggests.

No medications exist to preserve balance in MS patients, and some drugs make balance worse, said study lead author Dr. Luca Prosperini, a neurologist at Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.

It appears that patients who use the Wii Balance Board five days a week — moving to snowboarding or dance games, for example — may help reduce their risk of falls and boost certain brain connections, possibly because they’re coordinating their movements with a figure on a screen, Prosperini said.

There are caveats to the research, however. The study was small, and there’s a risk that patients could hurt themselves by falling, although they can play seated rather than stand on the balance board.

“Patients with MS should be encouraged to start using this system only under supervision,” Prosperini said. “Once well-trained, they may use it at home.”

Multiple sclerosis is a nerve disorder that affects how the brain communicates with the body.

“Balance problems are quite common and arise due to the effects of MS on a number of functions that are important for balance,” said Nicholas LaRocca, vice president for health care delivery and policy research with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Among other things, MS can disrupt vision, coordination and the body’s balancing mechanism, he said.

Patients turn to a variety of strategies to support balance, he said. Canes and orthotic devices (shoe inserts) help some people, and rehabilitation can build strength and coordination. Some patients try electrical muscle stimulation to maintain or regain control of their muscles, he said.

Prosperini was inspired to study a video game treatment for MS when he saw patients in rehabilitation using a balance-boosting system that reminded him of an old Atari video game. Then a commercial about the Wii Balance Board caught his attention. The balance board, shaped a bit like a weight scale, detects a person’s movements and allows them to be translated into action on a TV screen.

Prosperini tried to get a grant from Nintendo to support research. The company wasn’t interested, he said, but he obtained funding from the Italian MS Society.

His previous research has supported the idea that patients regain balance when they use the Wii Balance Board. The new study aimed to understand what’s happening in their brains.

In the new study, published online Aug. 26 in Radiology, 27 MS patients were split into two groups. One group spent three months doing nothing special while the other group played with the Wii Balance Board for 30 to 40 minutes daily, five days a week. Then the groups reversed roles: Those who had done nothing special used the balance board for three months, while the others stopped using it.

Another 15 healthy people tried the system, too.

All participants had specialized MRI scans to detect any physiological changes in the brain.

The researchers found that patients regained some balance, presumably by using the board, and their brains actually changed. Using the video game was tied to improvements in the protective sheath around nerves, leading to better conduction of impulses between the body and brain, Prosperini said.

It’s not clear if other kinds of training might also help MS patients regain balance, he said. But video games like those that use the balance board might have similar benefits because they require patients to mimic movements that they see on screen, potentially providing an extra brain boost.

LaRocca, of the MS Society, said the study is valid but has limitations. For one, it’s difficult to interpret what the brain changes mean, he said. Also, he added, the research suggests that the improvements in balance aren’t permanent, requiring patients to keep at it to make the benefits last.

“Training needs to be ongoing, just like any other form of exercise,” LaRocca said.

While the study found an association between the video-game balance board and balance-enhancing brain changes, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. Prosperini said more research is needed, especially since the study was so small.

“There is increasing evidence of the clinical benefit of playing with the balance board, and more in general with highly interactive video games,” he said. But researchers don’t know enough about why the patients are getting better, he added.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Ham and Egg Cocottes


1/4 cup ham strips
1/8 stick butter
1½ cups button mushrooms, sliced
4 medium eggs
4 tbsp heavy cream
1/4 cup Brie, cubed
warm crusty bread to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 375ºF for 10 minutes prior to baking the cocottes.
  2. Line 4 ramekin dishes with the ham.
  3. Melt the butter in a skillet and gently sauté the mushrooms for 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and place in the ramekin dishes. Season with ground black pepper.
  4. Break an egg into each dish, then pour over 1 tbsp cream. Dot with the cheese.
  5. Place ramekins in a roasting pan, half-filled with boiling water (bain marie), then bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set, as liked. Serve with bread.

Source: Egg Essentials

What’s for Breakfast?

Home-cooked Western Breakfast


The Menu

  • Kiwi and Ham on Bread
  • Egg Salad
  • Cherries
  • Cold Tomato and Potato Soup
  • Milk

Today’s Comic