In Pictures: Japanese Sweets



Spanish-style Baked Duck with Pears


6 duck portions, either breast or leg pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
I cinnamon stick, halved
2 thyme sprigs
2 cups chicken stock
3 firm ripe pears
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 tbsp raisins
salt and freshly ground black pepper parsley or young thyme sprigs, to garnish
mashed potatoes and green vegetables, to serve (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
  2. Fry the duck in 1 tbsp of the oil for about 5 minutes, until the skin is golden. Transfer the duck to an ovenproof dish.
  3. Drain off all but 1 tbsp of the fat in the pan, add the onion and fry for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cinnamon stick, thyme and stock and bring to the boil. Pour over the duck and bake in the oven for 1-1/4 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, halve the pears and fry quickly in the remaining oil until beginning to turn golden on the cut sides.
  6. Pound the garlic, pine nuts and saffron in a mortar with a pestle to make a thick paste.
  7. Add the paste to the casserole, together with the raisins and pears. Bake for a further 15 minutes until the pears are tender.
  8. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, then garnish with parsley or thyme. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, if liked.


A good stock is essential for this dish. Buy a large duck (plus two extra duck breasts if you want portions to be generous) and joint it yourself, using the giblets and carcass for stock. Alternatively buy duck portions and a carton of chicken stock.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Best of Spain

A Resort’s Chef in Mexico Cooks Up a $25,000 Taco

You have a spare $25,000 (£20,000, AU$33,000) kicking around. You could buy a new car or pay down your mortgage. Or you could buy a taco at the Grand Velas Los Cabos resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The luxury taco, which doubles as a marketing stunt, now appears on the menu at the resort’s Frida restaurant.

So what’s in a $25,000 taco? It’s certainly a couple steps up from fast-food chain Taco Bell. The extravagant food item comes with a gold-flake-infused corn tortilla stuffed with Kobe beef, langoustine, caviar and black-truffle brie cheese. The salsa uses chili peppers, ultra-premium tequila and civet coffee (that’s coffee pooped out by a cat-like creature).

Just be sure to bring some floss to get the gold-leaf garnish out of your teeth.

If a taco that costs more than a Kia isn’t enough for you, you might want to pair it with the resort’s suggested $150,000 bottle of Ley.925 Pasion Azteca Ultra Premium Anejo tequila. Reservations (and a temporary loss of sanity) required.

Source: cnet

Dance Your Way to a Healthier Aging Brain

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . .

Dance classes may beat traditional exercise when it comes to improving older adults’ balance — and it might enhance brain areas related to memory and learning along the way.

That’s the finding of a small study that compared dance lessons against standard exercise — including brisk walking — among 52 healthy seniors.

Over a year and a half, older adults who took weekly dance classes showed gains in their balancing ability. There were no such improvements in the traditional exercise group.

Researchers also found hints that all those mambos and cha-chas had extra brain benefits.

Seniors in both groups showed growth in the hippocampus — a brain structure that’s involved in memory and learning. But the dancers showed changes in more areas of the hippocampus.

Patrick Muller, one of the researchers on the study, suggested an explanation: The “multimodal” nature of dance — its physical and mental components — might be behind the extra brain boost.

Seniors in the dance group had to continually learn and “imprint” new steps, explained Muller, a Ph.D. candidate at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg, Germany.

Along with that mental challenge, he said, dance also involves coordinating movement with music — which itself affects the brain. Plus, there’s the fun, Muller noted.

David Marquez is an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He said it’s hard to know what to make of the brain findings, since the study group was so small.

Marquez, who was not involved in the research, is studying the effects of Latin dance classes on older Hispanic adults’ well-being.

He agreed that dance can offer things that simpler repetitive activity may not.

“With dance, you’re having to think about each step,” Marquez said. “There are motor, cognitive and social components. And there’s the music.”

But, he added, both exercise groups in this study showed changes in the hippocampus, on average. And that’s in line with past research, Marquez noted: Studies have found that regular aerobic exercise, like walking, may boost the volume of brain areas involved in memory, planning and other vital functions.

“So the message is, get moving,” Marquez said.

Ultimately, he added, the “best” form of exercise for any one person is the one that can be maintained.

“If you don’t enjoy the activity, you won’t do it,” Marquez said. “So find something you enjoy and do it regularly.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, included healthy volunteers who were typically in their late 60s.

Half were randomly assigned to take dance classes over 18 months. The rest attended a traditional exercise program that included walking, stationary bikes, strength-training and stretching.

The dance group met twice a week for the first six months, then weekly. To keep participants on their toes, the dance styles changed every couple of weeks and ranged from Latin to line dancing to jazz.

Just 14 seniors from the dance group and 12 from the traditional fitness group stayed with the program for the full 18 months.

In the end, the study found, only the dancers showed clear improvements on balance tests. And while both groups had increases in their hippocampal volume, the dance group tended to show changes in more subregions of the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is critical, according to Muller, because it is affected in dementia — including Alzheimer’s disease — and it can also shrink with age.

The big question, though, is whether dance can make any difference in the odds of seniors’ mental decline.

“Further research is needed to clarify whether this intervention truly has the potential to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” Muller said.

According to Marquez, it would be interesting to do the same study with older adults who already have some cognitive impairment, and see if there are similar brain changes.

For now, Muller said, the findings suggest dance might have some advantages over simpler repetitive physical activity.

But he agreed that exercise in general — plus a healthy lifestyle overall — “can help the brain stay young.”

Source: HealthDay

Risk of Drug Side Effects Rises as You Age

Ginger Skinner wrote . . . . . . .

Whether it’s an over-the-counter pain reliever or a prescription statin to lower cholesterol, medication has a troubling downside: the risk of side effects.

Side effects are the expected (and usually unwanted) reactions you hear rattled off in TV drug ads: constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, nausea, upset stomach, and more. Though some are not serious and are likely to subside over time, some may be especially problematic for older adults.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults are twice as likely as other adults to suffer an adverse drug event serious enough to require a trip to the emergency room, and seven times more likely than younger adults to be hospitalized as a result.

One possible reason is that “as you age, you’re facing more conditions and taking more drugs to treat them,” says Michael Steinman, M.D., a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. According to a March 2016 study in JAMA Internal Medicine, 88 percent of adults age 62 to 85 take at least one prescription drug regularly.

“And the more medications you take, the greater the likelihood of multiple, often compounded effects,” Steinman adds.

At the same time, other age-related factors can play a role in how medication affects you. Here, we explain what to know about side effects and the steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Increased Potency for Older Adults

As you age, your body often gains more fat and holds less water than it once did—all of which can cause drugs to become more concentrated. And medication can linger longer in your system, which can further increase the risk and severity of side effects.

“The key organs that are responsible for breaking down medications, mainly the liver and the kidneys, begin to function more slowly,” explains Michael Hochman, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. “As a result, medications don’t get excreted as quickly.” (Conversely, he adds, medication might not be effectively absorbed into the bloodstream, which could reduce a drug’s effectiveness.)

The problem of a drug sticking around longer in your system is particularly concerning with certain kinds. All sedative drugs used to treat insomnia, for example, such as prescription zolpidem (Ambien and generic) and eszopiclone (Lunesta and generic) and the over-the-counter sleep drug diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy, Nytol, Sominex, and generic), are particularly risky. That’s because older adults are likely to be more sensitive to their sedating effects, which can increase the risk for falls and other accidents.

If you have other health concerns, such as persistent dizziness, weakness, poor balance due to arthritis, ear and eye problems, cognitive decline, or other chronic conditions, side effects from some medication can exacerbate them.

Some blood-pressure-lowering drugs, for example, tend to lower blood pressure much more significantly in older people than in younger people, which can increase the risk of dizziness, weakness, and falls.

In a study of almost 5,000 older adults published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2014, Yale School of Medicine researchers found that seniors taking blood pressure medication had a 30 to 40 percent higher risk of having a serious injury from a fall than those who weren’t taking the drugs.

Leading Culprits

Sometimes drugs that pose the most serious side effects may also have major benefits. Doctors often refer to these as “high ­benefit, high ­risk” medications.

At the top of the list of drugs that require regular monitoring to minimize the risks, according to the CDC, are blood thinners to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven, and generic); diabetes drugs such as insulin; drugs used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, including antiarrhythmic agents such as digoxin; and seizure medicines like phenytoin (Dilantin and generic) and carbamazepine (Tegretol and generic).

Opioid painkillers are also more likely than other drugs to cause potentially dangerous side effects for seniors, especially when taken long term or at higher doses. Oxycodone (OxyContin and generic), oxycodone combined with acetaminophen (Percocet and generic), and hydro­codone combined with acetaminophen (Vicodin and generic) and other opioid pain medicine, for example, commonly cause constipation, nausea, and drowsiness or a “fuzzy-headed” feeling. The CDC notes that even when taken as directed, opioids can lead to physical dependence, drug overdose, and possibly death.

Talk About Side Effects With Your Doctor

In a recent nationally representative Consumer Reports telephone survey of 1,063 U.S. adults, we found that those 65 and older who regularly take prescription medicine were also less likely to discuss the potential for side effects with their doctor. Barely half of seniors said they discussed such safety concerns; two-thirds of younger adults did.

People may be embarrassed at having a certain problem or may not recognize it as a side effect. “They may think they’re experiencing a symptom of their condition, or that it’s just due to old age,” Steinman adds.

If you notice a physical or mental change that’s bothersome, bring it up with your doctor. “Even if the drug is working, talk to your doctor about trying a lower dose or a different medication, to see if you can minimize the risk of side effects,” Hochman explains.

And ask about nondrug options, such as exercise to lower blood cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, bladder training for an overactive bladder, or cognitive therapy for insomnia or depression, for example. “Nonpharmacologic therapies can be very effective and without side effect,” he says.

Even if you don’t notice side effects, ask for a review of all your prescription and over-the-counter meds, vitamins, and supplements at every doctor’s visit to make sure they’re not interacting in dangerous ways. Your doctor might also recommend stopping a drug that’s no longer needed, reducing the number of meds you take.

And Take These Safety Steps

Keep a list. Include every drug and supplement you take, the dosages, when you take them, the shape and color of your meds, the name of the prescribing physician, and whether you should take them with food or drink. Note your pharmacy’s phone number, any allergies you have, and emergency contact info.

Understand side effects and warnings. Research shows that many people often misinterpret drug labels.

Skip alcohol. Mixing it with certain drugs can worsen dizziness or lightheadedness, or increase or decrease a med’s potency.

Don’t stop a drug on your own. Doing so can lead to withdrawal symptoms and worsen the condition the drug was intended to treat. Unless you develop wheezing, blisters, swelling, or any severe or life-threatening effects such as difficulty breathing, call your doctor before stopping.

Source: Consumer Reports

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