Tap Into the Health Powers of Garlic

Len Canter wrote . . . . . . . . .

As scientists look more deeply into the effects of diet on health, they’re finding that more and more everyday foods offer benefits that go well beyond making dishes tastier.

Garlic, an ingredient found in almost every type of cuisine, is emerging as one such superfood.

Part of the allium family, which includes onions and leeks, garlic has a number of compounds that supply its health-boosting effects as well as its pungent aroma. According to wide-ranging research, garlic seems to improve immunity and heart health, help fight certain cancers, and lower triglycerides and total cholesterol.

Some of these benefits can be seen after eating just one meal with raw garlic. Yet overall there’s enough evidence to have at least half a clove every day, researchers suggest.

Garlic is readily available and relatively inexpensive. Buy one whole head of garlic at a time — the skin should be dry and papery and the visible bulbs should be firm and full, not shriveled.

To get the most benefits, chop, slice or crush fresh garlic to use it. This fires up a process that makes its compounds more potent. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before eating or adding to a dish, especially if you’ll be mixing it with a highly acidic food like lemon juice.

Some easy ways to use minced raw garlic are to blend it into avocado, along with red onion, jalapeno and cilantro for guacamole; into chickpeas for hummus; or into cooked white beans for bean dip. Whisked into oil and vinegar with your choice of herbs, garlic adds zest to salad dressings and marinades.

But you don’t have to always eat it raw. As long as the garlic is prepped as suggested and added toward the end of a recipe, it will retain its nutritional value when cooked.

Source: HealthDay


New Evidence Pot May Harm the Teen Brain

Dennis Thompson wrote . . . . . . . . .

Teens who stop smoking pot can think and learn better afterward, even if they are only light users, a new study reports.

Compared to teenagers and young adults who continued using marijuana, those who abstained for a month displayed a “modest but reliable improvement in their ability to learn,” said lead researcher Randi Schuster.

“Most of this improvement surprisingly happens rather quickly, within the first week of abstinence,” added Schuster, director of neuropsychology at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Addiction Medicine.

The results show that kids need to be kept from using pot, Schuster said. This is a growing concern as recreational marijuana becomes legal in more U.S. states, she added.

“As we as a country move toward widespread legalization, we should pay attention to smart prevention programming for children,” Schuster said.

The researchers cited a 2016 survey that found almost 14 percent of middle and high school students had used pot in the prior month. It also showed daily use doubling between eighth and 12th grades.

Maturation of critical parts of the brain occurs in adolescence, and regular pot use in those years may cause more harm than later use, the researchers said in background notes.

Marijuana legalization proponents countered that the new study supports their contention that the effects of pot are temporary.

“These conclusions are consistent with those of prior studies finding that cannabis exposure is not likely to be associated with any sort of permanent adverse impact on the brain or cognitive performance,” said Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML.

“These findings dispute the long-standing ‘stoner-stupid’ stereotype and should help to assuage fears that cannabis’ acute effects on behavior may persist long after drug ingestion, or that they may pose greater potential risks to the developing brain,” Armentano said.

For their study, Schuster and her colleagues asked two-thirds of a group of 88 marijuana users ages 16 to 25 to drop pot for a month.

The Boston-area participants were not all heavy users, but did use regularly. “We have kids using a minimum of one day a week or more,” Schuster said.

Urine tests revealed that 9 out of 10 participants did follow through on their promise to stop using pot for the study period.

Once a week, the young people took part in computerized brain games that tested their attention and memory, to see if stopping their pot use would help improve their brain function.

The computer tests showed that memory — specifically the ability to learn and recall new information — improved only among those who stopped using cannabis. The improvement occurred largely during the first week.

The study only showed an association between quitting pot and better learning ability, not a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, specialists are taking note of the findings.

“Cannabis use impacts learning and memory, and this study showed improvement in these domains after quitting,” said Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.

“This research may motivate practitioners to encourage their patients to quit using marijuana and maintain abstinence,” Krakower said.

However, quitting marijuana did not appear to affect the participants’ ability to pay attention. Both groups performed similarly in that area.

Future studies will test whether this memory recovery brings marijuana quitters back to full function by comparing them with teens who’ve never used in the first place, Schuster said.

“What we don’t know is, by that one week are they back to the levels of their non-using peers, or is there a deficit that’s still measurable?” Schuster said.

The study appears in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

Breaking Into Breast Cancer, Immune Therapy Shows Wider Promise

Naomi Kresge and Tim Loh wrote . . . . . . . . .

Drugmakers are honing in on which cancer patients will benefit from new immune therapies — and finding many more than skeptics had thought.

For the first time, a clinical trial showed that a treatment with one of the new generation of drugs designed to unleash the body’s own immune system against tumors can help some women with the most aggressive type of breast cancer live longer. The study was unveiled by Roche Holding AG at Europe’s biggest cancer conference.

These medicines, led by Merck & Co.’s blockbuster Keytruda, are sold for more than a dozen different cancers, and pharmaceutical companies are obsessively working to expand their applications with newer versions and treatment cocktails. There are some 1,300 immune-based treatments in human studies, according to the Cancer Research Institute, largely financed by drugmakers angling for a chunk of a market forecast to exceed $100 billion annually by 2024.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Axel Hoos, oncology research and development chief at U.K. pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc, which is trying to break back into oncology after selling its existing products to Novartis AG in 2015. “There’s a little bit of hype, but there’s a lot of substance.”

Cold Tumors

At the European Society for Medical Oncology’s meetingover the weekend, Roche disclosed the results of a study that showed one group of patients whose breast tumors tested positive for a protein called PD-L1 lived an average of 25 months when they got an immune therapy called Tecentriq — about 10 months longer than others who got only chemotherapy.

Immune therapies exploded onto the scene about eight years ago when Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Yervoy became the first medicine of its kind to extend the lives of people with melanoma, a lethal skin cancer. Successes in kidney and lung cancers followed shortly thereafter.

When immune therapies work, the effect can last for years, one of the reasons they’re regarded as revolutionary. But in most patients, nothing helpful happens — even in skin and lung tumors where some of the most dramatic effects have been seen.

“There are some cancers where the immune system just can’t recognize it,” said Mace Rothenberg, chief development officer for oncology at U.S. pharma giant Pfizer Inc. Flying under the body’s protective radar, scientists refer to them as “cold tumors.”

Companies are starting to rethink their strategy for the toughest cases, said Dan O’Day, Roche’s pharma chief. Testing patients’ tumors for specific proteins and genes will help identify those most likely to benefit, he said.
“We want to get away from this concept of giving cancer immunotherapy to 80 percent of the patients and only half of them respond,” he said in an interview. “Let’s find the other treatment options for the other patient types.”

Roche’s breast cancer study helped support the idea that there are ways for doctors to identify more cancers that will submit to immune therapy. The drug used in the study, Tecentriq, blocks the protein called PD-L1 that hampers the immune system’s attack on cancers, and only women whose tumors had high levels of the protein were helped.

Search for Responders

Another signpost in the search for responders could be the sheer number of mutations in a tumor as a whole, O’Day suggested. It’s a strategy that may extend the reach of immune therapies even further, as indicated by studies presented at the conference. Studies of cancers of the colon and rectum, which have been less responsive to immune therapy, showed that tumors with severe genetic damage may offer better targets for drugs such as Bristol’s Opdivo and Yervoy.

“They’re doing trials in every different tumor that you can imagine,” said Richard Gaynor, research and development chief of Neon Therapeutics Inc., an immune-oncology startup. “There will be subsets of patients within each group that may benefit.”

And in many cases, immune therapy may need help. The question is how to nudge the body’s protective system to act against certain tumors, said Incyte Corp. Chief Executive Officer Herve Hoppenot. His company tried the strategy earlier this year, combining its experimental epacadostat with Merck’s Keytruda, and it failed.

Still, Incyte and other drugmakers are persisting in their search for ways to track down tumors that have eluded immunotherapy.

“We’re scratching the surface,” said Luciano Rossetti, head of global research and development for biopharma for Germany-based Merck KGaA. “We have a first wave of real excitement.”

Source : Bloomberg

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

Back pain is a common problem in the United States, but there are ways to protect yourself, an expert says.

“The back is a complex structure with many delicate parts, but with good judgment and healthy lifestyle habits — including proper lifting, good posture and exercise — it’s possible to avoid common back pain caused by strained muscles,” said Dr. Lawrence Lenke. He is director of spinal deformity surgery at the Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian in New York City.

For more complicated spinal problems such as scoliosis, stenosis, fractures or injuries, medical intervention is usually necessary, Lenke said.

“But each person with or without spinal problems can benefit from adopting healthier lifestyle habits to keep your spine as strong as possible,” he said.

Lenke offered this advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, do stretching and strengthening exercises that increase back and abdomen flexibility, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. If your job involves a lot of sitting, get up and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain good posture even while sitting. Don’t slouch or hold your head too far forward. Be sure your feet are supported, hips are level with or slightly above the knees and your spine is slightly reclined. There should be a small arch in the lower back.
  • When sitting at a computer, your shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears. Your elbows should be at the sides, bent to about 90 degrees, and your wrists should be neutral — not bent up, down or away from each other. Your head should face ahead without being too far forward.
  • When using a mobile device for non-voice activities, hold it up instead of bending your neck to look down. At just 45 degrees, the work your neck muscles are doing is equal to lifting a 50-pound bag of potatoes.
  • When lifting, make sure objects are properly balanced and packed correctly so weight won’t shift. Keep the weight close to your body. And take your time. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to lift. Maintain proper posture with your back straight and head up.

Source : HealthDay

Health Benefits Of Chestnuts

John Staughton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Chestnuts may seem like an average, everyday nut, but they have a number of important health benefits including their ability to improve digestive health, strengthen bones, manage diabetes, protect cardiovascular health, boost the immune system, and lower blood pressure. They also increase cognition and prevent chronic illnesses.

What are Chestnuts?

Chestnuts are edible nuts produced by the trees and shrubs of the Castanea genus, which are commonly found throughout the northern hemisphere. [1] While there are a number of different species of chestnuts, most of them possess similar qualities and nutritional profiles. They should not be confused with horse chestnuts, which are quite different. There are a number of ways in which chestnut trees are used to get health benefits, although the fruit of the tree (the chestnut itself) is arguably the most popular.

Roasted chestnuts are the most popular, but they are also commonly candied, boiled, pureed, ground into flour for bread-making, grilled, steamed, and deep-fried, among many other preparations. They are enjoyed across the world for their unique flavor and praised for their wealth of important nutrients. [2]

Chestnuts provide high levels of dietary fiber, minerals, ‘good’ fats, vitamins, nutrients, antioxidant compounds and other important components that make up a healthy diet.

Health Benefits of Chestnuts

Now, let’s dig a bit deeper into the many health benefits of chestnuts.

Prevent Diabetes

Many people are unaware of the significant role that dietary fiber can play in the regulation, prevention, and management of diabetes. [3] Foods that are high in dietary fiber, like chestnuts, are considered a low glycemic food, which means that they cause blood sugar to rise slowly as compared to high glycemic foods. This helps prevent the spikes and drops in blood sugar that can be dangerous for diabetic patients, and are often precursors to the development of diabetes in those currently unaffected.

Boost Immune System

The high concentration of vitamin C and other antioxidant compounds in chestnuts make them an ideal boost to your immune system. [4] Vitamin C not only stimulates the production of white blood cells but also acts as an antioxidant, seeking out free radicals within the body and neutralizing them before they cause healthy cells to mutate or induce oxidative stress near vital organs. This can help the immune system focus its efforts on pathogens and preventing illnesses.

Increase Bone Mineral Density

Copper and magnesium aren’t the first things that one thinks of when it comes to bone health, but copper is extremely important in the process by which the body absorbs iron, which is also crucial for bone growth and development. [5] Magnesium is very good for increasing bone mineral density and provides a wide variety of other health benefits. With these vital minerals that are found in chestnuts, you can prevent or slow the onset of many age-related disorders, such as osteoporosis.

Relieve Digestive Issues

Chestnuts have one of the highest content of dietary fiber in the world of “nuts”, which means that they are powerful allies in any gastrointestinal struggle. Dietary fiber helps stimulate peristaltic motion in the intestines, thus regulating your bowel movements and preventing inflammation and discomfort. [6] Dietary fiber can also help optimize the absorption of nutrients, which means getting more out of the food you eat and a better overall nutrient profile.

Improve Brain Function

Brain function and cognition are improved in a number of ways through the consumption of chestnuts. First of all, these nuts are rich in the B family vitamins (e.g., folate, riboflavin, thiamine) which are directly linked to proper neurological development and function. [7] Furthermore, the potassium found in chestnuts can increase blood flow to the brain and promote good nervous system health, thus increasing concentration, retention, and memory.

Prevent Chronic Illnesses

Chronic illnesses of all kinds are caused by the release of free radicals, the natural byproducts of cellular respiration. These can cause healthy cells to mutate, resulting in cancer, oxidative stress and a number of chronic illnesses. Without antioxidants, like those found in chestnuts, our body would be fighting battles on many fronts, so increasing your defenses with a handful of chestnuts a day is a good idea. [8]

Control Blood Pressure

When it comes to lowering blood pressure, few minerals are as essential as potassium. Potassium controls water movement within the body, and also functions as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow and releasing the tension on constricted blood vessels and arteries. [9] This reduction in blood pressure can boost overall cardiovascular health and lessen your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Improve Heart Health

Many people think of fats as a bad thing, which is to be burned off during a diet, but in reality, our body needs a number of other fats to function normally. These good fats, found in high concentrations in chestnuts, help to balance cholesterol, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and lower the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clots building up in the body. [10] All of this lowers the risk of stroke, heart attack, and coronary heart diseases to a greater extent.

Word of Caution

Again, many people suffer from tree nut allergies of varying severity, so be cautious when adding a new nut such as chestnut to your diet. Speak with your doctor or an allergist before switching your nutrient profile, particularly when it may contain a powerful allergen. If you don’t suffer from nut allergies of any kind, then roast up a pan of these nuts and enjoy the benefits they provide!

Source: Organic Facts