Pecan Is a Healthy Holiday Treat

Want a holiday snack that’s packed with nutrition? Pick up some pecans.

Nuts are considered heart-healthy. They’re part of the blood pressure-lowering DASH diet and full of “good” fats, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, said Ginny Ives, a registered dietitian and director of nutrition at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.

Pecans are a standout nut, though.

“They actually have the most fiber of any other nut,” Ives said, with about 3 grams per 1-ounce serving, “and they’re also the lowest in carbs.” They’re a good source of thiamin, zinc, and the trace minerals copper and manganese.

“They also contain micronutrients known as phytonutrients,” which have been shown to reduce inflammation, she said.

Pecans, as well as nuts in general, can help in weight maintenance, Ives said. They’re high in fat, which helps people feel full. Eating them as a snack or adding some to a salad or cereal “can help our food to stick with us a little longer and help us to feel more satisfied, so we don’t overeat.”

An ounce of pecans – 19 pecan halves – has 196 calories, so don’t go overboard. Ives recommends a single 1-ounce serving a day and said they’re great toasted. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees, occasionally shaking the pan. You can store pecans for up to two years in the freezer.

Source: American Heart Association

Vietnamese-style Shaking Beef


1 pound filet mignon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
Kosher salt and freshlyground pepper
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon rice wine (optional)
6 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 bunch of watercress, stemmed
Lime wedges, for serving


  1. In a large bowl, toss the meat with 1/2 tablespoon of the sugar, 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar with the soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar and rice wine, if using.
  3. Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the remaining 1/3 cup of oil and heat until smoking.
  4. Add the meat and cook undisturbed over high heat for 1 minute, until browned.
  5. Turn the meat and cook for 1 minute longer. Tilt the skillet and spoon off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  6. Scatter the scallions, onion and garlic over the meat and cook for 30 seconds. Stir the soy mixture and add it to the skillet, shaking to coat the meat. Bring to a boil.
  7. Add the butter and shake the skillet until melted.
    4 Line a platter with watercress and pour the shaking beef and vegetables on top. Serve with lime wedges.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Chef Charles Phan

Why Haven’t We Been Able to Cure Cancer?

Kent Sepkowitz wrote . . . . . . . . .

Depending on who is speaking, the war against cancer that President Richard Nixon declared nearly half a century ago has either been a soaring triumph of innovation and doggedness or a colossal failure, featuring lunkhead decisions, bottomless greed, and annoyed experts hurrying from here to there.

On the positive side are stories, seemingly every day, of breakthroughs and miracle drugs, of triumphant against-all-odds cures featuring the latest treatments, be they based on molecular targets or tricks to stoke the immune system. And national trends seem promising: Cancer mortality has decreased from about 200 deaths per 100,000 people in the 1990s to roughly 163 per 100,000 in the 2010s. Pretty good, right?

Not so fast, say the doubters. After all the time, money, and scientific talent poured into the problem, this progress doesn’t amount to all that much. And plenty of the criticism comes from high up in the medical hierarchy. Twenty-six years into the war, a harsh assessment titled “Cancer Undefeated” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, declaring it open season on any claims of victory, and the criticism has been steady ever since. Recently, Clifton Leaf echoed this dour perspective in his 2013 book, The Truth in Small Doses: Why We’re Losing the War on Cancer — and How to Win It, while the poet Anne Boyer recounted her own cancer experience (and profound disappointment in modern care) this year in The Undying.

Enter Azra Raza, a prominent cancer specialist at Columbia University. Although she doesn’t consider herself a pessimist, her new book, The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last, argues that we have wasted precious time and zillions of dollars barking up the wrong scientific tree. We are using wrongheaded experimental models (animals, cells, and the entire 20th-century repertoire of discovery), and we are giving federal grants to all the wrong ideas.

Most importantly, she argues that current cancer research is looking at the wrong end of the problem—late-stage disease, when the cancer is large and perhaps has already spread, when patients are sick and failing, when even the most wonderful new wonder drug is unlikely to work.

Better to find the cancers sooner, when the tumor burden—the actual number of cancer cells—is still small. Then therapies have a better chance of being effective: The lift is not so heavy, with a lower risk of genetic mutations that confer drug resistance or spotty penetration of medications into bulky growths. This approach—or better yet, attacking the disease when the cells show only an early itch to cause trouble—would be cheaper, less toxic, and decidedly more effective, she writes.

It’s a pretty compelling argument, one with a long history and public support. In 2016, Vice President Joe Biden endorsed the approach when he issued the Cancer Moonshot report, a national assessment of current cancer research and goals for the future. “We’re talking about prevention and early detection,” he said. “I’m convinced we can get answers and come up with game-changing treatments and get them to people who need them.”

Raza sets out to demonstrate her point and sharpen her criticism by presenting a series of patients she has treated through the years. We meet several people with difficult cancers but a lot of spunk. Each chapter leads us, not so gently, to their death. Of particular poignance is the story, woven throughout the book, of her husband, oncologist Harvey Preisler, who died of an aggressive lymphoma in 2002.

These clinical stories are recounted in vivid, precise detail, and carry a grim moral: Implicitly and often explicitly, Raza makes it clear that, in her view, a more intelligent and better organized research program and a more honest self-appraisal by the community of cancer scientists might have saved lives. “How many more Omars and Andrews will it take?” she laments, referring to two of her patients who died, diagnosed late with no good options for cure.

An experienced researcher herself, Raza knows well that real research is anything but organized. Rather it is a muddy scrum where no one really knows who is driving the pile, where motion might be from pushing or from pushing back, where real steps forward are rare and missteps plenty. Ideas are simple; humans and their biology are not.

And nowhere is the gap between our hopes and the stubbornness of reality wider than in the field of early cancer detection, the “first cell” of the book’s title. Science has been working on early detection since the Pap smear was introduced almost a century ago.

Somewhat late in the book, Raza describes the work of some of today’s leaders in the field of early diagnostics. She praises Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, chairman of the Canary Center at Stanford for Cancer Early Detection, for his work in using radiologic scans to see the first signals of cancer. She also highlights the great success of colonoscopy screening in reducing mortality from colon cancer. And she describes the enormous promise of DNA detection in the bloodstream.

Yet she avoids deep discussion of the vast amount of snake oil oozing through the field of early detection, such as the notoriously inaccurate scientific work of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, with their claims of a simple finger-prick diagnosis of all your worldly woes. Nor does she take on the many problems created by early detection, including the uncertainty in how best to manage unclear results. Instead, after 15 pages or so, she is back to her old tune, describing a young woman named Zaineb with a lethal cancer caught late, in a section titled, “And How Many Zainebs?”

In the end, there is a strong current of mea culpa defensiveness running through Raza’s persuasive if repetitive case for early detection; she essentially issues a blanket apology to the American public for how badly our cancer programs have failed us.

But while there is surely much to dislike about the American health care system and the medical profession as well, the fact that cancer remains an often-fatal disease isn’t merely a result of bad-faith governance or corporate avarice or individual narcissism, though there is plenty of each. Rather, we’re probably stuck where we are for a simple if overwhelming reason: As Raza herself views it, cancer is simply an impossible problem for current science to fix.

Source : Slate

Are You Drinking Enough During Winter Months?

Remembering to drink enough water is easy during the summer, when higher temperatures and outdoor activities drive the point home. But staying adequately hydrated is just as important during the winter.

Environmental humidity plays a role, said Stavros Kavouras, who directs the Hydration Science Lab at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Central heating causes drier interior environments during the winter, which can lead to increased water loss simply from breathing.

That’s not the only challenge. In cold environments, the kidneys actually excrete more urine, said Joseph C. Watso, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas.

“It’s a small change that could potentially make a difference,” he said. “If you’re not sweating, you might forget to drink adequate water.”

Dehydration sets in when the body loses more water than it takes in.

Even minor dehydration – the level at which people begin feel thirsty – is linked to difficulty concentrating, poor memory and bad moods. And studies have shown people who chronically consume a low amount of water seem to be at higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease, kidney stones and urinary tract infections. “High urine flow seems to be protective,” Kavouras said.

Kavouras and his colleagues found mild dehydration impaired the function of cells that line blood vessels almost as much as smoking a cigarette. Dehydration also has been linked with inflammation, artery stiffness, blood pressure regulation and other factors that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Research also has linked poor hydration to diabetes. “Diabetes is a lifestyle disease that’s associated with what we eat, what we drink and how physically active we are,” Kavouras said. “Hydration seems to be part of this recipe.”

Exactly how much water people need can vary.

“Our water needs change from day to day based on factors such as environmental temperature and activity level,” Kavouras said. “If you are an Ironman athlete who trains four hours per day, your water needs are higher than somebody who is sedentary.”

In general, the federal Institute of Medicine suggests women take in 2.7 liters and men 3.7 liters of water per day. That might sound like a lot, but because food contributes about 20% of the daily water total, women should drink 8, 8-ounce glasses and men 12, 8-ounce glasses.

“It’s underappreciated that many fruits and vegetables are 90 to 95% water,” Watso said. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can certainly help you stay hydrated.” Soup, an old winter standby, also counts. “Just be sure to avoid soups with very high amounts of sodium.”

Watso recommends people keep a refillable water bottle with them and sip on it all day. “Your body can only process water at a certain rate, and if you drink too much too (quickly), the excess will be excreted,” he said.

Experts say fluid from tea and coffee – even that eggnog latte – counts toward hydration. Even soda and juices technically contribute to one’s daily fluid intake, although experts do not recommend them because of their high sugar content. Alcohol, however, doesn’t make the cut.

Kavouras advised people to pay attention to how often they use the bathroom. Adults should urinate six or seven times per day. Dark yellow or orangish urine is a sign to drink up.

“Drinking water throughout the day is one of the most effective things you can do to improve health and well-being.”

Source: HealthDay

Obesity in Middle Age Could Raise Odds for Alzheimer’s Later

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

Obesity in middle age is associated with an increased risk of dementia later in life, according to a study of more than 1 million women in the United Kingdom.

Those who were obese in their mid-50s had 21% greater risk of being diagnosed with dementia 15 or more years later, compared with women who had a healthy weight, a team of British and international researchers found.

The study adds to the “ever-expanding body of data that says what you do with yourself in midlife — and really even earlier — affects your risk for dementia as you age,” said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago. He was not part of the research.

For the study, the researchers followed about 1 out of every 4 women born in the United Kingdom between 1935 and 1950, more than 1.1 million overall. Their average age at the start of the study was 56. None had dementia.

At the outset, researchers calculated each woman’s body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on height and weight. They also asked about their diet and exercise. The women were followed for an average 18 years.

During that time, about 2.1% of obese women were diagnosed with dementia, compared to 1.6% of normal-weight women, the researchers found.

The study was published online in the journal Neurology.

A lot of factors associated with obesity are bad for the brain, said Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist and psychiatrist who specializes in memory disorders at Northwell Health in New York City.

These include high cholesterol, elevated levels of inflammation and increased stroke risk, said Devi, who was not involved with the study. Obese people tend to suffer poor sleep due to sleep apnea, and their brains struggle to get enough oxygen to function properly.

Fargo agreed.

“You’re essentially beating your brain up when you’re obese, because your brain requires a lot of oxygen and a lot of nutrients to function day-to-day and maintain structural integrity,” he said. “Anything that challenges the body’s ability to maintain the proper function and structure of the brain is going to increase your risk for developing cognitive decline as you age.”

The researchers also looked to see if physical inactivity or an inadequate low-calorie diet were linked to dementia. They found no significant associations.

Low calorie intake and inactivity were associated with higher dementia risk during the first 10 years of the study, but the link weakened in subsequent years until it became insignificant, the study found.

“Other studies have shown that people become inactive and lose weight up to a decade before they are diagnosed with dementia,” lead researcher Sarah Floud, of the University of Oxford, said in a journal news release. “The short-term links between dementia, inactivity and low calorie intake are likely to be the result of the earliest signs of the disease, before symptoms start to show.”

But Fargo said he doesn’t put much stock into those findings, given that the study was relatively short and the fact that diet and exercise are so closely linked with obesity.

“If you have obesity at 56, chances are your diet and physical activity pattern hasn’t been all that great for potentially decades at that point,” he said. “I think it’s a little difficult to disentangle the obesity story and the physical activity/diet story, especially given that they only measured physical activity and diet one time, right at the intake into the study. No one really knows what was happening with these individuals’ diet and physical activity levels in that intervening 15 to 20 years.”

It’s also impossible to tell from this study whether losing weight, eating right and exercising in middle age will reduce your later dementia risk, Fargo said. Ongoing clinical trials are expected to shed light on that question.

Devi, however, said she is “absolutely” convinced that an obese person who loses weight in midlife improves his or her chances of avoiding dementia.

“I think there is never not a good time to improve general physical and cardiovascular health, improve brain health and reduce risk for Alzheimer’s,” Devi said.

Source: HealthDay

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