How much sodium? Decoding nutrition labels

Guidelines for Americans, designed to give Americans a sense of what their diets need based on the newest food research.
But interpreting this information as a consumer can be tricky. After all, the numbers companies must print on packaged foods are only useful if you have a point of reference.
When you're deciding what to make for dinner, experts say that having a bit of background information allows you to make more informed decisions about the information you see on food labels.
Counting calories
"The most important thing there — and that's why it's in bold — is calories," said Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics and registered dietitian at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "That will determine whether someone gains or loses weight. Your body doesn't really care whether the calories come from sugar or fat when it comes to controlling weight."
As it says in the fine print, food labels are based on a 2,000 calorie diet — but the number of calories you actually need can vary. The American Heart Association recommends consuming anywhere from 1,600 to 3,000 calories per day depending on your age, gender and lifestyle.
There is also some variation in how much you need of the different vitamins and minerals, based on your age. The daily values listed on food packages after each vitamin or mineral are based on the highest amount needed by any age group, Ayoob said, which ensures that anyone following the labels will be getting enough of the vitamin, if not a little extra.

Health Buzz Diabetes Rising Among Americans

Approximately 26 million American adults over age 20 have diabetes,compared to 23.6 million in 2008—a 9 percent jump, according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In total, more than 100 million Americans now have diabetes or prediabetes, Diabetes arises when the body has trouble producing or using the hormone insulin, which leads to the buildup of sugar in the blood. Diabetics are at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, and amputations. At least 90 percent of those affected have type 2 diabetes, which is linked to obesity and inactivity. About 79 million Americans, meanwhile, have prediabetes, which means their blood sugar is elevated but does not meet the threshold for a diabetes diagnosis. Most people with prediabetes develop full-blown diabetes within 10 years, unless they lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, Bloomberg reports. "These distressing numbers show how important it is to prevent type 2 diabetes and to help those who have diabetes manage the disease," Ann Albright, director of the CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, said in an agency statement. On a positive note, she said the findings also suggest that people with diabetes are living longer than ever before.

Being plump is good for health

The researchers said the idea that weight is harmful has been "exaggerated" and people who are little heavier may actually live longer.

The California University (CU) study that looked at about 350,000 people in the US also suggested that the obese put their health in greater danger when they obsessively try to slim down.

It recommended that people should eat a varied and balanced diet, and take "enjoyable" amounts of exercise — even if they still end up carrying a few extra pounds. The researchers also noted that society's obsession with dieting is "ineffective" and often leads to people becoming fatter as they crave food and binge, the Daily Mail reported.

Linda Bacon, a CU professor who led the study, claimed there is evidence to show that overweight people live longer than normal. Those who are obese in old age also tend to live longer than elderly people who are thin, they said. They are also more likely to survive certain health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure, added the researchers.

Although it's known that obesity puts people at higher risk of heart disease and other illnesses, the scientists said that "being fat" is not the cause. Instead, they blame poor diet and lack of exercise — which almost always come with obesity.

Plan would charge state retirees more for health care

State lawmakers, fresh off of passing a major income tax increase, are turning toward a trio of other ideas as they try to capitalize on a newfound mood at the Capitol of dealing with long-festering budget problems.
The new push is a crackdown on the rising cost of health care for retired state workers. The program costs the state nearly $500 million a year, and more than 90 percent of the retirees and survivors pay no premiums.
The leftover plans are to raise the cigarette tax and borrow money to more quickly pay down a big backlog of bills, both of which could get new life now that the high-pressure political atmosphere surrounding the tax increase is done.
Of the three, the retiree health insurance issue is most likely to become the next rallying cry among a public weary of the cost of state government and the recent Democrat-led incursion into their wallets to pay for years of mismanagement.
The idea is to start charging the retirees who can afford to pay for their health care. And new state research shows some of the 84,100 retirees and survivors appear to possess the ability to pay — the average annual household income for a retired state worker younger than 65 was nearly $78,000.

Kidney transplants could save health-care system millions

The number of Canadians living with kidney failure has tripled in 20 years and thousands of patients are waiting for kidney transplants, researchers say in a report that suggests if transplants were available, $150 million spent on expensive treatments would be saved.
There were nearly 38,000 Canadians living with kidney failure in 2009 -more than triple the number recorded in 1990 -with 3,000 people on a transplant waiting list, according to a study examining organ failure released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
If everyone on the wait list was transplanted, about $150 million would be saved each year because of less dialysis treatment expenses, said Claire Marie Fortin, CIHI's manager of clinical registries.
"Dialysis is expensive, there's no denying it," Fortin said.
"It's also onerous on the patient. We always think of dollars and cents when it comes to health care, but there are patients involved and these are people who have to travel far to get their dialysis. A greater supply of organs would be beneficial to the system."
Hemodialysis treatments cost $60,000 a year per patient while a one-time expense for a kidney transplant is only about $23,000, plus an additional $6,000 for medication to maintain the transplant, Fortin said.

Health Bill: facts and fiction, by Carol Propper

I have to admit to being stunned by the level of misinformation that is currently accompanying the Health and Social Care Bill as it is introduced into Parliament.
Yesterday, the shadow health secretary John Healey stated that ‘the changes would make the health service profit centred rather than patient centred, health secretary Andrew Lansley said ‘competition would be on quality and not cost’ and that as the health service is free at the point of delivery patients obtain the best medical outcome rather than the cheapest option. Meanwhile, Karen Jennings, head of health at Unison, stated that the only survivors will be the private health companies which are ‘circling like sharks’ and MPs say ‘the reforms have taken the NHS by surprise’.
None of these statements has much basis in either fact or evidence. The reforms being introduced in the bill are essentially a continuation of the reforms started under the previous administration, albeit at an increase in pace and scale. The Labour reforms introduced competition between hospitals for patients and patient choice of hospital and a system of regulated prices. Lansley has changed the buyers of health care from local PCTs to general practitioners, but under Labour the PCTs were supposed to act on behalf of their local GPs anyhow. Why Healey believes that increasing the pace of reform and replacing the PCTs with GP consortia should mean the NHS switches from being patient to profit centred is completely unclear.
GPs have not been seen by politicians as profit centred previously. In fact, perhaps because GPs see so many voters each week, most politicians studiously ignore the fact that GPs are private contractors and not NHS employees. In addition, the new GP consortia will probably employ a fair number of ex-PCT staff. So it seems unlikely there will be a radical shift in values on the purchaser side.

Spice And Dye Point Toward Better Treatment For Traumatic Brain Injuries

An old Indian spice and a dye whose cousin makes sports drinks blue are pointing scientists toward better treatment of traumatic brain injuries.

TBIs, the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, occur on football fields and roadways as well when an injured brain swells inside the closed confines of the skull, causing cell damage and symptoms ranging from headaches and confusion to seizures, slurred speech and death.

Medical College of Georgia researchers suspect that one day curcumin - the biologically active ingredient that makes the spice turmeric yellow - and the dye brilliant blue G - or their analogues - may be what doctors order to block the dangerous swelling.

"Today we don't have good therapies for TBIs, which can mean many good and often young minds are damaged or even lost," said Dr. Cargill H. Alleyne Jr., Chairman of the MCG Department of Neurosurgery. "We believe these attempts to characterize how edema and secondary injury develop after head trauma will enhance our efforts at prevention as well as identify novel therapies. This may eventually make a big difference for those injured on battlefields, football fields and highways."

"This is a dire situation for these patients," added Dr. Krishnan Dhandapani, MCG neuroscientist who vividly remembers a young TBI patient he saw his first week on the MCG faculty. The young male was riding an all-terrain vehicle helmetless when he flipped and hit his head on a rock. MCG Neurosurgeon John Vender, who had removed a portion of the patient's skull to give the brain room to swell, explained that was one of the biggest problems after trauma.

GOP lacks clear health-care plan

With the House preparing to vote this week on whether to repeal the health-care law, the chamber's new Republican majority is confronting a far more delicate task: forging its own path to expand medical coverage and curb costs.

The House's GOP leaders have made clear that they regard the repeal vote, scheduled to begin Tuesday, as the prelude to a two-prong strategy that is likely to last throughout the year, or longer.

They intend to take apart some of the sprawling law, which Democrats pushed through Congress last year, piece by piece before major aspects of it go into effect. At the same time, Republicans say, they will come up with their own plan to revise the health-care system, tailored along more conservative lines.

On the cusp of undertaking this work, the GOP has a cupboard of health-care ideas, most going back a decade or more. They include tax credits to help Americans afford insurance, limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and unfettering consumers from rules that require them to buy state-regulated insurance policies. In broad strokes, the approach favors the health-care marketplace over government programs and rules.

Weight-Loss Tricks Around the World: USA Today’s Hellmich Maneuvers and China’s Weird New Roundworm Diet

Weight-Loss Tricks Around the World: USA Today’s Hellmich Maneuvers and China’s Weird New Roundworm Diet
Given Lab Notes’ almost Twitter-like space limitations, however, only a few of Hellmich’s tips could be cited, which is sufficiently unfortunate to serve as justification for a more elaborate summary of her various suggestions. A lot of them are staple weight-loss tips that are familiar entries on almost every list, such as drinking water prior to meals, using smaller plates and bowls, exercising two to four hours a week to accelerate weight loss, and so on. We’ll skip those.
But some others are less commonplace and/or more specific, and worth taking a moment to pass on to anyone who might not have already encountered them. Here, in brief:

• Set weight-loss goals you can actually meet: 1/2 to 2 pounds a week is reasonable.
• Familiar ploy: Get a pair of jeans or other pants too tight for you and use them as an incentive. Hellmich variation: Don’t hang them in the closet, but in your kitchen.
• Involve your family as your partners and support crew.
• Replace the fatty and sugary snack items in your home with snackable substitute veggies (carrot and celery sticks, cucumber slices) and fruits (grapes, apples, strawberries).
If you think our shortage of jobs is making people crazy, consider China, where unemployment currently stands at around 22 percent officially, and maybe much higher unofficially. However rapidly China’s cities can create new jobs, job-seekers from the vast rural expanse pour in to take them even faster. And, as is the case here, simple physical attractiveness is often a significant advantage in landing a position, especially for women, and especially to the benefit of the slim and slender.
• This has driven females entering the Chinese workforce to some drastic measures to slim down for job interviews, among them exotic pills, teas, and even soaps, acupuncture, staring at photographs for hour after hour as a kind of self-hypnosis, and showering whenever hunger strikes — up to 10 times a day or more.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is a pea-sized gland located at the base of the skull between the optic nerves. The pituitary gland secretes hormones. Hormones are chemicals that travel through our blood stream. The pituitary is sometimes referred to as the "master gland" as it controls hormone functions such as our temperature, thyroid activity, growth during childhood, urine production, testosterone production in males and ovulation and estrogen production in females. In effect the gland functions as our thermostat that controls all other glands that are responsible for hormone secretion. The gland is a critical part of our ability to respond to the environment most often without our knowledge.

The pituitary gland actually functions as two separate compartments an anterior portion (adenohypohysis-hormone producing) and the posterior gland (neurohypophysis). The anterior gland actually is made of separate collection of individual cells that act as functional units (it is useful to consider them as individual factories) that are dedicated to produce a specific regulatory hormone messenger or factor. These factors are secreted in response to the outside environment and the internal bodily responses to this environment. These pituitary factors then travel through a rich blood work network into the blood stream and eventually reach their specific target gland. They then stimulate the target gland to produce the appropriate type and amount of hormone so the body can respond to the environment correctly.

Similar to the cortisol factory there are additional factories:

* Growth Hormone
* Prolactin
* Gonadotropin ("sex hormones")
* Thyroid

The pituitary is responsible for the hormonal regulation of several body processes, including water retention, breast milk synthesis and release, human growth, and thyroid gland secretions.
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Be heart smart and have a healthy heart.

What we eat can make a big difference to the health of our hearts. We can reduce our chances of developing heart disease by eating a diet that is high in fruit and vegetables, high in fibre, and low in salt and fat, particularly saturated fat. And don't forget that giving up smoking will significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. Becoming more active also helps protect our hearts by lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels and controlling our weight.
If you want your heart to be healthy for the rest of your life, follow this prescription:
1. Get plenty of exercise.
2. Follow a good diet.
3. Keep your heart clean and drug-free.
People who don't follow this prescription often develop some form of heart disease.
Exercise 30 min most days of the week with a moderate-intensity activity (e.g. brisk walk) and 60-90 min daily for weight control. (Check with your healthcare practitioner before starting any exercise program).

Aim for at least 30 minutes a day or two 15-minute periods of exercise.

Maximize health benefits by making exercise a part of your daily routine.

Do warms-up and cool-down exercises to help prevent muscle injury.

Eat a wide variety of foods in moderation and follow My Pyramid for portion size.

Use the Nutrition Facts Label as an aid for healthful choices.

Limit total fat. Limit saturated fat. Avoid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils -known as trans-fat (read the ingredients section).

Replace unhealthy fats with healthy monounsaturated fats like olive, canola and peanut oils.

Eat at least two fish meals a week. Cold water fish contain health omega-3 oils.

Drink 4-6 glasses of water a day.

Maintain a healthy weight. Don't crash diet.

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biosphere travel

Turning travel into a volunteer opportunityis an increasingly popular way to spend vacation time. For those with an interest in protecting planet biodiversity and wildlife conservation, Biosphere Expeditions offers the opportunity for adventure travel while giving a helping hand.
An award-winning, non-profit organization, Biosphere Expeditions bridges the gap between scientists at the forefront of conservation programs that are in need of funds and helpers, and enthusiastic travelers who during their vacation time and through their hands-on assistance and expedition contributions, want to support them.
Travelers can take part in anything from a weekend project to extended expeditions lasting months. Examples of possible conservation projects in 2010 include working with whales, dolphins and turtles in Azores, coral reef in Musandam, or jaguar and puma in Brazil. The average cost of a one-week expedition is about 1,780 USD with at least two-thirds of the volunteer contribution devoted to long-term funding of the conservation projects and sustainability.

By taking part in volunteer travel focused on protecting biodiversity you can be involved in making a difference around the globe. So far some of Biosphere Expedition’s most notable achievements include a declaration of a protected area which serves as a wildlife habitat in Central Asia, recommendations incorporated into the national and state jaguar action plans in Brazil, and fewer killings of lions, leopards and cheetahs in Namibia.
If you are looking for a cause to travel for these expeditions are something to consider. You will have a positive impact on local communities, wildlife, and the environment while seeing some of the most beautiful locations this planet has to offer.

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Statins may raise stroke risk in some: study

Although statins are commonly used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, they said the drugs could raise the risks of a second stroke in these patients, outweighing any other heart benefits from the drugs.

"Our study indicates that in settings of high recurrent intracerebral hemorrhage risk, avoiding statin therapy may be preferred," Dr. Brandon Westover of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Neurology.

That was particularly true of people who had strokes in one of the brain's four lobes - frontal, parietal, temporal, or occipital - which recur more frequently than such strokes that occur deep in the brain.

U.S. Wants to Reduce Fluoride in Drinking Water

The recommended level of fluoride in U.S. drinking water supplies should be lowered to prevent dental troubles, according to a joint announcement today by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The HHS is recommending that water supplies contain 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, replacing the present recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams.

That recommendation won't go into effect immediately. It will be published in the Federal Register, followed by a period of comment from the public and others for 30 days.

In other action today, the EPA told it will review the maximum amount of fluoride that will be allowed in drinking water, looking at the most latest research.

Splitting tablets 'may mean patients take wrong doses'

Researchers from Ghent University in Belgium told there could be "serious clinical consequences" for patients.

Tablets which have a slight margin between a dose that is therapeutic and one that is toxic are riskiest.

The study was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.

Researchers from Ghent University asked five volunteers to split eight different sized tablets using three different methods.

The participants used three different methods to split the pills a expert splitting device, scissors and a kitchen knife. The pills were various shapes and sizes.

You May Be Less Bald Than You Think

Not long ago, I was having dinner with a friend in his late 20s, and when the topic somehow turned to hair loss, his panic was palpable. "I don't even want to talk about it," he told, shuddering and putting a hand to his substantial curls. Currently there may be less for him and other men to worry about.

The cause of male patterned baldness, doctors have long believed, is found in the cluster of stem cells that generally exist inside each hair follicle. As long as the cells are healthy and abundant, so is hair. When they disappear, the hair goes with them. But a new research published on Jan. 4 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that things are subtler than that

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania looked at discarded pieces of scalp from 54 men seeking hair transplants, all but one of whom were not using medication meant to slow balding. The scalp samples were divided into two groups: some already hairless and some that retained hair. The researchers found that in both groups, the samples contained the equal number of stem cells within the hair follicle and that's huge news in the baldness world.

Fishy diet comes with lower risk of stroke

Specifically, fish-lovers in Sweden were 16 percent less likely to experience a stroke over a 10-year-period, relative to women who ate fish less than one time a week.

"Fish consumption in several countries, including the U.S., is far too low, and increased fish consumption would likely result in substantial benefits in the population," told Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian of the Harvard School of Public Health, who reviewed the findings for Reuters Health.

When choosing fish to eat, it's good to opt for fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found most abundantly in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and albacore tuna. "But any fish is better than none," Mozaffarian noted.

Scientists Aim for Test That Could Spot Single Cancer Cell in Blood

A collaborative effort involving U.S. scientists and private companies are looking into a test that could find even one stray cancer cell among the billions of cells that circulate in the human bloodstream.

The trust is that one day such a test, given soon after a treatment is started, could indicate whether the therapy is working or not. It might even indicate beforehand which treatment would be most effective.

The test relies on circulating tumor cells (CTCs) cancer cells that have detached from the most important tumor and are traveling to other parts of the body.

In 2007, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital, developed a "microfluidic chip," called CellSearch, which could calculate the number of stray cancer cells, but that test didn't allow scientists to trap whole cells and analyze them.

Foods for strong hair

There are many vitamins and nutrients that your body needs in order to produce healthy and strong hair. If any of these are lacking, your hair shafts can become weak resulting in massive shedding, also known as hair loss. Some foods you should add to your diet to increase hair health include:

Eggs & Chicken: Eggs and chicken are a great source of protein to help produce to encourage hair growth and prevent hair loss.

Dried fruit and nuts: Packed with iron, sulphur and biotin, dried fruit and nuts (and almonds in particular) are a great source of vitamin E which enhances blood circulation and maintains healthy hair follicles.

Green Vegetables: Spinach (palak) and broccoli are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, which your body needs to produce sebum. Green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.

Fruits: Melons, berries, bananas, oranges, apples and many other fruits can supply your body with the proper vitamins to reduce hair loss.

Water: Consuming at least eight glasses of water per day will help transport the needed nutrients to your hair and help keep your hair strands hydrated and strong.

N.J. Ground Beef Recall 2010: E. Coli Contamination Possibility

A few major grocery stores across New Jersey have newly taken ground beef products offer their shelves due to the fact that they could be contaminated with E. coli.

Retailers across six different states have started to take down the ground beef because of the health scare which was newly started after it was discovered that many of the packages may be contaminated and pose a risk to those who eat it.

The recall contains a total of 34,373 pounds of ground beef which has been taken off the shelves in many grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the country due to possible health risks that retailers do not want to take any chances with.

The ground beef products were under the name “Natures Harvest” and “Organic Harvest”. The number “18895” is on each of the packages which consumers can simply recognize if they have already bought packages of the possibly-tainted meat.

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