Category Archives: health effects

Coffee drinkers enjoy life more

coffee potWhile coffee lovers everywhere might look at that headline and heartily agree – there may just be more to it than you’d think. Sure, drinking coffee might perk you up so you can be more present during your daily activities and interactions. And health benefits like decreased stroke risk and Type 2 diabetes risk could help you enjoy life more. But according to a new study, coffee drinkers enjoy life more because their coffee drinking might allow them to enjoy more life. Multiple cups of joe every day may help boost longevity.

“In our study, we found people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” says one of the study authors, nutrition researcher Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health. Decaf drinkers also saw benefits.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, build on a body of evidence linking a coffee habit to potential health benefits.

Now, of course, it’s possible to overdo it with caffeine. Research has shown that consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine can interfere with sleep and create feelings of unease. And some of us are even more sensitive.

One study found that 200 milligrams of caffeine (the equivalent of about two cups of coffee) is an optimal amount to enhance cognitive function and mood among sleep-deprived people. But we don’t all metabolize caffeine the same way.

As we’ve reported, the caffeine amounts in coffee vary wildly. One analysis, conducted by Bruce Goldberger, found a 16-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee from Starbucks could contain anywhere from 250 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams of caffeine.

“Not everyone reacts to coffee in the same way,” says Andrew Maynard, who studies risk assessment at Arizona State University. He summarizes the benefits documented in this study as “small.”

He says this study does not prove cause and effect between drinking coffee and living longer. Rather, it points to an association. “There are a lot of unknowns as to what [may explain] the increase in life expectancy,” Maynard says.

Here’s a conversation from The Salt about the findings with study co-author Walter Willett, edited for length and clarity.

So, what do you think might explain this association? In the study, you point to compounds in coffee — such as lignans, quinides and magnesium — that may help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Prior studieshave pointed to these as well.

We’re not sure exactly how coffee is [linked] to all these benefits. The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phytochemicals. And my guess is that they’re working together to have some of these benefits.

We [see] similar benefits from caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. That’s important, because it suggests that caffeine is not responsible for [the benefit].

So this may be welcome news to people who drink decaf?

Yes, because too much [caffeinated] coffee can cause insomnia and loss of sleep, and that’s not a good thing!

The reduced risk of death was not seen among the coffee drinkers in your study who were smokers or former smokers.

Definitely. It’s extremely important to disentangle the effects of coffee from the effects of cigarette smoking.

So, what’s the take-home here? Is it that coffee can be part of a healthy lifestyle?

I think if people like coffee, it’s fine to include it [as part of your daily habit]. So, certainly, [people] should not feel guilty about moderate coffee consumption. It definitely can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
I wouldn’t suggest that someone who doesn’t like coffee go out and drink it.

Are you a coffee drinker? Are these findings likely to influence your own behaviors?

Well, I really like a good cup of coffee. But if I have more than two cups a day, I really don’t sleep as well. So, I’ve been switching more toward decaf or half decaf/half regular.

In this study, you also analyzed how coffee influenced the risk of specific diseases — or categories of diseases. What did you find?

We went beyond total mortality and looked at specific causes of death. And we found that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee have lower risk of [death] from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease [such as Parkinson's] and suicide.
Your findings come from data from two Nurses’ Health Studies, which included about 167,000 women. And it also looked at the 40,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.
As you point out, the participants in these studies are about 95 percent white, largely middle-class and well-educated. Can you extrapolate to other populations?
Yes, I’m quite sure these findings would apply to other populations. This is a biological relationship. And we basically have a common biology. is always happy to see more good news associated with our favorite hot beverage. And while it’s always important for all of us to understand how much is too much, it certainly appears that there’s a lot more going on in that cup than just the caffeine!

If you’re over 50, your calcium intake has very little effect on your bone density

cs-osteoporosis-boost-bone-health-722x406We’ve all heard for years that calcium is a significant contributor to our bone health as we age. So after the age of 50 we’re all fairly cognizant of how much calcium we’re getting and how we’re getting it – through supplementation and diet. wants us all to be aware of some recent research that calls into question how important calcium is to bone density as we age.  In fact according to recent studies, calcium has little effect on bone density.

Calcium, eaten in foods or taken as supplements, has little or no effect on bone density or the risk of fracture in people over 50, according to two large reviews of studies in BMJ.

One analysis reviewed 59 randomized controlled trials of the effect of dietary and supplemental calcium on bone density. Together, the trials included 13,790 men and women over 50. The data showed that more calcium in the diet or taken as supplements increased bone density about 1 percent to 2 percent — too little to have any effect on fractures.

The other review pooled the results of 55 studies of calcium intake and fractures and found no significant association of overall calcium intake with broken bones. Some studies of supplements showed a slightly reduced risk for vertebral fracture, but none for hip or forearm fractures. The four most rigorous, randomized controlled trials of calcium supplements included more than 45,000 participants and showed no association between supplements and the risk of fracture at any site.

“We found no evidence that calcium intake is associated with the risk for fracture,” said the senior author, Dr. Mark J. Bolland, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, “so if you have a normal diet, you don’t need to worry about your calcium intake.”

It’s certainly different information from what we’ve all been told in the past. It’s so important for all of us to keep abreast of the latest findings and how they may affect our dietary decisions. Our regular, every day diets may give us enough calcium to sustain our bone density. That’s great news for the over 50 crowd! We’ll continue to bring our community updates on this as well as other evolving health information.

Toxic chemicals are damaging our health

151001100058_1_540x360We hear it all the time … the level of chemicals we’re exposed to can’t hurt us – it’s not high enough. The population used to be told that about BPA in plastics. Turns out that wasn’t true. The truth is that no one has really been able to tell us how pesticides, preservatives, dyes, and other toxic chemicals are damaging our health. thought everyone in our community could really benefit from this new information.

Dramatic increases in exposure to toxic chemicals in the last four decades are threatening human reproduction and health, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO), the first global reproductive health organization to take a stand on human exposure to toxic chemicals.

The opinion was written by obstetrician-gynecologists and scientists from the major global, US, UK and Canadian reproductive health professional societies, the World Health Organization and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

FIGO, which represents obstetricians from 125 countries and territories, published the opinion in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics on Oct. 1, 2015, just prior to its Oct. 4 to 9, 2015, world congress in Vancouver, BC, where more than 7,000 clinicians and scientists will explore global trends in women’s health issues.

“We are drowning our world in untested and unsafe chemicals, and the price we are paying in terms of our reproductive health is of serious concern,” said Gian Carlo Di Renzo, MD, PhD, Honorary Secretary of FIGO and lead author of the FIGO opinion. According to Di Renzo, reproductive health professionals “witness first-hand the increasing numbers of health problems facing their patients, and preventing exposure to toxic chemicals can reduce this burden on women, children and families around the world.”

Miscarriage and still birth, impaired fetal growth, congenital malformations, impaired or reduced neurodevelopment and cognitive function, and an increase in cancer, attention problems, ADHD behaviors and hyperactivity are among the list of poor health outcomes linked to chemicals such as pesticides, air pollutants, plastics, solvents and more, according to the FIGO opinion.

“What FIGO is saying is that physicians need to do more than simply advise patients about the health risks of chemical exposure,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, a co-author of the FIGO opinion and past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which issued an opinion on chemicals and reproductive health in 2013. “We need to advocate for policies that will protect our patients and communities from the dangers of involuntary exposure to toxic chemicals.”

Chemical manufacturing is expected to grow fastest in developing countries in the next five years, according to FIGO. In the U.S. alone, more than 30,000 pounds of chemicals per person are manufactured or imported, and yet the vast majority of these chemicals have not been tested. Chemicals travel the globe via international trade agreements, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which is being negotiated between the European Union and the United States. Environmental and health groups have criticized the proposed agreement for weakening controls and regulations designed to protect communities from toxic chemicals.

“Exposure to chemicals in the air, food and water supplies disproportionately affect poor people,” said Linda Giudice, MD, PhD, MSc, a FIGO opinion co-author, past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and chair of the UCSF department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. “In developing countries, lower respiratory infections are more than twice as likely to be caused by chemical exposures than in developed countries.”

Exposure to toxic environmental chemicals is linked to millions of deaths and costs billions of dollars every year, according to the FIGO opinion, which cites the following examples:

• Nearly 4 million people die each year because of exposure to indoor and outdoor air pollution as well as to lead.
• Pesticide poisonings of farmworkers in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to cost $66 billion between 2005-2020.
• Health care and other costs from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in Europe are estimated to be at a minimum of 157 billion Euros a year.
• The cost of childhood diseases related to environmental toxins and pollutants in air, food, water, soil and in homes and neighborhoods was calculated to be $76.6 billion in 2008 in the United States.

“Given accumulating evidence of adverse health impacts related to toxic chemicals, including the potential for inter-generational harm, FIGO has wisely proposed a series of recommendations that health professionals can adopt to reduce the burden of unsafe chemicals on patients and communities,” said FIGO President Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, MBBS, who is also past president of the British Medical Association.

FIGO proposes that physicians, midwives, and other reproductive health professionals advocate for policies to prevent exposure to toxic environmental chemicals; work to ensure a healthy food system for all; make environmental health part of health care; and champion environmental justice.

Chemicals count. Our environment contributes to our health and well being and our environment carries toxins. Our food supply didn’t have to be chemically laden. Pesticides didn’t need to be uninvited guests in our body tissue. But they are. We’ve all got to advocate to eliminate the exposure to toxic chemicals in our environment and our food supply. It’s already affected us all far too much.

Obesity crisis may be bigger than we originally thought

shutterstock164062556We’ve been hearing that 30% of the population is overweight or obese for quite a while now. Thirty percent is a big enough number and certainly speaks to the prevalence of the condition of obesity. But today learned that it really may be much larger than that.

New estimates have revealed the extent of one of the biggest public health problems facing the US, as a research letter reports that more than two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.

The authors of the research letter, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, are Dr. Graham A. Colditz and Lin Yang of the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO.

Their paper describes an analysis of the most recent data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 2007-12) to calculate the prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Researchers had conducted a similar study around 20 years ago, analyzing data taken from 1988-1994 to work out the chronic disease burden associated with body mass index (BMI). The findings of that study were used to inform clinical practice and prevention strategies.

“Compared with 1988-1994, the distribution of the population’s weight status has increased in the past 20 years,” write the authors of the new research letter. “The rising trends in overweight and obesity warrant timely attention from health policy and health care system decision makers.”

In the new analysis, overweight was defined as a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9. Obesity was defined as a BMI of 30.0 and above and was divided into three different classes. BMIs of 30.0-34.9 were defined as class 1, BMIs of 35.0-39.9 were class 2 and BMIs of 40 and above were class 3.

Data were obtained for 15,208 men and women aged 25 and above in a sample representative of over 188 million adults. The researchers estimated that around 36.3 million men (39.96%) and 28.9 million women (29.74%) were overweight, with around 31.8 million men (35.04%) and 35.9 million women (36.84%) obese.

These findings make alarming reading when considering that overweight and obesity are associated with numerous chronic health conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke. There is also a financial cost to the problem; the American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that obesity costs $190 billion each year in weight-related medical bills.

Such is the scale of the problem that a Gallup Poll conducted in November 2013 found that obesity was considered to be the third most urgent health problem facing the US, behind cost and access but ahead of cancer and heart diseases, the two leading causes of death in the country.

Dr. Donna H. Ryan – professor and associate executive director for clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge – suggests a number of possible triggers for the obesity epidemic.

These suggestions include changes to sleep patterns, increased availability of food and more sedentary lifestyles fueled by the decreased physical demands of many jobs and increased “screen time” with the use of televisions, computers and smartphones.

“Population-based strategies helping to reduce modifiable risk factors such as physical environment interventions, enhancing primary care efforts to prevent and treat obesity, and altering societal norms of behavior are required,” state the authors.

Dr. Ryan believes that society must learn to treat obesity as a disease rather than a consequence of a lack of willpower, becoming more accepting of people with the condition:

“If you have not had a friend, family member or colleague who has struggled with their weight and particularly if you haven’t tried to lose weight yourself, then it’s easy for you to ascribe negative stereotypical traits to overweight and obese people. It’s a lot like alcohol and drug addiction. Our society is more accepting of these conditions as a disease and less so for obesity.”

Previously, Medical News Today reported on a study finding that stepping on the scales daily and tracking the results on a chart is an effective way of losing weight and keeping it off.

We’ve been referring to obesity as a disease medically. But we know that in the minds of the population it isn’t necessarily viewed as other diseases. Instead, as the article states, obesity is looked upon more as a lack of willpower — some sort of a character flaw. It involves shame and sometimes shunning. It’s time to rethink our views in order to arrive at solutions for this tremendous health crisis.

Suffering from seasonal allergies? Probiotics might help.

woman-yogurt-bed-150504The season is upon us. After an especially long, cold and snowy winter, millions of people here in the U.S. are greeting the change in seasons with a chorus of sneezing, watery eyes and runny noses. Seasonal allergies have arrived and with them, the attempt to find a way to stop them. Could eating yogurt or taking probiotic supplements be helpful?

Researchers analyzed the results from more than 20 previous studies and found that hay fever sufferers may get some benefits from using probiotics, improving their symptoms and quality of life.

But the jury is still out about whether probiotics are actually an effective treatment for people with seasonal allergies, said lead author Dr. Justin Turner, an ear-nose-and-throat surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Additional high-quality studies are needed before doctors would recommend for or against using probiotics to help treat people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Probiotics are bacteria that are thought to help maintain a healthy gut. They are found in certain foods, such as yogurt with live active cultures, kefir and sauerkraut, and also supplements. Probiotics may change the balance of bacteria in the intestines in a way that could protect the immune system from flaring up in response to pollens and other allergens, which may help reduce allergy symptoms, Turner said.

But he also cautioned that there is still much more information that needs to be understood about the effect of probiotics on the immune system.

Seasonal allergies are estimated to affect approximately 50 million Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergy symptoms such as sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, and itchy and watery eyes are typically treated with a combination of medications, including antihistamines, decongestants and steroid nasal sprays.

In the new study, published online in April in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, researchers reviewed data from 23 randomized trials and more than 1,900 people.

They found that the majority of these studies (17 of 23) showed that people with seasonal allergies who took probiotic supplements or ate foods containing probiotics showed improvement in at least one outcome measure, such as improving their allergy symptoms, or their general quality of life, compared with allergy sufferers who took a placebo.

Six of 23 studies found probiotics had no benefit to people with hay fever, the researchers said.

But because the studies used different strains of live bacteria, different dosages and different probiotic supplement formulations over different periods of time, it is difficult to make any formal recommendations about probiotic use, bacterial strains or length of treatment that may benefit people with seasonal allergies, Turner said.

Even if probiotics prove effective for seasonal allergies, it’s unlikely they would replace the standard medical treatments currently used by people affected by them, Turner said.

While more research is needed, wants to point out that for seasonal allergy sufferers, it’s easy enough to determine if probiotics can help you. Yogurt is simple enough to add into your diet. And the majority of these studies did yield results that illustrates the addition as a viable option. Over-the-counter medication for seasonal allergies can keep us awake, put us to sleep, raise our blood pressure, and make us thirsty — not to mention that most contain ingredients we’re not very fond of. Testing out the probiotic concept seems to be more than a reasonably good idea!

It’s not just about high blood pressure: the effects of salt on other organs

salt sprinkled on tableWe all know that salt can have negative health effects. We know that’s true, and yet, doesn’t see any decrease in the sales of processed foods and millions are still walking through the doors of major fast food chains every day.

You may think you’re one of the lucky ones who can eat all the salty snacks and convenience foods you want and still register low numbers on the blood pressure cuff. But, new research suggests you may not be so lucky after all.

A review paper co-authored by two faculty members in the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences and two physicians at Christiana Care Health System provides evidence that even in the absence of an increase in blood pressure, excess dietary sodium can adversely affect target organs, including the blood vessels, heart, kidneys and brain.

Authors of the paper, “Dietary Sodium and Health: More Than Just Blood Pressure,” include William Farquhar and David Edwards in UD’s Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology; William Weintraub, chief of cardiology at Christiana Care; and Claudine Jurkovitz, a nephrologist epidemiologist and senior scientist in the Value Institute Center for Outcomes Research at Christiana Care.

The paper was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Blood pressure responses to alterations in dietary sodium vary widely, which has led to the concept of ‘salt-sensitive’ blood pressure,” says Farquhar. “There are no standardized guidelines for classifying individuals as having salt-sensitive blood pressure, but if blood pressure increases during a period of high dietary sodium or decreases during a low-sodium period, the person is considered salt sensitive. If there’s no change in blood pressure with sodium restriction, an individual is considered salt resistant.”

However, the research cited in the paper points to evidence of adverse effects on multiple target organs and tissues, even for people who are salt resistant.

Potential effects on the arteries include reduced function of the endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels. Endothelial cells mediate a number of processes, including coagulation, platelet adhesion and immune function. Elevated dietary sodium can also increase arterial stiffness.

Farquhar and Edwards have done previous work in this area, with one study showing that excess salt intake in humans impairs endothelium-dependent dilation and another demonstrating that dietary sodium loading impairs microvascular function. In both cases, the effects are independent of changes in blood pressure.

They review their work and the growing body of evidence to support a deleterious effect of dietary salt on vascular function independent of blood pressure in a recent invited paper in Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension.

“High dietary sodium can also lead to left ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber,” Edwards says. “As the walls of the chamber grow thicker, they become less compliant and eventually are unable to pump as forcefully as a healthy heart.”

Regarding the kidneys, evidence suggests that high sodium is associated with reduced renal function, a decline observed with only a minimal increase in blood pressure.

Finally, sodium may also affect the sympathetic nervous system, which activates what is often termed the fight-or-flight response.

“Chronically elevated dietary sodium may ‘sensitize’ sympathetic neurons in the brain, causing a greater response to a variety of stimuli, including skeletal muscle contraction,” Farquhar says. “Again, even if blood pressure isn’t increased, chronically increased sympathetic outflow may have harmful effects on target organs.”

Jurkovitz points out that studying the effects of salt restriction on clinical outcomes is not easy. Challenges include accurate assessment of intake, long-term maintenance on a defined salt regimen, and the need for large numbers of patients and extended follow-up to obtain enough outcomes for meaningful analysis.

However, she says, “A large body of evidence confirms the biological plausibility of the association between high sodium intake and increases in blood pressure and cardiovascular events.”

This evidence has resulted in the American Heart Association’s recommendation that we consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Taking the salt shaker off the table is a good way to start, but it’s probably not enough, says Weintraub, whose work focuses on cardiology outcomes.

“Approximately 70 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from processed foods, including items that we don’t typically think of as salty such as breads and cereals,” he says. “Also, restaurant food typically contains more salt than dishes prepared at home, so eating out less can help reduce salt intake, especially if herbs and spices — instead of salt — are used to add flavor to home-cooked meals.”

But the authors acknowledge that shaking the salt habit won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight.

“Reducing sodium will take a coordinated effort involving organizations like the AHA, food producers and processors, restaurants, and public policy aimed at education,” Weintraub says. thinks we should all remember this research the next time we reach for a processed food product or think to ourselves that our favorite bowl of soup from our favorite casual restaurant can’t be that bad. All of us need to be more conscious of our salt consumption and try our best to work towards a meaningful reduction of sodium in our diets.

Holiday Cheer: Buche De Noel Edition

The big day is upon us!  The house is decorated, the tree is lit, the presents are wrapped and the meal planning is well underway! wanted to make sure that we showcase one of our favorite courses from the holiday feast – dessert!

No matter what your tradition, dessert will certainly play a big role in tomorrow’s meal.  And many home chefs look forward to putting their skills to work in the creation of a beautiful and tasty Buche de Noel (or Yule Log).  These cakes can truly be works of art – and banquets of holiday flavor.  Unfortunately as beautiful and flavorful as the cake may be, it’s also very rich and typically packs a big punch in the fat and sugar categories.  The traditional recipe for Buche de Noel contains:

Calories: 276
Fat: 17.7g
Saturated Fat: 10.4g
Sugar: 22.9g

We’re pretty sure we can do better, while still keeping this beautiful cake moist, flavorful and fun.

For the cake, you’ll need:

  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoon(s) unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoon(s) organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup(s) whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup(s) cake flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup(s) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2/3 cup(s) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt

For the filling and frosting, you’ll need

  • Organic Agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon(s) instant espresso powder or coffee granules
  • 4 teaspoon(s) dried egg whites (see Tips), reconstituted according to package directions (equivalent to 2 egg whites)
  • 1/4 tspn creme of tartar
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup(s) brewed coffee, room temperature or cold
  • 1/4 cup(s) organic half-and-half



  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a large (12-by-16 1/2-inch) rimmed baking sheet (half sheet pan) with parchment paper; coat the paper and pan sides with cooking spray. Place eggs (in the shell) in a stand mixer bowl or large mixing bowl, add warm tap water, and set aside to warm the eggs and bowl.
  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, swirling occasionally, until the white flecks of milk solids in the bottom of the pan start to turn golden brown, 4 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then add 2 teaspoons vanilla. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, and 1/4 cup cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Drain the water and break the eggs into the warmed mixing bowl. Add sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until thick and pale light yellow, 5 to 15 minutes (depending on the power of your mixer). To test if it’s beaten well enough, lift the beater from the batter: as the batter falls off the beater into the bowl, it should mound for a moment on the surface.
  5. Gently fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture with a whisk, in two additions, until just incorporated. Gently fold about 1 cup of the batter into the reserved butter. Then gently fold the butter mixture into the bowl of batter with a whisk until just incorporated, being careful not to overmix. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking sheet, spreading completely to the sides.
  6. Bake the cake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 8 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan on a large wire rack for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around the edges and turn the cake out onto the rack; remove the parchment and let cool completely. Once cool, cover with 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap and a clean, damp kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. (The cake can be held this way for up to 4 hours before assembling the Yule Log.)
  7. To prepare filling and frosting: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine agave nectar, instant coffee, reconstituted egg whites, cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the top of the double boiler. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Place over the simmering water and beat on high speed until the frosting is glossy and has the texture of very thick shaving cream, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla until just combined.
  8. Leaving the towel and plastic wrap over the cake, invert it onto a work surface with a long edge nearest you. The towel will now be on the bottom, with the plastic wrap directly beneath the cake. Combine coffee and half-and-half in a small bowl. Brush the top of the cake with the coffee mixture; let it soak in and continue brushing on more until all of it is absorbed.
  9. Spread about two-thirds of the frosting evenly over the cake. Using the plastic wrap, lift the long edge and roll the cake into a log lengthwise. Cut a 3 to 4-inch “branch” off one end at an angle. Place the longer log on a serving platter, seam-side down. Use a little frosting to attach the branch to the main log. Cover the cake and branch with the remaining frosting. Make decorative ridges in the frosting with a fork to resemble bark. Let the cake stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Or refrigerate, uncovered, for up to 1 day.

Here’s how the nutrition facts stack up for the revamped recipe:

Calories:  178
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 3g
Sugar: 8g


That’s a pretty significant difference.  It’s important to remember, especially around the holidays, that we can enjoy our favorite meals – and desserts.  We can all find lighter versions of much-loved traditional foods that don’t sacrifice flavor and will help to make our holidays happy and memorable! wishes everyone in our community the happiest of holidays and a healthy and prosperous new year!

Staying healthy during the holidays

Our holiday focus zeroes in on our tendency to overindulge at this time of year. Please don’t get us wrong … loves treating ourselves during this season just as much as anyone else! Snacks … cookies … desserts … specialty cocktails … the pleasures of the season are plentiful … and we’re certainly not going to tell you not to indulge.

But we are going to tell you that it would be beneficial to indulge intelligently. What’s your strategy for staying healthy during the holidays? You really do need to have one so that you can fully enjoy the season without guilt … or repercussions. So we’re sharing some tips we can all use during the holiday festivities that will help us keep on track, even though we are happy to enjoy the many opportunities on hand to indulge.

Don’t forget about water …
Let’s make sure that we keep drinking water during holidays. More than 50 percent of the human body is made of water. Bodies need water to function and you don’t want to dehydrate. Dehydration means your metabolism coming to a grinding halt and increasing your body’s inflammation levels, often resulting in weight loss resistance. By the time you realize you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Drink a large glass of water when you wake up. Always have water on hand to sip throughout the day. Water can help you feel fuller, longer and help your body process the foods you’re eating. It’s important all year long … but right now, it’s more important than it usually is.

Make sure you get enough sleep
The season is all about parties … and some of them can run late. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be craving bad food in the morning. Missing one night’s sleep can throw your fat-burning hormones for a loop. When you finally do wake up, your body will be asking you for foods you normally wouldn’t be eating – things with too much fat, sugar and salt. Especially during this time of year, you need at least seven hours of real sleep every night. If you make sure you get it, you’ll have a happier holiday season.

Don’t forget your exercise
We’re all really busy this time of year. Make sure you don’t interrupt your exercise routine. It’s really not o.k. to neglect it. Work out on your regular schedule, no matter what you need to do to make that happen. Remember, you’re eating and drinking more right now than during other times of the year.

There’s a lot of stress during the holidays
We have to buy gifts, go to parties, make phone calls, see family, maybe we need to get on a plane or a train or a bus … scheduling is difficult (at best). Then we’re consuming more caffeine, more alcohol, more sugar and more salt. Mix that all together and your cortisol level is going to be higher than it is all year. Cortisol is the stress hormone and when its levels are higher in your body, you’re going to be storing more fat. What’s your go-to stress relief method? Meditation, yoga, exercise, walking, deep breathing???? Whatever you do, do more of it until after the new year.

Make sure to eat your daily fiber
Fiber slows stomach emptying, dials down your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar, and reduces cravings so you’re less likely to eat bad food. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention recommend a daily intake of fiber of 25 to 35 grams for adults. During this season of overindulgence, make sure you eat your daily fiber requirements with high-fiber foods … berries, lentil, leafy greens, nuts and seeds.

Enjoy your holiday! Eat what you’d like to eat, drink what you’d like to drink and have a wonderful season! You can do all of that without sacrificing your healthy lifestyle! Keep track and stay smart and active. None of us indulges 24 hours a day. Make those other hours count for your health and well being. Then you won’t have to miss out on anything.

Your healthy diet may lower your risk of pancreatic cancer is always seeking new information that provides additional motivation for us all to stay committed to our healthy diet and lifestyle. Let’s face it, with so many processed foods and beverages surrounding us, as well as an enormous number of rather sedentary activity choices, we can all use a little extra inspiration from time to time! Today we read about a new study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that gives us plenty of encouragement for staying with our personal commitment to live the healthiest lifestyle we can.

According to this new research from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, people who reported dietary intake that was the most consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

Previous studies investigating the relationship between food and nutrient intake and pancreatic cancer have yielded inconsistent results. The U.S. Government issues evidence-based dietary guidelines that provide the basis for federal nutrition policy and education activities to promote overall health for Americans. The authors evaluated how closely study participants’ diets matched the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as measured by the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005), and then compared their risk of pancreatic cancer.

Researchers calculated HEI-2005 scores for 537,218 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (ages 50-71 years), based on responses to food frequency questionnaires. Pancreatic cancer risk was then compared between those with high and low HEI-2005 scores, accounting for the influence of other known pancreatic cancer risk factors.

Among the study participants there were 2,383 new cases of pancreatic cancer. Overall, the investigators observed a 15% lower risk of pancreatic cancer among participants with the highest HEI-2005 score compared to those with the lowest HEI-2005 score. This association was stronger among overweight or obese men compared to men of normal weight, but there was no difference for normal vs. overweight or obese women. While the authors adjusted for known risk factors such as smoking and diabetes status, they caution that other health factors not collected in the questionnaires may be associated with a more healthful diet and might explain some of the observed reduced risk. They also noted that diet is difficult to measure and the HEI-2005 was not designed specifically for the purpose of overall cancer prevention.

Researchers noted that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued to promote overall health, including the maintenance of a healthy weight and disease prevention. Study findings support the hypothesis that a high-quality diet may also play a role in reducing pancreatic cancer risk. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings. thinks that all of us who are committed to nutritional awareness and healthy habits should celebrate these findings, and others, that bring to light new benefits arising from our diligence. We encourage everyone in our community to spread the good news about the health benefits we can all repeat from that commitment!

There may not be a “safe” level of sugar has always been very concerned about added sugar in the American diet. We know that unless we do our best to avoid processed foods and sugary beverages, our diets will continue to contain far too much sugar. The majority of the sugar found in our diets isn’t coming from the sugar bowls on our tables; it’s coming from the food and beverage products we’re purchasing at our grocery stores and fast food restaurants. The unreasonable amount of sugar consumed in the U.S. has contributed to the obesity crisis as well as the sharp rise in diabetes and heart disease. Today we found more information about sugar consumption that we should all be aware of.

Consuming the equivalent of three cans of soda on a daily basis, or a 25% increased added-sugar intake, may decrease lifespan and reduce the rate of reproduction, according to a study of mice published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers from the University of Utah conducted a toxicity experiment on 156 mice, of which 58 were male and 98 were female.

The experiment involved placing them in room-sized pens called “mouse barns” with a number of nest boxes. The researchers say this allowed the mice to move around naturally to find mates and explore the territories they wished.

The mice were fed a diet of a nutritious wheat-corn-soybean mix with vitamins and minerals. But one group of mice had 25% more sugar mixed with their food – half fructose and half glucose. Mice in a control group were fed corn starch in place of the added sugars. The National Research Council recommends that people should have no more than 25% of their daily calories from foods and beverages with added sugar.

This study in mice suggests that consuming the equivalent of three extra sodas a day could decrease your length of life. This is the equivalent of consuming three cans of sweetened soda a day alongside a healthy, no-added-sugar diet.

Results of this most recent research showed that after 32 weeks in the mouse barns, 35% of the female mice who were fed the added-sugar foods died, compared with 17% of female
The research also showed that male mice on the sugar diet produced 25% fewer offspring compared with the male mice in the control group.

However, the results reported no difference between the mice fed the healthy diet and those fed the added-sugar diet when looking at obesity, fasting insulin levels, fasting glucose levels and fasting triglyceride levels.

The study authors say of the findings:

“Our results provide evidence that added sugar consumed at concentrations currently considered safe exerts dramatic adverse impacts on mammalian health. This demonstrates the adverse effects of added sugars at human-relevant levels.”

The researchers add that the strength of this study is built on how the mice were tested in a natural environment they are accustomed to, providing more accurate results.

Wayne Potts, professor of biology at the University of Utah and the study’s senior author, says:

“Mice happen to be an excellent mammal to model human dietary issues because they have been living on the same diet as we have ever since the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago.” finds this information especially important specifically because our population consumes so much processed food and beverages. It would be quite difficult for any consumer to keep conscious track of the amount of added sugars in their daily diet and would require notation of every product they consume – from their morning coffee or mocha or latte, instant flavored oatmeal for breakfast, granola bar snack, canned soup at lunch to the rice mix they’re preparing as a side dish for dinner. You get the idea. It’s not enough to be aware that processed foods contain added sugar. It’s important to avoid added sugar. And the best way to avoid added sugar is to prepare our own foods at home in our own kitchens. When we do, we can be confident of the amount of sugar in our diets, and avoid the serious health issues that can arise from the “sugar culture” we’re surrounded by in our grocery stores and fast food establishments.

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