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What is dietary fiber?

Vegetables, fruits, and cereals contain sugars, starches, and complex carbohydrates. Sugars and starches are easily digested. Saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starches into digestible sugars. Complex carbohydrates may consist of resistant starch, as well as soluble and insoluble fiber. Resistant starch is not easily broken down into its component sugars, and thus, has a lower Glycemic Index, which is the rate at which the sugar from carbohydrates is released into the body. Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains.

Soluble and insoluble fiber are completely indigestible and pass through the body basically unchanged, except that soluble fiber can be fermented by microorganisms in the large intestine. These colonic bacteria produce vitamins and short-chain fatty acids that are absorbed by the intestine and have beneficial effects. Soluble fiber also binds bile acids produced by the liver to aid digestion and prevents the bile acids from being re-absorbed, thus lowering cholesterol. Oatmeal and oat cereals reduce cholesterol by this mechanism.
Learn more about sugars, starches, and complex carbohydrates

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You lose weight through your lungs


Everybody knows that weight is gained through the mouth. Your weight will increase in proportion to the amount of food ingested. The more food that you eat, the more weight that you will gain. After the food is digested in the stomach, nutrients are absorbed by the intestines. The nutrients get stored as glycogen, muscle, or fat. Glycogen is a complex sugar similar to starch which can be converted to glucose when needed. The body does not have a high capacity for storing glycogen, so any excess nutrients get converted to fat and stored as adipose tissue.

Indigestible fiber and other waste products from the food are excreted as feces. The nitrogen compounds in proteins and nucleic acids get metabolized into urea and uric acid which are discharged in the urine. Fats and carbohydrates get metabolized into carbon dioxide which is expelled through the lungs. This is why it is so hard to lose weight -- as incredible as it may seem, the only way to lose the fat from a pot belly is through the nose, one breath at a time.

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Are you getting parasites from your pets?

Dog licking

Pets can be a such good friends. It is so uplifting to be greeted by a dog wagging its tail or by a cat rubbing its body along your legs. Pets can be great companions, but it is necessary to take care of their health to make sure that you too stay healthy.

Infections that can be passed from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases, or zoonoses. Roundworms, hookworms, and Toxoplasma are parasitic infections that can be transmitted from your pets to you or other family members. The larval stages of hookworms, for example, can live in moist soil that has been contaminated by feces of infected animals. If your dog walks in one of these areas, it may become infected, and eventually, you too may become infected. Roundworms pose a more direct problem because their life cycle causes the larvae to be coughed from the lungs and then swallowed to reside in the intestines. Getting licked by a dog during this stage may transmit the parasites to you directly.

Owning a pet is a rewarding experience, but it also gives you the responsibility of disposing of their waste properly and of visiting a veterinarian regularly to make sure that your pets do not endanger your family's health.
Learn about Hygiene, Viruses, Bacteria, and Parasites

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Aspirin can give you ulcers

Aspirin can give you ulcers

Many people take aspirin to relieve arthritis pain or to prevent heart attacks. The American Heart Association recommends aspirin use for patients who have had heart attacks or strokes caused by blood clots. Unfortunately, aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can cause ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding that may result in death or require hospitalization. Various studies have shown an association between increased prescription of COX2 inhibitors and a 10% increase in hospitalization rates for upper gastrointestinal bleeding. In the UK it has been estimated that more than 40% of ulcer bleeding and deaths from ulcers are related to NSAID use.

Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can infect the digestive tract, increases the risk of ulcer complications in NSAID users almost twofold. Patients with a history of ulcers should be tested for H. pylori, and any infection should be eradicated before starting NSAID therapy.

If you take aspirin regularly and you have a burning feeling or pain in your stomach, or if you see blood in your stool, you should seek medical advice promptly. If the bleeding is severe, you may faint and you may not be able to call for help.

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Are you losing your memory? It could be your diet!

Brain Anatomy

Did you know that the brain is about 60% fat? It makes sense that if you eat the wrong fats, your brain is going to suffer. You are what you eat. Ann-Charlotte Granholm of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston presented the results of a study which showed that trans-fats adversely affected rats' learning ability, at a meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.[1]

Granholm compared rats on a high-fat diet of about 12% soybean oil with those on a high trans-fat diet, containing 10% hydrogenated fat and 2% cholesterol. Rats on the high trans-fat diet showed learning difficulties when the animals were required to remember the position of hidden platforms in a water-filled maze. The animals on the trans-fat diet learned more slowly and made more errors, particularly as the task was made harder. They were about five times worse at the task, she says, than the animals on the soybean oil diet.

The brains of the animals fed trans fats also showed signs of damage and inflammation in a region called the hippocampus, which is important for learning and memory. The hippocampus is located inside the temporal lobe of the brain.

Trans fats have been shown to double the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, they are also associated with decreased mental performance. Do you think that the increasing rates of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and autism in our society are just a coincidence? Fetuses are exposed to trans fats during pregnancy, and as soon as the babies are born, they start eating trans fats because the trans fats from our foods end up even in the mother's milk.[2]

What can you do about it? Read the labels! Avoid all foods with hydrogenated fats and partially hydrogenated fats.
Learn to read labels

[1] NewScientist.com news service
[2] Ratnayake WM, Chen ZY, Trans, n-3, and n-6 fatty acids in Canadian human milk. Lipids, 1996 March; 31 Suppl:S279-82. PMID: 8729134

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Summer Grilling: Don't eat burned meat

Grilling Hamburgers

If you have ever eaten a piece of meat that was overcooked on the grill, you have tasted the bitterness of the burned corners of the meat. Eating the blackened crust of meat cooked at very high temperatures can increase your risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancers. That is what your taste buds were trying to tell you.

Cooking meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and fish at high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that are carcinogenic.[1] Cooking at high temperatures also produces advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) that increase inflammation and contribute to vascular and renal complications of people with diabetes.[2] One study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found a link between individuals with stomach cancer and the consumption of cooked meats. After examining the diets and cooking habits of 176 people diagnosed with stomach cancer and 503 people without cancer, the researchers found that those who ate their beef medium-well or well-done had more than three times the risk of stomach cancer than those who ate their beef rare or medium-rare. Other studies have shown that high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats are associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer.

Frying, broiling, and barbecuing produce the largest amounts of HCAs because the meats are cooked at very high temperatures. One study showed a threefold increase in the content of HCAs when the cooking temperature was increased from 200°C to 250°C (392°F to 482°F). Oven roasting and baking are done at lower temperatures, so lower levels of HCAs are formed, but gravy or glazes made from meat drippings contain substantial amounts of HCAs. Stewing, boiling, or poaching are done at or below 100°C (212°F); cooking at this low temperature creates negligible amounts of the harmful chemicals.

To reduce burning the meat, encase it in foil, or cook it at a lower temperature.

[1] Heterocyclic Amines in Cooked Meats

[2] Negrean M, et al, Effects of low- and high-advanced glycation endproduct meals on macro- and microvascular endothelial function and oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 May;85(5):1236-43.
PMID: 17490958

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Ralph Nader visits Bethesda, Maryland

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader was at the Bethesda Barnes & Noble bookstore promoting his book "The Seventeen Traditions". The book describes the family relationships that became the foundation of his beliefs and his ethics. Nader's parents came to the United States from Lebanon when they were very young. All their children, including Ralph, were born in the United States. It was interesting to hear Ralph speak about growing up in Winsted, Connecticut where his father owned a restaurant. Ralph said that the interaction of the community and the values passed down through example by his parents molded his character.

Ralph is dismayed seeing that television, movies, i-pods, and computers are eroding the community and family relationships that shape the values of the next generation. He proposes that parents should play a more active role guiding their children by good examples and good deeds. Some of the seventeen traditions include listening, health, history, education, discipline, charity, work, and patriotism.
Bethesda Barnes and Noble bookstore

Bethesda Barnes & Noble

See more watercolors of Bethesda

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Avoiding the Hydrogenated Chocolate Sauce

Hydrogenated Chocolate Hot Fudge

How do you politely refuse to eat something that is bad for you, when a hostess prepares it so proudly and offers it so gracefully? If you refuse, you offend the hostess. If you eat it, your conscience will bother you for days. You will not die if you eat it -- at least not right away. Eventually we will all die, so what is the harm of eating a little hydrogenated chocolate sauce?

Generally, big problems result from the accumulation of small problems that are easily ignored. When the problem is big enough, sometimes it cannot be fixed. A little mole that gets irritated and bleeds occasionally, may turn out to be fatal melanoma which would not have been fatal if the mole had been removed in time. Gaining one pound of weight per year may not seem too bad, but by avoiding this gain of 1.3 ounces per month we may be able to prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease when we get older.
The Horseshoe Nail

For want of a nail the shoe is lost
For want of a shoe the horse is lost
For want of a horse the rider is lost
For want of a rider the battle is lost
For want of a battle the kingdom is lost
And all for the loss of a horseshoe nail

-- George Herbert (1633)

Learn about Hydrogenated Fats

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Summer is about to start

View from the Penthouse

The flowers of spring are turning into seed pods. It is a pleasant time of the year. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. The trees are covered with green leaves and all the landscape is green. From the penthouse, only a few rooftops can be seen through the thick canopy of leaves. Huge white magnolia blooms are a sure sign that summer will soon be here. Clusters of tall buildings can be seen in the distance, but most of the houses in Bethesda do not rise above the tree tops.
Take a tour of the Penthouse

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Lower your Cholesterol through Diet


One of the main causes of high cholesterol is an imbalance of dietary fats. In particular, a high cholesterol level is frequently due to excessive intake of hydrogenated and saturated fats, combined with inadequate intake of polyunsaturated omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Since the Food and Drug Administration required reporting the amount of trans fats in foods, manufacturers have been scrambling to replace partially hydrogenated fats, which contain heart-damaging trans fats, with saturated fats that do not spoil. Ingredients like palm kernel oil and coconut (copra) oil are appearing more frequently in food labels, but these saturated oils will also increase your cholesterol.

Your cholesterol level can improve by reducing saturated fats, and including foods with polyunsaturated fats such as fish and nuts in your diet. However, only nuts that are high in polyunsaturated fats will help to lower your cholesterol. Besides eating the right proportions of fats, other dietary and life style changes, such as exercising, quitting smoking, and increasing soluble dietary fiber can help to lower cholesterol. The following link points to a 3-page article that explains this in detail:
Lower Your Cholesterol

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