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Archive for February, 2010

By Lucy Danziger, SELF Editor-in-Chief

Ever tried to avoid carbs in order to lose weight and found they still follow you everywhere you go? At my favorite restaurant, the fettuccine on the menu taunts me; at my friend’s baby shower, the sandwich platter beckons much louder than the mixed greens. And in a business meeting, the cookies distract me. Whether it’s a basket of warm bread, a tasty pasta or tantalizing desserts, carbs can be hard to quit. Thankfully, you don’t have to.

Despite their reputation for helping pack on the pudge (remember Dr. Atkins?), certain carbs can actually help you feel fuller longer and fight fat. The key? Fiber—found in whole grains, oats, certain legumes and even popcorn! When people follow a high-fiber diet—at least 34 grams of fiber a day—they absorb up to 6 percent fewer calories, research shows.

Before you raid your breadbox, learn these two simple carb commandments to enjoy pasta and all your fave carbs and still peel off pounds.

Carb commandment #1: Look for whole grains. Unlike their white counterparts, whole-grain versions of rice, bread and pasta are high in satiating, fat-fighting fiber. Opt for whole-grain pastas and replace your usual loaf of bread with one that offers 4 to 5 g fiber per slice, says SELF contributing editor Janis Jibrin, R.D. For breakfast, nibble on whole-grain waffles. On pizza night, try whipping up a whole-wheat crust at home. Order brown rice with your Chinese stir-fry, and use whole-wheat tortillas on Mexican Mondays. These subtle (and scrumptious!) swaps will help you slim!

Carb commandment #2: No need to pig out—even on whole wheat! As with every nugget of nutrition advice, moderation is key. Fortunately, whole grains contain the same number of calories as refined or white carbs, but they serve up more fiber, so you’ll be satisfied with a smaller portion, says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., author of The Real You Diet (Wiley). Go ahead and have your Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta, but serve it in a cereal bowl rather than a Frisbee-sized dinner plate and stick to a 1-cup serving. Mangia!

Now that you’ve swapped your default fettuccine for whole-grain and brown rice for white, check out this list of amazing grains on Self.com for more ways to fill your cart smart.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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BY DR JOSEPH MERCOLA

Study after study are taking their place in a growing lineup of scientific research demonstrating that consuming high-fructose corn syrup is the fastest way to trash your health. It is now known without a doubt that sugar in your food, in all it’s myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll.

And fructose in any form — including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose — is the worst of the worst!

Fructose is a major contributor to:

• Insulin resistance and obesity
Elevated blood pressure
Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
• Depletion of vitamins and minerals
• Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout

A Calorie is Not a Calorie
Glucose is the form of energy you were designed to run on. Every cell in your body, every bacterium — and in fact, every living thing on the Earth–uses glucose for energy.

If you received your fructose only from vegetables and fruits (where it originates) as most people did a century ago, you’d consume about 15 grams per day — a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical adolescent gets from sweetened drinks. In vegetables and fruits, it’s mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate any negative metabolic effects.
It isn’t that fructose itself is bad — it is the MASSIVE DOSES you’re exposed to that make it dangerous.

There are two reasons fructose is so damaging:

1. Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver.

2. People are consuming fructose in enormous quantities, which has made the negative effects much more profound.

Today, 55 percent of sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing are made from corn, and the number one source of calories in America is soda, in the form of HFCS.

Food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from sucrose (table sugar) to corn syrup in the 1970s when they discovered that HFCS was not only far cheaper to make, it’s about 20 percent sweeter than table sugar.

HFCS is either 42 percent or 55 percent fructose, and sucrose is 50 percent fructose, so it’s really a wash in terms of sweetness.

Still, this switch drastically altered the average American diet.

By USDA estimates, about one-quarter of the calories consumed by the average American is in the form of added sugars, and most of that is HFCS. The average Westerner consumes a staggering 142 pounds a year of sugar! And the very products most people rely on to lose weight — the low-fat diet foods — are often the ones highest in fructose.

Making matters worse, all of the fiber has been removed from these processed foods, so there is essentially no nutritive value at all.

Fructose Metabolism Basics
Without getting into the very complex biochemistry of carbohydrate metabolism, it is important to understand some differences about how your body handles glucose versus fructose. I will be publishing a major article about this in the next couple of months, which will get much more into the details, but for our purpose here, I will just summarize the main points.

Dr. Robert Lustig[i] Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, has been a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism. His work has highlighted some major differences in how different sugars are broken down and used:

• After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.

• Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is “burned up” immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.

• The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

• Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.

• When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat!

• The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.

• Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

If anyone tries to tell you “sugar is sugar,” they are way behind the times. As you can see, there are major differences in how your body processes each one.

The bottom line is: fructose leads to increased belly fat, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome — not to mention the long list of chronic diseases that directly result.

Panic in the Corn Fields
As the truth comes out about HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association is scrambling to convince you that their product is equal to table sugar, that it is “natural” and safe.

Of course, many things are “natural” — cocaine is natural, but you wouldn’t want to use 142 pounds of it each year.

The food and beverage industry doesn’t want you to realize how truly pervasive HFCS is in your diet — not just from soft drinks and juices, but also in salad dressings and condiments and virtually every processed food. The introduction of HFCS into the Western diet in 1975 has been a multi-billion dollar boon for the corn industry.

The FDA classifies fructose as GRAS: Generally Regarded As Safe. Which pretty much means nothing and is based on nothing.

There is plenty of data showing that fructose is not safe — but the effects on the nation’s health have not been immediate. That is why we are just now realizing the effects of the last three decades of nutritional misinformation.

As if the negative metabolic effects are not enough, there are other issues with fructose that disprove its safety:

• More than one study has detected unsafe mercury levels in HFCS[ii].

Crystalline fructose (a super-potent form of fructose the food and beverage industry is now using) may contain arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals.

• Nearly all corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn, which comes with its own set of risks.

The FDA isn’t going to touch sugar, so it’s up to you to be proactive about your own dietary choices.

What’s a Sugarholic to Do?
Ideally, I recommend that you avoid as much sugar as possible. This is especially important if you are overweight or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

I also realize we don’t live in a perfect world, and following rigid dietary guidelines is not always practical or even possible.

If you want to use a sweetener occasionally, this is what I recommend:

1. Use the herb stevia.

2. Use organic cane sugar in moderation.

3. Use organic raw honey in moderation.

4. Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose.

5. Avoid agave syrup since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose. Your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave’s meteoric rise in popularity is due to a great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are processed out.

6. Avoid so-called energy drinks and sports drinks because they are loaded with sugar, sodium and chemical additives. Rehydrating with pure, fresh water is a better choice.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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BY THOMAS GOETZ

Every day, we make dozens of decisions without thinking about them: what to feed the kids, how fast to drive to work, whether to hit the snooze bar. We make most of these decisions without a second thought. We go with our gut.

For other decisions, though, we have to pause, consider our options, and bring our best judgment to bear. This can be uneasy territory — and it can get especially fraught with decisions about our health, when we often lack a strategy for weighing all the information on the table. We’re not sure where to start.

But making smart decisions about our health doesn’t have to provoke anxiety. It turns out we’re well equipped to consider a range of options and make the right call. We just need to keep a few principles in mind. Here’s my list of five strategies for making smarter health decisions:

1) Know Your Options

A few months ago, Dr. Dean Ornish invited me to visit with a group of men who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. When most of these men were diagnosed, they were offered two options: Radiation or surgery. But Dr. Ornish put another choice on the table: a low-fat, vegetarian diet and exercise program. So every month, the group gathers in Dr. Ornish’s office in Sausalito, California, to discuss their disease status, their progress in sticking with Dr. Ornish’s plan, and their lives in general.

“I heard about this group and realized there was a third option,” one group member told me. “There were behaviors that might reduce the chances that this cancer would kill us, without surgery or radiation. This idea that there was a third choice, another path, was completely unexpected.”

Dr. Ornish has had particular success with this third path. A study of these men found that after significant lifestyle modifications–following a low-fat, vegetarian diet coupled with exercise, meditation, and weekly group meetings–the men’s average PSA level dropped slightly while their free PSA (a positive measure of prostate health) climbed. And measures of stress, weight, and blood pressure had all improved.

This path isn’t for everyone. Many men diagnosed with prostate cancer will still prefer to go the route of radiation or surgery. But that’s not the point. The takeaway is this: These men thought there were only two options, both of them potentially destructive. But then they discovered more choices, a discovery that would turn out to add something to their lives. They had choices they didn’t know existed. They just had to learn where to look.

2) Demand Relevant Information

In most health messages, there’s a chasm between research and relevance, between what a study means and what it means for you. Take the recent study that found 55 percent of Americans have low levels of Vitamin D. So should you start taking supplements? Well, it all depends on your levels, doesn’t it? Unless you know where you yourself stand, this research is pretty much useless.

This matters not just in terms of taking advantage of new research but also in making better choices day to day. Studies have shown that when information is targeted and tailored to an individual’s circumstances, they are much more likely to act on it. Tailored information is relevant information, and relevant information is much more meaningful, and much more likely to result in better, healthier decisions (in other words, the outcomes are better).

3) Making Decisions Is Good For You

The old model of medicine dictates that when the situation gets serious — when the decisions involve pain or discomfort or even life and death — then the doctor should take over.

But the new model of medicine, that of personalized health, dictates that even in the gravest cases, the patient should be involved in considering the options and choosing the best course. And the evidence shows that this new model can actually deliver better care: in more than one study, patients who participate in their treatment decisions enjoy significantly better outcomes.

This isn’t to say that when patients are involved, there aren’t still serious risks. There’s no such thing as a sure thing in medicine, and the risks of a procedure or path still need to be thoroughly communicated.

But when we do get involved, when we take a role in our health, we tend to have better results. And those are odds we all want on our side.

4) Small Decisions Matter

We sometimes think of healthcare as something that happens in our doctor’s office, but really it starts with the multitude of smaller decisions that we make: what to eat, how much to sleep, how much exercise to get. These micro-choices add up — indeed, they can have as significant an impact in our health as the big knotty dilemmas.

There is no sure thing, and just as the courses of our lives, in general, are bowed and bent by unexpected events, so too does our health course along uncertain trajectories. We can try to predict where things may go, we can try to prevent the worst from happening, we can try to extend the good and minimize the bad. But the more we’re conscious of our every decision (no matter how small), and the more we take advantage of our every shot at improving our odds, the more we may influence where that trajectory takes us.

5) Make Every Decision a Good Decision

It’s worth remembering just what a “good decision” actually means. Usually in medicine it’s used to indicate a decision that leads to a better outcome. We want the treatment that either cures us or allows us to manage disease in a way that lets us make the most of our lives.

But a good decision also means the best possible decision, one that is carefully considered, draws on all relevant information (and avoids irrelevant information), and is consistent with how we want to live our lives. Even if these decisions don’t result in the ideal result, we can know that when we consider our options thoroughly and make a sound judgment, we can be satisfied with that decision.

We can make decisions we can live with, and that will help us live better.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Is There Toxic Waste In Your Body?

BY MARK HYMAN, MD

Your body may be a toxic waste dump.

Worried?

You should be …

We are exposed to 6 million pounds of mercury and 2.5 billion pounds other toxic chemicals each year.

Eighty thousand toxic chemicals have been released into our environment since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and very few have been tested for their long-term impact on human health. And let me tell you, the results aren’t pretty for those that have been tested …

How can we not be affected by this massive amount of poison?

According to the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group, the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood.

If a newborn is exposed to that many toxins, imagine how many you have been exposed to in your life…

Do you think this may be why so many of us are sick and fat today?

The simple truth is that we are living in a sea of toxins and it is destroying our bodies and brains.

The two most important things you need to know to cure disease, create health, and lose weight are:

1. The role of nutrition in health and disease.

2. The role of toxins and the importance of detoxification in health and disease.

Unfortunately, you probably aren’t going to learn much about them from your doctor. Most physicians today are still hopelessly ignorant in these areas. They were simply never taught about nutrition and detoxification in medical school.

However, there are many things you can do to reduce your toxic exposures and enhance your detoxification. Today I want to share some information your doctor probably won’t focus on in your next visit, even though it is at the very root of your health. I am going to outline a simple 10-step plan you can use to enhance your detoxification.

Enhancing detoxification is the fifth key of the Seven Keys to UltraWellness. If you want to lose weight and get healthy, you need to clean up the toxic waste in your body. Today you will learn how.

The Role of Toxins in Health and Disease

The role of toxins and detoxification in health has been largely ignored by medicine.

Thankfully, scientists and practitioners are starting to recognize its importance in health.

I recently spoke about detoxification at the 13th International Symposium on Functional Medicine. The presentation was called Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points. Leading experts from all over the globe came together to present the data on the role of toxins in health and offer suggestions for how we can detoxify.

If you want all the scientific background on detoxification, I recommend reading the proceedings from that meeting. You will find extensive data on the impact toxins have on our health and how critical detoxification is for long-term wellness.

The reality is that many of you probably have symptoms of chronic toxicity but don’t realize that you’re toxic.

The following is a list of the common symptoms of chronic toxicity. If you suffer from any of the following, detoxifying might be critical for you to get healthy and feel good again:

Fatigue

Muscle aches

Joint pain

• Sinus congestion

• Postnasal drip

• Excessive sinus problems

Headaches

• Bloating

• Gas

• Constipation

Diarrhea

• Foul-smelling stools

Heartburn

Sleep problems

Difficulty concentrating

Food cravings

• Water retention

Trouble losing weight

Rashes

Skin problems

Eczema

Psoriasis

• Canker sores

Acne

• Puffy, dark circles under the eyes

Premenstrual syndrome

• Other menstrual disorders

• Bad breath

But how do you detoxify? And what does that word even mean? Let’s look a little more closely at what detoxification is.

What are Toxicity and Detoxification?

When you hear the word “detox” you might think drug detox or alcohol detox or wheatgrass enemas. That’s not what I am talking about.

I am referring to the science of how our bodies get rid of waste. If waste builds up, we get sick. And the key is to figure out how to enhance your body’s capacity to detoxify and get rid of waste while minimizing your exposure to toxins.

This is so important, because many diseases of our society are actually related to toxicity. Here are some of the diseases you may suffer from if you are toxic:

Parkinson’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease

Dementia

Autism

Attention deficit disorder

Depression and other mood disorders

Insomnia

Heart disease

• Chronic fatigue syndrome

• Fibromyalgia

Cancer

Autoimmune disease

Food allergies

Arthritis

Digestive diseases like Crohn’s disease, ulcers, and colitis

Menstrual problems like heavy bleeding, cramps, PMS, menopausal symptoms, mood changes and hot flashes

With so many conditions on that list, it might seem that everyone is toxic.

That may be true to differing degrees …

Problems with detoxification form one of the roots of illness–and signify one of the core systems in the body that must be working well for you to be healthy. If you feel lousy, it’s likely you’re toxic.

It is important to understand why we are toxic and how we can detoxify. I will explain how you can detoxify a little later, but first I want to tell you about where toxins come from and how we are overloaded.

To understand toxicity, you must understand the concept of “total load.”

Total load is the total amount of stressors on your system at any one time–it’s like what happens when a glass fills over with water. It takes a certain amount of water to fill the glass and then, after a certain point, you put more in and it overflows.

When our detoxification system is overwhelmed, it gets overloaded. That’s when we start developing symptoms and getting sick, but it may take years of accumulated stress and toxins to get to that point.

Here are some, but not all, of the factors that can contribute to your total toxic load:

• Exposure to heavy metals like mercury and lead, petrochemicals, residues, pesticides, and fertilizers.

• Food allergies, environmental allergies, molds, and toxins from molds.

• Eating a standard American diet.

• Mental, emotional, and spiritual toxins — isolation, loneliness, anger, jealousy, and hostility, all of which translate into toxins in our system.

• Medications can sometimes be toxins. Often we need medications, but the reality is that most of us are overmedicated and use medications to treat problems for which there are better solutions, such as lifestyle and diet.

• Internal toxins–things like bacteria, fungus, and yeast inside our gut as well as hormonal and metabolic toxins that we need to eliminate.

That’s a lot of toxins for our bodies to manage.

You may wonder: Why aren’t we all sick, given this incredible load of toxins?

The answer is simple.

It is because each of us is genetically and biochemically unique. Some of us are good at getting rid of toxins and waste, and others are not.

I am not. That is why I developed chronic fatigue syndrome.

I became overloaded with mercury and couldn’t get rid of it because I am missing a gene for GSTM1–a critical detoxifying enzyme for mercury. But by learning to support my system and how to detoxify, I was able to cure myself of a seemingly incurable condition.

What I learned is that there are five key steps to optimal detoxification. They are:

1. Identify and Get Rid of Toxins — I listed the primary forms of toxic exposure above. Eliminating them is absolutely essential if you want to rebalance your detox system.

2. Fix Your Gut — Gut imbalances are a key source of toxins for many.

3. Get Moving — This help your blood and lymphatic circulation do its job.

4. Get Your Liver and Detox System Working — If your detoxification system isn’t working properly, this is a serious problem and needs to be addressed. A great place to start is the 10-step approach outlined below.

5. Detox Your Mind, Heart, and Spirit — This is just as important as detoxing your body, and it’s an area few of us ever think about as a source of toxins.

To completely detoxify your body you need to work through each of these steps carefully, and that can take some time. But you can start today by following this simple 10-step plan.

10 Simple Steps to Enhance Detoxification

Proper detoxification is so essential for health that you need to start enhancing your body’s ability to detoxify today. Here is how to do it:

1. Drink Clean — Drink plenty of clean water, at least eight to ten glasses of filtered water a day.

2. Eliminate Properly — Keep your bowels moving, at least once or twice a day. And if you can’t get going, then you need some help. This can include taking two tablespoons of ground flax seeds and taking acidophilus and extra magnesium citrate capsules. If you have any chronic diseases or problems, you have to be careful about taking supplements and should work with your doctor.

3. Eat Clean — You should also eat organic produce and animal products to eliminate the toxins, hormones, and antibiotics in your food.

4. Eat Detoxifying Food — You should eat 8 to 10 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day, particularly family of the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, collards, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi) and the garlic family (garlic and onions), which help increase sulfur in the body and help detoxification.

5. Minimize Drugs — Avoid stimulants, sedatives, and drugs, such as caffeine and nicotine, and try to reduce alcohol intake.

6. Get Moving — Exercise five days a week with focus on conditioning your cardiovascular system, strengthening exercises, and stretching exercises.

7. Avoid the White Menace — This includes white flour and white sugar.

8. Sweat — Sweat profusely at least three times a week, using a sauna, steam, or a detox bath.

9. Supplement — Take a high-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement.

10. Relax — Relax deeply every day to get your nervous system in a state of calm, rest, and relaxation.

Simply following these steps will help to correct problems caused by toxicity, maximize your body’s own detoxification capacity, and help you safely eliminate toxins stores in your body.

Depending on your symptoms, genetic predispositions and environmental exposures, you may need different levels of nutrients and types of treatment, but this is an excellent way to get started on detoxification today.

Remember, getting rid of toxins and learning how to optimize your detoxification system is essential for creating lifelong vibrant health.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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By Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief, Prevention

Losing weight is about a series of small steps–one less dessert here, an extra 10 minutes on the elliptical there–plus smart lifestyle moves that continually inch you closer to your goals. But like any change, try to do everything at once and you could wind up feeling deprived and deflated (and not in the good way). So instead of vowing to cut calories AND exercise 7 days a week AND forsake ice cream and pizza for the rest of your life, start out with a few of these research-proven tricks that can help you drop pounds. Once you’ve mastered one, add in another; before you know it you’ll see results on the scale–no drastic changes required.

1) Weigh yourself daily

Why It Works: Weekly weigh-ins are a staple of many popular weight loss programs, but some studies show that daily weighing can be key to lasting weight loss. When researchers at the University of Minnesota monitored the scale habits of 1,800 dieting adults, they found that those who stepped on every day lost an average of 12 pounds over 2 years (weekly scale watchers lost only 6) and were less likely to regain lost weight. Step on the scale first thing every morning, when you weigh the least. Expect small day-to-day fluctuations because of bloating or dehydration, but if your weight creeps up by 2% (that’s just 3 pounds if you weigh 150), it’s time to skip dessert.

2) Keep TV viewing under 2 hours a day

Why It Works: TV junkies miss out on calorie-burning activities like backyard tag with the kids; instead, they become sitting ducks for junk-food ads. One study found that adults who watch more than 2 hours of TV per day take in 7% more calories and consume more sugary snacks than those who watch less than an hour a day. Wean yourself off the tube by introducing other activities into your life. Eliminate the temptation to watch between-show filler by recording your must-see programs so you can fast-forward through the ads. Or subscribe to a mail-order DVD service like Netflix, and make a movie the only thing you watch all day.

3) Eat 4 g of fiber at every meal

Why It Works: A high-fiber diet can lower your caloric intake without making you feel deprived. In a Tufts University study, women who ate 13 g of fiber or less per day were five times as likely to be overweight as those who ate more fiber. Experts see a number of mechanisms through which fiber promotes weight loss: It may slow down eating because it requires more chewing, speed the passage of food through the digestive tract, and boost satiety hormones. To get 25 g of fiber a day, make sure you eat six meals or snacks, each of which contains about 4 g of fiber. For to-go snacks, buy a piece of fruit; it’s handier than vegetables, so it’s an easy way to up your fiber intake. One large apple has just as much fiber (5 g) as a cup of raw broccoli.

4) Sleep at least 7 hours a night

Why It Works: A University of Chicago study found that people deprived of Zzzs had lower levels of the hormones that control appetite. “The research suggested that short sleep durations could be a risk factor for obesity,” says James Gangwisch, Ph.D., an epidemiologist from Columbia University Medical Center. Sure enough, his follow-up study of 9,588 Americans found that women who slept 4 hours or less per night were 234% more likely to be obese. The key number for most people is 7 hours or more a night, he says, so set an early bedtime and stick to it.

5) Drink 8 glasses of water per day

Why It Works: Water is not just a thirst quencher–it may also speed the body’s metabolism. Researchers in Germany found that drinking two 8-ounce glasses of cold water increased their subjects’ metabolic rate by 30%, and the effect persisted for 90 minutes. One-third of the boost came from the body’s efforts to warm the water, but the rest was due to the work the body did to absorb it. “When drinking water, no calories are ingested but calories are used, unlike when drinking sodas, where additional calories are ingested and possibly stored,” explains the lead researcher, Michael Boschmann, M.D., of University Medicine Berlin. Increasing water consumption to 8 glasses per day may help you lose about 8 pounds in a year, he says, so try drinking a glass before meals and snacks and before consuming sweetened drinks or juices.

6) Stick to an 8-hour workday

Why It Works: A University of Helsinki study of 7,000 adults found that those who’d packed on pounds in the previous year were more likely to have logged overtime hours. Lack of time for diet and exercise is most likely the cause, but it’s also possible that work stress has a direct effect on weight gain through changes in hormones like cortisol. Set firm limits on your workday so that when you’re done, you still have the oomph to take a bike ride and cook a healthy dinner. To help you stay productive enough to finish on time, set an hourly alarm; when it goes off, deal with your most pressing duties.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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By MARK BITTMAN

In their critics’ eyes, producers of sugar-sweetened drinks are acting a lot like the tobacco industry of old: marketing heavily to children, claiming their products are healthy or at worst benign, and lobbying to prevent change. The industry says there are critical differences: in moderate quantities soda isn’t harmful, nor is it addictive.

The problem is that at roughly 50 gallons per person per year, our consumption of soda, not to mention other sugar-sweetened beverages, is far from moderate, and appears to be an important factor in the rise in childhood obesity. This increase is at least partly responsible for a rise in what can no longer be called “adult onset” diabetes — because more and more children are now developing it.

Attention is being paid: Last week, the Obama administration announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools. A campaign against childhood obesity will be led by the first lady, Michelle Obama. And a growing number of public health advocates are pushing for even more aggressive actions, urging that soda be treated like tobacco: with taxes, warning labels and a massive public health marketing campaign, all to discourage consumption.

A tax on soda was one option considered to help pay for health care reform (the Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that a 3-cent tax on each 12-ounce sugared soda would raise $51.6 billion over a decade), and President Obama told Men’s Health magazine last fall that such a tax is “an idea that we should be exploring. There’s no doubt that our kids drink way too much soda.”

But with all the junk food and U.F.O.’s (unidentifiable food-like objects) out there, why soda? Why a tax? And, most important, would it work?

To the beverage industry, the idea is not worth considering. Susan Neely, the president of the American Beverage Association, acknowledges that obesity is a problem but says: “If you’re trying to manage people being overweight you need a variety of behavior changes to achieve energy balance — it can’t be done by eliminating one food from the diet.”

Even if soda consumption were to drop, say critics of the tax, a drop in childhood obesity isn’t guaranteed. “Simply pricing one product higher,” says Derek Yach, a senior vice president of global health policy at PepsiCo, the big food company that has spoken the most seriously about building a healthier portfolio, “would lead to unknown effects on total dietary consumption. It may even lead to worse situations: people may stop spending on one food and eat more of another, so taxing high levels of sugar may lead to eating higher levels of fat.”

Still, the idea of a special tax on soda, similar to those on tobacco, gasoline and alcoholic beverages, is attracting more interest. Advocates of a tax note that sugared beverages are the No. 1 source of calories in the American diet, representing 7 percent of the average person’s caloric intake, according to government surveys, and up to 10 percent for children and teenagers. These calories, they point out, are worse than useless — they’re empty, and contribute to a daily total that is already too high.

“What you want,” says Kelly Brownell, director of Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, “is to reverse the fact that healthy food is too expensive and unhealthy food is too cheap, and the soda tax is a start. Unless food marketing changes, it’s hard to believe that anything else can work.”

Advocates argue that a soda tax would reduce consumption and pay for anti-obesity campaigns. In an opinion piece in The New England Journal of Medicine last year, Dr. Brownell and Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the C.D.C. and former New York City health commissioner, estimated that in New York State alone a penny-per-ounce soda tax would raise $1.2 billion annually.

Small excise taxes on soda are already in place in Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia, and Chicago imposes a 3 percent retail tax on soft drinks. Soda taxes were proposed in at least 12 other states in 2009, though none were approved. Mississippi is considering legislation that would tax the syrup used to sweeten soda; the mayor of Philadelphia is weighing a tax on soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks, and Gov. David Paterson of New York has indicated that he will recommend a penny-per-ounce tax on sugared beverages in his 2011 budget.

The penny-per-ounce tax, favored by Dr. Brownell and others, would produce a significant increase in retail costs: the 12-pack of Coke on sale for $2.99 would go for $4.43 and a 75-cent can would rise to 87 cents. These increases, Dr. Brownell estimates, would reduce the annual per capita consumption of soda by more than 11 gallons, to 38.5 gallons. “And the revenue,” he says, “could be used to subsidize fruits and vegetables, fund obesity prevention programs for children and home economic classes in schools, and more.”

The model, clearly, is tobacco. Dr. Frieden, who promoted a soda tax when he was a health commissioner, sees further parallels between soda and tobacco: “There are aspects of the food industry that are reminiscent of tobacco — the sowing of doubt where there’s no reasonable doubt, funding of front groups, use of so-called experts, claims that new products which are safer for consumers are available, and the claim that they are not marketing to children.”

The public war against tobacco has worked, if imperfectly: Americans smoke at half the rate they once did, half of all smokers have quit, and the tobacco companies finance strong antismoking campaigns.

In the case of tobacco, the health risks of smoking were clear. But the beverage industry contends that science does not back up the assertion that childhood obesity is even partly caused by soda consumption, and has sought to make the discussion about personal choice and freedom. “Soda has calories, and food with calories causes people to put on weight when consumed in excess,” says J. Justin Wilson a self-described “libertarian consumer advocate” and senior research analyst for the Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry-sponsored advocacy group. “But there is no unique link between soda and obesity.”

Besides, says Ms. Neely, the industry is taking measures: “The beverage industry supports real solutions to obesity and continues to step up to do its part. We’ve removed full-calorie soft drinks from schools across the country and, in support of Mrs. Obama’s initiative, will place the full calories for our products on the front of our containers.”

Perhaps the process of reducing the drinking of sweetened beverages need not be so contentious. “There are parts of the industry that want to be constructive” says Dr. Frieden. “Big Food doesn’t have to become the next tobacco.”

With this Dr. Yach agrees, and though he clearly thinks a soda tax won’t work, he’d like to see a greater government role. “The overall governmental voice and investment in solutions required has been stunningly weak. They need to forcibly say, ‘The fundamental issue is one of calorie balance, and here’s what you need to do.’ ”

The problem, says Dr. Frieden, is that, “Obesity is a major health problem that’s getting worse, and it’s clear that exhorting individuals to eat less and exercise more is not going to turn things around.”

It may be time to try something a little more forceful.

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