Archive for July, 2010

From Prevention.com

Surprise! Good ol’ crunches are one of the fastest ways to firm your midsection. (Hate crunches? Bear with us.) Thanks to 5 decades of research and nearly 90 studies, scientists have zeroed in on the best moves to flatten your belly. The secret is to really fatigue your abs–not an easy task, because they’re used to working all day to keep you standing tall. But we created a routine that, when combined with regular cardio, does it in just four moves.

“I couldn’t believe the difference a few days made,” says Gwen Hoover, 48, of Fogelsville, PA, who whittled more than 2 inches off her middle, lost 14% of her belly fat, and dropped nearly 4 pounds in just 1 week! Even our slimmest testers saw impressive results. At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Rachelle Vander Schaaf, 49, of Macungie, PA, wasn’t expecting to see a big change, but she shaved more than 3 inches off her belly–without dieting. You can too! Start now and show off an all-around leaner belly for the rest of the summer season.

Program at a Glance

3 Days a Week: Do the SlimBelly Workout moves on 3 nonconsecutive days to tone your midsection.

5 Days a Week: Do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or bike riding, to burn off belly fat. You should be breathing hard but still able to talk in short sentences.

Every Day: Watch portions and fill up on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats to maximize results. Aim for 1,600 to 1,800 calories spread evenly throughout the day.

Sample Workout Schedule
Day Activity
Monday Abs and Cardio
Tuesday Cardio
Wednesday Rest
Thursday Abs and Cardio
Friday Rest
Saturday Abs and Cardio
Sunday Cardio
Slim Belly Workout

Do 3 sets of each of the 4 moves, performing as many reps (1 second up, 1 second down) as possible until you feel a burning sensation in the muscles you’re working or you can no longer maintain proper form. Rest 15 seconds between sets. You’ll likely be able to do more reps during earlier sets and exercises — and that’s okay. After you can do 50 reps or hold a plank for 2 minutes for most sets, try the “Make it Harder” variations, change the order of the exercises, or do the moves after another type of workout.

1. Hipless Crunch
This variation better targets abs by preventing hips and upper body from helping you lift.

Lie on back with legs lifted and bent, calves parallel to floor, and feet relaxed. Cross arms over chest with hands on shoulders. Contract abdominal muscles and lift head, shoulders, and upper back about 30 degrees off floor. Lower without touching head to floor. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower. *Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 25 reps per set.

Make It Easier: Rest calves on a chair and extend arms down at sides.

Make It Harder: Extend legs straight up.


  • Don’t pull chin toward chest.
  • Focus on abs doing the work; imagine sliding rib cage toward hips.

Stop When…

  • You start pulling or jerking up with head, neck, or shoulders.
  • You can’t keep neck or shoulders relaxed.

2. No-Hands Reverse Crunch
Instead of keeping arms at sides, where they can help abs, anchor them overhead to activate more belly muscles.

Lie faceup with arms overhead and hands grasping a heavy piece of furniture or railing. Raise feet into the air with legs bent. Contract abs, press back into floor, and lift hips off floor. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower. *Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 21 reps per set.

Make It Easier: Do the move with arms down at sides.

Make It Harder: Straighten legs.


  • Feel the contraction in abs, not in back or legs.
  • Tilt pelvis.
  • Think of lifting up instead of pulling knees toward chest.

Stop When…

  • You can’t lift hips off the floor without jerking.
  • Neck and shoulders are tense.

3. V Crunch
This exercise gets your upper and lower body moving simultaneously to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers in your midsection.

Balance on tailbone with legs bent, feet off floor, and arms bent at sides. Make sure back is straight and chest is lifted. Lean back and extend arms and legs, then pull back to start position. *Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 11 reps per set.

Make It Easier: Grasp sides of thighs with hands.

Make It Harder: Hold a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in each hand.


  • Eyes gaze straight forward; keep chin parallel to floor.
  • Don’t let back curve or shoulders rise toward ears.

Stop When…

  • You can’t keep arms or legs up.
  • You can’t keep chest lifted.
  • Back or neck starts to hurt.

4. Side Plank
Static balancing moves like this one are challenging because your deepest abs work really hard to hold your core in midair. Do them after crunches to ensure complete fatigue — and firm abs from every angle.

Lie on right side, elbow beneath shoulder, feet stacked, left hand on hip. Contract abs to lift hip and leg off floor. Hold until fatigued, noting your time. Do 3 sets before switching sides. *Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 19 seconds per side for each set.

Make It Easier: Bend legs and balance on bottom knee and side of lower leg.

Make It Harder: Straighten top arm toward sky.


  • Keep head, neck, torso, hips, and legs all in one straight line.
  • Don’t sink into shoulder — press elbow into floor and lift torso.

Stop When…

  • Hip is sagging toward floor.
  • Neck, shoulder, or back hurts.
  • You can’t keep body in line.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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Spending just pennies a day on healthcare can reduce our expenditures by $24 billion over five years.

New research from the Lewin Group has shown that spending pennies a day on a few key nutritional supplements can dramatically reduce sickness and chronic disease — and greatly decrease healthcare expenditures as a result.(i) How did they come to this conclusion? And why haven’t we heard about it?

The Lewin Group looked only at rigorous scientific studies that documented the benefits of nutritional supplements. They used the Congressional Budget Office’s accounting methods to determine the economic impact of supplements. And they kept their analysis specifically to Medicare patients and women of childbearing age.
Today I will review the Lewin Group’s research, explain the remarkable conclusions they came to, and outline the supplements I recommend you take every day if you want to optimize your health and possible reduce health care costs in the process.

Reviewing the Research: Supplements Have Dramatic Health Benefits

Although nutritional therapies can help a broad range of illnesses, the group only looked at four supplements and disease combinations because of the rigor and validity of the scientific evidence available for these nutrients and diseases.

While there are many other beneficial nutritional therapies that have been proven helpful in studies, the ones in this particular study are only those that are unquestionable, beyond scientific doubt, well-accepted, and proven to help. Yet they are also under-used and not generally recommended by healthcare providers. The study looked at:

1. Calcium and vitamin D and their effect on osteoporosis
2. Folic acid and its ability to prevent birth defects
3. Omega-3 fatty acids and their benefits for heart disease
4. Lutein and zeaxanthin and their benefit in preventing major age-related blindness, or macular degeneration

In this study, the researchers were extremely strict and only looked at nutrient interventions that met three criteria.

1. The supplement had to produce a measurable physiological effect.
2. This physiological effect had to create a change in health status.
3. The researchers only looked at health problems where a change in health status is associated with a decrease in healthcare expenditures.

Now, most of us hear the refrain from our physicians that nutritional supplements just produce expensive urine, that you do not know what you are getting, or that there is no scientific proof to support their claims. Based on this study and many others like it, my advice to these doctors is to do their scientific homework. Let’s start by looking at the effects of calcium and vitamin D.

First, I want to point out the vitamin D research referred to in The Lewin Group study is older research. Newer research, as I discussed in my vitamin D blog, suggests that higher doses of vitamin D3, such as 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day, have even greater benefit.

Yet even by focusing only on the older research, this study’s authors determined that providing Medicare-age citizens with 1,200 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D would result in reduced bone loss and fewer hip fractures. The researchers estimated these supplements could prevent more than 776,000 hospitalizations for hip fractures over five years and save $16.1 billion.

Next let’s look at omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent cardiac arrhythmias, improve cell membrane function, reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and have many other benefits.

The Lewin Group found that giving the Medicare population about 1,800 mg of omega-3 fats a day would prevent 374,000 hospitalizations from heart disease over five years. The Medicare savings from reduced hospital and physician expenses would be $3.2 billion.

This is pretty convincing data, but it doesn’t stop there. The Lewin Group also analyzed the economic effects of lutein and zeaxanthin–carotenoids that are found in yellow and orange vegetables. I recommend taking them in combination with the hundreds of other carotenoids found in yellow and orange foods.

Taken as supplements, these have been shown to treat macular degeneration, which is the loss of central vision, a major reason people over age 65 require nursing home care. The study found that taking 6 to 10 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin daily would help 190,000 individuals avoid dependent care and would result in $3.6 billion in savings over five years.

Lastly the Lewin Group looked at the effects of taking folic acid. 44 million women of childbearing age are not taking folic acid. If only 11.3 million of them began taking just 400 mcg of folic acid on a daily basis before conception, we could prevent birth defects called neural tube defects in 600 babies and save $344,700,000 in lifetime healthcare costs for these children. Over 5 years, this would account for $1.4 billion in savings.

Taken together, these four simple interventions, which cost pennies a day, could produce a combined savings of $24 billion over five years. This does not even include benefits to people younger than 65 or any of the other benefits of nutritional supplementation, such as improved immunity, cognitive function, and mood.

The Lewin Group’s study is intriguing. The economic impact of investing a few pennies a day in nutritional supplements is compelling. But what’s downright frightening is that studies by the US Department of Health and Human Services prove that the typical American diet does not always provide a sufficient level of vitamins and minerals — meaning we are at greater risk for conditions like those outlined above.

Because of our consumption of low-nutrient, high-calorie foods that are highly processed, hybridized, genetically modified, shipped long distances, and grown in nutrient-depleted soils, many of us are nutritionally depleted.

In fact, a whopping 92 percent of us are deficient in one or more nutrients at the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) level, which is the minimum amount necessary to prevent deficiency diseases like rickets or scurvy — diseases that are the result of not getting enough vitamins and minerals. The RDA standards do not necessarily outline the amount needed for optimal health.

What’s more, our government’s nutrient guidelines ignore the fact that many Americans, because of genetic variations and unique needs, may need higher doses of vitamins and minerals than the RDA. Vitamin deficiency does not cause acute diseases such as scurvy or rickets, but they do cause what have been called “long-latency deficiency diseases.” These include conditions like blindness, osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and more.

What all this adds up to is clear. Nutritional supplements do not just make expensive urine. Based on mounting evidence and confirmed by the Journal of the American Medical Association (ii) and The New England Journal of Medicine (iii), I strongly believe that we should all be taking certain basic supplements.

Supplements You Should Take Every Day

Here are the supplements I recommend for everyone:

1. A high-quality multivitamin and mineral. The multivitamin should contain mixed carotenoids, which include lutein and zeaxanthin as part of their mix, as well as at least 400 mcg of folate and a mixed B-complex vitamin.
2. Calcium-magnesium with at least 600 mg of calcium and 400 mg of magnesium. The calcium should be calcium citrate or chelated versions of minerals. Do not use calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide, which are cheap minerals that are poorly absorbed.
3. Vitamin D3, 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day (people who are deficient in vitamin D will need more).
4. Omega-3 fatty acids that contain the fats EPA and DHA, 1,000 to 2,000 mg a day.

The cost is low, the benefit is high, and the risk is non-existent for these nutritional supplements. Not only will you feel better, have better immune function, and improve your energy and brain function, but you will also prevent many problems down the road. So, eat a healthy diet — and take your nutritional supplements every day. It is essential for lifelong vibrant health.

Good luck, healthy girl!

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For the past seven years, the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer have rolled out with the non-profit and non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s release of F as in Fat alongside the soda, pretzels and beer. This year it could be renamed F as in Even Fatter. July 2010’s report had only one bright spot: the District of Columbia showed a significant decline in obesity. However, 28 states had a significant increase. (D.C. is included because the Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides funds for a survey to be conducted in the district in a way equivalent to the states). Sixty-eight percent of adult Americans reported as obese (BMI > 30) or overweight (BMI >25-30). You can calculate your BMI here.

The data, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are “based on telephone surveys conducted by state health departments with assistance from the CDC, and involve individuals self-reporting their weight and height. Researchers then use these statistics to calculate BMI to determine whether a person is obese or overweight. Experts feel that the rates are likely to be under-reported because individuals tend to under-report their weight and over-report their height.” Amazingly, 68 percent is a best-case scenario.

Considering all of the weight loss fads, liquid diets, and diet pills that have been around for generations, it’s difficult to believe that we weren’t a weight challenged country until very recently. But, in fact, we were not. In 1980, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent, and the combined obesity/overweight statistic for the country was at about 25 percent. By 1991, four states (Louisiana, Mississippi, West Virginia and Michigan) had obesity rates above 15 percent, and none above 20 percent. At that point in time, 33.3 percent of Americans were classified as obese or overweight, and scientists began to speak of a serious health problem and dangerous trend. Currently Colorado, at 19.1 percent, is the only state left that hasn’t crossed the 20 percent borderline. We are at a point where a state with one out of five obese adults is the thinnest in the union. We are, as a nation, reporting an obesity level of 34 percent. In contrast, for all of the articles written about how the French and Italians are getting fat, the rate for both countries, according to the latest data from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) is still at about 10 percent.

This American obesity epidemic can either be just a blip on our timeline — a few decades of wrong decisions by lobbyists, food processors, politicians, educators, and us — or an inevitable glide into a future like the one depicted in WALL-E, with a population too heavy to walk, and too apathetic to care.

It takes a lot of streams and currents to collide and become an epidemic. For example, an infectious disease like the flu requires some combination of three things: an external agent (the virus), a host (you or me), and an environment eager to connect us (the guy with a cough on your flight). This is called an epidemiological triad.

A similar triad has been applied to obesity. The external agent includes the separate elements of increased portion sizes, technologically driven lifestyle changes that require less movement, and the 24/7 availability of fast and convenience foods. As hosts, this time we do more than breathe in when we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lack of education about good nutrition and/or basic cooking skills, health-positive behaviors, and human physiology; lack of adequate exercise, and lack of a sense of responsibility and forethought about health all contribute to the epidemic. The environmental factors that connect the “virus” to the “host” stem from the systematic support of the problem — including political, economic and social influences.* And like a virus, obesity can be “caught,” because we mirror the activities of those around us. In other words, it’s contagious.

How do we stop the epidemic? We take control back. We use the equivalent of hand-sanitizer inside the shopping cart when we go to the supermarket, and eliminate processed foods, sugary cereals, and sweetened beverages. We read labels and learn, for example, that a 20 ounce bottle of something that sounds reasonably “healthy,” like Tropicana’s Tropical Fruit Fury Twister, has 340 calories and 64 grams of sugar, and leave that particular virus on the shelf. We drink tap water. We get back to the kitchen and make the effort to cook simple things, so we can eat real food. States with high rates of fruit and vegetable consumption have low rates of obesity — it can’t be any clearer than that — so we buy and consume more fresh produce. We vote with our pocket books and avoid fast food, and if we have to eat at a fast food place, we eat a salad.

We put an end to being perfect hosts by demanding our kids get good quality physical education in school, and we keep moving ourselves. We insist on wholesome school lunches, and teach our kids right from wrong when it comes to food. We set a good example by what we eat ourselves. We fight to eliminate the “food deserts” prevalent in poorer urban areas, so everyone has reasonable access to healthy ingredients. We spend a greater portion of our money on quality food, and less on unnecessary objects like the latest video game or flat screen. If we live in a state that hasn’t passed a sugar sweetened beverage tax, and 18 have not, we’re vocal about demanding to know why.

We have to take control of the unhealthy environmental factors too. Because we’re not just fighting our own appetites and ingrained habits, we’re also battling pervasive Big Food, Big Pharma, and Big Weight Loss, with their Big Budgets. They’re the major environmental links between virus and host, but they’ll stop selling if we stop buying.

Next year the nation’s report card on obesity can be even worse, it can plateau, or it can begin to reverse itself. It will take more than a village, it will take every single one of us to be part of the solution and to turn the obesity triad into a straight line heading downhill.

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