Topic 2

  1. Playing the name game over sugar

    It's like a battle between two horror movie monsters: In one corner, you've got the corn industry responsible for high-fructose corn syrup as well as all the other corn-based additives used in everything from food to fuel.

    They've been trying to change the name of HFCS to "corn sugar," launching a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and lobbying the FDA to allow them to use the name in both marketing and ingredients labels.

    In the other corner, you've got the "real" sugar industry -- and they've just filed a lawsuit to block the ads, supposedly in the name of consumer protection. The name "corn sugar," they say, is just too confusing. People might think they're getting "real" sugar when they're really just getting HFCS.

    It's enough to make your head spin, especially since this is a game about semantics and marketing -- not health. The "real" sugar industry has lost plenty of business to the HFCS people over the years, and they'll be damned if they're going to let the corn people take the "sugar" name, too.

    So they've tried to position themselves as the good guys here. And amazingly, we've fallen for it -- hook, line and sweetener: Foods now wear a "MADE WITH REAL SUGAR!" label like a badge of honor.

    Some people even think they can taste the difference -- although a recent taste test proves otherwise. People were asked to try either regular HFCS-sweetened Coca-Cola or the increasingly trendy "Mexican Coke" made with real sugar -- and they picked the HFCS stuff by a 7-to-1 margin.

    But at the end of the day, your body doesn't care much whether the sugar comes from corn, cane or beets. Sugar is sugar -- and it's all bad for you.

    Sure, some studies have found that HFCS might be a little worse for you than real sugar -- but does it matter? One will cause obesity... the other will cause obesity, too, maybe just a little faster.

    The bottom line on this is that any product with added sugar -- no matter what they call it -- shouldn't be on the menu. Let the only sugars you get be the truly natural kind: The sugar you'll find in a piece of fruit.

  2. Tai chi can help prevent falls

    It's just about the slowest and easiest form of exercise on the planet -- but what tai chi lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in benefits.

    These simple Chinese stretching exercises have been shown to help seniors beat everything from pain to depression -- and now, new research shows that they can also help improve balance and prevent falls.

    Falls are a leading cause of loss of independence in seniors. The breaks and fractures often require long and even permanent hospitalization -- and with the rise of hospital-acquired infections, any admission for any reason has the potential to be your last.

    But if the new study is any indication, you can dramatically lower your risk of a life-changing or life-ending fall through tai chi.

    In the new study, researchers assigned 70 seniors from assisted-living homes to either four months of tai chi or musical instruction.

    Music is nice -- but those who went to the 90-minute tai chi classes three times a week learned critical skills such as weight shifting, awareness of body alignment, and the rotation of the head and trunk.

    As a result, the study in Age and Ageing found that these seniors had significant improvements in their ability to balance and the awareness of the position of their limbs than those who learned music.

    And if boosting your balance and slashing your risk of a fall aren't enough, that's not all tai chi can do for you.

    Studies have found that these slow stretches can help bring relief from arthritis and osteoarthritis, boost overall physical function, beat depression, and even improve your quality life.

    Along with being easy, tai chi is cheap or even free. There may be a group practicing tai chi in your local park, library, or senior center.

    And if you can't find one near you, you're only a mouse click away from some free lessons -- search YouTube for "tai chi” for some simple exercises you can do right now, in front of your computer.

  3. Walk faster, beat death

    It turns out the slowest walkers have the highest risk of death.
  4. Common cereals are more than 40 percent sugar

    Instead of changing your own habits here in 2012, make one change for someone else: your kids. Stop giving them cereal.
  5. BPA in everything

    By now, you've heard of bisphenol-A -- the dangerous estrogen-like chemical used in plastics and can linings that's been linked to diabetes, sexual dysfunction and more. But eating packaged and canned goods isn't the only way to get exposed to this junk and boost your risk.
  6. The cherry on top of a good night's sleep

    People looking for a little help getting to sleep used to drink a glass of warm milk. That, or maybe a little brandy. But there's another drink that might help you get off to dreamland quicker -- and it's not what you'd expect.
  7. Medical marijuana can limit pain meds

    This one's bound to make some pretty big waves: Yet another new study backs marijuana for medicinal purposes in a big way.
  8. Don't quit your day job -- it might kill you

    There are some clear benefits to working the night shift: higher pay and… well.. OK, there's one clear benefit to working the night shift. And in exchange for more money, you're literally putting your life on the line if you take that night job: Shift work has been linked to obesity, heart disease and more.
  9. Don't go low-cal to fight diabetes

    I can't think of any good reason to ever starve yourself on purpose -- but researchers keep pushing ultra-low calorie diets for everything from longevity to disease prevention. The latest: A new push to brand these extreme and dangerous diets as a "cure" for diabetes.
  10. Sex makes people happy

    A good meal, a little spending money, and a night of passion -- any one of those things would be enough to make most people happy... especially that last one.
  11. Public toilets are crawling with germs

    Some studies offer surprising, even stunning conclusions. This isn't one of them: Public restrooms are every bit as filthy as you would have guessed... and maybe even worse.
  12. The secret life of food

    You might not believe in reincarnation, but the food industry sure does: Every day, people eat stuff that's had previous lives.
  13. The next wave of cholesterol meds

    If you thought statin meds to lower LDL cholesterol were useless, you should see what they're cooking up next: drugs to raise your HDL levels.
  14. BP guidelines could be deadly

    Docs get so hung up on matching the numbers on patients' charts to mainstream guidelines that they often forget these things are written on paper -- not set in stone. But in addition to being meaningless, many of those targets are actually dangerous -- and quite possibly deadly.
  15. WHACK your flu risk this winter

    The power to beat the flu is literally in your hands: Wash ‘em often, and the virus that causes the disease won't have a chance to invade your body.
  16. A clean mouth for a healthy heart

    It's no secret that people with clean teeth and healthy gums have a lower risk of heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems, and two new studies again confirm the link.
  17. Low salt comes with high risk

    Next time your doctor says "cut back on the salt, or else" ask him one question. Or else what?
  18. What's in a McRib?

    I heard a radio commercial for the McRib the other day that asked an important question: where's the bone?
  19. Why you should never buy honey from the supermarket

    You might think the most difficult part of choosing honey is deciding between a little plastic bear and big glass jar. Turns out the decision's a lot more difficult than that -- because just about all the honey in your supermarket is barely even honey at all.
  20. The flu shot hoax revealed

    Flu shots don't work... but your friends in the media want you to get one anyway. A new study finds the scantest of all possible benefits from the most heavily hyped vaccine of all time -- benefits so small you have to wonder if they even exist at all.

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