Topic 2

  1. Shine a light on seasonal depression

    Your skin isn't the only part of your body that needs a regular dose of sunlight -- your brain thrives on the stuff, too.

    Just as your skin helps turn sunlight into vitamin D, your brain uses those same bright rays as a cue to produce serotonin, the neurotransmitter that helps you to feel happy and content.

    Lack of sun is why most of us experience the winter blahs at some point -- and for millions of people, it's the direct cause of an annual battle with serious depression.

    Now, a new gadget is promising to bring quick and lasting relief to people who suffer from that seasonal affective disorder -- and it works by giving your brain the light it needs to get the serotonin factory producing at mid-summer levels.

    The device looks like a set of the earbuds people use for listening to music -- but instead of tiny speakers, these earbuds contain little flashlights with enough power to send a beam of light through the ears and straight into the brain.

    Side note: I'm going to be more careful with Q-tips from now on.

    Using light to beat SAD is not a new concept. Many people already get relief by staring at a light box. It works -- but it's a pain in the butt: It can take an hour a day, every day, or more to get some relief... and who has that kind of time these days?

    That's where the new technique really shines: In one clinical trial, nearly 80 percent of 89 SAD patients who used the earbud flashlights were completely cured with just 12 minutes of treatment a day, according to data presented at the recent International Forum for Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Budapest.

    Just 12 minutes! If this holds up to further study, this won't just be a breakthrough -- it would revolutionize how we treat SAD.

    The only drawback is the price. At around $300, it's more expensive than a lightbox and even pricier than an iPod.

    But since it's every bit as portable as a music player, you can plug in on your way to the office and arrive at work each day singing a new -- and happier -- tune.

  2. Get wine benefits from your wine

    One of the best things about enjoying the health benefits of red wine is the wine itself.

    Being healthy has never tasted so good!

    So naturally, some researchers are trying to spoil the party -- because a new study looks at the benefits of the polyphenols in red wine... when taken without the actual wine.

    I'm happy to report that the experiment was a failure.

    Researchers gave 61 men and women with an average age of 61 one of three drinks for four weeks: A dairy beverage with a high dose of the polyphenols found in red wine... a dairy beverage with a lower dose of those same polyphenols... and a dairy beverage with no polyphenols.

    After four weeks, there was no change in blood pressure levels. The patients were all hypertensive before... and remained so afterwards with average readings of 145/86.

    But even the researchers must've expected that.

    "Previous human studies showed no effect of red wine drinking on blood pressure," researcher Ilse Botden, MD, a PhD student at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam told WebMD.

    The researchers concluded that whatever the heart benefits of red wine might be, they don't come from lowering blood pressure. Like I said, that's no surprise -- the real surprise is that they reached any conclusion at all about red wine... since no one in the study actually drank any.

    The researchers were on the right track in one regard, however: Red wine isn't actually the best source of some of its famous antioxidants. A single resveratrol supplement, for example, can contain as much of the polyphenol as an entire case of wine.

    But take it WITH your wine, not instead of it -- because studies have shown that booze itself holds some terrific benefits, no matter what kind of alcoholic beverage you drink. In fact, a moderate drinking habit can help your heart, lower your risk of stroke and may even extend your life... even if it won't lower your BP.

    And of course, booze is also great for the brain: One recent study found that moderate drinkers are 30 percent less likely to develop dementia and 40 percent less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease than non-drinkers.

    If you can get all that from drinking, why get it any other way?

  3. Junk food kills sperm

    You already know what junk food will do to your waistline -- but for men, a diet rich in poor choices can also hit below the belt. To put it simply, junk food kills sperm the way RAID kills roaches.
  4. Happy people live longer

    It's the attitude adjustment that could save your life: A new study finds that happy people live longer -- which means a smile might turn out to be the cheapest, safest, and easiest longevity-booster on the planet.
  5. Babies being given stomach acid meds

    Here's a quick way to tell if you've picked the right pediatrician for your new baby: Tell him the baby spits up or vomits and cries about it afterwards. If he smiles reassuringly and says, "that's what babies do," you may have found a keeper.
  6. Natural relief for Crohn's, IBS and more

    The only thing worse than a stomach problem is a stomach problem that never, ever goes away. Your own doctor will keep trying different meds until he finds one that kinda-sorta works without causing too many side effects, but there are much better approaches for recurring stomach issues.
  7. The patient made me do it!

    CT scans, X-rays, MRIs, ultrasounds -- you name it, people are getting them far more often than necessary, leading to extra stress and excess treatments. And in the case of those CT scans and X-rays, patients are being dosed with high levels of radiation for no reason at all.
  8. Meditation boosts physical health

    Culture is a funny thing: In some places, you're considered a little weird if you meditate... in others, you're weird if you don't. Most people here in the West never even consider it at all -- but maybe you should, because a growing body of evidence finds that this practice of the mind can have a major impact on the body, including a serious boost in heart health.
  9. Yoga can beat back pain -- and that's no stretch

    I know plenty of people who won't try yoga because, well, it's yoga -- and they think they'd feel ridiculous doing it. But if you're battling back pain, do yourself a favor: Open your mind before you open another jar of pills -- because yoga can help beat your pain, and two new studies prove it.
  10. Move your back, ease the pain

    The last thing anyone with a sore back wants to do is move it around ... and the natural reaction is to find a spot where you can sit as stiff as a board and move as little as possible.The other natural reaction, of course, is a fistful of painkillers. Don't give in to either reaction.
  11. Green tea speeds weight loss

    There are no miracles when it comes to weight loss -- but that doesn't mean you can't get a little help. Green tea has been shown to boost the metabolism and help the body burn off fat -- and the latest research on mice shows why: One of the compounds in green tea can stop the body from absorbing fat and even help the body to better use the fat it does absorb.
  12. Risky vitamins? Don't believe it!

    Common, safe nutrients and ordinary multivitamins are being blamed for everything in the book -- and now, a new study claims any number of vitamins will cause women to die early.
  13. The manly way to lower your heart risk

    You already know how testosterone can bring your sex life back from the dead. Now, the latest research shows how it can keep the rest of you out of the grave as well. In fact, this manly hormone can slash your risk of two of the greatest killers of seniors: heart attack and stroke.
  14. Docs: No more TV for tots

    The American Academy of Pediatrics got it all wrong on ADHD with its outrageous new screening guidelines -- but the organization did manage to hit one nail right on the head. And that's with the new advice on television and little kids: Keep it off.
  15. Bacteria love your cellphone

    I'm always a little grossed out when I see someone walk out of the bathroom with a cellphone in hand -- either checking messages or already mid-conversation. The thought alone is enough to make you sick, but the latest research shows how it could make you literally ill: Cellphones are crawling with germs, including the nasty bacteria that live in poop.
  16. Shooting holes in vitamin E study

    I couldn't believe what I saw on the news the other night: Diane Sawyer -- in her most solemn Evening Anchor Voice -- announced that vitamin E could increase the risk of prostate cancer by 17 percent.
  17. Shattered romance, shattered penis

    Men who cheat aren't just risking a broken relationship -- they could also break something that many would consider far more important. Yes... that.
  18. Risky business: Sleepless kids are bad news

    Kids who miss out on sleep aren't just groggy in school -- they're also far more likely to do all the things that give parents nightmares.
  19. When it comes to exercise, less is more

    Everyone should make sure they get moving during the day -- but no one needs to turn into a treadmill-racing workout fiend to get the benefits of exercise.
  20. Plastics chemicals linked to developmental problems

    It's easy to protect your children from what you can see -- but it's a much bigger challenge to keep them safe from what you can't.

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