BlackBerries

  1. Berries boost your brain

    The only downside of berries is the cost: My local supermarket was selling blueberries for $4.99 a pint the other day.

    Ouch!

    But while the price might sting, it's worth a little pain in the wallet to get your hands on some -- because ounce for ounce, berries are unmatched by anything else in the produce aisle.

    I'm sure you already know about the famous antioxidants in berries, which can help protect you from the free radicals that are always trying to undermine your body.

    And now, a new review of the research shows how berries can actually supercharge your brain and improve the way your neurons communicate. That adds up to better motor control and cognition and lower levels of dangerous inflammation -- all from a handful of delicious blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, or cranberries.

    Grapes and blueberries in particular have been proven in studies to help improve the brain function in seniors, especially those already suffering from some impairment, according to the review published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

    Of course, none of this is all that new or surprising (it's a review of existing research, after all). An earlier study, for example, found that the polyphenolics in berries help the cells that clean up and recycle the toxic proteins that accumulate in the brain with age.

    If that's not a good enough reason to boost your berry intake, consider this: Another new study shows that blueberries -- along with apples -- can slash your risk of diabetes.

    Researchers say people who eat two or more servings of blueberries a week -- as well as those who eat five apples a week -- have a 23 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

    This was based on a food frequency questionnaire, and we know they're not exactly the most reliable form of research... so let's not get too excited.

    But plenty of other more reliable studies back the benefits of berries. And that's especially true of blueberries, which are so rich in nutrients they're a superfood in a class of their own.

    For all that, $4.99 a pint is a bargain -- because these little beauties are worth their weight in gold.

  2. Doctor, my eyes

    The risks of smartphones go far beyond thumbs, wrists and sanity: A new study finds that the devices might be doing a
    number on your eyes, too.

    iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids help millions to work, keep in touch and stay entertained all day and night -- but they're also responsible for some pretty bad habits.

    And it starts with how we hold them.

    Researchers asked 130 volunteers with an average age of 23 to read text messages on their smartphones, then measured
    the distance between their eyes and the screen.

    And as it turns out, the volunteers almost all held their phones much closer than they would a newspaper, book or magazine.

    The researchers say the text readers held the phone about 14 inches away, with some holding it as close as 7 inches --
    compared to an average of 16 inches for normal printed materials.

    In a similar experiment, 100 participants with an average age of nearly 25 were asked to read a Web page on their smartphones -- and researchers say they held the phone just 12.6 inches away.

    So do those extra inches make a difference? You bet they do -- the researchers say it could place an extra strain on the
    eyes, especially for people who already wear glasses and contact lenses.

    They even suggest that optometrists consider testing vision at closer ranges for some patients and alter prescriptions
    based on mobile viewing habits.

    Since Web-based text tends to be smaller than newspaper print -- in some cases up to 70 percent smaller -- the most
    immediate action you can take right now is to go into your phone's settings and adjust the font size.

    Another option is to switch to a larger device for more serious reading -- including the Kindle and tablet computers like the iPad. In addition to larger screens, these devices contain even more settings to allow you to adjust text size as well as brightness.

    Finally, keep in mind that it's OK to put these devices down and even turn them off every now and then.

    Sometimes, the eyes just need a rest no matter what you're looking at.

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