Brazil nuts

  1. Waist size can be more important than BMI for diabetes risk

    Bigger bellies boost disease risk -- even when you're not obese

    Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes, and slashing that risk of course means losing weight. But while the numbers on the scale are important, there's another number that can be just as critical.

    And that's your pants size.

    Bigger waistlines usually mean bigger weights -- usually, but not always. Some people have a round-in-the-middle shape without actually being obese.

    It's not just an unflattering figure. It's a dangerous one, and new research on 30,000 Europeans finds that overweight -- but not obese -- men with a waistline of 40 have a higher risk of diabetes than obese people with more moderate waistlines.

    For overweight (but not obese) women, the risk shoots up when the waistline reaches 35.

    The reason is simple: How your fat is distributed is just as important as how much you have. Fat that builds up around organs is a disease risk factor. And too much fat right in the belly -- the fat that causes waistlines to bulge -- can produce excess hormones, leading to insulin resistance, and ultimately diabetes.

    In other words, getting into shape means not just losing weight, but making sure your body takes on the right shape as well.

    But avoiding diabetes isn't just about the big changes, like the dietary makeover needed to shrink both pounds and waistlines. There are also smaller, easier steps you can take -- including simple nutrients you can add to your diet that can slash your risk.

    Start with selenium.

    That's the trace mineral found in Brazil nuts that can protect against certain cancers. And, as I told you just a few weeks ago, it can slash your risk of death by heart disease when combined with coenzyme Q10.

    Now, new research finds this mineral can also help you to avoid diabetes. In a study of some 7,000 men and women tracked for decades, those who had the highest selenium levels had a 24 percent lower risk of getting the disease.

    That's three of the world's leading killers -- cancer, heart disease, and diabetes -- slashed by this one mineral needed in only the tiniest doses.

    Just don't go overboard with it. It's called a "trace" mineral for a reason, and too much of it is not a good thing.

    On the other hand, many people can drink tea all day without suffering any ill effects -- and if that's you, you might already be enjoying a lower risk of diabetes without even realizing it: Four cups a day or more can slash the risk of the disease by 20 percent, according to the latest research.

    Tea, especially green tea, is a great source of healthy polyphenols. Along with lowering your diabetes risk, a steady tea habit can help prevent cancer, dementia and heart disease, boost the immune system, ease depression and more.

    Now, it's easy to get carried away with these studies. People read about a certain benefit, and then load up on those foods without making the other changes they need for good health.

    But a handful of Brazil nuts or a couple of extra cups of tea won't keep disease at bay if you're eating processed foods and other junk the rest of the time. So, add these things to your diet if you wish -- but it's far more important that you have a healthy lifestyle in the first place.

  2. How to avoid pancreatic cancer

    They're called "trace" elements for a reason: Tiny amounts of the right stuff can boost your health and save your life... while even a drop of the wrong stuff can end it.

    Now, the latest research shows how these same trace elements can play a major role in your risk of getting or avoiding one of the deadliest forms of cancer on the planet -- the pancreatic cancer that's claimed Steve Jobs, Luciano Pavarotti and Patrick Swayze in recent years.

    Let's start with the good stuff: selenium and nickel.

    Selenium is already a proven cancer-beater, and it can almost guarantee that you won't get pancreatic cancer: It can slash your risk by 95 percent, according to the study in Gut.

    The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts -- but since it's generally hard to get from diet alone, either take a supplement or make sure it's included in your multivitamin.

    Nickel didn't quite pack the same punch -- but it still managed to reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by a third, according to an analysis of toenail clippings in 518 people, including 118 who had pancreatic cancer.

    Yes, toenail clippings -- and while that might sound a little bizarre, that's actually one of the best ways to measure trace elements... including the ones you already know you should avoid.

    We all recognize how dangerous lead is, for example -- but the new study finds yet another reason to steer clear: a 600 percent boost in pancreatic cancer risk. Cadmium, another heavy metal, boosted the odds by 350 percent, while arsenic doubled the risk of the disease.

    Now, you might not think those last three are worth worrying about. You're avoiding them already, right?

    Don't be so sure.

    All three, for example, can be found in cigarettes. In some areas, they've been found in the groundwater. And arsenic and lead have been turning up in apple juice, according to recent tests from Consumer Reports.

    Arsenic might even be in your chicken dinner. Until recently, it was considered perfectly acceptable to add arsenic to chickenfeed -- in part because poisoning chickens gives their meat that "healthy" pink glow consumers love so much.

    The FDA recently issued a temporary ban on the main source of arsenic in chickenfeed -- but the poultry industry has been aggressively lobbying for its return, and no one would be too surprised if they got their way on this.

    Call it one more reason to go organic.

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