1. Chronic inflammation and killer stress

    Stress causes inflammation

    If your body was a post office, the picture hanging on the wall -- Public Enemy Number One -- wouldn't be heart disease or cancer.

    It would be inflammation.

    Chronic inflammation can cause or worsen both diseases and more, not to mention increase your risk of any number of other conditions up to and including an early death.

    And while chronic inflammation can be caused by everything from food to illness to aging, one common source we all face is stress -- and a new study shows how quickly stress can cause chronic inflammation levels to soar.

    Volunteers were asked to give a speech as part of a job interview in front of two stern interviewers in lab coats. Sure enough, the stress of that speech caused an increase in levels of the chronic inflammation marker C-reactive protein, or CRP.

    Afterward, half of the volunteers were told to think about neutral activities such as shopping and shown photos of these types of activities -- and their CRP levels quickly returned to normal.

    The other half, however, were told to keep thinking about that speech. And for them, CRP levels continued to rise for a good hour after the speech.

    The difference between those volunteers and you (or me) is that once the experiment ended, they all went about their ways and never had to think about the stressful speech again.

    But out in the real world, our sources of stress aren't as easy to get over. They stay with you -- sometimes every waking minute of the day (they can even invade your dreams).

    And that's when those CRP levels really start to climb.

    That's why it's critical to get a handle on your stress levels -- but don't turn to anti-anxiety drugs and other medications. Instead, stick with the tried and true: exercise, time with loved ones, and prayer are all proven stress-busters.

    And when you find yourself in a situation that's giving you stress day after day, maybe it's time to stop looking for a way to manage that stress and find a way out of the situation instead.

  2. Vitamin B6 can reduce inflammation

    Fight diseases before they start

    The best way to beat any disease is to avoid getting it in the first place, of course. Easier said than done? Not exactly... because your body has a way of letting you know when you're on a collision course with illness.

    Chronic inflammation is a warning sign of any number of conditions throughout the body, including biggies such as heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.

    Since that inflammation often shows up first, you can often fight the disease before it starts by fighting the inflammation itself.

    And one of the best ways to do that is with B vitamins.

    Vitamin B12 usually gets most of the attention here, but a new a study finds B6 can do the job too -- and in some ways might be even better than the rest of the B family when it comes to fighting inflammation.

    Simply put, the men and women in the study with the highest levels of B6 had the lowest levels of overall inflammation. And those with the lowest levels of B6 had the highest levels of inflammation.

    What makes this study so interesting is that researchers didn't just look at a single major marker of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein.

    They looked at 13 different markers -- and found that B6 slashed levels of 12 of them, including oxidative stress, cytokines, and even that CRP I just mentioned.

    The best sources of B6 include squash, spinach, bell peppers, and mushroom as well as tuna, chicken, turkey, and beef. But of course, you can also get it from either a B6 supplement or a B complex that includes a number of B vitamins, including B12 and folate.

    The therapeutic doses I recommend are between 50mg and 200mg a day. Note that extremely high doses -- 500 mg a day, or 25,000 percent of the recommended intake -- can cause nerve problems, so don't go overboard.

  3. Soda scare: Sugary drinks linked to new heart risk

    Any time I use the words "soda" and "study" in the same sentence, it's never good news for soda. I can't recall a single study that shows soda benefits anything other than the bank accounts of the people who sell it. And the latest research is no exception.

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