focus

  1. Soaking up the benefits of water

    It almost sounds like the benefits of some promising new blockbuster drug: Just a little bit can help lift mood, concentration and energy levels -- with virtually no side effects.

    Well, there is one side effect: You might need to pee a little more.

    Of course, this isn't some experimental new drug -- just plain old water, and new research shows how letting yourself run dry can throw your whole day out of whack.

    In a set of three experiments, 25 healthy young women were given either enough H20 to keep hydrated or brought just below their optimal levels with exercise and diuretics.

    By "just below" I mean really just below -- they were missing only between 1 and 2 percent of their needed water. But those small changes led to big differences as these women suffered from measurable dips in mood and focus and were more likely to feel fatigue and suffer headaches.

    Although the study didn't look at men, there's no reason to think mild dehydration would affect them any differently.

    In other words, you need your water -- but don't get carried away.

    You know the old saying about drinking eight 8-ounce glasses a day? Forget it. It's never been proven by science (although the bottled water companies would like you to think otherwise).

    In fact, too much water can be even worse for you than too little.

    The only time you need to wet your whistle is when you feel thirsty -- and despite what you've heard, it doesn't have to be plain old water.

    Coffee and tea, for example, are just fine. Both of them are mildly diuretic, but they'll still leave you with a net gain of water and keep you hydrated.

    Just one warning here: Water may not be a drug on its own... but there's a good chance there are drugs in your water.

    U.S. water standards are plunging like a barrel over Niagara Falls. Hormones, sex meds, antibiotics and more are regularly turning up in our drinking water -- and in some places, you can add illegal drugs, rocket fuel and toxic waste to the list.

    Even in trace amounts, do you really want to drink that?

    Drink only filtered water. You don't have to shell out big money on bottled year after year if you invest in a quality reverse osmosis system for your home.

  2. 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.

    The group now says the only safe amount of television for a kid under the age of 2 is no television at all -- and that includes "educational" programs and any DVDs that claim they can turn your child into the next Einstein, Mozart or da Vinci.

    See? We can agree on something -- although TV is a pretty easy target. After all, there are no studies that find television is good for children, especially young children.

    Instead, multiple studies have found that little kids who watch TV -- any TV, even the supposedly age-appropriate shows and videos -- have a higher risk of developmental problems.

    Other problems may not crop up right away -- but you can bet the remote control they're there: Children raised in front of a glowing screen have a higher risk of obesity, problems with social skills and even trouble doing their schoolwork... not to mention no time for homework.

    After all, who has time for homework when SpongeBob is on?

    And SpongeBob, by the way, is the last TV "friend" you want your kids spending time with -- and not just the under-2 set. A recent study found that 4-year-old children who watch this show have immediate problems with attention spans, focus and memory.

    It doesn't get any better after that -- a study I told you about last spring found that kids as young as 6 who watch the most TV already show the earliest warning signs of heart disease.

    These problems follow kids right through childhood -- and you don't need a crystal ball to see where it'll lead them in adulthood. One study this summer found that every two hours of daily TV viewing boosts the odds of type 2 diabetes by 20 percent, heart disease by 15 percent and death from any cause by 13 percent in adults.

    Good advice tends to be good advice, no matter how old -- or how young -- you are. So whether you have little ones at home or not, do yourself a favor and keep the TV off as much as possible.

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