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Saturday, April 9, 2011

coffee beans and double helixApril 7, 2011 -- DNA may play a large role in determining how much caffeine people consume in beverages such as coffee, tea, and soda and food such as chocolate, new research indicates.
Scientists from the Harvard School of Public Health, the National Cancer Institute, and other institutions say they have discovered two genetic variations that influence the metabolism of caffeine and are associated with how much caffeine people consume. People with particular variations of two specific genes are more likely to consume caffeine, and to drink more of it when they do, study leader Marilyn C. Cornelis, PhD, of the Harvard School of Public Health, tells WebMD.

Genes and Coffee

The genes are identified as CYP1A2, long known to play some role in caffeine metabolism, and another called AHR, which affects regulation of CYP1A2.
All people have both genes, but the study, involving more than 47,000 middle-aged Americans of European descent, finds that people with the highest-consumption variant for either gene consumed about 40 milligrams more caffeine than people with the lowest-consumption gene varieties. Forty milligrams is the equivalent of 1/3 cup of caffeinated coffee or one can of soda.
Cornelis says her own father may carry the variations that correspond to higher caffeine consumption because he drinks “at least 10 cups” daily.
“He’s not trying to achieve pleasurable effects,” she tells WebMD. “Rather, he’s trying to maintain levels as a means to avoid the withdrawal symptoms. Without a cup he’d wake up in the middle of the night with a headache.”
That suggests he “could possibly have the genetic profile of a fast caffeine metabolizer,” she says in an email.
The researchers say it’s likely that genetics plays a major role in other behaviors, such as alcohol consumption and smoking.

Coffee Consumption

The researchers say in a news release that their conclusions are based on an analysis of five studies conducted between 1984 and 2001. Average caffeine consumption via coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas, or chocolate was recorded.
About 80% of the caffeine intake among participants involved in the analysis was from coffee, similar to the adult caffeine consumption in the U.S. “We propose that those with the genotype corresponding to ‘higher caffeine consumption’ are metabolizing caffeine at a different rate vs. those with the ‘lower caffeine consumption’ genotype, and so require a different level of intake to maintain or achieve physiological caffeine levels that produce pleasurable effects,” Cornelis tells WebMD.
So what does this mean?
“Clearly these genetic variants are affecting how our body processes caffeine,” she tells WebMD.
Caffeine is implicated in a number of medical and physiological conditions. Caffeine affects mood, sleep patterns, energy levels, and mental and physical performance.
“Caffeinated products, particularly coffee, have long been implicated in various health conditions.”
She says that “studying the effects of caffeine, say, on the cardiovascular system, would be challenging if the group of subjects we’re studying process caffeine differently.”

More ‘Caffeine Genes’ May Be Identified

This genetic knowledge could be used “to advance caffeine research and potentially identify subgroups, defined by genotype, of the population most susceptible to the effects of caffeine,” Cornelis tells WebMD. “More research on the precise function of these variants is needed, however, and there are likely more ‘caffeine genes’ to be identified.”
She tells WebMD that her team’s findings “demonstrate that our search approach -- scanning the entire human genome -- works.”
Also, it shows for the first time that genetics may be responsible for inherited differences in how people drink coffee.
The study is published in the April issue of PLoS Genetics.

WebMD Answers Your Health Questions About Government Shutdown

Which health services will continue? Which won't?

Most government health services are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. During the government shutdown, 62% of HHS employees will not be allowed to work.
The remaining 38% of HHS employees will continue to administer programs that involve the safety of human life and protection of property, as well as programs that pay for themselves.
HHS shutdown plans remain sketchy, but here's a rundown of how the shutdown affects HHS services:
  • Medicare and Medicaid: If the shutdown last only a few weeks, Medicare and Medicaid coverage of medical care and prescription drugs will continue. However, funds could run out before the end of the summer if there is a continued shutdown. And it's not clear whether doctors would get paid during a shutdown, so some doctors may decide to stop taking Medicare/Medicaid patients. The Medicare hotline would continue, but staffing cutbacks will mean longer wait times. Health care fraud and abuse teams will not work.
  • National Institutes of Health: The NIH Clinical Center will continue to direct patient care and clinical trials, but only for current patients and studies already under way. It will serve about 90% of its normal patient load. No new patients will be accepted; new clinical trials will not start. No new medical research will be funded. The NIH will continue to feed and protect all animals in its care.
  • FDA: The FDA will continue to review imports offered for entry into the U.S.
  • Indian Health Service: The IHS will continue to provide direct clinical services and referrals for contracted services.
  • Health Resources and Services Administration: Health Centers will continue to pay grantees for services. HRSA grants provide health care to uninsured people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and pregnant women, mothers, and children. It also supports rural health care and oversees blood and organ donation.
  • The Administration for Children and Families: Many ACF programs will continue for the time being. These include support to states for foster care, adoption assistance, and child support enforcement.
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: SAMHSA would continue the national Suicide Prevention Hotline.
  • CDC: The CDC will continue global health programs abroad, such as Haiti cholera relief, that are funded by prior-year appropriations. Epidemic intelligence officers will continue surveillance for disease outbreaks, but a wide range of CDC-supported activities will not continue.
The Veterans Administration is a major source of government supported health care. Here's how the shutdown affects the VA:
  • All VA clinics and medical facilities will remain open, including prescription services.
  • No new Educational and Vocational Rehabilitation benefit claims will be accepted.
  • The Board of Veterans Appeals will be closed.
  • There will be no new VA hiring, staffing, or training.
  • The National Cemetery Administration will slow down military burials and will not process applications for Presidential Memorial Certificates.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Make Your Home a Skinny House

From Health magazine
When you think about what causes pounds to creep on, an immediate list of usual suspects comes to mind: junk food, skipped workouts, supersize portions. But you might want to add your house to that fat list. “Everything from the lighting in your dining room to the size of your dinnerware could be making you gain weight,” says food psychologist Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. You can think of it this way, though: If your home can make you gain, it can help you lose, too.

Here, Health’s natural-foods chef and columnist Bethenny Frankel shows you the best ways to slim down your space—from the moment you walk in the door until you hop into bed. Use these expert tricks to make your home way more diet-friendly.

7 Essentials for the Dieter's Kitchen

Stock your kitchen cabinets with these seven calorie savers, and you'll see the scale start to move in no time.

Immersion blender
Dieters still want comfort foods—just not the calories that come with them. A handheld blender lets you whip up thick soups and hearty stews with minimal ingredients (and very little cleanup). I like to blend zucchini, butternut squash, or broccoli with either chicken broth or skim milk for a quick soup dinner. Or, use the immersion blender to make dressings and marinades, like in this recipe for Grapefruit-Avocado Salad.

I'm sure you've heard of the Small Plate Movement. I use one of these guys every single day to portion out trail mix, nuts, chips, ice cream—you name it!


Microplane grater
Sprinkling a dish with grated Parmesan is a great way to get a lot of flavor—but not a lot of fat. Skip the jarred variety, and splurge on a small wedge of fresh cheese for a more intense taste.

Ice-cream scooper
Do you have a hard time visualizing proper serving sizes? Here's an easy way to cheat: Use ice-cream scoopers to serve up sides like rice. I also like to use one to portion ground turkey meat into burgers.

Mini-muffin tin
These are another great way to keep portions in check—and you shouldn't limit these tins to just muffins. I like to whip up individual frittatas, quiche, stuffing, or souffles.

Parchment paper and aluminum foil
Chances are you already have a roll of each lying around, so put them to good use. I fill a parchment pouch with fish and a few veggies, then pop it in the oven or on the grill. And I use aluminum foil to make flavorful roasted veggies. Not only does it make for easy cleanup, but also using this method lets you cook with less oil, so you wind up saving calories.

Most of my favorite dips call for at least a cup of mayonnaise, but any good dieter knows that's one big fat trap. Instead I opt to add a tablespoon or two of mayo, then I supplement the rest with mustard. You wind up with a tangier dish that's better for your figure.

Party This Summer Without Putting on the Pounds

Want to enjoy that block party or backyard barbecue but don't want to stretch the waistline of your capris? Naturally Thin author Bethenny Frankel shares her tips for partying without putting on the pounds:

Eat in slow-mo. "Everyone thinks I eat like a horse, because I'm still eating when everyone else is done," says Bethenny. "But I just eat really slowly, which means I'm eating a lot less and enjoying it more."

Use the sandwich technique. This tip is from Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., director of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University and author of The Instinct Diet: Use Your Five Food Instincts to Lose Weight and Keep It Off: Sandwich high-calorie foods between two high-fiber, lower-calorie foods, to trick your body into feeling fuller without gorging on the high-calorie treat. So start with something bulky and filling like a green salad with beans, then have an entree (like a small burger or BBQ chicken) and a small portion of a rich dessert, then end with something low-cal like fresh fruit.

Don’t be a light-food martyr. If you love ribs and know you're not going to be happy with a skinless chicken breast, says Bethenny, then have the ribs! It's better to have a small portion of something you really love than to make yourself miserable with the supposedly virtuous option—and end up noshing later when you don’t feel satisfied. "Skinny is a mindset," says Bethenny. "It's about enjoying yourself instead of obsessing about food.

5 Fabulous Cocktails Under 220 Calories

Skinny sips

Liquid calories are a dieter's worst nightmare, but it's hard to pass up a cool cocktail at a fancy fete. Bethenny Frankel's new book, The Skinnygirl Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life, is full of fabulously light, flavorful drink ideas. Check out these three sips from her book, plus two bonus recipes.

How to Healthy Up Cookies

Use these simple tips from celebrity natural-foods chef Bethenny Frankel to add a healthy boost to your favorite cookie recipes.

Add ground flaxseeds (try 1 tablespoon) to batter for more fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

Experiment with different natural, healthy sweeteners, like honey and agave syrup instead of the sugar. You can also try this in other recipes that call for plain granulated sugar.

Use this cookie base (minus the last 3 ingredients) as a blank canvas for other flavor variations. So instead of using bananas, walnuts, and chocolate chips, try one of the following:
• raisins and a pinch of cinnamon
• dried blueberries with raw sugar sprinkled on cookies
• dried cranberries and 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
• slivered almonds and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract