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What’s Hype And What’s Sound Science When It Comes To Fish Oil

July 7, 2014 Amanda L. Chan 0

By Joseph Brownstein, Contributing writer
Published: 07/06/2014 02:23 AM EDT on LiveScience

Among the many nutrition supplements trumpeted for potential health benefits, fish oil supplements have been among the most ballyhooed. But as the research on fish oil rolls in, it’s unclear whether the supplements provide all the touted benefits, or are as harmless as claimed.

Some of the possible benefits of fish oil that appeared in early studies of the supplement seem to have vanished. Along with the difficulty of isolating the effects of a single nutrient, it’s possible that those early studies had small sample sizes, or participants who were truly deficient in the nutrient. Since then, long-term studies have revealed potential harms from taking fish oil unnecessarily.

Fish oil supplements contain several vitamins and two significant omega-3 fatty acids, called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). While these nutrients are important, like many vitamins, many people get sufficient amounts from diet. These fatty acids are found in a number of fish, so it is often recommended to get proper doses by eating oily fish twice a week.

Additionally, the amount of these fatty acids in a supplement can vary, so it is important to check the label. There are risks and benefits to the supplements, so it’s important to speak with your physician when deciding whether you are likely to benefit from taking them.[6 Foods That Are Good For Your Brain]

1. Heart health

When it comes to heart disease, eating fish is recommended as a heart-healthy protein, to substitute in place of red meat.

There is strong evidence for the potential of fish oil supplements to help in lowering triglycerides, which are associated with heart disease, as well as to lower the risk of heart attack.

But although fish oil supplements may have benefits for people at risk of heart problems, their benefit has been strongly questioned for healthy people, as high levels of omega-3 intake been linked with increased risk for stroke. High levels may also interfere with some medications, such as blood thinners, according to the National Institutes of Health.

2. Brain health

The omega-3 fatty acid DHA is found in both the gray and white matter of the brain, and is an important nutrient in early development, which is why there have been efforts to supplement child foods with it, whether it be the mother who breast-feeds or infant formula.

But taking DHA supplements has not shown clear benefits at the other end of life, where studies have been done to see if the compound may help people maintain cognitive function as they age. Although a few studies have shown benefits in reaching certain endpoints, such as maintaining brain size, there has not been a demonstration that DHA accomplishes the overall goal of helping prevent Alzheimer’s.

A June 2012 study published by the Cochrane Collaboration, a group that looks at the studies done on a topic to help make decisions for medical practitioners, found no benefit from fish oil supplements for cognitively healthy older people, but the authors said longer studies would be necessary to come to a firmer conclusion.

3. Autoimmune disease

DHA has long been studied in relation to immune function. As far back as the 1970s, the compound was found to play a role in the immune system and it was thought to possibly benefit patients with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, in which the immune system is overactive. Since then, DHA has been tested in people with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

But other treatments have developed since fish oil supplements research began. The National Multiple Sclerosis society advises that patients use caution and speak with a health professional before taking the supplements, in part because of concerns it may interfere with the front-line immune-modifying drugs used to treat MS, although those concerns have lessened over time.

Findings about other immune system benefits from taking the supplement have been mixed, with some studies showing a benefit and others showing none.

For people with rheumatoid arthritis the supplements have been similarly controversial, although there has been some evidence that they may lessen the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, according to a review published in 2000 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

4. Eye health

Research shows that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils play an important role in the early development of the eyes. What becomes less clear is whether the compounds may also help preserve eyes as people age.

Age-related macular degeneration, a relatively common condition that can lead to vision loss, may be helped through the intake of omega-3 fatty acids, studies have suggested. However, recent research, including a study of 1,600 people published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, has shown little to no benefit from taking the supplements.

5. Pregnancy

Because of the need for omega-3 fatty acids in brain and eye development, it has been recommended that pregnant women take in adequate amounts, which in some cases may include supplements.

Although there have been some concerns raised about mercury in fish, which can have toxic effects, eating fish is still recommended by many as the best source for the omega-3s, and so pregnant women are advised to choose fish found to be low in mercury.

6. Prostate cancer

While most studies of fish oil supplements have found few or no adverse side effects, recent evidence in studies looking at prostate cancer have said otherwise.

One such study, published in 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found a link between the supplements and prostate cancer. The authors wrote that their results confirmed past reports of an increased prostate cancer risk in men who had a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids.

The finding suggests that these fatty acids are involved in the development of prostate tumors, something to be considered in anyone thinking about taking omega-3 supplements, the researchers said.

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There May Be Way More Alcohol In That PiƱa Colada Than You Realized

July 7, 2014 Amanda L. Chan 0

WASHINGTON (AP) — How strong is that pina colada? Depending on how it’s made, it could contain as much alcohol as two glasses of wine.

The National Institutes of Health is trying to spread the word: Take a look at its online alcohol calculator to see how much you’re really drinking with those summer cocktails. A “standard drink” is the amount of alcohol in a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. It’s a useful way to track alcohol consumption. But the multiple ingredients of mixed drinks make for a harder count.

“Most people don’t realize how much alcohol is actually in a drink,” said Dr. George Koob, director of the NIH’s National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“Obviously it depends on the bartender and who’s mixing the drinks,” Koob adds.

Recipes matter: The calculator’s pina colada example, for instance, assumes it contains 3 ounces of rum. Plan on using 2 ounces instead? The calculator adjusts to show it’s like 1.3 standard drinks.

What about a margarita? The calculator concludes it’s the equivalent of 1.7 standard drinks, if made with 1.5 ounces of tequila, an ounce of orange liqueur and half an ounce of lime juice.

A mojito? 1.3 standard drinks. A martini, extra dry? 1.4 standard drinks.

Other favorites? Type them in: .

Beyond beverage choice, Koob, who specializes in the neurobiology of alcohol, has some tips:


Heat increases thirst but alcohol is a diuretic, Koob notes. So in addition to the usual advice to pace yourself — no more than one standard drink an hour — Koob says to stay hydrated by alternating some water or club soda with the alcohol.


Women’s bodies react differently to alcohol, and not just because they tend to weigh less than men. They don’t metabolize alcohol as quickly, and their bodies contain less water. On average, it takes one less drink for a woman to become intoxicated than a man of the same weight, Koob said. The NIAAA’s definition of low-risk drinking for women is no more than seven drinks a week and no more than three drinks on any single day, while for men the limit is no more than 14 drinks a week and no more than four drinks on any single day.


The July Fourth holiday weekend historically is dangerous on the highways: 38 percent of fatalities involved alcohol-impaired driving in 2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

But alcohol also doesn’t mix with boating, or swimming and diving, Koob warns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of adult and adolescent deaths associated with water recreation.


What determines why one drink is plenty for one person while another routinely downs two or three? Genes play a big role. So do environmental factors, such as getting used to drinking a certain amount. That tolerance is a balancing act, Koob says. He cites research showing the person who can drink others under the table is at higher risk for alcohol problems later in life than is someone more sensitive to its effects.


Alcohol use disorders affect an estimated 17 million Americans. There are two medications that can help, targeting different steps in the addiction cycle, Koob said. More medications that work in different ways are needed, but changing lifestyle, cognitive therapy and support groups all play a role, he said.

Medications “are never going to cure the disease,” Koob said. “What they will do is help you on the way.”

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8 Things You Should Know Before Taking Probiotics

July 7, 2014 Amanda L. Chan 0

By Cari Nierenberg, Contributing writer
Published: 07/06/2014 02:21 AM EDT on LiveScience

These days, you’ll find probiotics in more places than yogurt and the supplements aisle. “Good bacteria” are turning up in everything from toothpaste and chocolate, to juices and cereals.

“The oddest place I saw probiotics was in a straw,” said Dr. Patricia Hibberd, a professor of pediatrics and chief of global health at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, who has studied probiotics in young children and older adults. “It seemed difficult to imagine how a straw could deliver probiotics in a meaningful way,” she said.

Hibberd said she also wasn’t a fan of probiotics in bread, because toasting a slice could potentially kill the live organisms. “What also shocks me is the cost of some of these products,” she said.

Putting probiotics into foods that don’t naturally have the beneficial bacteriamight not make these products healthier, higher quality or worthwhile additions to the diet, she said.

“At some level, there’s more hype about probiotics than there should be,” Hibberd told LiveScience. “The enthusiasm has gotten ahead of the science.”

These facts don’t seem to have dampened consumer interest: The Nutrition Business Journal anticipated that U.S. sales of probiotic supplements in 2013 would top $1 billion. [5 Ways Gut Bacteria Affect Your Health]

To separate the reality from the hype, here are eight tips to keep in mind before buying probiotics in foods or taking them as supplements.

1. Probiotics are not regulated like drugs.

“I think probiotics in supplements are generally pretty safe,” Hibberd said. Even so, probiotics sold as dietary supplements do not require FDA approval before they are marketed, and do not go through the same rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness as drugs do.

Although supplement makers cannot make disease-specific health claims without the FDA’s consent, manufacturers can make vague claims, such as saying that a product “improves digestive health.” Also, there are no standardized amounts of microbes or minimum levels required in foods or supplements.

2. Mild side effects are possible.

When people first start taking probiotic supplements, there’s a tendency to develop gas and bloating in the first few days, Hibberd said. But even when this happens, these symptoms are usually mild, and they generally go away after two to three days of use, she said.

3. All foods with probiotics are not created equal.

Dairy products typically have the most probiotics, and the amount of live bacteria in these foods is quite good, Hibberd said.

To get billions of good bacteria in a serving, choose a yogurt labeled “live and active cultures,” she said. Other probiotic-rich foods include kefir, a fermented milk drink, and aged cheeses, such as cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan and Swiss.

Beyond the dairy case, probiotics are also found in pickles packed in brine, sauerkraut, kimchi (a spicy Korean condiment), tempeh (a soy-based meat substitute) and miso (a Japanese soybean paste used as a seasoning).

Then there are foods that seemingly jumped on the probiotics bandwagon. They aren’t naturally fermented or cultured, but may supply some live organisms; these foods include probiotic-enriched juices, cereals and snack bars.

Although the majority of probiotics found in foods are safe for most people, the bigger concern is whether the organism is actually present when the person consumes the food, Hibberd said. In some cases, the organism may have decayed, making it less active than it could be and less able to offer health benefits, she said.

4. Probiotics might not be safe for everyone.

There are definitely some people who should avoid probiotics in foods or supplements, Hibberd said. These might include individuals with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy. The risks are also increased in people undergoing organ transplants, and for people who have had much of their gastrointestinal tract removed because of disease.

People who are hospitalized and have central IV lines should avoid probiotics, as should people who have abnormal heart valves or who need heart valve surgery, because there is a small risk of infection, Hibberd said.

5. Pay attention to expiration dates.

Live organisms can have a limited shelf life, so people should use probiotics before their expiration dates to maximize the potential benefits. To prevent the organisms from losing their potency, product labels or manufacturer’s websites may indicate proper storage information; some supplements needs refrigeration, or should be kept at room temperature or in a cool, dark place.

6. Read product labels carefully.

The amount of probiotics in a food product is often unclear. Ingredient labels may reveal the organism’s genus and species, but will not include a microbe count.

Labels on supplements should specify the genus, species and strain, in that order. For example, a label might say, “Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.” Microbe counts are listed as colony-forming units (CFU), which are the number of live organisms in a single dose, typically in the billions.

Follow package directions for instructions on proper dosage, frequency and storage. In her studies on probiotics, Hibberd advises participants to open up supplement capsules and sprinkle the contents into milk.

7. Supplements tend to be pricey.

Probiotics are some of the most expensive dietary supplements, with one dose often costing more than $1 a day, according to a 2013 study by And a higher price might not necessarily reflect a higher-quality supplement, or a reputable manufacturer.

8. Select the organisms needed for your medical condition.

For people who are looking to help prevent or treat a specific health concern with probiotics, Hibberd recommends finding a high-quality study published in a reputable medical journal that shows positive results. Use the product and organism mentioned in the research at the dose, frequency and length of time described.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ]]>

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This Table For Two Forces You To Be Mindful

July 7, 2014 Farah Mohamed 0

If you have trouble resisting the impulse to check your smartphone while you’re out with friends or having dinner on a date, this table might help: By literally strapping two people together for the duration of the meal, it forces them to pay attention to each other.

“With more and more people addicted to mobile technology, it happens more frequently that people have meals absentmindedly,” says designer Michael Jan, who created the Napkin Table along with fellow industrial design students at Tunghai University in Taiwan. “This inspired us to consider what ideal dining is, and figure out if there is a new dining experience that can draw attention back to the dining table.”

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Customer Service With A Smile Comes At A Big Price

July 7, 2014 Anna Almendrala 0

Customer service with a smile is the American way, but faking it all day can take an emotional and physical toll once workers head home, according to a small but compelling new study published in the journal Personnel Psychology.

The findings should give employers pause about just how much they can fairly expect in terms of “emotional labor” — the requirement to display certain emotions or feelings toward customers, clients and others at work.

“[Employees] could smile because they genuinely like their customers or they are simply happy, and in that case they are not engaging in what we call ’emotional labor’ because they are not faking,” explained lead researcher David Wagner, Ph.D. of Singapore Management University, in an email to the Huffington Post. “When they put on that happy face but don’t really feel it — that’s when we start to have problems.”

Researchers observed 78 bus drivers who worked for one transit company in the northwestern United States. Over two weeks, the study participants answered surveys before work, after their shifts and just before they went to bed at night. They were asked about hours of sleep, their moods during and after work, and whether or not they had put on a “performance” or a “mask” that day.

Wagner found that when a bus driver wore a fake smile, he or she was more likely to suffer insomnia that night than someone who wasn’t faking it. Emotional acting was also linked to reports of feeling anxious or distressed, and also increased the likelihood of feeling emotionally exhausted at the end of the day. These people even reported more family conflict at home.

Meanwhile, people who reported behaving authentically — either by not faking smiles at all or by smiling because they genuinely felt happy — had much better sleep quality those nights.

Doug Pugh, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Management at Virginia Commonwealth University, wasn’t involved in the research, but his past research on emotional labor does appear in Wagner’s study. He praised Wagner for strengthening the study’s results by taking workers’ overall emotional stability into account when evaluating their responses, since an emotionally unstable person is more likely to report work and family distress generally.

But on a more fundamental level, Pugh thought the research was important because it accurately describes emotional labor as the difficult, draining work it is.

“The big point of all of this work on ’emotional labor’ — being friendly and pleasant and upbeat as part of your job — is that it is work,” wrote Pugh to HuffPost. “It is hard, and it drains people just like physical or mental labor might. But it is often unrecognized as ‘real’ work, so people don’t appreciate the difficult nature of this kind of ‘labor.'”

The sooner employers get on board with the notion of emotional labor as real work, the sooner they can start adequately compensating or rewarding workers for it, Pugh explained.

“Many skilled service workers take pride in their ability to use their emotions to manage and control difficult customers, much like a detective might take pride in his or her ability to use various emotion management strategies to manipulate criminal suspects,” Pugh explained. “Managers can also recognize these legitimate job demands, and the skills they require, and compensate appropriately.”

Once employers acknowledge the toll of emotional work, they can help their employees cope with simple changes like providing “offstage” areas for employees to relax and drop the mask, or training them about how pleasant behavior is a strategy that benefits them and the company.

“Good managers let employees know when it is OK to break character and drop the positive demeanor,” said Pugh. “Good managers also provide the support for employees so that the stresses of working customer-facing jobs don’t bleed over as much into the home.”

Of course, if that’s too hard, employers could simply drop the requirement to be a shiny, happy person all the time, said Wagner.

“In some countries there are no norms around faking positive displays (and those might just be the countries about which American tourists complain!), but the norm in the U.S. tends to be service with a smile,” Wagner acknowledged.

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A Look At New England’s Ice Cream Stands, From Maine To Connecticut

July 7, 2014 Alison Spiegel 0

From the coastal towns of Maine to the farm land of Connecticut, ice cream stands are spread all across New England. They bring communities together and bring joy to everyone who visits. Whether they’re seasonal enterprises or open all year round, these ice cream stands hold a lasting presence in New Englanders’ consciousness. They represent all the joys of summer: warm weather after a long, harsh New England winter, gathering with friends and family, enjoying the outdoors, and kicking back and relaxing.

As many ice cream stands as New England boasts, no two are alike. Their unique locations, compositions and individual histories are an integral part of each one’s character — and it is this diversity that makes the New England landscape so special. One ice cream stand might be based on a family-run dairy farm, and one might be a seaside shack open just a few months a year.

To New Englanders, ice cream stands are commonplace; they’re expected parts of the scenery. When summer rolls around, it goes without saying that your family will take frequent — even daily — trips to get waffle cones, sundaes and frappes (also known as milkshakes outside of New England). Ice cream is like part of the New England DNA — along with resilience, independence and the Patriots, or course.

It’s been a long winter and summer is finally here, so go out and get yourself some ice cream in true New England spirit. July just happens to be National Ice Cream month, so it couldn’t be a more perfect time to hit the road and check out some of the best ice cream that New England has to offer. Here are eight ice cream stands that represent some of the special flavor that ice cream brings to New England.

Salvador’s Ice Cream (Massachusetts)
Salvador’s started as a dairy farm in 1890. The dairy building was originally located in New Bedford, MA, and in 1936 the milk jug was moved to Smith Neck road, a quiet residential street in Dartmouth, MA.

Ownership of Salvador’s has been passed on over the years, and the current owners, Len & Beth Gauvin, have received accolades from the New Bedford Historical Society for maintaining this historical structure. The cow on the top of the milk jug is named Smith Neck Nellie.

The Daily Scoop (Rhode Island)
daily scoop
Deb and Bob Saunders are owners The Daily Scoop, which has two locations in Rhode Island — one in Bristol and one in Barrington. They both grew up in Barrington, which is where the original store and manufacturing facility opened.

Rich Farm Ice Cream (Connecticut)
rich farm
Rich Farm, located in Oxford, CT, has been open since 1994. Dave and Dawn Rich run the ice cream shop, which is situated on Ajello’s Farm. Dave’s great great grandfather started the dairy five generations ago on Great Hill in Seymore, CT. Dave and his children opened Rich Farm Ice Cream on the dairy farm, and today the shop churns out up to 30 fresh flavors ice cream every day.

Lago’s Ice Cream (New Hampshire)
Andrea and Stephen Grenier own and run New Hampshire-based Lago’s Ice Cream. Andrea’s parents opened the store in 1981, and Andrea and Stephen’s children — Michael, 22, and Erica, 25 — also pitch in. Stephen attended Penn State Ice Cream School in 1986, but told The Huffington Post that he learned most of what he knows from his wife’s grandfather, Arnold Wade, or “Gramps.”

The Bucket At Gulf Hill (Massachusetts)
the bucket2
The Bucket At Gulf Hill is an ice cream stand on the shore just outside of Padanaram Village, a harbor-side town in South Dartmouth, MA. It was built in 1929 at Gulf Hill Dairy, and was moved to its current location in Apponagansett Park on Padanaram Harbor in 2003.

the bucket1
The Bucket is open seasonally and among other things, it sells ice cream, burgers and lobster rolls. In addition to the food, Bucket-goers enjoy music in the park and the beach that is just steps away.

Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream (Connecticut)
buttonwood farms
Buttonwood Farm opened in 1975 as a cattle farm, merchandising cattle and feed, as well as a dairy for selling milk wholesale. In October, 1997, the family built the ice cream stand, which officially opened in May, 1998. Buttonwood Farm Ice Cream makes its own ice cream and waffle cones fresh each day.

Brown’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream
browns ice cream
Brown’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream is located in York, Maine, not far from the famous Nubble Lighthouse. It’s something of an institution in the town and well-known throughout the state.

The Caboose Ice Cream Stand
the caboose
Perrotti’s Country Barn — which sells unique gifts like jewelry, home decor, candles and cards — opened in December 1999. In the spring of 2004, the Caboose Ice Cream Stand opened. It sits right next door to Perrotti’s Country Barn, on the same property. The Caboose sells more than 25 flavors of Praline’s Ice Cream, which is made locally in Wallingford, CT. Perrotti’s Country Barn and the Caboose have been completely family run since the beginning.

Which of your favorite New England ice cream stands didn’t make the list? Let us know your favorites below.

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