In the News: Nordic Diet May Reduce Stroke Risk, Certain Brain Areas Work Like Traffic Lights, Licorice Potentially Dangerous During Pregnancy

I’ve really taken a Viking to this diet. New study suggests a link between the Nordic diet and risk of stroke. It’s estimated that more than 200,000 Americans suffer from stroke annually, but a new study from the American Heart Association suggests that a group of people in Northern Europe might have a diet that could help reduce the risk: it’s the Nordic diet. In this study, more than 55,000 people were followed for 13 years, and they found that those who adhered to the Nordic diet had significantly lower risk of ischemic stroke. So give it a try! The Nordic diet is packed full of fish, root veggies like carrots, and greens like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Check out celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and Dr. Oz explain the benefits of the Nordic Diet here! (MEDSCAPE)

This brain research gets the green light. New study suggests that some parts of our brain work like a traffic light. By studying the brains of rats, scientists are uncovering the way that we respond to the environment. It all has to do with a region of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which receives either excitation or inhibition to work. To further test this system, the researchers turned off different regions of the prefrontal cortex in rats and had them perform tasks. They found specific regions of the brain that influence impulsive behavior and which opens up an area to study disorders of reactive behavior like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Want to learn more about OCD? Check out this fact sheet. (EUREKA)

Licorice might not be so anise for pregnant women. Licorice consumption during pregnancy may affect cognitive ability in children. A recent study from Finland followed more than a thousand pregnant mothers and their healthy infants for 13 years. Children born from mothers who ate more than 8.8 ounces of licorice a week while pregnant scored, on average, seven points lower on IQ tests and had three times the risk of developing attention deficit disorder. While the authors admit that more research needs to be done, this study sheds light on a possible risk of eating licorice while pregnant. Learn more about what you can (and can’t) eat during pregnancy here. (NYT)

In the News: Study Uncovers Gut Bacteria-Blood Pressure Connection, New Report Ranks Each State’s Health, Study Says Oldest Child is Smartest

A gut reaction on heart health. New study links gut bacteria and blood pressure. With more bacteria cells in and on our bodies than human cells, it’s no wonder they appear to affect our health. According to a recent study, gut bacteria may even lower blood pressure as well. In the study, scientists took intestinal bacteria from rats with high blood pressure also known as hypertension and introduced it into the intestines of rats with normal blood pressure. After about 7 weeks, the once normotensive rats developed hypertension! While more studies need to be done in humans, increasing your probiotics could be an easy way to improve your health. Check out the ultimate probiotic shopping list here. (SCIENCEDAILY)

From Kale-ifornia to Tuna-see, do you live in the healthiest state in the nation? New report ranks each state’s health. A recent poll from Gallup and Healthways surveyed more than 177,000 Americans in 2016 and found some interesting patterns. Topping off the list is the people of Hawaii while the bottom of the list is West Virginia. The authors had some good news, claiming that 2016 saw historically low smoking rates and historically high rates of exercise. Unfortunately, chronic diseases like obesity and diabetes are at some of their highest rates since 2008. No matter which state you live in, our new 21-day diet might be the best way for you to lose weight and decrease your risk of developing chronic disease here. (TIME)

Study says oldest child may be smartest. Firstborn children can all rejoice! The Journal of Human Resources has conducted a study that shows that firstborn children get higher IQ scores compared to their younger siblings. Other findings from the study show that older children received more mental stimulation and engagement from their parents, and were more often breastfed than their younger siblings. Another result of the research showed that first-time mothers were more likely to avoid drinking and smoking at all costs, staying very healthy during their first pregnancies. While it’s not clear if there is a link between breastfeeding, birth order, and intelligence, these results do raise some interesting questions. To learn more about birth order, check out this article. (FORBES)

In the News: Brain-Stimulating Activities May Help Dementia Patients, Altitude Linked to Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome, Camping May Improve Sleep Quality

I don’t just like puzzles, I lobe them. There may be a link between brain-stimulating activities and dementia. In many ways, the brain is like a muscle that needs regular exercise. A recent study investigated the association between brain workouts and dementia. The scientists followed nearly 2,000 healthy seniors over four years and found that those participating in brain-stimulating activities had a significant decrease in their risk of developing cognitive impairment – even in patients with a genetic predisposition to cognitive decline. Some of the activities include computer use, social activities, and playing games. Check out some of Dr. Oz’s favorite brain boosting games here. (MEDNEWS)

The hills are alive… with the sound of heart health. Altitude might have an impact on heart disease risk. A recent study found that living at a higher altitude is linked to a lower risk of getting metabolic syndrome – the combination of increased blood pressure, sugar, cholesterol, and waist size. Together, these factors greatly increase the risk of heart disease. The authors of the study recognize that living or exercising in low oxygen environments like those at high altitudes seems to be very helpful for heart and lung health, weight loss, and even insulin sensitivity. The good news is that you don’t need to live in the mountains just to decrease your risk of getting metabolic syndrome. Take this quiz to find out if you’re at risk for metabolic syndrome. (EUREKA)

The sleep I got on that camping trip was in-tents! Camping trip might help you sleep. In a recent study, scientists tested the melatonin of people who went camping and compared it to people who stayed at home. Those who spent time in the great outdoors had a melatonin boost one and a half times earlier than those who stayed home. According to the authors, this means the campers’ biological clocks reset to better match the sun and that may have greatly improved the sleep quality. If you can’t get away for a weekend camping trip, don’t worry. Just try to increase the amount of natural light you’re exposed to during the day and decrease the artificial light from smartphones and tablets at night. Check out Dr. Oz’s favorite tips for better sleep here. (NPR)

In the News: Study Finds Cause for Misophonia, Elevated Testosterone Linked to Generosity, Ibuprofren No Better Than Placebos for Back Pain

Study determines why loud chewing bothers some. If you find yourself going bananas every time someone chews with their mouth open or slurps their tea, you aren’t alone. Many people suffer from misophonia, a condition where you are particularly bothered by these type of noises. While we knew there was a name for the condition, it wasn’t quite clear what caused that reaction. Scientists have finally gotten to the bottom of it, finding changes in brain activity when a bothersome sound was heard. The research found an abnormality tied to the emotional control part of the brain, causing an overdrive effect when exposed to these triggers. On a physiological level, sweating and an increased heart rate were also found in participants with this condition. Watch this episode to find out if you have misophonia too. (TIME)

Elevated testosterone linked to positive personality traits. Researchers at Trinity College and St. James’ Hospital in Dublin explored the side effects that correlate with increased testosterone. Forty participants were given a testosterone injection or a placebo and then took part in various games to test their social behavior. They determined that testosterone serves as more of a status enhancer than an aggression booster, with noticeable acts of generosity and kindness found amongst the participants. These findings help dispel the age-old belief that heightened testosterone is linked to domineering or controlling behavior. Wondering how to increase testosterone? Here’s what you need to know. (SALON)

Anti-inflammatory meds proven no better than placebos for back pain relief. While many people assume that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are useful in stopping back pain in its tracks, new findings show otherwise. In reviewing 6,000 participants, researchers found that only one in seven patients saw improvement (short-term at best) when taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen for back pain. Along with having minimal benefits, these medications more than doubled the risk of gastrointestinal illness and side effects like stomach ulcers and bleeding. Suffering from back pain? Try this plan to get rid of the discomfort. (GUARDIAN)

In the News: New Device Helps ALS Patients Communicate, Meal Timing May Affect Heart Health, Laundry Pods Causing Eye Injuries in Kids

New device allows ALS patients to speak again. A new device is making it possible for ALS patients to speak for the first time in years. One patient, a 68-year-old woman, hasn’t spoken for a decade, until her family heard of brainwaves experiments that were being conducted on paralyzed patients at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Using electroencephalograms (EEGs) and near-infrared light, researchers were able to communicate with participants, just by having them wear a special cap and a spectroscope, which is an exciting sign of what is to come in the future of ALS research. (NBC)

Timing of meals linked to heart health. According to a recent study from the American Heart Association, your weight may be correlated to the timing of your meals, not just what’s in them. The likely culprit? Your body’s internal clock. Research shows that meal timing has a huge impact on how that clock functions. Eating right before bed can impact your metabolism, causing weight gain and potentially leading to diabetes and heart disease. Skipping breakfast yielded mixed results in terms of weight gain, while short periods of fasting (every other day to once a week) was found to be effective in terms of weight loss. Visit our heart health resource center to learn more. (TIME)

Laundry pods may cause eye injuries in children. We’ve all seen laundry pods on TV and supermarkets by now. These handy little detergent packets seem like the answer to all our prayers because of how convenient and compact they are. Unfortunately, these pods are also causing eye injuries in kids who mistake them for squishy toys or candies. The American Association of Poison Control Center logged 11,528 exposures just last year, which indicates that this is becoming a serious health hazard for your little ones. If your child does squirt the detergent into his/her eye, make sure to immediately rinse it out with cold water for several minutes and then take your child to the emergency room or eye specialist for a thorough examination. If you would like to learn more about eye care, visit our resource center today. (TODAY)

In the News: Carrie Underwood Shares Her Daily Diet, Feeling Bad About Weight Gain Linked to Illness, Potato Chips and Fries May Be Carcinogenic

Carrie Underwood shares her daily diet. Ever wondered how Carrie Underwood balances being a musician, mom, wife, and having a fitness apparel line, all while looking extremely toned and fit? It all comes down to a few factors. First, she wears her workout clothes all the time when she’s home, so she can squeeze in a workout (a mix of strength training and cardio) whenever an opportunity emerges. Next, she eats predominantly vegan, and prefers smaller portions throughout the day to keep her metabolism fired up. Third, she keeps a journal of her workouts and eating habits so she can stay aware of how much food she consumes and track her progress over time. Want to give the vegan diet a try? Here’s how to start. (COSMO)

Feeling bad about weight gain could lead to sickness. Feeling depressed about being overweight is nothing new, but a new study from the University of Pennsylvania has found that obese participants who were hard on themselves and self-stigmatized were at an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, high triglycerides, and cardiovascular disease. Many people assume that self-stigmatizing can actually inspire weight loss but in fact it leads to more calories and less gym time, thanks to an overwhelming sensation of stress and sadness. While further research is required, it’s clear that fat-shaming yourself isn’t the way to go. If you want to learn more about health weight loss tips, check out this collection of recipes and diets. (NYP)

Potato chips and fries could be carcinogenic. Love to eat foods that are extra crispy? You may be unknowingly putting yourself at risk. The brown crust that forms on burnt chips and fries indicates the presence of acrylamide, a chemical contaminant. Based on animal studies, this substance is considered to be a likely human carcinogen, though more research is required to know for sure. The foods which are most affected include those made from plants and grain products that are cooked at high heat. Dairy, meat, fish, and other foods that are steamed or boiled tend not to be affected. While the FDA isn’t suggesting that you quit eating the foods you love, it is advised that you stop over-frying and over-toasting. Feeling stressed? Here are 22 ways to cut your cancer risk. (TODAY)

In the News: Cervical Cancer Death Rates Higher Than Expected, Joining a Gym Has Proven Health Benefits, and Cognitive Decline Starts Sooner Than Once Thought

Cervical cancer death rates higher than previous estimates. A recent study has found that the death rate from cervical cancer is not only much higher than once thought, but particularly prevalent in black women. For this group, the mortality rate is 10.1 per 100,000 women and for white women, the rate is 4.7 per 100,000. The main cause of this disease appears to be human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends regular pap smear tests, which look for precancerous cells on a woman’s cervix, as well as an HPV test as a means of cervical cancer prevention. Want to learn more about HPV? Check out this fact sheet. (YAHOO)

Joining a gym has proven health benefits. While it comes as a shock to no one that joining a gym is a healthy choice, research has determined exactly how beneficial it really is. The study found that non-gym members only worked out around 137 minutes a week, while gym members clocked in around 484 minutes. Out of all the non-members polled, only 18 percent met the standards for physical activity and strength training, while a whopping 75 percent of gym members met theirs. Want to learn more about fitness? Check out these exercise plans. (TIME)

Age-related cognitive decline starting sooner than once thought. Researchers based in UCLA have found that cognitive decline, particularly in women, is starting sooner than medical experts previously thought. In testing verbal episodic memory, processing speed tests, and working memory, they found that middle-aged women suffered early cognitive decline in large numbers. While these results do show cause for concern, further research will be needed to determine what is causing these higher rates of decline and what can be done to prevent it. Want to test your own memory? Take this quiz. (MEDICALNEWS)

In the News: Chelsea Clinton Defends Barron Trump, Ballet Classes Lead to Improved Mobility, Facebook May Cause Narrow-Mindedness

Chelsea Clinton defends Barron Trump. As someone who has been in Barron Trump’s shoes before, Chelsea Clinton knows how tough it is to suddenly be thrust into the public eye. When she noticed that people were making cruel jokes about the little boy online, she took to Twitter to defend him and remind everyone that children deserve the chance to just be kids. At the same time, she also criticized Donald Trump’s policies, adding “standing up for every kid also means opposing @POTUS polices that hurt kids.” Check out Dr. Oz’s exclusive interview with the president to see a side of him you haven’t seen before. (NYMAG)

Ballet classes help young girl move independently. Sarah Hansen, a young woman with a neurodegenerative disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT), found it extremely difficult to walk or balance without outside help. This condition affects motor and sensory nerves, making every step she takes a huge challenge. But, after several years of participation in Ballet for All Kids, a program designed for children with disabilities, she is not only walking on her own, but dancing as well. Recently, she made her dreams come true by performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker”. Want to try ballet? Give the barre workout a spin. (TODAY)

Facebook leads to narrow-mindedness, according to new study. At first glance, social media platforms like Facebook can make us more connected to others and more knowledgeable on a wide range of issues, allowing us to interact with people across the globe and get a new perspective on different issues. In reality, research has found that social media actually leads to increased insolation and confirmation biases, creating an echo chamber where fake news and half-truths are regurgitated and can often spread like wildfire. Instead of exploring new sides to a story, like-minded people are simply sharing the same biases and controversial theories, choosing to share this type of content and ignoring the rest. Social media can also have other dangers as well. Find out why obsessing about your online metrics can lead to low self-esteem. (CNN)

In the News: Tanning Still Shows Signs of Melanoma Risk, FDA Approves Drug to Treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy, U.S. Salmon May Have Tapeworm

Tanning is still a “hot-bed” issue. New study underscores tanning bed–skin cancer connection. The World Health Organization deemed UV light–emitting tanning devices to be carcinogenic back in 2009, yet people continue to use tanning beds to this day. To add to the already king-size bed of literature, a recent Norwegian study followed 141,000 women for 14 years and found that women who use tanning beds as little as 30 times increase their risk of developing melanoma by 32 percent. Furthermore, women who started using tanning beds before the age of 30 were diagnosed with melanoma about two years earlier than women who never used tanning beds. If tanning beds increase the number of patients with melanoma and decreases the age of onset, it is definitely time to move toward safer options like spray tans. Just don’t overdo it like Ross from Friends. Learn more about tanning products here. (SCIENCEDAILY)

FDA approves new drug for the leading genetic cause of death in infants. The Federal Drug Administration has just approved the first medication to treat spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), currently the number one genetic cause of death for infants. Children who survive past infancy with this unfortunate diagnosis are often wheelchair-bound at a young age and at risk of developing issues holding up their head, swallowing, and even breathing. The FDA passed the new drug Spinraza, after a clinical trial of 82 infants diagnosed with SMA found that nearly 40 percent of the children experienced improvements in their motor abilities. This drug is hopefully the first of many future therapies for a disorder that affects many families in the U.S. (BOSTONGLOBE)

U.S. salmon may be infected with Japanese tapeworm. A recent study has found traces of Diphyllobothrium nihonkaiense, a broad tapeworm, in wild Alaskan salmon. Researchers have stated that consuming salmon that has originated from the American and Asian Pacific coasts can be dangerous when eaten raw. Tapeworm was first identified as a human parasite 31 years ago, when it was initially thought to only affect fish, and has been in the spotlight recently because of an increasing interest in raw fish, leading to more reported cases of infection. If you want to buy the healthiest fish, here’s what you need to know. (TIME)

This Week’s Headlines: Blue Corn May Prevent Metabolic Syndrome, Hot Peppers May Ward Off Premature Death, and Exercise Linked to Improved Joint Function

Blue corn is a-MAIZE-ing! New study suggests that blue corn may help prevent heart disease. Metabolic syndrome is the term for a group of risk factors that raise your chance of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. So it’s no wonder why doctors are trying to learn more about how to prevent the development of this condition. In a recent study, rats with high cholesterol and blood sugar (like we would see in metabolic syndrome), were given blue corn extract. After four weeks, the rats had lower LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and abdominal fat—all markers of cardiovascular disease. These unBLUElievable results hold promise for the future of metabolic syndrome treatment. Try substituting your corn for the blue stuff and add it to your favorite recipes like this one. (MEDNEWS)

Dear heart disease, catch me if you cayenne! Recent study links hot peppers and longer life. Many people can’t get enough spicy food, especially George from Seinfeld. And now new research is showing that it might help ward off premature death. In a study published this week in PLoS ONE, scientists evaluated information from 16,000 patients who participated in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) III. They found that people who enjoyed red hot chili peppers (the food, not the band) had a 13-percent decrease in mortality rates—meaning they lived longer than those who passed on peppers. There was even a slight decrease in death from heart disease, the leading killer in the U.S. Even though we don’t know the exact reason why these peppers are helpful, it’s never too late to start chowing down on some! Try some of Dr. Oz’s favorite spicy foods like this one. (SCIENCEDAILY)

When your joints hurt, you KNEEd to move! New study suggests that 45 minutes of exercise a week may be enough for patients with osteoarthritis. Arthritis is described as joint inflammation and the most common type is called osteoarthritis—the kind that comes from wear and tear of a joint over time. It’s a painful diagnosis that can even be debilitating if severe enough, and we’ve known for a long time that exercise can help improve joint function; the question is: How much? Researchers at Northwestern University sought out the answer. By evaluating activity data from 1,629 patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the authors found that the minimum amount of exercise needed to get significant improvements in walking speed and joint function was as little as 45 minutes a week! As long as the participants committed to the 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise, they saw improvements regardless of BMI, sex, age, and even their degree of knee damage! Check out Dr. Oz’s favorite tips for healthier joints today! (MEDNEWS)