Health Snippets from Today's NY Times

- While dark chocolate can indeed improve coronary circulation and decrease the risk of heart-damaging clots, most dark chocolate on the market is all but stripped of the bitter-tasting flavanols that convey this health benefit. The color, in other words, tells you nothing.

- To get babies to eat fruits and vegetables, a study published in the December issue of Pediatrics found that what breast-feeding mothers regularly eat influences their babies’ initial acceptance of foods like peaches and green beans.

- Omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil, which counter inflammation, appear to protect the brain as well as the heart and joints. A recent analysis of 17 studies in the journal Pain found that daily supplements of these fatty acids significantly reduced inflammatory joint pain.

- But now there may be a new kid on the block: vitamin B12. A 10-year study with 1,648 participants in Oxford, England, found an increased risk of cognitive decline (incl. Alzheimers) in older adults who had low blood levels of vitamin B12. This vitamin is found only in foods from animals. Strict vegetarians, who have long been cautioned to take B12 as a supplement to prevent a deficiency, can add brain protection to the list of potential benefits. The rest of us should feel comfortable about eating red meat and poultry as long as it is lean and consumed in reasonable amounts. A serving of cooked meat, fish or poultry is only three to four ounces.

- Based on 7,000 studies of 17 kinds of cancer, a study by the American Institute for Cancer Research in concert with the World Cancer Research Fund (published late last year) concluded that being overweight now ranks second only to smoking as a preventable cause of cancer. “Convincing evidence” of an increased risk resulting from body fatness was found for cancers of the kidney, endometrium, breast, colon and rectum, pancreas and esophagus. Other major findings of increased risk included red and processed meats for colon and rectal cancer, and alcoholic drinks for cancers of the mouth, throat, larynx, esophagus, breast, and colon and rectum. “Convincing evidence” for cancer protection was found for physical activity against colon and rectal cancers, and for breastfeeding against breast cancer. “Probable” protection against various cancers was also found for dietary fiber; nonstarchy vegetables; fruits; foods rich in folates, beta-carotene, vitamin C and selenium; milk, and calcium supplements.

- If you don't know where your pancreas and endometrium are, try


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