Thursday, October 30, 2014

Does Obesity Equate to Poorer Grades?

A recent study revealed some troubling statistics that appear to connect childhood obesity with lower grades and less success in secondary level education. The study also determined that the negative influence of obesity on education is not affected by the student’s social background.

The groundbreaking study from the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (WZB) focused on obesity statistics in Germany, but it portends even greater concern for US children, since obesity among German children is approximately six percent while, by comparison, more than 10 percent of US children are obese, according to statistics from California Center for Public Health Advocacy.

And the percentage of obese children in the US is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the past 30 years, childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents. The CDC estimates that obesity now affects 17 percent of all children and adolescents in the United States — triple the rate from just one generation ago.

In the 2013 German study, researchers looked closely at how weight and obesity influences grades in mathematics and language in primary school and in Germany's equivalent of of our secondary schools, analyzing both those children who would be classified as overweight and those who would be classified as obese (The CDC defines overweight as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above 85 percent, and obesity as having a BMI at or above 95 percent compared to children of the same age/sex – see CDC Growth Charts for a breakdown by age and gender).  The researchers discovered that:
  • Obese girls and boys are statistically less likely to receive a“ good” or “very good” math grade, with the likelihood of getting top grades as much as 11 percent lower compared to children of healthy weight.
  • Those children classified as overweight do not perform worse in math.
The influence of obesity on math grades did not appear to be effected by whether or not a child is healthy, how much exercise or sports participation they did or didn't get, nor how much TV they watched.

The bully effect

The researchers also found that, because obese girls are bullied more often, they showed lower self-confidence, leading to an increase in behavior problems.
Interestingly though, researchers found no “bully effect” in the study for boys. Although obese boys were found to suffer from lower self-confidence. The researchers believe that this helps to explain the lower math grades.

Self-confidence and obesity

An earlier study in the US on the psychological and social adjustment of obese children and their families showed that obese children are less socially competent, had more behavior problems, and had poorer self-perceptions than their non-obese peers. In effect, the newer WZB study continues where this earlier study left off, connecting these common problems of obese children to negative school performance.

The WZB researchers also concluded that obese children are less likely to take advanced level classes in secondary education than their overweight counterparts.

Parents in the US are already concerned about the health impact when their children struggle with obesity. The German study also highlights the social burden that accompanies the childhood obesity epidemic, not just for the child's current situation but potentially for the long term. 

Parents can investigate two CDC resources for more information about childhood obesity:  the Basics about Childhood Obesity website and CDC's Strategies and Solutions content.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What the Heck is a Macrobiotic Diet?

Macrobiotics – a word you’ve likely heard but … what does it mean? If the term macrobiotics is Greek to you, here’s your primer! 

And, incidentally, the word macrobiotics is in fact Greek, at least in origin, coming from the word macro, meaning great, and bios, meaning life: Great Life.

Given the principles of the macrobiotic diet, you couldn’t choose a better word than one that means Great Life. Macrobiotics is not just a diet but a philosophy of life balance.  The founder of macrobiotics, Japanese philosopher George Ohsawa, taught that a balanced, healthy diet is a necessary component of a great life. And let’s face it, if you have an unhealthy diet, it’s only a matter of time before your health will suffer – and where’s the happiness in that?

What a macrobiotic diet looks like

Have you heard someone describe themselves as a pescatarian? It’s not a church denomination; a pescatarian is someone who considers themselves a vegetarian but who also eats fish and other aquatic animals for protein.  The macrobiotic diet strictly follows vegetarianism or pescatarianism. 

The diet is also based on the principles of yin and yang: opposing, complementary life forces that we should strive to keep in balance.  As this balance applies to the diet, foods are categorized as belonging to yin or yang, based on sweet vs. salty, hot vs. cold, and so forth. Thus, a macrobiotic dieter seeks to keep a good balance between yin foods and yang foods.

Macrobiotics practitioners are generally either health conscious individuals or those who are sick and hoping to find healing through the macrobiotics diet and lifestyle (including physical health and spiritual health).
What’s on the menu?
The macrobiotic diet is roughly half whole grains, a third vegetables, and the remainder a combination of beans, bean soups, miso soups, and sea vegetables. Rather than eating on a breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule, you eat when you feel hungry.  The diet also advises you to thoroughly chew when you eat to aid in digestion. 
What’s off the menu?
Things a macrobiotic dieter avoids:
  • No dairy products and no meats
  • No vitamin or mineral supplements
  • Avoid microwaving
  • Avoid cooking with electricity
  • No processed foods
  • No foods that contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors
  • No caffeine
  • No plastic storage; use stainless steel, wood, glass, or china instead

Why do a macrobiotic diet?

There are many health benefits reported by macrobiotic dieters.  Ohsawa stated that the macrobiotic diet could even cure cancer. Scientific studies do not unequivocally support this claim. Some studies have found no conclusive connection between the macrobiotic diet and cancer improvement.  However,  a 1993 study looking at pancreatic cancer reported that more than half of those who maintain a macrobiotic diet were alive after one year, while 90 percent of the study participants not on the macrobiotic diet had died by the end of the 12 months – results which generated a macrobiotic diet boon, especially among those with cancer.
Other macrobiotics health benefits are likely, simply because the diet removes all processed foods, includes lots of vegetables, is low in unhealthy fats, and high fiber. These factors have all been shown in numerous studies to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

How to get started with a macrobiotic diet

Given the holistic lifestyle nature of macrobiotics, and the likelihood that the diet and food preparation methods will be radically different than what you are familiar with, the best way to get started is to seek out a macrobiotic practitioner for guidance.  Your budget or comfort level can determine whether you choose a person who teaches macrobiotics for a living or is simply a person who is experienced in practicing macrobiotics in daily life.
If personal guidance from an experienced practitioner is not an option for you, there are many books and online resources that can give you the basics.

Risks of the macrobiotic diet

It’s easy to do a macrobiotic diet wrong if you haven’t received guidance and training.  Risks to consider:
  • Since the macrobiotic diet has no dairy or animal products, you need to make sure that your body gets enough nutrients from other sources.
  • Many people lose a great deal of weight after switching to a macrobiotic diet. If you are already low in weight, this can put you in danger.
  • Even those who strictly follow macrobiotic diets might be deficient in certain vitamins, such as B12, D, iron, and calcium.
  • Because of the potential for vitamin deficits on the diet, macrobiotics is unadvisable for children, pregnant women, and those are already very sick.
As with any significant diet change, talk to your doctor, especially if you have any serious medical conditions.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Study: Even Nominal Alcohol Use Increases Cancer Risk

Researchers conclude that there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.

When the science research came out telling us that there may be actual health benefits to wine (such as that gained from the bioflavonoid resveratrol found in the skin of red grapes), many used that as a “bottoms-up!” justification to drink, and drink some more. But is it wise? Even if there are health benefits to alcoholic drinks in moderation, the latest research puts the cap back on the bottle, warning us of cancer risks associated with alcohol use, and that, in fact, alcohol contributes substantially to premature death from any cause.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows that alcohol accounts for 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. That’s a whopping 20,000-or-so alcohol-attributable deaths annually.

Their estimates showed that each alcohol-related cancer death led to about 18 years of life lost. Do the math: This means that, on average, if you would have lived alcohol-free to, say, 80, your alcohol-related breast cancer death would take your life at closer to age 62.

Still looking forward to your six-pack TGIF celebration at the end of your work week? 

But how much is too much?  As it turns out, Not much!

Back to “common sense” – you will have surmised correctly if you suspected that quantity of drinking is a factor. But you may be surprised to read how little alcohol it takes to nudge you closer to death.

True enough, those who drink more that three drinks a day have the highest risk of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths. But before you offer up a toast to your good fortune as one who drinks less,  you should know that the study also showed that 30 percent of alcohol-attributable cancer deaths happened to those who consumed less than one and a half drinks a day.

So, as it turns out, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was right when, four years ago, they set Dietary Guidelines for Americans advising that, "If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men."

That said, the researchers in this latest study concluded that, while higher consumption increases risk, there is no safe threshold for alcohol and cancer risk.

Just one drink … But in How big of a glass?

Let’s talk about the definition on “one drink” before you swipe your brow with relief as a one-drink-a-day kind of person. 

Researchers define a drink by units, in which one unit is 10 ml of pure alcohol. That’s roughly a single shot glass of stronger liquors, such as vodka or whiskey, or a standard-sized single bottle of beer.  If you’re one of those who fills their red wine glass to the top – which is not how a red wine glass is meant to be used – you’ve likely just consumed the alcoholic equivalent of three drinks already. That particular kind of “just one drink” is enough to put you into the higher cancer risk category.

The science behind the conclusions

Existing research has already identified alcohol consumption as tied to increased incidences cancer. In this new study, the researchers analyzed records of deaths tied to seven different types of cancers known to be associated with alcohol use: cancer of the colon, rectum, oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, and of the female breast.

The scientists used 2009 U.S. mortality data, aligning it to alcohol surveys and per capita alcohol consumption data to determine the extent to which cancer deaths can be attributed to alcohol use. As well, the researchers studied earlier cancer research and even examined alcohol sales figures from 2009 and two large nationwide surveys of alcohol consumption levels in adults.

Is no alcohol the answer?

Whether you choose to use this new information to motivate a cutback vs. a full stop vs. no change in your alcohol consumption is up to you.  One could argue (and many have) that it’s biblical to drink alcohol. Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, recommended drinking a little wine once in a while to help digestion.
But the sum of it remains that, while alcohol – in moderation – may offer a few cardiovascular benefits, alcohol's cancer-causing properties appear to outweigh the benefits.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Spice Up Your Health AND Your Recipes

We’ve scoured the internet to feature a variety of tasty recipes specifically selected to help you add the healing power of medicinal spices and healing herbs to your diet.

Evidence captured from medical research of common spices shows that their intake can have profound health benefits, even lowering cancer risk and suppressing negative tumor activity. To get the scoop on spices with scientifically validated evidence of health benefits, including disease prevention and healing, see our two recent articles The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen and More on the Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen. For their culinary benefits, read on!

Recipes with Healthy Spices and Healing Herbs

Try these recipes, designed to use the healthiest kitchen spices. They’ll not only flavor your food but boost your health by using the medically researched spices and herbs allspice, basil, caraway, cardamom, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, and garlic.

Allspice Recipes 

  • Cincinnati Chili – You haven’t truly experienced Cincinnati unless you’ve had authentic Cincinnati chili served up at one of 170-plus well-known chili chain parlors, such as Skyline Chili and Gold Star Chili. But why wait for that next Cincy trip, when you can make this Authentic Cincinnati Chili recipe in your own kitchen? As a nice health bonus, the recipe uses lots of allspice.
  • Spiced Nut Mix – If you haven’t the time or patience to make the chili recipe above, here’s a snack recipe that can be ready in an hour and uses several spices with outstanding health benefits, including allspice: Spiced nut mix.

Basil Recipes

Caraway Recipes

To get a day full of caraway, follow this plan:

Cardamom Recipes

To spice up your life with Cardamom, let’s go around the globe:

Cayenne Pepper Recipes

These healthy cayenne recipes all come from, and are ideal when you’re in a hurry, since they can all be prepared and cooked in 30 minutes or less!

Cinnamon Recipes

An easy way to boost your cinnamon intake is to add it liberally to your smoothies.  For your kids, it doesn’t get easier than the classic cinnamon toast (for a healthier twist use honey instead of sugar).  For more healthy cinnamon recipes, try these:

Clove Recipes

Cloves are a useful flavor addition to deserts, such as applesauce cake, cookies, desert sauces, and gingerbread.  It’s also popular in side dishes like baked beans, cranberry, and sauerbraten, or in spiced nut recipes.
  • Clove Snaps – similar to the popular ginger snaps cookies, this clove snaps recipe gives a nice crunch but with a couple teaspoons of the health clove spice.
  • Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie – Another clove-full dessert, Bourbon Sweet Potato Pie, looks just like pumpkin pie but uses sweet potatoes as the main ingredient, along with (you guessed it) ground cloves.

Coriander Recipes

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs with Chiles – This recipe uses a full tablespoon of coriander seeds and creates a flavorful side dish with other healthy spices, including cumin and garlic.  Get the recipe here.
  • Stuffed turkey breasts – This main course dish, Boudin Blanc–Stuffed Turkey Breasts with Chestnuts, includes a cornucopia of healthy spices, including coriander seeds, allspice, clove, and more.

Cumin Recipes

  • Roast Chicken – This version of a popular American dish adds a nice Middle East flavor, thanks to its generous use of cumin, as well as allspice: Roast Chicken with Cumin, Paprika and Allspice.
  • Classic Hummus – This traditionally Middle East dip has become popular throughout the U.S. To make it fresh, try this classic hummus recipe, which not only uses lots of cumin, but also garlic.
Also see the Authentic Cincinnati Chili recipe in the allspice section above – it uses lots of cumin too!

Garlic Recipes

Garlic is easy to add to just about any kind of dish. Some particularly healthy ways to boost your garlic:

Spice up our lives!

Do you have recommendations or experience on recipes that use these medicinally healthy spices and herbs? Don’t keep that juicy gossip to yourselves – share here with your fellow readers by using the comments field below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Genetic Testing for Cancer

What is genetic testing?

Genetic testing, also known as gene testing, is a simple blood test that looks for mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, which help prevent cancer.

What is a BRCA mutation? Why is it important?

The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are known as tumor suppressors.  These particular genes help prevent cancer by producing specific proteins.  When there is a mutation with one, or both, of these genes, the likelihood of an individual developing cancer increases, according to cancer researchers.

Who should consider genetic testing?

Based on a checklist of questions about your family’s history of cancer, your doctor can help you determine if genetic counseling, and possibly genetic testing, is appropriate.

Risk factors include:

A relative diagnosed with cancer at or before the age of 50
A relative with two primary cancers, such as your mother being diagnosed with cancer in each breast
A relative with two different, but genetically related, cancers, i.e. your aunt being diagnosed with both breast and ovarian cancers
Two or more cases of the same cancer in close relatives
A number of related cancers on the same side of the family
A relative with a rare form of cancer, such as male breast cancer
A known cancer gene mutation on either side of the family

Does testing apply to all types of cancer?

Yes, although mutations in the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes are typically linked to breast and ovarian cancer, those who inherit these genes are at greater risk of developing other types of cancers, too.

How much does the test cost? Is it covered by insurance?

Genetic testing can cost several hundred to several thousands of dollars. Some insurance companies will cover the cost of the test; other companies do not. Be sure to check with your insurance company regarding coverage prior to being tested.

How is gene testing helping with a cure for cancer?

From proactive measures, such as more frequent screenings, to more extreme measures, such as a prophylactic double mastectomy, genetic testing is helping individuals find out about their possibility of developing cancer earlier. Being aware of genetic links regarding cancer allows individuals to research options and make informed choices.

What else should you know?

Only approximately 20 percent of individuals with gene mutations develop breast cancer.
Lifestyle choices continue to play a crucial role in developing the disease.
According to Otis Brawley, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, most people have one-two family members with cancer, but only 5-10 percent of cancers are caused by an inherited gene defect.

Where can you learn more?

Your doctor. Be sure to mention any family history or cancer and your concerns at your next visit.

The National Society of Genetic Counselors is an organization with trained professionals who specifically work with those at risk of developing cancer due to high genetic factors.  These professionals assist individuals with the decision to have genetic testing, consider options once they receive results and make appropriate choices about what to do next based on their personal needs.

Visit the American Cancer Society,, for information and updates regarding cancer diagnosis, testing and treatment options.

Be Wize & Be Healthy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Recipes for a Raw Food Diet

Now that you have learned about the benefits of raw food dieting, and read how to get started with a raw food lifestyle let’s get down to business in the kitchen with some rousing raw food recipes to whet your appetite.   We’ll begin with the most basic of recipes, and then include some surprisingly creative raw food recipes that will amaze your taste buds and please the whole family.  But before we get started with the recipes, we should take a brief moment to look at…

Raw food risks and precautions

Some of the risks of going on a raw food diet include:
  • Food poisoning from either consuming foods raw or undercooked that should not be a part of a standard raw food diet, such as fish or meat or from not properly cleaning, preparing, or storing the raw food ingredients
  • Potential growth problems for for anyone, but particularly infants and children, on an improperly administered raw food diet
  • Consuming foods that are bad for you if eaten raw, such as beans and lentils. That said, an extremely healthy way to prepare lentils on a raw food diet is to sprout them.
While raw fruits and vegetables generally provide the highest level of nutrition, you should be aware that there are some foods whose ingredients, or a specific ingredient, are more bioavailable when cooked.  For example, while ripe raw tomatoes are loaded with nutritional value, the lycopene in tomatoes – effective in fighting certain types of cancer – is more easily absorbed into the body when the tomato has been processed into a tomato sauce with olive oil.  Likewise, raw kale is a powerhouse of vitamin and mineral goodness. But, as this article explains, you boost the effectiveness of kale’s fiber-related components when you steam it.

Raw food recipes

Let’s not forget that the basics of raw food dieting are ridiculously easy – simply add daily uncooked fruits or vegetables to your meals.  There are many fun and tasty raw food recipes, available in books or online. But don’t let food preparation knowhow and effort overwhelm you from adding raw food to your diet. For example:
  • Eat a banana, an apple, and a handful or two of raw nuts for breakfast.  The fruit starts up your digestive juices and fortifies your immune system with antioxidants. The apple gives you some valuable roughage.  And the nuts provide protein, which will help you feel full.
  • Make sure your lunch includes a salad with fresh, organic greens.
  • For dinner, use raw veggies for the side dish instead of cooked.  Good and easy choices include celery sticks, carrot sticks, or sweet peppers. 
  • While alcohol is generally considered taboo on a raw food diet, if you cannot bear the thought of going without alcoholic beverages, then at least choose wine.  Unlike beer or or any hard liquors that go through the heat of distillation, wine is not heated in the processing.

If you can achieve even just a 50 percent raw diet, you will begin to experience the many health benefits it offers. When you want to add variety, a selection of raw food recipe websites and raw food recipe books can add zest to your diet, keeping it interesting and balancing out your vitamin and mineral intake.  Here's just a tiny sample of delicious recipes for a raw food diet:
Do these not look like an appetizing start to your raw food diet?  You'll find thousands of delicious raw food recipes online, with some particularly good ones at Raw Food Home Recipes, We Like It Raw recipes, Gone Raw Recipes and, if you want raw juicing recipes, join the Let's Get Juiced!! Facebook group.  Between those four sites alone, you will have several hundred recipes worth trying and sharing.

If you have a favorite raw food recipe, share!  Please submit it, or the link to it, using the comments below.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Vestibular System

According to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 69 million Americans have experienced a form of vestibular dysfunction, also known as a balance disorder.  While these numbers may be alarming, by learning more about the delicate vestibular system, you can help to ensure the health of your family members.

What is the vestibular system and how does it work?

The vestibular system consists of parts of the inner ear and parts of the brain that process information related to balance and eye movements. Balance is maintained in the body by input from three systems: vision; touch sensors in the feet, trunk, and spine; and the inner ear. When the vestibular system malfunctions, balance issues such as dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties can occur.

What causes vestibular disorders?

Genetic influences
Environmental conditions
Unknown factors

What are common signs of a balance disorder?

Vertigo and/or dizziness
Imbalance or disorientation
Visual disturbances
Hearing changes
Psychological and/or cognitive changes

Experts warn that dizziness alone may be a symptom of another condition or disorder. Vestibular disorders often present as more than one symptom. As always, consult with your healthcare provider if you or a family member experiences any of these symptoms.

What are the most common vestibular disorders?

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) – a condition resulting from loose debris in the inner ear. BBPV can be caused by a head injury, or it can be part of the natural aging process.
Meniere’s disease – Also called primary endolymphatic hydrops, this condition involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear. It is a disorder that progressively gets worse.
Labyrinthitis/vestibular neuritis – conditions that are caused by a viral infection, which can result in damage to hearing and the functioning of the vestibular system.
Secondary endolymphatic hydrops – a condition that involves abnormalities in one of the fluids of the inner ear.
Perilymph fistula – a tear or defect in the small, thin membranes that separate the middle ear from the fluid-filled inner ear. This condition is usually caused by injury.

Other vestibular conditions:

Vestibular migraine (MAV): characterized by headache and may include dizziness, vertigo, and/or imbalance, sensitivity to light and sound.
Complications from autoimmune disorders.
Complications from allergies.

Is there a difference between dizziness, vertigo, and equilibrium difficulties?

There is.

Dizziness is lightheadedness, faintness, and unsteadiness.
Vertigo differs from dizziness because it is characterized by a spinning or sensation with the perception of movement, either of an individual or surrounding objects.
Equilibrium difficulty, often called disequilibrium, consists of unsteadiness, imbalance, and/or loss of equilibrium.

Who can be affected by vestibular disorders?

Balance disorders can occur at any age.

Are there special concerns for children regarding balance disorders?

Yes. Specifically, the proper development and function of the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) is a concern in children. If impaired, the result may be difficulty in school as well as typical activities such as bike riding and swimming.

What are treatment options?

In some cases, a physician may prescribe medication to help alleviate the symptoms of a vestibular disorder. Remember to use your Familywize Discount Prescription Drug Card when purchasing medication at your pharmacy to receive applicable discounts.  Another treatment option called vestibular therapy, which is a type of physical therapy, may also be used for vestibular rehabilitation.

Want to learn more about balance disorders?

Visit,, or

Be Wize & Be Healthy