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Reset Your Circadian Clock--Outdoors

Sick of going to sleep late and waking up tired? You need a couple of days camping!

Modern lifestyles tend to disrupt biological night by altering normal levels of melatonin. Researchers at the University of Colorado have found after a weekend camping trip (no flashlights, cell phones, or artificial light sources) in the mountains participant's circadian clocks shifted so melatonin levels rose earlier and they slept longer. Controls who stayed home shifted even later and woke up more groggy.

PositiveTip: Having a hard time going to sleep early? Maybe a weekend camping trip in the wilderness is what the doctor ordered!

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Does Burnt Toast Cause Cancer?

The jury is still out on acrylamide and cancer.

When starchy foods are cooked to a dark brown, acrylamide is formed. Animal studies suggest there might be a link between acrylamide and cancer risk, but a large, 10 country study across Europe found no significant evidence in humans (Watch Dr. Mitrou discuss this study.) While the jury is still out, you could follow the Food Standards Agency suggestion to lower exposure by aiming for golden yellow when baking, toasting or roasting bread, potatoes or parsnips.

PositiveTip: Strong evidence points to not smoking, avoiding alcohol, physical activity and a healthy weight as significant ways to reduce cancer risk.

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Did Your State Make the Grade?

New companies employ the same old dirty tricks to promote tobacco.

Tobacco kills 400,000 Americans every year. Another 16 million are living with tobacco-caused diseases. The American Lung Association has released its 15th annual State of Tobacco Control report. View the Federal Government grades here. Find out how your state is doing

PositiveTip: Let your state and national representative know you want them to do more to control cigarettes and other tobacco products.

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Homeopathic Teething Gel Warning

Worrisome amounts of belladonna found in some homeopathic teething products.

Laboratory analysis carried out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found belladonna (deadly nightshade) "far exceeding" what was stated in Hyland's Homeopathic Teething Gels label. Reports indicated more than 400 babies have been sickened and 10 have died in connection with this problem. Hyland has so far refused to recall these products, though requested to do so by the FDA.

PositiveTip: Seek medical help immediately if your child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and muscle weakness after using homeopathic teething products.

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Americans' Still in Love with SSBs

U.S. population struggling to kick the sugar-sweetened beverage habit.

The National Center for Health Statistics released consumption data (2011-2014) showing almost one-half of U.S. adults drink at least one sugar-sweetened beverage every day. Young adults have the highest average intake compared to older adults. Learn more and view the startling statistics by clicking on this link.

PositiveTip: The healthiest drink for most people is plain tap water--it has no  sugar, no calories, and many benefits!

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REM Sleep Prunes Unneeded Connections

Too little REM sleep decreases the ability to remember information.

Researchers have discovered that during REM sleep some of the structures neurons (dendritic spines) use to make connections are actually pruned. Others are strengthened. These findings underscore the role REM sleep plays in enhancing memory of newly learned information. During this phase of sleep the brain actually selects which spines to eliminate and which to keep, thus enhancing memories.

PositiveTip: Sleep on a regular schedule, 7-8 hours per night to maximize the benefits of REM sleep.

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Jet Lag and MLB Performance

Direction of travel makes a difference in performance.

You may have heard that teams traveling eastward are at a greater disadvantage than those traveling westward. A 20 year study of major league baseball (MLB) found teams were 3.5% less likely to win when they traveled eastward across at least two time zones. No significant differences were found when traveling westward. After multivariate analysis, researchers found the failure of the circadian clock to synchronize with the light-dark cycles (circadian misalignment) was the problem, not general travel weariness.

PositiveTip: Try traveling a day or two earlier than your appointments--especially if you must go east.

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FDA Proposes to Limit NNN in Smokeless Tobacco

These rule changes could save thousands of lives.

The potent carcinogen N-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) is a tobacco-specific compound found widely in smokeless tobacco products like snuff and chewing tobacco--causing significantly higher oral cancer risks for users. The proposed new rules will require that NNNs not exceed 1 microgram/g of tobacco (dry weight) and that packaging include a manufacturing code, expiration date, and storage instructions. There is a 75-day period for public comment after formal publication.

PositiveTip: Support these rule changes while recognizing the best way to avoid NNN exposure is to not use these tobacco products.

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Use of Fake Sugar Growing

Use of artificial sweeteners skyrocketing in the U.S.

A cross-sectional study using U.S. NHANES data from 2009-2012 found kids consumption of artificial sweeteners--aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, and others--has skyrocketed. In 1999 less than 9% of children consumed low-calorie sweeteners (LCSs). By 2012 that number had grown to 25%, an almost 200% increase. These LCSs are increasing in use among adults as well. Evidence is accumulating that these sweeteners may pose some health risks, but more research is needed.

PositiveTip: Drink water instead of soda, and use a little fresh fruit to sweeten your yogurt.