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Choose Non-cow’s Milk Carefully for Kids

Not all non-dairy milk substitutes are fortified with Vitamin D.

A cross-sectional study of 2,800 Canadian children aged 1-6 found children exclusively using milk substitutes (i.e., soy, almond, rice) were more than twice as likely to be deficient in vitamin D than those drinking cow’s milk. This deficiency can lead to varying levels of bone weakness thus affecting children’s development. Vitamin D fortification is mandatory in cow’s milk, but is voluntary for milk substitutes.

PositiveTip: Read labels and purchase only milk substitutes fortified with vitamin D as well as get adequate exposure to sunlight.

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Beware: Home Lunches May Not be Healthy

Healthy home-packed lunches require careful, intelligent planning.

A commonly held assumption is that lunches made at home are usually more healthy than school lunches. Researchers analyzed lunches brought to school by elementary and middle school students in Houston and found the home-packed lunches contained significantly more sodium, less vegetables and less dairy than the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) allows. Most home lunches included a sweetened drink, chips, and desserts which are not allowed by the NSLP.

PositiveTip: When making a lunch, be sure it is healthy and tasty, not just tasty!

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Vaccines Work: Here is How They Do

Education is the process of stating and restating reality.

Vaccination facts and benefits are widely available and fully substantiated by strong evidence-based research. Even though the "anti-vaccination" crowd seems to be growing--certainly measles and whooping cough are making a resurgence--here is another attempt at factual education. Popular Science cartoonist Maki Naro superbly distils fact from fiction.

PositiveTip: For the best outcomes base your decisions firmly on fact.

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Simple Ways to Improve Osteoarthritis

Exercise and physiotherapy enhance typical osteoarthritis care.

New Zealand researchers studied 206 patients suffering from osteoarthritis, a joint disease the leads to pain, swelling and reduced joint function. All patients received standard medical care, but some exercised regularly, some received physiotherapy treatments and others received combined exercise and physiotherapy treatments. After 2 years, both the exercise group and the physiotherapy group had similar significant improvements in pain and joint function. Combined therapy trended positively but wasn’t statistically significant.

PositiveTip: Make exercise your first choice to help alleviate osteoarthritis pain, it’s cost-effective and brings a host of other health benefits.


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Value of Low-Glycemic Diets Questioned

The glycemic index in the context of a healthy diet may not be as important as thought.

Researchers studied 160 overweight adults randomized to four different diets (low-glycemic index (GI), low-carbohydrate; low-GI, high-carb; high-GI, low-carb; and high-GI, high-carb) for 5 weeks. Each diet was low in saturated fat and dairy products, and included lots of fruits and vegetables. Analysis of the data did not find any major benefit to the low-GI diets. Insulin sensitivity, systolic BP, LDL and HDL cholesterol levels remained the same in all groups. 

PositiveTip: An overall healthy lifestyle and dietary pattern is probably the most important factor in preventing cardiovascular disease.

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Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Vision makes exercise easier!

Do you struggle to keep the unwanted pounds off more than some of your friends? Emily Balcetis, a social psychologist discusses some fascinating research that found when it comes to fitness, people literally see the world differently from others. People who were unfit saw the same goal as more difficult compared to those who were fit. When they kept their eyes on the finish line they saw the goal closer, moved faster, and enjoyed it more!

PositiveTip: Follow Paul's counsel in Philippians 3:13-14: "this one thing I do...I press toward the mark." It will help!

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Boost Learning Through Reflection

Quietly reflecting on newly learned information strengthens memories.

Neuroscience and psychology researchers asked study participants to complete two memory tasks. Between tasks, they could rest and think about whatever they wanted. Brain scans showed those who mentally reviewed what they’d learned previously did better on the second task, specifically of similar content. Researchers hypothesize that the reflection time strengthened the new memories and primed the brain to add to its new memories.

PositiveTip: Take a few minutes each day to reflect on new experiences or knowledge; you'll enhance your memory and learning capacity.

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Processed Foods Carry a Penalty

Whole foods burn 50% more calories than processed foods.

Do processed "diet" foods leave you with lingering hunger and a desire to nibble on other foods, thus leading you to consume more calories than if you had prepared a wholesome meal? Researchers have found we burn 50% more calories metabolizing whole foods (WF) than comparable processed food (PF) meals with the same number of calories. Diets with a high percentage of PFs result in increased energy assimilation and may contribute to obesity.

PositiveTip: Eat wholesome foods which are lower in calories and burn more in metabolism.

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We are Burning Fewer Calories While Working

Occupation-related energy expenditure has dropped more than 100 kcal daily over last 50 years.

Decreased energy expenditure is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. Although leisure time physical activity has increased, recent data indicates our jobs are less physically demanding. Researchers analyzed occupational physical activity over the past 5 decades and found daily energy expenditure dropped more than 100 calories per day. This decrease accounts for a significant portion of the increase in U.S. body weight.

PositiveTip: Increase your leisure time physical activity to compensate for these occupational-related losses. 

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The Function of HDL May Be the Key

How much cholesterol can your HDL remove from cells?

We know HDL is the good cholesterol. However, just increasing HDL levels may not lower risk. New evidence suggests "cholesterol efflux"--the ability of the HDL to remove cholesterol from cells may be the key. Researchers followed 2400 people without cardiovascular disease for 9 years. Those with the highest cholesterol efflux, independent of other risks, saw a 67% reduction in cardiovascular risk compared to those with the lowest risk.

PositiveTip: Eat a careful, wholesome diet and get daily physical activity to minimize your risk of heart disease.