New research finds that combining foods such as oats, soy, nuts, and plant sterol can dramatically lower cholesterol.

Need to lower your cholesterol? Try thumbing through the "portfolio diet."

New research reveals that the diet, which combines soy, nuts, plant sterols, and fiber, may work better than a traditional low-fat diet.

The University of Canada found that people with high cholesterol who followed the portfolio diet lowered their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels by about 13 percent after six months on the diet, according to a recent study.

That is compared with a 3 percent LDL reduction among those who followed a diet low in saturated fat. The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The portfolio diet focuses on four kinds of food groups:

• Substitute soy-based foods for meat and dairy, such as soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy milk and soy dairy substitutes.

• Eat a lot of sticky fiber, such as adding a natural psyllium supplement to your diet and eating oats, barley and vegetables such as eggplant and okra.

• Replace butter and margarine with plant sterol-enriched margarine. US brands include Benecol and Take Control and brands in other countries are Becel and Flora pro-activ. Plant sterols are also available in capsule form.

• Eat a handful of nuts every day.

The new study is the latest in a series of research studies by Dr. David Jenkins from the University of Toronto. Prior research from his lab revealed that following the portfolio diet is almost as effective as taking a statin drug.

"If we let people know that they can control their own cholesterol levels themselves, we're putting some of the responsibility but also the power back into the hands of ordinary citizens," Jenkins told health news site WebMD.

With AFP Relaxnews
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The FDA has approved Botox for overactive bladder in some patients.

Botox can cause more than just your wrinkles to freeze -- it can help an overactive bladder.

The face-freezing pharmaceutical injection was given the nod by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury who suffer from urinary incontinence and must manage it with medication or a catheter.

"Urinary incontinence associated with neurologic conditions can be difficult to manage," said George Benson, deputy director of FDA's division of Reproductive and Urologic Products.

"Botox offers another treatment option for these patients."

The new method allows a physician to inject Botox into a patient's bladder, where it relaxes the muscles and allows more urine to be stored.

Clinical studies showed such injections could decrease episodes of urinary incontinence for a period of nine months.

Botox, which is marketed by the California-based Allergan, is also approved for treatment of chronic migraines, severe underarm sweating, eyelid twitching and certain kinds of muscle stiffness, the FDA said.

The drug is made from a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. In other forms it can cause a deadly type of food poisoning called botulism, according to the National Institutes of Health.
With AFP Relaxnews
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A breakthrough study shows that MDMA, the chemical in ecstasy, could be the future of cancer treatment.

Scientists are saying that ecstasy-an illegal drug largely connected with hardcore clubgoers-can actually treat several forms of cancer.

However, a market-ready medication doctors can prescribe to patients may take another ten years to develop, researchers told BBC Radio.

"This is an exciting next step," said Professor John Gordon, lead author of a groundbreaking study on the topic, during a radio interview.

"Where we've tested these new compounds, we can wipe out 100% of the cancer cells in some cases."

Birmingham University researchers first discovered the unlikely link between the illegal substance and a viable therapy for common blood cancers like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma in 2006. Additional research produced an atomically tweaked version of ecstasy's active compound, MDMA, which bolsters the drug's cancer-fighting power 100-fold in test tubes.

The original 2006 study found a fatally large dose of MDMA would be needed to make a dent in the disease. But the Birmingham team, toiling for five years along with scientists from The University of Western Australia, found a way to maximize MDMA's cancer-fighting properties, while minimizing its toxic effect on the brain.

This is how it works: The drug attaches itself to the fat in diseased cells, weakening the membrane and making them "soapy."

The cancer cells are then essentially washed away, Gordon said.

The news is "genuinely exciting," said Dr. David Grant, director of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Research charity.

"Further work is required but this research is a significant step forward in developing a potential new cancer drug," he said.
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New research suggests that confidence is key to sticking to your workouts.

Having trouble sticking with an exercise routine? Don't blame your willpower.

New research suggests that whether or not you can overcome obstacles in your workout regime could boil down to confidence.

"Almost 50 percent of people who begin an exercise program drop out in the first six months," said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Edward McAuley, who led the research. His assumption? A lack of a quality he refers to as "self-efficacy," or "situation-specific self-confidence."

"People who are more efficacious tend to approach more challenging tasks, work harder, and stick with it even in the face of early failures," adds McAuley in a statement on August 16.

If you fall a little short in self-efficacy, all is not lost, said the researchers.

Prior research has shown that you can boost confidence to achieve your goals by remembering your previous successes, observing others accomplishing something you find daunting, and enlisting support from your friends and family. "Every step toward your goal will further increase your confidence," McAuley said.

In the study, the researchers conducted a battery of cognitive tests on 177 men and women in their 60s and early 70s, and also asked them whether and how often they set goals for themselves, monitored their own progress, managed their time, and engaged in other "self-regulatory" behaviors, such as working in the yard rather than watching TV.

Participants were then randomly assigned to either a walking program or a stretching, toning, and balance program that met three times a week for a year. Their self-efficacy was assessed after three weeks in the program.

Those who stuck to their program were the ones who were better able to multitask and better control their undesirable behaviors, the researchers found.

With AFP Relaxnews
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The trim princess-to-be is prompting media cries that she's lost too much weight for her royal wedding and could be heading down Princess Diana's dangerous path.

The British press dubbed Kate Middleton "Waity Katy" after her courtship with Prince William stretched for years without an engagement – but lately the tabloids are more focused on Katy's weight.

Middleton has always had a lithe, athletic build, but the trim princess-to-be has looked even more slender lately – prompting media cries that she's lost too much weight for her royal wedding and speculation that she may fall prey to the same web of pressures and pain that befell the late Princess Diana.

The prince's longtime love has been spotted working out at Di's old gym and she's rumored to be using a risky no-carb diet to drop pounds – arousing fears she may fall into the same obsessive quest for thinness and perfection that caused Diana so much misery.

But those who know the royal family well call the reports rubbish and say Middleton's emotional state couldn't be more different from the late Diana.

"The British press has been relentless in its attempt to portray Kate Middleton as a fragile young woman who is already falling prey to an eating disorder. It's absurd," said Christopher Andersen, author of "William and Kate: A Love Story" and the bestselling "The Day Diana Died."

The Princess brides: Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981 and Kate Middleton and Prince William in 2010. (Getty)

"Kate looks no thinner to me at all. She's always been a health and exercise fanatic, but not in an unhealthy way," he said.

According to royal lore, Diana became bulimic after Prince Charles hurt her feelings by calling her "chubby."

"Kate is not chubby at all, but if she was, William would never hurt her feelings in that manner," said Andersen. "Charles could be thoughtless, even cruel, in a way Williams never could."

Another difference is the marriages themselves.

There is no "other woman" lurking in the wings to mar Kate and William's special day. One of the reasons Diana became so thin and insecure at the time of her wedding was because she knew her husband-to-be was in love with his now-wife Camilla Parker Bowles.

"Diana was l9 when she married a man she already knew was in love with someone else," Andersen said. "She was driven over the edge by a royal family that treated her pretty shabbily."

Kate Middleton is 10 years older than Diana was at the time of her engagement and in a much better place, emotionally, because she's marrying a guy who seems completely devoted to herm said Andersen.

Another reason why Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage bombed was there considerable age gap, said Claudia Joseph, the author of "Kate: The Making of a Princess."

William's parents were 12 years apart in age while the prince and Kate are the same age.

"I think she already has a distinct advantage over Diana. She is older and wiser and will conduct her role in a more dignified and conscientious manner," Joseph said. "Kate has been dating William for nearly eight years and has had ample opportunity to learn from him how to cope with the role."

Joseph also shrugged off rumors that Kate is heading down a path to weight obsession and eating disorders.

"Certainly Kate has lost weight since she became engaged, but many brides drop pounds in the runup to their wedding," she said. "It does not mean she has a problem."
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The specialist: Dr. Dan Iosifescu on treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder.

As director of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program and associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Dan V. Iosifescu is a psychiatrist who specializes in treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder. His research looks for novel treatments and understanding the brain mechanisms of these severe conditions.

Who's at risk

Major depression and bipolar disorder are two of the most common disorders seen by psychiatrists.

"Depression affects between 10% and 15% of the population," says Iosifescu. "Bipolar disorder is less frequent, but still affects 2% to 4% of Americans at some point during their lifetime."

A subset of patients who do not improve after multiple treatments is termed "treatment resistant."

These mood disorders can appear similar, and depressive episodes are indistinguishable in bipolar disorder and major depression. "Depressive episodes are characterized by long periods of severe sadness and a lack of interest in doing things" says Iosifescu. "In bipolar disorder, patients experience episodes of depression alternating with episodes of extreme mood elevation called mania or hypomania, which often lead to dangerous behaviors."

Genetics and traumatic life events are the two primary risk factors for depression and bipolar disorder, which both have fairly early ages of onset.

"While bipolar typically begins early in life (50% of patients have their first episode by age 18), depression has a wider range of first onset. However, the majority of patients experience their first episode before age 30," says Iosifescu.

While some patients might have only one or two depressed or manic episodes during their lifetime and can maintain a high level of functioning, patients with treatment-resistant disorder have long, chronic episodes or a series of multiple recurrences and can be highly impaired.

Signs and symptoms

Both depression and bipolar disorder are characterized by multiple psychological and physical symptoms.

"Besides sadness and lack of interest, symptoms of depression include disrupted sleep, low self-esteem, guilt, low energy and fatigue, poor concentration and significant changes in appetite," says Iosifescu. "Importantly, some patients experience suicidal thoughts, and suicide is a cause of mortality in both depression and bipolar disorder."

While most patients can recognize their periods of depression, they are less able to recognize as abnormal the mood elevation (hypomania and mania) of bipolar disorder. "The periods of mania — an abnormally excited, hyper mood — can feel like positive energy to the patient, even as they are perceived as abnormal by those around the patient, and it impairs significantly the patients' ability to function," says Iosifescu.

"In this state, people tend to have excessive involvement in pleasurable activities, disregarding risks or potential negative consequences."

Mania is also associated with high irritability, distractedness, high self-esteem, decreased sleep without fatigue, high levels of activity and pressured speech (very rapid speech).

"Sometimes bipolar disorder is not recognized, as the patient does not remember manic episodes as abnormal. However, the most significant challenge for treatment-resistant patients is finding a treatment that does work, even if it's not standard," says Iosifescu. "A series of novel treatments currently researched, some of them in advanced development, could prove to be lifesaving for these patients."

Traditional treatment

The standard trifecta of treatment options are medications, psychotherapies (counseling or talking therapy) and somatic treatments like electric-shock therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation.

"We have a good number of FDA-approved drugs for depression and a smaller number for bipolar disorder," says Iosifescu. "The problem is that a lot of these medications belong to the same families of chemicals and work in relatively similar ways. So while they're incredibly helpful for many people, they are ineffective for a minority of our patients."

Psychotherapies seek to improve the patient's sense of well-being and provide tools for overcoming problems.

"For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on the abnormal thinking patterns that patients develop and helps them recognize and correct their distorted perceptions," says Iosifescu.

Somatic therapies apply energy directly to the brain to cause positive changes in depression and mood.

"Along with electro-convulsive therapy, commonly known as electric shock therapy, more modern treatments include transcranial magnetic stimulation, a magnetic field that stimulates currents in the brain, and vagus nerve stimulation, which modulates electric signals in the brain," says Iosifescu. "While electric shock therapy tends to be very effective, it has significant side effects. Transcranial magnetic stimulation and vagus nerve stimulation have limited efficacy."

Research breakthroughs

Doctors are seeking new therapies to help patients who have proven resistant to treatment.
"One very important novel treatment is ketamine, a medication currently used for anesthesia," says Iosifescu. "Recent studies, including several from our group at Mount Sinai, showed that ketamine works reliably and much faster than other antidepressants, with significant improvement occurring after only a few days even in treatment-resistant patients."

The success of ketamine points to a potential whole new family of drugs for treating depression, with activity on glutamate brain receptors, in contrast to current antidepressants, which produce their effects via serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine.

Questions for your doctor

If you're diagnosed and undergoing a new treatment regimen, ask: "How soon can I expect improvement?" "If it's not working after eight weeks, it's time to take another approach," says Iosifescu.

Another key question is, "How will we know that the treatment is working?"

Not all depression symptoms improve at the same pace. "We have a wide enough variety of treatments that even after you've tried a few, we can find something else that works on very different mechanisms to help you manage these disorders and improve your quality of life," says Iosifescu.
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While 75 percent of babies start out being breast-fed, just over 1 of 10 are breast-fed exclusively for six months.

America's chief doctor called on Americans to support breast-feeding on Thursday and outlined guidelines for mothers and communities to support that most natural nutrition system.

Studies have shown numerous benefits for babies, mothers and overall healthcare when newborns are breast-fed for the recommended minimum of six months.

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin issued a report on Thursday advocating mothers breast-feed their children.

"Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breast-feed," Benjamin said in a statement accompanying the report.

"They shouldn't have to go it alone. Whether you're a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breast-feed."

Breast-feeding develops immunity in babies and protects them from illnesses like diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia, according to the report.

Some studies have linked breast-feeding to higher IQs.

Despite the reported benefits of breast-feeding, some women find that with busy schedules, social stigma, and lack of know-how, consistent breast-feeding is difficult to manage.

Although 75 percent of babies start out being breast-fed, just over 1 of 10 are breast-fed exclusively for six months.

The Surgeon General's call seeks to combat those problems by expanding and improving community programs that provide support and peer counseling, and ensuring employers and health care centers to provide similar support.

The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the surgeon general's campaign.

"The Call to Action provides a road map for creating a clear path for all mothers to breast-feed as long as they can and wish to do so," the children's healthcare organization said in a statement.
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Dentist Louis Siegelman (with assistant Sara Helms) helped Julie Cunningham (c.) overcome fears.

Three words that strike terror when they come from a dentist's mouth.

Julie Cunningham, CUNY Graduate Center's chief librarian, knew the dreaded feeling all too well. It was so paralyzing, she simply stopped going to the dentist for 15 years — and only for emergencies in the 20 years before that.

At 63, her teeth were breaking, her gums were inflamed. No matter how much she brushed, she worried about her breath.

Last year, Cunningham finally got herself into the chair, the gentle chair of Dr. Louis Siegelman, who specializes in dental phobia and dental anesthesia.

"He's changed my life," said Cunningham, who in the last year accomplished the major dental work she had been avoiding for years: A new bridge, a crown, wisdom teeth pulled and a deep cleaning and implants.

"My family was so thrilled I finally went," said Cunningham, who needed sedation the first several visits and is now able to be awake for routine dental work. "He is someone who understood, who appreciated I took the first step to overcome this fear."

Call him the Dr. Phil of fillings.

Siegelman truly feels your pain. Like a warm and wise therapist, he has helped thousands of New Yorkers overcome their fears and restore their health and self-confidence.

"When people call me on the telephone for the first time, I know they are suffering," said Siegelman, sitting in his W. 57th St. office. "It's like they are out there shivering in the cold. It's rewarding to be able to lift their burden."

Siegelman's manner and practice differ profoundly from the brutal dentists most everyone remembers from childhood. (Think "Little Shop of Horrors.")

The first visit, for example, is the hour he spends talking with a patient on the telephone. He listens carefully, asks questions about what has kept them from coming and tries to tame their terror.

Next is an office visit, where he explains the choices a patient has to ease pain and fear — from numbing the treatment area, to an oral medication to relieve anxiety, to general anesthesia where you are put to sleep and feel nothing.

Dr. Louis Siegelman's specialty is people who are terrified of the dentist and need to be sedated to get through a procedure. (Roca/News)

"People feel this sense of shame that this part of their body which is so personal is in a terrible state," said Siegelman. "And the more put-together they are in the rest of their lives, the more of a conflict it is for them.

"They need to know it's safe to come in — and that everyone here in the office understands and they won't be criticized," he added. "I want them to understand their fear is a normal fear, they are not unusual or crazy. We all have this mechanism to want to flee something that frightens us."

The staff — a team of receptionists, dental assistants and a hygienist — have all been trained to work with apprehensive patients.

Even the recorded message a person hears when the office is closed, or when someone is put on hold, is aimed at allaying the angst.

Melissa McEnerney, the hygienist who has worked with Siegelman for 10 years, said she reminds her patients two months before their scheduled appointments, two weeks before, and then again two days before. And still she gets cancellations.

"I know their patterns," said McEnerney. "The sixth time is the charm. If I didn't have the reminders, it would be another 15 to 20 years before I would see them again," she said.

According to the American Dental Association, 30% of Americans do not regularly go to a dentist. While many people cite cost as the reason, a third of Americans who have dental insurance don't go, sometimes for years.

"One-third to one-half of people have a fear of going to the dentist, but they get there," said Dr. Mark Wolff, professor and chairman of the NYU College of Dentistry. "For about 10% of the people, the fear is so bad they don't go for years."

Wolff said the profession needs more dentists like Siegelman, who combine certified skill in dental anesthesia with an excellent chairside manner.

"There are very few dentists whose practice is devoted to these patients," he said. "It's a very real and needed service. He doesn't just put people in a chair and knock them out. He treats their anxieties as well."

As in Cunningham's case, dental phobias are often rooted in bad experiences as a child. Siegelman says there is often some kind of trauma or abuse, something that may not even be related to dentistry. He once had a former prisoner or war who flew out of the chair as soon as he heard a loud noise from the street outside.

Others are upset by the high-pitched sound of the drill, or feel they can't breathe when the dentist has his hands and equipment in their mouths. One patient, who also suffered from a fear of claustrophobia, needed three staffers to walk her up the eight flights of stairs to his office.

Jennifer Rosenblum, 34, said she can't remember not being petrified of going to the dentist. Before Siegelman, she had never had a teeth cleaning in her life. Not in New York or in France, from where she moved five years ago.

"Unfortunately I waited until the pain felt like my head was going to explode," said the advertising designer. "It's so strange that when it comes to the dentist I completely transform myself from a mature woman to a little girl."

A few weeks ago, she had a root canal and crown done under sedation. "In three hours I was out. It was perfect. I hope I won't wait so long the next time. I'm so happy to have met him.

"I'm facing my fears because I couldn't end the pain myself," she added. "If I could, I would never go to the dentist."

Caroline Hightower, a Manhattan consultant, is glad she found Siegelman after lousy experiences with dentists.

On a recent visit, she reclined calmly in his chair for nearly an hour as he worked on her implants.

"He is gentle and efficient," said Hightower. "I've come to truly like him, which is very strange to feel about a dentist."

The son of parents who worked in the Garment District, Siegelman grew up in Bayside, Queens, the youngest of three children. His sunny and sensitive disposition were on display early in life, according to his 89-year-old mom, Elaine, who still lives in Queens.

"The dentist is the last place you want to go," said Elaine Siegelman. She knows about making people comfortable at the dentist; she recently retired from the front office of another dentist after 20 years there.

Asked why he chose this work, given the amount of patience and energy needed to help people in emotional distress, Siegelman smilingly made his own admission. "I have analyzed that in myself," he said. "I like to be needed."


Here are three things you can do to ease your dental anxiety — and recognize when it's a problem.

- If just thinking of going to the dentist makes your heart pound, causes sleepless nights or intrusive thoughts, or you go only when you have an emergency, be open and honest with yourself and the dentist about your fears and your past experiences.

- Do your homework when looking for a competent and caring dentist. Ask about his or her training, how many years of experience, the number of cases performed with anesthesia, and the training and readiness of the support team.

- Home care is crucial for keeping your teeth and mouth healthy. Avoiding acidic and sugary beverages and foods, as well as foods that stick to your teeth. Brush and floss daily.

The longer you put off going to the dentist, the worse the decay and chances of more serious health problems.
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About 16% of men are able to ejaculate but feel none of the pleasure of orgasm.

For nearly a fifth of men, sex is just terrible.

About 16% of men are able to ejaculate but feel none of the pleasure of orgasm, according to research presented at the European Society for Sexual Medicine.

In fact, when it comes to sexual dysfunction, it's not the erection or the ejaculation that's the problem for many men -- it's feeling anything at all.

So are these men, well, faking their orgasms?

"When I asked the test subjects in plain language, ‘Did you feel orgasm [after ejaculating after sex with a woman], 16 % of men in our group said they didn't have sensation of orgasm," said Dr. Darius Paduch, assistant professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. "This is astonishing."

Problems with sexual pleasure don't just affect older men. Paduch said that he sees men as young as their 20s.

It isn't easy for men to admit to their partner that they can't enjoy sex.

"Our society is more sympathetic for women facing sexual problems, but men are still faced with self-doubt, fear of being labeled as impotent, inadequate and just not a full man," said Paduch. "You need to remember that regardless if a man is a bricklayer or a president, men value themselves through their sexual performance."
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Sen. Charles Schumer revealed a new bill on Sunday which calls for a nation-wide ban on the so-called bath salts.

Two drugs that produce a "meth-like" high and are being sold under the guise of "bath salts" would be banned as federally controlled substances under a bill unveiled on Sunday by Senator Charles Schumer.

"These so-called bath salts contain ingredients that are nothing more than legally sanctioned narcotics, and they are being sold cheaply to all comers, with no questions asked, at store counters around the country," said Schumer, a New York Democrat.

Schumer said he will introduce a bill to outlaw the two synthetic drugs -- mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, or MDPV. The drugs come in powder and tablet form and are ingested by snorting, injection, smoking and, less often, by use of an atomizer.

Users experience an intense high, euphoria, extreme energy, hallucinations, insomnia and are easily provoked to anger, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is currently investigating the drugs.

They have emerged as legal alternatives to cocaine and methamphetamines, and one or both have already been banned in the European Union, Australia, Canada, and Israel. In the United States, Florida, Louisiana and North Dakota have all recently banned the substances.

"The longer we wait to ban the substance, the greater risk we put our kids in," Schumer said.

Media reports over the last year describe the drugs as becoming increasingly popular, particularly among young people attending nightclubs, although the actual number of individuals using the drugs is unknown.

"These products are readily available at convenience stores, discount tobacco outlets, gas stations, pawnshops, tattoo parlors, truck stops and other locations," said an alert issued by the DEA.

"Prices range from $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet," the DEA alert said.

The European Union banned mephedrone in December, saying the drug was directly linked to the deaths of two people, and may have been tied to 37 other cases of death.

The European Union's report said there was limited scientific evidence on the effects of the drug -- believed to be mostly manufactured in Asia before being packaged in the West -- but that there was sufficient evidence of its health risks to support a ban.

Schumer has also asked the health commissioner of New York State, Nirav Shah, to ban the two substances.
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