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Aug 02

Daily alcohol limit 'unhelpful'

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Daily limits on alcohol consumption are meaningless and potentially harmful, experts have warned.
The government says men should drink no more than three to four units per day and women no more than two to three.
Liver specialist Dr Nick Sheron, of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, says these limits were devised by civil servants with "no good evidence" for doing so.
He says the advice runs the risk of people taking it to mean that it is safe to drink alcohol every day.
Dr Sheron's comments follow a report by MPs on the Public Accounts Committee which suggested public confusion about safe drinking levels was fuelling problem drinking.

Dr Sheron says we should go back to using the old weekly limits, which are based on sound research.
The 1987 sensible drinking limits, which set the bar at 21 units per week for men and 14 units per week for women, remained in place until 1995.

Sensible drinking
It was then that the government decided to switch the limits from weekly to daily in a bid to curb binge drinking and emphasise the harms of saving up a week's limit to blow in one or two sessions at the weekend - a decision it stands by today.
But Dr Sheron says this was a mistake: "They were turned into daily limits by a community of civil servants and the reasoning behind it is shrouded in mystery and is not largely supported by experts.
"The weekly limits were based on robust studies and were set at a level at which alcohol harms outweigh any putative benefit."
Some studies show that alcohol, in moderation, can reduce the risk of heart disease.
In terms of damage to the liver, the risk begins when regular weekly consumption exceeds about 30 units, said Dr Sheron.
But for other conditions, like cancer, the risk starts at zero and goes up proportionately with the amount of alcohol is consumed.

Daily danger
Although the daily recommendations originally included the important caution to have some alcohol-free days, Dr Sheron this message has got lost.
The advice now warns against regularly drinking over the daily limit and says drinkers should also "take a break for 48 hours after a heavy session to let your body recover."
Dr Sheron said that by setting a daily limit, people might take this to mean they could drink every day.
Dr Rachel Seabrook, research manager at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, agrees.
"The Royal Colleges' recommendation for two days of abstinence a week has quietly disappeared. It was probably dropped to keep the message simple. But that is not a good move.
"And we are quite concerned about the use of 'daily' in the message. It implies that you can drink on every day.
"There should be an explicit warning against this."

Clear advice
A Department of Health spokesman defended the current recommendations saying: "Advice on limits is based on scientific evidence from studies in populations in this country and worldwide about long-term health harms for broadly average, healthy adults.
"The scientific evidence base was examined by an inter-departmental working group in 1995. This has been kept under review since then.
"There are a number of public health campaigns to help people understand government guidelines around drinking alcohol.
"Ongoing and future campaigns will also help people to live more healthily."
In Britain in 2007, 69% of people reported that they had heard of the government guidelines on alcohol consumption. Of these people, 40% said that they did not know what the recommendations were.
Although binges are dangerous and can cause harm - largely through accidents caused by reckless behaviour - in terms of long-term health risks, it is the average amounts consumed over the weeks, months and years that count.
A person who regularly drinks 50g of alcohol a day - around 6 units or three pints of normal strength beer - has nearly double the risk of stroke, high blood pressure and pancreatitis as someone who abstains.
In a snapshot survey for England in 2006, 12% of men and 7% of women reported drinking alcohol every day during the previous week.
In the same year, 23% of men and 15% of women reported binge drinking.

source: bbc.com
Aug 02

US Panel IDs Target Groups for the Influenza A Vaccine

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          NEW YORK -- July 29, 2009 -- The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met today to vote on recommendations that will be approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on which populations should be prioritised when the influenza A(H1N1) vaccination becomes available this fall.

      The committee reviewed the epidemiology and the science and recommended 5 target groups for focus of immunisation:
      · Pregnant women
      · Household contacts of children aged younger than 6 months of age
      · Children and adults aged 6 months to 24 years
      · Healthcare and emergency workers
      · Individuals aged 25 to 64 years who have underlying conditions that put them at risk for complications and/or hospitalisation from the A(H1N1) flu.

      Underlying conditions include chronic kidney disease and chronic pulmonary/respiratory disorders; cardiovascular, hepatic, haematological, neurological, and neuromuscular conditions; and metabolic disorders or immunosuppression.

      Vaccinating household contacts of infants aged younger than 6 months will protect them from possible hospitalisation since they themselves cannot be vaccinated/protected.

      Healthy individuals aged 25 to 64 years can be offered the vaccine after the first 5 groups are promoted and targeted, said Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Atlanta, Georgia.

      The same goes for individuals aged 65 years and older. Although elders are at high risk for complications from seasonal influenza, the A(H1N1) virus has spared this population. Therefore, they are also being considered a sequential group and will be offered the vaccine after the other groups are promoted. The CDC does recommend that this group continue to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine.

      Prioritising within the 5 groups is not recommended. However, in a case scenario where supplies are very limited, prioritisation will be given to: (1) pregnant women; (2) household contacts of children aged younger than 6 months of age; (3) subset of healthcare and emergency workers; (4) children aged 6 months to 4 years; (5) children aged 5 to 18 years who have underlying conditions or risk factors.

      Clinical trials of the vaccine will be launched shortly in the United States. However, the US Food and Drug Administration may license the vaccine without data from the clinical trials, said Dr. Schuchat. The vaccine will be tested in pregnant women.

      The CDC is expecting approximately 120 million doses in the fall. "We do think it's likely most people will need 2 doses of this vaccine," said Dr. Schuchat.

      The committee strongly recommends the 2009-2010 seasonal influenza vaccine for all individuals.

      The ACIP recommendations will be reviewed quickly by the CDC and will be disseminated to hospitals and private and public health sectors, according to Dr. Schuchat.

      The ACIP comprises 15 experts in fields associated with immunisation who have been selected by the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services to provide advice and guidance to the Secretary of Health, the Assistant Secretary for Health, and the CDC on the control of vaccine-preventable diseases.

      SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Media Briefing
Jul 26

Alternative medicine field may help economy with new career opportunities

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As complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) becomes more mainstream, many new career paths are beginning to open up for holistic health advocates. While the AMA claims that most alternative methods are not effective and have not been sufficiently tested, consumers and practitioners of CAM alike feel the real issue is conventional medical doctors do not want the competition.

The fact is millions of Americans use some form of complementary medicine each year. Some CAM services may even be included in Obama's new healthcare plan, including acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy. This week, Senator Harkin (D) of Iowa spoke at a congressional hearing in defense of alternative medicine, emphasizing that, "healthcare plans will not be allowed to 'discriminate' against any healthcare provider that is licensed".

So what does this mean for the economy and the future of healthcare? There are literally hundreds of disciplines that fall under the umbrella of complementary/alternative/holistic and integrative medicine, including: acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, massage therapy, naturopathy, herbology, homeopathy, chiropractic, reiki, yoga, Ayurveda, hypnotherapy and aromatherapy to name a few. (see more complete list here) There are several schools and certification programs in the US and abroad that provide training and certifications in these fields, but only a few are actually licensed in the US. Licensure also differs from state to state.

The bottom line is, if enough consumers are seeking alternative products and services, filling these needs will contribute to and help boost the economy. This is good news for our current economic crisis. Doug Rosenberg of PRWeb writes, "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, alternative medicine careers are expected to increase more than average through 2016, with certain natural healing professions, such as massage therapy, chiropractic and nutrition, leading the others in marketplace demands. Alternative medicine has become increasingly integrated into conventional medicine, and hospitals and wellness centers across the country now use natural healing modalities as treatment".
source: examiner.com
Jul 24

Plus-sized TV shows help to loose weight

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Alicia A.S. Duque knew she had some pounds to lose, but she had no idea how much being overweight affected her until the television cameras started rolling.
Alicia Duque performs with her partner on Oxygen's new hit "Dance Your Ass Off."

"Going into it, I knew it was a TV show, I knew it was a weight-loss show and I knew it was a dance show, but I didn't think I was going to learn so much about myself through the process," said the 23-year-old Duque, a contestant on the new show "Dance Your Ass Off." "I didn't know how many issues and problems I had with my weight until I faced it on the show."

Duque's struggle with weight loss is one of many on television that is resonating with those tuning into programming aimed at and featuring the plus-sized.

Style Network's "Ruby," NBC's "The Biggest Loser," Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" and Fox's forthcoming dating show "More to Love" all center on the overweight and are tapping into an audience that can relate to the desire to shed a few pounds.

Obesity has risen dramatically in the United States during the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And this year television has seen an increase in shows featuring participants and stars who look more like the viewing public.

Oxygen Channel's "Dance Your Ass Off" combines elements of ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" and NBC's "The Biggest Loser." Contestants learn dance routines for which they are judged before weighing in to determine how much they have lost.

Amy Introcaso-Davis, senior vice president of original programming and development at Oxygen, said dance and diet are two areas of interest for younger viewers of the channel, so combining the two made sense.

The 12 contestants, from the smallest to the largest, have struck a chord with viewers, she said.

"People find the contestants so relatable," she said. "We cast very purposely across the board in terms of how many pounds people needed to lose -- we had anywhere from people who needed to lose 40 [pounds] to over 150."

The premier of "Dance" rated highly for Oxygen, with more than 1 million viewers tuning in.

Oxygen also found success earlier with "Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance," a plus-size pageant where women of substance strutted their stuff to be crowned "Miss Fabulous And Thick."

For a nation grappling with obesity, Introcaso-Davis said, there is a hunger for such shows.

"If you have five pounds to lose or you have 150 pounds to lose, it's something you think about all day long," she said. "You take a bite of cheesecake and you think 'Should I be doing this?' "

Esther Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology "The Fat Studies Reader," said she wonders if part of the appeal of plus-sized shows stems from the overweight being held up for public ridicule. The subject of her book is an emerging field that has been defined as "confronting and critiquing cultural constraints" against notions of "fatness" and "the fat body."

"Most people feel too fat in this country and are made to feel very unhappy with their bodies," she said. "So by portraying somebody who weighs so much more than they do, it's almost a way to make the audience feel like 'I could look worse' or 'At least I'm not them.' "

Ruby Gettinger said she supports any show that does not mock the overweight.

Her hit show "Ruby" started out as a documentary and has transformed Gettinger into a reality star who has lost more than 100 pounds and appeared on "Oprah."

"We are really all on this journey together, and I tell [viewers] that all of the time," said Gettinger, who at her heaviest weighed 716 pounds. "There are a lot of shows out there and I think people are trying to find a way to beat it and lose weight."

Gettinger, who is traveling around the country walking in various cities to inspire fans to become more active, said shows featuring the obese can really touch the audience if they are authentic.

"[My show] is the truth, not to say that the others aren't," she said. "When I started out on this journey and met with Style [Network, which airs the show] I said 'I have to keep my truth because this is about my journey and addiction and I want to deal with that because too many people are struggling.' "

Her show portrays her grappling with everything from temptation to embarrassment at having to visit the gynecologist, but Gettinger said it's all worth it if it inspires others.

Actress Marissa Jaret Winokur, who starred in the Broadway musical "Hairspray," said she agreed to host "Dance Your Ass Off" because she saw the potential for inspiration in viewers witnessing overweight people being active and feeling confident and sexy -- even in skimpy dance outfits.

Reality television has become so popular because viewers are attracted to watching real people, and there is a craving for viewers to see folks like themselves, she said.

"It became that so many people on reality shows were only beautiful skinny people, and I think a lot of people got sick of that," said Winokur, who has been blogging about her own struggles with weight for People magazine. "Really, who's home watching TV is the everyday person who is not a TV model. I think there is much more interest in watching people like yourself."
source: cnn.com
Jul 22

American Dietetic Association Endorses Vegetarian Diets

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The American Dietetic Association defines a vegetarian diet, or lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, as one that does not include meat, fowl, seafood, or products containing those foods. The lacto-vegetarian diet also excludes eggs and primarily consists of grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds, nuts, and dairy products. The vegan, or total vegetarian, eating pattern excludes eggs, dairy, and other animal products. Within these broad definitions, there is still variation in the degree to which animal products are excluded.

A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all vital nutrients, including protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. However, use of supplements or fortified foods may be helpful to boost intake of important nutrients in certain cases.

The American Dietetic Association contends that carefully planned vegetarian diets, including vegan diets, are healthful and nutritionally sufficient for individuals of all ages, including pregnant or lactating women, infants, children, adolescents, and athletes. During pregnancy, adherence to a nutritionally adequate vegetarian diet can lead to positive health outcomes for both the mother and infant.

Furthermore, well-constructed vegetarian diets may offer health benefits in terms of preventing and treating certain chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Vegetarian diets are linked to lower risk for death from ischemic heart disease, according to findings of an evidence-based review. In addition, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and body mass index appear to be lower in vegetarians than in nonvegetarians, as do rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

The position paper also reviews available evidence concerning the effects of vegetarian diets on cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis, renal disease, dementia, diverticulitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Specific vegetarian considerations regarding specific nutritional programs are also reviewed, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; child nutrition programs; feeding programs for elderly adults; corrections facilities programs; military and armed forces programs; and other institutions and quantity food service organizations.

During the next decade, the number of vegetarians in the United States is expected to increase. Vegetarian diets are typically characterized by certain healthful features that may lower the risk for chronic disease — notably, reduced consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol and increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals with potent antioxidant, antiproliferative, and cancer-protective activity.

However, individual diets should be evaluated to ensure that they are nutritionally adequate, given the variability of dietary habits among vegetarians. Other important roles for food and nutrition professionals are to educate vegetarians regarding sources of key nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and individual dietary modifications to meet their specific requirements.

Recommendations for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet

Specific recommendations to help ensure that vegetarians have healthful diets with sufficient nutrients are as follows:

    * The diet should contain a wide variety of healthful foods, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds, as well as dairy and eggs if desired.
    * Consumption of foods that are high in sugar, sodium, and fat, particularly saturated fat and trans-fatty acids, should be minimized.
    * The diet should contain a wide range of healthful fruits and vegetables.
    * For vegetarians who consume dairy products and eggs, moderation is recommended, as well as use of lower-fat dairy products.
    * A regular source of vitamin B-12 is recommended, as well as of vitamin D if sunlight exposure is limited.
    * Nutritionists should be able to recommend local, reliable sources for purchase of vegetarian foods, or mail-order sources in some communities where suitable local sources are unavailable.
    * To facilitate meeting nutrient needs on a vegetarian diet, clinicians should collaborate with family members, especially the parents of children following vegetarian diets.
    * Practitioners unfamiliar with the principles of vegetarian nutrition should help their vegetarian patients find a nutritionist or other qualified provider to advise them regarding their diet.

"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases," the position paper authors write. "Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.... Food and nutrition professionals can assist vegetarian clients by providing current, accurate information about vegetarian nutrition, foods, and resources."
Jul 20

Ayurveda and allopathy come together

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The Indian Spinal Injuries Centre in the capital has come up with a holistic treatment combining two different forms of medicine - Ayurveda and allopathy- to heal spinal injuries and other orthopaedic problems. This will not only be effective but also economically viable, say medical practitioners.
Chitra Kataria, head of the department of rehabilitation, said the treatment will allow the patient to undergo advanced spinal and orthopaedic surgery, followed by a range of therapy using natural ingredients and a strict diet as per Ayurveda.

Patients not fit to undergo surgery will be given a natural ingredients treatment under Ayurveda.

“With Ayurveda’s proven results in all kinds of pain, including pain in the back, neck and knee, arthritic and joint pains, headache, pressure sores and after-surgery ailments, more and more patients are nowadays opting for this kind of supportive therapy,” Kataria said.

“Also with this, a patient will be able to choose whether he/she wants to go for allopathic or Ayurvedic therapy since not everyone is in favour of the former these days,” she added.
Jul 20

HIV circumcision study ends early

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Circumcising men who already have HIV does not protect their female partners from the virus, a study in Uganda has found.
Circumcision is known to protect men from acquiring HIV.
But the research, from the Lancet, showed no benefit in those who already had the virus and was stopped early because of the continued risk to women.
Experts say HIV-positive men should still be offered circumcision, but also warned to use condoms.
The US researchers, from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, say not offering the procedure to men with HIV would stigmatise them.
Other experts say it could become a "sign" of whether a man was HIV positive or not.

Previous research had suggested women could be protected from HIV if their partner was circumcised.
In this study, 922 uncircumcised, HIV-infected, asymptomatic men aged 15-49 years with HIV were enrolled in the Rakai district of Uganda.
Men were then selected to have immediate circumcision (474 men) or to be given circumcision after two years (448 men).
Almost 170 uninfected female partners of the men were also enrolled, and followed up at six, 12, and 24 months.
However, the trial was ended early because of what the researchers called the "futility" of carrying on, and the second group were not circumcised.
Only 92 couples in the immediate circumcision group and 67 in the control group were included in the final analysis.
It was found that a higher proportion of women were infected with HIV in the intervention group (18%) versus the control group (12%).
The researchers suggest the higher transmission rate could have been due to couples resuming their sex lives before the circumcision would have properly healed.

Writing in the Lancet, the team led by Dr Maria Wawer said: "Circumcision of HIV-infected men did not reduce HIV transmission to female partners over 24 months; longer-term effects could not be assessed."
They said it was not sensible to recommend men with HIV should not be circumcised, or that there should be any down-scaling of circumcision programmes, because of the overall benefits to both uninfected men and to women.
But they added: "It's inevitable that men who are infected with HIV will also require to be circumcised, partly to avoid stigmatisation.
"The findings suggest that strict adherence to sexual abstinence during wound healing, and continuous condom use thereafter must be strongly promoted when HIV-infected men receive circumcision."
They suggest a solution would be to circumcise as early as possible.
"Circumcising infants and young boys before their sexual debut would mitigate the challenge of male circumcision in HIV-infected men.
"However, this strategy would require careful consideration of issues relating to parental consent and the minor's consent."
In an editorial in the journal, a team from the University of Washington in Seattle, led by Dr Jared Baeten said the findings should not "hinder" the use of circumcision in HIV prevention programmes.
Victoria Sheard of the UK's Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Circumcision is most often used as an HIV prevention tool in the developing world, where it can be difficult to get hold of condoms.
"However, it shouldn't be seen as a stand-alone strategy.
"Women are disproportionately affected by HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and - as this study shows - will still be at risk whether their partners are circumcised or not.
"The best way to guard against HIV is by always using a condom, so more work is needed to ensure adequate protection is available for those who need it the most."
Jul 19

H1N1 flu vaccine ready in October

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An H1N1 flu vaccine should be ready in October if a strain now moving through the southern hemisphere heads north for the fall and winter, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sebelius said the vaccine still must undergo clinical trials to ensure it is both effective against the virus and safe for people.

“We’re on track to have a vaccine ready by mid-October,” she said.

The pandemic was first detected in Mexico earlier this year before moving to the United States, Europe and other nations in the northern hemisphere. The virus is now more prevalent in the southern hemisphere, where is it is winter.
Jul 09

Tests raise life extension hopes

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A drug discovered in the soil of a South Pacific island may help to fight the ageing process, research suggests.
When US scientists treated old mice with rapamycin it extended their expected lifespan by up to 38%.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, raise the prospect of being able to slow down the ageing process in older people.
However, a UK expert warned against using the drug to try to extend lifespan, as it can suppress immunity.

Rapamycin was first discovered on Easter Island in the 1970s.
It is already used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients, and in stents implanted into patients to keep their coronary arteries open. It is also being tested as a possible treatment for cancer.

Researchers at three centres in Texas, Michigan and Maine gave the drug to mice at an age equivalent to 60 in humans.
The mice were bred to mimic the genetic diversity and susceptibility to disease of humans as closely as possible.
Rapamycin extended the animals' expected lifespan by between 28% and 38%.
The researchers estimated that in humans terms this would be greater than the predicted increase in extra years of life, if both cancer and heart disease were prevented and cured.
Researcher Dr Arlan Richardson, of the Barshop Institute, said: "I've been in aging research for 35 years and there have been many so-called 'anti-ageing' interventions over those years that were never successful.
"I never thought we would find an anti-ageing pill for people in my lifetime; however, rapamycin shows a great deal of promise to do just that."
Professor Randy Strong, of the University of Texas Health Science Center, said: "We believe this is the first convincing evidence that the ageing process can be slowed and lifespan can be extended by a drug therapy starting at an advanced age."

Calorie restriction
Rapamycin appears to have a similar effect to restricting food intake, which has also been shown to boost longevity.
It targets a protein in cells called mTOR, which controls many processes involved in metabolism and response to stress.
The researchers had to find a way to re-formulate the drug so that it was stable enough to make it to the mice's intestines before beginning to break down.
The original aim was to begin feeding the mice at four months of age, but the delay caused by developing the new formulation meant that feeding did not start until the animals were 20 months old.
The researchers thought the animals would be too old for the drug to have any effect - and were surprised when it did.
Professor Strong said: "This study has clearly identified a potential therapeutic target for the development of drugs aimed at preventing age-related diseases and extending healthy lifespan.
"If rapamycin, or drugs like rapamycin, works as envisioned, the potential reduction in health cost will be enormous."

Jul 07

Hidden Benefits of Green Tea

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Considered by many to be one of nature's healthiest beverages, green tea is rich in antioxidants that could help fight off heart disease and cancer. Made from unfermented leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, green tea is also low in caffeine (offering about 8 to 30 mg per cup, compared to 100 to 350 mg per cup of coffee) and contains the amino acid L-theanine (shown to induce relaxation and relieve stress in preliminary research).

Now, a number of studies are exploring the benefits beyond green tea's heart-healthy, anti-cancer, stress-reducing effects. Here's a look at some of the most promising findings so far.

1) Healthy Teeth and Gums
In a 2009 study, scientists sized up the periodontal health of 940 men and found that those who drank green tea on a regular basis had healthier gums than participants who skimped on the drink. For every cup of green tea sipped daily, in fact, there was a significant decrease in several indicators of periodontal disease (such as bleeding upon probing of the gum tissue).

Past research also indicates that drinking green tea may help you avoid tooth erosion.

2) Stroke Prevention
Another 2009 study suggests that drinking green tea each day can significantly slash your risk of stroke (the third leading cause of death in the United States). In reviewing nine studies on a total of nearly 195,000 people, researchers found that three daily cups of tea reduced stroke risk by 21%. What's more, consuming three more cups a day appeared to decrease stroke risk by an additional 21%.

3) Better Brain Power
Gulping green tea could preserve your brain power as you age, according to a 2006 study. The study's authors looked at tea consumption among 1,003 Japanese people (ages 70 and up), finding that those who drank the most green tea were the least likely to show signs of weakened brain function. For instance, study members who had a cup of green tea four to six times weekly were 38% less likely to display signs of cognitive impairment than those who drank green tea less than three times per week.
source: By Cathy Wong, About.com

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