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That laser’s no toy

  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, at 7:12 a.m.

Lasers may make great Light Sabers – for Luke Skywalker. And back on our world, they’ve made everything from wrinkle erasing and cancer surgery to vision correction and tattoo removal easier. But there’s one application where they’re proving a serious hazard: toys. Green lasers endanger pilots and airline passengers; there were 3,592 incidents of green lasers disrupting flights in 2011; that’s up 17 percent from the year before. And blue lasers, sold online for fun and games – are causing irreversible eye damage, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins and Saudi Arabia’s King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital. Their light beam is concentrated enough to light a cigarette and ignite paper from several feet away. If the beam hits your eye, it can damage the retina and cornea, sometimes resulting in permanent vision loss.

If you think you have a legit reason to have a pointer/laser (you’re an astronomer pointing out distant stars in the night sky), be aware of these Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

• Do not buy any laser for a toy. Ever.

• Packaging on approved lasers must state that they comply with Chapter 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), show the manufacturer’s or distributor’s name and the date of manufacture, and provide a warning to avoid exposing any part of your body or someone else’s to the laser beam.

• The laser will be designated as Class I to Class IIIa. Classes IIIb and IV are high-powered and used only for applications that require medical or technical training.

“Faster” food: what to eat

A high-speed train in 1960 zipped along at 100 mph; today the speeds are twice that. Locomotion has gotten faster with every generation, but we can’t say the same about our kids. According to an Australian study that looked at 20 million children worldwide, it takes kids ages 9-17 one and a half minutes longer to run a mile than it took their parents back when they were that age. That’s because kids are so much less active and more likely to be overweight.

So here are three smart ways to get kids back up to speed so they’ll have a healthy body, a powerful brain and a happy outlook:

1. Size down the dish. To keep your child from overeating (30 percent of kids are overweight or obese), cut the bowl or plate size in half. Kids will naturally eat half as much.

2. Add protein to breakfast so kids (and adults) have energy all day. Kids 9-14 need about 34 grams of protein daily. For breakfast, aim for 10-15 grams – or 1 cup cooked oatmeal (5.5 g), 1/4 cup nonfat yogurt (3 g), 1 ounce of turkey bacon (5 g).

3. Limit screen time to two hours a day, max – and no TV or Internet in bedrooms.

4. Get kids playing, walking, moving, for a minimum of 60 minutes daily – and get out there and do it with them.

Balancing bacteria

There may be 120,000 to 150,000 different species of bacteria on Earth. Some live in volcanic vents, others thrive in frigid Antarctica. But these days, scientists and doctors are concentrating on identifying various species that live on and in each of us.

One study found a total of 4,742 varieties of bacterial species on the hands of 51 college students, but only five of those varieties were common to each of the students. Interestingly, women had many more than men and a person’s left and right hand shared only about 17 percent of the same little critters. But wait, there’s even more inside us.

The trillions of bacteria from hundreds of species that make up your gut biome (found inside your intestine) provide life-enhancing benefits, like a strong immune system – if you give the little guys their due. But recent research shows they’re harmed by poor nutrition (they gotta eat right) and by overloading your system with too much fat and calories. That keeps good bacteria from elbowing out nastier species that need to be kept in check, and amplifies your risk for obesity. Poor nutrition that damages the biome also can trigger allergies in infants, and even fatty liver disease and depression in adults.

So what are gut-friendly foods? Anything rich in fiber, like 100 percent whole grains; omega fatty acids in salmon, olive oil and nuts; vitamin D; fermented foods, like low-fat, no-sugar-added yogurt; and low-sodium pickles.

Tip: Take a daily spore probiotic containing bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 and lactobacillus GG.

You gotta love nuts

In the 1963 comedy “The Nutty Professor,” Jerry Lewis’ character swallows a potion that transforms him from scientific nerd into the self-assured (and very obnoxious) Buddy Love. In the end, of course, that nutty professor re-emerges and gets the girl because of all the goodness he has inside. Makes perfect sense to us. Because what’s inside some nutshells is so good – and good for you – that a daily helping can bag you a longer and healthier life.

Recent research that looked at 76,464 women and 42,498 men is trumpeting the news that people who ate 1 ounce of nuts daily had a 20 percent lower death rate over a four-year period than folks who never ate nuts. Seems almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts plus peanuts (a legume), all do the trick. That’s because they deliver unsaturated fats, vitamins, proteins, fiber and polyphenols that help slow cell aging, reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health. That cuts your risk of cancer, diabetes, memory loss, stroke and heart and respiratory disease. We say the health benefits of an ounce of nuts a day are the equivalent of walking 6,000 more steps a day.

Bonus Tip: Eating six walnut halves or 12 almonds 20 minutes before mealtime – they contain 70 calories of healthy fats – slows stomach emptying so that you’ll feel full sooner and eat less later.

Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

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