So far, it's happened only in the lab, but resveratrol — famously found in all grape skins and in red wine — put the brakes on developing fat cells and kept full-blown fat cells from churning out certain bad hormones that encourage a host of life-shorteners like diabetes and heart disease.
How? Resveratrol seems to rev up sirtuins, a group of anti-aging proteins found in plants and people. Some of these sirtuins work to benefit you, and some do harm. The researchers suspect it's also some specific sirtuins that put the kibosh on wannabe fat cells.
Just don't rush out to buy resveratrol supplements, or not yet. No one makes the pills correctly. They must be made and packed singly in an oxygen-free environment, as exposure to oxygen knocks out the benefit.
That said, a glass of red wine, a bunch of whole red grapes or a tumbler of red grape juice (the no-sugar-added kind) every day keeps you younger. Besides, grapes and their juicy offspring have other goodies: quercetin and catechin. These cut your arterial disease risk as much as 40 percent. And that allows you to exercise more, and you know what that does for your waistline, sexual dysfunction (not that you have it) and wrinkles; it makes them all less likely.
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Does walking make you hungry?
One excuse for not walking always gets "give me a break" looks from us: "Exercise makes me hungry." We always thought it crazy that we'd see people leave the gym and head to McDonald's. But now there's some evidence that exercise may stimulate hunger. Does working out wake up gherlin, your "feed me" hormone? Not if you're a slim, healthy young male. If you're a woman, maybe. And if you're a not-so-slim-or-young guy? No one's sure yet.
Hang on for a minute, though. If the first thing you do after your walk is nose around the pantry, could it be that "I deserve it" has entered your mind? If so, your emotions are behind some of your munchies.
On the other hand, there's some evidence that if you're a woman, your body is programmed to get hungry after a little cardio. It's not a fact yet; researchers are still trying to sort out what happens to gherlin after exercise, and a new study showed it didn't change after an hour of brisk walking. But — and it's a big but — the walkers were healthy, slim, young men. Other studies show that some pudgy women's hormones reacted differently. And who knows about tubby, middle-aged guys?
We like to give you solutions — and early research indicates that there is one: If you feel like you have a genuine appetite surge after walking, add strength training to your cardio. The combo increases the "I'm full" hormones in your bloodstream. Put another way: Weight work helps waist loss.
Bring on the B's
Vitamins B-6 and B-12 are quiet, conscientious types. They don't get much hype, yet they work overtime to keep your brain, your immune system and your ticker in tip-top shape. These B's even protect against Alzheimer's, depression, strokes, vision loss and lung cancer. But your B Team can dwindle without you even knowing it. The fix? A beautiful breakfast.
Until you reach midlife, you probably get all the B's you need from food (unless you're a vegetarian and don't eat chicken, seafood or meat). But sometime around your 50th birthday, your stomach begins making less of the digestive fluids needed to absorb B-12. There's also evidence that over time you tend to eat fewer B-6-rich foods. You're also almost certainly low on B-12 if you've been taking a heartburn med called a proton pump inhibitor for a long time. It seriously diminishes B-12 absorption.
So you need to aim higher than current guidelines suggest. We recommend 6 mg of B-6 and at least 25 mcg of B-12, but up to 400 to 800 mcg if you're on the far side of 50 or otherwise at risk for a B shortage. That much gives your body a really good chance of absorbing enough. To get there, think "B's" at breakfast. Munch a bowl of B-fortified whole-grain cereal with skim milk, topped with sliced bananas and chopped walnuts. All are packed with B-6. Get your B-12 from a supplement; it's easier to absorb. Wash it down with tomato or prune juice for another hit of B-6.
Have a sprain-free summer
The largest study of ankle sprains ever done reports that nearly half of those seen in the ER happen at home. Yup, the rest occur while playing sports. But it's almost as easy to twist your ankle joint out of place (that's what a sprain is) negotiating a curb as it is dribbling down the court.
Practicing a few balancing acts every day is smart prevention, because moves that force you to stay upright help maintain muscle as you age. (Muscle loss is a more important cause of losing your balance than even B-12 deficiency.) Balancing exercises also improve your proprioception, which is how you know where your body parts are without looking at them. These three will get you started:
1. Stand like a stork. Work up to standing on one leg with your eyes closed for 30 seconds (with adequate padding around you). Once you can, try staying upright on a fitness device like a wobble board or Bosu Balance Trainer. Think of it as something productive to do while watching "Glee" reruns.
2. Play a game. Get a little healthy family competition going with a Wii balance board. Try winning at Table Tilt or Ski Slalom, which require constantly shifting your balance.
3. Take a tai chi break. Its gentle moves involve steadily shifting your weight to one foot and extending your other limbs.
Outwit your genes: Eat like a Greek
If heart disease runs in your family, you need to fight back. Your future may depend on delivering a genetic power punch, and now research shows just how to throw it: Start eating Mediterranean-style — lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains; the heart-healthy fat in olive oil (canola's even better); fish, of course (salmon and trout — you gotta get your omega-3s); some skinless poultry; very little red meat; and a glass of red wine every night.
Sound like same-old-same-old to you? OK, we're busted. We spread Mediterranean's positivity nearly as often as we warn of the dangers in belly fat. The best foods for your heart (and waist) come primarily from plants: whole wheat, hummus, grape leaves, apricots, white corn, walnuts. Eating like a Greek defends you from memory loss, depression, joint pain, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
And now a new study shows a Mediterranean diet helps you outwit one of the biggest risk factors for a heart attack: relatives. In men with a family history of troubled tickers, the ones who ate the most foods typical of a Mediterranean diet had the healthiest hearts. Today's take-away: The more Mediterranean foods you swap for processed foods and saturated fats, the more likely you'll knock out a heart-disease history.