The theory of spontaneous generation – living creatures can emerge from inanimate objects – was considered good science into the 1600s. One Flemish physician created a recipe for a mouse (a soiled cloth plus wheat for 21 days). This seems foolish now, but today anecdotal studies are still reported as absolute fact. The latest? Caffeinated coffee prevents Type 2 diabetes.
Using self-reported info from three huge studies, researchers concluded: People who drink 1 1/2 cups more coffee a day than usual over a four-year period cut their risk for Type 2 diabetes by 11 percent. (Three cups a day cuts the risk 37 percent.) And conversely, folks who eliminate one or more cups a day increase their risk 17 percent. But the data don’t reveal if drinking more coffee boosts energy, so you work out more and that’s what cuts the risk, or if folks reduce coffee intake because of chronic insomnia, which is itself linked to an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
Other studies do show that you can reap anti-cancer, anti-dementia and longevity benefits from consuming caffeine, especially if you’re a fast caffeine metabolizer. That means you don’t experience headaches, abnormal heartbeats, anxiety or gastric upset after a few cups of coffee. (If you have these reactions regularly, you don’t reap those benefits.) But if you want to dodge Type 2 diabetes, start by avoiding the five food felons (trans fat, saturated fat, added sugar, syrups, any grain but 100 percent), walking 10,000 steps daily, getting seven to eight hours of sleep nightly, and reducing stress. Then enjoy a cup or three of joe (if you’re a fast metabolizer).
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A doctor, wearing a long, white lab coat and a stethoscope around his neck, walks into a bar with a large blue parrot on his shoulder.
“Wow!” says the bartender. “Where in the world did you get that?”
“Over at the hospital,” says the parrot. “They’re running all over the place.”
Well, if you chuckled at that one, chances are you’ll remember it, at least for a little while. A small, controlled study recently found that a good laugh is associated with improved short-term recall.
How can laughing do that? It triggers the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins, and maybe a little dopamine and oxytocin, too. You relax, and most important, that suppresses the stress hormone cortisol. (Exercise and meditation also can do that, but we’re focusing on funny here.) When cortisol is suppressed, your blood pressure goes down and circulation increases. That reduces inflammation, muscle tension and associated pain. You improve overall oxygenation of the body and brain, and that triggers better mental clarity.
So … a doctor walks into a bar, and a nurse says, “I wish he’d learn to duck.” Bet you’ll remember at least one of those!
Flowers on your plate
When Jim Henson voiced Flower Eating Monster on “The Julie Andrews Hour” (1973), he launched the career of a demon Muppet who played in The Vile Bunch backing up Alice Cooper on “The Muppets Show.” But (and you can ask Alice Cooper) eating flowers isn’t really a monstrous idea. Many blooms deliver a healthy dose of anti-aging phenolic compounds, such as chlorogenic acid and flavonoids (they’re anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory).
But you can’t just munch away on any old flower. Some are toxic, some taste terrible, and some have been grown with pesticides or in soil laced with heavy metals (from now-defunct coal-fired power plants).
For safe flower-flavors: Always look up a flower using its botanical name (check first, eat later) and never eat any flower that hasn’t been grown in organic soil using organic fertilizer and in a pesticide-free and heavy-metal-free zone. (Tip: Remove heavy metals from soil by growing ragweed for a season, then recycle plants carefully.) That means no roadside flowers and nothing from florists, nurseries or garden centers. And anyone with allergies or asthma should taste flowers one at a time, in small quantities, to make sure they don’t trigger a reaction.
For tasty dishes: Add blooms to stir-fry (flowers from herbs, such as basil, garlic, borage, rosemary and fennel, are delicious) or salad (nasturtium and lavender are favorites), or use as a side dish (think stuffed squash blossoms; and cauliflower and broccoli tops are flowers). Also stick with petals (violets are an exception) for the most pleasing tastes.