index fingerFor many decades, scientists have noticed an extraordinary link between the length of your ring and index fingers and a plethora of apparently unrelated traits.

Evidence is growing that this ‘digit ratio’ effect is real. Recently, strong evidence has emerged that men whose index fingers are longer than their ring fingers are significantly less likely to develop prostate cancer.

To work out the ratio of your fingers, measure the distance from the midpoint of the lowest crease at the base of the finger to the very tip — the fingernail does not count.

A long index finger correlates strongly with a lower risk of early heart disease and, in women, a higher risk of breast cancer and greater fertility. People with relatively long index fingers are also more likely to suffer from schizophrenia, allergies, eczema and hay fever.

The Daily Mail reports:

“… [A] short index finger relative to the ring finger … correlates with higher male fertility and sperm counts, higher levels of aggression and increased aptitude for both sport and music … [D]igit ratio … [correlates to] more than 100 psychological traits and propensities to

baby eating his breakfastAlmost every childcare book offers the same advice about a baby’s first solid meal — start them first on rice cereal mixed with breast milk or formula. This has been received wisdom for 60 years.

But this is because in the 1950’s, baby food companies launched an advertising blitz trumpeting the benefits of white rice cereal.

But there is no scientific basis for this recommendation. None at all. And now, concerned about increasing childhood obesity, some pediatricians want to change how babies eat.

If babies are getting used to the taste of highly processed white rice and flour, it could set them up for a lifetime of bad habits.

USA Today reports:

“White rice — after processing strips away fiber, vitamins and other nutrients — is a ‘nutritional disaster’ … White rice and flour turn to sugar in the body ‘almost instantly,’ … raising blood sugar and insulin levels.”

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Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

If you want to give your baby the best start nutritionally, do not follow the advice in most baby books encouraging you to start feeding rice cereal. Other than breast milk or formula, rice is the number one source of calories for infants in the first year of life, according to Stanford University pediatrician Alan Greene, and this is a nutritional disaster.

Optimal Nutrition for the First Year of Life

Ideally, your baby should be breastfed exclusively — meaning no other food or water is supplemented — for at least the first 6 months. Then, at the age of 6 or 9 months, you can begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

Choosing what those solid foods will be is incredibly important, but unfortunately most pediatricians encourage their patients to start rice cereal at about 4 to 6 months of age. White rice is a refined carbohydrate, a group of highly processed, nutritionally devoid foods that have been linked to increased rates of heart disease, insulin resistance, eye damage and cancer in adults, and are worthless nutritionally for infants as well.

Feeding infants cereal has been associated with an increased risk of type 1 diabetes and may prime your baby’s appetite for a lifetime of processed carbs in the form of white bread, cookies and cakes.

A diet based on these types of refined carbs is responsible for many bulging stomachs and fat rolls in thighs and chins, and even worse, high insulin levels that lead to diabetes and suppress two other important hormones — glucagons and growth hormones — that are responsible for burning fat and sugar and promoting muscle development, respectively.

Insulin from excess carbohydrates promotes fat, and then wards off your body’s ability to lose that fat. Excess weight and obesity not only lead to heart disease but also a wide variety of other diseases later in life.

What Should Your Baby’s First Solid Food Be?

You can easily cross any form of grain-based infant cereal off of this list. When flour is refined to make cereal, the most nutritious part of the grain is removed, so the flour essentially becomes a form of sugar.

When you feed your baby a bowl of infant cereal, picture yourself dipping directly into your sugar bowl and feeding baby a spoon or two, because that’s essentially what it amounts to.

So what’s a better option?

Egg yolk.

According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, egg yolk should be your baby’s first solid food, starting as early as 4 months, whether your baby is breastfed or formula-fed. Egg yolks from free-range hens will contain the special long-chain fatty acids so critical for the optimal development of your child’s brain and nervous system.

However, the egg whites may cause an allergic reaction so they’re best avoided until your child is at least 1 year old.

Here’s a simple, healthy recipe you may want to try:

  • 1 organic egg from a pasture-fed (free-range) chicken
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated raw, frozen organic liver (optional)
  • pinch natural unprocessed salt

Boil the egg for 3 1/2 minutes. Place in a bowl and peel off the shell. Remove the egg white and discard. The yolk should be soft and warm, not hot, with its enzyme content intact. Sprinkle with a small amount of natural salt.

If you wish to add liver, grate it on the small holes of a grater while frozen. Allow to warm up and stir into the egg yolk.

After that, freshly pureed, organic vegetables are an excellent option. The following foods are soft and packed with nutrition for young infants:

  • Mashed avocado
  • Sweet potato
  • Cooked peas or carrots

A few months later, as more teeth begin to erupt and the GI tract epithelium begins to mature, you can add even more variety, including:

  • Cooked greens, finely chopped or pureed, such as kale, chard, collards, spinach
  • Squashes, such as butternut, acorn and other winter squashes
  • Mashed asparagus
  • Raw nut butters
  • Seaweeds that become soft on soaking, such as wakame or nori

From there you can expand even more, including:

  • Chicken, turkey or other meat (organic and pasture-raised/grass-fed preferably)
  • Eggs
  • Raw milk cheese or raw milk yogurt

How to Introduce Solid Foods

Your baby will give you signs that he’s ready to start eating solid foods. He should be able to sit up with support, reach for toys and mouth his hands or toys. Your baby may also begin to watch you more intently as you eat, open his mouth like you do when you eat or reach for food off your plate.

When introducing new foods, do so one at a time at intervals of two to three days. This helps your baby get used to the food and will also help you reveal any food sensitivities or allergies. Small serving sizes, even just a spoonful or two, are best to start.

As your infant gets older you can progress from pureed foods to finger foods she can feed herself, but be sure they are chopped small enough so they are not a choking hazard. Raisins, nuts, popcorn and other small foods should not be given to young infants because of the choking risk.

Be Wary of Commercial Baby Foods

I have clear memories of Gerber baby food products when my twin brother and sister (who are 11 years younger than me) were growing up. I thought that was the best food they could possibly have, and I held that impression even into medical school.

But the truth is, outside of breast milk, the best foods you can give your baby are those you prepare fresh at home. Store-bought versions just cannot compare, and often contain unhealthy ingredients your baby is far better off without.

For instance, Mead Johnson’s Enfagrow, a nutritional supplement for toddlers, is little more than fortified milk with added sugar. The first three ingredients on the label are just that: whole milk, nonfat milk and sugar. Other weaning biscuits for toddlers can contain up to 29 percent sugar or even contain trans fats, both of which are simply atrocious for adults, let alone infants.

Even organic baby foods can contain excessive amounts of processed salt, or may expose your infant to toxic contaminants like BPA from plastic containers, even if the content itself is agreeable.

When you make homemade baby food, however, you have complete control over the ingredients; no unresolved questions about potential additives, preservatives, mysterious “natural flavors,” and so on.

Yes, it may require a little more time — but in the end, it’s up to you to decide what the health of your family is worth to you.

Simply cooking a squash or sweet potato, mashing it up and putting it into an ice cube tray is an easy way to have ready-made multiple servings available for the rest of the week.

As your child gets older, he can eat most of the same types of foods that you do, simply pureed into a softer form or cut into very small toddler-sized pieces. As with your own diet, whole foods — not processed “pseudo-foods” — will give your infant the best nutritional start possible. 

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extra body weightIn the past, doctors had theorized that excess body fat might have one benefit — it could protect against the bone disease osteoporosis. But a new study finds that deep belly fat may in fact contribute to osteoporosis.

The reason is that certain types of fat cells very likely produce substances that lead to bone disease. The study found that deep belly fat was associated with lower bone mineral density, a measure of bone strength.

Paging Dr. Gupta reports:

“The researchers also used a new technique to look at bone marrow fat, or fat within bones, which also appears to make the bones weaker. Women with deep tummy fat also had more fat within their bones.”

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

It’s well known that weight-bearing exercises are great for building up your bones, so it has been long believed that carrying extra weight provides a similar benefit for bone strength by increasing the dynamic forces on your bone.

However, newer research shows that the excess fat deep in your belly and around your organs, known as visceral fat, has been linked to lower bone mineral density, a measure of bone strength.

It’s thought that these fat cells produce substances not yet identified that may lead to bone disease, along with other hallmarks of overweight and obesity, like heart disease and diabetes. Further, people with more visceral fat are also more likely to have more fat within their bone marrow, which may further weaken your bones.

Your body is designed to operate best when it’s at an ideal weight, which varies slightly from person to person. Carrying around extra pounds will inevitably increase your risk of developing just about every chronic degenerative disease, while taking a toll on your bone health as well.

Visceral Fat Especially Dangerous for Your Bone Health

Your body has two types of fat. Subcutaneous fat is found just under your skin and is the noticeable type that jiggles, dimples, and causes cellulite.

Visceral fat is fat on the inside of your body, under your abdominal muscle. It is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat because it can surround vital organs like your liver and heart, and actually produces inflammatory molecules that enter your bloodstream.

Visceral fat is linked to lower bone mineral density, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and other chronic diseases.

How do you know if you have excess visceral fat?

The problem is, you don’t. While it’s often referred to as “belly fat” because it can cause a “beer belly” or an apple-shaped body, you can have visceral fat even if you’re thin. This is especially true if you are not exercising, as a sedentary lifestyle will promote the formation of visceral fat.

Obese Children May be at Risk

Past studies have also indicated that excess fat is bad for bone health, including one published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that found adolescent girls with high body fat had bones that were 8 percent to 9 percent weaker than those with normal body fat.

The researchers pointed out that this could be particularly damaging for obese children, whose bones are still developing. One-third of all American children aged 2-19 years are now overweight or obese, and this could have a lasting negative impact on the skeleton.

What Can You do to Lose Weight and Strengthen Your Bones at the Same Time?

Exercise.

If you want strong, healthy bones, regular exercise, including weight-bearing exercises like strength training, is essential. Remember, bone-building is a dynamic process, so you want to make sure you exert enough force on your bones to stimulate your osteoblasts to build new bone.

Not only will exercise help to build up your bone strength, but it’s also an essential component of weight loss, including helping you shed visceral fat.

One study found that volunteers who did not exercise had an 8.6 percent increase in visceral fat after eight months, while those who exercised the most LOST over 8 percent of their visceral fat during that time. Exercise can even inhibit a regain of harmful visceral fat one year after weight loss.

When starting your exercise program, avoid the mistake I made for over 40 years by just assuming that aerobic cardio type exercises are going to do the trick for you. I can confidently tell you that you need to have a comprehensive exercise strategy that includes far more than conventional cardio.

One of the “secrets” that can boost your weight loss is actually to alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.

I began incorporating this type of exercise earlier this year, and the results speak for themselves. Since then, I’ve coined the term Peak Fitness, which is a complete fitness program built around these high-intensity exercises, which I call Peak 8 exercises. These exercises can be done in a fraction of the time you’d normally spend walking or running.

Still, despite the fact that you will spend less time exercising, Peak 8 exercises can dramatically improve your cardiovascular fitness and your fat-burning capabilities, while naturally boosting your body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH).

For a more complete, in-depth explanation of my Peak Fitness regimen, please review this recent review article on peak fitness.

More Dos and Don’ts for Your Bone Health

Your weight is far from the only influence on your bone health. Here are several helpful strategies and nutrients, as well as a list of items to avoid to optimize your bone health on a comprehensive level.

Helpful:

Harmful:

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watching TVA new study suggests that time in front of the television may be partially to blame for weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease risk.

The study looked at close to 4,000 individuals, divided into two groups — those whose TV-watching increased over five years and those whose TV-watching remained the same. The researchers then examined the two groups for symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

FYI Living reports:

“The results showed that an increase in TV-watching does have an unhealthy effect.

For both men and women, people who increased their TV viewing similarly increased their waistlines. Meanwhile, women who watched more TV also developed higher blood pressure than women who watched the same amount as before.

Interestingly, these factors were not affected by exercise”.

Sources:

Dr. Mercola’s Comments:

There’s actually no shortage of studies linking excessive TV watching with a variety of health ailments, particularly weight gain, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease.

This is no great surprise, considering that the more time you spend watching TV, the less time you’re engaging in more physical activities, such as exercising, which is the remedy for all of the ailments just mentioned.

It is very important to keep a handle on this aspect of your life. I am absolutely convinced that television watching is a major contributing factor to many of our most common health problems, both physical and emotional.

Watching TV will take away from not only your exercise time, but from reading and maintaining meaningful relationships as well.

In addition to the health problems related to excessive TV watching, research has also shown that watching TV has a major impact on your brain chemistry.

The longer you watch the TV screen, the easier your brain slips into a receptive, passive mode, meaning that messages are streamed into your brain without any participation from you. This is an advertiser’s dream, and the vast majority of TV advertisements promote foods, drugs, health options and lifestyles that are not in your and your family’s best interest.

Researchers have also shown that TV can have a devastating impact on children’s psychological health, as discussed in this recent article.

I firmly believe putting strict limits on the amount of time you spend in front of the TV every day could have a significantly positive impact on your health, mood, and overall well-being.

How TV Watching Harms Your Health

A number of studies have shown that the more time you spend watching TV, the more likely you are to develop metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by overweight, elevated insulin levels and hypertension (high blood pressure).

This holds true both for children and adults, and it’s nothing new.

More than 20 years ago, a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, along with experts at the CDC and the National Institutes of Health, concluded that a child’s weight increases with the number of hours he or she spends watching television each day.

Still, two decades later, the problem has only gotten worse.

When was the last time your doctor discussed your TV habits with you?

In the study above, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the goal was to determine whether or not symptoms of metabolic syndrome worsen if you increase the amount of time you spend watching TV over a five-year period.

The answer is yes, it does. FYI Living reports:

“They divided the people into two groups: those whose TV-watching increased over five years and those whose TV-watching remained the same.

The symptoms of metabolic syndrome were then compared between the groups. The results showed that an increase in TV-watching does have an unhealthy effect.

For both men and women, people who increased their TV viewing similarly increased their waistlines.

Meanwhile, women who watched more TV also developed higher blood pressure than women who watched the same amount as before.”

Interestingly, exercising did NOT counteract the effects of increased TV watching. What that means is, if you want to address your metabolic syndrome, reducing time in front of the TV could make or break your success. If you spend increasingly more time watching TV, then adding an exercise routine likely won’t make up for the damage incurred from these longer stretches on the couch.

Adding to the evidence that exercise can’t make up for lost time in front of the TV is a study published ten years ago, which found that:

“Watching TV only one hour per day in women with a BMI of 30 kg/m2 and doing about 75 minutes of moderate exercise per week was associated with a BMI 1.8 kg/m2 lower than in women watching TV three hours per day and doing the same amount of exercise.

 Those with twice the amount of moderate exercise and watching TV one hour per day had a BMI 0.45 kg/m2 lower.”

Another Australian study published in 2005 in the journal Diabetologia also found that watching more than 14 hours of TV per week was associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance, obesity and high choleserol in both men and women.

Meanwhile, both men and women who engaged in at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week had a reduced prevalence of both insulin resistance and high choleserol. Women also had a reduced risk of obesity and hypertension at this amount of weekly exercise.

How to Successfully Address Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome (which used to be called Syndrome X) is oftentimes also referred to as pre-diabetes, which is characterized by insulin resistance and can easily develop into full-blown diabetes if not properly treated.

So, you would address metabolic syndrome the same way you address insulin resistance and diabetes. The prescription is the same: get out there and exercise, and chose foods appropriate for your nutritional type, being very careful to avoid foods that increase your insulin, namely grains and sugars, and of course, processed foods.

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By Dr. Mercola

It’s important to understand that uncontrolled high blood pressure is a very serious health concern that can lead to heart disease and increases your risk of having a stroke.

The good news though is that following a healthy nutrition plan, along with exercising and implementing effective stress reduction techniques will normalize blood pressure in most people.

So please review the guidelines below, and look through the related article links at the end to learn more if you or someone you know is affected b y high blood pressure. It’s actually an easily treated condition, but one that can cause serious damage to your health if it’s ignored.

Your Diet Will Raise or Lower Your Blood Pressure

Are you on a high grain, low fat regimen?

If so, I have bad news for you, because this nutritional combination is a prescription for hypertension and can absolutely devastate your health.

Groundbreaking research published in 1998 in the journal Diabetes reported that nearly two-thirds of the test subjects who were insulin resistant (IR) also had high blood pressure, and insulin resistance is directly attributable to a high sugar, high grain diet along with insufficient amounts of exercise.

So, chances are that if you have hypertension, you also have poorly controlled blood sugar levels because these two problems often go hand in hand.

As your insulin level elevates, so does your blood pres

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