It's not that hard to relaxTaking a nice hot bath or a...

Healthwatch

August 04, 1992|By Universal Press Syndicate

It's not that hard to relax

Taking a nice hot bath or a long walk appears to give you just as much relief from stress and anxiety as any fancy meditation technique. So says a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences. Report contributor Gerald Davison, a psychologist from the University of Southern California, found no evidence that meditation techniques, which generally involve the repetition of a key word or phrase called a mantra, reduce stress or blood pressure any better than taking a walk on a regular basis or simply "hanging out" at home. Whatever relaxation method you choose, be it listening to music or deep breathing, be sure to practice it regularly. The benefits associated with meditation may be due, more than anything else, to the fact that its adherents practice it twice daily.

The dirt on clay-eating

At a loss for dinner ideas? How about a nice bowl of clay? This may sound peculiar to you, but people have been eating clay for centuries. Both the Pomo Indians of California and natives of Sardinia, Italy, mixed it with acorns to make bread. In this country, clay-eating now takes place mostly among African-Americans in the South, who sometimes prefer to eat it straight out of the ground.

It probably won't surprise you to learn that physicians view clay-eating as abnormal, interpreting it as a symptom of a metabolic problem. But two Canadian doctors have just published information that may change medical attitudes. Dr. Timothy Johns and Dr. Martin Duquette, of McGill University in Quebec, say that eating clay can provide significant amounts of calcium, iron and other nutrients. Clay also neutralizes bacterial toxins and harmful or foul-tasting ingredients in other foods, such as the tannic acid in acorns. Dr. Johns and Dr. Duquette believe that clay-eating "plays a useful role . . . and should be appreciated as a normal human behavior."

Before you consider rustling up a side order of the stuff, however, bear in mind warnings from nutritionists who say that ++ clay may form a filter in your stomach that can actually keep nutrients from being absorbed. Also, be warned that anything taken from the ground -- especially but not exclusively in urban or industrial areas -- can contain lead and other toxins.

Magnesium for PMS

Suggested treatments for premenstrual discomfort have ranged from eating pasta to taking the blood-pressure drug clonidine. This time, the promising remedy of the hour is the mineral magnesium. Research shows that women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) tend to have low blood levels of magnesium. This has led scientists to wonder whether magnesium deficiency might explain many PMS symptoms. Doctors in the Italian cities of Pavia and Modena tested this idea in a double-blind study with 32 PMS sufferers, half of whom received about 1 gram of magnesium per day -- about three times the RDA -- over a period of four menstrual cycles. The women who received magnesium throughout the study reported that their normal premenstrual symptoms, including pain and bad moods, lightened up considerably. Thus, it appears that magnesium supplements could provide a safe, effective treatment for premenstrual symptoms. But be warned that excess magnesium from high-dose supplements has been linked chronic diarrhea. It's best to get your magnesium from food sources, which include nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark green vegetables, seafoods, chocolate and cocoa.

Eat less, live longer

You can eat all the bee pollen or green algae you want, but there is no known "health" food that will help you live longer. The one way to eat for longevity is simply to eat less, if research with animals is any indication. The latest study on this looks as promising as the rest. The Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University monitored 136 age-related tissue changes in 1,100 mice, half of which were kept on a nutritious but low-calorie diet. The rest ate as much as they wanted. Nearly every one of the normal signs of aging, such as the formation of tumors, was postponed in the lean mice. They lived 15 percent to 50 percent longer, remained livelier and looked better. Scientists have theorized that eating less reduces the genetic damage that accumulates over time, thus slowing the rate of aging. Of course, what's good for mice isn't always good for men. But these benefits affected every organ in the animals' bodies -- a good sign that humans can also eat less to live longer.

Night belongs to older drivers

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