Why Being Sedentary Is So Harmful to Your Health

Most of us understand this basic health concept: exercising reaps more benefits than staying sedentary. But inactivity can have a more harmful effect on our health than you probably realize; researchers at the University of Missouri recently conducted a study to find out how.

In their effort to determine how inactivity can affect disease risk, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, researchers took a group of healthy, active adults and told them to stop moving so much. Instead of working out every day, the subjects were instructed to cut their number of daily steps in half.

Armed with glucose-monitoring devices, pedometers and activity-measuring armbands, the volunteers’ blood sugar and number of steps were monitored throughout the day in order for the researchers to determine whether a more sedentary lifestyle would influence the body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. Spikes and peaks in blood sugar are tied to the development of both heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

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Demi Lovato Lashes Out at Disney Channel for Eating Disorder Jokes

It’s nothing new to hear about celebrities battling eating disorders and models looking unhealthily thin, but now it looks as though an unlikely television network just might be poking fun at the illness affecting many actresses, even some of their own.

The Disney Channel is receiving heat after actress/singer Demi Lovato, who got her start on Disney, criticized the network on Twitter last month for not only making fun of eating disorders in its programming but also for employing too-skinny stars in shows geared toward a young audience.

During a 2010 episode in Disney’s Shake It Up, a character joked, “I could just eat you up—well, if I ate.” And in another program So Random, a different character alluded to not eating to keep in shape.

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That’s So Smart: Health Apps for Your Smartphone

People, we’re in a health-technology boom. A new report from Juniper Research found that the number of mobile-health-app downloads in 2012 will reach 44 million. And if current trends continue, that number will jump to 142 million by 2016.

Want in on the trend now? From radiology imaging to tracking your glucose levels, here are some neat high-tech health apps that will improve your day-to-day.

OsiriX HD
$29.99 (iPhone)

With an app that displays radiology imaging, healthcare professionals can now access a brain MRI on their iPhone. Last year, OsiriX was shown in a study to accurately diagnose acute appendicitis, turning the technology into a doctor’s new best friend.

Tap & Track
$3.99 (iPhone)

By factoring in your lifestyle, you can calculate the number of calories you should be eating each day. And with personalized graphs and reports alongside nutritional information from over 500,000 food items, it won’t be hard to meet your weight-loss goals.

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Study: Eat Fish for Better Brain Power

Brain working overtime because of the holiday crunch? A change in diet might be your perfect solution.

Eating baked or broiled fish just once a week could boost your brain power and reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss, according to a new study.

Over a ten year period researchers from University of Pittsburgh Medical Center followed the fish consumption of 260 adults, measuring their brain volume and memory function. Researchers found that those who ate more fish also had more gray matter, which is vital to maintaining a healthy brain.

Even when accounting for other factors, results showed those with larger volumes of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with memory and learning, such as the hippocampus, reduced their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease five-fold over a five year period.

Another benefit of including fish in your diet: You’ll get your dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a substance known to optimize brain function.

Eager to get cooking? Here are some deliciously healthy fish recipes simple enough for anyone’s brain to handle.

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Health Alert: BPA Found in Thanksgiving Staples

Ah, Thanksgiving. The warm pumpkin pie, the savory turkey-breast, the delicious stuffing … the toxic chemicals? Yup, you read that right: There might be a toxin hiding in your holiday feast.

According to a new report released by the Breast Cancer Fund, the estrogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has been found in canned products many use in Thanksgiving dinners. BPA is used to make the resin linings of metal food cans, providing a barrier between the metal and food to help avoid bacteria. So what’s the problem? The chemical can bleed from the resin and find its way into your cranberry sauce.

Research studies have linked BPA to increased risks for breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Eleven states have even banned the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups.

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10 Terrifying Diets

People going to extremes to lose a few pounds isn’t a new phenomenon, but some diets push the boundaries and enter a whole new realm of weight-loss insanity. From injecting pregnancy hormones to foregoing food for sunlight, we picked the top 10 wacky fad diets that you wouldn’t want to try.

Amy Tuttle, a registered dietician and licensed clinical social worker, offers commentary on the dangers associated with these diets. Director of Philadelphia’s Valley Green Counseling and co-founder of Feast Upon Life, a mindfulness-based, no-diet program, she suggests cutting out the fads all together and focusing on what your mind and body need.

“Diets take us away from our natural ability to regulate our food and weight,” she says. “All these diets will work until they don’t work—they’ll fail you.”

Plus, Tuttle says, all diets result in one thing: deprivation-driven eating. By limiting and restricting food, you’ll be affected both physically and psychologically. And all of this can lead to binge-eating, ticking the scale right back up to the weight you were before you started dieting in the first place.

So before getting caught up in a diet fad, check out the nasty, sometimes shocking, side effects that accompany these get-slim-quick schemes.

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New Study Links Eating Disorders with Brain Malfunction

New research has linked anorexia and bulimia to a brain malfunction, which means drugs to treat the eating disorders could be on the horizon. Considering that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, this could be big news.

The study, reported in Biological Psychiatry, suggests that deficits in endocannabinoids could be associated with reduced appetite. Endocannabinoids are natural compounds in the body that affect both brain function and chemistry, much like medicinal compounds found in marijuana. The system plays a role in pain-sensation, mood, memory and, most significantly, appetite.

Since many people who have smoked marijuana report an urge to eat, researchers predicted deficits in the endocannabinoid system would be associated with reduced appetite.

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Study: Lung Cancer Linked to Air Pollution

Ready to be startled? Approximately one in ten people who develop lung cancer have never smoked. Researchers think it has to do with dangerous air pollution levels in the cities in which they reside.

Nonsmokers who live in areas with high air pollution levels are 20 percent more likely to die from lung cancer than people who live in places with cleaner air, according to a new study out of the University of Ottowa.

Lead author of the study Michelle Turner and her colleagues followed more than 180,000 non-smokers for 26 years and found that 1,100 people died from lung cancer.

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FDA Warns of Heart Risks Tied to Black Licorice

Photograph by George Doyle

While you’re watching out for zombies, vampires and witches, keep your eyes peeled for a new villain on Halloween: black licorice.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning earlier this week that consuming large quantities of black licorice can lead to heart arrhythmias along with other health problems, especially if you’re 40 or older. Adults eating two ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks can wind up with an abnormal heart rhythm.

The culprit? Black licorice contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, which can lower the body’s potassium levels and cause the heart beat to race or become out of sync. Glycrrhizin is also the very ingredient that gives licorice its sweet flavor.

More bad news: Black licorice can also lead to high blood pressure and edema. And according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, pregnant women need to be wary of black licorice as it can increase the risk of pre-term labor.

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Taste Test: Fusion Gym’s Trainer-Designed Energy Bars

Sometimes the stockpiles of nutrition bars offered in super markets just don’t have the flavor, taste or texture you’re looking for. So why not ditch those Luna and Cliff bars and take control of the both the ingredients and nutrients in your snack? That’s what the trainers at local fitness studio Fusion did.

Fusion coaches customized and created their own energy bars, providing tasty and healthy treats for workout fanatics using YouBars.com.

The website, which launched in 2006, features a Build-a-Bar page allowing customers to tailor their bars to their own nutritional needs. You start off by picking a base or two. Then you have the option of adding on protein powders, nuts and seeds, dried fruits and berries, sweeteners, seasonings, grains and, if desired, a vitamin or fiber infusion. At the end you choose your order size; thirteen bars come in one box.

If you’re worried you might not make the right combo and end up with a box full of bars that taste like bricks, snag some ingredients from a few of Fusion’s creations. The fitness studio ranked their coaches’ customized bars out in a blind taste-test, so I decided to test out five of their creations for myself. A few had me going back for a second—or third—bite.

Here are my top five:

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