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Can you eat your way to better mental health? Study says yes

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Updated 4:38 AM ET, Mon February 18, 2019

Chat with us in Facebook Messenger. Find out what’s happening in the world as it unfolds.

‘Griddling’ is greatContrary to grilling, which normally involves some sort of charcoal, “griddling” uses a pan with distinctive raised edges and is normally done on the stove or in the oven.

Vegetables such as asparagus, griddled with a tiny bit of olive oil, can develop intense flavor and be quite healthy. It’s also an especially good choice for green beans, broccoli, celery, Swiss chard and onions.

It is well known that eating lots of fruit and vegetables is good for your physical health, but our latest research suggests that it might be good for your mental health too.

      Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

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State employee health plan changes face legislative scrutiny

By Mark Tosczak

State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s plan to cut more than $300 million in annual spending from the State Health Plan, which covers more than 700,000 state employees, public school teachers, retirees and their families, will be under scrutiny this week at the Legislature.

The House Health Committee on Tuesday is scheduled to hear from Folwell as well as from the North Carolina Healthcare Association, which represents the state’s hospitals and opposes the treasurer’s plan.

Under the new system, the SHP would reimburse health care providers a fixed percentage more than what Medicare pays them. The SHP is already moving to implement the plan, working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina to recruit hospitals, doctors and other providers into a new network. Blue Cross is contracted with the state to administer the health plan.

Meanwhile, NCHA and its hospital members have criticized Folwell’s plan as potentially damaging for state employees and many communities — especially rural communities — across the state.

“What we’re saying is we believe there’s a better path forward for the State Health Plan,” said Julie Henry, a spokeswoman for the NCHA. “If that requires legislative intervention to make that happen, then that’s what we would like to see happen.”

Hospitals push ‘value-based’ care

Hospital executives say they understand Folwell’s concern about rising health care costs, but they argue there are better ways to control those costs.

“I understand the premise that we need to reduce costs and eliminate waste in health care,” said Terry Akin, CEO of Greensboro-based Cone Health. “We’re not going to achieve that through arbitrary cuts in reimbursement.”

Instead, Akin and others argue, the state should embrace methods that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have been pushing for several years, and which are now being adopted even by some private payors. Chiefly, that means shifting to “value-based care,” where providers are reimbursed in part on their ability to keep patients healthy.

This would eventually supplant the system now used by most health insurance plans, including the SHP. That current system is based on fee-for-service reimbursements, where providers are paid based on the service they provide, whether that’s knee surgery, an MRI scan or an annual check-up. Critics of fee-for-service argue that it provides little incentive for providers to keep people healthy, as most doctors and hospitals collect most of their fees when someone is treated for an illness or injury.

Some providers back Folwell

Though hospitals have attacked Folwell’s plan, not all health care providers are opposed to it. Under SHP’s new payment plan, independent physicians, mental health counselors and a few small, rural hospitals that are federally designated as “critical access hospitals” could see their payments go up.

Dr. Dale Owen, a Charlotte cardiologist and CEO of the 88-physician Tryon Medical Partners group, said he’s met with Folwell to discuss the SHP and that he and other Tryon doctors support the move.

“We believe that it is a major step in the right direction,” he said. “Quite frankly, I think that the taxpayers who are paying the state employee health care plan, you know, are paying, they’re paying too much.”

Tryon Medical Group was formed last year after Owen and 87 other doctors who worked for Atrium Health quit the health care system to form their own entity.

“Everywhere hospitals go, the charges and costs go up,” he said. “Wherever they merge, wherever they buy physician groups and so forth, the cost goes up. That is not sustainable.”

The state needs good hospitals, Owen said, but “I don’t think we need to spend as much in all the bureaucracy that goes on in hospital systems.” Some health policy research supports Owen’s contention.

Value-based care being tested

Cone has, for several years, operated an accountable care organization for Medicare patients. Under that system, the hospital has the potential to earn back from the federal government a share of the money saved by delivering higher quality, lower cost care to a group of Medicare patients.

In 2018, Cone’s ACO, the Triad HealthCare Network, earned an extra $13.2 million by meeting benchmarks for quality and cost. The year before, the ACO earned an extra $10.7 million.

Networks like Triad HealthCare are still the exception, rather than the rule. But value-based care is beginning to spread into privately funded health care.

Last month, for example, Blue Cross announced that it had agreed on long-term contracts with five of the state’s biggest hospital systems to move roughly half their payments from fee-for-service to value-based care by 2020.

Though health care that’s cheaper and higher quality is attractive, value-based care can’t deliver the cost cuts that Folwell’s would.

“[The SHP} would be reducing revenue to these hospitals by a very substantial amount,” said Stuart Altman, a Brandeis University health care economist who also teaches part-time at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. “There is no amount of value-based [care] that would get anywhere close to that, nothing even remotely close.”

Hospitals face tough choices

According to SHP figures, the new payment system would cut overall payments for hospital outpatient services by almost a third. Hospital inpatient services, overall, would see much smaller cuts — from an average of 158 percent of Medicare rates to 155 percent. For large health systems, like Cone, the cuts could total up to tens of millions of dollars a year.

For smaller hospitals, especially rural facilities that are often perilously close to losing money, the cuts could push them into the red, hospital executives say, unless they cut other areas of hospital spending to make up the difference.

“Based on his proposed plan, we would lose 50 percent of our current state employee health plan reimbursements,” said Kathy Bailey, president and CEO of Carolinas Healthcare System Blue Ridge, a 184-bed in Morganton.

That loss — more than $9 million per year — would force Bailey to make some tough decisions, she says.

“Nine million is a lot more than what our operating margin was last year, and more, a lot more, than what it’s expected today, this year,” she said. “If his plan goes into place, we’ll have to make some pretty tough decisions on what services we can continue to offer.”

Potentially on the chopping block, Bailey says, would be free services, such as sports medicine for local high schools and free health screenings. She would also have to evaluate whether Blue Ridge could continue to offer some specialty services that are unusual for a small hospital, such as staffing a special care nursery 24-7 with neonatologists and having an infectious disease physician and gerontologist on the medical staff.

Employers subsidizing Medicaid

Altman says part of the problem that hospitals face has been created by legislative inaction in another area: Medicaid.

After the Affordable Care Act was passed, many states expanded their Medicaid programs to cover a wider swath of low-income residents. But the North Carolina General Assembly didn’t. Plus, in North Carolina, Medicaid is relatively stingy — paying hospitals and other providers significantly less than what it costs to actually deliver care.

Cone Health, for example, earned about $209 million in revenues from Medicaid for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, but it still lost about $62 million on those services, according to spokesman Doug Allred.

Between low Medicaid payments and the lack of Medicaid expansion, Altman says, hospitals end up treating more uninsured patients, who frequently can’t pay for the cost of their care. So employer-based health plans make up the difference.

“They then turn around and charge the privately insured substantially — substantially — more than the cost,” he said.

And in North Carolina, the biggest employer-based health plan is the state’s.

Folwell, however, has maintained since announcing the plan last fall that the State Health Plan should be treated like a government payor — similar to Medicaid or Medicare or even the systems set up to pay for prisoner health care — rather than like a private-sector, employer-funded health plan.

North Carolina’s $6 billion Medicaid program, which covers 2.1 million people, is scheduled to shift to managed-care plans this year. But those changes won’t change who’s eligible and aren’t designed to increase overall payments to providers.

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KY Health News: Half of US adults don’t know symptoms of heart attacks; KY high in heart attacks – User

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

About 50 percent of American adults don’t know the five common symptoms of a heart attack, even though a heart attack happens about every 40 seconds in the U.S., according to a recent study.

The five common symptoms of heart attack are pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back; feeling weak, lightheaded or faint; chest pain or discomfort; pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder; and shortness of breath.

Other symptoms include unexplained tiredness and nausea and vomiting.

The study, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Feb. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that while the number of U.S. adults who could list all five of these symptoms increased to 50.2 percent in 2017 from 39.6 percent in 2008, half the adults in the study couldn’t name them. Nearly 95 percent knew to call 911 if someone was having a heart attack. The data came from the National Health Interview Survey.

The study found that knowledge about the five heart attack symptoms was lower among men, young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, and persons with less than average education.

Heart attacks happen when part of the heart muscle doesn’t receive adequate blood flow. It’s important to call 911 immediately if you or someone you know is having a heart attack because the more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the risk to the heart.

In Kentucky, 6.5 percent of adults reported having had a heart attack, according to the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System annual survey. The national average was 4.2 percent. Kentucky ranks second highest for his measure, followed by West Virginia. The CDC reports that every year, about 790,000 Americans have a heart attack.

Click here for an interactive atlas of heart disease and stroke data for each county in Kentucky.

Coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis, which is sometimes called hardening of the arteries, is the main cause of heart attack, the CDC says. The disease is caused by plaque buildup in the wall of the arteries that supply blood to the heart and other parts of the body, which causes the arteries to narrow over time and can partially or totally block the blood flow.

The CDC offers a list of things you can do to lower your chances of getting heart disease, including: eating a healthy diet, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, limiting your alcohol intake, checking your cholesterol, controlling your blood pressure, managing your diabetes, having screening tests done that are recommended and taking medications to control your high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

It’s also important to find out who in your family has heart disease and to then share it with other family members and your health care providers because having close blood relatives with heart disease can also increase your risk of having a heart attack.

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Understanding Pregnancy Basics Could Make Childbirth Safer : Shots – Health News

Their research is still in early stages, but Kristin Myers (left), a mechanical engineer, and Dr. Joy Vink, an OB-GYN, both at Columbia University, have already learned that cervical tissue is a more complicated mix of material than doctors ever realized.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

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Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

Their research is still in early stages, but Kristin Myers (left), a mechanical engineer, and Dr. Joy Vink, an OB-GYN, both at Columbia University, have already learned that cervical tissue is a more complicated mix of material than doctors ever realized.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

Brittney Crystal was just over 25 weeks pregnant when her water broke.

It was her second pregnancy — the first had been rough, and the baby came early.

To try to avoid a second premature birth, Dr. Joy-Sarah Vink, an obstetrician and co-director of the Preterm Birth Prevention Center at Columbia University Medical Center, arranged for Crystal to be transported by ambulance from her local Connecticut hospital to New York City, where Vink could direct her care.

Scientists Search For Causes Of Preterm Birth And Better Ways To Test For Risk

Two weeks later Crystal started having contractions. She was given magnesium sulfate to stop them, and made it through the night. Crystal believed there was a future for her coming baby, whom she had named Iris.

“I went to the mirror and I talked to Iris,” Crystal says. “I said, ‘you know, this was a rough day. … You’re going to have them. But then the next day comes and the sun comes up and we move forward.’ “

That evening, however, the contractions started again. Crystal was whisked to an operating room for a Cesarean section. She was a little under 28 weeks pregnant.

“I think I knew before I opened my eyes that she had died,” Crystal says, her voice cracking as she reaches for a tissue.

Afterward, as she was recovering in the hospital and mourning the loss of Iris, Crystal and her family asked a lot of questions. Why can’t you seal up the amniotic sac if your water breaks early? Why can’t you reliably stop preterm labor?

“And that’s when Dr. Vink told us that, you know, rare diseases are being cured in this day and age, but we don’t know what triggers full-term labor,” Crystal recalls. “That just collectively blew away everyone in the room.”

It was surprising but true. When it comes to pregnancy, research on some basic questions stalled decades ago, Vink says. If a pregnancy is normal, that doesn’t matter much. But when things go wrong, those gaps in knowledge become issues of life and death.

“It’s mind-boggling that in this day and age, we still don’t understand [even] in a normal pregnancy how women go into labor — what triggers labor,” Vink says. “Because we don’t understand the normal fundamental mechanisms, we can’t identify how things go bad — and then how we fix it when things go bad.”

Premature Birth Rates Rise Again, But A Few States Are Turning Things Around

Crystal, for example, had undergone a procedure called cervical cerclage: Vink had stitched Crystal’s cervix closed in hopes of preventing it from opening too soon. The technique has been around for more than 40 years, and it’s about the only treatment available for what doctors call “an incompetent cervix.” But much of the time, it’s not enough to stop a premature birth.

Most basic knowledge about pregnancy comes from research performed in the 1940s, Vink says, and she’s working hard to update that information.

She’s focused first on the cervix, she says, because if doctors can get the cervix to stay closed in those final, crucial weeks of gestation, the baby won’t be born too soon, even if the amniotic sac breaks.

“So, what is the cervix made out of? What proteins are there, what cells are there? How are all these things interacting? How do they change in pregnancy?” she asks, laying out some of the unknowns. By the end of pregnancy, a woman’s cervix goes from being stiff, like the tip of a nose, to very soft. But how?

To help answer those questions, Vink and her graduate researchers are taking, for analysis, cervical tissue samples from women in her medical practice who are at different stages of pregnancy.

One of her first findings, she says, is that the cervix is not made mostly of collagen, as doctors long thought. It also has a lot of muscle.

While Vink studies what the cervix is made of, one of her university colleagues, mechanical engineer Kristin Myers, is trying to determine how it works.

“I’m kind of an oddball in the department of obstetrics and gynecology,” Myers says. “I teach mechanics classes and design classes here at Columbia.”

Myers got her start as an undergraduate, doing materials research in the automobile industry. Back then she tested how tires respond to heat.

(Left) Myers shows Vink 3D computer simulations of the cervix. (Right) Vink pipettes solution into slides containing cervical smooth muscle cells. Understanding the forces that lead a healthy cervix to open and close at the right times may be key to preventing some premature births.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

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Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

(Left) Myers shows Vink 3D computer simulations of the cervix. (Right) Vink pipettes solution into slides containing cervical smooth muscle cells. Understanding the forces that lead a healthy cervix to open and close at the right times may be key to preventing some premature births.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

“So if you take rubber and you heat it up and you pull on it, it gets really, really soft — and then it breaks,” Myers says.

That reaction reminded her adviser of how a bulging aneurysm bursts. He suggested she focus her curiosity on the mechanics of the human body. When she arrived at MIT for her graduate studies, Myers worked with researchers who were interested in the mechanics of pregnancy.

“It’s an important area — an understudied area — and a basic part of pregnancy physiology,” says Dr. Michael House, an OB-GYN at Tufts University who also has a background in engineering. “There is just lots to learn.”

House has been a mentor to Myers and continues to collaborate with her. He says the focus on the cervix is particularly important, “because a cervix problem can affect the pregnancy very early.”

About 1 in 10 babies are born prematurely in the U.S. each year. If those babies are born close to term — after around 35 weeks — they can do quite well. But a woman with a problematic cervix can go into labor much sooner, which can lead to miscarriage or a baby born so early that the child may die or face lifelong health problems.

Myers is investigating several aspects of the biomechanics of pregnancy — from how much the uterus can stretch, to how much pressure pregnancy exerts on the cervix, to how much force a baby’s kick puts on the whole system.

“We’re building computational models of female pregnancy to answer those questions,” Myers says.

She has two labs at Columbia — one at the hospital and one in the engineering school. In the lab at the engineering school there are a variety of microscopes and scalpels and slides. There’s one machine that can inflate the uterine membranes like a balloon, and another, about the size of a microwave, that stretches uterine tissue between two grips.

“These [are] types of machines you’ll see in all different kinds of material testing labs,” Myers explains. “In civil engineering you can have one of these machines that is like two or three stories high and they’re testing the mechanical strength of, [say], railroad ties.”

She is measuring just how much the cervical tissue changes during pregnancy — starting out with the capability and consistency of a tendon, and becoming something more like a loose rubber band.

“We’ve mechanically tested various pregnant tissues and non-pregnant tissues of the cervix,” Myers says, “and its stiffness changes by three orders of magnitude.”

Vink reviews images of smooth muscle cells that her team isolated from cervical biopsies taken from pregnant women at different stages of pregnancy. The stiffness of the cervix changes by “three orders of magnitude” across nine months, Myer has found.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

hide caption

toggle caption

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

Vink reviews images of smooth muscle cells that her team isolated from cervical biopsies taken from pregnant women at different stages of pregnancy. The stiffness of the cervix changes by “three orders of magnitude” across nine months, Myer has found.

Adrienne Grunwald for NPR

All those measurements go into a databank. And when women in Vink’s practice get an ultrasound, the technicians spend an extra few minutes measuring the mother’s anatomy, as well as the baby’s, and send that information to Myers, too.

Then the team uses their computer models to look at how the various factorsshape, stretch, pressure and tissue strength — interact as a woman moves toward labor and childbirth.

Their goal is to be able to examine a pregnant woman early on, and accurately predict whether she will go into labor too soon. It’s a first step, Vink hopes, toward better interventions to stop that labor.

That’s what Brittney Crystal is aiming for as well. After baby Iris died, Crystal started a foundation called The Iris Fund, which has raised more than $150,000 for Vink’s and Meyers’ research.

“She didn’t get to have a life,” Crystal says. “But we really want her to have a very strong legacy.”

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Nutritional Frontiers Signs Landmark Agreement With Good Health Distributors to Bring the Brand Into Asia

BRIDGEVILLE, Pa., Feb. 14, 2019 /PRNewswire/ – Pittsburgh-based health and wellness leader, Nutritional Frontiers, enters into a landmark partnership with Singapore-based health and nutrition distributor, Good Health Distributors, to expand and promote health and wellness in the growing Asian market. Nutritional Frontiers prides itself on their commitment to education and innovation for healthcare professionals and consumers for over 10 years.

“We have contributed a great deal in making America healthy and there is much more to do, however, in marking our 10 years we also thought it would be timely to aim to ‘Make the World Healthy.’ Asia is a region, which is growing economically, and they also share similar health demographics. When Shawn of Good Health contacted me, I was excited and said yes immediately,” stated Jamie Dorley, CEO Nutritional Frontiers. Nutritional Frontiers and Good Health Distributors share a unique vision of making Asia healthy with a focus on quality, integrity, research, and service.

“Nutritional Frontiers Asia will be the solution to the challenges they are facing with the traditional healthcare system. I am also privileged to work with Good Health Distributors, who are the pioneers in health and nutrition distribution in Asia. They were the ones who brought Weider into Asia. I knew from the first time I spoke with Shawn, we share a similar vision and ideals. He is not just a great business leader, but also an international leader in the sport of bodybuilding, so we have similar experiences,” Jamie stated.

Mr. Shawn Sugendran, MD of Good Health Distributors and CEO of Singapore Wellness Centre added, “We have been in the traditional nutrition and health distribution business since 1977 and have very strict brand requirements as we owe our national directors and consumers an obligation to keep them healthy and safe. Nutritional Frontiers meets the highest quality standards and utilizes over 45 researched, trademarked, and patented ingredients. According to research, Asia is soon going to face a major health crisis. We have a fast-aging population. Many of us are suffering from chronic illness and the sad fact is many do not realize these are preventable chronic issues and accept them as part of getting old. Therefore, we wanted to look at not just serving the sporting community but the larger community out there. Our people focus on making money more than their health and they will in turn trust the healthcare system to take care of them when they suffer. It’s a price we pay for rapid economic growth. In my center, we see many patients like that. I ask them would you rather pay forward and be healthy in your last years or pay later and suffer in your last years. We need to really educate them on food quality, the need for proper nutrition, and preventive medicine,” he shared.

Shawn, who is also the President of the World Bodybuilding Physique Sports Federation Singapore whose athletes recently won two medals at the World Championships last year, aims to promote an active lifestyle and good nutrition as a pathway towards active and disease-free living.

Nutritional Frontiers Asia had already been receiving interest from many Asian countries and governments. It is also aiming to roll out certification programs for the Healthcare and Allied Healthcare communities in the next six months.

Nutritional Frontiers

3191 Washington Pike

Bridgeville, PA 15017

CEO: Jamie Dorley

+1 412-922-2566

Facebook : Nutritional Frontiers

Good Health Distributors Pte Ltd

55 Siglap Road B1-21

Siglap Centre Singapore 455871

Managing Director : Mr Shawn Sugendran

+65 91459500

Facebook: Good Health Singapore Singapore Wellness Centre

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SOURCE Nutritional Frontiers

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Northwest Colorado Health: Good routine critical for children’s oral health

Northwest Colorado Health provides low-cost dental care in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Craig.

Losing baby teeth should be exciting milestones for children, but that is not always the case.

Annie Sadvar, dental hygienist for Northwest Colorado Health, has seen the consequences of poor dental health even in the smallest of children.

“I’ve seen kids as young as age 1 with teeth so badly decayed that they have to be pulled,” she said. “Most people just don’t realize how vulnerable children are to cavities.”

Baby teeth may be temporary, but they play an important role in children’s health and development, affecting their ability to chew, speak, smile and learn. Decayed baby teeth can potentially cause infection affecting the growth of permanent teeth. When they are lost too early, baby teeth prematurely open up space that allows permanent teeth to come in crooked.

One of the most common causes of cavities in very young children is baby bottle tooth decay. Parents should avoid allowing their baby to sleep with a bottle of milk or juice. Wiping babies’ gums with a clean gauze pad helps remove any plague that can harm erupting teeth.

As soon as baby teeth appear, parents can brush their child’s teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste in an amount no larger than a grain of rice.

Children can start learning to brush as soon as they can hold a toothbrush. Children age 3 to 6 should use a pea-size amount of toothpaste. Making brushing fun reinforces a good routine. Parents can make it a family affair, integrating games, songs and simple rewards, such as picking a bedtime story. Taking children shopping for a toothbrush or allowing them to pick from several toothbrushes each day can satisfy their growing independence and help them take ownership of their routine.

It’s easy to get lax on supervising children’s dental routines, but parents who stay vigilant will help their children avoid painful and potentially costly dental complications.

“I saw a 12-year-old with gums so swollen they bled to the touch,” Sadvar said. “Too often parents are not following up, and their kids are paying the price.

Regular visits to a dental provider can start as soon as a child’s first tooth appears but no later than their first birthday.

“The first appointment might be really short,” Sadvar said. “But the more comfortable the child becomes with the dental chair, the more willing they will be to continue participating in their dental health.”

Northwest Colorado Health provides dental care for all ages at clinics in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Craig. Most insurance is accepted, including Medicaid. Families who do not have dental insurance can pay on a sliding scale. To make an appointment, call 970-824-8000.

This article includes information from and the American Dental Association.

Tamera Manzanares is Marketing Coordinator at the Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at or 970-871-7642.

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Bernas advocates eating the right rice for good health – Metro News

PADIBERAS Nasional Berhad (Bernas) has not only brought festive cheer to the needy this Chinese New Year, but also valuable nutritional advice.

During the group’s Ikhlas Festive visit to Home For Special People in Cheras, Selangor, they introduced the benefits of three different types of rice to the residents.

The Basmati Rice (Sella), Steam Ponni Rice and Bario Rice are suitable for daily consumption for the home’s residents aged between four and 47 years.

“A balanced diet, with good nutrition is important for the growth of those with special condition.

“We took this opportunity to introduce these three types of rice, which are considered good in terms of texture and nutrients,” Bernas head of corporate communications Norliza Mat Isa said.

“Every type of rice has its own uniqueness, Basmati Rice (Sella) helps to combat malnutrition and alleviate various deficiencies.

“The process of milling for this type of rice involves gentle parboiling, which involves steaming or boiling of paddy, drying and polishing the rice to preserve the nutrients.

“The famous Bario Rice from Sarawak has a soft, fluffy and smooth texture,” she added.

An annual initiative under the group’s corporate social responsibility programme, Ikhlas Festive aims to give back and reach out to the community.

“As a leader that manages the nation’s staple food, our concern and priority have always been to ensure the welfare of the less fortunate.

“It is also hoped that this humble gesture of goodwill will cultivate love and care, as well as give them a memorable experience,” Norliza added.

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What Happens to Your Gut When You Go Vegan

We tend to think of our gut as somewhat static, not really changing much from day to day or minute to minute, but a growing amount of research confirms that it is ever-changing for better or worse, depending on how we eat.

Known as a microbiome, which is the sum of all the microbial life that resides in each person or animal, our gut is always in a state of flux, depending on our food choices and other lifestyle factors. You may be wondering, “how will my gut change if I eat a plant-based diet or increase the amount of plant-based foods in my diet?”

While the research is still in its early stages (after all, we didn’t discover the microbiome that long ago), there are some profound changes that may occur as we move away from a diet that tends to be high in animal products to one that includes more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains.

First, let’s look at one study that showed the effects of a low-carb (which tends to mean high protein diet). According to the study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, which explored the effects of a low carb diet on the gut microbiome, scientists at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio used a “human gut simulator” to assess the effects a ketogenic-type diet. They found that the diet resulted in bacterial changes in the gut, resulting in a reduction in varieties that produce fatty acids and antioxidants, which are compounds that are needed to fight inflammation, disease and the effects of aging. While the study did not explore a shift back toward a plant-based diet, it is reasonable to think that the bacteria will shift back to ones that produce the necessary fatty acids and antioxidants needed for great health.

Beneficial bacteria or yeasts are known as probiotics. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if I tell you that they need food for their survival. The food for probiotics is collectively known as prebiotics. Prebiotics are primarily found in the naturally-occurring sugars and fiber  in plant-based foods. Making a switch to a diet high in plant-based foods, which contain plentiful amounts of prebiotics, we should expect to see the numbers of beneficial microbes increase in our gut, which will mean greater gut health, improved digestion and overall better health.

In another study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists discovered that our distant ancestors, the great apes, seem to experience a fluctuation in their gut depending on the season. When the apes ate a high roughage diet, which they do in spring, fall and winter, they had increased numbers of bacteria in their gut that assist with breaking down roughage. While the study took place on apes and not humans, it not only showcases the changeability of the microbiome, we may be able to deduce that our nearly constant state of fiber deficiency may be promoting the growth of bacteria that cause intestinal inflammation and even colon cancer. Switching our diet to a plant-based one, or one with a greater amount of fiber from plant-based foods will reduce intestinal inflammation and reduce our risk of colon cancer. And, since most inflammation begins in the gut, we will likely experience reduced levels of pain and inflammation elsewhere in the body. Obviously, some of these changes may take time, so be patient.

Again, most of the research has explored the effects of meat and dairy on the microbiome, and a Harvard University study published in the journal Nature is no different. The researchers found that diet rapidly alters the microorganisms residing in the gut, even within 24 hours. This study found that a short-term switch to a high meat and cheese diet in humans resulted in the colonization of different microbes than those normally present when other diets were consumed.

The microbes linked to the high meat and cheese diets have been linked to a capacity for increased inflammation in the GI tract. The Harvard study supports the assertion that eliminating, or substantially reducing, the amount of meat and dairy products from our diet will reduce the inflammation-causing bacteria in our gut. And, that can only spell improved health from any of the inflammation-related illnesses, from arthritis and cancer, to depression and heart disease.

The research is still early but these findings help us to know why there are so many health benefits for humans who eat a plant-based or largely plant-based diet—it may simply be more harmonious with our microbiomes. A vegan or plant-based diet is high in fiber, high in water, high in anti-inflammatory compounds, high in antioxidants and many other nutrients. And, since great health truly does begin in the gut, it’s no surprise so many people who make the switch feel better for it.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, founder of Scentsational Wellness, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight Extend Your Life. Follow her work.


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To your health: Healthy You event promotes healthy lifestyle

The Union’s second annual Healthy You event drew hundreds to Grass Valley’s Veterans Memorial Building Saturday despite inclement weather.

Representatives from dozens of area businesses and medical practitioners were on hand at informational booths while motivational speakers and healthy living demonstrations took place throughout the day.

Topics from presenters included body image, brain health, mindful caregiving as well as a yoga class.

Keynote speaker Kayle Martin ­— whose story is highlighted in this month’s Healthy You magazine — talked to the audience about overcoming cancer with a combination of western medicine and a vegan and healthy food lifestyle.

Vendors included: Airmedcare/Network/Calstar/Reach, Anew Day, Archer Chiropractic, Atria Grass Valley, California College of Ayurveda, Choose Wellness Now, Clavey Vineyards and Winery, Comfort Keepers, Grass Valley Yoga, Lifecare Chiropractic, Partners in Care, Revival Float, Sierra Homegrown Holistic Health, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Spring Hill Physical Therapy, St. Mortiz Medical Center, Warmth Studios, The Wellness Center.

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HEALTHY LIVING: Tobacco to 21 | Lifestyles

When it comes to smoking rates and tobacco control policies, Oklahoma has room for improvement. While Oklahoma’s current smoking rate of 19.6 percent is the lowest in state history, the lack of comprehensive smoke-free policies at the state level leaves many Oklahomans, especially children, vulnerable to the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

According to, tobacco kills over 480,000 people each year, which is more than automobile crashes, gun violence, and opiate overdoses combined. More than 95 percent of addicted smokers start before the age of 21, and 350 youth become regular smokers each day in the United States. For these reasons, and many others, states are beginning to raise the legal purchase age of tobacco from 18 to 21. The adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of nicotine, and its early exposure can increase the risk of addiction, depression, anxiety, and other substance abuse. By increasing the age to purchase tobacco to 21, it can lengthen the lives of 5.6 million kids alive today.

On the 10th anniversary of Tobacco Stops With Me, TSET published a list of their goals for the next 10 years, and Tobacco 21 being one main focus. Tobacco Stops With Me has begun highlighting how Oklahoma’s smoking policies stack up with neighboring states and national trends. Their focus is simple: to encourage Oklahomans to take an active role in helping to eliminate the dangers of tobacco.

Oklahoma’s rate for both high school and adult smoking is above the national average and estimated at 88,000 children now under the age of 18 will die due to smoking and 2,100 of those children will become daily smokers each year. According to the CDC, the percentage of high school students using any tobacco product is 27.1 percent in the country with 7.2 percent of the usage being from middle school students.

Oklahoma spends roughly 57 percent of the CDC recommended amount on tobacco prevention from various programs of TSET, which is protected by state law. With preemption, Oklahoma does not allow for local Tobacco 21 laws as it requires state legislation change. It does leave room for local resolutions for Tobacco 21 in any community. Local government has the ability to pass a supportive resolution for Tobacco 21 state legislation. In the current legislative session, a bill has been authored to ban e-cigarette use in all Oklahoma school districts. In most Oklahoma school districts, this is currently held within their tobacco policy. Passing of this legislation will make it a requirement of all schools. The national average of e-cigarette usage among high school students is 20.8 percent, and 4.9 percent among middle school students (

Please consider calling your local board of health, city council member or county commissioner considering Tobacco 21 laws. All it takes is one or two phone calls or emails to support the movement to raise the age. For more information on how to make your local community a healthier place to live and work, please contact the Payne County TSET Healthy Living Program at 405.780.7309.

Lissette Minges is a TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist.

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