January 2004 Vol. 4 Issue 1

An Internet Newsletter publication for all CIM Alumni and friends.

    Clem S. Estrera, Jr., M.D.
          Editor

    Ma. Belen Rosales, M.D.
        Associate Editor

     Ray Castillejo, M.D.
    Binisaya Section Editor

CIM Alumni News and Views...

ďSomewhere in the world there is defeat for everyone. Some are destroyed by defeat, and some made small and mean by victory. Greatness lives in one who triumphs equally over defeat and victory.Ē Ė John Steinbeck

The Upcoming ASOCIMAI Election

Clem S. Estrera, Jr., CIM '72

A decision made
     As I had already stated in the July 2003 special edition of Brain Waves, I am stepping down of my position as the PRO of ASOCIMAI this year, an election year of the officers. Although in that edition, Iíve mentioned about my disappointments with some aspects of our association like making promises and forget about them, and the feeling of impotence as to what more we need to do to improve alumniís cooperation and participation, †my decision to step down, however, has very little to do, if any, with these past disappointments. Indeed itís hard to hide your disappointments when, being a part of the leadership, promises are taken for granted and readily forgotten like they were made during a bout of alcohol intoxication, and the rewards of your efforts are only minimal. But the reason for my stepping down is mainly personal.

     With my three kids in college, the conspiracy of kids and mortgages has gotten tough to deal with. It routinely dissects my paycheck like itís a cadaver in the Gross Anatomy Lab. Thus I have gone back to taking extra calls on weekends to earn extra money to get me through hard times. Iíve got to deal with this conspiracy while I still have the energy and opportunity to do it. Itís something I donít want to turn tail. I want to go to bed at night with the confidence that at least Iím trying to do the best I could to fulfill my responsibilities for my family. After all, my children did not choose to be in this world. My wife and I did.

     Although I have been able to keep my girth from growing over my belt all because I cannot afford a change of wardrobe, age still has slowly taken its toll on my bodyís quickness and flexibility. An ache that used to last only for a day, would now linger for a week or even more. I must admit that I used to chase after my lost youth until I started moving out of middle age when Iíve finally made up my mind to simply accept my downhill course, although I still try hanging on to it every year in any way I know how. In any event, I want to make sure that when my body slows down significantly (which could be soon, who knows?), my responsibilities for my children in particular are all taken care of and Iím totally free from any financial burden.

     Having grown up in a culture where the emphasis was a strong family support, if we can help it, I donít think any of us, as parents, would want to see any of our children struggling financially all because we refused to help support them in their choice of career when we could have. I doubt if we could even enjoy our retirement. Thus itís better to help support them while we are still capable of doing so, so they can have their own means of living a comfortable life.

     It has been said that there are three things in life that you could never have enough Ė love, sex and money. Well, I donít really want money, but I need it. I am like Jackie Mason who said: ďI have enough money to last me the rest of my life - unless I buy something.Ē Anyway, the bottom line is, I donít want to serve as an officer of our association while Iím struggling to survive, for I have no more time to fulfill my duties or responsibilities like attending board meetings and other officersí activities that I feel the need to participate. I want to free myself of this feeling. My conscience would never fail to make me uneasy if being an officer I would not be able to participate or do something for the association. I would not want to be anything I would not be worthy of.

A regrettable mistake
     The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that Iíve made a regrettable mistake of voting to amend the term limit of elected officers of our association in such a way that officers like the president, for example, can now hold the same position again and again. In other words, our association could now be stuck with the same officers or president in particular for life as other alumni who may have the desire for the leadership would remain hesitant assuming that they have no chance.†

     You may ask, ďWhatís wrong with it?Ē Well, when a leadership is not being challenged, let alone being subjected to the possibility of being changed or replaced, such leadership has no incentive to think and to do any better than to simply maintain the status quo. It would fail to look into its strengths and weaknesses, much less to understand them, and thus it would trust too much its own experiences and think too little of the ideas and opinions of others. It would stick to the old ways and follow what used to work. It would remain handicapped by obsolete ideas. Its desire to just do something would frequently if not constantly overpower its desire to do the right thing.

    Leadership has to be shaken at its core, to be at least subjected to a threat of the possibility of being replaced or changed through a true and fair election, or to the reality of a term limit for different ideas to emerge and improvement to occur in an association. If it is stuck with obsolete ideas, or insists on doing the same things in the same old ways, then it would keep getting the same results. In other words, to such leadership, change becomes a strange phenomenon.

    If our association has to change for the better or for the worse for that matter before it gets better, the term limit for the officers should not have been amended, or it should be re-amended. A change, no matter what it is, is better than no change at all, for change means taking risks to move forward. Not to move forward is to fall backward. Progress can only be achieved by moving forward. There is no progress in standing still.

    World changes. Lightning strikes. Reality bites. Love hurts. Taste shifts. Style modifies. Technology miniaturizes. New ways of doing things have come and gone. And yet, in our association, progress seems to be a fearful thing. Changes have antiquated it many times over.

A boat to rock
    I guess I was carried away by the rumors Iíve heard that in other alumni associations, election is chaotic because some of the members are aggressively jockeying for the presidentís position in particular. This readily leads to anger and hostility that only divide, not unite the association. Many of us must have heard from Filipinos like us saying that we, Filipinos, have some kind of mentality. I presume a part of that mentality is the inability of many of us to express anger and frustration constructively. When we are angry and frustrated with each other, intimidation and hostility seem to come too easily while grudges seem hard to let go. And in some of us grudges would last forever. As a consequence, we become cynical and overly sensitive that certain words that are obviously not meant to hurt would easily hurt our feelings. So we tend to stay away from each other to avoid confrontation, and shy away from activities we used to participate and have fun with.

    Of course, every one, saint or sinner, regardless of race, religion or color, gets angry and frustrated at least every now and then. Anger and frustration are normal human feelings. We donít choose our feelings - our emotional reactions to certain situations because they come to us like lightning. But expressing anger and frustration with hostility and intimidation, and nurturing grudges are choices. We donít have to choose them.

    Anyway, like other colleagues, I also assumed that the term limit would not be a good idea for our association. Yet I was wrong to compare our alumni association with other alumni associations because we, from CIM, are unique. A few who may have the desire for the leadership, would aspire for such position solely because they believe they can do it better. It is my understanding, however, that these few remarkable colleagues would be hesitant to even show their interest or desire for the leadership position mainly because they assume that they could never get the necessary votes, and doing it may only put a wedge in the alumni relationship. This in fact speaks for the importance of the term limit, for without it, the association is surely kept from being able to tap potentially dedicated and talented colleagues of their thoughts, talents and ideas.

    From what Iíve observed, it is my impression that not too many of the alumni would take too kindly their own colleague competing for the position they want a certain colleague to keep. Some of them would prefer the status quo than change, being concerned of the possibility that a competition or a challenge in an election would be divisive and would only cause a rift among alumni. Putting it another way, they donít want to move and shake, to make waves and rock the boat, worried or concerned of what might happen. To me, this indicates that they somehow believe that there are alumni who cannot be trusted with their emotions or the way they behave in outmaneuvering each other, let alone in losing the election. In other words, these alumni, despite being well-educated and having one of the most, if not the most, dignified professions in the world, cannot take conflict and defeat graciously without grudges and hostility. Now let me ask you Ė Is this true? If so, then who are these alumni who havenít yet outgrown such unpleasant childish behavior? Shame on them!

An opportunity for self-fulfillment
    Iím sure there are those colleagues among us who have the desire to aspire for the leadership position or the presidency in particular of our association, not because they want to achieve a certain status to nourish their ego or to add the title to their obituary one day, but because they believe they can do a better job. If you are one of these colleagues, put the hesitation aside and satisfy your desire and aspiration. Keep in mind that the most regrettable thing in life is the failure to even try to fulfill your desire when you have the opportunity to do so. That opportunity is now on its way to knock at your door.

    You may ask, ďWhat opportunity is there in doing something for nothing?Ē Well, the opportunity to challenge yourself to make a difference and perhaps achieve a sense of self-fulfillment. This could be your last chance to have something to prove to yourself, something that could make you really believe that you've got what it takes, something you could be truly proud of, something that could change your life for good, because you would do what you believe is the right thing to do without wondering, ďWhatís in it for me?Ē

    Have you ever tried doing something honorable without expecting anything in return like you believe in something other than personal ambition and personal gain? All you ever wanted was to make a difference and you said to yourself: ďIf I canít make a difference in everybody, then, please God, let me just make a difference in somebody.Ē It was emotionally and spiritually rewarding and fulfilling, wasnít it? †Aaah!.. that opportunity!

    You did what you strongly believed was the right thing to do expecting absolutely nothing in return. Since you wanted that what you were about to do would represent the best and the deepest within you, it led you to fulfillment and empowerment, not fragmentation and discouragement. Then you went on to simply challenge and inspire yourself, not impress anyone, let alone prove youíre better than others, and thus whatever others said about you, it didnít matter much to you.

    Iíll stay neutral, or perhaps play the role of a devil's advocate. Just kidding. Iíll be happy to help any way I can like forwarding your campaign messages via e-mail. I have about 260 alumni names in the U.S. in my e-mail list. Many of them, however, donít want me to give their e-mail address to anyone without their consent. Thus I canít just give their address for you to campaign for their votes.

Teamwork for success and progress
    Now here is my suggestion particularly if you have some interest in the presidency position. By the way, this is only a suggestion which could very well be flawed, not a flawless recommendation. Start recruiting colleagues you want to become members of your team for the potential new administration, colleagues whose personality you are familiar with, colleagues you can trust, and who you believe can easily get along well with everyone in the team. Itís hard to work as a team if there is a constant clash and conflict of personality and lack of cooperation among team members.

    When it comes to an association, teamwork or helping each other to work together is the only way to accomplish things with efficiency and make even the toughest and physically exhausting job a lot easier and simpler. If as the leader or president, you, yourself, donít inspire teamwork, then your administration would be bogged down with disagreements that if left unresolved, would only result in disappointment and disillusionment of your team members. Your administration would then become vulnerable to pettiness like backbiting, blaming, complaining, accusing and gossiping. And if you empower these circumstances and succumb to these weaknesses, you would be tempted to consider them as justifications to rule like a dictator, instead of as indications to keep your cool.

    Teamwork is inspired by encouraging ideas, opinions, comments and criticisms, and giving them serious consideration. Teamwork, once achieved, would discourage blames, complaints, accusations and gossips. While ideas and opinions often give way to plans and progress, negative comments and criticisms teach cautions. Gossiping, blaming, and complaining on the other hand, provide absolutely nothing of value, nothing positive, and thus nothing to learn from. They belong essentially to the lower levels of human intelligence.

     Thus as the team leader, you should have at least an idea that, in your team, if you give a dollar to everyone who complains and two dollars to the one who gossips and blames while at the same time collects a dollar from anyone who cooperates and two dollars from anyone who shows gratitude, who among them would make you rich and who among them would make you poor. Now think of doing this to yourself. Would you be rich or poor? What Iím trying to elaborate and emphasize is that teamwork is very essential particularly that no one is paid for the job and thus it's easy to get frustrated and discouraged enough to complain. If you know or are familiar with the tolerance threshold of your team members, you may be able to anticipate and prevent trouble from happening or at least from making it worse. So I believe that if youíre interested in the leadership position, you should start choosing and convincing the members of your team now and have them nominated together with you during the election.

    Gossiping should be discouraged anytime, any place, anywhere. It's evil and vicious. It is done for no other reason than having the pleasure of making someone look bad. And in some cases, it's done to rationalize one's own impotence and inadequacies by projecting them to the person who is the object of gossips. It is often perpetuated by envy and jealousy. It's very un-Christian.

Let's do the right thing
    Being CIM alumni, our association belongs to every one of us, not the other way around, and we all should be responsible for its status, its future growth and progress. We should consider it as a chance to strive for to become examples of alumni with the heart and mind that care about the origin of our profession, its status, success or survival and about preserving its tradition of love, friendship and camaraderie. The status of our alumni association before we hand it on to the future CIM alumni generations would determine whether we would be worthy of our future young colleagues' respect and admiration, or we merely deserve their dismay and disgust.

    So one thing we, alumni, need to do is to encourage colleagues particularly those whose family responsibilities are all done, or are almost done, to run for the leadership position and to convince our classmates and other CIM alumni to attend the reunion even if only this time around, so that there will be a real election, a real challenge, a real competition – action and excitement, not the usual apathy and dullness. This would shake the association, and as a result, it could encourage open-mindedness and positive outlook regardless of whoever we elect as leaders. Our association would then have a better chance of having a new current of fresh sparkling ideas to flow from all directions that would flush old residues giving way to bold changes and progress, rather than stay in rigor mortis.

     Whether we like it or not, we cannot escape from the unshakable fact that we are from CIM. Whatever we do for a living or whatever career we have, wherever we are, even if we are on our way to our underground residence and lose our cyberspace address, we cannot alter the reality or shake the fact that we are CIM alumni. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be looked up to, respected and admired by the future CIM alumni generations? Wouldn’t it be nice to leave spoors and tracks that would excite and inspire these generations to follow?  Wouldn’t it be beautiful to look back one day and mingle with our smiling young colleagues who are grateful for us for the good things they are inheriting from our association? You may say, "Who cares!.." Well, some of us do, because it's the right thing to do.    

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††††

From Cebu, Philippines:

Narciso(Taps) Tapia, M.D. CIM 2001

    Happy New Year everyone! The Christmas season is over but here in Cebu, the Sinulog atmosphere is slowly being felt. Election fever is also spreading as candidates around the country beat the deadline for filing their certificates of candidacy. If we believe the surveys, it looks like we will have for President-Vice President,†the opposing tandem of FPJ-Noli de Castro. Imagine also a senatorial slate composed of personalities like Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Jaworski among many others. But before we get drowned by the topic of election, let me bring you some news on CIM.

     Last December†4 to 7, CIM†had†the annual CIM Founder's celebration. December 4 was the recognition of top students, scholars and awardees of different contests (quiz bowls, research paper contest, etc.). On December 5, the TORCH yearly UTUKAY contest was held in the morning. That afternoon, the Bioethics Annual Symposium was held which featured the present CIM†3rd year students doing†a related presentation impersonating different popular personalities like President GMA. The highlight event was the Kalandrakas or the annual CIM Barrio fiesta again featuring again the third years who were the organizers for this year. Students came in a variety of costumes portraying characters like Neo, Trinity, Lara Croft†as seen in the movies. One was mistaken for a security guard. Another a†waiter. Others wore kindergarten costumes particularly some second year students who looked cute in their attire. For that they won an award.†Two of the awardees for†their daring costumes†wore a diaper and the other wore a towel. Aside from the costumes, the introductory film show as very entertaining as it showed a medical student talking to Neo and Colin Farrel on the route to the Barrio Fiesta which was held by the way, in Tambuli Beach Resort. Of course, the traditional dance contest and chorale contest was held with the 3rd years winning both. Except for the rain, the event was a success ending with a mini concert by some CIM students themselves.

     December 6, a Holy Mass and floral offering was held in memory of Dr. jacinto Velez Sr.†Highlight was the MEMORIAL LECTURE and Alumni Fellowship Night spearheaded by the Silver Jubilarians (CIM batch 78) at Montebello Villa Hotel in Banilad, Cebu.†

     December 7 was the ALUMNI DAY Celebration which began with a Holy Mass with the 3rd year students and Rivers of Living Water Community singing in the choir. Highlight was the raffle draw. Grand Prize for this year was a 4-year scholarship at CIM and guess who won? Appropriately, the winner was non other than the President of CIM Batch 78 Silver Jubilee Celebration, Dr. Henry Yu. Dr. Yu mentioned that prior to the drawing of winners, he prayed that if it is really God's will to let his daughter proceed to Medicine, then let†be the winning of the scholarship act as a positive sign or go signal.

     December 7 also saw the awarding of the 2003†Most Outstanding CIM Alumni -- Dr. Thelma Fernandez fondly called "Nanay" by her residents in the Family Medicine Department and students. The CVGH (Velez Hospital) Pediatrics Department also had a successful Well baby Contest held in the CIM Lobby.

     The CIM Alumni Day culminated with†all participating alumni renewing ties with their former classmates and schoolmates†and a full stomach stuffed with lechon, dinuguan, pansit and many more.....

     So you see, there are†many stories from CIM or news to tell other than just elections...School has started once again coming from the Christmas break, the San Antonio Spurs are rampaging , Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony are living up to the hype in the NBA, Britney Spears got married and on the same day filed an annulment, Pilar Pilapil is running for senator, a lot of Filipino actors and actresses are following the footsteps of Schwarzenegger and I am talking elections and politics again so I gotta go...

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For Laughs Only

"In Hollywood the bride keeps the bouquet and throw away the groom." ---Groucho Marx

    The CIA were holding interviews for the job of assassin. They were looking for someone who was utterly ruthless and had narrowed the field down to three candidates - two men and a woman. The first applicant was handed a gun and told: "In that room your wife is sitting in a chair. You must go in and shoot her." The man said: "I'm sorry, I can't do that. I love my wife." He knew he had blown his chance of getting the job.
    The second applicant was also handed a gun and told: "In that room your wife is sitting in a chair. You must go in and shoot her in cold blood." The man looked horrified. "No way. I'm not gunning down my own wife. I love her as much as she loves me." And with that he walked out.
    Finally it was the turn of the woman candidate. She too was handed a gun and told: "In that room your husband is sitting in a chair. You must go in and shoot him."
    Without protest, the woman opened the door and went into the room. From outside, the CIA officials heard gunfire, followed by screams and a lot of banging. Eventually the woman reappeared. "You guys didn't tell me the gun was loaded with blanks," she complained. "I had to beat him to death with the chair!"

    A drunk was staggering along the road when he saw a woman walking a young child. "Lady," said the drunk, "that's the ugliest kid I've ever seen in my life. God, that child is ugly!"
    As the drunk wandered off, the woman burst into tears. A mailman went to her rescue.
    "There, there," said the mailman, reaching into his pocket. "Have this tissue to dry your eyes. And here's a banana for the chimp."

    A self-sufficient young farmer who is also a penny-pincher has never gone out of his house until one day when he had to go out of town to arrange the funeral of his father who died in another state. So he looked around the neighborhood farmers for a place to board his horse temporarily while he is away.
    The first farmer he approached told him that he can take care of his horse for $20/day. "But," he added, "Iíll have to keep the manure because I want to use it to fertilize my garden."
     The young farmer thought it was expensive and so he went on trying to find a better deal.
    The second farmer charged the same as the first at $20/day but he doesnít want the manure. So the young farmer continued to look around until he approached an old farmer and told him about his predicament. "Well," the old farmer said, "I can take your horse for $5/day."
    The young farmer could not hide his smile and asked, "What about the manure?"
    "Son," the old farmer replied, "for $5/day, there ainít gonna be a manure."

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Valuable Tips and Information

†"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." -- Lao-Tzu

Health

Vitamin C
     Probably one of the top-selling Vitamins in the world is Vitamin C. Walk into a drug store and even a grocery store, you will find Vitamin C supplements in so many different doses and different companies mostly claiming they have the natural preparations; from lozenges to tablets, syrup, liquid, capsules. No suppository. Vitamin C stole the spotlight from other 12 vitamins essential to human health when Linus Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1954, and it is to his credit that Vitamin C has the mainstream appeal. In 1970, Dr. Pauling wrote a best-selling book called "Vitamin C and the Common Cold" advocating megadoses of the vitamin.

     There is no denying that Vitamin C plays an important role in the body. It is considered as an antioxidant and thus it assists in disease prevention by reversing cell damage caused by unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals. It also helps produce collagen, a component needed for blood vessels, bone, cartilage and muscle. But studies on Vitamin C's ability to prevent heart disease have been mixed. According to Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute and professor of biochemistry at Oregon State University, in patient already suffering from conditions such as hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol and hypertension, a daily dose of 500 milligrams of Vitamin C helps dilate blood vessels and thus reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke. He also said that Vitamin C decreases the risk of gastrointestinal cancer.

     Vitamin C also shows promise in eye health. A recent study by the Johns Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute found that taking Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta carotene and zinc helped to prevent age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among Americans over 60. The American Dietetic Association suggests that people get their vitamin C by eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Obviously, that's the best way, the natural way, for fruits and vegetables also provide mix antioxidants like the phytochemicals as well as the fibers that make us visit the toilet regularly. But how many of us eat that much fruits and vegetables everyday?

    Not to try to convince you to take vitamin C supplement, but I used to get a flu shot every year until about 8 or 10 years ago when I stopped getting it because despite it I still got the flu 2-3 times a year and were often bad with chills, fever, aches and congestion that would last for 3-5 days and a cough that would frequently linger for 3-6 weeks. I was so fed up with the flu that I finally said to myself: "the hell with the shot." And so I started taking vitamin C supplement 500 milligrams daily since then.

    I know. I know. Flu shot is recommended for everyone. In fact, our hospital is planning to make the shot mandatory for employees in the direct patient care. CDC, AMA and other health care organizations have been pushing for the shot every year for the past several years and only the past few years that they have become more aggressive in recommending the shot. They donít believe in cases like me that seem to be better off without the shot. They think theyíre full of crap. I guess they think that they know better about you than you do about yourself. But for the past 6 or more years, I got sick with the flu at only once a year at most and has so far been very mild; no fever, chills and aches, only colds and cough the worse of which last only for 2-3 days although the cough would linger for a week. As a matter of fact, I haven't gotten it the past two years and I'm expecting it this winter. However, the present flu illness that has spread here in Virginia the past couple of months has already dissipated.

    By the way, there are many studies done on vitamins and some of them seem to contradict each other. That's why as far as vitamins supplement is concerned, I stick with Vitamin C because it's water soluble and the body doesn't retain and accumulate it. I don't really know whether it's the Vitamin C I've been taking or not taking the flu shot that has kept me from getting flu less frequently, but I noticed the improvement after two years of taking Vitamin C supplement regularly every day. Perhaps I have a different DNA make up that when I take the flu shot, instead of becoming resistant to flu, I would only become susceptible. Or, it could be that before, I used to dread the coming of cold weather. I would always get the flu in late fall and late winter, or early winter and middle of spring and occasionally late summer. So far, the past two winter seasons, I haven't gotten it. I guess it's probably because I decided to surrender to it so that when cold weather comes and flu starts, I would just say: "Go ahead. Make my day." --Clem

Walking against cancer.
     According to Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD, cancer prevention faculty, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, that women ages 50 to 79 who walk briskly for at least an hour most days have 18% lower risk of breast cancer than women who don't exercise. So, couch potatoes, get up! The road is waiting for your feet. Too cold? Then go to the Fitness Center. It's worth it. Pssst..... I haven't been able to convince my wife to exercise. She would just say that she parks her car far away when she goes to work. How far? About five minutes stroll.

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Feature

"One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And, the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility." ---Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884-1962, Former American First Lady

Dark Chocolate Has Health Benefits Not Seen in Other Varieties

by Daniel Denoon, WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Michael Smith, MD on Wednesday, August 27, 2003

August 27, 2003 -- Got high blood pressure? Try a truffle. Worried about heart disease? Buy a bon-bon.

    It's the best medical news in ages. Studies in two prestigious scientific journals say dark chocolate -- but not white chocolate or milk chocolate -- is good for you.

Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure

    Dark chocolate -- not white chocolate -- lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. The report appears in the August 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

    But that's no license to go on a chocolate binge. Eating more dark chocolate can help lower blood pressure -- if you've reached certain age and have mild high blood pressure, say the researchers. But you have to balance the extra calories by eating less of other things.

Antioxidants in Dark Chocolate

    Dark chocolate -- but not milk chocolate or chocolate eaten with milk -- is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the August 28 Issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments.

    "Our findings indicate that milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate -- and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.

    Translation - Say "Dark, please," when ordering at the chocolate counter. Don't even think of washing it down with milk. And if health is your excuse for eating chocolate, remember the word "moderate: as you nibble.

The Studies

    Taubert's team signed up six men and seven women aged 55-64. All had just been diagnosed with mild high blood pressure -- on average, systolic blood pressure of 153 and diastolic blood pressure of 84.

    Every day for two weeks, they ate a 100-gram candy bar and were asked to balance its 480 calories by not eating other foods similar in nutrients and calories. Half the patients got dark chocolate and half got white chocolate.

     Those who ate dark chocolate had a significant drop in blood pressure by an average of 5 points for systolic and an average of 2 points for diastolic blood pressure. Those who ate white chocolate did not.

   In the second study, Serafini's team signed up seven healthy women and five healthy men aged 25-35. On different days they each ate 100 grams of dark chocolate by itself, 100 grams of dark chocolate with a small glass of whole milk, or 200 grams of milk chocolate.

   An hour later, those who ate dark chocolate alone had the most total antioxidants in their blood. And they had higher levels of epicatechin, a particularly healthy compound found in chocolate. The milk chocolate eaters had the lowest epicatechin levels of all.

Chocolate for Blood Pressure: Darker is Better

    What is it about dark chocolate? The answer is plant phenols -- cocoa phenols, to be exact. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure.

    Chocolate made in Europe are generally richer in cocoa phenols than those made in the U.S. So if you're going to try this at home, remember: Darker is better.

    Just remember to balance the calories. A 100-gram serving of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 531 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you ate that much raw apple you'd only take in 52 calories. But then, you'd miss out on the delicious blood pressure benefit.

    A hint: Don't replace healthy foods with chocolate. Most people's diets have plenty of sweets. Switch those for some chocolate if you're going to try the truffle treatment.

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Coffee Lovers Rejoice

     NOTE: This information is from the e-mail circulation

     Drinking three or more cups of coffee a day can almost halve the risk of cirrhosis of the liver, according to a new study in Norway, spanning a survey of 17 years duration, involving 51,000 adults screened for heart disease. Among the questions asked the participants was whether they drank coffee, and how much. The risks of cirrhosis were 40 percent lower among people who drank at least three cups of coffee a day than it was among those who drank less, or none at all.

    The protective effect applies even among alcohol drinkers, whose risk of cirrhosis is much greater. But trying to compensate for excessive alcohol consumption by drinking lots of coffee is unlikely to work. Seven or eight cups a day provide no more protection against cirrhosis than do three. (Sorry!)

    Coffee is the world's most widely used drug, and one of the most widely studied - more than 19,000 scientific reports have been published on coffee or it's most important ingredient, caffeine. Very few show any harmful effects.

    Why coffee should have this protective effect is not clear. It has probably nothing to do with caffeine because other drinks that contain caffeine, including tea, did not have the same effect. But there are as many as 400 active agents in coffee, and any one of them may play a part. Dr.... suggests that coffee works by protecting the liver cells, since coffee drinkers in other studies have been shown to have lower levels of liver enzymes - an index of liver damage - in their bloodstreams.

    The new study backs up two earlier ones that produced the same result. One of them in N.CA showed an even more dramatic effect, with people who drank four or more cups a day having only a fifth the risk of cirrhosis when compared with those who did not drink coffee at all. (No coffee at all?). "...This is further evidence that coffee drinking in moderation is not only perfectly safe, but may confer some health benefits."

    The majority of studies do indeed show benefits. Coffee has been shown to improve alertness and athletic performance, protect against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, and reduce the risk of colon cancer and gallstones.

    On the negative side of the ledger, coffee does have a tendency to increase blood pressure and to raise the level of stress hormones, which taken as a whole, does not provide evidence that coffee increases the risks of heart attack. The same is true of cancer. Comprehensive reviews show that coffee has no effect on cancer at most sites, and actually reduces the risk of colon cancer. Four cups a day reduces the risk by about a fourth.

    There is, however, a risk in pregnancy. Four cups a day or more can double the risk of miscarriage, so the FDA has recommended that pregnant women limit their intake to two cups a day.

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