Can French Fries Cause Alzheimer’s? Friday, Jan 28 2011 


by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Researchers have an abundance of theories on what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but it’s been challenging to nail down the scientific proof. Though the central cause has been elusive, one thing that all these researchers agree on is that early in the disease process, nerve endings in the brain get destroyed. Now we have some new research reported in the December 2010 Journal of Neurochemistry that has unearthed one potential agent of destruction — a group of toxic chemicals called type-2 alkenes that damage nerve endings when they accumulate in the brain. The brain itself produces some of these neurotoxicants naturally, but others come from our environment, as I will shortly explain.

A Dangerous Path

Richard M. LoPachin, PhD, a neurochemist and director of research in the department of anesthesiology at Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, New York, and a researcher in Alzheimer’s disease, told me that years ago, he did animal studies demonstrating that type 2-alkenes destroy nerve endings in the brain. Other studies have found an excess of these neurotoxicants in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The new research suggests that the damage originates when some of the brain’s mitochondria (the power-producers that exist in all cells) become dysfunctional, creating free radicals that ultimately generate the type 2-alkenes. Some people may be genetically predisposed to this type of mitochondria failure, and in these folks, the destruction is “a low-grade event that accumulates damage over many years,” Dr. LoPachin said. It seems that such damage can be sped up with exposure to type-2 alkenes that we eat or breathe.

For instance, we know that people who smoke are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s — Dr. LoPachin told me that he believes it is the type-2 alkenes in tobacco that cause this higher risk and noted that these neurotoxicants exist in other places, too, including in auto exhaust, industrial pollution and smoke from burning organic material, including fireplaces and coal stoves. As to those french fries, Dr. LoPachin explained that potatoes have a certain amino acid (asparagine) that reacts with potatoes’ natural sugar at high temperatures to produce dangerous type-2 alkenes.

No More Fries?

 Does this mean that you have to forever avoid fireplaces and french fries? Well, it’s not a bad idea (especially the fries) — but fortunately research has identified natural compounds that are quite helpful in partially protecting the brain against type-2 alkenes.

 In particular, Dr. LoPachin says that curcumin (found in the spice turmeric and in curries that use it)… resveratrol (in red wine and grape skins)… and phloretin (apple skins) are strong neuroprotectors, but he adds that these are only a few among thousands of other protective phytopolyphenols in various fruits and vegetables. Researchers are working to isolate some of these compounds for potential use as therapeutic agents, but Dr. LoPachin advises getting phytopolyphenols in their natural state by eating them in foods, where they are accompanied by other helpful co-factors and offer greater bioavailability.

 Once again it seems that the real secret to minimizing the risk for dire health problems is quite simple — eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables!


Richard M. LoPachin, PhD, neurochemist and director of research, department of anesthesiology, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.


Thursday, Jan 27 2011 

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.– William Butler Yeats

9 things employees want from their managers (and 5 things they don’t) Thursday, Jan 27 2011 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

Inspiring leader … Quiet problem solver … Compassionate mentor.

Different employees crave different things from their managers.

For example, some employees want a hands-on boss who stops by with a “How are things going?” every couple of hours. Others don’t care to see their boss but once a year at the performance review.

Unless you’re a mind reader, it’s impossible to know exactly what your staff wants from you.

But a survey of 500 U.S. employees—published in the book What People Want, by Terry Bacon—reveals what matters most to workers.

9 things they crave

  1. Honesty. 90% say they want honesty and integrity from their manager. Lies and secrets are the biggest killers to credibility.
  2. Fairness. 89% want their manager to be fair and to hold all employees accountable to the same standards.
  3. Trust. More than 86% want to trust—and be trusted by—their manager.
  4. Respect. 84% want to respect—and be respected by—their manager.
  5. Dependability. 81% say they want to be able to count on their manager when needed.
  6. Collaboration. 77% want to be a part of their manager’s team and be asked to contribute ideas and solutions. Shutting employees out will shut them up—and send them shipping out.
  7. Genuineness. 76% want their manager to be a genuine person. Employees sometimes spend more time with their boss than with their families—they don’t want a phony.
  8. Appreciation. 74% want their manager to appreciate them for who they are and what they do. When was the last time you handed out a “Thank you!” or “Great job!” to employees?
  9. Responsiveness. 74% want their manager to listen, understand and respond. Be a sponge, not a brick wall.

5 things they don’t need

While it’s important to know what your employees need, it is just as vital to understand what they don’t want from their manager. Among the survey’s somewhat surprising findings:

  1. Friendship. Only 3% want their manager to be a friend. As in parenting, it’s more important to be a leader, mentor and example than a buddy.
  2. Conversation. Only 14% want to have interesting conversations with their manager.
  3. TLC. 24% say they want their manager to “care for them.” That doesn’t mean you have to be cold and detached, but most employees aren’t looking for a best friend in their boss.
  4. Emotional support. 25% want emotional support from their manager. Employees typically look for that among co-workers rather than a boss.
  5. Cheerfulness. Only 28% want a cheerful or happy manager. They’d rather respect you than like you.

Source:  Business Management Daily

Your Eyes and Your Health Wednesday, Jan 26 2011 


by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Next time you look in the mirror, make it a point to gaze deeply into your own eyes and take careful note of what you see. Is there a ring around your irises? Is there variation from one eye to the other? Are the whites of your eyes bright white, cloudy or on the yellow side? The answers to these questions might provide some important insights into the state of your health. I consulted Richard S. Koplin, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and director of the Cataract Division of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in New York City, for his take on when these variations are worrisome.

Keep an Eye Out for Trouble

Most people don’t realize that many disorders, both eye-related and systemic, can be reflected in color changes in the eyes. Some alterations take place in the white of the eye (the sclera)… others in the conjunctiva, the clear layer of tissue that covers the sclera … and yet others in the iris, the pigmented part of the eye surrounding the pupil. Dr. Koplin outlined a number of eye abnormalities and what they might mean for your health…

  • A sudden red spot in the white of the eye is generally what’s known as a subconjunctival hemorrhage, caused by a brief elevation in blood pressure above the neck. This only sounds ominous — Dr. Koplin said it’s no cause for worry, and it should fade within 36 hours. It can happen as a result of sneezing… straining (such as to lift a heavy object)… trauma (particularly to the head)… or from taking aspirin or blood thinners. Caveat: If this happens for absolutely no reason and most especially if it recurs, check with your doctor.
  • Yellowish eyes. A yellowish tinge to the white part of your eyes can be a sign of liver or gallbladder disease, most especially if you feel abdominal bloating (particularly on the right side)… experience gassiness… or notice that your stools are unusually pale. Schedule a doctor’s visit.
  • Muddy eyes. African Americans, as well as some other darkly pigmented individuals, may notice that the whites of the eyes darken and grow cloudy with age. This is a normal change in pigmentation associated with age, Dr. Koplin said. No treatment is necessary.
  • A gray white ring around the iris (appearing on the iris but actually on the periphery of the cornea). Not particularly uncommon in middle-aged and older individuals, this is a type of fat deposit that can occur with age, called an arcus. It’s not a cause for concern.
  • Changes in iris pigmentation. Some people are born with eyes of different color (a condition called heterochromia), but if it develops later in life it can be related to chronic inflammation (iritis) and require treatment. A change in eye color can sometimes occur as a side effect of medications used in or near the eyes — for example, glaucoma eye drops called prostaglandin analogues (such as Latisse, a drug for lengthening and thickening eyelashes) can darken the iris. If you detect any change in eye color, stop the medication and consult an ophthalmologist.
  • A whitish discoloration of the central pupil. This is a sign of a very mature cataract, Dr. Koplin said, adding that it is almost never seen here in the US, where people get treatment for vision problems.
  • A sudden spot of color or darkening of the iris. An inexplicable and sudden change in the color of one area of one of your irises requires a visit to an ophthalmologist — it can be a sign of a tumor.

Don’t Make Your Brown Eyes Blue!

 Beware of practitioners peddling surgical procedures to change eye color. Dr. Koplin told me that he has treated patients who traveled to South America for expensive implants of colored discs to change eye color (a procedure that is not approved in the US). The discs caused problems such as irritation, inflammation, glaucoma and cataracts and required emergency surgical removal. If you must have a change, look into colored contacts instead!


Richard S. Koplin, MD, clinical assistant professor, director, Cataract Division, New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, New York City.

Taming the shrews: How to counsel admins with attitude Tuesday, Jan 25 2011 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

With some people, the problem isn’t a matter of ability, it’s a matter of attitude. This can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.

How should you respond? Rather than becoming entangled in a debate about his or her dysfunctional attitude, address the situation strictly as a behavioral problem. That way, it’s not only easier to resolve, but also a better way to make a case for dismissal.

Your first step is to document the behavior. Write down specific verbal and physical behaviors and actions that concern you, hurt team morale, damage productivity or reflect badly on the organization. Don’t forget to record nonverbal behaviors, such as rolling eyes, clenching fists and staring into space.

Narrow the issue to the precise problem. Identify exactly what type of behavior the attitude has caused. This list may help:

  • Carelessness
  • Complaining
  • Disruptive or explosive conduct
  • Inattention to work
  • Insensitivity to others
  • Insubordination
  • Laziness
  • Negative/cynical posture
  • Surly/inconsiderate/rude talk
  • Excessive socializing

Record the frequency of such misconduct, plus how it affects work flow and colleagues’ performance. List good business reasons why the behavior must end.

Having the Talk

When you sit down with employees to discuss attitude problems, try to determine whether they have a reason for their behavior. Is it a grudge against you or against the company in general? If you can’t get to the root of the problem, don’t think you can’t resolve it.

Describe the behaviors you won’t tolerate, and tell him or her firmly that those behaviors must stop. Too often, managers fail in their counseling efforts because they skip this (sometimes uncomfortable) step. Also, make sure he or she understands why the behavior must end. Explain how it’s causing a problem.

Also, follow up with a description of the preferred behavior, such as cooperation, helpfulness and courteousness. Don’t feel bad about being direct. Every manager has the right to demand that employees behave in a courteous and cooperative manner.

Finally, give the employee the opportunity to speak. The person may be unaware of what he or she is doing or not realize how it impedes other people’s work. It may also turn out that the attitude problem is a symptom of a more serious problem that needs referral to the employee assistance program.

Source:  Business Management Daily

Monday, Jan 24 2011 

A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams.
– Yiddish Proverb

Is Vitamin D Dangerous? Monday, Jan 24 2011 


by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Slam on the brakes — after several years of exuberance about vitamin D as the magic solution for everything from preventing cancer to curing depression, the Institute of Medicine has just issued cautionary advice about taking too much of the sunshine vitamin. I’m glad to see it — I’ve come across reports from organizations such as the Vitamin D Council and Livestrong suggesting that consumers consider taking 5,000 international units (IU) or more of vitamin D per day — and, as this report makes clear, that’s a potentially dangerous dose. I called Alan Gaby, MD, author of the just published book Nutritional Medicine ( for some expert insights on the appropriate use of vitamin D for good health.

Where “D” Advice Went Wrong

How did this situation reach such extremes? As it happens, there were some very good reasons why scientists got concerned about plummeting levels of vitamin D among Americans. Changes in lifestyle, including the fact that people were spending more and more time indoors, plus slathering on sunscreen and practicing other sun-avoidance techniques, resulted in widespread deficiency of this important nutrient. That’s a problem, since vitamin D is vital to good health.

A refresher: Vitamin D is actually a type of “pre-hormone” that the body converts into a hormone that regulates as many as 1,000 different genes. Among its many protective functions, D helps eliminate precancerous cells… prevent cardiac disease, stroke and diabetes… maintain the immune system and thus protect against colds, flu and the like… protect joints against arthritis… and promote absorption of calcium and phosphate, making it vital for healthy bones and teeth. Some of the problems caused or exacerbated by low levels of vitamin D include muscle weakness, poor balance leading to recurrent falls, low back pain and osteoporosis. A lack of D also can make fibromyalgia worse, says Dr. Gaby. Given that long list, it’s no wonder that excitement about vitamin D became so intense.

How Much — and Too Much

Until a few months ago, the standard recommendation from the Institute of Medicine for vitamin D intake for adults age 51 to 70 had been 400 IU/day… and for adults over age 70, it was 600 IU/day. That was definitely not enough, Dr. Gaby said — evidence shows that people under age 70 need 600 IU/day and adults over age 70 need 800 IU/day to prevent falls and thinning bones, which is what the new Institute of Medicine report recommends.

Although some scientists and doctors believe that people should routinely take larger doses, Dr. Gaby said research doesn’t support this. “Given the weakness of the evidence regarding both safety and efficacy, I think that caution is in order,” he said, adding that he personally does not recommend doses above 2,000 IU per day except in rare circumstances. “I am not anti-vitamin D, but it is premature and potentially dangerous to take large doses for the sole purpose of pushing blood levels to an arbitrary target level,” he said.

Dr. Gaby said it is important to realize that too much D is toxic and can cause serious problems, including a buildup of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia) that can result in nausea, vomiting, weakness, constipation, heart rhythm abnormalities and possibly kidney stones. Another serious concern is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) — one study showed that swine fed high doses of vitamin D-3 developed arterial changes akin to those seen in people who need coronary bypass surgery.

It’s Complicated

Vitamin D is a uniquely complex nutrient, Dr. Gaby noted — maintaining the right levels to optimize health isn’t a simple matter of swallowing a supplement once or twice a day. Specifically, he cited the following challenges:

  • Our bodies manufacture Vitamin D in response to sunlight. The biochemical effects of sunlight exposure are not the same as what occurs with oral supplementation with D. So-called “sunshine D” has built-in protection against toxicity as it prevents the release of excessive amounts into circulation and also modulates how it is used in the body.
  • Testing for D is imprecise and not always reliable. The most common blood test to measure D levels is called the 25(OH)D, which shows levels based on intake and sun exposure over three weeks. However, genetic differences can intrude on this test’s accuracy, Dr. Gaby said.
  • It’s hard to get significant amounts of vitamin D from foods, even fortified ones.

What to Do About D

For those reasons, it’s good to get vitamin D the old-fashioned way — spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun most days during the hours from 10 am to 2 pm. Expose as much skin as possible and, do not wear any sunscreen during this time.

Dr. Gaby said that most people would do well to take 800 IU to 1,200 IU of D-3 each day, especially during the winter months and most especially for people who are seldom in midday sun and older adults, whose skin loses some of its ability to manufacture D from sunlight. But, said Dr. Gaby, people with osteoporosis and diseases that cause malabsorption (such as Crohn’s disease) should probably be tested to determine where they are in terms of D levels, since they may require supplementation in higher doses.

While vitamin D is not the magic bullet some experts have made it out to be, it is without question immensely important. Do make an effort to get regular doses from sunlight, food and supplements… but do not overdo your D!


Alan Gaby, MD, author of Nutritional Medicine (self-published, available at He is a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, testified before the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and is the contributing medical editor of the Townsend Letter. He is based in Concord, New Hampshire.

Access your action plan: 4 steps to project implementation Monday, Jan 24 2011 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

You’re embarking on a big project and you want to do it right. So you draft a detailed plan. Just make sure it pays off. After you write an action plan, you may feel better just knowing it’s there. But a poorly devised plan can actually work against you.

Follow these rules:

  1. Identify “action triggers.” List the times, situations and people who will trigger specific action, as opposed to listing general themes or vague goals. Example: Replace “Weigh marketing options” with “Use marketing survey results to decide best advertising option.”
  2. Maintain flexibility. A plan that gets too detailed too far in advance can backfire. Specify how you’ll address your immediate to-do items, but don’t overthink your long-range plans. Leave room for unexpected developments.
  3. Set a deadline. Allot one hour to draft your action plan. During that time, break your project into stages and create a simple, practical road map to reach your goal. Treat the plan as a means to an end, not an end in itself. Perfectionists beware: Don’t keep tweaking the plan. After an intensive hour of planning, get started! That protects you from getting so bogged down that you never act.
  4. Get input. Show your plan to a trusted colleague and ask for feedback. You may learn that you’re making false assumptions or that the plan has easily correctable defects.

Source:  Business Management Daily

Making the case for that raise Sunday, Jan 23 2011 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

Finding out that someone with your title and job description makes more money than you can rattle your nerves. Here’s how to handle it:

Gather salary information from various sources, such as

Show initiative by saying to your boss: “I understand from multiple sources that the company pays my colleague significantly more than I am paid. I’d like to understand what I need to do to be paid at that level.”

Don’t assume that salary is the only negotiation point. “If the company cannot budge on base salary, consider asking for other things,” says John Touey, principal with Salveson Stetson Group.

Examples: paid parking, flexible hours, the ability to work from home or extra days off.

Time it right. Some employers can adjust salary only at performance-review time. If that’s the case, keep notes on what you plan to say and save your thoughts for later. That way, you’re less likely to hear “No.”

Soft skills trump technical skills

Good communication skills are more valuable than knowing PowerPoint inside and out, according to a new survey, in which 67% of human resources managers said they would hire an admin with strong soft skills even if their technical abilities were lacking.

The way HR managers see it, technical skills are easier to teach than soft skills.

The survey then asked HR managers which soft skills were most important to them. Their rankings:

  • Organizational skills 87%
  • Verbal communication 81%
  • Teamwork and collaboration 78%
  • Problem solving 60%
  • Tact and diplomacy 59%
  • Business writing 48%
  • Analytical skills 45%

Now is the perfect time to take the plunge. Target a soft skill you’d like to improve upon, such as verbal communication or negotiation. Then sign up for a course, seminar or conference to help you do it.

Source:  Business Management Daily

Friday, Jan 21 2011 

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
– John Wooden

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