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TEA DRINKERS ROCK! It's no big news anymore that green and even black tea is good for you, but here is more news on the subject: Black tea contains a substance that may be turned into a drug to protect against disease and in fact helps to fight invading bacteria, viruses and fungi.

The substance found in black tea is called L-theanine which, in the liver, is broken down to ethylamine, a molecule that primes the response of an immune system element alled the gamma-delta T cell. The experiment showed that immune system blood cells of tea drinkers drinking five cups per day responded five times faster to germs than did the blood cells of coffee drinkers. (NY Times 4/22/03)

On the other hand, green tea packs a wallop with the antioxidants, particularly one form of green tea called matcha - the green tea traditionally prepared during Japanese tea ceremonies. All green teas contain the tongue-twisting antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate, and so does matcha, but matcha has 200 times the concentration of epigallocatechin gallate than the more common green teas.(Science News, 4/12/03).

I found Silk Road matcha tea at Whole Foods in bulk for $23.99 per pound. You won't need much as it is very strong - maybe 1/2 t. of the matcha per cup of tea or adjust to your own taste buds. Matcha is a powder, so you pour your hot water into your cup, then whisk the powdered matcha in and drink it immediately. Matcha tastes very serious and very green and I do believe them when they say that is has 200 times more of something in it - maybe not taste - but certainly powerhouse antioxidants.

SIGMOIDOSCOPY CONTROVERSY: I am not telling you this because I am filled with smug anti-scope pride, but I have had neither a sigmoidoscopy nor a colonoscopy and here's why: First of all there is no history of anything like that in my family, so statistically I am not too worried. Secondly, colon cancers tend to occur up to 20% higher in a woman's colon than it does in a man's colon. This makes malignancies in women LARGELY UNDETECTABLE WITH A SIGMOIDOSCOPE and a generally useless diagnostic proceedure. In fact, it's of questionable value for both men and women since "cancers are inexplicably occurring with greater frequency in the right side or ascending colon" (Bottom Line Health, 11/02) which sigmoidoscopies cannot access.

When I suggested to my Large HMO M.D. that I might want to go straight to the big guy and why, she said thats "not the way this Large HMO does it" and that I would have to undergo a sigmoidoscopy first. If anything suspicious was found in the sigmoidoscopy, then the Large HMO M.D. would order a follow-up colonscopy. With the above information in hand, isn't a sigmoidoscopy for women a why bother? Excuse me, but given this information (which is not a secret privy only to me) isn't my Large HMO remiss to withold colonscopies from women over 50 since the lesser sigmoidoscopy would probably turn up nothing of note except alot of anxiety over the proceedure and a sore butt?

Call me silly and paranoid, but sometimes I don't think that my Large HMO has my best interest in mind. I know there are more risks with the colonscopy (perforated bowel for one), but I think we have the usual cost-cutting bottom line situation here: Colonoscopies are more expensive and the guys in the dark suits and rep ties don't like this.

THE FOLLOWING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HEALTH but it fascinated me none the less. I read it in Science, 12/6/02. Apparently, the United states, Russia and maybe 60 other countries are preparing to divvy up 15 million square kilometers of continental ocean shelf - the underwater slope between the shoreline and the ocean bottom. This comprises 5% of the total sea floor,is twice the size of Australia and is worth trillions of dollars in energy, mineral and biological resources. In many regions, each zone may extend up to 350 nautical miles offshore. I can envision many ramifications to this - none of them warm or fuzzy. For starters, this will create a brand new area of international dispute eg."Sorry, you can't swim here off the coast of Cancun because we will be drilling for oil." or "Don't pick up that pretty shell to take home, 'cause it's MINE." So, we will have to develop a new subspecialty in law dealing only with ocean provenance, eg. "OK. You have to give the little girl that pretty sea shell right now." and of course this will somehow give more permission to indulge in the the ever popular sport of offshore drilling for oil and gas with the concomitant destruction of the EARTH.

Even now, Russia has filed a claim to add 1 million square miles to its Arctic territory and, of course, the United States has replied that "The submission [of Russia] has major flaws. And, here we go again.

SHORT TERM MEMORY PROBLEMS are exacerbated by even slightly elevated blood sugar concentrations. This creates a smaller hippocampus which is our short term memory retrieval center. Since, in this case, bigger is definitely better, get your blood glucose and insulin levels down and restrict sugar from your diet. It could mean the difference between a savvy and satisfying old age where you play chess with your grandkids and become the Beloved Respected Elder and one where you can't remember what you had for breakfast and your loved ones are suggesting that you go to the Home for the Befuddled. Your call.

AGING BRAINS can also retain their robustness if treated to regular cardiovascular workouts. Remember - if it's good for your heart, it's also good for your brain. Those of us who walk, swim, jog or ride our bikes at least 20 minutes per day several days a week will show less decline in brain density in both gray and white matter. (J. Gerontology, 2/03)

ANOTHER FORM OF EXERCISE FOR THE BRAIN although less socially acceptable is . . . gum chewing. Yep, your daily stick of Wrigley's sugarfree Polar Ice may improve cognitive ability. People who chewed sugarless gum for 30 minutes scored better on word recall tests than those who did not chew gum. The theory is that the repetitive motion of chewing increase heart rate and improves blood flow to the brain. My personal opinion is that this is a situation of the proverbial rock and a hard place: If you chew sugarless gum you get a steady stream of bad aspartame and if you chew sugar gum you get a steady stream of bad sugar. I guess it's a pick your poison thing.

GENOME SEQUENCING (FIGURING WHAT'S UP WITH OUR DNA) has opened up a whole new can of worms for us to worry about. As individual genome sequencing gets more sophisticated and available to us regular joes, a couple of things could happen and it's a good new-bad news sort of thing: First the good news. An unprecedented era of personalized medicine and preventive treatments will open up and we will be able to stop diseases before they start either by a manipulation of our DNA or by a snip of the genetic knife. Now for the bad news: Knowledge of individual genetic predisposition could lead to discrimination by the insurance companies, the government, future employers and smacks scarily of the evil combination of Big Brother and early Nazi Germany eg. placing ID chips in your head instead of your dog's, location devices in the heel of every child born, the mandatory elimination of the less-than-perfect, ethnic cleansing, etc. ad nauseam.

Insurance companies could say,"Ah, yes, you have here several genetic defects. See here? In the area of colon polyps, breast cancer, elevated cholesterol levels and late-onset dementia. Of course we would be happy to provide you with both health insurance coverage and life insurance, but we will naturally exclude anything related to cancers of the colon and breast and well, all cancers actually. Also heart disease and dementia." (Like, thanks for nothing.) By the way, if you have $710,000 just lying around gathering dust, you can buy a map of your genome right this very minute from an American scientist (an entrepreneur) named Craig Ventor.

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