Get This: Drink Water, Slim Down

Check out the list of links that should be on your radar today:

Drink up! Consuming more water may help you lose weight, according to a new review of prior studies. [Reuters]

Two men with HIV appear to have been cured by bone marrow transplants. Amazing! []

Happily married couples see lifelong health benefits. Here’s how to make your bond stronger. [ScienceDaily]

Only 14 percent of people say they’re in their dream jobs, according to a recent survey. Well that’s a bummer. Here’s how to make a career switch to something you’ll love. [Reuters]

Drinking skim milk might not actually help prevent obesity any better than drinking whole milk. Oy. []

CT scans are too good at detecting embolisms—they can raise alarm about small, harmless blockages and lead to unnecessary treatment. [NYT]

Electric knives are the top gift given to brides-to-be, according to new information released by the NDP Group. Because nothing says marital bliss like a sharp moving blade. [Businessweek]

A new site called Vegan Sellout List was created to publicly shame former vegans. So hurting animals isn’t cool, but hurting people is? Something’s wrong with this picture. [Jezebel]

Apparently women are closing the “cheating gap.” Doesn’t exactly seem like something we should be proud of… []

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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What to Do When a Friend Is Bringing You Down

Colds aren’t the only think you have to worry about catching from the people you see regularly: Negative thinking—a risk factor for depression—might be contagious, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science.

When something bad happens, people deal with the stress differently, says Gerald Haeffel, PhD, the lead study author and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame. People who have something called a cognitive vulnerability make negative interpretations of it; so, for example, they might take events like losing their job or breaking up with their boyfriend as a sign that they’re a failure or that they have a not-so-bright future ahead.

Researchers wanted to test the idea that one person’s cognitive vulnerability could rub off on someone else, so they studied 103 randomly assigned freshmen roommate pairs at the University of Notre Dame. Their hypothesis was right: Freshmen with more depression-prone roommates were more likely to start thinking negatively themselves after living together for three months. And after six months, the freshmen who had caught the bug had almost double the level of depressive symptoms as those who didn’t show an increase in cognitive vulnerability.

Yikes, right? We can all probably think of a friend who’s a bit of a Debbie Downer, but still totally loveable. Here’s how to stay close with Debbie—without letting all of her gloom rub off on you:

Plan activities
Just because you want to spend time with your friend does not mean you have to meet her for happy hour and listen to her complain about a problem—again. “She might be in a rut, ruminating and saying the same things over and over and over,” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, psychologist, friendship expert, and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. “So she might benefit from a bit of diversion.” Levine suggests distracting her with an activity—going for a run or heading to the movies—which also gives you an out from an hours-long conversation in which you act as a therapist. Plus, The Great Gatsby is out soon, and really now: Who doesn’t have fun staring at Leo for a few hours?

Go to someone else for guidance
We have our can-make-a-joke-out-of-anything friends, our style-savvy friends, our will-dance-all-night friends, and our advice-dolling friends. A girl who gives uber-negative feedback should not fall into the last category. Just because she’s coming to you to talk through issues does not mean the street has to run both ways. Rely on other pals when you’re stressed out and need suggestions, says Haeffel.

Take a break if you need to
“We choose our friends because they are satisfying and they help our health and well-being,” says Levine. So check in with yourself. If the friendship is taking a toll on you or your mental health, consider making some changes. “You may have to see less of the person, see them in small doses, or see them in a group setting,” says Levine. Put your mental health first and—bonus—if you’re in a better frame of mind, you’ll also be a better friend for it.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from Women’s Health:
6 Ways to Strengthen Your Friendships
How to Forgive a Friend
Best Friends Forever?

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Pregnant? Put Down the Coffee

If you have a bun in the oven, you might want to rethink your daily coffee habit: New research shows that drinking too much caffeine while you’re pregnant could result in a lower birth weight for your baby.

Researchers from Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden asked 59,000 pregnant women to complete questionnaires about their health, lifestyle, and diet habits at various stages throughout their pregnancy. Then, during the 22nd week of their pregnancy, they completed a food frequency questionnaire—including how much caffeine they consumed per day. Researchers analyzed the results, as well as data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, which contains each baby’s birth weight. What they found: More than 10 percent of participants consumed an excess of 200 mg of caffeine per day (about what you’d get from drinking two cups of coffee). These women were 20 to 60 percent more likely to have a baby who was small for gestational age (SGA). As newborns, SGA babies have trouble staying warm. They’re also more likely to have lower neurodevelopment scores throughout their childhood and to remain small as adults, says Verena Sengpiel, MD, PhD, one of the study authors.

It’s important to note that, while a low birth weight was associated with caffeine intake, that doesn’t prove causation. Mary Jane Minkin, MD, FACOG, an OBGYN and clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, recommends setting up a pre-pregnancy consultation with your OBGYN if you plan on becoming pregnant. That way, you can map out what kind of new health habits (including reduced caffeine consumption) you may need to establish. If you do decide to cut back on caffeine, don’t go cold turkey. Wean yourself off of it gradually so that you don’t experience withdrawal headaches, suggests Minkin.

One trick to try: Water down your regular cup of joe by pouring yourself a cup of half regular coffee, half decaf.

Still need an energy boost (sans java)? Try these tips and strategies.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
5 Ways Pregnancy Changes Your Body
Will Your Baby Be Addicted to Junk Food?
Pregnant Yoga: Happy Baby, Healthy Baby
15 Min Belly, Butt & Thigh Workout
What’s the 15-Minute Fat Loss Secret? Find out here!



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Put Down That Energy Drink!

Tempted to recharge by downing an energy drink? Look elsewhere for your “wings,” according to experts who’ve studied the effects of these beverages. There’s little evidence that energy drinks have unique performance-enhancing powers — beyond making you high on potentially harmful amounts of caffeine.

Energy drinks like Monster Energy, 5-Hour Energy, and Red Bull are already under scrutiny by the F.D.A. for their possible involvement in a slew of reported deaths and injuries. Whatever that inquiry turns up, it’s clear that the caffeine levels in these potables are dicey. “They’re unregulated, so there can be any amount of caffeine, and that varies tremendously from one brand to the next,” says Laura Juliano, PhD, an associate psychology professor at American University who studies caffeine addiction. One serving can contain as little as 50 mg of caffeine or as much as 500 mg or more, she says. But you’d have no way of knowing, since energy elixirs, unlike soda, aren’t required to list caffeine levels on their labels or to put a cap on total caffeine content. And if you don’t know how much of the drug you’re consuming, you’re at risk of misattributing its side effects – like sleeplessness, jitteriness, and anxiety – to other sources. “Too much caffeine in general can lead to a host of different types of problems,” says Juliano.

Meanwhile, several experts have spoken out about the other, more exotic components of energy drinks, citing a disconcerting lack of evidence that they have any effect on energy at all.

In a recent meta-analysis published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, researchers evaluated 32 different studies of the ingredients commonly found in energy drinks, including taurine – the much-touted chemical that supposedly gives Red Bull its turbo charge. They reported an overwhelming lack of proof that any of these additives – apart from caffeine – have an impact on physical or mental performance. Basically, caffeine seems to be the sole engine behind these drinks. “Any drink that has the equivalent caffeine will have a small boosting effect at a much lesser price,” says Robert Pettitt, PhD, an associate professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato who has studied the effects of Red Bull. More research is needed, but it appears that energy drinks may just be vehicles for high amounts of America’s Favorite Stimulant.

But don’t despair – there are still plenty of ways to beat an energy dive, says Elizabeth Somer, R.D., author of Eat Your Way to Sexy. And you don’t have to rely on a snake oil elixir to do it.

Put down the can and pick up one of these all-natural energy boosters instead.

A power breakfast
Invest early in a solid breakfast, says Somer, and the returns in mental and physical acuity will be great. “There’s nothing you can do later in the day that will give you the energy you would have had if you’d stopped and eaten breakfast,” she says. And the payoffs are manifold: “We know that people who eat a decent breakfast have more energy, think more clearly, are less prone to food cravings, and sleep better.” Just make sure your kickoff meal has three key ingredients: a whole-grain carb, a protein, and a colorful fruit or veggie. Somer recommends downing a fruit or veggie smoothie with non-fat milk or soy milk (for protein) and some wheat germ sprinkled in (for that high-quality carb). A bowl of oatmeal with non-fat milk and blueberries also does the trick.

It’s time to get on the boat (the banana boat, obviously) where this fruit is concerned. Advantages: it’s highly portable (pack one in your purse or gym bag), you don’t have to wash it, and you can eat it in the middle of a workout. A time-honored fuel source for athletes, the banana contains antioxidants, carbs, and fiber that keeps you full on very few calories. It also contains potassium, a key ingredient for sustained energy. “Low potassium will cause fatigue,” says Somer. In fact, a recent study conducted at Appalachian State University showed that chowing down on bananas was just as effective as sipping a sports drink during a workout. Somer recommends the following power pairing: bananas and almonds. “You want some protein to keep your blood sugar levels balanced out,” she says, and almonds (or any nut) will do the job.

You’ve heard its praises sung before, on points as various as preventing dementia down the road to making your hair shiny. As it turns out, preliminary research suggests that consuming this particular fish can reel you back from the edge of an energy dip. “The omega-3’s might aid in energy,” says Somer. She recommends ingesting at least 220 mg of DHA — a type of omega-3 fatty acid — per day. To get your dose, try eating smoked salmon on a bagel. For vegetarians, DHA-enriched foods like soy milk will get the job done.

It’s America’s green veggie du jour, and for good reason. In addition to being loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, kale packs a mineral wallop. “Kale is a great source of iron,” says Somer. And low iron levels can be a common cause of fatigue, particularly for women. “It’s really common for women to be low on iron,” she says, in part because the coffee and tea we drink can block iron absorption from meals. To make sure the iron from the kale gets fully absorbed by your body, chase it with a booster food. “Because the iron isn’t very well absorbed, you need to pair it with a vitamin C-rich food, like a glass of OJ,” she says. Or you can opt for a lean meat instead: “Have a little bit of meat in your spaghetti sauce, along with your sauteed kale on the side.”

It’s not the sexiest of stimulants, but staying fully hydrated can keep you functioning at optimal levels throughout the day. “Most people are walking around mildly dehydrated,” says Somer. If you’re drowsy, you may just be thirsty, since fatigue is a symptom of dehydration. Sip slowly instead of chugging down two or three glasses at once: the fluid is more likely to absorb fully when you space out your intake. And don’t obsess about the 8-glasses-a-day rule, says Somer. The amount you need varies from person to person. “Drink enough water that your urine is pale yellow,” she says. A bright yellow hue means you should up your dosage.

Pop of handful of your favorite type of nut to keep from feeling knackered. Somer swears there’s not much of a difference in what kind you choose — almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, and peanuts will all do the trick. They’re all high in healthy fat, protein, and fiber that will help regulate blood sugar levels, so you don’t crash. Just be careful about serving size: 1 oz. of nuts is plenty, since nuts are high in calories.

When you’re feeling sluggish, spring for a fruit salad that contains watermelon. It’s like pressing the restart button on your day. This magic fruit contains sugar, Potassium, Vitamin C, and Beta Carotene to inject some instant pep in your step. Plus, it’s a sneaky way to stay hydrated. “A slice of watermelon has the same amount of fluid as a glass of water,” says Somer. It also happens to be delicious.


Clearly, hitting the java works. But you should know that limiting your intake is key to reaping coffee’s invigorating benefits. “If you’re drinking caffeinated stuff all day long, you’re actually fueling your fatigue,” says Somer. That’s because you’re likely to experience a slump every time the effects of the drug wear off. “What’s been found in studies is that when people who have been relying on numerous cups of coffee all day long, cut back to three cups, they actually have more sustained energy throughout the day,” she says. Somer recommends sticking to just 1 or 2 8-oz. cups of coffee per day, ideally in the morning. “Coffee can linger in the system for up to 10-12 hours,” she says. That means that if you drink it too late, it may be messing with your sleep cycle. And you don’t want to skimp on the most important energy ingredient of all: shuteye.

Dark chocolate
As if you needed another excuse to indulge, chew on this: a dose of the dark stuff can perk you up. Chocolate contains natural caffeine, so nibbling a few pieces will keep you zipping along splendidly. Just make sure the chocolate is at least 70% dark cocoa (for the antioxidants) and avoid Dutch-processed varieties, which also lack those nourishing compounds. Because chocolate is also high in sugar, take steps to avoid a subsequent energy crash. “Have a small amount at the end of a meal rather than all by itself,” says Somer. “You’re less likely to get that blood sugar spike, and you’re less likely to overeat.” You don’t have to tell us twice.

photo: Thinkstock

More from WH:
Boost Your Energy
Natural Fixes for Low Energy
Energized in 60 Seconds or Less

Send your Metabolism Sky-High and Drop 15 Pounds in Six Weeks!

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Put Down the Hookah!

Bad news for hookah-enthusiasts: Smoking from a hookah is at least as toxic as cigarette smoke, according to the Center for Disease Control. And it’s more popular than ever. Last month, California public health officials warned that there’s been a sharp rise in hookah use and the number of hookah cafes and bars. From 2005 to 2008, hookah use in California increased by more than 40 percent, according to the new tobacco report issued by the California Department of Public Health.

The danger: According to the CDC, just like with cigarettes, hookah smoking delivers nicotine into our bodies, and those who smoke are at risk for lung cancer, stomach cancer, oral cancer, and more. But that’s not all. Hookah smokers might absorb a higher concentration of the toxins found in cigarette smoke. “A typical 2-hour-long hookah smoking session involves 100-200 times the volume of smoke inhaled from a single cigarette,” according to the CDC. So don’t let the flavors or the decorative water pipes fool you; hookah smoking is just as much a hazard (if not more) as cigarettes.

Click here to see what smoking does to your body.

Looking to quit the hookah or the cancer sticks? Click here to learn how.

photo: Hemera/Thinkstock

More from WH:
How to Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight
The Most Creative Way to Quit Smoking
How Smoking Cigarettes Harms Your Brain
The New Rules of Lifting for WomenTurn flab into muscle with The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Order now!

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Down, Bug! Repel Insects the Safe Way

The heat waves may be winding down, but the mosquitoes are just revving up. August and September are prime mosquito months, and this year, the disease-carrying bloodsuckers are doing more than sucking our blood: They’re grabbing national headlines.

The mayor of Dallas, Texas, declared a state of emergency after 10 confirmed deaths in his city were attributed to the West Nile virus, and Texas state health officials have confirmed 23 deaths and at least 640 people infected across the state. It’s no wonder that the Dallas political consultant Carol Reed has dubbed the insect repellant OFF! the new Chanel No. 5 in a New York Times article about a run on bug spray.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 75 percent of West Nile virus cases reported come from 5 states: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Oklahoma. But even further north, a few cases of the rare eastern equine encephalitis, another mosquito-borne disease that can be fatal, have been found in mosquitoes in Massachusetts.

But before you go scouring drugstore shelves to scoop up a coveted bottle of insect repellant, take heed: DEET, the most commonly used active ingredient in bug sprays, comes with some disturbing side effects including links to birth defects and neurological damage. To add insult to injury, a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that some disease-carrying mosquitoes are growing resistant to DEET.

The good news: These natural insect repellents are just as effective—if not more so—than DEET:

Picaridin A chemical derived from pepper, picaridin has shown the most promise as being an effective DEET replacement without any negative health effects, and has been shown to be more effective in repelling some  mosquitoes spreading dengue fever (yet another disease that has spread from the tropics to 28 US states). You can find picaridin-containing products at most national drugstores. One option: Cutter 53663 Advanced 6-Ounce 7% Picaridin Insect Repellent Pump Spray ($ 6.89,

Oil of lemon eucalyptus The only plant-based repellent recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, oil of lemon eucalyptus is effective for warding off disease-carrying mosquitoes, and may do so up to three hours longer than products contain 6% DEET, based on a 2004 study in the Journal of Medical Entomology. Look for products carrying at least 26% oil of lemon eucalyptus, such as Repel HG-406T Lemon Eucalyptus 4-Ounce Insect Repellent Pump Spray ($ 12.60,

IR3535 It sounds more like an auto-correct-text-gone-wrong than an insect repellent, but this ingredient, found in Avon Skin So Soft, was shown to be as effective as DEET against West Nile–carrying bloodsuckers, according to a study in the Journal of Medical Entomology. It’s a synthetic version of amino acids found in vitamin B, and has been used for decades in Europe with no reported adverse side effects.

Other plant-based repellents That same Journal of Medical Entomology study also looked at products containing soybean oil, citronella, neem oil, and geraniol (the oil found in geraniums), and found that while all were effective against mosquitoes for up to three hours, soybean oil was the most effective of the four. Soybean oil worked for more than seven hours, just as long as products containing 15% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, and IR3535. Geraniol was next in line, warding off bugs for up to five hours, followed by citronella and neem oil, which worked for three hours before needing to be reapplied.

From with additional reporting by Elizabeth Narins
photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Get More:
Why Mosquitoes Bite You More Than Your Friends
Get Relief from Summer Bug Bites
Common Insect Bites and How to Recognize Them

Reprogram your metabolism, and keep the weight off for good. Order the Metabolism Miracle today!

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