“Prevenge,” a 2016 movie written, directed and starring Brit cult favorite Alice Lowe, is about a pregnant woman whose fetus instructs her to do terrible things. While that’s clearly a fantasy scenario, sometimes the opposite — a pregnant woman directing her unborn’s behavior — is not.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 percent of pregnant women say they’ve had some alcohol, and one out of every 33 admits to binge drinking in the past 30 days. That indulgence can cause terrible things to happen to a fetus — and your future child. What’s more, according to a new lab study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the damage doesn’t stop there. It can be passed on through subsequent generations, to grandchildren and great-grandchildren!
Besides triggering these behavioral problems and maybe fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression, anxiety and impulse control problems, drinking while pregnant can make it more likely that your offspring will have to contend with addiction.
Research scientists at the University at Buffalo Institute on Addictions found that prenatal exposure to alcohol triggers changes in reward systems of the brain, mostly affecting the brain’s own cannabis-like chemicals called endocannabinoids. Those changes persist and make an adult’s dopamine neurons more sensitive to an abused drug’s effect. That increases vulnerability to addiction.
So don’t listen to reports that say a sip or two during pregnancy is OK. There’s no reason to ever risk your future generations’ health and happiness. Want to raise a glass? Stick with some bubbly apple juice!
Flax flack: What’s that all about?
One of impressionist painter Jean Renoir’s favorite techniques was to dilute oil paint with linseed oil and turpentine so that it ran down the canvas. He called it “juice.” Well, these days linseed — what we call flaxseed — is having a Renaissance moment as a food and oil that leads to better health.
The benefits of flaxseed: Flaxseeds (always use the ground variety, not whole) deliver a substantial amount of vitamin B-1/thiamine as well as some B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, folate (B-9) and choline. Plus every tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains almost 2 grams of fiber and 1.6 grams of omega-3 ALA fatty acid (which can ease symptoms of diabetic neuropathy). One of flaxseed’s great assets is that it contains 75 to 800 times more lignans, a form of polyphenol, than other plant foods! The lignans and other nutrients in the seed are associated with a reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease, the slowing of prostate tumor growth, tamping down your stress response and quelling inflammation.
What about flaxseed oil? The oil is a great source of ALA, but it becomes rancid easily (store in the fridge no more than six to eight weeks). And, it does not contain the lignans, fiber or protein of the ground seeds.
So how do you get this power-packed seed into your diet? Grind the seeds in a coffee grinder as needed; aim for eating 2-3 tablespoons a day. They add flavor and texture to salads, soups and cereals, steamed veggies, broiled fish and smoothies.
Drinking (coffee) to your health
According to the Oxford Dictionary blog, three unusual words for a cup of coffee are: “skilly,” nautical slang for a too-weak brew; “sergeant-major,” military slang for coffee with milk and sugar; and “coffee Biggin,” a cup brewed in a filtered drip pot first invented by George Biggin around 1780. Then there are the more down-to-earth synonyms of “java,” “mud,” “jamocha” and “Joe.”
But whatever you call it, this universal beverage improves cognitive function and heart health. And the good news keeps coming: An observational study of 500,000 people in Europe published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that drinking at least three cups a day —caffeinated or decaf — improved liver and immune function and, during 16 years of the study’s followup, reduced the chance of an untimely death.
For the 54 percent of Americans 18 and older who already drink 3.1 cups a day, enjoy the benefits! But if coffee isn’t your beverage of choice, here are some other great beverages that confer bountiful health benefits.
Green tea: Helps lower lousy LDL cholesterol, and a Japanese study showed that five cups a day reduces your risk of death from cardiovascular disease, including stroke.
Black tea: Although most tea studies feature green tea, drinking black tea is also a heart healthy choice.
Chicken broth: While some studies show that drinking this soothing liquid may help tamp down the common cold and stimulate nasal fluids that help block infections, others indicate that it may be an anti-inflammatory. We say, it tastes so good, why not enjoy?
Hair dye linked to breast cancer
Did you know Kristen Stewart, star of the “Twilight” series, famous for her raven locks, actually has strawberry-blond hair? Scarlett Johansson, who we’re guessing you know as a blonde, is a natural brunette. And Katie Perry? Also originally blonde.
How about your hair? If you can’t remember what your hair’s natural color (or texture) looks like, a new study published in Carcinogenesis shows it would be a good idea — with a nod to Cindy Lauper — to let your true colors shine through.
Researchers looked at the hair product use data on over 4,000 women and found that dark hair-dye shades were associated with a 51 percent increased overall risk of breast cancer, and a 72 percent increased risk of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer among African-Americans. The researchers think that it may be because darker dyes are more likely to be contaminated with chemicals such as endocrine disruptors and potential mutagens that have a destructive effect on cell genes. Also high-risk for some: hair relaxers. Their use is associated with a 74 percent increase in breast cancer in Caucasian women, but not African-American women. Go for both dark dye and hair straighteners? The risk jumps even higher.
So before you turn your tresses brunette or raven, talk to your doc about your risk of breast cancer and whether it makes sense to avoid dark hair dye. We suggest that everyone consider avoiding chemical relaxers. But if you do use one, know that the lye-based ones are considered most dangerous.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.