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Living: Food, Health, Lifestyle, Garden, Pets

The Free Press WV

►  Sugar shock ahead

Cutting back on sugar? So is much of the world.

The change can be attributed to several factors, according to a new report from Rabobank, including warnings about rising obesity rates, government initiatives like soda taxes, and manufacturers’ commitments to reformulating processed foods to lower their sugar content.

Nor are emerging markets likely to provide a robust alternative for the sugar industry. Rising incomes tend to slow the consumption of processed foods, and sugar with them.

“This whole movement has gone beyond the fad stage and become a trend,“ said Andy Duff, a global strategist at RaboResearch and an author of the report. “It does give the market a shake. We’re saying it’s something you shouldn’t dismiss.“

The trend is evident at the grocery store and in the news. Snacks are getting healthier. People are drinking less soda. Processed foods once heavy on the corn syrup are being replaced with those bearing “clean labels” and shorter ingredients lists-so artificial sweeteners aren’t taking sugar’s place.

U.S. cities from Oakland to Philadelphia have started taxing sugar-sweetened beverages, as have countries around the world, including Mexico, where two-thirds of the adult population is obese, and Mauritius, which has a major sugar-producing industry. Companies are trying to meet consumer demands by announcing cuts to their sugar usage, with reductions or planned reductions coming from Mars Inc., Kellogg Co., Unilever NV, and plenty more.

Rising incomes in countries where sugar consumption has been growing are changing consumer habits, moving those regions from what the report calls sugar’s “rapid-growth zone” to the “moderate-growth zone.“ RaboResearch concludes that “the rate of growth of global sugar consumption in the coming 15 years is likely to be lower than the growth rate seen in the last 15 years.“

Because nobody directly measures sugar consumption, Duff said, “we’re operating against a considerable degree of uncertainty.“ He stressed that sugar consumption is still expected to grow, just at a slower pace than would have been projected a decade ago.

“We’re not talking about a reversal here,“ he said, predicting instead “short-term turbulence and lower growth in the future.“


►  To adapt to a streaming world, home speakers get sleeker, smarter

Home speakers used to be big and blocky, more or less an eyesore. Hanging on the wall or sitting in the corner of a room, they were accompanied by a tethered music player and a hodgepodge of vinyl, eight-tracks, cassettes and CDs.

Over the past few decades, music formats have gotten smaller. The days of having a large CD collection or an iPod with 10,000 MP3s are just about history thanks to streaming services such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music. For 10 bucks a month, you can access more than 30 million songs on your phone or tablet instantly.

Audio brands are catching up. The latest home speakers – by brands such as Sony, Bose, Master & Dynamic, Samsung, Bang & Olufsen, and Libratone – have WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities built in, plus smartphone apps that control your music from anywhere in the house.

“People are listening to more music, more often and in more rooms in the house than ever before,“ said Mike Culver, president of audio company Libratone based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

It wasn’t until streaming became king that audio brands switched their attention from wired models to wireless speakers for the home. Home speakers have been redesigned inside and out; they’re more polished, compact and feature-rich, many at accessible prices. Samsung’s Radiant360 collection starts at $179.99 and doesn’t skimp on powerful features that used to typically be seen only on larger, more expensive speakers.

Audio brands have looked to the architecture and design world for inspiration. For example, architectDavid Adjaye, lead designer of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., crafted Master & Dynamic’s new wireless speaker from sculptural concrete, giving it an artisanal character. Bang & Olufsen collaborated with renowned Danish textile company Kvadrat to design its speaker’s swappable fabric covers that are meant to match the mood of a room.

Aesthetics are far from an afterthought, but the tech underneath is the real story.

While at home, a WiFi network lets you connect your smartphone, streaming app and voice-controlled assistant to your speaker. Once you’re connected, your smartphone – along with the Amazon Echo or Google Home virtual assistants, if you have one – can control the speaker. (Amazon.com founder and Chief Executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Some speakers can even be paired and played together over the network. Bose’s SoundTouch 10 wireless speakers let you stream the same music in different rooms or create zones to play whatever you want wherever you choose.

If WiFi isn’t around, some speakers allow you to use Bluetooth as well. Bluetooth lets you easily connect your phone, tablet or computer to a Bluetooth-enabled speaker and stream anything you want.

With Bluetooth, however, “you don’t get the same sound quality or range as with WiFi,“ said Jonathan Levine, chief executive of Master & Dynamic. “Likewise, with WiFi, the speaker operates as its own WiFi device, avoiding the disruption often caused by incoming texts and calls,“ he added.

Because of those advantages, some audio companies predict that WiFi will take over Bluetooth, at least in the home. For its new Playbase speaker system, U.S. electronics brand Sonos has already dropped Bluetooth capabilities in favor of a WiFi-only experience that is designed for both TV audio and music streaming at home.


►  Migrant family in Germany names daughter after Angela Merkel

Meet one of Germany’s newest residents: Angela Merkel Muhammed.

The little girl was born last week to a migrant couple who fled Syria’s bloody war and decided to name her in honor of the 63-year-old German chancellor whose policies allowed them to start a new life in 2015.

The St. Franziskus Hospital in the western city of Muenster told the dpa news agency Monday that the little girl’s first name is Angela, her middle name is Merkel, and last name is their family name of Muhammed.

But she’s not the first new Angela Merkel. Dpa reports another baby was given the chancellor’s name by a family seeking asylum in the city of Duisburg in 2015.

Living: Food, Health, Lifestyle, Garden, Pets

The Free Press WV

►  Dig into honey-glazed Cornish hens with cabbage and apples

Though the disco ball drops in January, the shofar blows in September, marking the beginning of the new year for Jewish communities across the globe. Observed as one of the holiest days of the year, Rosh Hashanah is a special two-day celebration of what’s to come.

Like the ceremonial blowing of the shofar (a ram’s horn), the holiday is marked by many traditions such as candle-lighting, special greetings and prayers, and foods and dishes that hold special meaning for the coming year.

And since we are The Culinary Institute of America — where food is life — we’re here with a new family-favorite recipe to ring in the new year, with some special ingredients that help set the tone for happy and healthy months ahead.

Honey-glazed Cornish hens with sauteed cabbage and baked apples is a fresh take on foods commonly found on your Rosh Hashanah table. The honey infuses sweetness into the new year and, paired with savory schmaltz, adds a sticky glaze atop the crisp poultry skin. Served alongside sweet, baked apples — another holiday table tradition — and tender cabbage, this meal is sure to start your family’s year off with lots of luck and a full belly.

Schmaltz, which is simply rendered chicken fat, is a common ingredient in traditional Jewish cooking as a substitute for dairy-filled butter. Though it can be found in the kitchens of grandmothers the world over, schmaltz is gaining in popularity for its savory flavor among those who eschew dairy products.

Schmaltz can be purchased in some specialty markets, but it’s a cinch to prepare with ingredients you may already have. In fact, you’ve likely made it before and just discarded it! (A tragedy.) One common way to “make” schmaltz is to slowly render chicken skin over low heat until it gives up its clear fat — the schmaltz. Another option is to skim the bright yellow fat from the top of homemade chicken stock_also schmaltz! When hot it is a liquid, but stored in the refrigerator, the fat will become solid and scoopable. Every time you use it in place of butter or oil, your house will smell like chicken soup.

We’ve used Cornish game hens for this recipe, because they are perfect for individual servings at a holiday dinner. But this glaze will work perfectly with whatever poultry you prefer, like roasting chickens, turkey, or even duck. Of course, the cooking times will vary, so just roast the meat as you would normally, adding the glaze for the last 5 or 10 minutes. You can drizzle some of the leftover glaze over a platter of sliced meat, if you like.

Roasted meats and baked apples make the perfect sweet and savory combination. You’ll want to choose apples that stand up well to baking, like Cortland, Golden Delicious, Jonagold and Granny Smith. Granny Smith is a great choice for this recipe, since it’s a little tart, which will help balance out the sweetness of the honey-glazed hens. Of course, you want your new year to be sweet, not sour, so choose wisely.

HONEY-GLAZED CORNISH HENS

The Free Press WV


Servings: 8

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (Active time: 30 minutes)

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons rendered chicken fat (schmaltz) or extra-virgin olive oil, divided use

1/2 cup honey

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced

8 Cornish hens or 2 roasting chickens (about 4 pounds each)

Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat with the honey and pepper. Remove the glaze from the heat and set aside.

Divide the onions among the bottom of two large baking dishes or roasting pans. Rub the hens all over with the remaining chicken fat, then season all over with salt. Place the hens on top of the onions (four in each pan; they should not be crowded), using roasting racks if desired. Roast the hens until they are golden brown and just about cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and brush each hen with the reserved honey glaze. Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and bake the hens until the chickens are deeply browned and the juices from the hens run clear, an additional 5 minutes.

Set aside to rest for 10 minutes before serving.


SAUTEED CABBAGE

Servings: 8

1 bunch scallions

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 pound Savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 8 cups)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup water

Chop scallions, reserving white and dark green parts separately.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallion whites and garlic and cook until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper and saute until the cabbage begins to release its juices, about 1 minute. Add water and cover, and cook until the cabbage is wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining scallion and cook, uncovered, until the water has evaporated and the cabbage is tender, about 2 more minutes.


BAKED APPLES

Servings: 8

1/2 cup coconut oil or dairy-free butter substitute, melted

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup raisins

4 baking apples

Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, sugar, and raisins, and set aside.

Core the apples. Slice the top off each apple, approximately ¼-inch from the top, and, using an apple-corer, small knife, or spoon, gently hollow the two apples. Be sure to leave about a 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Fill the hollowed apples with the sugar mixture. Place stuffed apples in a greased baking dish and bake until the apples are slightly browned, tender, and cooked throughout, about 25 minutes. Spoon the liquid at the bottom of the pan over the apples before serving.

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Nutrition information per serving of Cornish hens: 398 calories; 109 calories from fat; 12 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 236 mg cholesterol; 380 mg sodium; 19 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 18 g sugar; 52 g protein.

Nutrition information per serving of cabbage: 72 calories; 48 calories from fat; 5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 142 mg sodium; 6 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 2 g protein.

Nutrition information per serving of baked apples: 234 calories; 119 calories from fat; 14 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 6 mg sodium; 30 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 26 g sugar; 1g protein.


►  Good gardening practices are the key to flavorful vegetables

The flavors of garden foods are difficult to describe. Teasing out some of the many familiar compounds that edibles contain is one way. So one might say that sorrel is grassy and lemony, that arugula is mustardy and peppery, and that anise hyssop is minty with a hint of licorice.

Food critics sometimes refer simply to an ingredient’s essence, as in “the bean soup was full of beany flavor.“ The beaniness of the beans has been brightened, the way you would brighten a photo by adjusting its color.

There are many ways a cook can achieve that. Flavor enhancers such as MSG, a wee spike of vinegar or a dash of salt might help. One might show restraint in seasoning the soup, so that it honors the beans more than the cilantro or the Sriracha. I like to retain the flavor-rich broth in which the beans were cooked.

Cooking methods that heighten flavor apply to many vegetables. Lightly steaming or sauteing greens is preferable to boiling them and discarding the water, which sacrifices nutrients as well. With root vegetables, roasting, grilling and braising concentrate the flavors better than the old boil-and-dump routine.

The beans themselves might deserve as much credit as the cook for that triumphal soup. Seed catalogues will point to a carrot that is especially carroty, a pumpkin with a rich, dense, non-watery flesh, or a beet with that good old-fashioned beet taste. Some gardeners grow only heirloom varieties, which are often more delicious and more like what we expect from any given vegetable. Some breeders still prize flavor, and I grow a number of excellent modern hybrids.

As an example, consider Burpee’s Brandy Boy tomato, a successful upgrade of the popular heirloom Brandywine. Crossing that with a more disease-resistant tomato kept the old tomato’s funky shape, intense color and great taste but made it twice as productive.

But many so-called improvements have been gained at the cost of taste. When I was searching for a cherry tomato that would ripen a whole truss of fruits uniformly, a seedsman told me not to bother. Although such varieties are available, their flavor is subordinate to other traits such as a firmer attachment of the fruits to the vine and thicker skins for shipping.

So the work of the cook and the breeder play roles, but how can the grower enhance a vegetable’s flavor? Sometimes unexpected forces are at work. Long spells of hot, dry weather can kill plants, but if you can keep their roots moist enough – with the help of mulches, a little irrigation and a moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter – the flavor of fruiting crops such as tomatoes and melons will surpass the flavor they have in a wet year. This benefit is a combination of plenty of sun for ripening, and the concentration of undiluted flavors.

With leafy crops such as spinach and some root crops such as carrots, cold is more benign than heat. The plants are less stressed in cool weather, and they may manufacture lower concentrations of chemicals that they use to repel pests. The result is a more ideal balance of sweetness and the compounds that give a crop its distinctive taste.

As gardeners, we can’t do much about the weather, but we can do a lot about our soil. A full component of trace minerals, such as calcium, has much to do with the nutrient and flavor components of the food we grow. A soil rich in organic matter in the form of compost, in addition to buffering the effects of too much or too little water with its spongelike structure, appears to help manage any mineral deficiencies in the soil that nature gave you.

There are amendments you can buy that supply a variety of minerals. Most come directly from the sea, such as dried seaweed and crustacean meal. Others are mined from ancient sea deposits on land that was underwater in ancient times, such as greensand (glauconite) and Azomite. Cow manure provided with mineral-rich salt licks is useful, too. But usually a home compost pile made from a wide variety of high-carbon and high-nitrogen materials will be all you need.

The ultimate test, though, is how your vegetables taste to you, and what may taste bitter, sour or hot may seem mild or even sweet to someone else. Many folks are drawn to extreme flavors, or can learn to be, after longer exposure.

Try everything. Spend an extra few bucks and choose two varieties of a crop each year. Grow them well, cook them well and arrange a family taste test. Then take a vote. After that, the negotiations are up to you.

Living: Food, Health, Lifestyle, Garden, Pets

The Free Press WV

►  Give your tabbouleh a face-lift by adding fava beans

Beans are an inexpensive and lean source of protein, fiber and micronutrients. But it’s easy to fall into a bean rut. White beans, black beans, garbanzo beans and fresh green beans easily make their way to the table relatively frequently.

Consider widening your bean circle and including fava beans, also known as broad beans (perhaps more commonly so, thanks to a “Silence of the Lambs”-induced PR problem). Fava beans are relatively large and flat irregularly-shaped beans that have a creamy, almost buttery taste. They are available in the grocery store frozen fresh, canned, dried, or (my favorite) cooked and vacuum-packed on the packaged vegetable shelf. A quarter cup of fava beans has about 125 calories, and delivers about 10 grams each of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium and iron.

The mild flavor and pleasant non-mealy texture mean the fava bean is perfect for swapping into almost any of your favorite bean recipes — salads, stews, and soups all get a nice face-lift from bringing in a new bean. This Fava Bean Tabbouleh recipe replaces classic bulgur wheat with fava beans, and the result is a fresh, herbaceous side dish that is hearty enough to work as a meat-free main dish.

The salad is sturdy enough to survive brown-bagging or picnicking, or simply an extra day in the fridge if you have leftovers. Grabbing a box of cooked fava beans at the market turns this dish into convenience food you can feel great about.


FAVA BEAN TABBOULEH

The Free Press WV


Servings: 6

Start to finish: 15 minutes

2 cups cooked fava beans

1 1/2 cups parsley leaves (and soft stems), chopped

1/2 cup cilantro leaves (and soft stems), chopped

1/4 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

2 tablespoons minced shallot

Dressing:

1/4 cup lemon juice (approximately 2 medium lemons)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

salt and pepper

Place the beans, herbs, tomato and shallot in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, and pour onto the salad and toss. Will keep for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

___

Nutrition information per serving: 123 calories; 47 calories from fat; 5 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 216 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 5 g protein.

Living: Food, Health, Lifestyle, Garden, Pets

The Free Press WV

►  Become obsessed with clafoutis, a custardy fruit pancake

This summer, I became obsessed with making clafoutis — big baked custardy fruit pancakes. If you look up the definition of clafoutis, it is referred to as a tart or fruit covered with flan. But, I think the taste and texture is more like a big thick crepe or custardy pancake.

Regardless, they are delicious for breakfast served with maple syrup or for dessert with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Truthfully, it is almost as good the next day sliced and eaten straight from the fridge. My good friend Bob Blumer suggested that I call the recipe “James and the Giant Peach Pancake.”

The first time I ever had clafoutis, I was living with a French family in the Loire Valley for the purpose of learning to speak French. The family didn’t speak English, so it was the perfect place to practice my French. If I wanted anything, I had to say it in French. Meals were full of chatter and my brain sometimes hurt from thinking and speaking in a foreign language but the food was the trade-off. It was simple, rustic and good.

One Sunday, the “Madame” of the family bought fresh cherries at the market, and decided to make the classic “clafoutis aux cerises.” It smelled and looked divine and I couldn’t wait to taste it. It came to the table still a bit warm and she cut big wedges for each of us. I saw a big ripe cherry gleaming up at me and took a big bite. and crunch! I almost broke my tooth in two. No one had bothered to tell me that Madame made her clafoutis in the traditional way without pitting the cherries. Literally, the pitfall of rustic country cooking. Nonetheless, I fell in love with clafoutis.

This is a versatile recipe and can be tailored to whatever summer fruit you have on hand. My favorite combination is fresh peaches and orange zest but blueberries and lemon zest is like a big fat scrumptious blueberry pancake.

That first bite taught me to inquire about pits from then on, and of course, I pit my cherries if I use cherries in my clafoutis. This summer I have been adding a handful of fresh pitted cherries to my peach clafoutis instead of using all cherries, and I have loved the result.

The custardy batter is like a crepe. And, like my crepe batter, I love putting everything in a blender and blending away. I also have found that you can make the batter in advance, leave it in the blender container — a to-go smoothie cup from your blender set is the perfect size. I add citrus zest, vanilla extract and a bit of cognac to the batter to deepen the flavor and make it a little more complex. My no-nonsense French country Madame probably wouldn’t approve of the fancy touches to her simple dessert but the extra flavors (and pitting the cherries) makes a world of difference.

About an hour before dinner, you can melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a deep-dish pie pan, arrange your fruit in the hot butter in the bottom of the pan. Re-mix the batter in the blender cup for a few seconds and pour over the fruit. In 40-50 minutes, your clafoutis will be ready to come out of the oven. Let it rest at least 15-20 minutes or up to 2 hours before slicing. Otherwise, the custard is too hot and too loose to cut. I let mine cool on a rack so the air will rotate around the pie pan. Serve with maple syrup or a dusting of powdered sugar.


SUMMER PEACH CLAFOUTIS

The Free Press WV


Servings: 8

Start to finish: 85 minutes (20 minutes active)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 large peaches, cut into thin slices

1 handful of fresh cherries, pitted

1 cup of half-and-half

Zest of one whole orange fresh

1 tablespoon cognac,

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 /4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

Maple syrup or powdered sugar, for serving (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Add butter to a deep-dish pie pan. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven and let butter melt and cook until slightly caramelized but not burnt.

Meanwhile, prep the fruit: Remove the stems, pit the cherries and cut in half, if using. Peel and slice peaches and place in a pattern in the bottom of the pie dish in the hot butter. Place the cherry halves in between the peaches, if using.

Blend the wet ingredients: Combine the half and half, zest, cognac, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a blender and process until the batter is smooth, about 10 seconds.

Add the flour and salt and pulse until just incorporated. At this point, you can refrigerate and re-mix just before using.

Pour the batter over the fruit. Bake until set, puffed, and light golden brown around the edges, about 40-45 minutes. Remove when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place the skillet on a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes (the Clafoutis will deflate). Serve with maple syrup and or dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Eat cold, room temperature or reheat in a 300 F oven until warmed through.

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Nutrition information per serving: 205 calories; 74 calories from fat; 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 99 mg cholesterol; 100 mg sodium; 28 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 20 g sugar; 5 g protein.


►  Science Says: DNA test results may not change health habits

If you learned your DNA made you more susceptible to getting a disease, wouldn’t you work to stay healthy?

You’d quit smoking, eat better, ramp up your exercise, or do whatever else it took to improve your odds of avoiding maladies like obesity, diabetes, heart disease or cancer, right?

The scientific evidence says: Don’t bet on it.

DNA testing for disease risk has recently expanded in the U.S. The company 23andMe recently started selling the nation’s first approved direct-to-consumer DNA tests that evaluate the buyer’s genetic risk for certain disease or conditions. That go-ahead came in April, about three years after it was told to stop selling such kits until it got the OK from regulators.

The field also gained a new entrant in July, when a company called Helix launched an online marketplace for DNA tests, including some for genetic health risk. Helix decodes a consumer’s DNA and passes the results along to another company for analysis. A request for the currently available health tests must be approved by a physician’s group that reviews the customer’s medical history.

DNA tests for diseases typically assess genetic predisposition to getting sick. They don’t provide absolute predictions about whether or not a disease will strike. Genetic risk is only part of a person’s overall risk, which includes influence from other things like a person’s lifestyle.

While some disease are caused by a single malfunctioning gene, more common illnesses are influenced by multiple genes, and often each gene nudges a person’s risk only slightly.

A 23andMe test that includes ancestry and other information goes for $199. Helix’s decoding costs $80, while the currently available health-risk analyses cost $150 and $125. Both companies use a saliva sample for the test.

Last year, researchers published an analysis that combined 18 studies of people who got doctor-ordered DNA test results about disease risks. None involved direct-to-consumer tests; participants were drawn mostly from medical clinics or elsewhere. Eight of the 18 studies were done in the United States.

The result? Getting the DNA information produced no significant effect on diet, physical activity, drinking alcohol, quitting smoking, sun protection or attendance at disease-screening programs.

That fits with other results showing that, on balance, getting the information “has little if any impact on changing routine or habitual behaviors,” said psychologist Theresa Marteau of Britain’s Cambridge University, a study author.

In an interview, Dr. James Lu, a co-founder of Helix, agreed that the evidence on whether people change their lifestyles in response to DNA information is mixed. But he said it’s more likely if they get the right information, education and support.

“We’re learning a lot as the field evolves,” Lu said.

Marteau is not claiming that testing never changes behavior. She notes the example of Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. After DNA testing showed he was predisposed to Type 2 diabetes, which is more likely to develop if a person is overweight or obese, Collins shed 35 pounds (16 kilograms).

“It was a kick in the pants,” Collins explained. “It was an opportunity to wake up and say, maybe I’m not going to be immortal and maybe there are things I am doing to myself that aren’t healthy that I ought to change.”

Dr. Robert C. Green of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, whose research indicates DNA test results can change health behavior, said cases like Collins are just the point.

It’s very hard to get people to improve health habits, and even when they do, it’s hard for researchers to prove that DNA test results were responsible, he said. So it’s no surprise that evidence favoring an effect is limited, he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t help some people,” said Green, who’s also a scientific adviser to several companies involved in genetic testing.

He and co-authors in May reported evidence that simply going through the process of DNA testing may slightly improve diet and exercise, regardless of what the results reveal. Maybe the experience serves to remind and motivate people about beneficial health behaviors, the authors said.

Green also said that people seek such results for a number of reasons, including simple curiosity, so the value of DNA testing should not be judged simply by whether it changes health behavior.

“I think people have a right to this information,” he said.

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