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Bon Appétit: Shells with Beets, Ricotta, and Pistachios

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Servings: 4

  ⅓ cup raw pistachios
  1 teaspoon plus 5 Tbsp. olive oil; plus more for drizzling
  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1 cup ricotta
  2 pounds small golden beets, scrubbed
  1 large shallot, finely chopped
  3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
  12 ounces gluten-free shells or other short pasta
  1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  Flaky sea salt


Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pistachios on a baking sheet, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 8–10 minutes. Let cool, then chop. Toss in a small bowl with 1 tsp. oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.

Process ricotta and 1 Tbsp. oil in a food processor until smooth (or whisk in a bowl); season with kosher salt and pepper.

Cook beets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 12–15 minutes. Transfer to a kitchen towel and let cool slightly. Rub off skins with paper towels and slice ¼” thick. Toss in a large bowl with shallot, vinegar, and 4 Tbsp. oil; season with kosher salt and pepper.

Return beet cooking liquid to a boil and use it to cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high. Cook beets and dressing, tossing occasionally, until beets are golden brown in spots, 8–10 minutes. Add pasta and cook, tossing and adding cooking liquid as needed, until pasta is coated.

Serve pasta over ricotta topped with pistachios and chives and drizzled with oil. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Study: Very Obese Kids May Face Higher Heart Risks

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Extremely obese children, such as those at least 100 pounds overweight, are in deeper trouble in terms of heart disease risks than doctors have thought, new research suggests.

In the study, about half the children suffered from high blood pressure, and almost 15 percent were diabetic. Seventy-five percent had high levels of a protein that’s linked to heart disease.

“Severe obesity in the adolescent age group is associated with numerous cardiovascular risk factors that were previously thought to only affect adults,“ said study author Dr. Marc Michalsky, an associate professor of clinical surgery and pediatrics at Ohio State University College of Medicine, in Columbus, said.

The study didn’t examine whether the children—with an average age of 17—faced a higher risk of premature death. But it did show that the risk factors for heart disease are more severe in heavier kids.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 who are obese, a step up from overweight, jumped from 7% in 1980 to more than 17% in 2012. The percentage of obese kids aged 12 to 19 grew from 5 percent to more than 20%.

Research has suggested that obese kids suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol and skeletal problems, Michalsky said, but there hasn’t been much analysis of the problems facing extremely obese kids. That’s where the new study comes in.

The researchers looked at 242 children under the age of 19 who were waiting for weight-loss surgery between 2007 and 2011. The typical child had a body-mass index of 50, which translates to 340 pounds for a person who’s 5-foot-9.

About half of the study participants had high cholesterol, and 95 percent had at least one risk factor for heart disease. Five percent had four risk factors.

The findings suggest that early diagnosis and treatment of risk factors could make a difference in stopping diseases from getting worse, Michalsky said.

The Coffee Illusion: What the Magic Brew Really Does to Your Brain

If you’ve been drinking coffee for a while,
you aren’t getting nearly as much out of it as you used to.
You’re just curing an addiction.

The Misconception: Coffee stimulates you.

The Truth: You become addicted to caffeine quickly, and soon you are drinking coffee to cure withdrawal more than for stimulation.

Mmmm, a warm cup of coffee with delicious cream, topped with a frothy head.

You smell it brewing and feel cozy inside as you browse cakes and brownies, scones and biscotti.

You get some of it in you, and you feel alive again – you feel superhuman.

Suddenly, you feel like John Nash, you can’t keep up with your own mind as geometric symbols float over the magazine articles in your lap. Someone strikes up a conversation about health care, and suddenly everything you’ve ever heard about the topic is at the tip of your tongue.

Damn, coffee is awesome.

Except, of course, much of this is an illusion.

The truth is, once you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, the feeling you are getting after a cup isn’t the difference between the normal you and the super you, it’s the difference between the addict before and after a fix.

Ok, this is a very simplified explanation:

Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. This means it prevents adenosine from doing its job.

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Your brain is filled with keys which fit specific keyholes. Adenosine is one of those keys, but caffeine can fit in the same keyhole.

When caffeine gets in there, it keeps adenosine from getting in.

Adenosine does a lot of stuff all throughout your body, but the most noticeable job it has is to suppress your nervous system. With caffeine stuck in the keyhole, adenosine can’t calm you down. It can’t make you drowsy. It can’t get you to shut up.

That crazy wired feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee is what it feels like when your brain can’t turn itself off.

To compensate, your brain creates a ton of new receptor sites. The plan is to have more keyholes than false keys.

The result is you become very sensitive to adenosine, and without coffee you get overwhelmed by its effects.

After eight hours of sleep, you wake up with a head swimming with adenosine. You feel like #### until you get that black gold in you to clean out those receptor sites.

That perk you feel isn’t adding anything substantial to you – it’s bringing you back to just above zero.

In addition, coffee stimulates your adrenal glands, which makes you feel like you could take a bullet and eat glass. When the adrenaline runs dry, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon, which leads you to look for more coffee to get those glands pumping again.

After a few rides on the adrenal roller-coaster, you crash.

You might think all of this probably takes a while, but it takes about seven days to become addicted to caffeine.

Once addicted, you need more and more coffee to get buzzed as your brain gets covered in receptor sites. Neurologists report seeing patients regularly who drink two or three pots of coffee in one sitting before starting their day.

Coffee also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain which is released when you have an orgasm, win the lottery and shoot heroin. A similar addiction cycle with dopamine leads to depression and fatigue when you aren’t hitting the beans.

Finally, caffeine takes about six hours to leave your system. So if you drink coffee six hours or less before going to bed, you won’t reach deep sleep as often. This means you wake up less rested, and need more coffee.

If you’ve been drinking coffee for a while, you aren’t getting nearly as much out of it as you did in the beginning. You are just curing an addiction.

“The take home is that regular use of caffeine produces no benefit to alertness, energy, or function. Regular caffeine users are simply staving off caffeine withdrawal with every dose – using caffeine just to return them to their baseline. This makes caffeine a net negative  for  alertness, or neutral at best if use is regular enough to avoid any withdrawal.”

- Neurologist Stephen Novella from his blog, Neurologica

Mind you, this is not a dependency. You will experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation, but not like with amphetamines and cocaine.

Coffee doesn’t seem to affect the dopaminergic structures related to reward, but before you breathe a sigh of relief, ask yourself how long you’ve been drinking it. Try and stop for two weeks and see how hard it is.

A cup or three will still give you pep, but as with all stimulants, over time you need more and more to reach that golden hum.


WV Health Innovation Collaborative Maps New Vision for Healthy Citizens

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​In 2014, the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources formed the West Virginia Health Innovation Collaborative to map a new strategic vision for a healthy and prosperous West Virginia.  Today, the collaborative held its quarterly meeting with more than 70 stakeholders in attendance.

“The goal of the West Virginia Health Innovation Collaborative is to bring stakeholders together in a cooperative, encouraging and supportive manner to strengthen the health and well-being of West Virginians,” DHHR Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling said. “The collaborative aims to be proactive, working collaboratively and committing to better health outcomes, better health care and lower costs.”

The collaborative is a public/private partnership open to all stakeholders and serves as an inventory for health innovation initiatives. Additionally, it facilitates the sharing of best practices while exploring and developing strategies to improve the health care system in West Virginia.

In December 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that West Virginia was one of 21 awardees to receive Model Design funding as part of the State Innovation Models (SIM) Initiative.  At today’s meeting, Jeffrey Coben, M.D., professor in the WVU Department of Health Policy, Management, and Leadership and principal investigator for the project, provided an overview of the SIM Grant.

Officials from Try This also were on hand to discuss their philosophy of health promotion using an evidence-based, socio-ecological model. Try This believes that people can make healthy lifestyle changes more easily if healthy choices are available locally. 

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For more information on the collaborative, please visit

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