Your Health

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Good News
THE SKINNY ON DIETS Yes, popular diets work, says the USDA, for the simple reason that they limit the number of calories you eat. Whether the calories come from lollipops or luncheon meats, if they total fewer than 1,500 a day, you will lose weight. But to keep it off--and stay healthy--you will need to boost your fruit, veggie and complex-carbohydrate intake and consume no more than 30% of calories from fat and 20% from protein.

Bad News
INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH Industrial solvent is not most people's idea of a nutritious beverage, yet that is exactly what folks are ingesting when they consume potions containing 1, 4-butanediol, a chemical cousin of the illegal "date-rape" drug GHB. Though so-called dietary supplements containing 1, 4-butanediol are banned--and the pure stuff can melt a plastic-foam cup--1, 4-butanediol is still peddled on the Internet for its supposed body-building, aphrodisiac and energy-boosting powers. Researchers report that in 1999 at least six Americans suffered coma, seizures or respiratory arrest after ingesting 1, 4-butanediol.

HEAD TRIP More problems for diabetes and high-blood-pressure patients. Researchers say both illnesses are linked to an incremental decline in mental agility. Of the two, diabetes seems to cause cognitive decline earlier, perhaps as early as middle age; hypertension can lead to problems later in life. Your best bet: to prevent loss of brainpower, treat the illnesses before age 60.

HOW DENSE Postmenopausal women, add this to your worries about hormone-replacement therapy. Women on HRT are three times as likely to have "dense breasts" as those who don't use hormones, say researchers. The problem: dense breasts, which are more glandular, look a lot like cancerous tissue on a mammogram, making it more difficult for radiologists to spot real tumors.

Sources: Good News--USDA; Bad News--New England Journal of Medicine (1/11/01); Neurology (1/9/01); JAMA (1/10/01)