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Monday, September 1, 2008

Vice Versa: Amsterdam Cleans Up


For Maurits Van Brunschot, the breaking point came nearly 21 years after he first settled amid the cobblestone alleyways of De Wallen, Amsterdam's red-light district. Van Brunschot began taking his infant daughter to day care. The neighborhood's public nursery was squeezed between two brothels, where nearly naked women in the windows beckon adult passersby. "Can you imagine this is what she sees every day?" says Van Brunschot, a food-company executive.

That question is perhaps too rarely posed by the millions of people who visit Amsterdam each year. For them, the city's liberal laws and attitudes offer a stark contrast to the heavy policing of sex and drugs elsewhere in Europe and in the U.S., and make this tiny neighborhood one of Amsterdam's most intriguing attractions. "Often people go to the museums and then to the red-light district," says the city's mayor, Job Cohen, sitting in his office with a sweeping view of the Ij River. "It is part of the image of tolerant Amsterdam."

Until now, that is. In a break with Amsterdam's "anything goes" attitude, Cohen and city officials have vowed to finally crack down on what they say are extensive criminal networks operating in the neighborhood. Their campaign won't bring an end to prostitution, which has been legal in the Netherlands since 2000; nor will they systematically uproot the red-light district's scores of coffeehouses, where the sale of marijuana and hallucinogenic mushrooms has long been allowed. But the easy tolerance of sex and drugs that has so long characterized Amsterdam is fading fast. In its place comes a growing concern over the criminal enterprises that have moved in on what were once cottage industries of vice.

The presence of these networks is hardly new to long-term residents. For years they have warned officials and police that the owners of the narrow 17th century canalside buildings were charging hugely inflated rents to the sole group of tenants willing to pay them: brothel managers. Buildings were bought and sold within weeks at steep profits, leading officials to conclude that millions of euros were being pumped through the area with little oversight — a perfect environment for large-scale money laundering. Police also say that more and more prostitutes now work for pimps, in violation of Dutch laws that require them to work independently.

Beginning last year, the city has intensified its pursuit of financial investigations into the neighborhood's sex and drug businesses. The officials' best tool is an anti-money-laundering law that obliges all business owners in Amsterdam's red-light district to disclose their financial records when they apply for permits and licenses; anyone suspected of criminal activity can have their application suspended or refused, whether or not the charges have been proved. The strategy has sent a chill through De Wallen, where long-time building owners — some nearing retirement age — have little stomach for long legal wrangles.

In a deal brokered by city officials last October, one of the district's biggest brothel owners, "Fat" Charlie Geerts, sold 18 buildings alongside one of Amsterdam's most picturesque canals to the semipublic property company NV Stadsgoed for $37 million. Officials immediately closed down the buildings' 51 brothel windows, and installed in 16 of them young fashion designers, who pay a token monthly rent of $220. That's just one small piece of a much more ambitious cleanup initiative. A wall map in City Hall shows a block-by-block plan that aims to halve the size of the red-light district over the next few years by shutting scores of brothels, according to Deputy Mayor Lodewijk Asscher, who has spearheaded the campaign. "People think just because the windows are transparent that the place is transparent," says Asscher. "But there is still a lot of abuse and trafficking of women."

Walk along Amsterdam's inner canals and you retrace the steps of centuries of sailors whose ships docked here after months at sea. These narrow paths long marked the water's edge, and they have drawn prostitutes since the 1400s. Many of them raised children upstairs in the canal houses and plied their trade below, much as did the neighborhood's butchers and bakers. While those old houses have been painstakingly preserved, little else remains the same. Many prostitutes (some of them men) still show off their bodies in about 400 display windows, wearing sliver-sized underwear and heavy makeup. But other traders of more immediate use to locals, like food stores, have largely vanished from these streets and been replaced by a profusion of sex shows, erotica stores, pornography cinemas and at least 150 brothels. Amsterdam's sex industry is worth tens of millions of euros per year, officials say. From this year onward, those funds are theoretically taxable, but Asscher admits that while prostitutes' income taxes could bring the city millions in revenues, few are likely to pay up — underlining the city's position that legalizing the sex industry has done little to unravel criminals' control over it.

Residents claim that the neighborhood has changed drastically in recent years, as the numbers of Dutch prostitutes dropped and thousands of women, many from Eastern Europe, arrived to take their place. "We used to know all the prostitutes, they were our neighbors," says Gerrit van der Veen, a management consultant who has lived in De Wallen since 1972. Van der Veen, like other locals, blames Amsterdam's government for ignoring the growing presence of traffickers and pimps, preferring instead to promote the city's open-mindedness. "The government just gave away the old center of Amsterdam," he says. Cohen admits that the city missed early warning signs of criminal involvement. "It took some time before we realized that there was so much trafficking and abuses," he says.

That slow-footedness gave criminals time to wrap their tentacles around the district, as the city's first high-profile sex-trafficking trial showed this summer. Two German-Turkish brothers, Saban and Hasan Baran, were charged with running a large-scale prostitution operation, assaulting prostitutes and forcing some of them to undergo breast-enlargement operations; they were convicted and sentenced to prison terms in July. Yet despite that victory, law-enforcement officials believe many other criminals are escaping prosecution. "Girls just will not go to the police, in case these men threaten their families at home," says a police officer who didn't want to be named. He says he has seen prostitutes beaten with baseball bats and burned with cigarettes; even then, they steer clear of cops.

Yet critics of the government's cleanup argue that shutting brothels will simply lead prostitutes to become streetwalkers, leaving them still more vulnerable to abuse. "If you want to help these women, this is the not the way to do it," says Mariska Majoor, who worked as a teenage prostitute during the 1980s and now runs the neighborhood's Prostitution Information Center. She and others are pushing for more public-funded campaigns to inform prostitutes of their legal rights against pimps and traffickers, and to help those who want out to find other jobs.

At City Hall, Asscher says prostitution and the use of soft drugs will still be widely tolerated under the new plan, but that criminals will not be. The neighborhood could boom once the sex industry is "substantially diminished," he says. "Real estate investors realize this is a beautiful part of the capital that has great potential."

Behind the brothel doors, the plan has sparked unease about the future. Slim Gharbi, 43, who runs a brothel company called La Vie en Rose, believes city officials have exaggerated the area's criminality and placed its entire sex industry under suspicion. "I make so much money I would be crazy to do anything illegal," he says, sitting at a computer in which he stores personal files on dozens of prostitutes — including the necessary proof that they are over 21 and allowed to work in the European Union. Gharbi can earn thousands of euros a day by renting out 32 rooms to prostitutes in three eight-hour shifts; he keeps 15% and gives the rest to the two absentee building owners. The women charge their clients a going rate of about $75 for sex; the rooms rent for up to $225 for the shift between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., when the tourist groups have left and the serious customers arrive. Says Gharbi, "I rent rooms just like Mr. Hilton."

Yet despite Gharbi's innocuous characterization, and La Vie en Rose's romantic name, the prostitutes who plunk down cash and collect their keys at the beginning of their shifts describe their work as tough, lonely and often sordid. Ivana, a 27-year-old Dutch woman, says she began working as a prostitute after spending two years in jail and finding no other employment when she got out. Now, she says, "I switch my mind to zero when I work." Irina, a petite Ukrainian, says she has made "a lot of money" after 10 years working in De Wallen and continues to attract steady business from "men who are alone and scared." Despite her long experience as a prostitute, she has kept her work a secret from her two children, ages 21 and 14. Monika, a 26-year-old Romanian, says she too earns well — sometimes as much as $15,000 a month — and can send money home to her parents. Yet she says her work has kept her from having a boyfriend and left her isolated from her family, who have no idea that she is a prostitute.

So far Cohen and Asscher have not explained which of these prostitutes or the thousands of others will survive the red-light district's transformation. But the city's plans have already jolted many into contemplating a different future for themselves. Monika says she thinks she will one day find a regular job — the kind she could tell her parents about. After a decade working as a prostitute, Irina has begun studying to be a Russian-language tour guide around Amsterdam. And Van Brunschot, the company executive, says he has grown tired of waiting for the city to change his neighborhood. Earlier this year he began looking for a new home, either in Amsterdam's western suburbs or in the seaside city of Haarlem. "I've told myself I'll be out by the end of this year," he says. He'll be one of hundreds leaving. But many of them have not the slightest idea where they'll end up.


Preventing Heart Failure: Fish Oil?

Fish oil supplements may work slightly better than a popular cholesterol-reducing drug to help patients with chronic heart failure, according to new research released Sunday.

Chronic heart failure is a condition that occurs when the heart becomes enlarged and cannot pump blood efficiently around the body.

With few effective options for heart failure patients, the findings could give patients a potential new treatment and could change the dietary recommendations for them, said Dr. Jose Gonzalez Juanatey, a spokesman for the European Society of Cardiology, who was not connected to the research.

"This reinforces the idea that treating patients with heart failure takes more than just drugs," Juanatey said.

The study findings were published online in the medical journal The Lancet on Sunday. They were simultaneously announced at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Munich.

"With a lot of these patients, you have no other choice," said Dr. Helmut Gohlke, a cardiologist at the Heart Centre in Bad Krozingen, Germany. "They've tried other treatments and are at the end of the road."

Italian researchers gave nearly 3,500 patients a daily omega-3 pill, derived from fish oils. Roughly the same number of patients were given placebo pills. Patients were followed for an average of four years.

In the group of patients taking the fish oil pills, 1,981 died of heart failure or were admitted to the hospital with the problem. In the patients on placebo pills, 2,053 died or were admitted to the hospital for heart failure.

In a parallel study, the same team of Italian doctors gave 2,285 patients the drug rosuvastatin, also known as Crestor, and gave placebo pills to 2,289 people. Patients were then tracked for about four years. The doctors found little difference in heart failure rates between the two groups.

Comparing the results from both studies, the researchers concluded that fish oil is slightly more effective than the drug because the oil performed better against a placebo than did Crestor.

"It's a small benefit, but we should always be emphasizing to patients what they can do in terms of diet that might help," said Dr. Richard Bonow, chief of cardiology at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago and past president of the American Heart Association.

Both studies were paid for by an Italian group of pharmaceuticals including Pfizer Inc., Sigma Tau SpA and AstraZeneca PLC.

Omega-3 fatty acids from fish such as salmon and tuna have long been proven to offer health benefits like protecting the heart and brain, though scientists aren't exactly sure how.

Bonow said that since cell membranes are made of fatty acids, fish oils may help to replace and strengthen those membranes with omega-3.

Fish oils also are thought to increase the body's good cholesterol levels, as well as possibly stabilizing the electrical system in heart cells, to prevent abnormal heart rhythms.

In contrast, statins act on the body's bad cholesterol, which may not have a big impact on heart failure.

Previous studies that investigated the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids have largely been observational, and have lacked a direct comparison to a placebo. It has also been unknown whether taking fish oil supplements would be as good as eating fish.

"This study changes the certainty of the evidence we have about fish oils," said Dr. Douglas Weaver, president of the American College of Cardiology.

Weaver said that guidelines in the United States would likely change to recommend that more heart patients eat more fish or take supplements. "This is a low-tech solution and could help all patients with cardiovascular problems."

Original here

Women get massages with 'happy endings' too

Tropicana is an expensive beach club on Cala Jondal in Ibiza. The loungers have crisp cotton covers, the juices are freshly squeezed and the staff wear natty, tennis club-style whites. There are massage therapists working under the trees. A socialite tells me about the last time she visited: “My friend came over rather flushed and asked to borrow money so she could give the massage guy a bigger tip.” Because allegedly, after asking if it was okay to work on the whole of her chest, the therapist had gone on to expertly bring the lucky girl to orgasm.

There has long been a tradition of the gentleman’s “happy ending”. Back when Indian barbers were eunuchs, a chap could get a shave, a haircut and, afterwards, fellatio. In the Far East today, prostitution still takes place around “barber shops”, much as a certain breed of western “private sauna” or “massage parlour” rarely harbours highly trained Swedish masseurs. But this is not to say that the odd proper therapist doesn’t offer soothing extras, too.

A few years ago, on his honeymoon, Kevin Costner was accused of exposing himself to his masseuse at the Old Course Hotel Spa at St Andrews, and then proceeding to ensure that his “ending” was a self-induced “happy” one. Costner has always denied the allegation, but it was too late: the happy ending had gone mainstream.

For a man to be asked, “You want everything?” is not — in certain geographical locations or clearly signposted establishments — that unusual. For women, though, it has formerly existed as a disquieting crossing of personal boundaries. From posh gyms in London to misadventures in Indian spas, many women have tales of male therapists making them feel uncomfortable. Friends sometimes tell of dating their masseurs, or, in the case of one, getting off with him then and there in the treatment room. So far, so Samantha Jones.

Yet with our burgeoning love of spa culture, is it reasonable to suppose the odd naughty or, perhaps, “progressive” massage therapist might slip through the net to please a certain type of upmarket lady?

Recently, there has been chatter in the New York press about just such shenanigans in upscale Miami hotels and New York bathhouses: the female “happy ending” is out there. Grant Stoddard, the author of Working Stiff: The Misadventures of an Accidental Sexpert, tells a story that illustrates the Jackanory finish is not confined to men, and possibly on the increase. “An ex went for a regular massage. It was her first time at this establishment, and the receptionist suggested that she get her massage from George. She called me two hours later to ask me if it was okay that a Chinese guy in scrubs had brought her to orgasm six times. I was more impressed than anything. My girlfriend recommended George to several friends, most of whom went to the massage parlour. George, they were told, had been let go, and nobody hinted at ‘happy endings’ being on offer.”

I rang a New York friend to ask if she knew of any “Georges” in a town known for its demanding girls. “It’s an urban myth,” she howls. “You always hear about the guy who gives a ‘happy ending’, but when it comes to the crunch, nobody has his number. Ever.”

So I set out to find — if not experience — some “happy endings” in London myself, and posted an ad on Gumtree. In 20 answers from both genuine masseurs and dodgy chancers, I found one guy who offered “delightful Hawaiian lomilomi massage the naturist’s way”. Another came with several qualifications, including a diploma in sports and remedial massage. As I posed as a nervous potential client, he explained: “I try to make people relaxed and happy. The ending is sensual and arousing, but it is done without any form of penetration. I do know how to give an amazing orgasm without .” We talk a little about pressure points and human anatomy. I wonder how he broaches the subject of “extras”? “When you massage a person, you ask how they want it: soft, medium or firm. You then ask what parts they want massaged: if they say yes to inner thighs, buttocks and the chest, and if they want to be totally naked, you generally get an idea of what they really mean.”

Technically, with women’s erogenous zones so much less defined than men’s, the “happy ending” is a grey area. What is actually a benign, relaxing massage for most could be sensual ecstasy for the overexcitable or an excruciating invasion of personal space for the physically shy. But talking to this particular “therapist”, it is clear that his “extras” clients are not surprised by how his massages end.

One of his qualifications comes from the Manchester School of Massage, where a spokeswoman, Lucy Johnson, says: “As soon as the therapist feels uncomfortable, we [teach them] that they should stop and leave the room.” She found my insistence that one of its alumni offered “happy endings” unbelievable. Wendy Kavanagh of the General Council for Massage Therapy gave me equally short shrift. “This is a therapeutic profession to be classed alongside chiropractic or physiotherapy, and if someone is offering sexual services, they should not be allowed to practise.”

How, then, to regulate the emergence of the practitioners of tantric therapies, for whom the yoni massage is part of an ancient Indian tradition? “Yoni” is the Sanskrit word for “divine passage” — the vagina, in western parlance. I asked the receptionist at Cosmic Touch Creative Therapy whether it offered yoni massage. And yes, indeed, it did. “It is a beautiful, relaxing, full-body massage, enjoyable and healing. Many women, not just lesbians, find they enjoy the sensual touch of another woman.”

At Cosmic Touch, it is obviously important that the client is compliant. Without such demand, we wouldn’t be looking at the small but growing number of tantra practitioners in this country. “The point of our tantric treatments is to cause your sexual energy to rise. Obviously, if our goddess does something to you that you feel uncomfortable with, this will stop the flow of your sexual energy,” says Cosmic Touch.

Why are we so nervous about “happy endings”, when, as many people say, sexual arousal is a matter of being aware of pressure points, and not necessarily a grubby scrum “down there”? Since more and more women are single these days, I wonder if “happy endings” could become the empowered woman’s solution to sexual frustration — sparing them the sordid disappointment of one-night stands? Until relatively recently, hysteria in women was ascribed to either a lack of sex or no gratification from it; physicians would massage the poor patient’s genitals to induce what was medically termed “paroxysm”. Dare I suggest that massage therapists might have the same equally pragmatic approach to the human body?

Would “happy endings” become acceptable if all your friends were doing it, too? A bit like Botox and cocaine, it’s ostensibly a dodgy sort of business, but its definition as such is dictated by your peer group. On a ring round, I found even sexually adventurous friends said: “Nooo!” One told me that when she met her boyfriend, she stopped her entirely proper visits to a male masseur because she felt strange being naked in front of another man.

Even the sexually upfront and enlightened Sam Roddick of Coco de Mer is not keen: “Tantric massage is one thing — it has philosophy, methods and it’s an empowered situation. I can’t imagine other instances where either client or practitioner isn’t being exploited. So little commercial sex is ever fair-trade. I heard there is a guy practising tantric therapies in London who offers G-spot massage. Are you having a laugh?” she hoots. “I’m not paying for that — come on, he’s a bloke. We’re so hazy in our sexual boundaries. And the exploitation goes both ways. A friend told me about getting a ‘happy ending’ from a masseur in Thailand and she had the same justification as men do when they come out of a dodgy massage parlour.

“Women: there’s a lot of free sex out there. Why would you want to pay for it?”

Ignite Your Brainpower with the 20 Smartest Foods on Earth

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Simply put, your brain likes to eat. And it likes powerful fuel: quality fats, antioxidants, and small, steady amounts of the best carbs.

On a deadline? Need to rally? Avoid the soda, vending machine snacks and tempting Starbucks pastries and go for these powerful brain boosters instead. The path to a bigger, better brain is loaded with Omega-3 fats, antioxidants, and fiber. Give your brain a kick start: eat the following foods on a daily or weekly basis for results you will notice.

20 foods that will supercharge your brain:

1. Avocado

Start each day with a mix of high-quality protein and beneficial fats to build the foundation for an energized day. Avocado with scrambled eggs provides both, and the monounsaturated fat helps blood circulate better, which is essential for optimal brain function. Worst alternative: a trans-fat-filled, sugar-laden cream cheese Danish.

Green it: you don't need to buy an organic avocado - conventional is fine. But make sure your supplementary protein is free range, cage free, or organic.

2. Blueberries

These delicious berries are one of the best foods for you, period, but they're very good for your brain as well. Since they're high in fiber and low on the glycemic index, they are safe for diabetics and they do not spike blood sugar. Blueberries are possibly the best brain food on earth: they have been linked to reduced risk for Alzheimer's, shown to improve learning ability and motor skills in rats, and they are one of the most powerful anti-stress foods you can eat. Avoid: dried, sweetened blueberries.

Green it: buy local and organic, and be mindful of seasonality. When blueberries are out of season, opt for cranberries, grapes, goji berries, blackberries or cherries to get your brain boost.

3. Wild Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for your brain. These beneficial fats are linked to improved cognition and alertness, reduced risk of degenerative mental disease (such as dementia), improved memory, improved mood, and reduced depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. Wild salmon is a premium source, but we'll highlight a few other sources on this list for vegetarians and people who just don't like salmon. Avoid farmed (read: sea lice infested) salmon.

Green it: the California salmon stock is threatened, so choose wild Alaskan salmon only, and eat small portions no more than twice a week.

4. Nuts

Nuts contain protein, high amounts of fiber, and they are rich in beneficial fats. For getting an immediate energy boost that won't turn into a spike later, you can't do better than nuts. The complex carbs will perk you up while the fat and protein will sustain you. Nuts also contain plenty of vitamin E, which is essential to cognitive function. You don't have to eat raw, plain, unsalted nuts, but do avoid the ones with a lot of sweetening or seasoning blends. Filberts, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts are great choices, with almonds being the king of nuts.

For those avoiding carbs, macadamia nuts are much higher in fat than most nuts. By the way, peanuts just aren't ideal. Aside from the fact that many people are allergic, peanuts have less healthy fat than many other types of nuts...maybe that's because peanuts are not actually a nut! They're still much better than a candy bar, however.

Green it: try to choose organic, raw nuts, and if you can't get those, at least avoid the tins of heavily-seasoned, preservative-laden nuts that may have taken many food miles to get to your mouth.

5. Seeds

Try sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seed, and tahini (a tangy, nutty sesame butter that tastes great in replacement of mayo and salad dressing). Seeds contain a lot of protein, beneficial fat, and vitamin E, as well as stress-fighting antioxidants and important brain-boosting minerals like magnesium.

Green it: Again, just look for organic and try to avoid the highly-seasoned, processed options. In general, things like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts are pretty low-impact, environmentally speaking, in comparison to meats and cheeses.

6. Coffee

Thine eyes do not deceive (even if you are in the midst of a sugar crash). Coffee is good for your brain. Did you know coffee actually contains fiber? That's going to help your cardiovascular system. Coffee also exerts some noted benefit to your brain in addition to providing you with a detectable energy boost.

The trick is not to have more than a few cups. But you can safely enjoy 2-4 cups daily - we are talking about supercharging here. Just please don't go ruining a good thing by loading it up with sugar! Espresso beans are actually a phenomenally healthy snack, by the way.

Green it: brew yourself some fair-trade organic coffee to benefit both the planet and the workers who grow your beans. Use a thermos instead of a throwaway cup.

7. Oatmeal


Nature's scrub brush is one of the best foods for cardiovascular health, which translates to brain health. Additionally, oatmeal is packed with fiber, a reasonable amount of protein, and even a small amount of Omega-3's. It's a good grain that will sustain you throughout the morning so you aren't prone to irritability or an energy crash.

Green it: the healthiest oatmeal is the real, steel-cut deal. Steer clear of those little microwavable packets that are loaded with sugar. All that packaging isn't very green.

8. Beans

One more for carb-lovers. (The brain uses about 20% of your carbohydrate intake and it likes a consistent supply.) Beans are truly an amazing food that is sadly overlooked. They're humble, but very smart. Not only are they loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein, they're ridiculously cheap. An entire bag of beans usually costs only a few dollars and will provide many meals. Beans provide a steady, slow release of glucose to your brain - which means energy all day without the sugar crash. Don't go eating a whole platter of frijoles, though - just 1/4 of a cup is fine.

Green it: look for heirloom beans that are raised sustainably, like those from Rancho Gordo.

9. Pomegranate

Opt for the fruit over the juice so you get more fiber. Pomegranates contain blueberry-like levels of antioxidants, which are essential for a healthy brain. Your brain is the first organ to feel the effects of stress, so anything you can do to offset stress is a smart choice.

Green it: pomegranates are seasonal and not generally local for most of us, so enjoy sparingly and rely on other berries like acai, grapes and cherries when you can't get this fruit.

10. Brown Rice

Brown rice is a low-glycemic complex carbohydrate that is excellent for people sensitive to gluten who still want to maintain cardiovascular health. The better your circulation, the sharper your brain.

Green it: don't buy the excessively-packaged "boil in a bag" rice packets. Just make up a big batch of brown rice in a rice cooker on Sunday so you have it on hand for easy lunches all week.

11. Tea

You have to brew tea fresh or you won't get the benefits of all those catechines (antioxidants) that boost your brain. Because tea has caffeine, don't have more than 2-3 cups daily.

Green it: buy organic, fair trade loose leaf or packets to support sustainable business practices.

12. Chocolate

Things are looking increasingly better for chocolate. It's got brain-boosting compounds, it's loaded with antioxidants, and it has just the right amount of caffeine. Chocolate sends your serotonin through the roof, so you'll feel happy in short order. Dark chocolate is also rich in fiber. (Remember, fiber = healthy cardiovascular system = healthy brain.)

Green it: go for super dark, fair-trade, pure organic chocolate, not the sugary, processed milk chocolate candy bars.

13. Oysters

Oysters are rich in selenium, magnesium, protein and several other nutrients vital to brain health. In one study researchers found that men who ate oysters reported significantly improved cognition and mood! Not all shellfish are good for you but oysters are a sure bet.

Green it: oysters are actually one of the most eco-friendly seafood options, so eat up!

14. Olive Oil

Though we know the brain does need a small, steady supply of glucose, don't overlook fat. Studies have consistently shown that a low-fat diet is not the health boon we hoped it would be (remember the 90s low-fat craze?). In fact, avoiding fat can increase foggy thinking, mood swings, and insomnia. A diet rich in healthy fats is essential to clear thinking, good memory, and a balanced mood. Your brain is made of fat, after all.

One study of men found that those who relied on the processed vegetable fats found in salad dressings, snacks and prepared foods had 75% higher rates of mental degradation (dementia, memory loss) than men who ate healthy fats. Most processed foods and fast foods use corn oil, palm oil, soybean oil and other Omega-6 fats. You don't want Omega 6 fats. Even saturated fat is safer than Omega 6's.

Choose healthy fats such as those present in olive oil, nut butters, nuts and seeds, flax, oily fish, and avocados. Avoid processed fats found in pastries, chips, candy bars, snacks, junk food, fried foods and prepared foods. Eating the wrong fat can literally alter your brain's communication pathways.

Green it: look for organic, local, or farmers' market options when it comes to your food. You should also explore herbal remedies for mood swings and brain health.

15. Tuna

In addition to being another rich source of Omega-3's, tuna, particularly yellowfin, has the highest level of vitamin B6 of any food. Studies have shown that B6 is directly linked to memory, cognition and long term brain health. Generally, the B vitamins are among the most important for balancing your mood. B6 in particular influences dopamine receptors (dopamine is one of your "feel good" hormones along with serotonin).

My personal cocktail: SAMe (nature's happiness molecule) and a mega-dose of B-complex keeps me humming even when I've got a mountain of work to do. Which, like you, is all the time.

Green it: only eat tuna from sustainable fisheries, and if you're looking for a B6 source that is vegetarian, opt for a banana, which contains a third of your day's requirement (tuna offers nearly 60%).

16. Garlic

Garlic - the fresher the better - is one of the most potent nutritional weapons in your arsenal. Eat it as much as your significant other can stand. Not only is it fabulous for reducing bad cholesterol and strengthening your cardiovascular system, it exerts a protective antioxidant effect on the brain.

Avoid: I know it makes life easier, but don't even think about buying the chopped or peeled garlic. Nutritional benefits = zero.

Green it: just choose organic, and go for local if you can get it.

17. Eggs

Eggs contain protein and fat to provide energy to your brain for hours, and the selenium in organic eggs is proven to help your mood. You really needn't worry about the overblown cholesterol fears. (I have quite a bit to say on this topic but I'll restrain myself for once.)

Green it: choose organic, free range, vegetarian fed eggs.

18. Green Leafy Vegetables

Spinach, kale, chard, romaine, arugula, lolla rossa - whatever green you like, eat it daily. Green, leafy vegetables are high in iron (slightly less "green" iron sources include beef, pork and lamb). Americans tend to be deficient in iron, which is too bad, because the deficiency is linked to restless leg syndrome, fatigue, poor mood, foggy thinking, and other cognition issues.

Green it: choose organic, and shop at your farmers' market or order from a local CSA. Leave out the red meat a few days a week and rely on a big, well-seasoned green stir fry or salad.

19. Tomatoes

Go figure, but tomatoes don't usually make the brain-boosting food lists. (Thank goodness I found the one that did so I'm not the only one.) Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that is particularly good for your brain - it even helps prevent dementia. You have to cook tomatoes to get the lycopene - take that, raw foodies! Just kidding. But this does mean that ketchup is good for your brain. Although because of the sugar in it, you should look to other sources for most of your lycopene intake, such as fresh tomato sauce.

Green it: try to eat tomatoes that are local and get your lycopene in vitamin form when tomatoes aren't in season. You'll know when that is - the tomatoes will be pale, tasteless, and pithy.

20. Cacao nibs

That's right, I'm putting chocolate on this list twice. My boyfriend knows I need it. I eat chocolate or cacao nibs daily and I think you might want to consider it, too. Cacao nibs are among the top five most powerful brain foods, right next to wild salmon and blueberries. My girlfriends and I like to mix cacao nibs with frozen blueberries and a generous splash of organic heavy cream while we watch really bad television on Sunday nights.

Green it: as long as it's fair trade and organic, it's green.

Things that drain your brain:

Alcohol kills your brain cells outright! Alcohol also interferes with dopamine production. Moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly resveratrol-rich red wine, can help improve your health, but anything beyond a glass or two of wine daily is a recipe for reduced brain function and energy loss.

Corn Syrup and Sugar lead to health problems like diabetes and obesity, and they're terrible for your brain. Don't eat sugar except on special occasions or as an infrequent treat. If you can't cut back that much, try to limit yourself to just two bites of whatever tempts you daily.

Nicotine constricts blood flow to the brain, so while it may "soothe" jittery nerves, smoking will actally reduce your brain function severely - and the effects are cumulative.

A high carbohydrate lunch
will make you sleepy and sluggish. Opt for a light meal with some quality protein, such as a salad with grilled chicken breast or vegetables and hummus or wild American shrimp and avocado.

Enjoy these foods and reap the benefits of a bigger, better, faster brain. (Be sure to bookmark this post so you can come back to it. I'd also appreciate a Digg and Stumble.)

Zodiac Killer's Identity And Weapon Uncovered?

The Zodiac Killer attacked at least eight people, terrorizing the Bay Area and taunting police in the 60's and 70's. The FBI confirmed to CBS13 on Thursday that they are now running laboratory tests on some items that may link a suspect to the killer.

The evidence was given to the FBI by a Pollock Pines man who also claims he recently found the disguise worn by the Zodiac Killer during one of his attacks.

"The identity of the Zodiac Killer is Jack Tarrance. He's my stepfather," said Dennis Kaufman.

Eight years of Dennis Kaufman's life has been consumed with attempting to prove the only father he's known since he was five-years-old is none other than the Zodiac Killer.

"This a handwriting comparison I did," Kaufman said, showing handwriting samples he claims to be his father's and the Zodiac Killer's, which are strikingly similar. Kaufman said it's no coincidence.

"The composite is a dead ringer," Kaufman said, showing composite sketch of the killer next to his stepfather's -- a resemblance that is undeniable between pictures of Jack Tarrance and descriptions of the zodiac.

Kaufman also claims his stepfather, in a taped phone conversation, indirectly admitted being the zodiac killer.

"If I wrote a book and said I think my stepfather is the Zodiac Killer they wouldn't believe me," Kaufman said.

Jack Tarrance died in 2006. Kaufman said that while going through Tarrance's belongings, he made some disturbing finds, including a knife still covered with what could possibly be dried blood.

"It could be a knife he barbecued with or a knife he murdered someone with," Kaufman said.

Jack also left behind rolls of undeveloped film. Kaufman plans to hand over the film to the FBI. There were numerous gruesome images on a roll he did develop.

"[It] appeared to be people who were murdered," he explained.

Just recently, Kaufman remembered his stepfather asking him several times about an old PA system, which led him to take it apart.

"When I first opened it up that did affect me. My heart skipped a couple of beats when I saw it," he said.

The material folded and tucked inside, Kaufman believes, may unmask the zodiac killer.

"It was a black hood with a zodiac on it," Kaufman said.

It's similar to the hood worn during the vicious 1968 Lake Berryessa attack, which could be key evidence connecting his stepfather to the killings. He also believes there are dozens more victims which were never linked to the Zodiac, including Kaufman's own mother, who he claims was suffocated.

"She sat there and told me Jack was trying to kill her and I didn't listen. I can only imagine how she felt. Imagine how scary that would be. That is what kept me going this whole time," he said.

The FBI confirmed they are running DNA tests on items that Kaufman gave them.

Kaufman said there are postage stamps sent to him by his stepfather, and authorities are trying to get DNA profile of Jack Tarrance to compare to the Zodiac Killer. The FBI told CBS13 they could get those results back any day.

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