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ABC's Elizabeth Vargas: 'I am dealing with addiction' to alcohol

(CNN) -- ABC News anchor Elizabeth Vargas has gone public with her decision to enter rehab for alcohol dependence, hoping it will give others "the courage to seek help."

"Like so many people, I am dealing with addiction," Vargas said in a statement to CNN Wednesday. "I realized I was becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol. I am in treatment and am so thankful for the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues at ABC News."

She did not disclose when she entered the rehab facility or where it is. The last message on her Twitter account was posted on October 18.

"Like so many others, I will deal with this challenge a day at a time," Vargas said. "If coming forward today gives one other person the courage to seek help, I'm grateful."

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  • Written by CNN News
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FDA to ban artery-clogging trans fats

In this Jan. 18, 2012, file photo, Alexes Garcia makes cinnamon rolls for student's lunch in the kitchen at Kepner Middle School in Denver. The rolls are made using apple sauce instead of trans fats. (AP Photo / Ed Andrieski, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.

The FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to gradually phase out artificial trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York City and other local governments have banned them.

The agency isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but it will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take. Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to find a substitute.

"We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food "industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do."

Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including in some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs, cookies, biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.

Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. Diners shouldn't be able to detect a taste difference if trans fats are replaced by other fats.

To phase them out, the FDA said it had made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which is reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it, and that would likely not be approved.

The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA is not targeting small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren't considered a major public health threat on their own.

Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats and say they can raise levels of so-called "bad" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease - the leading cause of death in the United States.

Many companies have already phased out trans fats, prompted by new nutrition labels introduced by FDA in 2006 that list trans fats and an by an increasing number of local laws that have banned them. In 2011, Wal Mart pledged to remove all artificial trans fats from the foods the company sells by 2016.

As a result of the local and federal efforts and many companies' willingness to remove them, consumers have slowly eaten fewer of the fats. According to the FDA, trans fat intake among American consumers declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around one gram per day in 2012.

Dr. Leon Bruner, chief scientist at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement his group estimates that food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amount of trans fats in food products by 73 percent.

The group, which represents the country's largest food companies, did not speculate on a reasonable timeline or speak to how difficult the move may be for some manufacturers. Bruner said in a statement that "consumers can be confident that their food is safe, and we look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers."

FDA officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for around 15 years - the first goal was to label them - and have been collecting data to justify a possible phase-out since just after President Barack Obama came into office in 2009.

The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says the move is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."

He says the agency should try to move quickly as it determines a timeline.

"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.

  • Written by Associated Press
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Could Brushing Right After A Meal Be Bad For Your Teeth?

From Mother Nature Network's Melissa Breyer:

Whether you are a diligent brusher of the teeth right after eating, or if you're like the rest of us and feel a tinge of shame for not doing so, you may be interested in knowing this: at least one study has shown that the practice is not in the best interest of your pearly whites.

While some professional opinions vary, a number of top teeth docs agree with the findings. The basic problem is that the sugar in foods is metabolized by the bacteria or plaque on enamel, producing acids that lead to gum disease and cavities.

Common sense suggests that brushing the food particles away as quickly as possible would reduce the problems; but such is not the case.

Dentist Jeffrey M. Cole, former president of the Academy of General Dentistry, a dental advocacy group, told the Wall Street Journal, "What we found is that much of the cariogenic substances, those things that cause cavities, are not only sugar-containing, but they are very acidic themselves."

The perfect pH for the mouth is seven, and when you consume something acidic, the pH drops. Even a diet soda can have a pH as low as 2.5 — similar to vinegar — and it can take a while for the mouth to return to a normal level. Acid weakens the surface of the tooth, which can invite decay.

So when it comes to brushing your teeth when the mouth is in an acidic state, it actually exacerbates the problem.

"When you want to make etched glass, you apply an acid or an abrasive and scratch it – that is what happens if you drink a sports drink or a soda, or even wine, and brush right after," says Cole. But if you give your mouth some time – around a half an hour – your saliva will have worked to neutralize the acids.

There are some things that can be done to help instead of immediate brushing. Both rinsing your mouth with water or using an antibacterial mouthwash, Cole suggests, can help balance the pH and prevent plaque from creating more acids.

Chewing sugarless gum is also recommended as some studies have shown that the sweetener, xylitol, has benefits for the teeth. But perhaps the more satisfying option? Eat cheese. Oddly enough, chewing cheese reduces the pH of bacterial plaque. Cole explains that chewy things encourage salivation and proteins in your saliva will buffer acids; as well, naturally occurring chemicals in cheese "encourage the tooth to remineralize."

So the next time your colleague at the office heads to the bathroom to brush his teeth after lunch, you can now smugly assuage your guilt by breaking out a hunk of cheese instead.

  • Written by The Huffington Post
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10 Decisions That Will Make You Happier and Healthier

We can create health and happiness by choice. Those choices are in how we think, act and react to the things we cannot control. These 10 decisions are choices we can make to lead happier and healthier lives -- no matter what comes our way.

1. I am going to be nicer to myself. Our thoughts can be our enemy. Negative, self-deprecating and self-blaming thoughts are common. Get out of your head and sift out those thoughts that cause you worry and suffering and replace them with ones that are positive. Stop judging and evaluating yourself. Stop trying to label yourself and simply accept who you are. Treat yourself with the same kindness, respect and compassion you would show to a friend, or even a stranger. Being nicer to yourself also means taking care of yourself and taking the time to do what replenishes you.

2. I am going to find out what I love to do and do it. We spend time in jobs and other situations that we just do not like. It is important to find the things that bring us joy and spend our time doing them. You are more likely to be successful if you have consistent activities, hobbies and tasks that make you happy. The best way to do this is to have a career or job that you love. Because we spend so much of our day at work, it is important to do work that is meaningful and enjoyable. Think about what you wanted to be when you were young, about your perfect job and about the skills and talents you want to utilize. This may mean finding a new career path.

3. I can be strong on my own and leave a bad relationship. Many people have a relationship in order to be happy, complete and whole. A better option is to be happy, whole and complete -- and then have a relationship. Healthy relationships come from our willingness and ability to live without them. When we turn to another person as our sole source of security, we are not in love -- we're addicted. If we are growing and we want our relationships to survive the other person has to grow too. But that does not always happen. Other times when we really get to know people we discover we don't like them. And some people are just users or abusers. In all cases it is time to move on. When you are strong and whole, you always have the freedom to leave.

4. I am willing to give up the belief I can control what happens and will let go of the outcome. Don't waste energy on or worry about the things you cannot control, which are most things. Let it go and become unattached to the outcome. We have little control over what others think, or how they feel or act. We have no clue what will happen in the next month or week or day. So because we cannot predict, we should not live and act with the thought of how will this all turn out. The process and being present is often more important than the result. You are neither the center nor the master of the universe. And that is a good thing.

5. I will identify and face my fears. The biggest reason we don't change is because of fear. It acts as a huge barrier that gets in the way of moving forward. Most people know what they fear, but if you don't, take the time to figure out the thoughts that stop you from doing the things you really want to do. These fears could be of failing, of looking stupid, of being in the spotlight, of being judged or rejected, etc. Whatever the fear may be, own it, replace it with positive self-talk and move forward despite it.

6. I am going to see failures, mistakes, traumatic events and shortcomings as an opportunity to learn and grow. There is a saying that there is no such thing as failure, only opportunities to learn. Our flaws and follies can be the most powerful teachers we have. They are usually more instructive than our successes. It is in our moments of weakness that we have the most to gain and the most to learn. In these moments when we are not our best there are signs that light a path for us. Failure can be a message, a signal that you're off track and heading in a wrong direction. It is in our weakness, in bad times, that we are in touch with our deepest self. And that self is creative, innovative and a fabulous problem solver.

7. I will live my un-lived life and do something bold. It is never too late to do anything in your life. Sometimes you just have to go for it and stop making excuses. It is about living life fully and about having something to look forward to, to strive for. No matter what age, you can accomplish things and engage in activities that you always dreamed about doing -- ones that inspire and challenge you. In my forties I learned to ride a bike, to rock climb and to play the drums. I made and crossed off items on a bucket list. That list adds spice to what could be a bland life. Do not be afraid to try new things, wear different hats and step out of your box.

8. I am going to give up the need to be perfect and define success differently. There is no way we can be perfect. So why do we try? Often it is because we judge success by being perfect or we feel we need to be perfect to be loved, noticed, rewarded, etc. All of these are fallacies. No one will ever be perfect and the drive toward perfection can wear us down because it is unattainable. We need to define our worth and our success differently. As giving it our best shot, as having an impact on the world, or as being able to use our talents and skills. It is our differences and our imperfections that make us who we are.

9. I am going to stop engaging in behaviors that are unhealthy. This encompasses a range of things you could be doing that will shorten your life: overeating, drinking, drugging, not controlling stress, etc. Whatever your vice may be, take some steps to basically stop killing yourself. This has two components, self-control and the ability to break habits. Self-control enables you to choose, and then persevere with your thoughts and behavior, in order to accomplish a goal. It also gives you the inner strength to overcome addictions, procrastination and laziness, and to follow through with whatever you do. Having self-control means the ability to reject instant gratification and pleasure, in favor of some greater gain. Also important is the breaking of the habit cycle by identifying the cues or triggers that start the negative behavior, the routine of the behavior and the rewards that reinforce it. By changing just one thing in the habit cycle, a bad habit can be broken.

10. I am going to stop worrying about the how and just move forward. We fail to take action because we get caught up in the myriad ways of how to take a step forward. You can't predict your life, nor can you engineer the perfect next step, so stop putting pressure on yourself to figure things out. Step forward even if you are afraid or unsure. Acknowledge that and do it anyway. Step forward on faith that the Universe will do its work. Take some risks to walk down a path even if you have not worked out all the details. If you have a purpose, be willing to move forward even when you have no clue what the path looks like. Try and think more intuitively.

For more by Lisabeth Saunders Medlock, Ph.D., click here.

For more on happiness, click here.

  • Written by Huffington Post
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