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Wellbody Blog

Research, recipes, news and tips for better, healthier living—curated by your friends at Pacific Science Center’s Wellbody Academy.


Ahhhh-mazingly Gross Facts About Your Smile

Mouths are truly amazing. Without them we wouldn’t be able to eat, taste, talk, sing, make silly faces, or smile. And everyone’s mouth is unique. That’s right!

The shape, size, and position of your teeth is unlike anyone else’s in the world. Your tongue-print, just like your fingerprints, is one-of-a-kind. The exact shape and color of your lips are unique, too. All these make your smile 1 in 7 billion. As amazing as they are, mouths are also disgusting.

Here are 5 facts to prove it:

1. A clean smile has 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria living, feeding, and depositing waste on each tooth. There are 500 to 650 different types of bacteria, but not all are bad. Some secrete enzymes that kill bad bacteria.

2. The bacteria in our mouths and the food we eat cause bad breath. Rinsing with water or chewing sugar free gum between meals helps keep it fresh.

3. You’ll produce enough spit in your lifetime to fill two swimming pools! Everyone’s spit contains bits of urea, mucous (snot), and leftover food. Gross. But spit helps wash away bad bacteria which is good for your teeth, and besides, you wouldn’t be able to taste anything without it.

4. You swallow most of the bacteria and spit in your mouth. In fact, you swallow up to 1.5 liters of saliva each day. The acids in your stomach kill most of the bacteria you swallow and your body repurposes the water in your spit. It’s a pretty efficient system.

5. A sneeze shoots out of your mouth at over 100 mph and a cough at over 60 mph. Each contains bacteria and spit from your mouth. So please be sure to cover both as often as possible.

If you’d like to smell bad breath or get sneezed on, stop by the Germnasium in Wellbody Academy. Then check out GROSSOLOGY: The (Impolite) Science of the Human Body for even more awesomely disgusting, hands-on experiences.

Visit DeltaDentalWAblog.com for fun tips to keep your smile healthy.

Healthy Red, White & Blue Recipes

This July 4, celebrate America’s birthday with delicious red, white and blue recipes that get their colors—and heart healthy, cancer-fighting powers—from natural antioxidants rather than artificial dyes.

Start the party with blue tortilla chips topped with sliced mozzarella and diced red tomato. Free of sugar, gluten and chemical additives, this patriotic snack gets snap from high-fiber corn tortilla chips, creaminess from low-fat cheese, and sweet tartness from ripe tomatoes. Spritz with fresh lemon juice for added tang and vitamin C. You can substitute low-fat feta, ricotta, cottage cheese or cream cheese for the mozzarella.

Our ever popular Red, White & Blueberry flag, an edible art project, is a terrific assemble-ahead dessert to make with kids. Stack raspberries, blueberries and banana slices on skewers for a treat filled with fiber, vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants including ellagic acid, a known cancer fighter.

Keep reading for more fabulous red, white & blue recipes!

Try this beautiful red, white and blue potato salad garnished with slivers of piquillo peppers reminiscent of bright red confetti. You can also roast and slice your own red bell peppers. They’ll take on a smoky sweetness when you char them on the grill, stovetop or in the oven, then peel and discard the blackened skins.

Use any combination of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blackberries and blueberries for these red, white and blue fruit cups. Feel free to reduce or omit the sugar when whipping the cream. If you’re shying away from high-fat dairy, substitute a dollop of low-fat plain yogurt or drizzle plain coconut milk, almond, rice or soy milk instead of cream.

On a hot day, what could be more refreshing than red, white and blue popsicles? Whole raspberries and blueberries add anthocyanin, the pigment that gives berries their rich hue. To cut down on sugar and bump up creaminess, consider diluting the limeade with low-fat cow milk, coconut milk or other “not”-milks.

Have fun eating red, white and blue.

Remember, red foods like watermelons tomatoes, cherries and strawberries often get their rosy hue from lycopenes and anthocyanins–antioxidants that help fight inflammation and protect healthy tissues from free-radical damage.

White foods, including bananas, cauliflower and garlic and mushrooms contain alicin which some studies have shown to have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

Blue and Purple foods, including blueberries, eggplants and plums, also get their gorgeous color and health benefits from anthocyanin which studies have shown to be effective in reducing risk of heart diseases, cancer and stroke.

Drop by Wellbody Academy’s Cafédium to play Apple A Day, an interactive, razzle-dazzle game that uses a Vegas-style slot machine to teach what foods have which nutrients and how those nutrients help your body.

Happy Campers, Healthy Smiles

There really is no place like the Pacific Northwest during summer. And warm summer nights are perfect for sleeping under the stars.

Whether you’re enjoying one of Washington’s many campgrounds, backpacking through the Cascades or Olympics, or enjoying the outdoors anywhere on the globe it’s important to take care of your smile.

Here are some campsite oral hygiene tips from our friends at Delta Dental of Washington:

  • Don’t forget your toothbrush! Store your toothbrush in a proper, well-vented case to keep it from getting dirty. Minimize bacteria growth by letting your toothbrush completely dry after use before placing it back in its case. Click here to learn how to brush your teeth in the woods.
  • Brush twice a day. While camping, it’s still important to brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day. Sugary s’mores and granola aren’t the best for your smile so it’s especially important while camping.
  • Don’t forget to floss. Flossing is always important no matter where you are. It’s how you clean between your teeth. So, it’s especially important to floss while camping. Favorite camping snacks like dried fruit and nuts can get stuck between your teeth.
  • Pack it in; pack it out. Whenever you head outdoors, remember to leave nothing behind—including used floss.

Everyone knows how important it is to pack a first-aid kit for medical emergencies, but have you ever packed emergency dental supplies? Dental emergencies can happen anywhere—even while you’re camping. So, you should pack an Emergency Dental Kit. These include items such as cotton, toothache drops, temporary cement and the guidance you’ll need to handle everything from toothaches to lost fillings until you can get to your dentist.

If you’re one of the many happy campers who head outside during this last bit of summer, don’t forget your smile. Taking care of your smile at home or at the campsite will keep it healthy for years.

Gourmet Kale Chips, Vitamin Rich, Dirt Cheap

Speaking of cravings and junk food, this simple recipe for kale chips is so delicious, so addictive, it elevates the bliss point of this nutritional superstar to the level of Cheetos.

First, there’s a satisfying crunch and tingle of salt. Then, the delicate green web of crisped chlorophyll melts in your mouth, spreading a warm glow across the tongue. Excellent with drinks; apple cider for the kids. Even children who won’t touch other green vegetables will scarf down a bowl of kale chips.

Kale, in the Brassica family along with cabbage, collards and broccoli, is packed with antioxidant vitamins A, C and K – and sulphur-containing phytonutrients. One cup of kale contains 36 calories, five grams of fiber, 15 percent of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40 percent of magnesium, 180 percent of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C, and 1,020 percent of vitamin K. It is also a good source of copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

(The other primary ingredient, olive oil, is a vital component of the heart healthy Mediterranean Diet. Stay tuned for more about olive oil in upcoming posts.)

Yes, you can purchase a modest-sized bag of kale chips at the store for $5.79. Or, you can buy (or harvest) a bunch of the greens and make double the amount of kale chips for half the price. Bonus: just-out-of-the-oven aroma and warmth. Tip: Watch the kale chips carefully in the oven because they progress slowly from limp and wet to perfectly crisp and green (a short sweet spot) before quickly blackening.

Kale comes in curly, ornamental, green, purple and dinosaur varieties and can be grown all year round in the Seattle area.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Cafedium to play Apple A Day, an interactive, razzle-dazzle game that uses a Vegas-style slot machine to teach what foods have which nutrients and how those nutrients help your body.

Call for recipes! Share your favorite healthy recipes and wellness tips with the Wellbody Blog by emailing professorwellbody@pacsci.org. Thanks.

Speaking Of Snot, Why Not Try A Neti Pot?

We love summer sunshine, but not the pollen, dust and other irritants riding zephyrs into our nasal passages. To celebrate summer allergies, snot, mucus and our GROSSOLOGY exhibit, we bring you tips on nasal irrigation and how to use a neti pot. (Perfect gadget for the dad who has everything, right?)

An ancient treatment used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries, nasal irrigation with salt water has been validated by scientific studies to treat many sinonasal conditions. But you have to do it right.

Nasal irrigation is a simple way to clean dirt, airborne allergens (dust and pollen), pollutants and bacteria-filled mucus from your nasal passages.

The flow of saline water not only flushes away debris, it also helps thin sludgy mucus, thus freeing hair-like cilia that line your sinus and nasal passages and allowing them to do the critical work of waving back and forth to move irritants toward your nose and back of your throat. Then, you can get rid of the pesky buggers by blowing your nose, swallowing or discretely spitting into a tissue.

A meta-review of nasal irrigation studies published in Current Opinion in Otolaryngology & Head and Neck Surgery found that nasal irrigation reduces the use of medication by sufferers of allergies and chronic sinusitis and reduces the need for surgery. It also improves quality of life for people with annoying sinus and nasal issues.

The comprehensive medical article discusses the pros and cons of adding more or less salt to the saline solution and includes recipes for making your own solution.

What is a neti pot and how do you use it?

A neti pot is a vessel that looks a bit like a small watering can. You fill it with a solution of sterile water and salt, tip your head, and pour the solution through one nostril. The solution will flow through your nasal passages and out the other nostril. Repeat on the other side. It feels strange the first time you do it, but shouldn’t hurt.

Dry your nasal passages by exhaling several times through your nose with your mouth closed. Or gently blow your nose into a tissue.

IMPORTANT: Do NOT use water straight from the tap! Boil and cool it, or use distilled or sterile water. Also, be sure to clean and dry your neti pot between uses.

There are many videos on YouTube demonstrating how to use a neti pot. And here’s a how-to diagram from American Family Physician.

Want to learn more about nasal irrigation? Here’s a good article from WebMD. Good luck and happy breathing!

Sitting: The UnExercise

Normally, when preparing to receive bad news, you’d sit down. In this case, you’d better stand.

Recent studies confirm prolonged sitting erases the benefits of exercise. So even if you run or pump iron for an hour every morning, if you sit for the next nine or ten hours – commuting, working at the computer, eating dinner, watching tv – you’ve wiped out most of the gains from your workout. Research published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, calculates that an hour of sitting can undo eight percent of fitness gains from each hour you exercised. (Here’s a summary in Outsideonline.com)

Keep reading to learn why sitting erodes health and a simple way to solve the problem.

Even more alarming, a recent meta-analysis published in the The Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that sitting is associated with a 24% increased risk of colon cancer, a 32% increased risk of endometrial cancer and a 21% increased risk of lung cancer. Partly that’s because sitting can lead to obesity which can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.

But extensive sitting also damages your health in other ways. Sitting for long periods of time shuts down the enzymes responsible for burning fat and creating good HDL cholesterol. Sitting also seems to suppress a gene that helps control the type of inflammation at the root of many chronic diseases. (Here’s a good summary article of the research.)

The solution? Get up from your chair twice an hour and walk for two minutes to keep the blood flowing through your large skeletal muscles. Stand and walk in place while talking on the phone. During lunch, take a brisk walk. Here’s an interesting article about walking as a superfood. And here, in The Art of Manliness, are 7 Simple Exercises to undo the damage of sitting.

Finally, stand up to read this hilarious and informative diary by a New York Magazine writer who vowed not to sit for a whole month.

The takeaway? Ceaseless standing isn’t healthy, either.

Are Fist Bumps The New Handshake?

Turns out a firm, warm handshake is more than a cordial power greeting. It’s a vector for germs. In one recent experiment, handshakes transferred an average 124 million units of E.coli.

What to do?
In our handshake culture, a simple smile seems inadequate and standoffish; a waggly finger wave is odd; a brisk nod could easily be misinterpreted as rude. Touching elbows? Beyond awkward.

So consider the fist bump. Infectious disease experts advocate this charismatic ritual greeting because it spreads 1/20th the germs of a traditional handshake and is ten times as hygienic as a high-five, according to research recently published in the American Journal of Infection Control. Keep reading to learn why and see a cool science video on fist bumps featuring celebrities and cute animals.

Shifting western society from handshakes to fist-bumps won’t be easy. But here’s motivation: In America, community-acquired pneumonia causes 60,000 deaths a year. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published an article that advocates banning handshakes in healthcare settings. That’s because in hospitals, one in 25 patients develops a hospital-acquired infection; 75,000 patients a year die from such infections. Here’s an excellent summary of recent fist-bump research.

If you’ve never fist-bumped, you’re not alone–and it’s never too late to start!

Begin by studying video clips of public fist-bumping. Here’s a short science video featuring the smooth, strong fist-bump style of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. (Also includes the science behind fist-bumps and some cute animals).

Here’s raw video footage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama fist-bumping with then Memphis Mayor Myron Lowery. It’s an excellent tutorial for those new to fist-bumping because Mayor Lowery essentially teaches the Tibetan leader fist-bump technique. The exchange ends with a double-handed soul grip, probably not so good for public health, but at least their initial foray into fist-bumping was a step in the right direction.

Practice at home and with friends, try out different styles. You, too, can fist-bump your way to the cutting-edge of culture and public health. As always, we invite you to share photos, videos and fist-bump stories by emailing discover@pacsci.org.

Of course, even the most prodigious fist-bumpers still need to wash their hands to get rid of germs lurking on public surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons and shared computer keyboards.

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Germnasium to use the only public-use SureWash training station in the world and learn the World Health Organization’s recommended handwashing techniques. SureWash, a high-tech training gadget that uses a Microsoft Kinect camera and video gaming technology, was designed to train medical personnel to correctly wash their hands. There’s no extra charge for SureWash or any Wellbody Academy activities. It’s all included in your admission to Pacific Science Center and always free for members. We want to help you stay well.

Run 5 Minutes A Day To Add 3 Years To Your Life

Good news for the time-challenged and exercise-averse. A comprehensive study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running just five minutes per day reduced risk of premature death by 30 percent and added three years to life expectancy. Sound too good to be true? Keep reading for more details.

The broad, long-term study monitored the exercise habits of more than 55,000 adults in the Dallas area for between six and 22 years.

About a quarter of the participants described themselves as runners, and they were 30 percent less likely to die of any cause during the study than the non-runners. Remarkably, those who ran less than 10-minutes a day seemed to derive the same benefit, in terms of mortality, as the high-mileage runners.

Researchers calculated it takes only 30 – 59 minutes of running per week to reduce the risk of premature death. Here’s a summary of the study in The Los Angeles Times. Since the study was focused on mortality, it didn’t cover other health benefits associated with more prolonged exercise such as weight control, “runner’s high” and strengthening muscles and bones.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week to work the legs, hip, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

Apps To Help With Healthy Habits

Trying to walk 30 minutes daily? Sleep 7+ hours nightly? Meditate? There’s an app for that!

If you’ve embarked on the journey to a healthier you (and who doesn’t want to upgrade life?), you may have already made a S.M.A.R.T goal that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

But how to keep with it after the initial enthusiasm wears off?

For some people, sticking stars on a paper chart – or using an app that’s the digital equivalent – is helpful for motivation and tracking progress. Though the greater goal may be to avoid cancer, diabetes and stroke, the daily satisfaction of giving yourself a star sticker or digital click may be just what you need to get your new habit rolling.

Keep reading for a short list of free habit-tracking apps plus instructions (and .pdf printouts) for good, old-fashioned star charts favored by kids and those who prefer paper.

Please share tips, your favorite habit apps and your progress with us by commenting or emailing discover@pacsci.org.

Do One Thing
You choose the habit you want to form; this free app from the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance helps you track progress and awards visual fireworks when you reach your goal. You can also set your own rewards. You can customize your own habit (file toenails once a week) and there’s also a terrific habit library to get you started: Acts of Kindness, Appreciate Your Partner, Eat Lots of Colors. Currently just for iPhones.

My Fitness Pal
A popular nutrition and fitness tracker, My Fitness Pal includes a huge database of foods. Ideal for those who are motivated by logging their exercise and everything they eat. Available on multiple platforms for the web and your mobile devices so you can easily sync.

Lose It!
Another popular tracker of food intake and exercise output. Also includes goal setting for sleep, macronutrients and body measurements. Available on several different web and mobile platforms and the paid versions also play nice with big-name digital pedometers and scales.

Turn your goals into a game by assigning points to each habit you want to work on, earning up to 100 points per week. Also used by sales teams and corporations as a motivation and accountability tool.


This habit-tracking program uses community (aka peer pressure?) and coaching to help you stay on track. It’s a good fit for people who are comfortable with crowd-sourcing and being public about their progress. Available for iPhone and Android.

Even in an era of digital bells and whistles, there’s still something oh-so-satisfying about sticking a star on a grid to celebrate a daily accomplishment. Here are some tips and pdfs from Raising Children and Netmums about star charts.

Visit Pacific Science Center to use the Optimizer, Planner and Barrier Feud in Wellbody Hall to create personal goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

Even On Long Days, Don’t Cheat Sleep

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, this luscious season of lingering evening light and 16-hour days makes it tempting to do everything but close your eyes and fall asleep.

But if you shortchange shut-eye, you risk damaging memory, learning, creativity, productivity, emotional stability and physical health. And did we mention you’re more likely to gain weight?

Several studies show that adults who sleep less than five or six hours nightly are at higher risk for being overweight.

Even though some subjects’ metabolism increased, meaning they burned calories at a higher rate, they also ate more after dinner and tended to overeat carbs, leading to overall weight gain. Sleep-deprived people also have less leptin (which turns off appetite) and more ghrelin, which stimulates appetite.

In a separate study, after only four days of sleep deprivation (4.5 hours/night), subjects’ fat cells became less sensitive to insulin—a metabolic change researchers say aged the fat cells about 20 years and pushed subjects closer to diabetes and obesity.

If the prospect of weight gain and diabetes doesn’t scare you into turning out the lights and going to sleep, how about cancer? A Japanese study of 24,000 women found that those who slept less than six hours nightly were more likely to develop breast cancer, perhaps because they secreted less of the hormone melatonin. A smaller study found an increased risk of cancerous colorectal polyps in subjects who slept less than six hours.

Children need adequate sleep to grow and repair muscles and tissues; growth hormone is released during deep sleep. As most parents have noticed, lack of sleep can also cause behavioral problems for kids. One study found that sleep-deprived children were oft misdiagnosed with ADHD.

The elderly, who are apt to suffer from sleep problems as their circadian rhythms weaken, are vulnerable to colds and flus when they don’t get enough sleep. (As are the rest of us.)

People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, including veterans, can compound symptoms when they don’t get enough sleep. Read Jane E. Brody’s excellent summaries in The New York Times about the dangers of not getting enough sleep as well as her tips on sleep hygiene.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/health/31brody.html

How much sleep is enough?

  • Most adults: 7 or 8 hours a night
  • Adolescents: 9 – 10 hours
  • Elementary school children: 10 hours
  • Preschoolers: 11 – 12 hours
  • Newborns: 16 – 18 hours

Visit Wellbody Academy’s Slumbertorium to learn more about sleep and get motivated to clean up your sleep act. Use the Sleeping in Seattle computer to input your age and the number of hours you slept the previous night; the interactive exhibit will compare your sleep deprivation (or level of rest!) with others in the region.