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wine-in-glassThe occasional glass of pinot is no miracle weight loss cure, but scientists at Oregon State University are saying red wine may help boost your metabolism and stimulate fat burning—both of which are important when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.

It has to do with a chemical called ellagic acid, which occurs naturally in red grapes (as well as other fruits such as raspberries and pomegranates) and is one of four chemicals analyzed by researchers in a recent study. As it turns out, ellagic acid was the star of the show, showing off its ability to not only slow the growth of fat cells in the liver but also to keep new ones from forming.

The 10-week study involved two groups of mice, one of which was fed a high-fat diet while the other consumed a normal healthy diet. Some mice from each group also received a serving of grape extract, equal to about a half cup of the fresh fruit. The most interesting results were seen in the high-fat group.

While all of the high-fat mice developed fatty liver and diabetic symptoms similar to those in overweight people, those who received the grape extract showed less fat accumulation in the liver and lower blood sugar levels overall. In those mice, the ellagic acid worked to improve liver cell metabolism and slow the growth of fat cells—possibly by triggering the release of certain proteins that metabolize fat and sugar.

The takeaway, say study authors, is that we may one day see a natural supplement made from red grapes that could help promote fat burning and support healthy liver function in people who are overweight. Because the high-fat-plus-supplement mice saw blood sugar levels improved almost enough to match those of the mice in the healthy diet group, researchers believe such a supplement may help round out a healthy weight loss program.

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burgerFifty is a decade or two away. Why worry about managing your cholesterol now? Because, say scientists at the Duke Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina, the longer you live with high cholesterol—even slightly higher than normal levels—the greater your risk of developing heart disease.

Using health data from the long-term Framingham Heart Study, researchers were able to determine that if you are between the ages of 35 and 55, every decade spent with borderline high cholesterol increases your heart disease risk by up to 40 percent.

Specifically, one to 10 years of elevated cholesterol levels was associated with an 8.1 percent risk, while 11 to 20 years of exposure boosted the risk to 16.5 percent. To put that in perspective, for those individuals who did not show signs of high cholesterol at the beginning of the study, their future risk of heart disease was only 4.4 percent—meaning long-term high cholesterol can nearly quadruple your chances of heart disease.

The study results, published last month in the journal Circulation, are important because they point out that how long a person has high cholesterol is directly related to his or her risk of developing heart disease—highlighting the need for middle-aged adults to pay better attention to their cardiovascular health.

Study author Dr. Ann Marie Navar-Boggan recommends adults in their 30s should consider getting screened at least once for high cholesterol. In addition, she believes a healthy diet and lifestyle should be a priority early on.

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