Just flex your way to youth

Tea has been used in healthy living for thousands of years and is the most popular drink after water – even more than coffee.

Illustrative (photo credit: DOUG GRISWOLD/TNS)
(photo credit: DOUG GRISWOLD/TNS)
 I am a 58-year-old woman and starting to get some facial wrinkles. A friend of mine who is about the same age has started doing facial exercises – opening and closing her mouth and eyes and massaging and moving the skin with the fingers – after seeing claims on the Internet that they make the face more youthful. Have facial exercises been proven effective for this purpose?
V.N., Ramat Hasharon
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich answers: Although one might expect such aesthetic claims to be nonsense, a study just published in the prestigious medical journal JAMA Dermatology by researchers at Chicago’s Northwestern University has shown that 20 weeks of regular facial exercises in fact are beneficial.
Dermatology professor Murad Alam and vice chairman of dermatology at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine and colleagues found that such exercise, 30 minutes a day or even every other day, enlarged facial muscles, creating fuller upper and lower cheeks, resulting in enlarged facial muscles so that the face has more volume and looks firmer. Middleaged women looked an average of three years younger after 20 weeks of exercises, because the face becomes firmer and more toned and shaped, like a younger face.
It was the first scientific study to test the premise that facial exercises (available on the Internet) improve appearance.
“Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, nontoxic way for looking younger or to augment other cosmetic or antiaging treatments they may be seeking,” Alam said.
“There are 43 muscles in the face. As it ages, skin loses elasticity, and fat pads between the muscle and skin become thinner. The fat pads, which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, give the face much of its shape. As skin becomes saggy, the thinning fat pads atrophy and slide, causing the face to ‘fall down’ due to gravity. But if muscle underneath becomes bigger, the skin has more stuffing underneath it, and the firmer muscle appears to make the shape of the face more full,” said senior study author Emily Poon, an assistant research professor in dermatology at Feinberg. “Muscle growth increases the facial volume and counteracts the effects of age-related fat-thinning and skin-loosening.”
Study participants, women 40 to 65 years old, underwent two sets of 90-minute training sessions from a facial exercise instructor. At home, they continued to do these exercises for a total of 20 weeks. For the first eight weeks, they did the exercises daily for 30 minutes; from nine to 20 weeks, they did the same exercises every other day for 30 minutes a session.
“Facial exercises that may be beneficial include those that entail puckering and squeezing the cheeks,” Alam said.
Participants learned and performed 32 distinct facial exercises, each one for about a minute. For example, open your mouth and form an O, position upper lip over teeth, smile to lift cheek muscles up, put fingers lightly on top part of cheek, release muscles to lower them, and lift back up. Repeat by lowering and lifting the cheeks. Another exercise involves smiling without showing teeth; then purse lips together, smile – forcing cheek muscles up – place fingers on corners of the mouth and slide them up to the top of the cheeks; hold for 20 seconds.
Of the 27 participants initially recruited, 16 did all the exercises for the entire duration of the study. Dermatologists who had no knowledge of who performed exercises and why exercises were performed were asked to assess before-and-after photos of the participants, using a standardized facial aging scale and rating 19 features of the face at the beginning, at week 8 and at week 20 of the exercises. They also rated each participant’s age at these three periods.
The raters found that upper-cheek and lower-cheek fullness, in particular, was significantly enhanced as a result of the exercises. In addition, the raters estimated average patient age decreased over the course of the study. It started at 50.8 years, dropped to 49.6 years at eight weeks and then to 48.1 years at 20 weeks. Participants also reported being highly satisfied with the results and noticed improvement in nearly all the facial areas that were rated.
It was not stated if the exercises could help men as well.
I am a 49-year-old man who has never drunk coffee but enjoys green tea. I drink about five cups a day. What are the differences among the different types? Can drinking it lower the risk of heart disease? I heard it may cause anemia and contains lead and aluminum. What is the truth?
V.E., Beersheba
Dr. Olga Raz, head of the clinical nutrition department at Ariel University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, comments:
Tea has been used for thousands of years and is the most popular drink after water – even more than coffee. The various types of tea are made from the Camellia sinensis plant, and the different types of tea vary according to preparation of the leaves.
Clinical studies have found health benefits in tea, such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, cholesterol and even some cancers. The reason for these properties lies in the presence of many phytochemical compounds, including polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties. Tea also has flavonoids such as quercetin, myristin and others, which help reduce the risk of disease.
Most studies have been carried out in cell and animal cultures, but there are also epidemiological studies of large populations examining the relationship between tea consumption and disease risk in humans.
It is important to distinguish between tea and herbal infusions that do not contain these substances and are not really tea.
There is evidence that some teas may have traces of aluminum (in Indian and Sri Lankan teas) and lead (in Chinese teas). But the amount is minute, and studies showed no evidence of adverse effects. Most studies do not find a connection between drinking tea and anemia, although excessive use of black tea may reduce iron absorption. Anyone who suffers from kidney stones should reduce tea consumption, because it contains oxalates that contribute to the formation of stones.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of tea is smaller than that in a cup of coffee. According to recent studies, not only is there no danger in drinking either tea or coffee, but the opposite is true. Both beverages have a positive effect on health, including helping to increase the fluids needed to prevent dehydration.
The differences among the better-known types – white, green, black and oolong teas – depend on the level of oxidation or fermentation of the leaves. The less oxidized the leaves, the subtler and lighter are the taste and aroma of the tea.
White tea is rarely processed and oxidized. It is made of young leaves and tubers, with a particularly delicate smell and flavor and yellowish color, and it does not contain caffeine.
Green tea is made from processed leaves, to prevent oxidation. A delicate and special drink is produced that contains relatively little caffeine; it is oxidized between 10% and 80%, so its flavor varies.
Oolong tea can be used several times, and in each preparation its flavor and aroma change, but it is still excellent.
Black tea is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized; it contains more caffeine than green and white, but the amount is less than in coffee.
Drinking tea is not a cure for all the diseases mentioned above, but it is an excellent beverage that, in addition to taste and aroma, contains substances of value to our health.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 9100002, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or email it to jsiegel@jpost.com, giving your initials, age and place of residence.