From a Street Food to an Exotic Dish: The Interesting Tale of Sushi

A night out at the most exquisite fine dining restaurants in the city, we are always compelled to order a portion of sushi. With a multitude of options available, one or the other kind always manages to occupy a place on the table. These rice rolls are not only healthy; they are scrumptious and addictive too. The popularity stems from the fact that it is a simple dish with raw seafood and rice, yet manages to attract so much attention.

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The inception

 

Did you know that sushi was first created with a purpose to keep meat fresh in the absence of refrigeration? By keeping raw fish folded in rice, its freshness could be preserved for over months. This was the main purpose when sushi was invented in Southeast Asia back in the second century A.D. It is hard to believe that preservation of seafood was the main aim of this rather exotic dish. By allowing the fish to ferment in rice over a period of time, it was made edible. The rice was then thrown away, while the fish was eaten. Just like all things ancient, the origin of sushi is not free of old wives tales and folklore.

How did sushi get its name? Tracing its trajectory is as fascinating as the name sushi itself is. It is believed that the word sushi literally means ‘it is sour’ which is used to describe the ancient process of making sushi,with raw seafood rolled into rice along with salt for facilitating the fermentation process.

Gradually, the preservation method was discovered in China and Japan, where Japan went a step further. Today, Japan has the most exciting night life and back then, there were significant transformations taking place. With Edo as the Capital of Japan, entrepreneurs developed quicker ways to prepare the sushi. Vinegar aided the process. The Japanese began eating the rice along with the fish. It was Matsumoto Yoshiichi of Tokyo who began to add vinegar in his sushi to sell it. This allowed the customers to eat it immediately rather than waiting for the process of fermentation to start. This why the sushi kitchen is called tsuke-ba or “pickling place.” The process of fermenting the rice releases acid that allow the fish to last longer.

The evolution

Hanaya Yohei is known to be responsible for the shift in the way sushi was originally presented and prepared. Before him, in the 1820’s, chefs used raw fish in their sushi, known as ‘Edo-style’ sushi. This is the style you will find in most sushi restaurants. Then, Yohei began a method where by rather than wrapping the fish in rice, he began to place the fish on top of the roll and that is exactly the way we eat Japanese sushi today. It is also commonly referred to as ‘nigiri sushi’. At his time, it was a fast food available on the streets. He set up his stall on the banks of the Sumida river, this meant that sushi could be prepared within minutes rather than hours or days. You could be on the go and fill yourself with a box of freshly prepared sushi. It was slowly being favored and is now one of the most widely ordered dishes.

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Photo Credit: Istock

How did it make its way into fine dining restaurants?

The aftermath of the World War 2 and a massive earthquake in Tokyo in the 1920s changed the scenario in Japan. Land prices decreased significantly. You would no longer get sushi on your casual stroll across the street. It shifted to fine dining restaurants that desired more formal clothing and few more hours of your time. The earthquake also displaced numerous chefs to set up their bases across the country, increasing the popularity of sushi.

 

Transcending geographical boundaries for the art that sushi making has become, the west slowly adapted the artistry. The booming post-war economy could support mass refrigerators, better transportation of seafood and fine dining restaurants that allowed the sushi industry to thrive.
Today, Japan’s iconic street food, has become a sophisticated and unique dish globally. Upscale sushi restaurants are creating fusion forms, inventing and innovating at a rapid rate to meet customer needs.

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Photo Credit: Istock

Chefs across the world attempted to embrace the sushi culture. With western influence, cut rolls that have been wrapped in seaweed or soy paper have become extremely popular. Vegetarians too have no reason to complain with toppings and fillings like mushrooms, cucumbers, avocado and asparagus.

 

The Japananse pay a lot of attention to the presentation of food. The presentation is almost as important as the taste itself and that’s what makes sushi an art and an experience. Owing to the mysterious, yet elusive background of sushi,  Yohei’s contribution is credible and unforgettable. In the absence of advancement of technology, his foresightedness is believed to have transformed the world of sushi. We can now state with conviction that sushi is here to stay.

Plant-Based Protein, a Reason to Let Go of Meat

With the world moving towards a more harmonious existence with the environment, it becomes imperative that our food habits must change too. Consumption of meat, processed foods, or year around foods are not just factors that harm our health but they contribute to creating an ecological imbalance, as reported by various studies. So what’s gaining popularity amidst this fight for sustainable and better living are plant-based proteins. Call it a new food trend, this category of food is fast making its way into the culinary world, gaining more attention in the recent months.

With an abundance of plant based protein sources like chickpeas, soy, beans etc vegetarianism is rising steadily too. An alternative to dairy and animal protein, plant protein claim a lower carbon footprint on the environment. It’s a category of protein that is obtained from plants and provides all the essential nine amino acids that the body requires.

Plant-Based Protein, a Reason to Let Go of Meat

Plant proteins are said to have a more positive impact on the body since they come without additional saturated fats and other harmful trans fats that could be dangerous in the long run. Plant foods as compared to animal foods are richer in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients that the body needs for its proper functioning. Thus, plant protein sources contain phytochemicals that fortify the body against illnesses.

 

In a bid to become more sensitive towards the environment, one such attempt has been made by Canada. These include certain additions and eliminations to renew the current food guidelines. With a decision to eliminate diary and meat products, it aims to promote a healthy regimen that ensures nutritious intake of food and to discard food that is rich in saturated fats, sodium and sugar-based beverages.

 

Some of the sources of plant-based proteins include soy, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, quinoa, ancient grains like millet, etc.

 

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Eggplant You May Have Not Heard Before

Commonly known as aubergine in England and brinjalin India, eggplant is a glossy, teardrop-shaped vegetable belonging to the nightshade botanical family. It is the same purple variety found across the globe but is referred to as an eggplant mostly in the United States. The eggplant is native to a number of countries stretching from India to Burma and extending to China.

While the eggplant is assumed to be a vegetable, it is actually a fruit that is cooked as a vegetable or a savoury dish. Thus biologically, it can be termed as a fruit and in terms of cooking it is used a vegetable. With a slightly bitter and acidic taste which may not be preferred by many, it is essential to consider the impressive health benefits that eggplant offers.

It is packed with vitamins like vitamin C, K and B6 and an ample amount of potassium, manganese and fiber. Even the leaves and roots of the plant are widely used for treating various infections and to heal wounds. Bangalore-based Nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood suggests several benefits that come along with eggplants that no one told you yet.

5 Amazing Health Benefits of Eggplant You May Have Not Heard Before

1. Heart friendly: A pigment present in eggplant known as anthocyanins helps strengthen the functioning of the heart. It also help to bring down the “bad” cholesterol and acts as a powerful antioxidant.

heartPhoto Credit: Istock

2. Acts as a natural laxative: Rich in fiber, eggplants improve the functions of the digestive system by acting as a natural laxative. It provides fiber, in addition to water and antioxidants which can prevent the risk of inflammation in the digestive system and also helps in relieving constipation.

indigestionPhoto Credit: Istock

3. Weight loss: Saponin in the eggplant prevents fat accumulation and absorption in the body and thus, aids the process of losing weight. While its nutrient content is extremely high, eggplant low on carbohydrates and calories and can easily fit into your weight loss diet.

weight loss measuresPhoto Credit: Istock

4. Rich in antioxidants: Anthocyanins that impart the deep purple colour to eggplants help in fighting free radicals in the body preventing the growth of cancer cells as well as other disease causing bacteria.

 

5. Helps prevent anemia: A rich source of iron, eggplants increase the production of red blood cells in the body and thus help fight anemia or iron deficiency which is common in females.

 

Now that you know all the health benefits of eating eggplants regularly, don’t shy away from this wonderful vegetable. There are several ways in which they can be made appealing and easier to consume for those who detest eating them. For instance, adding it to a simple sandwich or a whole grain burger does wonders. You can toss them with pasta or bake with cheese and other vegetables. Smokey, roasted eggplants are lovely with some light sauce. These are just few options to get you going.

8 Amazing Health Benefits of Drinking Rooibos Tea or Red Tea

Green, black, brown and now, red! No, these aren’t just some colors on the palette of your paint box. They are hues in the world of tea. The latest addiction and addition to the list being the ‘red’ tea, all the way from South Africa. We are talking about the Rooibos tea. What makes Rooibos tea so popular is the fact that it is known to have 50% more antioxidants than those found in green tea. Rooibos is obtained from Aspalathus Linearis, a shrub native to the Cape of Good Hope.

According to Bangalore-based Nutritionist Dr. Anju Sood, “Red tea is an excellent anti-oxidant. It prevents the movement of free radicals in the body and thus, reduces oxidative stress. However, just like all kinds of tea, it must be had in moderation as tea is a natural dehydrator.”

8 Amazing Health Benefits of Drinking Rooibos Tea or Red Tea
A powerhouse of health benefits

1. An antioxidant:

The antioxidants present in rooibos tea prevent the movement of free radicals in the body and combat oxidative stress. This in turn prevents premature ageing and enables the maintenance of soft, supple skin.

2. Enables digestion:

Red tea is caffeine-free and also free of tannins. This element is present in other teas and is known to cause digestive issues among many people. Red tea is a storehouse of antispasmodic elements, preventing diarrhea and gastric issues. It has no oxalic acid, this makes it suitable for those who are prone to developing kidney stones.

3. Full of micro-nutrients:

Iron, zinc, copper and manganese are only a few of the many minerals that rooibos tea is rich in. If you are suffering from hair loss, red tea is known to improve hair growth by strengthening the hair follicles and provides the required nutrients that the body needs for healthy hair.

4. Boost your immunity:

Red tea has the power to protect your body against diseases while building and strengthening your immunity and making you stronger from within.

5. Anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties:

These encourage healing wounds and giving relief from any kind of pain. The tea is super rich in polyphenols, thus aiding the immune system and thereby, boosting the health of an individual.

6. Improves the quality of sleep:

It is important to note that rooibos tea is free of any caffeine content and therefore, it is extremely suitable for insomniacs. Caffeine is addictive and creates havoc for your the sleep cycle. Drinking red tea reverses the harrowing effects of too much caffeine and relaxes your tired nerves and calms you down.

7. Enhances bone strength:

The presence of calcium and manganese is really good for your bones. Along with strengthening bones, it encourages bone and joint development. Thus, problems like arthritis are kept at bay.

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8. Good for skin:

Red tea is also the secret to beautiful and radiant skin. The alpha hydroxy content of red tea can reverse cell damage and rejuvenate the skin. As a rich source of bioflavanoids, red tea improves blood circulation and glowing skin.

Rooibus tea can be had plain or just like black tea with milk and a drop of honey. In case, you like it without milk, you can add a squeeze of lime for a citrusy flavour.

No Ordinary Cooks: The Rise and Decline of the Tradition of Khansamas

It is somewhat ironical that in this day of celebrity chefdom, khansamas, the original traditional professional cooks or chefs in many parts of the country, should have so totally disappeared. But this disappearance is perhaps inevitable. The khansamas were a product of a feudal India, of the British Raj, and while their legacy lived on for many decades post-Independence, and post the abolition of the privy purses which dealt a death blow to feudalism in many ways, in the post Liberalisation world, it was inevitable that this legacy would wane which is a pity because these were no ordinary cooks. They were master chefs who, despite being professionally untrained, cooked with an instinct for flavours and spicing that cannot be taught to students of Indian gastronomy.

Most of us who grew up at the cusp of Liberalisation can perhaps recall the last of the khansamas from old clubs in old cities. Some of us may even have been privileged to be part of extended families of some affluence and influence who employed these professional cooks. But how did the institution of the khansama-in the erstwhile dak bunglows, bureaucratic homes, Railways catering, army messes and elite clubs come about?

No Ordinary Cooks: The Rise and Decline of the Tradition of Khansamas

Much of it can be traced to Avadh – that glittering center piece of cultural and culinary evolution in the post-Mughal times. Abdul Halim Sharar (1860-1926), the best known chronicler of the lifestyle and culture of Avadh writes extensively about the Nawabi preoccupation with food and the exalted status enjoyed by cooks in their kitchens.

In Guzishta Lucknow, the finest narrative describing the Lucknow  of the past, Sharar not only talks about the splendours produced in the Nawabi kitchens-Rs 60,000 a month were spent on food apart from salaries of various cooks-where cuisine was raised to the form of art, but he also talks about the categories of cooks. While a bawarchi was an ordinary cook, cooking in bulk (that legacy has survived till today and you have bawarchis cooking up biryani, curries or working the tandoor for big fat Indian weddings), his profession was looked down upon by elite Lucknowwallahs

as being commonplace. Rakabdars, on the other hand, were the true master chefs, and highly regarded.

They only cooked small portions of food for the main aristocrats (and not the entire household) and devoted their time to refining dishes, developing preserves, procuring the best ingredients and artistically decorating plates! Somewhat like the head chef in a modern restaurant kitchen that runs on the French model. Instead of following a recipe, Rakabdars were instinctive geniuses who created novel dishes out of existing ingredients-a dry fruit only khichdi without dal and chawal, sliced aubergines, delicately spiced, put on trees, murabbas, rich desserts, you get the drift.

Since cuisine was entertainment and the entire culture favoured hyperbole and elaborate manners (as has been often caricatured), nazakat and nafasat – delicacy and elegance– were equally prized in the culinary arts too. Thus we have the legacy of paans fashioned out of just malaipulaos rather than robust biryanis and aromats in minute quantities to rev up kebab and kormas as well as paheli ka khana

— to trick your senses-much before the age of Heston Blumenthal.

After the Revolt of 1857, when the last Nawab of Avadh Wajid Ali Shah was exiled to Kolkata, capital of the British Raj, hundreds of cooks employed in the extended household traveled east with him. These were cooks of all categories. Some of them or their progeny, it is conjectured, found employment with the British clubs and in the homes of the memsahibs, some turned bazaar chefs, but all of them, no doubt, contributed to the inventive cuisine that we know today-aloo dum, mochar

chops, Calcutta biryani which is a take on the avadhi biryani and, well, smoked hilsa, that ultimate aspirational dish. The khansamas were inventing a whole new genre of food with newer influences married to local ingredients and spicing.

Before we talk further about the khansamas and their influence on Indian gastronomy, a peep into the legacy of another traditional Indian cook: the padayan. While the khansamas were at least originally muslim cooks proficient in old Mughalai khana, employed by aristocrats, bureaucrats, landlords given to entertaining and in clubs and messes of British India, padayans were also professional cooks, only more homely and matronly.

Most ordinary high-caste Hindu homes in UP and large parts of the Gangetic heartland employed these Brahmin women to cook in their inner kitchens. Padayans would make everyday fare, slaving over the fire, turning out hot phulkas and paranthe, ghee-laden dals and seasonal vegetables and curries. This was every day fare but the padayan ruled the kitchen with an iron fist. Economy was maintained, no meat (in some regions, fish was not taboo) was allowed into this inner space governed by religious rituals of cooking and eating.

The khansamas, by contrast, cooked fare meant for entertaining. Their cooking then was naturally more inventive and eventually became the basis of restaurant/club cooking in India, though of course, over the years some of the dishes became part of the “party” fare in homes as well. If there is such a sharp divide between home-style, “regular” Indian food and what we eat outside, it is also because of these differences in cooks.

If the Rakabdars in Lucknow-and similar cooks in other princely states-excelled in turning out exotic dishes with expensive ingredients, khansamas of the British Raj employed in dak bungalows and clubs in the boondocks invented with what they had. Dak Bungalow curries and the like come nowhere close to the refinement of a korma but the khansamas were no rakabdars and their context had changed. Still, that same instinct for invention and experimentation survived. That is exactly what defines Indian cuisines even today – this melange of different influences on our tables.

Do you spend a lot of hours in office? It may increase irregular heart rhythm risk

Working long hours affects your health in many ways. It affects your eyes, and can even lead to cancer . Now, a new research has shown that it may increase the risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm – known as atrial fibrillation – as well as contribute to the development of stroke and heart failure. The findings showed that, compared to people who worked a normal week of between 35-40 hours, those who worked 55 hours or more were approximately 40% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.

“A 40% increased extra risk is an important hazard for people who already have a high overall risk of cardiovascular disease due to other risk factors such as older age, male sex, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight, smoking and physical inactivity or living with an established cardiovascular disease,” said Mika Kivimaki, Professor at the University College London.

People who work 55 hours or more are approximately 40% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation.

“This could be one of the mechanisms that explain the previously observed increased risk of stroke among those working long hours. Atrial fibrillation is known to contribute to the development of stroke, but also other adverse health outcomes such as heart failure and stroke-related dementia,” Kivimaki added. For the study, published in the European Heart Journal, the team analysed data from 85,494 men and women from the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Finland who took part in one of eight studies in these countries.

During the ten-year follow-up period, there were 1,061 new cases of atrial fibrillation. This gave an incidence rate of 12.4 per 1,000 people in the study, but among the 4,484 people working 55 hours or more, the incidence was 17.6 per 1,000.

Weekend without stress: Here’s our list of top studies that help you fight the blues

Stress is an inevitable part of modern life. Yet it can harm your physical and mental health and increase rate of mortality. Read on to find out what the harmful effects of stress and what to do about it.

Cycling lowers stress levels. (Shutterstock)

1) Cycling to work lowers stress levels in first 45 minutes of work.

A study suggests cycling to office can help reduce stress and improve your work performance. Results indicate that cycling to work is a good way to have a good day. “Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who travelled by car,” the lead researcher says.

 

Stress can increase chances of death from cardiovascular illnesses. (Shutterstock)

2) Mental stress ups risk of death in heart disease patients.

According to researchers, people with persistent mental distress, including depression and anxiety, were nearly four times as likely to have died of cardiovascular disease and nearly three times as likely to have died from any cause.

 

Being religious is beneficial to health. (Shutterstock)

3) Religiousness leads to less stress and enhanced longevity.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University in the US found that adults between the age group of 40 to 65 years who attend church or other houses of worship reduce their risk for mortality by 55%. “We have found that being in a place where you can flex those spiritual muscles is actually beneficial for your health,” said the lead researcher.

4) Your stress levels may up ADHD risk in your child.

Stressful situations over a long period during pregnancy increases stress hormone, which may raise the risk of babies’ developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

 

Stress can be contagious for children. (Shutterstock)

5) Your children can ‘catch’ stress from friends and teachers in school.

New research suggests that if students and teachers of a school appear to be stressed, the chances of the same feeling percolating to a new colleague are quite high. “If you are surrounded by people who are downcast or walking around under a pall of burnout, then it has a high chance of spilling over, even if you don’t have direct contact with these folks,” said Kenneth Frank, Professor at Michigan State University in the US.

Don’t take that X-ray lightly. Even low dose of radiation can harm your heart

Ex-rays are not really as harmless as we’ve been made to think. According to a study, exposure to even low doses of ionising radiation, such as X-rays, may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

It is known that populations exposed to ionising radiation in medical or environmental settings have symptoms suggesting an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, the study suggests that low exposure to doses of around 0.5 gray (Gy) – the equivalent of repeated CT scans – is associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular damage, up to decades after exposure.

This raises questions about the nature of long-term alterations in the heart’s vascular system caused by such doses. Soile Tapio and Omid Azimzadeh of Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen in Germany and colleagues studied how human coronary artery endothelial cells respond to a relatively low radiation dose of 0.5 Gy and found several permanent alterations in the cells that had the potential to adversely affect their essential functions.

Endothelial cells, which form the inner layer of blood vessels, were found to produce reduced amounts of nitric oxide, an essential molecule in several physiological processes including vascular contraction.

The study suggests that low exposure to doses of around 0.5 gray (Gy) - the equivalent of repeated CT scans - is associated with a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular damage, up to decades after exposure.

Previously, high-dose radiation (16 Gy) has been shown to persistently reduce levels of nitric oxide in the serum of mice, but this is the first study to indicate impaired nitric oxide signalling at much lower doses. Cells damaged by low-dose radiation also produced increased amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are formed as a natural byproduct of normal oxygen metabolism and play an important role in cell signalling. Increased ROS can damage DNA and proteins.

In addition, exposed cardiac endothelial cells were found to have reduced capacity to degrade oxidised proteins and to be ageing prematurely. Such harmful changes did not occur immediately (that is, within a day) but first began in the longer term (one to two weeks). As these cells do not divide rapidly in the body, this observed time in the cell culture would correspond to several years in the living organism, researchers said. All these molecular changes are indicative of long-term premature dysfunction and suggest a mechanistic explanation to the epidemiological data showing increased risk of cardiovascular disease after low-dose radiation exposure, they said.

Restless legs syndrome ups risk of sleep disturbances in pregnancy

According to a new study, pregnant women who have restless legs syndrome (RLS) are twice as likely to experience poor sleep quality, poor daytime function and excessive daytime sleepiness.

RLS is an irresistible urge to move your legs typically in the evenings.

The results showed that 36% of women in their third trimester had RLS, and half of the women with RLS, had moderate to severe symptoms. The study found a positive dose-response relationship between RLS severity and the sleep-wake disturbances.

RLS is an irresistible urge to move your legs typically in the evenings.

Lead study author Galit Levi Dunietz, from the University of Michigan, said that while the team expected that RLS would be relatively common in pregnant women, they were surprised to observe just how many had a severe form.

Dunietz added that these women experienced RLS symptoms at least four times per week. They analysed 1,563 pregnant women with an average age of 30 years, each of whom was in her third trimester.

Researchers said health care providers often dismiss patient complaints of poor sleep and daytime sleepiness during pregnancy. (Shutterstock)

RLS was diagnosed using the standardised criteria of self-reported symptoms and frequency.

Demographic and pregnancy data were extracted from medical records, and sleep information was collected with questionnaires. The study found no evidence for any association between RLS and delivery outcomes.

According to the authors, health care providers often dismiss patient complaints of poor sleep and daytime sleepiness during pregnancy. “These sleep-wake disturbances are considered common symptoms in pregnancy and are frequently attributed to physiological changes that occur in normal pregnancy, but our data suggest that RLS is an additional contributor to these symptoms,” said Dunietz.

The authors suggested that the identification and treatment of RLS in pregnancy – using non-pharmacological approaches – may alleviate the burden of these symptoms for many women.

The results appear in the journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Fermented red clover taken during menopause cuts risk of mood swings, bone loss

Here’s some good news for women undergoing menopause. A study has found that fermented-red clover extract can effectively reduce the number and severity of hot flushes, hormonal swings and bone loss experienced during menopause.

The study also found that the extract prevents the normally accelerated menopausal bone loss, which affects one in three women over the age of 50.

Researcher Max Norman Tandrup Lambert said that it is the fermentation process of the red clover extract that makes the difference, as the lactic acid fermentation increases the bioavailability of the bioactive estrogen-like compounds.

The study investigated fermented red clover extract as a healthier alternative to traditional estrogen therapy proscribed by doctors.

The team led by professor Per Bendix Jeppesen, from the department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine under the department Clinical Medicine at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, investigated fermented red clover extract as a healthier alternative to traditional estrogen therapy proscribed by doctors. The red clover extract was fine-tuned to improve the gastro-intestinal uptake of the active isoflavone compounds.

The researchers analysed 60 women with menopause symptoms based on criteria of at least five severe hot flushes per day and blood tests (including FSH, that indicates the “stage” of menopause).

The women were separated into two groups of 30 each, in which 30 drank 150ml red clover extract per day for 12 weeks, while the other 30 drank a masked placebo product. After 12 weeks they were tested again.

The study also found that fermented red clover extract prevents the normally accelerated menopausal bone loss, which affects one in three women over the age of 50. (Shutterstock)

In this study, the hot flush symptoms of women were measured using a so called ‘skin conductor’, a device that is applied to the underside of the wrist that can determine the number hot flush events and their severity objectively based on sweat secretion. Similarly, the effect of the red clover extract on bone health has been tested via so-called DXA scans of the spine and hips.

These findings are very promising as the benefits take place without any of the side effects of traditionally proscribed hormone therapies that increase the risk of cancers and cardiovascular diseases.

The research appears in the journal PLOS ONE.