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By wire services
Published August 16, 2005

REMEMBER THE MyPYRAMID food guidance system announced by the USDA earlier this year? The system provides options to help Americans make healthy food choices and to be active. It's still not too late to shed those extra pounds. Dare we say the holidays are ever so close. Here's how to personalize the food pyramid:

- Log on to Under "My Pyramid Plan," plug in your age, gender and level of activity.

- After you get general recommendations on what you should eat daily, click on "My Pyramid Tracker" to get more personalized information.

- You can either register with the site to keep a record of your meals and activities daily or you can sample the site through the "Check It Out" option without registering.

- On the Tracker section, plug in your age, gender, the date, your height and weight.

- Follow the instructions to evaluate either your daily food intake or your physical activity level.

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FOR THOSE WITH hypertension, a daily dose of dark chocolate may be just what the doctor ordered. In a clinical trial, researchers found that dark chocolate may lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. The research, published in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association, also found that in test subjects who ate dark chocolate, levels of LDL, or bad cholesterol, dropped by about 10 percent. Chocolate contains flavonoids, a natural antioxidant found in many foods, including tea, red wine and vegetables. Previous studies suggest that these flavonoid-rich foods offer cardiovascular benefits. In the study, half of the 20 participants ate dark chocolate daily while the others ate white chocolate. The blood pressure of those who ate dark chocolate dropped, while those who ate white chocolate saw no change. The findings do not mean people should gorge on dark chocolate. More study is needed, researchers said.

* * *

PARENTS OF CHILDREN with depression can obtain information on antidepressants and other treatment options from these organizations:

- The Food and Drug Administration has published a resource manual: Medication Guide: About Using Antidepressants in Children and Teenagers. Information on bipolar disorder in children and teens is available from the Child & Adolescent Bipolar Foundation. ParentsMedGuide is a Web site founded by medical and patient advocacy groups, including the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The site includes a fact sheet called "The Use of Medication in Treating Childhood and Adolescent Depression: Information for Patients and Families."

* * *

SUPPORTING LOVED ONES suffering from eating disorders can sometimes lead to confusion or guilt. In Talking to Eating Disorders (Penguin Group; $12.95), readers find simple, effective ways of dealing with someone with an eating disorder. Authors Jeanne Albronda Heaton and Claudia Strauss discuss effective conversation techniques, media messages, diet and exercise and include a helpful section on do's and don'ts.

[Last modified August 16, 2005, 05:18:03]

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