Flu shots fall shortagain

Remember that shot you got in the arm at the beginning of last winter to ward off the flu? Well, turns out it didn't work (which was no shock to me - I think all vaccinations are both needless and potentially dangerous). According to reports, this year's flu season was the worst in three years - and they're saying it's because the virus that so many people had injected into their systems was completely ineffective against the flu.

So you had some strange flu virus injected into your system for no reason at all. That should make you feel great, huh?

The last time the flu season was this bad was the winter of 2003-2004, which was also blamed on the fact that the inoculation addressed the wrong virus. What's more disturbing is that a flu season is graded on the number of adult deaths from flu or pneumonia throughout the country. And this year, flu and pneumonia accounted for a whopping 9 percent of all reported deaths in early March.

But the CDC doesn't see failure even when it's staring them in the face. Even though the deputy director of the CDC's influenza division, Dr. Dan Jernigan, was forced to admit that this year's vaccine was "not a good match," he chose to look at the bright side that it "still offered 44% protection overall."

Yep. "Protection" for less than half of the millions who received the vaccine, with a spike in deaths in early March. Even with sorry stats like that, the CDC and the healthcare community will surely plough ahead with their support of vaccine programs.

The CDC's big fear in all this? Not that the vaccine didn't work, but that people could potentially "lose faith" in the flu vaccine and skip it all together next year. I, for one, fervently hope that's exactly what happens. If the public perception of failure can help gain more anti-vaccination converts, I'll consider that a victory.

My favorite nutrient gets another boost

I've long been a fan of folic acid. Decades ago, I was singing the praises of this health- boosting nutrient. And now a new study is once again making me look like a genius who is way ahead of his time (because, let's face it: I am!). Researchers in the United Kingdom and Korea have discovered that a folate deficiency could make you over three times more likely to develop dementia.

This research is of particular importance since many experts believe that the incidence of Alzheimer's could actually quadruple by the year 2047. Alzheimer's already affects over 13 million people worldwide. Quadruple that number, and it's equivalent of giving Alzheimer's to the entire population of Italy. Sobering stuff. If that's not an international health crisis in the making, I don't know what is.

But reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia is just the beginning. Folate has more benefits than you can shake the proverbial stick at. It helps combat heart disease since it decreases the circulating level of homocysteine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the blood and can lead to dangerous blood clots. It also helps prevent strokes. Plus, diets high in folate have also been associated with decreased incidence of colorectal cancer. Should I go on, or are you already converted?

Best of all, folate comes in tasty, natural packages - and some of the most commonly consumed foods. In fact, you'd probably have to go out of your way to dodge folate intake. Rich sources of folate include leafy veggies like spinach, lettuce, and turnip greens.

Just make sure you don't overcook those veggies. When you boil them, you end up pouring most of the folate down the drain. Eating raw spinach is OK, but you get four times as much folate when you eat sauted chicken livers served pink.