Daily Herald
Your health
By Susan Stevens | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 1/7/2008 12:08 AM

Use caffeine wisely:Œ

Caffeine can focus your mind, boost your energy and even improve your athletic performance. But it's easy to become dependent; most folks use caffeine just to ward off withdrawal symptoms.

If you break that cycle, you can make caffeine work for you when you need it most, says Natalie Digate Muth, a dietitian and master trainer for the American Council on Exercise. At modest doses, caffeine has few harmful side effects.

Choose a low-stress time to wean yourself. If you feel tired, get more sleep -- not more coffee. Then start swapping your caffeinated drinks for no-caffeine alternatives, starting with one drink a day. Gradually lower your caffeine intake until it's around 100 milligrams or less. You're unlikely to grow dependent at this level.

You don't need a caffeine boost for every deadline. Choose wisely, so that when you really need the extra help, your body and brain will give you the biggest effect for the lowest dose.

Diet roundup

According to fatsecret.com, a social network site for dieters, the most popular diets of 2007 were the South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers, Atkins and the Fat Smash Diet, which was featured on VH1's Celebrity Fit Club. In terms of weight-loss results, the Fat Smash Diet led the pack with people losing about 1.02 pounds a week.

You can see what diets worked -- and which didn't -- for thousands of dieters at fatsecret.com. The site offers food and exercise diaries, tips, recipes and support from other dieters.

It takes two:Œ

In case you need one more reason to launch your New Year's resolution, consider this: getting healthier this year could help your spouse do the same.

Researchers at Duke University and Yale University School of Medicine found if you exercise regularly, your spouse is twice as likely to do the same. If you quit smoking or drinking, your spouse is over five times as likely to follow suit within four years.

-- Susan Stevens