Thursday, August 28, 2008

wellness weekly

Hot Dogs: A commercial is running in some areas that cautions on the risk for colon cancer associated with eating processed meats. The commercial is only concerned about hot dogs. It is causing some angst especially with the Hot Dog Council (there is a hot dog council?). This council fears that people will come to believe that occasional hot dog consumption will lead to cancer. Research does support an increase risk of colon or colorectal cancer in persons who eat red meat and or processed meats every day. There is a 50% increase of cancer for eating a two ounce hot dog every day, over time.
Here is one link for more info, I also studied this topic in grad school. I did have to vet the research so I feel comfortable telling you that there is an increase in cancer risk if you eat a lot of red and processed meat and it is reduced if you limit these foods. Some of this relates to chemicals from cooking and nitrates from processing. The risk can also be attributed to high saturated fat content. Some people who eat a lot of red meat also eat little fruits and vegetables. Fiber rich foods are protective. Now I have totally digressed from the ad issue. The ad shows a young boy lamenting that he is going to have or has colon cancer as he and his friends eat hot dogs. Hot dogs are high in fat, sodium and nitrates. Nitrates have been shown to cause cancer in animals. Hot dogs are not health food. If people eat less, if schools serve them less, that is not a bad thing. Will an occasional hot dog hurt you? Probably not. Should you enter the next all you can eat hot dog contest? Most definitely not. Oh and after reading L. Tanner’s article I doubt you would want to. She notes that hot dogs may legally contain pig snouts and lips, livers of cows, lamb spleens and goat gullets. You could eat meatless ones, but they may have nitrates, I am not sure.

Ritalin: This medication is used in the treatment or management of ADHD. In reading about childhood nutrition this week, I learned that children on this medicine may have weight and growth reduction. It is important to know that the drug can suppress appetite. Parents can time meals around the suppressant effect of the medicine. For example, the dosing is every six hours in many cases. The child can be given meals at the fifth or sixth hour and then be given the next pill. Not that I am advocating pills, I nearly never do that. It is also suggested that children not be on the medication during growth spurts, like adolescence and some parents even choose to forgo the medicine during school breaks.

Milk: Though I drink (skim) milk everyday and consume cheese, yogurt and ice cream, I do appreciate Walter Willett’s comments regarding the irony of our 1) continuing to drink milk after weaning as no other mammal does, and 2) our drinking milk from an animal not our mother or species, which rarely happens with other animals. So though he didn’t note this when I heard him speak, a book by Registered Dietician, Susan Magrann, which covers food allergies, almost always suggests cow’s milk as a first possible allergen. In fact, she recommends that children not be given cow or soy milk if at all possible until after age one. (remember too that after age two they should no longer be on whole milk – in most instances). Calcium in milk products is very important to our system, however.

Cancer Causing Lifestyle: An organization called the International Union Against cancer has completed a survey involving 29 countries of high, middle and low income. The higher income countries, USA included, were less likely to know or believe or admit that high or even moderate alcohol intake increases the risk for many cancers. It actually increases the risk by 42%. Our country has more understanding of the protective effect of fruit and vegetable intake, unfortunately, that doesn’t protect at near the level that alcohol harms. Other countries seemed to understand this better. It was also found that people were far more aware of the risks of cancer from cigarette smoking than from obesity and inactivity. FYI< obesity is responsible for the same or more deaths per year as cigarette smoking.

Water: I read an article this week that was inspired by a new book called Bottlemania… etc. The story and book refer to the incredible increase in revenue for the bottled water industry. Author Elizabeth Royle refers to the way that these companies have made bottled water seem a commodity. It isn’t of course and water is a natural resource that may be threatened by this method of production and consumption. One interesting unforeseen consequence could be the lack of attention to tap water infrastructure and thus its decline in purity and safety. There is a huge problem with recycling of the plastic bottles and the environmental impact from the factory production and the transportation of the bottles and jugs. It is better to save the bottle water for natural disaster and drink your water from a glass, from the tap, with perhaps a filter. I will try to do better with this myself.

Fat Tax: Not really, but certainly a type of user fee. Alabama intends to charge significantly obese persons 25$ more a month for their health insurance if they do not make progress in weight loss after a health risk assessment identifies their 35+ BMI and they are enrolled in a health promotions program. Alabama state employees can refuse the HRA but there is a fine for that. Currently, smokers who work for the state must pay a fee each month. In Sarasota County Florida where I live, the county will not hire smokers anymore. I understand these two strategies for trying to deal with apparent lifestyle choices that impair a person’s health, reduce their quality life years, if not their total life years, and adversely affects the bottom line of the company that employs them. It also can affect the rest of us in regards to taxes and entitlement programs for disability income, Medicare, Medicaid and social security. Seriously.

Some state programs or ADA programs offer these aphorisms:

Eat Smart Move More
Less Fork More Foot
Eat Smart Play Hard
Mine of course
It’s ALL About energy in and energy out

Wishing you wellness!

Friday, August 22, 2008

wellness weekly

Thank You BK: So the economy may do for us what our nutritionists have been unable to do. Normalize our portion sizes! That is right, we can finally address the whole supersize me issue without engaging the wrath of the food and restaurant industry. WHY? Because they need to cut costs and one way to do that is to give us less food. Burger King recently noted that they would be making their hamburger patties smaller. A little less bun might also be a good idea. This is really an interesting turn of events. For years I have been crafting an Obesity Prevention Project. My friends all know this as my OPP. I will need a million dollar grant to implement this school based community program and one of the key constructs of OPP is reciprocal determinism. Let me explain. My plan is to educate children about nutrition, give them new skills (such as label reading) and allow them to put this knowledge and skill to practice, i.e. ordering out. This will produce young adults who demand healthy options and the restaurant and food industry will in turn offer lower calorie and fat meals which more people will then eat. When more people eat them, more places will offer them. Reciprocal Determinism, paradigm shift. The results of my plan may not effect the obesity epidemic for a generation, but the high cost of food has at least made my quest a little more politically correct and timely.

Gardasil: This is the vaccine by Merck which claims to prevent cervical cancer. It doesn’t of course. It may prevent some of the 100 strains of HPV which can lead to cervical cancer. I have been opposed to the mass inoculation recommended by Merck and many medical associations, from the beginning. I especially abhor the ads that recommend it and say that it prevents the cancer. What prevents the cancer is gynecological exams and pap smears. If abnormal cells are detected they can be removed. Cervical Cancer cases are on the decline in the US because of preventative care. News out this week, in several sources, brings to light other concerns about the vaccine and the way that Merck has pursued both doctors and legislators to get this vaccine mandated. It is too new, in my opinion to be given so freely to all of these young girls. And as I indicated in another blog, the makers of Gardasil, Merck, are now targeting not just men, but boys as well. More information on the effects, benefits and risks, are needed on this medication.

Athletes: I just wanted to note, laud and applaud the many athletes in this year’s summer Olympics who are over age 30. Many near forty are themselves medal winners. This includes a gymnast, runner and swimmer. A diver who did not win a medal was also an older athlete. Older only in terms of what was once expected. People can and DO live better longer, but not by accident. Times have indeed changed and many of us non athletes are finding our fitness groves in our 40s and even 50s. It is certainly true here in Florida. To stay active one must be active and many people live that belief here. I myself like to say that I do all the things I do- eat well, run, swim, bike a bit and weight train so that when I have one foot in the grave, I’ll still be standing.

Okay, not much this week, sometimes life happens and I don’t get to read as much!
Wishing you wellness and longevity

Friday, August 15, 2008

wellness weekly

Thin or Heavy, Health Risks Exist: A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine is being touted as a study that implies weight is not a major factor for illness. This research and the headlines it will inspire should not be used to assuage fears associated with our obesity epidemic because the fears are real. More important in the study is that weight alone is not an accurate measure of health. Food eaten and activity level are at least as important as scale number, BMI or WHR. Though the study found overweight adults with normal blood pressures other research shows overweight children on chronic disease meds. Something is wrong. It is just more than the weight.

Mercury Sources: I am very concerned about mercury in fish as most readers know. I wish it were entirely for the sake of the fish, but I am also concerned for the persons who eat the fish and the promotion of fish as heart healthy when in fact they may be neurologically toxic. So I pay attention to mercury stories. This week I read an article about a lake in Utah which has incredibly high levels of mercury. Well, not just any like. The Great Salt Lake. And I should clarify it is the form of mercury known as methyl mercury to which I am referring. The Great Salt Lake is more salty then the ocean. So much so that much does not survive there. It is famous for some very small species of shrimp but is otherwise its only real life forms are algae and bugs. It is also a place that attracts ducks as they travel from north to south. There is concern about mercury buildup in the ducks. What it will do to them is a concern as is what eating them could do to humans. There is a warning out about that. Something like, Do Not Eat These Ducks. There is also a study under way to determine why this lake has more mercury than any other body of water in the US. One hypothesis, and one that concerns me for all bodies of water and soil, is the transportation and deposition of mercury from industry and especially coal fired power plants. I will be interested to know what the scientists learn and if their research will have an impact on the Clean Air Clear Sky Acts that are supposed to address issues with coal for starters. In fact, there is a way to burn coal without mercury escaping, it is just costly. There are ways to do many things without emitting pollutants, we just don’t do it.

Environment and People: The other evening I saw a show on PBS where a photographer was returning to see some marine life that he had photographed many years ago. He learned that many of the great whales he had tracked had died because they were full of toxins. The whales’ carcasses were considered hazardous waste material. Remember the whales are at the top of the food chain and eat all the fish that we are told to avoid! The artist was visibly shaken by these events, as was I. My thoughts were concerning what we have done to our world and extended to this: we have obese pigeons, diabetic ducks and toxic whales. Along with fish and fowl who are poisoned by mercury. What have we done and what will we do to stop the bleeding and heal the wounds?

Fast Food – Fast Fat: Why we need research on this baffles me a bit, but if you were in denial, more science may sway you. Meals for kids are loaded in fat and have far more calories than the children need. {I.e. the obesity epidemic}. This is not any different than the restaurant meals intended for adults. The Center for Science in the Public Interest did a study on nutrient content, at least where information was available. Most, well, nearly all meals that are intended for children had enough calories for half the day. Subway which was the best only had appropriate caloric content in two thirds of its choices.

LA: Another city may make this type of information (calorie content) easier to come by. Of course, posting nutrition information on a menu or menu board doesn’t mean that it will be used or even understood. So I guess I agree with the California Restaurant Association when they say that people need to be educated about nutrition. This is the cornerstone of my school based Obesity Prevention Project. We must educate people on what they need and why and then let them make the choices. If people know what to put in their bodies and in what quantities, they will demand that the restaurant associations comply. I am 100 percent behind full disclosure!

Activity Level and Obesity: The Wall St Journal ran a story regarding the reason 16% of American children are obese. [Note that an equal if not higher percent are overweight]. The reason noted is risk of harm. Children stay inside to avoid kidnapping, molestation and drive by shootings. But more than that, some school systems have become so worried about lawsuits that they restrict the physical activity of kids during recess. As usual, we are overcompensating for this fear of injury and causing another adverse outcome. I have to say, bruises and even breaks will heal where as high cholesterol, abnormal blood sugar and hypertension will kill. And for the record, you will never hear ME say, “Stop running!”

Sweet Endearments: In our country and many others it is common to show our love by way of food. Not just any food, but comfort food that is either high in sugar or fat or carbs or all of the above. Some people consider my eschewing this tradition to be anathema. Well, I have found a way to shower people with this love without also causing them to be unhealthy. Cupcake, sugar, honey bun, Twinkie, muffin….. No, not on the table, as a term of endearment. So enjoy your weekend, cookie! Bye for now cheesecake! Ta ta mac n cheese!

Live well

Friday, August 8, 2008

wellness weekly

Calories Matter: On my way to my Sunday morning run, I heard a health news segment regarding physical fitness. To the best of my memory, the speaker was Dr. Joanne Slavin from the University of Minn. She discussed the need for people to be active and to eat nutritious foods, but in the right quantities. She encouraged us to not lose sight of the fact that calories matter. Of course, types of calories can have a profound effect on your system. For example, 1500 calories of fruits, veggies and whole grains is far better than 1500 calories of Twinkies. Her point wasn’t that specific however. She wanted to drive home, once and for all it seems, that no food can be eaten with reckless abandon no matter what your activity level or metabolism is. The amount we eat should be based on need not desire. Furthermore, she noted that people who have maintained a healthy weight for years also engage in daily exercise, as much as 60 minutes a day, actually, on average it was 60 minutes a day. It may seem a lot, but if 1 of your 24 hours is spent making the other 23 better, then it is worth it. She also said that we should all engage in a little Nutrition 101. It is not dieting that makes us healthy, it is lifestyle. All this being said, I loved her of course, as I have already adopted every single one of her suggestions. In fact, sharing the message has become my passion.

First Watch: On the same day as the above I went out for breakfast with my running friends. One ordered oatmeal and told the waitress he didn’t want any of that low fat milk. I was completely shocked and near giddy when the waitress responded that they did not CARRY any milk over 1% milk fat. I thought that was awesome. Chuck got over it. He told her just not to tell him it wasn’t real milk. The Governor of Florida, you may have heard of him, Charlie Crist, has a Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness where he has recommendations made by experts and one of them is that it be 1% or less everywhere, even SCHOOL. So, again, that rocks.

Omega 3:6:9:
I am trying to get a handle on the news that essential fatty acids are only beneficial when consumed in certain ratios. And as Dr. Slavin wants us to be educated, I am trying to rise to the challenge. I fear that I may just confuse my readers right along with me, so well, hey maybe one of you will straighten me out! First I learned that some time past, an experiment was completed that sought to determine the amount of Omega 6 a person needed and based on that research recommendations were made. Later, the study was challenged along with the number because the mice used were deficient in Omega 6 at baseline and we are not. Another problem is that the foods we eat have a lot of Omega 6 and maybe that has increased over time. Omega 3 is harder to find in food and is mostly in fish and some oils. We have to be careful then that we are not adding more 6 when we add the 3 and that is the problem with tilapia. Too much 6 can increase inflammation when the whole point of 3 is to decrease it. Dizzy yet? I have no idea where Omega 9 fits in. So, many sources say that the Omega 3 to Omega 6 should be higher. Some say 1:1 but others say 2 or 3 to 1. Alright then, is that clear? Did you know that there were long and medium chain fats……

I had several more stories to cover this week, but you know, I am kind of beat just now. So happy weekend and get some exercise already!

Friday, August 1, 2008

wellness weekly

Stupid Spot: Ok I really did not see any stupid exerciser examples this date, well, maybe crazy exerciser, crazy runner. That would be me. I was trying to run my regular mileage while on a business trip and I did too, but I was dodging construction barrels and signs and workers. Too funny. And as I tell my friends, it is never a question of “if” I will get the work outs in, only “how”. That and my boss kept warning me that the alligators in Bonita Springs were going to eat me, but alas they did not.

Cell Phone: I was serious about what I said last week. There has been no definitive study on the risks associated with the radiation that is emitted from these awesome machines and for that reason, caution is appropriate, panic is not. I did get my new phone with a lower SAR and I feel better about that.

Smoking and Smoke: This week saw a regulation bill pass the US House in regards to tobacco products. It has some good measures, for instance, not allowing the terms light or low tar to be used in advertising as they imply less harm and that is incorrect. Also, having the tobacco companies list ALL the additives that they use. Also a good thing. The consumer should know that cigarettes contain cancer causing substances like benzene, toxic metals like lead and poisonous gases, like carbon monoxide. It may not be a good law on the other hand, if it implies that cigarettes are somehow healthy. And that it may. Is there any other FDA regulated product that if used correctly is likely to kill you? Also out this week. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluating some of the effect of Scotland’s 2006 public smoking ban. There was a significant change in the amount of heart attack triggered hospital visits. That is the way most researchers evaluate public smoking bans. In fact, the greatest reduction was in non smoker heart attacks and that is a promising and telling statistic. Sometimes people fear that if smoking is prohibited in public then more people will smoke at home, in the home, and expose their nonsmoking loved ones to the deadly smoke. These statistics may also show that food service workers are now protected from the smoke of their clientele and coworkers. If you wonder why they are looking at heart attack cases, let me remind you. More smokers die from heart attacks than from lung cancer and the US Surgeon General has confirmed that tobacco smoke causes heart disease in active and passive form. Nicotine and Carbon Monoxide are the two main factors. Oh and these bans are good because they also work to make smoking a social taboo.

Time to Make the Donuts (Healthy): Oh, I almost wrote that it was time to make them healthier, but that would have implied that they were healthy to begin with and that isn’t so. Anyhooo. Dunkin Donuts is adding some items to its menu that they claim will be better for us and will have 300 or less calories and lower fat content. This includes a few things made with egg whites, sandwiches and such and also a lower fat blueberry muffin and a whole grain bagel. This is fine. The company spokesperson said they wanted to get involved in the trend of healthier eating, and they are going to spend a lot of money (several million) to market this new menu line. I think it has a lot to do with being a franchise with many NY locations. (i.e. calorie content laws). The reason they are getting my attention is the NAME of their new menu line………… DDSmart. Too funny and of course, my nickname to some, is DD.

What?! There is a Wall St Journal article this week that actually questions if Barak Obama’s level of physical fitness and uh, normal weight, would be a negative to voters. Are you kidding me? Seriously, are you kidding me? Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee are touting their programs to get kids fit and Huckabee lost like a 100 pounds and is now running marathons. We NEED a president who is health conscious. What a stupid suggestion (not mine, theirs!)

Off Label: I read a story this week about the problem with off label drug use and the money it may cost drug plans. I agree that it is an issue and have seen it myself in practice. To review. A drug company creates a drug to treat a specific illness and submits a new drug proposal to the FDA. The drug must treat a new illness or an old illness in a better way, be effective, have minimal side effects etc etc. It goes through several clinical trials and sometimes gets approved and may even have block buster status. However, it is only approved for marketing under the disease that the drug application named. So if it was approved to treat erectile dysfunction i.e. Viagra and a doctor decides to give it to a woman for her lack of libido that is OK. But if Pfizer runs a TV commercial advising women to ask their doctor if Viagra is right for them, well, that is illegal. So you can prescribe it off label but not market it. There is a problem with marketing going unaddressed by the FDA whose job it is to keep this from happening. Of course, the more people a drug company can medicate the more profit they will accrue.

Pink Patch: I have no idea what this was, but a news story on BBC Radio Scotland mentioned a weight loss patch that was being advertised on social networking sites. The marketing was false and misleading and there was concern that young women would be harmed and so the ads and patch were pulled. Awesome.

Alli: I may have spelled that wrong but that diet pill – program that is heavily advertised on TV and in your local grocery store or Walmart is not something I would ever promote. I do not think that pills that suggest bowel leakage to be worth the pounds that will only return if eating behavior is not changed. Anyway. I heard a commercial this week and the spokesperson was saying how much weight she had lost with her Alli. The voice over advised that these results were only expected if one followed all the recommendations. Well, that my friends, includes limiting your food (esp fat) intake and exercising. Duh.

Potassium and More: Researchers writing in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension this week advise that if the population would decrease their sodium intake and increase their potassium intake ten percent of current hypertension cases could be dismissed. It was noted in the article I read that there is significantly less heart disease in the traditional vegetarian population because of the fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, the American Heart Association also recommends increasing potassium in your diet. Now, do not go to eating five bananas a day, they are only one food with potassium. There are others with less sugar. You can find the foods highest in potassium on this website.
Also recommended were magnesium and calcium. Two wonderful statements in this Reuters article, as quoted by scientists Houston and Harper…. Increasing the potassium and reducing the sodium is the most important thing to do to reduce risk of heart disease second to Weight Loss. And secondly, they advised to increase intake of those micronutrients by way of consumption of fruits and vegetables, NOT supplements.

Wishing You Wellness.