Friday, September 30, 2011


I expect that you have heard that cantaloupes from a specific farm in the USA are responsible for some cases of listeria poisoning.  
The actual full name is listeria monocytogenes bacterium and to be acutely ill from this food borne pathogen is to have listeriosis.
The bacterium can contaminate different types of foods but it gets on fruits and vegetables from soil OR manure used as fertilizer.  Since manure was a topic of the blog this week- I found a certain irony in that.
Listeria is usually not a problem for healthy adults, but can have serious implications for pregnant women, very young children, the elderly and frail adults who have compromised immune systems.  Pregnant women who become ill from contaminated foods can pass the infection on to their newborns.
Symptoms do not occur immediately - which is why the number of cases and the spread of contamination is an ongoing story.  The condition of listeriosis is diagnosed by physical exam and blood test.
If you are interested in learning more, I would suggest the CDC or WebMD websites.
Oh - and most importantly - WASH your produce before you handle it and cut it - yes - before you cut into a melon, you should wash the outside.  If you do not wash the outside, what is on the rind will go inside when you pierce it with a knife.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rising Health Premiums

I am trying to blog from a website so let us see if it works. I do not have the features I am used to - my font preferences etc. (Oh but at the end it did let me save my post as a draft and I came back to my space and TADA I can make it bigger, etc - my Aunt Cissy likes the large font and I like her - so I oblige!)

I am blogging to share the above link with you because it contains a transcript (written conversation) and an audio recording of a show which aired this afternoon. On this show experts discussed health insurance and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Also, people were able to call in to the show and ask questions. Many times people called about a fear they had - something they had "heard" or "read" on the Internet for example. The experts were able to distinguish between the truths and the myths.

Many people of all ages are confused about this law and mistakenly think that they will get LESS care or the cared they receive will cost MORE - usually this is wrong. For example, many services that were once considered treatments are now considered prevention and are FREE of charge.

The link at the very top of this post should take you to the show website and I hope that you trust me enough - someone whose area of expertise IS Public Health - to know that I am sharing with you what I consider to be a trustworthy panel of experts.

Another link that you may wish to explore, explains some of the preventive programs and also answer additional questions you may have about Health Care Reform and the abbreviated, Affordable Care Act.

Please be a critical thinker (think for yourself) and look for the truth.

~ Deirdre

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Push Up

There is a correct way to do a push up and I decided to say that in my blog because I so often see the incorrect way.

Whether you choose to do a full push up  - straight leg weight on balls of feet or toes or a bent leg - weight on your knees, the goal is the same.  Push ups require the use of several muscle groups, including your arms and core.  The main groups that are worked are the chest and back.  

Hands are usually somewhat wider than shoulders and the torso should be held straight by using your core or abdominal muscles.  You slowly release your weight into your hands and go down to about an inch or two from the ground as a whole straight unit.  The chest is the focus and should lead but more or less you stay in a straight line.  The bottom of the pushup is when the chest and body is hovering an inch or so from the ground and then you push the weight back up so that your elbows are no longer bent.

Incorrect:  having your stomach or hips closer to the ground than your chest.  Ironically, the majority of men that I have seen doing pushups, do so with a swayed back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Yes - but more specifically - cow poop - ok - manure.

This brief blog post can be credited to my sister (the great recreational landscaper) who pointed out that the organic label does not just show up on our foods (increasing their price) - but also on bags of manure.

I took it upon myself to "google" organic manure.  The search generated many results, but I only went to one of them. I chose to go to the Wiki Answers link.

I learned that inorganic manure is what we call fertilizer and involves chemical processing where organic manure consists of or is made from decayed plant or animal matter.  An exact quote from WikiAnswers deserves your attention:
In common language English in the USA, "manure" is always organic manure.
 There is really nothing more to say, though I was really curious about what a cow had to eat in order to make organic manure and I wanted to tell that cow not to believe the food label!

Monday, September 26, 2011


I mentioned that I was going to recycle my ink and batteries today (and I did), but that I would be left with expired prescription drugs.  Of course the pills expired because I generally do not take pills!  They are migraine pills in case you are wondering - if I had been prescribed antibiotics for example, I would have taken my full course :)
I am so grateful that I did not become someone who "has" migraines and only had one bad, bad month.

So the Drug Enforcement Agency or DEA does have a prescription drug take back program - or a take back day.  This year it is in October and you can enter your zip code into a box on the website HERE to find a center near to you.
Pretty cool and smart.  Keep those medicines out of our water and food.

[I did take a look at a local pharmacy website and it referred me to federal and state agencies - so I guess this is the only game going]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Odds and Ends

Natural - I continue to be amazed (or encouraged) when I hear topics long ago addressed in this blog, receiving headline and network news attention.  This week it was the issue of "all natural" or "natural" on food labels.  There was nothing new said in the stories.  For most items, the label declaration of "natural" is misleading. It continues to be a poorly defined concept.  The FDA merely offering that a food that is "all natural" has been minimally processed and does not contain artificial colors, flavors or synthesized substances (what ever that means).  As some have pointed out, what IS allowed in an "all natural" product is HFCS - high fructose corn syrup.  However, because that oversight is upsetting the sugar industry, more attention is being given to the misleading label and the FDA is being pressured to DO SOMETHING.  We will just have to wait and see.  The best thing to do in the meantime is read the ingredient list on packages and use some common sense.  Very few things that come in boxes (frozen or otherwise) and which seem to last forever can be considered natural.  Also - something I like to point out whenever I can - natural and organic,even if they did mean what they say, do not equal healthy or low calorie.  They can be both things, but one does not cause the other.

Run Incident (1) -  I left my campus office this past Thursday while my university was sponsoring a 5K race.  I was basically crossing the finish line stretch as I walked up the hill where my bicycle was 'hitched.'  All sizes, ages and paces of runners were coming down the stretch but one "older" man caught my attention.  He was running in at full speed and with every footfall he grunted loudly.  He was running to the chute with a "Hhha Hhha Hhha Hhha."  I figured that he was going to be one of those 50 or 60 year old runners who had a heart attack at the finish line.  I was thinking, "dude - if it's that hard - you need to back off."  I should add that he looked as taxed as he sounded.

Run Incident (2) - I asked my classmate/friend this question, "Do I look approachable to you?"  She replied, "Yes!"  But you see, I really don't look approachable when I am in my own place - my zone - my personal space, etc.  Yes, as an instructor and even on campus in general - I do look like someone you could approach if you were lost, for example.  But my usual face, or the countenance I used to carry more often, is NOT so. Imagine my surprise at this little scenario then.  First, I was RUNNING. I was in my zone just finishing up as I approached my apartment.  A large sized sedan came down the road at about the same time.  As the car neared, the passenger side window came down.  I had a moment to think and what I thought was this, "not today."  I had a shower to take and a meeting to get to.  I kept on running.  The car stopped there and the driver "beeped the horn!"  Seriously.  Of course, I still could have kept going, but I did not.  I stopped my watch and backed up to the car.  I looked inside as I was speaking, "WHAT?!"  to a grey haired, but well coiffed older lady.  (geez) She asked me where the arboretum was and so I pointed (forcefully) - she was driving along side it.  She asked where to park her car in order to enter the arboretum and I told her.  She then said, "sorry I beeped at you" and I said, "you stopped my run AND you beeped at me."  I was foul.   Did I say it rained here for like seven days in a row!

Class Size Observation - I have been working on a project for the course that teaches me to teach.  As part of that course, I often have to reflect on what my personal teaching style and beliefs are or in other words, my personal pedagogy.  I realized that class size really does matter and that it can be too small.  First of all, if it is one student I consider it mentoring.  Otherwise, less than 10 students puts too much pressure on the individual student.  A year ago, most of my classes were very small.  I had one in which there were three of us and another where there were four or five.  In those situations, I had a 20 to 30 % chance of being the most challenged student (weakest, least smart, lowest functioning, whatever) in the class and that does NOT feel good.  When you have at least ten students, then it is only a 10 percent chance of being the least skilled or apt or whatever word you want to use.  As you can see, I am very sensitive to my status.  It is also enfeebling to feel that kind of pressure.  I do not feel it now and I do not want my students to feel it, ever.

Bicycle Incident - Oh MY.  Once again, I almost hit a cyclist.  It disturbs me regardless, but I think more so because I AM someone who rides my bicycle for transportation and leisure. If I am not alert and make mistakes so then will non cyclists.  Unfortunately, those mistakes can get people killed.  Hence, helmets really are a must.  No matter how safe we make our roads, or educate cyclists and motorists, crashes will occur.  The issue today was that I turned onto a road while in some deep ponderings.  I realized that I hadn't thought about where I was going and had gone the wrong way - towards one highway instead of the other.  I looked in my mirrors to move to the left and then to turn left in a two part U turn.  I was still sort of foggy about where I was going because I hadn't been there in a while and I did have to visualize it in my mind.  As I was making the second left - at a place where I routinely cross the two by two lanes while running AND cycling - I heard "watch out."  It was a cyclist coming across - now I had on my turn signal so in a way it was his fault too  - but I just realized that while typing this.  As I heard and saw him - right beside the left fender of my car, my foot actually slipped off the break - SCARY moment - I got stopped and he went on - yelling back, something like, "look out your windows."  It was a very unsettling experience - heart racing as it were. I did not yell back at him or feel angry in any way - I felt aghast at my mistake.  BAH... 

Batteries and Ink - Both are on the table and ready to go with me to the gym in the morning so I can place them in that nifty plastic recycling box.  (Left in my bag are expired medicines and outdated checkbooks - I must see if the drug stores take the pills and shred those checks)

Saturday, September 24, 2011


As part of my Qualitative Research Methods coursework, I had to read an article on a research study that used a particular methodology.  The ethnography.  The study was conducted and article written, by a sociology professor at the University of Mississippi.  If you visit Dr. Ross Haenfler's faculty page and scroll down a little, you will see titles of  his study publications.  
The ethnography (a study of a culture or subculture) I read was meant to capture the Straight Edge subculture that grew out of the Punk and Skinhead scene of the 70-90s.  The sXe way of life involved a commitment of abstinence.  Members chose to refrain from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs - completely, and to avoid casual sex.  In reading Haenfler's study and the quotes therein, I thought about harnessing some of that positive energy from these youth.  They did not want to put anything into their bodies that would have an adverse physical or mental affect. They did not want to cloud their ability to think for themselves nor detract from their ability to self actualize.
I really understand this - and though alcohol has health promoting properties, many of the youth who were drawn to a subculture, were escaping the problem drinking of their parents or peers.
The sXers in the study also cared about the foods that they ate.  That is the mentality I would like to harness.  The body IS that important.  Eating junk type food (in excess or at all some would argue) for the "pleasure" or hedonism of it has consequences. 
It could also be detrimental, preventing people from reaching their full potentials.

Thus I propose a sXe stance against gluttony :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bed Bugs

According to a report released by the CDC this week - the problem with bed bugs is NOT their ability to make us sick, they really don't, but our ability to make ourselves sick trying to kill them.

The report looks at incidents of illness related to insecticide use (specifically for bed bug removal).  This includes single family homes, apartments, hotels etc and licensed as well as homeowner insecticide application.  Much of the problem comes from using too much product, not washing linens and other materials after using the product and spilling the product on skin.  Other categories exist as do general label violations. 

The outcomes of the exposure to the pesticides included one death.  Symptoms included headaches and dizziness, respiratory or breathing problems, skin irritations and upset stomach.   (I see that the CDC report uses both insecticide and pesticide)  It is likely that a "pest" and an "insect" are two different things and that people used both types of toxins to attack the bed bug which is an insect that lives off mammal blood.

The CDC reviewed public databases to find the "cases" of poisoning.  For many instances, there was incomplete information and I imagine that this issue is under reported.  From 2003-2010, 111 cases were reported.  This includes the one death. Though most persons who became ill were over age 25 but under age 65, the death occurred in a 65 year old chronically ill woman.  The report, which you can read yourself, describes the circumstances of her death.  She complained to her husband about the bed bugs and he used contact spray and nine foggers in the home.  Two days in a row!  They left the home for just a few hours, did not air out their home and applied insecticide directly to their bed frame, mattress, box springs etc.  Apparently, the woman also applied some bug repellent to her body and hair.  Really you should read the story.  It is very possible that the couple was uneducated and did not understand what they were doing or that the chemicals they used were truly toxic substances.
I have very mixed feelings about using such things myself.  This is because I don't like to kill things, poison my environment or my person.

Bottom line:  If you have to use a product to control any type of pest situation, READ the label and then follow the directions on that label.  More is NOT better and MORE is not safe and MORE is not necessary.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

obesity = diabetes = alzheimers or obesity = cancer

Both actually.  Research shows a link between obesity and diabetes and diabetes is related to Alzheimer's Disease. Obesity is associated with many types of cancer.  Obesity is independently associated with Alzheimer's Disease.

Earlier this week, newscaster Brian Williams was discussing a study that adds to the evidence on the diabetes link with Alzheimer's Disease.  In that study, (I did not catch the reference nor look it up), there was a dose effect so to speak.  The sooner a person develops insulin resistance and diabetes  the greater the chance of that person also "getting" Alzheimer's or AD.

Because we have such high rates of obesity which is highly correlated with diabetes, and people are living longer (though not longer better, just longer with their chronic diseases and cabinets full of pills) it is expected that the number of AD cases will overtake the number of cancer cases.

From these statements, Brian went on to talk about people's intense fear of cancer.  He said that we as a country are terrified of getting cancer but not of getting AD.
Not ME - I have always worried more about Alzheimer's Disease .  This may be because I have seen it up close and at its worse, but here is a more nuanced reason.

Cancer has become a treatable condition in many cases - seeming even to be cured in some instances.  When there is not a treatment - i.e. often with lung cancer, it seems a quick, though sometimes brutal, death.

There is NO cure for AD and the treatments are only for the symptoms (combativeness, depression, psychosis) and the meds do a poor job at best.  The symptoms remain.   AD is a slow, debilitating, humiliating, heart breaking end to life - it destroys all in its path.  I would rather die young experience or have my loved ones experience my having Alzheimer's type dementia.  If you are unfamiliar, know that AD is a brain wasting disease.  The brain literally disintegrates.  I have see SPEC scans where black spaces show where the brain matter used to be.

If cancer doesn't scare people into more health promoting, disease preventing lifestyles, I pray that the risk for a merciless, incurable disease will.

Well- I am ending summer on a very sour note indeed.  Sorry about that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The Institute of Medicine released a report which details their study on vaccines and possible side effects.  From their website comes this statement - verbatim:

Using epidemiologic and mechanistic evidence, the committee developed 158 causality conclusions and assigned each relationship between a vaccine and an adverse health problem to one of four categories of causation:
  • Evidence convincingly supports a causal relationship
  • Evidence favors acceptance of a causal relationship
  • Evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship
  • Evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a  causal relationship

 The IOM also created a chart which I find very helpful.  You  can view it by clicking this link.  It does take a while for this link to open so be patient with it.

To learn even more about the committee research and vaccine safety please go to the website and access the full report, which you can do here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A better My Plate

I knew this would come and I am thrilled to present it to you with a link to learn more.
As I said a month or so ago, the My Plate healthy eating tool that was released by the USDA/FDA leaves just as much to be desired as the now defunct pyramid did. 
My hero, Walter Willett, and his peers at Harvard School of Public Health made a better pyramid then and today they   give us a better plate.

Here it is

Read more here

Copyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health,, and Harvard Health Publications,

Monday, September 19, 2011

Water and Boxes

I saw another of the recycling bins on my campus today.  This one is in the lobby of the rec center - a place I go more often and I took a picture.

I also saw something in the news  last week about water refilling stations on college campuses.  In the story that I read, it was noted that some universities were even banning the sale of bottled water.  The point of such measures is to reduce use of plastic and I would add, to save money.  I posted the story about these water refilling stations on my school's facebook page with a comment that someone should make this happen at UNCG.  Believe it or not, an administration official commented back that they would look into it!  Very cool.  A professor friend of mine also commented on that same facebook page to let us know that they had the filling stations at his university (VCU).  Here is the article that caught my attention.  However, if you google the subject you will find many more.
Nice stuff.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Odds and Ends

Battery Recycling - I was depositing a check in the ATM in the Student University Center this week and I noticed a big plastic box in a corner.  It was a recycling station.  It had slots for batteries, cell phones, ink and CDs (I think the last was CDs, it said disks).  That is so cool - now I have somewhere to bring those batteries that I keep putting in a bag in my closet.  Note: we do not want to put batteries in our trash because they contain chemicals that can leech into the soil and poison our food, water, etc.

Of Mice and Morphine - In statistic text books, examples for data analysis often come from actual experiments.  I am learning about ANOVA right now. This involves comparing mean scores between 2 or more groups.  The example that we are exploring involves mice who are given morphine and or saline solution and then placed on a hot surface.  The dependent variable, or what is being compared between the mice groups, is how long they take to lick a paw.  The purpose of the study is to test tolerance to morphine. Long, long story but one of the hypothesis was especially intriguing to me.  If the mouse built up a tolerance to the morphine (i.e. it stopped working and he felt the pain quickly) but was given the morphine in a different setting - the tolerance would not apply and the morphine would work again.  The little experiment supported that assumption.  The reason it matters is - a person using heroine ( a different form of morphine) who has built up a tolerance to the drug and is thus consuming a higher dose, can overdose if they use that same amount in a different "play ground."  School is so cool- I love learning stuff.

Oh Michelle - HPV and Politics - I have very strong opinions on the HPV vaccine and have voiced them here since 2006.  In regards to the recent controversy ignited during the last republican debate, let me just say that Merck is not going to be offering Michelle Bachman any campaign contributions (and Merck is the focus of my ire).  I am upset with Merck because the marketing of the vaccine distracts from the need for annual PAP smears.  The pap smear is the screening (prevention strategy)- for cervical cancer, not the vaccine. However, no evidence is available to support that innocent little girls (aren't they all!) are at risk for retardation from the vaccine.  The evidence that Merck contributed to political campaigns is likely to be much more available.

Weekly "Really" Outrage - There was a sampling display at the grocery store this weekend.  It was Splenda Essentials.  I did not get up close and personal with the display, I saw quite enough from a distance.  Apparently, the makers of Splenda have decided to fortify the sugar substitute with vitamins and minerals.  To which I say, "Really?"  Get your essentials from your food people - that is where science has found the benefit.

What is CNS Health Care? - I heard an advertisement for a quit smoking study.  It referred people to CNS Health Care.  I am still a certified tobacco treatment specialist and even when my certification expires, I will still KNOW stuff. so this intrigued me.  I went to the website which talks about depression and anti depressants.  The blurb on the smoking has to do with depression getting in the way of quitting.  My overall impression of the website was - "not credible".

Weather Changes, Tires and Mood - We had another of those sudden drops in temperature here - the kind that make tires lose air and Deirdre lose equilibrium.  I woke yesterday with a good deal of pressure in my head/sinuses and it lasted most of the day.  I also had a pretty dour mood.  It was not much warmer today, but the sun made appearances.  I also figured out how much air my tires were supposed to have (side panel on the door), went and inflated them myself (using the pressure gauge), thus resetting the low tire warning light - all without going to Good Year. I felt so empowered.  Also - I was mega productive and creative today.  That was nice.

lastly - a couple of weeks ago, somewhat completed a feedback form and requested that I make another All in a Day video.  It was a great email and I felt happy to oblige.  I made this one a little differently and though it does include all that I ate - it is a short clip.  You can see it here.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Exercise Challenges and Milestones

Wouldn't you like to have someone with whom to share your trials and tribulations of exercise?  Perhaps you do have someone.  I do share things with my friends but I get the most benefit and fun from sharing on my blog.  I especially like my blog these days because it is not an academic pursuit - so I can relax a little!

Today is Saturday  - the walk day - but my friend had a rough start this morning and we didn't go until the late afternoon.  I did not know that we would be able to reschedule for the afternoon and I really like to do something before breakfast - so I did a little step aerobics.  The day was a dreary, cold (compared to the usual 90* day) and wet one.  But it is over now.

I really want to share my swimming progress with you.  I am plugging along with my two days a week and  I do end up enjoying it a bit.  I try to tell myself I am looking forward to it, on the days I am to go, but  I still count the months till I will have kept my word.  Recalling that I said I would swim twice a week until December - or for the full fall semester.

One day two weeks ago - I added a lap (two pool lengths or 50 yards) because the pool was going to be closed on my second day. I told myself that I was NOT going to make a habit of that.  "I do not have the time nor the desire to swim more," I said.  "I can barely stand this 20- 25 minutes!"

And yet this week I did 15 laps both days.  I think that 15 laps is my new normal.  That is progress even if my spoken commitment was not to try to go farther or longer or even faster.
I am motivated by my new bathing suit and my lap clicker is becoming my friend.  I am able to detach from counting and from looking at the display.  I even play games like I used to do on the treadmill.  See how many revolutions I can do before looking at the display.  Next thing you know I have done 10.  The hardest is getting past number 7 :)

My last swim on Thursday was a surprise.   I surprised me.  The pool was especially crowded and only three lanes were available for public/recreational swim.  I had not arrived early like usual because I was doing some work for one of my professors.  When I came out of the locker room there were already two people per lane!   I could have just said, "ok, not going to swim today."  Instead I tried sharing with a slower woman swimmer and a man who was lapping pretty intensely.  The woman and I could not get our timing right and sometimes I had to stop and let her by and vice versa.  I thought of bailing - I thought it sucked - I thought people needed to start leaving and I felt aggressive about it!  Finally someone did clear out and I swam over to a lane with only one other swimmer and then he left and YEAH - I was swimming alone in my lane and loving it:) 

Really the worst part is getting into the cold water. The most challenging part of any exercise for me - is starting.  BTW, I equate my increase in swimming over this last year to someone who wasn't doing any thing and is now walking 30 minute a few times a week.  It is not a big thing - but it is a big difference for me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Green Beans

There is so very much to comment on these days - from my course (sexual health), my assistantship (alcohol and other drugs), politics (HPV) and current research - but it will all take too much time.  Talking about green beans is quicker.

Roasted green beans are one of my top three veggies.  I have begun running into the same problem with my green beans as I had last year with strawberries.  The fresh ones are sometimes hard to find, expensive and in poor shape.  Today I gave in and bought a bag of frozen whole green beans. 

I believe the brand was picsweet - but I just chose the one that was on sale.  I was afraid that their being frozen would prevent them from roasting - but my fears were unwarranted.  so YEAH - you can roast frozen green beans - I did not cover them with foil - due to their being moist (from the frozen nature of them).  I seasoned with onion powder and thyme.  I roasted/baked them long enough to be the consistency that I like.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Bad Food Researchers Respond

Just a couple months ago, I posted this blog regarding a research study that was conducted by several scientists from Harvard and included Walter Willett.  In that study, certain foods were related to obesity.  Included in that list were potatoes.  Since the study was published in the NEJM some controversy has developed.  How could someone put a boiled and baked potato in the same category as a chip or fry and even snack cakes?!

This debate played out a little in a recent edition of the journal and the study authors responded to some of the posted letters.  I love their response and wanted to share it with you here.

Ideally you should go to this link and read the letters and the response in the proper context.  In case you cannot access it, I am replicating the author's response here.  I hope I am not breaking any laws in doing so.
The citation for the letters is:
N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1058-1059 September 15, 2011.
(the numbers you see in the text refer to the references the author's are citing)
All foods have calories, so differential effects on weight gain must relate to varying portions, accompanying calories, displacement of other foods, effects on hunger, satiety, and metabolism, or all of these factors.
In our analysis of potato subtypes, the greatest weight gain was associated with french fries, then potato chips, then boiled, baked, or mashed preparations. French fries and potato chips are often consumed in larger portions than other preparations of potatoes, and previously they often contained industrial trans fats. The use of trans fats, which has been greatly reduced in the United States, may have independent effects on the risk of obesity.
In our study, all potato preparations were linked to weight gain. The large amount of rapidly digestible starch is a likely culprit, producing many metabolic harms that are similar to those of refined sugars, including bursts of glucose and insulin, strained beta-cell function, and potentially increased later hunger,1 despite some nutrient value in potatoes. Their high glycemic load contributes to weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes and coronary disease.1-4 A focus on foods, rather than single constituents, facilitates translation to dietary recommendations and minimizes industry manipulation.5 Weight gain associated with boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes was similar to that associated with refined grains or sweets and desserts: calorie for calorie, there may be little difference among potatoes, corn flakes, white bread, or table sugar with respect to weight gain.
Blaming only toppings or “added fat” is unsupported. Butter was associated with less weight gain than potatoes, and cheese had no association. Consistent with randomized weight-loss trials, our findings provide no support for focusing on dietary fat alone. Weight gain was positively associated with fat-free foods, including refined grains and soda, unassociated with whole-fat milk and cheese, and inversely associated with nuts. Ironically, baked or low-fat french fries and potato chips have reduced amounts of their healthiest component — unsaturated vegetable oils — leaving mostly starch and salt.
Focusing on potatoes alone misses larger points about poor overall carbohydrate quality and diet patterns which are risk factors for obesity, diabetes, and coronary disease.4 Potatoes, soda, white bread, low-fiber cereals, sweets, and other processed and refined grain products should each be limited, and minimally processed foods such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains should be increased. Global epidemics of obesity and chronic disease amplify both the health and economic imperatives of altering current agricultural and food-industry priorities. Many small dietary and lifestyle changes together make a big difference — for bad or good.
Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA
Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D.
Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sex Ed Video

I showed my college level class a video tonight.  I  then began a discussion with these prompts:
As an educator or parent, would you show it to children?

A great dialogue ensued along with more thoughtful questions.  (i.e. does knowledge lead to action? Is the physical information accurate even if the context is not?)

Before we watched the video, I asked them to write down two things 1) their very first memory of where babies come from and then 2) their memory of when and how that belief was changed, expanded or shattered.  I haven't read their cards yet but I am looking forward to it. A few students did share part one - I shared mine as well.  A seed that grows in the belly (your whole life) until you are married and then a baby comes out :)

With that - I leave you to click this link and watch the video - which is created to educate children.

You might want to note my above questions before you do so you can play along!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Research and Policy Intersect with Public Media

Boyd Swinburn is the Alfred Deakin Professor of Population Health and Director of the World Health
Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University in Melbourne.  You have seen his name many times in my blog and I have read at least 20 articles which either discuss policy issues or examine research that he himself has conducted. 
Recently I talked about the 4 articles that are published in the medical journal the Lancet.  I also mentioned that Dr. Swinburn was to attend a UN General Assembly Meeting in NYC this month.  

His work as a researcher and as director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Obesity Prevention is getting him a lot of press these days.  His studies often include the USA, UK and Australia.  Today I am linking you to a popular press story which does his research justice.  Remember, I have read the work of both Swinburn and the other scientist noted in the report, Gortmaker.  I have blogged about Swinburn's work which shows that the weight gain in the last 30 years is much more about calories in then out.  In this article it is said again.  Our change in physical activity occurred decades before our weights began to rise.  Our bodies had adjusted to the change in activity and as individuals we WERE eating less to compensate for doing less- until the "tipping point" happened.  The calorie content of our food doubled and tripled. The journalist quotes the studies of Swinburn et al - and this is my favorite line "Energy intake rose because of environmental push factors, i.e., increasingly available, cheap, tasty, highly promoted obesogenic foods.” 

This is not a research article but a newspaper story written by Jane Brody - do take a minute to read it for yourself.  This is the type of policy work I hope to engage in myself.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Vending Machines

I am working on vending machine issues with two different groups in  different settings.  One involves a group of highschools and the other a college. 

In case you missed it, Healthy Vending is all the rage these days :)

I met with my university partner today and we etched out a strategy that we are going to take to one of the muckety mucks and then we hope to engage the nutrition club/students.

We may use 9 machines. Our idea is that we will have two conditions and four factors - so 8 scenarios.

The machine content will either be changed or not changed - that is the condition.  In each set we will have one of these factors - education only, product info only, education and info, or nothing at all.  With the education component we will also refer them to a website and there we could possibly collect some additional data (you know I love the survey).  

With our machines we want to see if any of the factors change purchasing behavior.  The factor I liked the most is the product info only one.  I simply want to turn the packages around so to speak.  In actuality, we would put the back of pack information for each product on a poster board outside of the machine.

I will keep you posted on the status of our work.  First we have to gain access to machine receipts and the ability to adjust the product selection - we have to have a baseline to measure etc.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

Bone Drugs - The FDA has been reviewing several popular drugs that are used in the prevention of osteoporatic fracture and preventing bone density loss.  Some public health advocates are concerned over the risk of both femur and jaw fractures in women who take these medications.  I believe those in question are Fosomax, Actonel and Boniva.  The medications are classified in general as bisphosphonates.  You may recall my blogging about them in the past.  The FDA panel was debating  whether or not to recommend some type of time limit for taking these pills or a treatment holiday after a certain length of time.  The panel did not come to a conclusion.  Many members felt that the information was conflicting, but most agreed that the labels did need to be updated to warn women of the risk of these fractures.

Lactaid Free and Sugar - At a meeting this week, as we discussed the National School Lunch Program updates, the talk turned to milk.  Someone noted that she had switched to Lactaid Free Milk and that it was a lot sweeter.  I also drink Lactaid Free (skim) and had not noticed this.  One person in the group said that there was more sugar in the lactaid free type.  I compared two brands this weekend - two skims, one lactaid free and one not - they both had 12 grams of sugar.

Weight Watchers - Bone loss pills got bad press this week and the Weight Watchers Program got good.  I did not read the research study that shows a positive weight loss effect from Weight Watchers.  Friends and family have told me about the NEW Weight Watchers and from witnessing their progress I feel that the headline is likely true.  This leads me to continue my endorsement of WW.  And in case you are not sure, it is NOT a diet.

More Knee "research" - I was walking backward up a hill after I finished a run the other day.  It is good for the quadriceps muscles (thighs).  A woman that I often see walking her two dalmatians commented that I wouldn't want to do that in her neighborhood because of the sidewalk disrepair.  I turned and walked with her a block or so.  She said that her husband was a runner but does not do so much these days because of his knee.  Of course, most of you know what I said next, "OH?  what sport did he play?"  She looked at me quizzically, and I said that I was learning that most knee injuries were related to contact sports not running and indeed I was right again!  "football."

Helmet Promotion - In the arboretum this afternoon, I came across a family of four (they seemed a family).  Two small children were on tricycles and the little girl did not have her helmet on.  Her mother had it in her hand and seemed frustrated.  I stopped and said, "I have a pink helmet.  I wear it all the time."  This prompted the mom to say to the little one, "what color is your helmet?"  She pointed to the pink part of her purple and pink helmet.  I said, "Oh, it matches your dress!"  As I walked on, the little boy pointed out that he was wearing his helmet and the little girl let the mom get her helmeted.  The dad mouthed "thank you."  And that was my health promotion activity of the day :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Volunteerism and Its Unitended Benefits

According to Wikipedia a greenway is a long, narrow piece of land, often used for recreation and pedestrian and bicycle user traffic.  The city where I live has several greenways and hopes to connect them in the future.

Today there was a fundraiser for the Downtown Greenway Maintenance Endowment Fund.  A 1 mile fun run/walk and an 8K race were held (with a festive after party).  I volunteered to help with participant registration.  I choose this event for volunteering because I use the greenways for physical activity and transportation (but do not have money to spend on races these days).  I think that greenways are very much needed in every community in order to increase access to safe physical activity and alternative modes of transportation.

While I was volunteering this afternoon, two of my professors (both on my planning committee no less) came to register or pick up their packets.  The professor that is funding my assistantship came with his wife and children (AWESOME).  I also saw two persons with whom I have collaborated on community projects (the food desert produce market)!

This sort of unexpected face time has significant value .

Before the race got underway, the Greensboro SlutWalk which I mentioned a few days ago in this post, took place.  Another opportune moment in the two hours I took away from my studies.  I even saw one of my own students marching with the group.

Only a few of the participants were dressed in what some might consider slutty attire.  I thought they looked more like punk rockers (having once been one).  The group used a few chants and signs.  I cannot remember any in full detail.  Something like "gay, straight, bi - yes means yes no means no", and "this is what democracy looks like" and "it's a dress not a yes."

I was very glad that I had seen the flyer and learned more about the issue on line because when people near to me did not know what it was about - "just a protest"  - I was able to enlighten them :)

I think that my two hours away from the computer were well spent today :)  Not counting the hour walk with my gal pal and my trip to the grocery store.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pills are for Illnesses

I have little time to blog - but let me say this:

When public health people such as myself, or researchers in general, start discussing an issue with the intent of "doing something about it", it is called problematizing.  
You make something a problem and then you address it.

When pharmaceutical companies want to treat something with pills or expensive diagnostics, they medicalize it.  That is the term I saw this week in a research article I downloaded but have not been able to read.

In the study, scientists reviewed cases of insomnia and other problems related to sleeping and found a significant increase in pharmaceutical treatment for them.  The research headline,  was "The Medicalization of Sleeplessness."  

I absolutely agree with what I think the researchers concluded - a reliance on medications for sleep disturbance has been created through direct to consumer and physician marketing of pills purported to aid in sleep.  These medications can be addictive and have sometimes serious side effects.

The full text article was not available to share.  Here is the abstract.

Sleeplessness, a universal condition with diverse causes, may be increasingly diagnosed and treated (or medicalized) as insomnia. We examined the trend in sleeplessness complaints, diagnoses, and prescriptions of sedative hypnotics in physician office visits from 1993 to 2007. Consistent with the medicalization hypothesis, sleeplessness complaints and insomnia diagnoses increased over time and were far outpaced by prescriptions for sedative hypnotics. Insomnia may be a public health concern, but potential overtreatment with marginally effective, expensive medi cations with nontrivial side effects raises definite population health concerns.
The Medicalization of Sleeplessness: A Public Health Concern
Mairead Eastin Moloney, PhD, Thomas R. Konrad, PhD and Catherine R. Zimmer, PhD, 
August 2011, Vol 101, No. 8 | American Journal of Public Health 1429-1433

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Rapist is Responsible for the Rape (PERIOD)

Perhaps you are familiar with the Toronto story, but I was not.  I learned about it by reading a flyer posted to the bathroom stall in one of the University classroom buildings.

The Toronto story or incident is the impetus for SlutWalk USA and the Greensboro group (which posted the flyer I read) also has a Facebook page where this info is posted:

Ignited by the words of a Toronto police officer quoted as saying "Women should avoid dressing like sluts in order to not be victimized,"  SlutWalk has swept the world in an effort to combat victim-blaming and slut-shaming.

We are tired of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result!

We want to make it very clear that this is not a gender specific event nor is it only for those w
ho dress provocatively. Come as you are; harassment and victim blaming happen no matter what gender you identify with or what you wear. We also don't want you to feel like you have to claim the word "slut" for yourself -- we just want you to be in support of victim's rights and the idea that those who have experienced sexual assault are NEVER at fault!

A SLUT Walk may be happening in your town, too.  Here is the national website where you can learn much more than I shared in this brief blog post tonight.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I know what I said.....

Go right ahead and click on this link and read the last paragraph.  Remember those SHOES - well I bought a pair - sort of.  I did not buy the tennis shoes that are supposed to remove cellulite from your thighs, but a style of the shape ups that are called sleek fit.
It all started with a conversation....
I was telling a friend about my Skecher’s sandal/shoes that I bought to wear with dresses.  They are attractive and low or no heeled, but not completely flat.  They have a nice sole.  However, they are NOT comfortable after about five minutes walking on streets and sidewalks and THAT was the whole point.
In telling my friend about this, I mentioned a pair of sandal shoes that the lead character of The Closer wore to a crime scene.  SHE (the police detective) always wears pumps, except at least that one time when she changed into more practical shoes.  I do not own pumps.  Anyway, I described the shoes and my friend thought they were Alegrias and sent me off to the Alegria store in Winston Salem. 

The shoes, lowest price $99.99, are comfortable and high quality, but they run big.  The ones that I liked the most did not fit.  Either way, my friend had an online discount code so I went home to try my luck searching for them on line.
Stubborn me still thought that the shoes Brenda wore were not Alegria.  IN fact - they WERE those Skecher shape ups. More searching - (looking for discounts) and I found a pair, only one pair in my size - black.  They were 59$, free shipping.

So now they are here and they ARE super cushiony.  I wore them around the house - so far.  Many people do not like them.  I am hoping they will be cute with my dressy "teaching" clothes.  If it weren't for teaching I would be wearing my old running shoes to walk across campus (as I do on most days). 

But here is the bigger thing.  Those crazy Skecher people give you a DVD with the shoes.  The DVD is a ‘shape up’ shoe workout and it is ridiculous - just like I said in that blog post I sent you to - crazy - unfounded - madness.  Just walk already.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Odds and Ends

And tonight - a special episode of O&E- 
Notable Moments and Errata in Sexual Research 
(late 19th to mid 20th century+)

Freud - He is not first, but he is the most well known so we will start with him.  He gave us both penis envy(girls) and fear of castration(boys) as children went through a stage of being in love with their opposite sex parent.  Freud also believed that behavior problems were associated with things that people "repressed" and if they could be brought to the open (psychoanalysis) the behavior would change.  He noted that infants, and people in general, were capable of pleasuring themselves - auto eroticism.  In each stage of psychosocial development the pleasure is manifested differently.  For example, the first stage (oral) is about thumb sucking.  In the last stage (genital) the pleasure comes from sex.  Freud is less well known for this erroneous declaration - the supremacy of the vaginal orgasm.  He determined that the clitoral orgasm (achieved through masturbation or non penetration stimulation) was inferior both psychologically and physically to intercourse orgasm.  He did NOT say the same thing about male orgasm.
Krafft-Ebing - This researcher actually precedes Freud.  He declared that masturbation was the "prime sexual sin."  He also reported on these concepts; fetishism, sadism and masochism.  In fact, he invented the terms - sadomasochism and transvestite.  He blamed these behaviors (being aroused from clothing to murdering someone for sexual gratification) on masturbation. He is credited with starting a dialogue about sex.

Ellis - He is a breath of fresh air in all of this.  He declared an absence of "normal" sex behavior and supported masturbation as a positive (stress reduction) endeavor. He acknowledged that women had legitimate and strong sexual desires of their own.  (they were not just in it for the babies) This was BEFORE 1940.

Kinsey - He is very well known - a movie was made of him with Liam Neesam I believe.  Kinsey was discredited for his assertions at the time, but is now respected for them.  His work is also situated in the first half of the 20th century.  He gathered a lot of information on what people actually do - not just what society scripts for them.  He also added to the masturbation dialogue by stating that for women, it was a more reliable source of orgasm.  He also created a sexual orientation scale.  In his research, some 60 years ago, he found that 50%of men had had same sex relations while less than 30% of women had.  I find that VERY interesting and think the numbers would be quite different in 2011.  His scale goes from 1 to 6.  Someone who is exclusively opposite sex (sex) is a 1 and an exclusively same sex (sex) person is a 6.  He refused to declare any behaviors as normal or not.

Masters and Johnson - Even these founders of modern sex therapy, did most of their work before the 21st century.  Their research included observation and actual measurement of sexual response.  They used devices to measure things like circumference and rigidity of a penis when the owner of said penis was watching film or otherwise stimulated/aroused.  There is also a vaginal plethysmograph.  Masters and Johnson are known for giving homework to couples which included sexual exploration (of each other I suppose).  They determined dysfunction to be related to lack of communication, marital conflict or lack of information.  YUP - that last one is my favorite.

Sexual research  continues into our time.  We now study ethnic differences, sexual identity, same sex phenomena, aging and sex and sex or sexuality in disease.  There is still no normal or abnormal -no natural distinction - but activities that cause physical or psychological harm through pain and or  coercion are considered WRONG.

Information for tonight's O&E will be presented in my class this week and can be found in the text:

Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America. (7th ed.) Yarber, W. Sayad, B., Strong, B. McGraw-Hill Higher Education (2009).

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Protective Factor of Meal Planning

When Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES) are creating interventions or programs regarding disease or wellness, they often consider both protective factors and risk factors.  

For example, saturated fat consumption is a RISK factor for heart disease and diabetes, while smoking is a risk factor for many cancers and lung disease.  These diseases can be protected against with exercise,  fruit and vegetable consumption and/or omega 3 fatty acids ( in food).

Exercise is thus a PROTECTIVE factor against disease. 

I believe that planning, preparing, and packing one's meals  is a protective factor against weight gain/obesity or over consumption.   It would be an interesting research study - compare two groups of people who are similar in other ways, but one packs their lunch - within some parameters, and the other does not.

This idea came to me Thursday night or Friday - well - I packed my breakfast and lunch Thursday night and ate it Friday - so both days!

It was really about the breakfast part.  My normal portable breakfast is yogurt with fruit and cereal bar (of course it is a brand and flavor I really like -recall recent post).  I use this portable meal when I have to be on campus early, but you see, I already do that Monday and Thursday - so when I had to go to an early meeting Friday, too - I had just had ENOUGH yogurt.

Instead, I made myself an egg and cheese sandwich on this new Joseph's lavash bread and I decided I would heat it up at school  It looked and smelled wonderful - so much so that I went to bed and woke up thinking about eating it! 
Because it was something I put energy and creativity into, knew was healthy and planned to eat, there was not a Dunkin Donut on this earth that would have turned me from my healthy breakfast.

So - planning, preparing and packing meals can be protective against eating high calorie, nutrient poor foods - and thus, "prevent" weight gain :)


Friday, September 2, 2011

Headlines Contradict

One of the main reasons I started and continue to write this blog is the misleading nature of headlines regarding research studies.
Imagine the public's confusion over the dueling headlines of the last couple days.  Either there is more incidence of lung cancer and related illnesses among NYC 9/11 First Responders or there is no increase in cases.

It depends on how you read the study results, or more specifically, how you read the analysis that the researchers present, because we are not looking at the actual data to make our decision.

With only enough time to open the study published in the Lancet and glance through it quickly (looking for my friend Thomas Aldrich in the list of authors -he was there) I saw what the issue probably is. Ok - issues, there is more than one.  The second one is easier to explain - cancer takes many years to develop so whatever cases of cancer we see now are likely to only be the beginning.

The main factor for the confusion could be the use of Odds Ratios.  An OR of 1 means that there is no difference between two groups.  An OR of less than one indicates that one group is less likely to have a condition than another and a OR above 1 means they are more likely to.  For these studies, the question then becomes, are NYC 9/11 First Responders more likely than similar persons (matches or controls) who were not at the scene to have contracted cancer or another lung illness in the years that followed.

I believe the study(ies) break down the responders as Fire Fighters, Police and maybe even EMT.  In all instances the ORs are above 1 but not much so.  If it is 1.3 - we can say that the group was 1.3 x more likely to have been diagnosed with the condition or 30% more likely.  That sounds substantial but remember that with percent we have to look at the baseline.  I can't recall with precision, but it seems that the lifetime chance of lung cancer is well below 10 percent.  In other words, the risk might go from 9% to 11%.  

This would lead to the conclusion that both headlines are right - however, I firmly believe that the exposure to the chemicals in that smoke and debris will have long and lasting effects on the lungs and overall health of those workers and we are only beginning to grasp the extent of that.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

SSB in the news again

More than one person has alerted me to the report on sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption that was released this week.  It has been reported in and on the news.  If I did not mention it here, my readers might wonder what had happened to me.  So I took a moment to gather a few things together for sharing.  Please understand that this information is from self report - not observations (meaning that the consumption is likely to be higher not lower.  The information is also least three years old.  It would be interesting to see if these numbers change as more states work on limiting these beverages through vending machine exclusion and taxes.

This information comes from a recent review of NHANES data undertaken by researchers from the National Center for Health Statistics and the CDC.  The authors of this particular report and its citation are as follows: 
Ogden CL, Kit BK, Carroll MD, Park S. Consumption of sugar drinks in the United States, 2005–2008. NCHS data brief, no 71. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.
The key findings, copied from the web page, are below.  I strongly encourage you to click on this link to see the full BRIEF.  It is not hard to understand and it is illuminating.  The information is a generalization and it includes population averages.  In these averages it would seem that almost everyone drinks at least one sugar sweetened beverage a day (actually it is half of all Americans), most drink more than that and poorer people drink more still.  There is also a difference between races - you can unpack that one yourself, most people know what I think about that.  I myself drink NO SSB a day and one of my sisters drinks 4 or so - guess we cancel each other out statistically speaking.  My other sister is closer to me on the SSB issue - same with our Mom.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005–2008
  • Males consume more sugar drinks than females.
  • Teenagers and young adults consume more sugar drinks than other age groups.
  • Approximately one-half of the U.S. population consumes sugar drinks on any given day.
  • Non-Hispanic black children and adolescents consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than their Mexican-American counterparts. Non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American adults consume more than non-Hispanic white adults.
  • Low-income persons consume more sugar drinks in relation to their overall diet than those with higher income.
  • Most of the sugar drinks consumed away from home are obtained from stores and not restaurants or schools.
This is one of many interesting charts that are including in the full brief.