Health Points: Wednesday

The Center for Science and the Environment announced in August that drinks manufactured by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in India contained on average more than 24 times the safe limits of pesticides, which could come from sugar, water and other ingredients.

When those reports appeared on the front pages of newspapers in India, Coke and Pepsi executives were confident that they could handle the situation. But they stumbled.

They underestimated how quickly events would spiral into a nationwide scandal, misjudged the speed with which local politicians would seize on an Indian environmental group’s report to attack their global brands and did not respond swiftly to quell the anxieties of their customers.
This is an especially difficult admission for younger docs who are just starting their practice and I have discovered that part of the maturing process as a physician is to accept that you simply cannot have all the answers. Naturally you should not proclaim ignorance too many times or you would be just plain incompetent. As a specialist, I am also very aware of the fact that I should know "my" area of the body more thoroughly, and that patients have been specifically referred to me because of this knowledge.
The bacteriophage additive was approved for use on ready-to-eat meats, which are normally consumed without additional cooking, said Andrew Zajac, acting director of the division of petition review in the FDA Office of Food Additive Safety.

These foods can become contaminated with listeria when they are made, and because they're not cooked the contaminants won't be killed. The phage product will be sprayed on meats before packaging so that contaminated meats will be purged of listeria before the products reach the consumer.
Hundreds of sixth graders in 42 middle schools will begin taking part in a study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The HEALTHY study will determine if changes in school food services and physical education classes, along with activities that encourage healthy behaviors, lower risk factors for type 2 diabetes, an increasingly common disease in youth. Participating schools will be randomly assigned to a program group, which implements the changes, or to a comparison group, which continues to offer food choices and PE programs typically seen in middle schools across the country. Students in the program group will have healthier choices from the cafeteria and vending machines (e.g., lower fat foods, more fruits and vegetables, and drinks with no added sugar) longer, more intense periods of physical activity, and activities and awareness campaigns that promote long-term healthy behaviors. After 2.5 years, all students will be tested for diabetes risk factors, including blood levels of glucose, insulin, and lipids. They will also be measured for fitness level, blood pressure, height, weight, and waist circumference.
Under the program, the federal government paid $130 each time a chemotherapy provider assessed a Medicare patient's pain, fatigue and nausea. The payments were designed to encourage doctors to report information that might one day lead to improved care for cancer patients.

In a report to be released Wednesday, the inspector general for the Health and Human Services Department cast doubt on whether the money was well-spent. He questioned the integrity of the data that doctors submitted.
What remains baffling to the scientists is "why a sour receptor would come to be." They can explain 'bitter' as our way of avoiding poisonous substances, and 'sweet' as our way of knowing what to eat when we need a boost in energy. But sour??? They still don't know why we would need to detect sour food items.

New England Journal of Medicine: Overweight Contributes to Mortality

Last year some researchers found that being slightly overweight actually lowered the risk of death. Kenneth Chang reports in today's New York Times that two new, larger studies tell a different tale: being even slightly overweight can increase mortality.
The researchers said the more telling analysis arose when they focused on 186,000 healthy men and women who had never smoked. Among men and women, being overweight raised the risk of death 20 percent to 40 percent compared with normal-weight people, the researchers said...

Researchers have almost universally found that obese people have considerable health risks. But there has been debate over whether someone who is less severely overweight is at a greater risk of illness. Other factors, especially smoking, can complicate analysis of the data. Smoking greatly increases the chances of deadly lung diseases, but smokers tend to weigh less.

“No single study is able to solve a controversy of this magnitude,” Dr. Leitzmann said, but he recommended that anyone overweight “should be looking to lose weight.”

A second study by researchers at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, and Johns Hopkins University looked at 1.2 million Koreans ages 30 to 95 and followed them for 12 years. The researchers looked at 82,372 deaths and correlated them with the body mass index. They found, too, that risk of death and cancer increased in people who were overweight, but not obese.
Both studies have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. You can read both the American and Korean studies online.

As we have blogged about before, Dr. Fuhrman has long been citing the work of Harvard's Dr. I-Min Lee--who studied nearly 20,000 men over nearly thirty years. She found that you practically can not be too thin: the lightest group of men had the lowest mortality. (Of course, he cautions, there is such a thing as being too thin, which is usually anorexia.)