Health Points: Thursday

Doctors can't help patients recover more quickly by prescribing antibiotics, said Richard P. Wenzel, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University. “There is probably some sense of a placebo effect, but that's short-lived,” he said.
Given the intensity and high-voltage anxiety of serious illness, public crying in hospitals — by patients or family or staff — is less common than one might expect. Sure, it goes on more frequently than, say, at a department store or a restaurant. But more often, people remain buttoned up, dry-eyed, determined to maintain composure.
Africa, a continent usually synonymous with hunger, is falling prey to obesity. It's a trend driven by new lifestyles and old beliefs that big is beautiful. Ask Nodo Njobo, a plump hairdressing assistant. She is coy about her weight, but like many African women, proud of her "big bum." She says she'd like to be slimmer, but worries how her friends would react.
Staying slim and fit is especially important for cancer survivors, because obesity raises the risk of cancer coming back, the American Cancer Society said in new guidelines issued on Wednesday.
Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were nearly three times more likely to start smoking regularly at, or before, age 14 and about twice as like to start smoking after age 14 compared to children born to nonsmoking mothers.
  • Okay, how many of you belong to a gym? I do. Have you ever really looked at some of the trainers? A lot of them could use a personal trainer themselves—they’re pumped up, but a little doughy. So this begs the question, how qualified are they? Rick Callahan of the Associated Press investigates:
Virtually anyone can become a certified trainer because there are no national educational standards for the field. Numerous Web sites offer personal trainer certification after just a few hours of online training -- and a few hundred dollars.
And at this time of year, bitter greens are calling from nearly every other stall or stand at the farmers market or the grocery store; they're a boon of winter. Until fairly recently, bitter greens have been popular in this country only in the South, but more of them have become more widely available, though their names still can be confusing. Greens in the chicory and endive family include Belgian endive (also called French endive and witloof), curly endive (sometimes called chicory or frisée), escarole and several varieties of radicchio. Then there are dandelion greens, mustard greens and turnip greens (yes, keep the tops of your turnips).
The study by World Health Organization researchers projects global figures for mortality and the burden of 10 major disease groups in both 2015 and 2030.

"According to our baseline projection, smoking will kill 50 percent more people in 2015 than HIV/AIDS and will be responsible for 10 percent of all deaths globally," said their study in the Public Library of Science Medicine.

Fiber Power

Last week Sally Squires of The Washington Post explained that eating lots of plant matter and less animal products is a good way to keep weight in check. She referred to the term “energy density” which is used to describe foods puffed up with air or filled with fiber and water that can help you feel full on fewer calories. Dr. Fuhrman calls this caloric density. In case you missed it, here’s his definition from Eat to Live:
Because meats, dairy, and oils are so dense in calories, it is practically impossible for us to eat them without consuming an excess of calories. These calorie-rich foods can pile up a huge number of calories way before our stomachs are full and our hunger satisfied. However, eating foods higher in nutrients and fiber and lower in calories allows us to become satiated without consuming excess calories.

When subjects eating foods low in caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, are compared with those consuming foods richer in calories, those on meal plans with higher calorie concentrations were found to consume twice as many calories per day in order to satisfy their hunger.1
Yesterday Squires talked a little more about the importance of dietary fiber. In her report, entitled Building a Taste for Bulk, she examines studies that link increased consumption of fiber with weight-control and weight-loss. Take a look:
University of Rhode Island researchers reported recently that women who ate fiber-rich, whole-grain cereals did better in controlling their calories during a three-month study than did participants who ate less fiber-full fare. Plus, those who ate high-fiber cereal also wound up consuming more of other essential nutrients, especially vitamin B6 and magnesium, the team reported in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

This isn't the first study to find weight benefits in eating high-fiber foods. In 2004, Harvard School of Medicine researchers reported high-fiber diets helped women maintain their weight during a 12-year study of 75,000 nurses.
All this makes sense to me. Even as a layman I get it—fiber-full foods like fruits and vegetables take up more space in our stomachs than do equal size portions of foods like steak and oil.

You might also want to check out this post Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables. It’ll show you just how poorly an equal portion of sirloin matches up nutritionally against broccoli, Romaine lettuce, and kale. The data shouldn’t surprise you, especially in regard to fiber.

Now, reports like this usually fire up the low-carbers—“Eating all those things that grow on trees are full of carbs! Don’t do it!” But take a look at this post and you’ll see Dr. Fuhrman believes the right kind of carbohydrates are essential to our bodies and actually encourage weight loss.

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The Diet Detective on Airline Food

Seattle Times reporter Charles Stuart Platkin is at it again. You remember Platkin, right? The health reporter that makes food recommendations primarily based on calorie content.

This is the guy who recommended hotdogs over pizza and fried zucchini over fried calamari. Yeah, because when I think healthy eating, I think hotdogs and fried zucchini! This time “The Diet Detective”, as he is known, takes a look at airline food and snacks—get ready for more of the same. Here are his thoughts on Continental Airlines’ goodies:
Health score: 4 stars Not much variety, but low-calorie, high-impact meals.

Best bet: Both sandwiches are fine; the light mayo is a nice touch

Total calories: 285 (turkey), 316 (ham)

Exercise equivalents: (amount of walking to burn off the calories) 73 minutes (turkey); 81 minutes (ham); 21 minutes (peanuts); 13 minutes (pretzels)

Cost: No charge

Snack choices:

Flights over two hours:

• Turkey sandwich (170 calories, including packet of Hellmann's light mayo) or

• Ham sandwich (201 calories, including packet of French's yellow mustard)
Lunch meat with mayo! Okay, I’m no health expert, but here’s your best bet, bring a couple pieces of fruit, or, just do without! Surely you can survive a few hours without stuffing your face. Now, I don’t fly very often, but this past summer I flew out to Las Vegas, about a four hour flight from New Jersey, and believe it or not I didn’t eat a single thing.

And, Gerry, you didn’t starve?

No. But I was probably the only one on that plane who didn’t pull their tray down, get all bright-eyed, and sit up eagerly as teacher doled out the snacks. Grown men and women captivated by mass-produced sweet muffins, milk, and salad drowned in ranch dressing. I felt so embarrassed for them. Anyone else have a similar experience?

Arby's Nixes Trans Fat

Sorry fans of trans fat, another one bites the dust. Arby’s Restaurant Group has announced plans to stop using trans fat for its French fries and other fried foods. Now I don’t think anyone reading this blog is gobbling up Arby’s, but, it’s still good to see more and more food suppliers on the bandwagon. Dorie Turner of the Associated Press reports:
By May 1, 75 percent of Arby's menu items will contain less than half a gram of trans fat, said CEO Roland Smith.

"Clearly our customers have told us that the elimination of trans fat is something they would like us to consider," he said.

He said Arby's restaurants will no longer use the hydrogenated oils that contain trans fat and the chain's food suppliers will stop precooking its fries in oil with trans fat.

Health Points: Tuesday

  • Get ready, here comes a big surprise—obesity is in the news again! Yup, you can pretty much bank on obesity always being in the headlines. Today The Chicago Tribune reports obesity has been linked to female infertility. Judy Peres has more:
"That association is pretty well established," said Dr. Roger Lobo, a reproductive endocrinologist at Columbia University. Heavy women often don't ovulate normally because their hormones are out of whack. If they lose just 5 percent of their body weight, he said, "some will ovulate and even get pregnant with no further intervention."
The CDC also offers weight-management classes, healthy grocery shopping seminars, health assessments, walking programs and other activities.

The agency also has improved its cafeteria fare and expanded its salad bars. Three years ago, the CDC began bringing in produce vendors so employees could buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Now, the produce carts visit three CDC campuses and boast daily sales of $2,000 to $3,000.
The researchers admitted they do not know why the extra pounds (kg) may protect premenopausal women from breast cancer, but noted obesity actually greatly boosts breast cancer risk after menopause, when the disease more often is diagnosed.
  • Does spicy food increase metabolism? To be honest, I never assumed it does. Anahad O’Connor of The New York Times investigated, and believe it or not spicy food can actually give your metabolism a kick—coming soon, the hot-pepper diet! Here’s more from O’Connor:
One study by Canadian researchers this year looked at a group of adult men and found that those who were served hot sauce with appetizers before a meal went on to consume on average about 200 fewer calories at lunch and in later meals than their peers who did not have anything with capsaicin. The researchers suggested that capsaicin may work as an appetite suppressant. But take heed: spicy foods can also worsen symptoms of ulcers and heartburn.
At least six states and some counties prohibit foster parents from smoking when foster children are present, says Kathleen Dachille, director of the Legal Resource Center for Tobacco Regulation, Litigation & Advocacy at the University of Maryland School of Law. "There are times when it's appropriate to regulate what people can do in their home," she says. "The state is responsible for that child."
Men with the highest levels of vitamin E in their blood were 18 percent less likely to die than those with the lowest levels, the researchers found. They also had a 21-percent lower risk of death from cancer, a 19-percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, and a 30-percent lower risk of death from other causes.
Blues and purples: Keep memory sharp and reduce risk of several kinds of cancer, including prostate. Plums, eggplant, blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes (and raisins).

Greens: Protect bones, teeth and eyesight. Kiwi, spinach, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, honeydews.
Reporting in the journal Tobacco Control, a team from the National Health Screening Service in Oslo found that limiting the daily amount of cigarettes may be useful as a temporary measure when a smoker is trying to quit, but kicking the habit is the only real way of reducing the risk of smoking-related health consequences and early death.

Red Meat: Good Source of Vitamins?

Earlier this month a new study determined a link between red meat and cancer. This no doubt sent every steak and potato loving American into a tizzy. Now, I don’t know why, but for many people eating steak is the next best thing to godliness—evidently the creator wears a cowboy hat, listens to country music, and throws a mean lasso.

So our nation’s love affair with steak prompts me to ask this question, “Is red meat crucial to human nutrition?” Surely if so many people crave it, there must be something essential about it. Something vital, maybe it’s loaded with important nutrients? According to Jacki Donaldson of The Cancer Blog it is:
Red meat contains a lot of iron. And while iron also comes from vegetable sources, meat contains more iron than most foods and is best utilized by the body in this form.

Red meat also contains B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, selenium -- and protein, critical for muscle and organ health. Protein from red meat is complete, meaning it contains all the amino acids the body cannot make on its own. Protein helps the body repair and renew.
Anyone remember Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables? Check it out. You’ll see that on the average 100-calories of certain green vegetables, like broccoli, Romaine lettuce, and Kale, trounces the nutrient-density of 100-calories of sirloin.

And a lot of those nutrients are readily available in plants. Take zinc and iron for example: Romaine lettuce has more zinc than sirloin and all three, broccoli, Romaine lettuce, and Kale, contain more iron than sirloin. And what about the “complete protein” theory? Dr. Fuhrman’s colleague Jeff Novick tackles it in this previous post: Complementary Protein Myth Won't Go Away!

Caloric Density and the Holidays

Well, the holidays are here, and you know what that means? Lots of presents and cheer? No, the continual stream of articles with the “How to Control Holiday Weight Gain” theme. Get ready—we’ve got over a month of this. Ba-humbug.

But maybe this year’s crop won’t be so mind-numbing. Because this piece in The Washington Post kind of hits the nail on the head—keep your weight in check by eating lots of plant matter, and less of animal products? Sound familiar? Here’s more from Sally Squires:
Those who maintained their weight ate more of those low-energy-density foods, such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains, while people who regained pounds consumed more high-energy-density foods, such as meat, fat and high-calorie beverages.

"The thing about adding fruit and vegetables to a meal is that it gives you volume," notes Barbara Rolls, who studies energy density at Pennsylvania State University.
Squires’s article does bring up an interesting concept, energy density. She defines it as, “The term nutrition scientists use to describe how foods that are puffed up with air or filled with fiber and water can help you feel full on fewer calories.” In Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman refers to this as Caloric Density:
Because meats, dairy, and oils are so dense in calories, it is practically impossible for us to eat them without consuming an excess of calories. These calorie-rich foods can pile up a huge number of calories way before our stomachs are full and our hunger satisfied. However, eating foods higher in nutrients and fiber and lower in calories allows us to become satiated without consuming excess calories.

When subjects eating foods low in caloric density, such as fruits and vegetables, are compared with those consuming foods richer in calories, those on meal plans with higher calorie concentrations were found to consume twice as many calories per day in order to satisfy their hunger.1
This seems like a good idea, but I’m sure all the holiday treats brings an added complication to the table—no pun intended. Good thing I plan on eating lots of veggies tomorrow. How about you? How do you handle the blitz of holiday excess?
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The Diet of a Paranthropus

Okay, I admit it—I’m bit of an anthropology geek. Human evolution is an interest of mine. And an article in yesterday’s New York Times really got my nerd-juices flowing. It has long been believed that Paranthropus (one of our ancestors), a more ape-like species of hominin, was basically just a robust grass-chewing machine, and this over-specialization in one food source ultimately led to their demise. But new research challenges this belief. It seems Paranthropus’s diet may also included foods like nuts and fruit, more commonly associated with the Homo species of early humans. Reporter Henry Fountain has more:
The researchers used a laser to ablate small layers of enamel from the fossilized teeth of a 1.8-million-year-old P. robustus specimen. By analyzing the concentrations of carbon isotopes in the enamel they were able to determine whether P. robustus was eating grasses or the fruits and leaves of trees and bushes. Grasses use a different photosynthetic pathway than trees and bushes and have a higher concentration of carbon-13, which gets incorporated in animal tissue when the foods are eaten.
Dr. Matt Sponheimer, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, doesn’t appear too surprised by the results and made this remark, “Just because the morphology is specialized for just one thing, that doesn’t mean it can’t do other things.” Makes sense to me. I doubt our teeth and body make up were designed to eat processed foods, but many of us graze on it like cattle—introducing Standard American Robustus Obesitus!

The apparent tendency to eat other foods by early humans reminded me of something in Disease-Proof Your Child—ironically I blogged about it last week—the post about the human variety driver. Dr. Fuhrman believes that all primates, including humans, are driven to consume food from a variety of categories. So it wouldn’t surprise me if early humans shared the same instinct. According to Dr. Fuhrman our bigger brains lead us to diversify our diet:
Contrary to popular belief, a monkey does not sit under a banana tree eating bananas all day. He eats bananas and then may travel half a mile away to find a different type of food. He has an innate drive to consume variety; just satisfying the caloric drive is not enough. So as a higher-order animal with a bigger brain, we search for a variety of nutrient sources, and this variety assures that we get the broad assortment of nutrients that increases our immune function and longevity potential. I call this desire for different foods our variety driver.

Cold Weather, More Clothes, and Comfort Food

I once heard a chubby comedian say, “Men are like lasagna, we dress in layers.” And for a longtime this was my dress code; two layers of t-shirts, polo-shirt with t-shirt underneath, button-down shirt over t-shirt. Yup, I seldom left the house wearing only one layer. So you can imagine how much I dreaded the warmer summer months. How I’d yearn for winter!

But winter does have its drawbacks. Sure you can cover up those extra pounds with a little more clothing, but for many snuggling into a turtleneck and sweater, also means gobbling up more calorie-rich comfort food, especially around the holidays. Jane E. Brody of The New York Times insists this can be the beginning of a continuous weight-gaining cycle:
Then there’s the coming holiday season, replete with the stress of too much to do, high-calorie temptations at every turn and, it seems, not enough time to expend those extra calories.

The inevitable result for many of us? A few extra pounds that we must struggle to lose when the weather warms up and the days get longer next spring. Unfortunately, though, too often those pounds remain, only to increase further the next winter, and the next, until they undermine our health as well as our psyche.
For help preventing the cold weather weight-gain Brody enlists the aid of Dr. Michael D. Ozner, who as it turns out is a major advocate of the Mediterranean diet. Now, while you won’t hear Dr. Fuhrman singing the praises of Mediterranean diet anytime soon, Ozner does make a couple useful suggestions that might help you avoid winter/holiday weight-gain.

For starters, Ozner is not big on red meat, claiming it contains too much saturated fat , which can lead to an increased risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke. He also encourages people to avoid processed foods because many of them are loaded with saturated fat, sugar, salt, trans fat, and high-fructose corn syrup. Dr. Fuhrman would definitely agree. Dr. Ozner’s recommendation to get plenty of exercise is another sound piece of advice. Although I can’t say the same for his tip about adding whey to food, according to Dr. Fuhrman whey isn’t exactly a wonder-food.

Health Points: Tuesday

  • Sure you can go to the gym, run on the treadmills, and use all the machines, heck, maybe even take a couple spin classes or, you can waltz? Now I’m not sure how many muscle-heads would be willing to dance the dance of high-society, but, according to Janet Cromley of The Los Angeles Times, waltzing is a great workout:
In a study of 110 heart failure patients presented last week at a meeting of the American Heart Assn. in Chicago, researchers reported that dancing the waltz three times a week for eight weeks was just as effective in improving cardiopulmonary function as exercising on a treadmill or bicycle for the same period.
Are you among the "supertasters," people who shun vegetables because they find them more bitter than the average person does? Supertasters may be more at risk of developing colon cancer as a result, says a recent University of Connecticut study.
Abuse of the legal stimulant is an emerging problem among young people, according to Northwestern University researchers, who recently analyzed three years' worth of cases reported to the Illinois Poison Center.

Symptoms include everything from nausea, vomiting and a racing heart to hallucinations, panic attacks, chest pains and trips to the emergency room.
  • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, smoking is bad news. If you blink, you’ll miss the latest headline touting another health complication associated with smoking. Did you blink? Because here’s a new one. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports that smoking may hinder joint injury repair:
In the first study, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis looked at fracture healing in a group of mice exposed to cigarette smoke 6 days a week for a month. There was also a control group of mice that weren't exposed to smoke.

The researchers found that fracture healing was delayed in the smoke-exposed mice. This delay was noted in the early stages of healing and was caused by cigarette smoke's hindrance of the development of mature cartilage cells.
They recruited 210 marathon runners for their study and matched them for age and sex with 210 other people they signed up at five recreation centers in Austria. All 420 people were screened by a dermatologist.

The marathon runners had more abnormal moles and lesions, and 24 were referred for surgical treatment, while there were 14 treatment referrals among the nonmarathoners.
  • Stuff like this makes me nervous. Libby Quaid of the Associated Press reports salmonella is on the rise in chicken meat. Health officials cite a fourfold rise in positive salmonella tests between 2000 and 2005. Although the whole situation seems to be a little complicated:
"It still continues to rise, even though the overall incidence of salmonella in general has fallen," said Richard Raymond, the Agriculture Department undersecretary for food safety. "It's one that we still don't have all the scientific evidence we need to know how best to attack it."
  • I’m not really into cell phones to begin with, but this is all the reason I need to avoid using one even more. According to The Detroit Free Press cell phone usage can cause infertility:
Men who spend four hours or more on their cell phones had significantly lower sperm counts, according to the study, which observed 361 men at an infertility clinic.
Cranberries are full of antioxidants, which protects cells from damage by unstable molecules called free radicals.

Unwrapping Junk Food Marketing

Coming off the heels of the British ban on junk-food commercials during children’s programming, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is planning to examine the way food manufacturers market to children. And oh boy do they market! According to federal Institute of Medicine they spend $10 to $12 billion annually to reach children. But as David Goldstein of The Seattle Times reports, getting more information out of manufacturers is tough:
"Government agencies and policymakers have experienced a lot of frustration in trying to get information about what food companies are doing to advertise their products to kids," Victoria Rideout, a vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation said. But with childhood obesity at 16 percent, more than three times higher than it was in 1980, pressure has been building on the food industry to curb marketing sugary, high-fat food to children.
Goldstein points out that many food producers have responded to the increased rate of childhood obesity by pledging to promote better nutrition. Some health officials are laughing at this. Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, likened it to Ronald McDonald pedaling a bike while peddling junk food.

Report: Fish and Soy Cut Cancer Risk

Reuters reports people who ate soy regularly are less likely to develop breast cancer. And, men who eat fish several times a week have a lower risk of colon cancer. Wait, so you’re telling me diet has something to do with cancer? No way! Yes way. Here’s more from this double discovery:
The women who ate the most soy-based foods such as tofu and miso when aged 5 to 11 reduced their risk of developing breast cancer by 58 percent, the researchers found…

…A second study presented at the meeting showed that men who ate fish five times a week or more had a 40 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared with men who ate fish less than once a week.
Researchers believe the isoflavones in soy and the omega-3s in fish have something to do with it. If you’re a Followhealthlife reader you already know how important macro- and micro-nutrients can be. But there are some important things to consider about fish and soy.

Got Bad Habits?

If you do, you might want to lose them. Because a new study shows middle-aged men who avoid such risk factors as smoking, being overweight, and drinking excessively, have a better chance of reaching old age—and reaching it healthier! Shari Roan of The Los Angeles Times reports:
The chance of survival to age 85 is as high as 69% in men with no risk factors at middle age and as low as 22% in men with six or more risk factors. Grip strength — a measure of physical fitness — was associated with longevity, while not having a marital partner was associated with death before age 85.
To be honest this does sound like commonsense, but in our “I have a family history of it” culture, it’s good to see something encouraging people to take control of their health and ditch pesky habits. But as Dr. Fuhrman points out breaking old habits, especially food addictions, is hard work. From the January 2005 edition of Healthy Times:
It is difficult to break old, addictive eating habits and form new, healthy ones. One of the difficulties is the immense power of addiction, which makes the human mind hungry to rationalize and attempt to justify the bad habits. As a result, people often fail before they even attempt to change. They either use denial about the vital necessity of change—the need to improve their health and happiness, or they simply give up without even trying—thinking that change is too difficult.
I relate to this all too well. Early on in college I had a major diet cola addiction. A twelve-pack of cans would last me two to three days, tops! Hey, I’m not proud of it. And I guess in a world filled with temptations I could have been hooked on something a lot worse. But in the end I kicked my addiction lickety-split. How’d I do it?

First, I recognized how displeased I was with my habit—I’ve never trusted artificial sweeteners—and second, repetition, repetition, repetition. Every time I wanted a diet soda I just reached for a bottle of water instead. It’s been almost three years and I haven’t had a diet drink of any sort since.

Dr. Fuhrman considers repetition and recognition critical steps towards breaking bad habits. Good to hear, because back then I thought I was just driving myself crazy with habit-breaking neurosis. There’s more about breaking bad habits in the September 2004 edition of Healthy Times too:
Identifying the cause(s) of your problems, eliminating your bad habits, and learning what is necessary to reestablish great health are tremendous first steps. But they are only 50 percent of the overall solution. Before you can achieve true success, you must practice, repeating your new beneficial behaviors over and over until they become part of you. Repetition will make these positive actions feel more and more natural. Soon, these new good habits will make your previous bad habits things of the past.

Mad Cowboy Movie

Now this is a different kind of Western, because Howard F. Lyman is a different kind of cowboy—he’s the Mad Cowboy! And you won’t find him munching on jerky while he’s driving the herd. He prefers fare of the veggie persuasion. Yup, this here good ‘ole boy’s a vegan! Oh I’m not kidding.

Howard is all about nutrient-dense vegetable-based diets. How can I be so sure? Break out your copy of Disease-Proof Your Child. Howard calls it required reading for every parent. Pretty cool right?

Howard’s plenty busy on his own right. He’s authored two books, The Mad Cowboy and No More Bull, and now this documentary, which he calls the most important thing he’s ever been involved with in his life. Check out the Mad Cowboy trailer via SoulVeggie.

Health Points: Friday

Consumer and health groups protested that they did not go far enough -- saying that junk food ads should be banned from all programming before 9:00 pm, whether for adults or children.
Safe and effective doses in humans have not been established, and there could be downsides to taking resveratrol. Preliminary studies point to some cancer protection, but there's also evidence that it may increase the risk of breast cancer -- a reminder that tinkering with nutritional substances can be complex.
The study of more than 2,000 patients in 27 countries focused on the outcomes of angioplasties performed more than 24 hours and up to 28 days after the patients first developed symptoms of a heart attack.
"The results of our study provide clear evidence that regular smoking increases the risk for asthma and that important chronic adverse consequences of smoking are not restricted to individuals who have smoked for many years," Dr. Frank D. Gilliland, of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said in a prepared statement.
The theory is that vitamin D explains the link. Sunlight triggers vitamin D synthesis in the skin, so a person’s stores of the vitamin depend, in part, on where he or she lives. Moreover, a growing number of studies have linked vitamin D intake and vitamin D levels in the blood to cancer risk.
The test was repeated three times -- once with each kind of drink -- and the data showed that the cyclists were able to go between 49 and 54 percent longer on the second stint after drinking chocolate milk than when they drank the carbohydrate drink. The difference between the milk and the fluid-replacement drink was not significant.
The plan, vigorously debated for two years and heavily opposed by power plants and mining companies, trumps a weaker federal rule. Pennsylvania would join Illinois as the first major coal-producing states to move beyond the federal limits and make them tougher - if measures to do so in both states become final.
  • Have you noticed the newcomers in the pear-market? You haven’t? Well get ready the Asian pears are coming. David Karp of The New York Times reports:
In recent decades Chinese government policy and market reforms have encouraged farmers to sharply increase pear production, which is expected to reach 12.5 million metric tons this year, more than two-thirds of the world’s supply. Virtually all are Asian pears, crunchy and ripe off the tree, not the European kind, such as Bartlett and Bosc, which develop their desired buttery texture and rich flavor after harvest.

How to Help Your Overweight Child

From the September 2006 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

If you already have an overweight child, make some changes in your family life. To solve the problem of childhood obesity, we first need to change parental behavior. This will require you adopt a new way of thinking. As Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
1. Don’t make the major interactions with your child be about body weight. Interact about other issues.

2. Set up weekly family discussion meetings. Make an agenda for the meeting. All members can present topics for discussion. Discuss health issues as a family each week. Give each family member equal attention and equal concern and discuss the reasons for the new family health initiative and how all members will benefit. Do not focus more attention on the overweight family member. Study and discuss parts of my book Disease-Proof Your Child or other valuable health sources at family meetings. Have the children participate.

3. Parents tell me that when they listen to the audio book of Disease-Proof Your Child as they ride around in the car, it rubs off on the kids and spurs discussion on dietary issues.

4. Plan fun, physical activities for the family. Devise solutions for more exercise for the whole family. Get involved with some type of physical activity, taking up a sport, hiking, running, climbing, or any other activity that involves movement. All must participate, not only the overweight child. Parents cannot just watch; they must model a healthy attitude about fitness and physical fun.

5. Make dietary goals that the entire family understands and can agree to adopt. Lay out an eating plan for dinners and school lunches that promotes long-term health.

6. Praise your child for issues not related to weight loss or gain. Make other issues as important, such as school work, ethics, care for others, attitude towards learning, and development skills.

Don’t reward behavior with unhealthful food. Show your kids and others that treats on special occasions can be healthful and still taste good. Set a good example at birthday parties. Get junk food out of the house, and try to have the entire family supportive of this action. Creatively try to get the whole family to make the promise to “say NO to junk food.”

Eating Less and Less Meat

Meat, the older I get, the less I crave it. And no, it’s not just because I work for Dr. Fuhrman. In fact, my waning taste for meat and other animal products started in college—my avoidance of dairy, even earlier.

I remember being a little kid, eating my Fruit Loops with 1% percent milk—and twenty minutes later puking up my breakfast! The switch to skim milk wasn’t much help. And soon thereafter yogurt and cheese got the heave-ho too. Although I admit, in college I had my fair share of late night pizzas, but that didn’t last long either.

Now prior to college I grew up in a fairly meat-centric Italian family. Sure, my mother did her best to expose me and my bother to different kinds of fruits and vegetables. I was probably the only kid on the block eating fresh figs, zucchini, chestnuts, cactus-pears, and scallions, but, I was still getting a decent dose of French fries, hamburgers, and ice-cream. I seldom ate fast food, barely any supermarket junk-food, and I almost never ate fried- or deep-fried stuff. And candy? Most of my Halloween goodies and chocolate Easter bunnies ended up in the freezer, only to be used in the occasional batch of cookies.

I probably grew up eating considerably healthier than many standard American families. Not bad, considering my grandfather regularly made his own pork sausage and salami! But it wasn’t until college that my desire for meat really took a nose dive. The college dinning hall is sight to behold—typically teeming with food that would make Dr. Fuhrman hit the ceiling like a cat in the cartoons.

Mine was no different; station one dessert; station two meat and potatoes; station three griddlecakes and omelets; station four sandwiches; station five pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers, chili, and French fries. To their credit, they did have a salad bar—loaded with cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and ranch dressing. After a few months of watching my peers scarf down meals of ketchup drenched hotdogs with a side of Lucky Charms and milk—oh I’m serious—I figured there had to be a better way. These people looked terrible, and it didn’t appear spaghetti topped with nacho cheese and bacon bits was very health-promoting. So I flipped the script on my diet even more.

Red meat, sausage, and ham were the first to go. Then followed by white-bread, cheese, and the little butter I was still eating. A typical college meal for me started to look like this: chicken or fish (sometimes no meat at all), side of veggies, some sort of rice or pasta, and usually a small salad or various pickled veggies from the salad bars. A far-cry from the way I eat now, but leagues above my standard American classmates. So, why do I bring all this up?

Because for years I thought it was strange that all on my own, without any outside influence (excluding observation), I just up and changed my diet. I naturally felt less compelled to eat meat. Why? I’ve always eaten meat, sure never to the extent where I was eating bacon and eggs every morning, but I’d always eaten it. No one in my family is vegetarian, vegan, or flexitarian—where did this urge come from? I still don’t know. But today, I found out I’m not alone.

I Was Just Really Very Hungry claims she is 75% vegetarian, which is funny, because during my college dietary renaissance I referred to my eating habits similarly. In fact, I still consider myself 90 to 95% vegetarian. After all, as I’ve pointed out in Eating to Live on the Outside, I’ll still eat fish or chicken from time to time. Okay, I’ll let I Was Just Really Very Hungry explain her own experience:
I find that the older I get the less I seem to crave meat. When I was in my teens and 20s I felt deprived when some form of meat or fish wasn't the centerpiece of a meal, but nowadays I think that more than half the meals I eat don't have either of those. Overall I think I am about 75% vegetarian (well, lacto-ovo vegetarian) in my eating.
Now, if you check out the post you’ll probably be taken back by her occasional foray with Walliserplatte—a platter of sliced meats and cold cuts—but I find it interesting that she too is just naturally pulling away from meat. Maybe it has something to do with her traditional Japanese upbringing, a lot like how my mother shielded me from many standard American foods. Either way, this is pretty amazing to me, how something can just click and change your whole outlook. Anyone have a similar story?

No More Cigs in Movies

Fictional cowboys, mafia dons, and seedy tough guys beware, you’re onscreen image is about to take a hit. Philip Morris, the nation’s largest cigarette maker, wants Hollywood to stop putting its products in movies because it may influence kids to smoke. Larry O’Dell of the Associated Press reports:
A study published last year in the medical journal Pediatrics is one of several that have shown that children exposed to smoking in the movies are more likely than their peers to start using tobacco. Philip Morris cites that study and two others in its ads.

Want Lies With That?

Bad news for the fast food companies, Fast Food Nation the movie opens tomorrow. Get ready for the media storm of reactionary PR from the McDonalds, Burger Kings, and KFCs of the world. Stuff like this. Dylan T. Lovan of the Associated Press reports Taco Bell is nixing trans fat:
"This is something we've been working on for over two years, and we just believe it's the right thing and the right changes to make in our products," said Warren Widicus, Taco Bell's chief food innovation officer.

Widicus said the change means 15 Taco Bell menu items will contain no trans fats, including the Crunchy Beef Taco, the Taco Supreme, some chalupas and cinnamon twists. He said some items, like the Grilled Stuft Burrito, will still contain some trans fat.
I guess you got to keep some trans fat, after all, it’s just so tasty—tongue in cheek. Hopefully Fast Food Nation will convince Americans, and people all over the world, that fast food isn’t exactly the wholesome grub it’s marketed to be. For more on the movie check out these links:

Listen to Your Variety Driver

What’s a variety driver? Good question. In Disease-Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman explains it’s just one of those things that go along with having a big brain. I’ll let him explain further:
All primates, including humans, are driven to consume food from a variety of categories. Contrary to popular belief, a monkey does not sit under a banana tree eating bananas all day. He eats bananas and then may travel half a mile away to find a different type of food. He has an innate drive to consume variety; just satisfying the caloric drive is not enough. So as a higher-order animal with a bigger brain, we search for a variety of nutrient sources, and this variety assures that we get the broad assortment of nutrients that increases our immune function and longevity potential. I call this desire for different foods our variety driver.
Despite this innate human characteristic it seems many humans still can’t wrap their heads—or, more appropriately, their bigger brains—around proper nutrition. More from Disease-Proof Your Child:
Humans suffer greatly from misunderstanding what our nutritional requirements are. We have evolved to a level of economic sophistication that allows us to eat ourselves to death. A diet centered on milk, cheese, pasta, bread, and sugar-filled snacks and drinks lays the groundwork for cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, and autoimmune illnesses to develop later in life. It is not merely that sugar, other sweets, white flour, cheese, and butter are harmful; it is also what we are not eating that is causing the problem.

When you calculate all the calories consumed from the typical foods most children in America eat, you find that the calories coming from natural foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables, beans, raw nuts, and seeds is less than 5 percent of their total caloric intake. This dangerously low intake of unrefined plant food guarantees weakened immunity to disease, frequent illnesses, and a shorter lifespan.
I think this article by Julia Moskin of The New York Times harks at the variety driver concept and how it might inform your Thanksgiving. Disheartened by the typical shades of brown and mushy texture of the usual Thanksgiving feast, Julia petitioned to add a little snap of color to the meal. She might be onto something here:
I began experimenting with fresh herbs and citrus zests, bitter greens and whole spices, garlic, ginger and vinegars. Without wandering too far from tradition and into the realm of broccoli rabe and bok choy, I found that pairing those aromatics with crisp autumn vegetables like brussels sprouts, cabbage, greens and green beans led to combinations perfectly at home on the Thanksgiving table.

Pink rings of quick-pickled onions landed on top of slightly bitter Swiss chard, a shower of lemon zest on a fast sauté of brussels sprouts, and earthy, sharp cumin seeds on a tangle of wilted cabbage and onions. Radishes, usually relegated to the relish tray, showed off their sharpness and color in a quick braise with butter.
Okay, I’m not digging the butter, but she’s certainly on the right track. Every Thanksgiving table I’ve ever sat down at was bustling with melted butter amalgams, creamy sauces, and sausage-based stuffing. I think some crisp veggies would be a nice departure from these standard American mainstays. And, it'd probably gel nicely with our bigger-brain instincts. What do you think?

Fallout from the Spinach Crisis

All this talk about contaminated spinach and E. coli has left a lot of consumers wondering if there’s a better way—more specifically—better ways to get their fruits and veggies. As a result many people and businesses are turning away from large farming conglomerates and exploring locally grown fare. Kim Severson of The New York Times digs up the dirt on this blossoming trend:
The idea is to appeal to consumers like Ms. Steineger, who think that food grown regionally or produced by eco-friendly operations is fresher and tastes better. For these consumers, knowing the exact farm where food comes from provides comfort about food safety while also allowing them to connect to their communities.

“I like to call them the Whole Foods moms,” said Dan McGowan, president of Big Bowl, a small chain of casual Chinese and Thai food restaurants owned by the Chicago restaurant company Lettuce Entertain You. “There’s a core of people now who don’t mind paying an extra quarter or 75 cents if they know it’s natural or organic or it’s supporting a local person.”
It’s good to read that more and more people are actually curious about where their food comes from, and aren’t just reciting the standard American answer, “The supermarket.” On that note, what really struck me most about Severson’s article was Earthbound Farms’ involvement in the E. coli recall. Apparently many consumers did not know that Earthbound Farms, which started as a small grower of organic produce, is now part of a 185 grower conglomerate. Amazing how things change. More reason to be mindful of your food’s roots.

Still curious about organic produce, check out this post from late last year: Is Organic Food Safer?

Health Points: Wednesday

Greek health agencies issued the warning on World Diabetes Day. Dozens of people lined up Wednesday at Athens' central Syntagma Square to have their blood sugar levels tested and to speak with doctors at information stands.
The Mediterranean diet, often hailed as a model for calorie-counters worldwide, has lost many of its classic features. The consumption of meat and cheese is increasing, while the Greek staples of bread, potatoes and olive oil have been vanishing from the daily diet, Maria Hassapidou secretary general of the Hellenic Medical Association for Obesity said.
The companies, which account for two-thirds of child-targeted food and drink commercials on TV, agreed to reduce the use of outside characters — such as Shrek and the Little Mermaid — to pitch unhealthful foods. They also said they would not advertise in elementary schools and would ensure that their online "advergames" either promote good health or healthful products, among other measures. Half their ads will focus on foods that qualify as healthful or on nutrition and exercise issues.
  • Cola, and other high-fructose beverages, aren’t really my cup of tea—neither is tea for that matter. But Anahad O’Conner of The New York Times takes a look at the claim that sugary drinks increase energy. The bottom line is a little surprising:
Besides having only short-lasting effects on energy, the sugar high of soft drinks can ultimately work against you, decreasing attention span, slowing reaction times and putting you to sleep.
  • I’ve never been fat, but I do go to a gym regularly, and I can tell you first hand that unless you’re in dynamite shape, working out in front of a bunch of people can make you really self-conscious. Jacqueline Stenson of MSNBC explains many overweight people don’t work out because of this fear:
Lack of time, motivation and money are frequently cited reasons for not exercising. Embarrassment is another that seems to be increasingly common, especially as the nation's waistline expands, fitness experts say.
The program hopes to show parents how to cook nutritionally but quickly, teach children to cut back on empty calories found in sugar-laden sodas and to encourage children and adults to become at least moderately active.

The Naked Chef is Mad

Well you’d have to figure anyone who calls himself the Naked Chef would have to be a little crazy—oh wait—he’s the other kind of mad. In fact Jamie Oliver is calling on the United States government to take up his campaign against fatty snacks and school lunches. Christine Kearney of Reuters has more:
Oliver said U.S. politicians should "stop being so subservient" to "junk food companies" and that the country should cut down on junk and fatty foods, which would help reduce future health costs.

"A fat person in England isn't the same as a fat person in America," he said, asserting that America's obesity problem was far worse.
I wonder how the Brit Oliver felt about last month's meat-pie-pushing mamas.

Someone Else's Sushi Folly

Okay, last week I shamefully admitted to some sushi indiscretions. Now in hindsight my dietary glitch wasn’t that bad, sure I ate a little white rice and possibly some contaminated salmon—I say possibly because I’m not exactly sure what variety of salmon I ate. If you check out you’ll see most salmon is safe for consumption, but some isn't.

But if you ignore those two concessions, my “cheat” could have been a lot worse, after all I could have splurged on deep-fried snickers bars. And, the sushi was prepared with cucumber, avocado, and carrots—hello phytonutrients! So I’m not too upset with myself.

Of course if I ate as much sushi as this guy—I’d still be kicking myself! Fifty-two pieces of sushi in twenty minutes and the meal is free. Now that’s hardcore. Check it out. So between my slip up and this video I think its time to revisit Dr. Fuhrman’s recommendation for how much fish people should eat. In Fishing for the Truth he lays it on the line:
Choose fish over other animal products, but be aware that the place where it was caught, and the type of fish, matters. Don't accept recreational fish from questionable waters. Farmed fish is safer. Never eat high-mercury-content fish. Don't eat fish more than twice a week, and if you have a family history of hemorrhagic stroke, limit it further to only once a month.
I wonder how fifty-two pieces of fish stacks up against this recommendation. I wish you could make out the types of fish the guy ordered, because as I found out in the Bonefish Grill edition of Eating to Live on the Outside, when it comes to contamination the type of fish you order makes all the difference.

Oh, and be sure to check out Fishing for the Truth for the varieties of fish Dr. Fuhrman considers low contamination risks.

Oh That Wacky Tamiflu

According to Andrew Bridges of the Associated Press federal health officials are advising doctors and parents to watch for “bizarre behavior” in children being treated with Tamiflu. The FDA is unsure if the 100 new cases, including three deaths from falls, are linked to the drug or the flu virus itself:
Still, FDA staff suggested updating Tamiflu's label to recommend that all patients, especially children, be closely monitored while on the drug. They also acknowledged that stopping treatment with Tamiflu could actually harm influenza patients if the virus is the cause of delirium, hallucinations and other abnormal behavior, such as aggression and suicidal thoughts.
Most of the instances of bizarre behavior are originating in Japan where the number of Tamiflu prescriptions is about 10 times that in the United States.

For more on Tamiflu and how to protect yourself from flu-strains like Avian Flu, check out this post: Six Steps to Protect Your Family from Avian Flu

E. Coli: Know Thine Enemy

Like a summer blockbuster the recent spinach-E. coli crisis had us all on the edge of our seats. Wondering when it would be safe to go back into the produce isle. If only we’d known more about E. coli, maybe it might have lessened our panic. Genaro C. Armas of the Associated Press introduces us to Chobi DebRoy and the Penn State University lab of E. coli bacteria:
Ms. DebRoy called the recent outbreak a classic case of E. coli transmission. The bacteria can be killed in vegetables and meat if they are cooked at a very high temperature, "but spinach, I can understand why people don't want to cook it," she said.

The bacteria, though, are almost everywhere, including "good E. coli," which live in digestive systems and help provide vitamins and other nutrients.

Mom, Where Are My Statins?

Now, if preschool puberty didn’t scare you, what about children with clogged arteries? I realize it seems a little out of place, but Canadian researchers have determined obese children, and children with high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol, may already have fatty build-up in their arteries that could lead to heart attacks later in life. Robert Preidt of HealthDay News reports:
"Obesity puts children at risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Children's diets have changed dramatically, influenced by television commercials and the convenience of fast foods," researcher Dr. Sanaz Piran, an internal medicine resident at McMaster University said. "Children are eating too much fatty and processed foods. Parents need to involve their kids in regular exercise activities and cut down on fatty meals, emphasizing healthy food such as vegetables."
Can you picture father and son heading off to the pharmacy to refill their cholesterol-lowering medication together? No pun intended, but that’s a hard pill to swallow. Dr. Piran makes a lot of important observations, but I really like her recommendation of a family-oriented approach to cardiovascular disease prevention. Kind of sounds Fuhrmanesque to me.

In a previous post Dr. Fuhrman explains that getting children to eat more healthfully is contingent on the parents playing by the rules too. Meaning—parents, if you want your kids to eat their broccoli, you better eat yours! More from the post:
Here is the most important: No rules only for children. If the parents are not willing to follow the rules set for the house, they should not be imposed on the children. Don’t argue about what your children should and shouldn’t be eating; discuss this in private. As parents, we must be consistent, but not perfect. Likewise, it is okay for the children to be consistent, but not prefer either. For example, if the parents decide that an unhealthy food or a restaurant meal is acceptable for the children once per week, then that goes for the adults, too. Setting an example supported by both parents is the most important and most effective way for your children to develop a healthy attitude toward food.
Now, if you have any doubts about the precursors of heart disease developing in young children, take a gander at this post. In it Dr. Fuhrman explains what we eat as children can follow us into adulthood:
There is considerable evidence that the lipoprotein abnormalities (high LDL and low HDL) that are linked to heart attack deaths in adulthood begin to develop in early childhood and that higher cholesterol levels eventually get “set” by early food habits.1 What we eat during our childhood affects our lifetime cholesterol levels. For many, changing the diet to a plant-based, low-saturated-fat diet in later life does not result in the favorable cholesterol levels that would have been seen if the dietary improvements were started much earlier in life.

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Recent Followhealthlife Highlights

If you haven’t noticed, we do a lot blogging—don’t blink! You might miss something. In case you did, here are some highlights from the past couple of months:
The New York Times introduces us to Canto and Owen, two rhesus monkeys on totally different sides of the calorie restriction spectrum. Canto who eats 445 calories a day is healthier and much younger looking than his buddy Owen who consumes 885 calories daily—Owen doesn’t appear happy about it. Some scientists believe the plight of Canto and Owen sheds serious light on the benefits of calorie restriction for humans.
  • Here’s another one from The New York Times. I was very alarmed to read that more and more children are going through puberty earlier and earlier. Puberty in preschool is pretty hard to believe, but according to Dr. Fuhrman a vegetable-based diet can help buck this trend:
Fat cells produce estrogen, so excess fat on the body during childhood results in more estrogen production. A large volume of high fiber from fruits and vegetables in the gut serves to lower circulating estrogen naturally. The high fiber and the resultant healthy bacteria that colonize the gut of a person consuming a high produce diet conjugates (binds together) estrogens so they are more readily excreted in the stool. As estrogen cycles into and out of the digestive tract, a person eating more animal products and less high-fiber vegetation reabsorbs more estrogen from the digestive tract, rather than losing more in the stool.
  • Sometimes you’ve just got to stick with what you’re good at—someone should pass on this bit of knowledge to Chicago Bears wide-receiver Bernard Berrian. Last month he talked to school children about the benefits of eating bacon and maple syrup. No, I’m not joking:
What ensued was a melee of animal fat drizzled in hearty helpings of liquid sugar. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these the types of things school food reforms are trying to knock out? It gets worse, here’s my favorite—well not-so-favorite—quote from Bernard:
It’s the perfect combination, you should eat it everyday and you’ll be in the NFL too.
Who the hell cares about the veggies anyway? You don't need them and there is absolutely nothing essential about them. Don't let the acculturated veggie sympathizers tell you otherwise.
Are none of us reading about the obesity of our young people? Do you think it helps their well-being that after every sporting event our children gorge themselves Fall-of-Roman-Empire style on extra calories, extra sugar, extra hydrogenated fat? I recently sat down with Annette O’Neill, a registered dietitian and bona fide nutritionist, and asked her, “Do you think it’s a good idea for our kids to have Cheetos and Kool-Aid after a sporting event?” Her response: “Uh, no.”
In Disease-Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman says, “The diagnosis and treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder has skyrocketed in recent years, with a tremendous increase in the percentage of our elementary school children who are taking amphetamines and stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Cylert, and others.” So as a layman, I wonder—what's going on here? Is this some kind of epidemic?
The injection of even this small amount of mercury repeatedly year after year from multiple vaccines can cause neurotoxicity (brain damage). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Public Health Service have issued a joint statement calling for the removal of mercury from vaccines. Chronic low dose mercury exposures may cause subtle neurological abnormalities that rear their head later in life.

Full of Veggies Stumbles a Bit

Okay, let’s be real for a second. How many of you, from time to time, fall off the wagon? You’re doing good, Eating to Live and feeling strong, but one day—WHAM—your weaknesses get the best of you, and you cheat. Maybe it’s a piece of chocolate cake, a bag of chips, or even a late night run to Taco Bell. How do you feel afterward; ashamed, disappointed, angry, annoyed?

For me, it’s all of the above—and then some! And, to top it off I usually punish myself with an extra day at the gym. Full of Veggies recently fell off the wagon, and, she’s not happy about it. After a two-day dietary detour she's recommitting herself to the idea “food is for nutrition.” Take a look:
Food is for nutrition. Food is for nutrition. Food is for nutrition. Why can't I remember this? Can I have it magically tattooed to my hand so that it blinks like a bright neon sign every time I go to put something that is nutritionally void in my mouth? If I could have one wish at this point it wouldn't be to be instantaneously skinny with the ability to eat anything I want - it'd be to think FOOD IS FOR NUTRITION and not food is because it's yummy or food is because __________ (insert stupid excuse here). Somehow I will have to instill this thought into my head so it's what I think of first and it's what happens when I start to want something bad for me. Maybe I'll get a bracelet or something... similar to a magical tattoo, no?
I guess the important thing to remember is nobody’s perfect. We all falter sometimes. So, if every once in a while you cheat, and then get really down on yourself like me and Full of Veggies, just keep this little excerpt from Eat to Live in mind:
If you go off your diet and eat junk food on occasion, mark it on your calendar and consider it a special occasion that you won’t repeat too often.

Nobody is perfect; however, do not let your weight yo-yo. You must adhere to the plan strictly enough so that you never put back on whatever weight you do take off.
What’s ironic about all this is I just had sushi for lunch—and now I’m annoyed with myself! Looks like no more fish for me this month, and there goes my day off from the gym this week. Me and my bright ideas, next time I get another bright idea I’ll try keeping this quote from Homer Simpson in mind, “Shut up, Brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-tip!”

The Deep-Fried Consortium Grows

America is obsessed with fried food! And you don’t need to be a health expert to see it. Fried and deep-fried foods are all around us, from French fries to deep-fried Twinkies, Oreos, and Coca-Cola—like drinking it isn’t bad enough. Yes America, we’ve got a frying fetish!

Never is it more evident than at local carnivals and state fairs. Remember Charlie Boghosian? The stocky carnie who brought us deep-fried cauliflower, asparagus, tomatoes, and zucchini—what a waste of good veggies! It seems these creations coupled with our deep-fried urges are inspiring many restaurants to refry—oops, I mean rethink their menus.

Monica Eng of The Chicago Tribune explains many restaurants in the Windy City are frying up some new menu items. How’d you like a plate of deep-fried cheese curds? Or, what about some crispy olives? If cheese curds and fried olives aren’t your cup of tea, you can always pop into Rocks for a deep-fried snickers bar:
Deep-fried Snickers at ROCKS Lincoln Park, 1301 W. Schubert Ave., 773-472-7738: OK, so no cardiologist is going to recommend you eat a king-sized, deep-fried Snickers bar flanked by two scoops of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with hot fudge. But there are times in your life when this combo really satisfies. The candy bar arrives lightly crisp on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. And though Snickers already contains trans fats, at least ROCKS makes sure to do its deep frying in vegetable oil. We also love their deep fried mac 'n' cheese wedges served with barbecue sauce. $5 for the Snickers; $6 for the wedges.
This shouldn’t come as a shocker, but Dr. Fuhrman isn’t too thrilled about fried foods. In fact his recommendation for oil consumption is no more than one teaspoon per day. So, what can you do if you have a deep love for fried foods? Here’s an idea from Eat to Live:
If stir-frying any vegetable dish, alternatives to oil include vegetable broth, wine, or a little fruit juice, especially pineapple juice. Another option is to create a “wokking sauce” to cook vegetables in. We like to use a handful of dates or dried apricots blended with water and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Another good mix is tomato sauce and pineapple juice. Just take a can of diced unsweetened pineapple and add some tomato sauce to make a Hawaiian mixed-vegetable dish.
Although I’m sure the fry-guys of the world will soon come up with a way to deep-fry tomato sauce and pineapple juice too.

UPDATE: Just in case you think these fried-nightmares don't really exist, here's some photo evidence from Fit Fam.

Eating a Small Amount of Animal Products

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live:

Is a vegetarian or vegan diet healthier than a diet that contains a small amount of animal products?

I do not know for sure. A preponderance of the evidence suggests that either a near vegetarian diet or a vegetarian diet is the best. In the massive China-Cornell-Oxford Project, reduction in cancer rates continued to be observed as participants reduced their animal-food consumption all the way down to one serving per week. Below this level there is not enough data available. Some smaller studies suggest that some fish added to a vegetarian diet provides benefit, which is likely a result of the increased DHA fat from fish.1 This same benefit most likely could be achieved on a strict vegetarian diet by including ground flaxseed and nuts that contain omega-3, such as walnuts. If you want to get the benefit from the additional DHA contained in fish yet remain on a strict vegetarian diet, you can take plant-derived DHA.

Whether or not you are a strict vegetarian, your diet still must be plant-predominant for optimal health and to maximally reduce cancer risk. A vegetarian or vegan diet may be healthy or unhealthy, depending on food choices, but a diet similar to the one most Americans consume—i.e., one containing a significant quantity of animal products—cannot be made healthful. For those not willing to give them up, animal products should be limited to twelve ounces or less per week. Otherwise, the risk of disease increases considerably. Many of my patients choose to eat only vegan foods in their home and eat animal products only as a treat once a week or when they are out.

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Chemicals and Young Children

One of Followhealthlife’s major issues is childhood exposure to hazardous chemicals during and after pregnancy—whether it’s from eating contaminated seafood, pesticides on playgrounds, or anything else—according to Dr. Fuhrman it’s bad. In Disease-Proof Your Child he points to scientific findings that are difficult to ignore:
  • Children whose parents work with pesticides are more likely to suffer leukemia, brain cancer, and other afflictions.
  • Studies show that childhood leukemia is related to increased pesticide use around the house.
  • Nine studies reviewed by the National Cancer Institute showed a correlation between pesticide exposure and brain cancer.
  • Exposure to week killers in childhood increases asthma risk by more than fourfold.
And all this is just from eating produce treated with pesticide! Dr. Fuhrman encourages parents to be wary of other commonly used chemicals as well. More from Disease-Proof Your Child:
We must be careful not to expose our children to chemical cleaners, insecticides, and weed killers on our lawns. Chemicals used in pressure-treated wood used to build lawn furniture, decks, fences, and swing sets have also been shown to place children at risk. When young children are around, we must be vigilant to maintain a chemical-free environment.
So, if you haven’t already realized, this is kind of a big deal. And perhaps an issue that often goes overlooked—except when it hits us in the face, like right now. According to Reuters new research reveals exposure to industrial chemicals in the womb or early in a child’s life can impair brain development. And what’s worse is only a handful of these chemicals are controlled to protect children. Reporter Patricia explains:
"Only a few substances, such as lead and mercury, are controlled with the purpose of protecting children," said Philippe Grandjean of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts and the University of Southern Denmark.

"The 200 other chemicals that are known to be toxic to the human brain are not regulated to prevent adverse effects on the fetus or a small child," he added.
Come on, you’ve got to be astounded by this. In this day and age where information is everywhere—does no regulatory agency think this is important? Reaney adds that even though millions of children may have been harmed by toxic chemicals, only lead, methylmercury, and polychlorinated byphenyls (PCBs) have been adequately studied and regulated. Pretty concerning if you ask me. Makes you wonder if this will ever change.

For a list of things Dr. Fuhrman advises women should avoid during pregnancy, check out this previous post: Precautions to Take When Pregnant or Nursing

Health Points: Wednesday

Nor do people crave foods that they have not already tasted. "Think of food cravings as a sensory memory," says psychologist Marcia Pelchat of the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a research organization in Philadelphia. "You remember how good it felt the last time you had that food. You have to have experienced eating it before."
Medicine has been too depressing for me lately. I just took care of a guy with life threatening, self-inflicted stab wounds to the neck and chest a few minutes ago. He was arrested during a meth lab bust. He yelled out to the police that he didn't want to go to jail, took a knife, cut his own neck and stabbed himself in the chest. He bagged his internal jugular and put a hole in his ventricle.
It was another appearance by Ingraham's mysterious underground candy salesman, a lanky, A- and B-average senior who has been defying the Seattle Public Schools' nutrition and solicitation policies for about a year. The Seattle Times agreed not to identify him, but around Ingraham, most teachers and administrators have looked the other way, anyway. Some buy from him.
When they were about halfway through their burgers they discovered marijuana on the meat and used a field test kit confirm it. They sought treatment at a hospital while their fellow officers arrested 3 Burger King employees and charged them with possession of marijuana and aggravated battery on an officer, a felony.
The number of alcohol-related deaths last year stood at 8,386, compared to 4,144 in 1991. Death rates among middle-aged men more than doubled to 30 per 100,000 of the population.
Lentils are high in protein, cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, iron, most B vitamins, folate, molybdenum, manganese, phosphorous, copper, thiamin and potassium. The pigment in Beluga black lentils acts like an antioxidant and helps protect against heart disease, and cancer. Cooked lentils have only 230 calories per cup.
Many of the China's environmental disasters have been blamed on companies which, counting on lax enforcement of regulations, find it easier and cheaper to dump poisons into rivers and the ground instead of treating them.
You reach a "goal weight" - How did you come by this number? What is an ideal body weight and who decides what is normal?

You decided that you are happy with your appearance.
Yet what may seem like just another routine odd job around the house is really a vigorous aerobic workout that involves prolonged repetitive motion, twisting, bending, lifting and carrying. Due to the physically strenuous nature of the work, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reminds those charged with the task to take proper safety measures to avoid injury.
A new study in mice suggests that sugary drinks contribute to liver damage. For the research, German scientists either gave mice sugar-sweetened water or water containing an artificial sweetner. They found that mice with the sugar water ate less but still gained more weight and also suffered from "fatty liver." The problem was worse when a specific type of sugar - fructose - was used. According to Reuters, the scientists concluded: "These data support the hypothesis that high fructose consumption may not only (damage) the liver through over-feeding, but may be" toxic to it.

Not All "Health Food" Deserves Star Treatment

One of Dr. Fuhrman’s points that I find most compelling is the concept that food isn’t just calories, but also nutrients. And not just macronutrients, but a whole host of important micronutrients... Sure, a piece of steak has calories, but compare it to an equal amount of green vegetables, and you’ll see greens are a superior source of essential nutrients. Not sure what I mean? Check out this previous post: Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables.

Hannaford Brothers, a supermarket chain with 158 stores in five states, may have stumbled upon this concept with its nutrition program “Guiding Stars.” Hannaford Brothers hired nutritionists to evaluate all products sold at their stores and rate their nutritional quality from 0 to 3 stars. Some of the low-rankers may surprise you, especially since many of them are advertised as “health” foods. Andrew Martin of The New York Times explains:
Of the 27,000 products that were plugged into Hannaford’s formula, 77 percent received no stars, including many, if not most, of the processed foods that advertise themselves as good for you.

These included V8 vegetable juice (too much sodium), Campbell’s Healthy Request Tomato soup (ditto), most Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice frozen dinners (ditto) and nearly all yogurt with fruit (too much sugar). Whole milk? Too much fat — no stars. Predictably, most fruits and vegetables did earn three stars, as did things like salmon and Post Grape-Nuts cereal.
I’m guessing most people probably have an inkling—even though they choose to ignore it—that a lot of standard American fare isn’t exactly health promoting, but what about foods marketers position as healthy? Martin’s article calls into question an important larger issue—lots of these foods aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and many people don’t know it. How many people do you know who constantly shovel yogurt into their mouths like its food from the heavens?

Certainly we could argue all day about which items deserve this or that many stars. But I love the idea of at least somewhat objective nutrition experts giving some perspective to some of the most important health decisions we make--the decision of what to buy in the grocery store. If you have read this blog much at all, or any of Dr. Fuhrman's work, then you know that there is a lot of evidence that the decisions you make in the grocery store can have profound effects on long-term health.

Starch-Based Diets No Answer for Diabetics

From the September 2003 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

While they are a step in the right direction, grain- and starch-based diets pose risks for diabetics. I want to make it clear that diabetics can’t just “eat better.” They have to go all the way and follow the vegetable-based diet I call Eat To Live (ETL). This is the only dietary approach that lowers cholesterol, improves the cholesterol ratio, and lowers triglycerides.

With only one or two exceptions, other vegetarian diets simply are not as effective or safe because they typically rely heavily on cooked starchy vegetables, such as bread, grains, and potatoes. The recommendations of vegetarian diet authors, such as Dean Ornish and John McDougall, can be helpful for the general public but are far from ideal for those with diabetes. Certain individuals may experience beneficial changes after adopting recommendations such as these, since they are a big improvement over the Standard American Diet (SAD), but most diabetics will not achieve the results available to them unless they adopt the ETL approach.

Diabetics need to avoid baked starchy vegetables and flour-based products. Most low-fat and vegetarian-type diets are cooked starch- and grain-based, not steamed vegetable-based. By utilizing more green vegetables, beans, nuts, and even fruit, the ETL approach sets the stage for more dramatic weight loss and more effective glucose lowering.

The ETL vegetable-based dietary program is the only dietary intervention ever shown in medical studies to lower cholesterol more effectively than cholesterol-lowering medication. Other styles of plant-based dietary interventions—because they are grain- and potato-based— have been relatively ineffective at lowering cholesterol. Although the low-fat vegetarian diet lowered LDL cholesterol 16 percent, it raised triglycerides 18.7 percent, and the LDL/HDL ratio remained unchanged, reflecting minimal overall improvement.1

The ETL approach differed in that the LDL cholesterol was more significantly lowered (33 percent) without unfavorable impact on HDL or triglycerides, reflecting sizable improvement in reducing the risk of heart attack. ETL simply is the most cardio-protective dietary approach one can follow, which is of crucial importance since diabetics have such an increased cardiac risk.

Exposure to advanced glycation end products

Another reason why typical vegetarian diets are not ideal for diabetics is they are not designed to avoid exposure to advanced glycation end products (AGEs). There is a huge body of literature documenting that the high sugar in the bloodstream in diabetics promotes the formation of AGEs in the body as the sugars react with body proteins. The formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) on connective tissue and within cells stiffens and ages your blood vessels and accelerates aging throughout the body. AGEs are a significant causal factor of the horrible side effects of diabetes, such as blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes.The chemical modifications of cells that occur as a result of the accumulation of AGEs are one of the primary hallmarks of aged and diseased tissues.

But the accumulation of AGEs in the body does not result solely from increased sugar in the bloodstream. AGEs also are formed when starchy foods are cooked at higher temperatures, causing molecular rearrangement. Acrylamides are an example of AGEs that occur from cooking carbohydrates—such as potatoes and grains—in the absence of water. The higher the temperature, the more these toxic compounds are formed. Neither acrylamides nor other AGEs are formed when vegetables are steamed or cooked in soups.

Refined carbohydrates in bakery products and processed foods can cause heart attacks even in people who are not diabetic,2 but these products are even more dangerous for diabetics, since diabetics are more sensitive to the damaging effects of AGEs. Vegetarians (my wife calls them “vegjunktarians”) who eat large quantities of cooked starches and honey were found to have higher measurable levels of AGEs than people eating a more omnivorous diet.3 To be lifespan-promoting and diabetic-reversing, vegetarian diets must be designed to minimize exposure to large amounts of cooked starches and simple sugars. In addition, they must be very high in fiber to maximize glucose lowering. My high-nutrient ETL approach meets all of these criteria. Continue Reading...

Health Points: Monday

Scientists engineered mice to have body temperatures 0.5 to 0.9 degrees lower than normal mice. Female experimental mice lived a median of 662 days — about 112 days longer than normal female mice. Male mice survived a median of 805 days — 89 days longer than their normal counterparts.
"An increasing number of Chinese are eating more fat and junk food but less grains and vegetables, leading to a high number of cases of high blood pressure and diabetes," Pan was quoted as telling a conference on food consumption and health in Beijing.
Matthew Turner, author of a new and controversial study on the topic, acknowledges that in the last three years, roughly a dozen studies have taken statistical snapshots of where people live and how heavy they are — most reporting that people who live in sprawling neighborhoods tend, on average, to be fatter.
"We've done standard interviews with people who've become ill with this organism and with well people in the same communities, and we've identified tomatoes eaten in restaurants as the cause of this outbreak," Dr. Christopher Braden, chief of outbreak response and surveillance in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Foodborne Branch, said during a teleconference.
John Whipple, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, called the proposal costly and unconstitutional. He also said it would penalize eateries for providing nutritional information voluntarily.
"Restaurants should be encouraged in their health education efforts, not dissuaded from such effort by misplaced regulatory policies," Whipple said in written testimony to the New York City Board of Health.
Belly fat is more dangerous than general weight gain, because abdominal and visceral fat — found surrounding the internal organs — is more clearly and strongly linked with disease than general body fat.

Friday: Food Points

Moreover, women who were prone to binge-eating problems often overindulged when eating out. One-third of their bingeing "episodes" over the two-week study occurred in a restaurant, according to findings published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.
  • Jennifer from Vegan Lunch Box is at it again, with this very scary LUNCH BOX OF DOOM! Tremble before the shrunken heads, mummy calzone, and the bucket of blood! Igor! Fetch me some cruciferous vegetables! Check it out:
Cue the scary music and ghost sounds, because it's time for the Halloween Lunch Box! It's a ghastly Mummy Calzone on a bed of mummy wrappings (torn paper towel), with a bucket of blood (pizza sauce) for dipping.
Swiss chard and kale are just amazing. We've had a little frost and a lot of cold nights in the high 30's but still they grow, in containers! In theory they should die off quicker in containers because the soil cools more quickly but they didn't get the memo. I wonder how long I can keep them going?
  • Okay, one of my major vices is sushi. If it wasn’t for all the contamination I’d probably eat it all the time. FatFree Vegan Kitchen has come up with a wonderful alternative. Behold the Sushi Salad:
I enjoy making sushi--and my family enjoys eating it. But sometimes I want the taste of sushi without the time and effort it takes to roll it. One way I get around the task of making sushi rolls is to have "Roll Your Own" nights: I'll prepare the rice and fillings and cut the sheets of nori into quarters, and we'll each make our own little cones of sushi right at the table. Kids love making their own sushi, so I really recommend this activity to parents whose kids aren't sure about sushi yet; it will probably turn them into sushi lovers.
Both growers and retailers say there is wide agreement that the industry needs better methods for establishing and enforcing food safety practices, though some question whether such a program can be in place by the Dec. 15 deadline set by the retailers and distributors.

"We can't maintain the status quo," said Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Assn., a trade group of produce shippers, processors, distributors and other suppliers. "And we can't have any more mistakes."

Bar Food and You

Last month Seattle Times reporter Charles Stuart Platkin “helped” us decide which stadium foods are the healthiest—things like pizza and hotdogs. Don’t remember? Or did you just block that article from your memory. Here’s a refresher:
Hot dog vs. pizza vs. sausage and peppers
A regular hot dog with mustard is your best bet, totaling about 290 calories: 180 for the 2-ounce dog, 110 for the bun and virtually no calories for regular yellow mustard. Sauerkraut adds another 5-10 calories (2 tablespoons), ketchup adds 30 (2 tablespoons) and relish another 40 (2 tablespoons). Just be aware of the foot-long hotdogs sold at many stadiums, which can have double the calories in both frankfurter and bun, bringing the grand total to 580 without any toppings. Pizza at the stadium is a bit larger than a typical slice, about one-sixth of a 16-inch pie (rather than one-eighth), which comes to 435 calories per slice. And the sausage-and-pepper sandwich is about the same — 430 calories for 5 ounces, including the bun.
Well, Stewie’s at it again, this time he’s on a mission to prevent you from blowing up when you belly up at the bar. Brace yourself Eat to Livers, it’s about to get rough! Here are your choices, pick the best one, onion rings, French fries, garlic bread, buffalo wings, quesadillas, mozzarella sticks—the list goes on and on! It’s madness, what exactly is the “best” out of this list? Let’s see what Platkin suggests in one of his comparisons:
Mozzarella sticks vs. fried calamari vs. fried zucchini
Fried calamari usually comes in a hefty 3-cup serving — that's about 900 calories before you even start using the mayonnaise-based dipping sauce. And although each 1-ounce mozzarella stick has about 90 calories, you'll probably wind up eating at least four or five — and that's 360 to 450 calories.

The better choice is a 5-ounce serving of fried zucchini, which has 320 calories.
Okay, I’ll give the guy credit here, at least he picked something with some phytonutrients, but the zucchini has been fried to death. So I’m not even sure it’s worth eating. (And where does calamari come with mayonnaise?) Platkin’s system of food evaluation in this article is exactly the same as the previous article; food selections are based mainly on calorie content—as if that’s the only thing to consider!

No pun intended, but I don’t think this a healthy way of looking at. Calories aren’t the only thing to keep in mind. With that being said—and I’m putting my Eating to Live on the Outside hat on again—if the bar serves unsalted bar-nuts, I’d go with that. Regardless of calories, I’m not going anywhere near cheese, fried chicken, nachos, or whatever other garbage they serve. I’ll stick with the nuts, their calorie content, and their healthy fats. So phooey!

Then again, if you’re an Eat to Liver, what the heck would you be doing in a bar anyway?

Trans Fat and Rat Poop

You’ve read the papers right? Trans fat, not so good for you. Dr. Fuhrman doesn’t like it, Chicago wants to ban it, New York City is thinking about banning it—but can it be likened to rat poop? The Daily Intelligencer has more:
The city Health Department doesn't recall ever likening eating trans fats to eating spoiled food or rodent droppings, but officials say they must simply have meant that if the stuff were outlawed, violators would be subject to the same fines as those who serve contaminated eats. For the record, though, consuming rodent waste can lead to contracting the deadly hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which can look like the flu but soon clog your lungs with thick fluid. And the effects of eating rotten food can run the gamut from a nasty taste in your mouth to the runs to truly serious illnesses like listeriosis and salmonella.

Heart Disease in Young Children

I admit, kind of a dramatic title, but not without merit. In Disease-Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman points out that an unhealthy diet early in life sets the stage for coronary atherosclerosis and heart disease later in life. He’s a refresher from the book:
There is considerable evidence that the lipoprotein abnormalities (high LDL and low HDL) that are linked to heart attack deaths in adulthood begin to develop in early childhood and that higher cholesterol levels eventually get “set” by early food habits.1 What we eat during our childhood affects our lifetime cholesterol levels. For many, changing the diet to a plant-based, low-saturated-fat diet in later life does not result in the favorable cholesterol levels that would have been seen if the dietary improvements were started much earlier in life.
And don't forget exercise. According to Reuters a new study has revealed teens that get a minimum of ninety minutes of exercise three times a week reduce their cardiovascular risk. The results are pretty amazing, here’s an excerpt:
After six months, tests showed that the exercisers had improved the flexibility of their arteries, allowing these vessels to carry more oxygen-rich blood. Moreover, the already expanded inner layer of their arteries had shrunk.

The exercisers also lowered their cholesterol levels and blood pressure and lost weight.
Good thing my folks had me playing soccer and little league when I was a kid. The researchers do point out that primary obstacle to all this is teen’s low perseverance and motivation to exercise. Maybe you could just do what my father did, hold my Nintendo hostage until I worked up a sweat.
Continue Reading...

Salmonella Outbreak, We Hardly Knew You

Well just when I was gearing up to blog continuously about yesterday’s salmonella outbreak, it appears to be over. Healthday News reports that even though officials are still trying to pinpoint the source, it is no longer a major public health concern. Amanda Gardner has more:
Reports of the illness peaked in late September, according to David Acheson, chief medical officer of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That suggests the outbreak is over, and there is no continuing public health risk, he added.

"Whatever was contaminated that caused the illness, it has either been consumed, destroyed or thrown out. So the suggestion there is a need to put out a consumer warning about produce on the shelf is unwarranted. It seems to be past," Acheson told the Associated Press.
Oh salmonella, ya’ could’a been-a contenda’.

Contamination in Farm-Raised Salmon

From the March 2004 edition of Dr. Fuhrman’s Healthy Times:

A new study has found surprisingly high levels of PCBs and dioxin in farm-raised salmon.1

The study analyzed toxic contaminants in 700 salmon collected in markets in 16 cities in Europe and North America. PCBs were found to average 36.6 parts per billion. Researchers found that levels of both dioxin and PCBs were about 10 times higher in farm-raised salmon than in wild salmon. European-raised salmon was the most contaminated.

Not unexpectedly, American health officials’ response was that this level of contamination should not stop consumers from eating salmon. But, why should consumers unnecessarily expose themselves to known toxic carcinogens? We do not have to consume salmon to get our needed EPA and DHA fat.

If you eat salmon, eat only the wild Alaskan variety. If you eat fish once a week, use mostly the lower-fat, less contaminated fish, such as tilapia. Take DHA in supplements, rather than depending on toxic fish.

Risk analysis indicates that consumption of farmed Atlantic salmon may pose health risks that detract from the beneficial effects of fish consumption.
Continue Reading...