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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Health

Did you notice that there was a hurricane up the eastern seaboard recently? Unless your head was in the sand you surely heard endless news reports on the minute by minute movement of Irene.  Although some sadly lost their lives and major damage was done in a number of areas the hype may have been greater than the storm itself.

Since hurricane Katrina newscasters in true Hollywood fashion have seemed desperate to cover Katrina II the sequel. So they spent the last few days covering hurricane Irene searching for the devastation and looting. In a twenty four hour a day news cycle the coverage has to be filled with something so as is usually the case the bad news leads. So the fear gets repeated and the facts are left out.

This manner of reporting is also how issues of health are often told. The bad news and the fearful things make great splashes across the headlines while the not so interesting truth is resigned to a below the fold position next to the obituaries. Moreover the worst case scenarios and exceptions are often heralded as the rule of the day. To illustrate this consider the so called obesity epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and their compatriots in the fear mongering media made great fanfare of the findings in a 2005 study that they said showed 400,000 Americans die each year from and obesity related maladies. No doubt news headlines were filled with mantras like “fat kills” and “the bigger you are the sooner you will die”. The truth that these findings were dubious however did not make the same flash on the nightly news when or if they were later reported.

In a much less publicized PDF file explanation buried deep on their website the CDC later admitted the fallacy of the 2005 study saying “we will no longer use the previous estimate of deaths from poor nutrition and physical inactivity”. Instead they will stand behind a complex computer model that estimates obesity related deaths at somewhere around 112, 000 per year.

So the truth is that relatively few people die from causes directly related to obesity. How is this true, because computer modeling and estimating risk based on assumptions amounts to little more than voodoo science? Another truth that is glaringly obvious is that true science has been replaced with a tendency to manipulate data to fit previously held assumptions. This should never pass for science, especially tax payer funded science.   

In truth are there some whose life and health are negatively affected by their weight? Yes, but is that even close to a majority? Does it even come close to an epidemic? No and many including Thom Naughton whose documentary Fat Head, Dr. Glen Gaesser and his book Big Fat Lies as well as yours truly are beginning to show that weight and health may not be as inextricably related as once thought.

So the truth is that the truth is not always the headline. The truth requires a little digging to find and a little courage to believe.

And that’s the way it is…    

Saturday, August 27, 2011

99 Ways To Live To 100!

Recently someone shared these 99 tips on living to 100 with me. Although eating and good nutrition play a part in longevity there are a few other things we can do to live strong and long. Which of these are you doing? Also please note that all 99 of these tips encourages YOU to do something not wait for someone to do it for you.

Unlock your mind. Shoot for the moon. Practice patience. Watch your weight. Catch a firefly. Clear the clutter. Play tag. Tango as a twosome. Fish for fun. Talk with a teen. Lighten someone’s load. Laugh aloud. Be spontaneous. Master technology. Seek wisdom. Trash the tobacco. Plant a tree. Count your cholesterol. Walk the mall. Wish on a star. Love thy neighbor. Stay in control. Ask about aspirin. Get in gear-volunteer. Munch an apple. Lift weights. Solve a puzzle. Search for hidden treasure. Run the treadmill. Create a masterpiece. Believe in miracles. Seek shade. Toss a salad. Jump rope. Fooey on fats. Escape with a book. Turn off the TV. Dance to the beat. Sing out loud. Hold Hands. Quit liquor. Cut caffeine. Picnic in the park. Whistle a tune. Drink your water. Fill up on fiber. Learn from your grandkids. Stay on your toes. Find the big dipper. Surprise a friend. Play outdoors. Drive responsibly. Glory in gardening. Go to a movie. Slow down on salt. Fasten your seatbelt. Pamper yourself. Date your spouse. Dare to dress flashy. Golf with gusto. Swim like a fish. Invent a new game. Bone up on calcium. Be a good buddy. Re-read the classics. Rejoice at the sunrise. Fly a kite. Do self exams. Meditate to music. Keep a journal. Try tai-chi. Bike to the bank. Overcome fears. Pet your pet. Dare to dream. Fly a balloon. Throw a snowball. Laugh out loud. Do what the doc says. Write your memoirs. Get your eyes checked. Stretch those limbs. Watch out for scams. Forgive and forget. Add spices to your life. Shoot the flu bug. Memorize a poem. Show up for checkups. Respect the sun. Stand up straight. Don’t choke on smoke. Focus on food labels. Catch up on sleep. Surf the internet. Relish the rain. Heave ho heavy woes. Bless your abundance. Celebrate simplicity. Look for love in all places. Down with blood pressure. Celebrate differences. Welcome change. Take a hike. Savor the sunset. Believe in yourself. Live it up.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everyone Is Doing It!

Between the tender age of 20 and the ripe old age of 65 some will lose their hair, some their eye sight and others their mind but all of us will gain weight. The normal aging process takes a lot from us but leaves us well supplied with the proverbial spare tire or two in the middle. The question is why.

Theories posited by those in the health establishment range from hormonal imbalance to loss of muscle tissue to being less physically active. Some scientists and researchers admit however that the true reason for the phenomenon is elusive. Given that fact it could be plausible to assert that weight gain is a natural part of the aging process. Even those who remain physically active and health conscious in their retirement years still weigh more than they did in high school.

One of the hallmarks of true science is the ability to accurately predict things that occur. Medical science for example banks on the idea of predicting how the body will react to pathogens and medicines. Therefore if it is accurately predictable that we gain weight as we age then that should be referred to as a natural phenomenon. Yet the lion’s share of information disseminated by the health establishment is to lose weight. In fact strict guidelines have been set in place to guide us toward maintaining a thinner frame. Is science fighting against nature in this case?

Anyone who has cared for an elderly person knows instinctively that weight loss is one of the tell tale signs of a problem. When my grandmother was ill some years ago she began to lose weight rapidly. Her doctor instructed that she immediately be put on a high fat high calorie diet for rapid weight gain. She put back those pounds, plumped back up and did much better. Weight loss is not a panacea of good health.

During my clinical work there was a patient in his mid sixties with a rather serious illness. After several surgeries he spent a number of weeks in intensive care on a ventilator. Prior to his illness he was a big man who by current standards would have been considered overweight and perhaps obese. During rounds one day the doctor attending his case noted that he might not have made it if he hadn’t been such a big fellow to start with. During a serious illness such as this the body uses its reserves rapidly so the more you have the better you will be in such cases. This is a good example of how weight can be beneficial.

Extremely obese individuals may experience health issues related to weight but they account for only about 5% of the cases of so called obesity. The rest of us non skinny people may have a spare tire but are not impaired from engaging in an active life.

Could it be that all of the talk of maintaining a certain weight to be able to have a certain level of health and vitality is overblown? If it is natural to gain weight as we age then to try and go against that seems illogical for the purposes of improving health.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Joe Don't Know Nutrition

Quick do you know a recipe for a know nothing self appointed role model? Mine is easy just add one celebrity and take off 100 pounds. Such is the current case with Joseph Antonio Cartagena aka rapper Fat Joe. He like many celebrities who have lost weight has become a self appointed prophet of nutrition and health. His marked weight loss is laudable and remarkable but his knowledge of food and nutrition and the impact they have on health is ridiculous.

A recent feature on the Fox News Latino website attributes the following quotes to rapper, nutritionist and role model Fat Joe. First he said “Restaurants can be an anathema to eating the right foods, they give you like a pound of rice and think they are looking out for you but they are killing you”.

Joe then implies that people are dying young from eating fried foods and a lot of rice.

To crystallize his message as a newly crowned food guru Joe declares that “The biggest killer of people is food”. Food he says kills more people that AIDS, gun violence or war. 

Finally while on he was still on a roll Joe cleared the air instructing us that “Carbs is what’s giving you the diabetes and what’s giving people heart attacks!

Allow me to respond to each claim in order. First restaurants are not in the business of looking out for your health they are in business to make money. Also consider that when you make rice at home it is next to impossible to make only what is needed for the ½ to 1 cup portion recommended by nutrition experts. In both cases nothing stops you from only eating what you need! If you get a pound of rice at a restaurant or happen to cook a pound at home if you don’t need it don’t eat it.  I wonder if Joe would consider his mother an anathema for serving too much rice.

Next if people are dying from eating fried foods and too much rice and that fact were obvious to the rest of us wouldn’t we stop eating those foods? People don’t tend to do things that are obviously harmful to them. So if eating an order of fries or a doughnut is going to kill me today then no thanks. If I eat fries and live to 80 can the fries be blamed? Sorry to inform Joe but on the whole we are living longer and healthier lives despite eating fried foods.

Then we learn that the biggest killer of people is food. Hmmm even I am at a loss for words to write at that statement. The fact is that most people, no matter what they eat live into old age. The Centers for Disease Control reported recently that 3 out of 4 deaths occur in the elderly. Furthermore that same CDC report said that death rates from heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes have all fallen in recent years. So if someone lives to the ripe old age of 85 or 90 and get sick and dies is this caused by the foods they ate? The fact is we all face death sooner or later and to try and blame everything on supersized fries is a stretch.

Finally if “carbs” give you diabetes then fruits and vegetables of every sort, oatmeal, brown rice and a host of other healthy foods which just so happen to be carb’s should be eliminated from our diet, right. Wrong! Carbohydrates do not cause diabetes or heart disease either for that matter. If you don’t mind sound science crowding your opinions then the fact is all foods can be eaten on a diabetic meal plan. The meal planning manual published by the American Diabetes Association allows for all foods to be a part of an individual meal planning. The part that really must be managed is the amount of carbohydrate. But hasn’t moderation long been the real tenet of maintaining a healthy diet?

The American Diabetes Association website points out that being overweight is not a guarantee of developing diabetes.  In fact the ADA asserts that most overweight people never develop type 2 diabetes and many who have the disease are at a normal body weight.

Interestingly the ADA implicates no one food as causing diabetes. In fact the ADA’s myth busting page points out that a diet high in total calories can lead to weight gain whether those calories are from carbohydrates of fats.

Joe I am not trying to rain on your parade. I really admire your efforts to lose weight and live healthier. Yet since you will be a role model to many given your celebrity status I believe you should have the facts concerning health and nutrition. From now on you stick to rapping and I will cover the nutrition stuff, agree?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Things That Make You Go: Really

This is a post from my weekly Food For Thought column for the Star News.

Pizza, whole fat dairy, salt and anything fried or sugar laden foods make up the unhealthy hall of fame. Consumption of these foods has long been associated with heart disease, diabetes, obesity and nearly every other malady known to plague mankind. These foods are tantamount to the criminal element according to the health Gestapo.
            The real problem with convicting any of the so called food villains is their elusive nature. While some who consume the so called bad foods develop traditionally associated diseases many others do not. Some among us live on a diet of high fat foods with no heart disease, diabetes or any such thing. Could it be that all of the bad foods like all criminals are selective about choose their victims? Perhaps they know who to attack for maximum results. Perhaps the real true nutrition criminal, the godfather so to speak, has not been revealed.
            A recent sting conducted at Harvard School of Public Health may have finally infiltrated the highest levels of the food mob. These researchers have uncovered evidence that implicates white rice as the latest addition to the lot of good health assassins. The study published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that those who ate 3-5 servings of white rice per week were 17% more likely to develop diabetes than those who only ate one serving or less per month.
            Upon deeper consideration this is not all that different from the way other criminals are. White rice like others of its ilk just seems to fit in unassumingly with the rest of their surroundings. Yet shrouded in their everyday camouflage criminals and now we know white rice too are doing their dirty work right under our noses. How could we have been so blind as to let these things happen? It makes one wonder what other culinary culprits are lurking in the pantry and refrigerator just waiting to harm our health.
            On the other hand white rice may find itself just a victim of circumstance. Rather than conducting first hand research before flooding the headlines with white rice guilt the Elliot Nesses at Harvard only drew correlations from other food and nutrition studies. Therefore white rice may only find itself guilty by association. It makes one wonder what other striking correlations the brilliant scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health could uncover regarding other common foods and our health.
            I am ever amazed with the problems and issues facing our country how an institution of higher learning such as Harvard can rationalize the vilification of rice. If we as a people have allowed that low level of scientific discovery to become our obsession we are in a pitiful spot. I am hopeful that this story will disappear as quick as it made the headlines. It is this type of dribble that keeps all of us confused about what to eat.
            My advice is have a little white rice with every meal. That is if you don’t mind hanging with the criminal element.