- The federal Food and Drug Administration couldn’t make it clearer: Companies pushing products with cannabis in them can’t make unfounded claims about their use in treating or “curing” cancer. It’s just rubbish. The agency ordered the makers of dozens of pot-containing products to stop their hype. Savvy consumers also should stop acting as if they’re stoned and giving any credibility to these claims, right?
- The rightly red-faced FDA itself is walking back some of its gullibility about health claims for soy foods and their purported heart healthfulness. The Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports good nutrition, called out the agency, pointing out that recent research demonstrates at best a correlation between soy eating and good heart health. The FDA, which had allowed just a dozen claims of health benefits on food packaging, decided soy’s benefits are insufficient to stay in this glowing group (which includes Vitamin D in cutting osteoporosis risks and fruits and vegetables in cancer reductions). Just to be clear: soy isn’t harmful, it is popular (notably in Asian-based diets), and it is a sound, plant-based protein.
Elmo and the Colonials won’t make it as a new Saturday morning hit cartoon show. But the colorful characters might play a tangential part in some important lessons for consumers and some supposedly serious institutions on preserving the public trust in published, medical-scientific research.
Healthnewsreview.org, a nonprofit and independent watchdog of health information, rightly has taken George Washington University to task for issuing a Pollyannaish, inaccurate news release on a Colonials’ study on whether text messages could help curb expectant moms’ smoking. The hype from the school, about research from GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, first proclaimed:
Text messaging program may help pregnant women kick the smoking habit
Although most of our elders have preached at us from a chapel of common sense, dietary nonsense seems to rain on our heads faster than the autumn leaves. It ought to go without saying that dark chocolate really isn’t a health food. And, to repeat again something that many pregnant women ought to know already: Getting your placenta commercially prepared after your baby’s born, and eating it isn’t a great idea.
Vox, the online news site, deserves credit for debunking a long campaign by candy makers and Big Sugar to persuade consumers that dark cocoa products somehow are “superfoods” like red wine, blueberries, and avocados.
Special interests, Vox reports, have poured tens of millions of dollars into “nutrition research” that purports to show chocolate’s health benefits. The problem is the science here is less than objective and sound: “Here at Vox, we examined 100 Mars-funded health studies, and found they overwhelmingly drew glowing conclusions about cocoa and chocolate — promoting everything from chocolate’s heart health benefits to cocoa’s ability to fight disease.” The Vox story later points out:
If you’re an expectant mom trying to diversify your diet and to eat healthier this summer, two federal agencies are offering evidence-based advice about seafood dining: Use a little caution with servings of certain fish like king mackerel, marlin, shark, swordfish, and bigeye tuna that tend to carry higher levels of problematic mercury.
The federal Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency have teamed up to revise their safe fish guidelines and to offer these in a handy guide to not only pregnant women but to all parents really.
The agencies say that fish can be a tasty, protein- and nutrient-rich part of Americans’ diets with grown-ups and kids encouraged to eat two to three servings or roughly 8- to 12-ounces-per-week. But fish also carry mercury traces, which “can be harmful to the brain and nervous system if a person is exposed to too much of it over time.”
Mocking the vanity, self-absorption, and stupidity of the rich and celebrities may be too feckless a sport. But the tragic spin-offs of the sweeping misinformation their hype mechanisms can generate sometimes just cannot be ignored.
If you can take it, New York magazine has put out a detailed story on “The Wellness Epidemic,” a deep dive into the cult-like affectations of affluent Americans who spend way too much time worrying they might be sick—and dabbling with remedies that might make most readers with an inkling of common sense spit up a little.
Why pay a second’s attention to this hypochondria and Goop, the fantasy empire of wealthy and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow? Because she’s the actress who’s not only selling millions of dollars in beauty supplies and vitamins and supplements of suspect health value, she’s also sharing with a sadly rapt global audience her nonsensical views on the benefits and necessities of fecal transplants and putting a $66 jade egg into one’s private parts.
We love our kids dearly, and most of us would do most anything for them. So why can’t folks with sway get it together to make some straight-forward, common sense changes that would significantly benefit young people? Here are three suggestions, based on recent reports:
- Congress should make clear that it not only supports but it will fund public health research into gun violence, which is killing kids at unacceptable rates.
- Hospitals and surgeons should make public and transparent their surgical volume and outcome data on procedures performed on youngsters.
Although weight issues plague Americans as gravely as anywhere on the planet, obesity also has become a global woe, increasing sharply over the last three decades in 195 countries and afflicting an estimated 604 million adults and 108 million children—roughly 10 percent of the world’s population.
No nation on earth, even with the terrible toll that obesity takes in economic and health terms, has found a way to get its people skinnier and healthier: Weight woes are blowing up in disparate places like Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau, international researchers have reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Obesity is now a major concern, too, for the people of China, Turkey, Venezuela, and Bhutan.
Public health experts worry about the skyrocketing numbers of overweight people around the planet because evidence shows obesity to be a major factor in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other debilitating conditions. These afflictions, combined with weight issues—including among those considered to be too heavy but not necessarily obese—contributed to four million deaths in 2015 alone, said the experts, participating as part of the Global Burden of Disease initiative.
For parents who struggle to ensure their kids eat right, news reports in recent days have offered some notable insights: They may wish to pack school lunches with whole fruit, and be wary of youngsters’ over-consumption of fruit juices. They also may want to cast a skeptical eye on claims for “organic” milk.
And, even as school food programs seem to be making nutritional headway, moms and dads may need to keep a close eye on the lunch rooms due to Trump Administration policy changes.
Although many grownups rightly have sought to exile sugary sweet drinks, especially sodas, from youngsters’ diets, researchers say fruit juice should be substituted sparingly. It should be an occasional treat, not a big part of every meal.
The health care pendulum appears to have taken a bad swing to the extreme with vitamin D. Too many Americans may be taking unnecessary tests to see if they’re deficient of this important nutrient. Too many of us are taking unneeded amounts of it.
Federal experts report that blood tests for vitamin D among Medicare beneficiaries, most 65 and older, increased 83-fold from 2000 to 2010. Testing rates rose 2.5-fold from 2009 to 2014 among those with commercial insurance. Among a recent sample of 800,000 patients in Maine, nearly one in five had at least one test for blood levels of the vitamin over a three-year period. More than a third got two or more tests, often for vague complaints like malaise or fatigue. Labs and doctors are telling patients who have undergone tests and who have readings in the normal range of 20 to 30 nanograms of the vitamin per milliliter of blood that they suffer a deficiency.
This all is leading to what some experts are terming a “pandemic” of over-testing, faulty diagnosis, and excess consumption of a nutrient, based on sparse evidence and misplaced belief that, as the New York Times reports, “vitamin D can help turn back depression, fatigue, and muscle weakness, even heart disease or cancer. In fact, there has never been widely accepted evidence that vitamin D is helpful in preventing or treating any of those conditions.”
It can pay, for example, to be careful about what you eat in this festive time. Researchers at the RAND Corporation have just issued a study that finds that consumers are “more likely to choose unhealthy foods from November to December, and the subsequent holiday pounds they gain account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the weight they gain per year.” We’re all too inclined, the researchers said, to feast on “nutritionally undesirable foods” such as sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolates, cookies, candy, and ice cream, leading to added pounds that, alas, don’t go away quickly or easily. Bah, humbug, perhaps to these findings based on information on eating habits of 400,000 South Africans who were followed for four years? Or maybe the calorie-conscious might want to consider the Washington Post’s menu of party options and alternatives?
Or how about following the New York Times’ timely report on how the holidays—with their increased eating and drinking and staying up late or sleeping in—confuse our livers, those vital organs that researchers say closely follow circadian rhythms as they help to filter the blood and to regulate critical body chemistries to process food and liquids, including alcohol.