Articles Posted in Nutrition

tday-300x141With the launch of a season of eating, drinking, getting together with friends and family, and celebrating, it may be worth a moment to ponder how to keep those you care most about as healthy and safe as possible, but with a good dollop of fun too. Herewith some suggestions:

Food safety

When it comes to the centerpiece of Thanksgiving — the festive eating — hygiene and moderation matter. Nothing would ruin the holiday more than to sicken the guests, right? So, cooks and their helpers should take special care to keep their hands washed, the tools and prep areas sanitary, and to ensure that the food gets handled correctly, especially in thawing and thoroughly cooking the turkey and stuffing. It may seem counter intuitive, but experts warn against rinsing the turkey or any other fowl that might be store-bought and served. That’s because the birds get cleaned as part of the processing and rinsing with warm water may only spread microbial contaminants all around the kitchen. The key to kill off harmful bugs, by the way, rests in cooking foodstuffs for long enough and at high enough temperatures to ensure they’re safe to eat. Consult those published recipes carefully. Cooks need to plan well, so they get various menu items in and out of the stove and oven, so hungry diners get their fill at the appointed time.

eatingseniors-300x131To the myriad struggles that residents of nursing homes endure, from poor health to inattentive staff, add this new one:  “crappy conditions” in kitchens and other areas where their food gets prepared and served.

Marjie Lundstrom, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, conducted a five-month, nationwide investigation for the consumer web site Fair Warning, with the results also shared by NBC News. The dirty dig found this about nursing home food prep:

“Flies buzzing the under cooked hamburgers. Cockroaches scurrying for cover behind the oven. A moldy ice machine. Mystery debris, clinging to the crevices of a meat slicer. Hundreds of mouse droppings, trailing across the hood of the stove. These incidents are not logged in any restaurant inspector’s notebook. They are among the thousands of food safety violations discovered in the last three years in America’s nursing homes, where fragile residents can least tolerate such lapses. While allegations of elder abuse and neglect dominate the horror stories in long-term care settings — bedsores, falls, medication errors, sexual assaults — food handling remains a consistent and often overlooked hazard …”

broillondonwikipedia-300x225The elite of public health organizations are up in arms about a new report from a group of international researchers who looked at red meat and its health benefits and harms, and more or less shrugged. The new take goes like this, reported the New York Times:

“If there are health benefits from eating less beef and pork, they are small, the researchers concluded. Indeed, the advantages are so faint that they can be discerned only when looking at large populations, the scientists said, and are not sufficient to tell individuals to change their meat-eating habits.”

That view, of course, contradicts what public health and nutrition experts have recommended for years, and so blue-chip health outfits like the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health condemned the researchers for supporting what now may be akin to a health heresy.

bestdrink-300x150Milk and water — it’s that simple. That’s the latest and official recommendation for what children 5 and younger mostly should drink.

For parents, if any doubt persists, that advice comes from leading health authorities, including Healthy Eating Research, a nutrition advocacy group funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The group developed the kids’ drink guidelines with the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

The experts cautioned grown-ups about giving children sugary drinks, including, in a sure-to-be-contested suggestion, recommending a hard cap on fruit juices: for 100% juice, less than a cup a day.

jessicaknoll-150x150elliekrieger-150x150Moderation matters in all things, though its proponents often seem to get shoved aside by more extreme views. Now there is welcome new push-back against wellness hype by those who instead want science- and evidence-based approaches to health and nutrition to prevail.

In separate and unrelated expressions of their points of view, novelist Jessica Knoll (in a New York Times Op-Ed) and dietitian and nutritionist Ellie Krieger (in a Washington Post column) both take after the way that a certain chic crowd tries to get Americans — women especially — to adopt what they say is wrong thinking about food and eating.

Krieger (shown, above left) calls it cringe-worthy that individuals focusing on diet and nutrition reflexively now apply loaded, moralistic terms to food like good, bad, dirty, and unclean. She describes the problem she and others in the field have with this:

noop-300x158Seniors and their friends and companions should consider reality versus magical thinking about the power of pills. The blunt truth: Over-the-counter dietary supplements can’t cure diseases. Not  Alzheimer’s, not cancer, not diabetes, not any known disease. They don’t extend your lifespan either.

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration, not only has warned a dozen companies to stop making reckless health claims about supplements, he also told Congress his agency needs greater authority to regulate what the New York Times reported has become a “$40 billion industry, which sells as many as 80,000 kinds of powders and pills with little federal scrutiny. These products range from benign substances like vitamin C or fish oil to more risky mineral, herbal and botanical concoctions that can be fatal.”

Gottlieb told the newspaper that regulators have been reluctant to rein in the wildfire spread of supplements and their wilder claims. But the public health is at such risk now that Congress must step in.

brady-281x300If you’re such a die-hard fan you slogged through that pro football championship that was perfect for the new Year of the Boar, please don’t be so sheepish in your celebrity adoration as to get gulled by quarterback Tom Brady’s health and diet bunk.

His oddball theories well might go into a flaming dumpster, along with  notions about special drinks and excess hydration, and yet more broadcast goop from that princess of health woo, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Sure, Brady’s Superbowl LIII win may have made him the goat (greatest of all time) in National Football League history with six rings. He got there, and may stay there, not only with rare individual gifts, hard work, and special talents, but also with peculiar practices, as Vox, an online news site reported:

diabetesteststrips-300x200Doctors, hospitals, health officials, and disease advocacy groups race to warn about diabetes’ risks, harms, and increasing prevalence. But why, then, doesn’t modern medicine also do much more to help diabetics with the skyrocketing costs of their care, whether with insulin at excessive prices or with  expensive medical aids?

Ted Alcorn of the New York Times drilled down on one slice of diabetes care to capture how medical profiteering distorts what ought to be a more direct, simple, and less pricey treatment for a disease that afflicts as many as 100 million Americans in varying degree.

He reported on the “strange marketplace” for the chemical-imbued plastic strips diabetics use to test their blood sugar, inserting them into specialized meters for glucose readings. Before diabetics adjust their diet or take insulin, they may test themselves with strips and meters as many as 10 times a day. The costs add up. Diabetics can pay thousands of dollars annually to get test strips over the counter.

chickenwash-300x107Here’s hoping the season stays merry for all and that holidays are relaxing, restful, and healthful. A few tips to stay on the right side of health and safety:

  • Be sure to follow best practices when it comes to food hygiene and safety. Do wash fruits and vegetables to rid them of surface contaminants, including dirt and pesticides. This isn’t foolproof and doesn’t clear these products of all bacteria that can cause foodborne illness — far from it. But washing does help. As for raw meat and poultry, don’t for cleanliness’ sake rinse it, then pat it dry. This just spreads contaminants all around the kitchen, food scientists have found. And, tempting though it may be, don’t eat that cookie or cake dough, and don’t think that baking recalled products might make them safe.
  • Don’t give necklaces, bracelets, or anklets to ease the tooth discomfort experienced by babies or children with special needs: The federal Food and Drug Administration has warned this jewelry can be risky for the vulnerable, noting instances in which they have experienced “choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth and infection.” The agency also cautioned that amber teething necklaces contain “succinic acid, which allegedly may be released into an infant’s blood stream in unknown quantities. Manufacturers of these products often claim succinic acid acts as an anti-inflammatory and relieves teething and joint pain. The FDA has not evaluated these claims for safety or effectiveness and recommends parents not use these products.” The agency issued its warning after a 7-month old choked to death on a wooden teething bracelet while under parental supervision, and an 18-month old was fatally strangled by his amber teething necklace during a nap. The FDA also reminded that it urges caregivers to “avoid using teething creams, benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges for mouth and gum pain. Benzocaine and other local anesthetics can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is reduced. This condition is life-threatening and can result in death.” Pediatricians say that discomfort to teething can be eased with adults offering a gentle gum massage with a clean finger or by giving babies a hard rubber ring to chew.
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