Articles Posted in Nutrition

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.

turkey-248x300As we all race to groaning tables for one of the traditional and happier holidays of the year, here’s hoping the turkeys stay brown, tasty, and on the table. Sadly, food poisoning is a real issue, and not just for worry-warts.

Cooks preparing this major feast may want to keep watch on growing reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about salmonella outbreaks tied to turkey.

As the Washington Post reported:

blueberries-300x225Foolishness about food and its health effects can run not only into the negative — the sky will fall if you even nibble on meat, butter, or eggs! — but also into extremes about its purported benefits. Which is why, as recent news reports indicate, skepticism and care need to be exercised about probiotics, so-called “super foods,” and, yes, once again, the supposed virtues of organic produce.

Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist, tackled the myths that surround probiotics in a recent piece for the New York Times’, evidence-based “Upshot” column.

He reported that one fundamental problem in assessing the many benefits attributed to these food nostrums rests in their proliferation and confusion as to what exactly the are: Must probiotics be live cultures of organisms that are supposed to be safe and beneficial to normal activities that occur in the gut? Or can they be dietary supplements and non-living materials that can be delivered in powders and capsules? What exactly is in probiotics and how safe are they? That’s murky — and risky, he says, noting that these materials have caused illnesses and deaths.

supplements-300x200
Same story, new data, and a message that needs repeating: Over-the-counter supplements — sold as safe alternatives to prescription drugs for weight loss, muscle building, and sexual enhancement — may be risky and not beneficial to your health. Indeed, many of them are adulterated with strong prescription drugs.

As the Washington Post reported of a newly published study:

Researchers found unapproved and sometimes dangerous drugs in 746 dietary supplements, almost all of them marketed for sexual enhancement, weight loss or muscle growth … [A scientific] review of a Food and Drug Administration database of contaminated supplements for the years 2007 to 2016 most commonly turned up sildenafil — the drug sold as Viagra — and other erectile dysfunction drugs in sex enhancement products; sibutramine and the laxative phenolphthalein, both banned by the FDA, in weight-loss supplements; and steroids or their analogues in muscle-building products. About 80 percent of the supplements were contaminated by one pharmaceutical that should not have been in the product. Twenty percent contained at least two such drugs, and two of the supplements contained six unapproved drugs. One product contained a drug that raises blood pressure and another drug that lowers it. Despite these contaminants, fewer than half the products were recalled.

bigmac-300x259Americans can’t stop chowing down on fast foods, despite years of warnings about their health harms.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 36.6 percent of Americans — 37.9 percent of men and 35.4 percent of women — eat some kind of fast food on any given day.

As the Los Angeles Times reported:

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