Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

A friend and I were discussing the documentary That Sugar Film the other day and she asked me about the claim in the movie that artificial sweeteners were bad for you, too, because they actually made you eat more.

I couldn’t recall exactly what was said in the film, but decided to do a little research on my own to answer her question.

The FDA-approved artificial sweeteners are saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), neotame, sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame K (Sweet One) and stevia (Truvia).

Because they are “low-energy” sweeteners and don’t contain any calories, it seems a no brainer … Continue reading

HPV and cancer

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month.

Following the recommended guidelines for Pap smears is a good way to find and treat cervical cancer early, when it’s basically curable.

A Pap smear is one of the few screening tests for which there is good evidence that it’s effective, plus it’s relatively cheap and painless.

The American Cancer Society, The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all recommend the following:

  • No screening before age 21.
  • Screening every 3 years between ages 21-29 with Pap smear only, no HPV testing. (The rate of
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First aid for choking

I read a post by a pediatrician last week that gave her opinion that while our government is throwing a lot of money at new nutritional guidelines in an attempt to “fight” childhood obesity, it’s ignoring another food-related danger: choking.

Childhood aspiration (or choking) on food is a major public health issue. Anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year in the U.S. alone, after having suffered a food-choking accident. Hundreds die each year, either in the hospital or before they make it in the door. Most of these kids are under the age of 5, and

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Tips for the doctor’s office

A pediatrician posted some useful advice to parents on KevinMD: 4 mistakes parents make in the pediatrician’s office

With office visit’s getting shorter, and co-pays getting costlier, it’s more important than ever to make sure each visit counts, and communication is efficient.

What struck me when reading her post was that these tips easily apply to patients of all ages, and any doctor in any specialty.

I encourage you to read the whole post, but in short her tips are:

1. Come prepared.

[W]e aren’t mind readers, and we have a limited amount of time. It’s frustrating when people don’t

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In favor of childhood vaccines

zuckerbergIt was a nice surprise to see a celebrity use the power of social media to speak in favor of getting children vaccinated.

Well, not so much speak as show. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, recently posted this cute photo of himself and his baby daughter at the pediatrician’s office. He simply wrote “time for vaccines”, but surely he realized that he was encouraging his millions of “friends” with kids to vaccinate, as well.

As you can imagine, he received both likes and dislikes for his post.

The Washington Continue reading

Kids and codeine cough syrup

Last month, a medical advisory group to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted “overwhelmingly” to limit the sale of codeine products without a prescription and advised drugs containing codeine should not be used to treat children or the majority of teens suffering from pain or a cough.” [my emphasis]

I knew you could buy codeine painkillers and cough syrups in Canada, but apparently you can in 28 states, as well. The FDA hasn’t acted on the advisory committee’s recommendation yet, so these products are still available over the counter.

Parents—be especially cautious when buying cough or cold medications … Continue reading

What is shallow water blackout?

Last week a young college student drowned.

Normally I wouldn’t have paid much attention to the media surrounding this tragic event—Dartmouth swimmer dies in pool mishap on vacation—but sadly the young man happens to be the son of friends.

He was a life-long swimmer and was on his university’s swim team; the least likely person, you would think, to drown.

But I learned something about a potential danger to young swimmers, and want to help raise awareness about  “shallow water blackout.”

Experienced and competitive swimmers are most at risk, as they may challenge themselves or others to do … Continue reading

Stay healthy – FDA tips for colds and flu

fda healthy winter season psaCold and flu season is in full swing!

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released a public service announcement with tips to help people stay healthy this winter.

In addition to what we already know—but the basics bear repeating—such as get a flu shot and wash your hands frequently, their web page Get Set For a Healthy Winter Season also provides information about what to do if you’re already sick, how to choose over-the-counter (OTC) cold and flu products, and when you should seek medical care.

Related post: Be informed – The best cold and flu medicines

The … Continue reading

“That Sugar Film”

that sugar filmIt probably wasn’t the best idea to watch this documentary just a few days before one of the most sugar-laden holidays of the year.

On the other hand, I will definitely be more conscious about how much sugar I eat and will hopefully avoid a huge sugar hangover—that slightly sick, tired, yucky feeling I get after eating too many sweet foods.

That Sugar Film is one of several sugar documentaries that have come out recently that attempt to show us just how bad sugar is for our health.

Related story from Time: Sugar is definitely toxic, a new study saysContinue reading

Antidepressants and autism

Women who take common antidepressants while pregnant have a slightly higher risk of their children developing autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This study was just released by JAMA Pediatrics.

Use of antidepressants, specifically selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, during the second and/or third trimester increases the risk of ASD in children, even after considering maternal depression. Further research is needed to specifically assess the risk of ASD associated with antidepressant types and dosages during pregnancy.

SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, include Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and Sertraline (Zoloft).

They are by far the … Continue reading

Handwashing Awareness Week

I just learned that it’s National Handwashing Awareness Week!

That works in nicely with it also being National Flu Vaccination Week, as handwashing is your first line of defense against not only the flu virus, but all sorts of germs.

Related post: Handwashing 101

henry the handThe Henry the Hand Prevention Program, in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), offers these 4 Principles of Hand Awareness:

1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and BEFORE eating
2. DO NOT cough into your hands
3. DO NOT sneeze into your hands
4. Above all, DO NOT

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2015 National Influenza Vaccination Week

Every fall I post my recommendation that everyone get a flu shot.

In support of this week being National Influenza Vaccination Week (what, you haven’t heard?), here is a pretty cool animated video from NPR: Flu Attack! How A Virus Invades Your Body

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which sponsors Vaccination Week, offers these key points on their seasonal flu webpage:

  • CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza disease.
  • CDC and its partners want
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Antibiotics still overprescribed

antibioticsThe overuse of antibiotics continues to be a big problem in this country, and do you know who doctors blame? The patients.

That’s right. Doctors know that antibiotics don’t work against the common viruses that cause colds, flu, coughs and sore throats, but many admit they prescribe them anyway when patients ask for them.

In a five or ten minute office visit, doctors don’t feel they have time to explain the difference between a virus and a bacteria, and how overuse of antibiotics causes the very real problem of antibiotic resistance. So they do what’s easiest, fastest, and results in … Continue reading

Don’t self diagnose food allergies

When you go to the grocery store is your cart full of “free” foods, such as soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, etc.?

With so many of these products being heavily marketed, and poor health information being widely spread on the internet through Facebook, blogs and other social networking sites, it’s easy to make assumptions about food allergies for your and/or your children.

Common symptoms that everyone gets occasionally—nausea, diarrhea, acne, fatigue, weight gain, rashes, and sinusitis—are frequently misdiagnosed as food allergies or intolerances.

I have had many friends over the years who have told me they or one of … Continue reading

Seasonal flu shots

It’s October and time for my annual reminder for everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu shot!

Flu season typically runs from November to March, but no one can predict with accuracy exactly when the first cases will start showing up or when the season will end—sometimes as early as October to as late as May. It’s unpredictable as well how severe the upcoming flu season will be, so just assume it will be a bad and early flu season and prepare accordingly.

In other words, get your flu shot now. And remember to always wash your Continue reading