Save your money: Vitamins and herbal supplements

save your money and buy healthy foodsBuy healthy food and skip the vitamins

Last week two news stories caught my attention.

First, medical experts have (once again) come out saying that the evidence does not support taking supplemental vitamins to reduce your risk of heart disease or cancer.

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the government panel that provides guidelines to the public on such things as preventive care and screening tests, has recently updated its recommendations for vitamin and mineral supplements.

Looking at a large number of smaller studies (what’s called a meta-analysis), the researchers at the Kaiser Permamente Center for Health … Continue reading

Nutrition is key: “Food, Inc.”

nutrition is keySupermarkets can be scary

Today is Halloween, and I just watched the most terrifying movie!  😯

No, it wasn’t Carrie or Paranormal Activity 4. It was Food, Inc., an exposé of America’s food industry—the multinational, fast-food and junk-food-supporting, animal-abusing, politically-subsidized conglomerations that produce the majority of our food products.

The film maker, Robert Kenner, points out that the average supermarket contains 47,000 items, but most are made by just a handful of giant corporations, such as Coca Cola, Tyson or Proctor & Gamble.

These megacompanies keep hidden some pretty nauseating industry practices. Perhaps they think we are too ignorant … Continue reading

A Brighter future for dental care

brighter dentist serviceDentist shopping made simple

A few weeks ago I posted that I was in the market for a new family dentist. Because I don’t have dental insurance, I am always looking for ways to keep my dental care within budget.

Friends have recommended several dentists to me, and I have been calling these offices and asking about cash discounts. It’s such a hassle and, frankly, a bit embarrassing. I’m not a haggler by nature.

I’ve gotten a variety of responses from “We aren’t accepting new patients” to “We only offer a new patient, first-time discount” to “We can give … Continue reading

How to choose a hospital

In the market for a new hospital?

This last week I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching hospitals online. Why?

First, I recently posted about the book, Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care, which questions the safety standards of American hospitals. The author, Dr. Marty Makary, writes about the difficulties both patients and patient safety advocates have in choosing and evaluating hospitals when the necessary information is not made public.

Second, my family is in the process of choosing both a new insurance plan and a new hospital and doctors. Our… Continue reading

The Sunshine Act

Shining a light on the physician-Big Pharma relationship

One of the little-known laws buried in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which takes effect today.

I understand the impetus of this law, but I am less sure of its positive effect.

The Sunshine Act (the drafters no doubt had a mental image of exposing something slimy to the light) seeks to illuminate the financial relationships between doctors/teaching hospitals and drug companies/medical device manufacturers.

Conflicts of interest and questionable ethics have been problems for years as public funding has decreased and private industry money has … Continue reading

About those hospital rankings…

hospital rankingsUS News & World Report publishes hospital rankings for 2013

And the winner is…Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore! Great, but what does that mean?

Every July US News & World Report publishes a list of what it considers to be the best hospitals in America.

The rankings are mostly based on an analysis of death rates for certain complicated procedures, patient safety statistics acquired from Medicare data, and a physician survey (which hospital do you think is best?)

Because the analysis requires enough patient data to make a judgement, the list is dominated by large, urban, university-affiliated medical centers. Like … Continue reading

Melatonin: Not a sleeping pill for children

The “sleep supplement”

I am a chronically poor sleeper, and I have tried melatonin, the sleep supplement,  in the past. I have friends that swear by it,  but it never worked for me.

Plus, I could never get a straight answer from any source about the therapeutic dosage – 1 mg, 3 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg? Should I only take it as needed, or is melatonin safe to take every night, forever?

As a supplement (it’s actually a hormone), melatonin falls under the extremely loose guidelines of the Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act  (DSHEA) of 1994. It … Continue reading

Weekly rounds June 28, 2013

June 24-28, 2013It seems to have been a busy week in health care news, and I found it difficult to settle on what interested me the most. But here are my picks:

Coke for breakfast?

Apparently that is one of the marketing strategies Coca-Cola is considering to increase its sales in the United Kingdom. It is not clear whether they mean to actually pitch the idea that a Coke would be a great accompaniment to a bowl of oatmeal (maybe an Egg McMuffin) or they mean to develop a new line of beverages to compete with tea and coffee. But sales of … Continue reading

Just the facts, ma’am

Being a responsible consumer

There is a growing trend in health care for patients – consumers – to take more control of their own health care.

This trend is not really new. Ever since drug companies have been allowed to advertise their products on TV (1997), they have urged consumers to “talk to your doctor about [whatever the latest and greatest drug is].” They have been able to continue this practice because the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actually believes them when they say their only goal is to empower “consumers to interact with physicians more effectively.”

Of course the Food … Continue reading

Toothpaste wars

crest sensitivity toothpasteBeware false advertising

As often happens on the internet, while looking for information about one thing, I stumbled across something else I found interesting.

In 2011, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Procter & Gamble for “false labels” on one of their toothpastes. The toothpaste, Crest Sensitivity Treatment & Protection, advertised “relief within minutes” from sensitive tooth pain.

The label promised that users did not “have to wait to enjoy all [their] favorite hot and cold foods.”

Who filed the claim against Procter & Gamble? Colgate-Palmolive, the makers of the line of Colgate toothpastes, including Colgate Sensitive.

The lawsuit … Continue reading

What’s in your toothpaste?

The other day I was in Target shopping for toothpaste, and I thought, “Wow, do Americans really need this many toothpastes?”

At first glance I couldn’t even find the toothpaste I normally use, no doubt because the packaging had changed. It’s probably “new and improved.” Aren’t they all?

Ignoring the hyperbole of “advanced”, “intense” and “extreme”, I started looking at the ingredient lists on the backs of the boxes. I know exactly which ingredients I want to see to get the most effective toothpaste at the lowest price.

For me, the most important ingredient in a toothpaste is fluoride. … Continue reading

Vitamin D – Yes, no or maybe?

The sunshine supplement

Last week I learned that my vitamin D level is slightly below normal. My physician recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement of 1000 to 2000 IU.

I didn’t want the test, but what’s done is done. Now I need to decide what the test result means to me, and if I should follow my doctor’s recommendation.

A few years ago, vitamin D was the new wonder supplement. Various studies associated a low vitamin D level with an increased incidence of all kinds of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, prostate cancer, breast cancer, … Continue reading

Look behind the front

The news media recently picked up a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that stated: “…11 percent of school-age children…have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Boys are diagnosed twice as often as girls.

Some experts in pediatric psychology and psychiatry are concerned that ADHD is being diagnosed too hastily and treated too recklessly with prescription medications, specifically Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta. Sales of these drugs reached $9 billion in 2012. Overall health care costs related to ADHD are in the tens of billions of dollars—and will increase right along with the diagnoses.

Are there … Continue reading

The Z-Pak deception

Several years ago, when my son was in middle school, he developed a nasty sinus infection. He didn’t have a fever, and I suspected it was a viral infection that would run its course unaided. I told him this, but he was unimpressed.

Partly to make him feel better, and partly because I wanted my diagnosis confirmed, I made an appointment for him to see our pediatrician.

I had a good relationship with our pediatrician. We shared the same philosophy of watchful waiting and not rushing to order unnecessary tests and prescribe unnecessary drugs.

Unfortunately, it was his day off. … Continue reading

What is the Quack Miranda Warning?

This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

You have probably seen this warning many times, but perhaps never paused to consider what it meant. Or, maybe you haven’t seen it, because it usually appears in very fine print and is only obvious if you are looking for it.

What is it, what does it mean, and why is it important?

In 1994 congress enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), effectively allowing any product under the broad classification of … Continue reading