Jamie Oliver – Teaching children about food

I love the British chef Jamie Oliver. He’s funny and he’s passionate about food.

He’s also the father of several small children, and he’s made it a personal crusade to improve the health of children, through food, in his country as well as ours.

A few years ago, he did a reality series, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, in which he attempted to change the way children are fed in our public school system. He introduced us to the infamous “pink slime”!

I shared his frustration as he ran into one bureaucratic roadblock after another.

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Kids and allergies

I’ve seen several recent news stories on kids and allergies.

For some time, it’s seemed to me that the incidence of childhood allergies, especially serious ones like peanut allergies, have been on the increase.

Food labels carry warnings about possible peanut contamination; schools ban snacks or sack lunches containing peanuts; some airlines have designated “peanut-free” zones. It’s crazy and disturbing. And do you know how much an Epi-Pen costs??

Aaron Carroll, MD, the pediatrician who blogs at The Incidental Economist had a good post on the subject: By shielding infants from stuff, we may be making allergies worse

Since 2000, … Continue reading

Common sense health and wellness

I like all things snarky so I enjoyed reading a recent post by a physician poking a bit of fun at health and wellness fads.

Remember the old aphorism You are what you eat? Well, forget it. In today’s busy world who has time for “eating in moderation” or “being heart healthy”? I think that if there’s one thing that the health and wellness industry has proven time and time again is that miracle cures and gimmick diets work. Every. Single. Time. Not only are they logical and effective, but also completely safe.

(Don’t forget he’s kidding here!)

The

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The DASH diet – boring but it works

the DASH dietUS News & World Report published another one of their ubiquitous “Best of” lists this week. This one focused on diets. January, after all, is the month of diet resolutions  😉

For the fifth year in a row the winner was the DASH diet.

DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (or High blood pressure). It was a study implemented in the early 1990s and funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

It’s really more dietary guideline than diet, and emphasizes whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables (especially those high in minerals such as calcium, potassium … Continue reading

Probiotic busted for false advertising

probioticsPhillips’ Colon Health probiotic—”bloated” claims?

One of my favorite websites to look at on occasion is Truth in Advertising.

From their website:

Each year, American consumers lose billions of dollars as a result of deceptive marketing and false ads. These run the gamut from blatant lies and fraudulent scams to subtle ploys intended to confuse and mislead. Not only do these tactics impact us as consumers, but a mind-boggling amount of money is misdirected in our economy as a result of deceptive marketing. All too often, companies with quality goods and services lose out to businesses premised on false

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Use herbal supplements with caution

herbal supplementsNatural does not mean safe

I read an article the other day about a man who developed a nasty rash after taking kava kava, a popular herbal supplement for stress and anxiety. He was also taking a prescription anxiety medication, Celexa (citalopram), which may have contributed to the bad reaction.

The article warns, with good reason, that herbal supplements are not necessarily safe, and may interact badly with other supplements and medications.

Always tell your health care provider if you are taking any over-the-counter herbs, supplements or vitamins!

Kava kava in particular, I think, highlights the problem of herbal … Continue reading

Healthy kids: “Lunch Lessons”

kids nutrition lunch lessonsSchool lunch is important

Since the school year began last month, I’ve been watching and listening with some bemusement to the furor over the new school lunch standards in this country. Kids and parents are Tweeting and Instagramming (is that a verb?) pictures of some pretty unappetizing fare.

Cupcakes are banned! Kids who share their lunch get detention! What, no pizza?

Well, I can afford to be amused because I don’t have kids depending on the public school system for a healthy and satisfying lunch.

But childhood obesity—which leads to adult chronic disease—is not funny. And while … Continue reading

Potassium for health

potassiumA banana a day?

We’ve all heard the phrase “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” (thank you, Benjamin Franklin!), but a potassium-rich banana might help, too.

A recent study looking at stroke risk in post-menopausal women (ages 50-79) found that, overall, women with the highest dietary potassium intake were 12% less likely to suffer a stroke.

And women who didn’t have high blood pressure and ate a lot of potassium-rich foods had a 21% lower risk of stroke.

But don’t go running to the drugstore for potassium supplements! This study didn’t look at the effect of potassium supplements … Continue reading

Salt – Are we eating too much or not enough?

The debate continues

Aargh! Last month the media picked up on three studies in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) about the association between how much salt we eat and our health.

Unfortunately, the studies didn’t do much to clear up the confusion surrounding how much salt we should be getting in our diets. In fact, popular reporting on the subject did little other than stir up more fear over what we eat.

The world has an increasingly high taste for salty foods — a taste that new research suggests leads to to 1.65 million excess deaths annually.

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Sunscreen and vitamin D

sunscreen vitamin dDon’t avoid all sun exposure

Vitamin D just won’t get out of the news. I posted about it a couple of weeks ago, and here I am commenting again on something else I read.

Actually, a friend sent me a link to a health care blog that referred to a recently-published study out of Sweden. Swedish melanoma researchers followed almost 30,000 women (I’m not sure why just women) for 20 years and concluded:

We found that all-cause mortality was inversely related to sun exposure habits. The mortality rate amongst avoiders of sun exposure was approximately twofold higher compared

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Another post on vitamin D

The latest stand on vitamin D screening

Over the last year and a half, I’ve written several posts on vitamin D, and here’s another one.

Last week the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its draft recommendation statement on vitamin D screening. (After a short comment period, a final recommendation will be made later this year. Rarely do these differ from the draft versions.)

Screening for vitamin D levels in healthy adults was given an “I” grade, or insufficient evidence.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance

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DHA (omega-3) fortified foods – Worth the price?

dha omega 3 fortified foodsEvery time I pick up a half gallon of non-organic, low fat milk (whichever brand is on sale) I have to reach over the more expensive product—the organic, DHA-fortified cartons of milk.

I first noticed this trend to fortify milk with DHA, a form of omega-3 fatty acid, a couple of years ago. You can also buy DHA-fortified eggs, breakfast cereals, orange juice, or DHA-fortified baby formula and baby foods.

DHA is marketed as “supporting” brain health, so what parent wouldn’t want to pay a premium price to fortify their child’s brain? What adult doesn’t want to avoid the dreaded … Continue reading

Is organic produce worth the price?

organic produceResearch says it’s not healthier

I’m always conflicted at the grocery store.

Should I spend the extra money on fruits and vegetables labeled “organic”? Or should I just buy “conventionally-grown” produce at the lower price?

I don’t mind paying premium for the best flavor, such as fresh peaches or tomatoes from local growers that boast organic and sustainable farming practices. 

But broccoli, apples, bananas? Can anyone really tell the difference?

More importantly, if I choose to be more frugal, am I hurting myself and my family?

I’ve never been one to buy into marketing hype; I want facts! So … Continue reading

Health benefits of nuts

health benefits of nutsNuts associated with longer, healthier lives

Last November, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published the results of a huge observational study that showed a lower death rate among people who ate several servings of nuts (including peanuts) every week.

Previous studies have pointed to other health benefits of nuts: reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The NEJM is the first study that looked specifically at death rates.

Over 115,000 people (nurses and other health professionals) were followed for 30 years. Diet questionnaires were filled out every 2 to 4 years. That is a lot of people … Continue reading

Healthy adults don’t need multivitamins

multivitaminsFor most, multivitamins are a waste of money

I’m always trying to do two things:

  1. Save my money
  2. Be healthy

It’s not easy when everything about health care costs so much.

So I really don’t want to throw money away on expensive drugstore products that are poorly regulated (if at all) by the FDA, and whose benefits are not supported by the latest scientific research.

Related post: The Quack Miranda Warning

I’ve written several posts about the lack of demonstrated benefit (and possible harm!) of several supplements:

And now the multivitamin is the latest Continue reading