Inside Information and its Threat To Good Health for 03/31/2017

On average, we spend only about five percent of our time outside. And that time could include things like taking out the trash. Not necessarily what we would call quality time. The other 95 percent of our time is spent indoors and, for some reason, this got me thinking about an interview I once read.

It was with an avid outdoorsman and elder statesman (whose name I don't recall). The gentleman was asked about the key to his longevity. His answer was no smoking, not much drinking and lots of exercise. He went on to say that he'd never been to the hospital, nor broke a bone, or ever had an operation, though he was then well into his eighties. We might say that he's an exceptional case. But then, is he really? What is the key to his path to good health?

A recent report in the Lancet medical journal has proclaimed that the people with the healthiest hearts in the world are the Tsimane people; a band that lives on an isolated tributary of the Amazon River in Bolivia. According to the report, an 80-year-old Tsimane has about the same heart and artery health as the average American in his or her 50s. Tsimane men had lower coronary artery calcification scores than Japanese women, a population previously regarded as having the lowest coronary artery calcification scores reported for any ethnicity.

Updated: Fri Mar 31, 2017

Why We Can’t Slack Off On Dealing With Obesity for 03/24/2017

As I mentioned last week, according to a recent study, although the percentage of American adults who are overweight or obese keeps climbing upward, the percentage of Americans who are attempting to lose weight is now on the decline. The reasons for this decline remains open to speculation, but recent news of the percentage of overweight and obese people who relapse following a dieting plan surely plays a role in creating both discouragement and a sense of resignation for those struggling with this issue.

The highly publicized result of a recent study of contestants on the TV series "The Biggest Loser" is a case in point. Six years after dropping an average of 129 pounds over the course of a season, the study found that contestants had regained 70 percent of their lost weight since the show's finale. What is lost in this news is the fact that this pattern is not exclusive to those with serious weight issues. According to experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, as many as 95 percent of people who lose at least a tenth of their body weight tend to gain it back and then some within a year.

Generally, when people go on a diet and voluntarily eat less food, most are able to lose at least some weight. What often happens is that, with the passage of time, for many people body weight creeps back up to the same level as before the dieting began. Experts have long believed body weight to be controlled or maintained by what they call a "set point"; that the amount of body fat and body weight we carry as adults is relatively stable.

Updated: Fri Mar 24, 2017

Health Takes Two Steps Forward And Two Steps Back for 03/17/2017

Diet and exercise — two things we think of as a foundation for healthy living. Just consider the findings of a recently published report in the International Journal of Epidemiology. As if any more proof were needed, it makes a clear connection between eating more of certain fruits and vegetables and living longer. According to a Meta study conducted by Imperial College London, it's estimated that if people ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, an estimated 7.8 million premature global deaths could be avoided each year. For the study, a portion was characterized as 800 grams (for context, consider that one medium apple constitutes around 182 grams).

Those who consume up to 10 portions fruits and vegetables a day are said to be rewarded with a 24 percent lower risk of heart disease, a 33 percent lower risk of stroke, a 28 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a 13 percent lower risk of cancer and a 31 percent lower risk of dying early when compared to not eating fruit or vegetables.

Updated: Fri Mar 17, 2017

Time For A Technology Reboot 2.0 for 03/10/2017

I thought I was finished a couple of weeks ago making my point about our need to start relying less on technology and to start making more of an effort to escape its grasp. Then this news came in. A new study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health, published in the current edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, has found some serious flaws in the notion that postings and likes on social media help connect people. According to the study, spending more time on social media platforms, which limits in-person interactions, is linked to a higher likelihood of at least some people feeling socially isolated.

Today, mental health problems and social isolation are at epidemic levels among young adults, lead study author Dr. Brian Primack says in the report. Spending time on social media may be fine for some, but increased social media use could also bring on negative health consequences for many young adults. The study notes that social isolation, defined as a lack of a sense of belonging and true engagement with others, is linked to an increased risk of illness and even death.

Updated: Fri Mar 10, 2017

The Trouble With Food Labels

Contrary to popular belief, foods don't "expire." And most foods you buy are in fact perfectly safe to eat well past the "sell by" date you see on the label. They obviously may not taste as good because of a lack of freshness, but the notion that they are not safe to eat is generally not true. The whole idea behind these warning labels is to encourage consumers to eat the product at its peak of freshness and flavor, thus protecting the reputation of that product. And this makes perfect sense. As a food product passes its "expiration" date, it may get stale or go sour. But according to food safety experts, most spoiled foods aren't hazardous to a person's health if consumed.

Though some states require expiration dates on meat or milk, such dates on food are not required under any federal law. Yet many consumers look at this largely arbitrary and unregulated practice as an absolute. As a result, each and every day, a lot of perfectly good food goes into the trash. This wasted food is a significant part of the staggering 130 billion pounds of food that goes to waste in this country every year. Recent research on why people waste food conducted by SSRS, a market and survey research firm, found that almost 70 percent of those surveyed threw items away after the package date expired, thinking it reduced the chance of getting sick from eating it (an outcome that may be unlikely).

Updated: Fri Mar 03, 2017