Instead, what we often hear in the news is that microwaving our plastic containers or drinking from plastic water bottles could be dangerous to our health… and that BPA-free containers are better for baby. But where did the media come up with these ideas? I asked Dr. Chuck McKay, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at the University of Connecticut, to explain how safe levels of exposure (to various chemicals) are determined, and how to know if news reports are based on scientific evidence. I hope you’ll listen in to this educational Webinar.
Some of my favorite take-home messages from the Webinar include what I call “just becauses”:
1. Just because you can find a substance in your urine doesn’t mean it’s harmful. (Asparagus anyone?)
2. Just because an animal reacts to a substance, doesn’t mean that humans will. (How often have you caught a cold from your dog?)
3. Just because extreme doses of a substance can cause harm, doesn’t mean that tiny doses also cause harm. (Consider radiation exposure from riding in an airplane versus being near ground zero of a nuclear strike).
4. Just because something has a theoretical potential to harm, doesn’t mean it will. (Will you really be attacked by a shark in 2 feet of water at your local beach?)
5. Just because someone conducted a research study doesn’t mean their findings are accurate. (Do you really believe the Cosmo polls? There’s a lot of junk science out there!)
For an excellent review article of the high-quality science behind plastic safety, please check out this link. In the end, there are far more important health concerns to worry about than potential exposure to plastic compounds. And throwing out all your plastic containers may not even reduce your exposure to BPA anyway… A recent study found that people had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine when they followed a plastic-free, organic diet! Their exposure was actually traced to ground cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Who knew?
Lillian Wald was a famous nurse activist and writer. She’s my role model. Lillian stood up for the little guy by providing health care to the poor, and she advocated for social justice during the Gilded Age. For those of you who may not know, the Gilded Age was a time of great wealth for a fortunate few in America. You might call these people the original 1%. Wall Street bankers and robber barons were buying politicians and running amok while building vast fortunes off the backs of the working poor. Sound familiar? It’s funny how history has a way of repeating itself.
I believe that Lillian Wald, the founder of public health nursing, would support the Wall Street Occupation if she were alive today. Lillian didn’t wring her hands when someone needed help. She got her hands dirty. I bet she would be encamped with the protesters, caring for the sick and blogging about Occupy Wall Street events. Nurses working the frontlines at the Occupy Wall Street protest rallies report that Read more »
Maybe you read the other day in The New York Times that the pharmaceutical industry has a problem. Big blockbuster drugs like Lipitor are going off patent and the industry leaders don’t have new blockbusters showing promise to replace them. So the big companies search for little companies with new discoveries and they consider buying them. Industry observers think the days of $5 billion-a-year drugs to lower cholesterol or control diabetes may be past for awhile, and the companies will have smaller hits with new compounds for autoimmune conditions and cancer.
When I saw my oncologist for a checkup yesterday — the news was good — we chatted about the article and the trend toward “niche science.” We welcomed it. We didn’t think — from our perspective — the world needed yet another drug to lower cholesterol. We need unique products to fight illnesses that remain daunting, some where there are no effective drugs at all. For example, my daughter has suffered for years from what seems to be an autoimmune condition called eosinophilic gastroenteritis (EGID). Her stomach gets inflamed with her own eosinophil cells. They would normally be marshaled to fight a parasite in her GI tract but in this case, there’s nothing to attack. So the cells make trouble on the lining of the stomach and cause pain and scarring. Right now, there’s no “magic bullet” to turn off these cells. My hope is some pharma scientists will come up with something to fill this unmet need.
In the waiting room before I saw my doctor at the cancer center in Seattle I overheard a woman on the phone speaking about her husband’s new diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. I was sitting at a patient education computer station nearby. When she was finished I introduced myself and showed her some webpages to give her education and hope: pancan.org and our Patient Power programs about the disease. She was grateful. I did tell her — and she already knew — that there was no miracle drug for pancreatic cancer and that it was a usually-fatal condition. But that there were exceptions and, hopefully, her husband would be one. Of course, wouldn’t an effective medicine be best? Read more »
The human genome has been around for a bit more than ten years, but on February 15, 2001, the first complete human genome sequence was published. This was nothing short of a revolution within medicine. Since then, great advancements have been made in our understanding of genetics and its associations with human traits and diseases.
Nature is celebrating this tenth birthday with a special titled “Human Genome at Ten.” In it, multiple papers reflect on what we learned and discovered, what is still unknown, and what we can expect for the near future. Best of all, Nature has packaged the special in a free iPad app for everyone to read, which features interactive graphs, videos, and audio commentaries.
When I was growing up, my parents had a simple rule when it came to food: “Finish everything on your plate.” We had to sit at the table until we did.
They meant well. They wanted us to understand that food should not go to waste. The problem with this advice — and I’m sure I’m not the only American who grew up with it — is that we learned early on to eat everything put in front of us when we sat down to meals. Then the size of the plates grew — and so did the amount of food we consumed.
It’s called portion inflation. Take a look at the illustration at left. It’s based on an analysis published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association which found that typical restaurant portion sizes today are two to eight times as large as those in 1955. Back then, people who consumed a typical American meal (a hamburger, French fries, and a soda) had only one portion size to pick from. Today we can choose from multiple portion sizes: reasonable, big, bigger, and ridiculous (as I’ve come to think of the sizes listed in that last column).
Portion size matters. The bigger the portion, the more calories you can consume. An example using a table of calorie information available online in the nutrition section at McDonald’s: By choosing the largest size in each category, you’ll end up consuming nearly triple the number of calories in a meal as you would if you chose the smallest portions.
3.5 oz/250 calories
11.1 oz/750 calories
2.5 oz/230 calories
5.4 oz/500 calories
12 oz/110 calories
32 oz/310 calories
Partly as a result of portion inflation, we’re eating more. Dietary surveys indicate that, on a per capita basis, Americans consumed 200 calories more per day in the 1990s than they did in the 1970s. That may not sound like a lot, but over time extra calories translate into extra pounds. Some experts calculate that people who add 150 calories a day to their diets, without increasing physical activity to burn those calories off, will gain as many as 15 pounds in a year. Read more »
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