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Know Thy Calories: Nutrition Labeling Guidelines For Restaurants

As part of the new healthcare legislation (Affordable Care Act), the FDA has now published its guidelines for restaurants to inform consumers of the calorie counts of food. It establishes requirements for nutrition labeling of standard menu items for chain restaurants and chain vending machine operators.

This is important because Americans now consume an estimated one-third of their total calories from foods prepared outside the home. Consumers are generally unaware of the number of calories they consume from these foods, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

Here’s what the guidelines say:

– Restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose the number of calories in each standard menu item on menus and menu boards (have 19 chain locations? You get a pass. Daily specials also get a pass.)

– Additional written nutrition information must be available to consumers upon request (total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium sugars, carbs, fiber, protein, etc.)

– The menu must say that the additional nutritional information is available. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

Organic Food: Is It Better For You?

In 1952 Martin Gardner, who just passed away this week at the age of 95, wrote about organic farming in his book Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science. He characterized it as a food fad without scientific justification. Now, 58 years later, the science has not changed much at all.

A recent review of the literature of the last 50 years shows that there is no evidence for health benefits from eating an organic diet. The only exception to this was evidence for a lower risk of eczema in children eating organic dairy products. But with so many potential correlations to look for, this can just be noise in the data.

Another important conclusion of this systematic review is the paucity of good research into organic food –- they identified only 12 relevant trials. So while there is a lack of evidence for health benefits from eating an organic diet, we do not have enough high-quality studies to say this question has been definitively answered. It is surprising, given the fact that organic food was controversial in the 1950s, that so little good research has been done over the last half-century. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Healthcare Reform Bill

The healthcare reform bill is 1,017 pages long and contains a lot that will impact Americans. I’m one who believes we had to come into the 21st century and join the rest of the civilized nations in beginning to provide healthcare to all citizens. You be the judge.

Here are 10 things I bet you didn’t know are in the new healthcare reform bill:

  1. Menu labeling. Restaurants with over 20 employees must include calorie counts and other nutrition information on their menus.
  2. SWAG reporting. Doctors must report valuable goodies they receive from health vendors.
  3. Right to pump. New moms must be given space and time to pump breast milk (for employers with over 50 employees).
  4. Research. The bill includes research for postpartum depression.
  5. Tan tax. There’s a 10 percent tax on tanning booths.
  6. Adoption credit. Adoptive parents receive tax credits to encourage adoption.
  7. More research. The bill includes research for Indian health studies.
  8. Safety. The bill includes required background checks for long-term care workers.
  9. Right wing. The bill includes required abstinence education.
  10.  Transparency. Employers must show employer and employee contributions for healthcare on W-2 forms.

Fox News (“fair and balanced”) has said that it’s “what you don’t know that can hurt you.” Fox also said that “42 percent of doctors said they would quit or retire if healthcare reform became law.” It’s time to stop the fear mongering, lies and deception and understand just what this reform will and won’t do for the American public.

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

New Sandwich To “Start Killing People” Next Week

4344334.jpgPrimary care doctors and nutritionists will soon have a new threat in the fight against obesity. KFC is going national with its new ”Double Down” sandwich on April 12.

This 540 calorie, 32g of fat, 1380mg of sodium “sandwich” replaces the bread or bun with two pieces of fried chicken.

In a somewhat hyperbolic article at Consumerist.com, its predicted that the new fast-food sandwich will “start killing people” nationwide next week.

Product page: Double Down…

More: Introducing The Vegan Double Down!

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

In The News: Boosting Disease Prevention And Unethical TV Doctors

An article in the New York Times this week looks at a raft of new public health initiatives passed by Congress that are aimed at boosting disease prevention. Examples include requiring restaurants with at least 20 locations to include nutrition information on their menus and mandating employers with at least 50 employees to allow new mothers to express breast milk at work. In addition, Medicaid will now cover smoking cessation counseling for pregnant women and Medicare beneficiaries will be eligible for an annual physical. The initiatives are expected to eventually save money by decreasing the country’s chronic disease burden. (New York Times)

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University recently did a study applying physicians’ ethical codes to the conduct of the fictional doctors on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House, M.D.” Perhaps to no one’s surprise, TV doctors are behaving very badly. As the abstract of the study states, both shows feature “egregious deviations from the norms of professionalism and contain exemplary depictions of professionalism to a much lesser degree.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Journal of Medical Ethics)

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

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