Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

Article Questions The Effectiveness Of Antioxidant Supplements During Training

I have skeptical confession to make. I was once a panacea-seeking antioxidant-taker. As background, I’m a marathon runner and occasional triathlete. Several years ago, I was training for an Ironman triathlon, and banking 20+ hours of intense exercise per week. That may sound absurd to many (it does to me, now that I have kids) but that kind of training is necessary for the long races. So what did this pharmacist-wannabe-triathlete with access to discount vitamins do? He stocked up on the fancy bottles of multivitamins, the “endurance” version, of course — with extra antioxidants. Why did I supplement? I wanted to maximize my workouts, speed recovery, and minimize downtime and the risk of injury. Oxidation sounds bad — like a rusting car. Anti-oxidants sounded like the ultimate in preventative medicine. My workouts may have been more extreme, but the practice of supplementing if you exercise is common among athletes.

As it turns out, not only were the antioxidants likely ineffective, they may have compromised some of the gains I was seeking with all that training. That I didn’t evaluate the evidence at the time was my critical-thinking blind spot. Over the the past several years, more data on antioxidants and exercise have emerged. A recent review article, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Skeptic North*

How Contagion Shows Us The Importance Of Science In Today’s World

Contagion is a thriller about a virus that rapidly spreads to become a global epidemic. There aren’t enough coffins. Gangs roam neighborhoods like ours because police have abandoned their posts, fearful of exposure. Garbage fills the streets because sanitation workers are dying. As scientists work feverishly to understand the virus and develop a vaccine, public panic unravels the fabric of civil society, fueled by terror and rattled by false claims of a homeopathic cure promoted by a charismatic charlatan.
The movie has grossed $76 million worldwide since it opened on September 9th.  It has all the elements a successful movie needs: a just-believable dystopian vision of the future, flawed good guys, an evil schemer, suspense, heroic action…the works.

And while it’s an action-thriller first and foremost, you don’t have to concentrate hard to notice that it also shows:

  1. Why the Federal government is necessary: its authority to communicate, negotiate and work with other nations to solve a global problem; its ability to exert authority across state lines and to marshal resources immediately to protect its citizens from peril with no expectation of profit.
  2. How scientific research is iterative and complicated, not bumbling or malicious. Research is conducted by scientists—normal people with normal lives—who are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Movie Explores The Impact Of Breast Cancer On Patients And Loved Ones

I caught this movie last week flipping though channels looking for something to watch while I knitted.

Five” stars Patricia Clarkson, Rosario Dawson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Holloway, Tony Shalhoub, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jeanne Tripplehorn.  It is an anthology of five short films exploring the impact of breast cancer on people’s lives.

The first one, the story of Charlotte (Ginnifer Goodwin), is set in 1969.  Charlotte lays dying in her bedroom while the family mills around the house and the TV showing the mans first step on the moon.  Her story for me was taken over by the effect of her cancer on her young daughter Pearl who only wants to see her mom.   Finally she manages to sneak into the room.

The second one is Mia’s story.  Mia (Patricia Clarkson) is the tale of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Suture for a Living*

Dealing With This Canadian Pharmacy Is More Trouble Than It’s Worth

Looking to obtain a break on my practice’s botulinum toxin of choice (Myobloc) I yielded to curiosity and ordered from a Canadian Pharmacy…Northwest I figured we would try to break the price point of this popular product. Thankfully I used my credit card.

Botulinum toxin must be kept cold to retain its potency. We traditionally receive this product on dry ice and have never had much of a problem with effectiveness. I was promised by the pharmacy rep that this product would arrive cold within 2-5 days of shipping. Only after I gave her my credit card information did she share with me that the product would be coming from Great Britain. This was not welcome news. I was reassured that the product would be cold and usable.

The product arrived Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Truth in Cosmetic Surgery*

Better Health Is A Finalist For A Health Policy/Ethics Blog Award

Well this is really exciting! Thanks to the readers and judges at for acknowledging my blog for a 2008 Blog Award in the category of Health Policy and Ethics. (This blog won the “Best New Medical Blog” of 2007 award last year.) This year’s winner will be determined by popular vote, which begins tomorrow. I know that my chances of winning the majority of votes in this category are pretty slim, thanks to Respectful Insolence. I am a huge fan of Orac’s blog and have no doubt that his contributions in this category far exceed mine. Orac is a devoted crusader against pseudoscience and misleading health information. Good luck, Orac – I’m sure you’ll win this one!

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

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…

Read more »

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

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »