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Having Poor Taste Can Lead To Weight Loss


I had an interesting dialog with Dr. Bruce Campbell recently.  In his blog he described a patient  who lost about 60 pounds after losing his sense of taste.  The patient had undergone radiation therapy for throat cancer, and in the process lost his ability to taste food.  He soon lost interest in eating, and eventually dropped 60 pounds – not from the cancer, but from the side effect of radiation therapy.  In this case there was a happy ending (his sense of taste eventually returned and he regained some of his weight) but it made me think about the relationship of flavor to obesity.

Just as I was musing on this very fact, a new research study was published in the journal Neurology.  It suggested that unexplained weight loss was an early warning sign of dementia.  They speculate that this could be linked to another early sign of dementia: loss of the sense of smell.  Of course taste is largely a function of smell, so we can easily understand how people lose interest in eating when they can’t enjoy the flavor of food.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could temporarily alter a person’s sense of taste in order to affect weight loss?  I doubt I’m the first to think of this… has anyone else heard of such a strategy?  Surely this would be a little bit less invasive and dangerous than bariatric surgery.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Drugs: Oldies Can Be Goodies


Just because a drug is new, doesn’t mean it’s more
effective.  A recent
published in the Annals of Internal Medicine demonstrated that older
diabetes medications may be equally effective as some of the newer, more
expensive drugs.

Now this comes as no surprise to physicians, who know very
well that some of our “old standby” meds work just as well as their newer, more
expensive versions.

For example:

For mild to moderate acne treatment, good old Clearasil may be all you need.
A study
published in the Lancet found that over-the-counter topical treatments (benzoyl
peroxide based) worked just as well as more expensive new oral antibiotics
(including minocycline).

For mild to moderately elevated cholesterol, there doesn’t appear to be much
to taking a newer statin than on older one.  The cost difference may be as much as ten
times more, for small gains (if any).
For example, mevacor (lovastatin) is as inexpensive as 0.24 cents/pill
while lipitor (atorvastatin) can run up to $2.54/pill.

Charlie Smith
, former president of the American Board of Family Practice,
recommends these very cost effective medications to his patients as needed:

Hydrochlorothiazide for hypertension (from 8 cents to 20 cents/pill)

Bactrim (trimethoprim/sulfamethoxisole) for urinary tract infections (15

Ibuprofen for pain relief/arthritis (about 7 cents/pill).

So consumer beware – those medications that you see in all the TV ads may not actually provide substantial benefits over older, less expensive drugs.  Be sure
to ask your doctor if a less expensive medication might be appropriate for you… or
better yet, healthy lifestyle changes can sometimes make the difference between needing
a medication and not needing it at all.

*Drug prices may vary.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Chinese Toothpaste: Not Good


I’ve been expressing my concerns over the recent quality control issues in China – first the melamine in pet food, then the contaminated medicines, next the anti-freeze in toothpaste.  The New York Times has an interesting piece on the toothpaste scandal.  But they miss an interesting issue at play: cost cutting is the underlying cause of all this.

Antifreeze (diethylene glycol) is less expensive and mimicks the flavor of mouthwash.  Melamine (the poison recently found in pet food ingredients) is a cheap filler product that increases the apparent protein content of pet food.

So China was putting these cheaper imitation ingredients into their products to improve their bottom line, not because they were particularly interested in causing the death of people and pets.

And before we point a finger at them… let’s think about why the toxic toothpaste got into our hospital and prison systems: because the administrators were trying to buy the cheapest possible products to save on costs.  And the least expensive items are often from China.  This is a good example of how cost cutting can endanger lives – with both the US and ChinaThis post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

Bulldozers and ballerinas

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“Bulldozers and Ballerinas” is the whimsical name of the event I attended this past weekend.  A dance troupe decided to pair themselves with some small bulldozers (propane powered) to do some interpretive work to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.  There were about 8 dancers and two bulldozers on a city street closed off to traffic.  Large speakers blasted the classical music, as construction worker gear-clad ballerinas danced around the moving bulldozers.  This was about as funny as a Monster Truck rally hosted by Luciano Pavarotti.  I watched with  amusement and enjoyed the humor of the contrasts.

In my next post I’ll explain the connection between bulldozers and medicine.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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