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MyPlate: Spiffy New Nutritional Guidelines For Americans

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The crumbling Food Pyramid and its hip successor (MyPyramid) fell into oblivion yesterday, eroded by the stinging winds of science. Their replacement? A quartered plate called—wait for it—MyPlate that was designed to visually convey the elements of healthy eating to Americans of all ages.

The new icon consists of a white plate divided into four segments: green for vegetables, red for fruits, orange for grains, and purple for protein. Dairy has a prominent place, sitting where a glass of water should be. The hope is that the plate will nudge Americans away from meals dominated by meat and starch and towards meals made up mostly of plant-based foods.

The original Food Guide Pyramid debuted in 1992. It was built on shaky scientific ground. Over the next few years, research from around the world chipped away at the healthy eating message in the pyramid’s base (refined carbohydrates), the middle (meat and milk), and the tip (fats).

The Pyramid got an extreme makeover in 2005. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Accepting Different Body Types, But Not Embracing Obesity

I just learned (yes, I’m a little late to the party) about the Body Shop anti-barbie controversy from a post on Facebook. The ad to the left has been banned from most countries, because it was believed to be in bad taste. For me, it raises some very interesting questions.

First of all, it’s been my experience that the media has been relentless in its portrayal of feminine beauty as being a dress size zero. This is an unattainable goal for most of us, and a very narrow view of what is truly attractive and physically healthy. I can’t imagine how many young girls feel deeply flawed when they compare themselves to Barbie et al. If unchecked, that self-doubt and insecurity can become a lifelong self-esteem issue or worse. Eating disorders are becoming more and more common, and carry with them the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

That being said, I’ve often had mixed feelings about the few “love your body as it is” campaigns* that have tried to push back against the rail-thin ideal. While we all have different body types, it’s still not healthy to be obese. Just as our favorite pets are born with different natural shapes (Chihuahuas, Whippets, Golden Retrievers, and Great Danes), we humans are different sizes too. But that doesn’t mean it’s “ok” to be excessively fat. Read more »

Your Dog May Be Your Best Personal Trainer

Earlier this week there was an article in the NY Times by Tara Parker-Pope  —Forget the Treadmill. Get a Dog. — which states in a more elegant way what I have been saying for years now.

……Several studies now show that dogs can be powerful motivators to get people moving. …..

Just last week, researchers from Michigan State University reported that among dog owners who took their pets for regular walks, 60 percent met federal criteria for regular moderate or vigorous exercise. …….

A study of 41,500 California residents also looked at walking among dog and cat owners as well as those who didn’t have pets. Dog owners were about 60 percent more likely to walk for leisure than people who owned a cat or no pet at all. ……..

I have called my dog Rusty my personal trainer.  He never lets me off the hook.  We walk daily regardless of the weather (hot, cold, rain, snow). Read more »

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

Do Artificial Sweeteners Actually Promote Weight Gain?

When sugar-free beverages first became available, I was skeptical that they could really taste as good as “the real thing.” I quickly changed my mind. In fact, it seemed to me that the sugar-free versions actually tasted better than “the real thing.”

It seemed like a no-brainer. Sugar-free beverages had no calories and tasted better—maybe there is such a thing as a free lunch. Obviously, many people who also wanted to lose weight made the same switch. Were we right about artificial sweeteners?

Although short-term studies suggest that switching from sugar to no-calorie sweeteners can help, other research suggests it may actually promote weight gain. Writing in the December 2011 Harvard Health Letter, noted obesity researcher Dr. David Ludwig explores the possible connection between sugar substitutes and weight gain.

The FDA has approved six calorie-free sweeteners: acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin, Stevia, and sucralose. They are Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Potassium And Exercise: Sports Drink Or Orange Juice?

As I stutter through recovery from LungMutiny2010, I’m paying more attention to my diet. So as I try to go out for my 10-minute walk everyday, I still drink some sports drink — usually Gatorade made from the massive vat of powder you can buy at Costco.

We tend to get plenty of sodium in our diet — far too much in the U.S. actually — but I always worry about potassium when I’m sweating (Disclaimer: I am not an exercise physiologist or a cardiovascular or nephrology physician.)

I always thought that the widely-sold sports drinks were the best sources of potassium outside of eating bananas or some dried fruits. I was surprised to learn that an 8-ounce serving of orange juice contains 18-fold more potassium than an 8-ounce serving of Gatorade® (450 mg vs. 25 mg). Who knew? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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…

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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…

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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…

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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

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…

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