Friday, October 20, 2017

Herbal and dietary supps often mislabeled

Eat the sandwich, hold the pills. 
Heads up at the health food store! In a paper presented at the American Assn for the Study of Liver Diseases Meeting,  Victor Navarro, MS, chair of heptology at the Einstein Medical Center in Philly, reminds us that herbal and dietary preparations are not required by the FDA to be tested for safety or for effectiveness.

Potentially mislabeled products can contain ingredients that are highly toxic and damaging to the liver--remember the liver is designed to remove toxins, but these may overpower it.

Between 2003 and 2016, 341 supplement products were tested (1,263 patients).

 Only 90 of 230 products had labels accurately depicting their contents.

--80% of bodybuilding and performance products had faulty labels

--72% of weight loss substances also were mislabeled.

Soooo....bear this in mind. The liver is a wonderful, necessary organ--it can regenerate itself--but there are  limits.

These products are not tested for effectiveness, remember. You may be downing a damaging product that does nothing but harm.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Mindfulness.., it full of it?

In the 1970s I was active in a yoga ashram in Wash DC. Did yoga every night, met swamis traveling through--we learned various breath control techniques. I still use some when I can't sleep or am nervous.

But now, according to Ephrat Livni in Government Executive, some techniques have now been packaged as mindfulness and even offered as psychotherapy at such Mom and Pop's as Google.

Meditation...yup, another name for it.

Problem is, according to a paper in the Oct 10 issues of Perspectives in Psychological Science, mindfulness is not very scientifically based.

This can lead to people being charmed, cheated, disppointed, and disaffected.

Mindfulness originated as Buddhist term, associated with meditation based on the breath. Taming the mind is a term often heard. One proponent said the mind was like an elephant, mindfulness was a rope, and the breath was the post to tie up the elephant.

Voila--the elephant becomes well-trained, attentive, able to concentrate.

In industry, mindfulness is cheap--no equipment needed. Supposedly it leads to high productivity, more cooperation, teamwork, lower medical costs, less absenteeism, and better morale.


The few studies that have been done get tangled in particulars--who is a novice, who is an adept?

It is difficult to measure.

This does not mean mindfulness doesn't work, but proving it scientifically does not.

That is--most attempts to "prove" it. There have been some MRI evidence of meditation activity.

So...if you meditate, don't stop.

As we used to say in the Sixties--if it feels good do it. But don't expect miracles. For now it's a buzzword.

We used to recite, "Energy in, negativity out," but you can use any mantra. For the record, I am still pretty negative.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Half of US medical care delivered by ERs

I admit it--even though I have a Medicare HMO, I have gone to the ER when in pain--they can do tests right on site--if you go to the doctor, it can take days for the appt and then they farm you to imaging centers and labs--more days.

Yes, the ER is the most expensive care you can get. But it's available, and they have to treat at least your presenting complaint (and usually not beyond that).

Researchers at the University of Maryland have now done a study that shows half of medical care is done in ERs.

The researchers say the study shows how important ERs are. (And little known--hospital budgets depend on payment in ERs by people with insurance.)

Examining several large national databases, the researchers found that there were 130 million ER visits in 2010--compared with 101 million outpatient visits and 39 million inpatient encounters.

Over the next 10 yrs, emergency care visits increased 44%. Outpatient (doc's office) visits accounted for 38% and inpatient 15% in that time,

Most likely to use the ER:

--African Americans (54% of the time)
--Patients with "other" insurance (often meaning no insurance)
--More people in the south than northeast
--Medicare and Medicaid holders

In other words, vulnerable populations.

Use of the ER is often criticized--since many times, the reasons are not emergencies. But some experts say this trend is covering for weaknesses in inpatient and outpatient handling and lack of prevention.

Emergency room use is not likely to be reduced any time soon, the researchers said. But--they add--we need to connect ERs to care in other sectors. Not sure what that means.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Food-borne illness on my mind

Three nights ago, we ordered Mexican takeout. I did not exactly get the throwups, but I was a gas balloon, the burps, pain, etc...Miserable all night.  My daughter also felt crummy.

Today, I am baking chicken breasts and am reminded that I recently read you do not have to rinse them off (salmonella) before roasting, because the heat will kill the bad stuff. Rinsed anyhow.

So today--you get another post on food-borne illness.

--First, babies and the elderly (me, I guess) are most at risk.

--Some foods can be left out if they are cooked properly.

--But other foods--starch-based--can get more contaminated if cooked and then reheated.

From Bernard Camins, MD, assoc professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama Birmingham, says the main bacteria in foods are salmonella, E.coli, shigella, listeria, and campylobachter. Most are found in foods, but listeria comes from the soil.

These can cause diarrhea, sometimes bloody. And of course, vomiting.

Bacteria that makes you sick reproduces and creates toxins that in turn make you miserable.

Mayo and icing can harbor staph.

Cookie dough contains eggs, which can cause salmonella.

Reheated starch foods are a risk.  Say pasta that was cooked then reheated to a warm-only state.

Cooked meat is usually OK--although processed meat like hot dogs and salami have been linked to listeria.

If you get sick from eating a food, this usually lasts 24-72 hours. But people sick with other illnesses can get to a serious state.

--Keep food at proper temperatures

--Separate clean and contaminated dishes in the sink

--Keep meat separate--use a different cutting board for veggies, a different knife.

--Wear disposable gloves while cooking

--Wash hands a lot! (My daughter washes the gloves.)

I would say this is making me hungry for lunch, but strangely, I am not that hungry.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Vegan vending

Yes, peanut butter crackers are vegan, but are they delish and healthy?

According to a story by Erin Brodwin in Business Insider, Lamiaa Bounahmidi has started a company called LeCupboard to dispense healthy food out of vending machines.

The dishes range in price from $6 to $13 and come in reusable glass dishes, that can be returned for a $3 refund. So far, the "cupboards" are located in seven places around San Francisco.

The author tried three items...

--First she tapped in any dietary preferences or restrictions on the touchscreen (avoid gluten avoid nuts, etc).

--In 30 seconds the dish comes out along with an ingredient list and nutritional profile.

--An appetizer featuring lemon, seaweed and veggies was delicious, she said. The beets were glazed on a lemon marinade and paired with a veggie that tastes like seaweed. A light serving of black rice in a spicy sauce topped it.

--The main dish she picked was a falafel bowl, inspired by visits to Cairo. She said the falafel might have been heated for more intense flavor, but it was tasty and filling.

--Dessert was called Le Versailles, a plant-based choc mousse sprinkled with sea salt, raspberries and pistachios. Fluffy and rich. She said she could eat this once a week.

Still, the author said she often gets street food--easy and cheap.

I can see this concept being further defined--returning the containers sounds like a pain.