Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Coca-Cola's Obesity Research Ends: Ethical True Science Wins

After FOUR years of not posting a single post (a very full time career and three very young children being the reason for the long sabbatical), I'm BACK!  I just couldn't help but post after reading about the retirement of Coca-Cola's Chief Scientist.

Rhona Applebaum, who was Coke's chief science and health officer, helped lead the creation of a nonprofit obesity working group, the Global Energy Balance Network (G.E.B.N.) last year. Coke spent $1.5 million last year on starting this group and nearly $4 million since 2008 supporting projects for two of G.E.B.N's founding members, academics who study obesity. Interestingly, the funding and direction from Coke was to focus the group's work on exercise and physical activity to reduce obesity, and to reduce and minimize the emphasis on calories and sugar's role in obesity (to improve Coke's image, and dropping sales, of course).

And as described in an earlier (August) NY Times blog post, the Global Energy Balance Network's (G.E.B.N.)  website is registered to Coca-Cola and they are the site administrator, because the other team members "didn't know how to set it up."  And in email communication between the G.E.B.N. University of Colorado researcher Dr. James Hill and Coke execs, "...provide a strong rationale for why a company selling sugar water should focus on promoting physical activity. This would be a very large and expensive study, but could be a game changer. We need this study to be done.”  Riiiiight; of course they need it to be done, because it means lots of [unethical] funding. 

 This is definitely a case of true, valid, ethically-produced science versus large corporations and profits. May science always win, science that is backed with ethical monies anyway. As shown in one of this post's images, "Honesty is the best policy." To give Coke some credit, there is more to the obesity problem than well, Coca-Cola, sugar, and calories. However, to shift (and fund) research 100% away from dietary intake and to other aspects (physical inactivity) is immoral, unethical, and flat-out wrong. It misleads the public and average consumer. What do you think about this controversy? What do you think are primary drivers of the obesity epidemic; and more importantly, what sources did you draw on to develop those opinions?  Also, do you drink Coca-Cola?

For More, Visit:
NY Times Blog

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Baby in Bed with Butcher Knife Ad Generates National Reactions

We've all heard that sleeping with your baby in bed with you is somewhat risky.  Soft blankets, a soft mattress, parents rolling on top of their babies...there are plenty of ways a child could suffocate and die by co-sleeping (and many children have).  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is more common in co-sleeping families (babies in same bed as parents).

The city of Milwaukee is taking it one step further by scaring the $#% out of people by releasing these ads.  Equating a child sleeping in an adult bed to sleeping with a butcher knife.  Wow.

I'll admit it, as a breastfeeding-on-demand Mom, I sometimes lay my son next to me in bed in the middle of the night and we fall asleep together.  Call me an insane demon if you want, Milwaukee.  (Note--I do move pillows away from his face, he is not covered or twisted in our sheets, and our mattress is pretty firm--love our Tempur-pedic.  But I digress).

Here's the press release.  And here is CNN's video story about it.

What do you think?  Appropriate?  Too extreme?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Supreme Court on Health Care Reform: History in the Making

Today the Supreme Court announced they will make a ruling on whether or not health care reform is constitutional.  The arguments will be heard in February or March and a ruling will come in late June, just a few months before election time.  This is serious history in the making, people.

This follows the ruling from Florida and 25 other states where the appeals courts struck down the law (the only one of 4 cases).

Roughly speaking, the Supreme Court will decide on two main things: 1) if the individual mandate portion is constitutional and 2) whether the rest of the reform legislation should also be scrapped.

Stay tuned.

More detail can be read on CNN, NPR, Kaiser Health News, or NYTimes.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Eat Organic & Improve I.Q.

Are you eating organic?  If you're not and you are pregnant or planning on having a baby, you might want to consider it.  Three new studies have independently come out with results showing that babies exposed to pesticides in the womb have lower IQs than non-exposed babies.  Children with the highest levels of exposure scored 7 IQ points lower than children with the lowest levels of exposure.  Wow.

All three of these studies were published in the latest issue of the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal.

Read more about it at the NYTimes.  Or, read each of the three studies themselves.
1) Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphates, Paraoxonase 1, and Cognitive Development in Childhood.
2) 7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores and Prenatal Exposure to Chlorpyrifos, a Common Agricultural Pesticide.
3) Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and IQ in 7-Year Old Children.

If you're not able to go 100% organic, be sure to look at the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide and at least eat the "dirty dozen" organic!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

USDA's Releases New Guidelines

Yesterday, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the new "Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 2010."  The guidelines come at an important time--when one of every three Americans is overweight or obese.  The main focus of the guidelines is to describe the need to balance calories, in terms of food and exercise, to manage weight appropriately and keep your health in check.

Some of the new food guidelines include:
1) Limit salt for healthy people to 2,300 milligrams.  For those with hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease, or those over the age of 51, or African Americans of any age, salt should be restricted to 1,500 milligrams per day.
2) Alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, meaning: 1 drink a day for women, 2 drinks a day for men.
3) Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.  Avoid over-sized portions of all foods.
4) Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
5) Less than 10% of your daily fats should be saturated and eat more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated (think nuts, olive oil, etc).

These guidelines are not extremely surprising, but important to take note of nonetheless.  Americans need to limit their daily intake of salt, sugar, bad fats, and alcohol.  Additionally, watch your portions.   Some of the messages for consumers can be found here.

The USDA will also be releasing a new food pyramid within the next month or two, so be on the lookout!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Meditation, Memory, & Stress

According to a study published yesterday in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, meditation might alter your brain for the better.

A group of participants who underwent mindfulness meditation had increased gray matter in the hippocampus, which is where your learning and memory takes place, when compared to a control group.   They also had reduced gray matter in the amygdala, or the area where stress and anxiety occur.

The meditation was called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and has origins in Buddhism, where one is supposed to focus on the here and now, being conscious of their breathing, body, and the here and now.  Basically, it involves getting to a place where you are not thinking of the past or the future (e.g. to-do list etc), but being completely focused on yourself in the present.  The lead author of the paper, Britta Holzel, discusses it in the NYTimes article on the topic.

This meditation has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve your attention span.  Although more research is needed to understand the mechanisms by which meditation impacts the brain (and larger studies, as this study only had 16 participants and 17 controls), it certainly is promising to improve one's health.

Have you ever tried it?  It certainly takes practice.  But it might be more practice I decide to do.  Will you?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dime a Drink, What do you Think?

The state of Maryland is proposing a new tax on all alcoholic beverages.

There are a few reasons for this.  One is to reduce the amount of alcohol consumption.  Research has shown that as the price of alcohol rises, consumption decreases.  Supporters of the tax argue the tax could potentially reduce the number of alcohol-related deaths by 33 each year and reduce those with alcohol-related dependency by 13,000, according to a study done at Johns Hopkins..  This would save the state of Maryland $225 million in health care costs during its first year.

The second reason for the proposed tax is to fund the Medicaid expansion and mental health services for those with developmental disabilities or those needing drug abuse treatment.  The bill is expected to raise about $215 million per year for the state of Maryland.

The tax would be a 10 cent tax per alcoholic beverage, which translates to an extra $2.40 per case of beer.  The last time taxes were raised on alcohol in Maryland was in 1972.  The same bill was introduced in the last session of the Maryland assembly, but failed.  A 5-cent tax was proposed the year before that, also failing.  There are so far 54/141 state delegates who have signed on to the current bill.

Will it pass?  If so, will the funds be administered as they are proposed?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year! New Health Law Changes In Effect.

With the start of 2011, a number of health law provisions are now in place. These include

1) Shrinking the "doughnut hole," meaning that seniors who fall into the doughnut hole (those who have spent between $2,840-$6,448 on medications, including what insurers pay) will now get a 50% discount on brand-name medications.  This compares to a $250 rebate they received in 2010.
2) Health insurers can use incentives (such as reduced premiums) for employees who join wellness programs or meet certain health targets. The discounts can be up to 30% of employee-related health insurance costs.  More info here.
3) Health insurance companies must now spend 80% (for small-group plans) on improving patient care, as opposed to spending on general profits/salaries, and admin costs.  If they fail to do so, they must give rebates to customers (starting in 2012).  This percent is 85% for large group plans.
4) Primary care physicians and general surgeons receive 10% more in reimbursements from Medicare.
5) Medicare will pay 100% of preventive care, meaning seniors on Medicare receive free health screenings (e.g. colorectal cancer, mammograms, etc) and other services (e.g. smoking cessation programs).
6) Medicare beneficiaries with annual incomes $85,000+ (for individual) or $170,000+ (for couples) will get smaller subsidies from Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage)...and the start of higher premiums.
7) Holders of flexible-spending accounts will no longer be able to pay for most over-the-counter supplies with their accounts and will now require a prescription.
8) Community-Based Care Transition Program is underway, which is a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Demonstration project designed to put evidence-based care transition services into place for Medicare beneficiaries to reduce the risk of hospital readmissions and improve the quality of care for seniors.  Hospitals and community-based organizations apply to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement this program, based on other successful care transition models, which have eased the transition from hospital to home and reduced hospital re-admission rates.  More information found here.  .
9) Certified Nurse Midwives will now receive the same rate as physicians by Medicare.  They were previously only paid 65% of the physician rate.

Mandatory health insurance doesn't come into play until 2014.

For more information, check out: Kaiser Health News

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Health Reform is Happening!

It's been 6 months since the health reform bill was passed.  Confused about what is in the health reform bill?  Confused about what it means for you?  About when things will occur?  Then, a great resource to check out is: Health Reform Hits Main Street, a short animated "YouToons" video by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Last week (Thursday, Sept 23rd)  a number of provisions of the bill went into effect.  Six of them are as follows:   One, insurance companies (for employer plans) are no longer able to deny health insurance coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or asthma.  Two, lifetime limits on coverage are dropped, meaning there is no lifetime limit on what you spend on hospital stays or other medical costs.  Three, free preventive care must be given by new health insurance policies purchased.  These things include preventive screenings, immunizations, and other preventive tests cannot have a copay.  Four, insurance companies are not allowed to drop you from coverage when you get sick and additionally, they can't look for an error on your application form and then deny coverage based on that.  Five, there is an expanded appeal process for denied claims, meaning you can do an external appeal to an independent third party (instead of just to your insurer directly).   Six, dependent children under the age of 26 can remain on their parent's health insurance policy, as long as their job doesn't offer insurance.  The under-26 population are currently one of the most likely to be uninsured groups, and allowing them to be on their parent's plan will generally save money (to pay for other provisions above) by allowing younger and healthier into the insurance pool to reduce the overall risk and thus, premium costs.  Go to Getting if you have questions about how the dependent coverage rules work in your state.