A Good Outcome from Celebrity Chef Paula Deen’s Message about Diabetes?

By |January 22nd, 2012

Paula Deen’s new message

I never heard of Paula Deen until this week, when the plump Food Channel celebrity and cookbook author announced she has Type 2 diabetes. The Georgia-born, sweet tea-loving cook has teamed up with Novo Nordisc to spread the word about dietary modification and life with diabetes. Her new platform, Diabetes in a New Light, highlights a drug she’s taking called Victoza.

Type 2 diabetes tends to develop in overweight people who become resistant to insulin. Thi disease is epidemic in North America; it affects over 8 percent of the population. Almost 95 percent of adult-onset diabetes cases are Type 2; many could be avoided by diet and lifestyle modification. Diabetes causes blood vessel abnormalities throughout the body; it leads to secondary illnesses like heart disease, stroke, poor vision and blindness, kidney problems, neuropathy and other serious health problems. It’s a costly disease, apart from the medical effects; The NIH estimates the total, direct health care expenses for treating diabetes at $116 billion per year.

Deen’s cooking style, as reported in major newspapers, is heavy on butter and frying high-calorie, fat-loaded stuff in combinations I’ve never contemplated. The verbal stone-throwing came on fast. It’s no surprise she’s got diabetes, many say. Far worse, some suggest, is that Deen enriched herself by encouraging fans to prepare and serve unhealthy foods in their homes. She waited several years after her diagnosis before admitting her condition, meanwhile stirring macaroni and cheese on TV. Some call her a hypocrite, eager for a second helping of income from a drug company that manufactures a relatively new and expensive diabetes medication.

Having reviewed some of Deen’s recipes and cooking clips, I can’t say I’m a fan. Quite the opposite; I advocate and prescribe for myself a low-fat, high fiber diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Especially since my cancer diagnosis, I keep processed foods and those with chemical preservatives to a minimum. I’ve reduced portions of what I eat. And while I do enjoy some foods that are probably unhealthy, like cured meats and smoked fish, I generally limit those to holidays and special occasions. My view is that each of us is responsible for what we eat, and although we can’t prevent some illnesses from developing, we can increase the chances for good health by regular exercise and a sound diet.

That said, I find myself partly sympathetic to Deen’s plight. She’s a 64 year old woman who’s made mistakes, and who’s fessing up now. She’s got Type 2 disease and she’s trying, at least in part, to do the right thing in terms of telling her fans about her condition and what she plans to do about it.

The main issue I have is with Deen’s relationship with Novo Nordisc, the Denmark based company that manufactures Victoza. The generic name is Liraglutide. This new kind of injectible diabetes med for Type 2 diabetes works by mimicking glucagon. It was first approved by the FDA in early 2010, and may cause thyroid cancer, according to the black-box warning.

My take on this brouhaha is that Deen’s getting a lot of grief because she embodies so much of what’s wrong with our overeating, supersizing food culture. She’s a not-young woman who’s successfully sold a lot of unhealthy food through a popular TV show and related enterprises. The former cheerleader is hardly responsible for obesity in America.

Maybe she can do some good in her new endeavor. Better late that than never, in coming out and changing some recipes. What would be really great is if Deen could dissociate herself from the drug company, adjust her diet, exercise and shed some pounds. Unlike a doctor, who’d typically speak about a disease or treatment in a dry, technical sort of tone – and might also be under the spell of a lucrative deal with a drug company, a celebrity like Deen can grab people’s attention through a friendly, upbeat demeanor.

She could become a role model for overweight, out-of-shape women in their 60s, with and without Type 2 diabetes, who like to cook or don’t, who crave all kinds of rich foods.

Maybe -

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A Healthy New Year’s Resolution with a Social Twist

By |January 2nd, 2012

The December issue of Wired Magazine profiles David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers, in a story on new ways to measure calories and food. It’s an interesting piece, with several points worth contemplating at the start of the year.

Kirchhoff, who gained some 70 pounds in his years after high school, writes a blog about the ups and downs of his physical self. When he first came to Weight Watchers, it was a regular points-minded participant. Now, as a fit CEO, he’s changed the plan. In December 2010, the company adjusted its algorithm for counting points. Among the revisions, a banana and other fibrous fruits are relatively encouraged relative to other, less nutritious foods with similar amounts of calories.

The two main points I took away from the Wired story by Jeffrey O’Brien, supplemented by reading of his and sources are these:

1. The effectiveness of Weight Watchers derives largely from its method of peer-to-peer support.

Earlier this year, the Lancet reported on a clinical trial of 772 overweight or obese adults in Australia, Germany and the UK.  In the randomized study funded by Weight Watchers International, half of the patients received weight loss counseling from primary care docs, and the other half got free membership to Weight Watchers. And wouldn’t you know it – the people who participated in Weight Watchers lost more weight than did the others. (Weight Watchers lost 5 kilos, or 11 pounds, on average, compared to 2.25 kilos, or 5 pounds, over the course of 1 year).

2. Weight Watchers, what’s essentially a business led by a man with an engineering degree and an MBA, can have a positive effect of the health of many individuals. By this one parameter (weight loss over one year) the program was more effective than a doctor’s advice.

In sum: the community can make a positive difference about some aspects of health, for the better.

As an aside, it turns out that Weight Watchers was founded in Queens, NY in the early 1960s by a homemaker named Jean Nidetch. Evidently my then-neighbor recommended a low-calorie diet put forth by the New York Board of Health to some overweight people who lived nearby. According to the Wired story, she invited them to weekly meetings where they’d discuss their diets and be supportive of one another.

And there’s the twist: Maybe health is social, at least in part – in the sense of ordinary, non-professional people in a community having the capacity to influence others’ behavior to promote the odds of their well-being. Surely, friends can help friends; a husband can help a wife; a mother a daughter. The trick – and maybe this is where the doctors got it wrong – is in getting the language right; to give a nudge, gently, kindly and without condescension.

Thoughts for the day, and cheers!

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Seven Powerful ‘Foodies’ on Forbes, Influence on Public Health?

By |November 9th, 2011

Last week Forbes ran a photo-feature on the 7 most powerful ‘foodies’ in the world, according to author Michael Pollen.

Michael Pollen, Forbes, Nov 2011

So who made it onto the short list?* with annotation by ML:

1. Michelle Obama (First Lady, mother, organic farmer-in-chief and Let’s Move! fitness enthusiast)

2. Marion Nestle, Professor, New York University (a neighbor, I’d like to meet!)

3. Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA (need to learn more)

4. Will Allen, Urban Farmer (ditto)

5. Jack Sinclair, Head of Grocery, Wal-Mart (who knew they’re the largest vendor of bananas in the US? I did! by listening to the Brian Lehrer show, some time ago.)

6. Ken Cook, Executive Director, Environmental Working Group (sounds reasonable)

7. Mark Bittman, Columnist, The New York Times (he’s on Twitter).

It seems to this homemaker/mom/physician that this group may indeed influence how, where and what we eat. The public health implications of their work may prove unmeasurable, but be large and very real, nonetheless.

I recommend the Forbes‘ photo-essay for details and spectacular photos of food and people.

*list added 11/14/11

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A Poster for Healthy Eating, 1940s Style

By |November 2nd, 2011

A curious diagram appeared in the most recent NEJM, in a perspective on U.S. dietary guidelines. It’s a USDA food wheel from the early 1940s. With Twitter-like style, it says: “For Health…eat some food from each group…every day!

The details are rich: “butter and fortified margarine” constitute 1of the 7 groups. Further inspection-worthy, IMO.

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New York City Mayor Bloomberg Promotes Healthy Lifestyle Choices

By |September 22nd, 2011

In the city where I live, it’s hard to buy a muffin at a Starbucks without stepping back from the counter and reconsidering. Swallowing 460 calories for a minimal-nutrient breakfast seems foolish.

So I eat fewer muffins than I used to. The posted nutritional tidbits, however imprecise, on the contents of pieces of quiche, slices of pizza and cups of thick soup, stick with me when I travel, and at home.

That’s me, just n=1.

Yesterday the mayor gave a speech at the U.N. He’s quoted in today’s WSJ health blog:

In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg rattled off New York’s achievements: a tough anti-tobacco campaign that made cigarettes, at about $11.20 a pack, the most expensive in the nation and led to a reduction in adult smoking rates to 14%  in 2010 from 22% in 2002 (the national rate is 19.3%). A ban on artificial trans fats. Calorie labeling in restaurants. Ad campaigns linking soda consumption to obesity, and a national salt-reduction initiative.

No wonder, he noted, that life expectancy for New Yorkers has risen faster and is higher than for Americans overall, having increased 1.5 years to 79.4 years from 2001 to 2008.

These are just correlative findings. But they support, circumstantially and in my mind, for one, that public policy can impact human behavior and health.

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Maybe We Should Teach Medical Students About Healthy Living

By |September 14th, 2011

Last week I wrote a simple post on eating yogurt with fresh fruit for lunch. It wasn’t until later that I realized why it’s a medical lesson.

It happens that yesterday morning I was up and out early. I saw a former colleague walking along the street. He’d gained weight, and walked slowly. I thought about how hard he works, and what a good doctor I know him to be. And yet any citizen or patient might size him up as heavy, maybe even unhealthy.

The problem is not that he’s uneducated or can’t afford nutritious foods. He knows fully about the health benefits of losing weight and exercise. The problem is the stress and long hours of a busy, conscientious physician’s lifestyle.

When I worked as a practicing doctor and researcher at the hospital, I rarely ate a nutritious breakfast or lunch. My morning meal, too often, consisted of a gobbled muffin and coffee. A weekly lunch conference provided faculty, fellows and students with Domino’s pizza and soda. (To the best of my knowledge, these were not pharma-sponsored; otherwise the food would have been better quality.) On other days, we’d get take-out sandwiches from a nearby deli.

There was a salad bar in the hospital cafeteria. I took from it occasionally, but that involved time (long lines) and risk: You never knew who’d coughed over the lettuce, or swiped her hand too close to the chick peas.

Dinner was usually at home with my family, but I didn’t have much time for cooking then. Sometimes my husband prepared dinner, which was a huge help. Still, we sometimes ordered in Chinese (American-style), from diners, and other local sources of high-fat, low-vitamin, low-fiber “junk” meals.

It wasn’t until I stopped working at the hospital that I learned to eat three healthy meals on most days. Preparing meals with fresh foods takes time and effort, besides access to ingredients and a kitchen.

Med school can be stressful and involves long hours and late nights of study. The same goes for residency, and then for clinical practice in some specialties. Grabbing a slice or an over-sized sandwich is satisfying, and easier than packing lunch.

Maybe part of the curriculum for first-year students, even just a session, should focus on staying healthy as a busy doctor – on maintaining a good diet, keeping physically active and getting sufficient rest.

Perhaps this seems patronizing: Students in med school typically learn what to tell their patients about exercise, stress and weight control; it’s assumed they know how to take care of themselves. But maybe we shouldn’t wait until there’s a problem (a student with an alcohol overdose, or an overweight doctor with a heart attack) to take note and address the fallout of long workdays and stress in physicians’ lives.

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Lunch with Yogurt, Honey, Crumbled Cereal and Cut Fruit

By |September 9th, 2011

For today I thought I’d skip writing a formal post and try a picture, instead, of yesterday’s lunch – fruit with yogurt, honey and crumbled cereal:

Ingredients:

Plain, low-fat yogurt (I use Fage brand, 2% fat, 1/4 – 1/3 cup)

Honey, less than 1/2 teaspoon

Cereal (a fistful of your preference – I like “Smart Start,” roughly 1/4 – 1/3 cup)

Fruit – whatever’s ripe and in the ‘fridge: in this case I included cut honeydew melon and a nectarine, grapes cut in halves and some blueberries

Easy to prepare:

1. Transfer yogurt to a cereal or soup bowl. I usually use a tablespoon to take 3-4 dollops.

2. Add the honey and use a teaspoon to swirl it through the yogurt.

3. Crumble the cereal in your fist, above the bowl – so that the small pieces fall into the yogurt. Mix everything with the spoons.

(You may prefer granola, but I found that by breaking the cereal into bits I can get more crunchiness into the yogurt per calorie added.)

4. Add the cut fruit, stir it in, and you’ve got a nutritious, fresh and filling lunch!

 

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Mars Chocolate Company Advertises With Broccoli

By |August 19th, 2011


MARS chocolate ad

The other day, over lunch, I was reading the Sept 2011 issue of the Atlantic and came upon this image on p. 37. According to the not-so-fine print, this full-page broccoli fix is sponsored by MARS chocolate, North America, website listed:

www.marshealthyliving.com

So we can find out about nutrition from the company that manufactures M&M’s, Snickers, Twix, MilkyWay and 3Musketeers.

Part of a trend –

The New Yorker recently ran a profile of PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi that almost persuaded me the super-sized soda-based conglomerate does the right thing in the healthy living department.

Kinda like Shell, Exxon and BP doing good work for the environment.

Got it?

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New Fairway Delivers Fresh Produce to My Neighborhood

By |July 21st, 2011

On the local, national and nutritional fronts:

How refreshing, in this heat, that Fairway opened a new store on East 86th Street yesterday. Coincidently, Michelle Obama’s push to eliminate “food deserts” – places where it’s hard to find affordable fresh produce and other healthy foods – was highlighted this week when several big retailers signed on to the initiative.

PHOTO CREDIT: DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer (Manhattan Local News)

There was a carnival-like atmosphere on the sidewalk outside the new store, which occupies a large, multilevel space where there used to be a Circuit City (bankrupt, closed) and a Barnes & Noble (moved). Inside, I made a rough tally of unpackaged (6 varieties), nectarines (4), plums (3), string beans (4, including a yellow variant I’ve never seen before), potatoes (11 non-sweet, +  yams and “yellow yams”), onions (7), mushrooms (5), not counting the pre-packaged kinds), peppers (11), tomatoes (9) and beets (3).

You get the picture: if you’re looking for a fresh ingredient and it’s available anywhere New York, chances are you can find it here. Downstairs, there’s fresh fish, meat, coffees, baked goods, and tons of regular and organic grocery items. I counted 22 types of pure honey, not including differently-sized items of the same brand and flavor, and then stopped. Upstairs, there’s a limited selection of prepared foods, a competitively-priced smoked fish counter, a wide cheese selection, dried fruits, nuts and more.

I spent a while meandering through, and heard only positive comments. The shoppers seemed happy; the employees registered glee. A woman next to me on a briskly-moving line summed up the consensus: “This is the best thing that’s happened to the neighborhood in years.”

We should all be so lucky –

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Cooking With Leeks

By |May 20th, 2011

A note on cooking with leeks, inspired by a NYT Well post with a list of related Recipes for Health:

I use leeks all the time, as my neighbors are probably too aware. I use leeks sautéed in olive oil as filler, mixed with an egg and flour for a tart, or to season simple pasta, or to flavor and decorate roasted potatoes.

How I prepare leeks is this:

First I cut off the base and ragged tips of 3-4 stems, slice the mainly dark-green stems lengthwise, and then cut the stalks into 1 – 3 inch sections, depending on what they’ll be used for. Because there’s often dirt from the ground deep in the lower, paler sections of the leeks, I manually expose and separate each rounded layer, and then wash everything  under briskly-running water, thoroughly rinsing at least three times.

You don’t have to dry the cut, washed leeks. What I do is heat a heavy, wide pan on the stove, add a thin layer of olive oil, and then throw on the damp (or dry) leek pieces. With the flame set low, I toss on about a half teaspoon of salt for a volume of 3-4 large stalks. Sometimes I add fresh ginger, cut into tiny pieces, into the mix.

And then I work on other things in the kitchen – often while listening to NPR or talking to my mom on the phone – while the leeks wilt. If I’m running late, I’ll put a lid on the pan, which makes the leeks soften faster, but that’s not ideal. Every few minutes I stir them around a bit with a wooden spoon or spatula, until they’re soft and, typically, shiny with varied shades of green.

You can store cooked leeks in the refrigerator for a few days, if they’re in a sealed container. So you might, as I have, use a small amount with pasta on a Monday, and then use the remainder for a goat cheese and leek tart later in the week. There are many variations, and I’ve only started using this vegetable in the past four years or so.

This summer I intend to try making a potato-leek soup.

According to Martha Rose Shulman, writing for the Times, leeks are milder than onions but contain sulfur compounds present in onions and green garlic that some people find hard to digest. Leeks are a good source of nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids – thought to be important in vision, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin K. Leeks are fiber-rich, I might add.

I should learn more about each of these elements; how they’re best cooked and absorbed. Unfortunately I’m still searching for the nutrition textbook they never assigned in med school.

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A Nutritional Tidbit, on Quinoa

By |March 21st, 2011

I first heard about quinoa a few years ago, when food-sellers started marketing the stuff as a cereal-like, cholesterol-lowering nutritious substance.

Chenopodium Quinoa (Wiki Commons)

It’s from the Andes, I knew, and comes in some varieties. If you purchase the raw stuff or receive a gift, say, from a Peruvian person who knows her quinoa, you’ll find quickly that you have to rinse it a few times with water before cooking it with whatever seasoning you choose, such as cilantro or just a pinch of salt, or with some olive oil and ground pepper, cinnamon or curry, because the starch has to be rinsed of its saponin (soapy) coating.

What I learned yesterday, beginning with an informative feature in the Times, is that quinoa is not a grain but a seed. According to that article and Wikispecies (a fabulous web-find, in itself), quinoa belongs to the chenopod family or subfamily of plants which includes the likes of beets and spinach. The word chenopod stems from the Greek roots: <chen> (goose) and pod (foot), as in goosefoot. These are said to be flowering plants that lack petals.

The U.S. MyFoodPedia site is devoid of information on quinoa, as is the USDA’s Nutrient Database, as of this morning. Sellers say it’s rich in fiber, protein and minerals. A research study published by agricultural scientists based in Santiago, Chile, found an ideal balance of amino acids and minerals mixed in the starch, along with omega-6 oils and vitamin E.

In my fourth year of medical school, I spent most of two months in Bolivia studying infectious and other diseases in Cochabamba. But I don’t think I ever tried quinoa. And it’s definitely not something I learned about in class.

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A Vitamin Chart From the National Women’s Health Information Center

By |February 23rd, 2011

Lately I’ve been worrying about Kevin’s refusal to eat broccoli, and wondering what exactly is so good about those green bunches of roughage. In browsing the Web for more detailed information on the matter, I found a helpful vitamin chart.

This table comes from the HHS-sponsored National Women’s Health Information Center – a good spot to know of if you’re a woman looking on-line for reliable sources. It’s a bit simple for my taste. In the intro, we’re told there are 13 essential vitamins our bodies need. After some basics on Vitamin A – good for the eyes and skin, as you probably knew already – the chart picks up with a quick review of the essential B vitamins 1,2,3,5,6, 9 and 12 (my favorite), followed by a rundown on Vitamins C, D, E, H (that would be biotin) and K:

Vitamins, Some of their Actions, and Good Food Sources
Vitamin Actions Sources
A
  • Needed for vision
  • Helps your body fight infections
  • Helps keep your skin healthy
Kale, broccoli, spinach, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, liver, eggs, whole milk, cream, and cheese.
B1
  • Helps your body use carbohydrates for energy
  • Good for your nervous system
Yeasts, ham and other types of pork, liver, peanuts, whole-grain and fortified cereals and breads, and milk.
B2
  • Helps your body use proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • Helps keep your skin healthy
Liver, eggs, cheese, milk, leafy green vegetables, peas, navy beans, lima beans, and whole-grain breads.
B3
  • Helps your body use proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • Good for your nervous system and skin
Liver, yeast, bran, peanuts, lean red meats, fish, and poultry.
B5
  • Helps your body use carbohydrates and fats
  • Helps your body make red blood cells
Beef, chicken, lobster, milk, eggs, peanuts, peas, beans, lentils, broccoli, yeast, and whole grains.
B6
  • Helps your body use proteins and fats
  • Good for your nervous system
  • Helps your blood carry oxygen
Liver, whole grains, egg yolk, peanuts, bananas, carrots, and yeast.
B9 (folic acid or folate)
  • Helps your body make and maintain new cells
  • Prevents some birth defects
Green leafy vegetables, liver, yeast, beans, peas, oranges, and fortified cereals and grain products.
B12
  • Helps your body make red blood cells
  • Good for your nervous system
Milk, eggs, liver, poultry, clams, sardines, flounder, herring, eggs, blue cheese, cereals, nutritional yeast, and foods fortified with vitamin B12, including cereals, soy-based beverages, and veggie burgers.
C
  • Needed for healthy bones, blood vessels, and skin
Broccoli, green and red peppers, spinach, brussels sprouts, oranges, grapefruits, tomatoes, potatoes, papayas, strawberries, and cabbage.
D
  • Needed for healthy bones
Fish liver oil, milk and cereals fortified with vitamin D. Your body may make enough vitamin D if you are exposed to sunlight for about 5 to 30 minutes at least twice a week.
E
  • Helps prevent cell damage
  • Helps blood flow
  • Helps repair body tissues
Wheat germ oil, fortified cereals, egg yolk, beef liver, fish, milk, vegetable oils, nuts, fruits, peas, beans, broccoli, and spinach.
H (biotin)
  • Helps your body use carbohydrates and fats
  • Needed for growth of many cells
Liver, egg yolk, soy flour, cereals, yeast, peas, beans, nuts, tomatoes, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and milk.
K
  • Helps in blood clotting
  • Helps form bones
Alfalfa, spinach, cabbage, cheese, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, plant oils. Your body usually makes all the vitamin K you need.

(from womenshealth.gov, table accessed 2/19/2011)

Overall I’d say the chart is useful, a good place to start if you want to know, say, what’s a good, non-citrus source of Vitamin C. It could be improved by provision of more details, like the precise amount of Vitamin B2 per cupful of Swiss chard, and how preparing foods in distinct ways – like roasting, sautéing, boiling, or serving them raw – affects the nutritional value.

—-

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MyFoodAPedia, A Government-Sponsored Resource For Nutritional Facts

By |February 9th, 2011

The other day I came upon MyFoodAPedia.gov, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I love the site’s name and logo:

The site allows you to look up a food and see how cooking it in different ways, or adding sauce or a condiment, affects the calories and nutritional components. Try looking up what’s in a half cup of broccoli florets, raw, cooked, or cooked with some butter. Or an English muffin, with or without butter, with or without jam.

The biggest limitation is the site’s lack of information on vitamins and minerals for most foods. And holes in what’s covered, especially in terms of cooking preparation. For example, you can find out about the fat content and calories in spinach and most other vegetables served raw or cooked with butter, margarine (is this 1975?) or “tub margarine” (yuck). But what about vegetables roasted or sautéed with olive oil, as most cardiologists and this homemaker would suggest to her readers?

I like MyFoodAPedia, but mainly for its potential so far. Hopefully, like Wikipedia it will become more informative over time. Still, it’s a handy, probably objective resource for cooks and others who care about what they’re ingesting.

—-

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Contemplating Diet and Nutrition: A First Look at the USDA’s New Guidelines

By |February 6th, 2011

On Sunday afternoons I tend to think about food for my family. Sometimes that’s because we’re having a few more than usual at the dinner table. Also, it’s a time when I order the bulk of fish, meat, produce and other ingredients for the week ahead.

Since I had cancer, I’ve paid much more attention to the food I serve in our home than before. While a balanced diet is no fail-safe for avoiding disease, I do think it’s prudent to be aware of the variety and quantity of food we eat. In medical school we learned surprisingly little about nutrition. Most of what I know I’ve learned from reading books – like Michael Pollen’s In Defense of Food – and reading through detailed reports like the USDA’s new Dietary Guidelines for Americans (7th Edition) issued a few days ago.

From the press USDA and HHS joint press release:

Because more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, the 7th edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans places stronger emphasis on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity.

The Times summed up the new guidelines nicely in its headline: Government’s Dietary Advice: Eat Less.

But it’s not a trivial report. Rather, it’s a hefty-if-printed (I didn’t) 112-page pdf with some fluff (even blank pages for notes) and some excellent, hard-to-find-elsewhere details on nutrients. Some highlights include Figure 5-1, which demonstrates with abundant clarity that we don’t eat sufficient fruits, vegetables, whole grains or most other recommended foods:

I’m still digesting (sorry, I can’t help myself) detailed chapters and tables in the full report. There’s a lot of useful information to take in. For example, Appendix 11, on p. 85, charts the “Estimated EPA and DHA and Mercury Content in 4 Ounces of Selected Seafood Varieties” – handy if you serve fish for dinner at least twice per week, and like me, figure it’s best to hedge on potential toxic effects by serving a variety of fish.

More from the press release, on tips that will be provided to help consumers translate the Dietary Guidelines into their everyday lives:

• Enjoy your food, but eat less.

• Avoid oversized portions.

• Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

• Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

• Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals – and choose the foods with lower numbers.

• Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

All of these seem wise, but obvious. Still, it’s clear that most of us aren’t following the guidelines, or even common sense.

Setting guidelines should help, so teachers in schools and cafeteria-caterers can know what to tell and feed kids, so they develop good eating habits. But really I think that most of the information, if you can call it that – what constitute our dietary habits begun in childhood – has to be cultivated in our homes, the popular culture and community at large. So my plan is to delve further into the USDA report, and elsewhere, and once each week (maybe) post a nutritional ML. I hope it won’t be too simple or boring.

Like a diet, we’ll see how this goes -

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The Broccoli Connection

By |January 21st, 2011

(considering the Future of Health Care in America, and Life on TV in the Office)

This week’s NEJM is filled with good stuff.

There’s a super-extra-really important article on a new breast cancer drug, a PARP inhibitor called iniparib, for patients with triple negative breast cancer, and an accompanying editorial that matters. (Some ML readers might want to take a look at an article I wrote for Cure Magazine on new drugs, including PARP inhibitors, for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.)

There’s a perspective I still need to read on the scope of what nurses might do. Another on future nurses, and another on how to assess an ACO, which by the end of this health news-rich week every citizen should know stands for an Accountable Care Organization.

And there are some stomach-churning letters about the mammography screening debate.

But for this Friday morning, I’ll just mention the perspective piece called Can Congress Make You Buy Broccoli? And Why That’s a Hard Question. Really I think the better question is whether or not the government can force people to eat broccoli.

Michael waves a broccoli stalk in front of Kevin on the Office

And how could those NEJM authors have anticipated last night’s episode of the Office, that Michael would break HR rules by forcing Kevin to eat a stalk of raw broccoli, because he’d made a new year’s resolution to eat more vegetables? Kevin spat it out, forcefully and problematically for some viewers.

My tentative conclusion is that someone needs to teach Kevin and his colleagues how to cook.

—-

addendum 6/27/12 – it’s “the Office,” Season 7, Episode 13 – “The Ultimatum” starting  min 13.5.

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