Public Health? Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

ABA Close UpDe do do do, de da da da. Entering the Brooklyn subway on a sunny day. But what’s this? A public health message? Move in closer….img_1921

Okay, I see. Big Soda is paying the MTA to endear us to their products, disguised of healthful advice. This ad is sponsored by the group that represents Coke, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper. (I miss Mayor Bloomberg.)
Public Health Indeed!

That was fours days ago. Then. today I woke up to this article in the New York Times: Coke and Pepsi Give Millions to Public Health, Then Lobby Against it. Ah, the public health part.

But these articles, also ripped from today’s headlines, put another spin on “public health”:

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“The Academy”), the professional organization of registered dietitians in which I once held leadership positions, accepts (a lot of) sponsorship from Big Food. That’s why I am no longer a member. They have sullied my name and so they must be renounced. My dietitian friends will tell you, the phrase “The Academy” always evokes the response, “I hate them.”

Personally, I favor a soda tax (and everything else that can be done to reform our sick brand Capitalism.) I neither drink soda nor eat processed food. (Bread is about as processed as it gets.) I’ve written about why I favor a soda tax in the blog posts listed below.

Your thoughts: How can we stop this?

Providence to Newport by Water (with my brother on a very hot day)

Mary:  “How old is this boat?”
Peter:  “35 years”
Mary:  “It’s nice in here. Why don’t you re-do the linoleum in the Captain’s quarters? You know, keep up the boat.”
Peter:  “Arrrgggh! This is a working boat! It stays in the water. Gotta make money!”
Mary:  “Okay. Got it.”

You might remember my brother, Peter and his boat, the Endeavour, from a past blog,
I Wanna Be a Lobsterman. Actually, that blog led to a unique experience when a guy named Steve Trewhella found a lobster trap tag from the Endeavour at Chesil BeEndeavor Tagach, UK on the South coast of England. Steve took a photo and posted it on Facebook, and then a second guy, Tom Pitchford of Florida, US, saw the  photo, googled the Endeavour, found my blog, and sent me Steve’s photo on Facebook at Mary Hartley RD. Crazy!

BTW: Our Endeavor is not to be confused with the HMS Endeavour recently found at the bottom of Newport Harbor. That Endeavour is the boat Captain James Cook sailed around the world when he made first contact with Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

Anyway, last Friday, an unbearably hot and humid July day, my brother had to move his boat from the Port of Providence where it went for its biennial exterior paint job (sorry, Pete) back to Newport, Rhode Island where it is docked. I went along for the ride. Mmmmm. So breezy steaming down Narragansett Bay.

Check out the photos of the day. Note the huge mobile harbor crane loading the boat into the water at Port of Providence, and at Slide 9, notice the pop-up storm brewing 20 miles to the west in Wickford, RI. We could see the thunder and lightening, but Wickford got all that plus heavy rain and very gusty winds. It blew through suddenly and tipped over stuff!

Comments:  Have you taken this trip?

Ice Cream Social-ism

Bernie_2My friend Barbara shared this news item with me and it’s too good not to pass on.

Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, has an idea for a new flavor. He calls it “Bernie’s Yearning” for his fellow resident of Vermont. The flavor is a plain “American cream” ice cream topped with a thin disc of chocolate.

Ben told the media outlets:
“The disc of chocolate represents all the wealth that’s gone to the top 1% of the population over the last ten years. And the way you eat it is you whack the chocolate into itty-bitty pieces with your spoon, and then mix it around to share the wealth. “The American Cream” ice cream is made from 1% milk for the 99%.

Of course, Ben & Jerry’s cannot produce “Bernie’s Yearning” because they lost the authority to make new flavors when they sold the company Unilever in 2000. Still, that doesn’t stop Ben from visualizing new flavors based on his political leanings. For Barack Obama, he created Yes Pecan! in 2009.

Watch Bernie Sanders Try His Ben & Jerry’s Flavor For The First Time

Donut-licking is an Aberrant Eating Behavior

ariana keep outBefore this “news” story hits the briney deep, I have something to say about Ariana Grande. She is the 22-year old celebrity of Nickelodeon TV, theater, and music fame who was seen in July, on a surveillance video, licking glazed donuts on an uncovered tray in a donut shop. On the audio, she was overheard saying, “What the f*ck is that? I hate Americans. I hate America. That’s disgusting!” There were entertainment-news stories and hash tags galore: #ilickdonuts – #donutgate – #donutproblems – #arianadonuts –  #arianagrandelickingdonuts –  #ariwearewithyou – #arianahatesamerica. This week I read that Ariana Grande Is Now the 2nd Most Disliked Celebrity, Following Close Behind Bill Cosby. Can you believe that? 

But for me as a clinician, donut-licking raises a red flag. It is an aberrant eating behavior on par with eating in a ritualistic way, chewing food and spitting it out, mixing strange food combinations, eating the same foods over and over, skipping meals, taking tiny portions, cutting food in little pieces, and refusing to eat with others. They are all aberrant eating behaviors that may be seen in eating disordered patients.

Ariana also happens to be extraordinarily thin, which wasn’t the case last year when (according to the Internet), at 5’1” tall, she weighed 106 pounds (BMI 20), a perfect weight within the healthy weight range. But within the past year (according to the Internet), she lost twelve pounds by following a vegan diet. I figure that now Arianna is in the underweight range, weighing 90-94 pounds (BMI 17).

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana Before Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

Ariana After Vegan

I’ve explained why vegan diets are a problem in Beyonce Promotes Vegan Diet. Tricked by Her Trainer. But that doesn’t stop the knuckleheads on YouTube from praising Ariana’s weight loss. (See Ariana Grande Vegan Weight Loss Transformation.) The photos are telling.

I understand why Ariana Grande might let it slip that, subconsciously, she hates America. After all, we made her into an object that must stay dangerously thin (and hungry) in order to survive. As a role model, she spreads the poison to young fans. How can she feel good about that? When all she wanted to do was sing and dance. I hope she gets help.

Adipositivity

AdiposivityIn Manhattan, there is always something to see. In front of Public Library on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street last Friday, a small crowd watched as three morbidly obese women had their naked bodies painted. The women were part of The Adipositivity Project, which promotes acceptance of variations in human size. Passers by were generally supportive.

“Fat shaming”, the practice of openly criticizing people for being too fat, is all too common. We wouldn’t shame people for other afflictions, but it’s okay to shame the fat.

Morbid obesity has a genetic component. But “genes load the gun; the environment pulls the trigger.” It’s complicated, and society is to blame in many ways.

Your thoughts: Do you support fat acceptance?

How Cheese is Good for You

cheeseIf you are a turophile (cheese lover), good news! If you have turophobia (fear of cheese), get over it! It turns out that cheese is actually good for you. We were steered wrong. Sacré bleu!

I have written about why we need to eat more fermented foods and natural cheese is a perfect example. Natural cheese, especially the part right under the rind, is full of probiotic bacteria essential to good health.

So far, we know that research subjects who ate natural cheese produced more butyrates, short-chain fatty acids that literally feed the cells lining the colon. Butyrates create an environment that suppress inflammation in the colon and that may help conditions like ulcerative colitis and colon cancer. In addition, 70% of our immunoglobin cells are made in the colon and they act all throughout the body. Studies show that butyrates created by eating cheese enhanced natural and acquired immunity. (Acquired immunity is when antibodies develop in response to exposure to an infectious disease or through vaccination.) More butyrate was also associated with a reduction of “bad” serum cholesterol. It seems like good gut bacteria was more important than saturated fat.

Read about the healthy bacteria in cheese in Science Daily:

Your thoughts: Does your life include enough cheese?

Talking About the Bug Banquet

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara (with glasses) eating Cricket and Silkworm Tempura Skewers

Barbara:  “Yuck, I don’t think I feel well.”
Mary:  “What, like you want to throw-up?”
Barbara:  “Maybe. I feel like I just ate bugs.”
Mary:  “No kidding. That’s why I didn’t eat any.”

Here, I am talking with my dear friend, Barbara, also a dietitian, in the car on the way home from The Bug Banquet. My long-term readers might Barbara from past blogs, Talking About “What Not to Do” on the BQE and Talking About Oxtails in Brooklyn. Lucy and Ethel-style, Barbara hauled me to an event where insects were on the menu.

As a Johnson & Wales University Professor, Barbara got a special invitation and I was her guest. She was kind of obligated to eat bugs with her colleagues and students there. No one noticed me flitting around, chatting it up, and passing on the bugs. As a product of the western world, I offer no apologies. As a near vegetarian, I am doing the sustainability thing.

Read about the banquet and “cricket flour” in my article for DietsInReview,
The Bug Banquet: Serving Sustainability in a Cricket Pesto Flatbread

Your thoughts: Would you eat insects? Have you? How were they?

Nutrients from the Sky. The Upside of Snow.

       "Winter I"  by Bob Zuck

“Winter I” by Bob Zuck

Juno, Linus, Marcus, Neptune, Pandora…. What now? We’re running out of names for snowstorms in New England. 

Can you believe our good fortune? 

I feel so much better now that my buddy, artist farmer Bob Zuck, introduced me to the nutritional benefits of snow. As it turns out, we are flush in nutrients falling from the sky.

Snow is more than moisture. It is also rich in nitrogen, a nutrient that makes up every living cell in plants and animals. Nitrogen is what makes protein unique. Nitrogen comprises 80% of the atmosphere, but it’s in a form that can’t be used. Snow grabs that nitrogen and deposits it into the soil where bacteria “fix” it for absorption into plants. We then eat the plants directly or we eat herbivorous animals. Nitrogen fixing plants include legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts) and cover crops from the Fabaceae family (alfalfa, clover, and vetch).

Atmospheric nitrogen is exceptionally abundant a result of burning fossil fuels and manufacturing. To an industrial farmer, the nitrogen in snow can’t hold a candle to commercial fertilizer, but harsh chemical fertilizers damage the soil’s microbes and so they would need more.

New England, look on the bright side. Prepare to feast on sustainable local food this summer. California, eat my dust. Wait. Eat your own dust.

Your thoughts: Do you feel better about the snow?

Beyonce Promotes Vegan Diet. Tricked by Her Trainer.

BeyonceNothing against Beyonce. Look at her. Talented, beautiful, rich, the new Black feminist, works the Power Couple, not excessively vulgar like Miley Cyrus. I just don’t like it when well-meaning celebs put the public in harms way.

Today, I wrote an article for Diets In Review, “Beyonce’s New Vegan Diet Can be Delivered to Your Door. But is it Worth It?” Beyonce is promoting veganism because her trainer has her ear. See the article to understand.

Vegans don’t eat any meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or milk products. (Beyonce tacked on gluten, soy, and GMO restrictions too.) Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian? (add eggs and dairy) You bet! Pescetarian? (add fish) Flexitarian? (add a little meat) Bring ’em on! (I was actually an Ovo-Lacto Vegetariam since before Beyonce was born. See What the Hippies Knew.) But vegans? That’s just dangerous. Please be careful.

Bottom Line: Just eat more vegetables, legumes and whole grains and cut the processed foods. And don’t take nutrition advice from celebrities and personal trainers.

Your thoughts? Have you considered going vegan? Did you do it?

Treating My Osteopenia

osteopeniaGrowing old. What a nuisance. Wrinkles, gray hair, enlargement of the suborbicularis oculi fat pads – a.k.a. eye bags big enough to pack a picnic lunch. And now bones returning to dust right inside of me.

This tirade stems from the results of my Dual X-ray (DXA) bone densitometry test. In the past eleven years, my osteopenia has gotten worse (surely, it’s a measurement error!) to greatly increasing my risk of hip and spine fractures as I age. (But I love to ice skate – talk about falls!)

No surprise as I have so many risks: older, white, small-boned female, lowish BMI (cosmetically slim), never took estrogen, bisphosphonates (Actonel) did nothing, used to smoke, loves wine (modestly reduces calcium absorption) and coffee (modestly increases calcium excretion).

My diet is balanced enough, albeit lowish in protein because I don’t eat much meat and eggs and, like most others, I don’t meet my personal requirements for calcium and vitamin D: 1,200 milligrams of calcium – some say 1,500 – and 600 i.u. of vitamin D– some say 800) per day. And what about boron, vitamin K, phosphorous, and other key nutrients for bone health? I’ll comment only if you ask.

I do eat yogurt faithfully and, sometimes, milk in cereal. I eat my dark leafy greens and nuts and, sometimes, fish with bones; however, calcium from plants is not well-absorbed (oxalates and phytates interfere with absorption), I rarely drink a glass of milk or eat cheese, and I never have calcium-fortified orange juice or breakfast bars. (Personal preference: yuck!) According to the lab, I’m not vitamin D deficient (vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption), but I’m sure I don’t eat enough fatty fish, liver, cod liver oil, egg yolks, radiated mushrooms, or fortified milk – most yogurt is not fortified  – and I don’t get enough strong sun. But I’m not about to eat more because, as a short older women, I practically can’t eat without gaining weight. (Young ones, wait and see.)

And so, I have to take supplemental calcium and vitamin D. I take Nature Made adult gummies Calcium with Vitamin D3 four a day at doses of 500 mg or less between meals to increase absorption. (Add another 150 calories.) These suplements are acceptable because, frankly, they taste like candy. Each gummie contains 250 milligrams of calcium and 350 i.u. of vitamin D, which should keep me within the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for  gender and age. The calcium is tricalcium phosphate, a well absorbed source, and vitamin D3 (vs. D2), the best form. Still, research tells me not to expect much.

Weight-bearing exercise also helps to build bone. I walk a lot, jump on the mini-trampoline a bit and do Pilates consistently. But that doesn’t cut it. Now, I have to take up running or jumping up onto and down from a box at least 15 inches high to generate enough force to help build bone. (See the New York Times, Why High-Impact Exercise Is Good for Your Bones.) Since 15 inches is more than a quarter of my height, jumping on the box won’t work, and if I liked to run, I’d have done it by now, but like the supplements, it’s therapeutic. What a nuisance.

Your thoughts: Have you had a bone densitometry test? What did it reveal? Do you take calcium supplements?