Worker Bees’ Daily Bites
1) Gosh, thanks, Labelman!
The FDA has created an interactive online tool to help people better understand the Nutrition Facts Label. Visitors to the site learn to “Make Your Calories Count” with the help of Labelman. Yes.
The program helps explain percentages, serving sizes and caloric information.
The Nutrition Facts Label has been criticized virtually since its introduction. The label is perhaps misleading to some because it is based upon a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, which is much more than many people, especially women, need to consume. Additionally, nutritional percentages are somewhat misleading. A candy bar may “only” have 20% of one’s daily recommended saturated fat intake, but that doesn’t make a candy bar healthy. The big problem with this percentage standard is that the actual product may be ridiculously high in fat, sodium or sugar, but appear to be “low” compared to the total daily limit. For example, a soda may contain about one-eighth of the recommended daily sugar for a 2,000-calorie-consumer. But soda is nothing more than sugar water and is therefore one of the worst things you can put in your body.
Cynics in the health industry point out that this “percentage” comparison standard, which does not actually reflect the individual merit of the product, almost encourages unhealthy eating habits.
We’re not sure how helpful a guy named Labelman could be, but we want to know why the standards are what they are, anyway. Who says 160 grams of carbohydrates a day is desirable? Is saturated fat really so terrible if it’s properly balanced with health fatty acids like Omega-3? And how about serving sizes – who really only drinks 8 ounces of something or eats 7 chips? Discuss, Apples.
2) Seven Ways, Same Result
The New England Journal of Medicine released a study today that says newer tests are not appreciably better at predicting heart attacks than standard tests. Now, if you run a Google search for this story, you’ll find that they are all suspiciously alike – even newspapers in India are running the same lines. What that means? A press release or a statement from NEJM, most likely. (Yes, this happens all the time.)
The study of some 3,900 people found that testing for CRP, homocysteine and other substances (considered the new rock stars in heart disease treatment) aren’t much better at predicting heart problems than a good old cholesterol or blood pressure test.
This study reveals some interesting things. Let’s read between the lines. It doesn’t necessarily mean that CRP or homocysteine tests are bad; it simply means that obvious factors are enough to determine risk. Guess what those obvious factors are? Even the conservative NEJM discusses them:
However, the standard risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history, advanced age, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and diabetes — proved to be just as accurate when it came to predicting heart disease.
Testing cholesterol is still a great way to go, not because cholesterol is bad (like mainstream medicine would have you believe) but because it is indicative of inflammation. Many of the other easy-to-see risk factors are entirely preventable through lifestyle choices. In a roundabout way, this long-term study reflects what we already ought to know: an expensive test can show what’s already written all over one’s face.
Here’s the money quote:
“This really supports the value of focusing on risk-factor reduction, not looking for a magic blood test,” said Dr. Richard Stein, director of preventive cardiology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York.
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Almost Deserves a Sherlock Award…
The New England Journal of Medicine has announced that Vitamin D is so good for you, it might even help prevent multiple sclerosis, a tragic and degenerative disease of the nervous system that affects about 350,000 people. Actually, the study is really worth checking out, although we’re a little annoyed (hey, we’re bees). Science has long shown Vitamin D to be a crucial nutrient for all sorts of health issues, from nerves, tissues and teeth to eyes and bones. In fact, a lot of people don’t realize Vitamin D is just as necessary for bones as calcium. But we bet you know that.
Gut Bugs – Yum!
The news that digestive germs play a role in making you fat is already causing a big hot mess in the health world. One doctor in the article is quite the contrarian, saying flatly, “I think it’s totally wrong.” The article didn’t go on to explain if he had reasons for his belief, but we’re going to recommend you read it for yourself and also be sure to see Mark’s related gut-bug post. Hmm…gut bugs. What a term! Suddenly, we’re just not hungry…
Check out the germ clickativity.
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Yo! All kinds of news you’ll want to check out today, Apples. Here’s the best of it:
Bite My MDA
The FDA says it wants stricter warnings on the dangers of over-the-counter pain pills like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxin sodium. Since thousands of people die every year from painkiller-related problems (even when following dosage directions!), this is a good thing, but we’re still not forgiving the FDA for what we feel is a moronic decision yesterday to allow Celebrex for tiny tots. It’s not at all about being anti-drug – drugs serve a tremendously important role in improving human health and survival. But we think it’s short-sighted to approve the prescription of a very problematic drug to the wee ones.
There’s no clear-cut data on just how many people die from painkillers, according to the FDA. Sure. If you believe that, you’ll also believe the FDA’s claim that they wanted to issue stern warnings back in 2002, but it just takes so long to write warnings. Yes, that’s right – your eyes do not deceive you. It has taken over four years to deal with this because, well, writing a few paragraphs for pill bottle labels just takes a really, really long time. We know there are things like rules, regulations, and procedures. But don’t lives take precedence? Nope – lobbyists do, and that’s why it takes so long. That’s why they get paid the big bucks, Apples.
Feed Those Kids Some Sushi!
While this is a small, simple study, it’s certainly interesting news for your little ones’ health that isn’t the least bit fishy. Read up.
Why Supplements Are Important As We Age
Here’s a good study out of Cornell University that discusses the importance of supplements for older women. Stay healthy, ladies!
Trans Fats Make It to State
First, Chicago and NYC had to start in with the fat bans. We’re still waiting on Los Angeles to join the city competition, but in the meantime, an entire state – Massachusetts – is all set to ban trans fats, too. They always have to be first, don’t they? However, we’re glad to see the trans fat issue finally getting some serious political sizzle (we know, we know…bad pun).
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Howdy! Here’s the latest & greatest from the world of health news (of course, with our views):
Where Studies Get Tricky
More breast cancer news. A study of about 2,400 women found that non-hormone-receptor breast cancer survivors who ate 20% fat in their diets had a lesser chance of cancer relapse than those who ate just under 30% fat in their diets. The lower-fat group had 238 relapses, while the higher-fat group had 302 relapses. What’s unclear about this is if the weight loss is what spurred better survival rates, or the actual percentage intake of fat. Or, if there were other factors unforseen (smoking rates, family history, pregnancies). Or, if a difference of about 60 is enough to make a claim. This is where studies get difficult…clickativity. Let’s discuss, Apples.
Food Poisoning? I’ll Take That to Go, Thanks.
Again? Seriously, again? We’re starting to think restaurants just really hate their customers.
It’s a Good Day for Alcohol…Is That a Good Thing?
We’re not exactly impressed. Liquor is medicine now? (Well, it is a drug…)
We still say be careful with the alcohol hype. Better to get your antioxidants from something that can’t also poison you (like a good multivitamin). However, because we’re big proponents of moderation here at the MDA, we do agree that a glass of wine with dinner is probably nothing to worry about, and may even be good for you. We’re also glad to hear this news.
We’re a Little Scared to Let the Big Apple See This One
And in another genius decision, the FDA approves Celebrex for tots. Terrific. What’s especially terrific is that, while these folks voted 15-1 to approve the drug for kids, they only voted 8-7 to approve it as safe. Basically, what this boils down to is that they don’t know for sure that it’s safe, but they’re going to allow it anyway, and Celebrex has to keep tabs on the situation. While we would like to believe that Celebrex has kids’ best interests at heart, that’s kind of like telling a criminal who is out on parole that he should monitor himself in case he gets into trouble. Mind-boggling, is it not? Truth really is stranger than fiction.
WORKER BEES’ DAILY BITES
Drug-Eluting Stents Elude Trouble…for Now
An FDA panel is
not really concerned that drug-eluting stents might cause serious blood clots. There are two kinds of stents: those that elute and those that do not. The latter are simple metal devices used to prop open arteries that are gunked up. The former release drugs and are far more popular. In fact, drug-eluting stents make up 90% of stents sold, which means about $6 billion a year in profits for the medical device industry.
So, the news* that they might kill more than they should (remember, the FDA accepts a relative number of “oops” when approving a drug) is not making Big Pharma happy. Over at the Motley Fool, they’re surmising that the FDA will probably let it all slide. Poor Pfizer just lost torcetrapib, so maybe it’s a little bit of a pity party. At any rate, ateriosclerosis, which stents address, is almost entirely preventable with a good diet and daily exercise. Something to think about. Apples?
Will I Miss Out If I Never Eat a Kumquat?
Junior Apple Jessica B. wants to know if we need variety in our diets, after all. Good question, Jess (can we call you Jess?). That does seem to be one of the hallowed tenets of friendly nutritionists everywhere. It’s right up there with 8 glasses of water daily and flail-away-at-the-cardio-machine.
What we want to know is: what do we really know? For all of human history, people ate locally, seasonally, and their variety was often limited. Evidence indicates that cave-dudes and cave-ettes didn’t really struggle much with things like obesity and diabetes. As long as they weren’t wiped out by the latest glacier or wild boar attack, people were reasonably healthy on diets that centered around one or two fiber sources, some type of greens (anything from kelp in Japan to moss in Siberia), and a protein source or two (fish in New Zealand, reindeer in Finland). What do you all think about the variety debate? Get thee to the forum!
* UPDATE MAY/24/07: news article updates latest drug-eluting stent issue. We’ve replaced the old article with the most up-to-date news.
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