Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

16 Jul

The ‘New’ News on Avandia: Who Knew?

GlaxoSmithKline, that’s who.

Another drug, another round of heretofore unknown side effects. Well…not exactly unknown. Are we really surprised?

Avandia made a big splash recently because the popular type 2 diabetes drug was linked to an increased risk for serious heart problems. It gets better: the new news on Avandia shows that had doctors been adequately made aware of the potential trouble and therefore accurately reported related heart trouble in their diabetic patients, the entire eight year debacle would have likely been prevented. Instead, as you’d expect, we’re suddenly seeing a tripling of heart problems being reported in relation to Avandia. It’s yet another unnecessary slew of health problems thanks to a drug that needed better safety guidelines, and it’s yet another case for greater pharmaceutical transparency. But most of all it’s a case for prevention of the disease in the first place.

Have you been touched by diabetes?

No? Give it a month.

The best part about all of this: Avandia is primarily used to treat cases of type 2 stemming from (wait for it) obesity. We’ve managed to create an egregiously successful obesity epidemic and millions of cases of designer diabetes thanks to garbage fare along the likes of the Bees’ weekend trip to the middle aisles of the grocery store.

I wonder: for all the billions spent shilling and spilling Avandia all over the place, how many health education classes and nutritious food subsidies could have been given to obese, diabetic patients instead?

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Note: I’m not bagging on TU – what’s got me in a twist is the fact that we even need organizations like this.

16 Jul

Ridiculous Health Claims: Mark’s Daily Apple Goes to the Grocery Store


Was it a mischievous mood, or simply the carbs? Over the weekend your Bees decided to explore (cue drums) the middle aisles of the grocery store. Here’s what we found:
Promax: maxing your chances for diabetes.

We know that candy bars aren’t healthy (duh). How about a nice protein energy bar instead? Surely that’s gonna be nutritious! The Promax Cookies ‘n Cream bar even says so on the upper left corner: “Really Delicious. Really Nutritious.” It’s in red, so you just know it must be true. Plus, it is all natural.

But wait! Looking at the ingredients, we are confused. Granted, we are only bees. The list starts with some decent things, like whey protein and antioxidants (the new glamour children of processed foods). But it quickly turns to the usual suspects found in your average candy bar: high fructose corn syrup, canola oil, dyes and artificial flavorings, starches, and gums. Hmm. Maybe we’ll just get some juice. Juice is healthy, right? Especially if we choose the juice aimed at children, right?
Because kids need antioxidants. But mostly sugar.

Now this looks great. Nothing artificial, and more antioxidants! Hooray! Let’s take a look at the ingredients. 10% juice. Hmm, maybe we are just bad at math, but we’re pretty sure that means 90% high fructose corn syrup. Oh, look at this! It does contain 90% sweetener! Maybe you have to be a surfer, but this does not seem cool to us.

Time to move on to actual nourishment. Let’s find a convenient meal that is great for adults and kids alike. How about corn dogs? Hey, it says “trans fat free” so that must be healthy! Wait a minute, everything in the frozen section is now trans fat free. But we’ll stick with the corn dogs since they have that special double-dipped honey sweet coating. It’s not real honey or anything, but we’re not really Pooh Bear, so who cares? As long as it sorta-kinda tastes like honey and helps our bellies look decidedly Pooh-esque, it’s all good.
Trans fat free!

Oh, wait! One of us (ahem) has a problem with corn dogs. Apparently she is too good for mechanically-separated spinal meat. Fine (coughsnobcough). How about some vegetarian sausage? That surely must be healthy! See, low fat! Processed foods can be nutritious!

Oh, but wait. There are over two dozen ingredients in this “sausage”, including all the same things used in the “healthy” energy bar. This is really getting to be depressing. What other aisles are there? Surely there must be some healthy prepared foods somewhere in this dizzying labyrinth of Natural! Trans fat free! Low fat! A good source of some stupid vitamin! No sugar added because it’s already jammed full of it naturally!

Aha! The “snack” aisle. Because the other five aisles of processed, sugar-filled, sodium-bloated crap weren’t “snacks” but rather a healthy part of a balanced obesity epidemic. (Ever notice how all these processed foods say “a healthy part of a balanced meal”? And the picture is always the processed food with an apple or a salad or a glass of milk? What, pray tell, is the processed food bringing to the table?)

But the chip package says “Smart Choices Made Easy”. Finally, something healthy! And the best part about this entire adventure is the fact that the smartest choice in the grocery store is easy. Sniff. It brings tears to the eyes. Where’s the Kleenex aisle?

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16 Jul

Aaaaand We’re Back

Howdy, all! No doubt you noticed the blog was out of commission for a few days. Our programmers were hard at work restructuring our comment system. You’ll find the blog is much, much easier to participate in now.

Here’s what’s going on:

Previously, the blog was designed with an attached (“bridged”) vbulletin forum. All blog posts showed up in a relevant section of the forums…er, fora. To comment on a blog post, you had to be a registered member of the forum first. This offered a number of benefits, but also some limitations. While the forum provides a community-like space for frequent readers to get to know each other, new readers who simply wanted to share a quick thought on a post weren’t havin’ it. So we’ve come up with a great solution that gives you the best of both worlds (genius, I tell you). To comment on a post, simply click “Comments” at the bottom of the post. Voila, comment away! You’ll simply have to provide your name and email, and your website if you have one. Your email stays private.

We still have the forum, which you can navigate to by clicking “Forum” up yonder or by typing into your browser’s URL window. We’re keeping the forum for several reasons:

1) It’s fun. You can start your own threads or even write your own posts (and pimp your own blog!). You can expand upon any blog post or take it in a new direction – basically, the forum is for you! Moving forward, commenting on posts will be a lot easier and registration-free, but we’ll all still be hanging out in the forum daily, so no worries there!

2) You get the weekly email newsletter. The newsletter includes the “best of” from the week, which is handy if you don’t always have time to check the blog daily or still haven’t gotten with the program and hooked up your RSS reader! 😉 The weekly email usually includes an extra recipe, fun link or other bonus tidbit you won’t get here at the blog.

3) We’ve also kept the forum so all the many thousands of comments on past blog posts didn’t get lost in the shuffle – that would be tragic! They’re all still there, archived in the Blog Forum section at the top of the page. This might make things appear a little funky for you longtime readers who are used to comments being located in the blog forum. In fact, you can already see the changes: scroll down the Mark’s Daily Apple main page and you’ll notice that many posts appear to have no comments now (hey, what happened to my comments!?!). Don’t worry – the comments are still “there” – they’re simply archived in the forum. From now on, comments will be visible on the main blog page only – not in the forum. The transition is really very simple and everything is a lot easier now (cool!). Go ahead, comment on this post. See how easy that is?

Commenting rules:

The blog is now your oyster, so don’t hold back. That said, keep it civil, and let’s not feed any trolls!

12 Jul

The Watering Hole

I am going to do something a bit unorthodox for the PH column this week. I had planned to move on from the hormone-stress topic to another issue, but due to the responses from so many of you, it is clear this issue resonates with many, and therefore deserves some additional attention. There are so many important issues related to this umbrella term of stress, particularly when viewed from the “primal” perspective of our evolutionary blueprint. I’d like to share some curious, persuasive and otherwise interesting snippets that might serve to get us started in discussing the myriad issues surrounding our modern, stressful lifestyle and its consequent impact on hormone function, stress management, mental health, aging, and obesity. Consider this a starting off point for a conversation that can – and should – go in any number of provocative directions based upon Part 1 from last week. Fodder for the watering hole, if you will. Whether you’re a scientist, teacher, health care provider, or simply interested in health and wellness, I want to hear your thoughts, blue-sky ideas, and varied perspectives. If this gets some thoughtful discussion started, we can carry it on as long as we like.

A few starters to get us going in any number of ways:

1. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

This best-seller (inaccurate title notwithstanding – ulcers are caused by bacteria, not stress) addresses the severe health implications of a life filled with daily, unmitigated stress. Robert Sapolsky posits that the reason we get “ulcers” – and heart disease, and diabetes, and obesity, and dementia, and memory loss, and depression – is because our genetic blueprint, as it were, simply isn’t developed to properly handle the enormous amount of stress present in modern life. Our bodies respond to traffic and bills as if they were serious threats – and a number of problematic side effects occur, namely, things like decreased immunity, inflammation, and impaired cognitive function. First, let’s be sure to discuss just how extensive the role of stress is (no surprise that I believe it’s perhaps the most important factor influencing human health). Prolonged and excessive stress – and specifically, we’re talking about stress to the adrenal cortex – is related (but not limited) to:

– depression

– hormonal imbalances

– sex drive

– anxiety

– immunity

– mental function

– weight and metabolism

– fibromyalgia

– cravings

– headaches

– pain and muscle tension

– aging

– sleep

2. Addressing Stress: Some Questions

– To the extent that we agree (or disagree) about the impact of stress upon health and longevity, how, then, do we best address and manage stress? What lifestyle changes do we make? What is realistic?

– I believe the modern diet, high in refined sugars and fats – worthless, toxic calories – exacerbates the already stressful lifestyle we face. Is there a place for sugar – ever – in the modern diet? And how much benefit can we really expect from dietary prescriptions for stress?

– Spirituality and healing. Is the answer a yoga mat away? Perhaps a prescription of Prozac? What practical changes can we make in our daily lives to address anxiety and tension? And what are we seeking – relief? Transformation? Or simply the ability to cope?

– Are our expectations simply too high? Is stress more useful than we think – perhaps something akin to “survival of the fittest”? Have we simply conditioned ourselves into expecting fulfillment, happiness, wealth, and love, only to face the grim reality that life is unfair, imperfect, and always will be? There certainly was never a glorious, golden past when humans were both perfectly happy and healthy. Why do we feel happiness is a virtue? Consider the arbitrariness of “happiness”, which conditions everything from our belief in whole grains to our materialism:

3. Addiction: Seeking Relief

Time has a fascinating article out this week detailing the mechanisms behind addictions of all kinds: alcoholism, gambling, smoking, drugs, caffeine, sex, shopping. Addiction is destructive and serves no evolutionary purpose, so it would seem – so why has nature not ridded us of the capacity for addiction? Whether it’s beer or bonbons, the chemical pathways in the brain that are related to addiction are virtually identical. We become habituated to destructive practices for various reasons (environment, behavior, genetics) but we stay addicted for the chemical release in the brain. Read the article, and let’s work this into the discussion. Here’s to it!

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12 Jul

Because You Can’t Take Yolks to Work

Nutrition, meet snack.

Smart snacking. Thanks, Program Witch!

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