Archive for August, 2009

THINNER YOU: Facts on 100-calorie snack packs


Convenience foods and snacking go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many of these convenient snacks also go straight to our waistlines. When “snack packs” appeared on the market just a few years ago, dieters rejoiced! Now, they could easily count calories and enjoy their favorite snacks at the same time. In fact, the 100-calorie snack packs proved to be so popular that sales have skyrocketed to almost $200 million in under three years. But how healthy are these snacks and should we even be eating them at all? Do good things really come in small packages? Let’s break down the snack pack facts.

Automatic Portion Control

Some dietitians and behavior experts believe these small 100-calorie packages are ideal for foods that we should only enjoy in limited amounts anyway, such as chips, cookies and chocolate bars. Numerous studies have shown that when a food container is larger, people will eat more. In fact, they’re more likely to eat until they reach …

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HEALTHY EATING: You can stay on diet on vacation


Remember when vacations were for eating all you want, drinking way too much, staying up really late and sleeping in a lounge chair all day pretending to read a book?

Well, it turns out that many people today are using their leisure time to do just the opposite. With hectic work schedules and day-to-day chores that rob personal time to attend to health goals, the vacation is emerging as an opportune time to take a deep breath and focus on fitness.

Danielle Berry of Business Travel Consultants in Atlanta, who spends her busy days planning clients’ fabulous getaways and important business trips, says even a cruise with its buffets galore and bars on every deck can become a health resort if you know how to navigate the offerings.

“I used my recent cruise to South America on Seabourn as a ‘spa’ trip,” Berry said. “I had picked up a few pounds and was determined not only not to gain weight but to actually lose some.”

In fact, she successfully lost 5 …

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ASK DR. H: What is Dengue fever?

Q: While I was on an archaeological dig in Belize last month, I came down with fever, headache and severe muscle aches. I went to a clinic there and was diagnosed with Dengue fever. What can you tell me about it? — G.H., Marietta

A: Dengue fever is caused by a virus spread by an infected mosquito. It’s an infection seen in tropical and subtropical areas like Africa, Southeast Asia, India, Caribbean countries like Jamaica, Central and South America and the Middle East. It peaks during and after the rainy season because standing water encourages mosquito proliferation. We don’t see it much in the United States.

Symptoms of uncomplicated Dengue fever include high fever, severe body aches and a rash. These symptoms might mimic flu, except that rash is not a typical finding in flu. Recent travel to an area where other folks have recently contracted Dengue fever is a big clue. While your illness was mild, there’s a severe form that is associated with a severe drop in …

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PEOPLE’S PHARMACY: Can cinnamon control blood sugar?

Q: I have type 2 diabetes, and I have recently started taking cinnamon capsules to help control my blood sugar. I have been extremely pleased with the results. The metformin I was taking was never as consistent at controlling my blood sugar as the cinnamon has been. Are there any negatives to taking cinnamon?

A: Although cinnamon may work more consistently for you, there is much more research supporting the beneficial effect of metformin on blood sugar. You should make sure your doctor is aware of your regimen. When you buy your cinnamon capsules, look for a water-soluble extract such as Cinnulin PF. Cinnamon may contain a compound called coumarin that can be toxic to the liver. Because coumarin is not water-soluble, the water-based extract should be safe.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at

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AGING & CARING: How to get your health insurance company to pay up


While the government wrestles with national health insurance legislation, it seems like a good time for some in-the-trenches advice. The sad truth is that even if your family is fortunate enough to have health insurance, you can still find yourself in a financial nightmare if a family member becomes seriously ill.

I hear the stories every week, it seems: The last one was about a friend’s mother, who received an enormous bill after her insurance company deemed a treatment for atrial fibrillation “experimental.”

So, here are some tips for making sure your health insurance actually pays for your healthcare, as it’s meant to do.

Read your policy’s fine print. It’s tough to understand all that legalistic mumbo-jumbo, but do your best when it comes to understanding what your policy does and doesn’t cover. If you have
questions, don’t be shy about asking.

Ask for help from your employer or insurance agent. If your insurance is through your …

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How concerned are you about swine flu?

With many students returning to school in the upcoming weeks, concern is rising that the swine flu will spread more and more.

As a parent, are you taking precautions as you send your child off the school? Placing some hand sanitizer in their knap sack? Having a talk with them about the dangers of the swine flu, and ways to prevent getting it? Sending flu packets off with your college student?

Or do you think such precautions are silly and the swine flu concerns are overblown?

Join the discussion. A reporter may contact you for an upcoming article.

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DOCTOR IS IN: Back-to-school means back to germs for kids


Medical Director, Primary Care, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

When preparing your children for going back to school, germs, immunizations, and healthy habits are just as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic.

With the start of the school season comes the battle against germs. The CDC states that nearly 22 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold, flu and other infections.

Schools are a breeding ground for germs as some viruses and bacteria can live from 20 minutes to more than two hours on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.

The unfortunate reality is that your child will get sick, but you can help keep him healthy by teaching habits such as good hand washing and coughing into the elbow. Be extra cautious if there is a known illness in the home or at school. In addition, if your child has medications that need to be taken at school for a common cold they need to be labeled by the pharmacy, and …

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