Will government intervention make you eat less junk food?

Part of the health care reform legislation that was recently signed into law includes a requirement for chain restaurants to post calorie counts on the menu boards and drive-throughs at all of their locations. Panera Bread was the first chain to post calorie counts, and while they haven’t seen a huge change in consumer choice, they do see people opting for 1/2 sandwich with soup option instead of ordering a whole sandwich, some of which contain over 1,000 calories.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

New York City was the first city to require chain restaurants to post calorie counts, back in 2008. So far, research suggests that the Big Apple’s battle against obesity has not had a huge impact. In fact, a Health Affairs study found that only half of the customers living in lower class New York City neighborhoods with high rates of obesity and diabetes even noticed the posted calorie counts.

Junk food taxes already exist in some parts of the country, and there are new initiatives to …

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Healthy Eating: Conference encourages tastier tactics

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Imagine a day when your doctor hands you a recipe instead of a prescription and you’ll share the vision of health professionals gathered recently at the Culinary Institute of America’s campus in Napa Valley.

The Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference presented by researchers from Harvard Medical School brought medicine and menus together to illustrate the benefits of a healthful diet.

“We need to practice what we preach,” declared Dr. David Eisenberg, director for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies at Harvard Medical School. “What doctors eat predicts their willingness and ability to advise patients about what they eat.”

Chef John Ash recommends, “Instead of steaming, try roasting vegetables such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts — the high heat brings out naturally sweet flavors.”

Chef John Ash recommends, “Instead of steaming, try roasting vegetables such as cauliflower and brussels sprouts — the high heat brings out naturally sweet flavors.”

Eisenberg, who created the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference, led a recipe demonstration on Asian stir-fry …

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People’s Pharmacy: Lemonade therapy for kidney stones?

Q: The other day, someone wrote asking about kidney stones. To cut down on kidney stones, I drink several glasses of lemonade a week.

Chris Hunt/AJC Special

Chris Hunt/AJC Special

A: There is some scientific basis for your observation. Doctors often prescribe potassium citrate to disrupt kidney-stone formation.

Lemonade also contains citrate, and some research shows that lemonade therapy reduces the rate of kidney-stone formation (Journal of Urology, April 2007).

Three or four glasses of lemonade per week are probably not enough to do much good, however. Studies of “lemonade therapy” have used one to two quarts of unsweetened or low-sugar lemonade daily.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. 
E-mail them via their 
Web site: www.peoples
pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy
@gmail.com.

Become a fan of AJC Health Care on Facebook and follow …

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Healthy Eating: Plant-based foods offer better nutrition

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

It’s easy to understand why nutrition advice includes cautionary tales of restaurant menu items that deliver more than a day’s calorie limit with overblown portions and whopping amounts of sugar, salt and fat.

But registered dietitian Connie Guttersen doesn’t think that means declaring a ban on dining out. “Eating out is part of the daily American lifestyle. Strategies for success are essential to help diners who need to lose [weight] or maintain weight loss and feel good about eating in restaurants.”

She says access to the facts helps diners decide what to order. For instance, nutrition information on menu items at P.F. Chang’s reveals wide swings in calories. Choose the orange peel beef and you’re looking at 1,400 calories on the plate vs. the Cantonese shrimp with only 350 calories per serving.

Health care reform may usher in more nutritional information on restaurant menus. Photo by BECKY STEIN/AJC Special

Health care reform may usher in more nutritional information on restaurant menus. Photo by BECKY STEIN/AJC Special

Guttersen knows a lot about the …

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Ask Dr. H: Medical issues could cause chilly feeling

Q: I feel uncomfortable when the temperature drops to 65-70 degrees. I have to reach for a warm sweater or heavy blanket at night. Is there something wrong with me?

Andy Sharp/AJC Special

Andy Sharp/AJC Special

A: Certain underlying medical problems like anemia, iron deficiency or a sluggish thyroid can cause a person to feel abnormally cold, but there’s also a good possibility that there’s nothing at all wrong with you. If you’re thin, you’ve got less body fat to contain the heat. Just as those who are overweight may complain of the heat, those who are lean tend to complain more of feeling cold.

I’d suggest a medical work-up, including a TSH blood test to check for an underactive thyroid, a complete blood count to look for anemia or infection, iron studies to look for deficiency and a test for adrenal gland function if a problem is suspected.

Dr. Mitchell Hecht is a physician specializing in internal medicine. Send questions to him at: “Ask Dr. H,” P.O. Box 767787, Roswell, GA 30076. Because of …

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People’s Pharmacy: How can leg cramps be prevented?

Q: What can I do to halt or prevent leg cramps?

A: We have collected dozens of remedies through the years to prevent or stop such cramps. They include low-sodium V8 juice for extra potassium (an alternative to eating more bananas), a glass of tonic water at bedtime, a teaspoon of yellow mustard, vitamin and mineral supplements or a bar of soap under the bottom sheet.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. 
E-mail them via their 
Web site: www.peoples
pharmacy.com. They can be reached at peoplespharmacy
@gmail.com.

Become a fan of AJC Health Care on Facebook and follow ajchealthcare on Twitter for more health care news and health advice.

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Healthy Eating: Fluids, fiber and exercise important to digestive tract

By Carolyn O’Neil, for the AJC

Can we talk? Constipation used to be whispered about privately, but today it seems like everyone is discussing digestive health and ways to keep things “regular.”

Certainly, what you eat and drink plays a key role all along the digestive tract, and the right dietary choices, including consuming enough fiber and fluids, can help keep things moving along naturally.

Beets are high in fiber and can help keep digestive tracts healthy. Photo by Phil Skinner/pskinner@ajc.com.

Beets are high in fiber and can help keep digestive tracts healthy. Photo by Phil Skinner/pskinner@ajc.com.

You’ll feel better, and that’s great. But did you know that the digestive tract is the first line of defense for the body’s immune system? The intestinal lining absorbs the nutrients we need for good health and rejects what we don’t need, sending waste products down the line to be eliminated. And a healthy digestive tract is actually better at absorbing vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

Irregularity can be caused by medications and some dietary supplements, such as calcium …

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People’s Pharmacy: Try these pill-swallowing tricks

Q: During a recent stay in the hospital, while swallowing pills I mentioned to the nurse that I had a dread of having a large pill getting stuck in my throat. She explained that the right way to swallow is to lower your chin down toward your chest. That position opens up the esophagus and allows the pill to slide down smoothly. It worked!

large-pill

A: We have collected several pill-swallowing tricks through the years. The one you describe helps most, but not all, people with a pill-swallowing problem.

Another trick is to take the pill with bottled sparkling water, drinking from the bottle. Sucking at the narrow neck of the bottle helps the pill go down more easily. Some people report that popping the pill in the mouth and then sipping water through a straw helps avoid the gag reflex.

If the pharmacist says it is OK to take the pill with food, a spoonful of applesauce or yogurt also may help the medicine go down. It is important to make sure that pills do not get stuck in the throat, …

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Ask Dr. H: Medication costs spur substitutions

Q: I recently saw a TV story about “therapeutic substitution.” It concerns me that the prescriptions my doctor gives me may be switched without my knowledge. How does this happen? — G.E., Atlanta

A: The practice of “therapeutic substitution” means that a pharmacy can substitute a specific medication of the same class with a similar drug of “comparable” efficacy. This does not typically occur without your physician’s knowledge, but it does sometimes happen despite his objections. Hospitals are the most common setting for the practice of therapeutic substitution, done as a cost-saving measure to the patient, the insurer and the hospital. In the vast majority of cases, the change does not adversely impact the health of the patient.

For a small percentage of folks, such changes matter a great deal. Substitution of one “SSRI” antidepressant for another could destabilize one’s mental health. Substitution of a short-acting generic alternative for the longer-acting branded version …

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Ask Dr. H: Alcohol affects brains
 of heavy drinkers

Q: Can you explain why alcohol causes seizures? Do the seizures stop once the person quits drinking? — T.H., Lima, Ohio

A: The breakdown of alcohol results in the production of morphine-like substances that accumulate in all tissues, but especially the brain. In 80 percent of alcoholics, it lowers the levels of certain chemical transmitters in the brain, causing sleepiness and sedation. Withdrawal in these folks leads to a hyperactive brain response: tremors, panic attacks, palpitations, blood pressure elevation and seizures. In the other 20 percent of alcoholics, alcohol has the opposite effect: It actually raises the levels of certain chemical transmitters in the brain. Some of these transmitters are the same ones that antidepressants help to elevate.

Seizures, shakes, sweats and hallucinations don’t usually occur in the casual drinker; rather, they occur after 12-24 hours in the heavy, chronic drinkers. Since their bodies have become accustomed to alcohol, if they stop …

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 of heavy drinkers »