Home Blog Page 4

Don't Buy HCG Dietary Supplements

I have written about the nonsensical HCG Diet. It’s barbaric and won’t work. Now the federal government has stepped in to prevent supplement hucksters from selling HCG weight loss supplements. This dreck is sold in various forms and the FDA has issued warning letters to seven companies that sell these products as drops, pellets or sprays.

HCG is a legit substance, and is used to treat infertility. However, there is zero evidence that HCG offers any weight loss benefits. It is sad how gullible and/or desperate some people are that they would attempt to follow the HCG “diet” and spend money on these supplements that have no purpose.

The HCG diet forces people to subsist on 500-calories per day, which isn’t a diet but managed starvation. It takes a lot of chutzpah to make the claim that a supplement is responsible for weight loss on a 500-calorie per day diet. The HCG diet and supplement scam is a great illustration of why you must be suspicious of all diets and supplements, especially at this time of year.

The scammers are out there waiting for the opportunity to separate you from your hard earned money, as they offer the latest panaceas. With the new year right around the corner, the Diet and Supplement Industrial Complex is gearing up to take advantage of the New Year’s Resolution types out there.

Holiday Eating Guide – 2011

The Holidays. The time of year when many people start to stress about eating.

What should be an enjoyable experience has become a problems for far too many people. And there is no shortage of meddlesome butt-in-skis who want to tell everyone else how they should eat. Talk about your Scrooges! Bah humbug to all these types, I say.

My holiday eating guidelines are very simple; eat whatever you like at parties and family get-togethers. No rules, just right, to steal some company’s advertising slogan.

And please, if you are going to bake don’t embarrass yourself and insult your guests by following any of the depressing alternative, low-fat recipes. Nothing steams my onions more than biting into a brownie that’s been made with low-fat sour cream or some other egregious, ersatz ingredient. Try an experiment; make a plate of real brownies and another of low-fat brownies, label them accordingly and see what happens. You know what happens, admit it.

And Santa knows if you dishonestly substitute these odious ingredients into your baked goods, and will deliver a healthy lump of coal into your stocking if you do so. Even you non-gentiles.

I am on record as saying the Holidays are the wrong time, the worst time, to try and make a change to your eating habits, and that food avoidance is a losing philosophy for both the fit and unfit. I don’t care if it’s this time of year or the summertime cookout season, you shouldn’t try to make a change to your eating habits when the opportunities for great eating are plenty.

Trying to prove that you have willpower by changing your diet during this time of year is foolhardy, and is like an alcoholic going to a liquor convention. For all of the types who say to me, “But Sal, you don’t have to worry about what you eat, so it’s easy for you to say!” I say, “I take care of business for the vast majority of the year so I am going to eat, and eat a lot, of the seasonal stuff that I like.” And actually, I do have sympathy and rachmones for those folks who struggle with what they eat, which is why I advise NOT to try to make changes now.

Wait ’til it gets a little easier.

But at the same time, I’m not going to be a nutritional goody-two-shoes and not eat what I like because of what other people say or can’t eat. Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie and eggnog and other holiday delicacies only come around once a year; enjoy them.

So if you are the New Year’s Resolution type, another tradition that I dislike, wait until January 1, 2012. Get it out of your system and enjoy the next month or so; eat, drink and be merry knowing that in 30 days you will be making changes.

Europe Says Water Doesn't Prevent Dehydration

“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project than this is it.”

I really wish I could take credit for crafting this line. I cannot imagine a more appropriate response to the ridiculous measure taken by the European Union in outlawing the product claim that water can prevent dehydration than this line, which was uttered by British politician Roger Helmer.

Mr. Helmer also had this to say. “The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.” Bravo, cheers, huzzah, etc.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to see how this meddlesome, Nanny-State law making came about, as on both sides of the pond a soft-tyranny has become the norm. Starting in December of 2011, bottled water producers are not allowed to make the claim that water can prevent dehydration and will face a two-year jail sentence if they do.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.” Let the ridicule begin. Don’t engage in trying to reason with the idiots in the European Food Standards Authority, make fun of them.

At a conference in Parma, Italy a group of 21 scientists concluded that not enough water content was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could effect or control. Really?!? Calling Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine… Mr. Helmer’s line needs to be repeated. “If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”

Should I Take Collagen or Hoodia Supplements?

I have long been on the anti-supplement band wagon for a couple of reasons. 1) I don’t like to be scammed and 2) There isn’t any science-based evidence to support the use of the vast, vast majority of supplements.

Over at the web site www.ScienceBasedMedicine.org there is a whole lot of debunking going on, and nobody does it better than the SMB Crew. In the past week SBM has posted stories debunking the claims that Collagen can be taken for joint pain and that Hoodia is an effective weight-loss supplement.

If you want to just skip over my “layman’s” review and click on over to SBM be my guest, as the authors of those posts provide exhaustive research to back up their conclusions. Also, they are much smarter than I am. For those of you who don’t want to do a lot of reading and sift through facts and research papers, I will give you a clear and concise summary of the SBM posts.

Collagen has been a popular supplement used in the effort to ease joint pain for those who suffer with arthritis. Genacol is an over-the-counter supplement that claims to be, “Scientifically proven to reduce joint pain.”

According to SBM author Scott Gavura, since no other product has been able to deliver this kind of result, he looked into the science used by the Genacol people to support this claim. In an unsurprising nutshell, he found no science. Like I said, if you want to read for yourself, be my guest.

But Gavura does a great job of giving us a review of the role of collagen in the human system. In case you didn’t know, collagen accounts for about 25% of our body mass and is a major ingredient of what makes up our connective tissue, and is found in skin, muscles and tendons. Having a lack of collagen is bad, but for those people who have this problem, eating collagen – which is a protein – doesn’t help.

When we ingest collagen, it gets broken down into amino acids so the body can absorb them. The bottom line is that your body doesn’t know or care if you ate collagen or any of the other sources of collagen. So there’s no reason to believe the claims that a collagen supplement will do anything for you.

The research is lackluster. Read Gavura’s piece to get a real meaty analysis of the data. The “hoodia-doesn’t-do-anything” article was written by Harriet Hall, an MD who writes about Complimentary and Alternative Medicine and all-things quackery.

A while back I wrote about hoodia, and that we shouldn’t believe the hype based on the science and the nonsensical anecdotal stories of this substance’s effectiveness. I also wrote of the problem of determining just how much – if any – hoodia is contained in a given supplement.

Hoodia seemed like a dead issue years ago, so I was surprised to see an article crop up re-reviewing the problems with this supposed weight loss supplement. Hall does a great job of dispelling the myths associated with hoodia and cuts through the nonsense used by the hoodia-hucksters. Hall’s piece is recommended reading for those of you who are unfamiliar with the problems associated with this product.

Did Alternative Medicine Have a Negative Impact on Steve Jobs’ Health

In the aftermath of Steve Jobs’ death there has been debate regarding the course of treatment that he chose to treat his cancer. Many people have opined that the original course of action Jobs took, featuring an alternative diet, doomed him and that those closest to him begged him to take advantage of all the conventional treatments at his disposal.

My opinion, from far too many instances of family situations, is that conventional cancer treatments are the way to go, and if people want to supplement this treatment with other treatments, fine. As a matter of fact, according to Jobs’ biographer, Walter Issacson Jobs regretted his initial course of action, “He’s regretful about it… Soon everybody is telling him, ‘Don’t try and treat it with these roots and vegetables and these kinds of things…’ By the time they operate on him they notice it has spread to the tissues around the pancreas. He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it….I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner… He said, ‘I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way.’” Perhaps this is the worst kind of hindsight. And yet Steve Jobs’ death from cancer, and the steps that he took during treatment, has served as a teachable moment for many people in the medical profession, and many doctors have taken this occasion to point out the value and proven track record of conventional cancer treatments.

Many have also used this story as an opportunity to point out the problems with the Alternative Medicine approach. Perhaps I am old-fashioned. I believe in science. I never bought the Alternative Medicine line of reasoning because I have seen how well the conventional cancer treatments work. I have also done a lot of reading and have made up my mind by doing my due diligence. I hope I never have to go through what Mr. Jobs and countless other people – including my family members – have gone through. But if I do, rest assured that I will take advantage of every option mainstream medicine can offer. I will not fall prey to the magical thinking process that exists in the reality distortion field that is promoted by Alternative Medicine.

For anyone interested in learning more about the subject, I recommend visiting ScienceBasedMedicine.org. I have found it to be an extremely valuable site.

Bikes and Skateboards Are More Dangerous than Football

Dustin Fink’s theconcussionblog.com. So here is what I found. An amazing number of people die every year from riding their bikes. In 2008, 93 kids under 15 were killed and 13,000 suffered injuries. The statistics are sobering. Check out the link. http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm And then there is skateboarding. At the bottom of the post is a list of links to stories detailing accidents that have killed kids, permanently injured them, or at the time of publication brought them to deaths door. Visit the second link in the list and you will read about the parents of a kid with critical head injuries who say they are getting support from the people in the hospital room next door whose son also suffered a critical head injury a few days before. Here’s an unofficial tally of skateboard deaths from 2006. http://www.silverfishlongboarding.com/forum/longboarding-concrete-wave-magazine/46038-skateboarder-deaths-2006-report.html This list is just from the past few weeks, so imagine what the list would look like if we ran a search for the year. Since skateboarding, as are many of the other “X-Games” type activities, is performed in solitude and/or without any supervision or other organizational/safety controls, the injuries – including head injuries – must be severely underreported. Certainly, the helmets used (if used at all) by skateboarders cannot truly protect the head from the repetitive contacts experienced during falls. These injuries happen in the streets, at skateparks, parking lots and other areas of public accommodation, as well as on private property, and throughout the year; there is no skateboarding season. With the popularity of this activity the real injury numbers, and health care costs, must be staggering. Skateboarding clearly represents an extremely unsafe risk to kids and yet the sports media and their partners constantly glorify this, and other, high-risk, activities. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00273 http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/Skateboarding-accident-victims-parents-speak/Kk1gpa7WGkqI7CzMCxB4lg.cspx http://www.vagazette.com/articles/2011/10/12/news/doc4e9422c885f35591411208.txt http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110923/NEWS/109230348/-1/NEWSMAP http://www.khon2.com/news/local/story/UPDATE-Salt-Lake-boy-injured-in-skateboarding/OjKf7H-11E-CipA0zbOcqw.cspx http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=18&articleid=20110927_18_A13_OralRo811963 http://redondobeach.patch.com/articles/skateboarding-fall-nearly-kills-boy http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/tv/anderson_cooper_saddened_after_teen_PU0jyFjKc5c18mZ5wjOTiK

There is No Such Thing as Safer Football

NOTE: This item was written on 9/19/2011.

On 9/22/11 the writer’s son fractured his left forearm playing football, when attempting to break his fall to the ground after a tackle. The idea of “safer” football is a pipe dream. Safer football – especially at the highest levels – in the context of eliminating head injuries and concussions, is no more possible than flying a jumbo jet to the moon.

While equipment can be refined and improved, these changes are minor when compared to the inherent risks that are involved when big, fast,strong and mean guys run into each other at full speed with bad intent. The best way to avoid the very real physical risks associated with playing football – at every level – is to not play football.

Safer football is like a safer cigarette. If you run around and collide with big people and hit heads – and other body parts – you will get hurt, sometimes really badly. If you put a lit cigarette in your mouth that’s made from tobacco and draw the smoke into your lungs, regardless of the filter, strain of tobacco, strength of nicotine, you risk doing damage to your health.

Neither is safe. Tobacco will never be outlawed, and neither will football.

Education has resulted in fewer people smoking, and the attention paid to the risks and dangers will probably have the same effect on football. Will fewer kids play? Probably. Is this a bad thing? Probably not, and for a variety of reasons. By touting this safer football, the football industrial complex is engaged in a public relations campaign.

Anyone who has ever played or coached – or plays or coaches – knows that the only safe football is no football. Despite the public proclamations, privately the football crowd knows this to be so; equipment and technique can be better and there can be rules put in place to protect players, but the game is not, never has been, and never will be, safe.

Anyone who tells you differently is being disingenuous. I have over 40 years of football coaching and playing experience. My three sons all play football. Yet every summer when I watch the first full pads contact scrimmage I am amazed by the ferocity of the contact and that the kids get up after every play, go back to their huddles and do it again. And I am astounded that there aren’t more injuries.

Forget about head injuries. Have you ever heard a bone snap? Seen a dislocated elbow or kneecap? Heard the “pop” when an ACL blows out or had to put a dislocated finger back into place? And then there are the sprained knees and ankles, fingers and turf toe, painful all. This isn’t to say that one kind of injury is “better” than another, but to point out that the sport is brutal and that players get hurt in all kinds of ways. Most of which are not preventable.

Expecting safer football is akin to wanting safer highways; both can be relatively safer, but never safe. If you disagree check out the definitions of safe. I am not being trite when I say the safest football is no football. If the possible injury risk bothers you, don’t play, don’t let your kids play.

Football is a voluntary activity, not mandatory, not a right. The dangers have always been there and everyone who I know who plays, played, coaches or coached is acutely aware of this. A reluctant football player is a risk to himself and to his teammates.

If you or your kid is unsure about playing, or if anybody who you know asks advice about what to tell someone who isn’t sure about playing football, tell them not to. Football, just like many activities people engage in, will never be safe.

Mayo Clinic Review: Aerobic Exercise May Cut Dementia Risk

People training at the gym

After reviewing over 1,600 papers, researchers from the Mayo Clinic state that, “You can make a very compelling argument for exercise as a disease-modifying strategy to prevent dementia and mild cognitive impairment, and for favorably modifying these processes once they have developed.”

Author and neurologist Dr. J. Eric Ahlskog lead the effort that included the review of all scientific papers on the subject of exercise and cognition, including observational studies and studies done with animals.

This exercise includes traditional gym-based cardiovascular exercises, as well as other activities like walking and performing household chores, including yard work and shoveling snow. Through the use of brain scans the researchers have found that exercise preserves the integrity of the human brain and note that animal studies show that exercise improves the function of the brain and increases the connection between brain cells.

The review also found that there is a significant reduction of risk of dementia in people who being exercise during midlife and a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Aerobic exercise improved the cognitive function of healthy adults, and with seniors aerobics was linked to a smaller loss of age related gray matter.

The researchers concluded, “Exercise should not be overlooked as an important therapeutic strategy. Whether addressing our patients in primary care or neurology clinics, we should continue to encourage exercise for not only general health, but also cognitive health.”

All-in-all, this is yet another instance that proves exercise is the best disease-modifying strategy known to medical science. Better than diet, pharmaceuticals or any other intervention. Everybody should exercise.

Dr. Weil Recommends Yo-Yo Dieting

Dr. Andrew Weil, the Complimentary and Alternative Medicine guru (CAM), published a blog post saying that yo-yo dieting is better than “staying fat.” I guess attaining superstar status in the world of CAM gives you the privilege of saying silly, and potentially harmful, things, while maintaining said status.

When you get beyond the headline, “Yo-Yo Dieting is Better Than Staying Fat,” read the blog post and get the details of the study Weil uses to bolster his position, you have to scratch your head. For a minute, let’s put aside the obvious, in that from the picture he uses on his blog, Dr.Weil looks kinda fat.

The study Weil refers to in his blog post involves 10 yo-yo dieting mice, who lived longer than 10 mice who ate a high-fat diet, and 10 mice who ate a low-fat diet. Really unimpressive, isn’t it? And yet Dr. Weil is totally comfortable concluding that the negative effects of yo-yo dieting might be over-stated based on the experience of 10 binging and purging mice.

Dr. Weil does not say anything about how these “mice pounds” relate to human pounds, or give any other indication as to why anyone should pay attention to the results of this study given the hard evidence from human studies that attest to the ineffectiveness of dieting and the damage diets do. Actually given Weil’s track record, you’d be hard pressed to find a more anti-science advocate. Besides the apparent differences between mice and men, we have had results of studies and other evidence to indicate that in humans, yo-yo dieting can have negative ramifications.

Using mice studies in a case where we have human evidence of an outcome, is questionable and curious. Almost as if someone wanted to prop up the fact-challenged diet industry. The diet industry already takes billions of dollars per year from us, so is it not hard to believe this cabal would try to distract from the reality that diets don’t work.

Now back to Dr.Weil’s appearance. Don’t you think someone who tells people they shouldn’t be fat, shouldn’t look fat? I never judge a person based on their appearance, and I do not use weight as a measure of fitness, or lack of it. But does Dr. Weil look like someone who should be advocating “thin is in?”

Don't Let the Government Set a National Fat Ceiling

Over the past month the issue of the National Debt Ceiling has dominated the headlines, as our government has tried to come to grips with its profligate spending, the damage that’s been done to our economy and the country’s credit rating.

As with pretty much everything it touches, the government has really screwed things up. So it’s scary that the powers-that-be have been making noises about the country’s obesity situation and are dropping not-to-subtle hints that the government is willing to play a major role in telling people what they can and cannot eat.

Is the establishment of a “National Fat Ceiling” in our future? I think this is a reasonable concern. We don’t want the government in our kitchens and pantries. It can’t figure out how to deliver mail, it can’t balance our national check book, it can’t figure out how to improve our educational system, it created more confusion with the ill-fated “Food Pyramid,” and the beat goes on.

There are few things that would be as invasive in our everyday lives as a National Fat Ceiling, where the government sets body-weight/body fat goals for us, dictates the amount and type of calories we can eat, and makes rules about how food must be prepared. Government bureaucrats surely have the same likelihood of being over-weight and under-exercised as members of the private sector.  

Do these government busy-bodies have perfect diet and exercise habits? Doubtful. Let’s do whatever we can to keep the government out of our kitchens. Even if there is a “crisis,” why would anyone think that the government could help make things better.  Seriously. It’s not like you’re being menaced on a dark street and a cop comes along to save the day. That’s different story.  

We don’t need a (probably fat) government agents walking into our houses and slapping chocolate chip cookies out of our hands. An ominous sign; the Harvard genius who says parents of obese kids should lose custody of their children. This is a scary dude. This is stuff that could have come from the eugenics sickos in Nazi Germany.

I don’t know what would be worse to have a government half-wit tell us how to eat or an Ivy League elite determine if parents can keep custody of their kids. Over the past decade or so there has been an attempt to stop people from being judgmental. However, this courtesy doesn’t seem to be extended to those who are considered to be over-weight.

The First Lady has embarked on a program that is stigmatizing young kids who are overweight, but it’s for their own good, right? This is just a phony emergency that’s being used as an opportunity to increase the government’s overreach into our lives. Can we stop this runaway train?