Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pomegranates Beware...

First off, a big thank you to The Desperate Housemommy for bestowing upon me this fantastic award:

From what I can tell, this is an award that is given by a blogger to other bloggers with the intent that they pass it along to other bloggers.  It is the blogging equivalent of a chain e-mail (i.e., send to 10 of your friends immediately or you'll die a slow and painful death or get chlamydia).  It seems to have originated in the mommie blogger circuit as a way to recognize fellow bloggers and cross-pollinate blogs...notice how I've linked to her blog???  I now have to pass along this award to others.  I am choosing one of my other favorite mommie blogs, Sassy Chicago Mama and my favorite design blog, The Huntress Lives. Congrats ladies!  You know what to do now...you don't want the clap, do you?

So about those pomegranates...if you picked up a newspaper today you will see that the folks at POM Wonderful are in big trouble.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is going after them because of statements they made in their advertising about the benefits of drinking pomegranate juice.  

You see, the FTC claims that the POM folks made their juice sound like a drug.  As soon as you say something like "prevents prostate cancer" or "helps with erectile dysfunction", you're considered a drug under the current regulations in the US.  Anything that implies you are preventing, curing, or treating a disease is considered a drug.  Even a wimpy, strange-looking fruit that grows on trees in California.  

It's actually quite a controversial law.  Take prunes for example, which we all know are a natural laxative...if the advertising for prunes says, "alleviates constipation", it would be a drug and in violation of the law.  If it says, "helps keep you regular", then it's okay because 'being regular' is not a disease.  It's a fine line, but obviously one that the FTC feels strongly about. 

The FTC also has pointed out in it's suit that many of the studies on pomegranate juice did not even show significant results!  Sure, they conducted the studies and use that in their advertising ("backed by $25 million in medical research") but according to the FTC, many of the studies showed that pomegranates had the same effect as a placebo.  Uh oh, POM Wonderful.  The FTC is even going after the Dr. Dork that designed the studies.     

The best part of this story, at least to me, is that POM Wonderful is counter-suing the FTC!  They claim that it's within their first amendment rights to talk about all of the health benefits of pomegranates regardless of what the law says is a drug or a food.  And now all these other fruits are speaking out that pomegranates are not even special...they have the same or fewer antioxidants than most other fruits.  It's really getting heated!  And I'm serious, do not piss off a blueberry...they are wicked mean and will mess you up.   

I should start writing a movie script...this is going to get good!  But wait, it gets better!  The owners of POM Wonderful are the Resnicks who have money growing on trees...literally and figuratively!  They are loaded!  And she looks like  Joan Collins. 
Lynda Resnick
Joan Collins

I'm now working on my movie title...what about, Money That Grew on Trees: The Sweet and Sour Tale of Pomegranate Juice?  Or What the Hell is a Pomegranate?  Then there's Suck on That: The Pomegranate Controversy.  

OK, still working on it.


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Sights and Sounds of Running...or...Really Weird Things Seen by Runners

The Chicago Marathon is around the corner.  If you're from the Chicago-area, it's kind of a big deal.  Only a few more weeks until the 10-10-10 race!

There are so many positives with training for and running the marathon...or any running for that matter.  Cardiovascular health, runner's high, mental toughness...but what is really underrated is the entertainment value that comes from spending 3 to 12 hours a week running around your neighborhood.

So in honor of all runners, those doing the marathon and those that pound the pavement for other reasons, I'd like to start a discussion over the strange and unusual sights and sounds you've experienced while running.  I will kick it off and feel free to add:

  • Way too many people working at their laptops near a window without their shirts on...men and women.  Seriously, I can see you!
  • Old man's private parts that had either slipped out of the lining of his short, shorts or were purposely placed outside the shorts (whoops, threw up in my mouth).
  • Road rage!  There are a lot of angry people (almost all men) driving around town yelling out their windows or physically getting out of their cars to yell at other drivers.  These people should take up running...or take a Prozac.
  • Young woman last summer running with a disc-man....unless you're over the age of 35, you probably don't even know what this is...but imagine running with your laptop.  I almost chased her down to ask her why.     
  • Last year, while training for the marathon, I was running along and a chipmunk ran right under the foot as I was coming down....and I snapped it in half!  It was so loud, that I could hear it over my blaring music.  And the feeling that moved up my leg still gives me the heebie jeebies!  YUCK! 
Alright runners....what say you?

And best of luck to those marathon runners! 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Coffee Table Dilemma Solved by The Glam Lamb

I am an avid reader of other people's personal blogs.  I love that there's a "person" on the other end, not a corporation, or journalist, or other biased party.  And this "person" is usually so passionate about a topic, that they take time out of their day to write about their passion to educate, empower, or inspire others.  And in the case of The Glam Lamb, to decorate my living room. 

I bought this coffee table after I saw it featured on The Glam Lamb.  

It's lovely and I'm happy with it.  But I've been struggling on what to use as end tables to go with this table.  I've found some that I like, but they are a little out of my price range.
$495 + $125 for shipping...seriously?

How about this one...I like the style even more and the price even less!
Egads, $650 + $75 for shipping!

So I decided to send a little note to Hallie, The Glam Lamb herself.  She immediately replied, accepted my challenge, and posted so many options for me on her blog today.

Now, which one should I choose???

Monday, September 20, 2010

Research on Laser Hair Removal...Who Knew?!?

A SHE friend asked me to post about laser hair removal.  I've had it done, it worked for me, I would do it again so I thought, sure.  Out of curiosity, I did a little research using the National Institutes of Health literature database and low and behold, there's a lot of Dr. Dorks publishing papers on laser hair removal!  Here's what I found out:

  • Laser-assisted hair removal is the most efficient method of long-term hair removal.  
  • Lasers work by damaging the hair follicle.  The laser is set to target melanin, which is the pigment or color of hair.  Melanin is also in skin, so these lasers are set to just target the hair melanin and leave the skin melanin alone.
  • Because the lasers are selectively trying to only destroy the hair melanin, they work best when there is an easy target:  light skin and black hair.  If you're dark skinned or have really light hair color, then this might not work very well on you.
  • There are a number of different lasers available now.  Based on one paper I found that reviewed a bunch of studies on hair removal, the diode laser is the most effective for light skin/dark hair folks and the alexandrite is better for darker skin.  Both of these lasers reduced the amount of hair by 50% after 3 sessions. 
  • Side effects of laser hair removal include skin pigmentation (brown spots), scarring (rare), and swelling. Not surprisingly, these side effects are more common when procedures are carried out by untrained personnel.
I had laser hair removal several years ago in the region that is south of the equator but north of the Tropic of Capricorn.  It took about 10 sessions to be bikini ready.  The first 3 sessions were AGONIZING!  It was just as painful as waxing, except unlike the quick-rip-and-exhale with waxing, it took about 30 minutes.  I've talked to other SHE friends and they didn't think it was quite as bad as I did.  Obviously, they were drunk either when they told me this or when they had the laser.  

It's getting so cheap these days (and Groupon almost always has a special on laser hair removal).  Seems to be low risk and quite effective, so long as you go to a reputable place where qualified people are using the lasers.  Anyone feel differently?  Any really bad experiences out there?  Anyone want to chip in to a scholarship fund to support the removal of carpet-like back hair in middle-aged men across the U.S.?   

Friday, September 17, 2010

Let's Change the Names For All Things Icky

This week, the Corn Refiners Association filed an application to change the name of high fructose corn syrup (aka, HFCS) to "corn sugar".  Nobody likes HFCS.  But most people like corn and many more people like sugar, so it's only natural that people will like corn sugar...or so they think.

Now I recognize that HFCS is a big deal to many people (I'm not one of them...it's in processed food and my opinion is just to eat less processed foods...not trade out the HFCS for another sugar).  But this name change got me thinking about other things out there that have terrible names with negative connotations.  Why stop at corn sugar?  Maybe we should be lobbying to change the name of several other things??? 
Here's my list thus far:

Menopause.  I don't like this word or any word in the family (e.g., menses, menstrual, etc.).  "Meno" actually stands for month which is derived from the word moon, but still...we're not Greek so who cares.  Since it's National Menopause Awareness Month in September, I've been thinking a lot about menopause.  Just a general question...is there any woman out there that is not aware of menopause?  Just wondering.  Anyway, so what if the name were changed to something different?  What if it was something like "Wisdomenia"...as in, you're older and just smarter by that time in your life.  Or maybe it's something hip like "Generation F"...the "F" stands for freedom. Still brainstorming.  

Colonoscopy.  Colon cancer is one of the least deadly cancers when caught early by colonoscopy.  And sadly, lots of people decide against this procedure, I believe in part because of the name.  How about these options: "Cleanse n' Nap", "Sleeping Scope", or "Medi-Nap"?  Since you really just sleep through the entire thing, I think we need to push the restorative, sweet dreams aspects.
Mood swings.  I'm thinking we just call this whole concept, "Lotus-ing" for no reason other than it sounds pretty, yet provocative...which is way better than what a mood swing actually feels like...whether you're on the giving or receiving end. 

Politicians.  These folks are public servants that devote their lives to influencing policy for the purpose of serving the people and the greater good of society.  We should honor their sacrifice and give them an appropriate title that embodies their moral character as human beings..."Weenies".*

What else?  I have, like maybe, 5-10 minutes of free time a week to devote to this effort.  Give me your ideas and I'll do my best to start the ball rolling.  Together, we can change...it doesn't need to stop with corn sugar.  Who's with me?!? 

*Not that I really need an excuse, but for the record, I live in Illinois.   

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Drugs That Rock a Roll

Lots of hoopla in the pharma industry.  A new obesity drug is up for review tomorrow by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and they already voiced some concerns over safety of the drug... breast cancer...in rats.  Although it's only lab rats, that certainly sets off some red flags.

The trouble is, there really are no great drugs for weight loss that are safe and effective.  All of the drugs that work on the brain to control appetite or to speed up metabolism seem to have unfortunate side effects like increasing blood pressure or increasing risk for having a heart attack or increasing risk for depression.  The drugs that work by blocking fat absorption (like Alli), come with side effects like "anal leakage".  [That's the actual clinical term...I didn't make that up...it's exactly what it sounds like...but doesn't happen in all people so hope for the best.]

For some folks, the risks associated with being severely overweight are greater than the risks of taking the drugs.  A responsible, knowledgeable physician can make that call and prescribe the right drug.  

But some other experts are now suggesting that gastric bypass surgery may be a better option for weight loss when diet and exercise don't work and there's lots of weight to lose.  They contend that the risks are LOWER to have surgery than take a drug...and the chances of success are much higher. Interesting, isn't it?

Why is it so hard to develop an obesity drug that is safe and effective?  I really have no idea.  My guess is that our bodies are just effectively wired to eat...because that ensures our survival as a species.   We haven't figured out how to re-wire or trick our bodies to eat less or burn more calories without messing up some other system.  I'm sure someone will figure it out eventually...if I'm lucky, it will be one of my daughters and they will be able to comfortably support my retirement in the Caribbean with their winnings.  

Right, Edward?

Right, Mrs/Dr T. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

What Do Experts Recommend as the Best Diet for Losing Weight?

A glimpse into my frig
I LOVE this question!  Why do you like this question Mrs/Dr T?  Because I can answer it either in a simple way...such as:

 The best diet for weight loss is a lower calorie diet (500-700 calories less than your energy needs) that meets all of the recommendations for food and nutrient servings.  BORING!

Or I can answer it in a mysterious and abstract way:  What diet will allow YOU to comfortably reduce your calories in a healthy way?

You see, there is not one single diet that works for all people.  Sure, those "experts" that have written a weight loss book will certainly tout their approach as being the best.  But seriously, research has consistently shown that there's not a one-size fits all approach to this stuff.  I remember a study we conducted comparing a higher protein diet to a higher carbohydrate diet.  On average, more people lost weight on the higher protein diet.  But the person who lost the most weight  was a woman on the higher carbohydrate diet.  It was amazing to see how that diet just worked for her.  Like long lost lovers or something...diet soul mates...whatever, you know what I mean...she lost a lot of weight and was ecstatic about it.    

How do you know what diet is best for you?  It really depends on what foods you like, your lifestyle, your current body weight/shape, your disease risk factors, your personality, amount of money you have to spend, etc.  For example, Slim Fast is a safe and effective weight loss program...but if you work in an industry where you frequently meet with clients/customers over breakfast and lunch meals, it's going to be a little weird if you show up with a can of Slim Fast.  Similarly, Seattle Sutton and Jenny Craig have great pre-packaged meals, but if you travel consistently, it's going to be a little difficult to pull off that diet.  Weight Watchers is one of the best diet plans out there, but can be costly for some.  If you don't like to cook, then steer clear of The South Beach Diet, which is really based on preparing some complex, but yummy, lower carbohydrate meals. 

There's an on-going study that follows people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off.  It's called the National Weight Control Registry.  Here are some behaviors of the successful folks: 

  • 78% eat breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Nothing magical.  They just found something that works.  I firmly believe that a normal body weight is achievable for everyone...provided they find their diet soul mate and commit to a monogamous relationship.   

My soul mate is on the shelf of my frig next to the milk.  Can you see him?  He's very shy...he prefers when the frig is shut and the light is off. Any guesses on who he is???

(And no, I'm not drunk)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Is the Eco-Atkins Diet for You?

September is a popular month to go on a diet, probably second only to January.  Summer is sort of over, kids are back in school, the heat is waning...all kinds of reasons to try to lose a few pounds at this time of year.  So I thought I'd spend the next few blog posts on weight loss.  

There were two things that caught my attention this week related to weight loss.  First off, a professor at Kansas State University has undertaken a promotional stunt as part of his nutrition class to prove that you can lose weight by exclusively eating junk food.  He's about 2 weeks into his diet of Twinkies and Nutter Butters and has lost 7 pounds.  Why this is news, I don't know.  A professor of mine in grad school did the same experiment on himself eating only McDonald's. I hope I'm stating the obvious by saying that weight loss will happen if you eat fewer calories than you burn....no matter where those calories come from.  

But is it a healthy way/easy way/sustainable way to lose weight and keep it off?  Of course not! 

The other item of interest this week was a study published on Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study is similar to the one about alcohol intake and mortality I posted about previously, in that they asked participants about what they ate in the 1980s and then collected death certificates over the  subsequent 25+ years.   The researchers specifically looked at participants that ate a low carbohydrate diet and then categorized them into those that ate most of their protein from animal sources and those that ate mostly vegetable-based sources of protein (soy, gluten, vegetables, nuts).  The latter has been called The Eco-Atkins Diet or a Plant-Based-Low-Carb-Diet or a Vegetarian Atkins.  

Results showed that people lived longer on the Eco-Atkins Diet than the high-animal protein diet.  This is not surprising since other studies have shown that the Eco-Atkins diet can lower cholesterol compared to several other types of diets including a traditional Atkins plan and a high-carbohydrate diet.  They did not compare these participants to those following a more traditional diet, which is a bummer.  Would have been really interesting. 

I have made it no secret that I am an advocate of increasing protein intake as a strategy to lose and maintain body weight. I tend to favor a more moderate increase in protein intake than the Atkins low-carb diet, but based on the research to date (and there's much more to do), it appears that the Eco-Atkins is a reasonable approach for weight loss.  

Is it sustainable and easy?  You tell me...has anyone tried it before?  If you're thinking of trying it, will you take good notes and e-mail me your experience?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Picture is Worth 78 Words

My friend's house,
The weekend
Had this interesting chair, that
Every time I look at it, I
Really start laughing out loud, because

It was a gift,
iN which someone worked very hard to capture her

Likeness in the form of
Wood chair, and despite that it looks like Hillary Clinton with an ewok, she's

Going to have to keep
It for a very long time
For the benefit of her marriage.  Can anyone
Top this?

Friday, September 3, 2010

New Hobbie for Fall: Spray Painting the Heck Out of Everything

I have recently ended my 3 month relationship with vodka and am now hot and heavy with spray paint.  

With two $7 cans of spray paint, I have not only decorated two pieces for my home, but I think I also came up with a deterrent for those irritating Japanese beetles that ravish my garden.  

Traditional use for spray paint:

$9.99 at Homegoods

Repainted in white so it matches my stuff

I bought two of these for $7.99 a piece at Homegoods

A little turquoise paint and voila, protectors of my little froggy, Lucky

Alternative use for spray paint:

As I was spraying these items outside, I decided to run a small experiment for kicks...because I'm a Dr. Dork.  I sprayed a few of the Japanese beetles living on my rose bush.  Not only did they look pretty in turquoise, but they quickly died.  And then there were no more Japanese beetles there.  So I repeated the experiment on my morning glory.  

This is what these little bugs do to the plants.

I sprayed a few bugs and a few leaves

Aren't these beautiful?  I planted them years ago and they come back every year...now without bugs all over them!

It actually makes sense how this might have worked.  These beetles communicate to each other when one finds food.  So as soon as you get one beetle, they call their friends to join the party.  I figure either the abhorrent smell of the spray paint or killing a few beetles so they cannot call their friends, or both, is what stopped the beetle madness.  

I would NEVER use spray paint around any fruits and vegetables in the garden.  I tried this because I only have flowers in my garden...and I can't help myself.  These leaves won't be good good candidates for my composter and there's a chance the smell of the paint will deter some beneficial bugs, but perhaps I'm on to something?  If they come back, I'm going to try vegetable oil or a flour/water mixture.  

I don't know what to spray paint next but with a 3-day weekend, I'm sure I can find something!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heavy Drinking: The Fountain of Youth???

I like vodka.  I like red wine.  I like white wine, and champagne, and margaritas, and anything that comes in a coconut, Buddha, or other interesting receptacle.  As such, I just couldn't let the Time article entitled, Why Do Heavy Drinkers Outlive Nondrinkers?, slip by without a few comments.  

If you haven't seen/heard of this article, it's a short summary of a recently published study that looked at the relationship between alcoholic beverage intake and death in a group of people that were between the ages of 55 and 65 at the start of the study. So basically, in 1990 they asked these folks some basic demographic info and how much they normally drink, and then collected death certificates over the next 20 years (seriously). 

They found a few interesting things.  Most importantly, they showed that moderate drinking (~1 serving a day for women, ~2 for men) was associated with a longer lifespan.  This is not new news.  Many studies have shown that moderate drinking is associated with a healthy heart and potentially lower risk of other diseases (like diabetes). 

What they did show that was a bit different was that heavy drinkers outlived the nondrinkers...but not by much.  Compared to moderate drinkers, nondrinkers were 51% more likely to die and heavy drinkers were 45% more likely to die.  I'd call this about the same.  But still, quite interesting, isn't it?

Of course, the question is why.  And the answer is not really clear.  It may be just that drinkers have a healthier lifestyle than nondrinkers.  [The number of alcohol-related running/triathlon shirts I've seen makes me believe this.]  Maybe they like to drink outside in the sun where they soak up vitamin D, which is also associated with a longer life.  It may be that the alcohol and the antioxidants in some alcoholic beverages improve the cholesterol profile or other cardiovascular risk factors.  It may be that people who are drinkers tend to socialize more and it is well known that socializing, especially as one gets older, extends your life.

So what does this all mean?  Well, if you're a moderate drinker, it means keep at it (yeah me!).  If you are a nondrinker and happy with it for a variety of reasons (don't like it, can't stop at moderation, liver issues, don't want to drink in front of the kids, other), stay with it but consider incorporating other healthy lifestyle practices.  If you're a nondrinker because you think it's bad for you, there's no evidence to support that right now so don't feel guilty about uncorking that bottle and having a glass at dinner.  And if you're a heavy drinker, stop.  

And as of this coming Monday, I officially declare my "All Vodka Summer" to be over.  I'm breaking up with you for red wine.  It was good while it lasted.  It's not you, it's me.  I'll always cherish the memories...there's were so many good times.  I'll love you forever.