From the monthly archives: "September 2007"

Wow! Being a parent is tough. So much to think about–so much to know. My daughter has been sick for two weeks now with a cold, and it has turned into a pretty nasty ear infection. It’s been rough. Check out this months article titled, Putting a New Light on Illness, to see how I believe we need to approach such matters.But again, being a parent is tough. Take, for example, childhood learning. As parents we want to do the right things for our tykes. So we buy them Baby Einstein products, enroll them in music classes, and read them Goethe. But is it really doing anything or are we just fools for marketing? According to new research, one of the best things you can do to enhance your child’s language development is give them a set of blocks. Blocks? Wooden or plastic geometrically cuboid shapes? Not computer programs, DVDs, language tapes, or Graciela, the Guatemalan Spanish tutor? Just plain old blocks?

Yup! So says a study out of the University of Washington. Unstructured play with blocks stimulates thinking, memory and physical mastery of objects at a time when a child’s brain is growing rapidly, says Dimitri Christakis, the author of the study. Apparently blocks “are the precursors of thought and language,” he wrote in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, “Older children begin to make up stories or scripts for these objects …” And even better, such play may substitute for less stimulating activity like watching television.

Speaking of T.V., you must know how I feel about watching too much of this junk. Just call it brain Twinkies. It isn’t great for adults, but it’s particularly problematic for children. At a time when their delicate nervous system and brain are developing rapidly, children should really be engaging in stimulating activities like playing with toys, imitating Mom and Dad doing household chores, reading (if they are old enough), and listening to wholesome music (it doesn’t have to be Beethoven, but you probably want to lay off the Tupac for a while). Watching T.V. should really be minimal, if at all.

According to a recent study published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 2-years-old shouldn’t watch any T.V. at all, while children older than 2 should limit their viewing to less than two hours a day. These conclusions are the result of multiple studies showing high levels of television viewing in children leading to social and behavioral problems–like ADHD–later in life. This current study, though, is the first to point out that, even if television viewing is high in toddlers, parents can prevent problems by curbing the bad habit by age 5 1/2. That’s good news for parents who have been unaware. But now you know folks, so pull that Dummy Tube out of Junior’s bedroom tonight.

On a final note, yet another recent study shows that less than one third of all U.S. children are recieving nutritional supplements. Now c’mon people–getting adequate nutrients is essential to good health (it’s one of the key points in my upcoming book), and let’s face it, today’s American diet is severely lacking in nutritional value. So you’ve got to supplement, as do the kids. Saying that–supplements should never substitute for a nutritious and wholesome diet. They supplement. But to ensure both you and your child good health, you probably want to get a good vitamin and mineral supplement today. According to the study, “children using supplements were more likely to be thinner, from a higher-income family without smokers, and spend less time with television and video games.” What do you know? Sounds like these families know what’s up. You can too–just start today. As I said before, being a parent is tough, but keeping up with the latest information helps significantly. I hope this info has made your job just a little bit easier.

Which diet is better? A low carb, high protein diet like Atkins or South Beach? Or a high carb, low fat diet–the type pushed by the sponsors of the food pyramid? Well as far as weight loss is concerned, you know my opinion–calories are calories. So, either way, you’ll gain weight if your calorie intake is greater than what you burn.

But one thing we know for certain: Diets that are higher in carbohydrates seem to fare better for those involved in intense mental activity. And now we’ve got further evidence. Recent research shows that, although both low carb, low fat and high carb, low fat diets help people lose weight, the latter will actually help increase cognitive processing. That is, high carb diets help the brain work faster.

Yup, you all knew that right? Glucose–a carbohydrate–is the only fuel suitable for the brain; therefore, carbohydrate is essential. In the study, overweight and obese men and women were fed either a high carb or low carb diet for eight weeks. The researchers then looked at mood and cognitive function (through intelligence and reasoning tests). Mood was not affected by the amount of carbohydrate consumed, but those eating more carbs solved problems faster.

I find this important information because I am often asked what I think about the low carb diet. My standard answer: Eat everything in balanced moderation, and increase carb or protein depending on your activities. Working hard at the office? Increase your carbs a little. Fruits are best, but grains are good too; just don’t make Pringles your carb of choice (well, OK, have a few). Working out a lot? Increase your protein intake. Try nuts, cheese, turkey meatballs, chocolate milk (yes, it’s good too…in moderation), or whatever floats your boat. All this information, and more, is in my soon to be released book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. Just follow basic principles and forget the fads, man. Fads come and go (remember food combining and Fit for Life?), but principles are forever. So be smart and eat well. It doesn’t have to be rocket science.

A recent study meant to look at the value of trips to doctor’s offices has confirmed what astute critics have felt for years–the annual medical physical is bunch of bunk. According to the study, about 63 million Americans visit medical offices for routine annual physicals every year spending $7.8 billion.

The study, which was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, points out that “more than 80 percent of preventive care provided by doctors does not take place during this annual check-up. And more than $350 million worth of potentially unnecessary medical tests are performed.” No kidding. You mean, providing a healthy 39-year-old man with an expensive heart ECG (stress test) isn’t a responsible, or cost effective, screening measure? You don’t say. It’s only about $129 a pop. Ah, insurance will cover it. But wait, now experts are saying that these tests shouldn’t be provided for anybody with less than two risk factors: cigarette smoking, high blood pressure or high serum cholesterol levels, diabetes, or a family history of coronary disease before age 55.

So what else do you get at an annual check up? Urinalysis–not necessary for people withot symptoms. Blood cholesterol screening–only need it every five years. Stool samples–only in the over-50 set. Saying that, it is still recommended for women to get annual Pap smears as well as annual breast exams once they hit 40. But for the most part, these yearly physicals do little more than increase costs. According to Dr. Ateev Mehrotra of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the RAND Corp., who led the study, “We need to question encouraging everybody to come in for an annual physical. There’s a lot of money, a lot of visits, a lot of adults going to see their doctor for annual physical exams with a real unclear benefit. It’s the No. 1 reason adults see their doctor, and yet we don’t know whether it’s helpful or not.”

Obviously keeping an eye on your health is important. And having a set of educated and experienced eyes looking at you is helpful. But the long outdated medical exam needs be changed. Thank goodness sensible minds in the medical community are questioning this practice and are stimulating change. The world is changing rapidly and we need to alter many of our outmoded ways and procedures to keep relevant in the modern world. One of the most crucial areas in which change is needed is in how we view and care for our health. Studies like this one are definitely a good start, but we’ve still got work to do. Thankfully, human consciousness is transforming–leading us into new frontiers.

I try. I really do. But sometimes I just can’t help it. As much as I want to leave the political stuff to political writers, every once in a while I’ve got to speak up. According to findings of a new study, education levels and socioeconomic status have important yet different effects on health.

According to the study, a person’s education level independently (when adjusted for income) determined a person’s likelihood of becoming ill or disabled. OK, no problem there. We know that the more educated a person is, the more likely he or she will know which behaviors are health enhancing and which are detrimental. Further, more education leads to a better understanding of various and alternative therapies, thus leading to a greater probability of self-empowerment when it comes to one’s health.

Socioeconomic status, on the other hand, determined how a person’s illness would progress. Whether an illness became chronic and how likely a person was to die during the study also depended on one’s income level. For instance, ill or disabled people with annual incomes below $10,000 were three times more likely of their illness progressing than people earning $30,000 or more per year. Also no surprises here, as lower income individuals are less likely to seek out or afford quality health care.

However, here is what I take exception to: According to Dr. Pamela Herd of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the study’s lead author, the findings are “really about the way that poverty has negative ramifications for health,” noting that poor people may live in worse housing, have a more difficult time obtaining healthy foods, and have a tougher time getting health care. And poverty can increase stress levels, she adds, which in itself can worsen health.

Uh, and how about the other factor? Like how being financially stable, let alone wealthy, requires focus, discipline, and plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. All the same things needed to achieve and maintain good health. It also requires being proactive and empowering oneself in many areas including education, finance, professional life, social life, family life, and spiritual life. How about that?

I know that’s not the PC thing to say. Oh no, it’s much more correct to say that being “stuck” in poverty is a form of victimization; poor people being at the mercy of circumstance, of which they have very little, if any, control at all. Moreover, for one to pull oneself out of poverty, or at least survive, is highly dependent on social and governmental change. I guess this means socialized…oops, I mean universal health care. Says Dr. Herd, “We already know what people need to do to be healthier. What we talk about a lot less is what kind of structural changes need to be made for people’s health to improve.”

What a bunch of baloney. No doubt, education and economic levels enormously influence health. But I hardly think it’s because people don’t have medical care at their fingertips. Hell, in a lot of ways, those that don’t are the lucky ones; at least they can investigate other options. More likely, those people who diligently focus on their mental growth, and in turn their financial growth (even if it’s relatively modest), also focus on their physical health (to varying degrees, of course). And, in general, they probably treat their health with the same care and discipline that they approach other aspects of their lives.

There, I’ve said it and I’m sticking by it. This isn’t a belligerent bout of insensitivity at all; no sir. It’s an observation that any type of growth requires work–hard work–as well as focus, discipline, and a burning desire for evolution, despite one’s obstacles (we’ve all got obstacles, and money is simply one of the many in existence). Achieving and maintaining great health also requires these same things. And the power is in the individual. Everything else is just a cop out.

One of the first things doctors learn in rudimentary physiology class is that, when it comes to preventing heart disease, high HDL or “good” cholesterol is more important than low LDL or “bad” cholesterol. In fact, HDL levels are four times greater than LDL levels in their ability to predict the development of coronary atherosclerosis. Basic, basic, basic physiology.

But an interesting thing happens between doctor school and practicing–it’s called influence from the outside world. In the case of doctors, that influence often comes from pharmaceutical industry. C’mon Campos, not another evil pharmaceutical industry story (hey, I haven’t written one yet, please). No, no–it’s more like another example of how we’ve come to worship outside factors when it comes to our health. Check this one out.

Recent research published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that no matter how much bad cholesterol is lowered in the blood, it’s the amount of good cholesterol that still reigns supreme. Yes, the concentration of your HDLs (high density lipoproteins) plays a vital part in preventing cardiovascular diseases, like heart attacks and strokes.

Yeah, so? Well if you haven’t heard yet, those hyper-pedastalized miracle drugs known as statins are some of the most prescribed drugs of our day. Statins work by lowering LDL (low density lipoproteins) levels in the blood, and this, it has been promised, will lower our risk of heart disease. Great! Prescribe them like crazy. People don’t work out. People don’t eat right. Who cares? Give ‘em statins. You’ve got boderline high cholesterol. Statins. You’re almost diabetic? Statins. You’ve seen the cholesterol commercial and you’re concerned? Statins.

Statins. Statins. Statins.

Well I’ve got news for you. You want to lower your risk of cardiovasular disease? You’ve got to watch what you eat and work out, period. Oh yeah…it’ll help if you quit smoking too, but how about just starting with exercise? You see, I’ve got a real problem with the idea of looking for magic bullets. They are illusions, people–ILLUSIONS! They give false security and false hopes. Nothing in life is free. You’ve got to work for everything. Exercise. Diet. That’s the real answer. Not statins.

OK, I’ll be fair. For people who have dangerously high levels of LDLs–if I was their MD–I’d give them statins for a very brief period, and I’d absolutely prescribe heavy doses of lifestyle management (read: nutrition and exercise). But I wouldn’t perscribe statins for people with boderline normal cholesterol levels as some Dr. Idiots are recommending (also read this–effin’ scary).

According to Dr. Philip Barter of the Heart Research Institute in Sydney, one of the lead authors of the study, “Even when LDL is taken down to very low levels, the kind of levels people say should be the aggressive targets, having a low HDL is still associated with a substantial increase in risk. (emphasis mine)” So, basically, you’ve got to work to bring your HDL levels up to par. And here’s the beauty: It’s the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL that really matters (see this brilliant explanation here), where total cholesterol = HDL+LDL. Therefore, HDL+LDL/HDL. So, if you bring up your HDL levels, you don’t need statins. Duh.

OK, here’s how you can raise your HDL levels–exercise regularly, eat wholesome foods, take essential fatty acids, and moderate your smoking and drinking habits. And you can naturally decrease your LDL levels by decreasing saturated fat intake, maintaining good body composition, increasing dietary fiber, and increasing aerobic exercise. Booyah!

But wait…fugdat. Ain’t there a drug I can take, Homey?

Sure Pfizer is working on one. It’s called torcetrapib. Oh wait. It killed people in a large drug trial. Oh well–I guess you’ve gotta work out. Says Barter again: The alternative is to “become lean and become very active. That’s probably as effective as anything we have at the moment. But most people who try don’t succeed,” Barter said. “The biggest frustration is that we don’t have the magic bullet like we do for the LDL.”

Ah yes, the ‘ol magic bullet. Well, keep looking–it’s your time, your money, and your health. If you want to believe, then be my guest. But I’ll just be over here dancing with the Tooth Fairy.

OK, it’s been a while–vacation–but I’m back, so here goes. Research shows that people who do not get adequate sleep are twice as likely to die of heart disease. A 17-year British study looked at 10,000 government workers. Those who cut their sleep from seven hours a night to five or less had two times as much chance of dying of any cause, but especially from heart disease. Although the reasons for this are as of yet unknown, researchers believe it has to do with increased blood pressure, leading to heart attack and stroke, in those consistently robbing the sandman.

If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, sleep is absolutely essential to maintaining good health. The importance of this study is that in today’s high paced, produce or crumble culture, more and more people are depriving themselves of sleep–and now we know it can kill you.

Hey, I’m the first one to admit that forcing oneself to rest is tough. I know–I run a business, I have a family, I blog!–sometimes, sleep has got to take the back burner. But consistently missing sleep will catch up with you sooner or later. It increases your risk of catching colds or flu. It increases your chances of injuring yourself or having an accident. And it disrupts your mental function and mental capacity significantly. So do yourself a favor: shut off the T.V., say goodnight to your friends, and go to bed–it’ll save you a few years of life. Now you know.

Well, I’ve made it a week and I haven’t died. But I sure am sore. Especially my legs. I’ve been to the gym five times since my proclamation at the beginning of the month, and I return tonight, tomorrow and the next day. Whew. I’m sweating already.

OK, here goes–I’ve been pounding my legs with walking lunges (left), leg presses and high-knee step ups on a platform four layers high (right). I’ve done preliminary bench presses, lat pull downs, and seated rows–all on machines, just to get my body warmed up. I started slow the first time, doing two sets of 8-10 reps depending on the exercise, and have increased it to two sets 10-12 reps of everything (except walking lunges, which I started with 40 steps and have increased to 60).

I’ve done some light arm work (biceps curls and French presses for the triceps) and my usual dips. And, of course, I’ve been doing my regular ab routine, which includes plank pose, side plank, crunches, reverse crunches, and hip raises. I just started working on the handstands the other day, just working on kicking up and holding. I can see this is going to be a challenge. I’ve also walked Runyon Canyon once, jogging the final 150 yards. That was tough, but fun. I kept hearing the theme from Rocky playing in my head oddly enough–I definitely need to get more original.

Been drinking lots of water, some chlorophyll, and taking some vitamins (just put in a big order for all kinds of good supplements, so that’ll increase within the next week or so). As I suspected, going to bed by 10 pm and waking up by 6 am has been my greatest challenge, but I’m optimistic. Heck, if I can do it even three times a week, I’ll be psyched. Getting enough sleep is huge for me, and it’s definitely my biggest neglect. Finally, I stretch every day, but haven’t yet made it to a yoga class. I will. I’ve still got time.

There it is. Nothing more to report….oh yeah…I have weighed myself. Check this out, this is interesting: I weighed in at 164 lbs. after the first week. What?!?! Did I measure wrong the first time? I’ve already lost three pounds? Ah, not so fast–I was back up to 165 the following session, then 166, and then 165 again, which is where I stand now. So, if you ever weigh yourself, understand that these fluctuations occur, especially in the beginning. Lots of times weight loss is due to water loss–never a good thing, so don’t get prematurely excited. A pound a week is healthy, and that’s what I’m shooting for. Alrighty then, till next time.

Do our emotions affect our health? Clearly they have an impact. But current research is uncovering how much influence they really have. Scientists have found that people who describe themselves as chronically lonely are more likely to get sick and die young, and much of it has to do with their immune systems gone haywire.

The lonely person has a distinct pattern of genetic activity, almost all of it involving the immune system, a recent study shows. According to one of the lead authors, Steve W. Cole, a molecular biologist at the University of California Los Angeles, “What this study shows is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes–the activity of our genes.” Previous studies have shown a correlation between loneliness and infections, high blood pressure, insomnia, cancer, and premature death, but this is the first study that has shown distinct genetic activity of social isolation.

The obvious question, then, is do these illnesses lead one to feel more isolated and thus lonely, or does loneliness lead to physiological changes? That’s what the authors of this study set to find out. They looked at all 22,000 genes of the human body to see where changes took place and found them to occur in a set of 200 genes, many involved in immune function.

This information is big. It is a groundbreaking study in an area that I believe is the future of human health and healing–the role of the mind in health and physiological function. Most forward thinking healers know that you cannot separate the mind from the body, but now we have concrete evidence, and this should hopefully open the doors to further investigation. I am certain that loneliness is just the tip of the iceberg–chronic guilt, resentment, and ingratitude must also have a tremendous impact on the human body; it’s just a matter of time before we find out how much so. The exciting news is that it must work in the opposite way as well. A strong social network, support, and a feeling of belonging must also enhance the health. And I’m certain that being in a state of gratitude has physical benefits well beyond what we can comprehend at the moment. So hats off to these innovative researchers for opening the doors to the future–I can’t wait to see what else is inside.

Yay! A judges ruling last week has allowed New York’s fast food restaurants to ignore posting calorie and fat counts on their menus. Basically, a pre-existing federal law takes restaurants that voluntarily provide this information off the hook. As long as they provide nutritional information somewhere–on tray papers or Web sites, for instance–they cannot be restricted in how they comply with city law.

Thank goodness. As I’ve said in earlier posts (here, and here), nothing is dumber than the government stepping in where individual discretion is warranted. Do we really need the government to tell us what’s junk and what’s real food? Please. All that would do is hurt businesses that provide a product the public wants–junk food. And it takes the responsibility away from the individual. We’ll never see an increase in national health until people become responsible for theirs, plain and simple.

Interestingly, this is being proved by yet another recent study. Researchers have found that people consistently underestimate the calorie content of foods served at restaurants they consider healthier, like Subway, for example. In the study, researchers asked people who had just finished eating at Subway or McDonalds to estimate how many calories they had just consumed. On average, Subway diners underestimated their calorie intake by 151 calories–that is, they mistakenly believed they were eating less calories by eating a 12-inch turkey sandwich than by eating a Big Mac, although both have exactly the same amount of calories. What this then led to was the Subway diners ordering more sodas and cookies than the McDonalds diners, giving them actually more calories overall. This meant that, on average, Subway diners wound up consuming 1,011 calories, compared to 648 calories for the people eating McDonalds. Whoa. Get it? People make assumptions about food, and these assumptions lead to poor food decisions.

But wait, if calorie and fat content is posted won’t it lead to people making better decisions? Not necessarily, because only fast food restaurants would be required to post such information (more on this concept here). So, in my opinion, people will go to the local Whole Foods and pig out because they assume it’s healthier. Should Whole Foods then post calorie content? How about Spago? I’ve got a better idea: How about understanding two basic principles instead:

  1. Fast food is junk that should only be eaten periodically
  2. How much one eats is as important as what one eats

Got it? Eating too many carrots, falafel, or soy veggie burgers is just as detrimental to the health as an occasional Big Mac. True, carrots have a greater vitamin and nutrient content, but people aren’t using this as their criteria yet.

I just don’t see calorie reporting at fast food restaurants as being the answer, and worse, I think it will lead people down the wrong road. Just understand the basics about food, and practice prudent principles. Don’t know what they are? Get yourself a copy of The Six Keys to Optimal Health–it’s all in there–and you’ll be sure to make the right decisions.

When we think of drug related deaths, don’t we all assume it’s heroin, barbiturates, or even alcohol that is involved? What if I told you that the fastest growing drug killer in our medicine cabinets today are painkillers – would you believe me? Well you’d better. A recent U.S. study has found that deaths or injuries related to drug treatments have more than doubled between 1998 and 2005 in the United States, with painkillers and immune-system boosters accounting for most.

Ouch. This further hurts a medical industry that increasingly relies on pharmaceutical treatments for every ailment, no matter how minor. Shame that it has even gotten so far as to make non-medical conditions “easily treatable” with drugs (hear my Podcast Episode 3 on lifestyle drugs to get a glimpse of this travesty). When there is a drug for every situation – forget illness, it’s gone way beyond that – then expect death and disability to rise.

The biggest shame is that there are so many “alternative” solutions for pain – like chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, exercise, yoga – yet so many people refuse to try them or give them an honest chance. Making matters worse, far too many medical doctors, and the medical institution as a whole, are slow to accept these alternative therapies as a part of mainstream care. And they certainly aren’t making a habit of referring their patients to these other useful and effective therapies.

Is it fear? Is it a desire to remain the cultural authority on all things health that leads to this sort of negligence? I think it’s both, with a little bit of arrogance tossed in. The general consensus regarding alternative therapies among medical practitioners is, “There is no proof – no scientific evidence.” This concept is such malarkey that it’s almost painful (excuse the pun) to bear. Take chiropractic for example. There is plenty of research on its effectiveness, but the doors need to be opened for serious dialogue to occur between the professions. Furthermore, chiropractic has been helping people remove pain and maintain health for over one hundred years, and has survived attempts to bury it, discredit it, and even outlaw it. How would this be so if scores of people were not being helped by it? Like, get with it, man. When are you going to accept chiropractic’s validity? When are you going to think first of your patients and steer them toward a non-drug option?

The bottom line is this: Keep prescribing drugs like there is no tomorrow, and see death rates soar. It won’t last forever because the public is getting smarter and more savvy (like my readers). Thanks to the Internet, information is easily shared and the position of physician as absolute authority is being severely challenged. Doctors are guides; they are teachers. Teach the truth and people will listen. There is no truth in the excessive manipulation of body chemistry to maintain health. You heard it hear first, so pass the word. And be diligent and cautious when seeking treatment. What you don’t know can kill you.

Oh Lordy, hang on tight -this story is fat. Recent reports show a possible link between implanted microchips in mice and malignant tumors. Yeah so, who cares? Well, get this, certain government officials, medical groups, and the FDA have been pushing this technology for human use – that is, implanting glass covered microchips into humans for the purpose of storing medical records.

Ha, ha, isn’t that the greatest? Implanting microchips into our arms for medical records. Is anybody that dumb? Apparently so – over 2,000 people have undergone implementation worldwide. Yes, yes just in case you need medical care and you’re unconscious – then your insurance coverage can be checked before they cart you off to the appropriate ward. Har, har, I can’t stop chuckling.
Anyway, some diligent researchers have found a series of veterinary and toxicology studies, dating to the mid-1990s, which stated that chip implants had “induced” malignant tumors in some lab mice and rats. This should be enough to warrant caution. But, oh no, not when there’s big money involved. Some of the major players in this potential scandal are the VeriChip Corp., makers of the implants, the FDA, and former director of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Tommy Thompson.
VeriChip has projected a target market of 45 million Americans for its medical monitoring chips, and insists that the devices are safe. But not everyone is so sure. “There’s no way in the world, having read this information, that I would have one of those chips implanted in my skin, or in one of my family members,” said Dr. Robert Benezra, head of the Cancer Biology Genetics Program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
I couldn’t agree more, and as this story unfolds it really exposes some back room dealings that should scare you right out of your pants. According to the report (read it in full here), two weeks after the FDA approved the VeriChip device, Tommy Thompson left his HHS post and within five months found himself a board member of VeriChip Corp. He allegedly received stock options – lots of them – and about $40K in cash. Nice.
Thompson, of course, denies it. “I didn’t even know VeriChip before I stepped down from the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said in a telephone interview. However, he did vigorously campaign for electronic medical records and health care technology both as governor of Wisconsin and at HHS. And the Law firm at which he is a partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, was paid $1.2 million for legal services it provided the chip maker in 2005 and 2006, according to SEC filings.
The take home lesson: don’t get caught off guard. There are powerful people who want to implant you with a chip. Letting this kind of thing slide might be very disruptive to the freedom of independent living. And as far as implanting chips: I believe that the only way people might be open to this sort of nonsense is by placing medical science up on a pedestal. Doing so leaves one susceptible to all kinds of funny business, and mistakes. The responsible and informed consumer, though, can circumvent these kinds of things by being aware of what’s going on in the world of health. Face it – health policy affects us all – so you may as well take part in the decision making process, otherwise somebody else is going to do it for you.
Interestingly, in a TV interview while still on the board of VeriChip, Thompson was explaining the benefits and the ease of being chipped when an interviewer interrupted:
“I’m sorry, sir. Did you just say you would get one implanted in your arm?”
“Absolutely,” Thompson replied. “Without a doubt.”
“No concerns at all?”
“No.”
However, as of today, Thompson has yet to be chipped himself.

We all know that too much T.V. isn’t good for the brain, right? Well, at least most people with common sense suspect so, anyway. But now we have proof: Current research shows that young children who watch more than two hours of the brainfryer a day are more likely to have attention problems as adolescents.

Duh. You mean that constantly changing visual images rapidly flashing on a screen – sometimes faster than the human mind can comprehend (anyone hear of subliminal messages) – might have long term effects. You don’t say?

Think about it for a second (I’d have you think about it for a minute, but veteran television watchers might change the channel): Television really does consist of rapidly changing images. As a medium, it does not engage your concentration. You just passively watch images and listen to the accompanying audio. No thinking or concentrating necessary. True, you are following a story (reality shows notwithstanding), but it’s still a passive activity.

One might make an argument for educational T.V. (like Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the History Channel), but you still passively watch and listen, which does nothing for the development of focus or concentration. Add to that today’s popular programming – reality shows, awards shows, music videos – and the term dummy tube starts to take on a whole new accuracy, doesn’t it?

The study, carried out at the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand, showed that children who watched two or more hours per day were at a significant risk for developing attention deficit disorders later in life. And those who watched over three hours per day were at even greater risk. According to Carl Erik Landhuis, one of the lead authors of the study, kids who get used to watching lots of attention-grabbing TV may find ordinary life situations – like the classroom – boring. It’s also possible, he adds, that TV may simply crowd out time spent doing other activities that can build attention and concentration skills, such as reading and playing games.

Yes, that’s exactly it. Activities like reading, solving puzzles, playing sports and other games, learning computers or instruments, all require focus and concentration. They also require thinking and problem solving which leads to the development of dendritic pathways in the brain and nervous system, which leads to overall brain development. I’m sorry but T.V. doesn’t do that – no thinking involved. Furthermore, learning to entertain oneself in the absence of mind-numbing image flashing is the gateway to the imagination. Give your kid a copy of Tom Sawyer, Harry Potter, Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, or whatever, and let them learn to stimulate their own vivid and priceless imaginations. And get them away from the dummy tube. Trust me, our autonomy and self-sufficiency as a civilization depend on it.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – processed foods can kill you. A popcorn fanatic in Colorado has developed lung disease recent news reports, possibly from eating way too much microwavable popcorn. The 53-year-old man loved his Orville Redenbacher so much he used to inhale the fumes after opening the piping hot package. Unbeknownst to him – or the rest of us – microwaveable popcorn contains a chemical used for processing, called diacetyl, which is suspected as causing lung damage.

Diacetyl, a naturally occurring compound that gives butter its flavor and is also found in cheese and wine, has been linked to lung damage in factory workers testing hundreds of bags of microwave popcorn per day and inhaling its fumes. It is approved by the FDA as a flavoring ingredient for processed foods. The levels of diacetyl fumes found in the afflicted man’s home were inordinately high – peak levels were similar to those measured in factories – presumably from the two bags or more that he nuked every day.
When are we going to figure out that processed foods are not superior to the real deal? Man can’t make it better than Mother Nature can – not now and probably never. Think about this for a minute – why put butter flavoring on foods, how about real butter? Duh! I’ll tell you why. Because we’ve been duped by the health and food sciences machine, and especially the media – that’s why. We’ve been sold so much nonsense over the last several decades like:
  • Red meat is bad for you
  • Salt is bad for you
  • Whole milk is bad for you
  • Cheese and butter are bad for you
  • Fat is bad for you

Gimme a break! Whole, natural foods are the only way to go. They have carried us through millions of years of evolution, but now they are bad for us? Hmmm. Why don’t we find the chemical responsible for the flavor of butter instead, isolate it, and then we can have the butter flavor without the fat. Yeah, that’s better. Oh, shoot – there’s only one problem. That chemical might cause lung damage.

Some specialists and special interest groups are claiming that there is no concrete evidence yet that diacetyl causes lung disease. But c’mon now, there have been several academic studies showing the link, and a few legal battles going the way of food-flavoring workers who have developed the lung disease, bronchiolitis obliterans.

Here’s the take home message: Eat processed foods only occasionally, and not as a dietary staple. I discuss this principle in detail in my upcoming book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. It’s a very basic concept but I think too many people just don’t know it, or they ignore it. Either way, this story is a wake-up call for those living off of processed junk food. Trust me when I say, the convenience of throwing a bag of popcorn (or any other processed food) in the microwave ain’t worth the risk, and I assure you it doesn’t taste better. So eat the real thing – you’ll start appreciating the difference soon enough.

Everybody knows that exercise is important, right? But on what level do you know it? Intellectually? Intuitively? Or have you put your nose to the grindstone and figured it out empirically?

Empirical evidence is information gathered by observation or experiment. It is not merely philosophical or intuitive, but instead observed by the senses. So the only way to truly know the benefits of exercise is to actually do it – regularly.

New research coming out of the U.S. and Italy shows that elderly people who exercise regularly have the greatest probability of survival following a heart attack. Scientists at the Federico II University in Naples observed that men and women, aged 70 years and older, who had a recent angioplasty (the mechanical widening of a narrowed or totally-obstructed blood vessels), and who exercised more than 30 minutes every day, were three times less likely to die of heart attack than those who had low (less than 15 minutes of daily activity) and medium (15 to 30 minutes of daily activity) activity levels.

Here’s my question, then – if regular physical activity can prevent cardiac related deaths in the over-70 crowd – the group most likely to die from heart related conditions – then what does it mean for relatively healthy 60-year-olds? 50-year-olds? 30 and 40-year-olds? And how about – gulp – 20 year olds?

Let me answer. Regular exercise done by anybody regardless of age, not only prevents premature death (see my earlier post on the subject), but it enhances most other aspects of physical life. Here are some of the benefits of regular moderate exercise:

  • increased energy
  • increased mental clarity
  • better sleep
  • more stamina for work, play, or sex
  • less pain
  • enhanced looks
  • balanced mental attitude (i.e. less feelings of depression)

To find out more about the many benefits of exercise, as well as tips to maximize and enjoy your efforts, you’ll need to read The Six Keys to Optimal Health, my book on natural health enhancement, due for release in October 2007. Until then keep exercising regularly. And if its been awhile since you’ve pushed yourself to the gym, then what are you waiting for, man? Get moving and see – empirically – how good life can be.

Ah, to be young again. Young and, uh…uh…well…uh, young and…oh dadburnit; I guess I’d have to say that, for the first time in a long time, I’m at a loss for words. Let me just get to it then: Vaginal rejuvenation, designer vaginoplasty, or revirgination is not medically necessary, and it may even be unsafe. That’s right, cosmetically touching up the Garden of Eden may be a procedure of futility or worse! This message comes straight from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in its journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology.

My simple question is – why? I hate to sound like a totally predictable and broken record but I really don’t get it. Who does this and for whom? The process includes changing the shape of the labia, “restoring” the hymen, and tightening the vagina (check out this piece by the Washinton Post). What are we back in antiquity? I guess virginity is en vogue once again. Whew! I was getting worried there.

But doctors are performing these surgeries as if they are routine. According to Dr. Abbey Berenson, one of the lead authors of the ACOG guidelines, some women may be fooled by deceptive marketing practices into thinking they need the surgery because they are somehow abnormal. “Many women don’t realize that the appearance of external genitals varies significantly from woman to woman,” Berenson said. She goes on to say, “There are always risks associated with a surgical procedure. It’s important that women understand the potential risks of these procedures and that there is no scientific evidence regarding their benefits.”

Ah yes, please listen to the good doctor. All surgical procedures come with risk. Period. Some of the potential complications here include infection, altered sensation, pain and scarring. And for what? An illusion? I can’t imagine anyone other than the person considering this surgery caring about this kind of thing. No chance. And if your man does – you think it’s for your man, right? – then maybe he needs a new brain.

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