Category Archives: Health

My Rosacea is Under Control

When people used to look at me, they would probably only take in my red face and not much more. I never let this upset me, because I have caught myself staring at people in the past who look different. It is just a natural thing to do, and as long as people were respectful about it, I never let it bother me much. That didn’t mean I didn’t want to find out the root cause of my red face, which is how I found myself at the website of a local dermatologist.

I was diagnosed with rosacea fairly quickly, which is exactly what I had thought it was too because I had been looking for information about this for a while. I just did not know what to do about it. The redness was not too bad at times. At other times though, it was just awful.

Food Portions As Status Symbols

People who feel powerless may choose larger food portions in an attempt to boost their social status, a new study suggests.

Northwestern University researchers found that people equate larger food portions with higher social standing. For example, study participants believed that people who opted for a large coffee had more social status than those who chose a medium or small coffee, even when the price was the same.

The study also found that people who feel powerless (such as those in lower socioeconomic groups) selected larger pieces of bagels than others, and chose larger smoothies when they were at a social event than when they were alone.

The findings were released online in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

“An ongoing trend in food consumption is consumers’ tendency to eat more and more. Even more worrisome, the increase in food consumption is particularly prevalent among vulnerable populations such as lower socioeconomic status consumers,” study author David Dubois, of HEC Paris, and colleagues at Northwestern University wrote in a journal news release.

The team noted that it’s common for people to equate the size of a consumer product — such as a house, TV or vehicle — with social status.

The researchers also found that when powerless people were told that smaller hors d’oeuvres were served at prestigious events, they selected the smaller food items.

“Understanding and monitoring the size-to-status relationship of food options within an assortment is an important tool at the disposal of policy makers to effectively fight against overconsumption,” the study authors concluded.

How One Teen Will Feed Cancer Patients in Need

During the first season of Everyday Health , hosts Ethan Zohn and Jenna Morasca visited Katie Stagliano, founder of Katie’s Krops in Summerville, S.C. The 13-year-old began a community garden after her 40-pound cabbage won top honors in her elementary school class’s contest. After three years, Stagliano now has 11 satellite gardens, which also donate food to local shelters and families in need. (Catch the Everyday Health episode featuring Katie’s Krops on Dec. 17 or 18 on your local ABC station.)

After hearing that Zohn’s cancer had returned, Stagliano became inspired to do even more. Here, she checks in to tell us what else she’s got growing.

The holidays are a time when a lot of people are donating to soup kitchens and giving toys to those in need. I think that it is amazing how much support these people get during the holiday season: Food baskets on Thanksgiving, coat and jacket drives for the cold winter months, and toys for Christmas. This means a lot to families, especially those with young kids, who have trouble providing for themselves.

But what a lot of people do not realize is that hunger does not end after the holidays. People will still wake up hungry January 1st.

Appearing on Everyday Health was a huge honor. Since the show first aired in September, we have started cooking and serving dinners at Summerville Baptist, a local church with a huge dining hall. Word has spread across the community, and we have had huge crowds. Our first dinner alone had 60 people, and at our last dinner, 95 meals were served!

I believe that because of the challenging status of our economy, more people are falling on hard times. We get calls every day from families asking for fresh vegetables and food or for the date of the next Katie’s Krops dinner. I am thrilled that Summerville Baptist Church believes in our mission and has agreed to fill the void of no longer having a soup kitchen in my community by allowing us to continue to prepare healthy, fresh, and hot meals to anyone in need in 2012.


Everything Happens for a Reason

I have found that sometimes life is like a puzzle. All you need are the few missing pieces for it all to make sense. And this year I found those missing pieces in the people I met.

I had the great privilege to work with Ethan Zohn on Everyday Health. He is a cancer survivor and is so full of life, so much fun, and so determined to live life to the fullest.

I also met Mark Hertlizch, a survivor who fought cancer all the way to the football field. Mark is a player for the New York Giants, #58. While he was at Boston College he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Mark had been an amazing football player at the college and he was determined to beat cancer and play again. Mark did just that and now he plays for the Giants.

Harper Drolet was an 11-year-old girl who lived in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. She battled cancer twice, but, unfortunately, during her second fight Harper passed away. Her memory lives on and her spirit lives on through ‘Hugs for Harper,’ which raises money to help fund pediatric oncology research.

And finally, our family friend and neighbor, Miss Susan, is a breast cancer advocate. She approached us before Thanksgiving, asking if we had any food she could pass along to breast cancer patients, some of who are even homeless.

Why did I meet these people? What did I learn?

Just as I knew there was a reason I grew my 40-pound cabbage, I know there is a reason that these people came into my life. In 2012, I will continue to fight hunger one garden at a time, and I will continue to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see where they will lead me.


Planting the Seeds for a New Garden

I learned what I think most of us already know — that cancer is a horrible disease. Cancer takes a toll financially on patients and their families. Often caregivers are forced to give up their jobs to care for their loved ones. The financial burdens of the disease can be overwhelming and, as a result, families battling cancer sometimes struggle to put food on their tables. When you are fighting any disease or caring for someone in the fight of their life, proper nutrition is of the utmost importance.

That is when I put the pieces of the puzzle together: Katie’s Krops would start a vegetable garden to provide cancer patients and their families with healthy, fresh produce.

Katie’s Krops mission is to grow vegetable gardens to feed people in need, and I can see no greater need than growing produce to provide nutritious fruits and vegetables to cancer patients and their families. In 2012, I will start a Katie’s Krops garden dedicated to feeding people who are fighting cancer. The harvest will provide patients with healthy produce, and it will be a tribute to honor those who are battling this terrible disease and those who have passed because of cancer. The pieces of the puzzle are coming together.

Sugary Drinks for Targeting Kids

A new report claims that the makers of sugar-laden drinks such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks take direct aim at children, particularly black and Hispanic kids, in their marketing campaigns.

Despite promises to improve their marketing practices, these companies still use tactics such as rewards for buying sugary drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions and product placement in social media, according to researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. The findings were slated to be presented Monday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“We found that children’s exposure to TV ads for full-calorie soda doubled from 2008 to 2010,” Jennifer Harris, report author and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, said during a morning news conference. “We also found that energy drinks are heavily marketed to children and teens.”

Companies are reaching children not only by direct advertising, but through product placement on prime-time TV, the Internet and Facebook, Harris said.

Not only do beverage makers target children, but they also make health claims even though their products contain sugar, artificial sweeteners and caffeine, added Marlene Schwartz, deputy director of the Rudd Center. Many parents think sweetened sports drinks and fruit drinks are good for their children, she noted, and “they also believe the nutrient claims about vitamin C and real and natural ingredients, and interpret those as meaning that these products are healthful options.”

“One of the things we were surprised to learn is that some of these products marketed to children contain both artificial sweeteners and sugar,” she added.

To reach these conclusions, the authors looked at the marketing strategies of 14 companies and almost 600 products.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Lots of fruit drinks and energy drinks contain as much sugar and calories as full-calorie sodas.
  • Forty percent of kids’ fruit drinks contain artificial sweeteners.
  • More than half of sugary drinks and energy drinks make nutrient-related claims on their packages. Sixty-four percent say they contain “all-natural” or “real” ingredients.
  • Energy drinks are not appropriate for children and teens, but they are heavily marketed to them. In 2010, teens were exposed to 18 percent more TV ads and 46 percent more radio ads for energy drinks than adults. In 2010, teens saw 20 percent more TV ads for energy drinks than they did in 2008.

Which is the top diet for you

Jenny Craig may have taken top prize when Consumer Reports ranked the best diets of 2011 in May, but the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet earned best diets overall honors in U.S. News & World Report’s first-ever diet rankings, released today.

In an effort to help Americans weed through a seemingly endless array of weight-loss plan options, U.S. News recruited a panel of 22 health experts (nutritionists and specialists in weight loss, diabetes, heart health, and human behavior) to rank 20 of today’s most popular diets. “The goal of the Best Diets rankings is to help consumers find authoritative guidance on healthful diets that will work for them over the long haul,” according to U.S. News Health News editor Lindsay Lyon in a press release.

The results include the the best weight-loss diets, the best diets overall, the best heart-healthy diets, the best diets for diabetes, and the best commercial diets.

Each diet was rated from one to five in the following categories: short-term weight loss (within 12 months), long-term weight loss (two years or more), ease of compliance (satiety, taste appeal, special requirements), nutritional completeness (based on the 2010 U.S. dietary guidelines), health risks (malnutrition, rapid weight loss, contraindications for certain health conditions), and ability to prevent or manage diabetes and heart disease. Cost and exercise were not included in the scoring.

“Evaluating weight-loss plans isn’t an easy task, there’s a great deal to consider,” says Everyday Health nutritionist Maureen Namkoong, RD, adding that the “ease of compliance category” is essential when ranking diets, considering how difficult sticking to a diet plan can be. “I think they missed the mark by only having ‘experts’ evaluate these plans. It’s easy for a nutritionist to say a plan would be easy to follow, but it’s more important to know if dieters themselves — people who’ve struggled with healthy, balanced eating — would find it easy.”

So what do all of these rankings mean for you? Well, don’t read too much into the results.

“Different plans work for different people,” says Joy Bauer, Everyday Health diet and nutrition expert and creator of “Just because one diet ranks higher than another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be best for your personality, lifestyle, or taste buds.”

Read more about the diets ranked below, and take our What’s Your Diet Personality Quiz for a perfect plan that’s truly customized for your lifestyle.

Best Weight-Loss Diets

Winner: Weight Watchers

Runners-up (tie): Jenny Craig and the Raw Food Diet

Best Heart-Healthy Diets

Winner: Ornish Diet

Second place: TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet

Third place: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet

Best Diabetes Diets

Winner: DASH Diet

Runners-up (three-way tie): Mayo Clinic Diet, Ornish Diet, and Vegan Diet

Best Commercial Diet Plans

Winner: Weight Watchers

Second place: Jenny Craig

Third place: Slim-Fast

Best Diets Overall

Winner: DASH Diet

Runners-up (three-way tie): Mediterranean Diet, TLC Diet, and Weight Watchers


The Inside Scoop on the Best Diets From ‘U.S. News’

Here, get more details about all of the diets that U.S. News ranked, listed in alphabetical order.

And to find the best diet for you, visit us on Facebook to take our What’s Your Diet Personality Quiz.

Atkins Diet: The Atkins Diet is a low-carbohydrate plan that emphasizes protein and fats, with a minimum of carbs during its initial phase. Select carbs are added back into the diet after an “induction” period of two weeks. No. 7 best weight-loss diets, No. 8 best commercial diet plans, No. 18 best diabetes diets, No. 19 best diets overall, No. 19 best heart-healthy diets

DASH Diet: Recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet aims to control hypertension and promote overall health through foods that are low in sodium and high in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber, and lean proteins. Dieters are encouraged to eat nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, lean meats, lean poultry, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy. No. 1 best diets overall, No. 1 best diabetes diets, No. 3 best heart-healthy diets, No. 8 best weight-loss diets

The keys to successful weight loss

The treatment for obesity is weight loss, and there are a number of ways to achieve that, including:

  • Diet and lifestyle changes
  • Prescription medicines
  • Weight-loss surgery

For adults, particularly those using diet and lifestyle modifications to lose weight, the following are generally considered realistic goals:

  • Aim to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight over six months.
  • Lose weight slowly, at a rate of no more than 1 to 2 pounds a week.
  • Once you’ve lost 10 percent of your body weight, focus your efforts on keeping it off before attempting further weight loss.


Obesity and Lifestyle Modifications

Overeating is a major contributor to obesity, and some of the most common reasons for overeating include:

  • Fatigue
  • Boredom
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Feeling happy or wanting to celebrate
  • Eating too fast
  • Eating mindlessly, or without paying attention to what you’re eating
  • Eating to please someone else or to fit in with a social group
  • Trying to follow a too-strict diet
  • Going too long between meals and getting overly hungry

Lifestyle modifications that can help to address these reasons and help with weight loss include:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Becoming aware of the habits and/or emotions that lead you to overeat
  • Being mindful of how hungry or how full you are before, during, and after you eat
  • Following a healthy diet that provides enough calories and enough variety
  • Choosing foods that are high in water and/or fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Joining an in-person or online weight-loss support organization


Obesity Medications

Only a few prescription drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the long-term treatment of obesity.

These drugs include:

  • Belviq (lorcaserin)
  • Contrave (naltrexone/bupropion)
  • Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate)
  • Xenical (orlistat, also available as a lower-dose, over-the-counter product called Alli)

Xenical is approved for use in adolescents and adults; the other three drugs are approved for use in adults only.

Each of these drugs works differently and has different side effects. Choosing which to try is a decision best made with input from your doctor.

The average amount of weight lost as a consequence of using one of these drugs ranges from 3 to 9 percent of body weight.

In studies, use of Qsymia results in more weight loss than any of the other three.

In all cases, weight-loss medications are intended to be used along with a reduced-calorie diet and increased physical activity, and their effects stop when the drug is stopped.

Some other weight-loss drugs are approved for short-term use, but their usefulness is limited, because most people regain the weight they lost when they stop using the drugs.

Food with nutritious

When you think of hospital food, what comes to mind — mystery meat, watery bouillon, limp peas and carrots, wobbly green Jell-O? It’s no secret that the meals served to patients haven’t been a hit in terms of taste. There’s even a photo blog that invites people to submit snapshots of hospital meals from all over the world, and while some look pretty tasty, most are sad, unidentifiable variations on stereotypical hospital fare.

And while you’d think that meals designed for people who are sick should follow the latest nutritional guidelines, that’s often been far from the case. When the advocacy group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and ADinfinitum Inc. surveyed 40 hospitals or hospital systems across the United States in 2005, they found that fewer than a third had either a daily salad bar or a low-fat vegetarian entrée, and many so-called healthy items offered were actually very high in fat. Studies have also found that hospital food may have lower levels of nutrients like vitamin C, perhaps because the food is heated to a high temperature in order to retain warmth when delivered to patient rooms some time later.

But lately, the image of bland, unhealthy hospital meals has been shifting. The Culinary Institute of America in upstate New York offers a first-of-its-kind elective course on cooking for patients in health care facilities, with students taking field trips to hospitals and learning firsthand what’s involved in improving the taste and quality of institutional fare. At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, executive chef Pnina Peled works with a nutritionist to prepare great-tasting, healthy meals for children and adult cancer patients, who often have depleted appetites due to chemotherapy. Sloan-Kettering was also involved in last month’s 2011 Big Apple Health Care Culinary Challenge, which pitted chefs from several NYC-area hospitals against each other to see who could whip up the most delicious dishes.

Healthier Food for America’s Veterans

Even the Department of Veterans Affairs is taking note, with all 153 VA medical centers and 132 community living centers making healthier changes to their menus. Based on several different government nutrition guidelines, the new menu plan, known as the VHA Healthy Diet, was adopted by every VA facility in 2010. The plan calls for meals averaging 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day, with zero or minimal trans fats or hydrogenated fats, whole grains, and locally sourced fruits and vegetables. At Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, a VA facility in Florida, the cooks have also created healthy variations on favorite foods to adapt them to the new guidelines. So how’s the taste? Barbara Harrington, MS, RD, chief of nutrition and food services at Bay Pines, says that the most recent Patient Satisfaction Score was 4.4 on a 5-point scale — “Our highest ever! I’m very proud of that.” She does admit, though, that some patients “do miss their bacon and sausage at breakfast.”

How do you know when a fad diet is potentially dangerous

Weight loss veterans know that losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term commitment, yet even savvy dieters can occasionally be tempted by the quick weight loss promised by fad diets. As each new “lose weight fast” gimmick comes along, some people forget about the negatives associated with most fad diets — from a lack of nutritional value to food restrictions that are hard to live with — while others might not know if the weight-loss plan they’re considering is a fad or a program that could be helpful over the long haul. Here’s how to tell a flash-in-the-pan plan from an effective one


Beware Magical Claims and Passing Promises

“It seems to be human nature to be attracted to fad diets, which promise quick and easy results,” says Allen Knehans, PhD, chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Oklahoma University Health Sciences University in Oklahoma City. Weeding out fad diets takes a bit of effort because, Knehans acknowledges, “there is no standard definition of a fad diet.” Here are some of the red flags that indicate a weight-loss plan is an ineffective fad diet:

  • The diet promises that you will lose weight fast or at an unrealistic pace. The claims sound too good to be true. The diet’s recommendations are based on a single study – or no research at all.
  • The diet’s recommendations seem extreme.
  • Statements made about the diet are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
  • It refers to foods as “good” or “bad.”
  • Personal testimonials are used to “sell” the diet.
  • The fad diet involves crash dieting, or very intense reductions in eating and drinking.

Food grown more healthful

More and more grocery stores are making room for organic produce to keep up with increasing demand. Why are people going organic? Reasons include a growing national concern about the safety of our produce and a general movement toward an organic diet.

The Organic Diet: What Does Organic Really Mean?

Organic foods are thought to be better for your health and the environment because they’re grown in a natural, chemical-free way. Organic produce is grown using natural pest control methods, instead of pesticides, and organic meats don’t rely on chemicals to prevent diseases in animals. Instead of chemicals, organic farmers:

  • Rotate crops frequently to stave off insects
  • Fertilize crops with manure or compost
  • Use chemical-free soils
  • Allow animals to spend more time roaming instead of in confined spaces where diseases can spread
  • Use organic feed to feed livestock
  • Do not use certain medications (including hormones and antibiotics) on livestock

Find out what the 13 best superfoods are.

The Organic Diet: What Are the Benefits of Going Organic?

The decision to choose organic produce and other foods is a personal one, based on your own needs and concerns. Some people just don’t want to eat any food that could contain pesticides and other chemicals, says Anne Wolf, RD, a registered dietitian and researcher at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

Another reason: Organic food tastes better, says Wolf, adding that studies have shown organic foods contain more disease-fighting antioxidants.

In addition to health and better taste, there’s the green aspect of going organic. “A lot of people eat organic for the philosophy of it — to help sustain our earth,” notes Wolf. Organic farming practices are better for the sustainability of land, water, and food.

For most healthy adults, though, Wolf admits, organic foods aren’t necessary for better health — it’s just a preference. Pregnant women and children are more susceptible to the health effects of pesticides (including nervous system damage and behavioral problems), so for them, organic foods are a good health investment.

Diet for Heart Health

For maximum heart health, you need to eat a well-balanced diet. But what does that really mean? “Try a diet low in saturated fat and high in fiber,” recommends Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University. Here’s how to put such a diet in place.

Diet for Heart Health: Get Plenty of Fiber

Fiber can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of diabetes (a risk factor for heart disease) and certain types of cancer. “We recommend about 25 grams of fiber a day, for men a bit more. It’s based on your weight,” Young says. “Most Americans eat much, much less than that. If you follow a good diet, you’ll get enough, but so many of us don’t.”

The best way to include fiber in your diet is to eat a variety of whole grains and a mixture of fruits and veggies that have both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps clear out cholesterol from your bloodstream. Good sources of soluble fiber include oatmeal, barley, dried beans, and peas; insoluble fiber is found in vegetables like beets and brussels sprouts, as well as whole-grain bread.

Diet for Heart Health: The Role of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates should be 50 to 60 percent of your diet. In addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, get your carbohydrates from legumes, whole-grain breads and pastas, and brown rice. Carbohydrates from these sources are considered good because they offer you nutrients, vitamins, and fiber, in addition to the calories.

However, Young explains that carbohydrates are often vehicles for saturated fats like butter, sour cream, cream cheese, and dips and spreads. That’s not good news because saturated fat increases your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol. So you want to watch what you put on your carbs, and how much of them you eat.

  • Eat the right carbs and the right fats. While too much LDL cholesterol is bad news, replacing all the fat in your diet with carbohydrates is not the answer either. “A diet too high in carbs and too low in fats will decrease the HDL cholesterol,” says Young. The HDL cholesterol, found in certain good (non-saturated) fats, is actually good for your heart.
  • Understand the role of triglycerides. Fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates and are jam-packed with nutrients that your body needs. Other simple carbohydrates, like breads, cakes, and cookies made from white, refined flour, have less nutritional value. After we eat, our bodies turn carbohydrates, fats, and protein into triglycerides, the chemical that our cells use to give us energy. We need some triglycerides to fuel us throughout the day. But too much of this chemical has been found to increase the risk of heart disease. “It depends on the type of carb,” Young says. “White bread, for instance, elevates the triglycerides.”