Fast Food Lawsuits
Inspiration for Longevity
Health Habits for Longevity
Ask Dr. J: Fibromyalgia
In the Health News
Diet and Disease
Recipe of the Month: Potato Salad
The fast food (fast junk in my terms) restaurants
are being attacked in the way that tobacco companies once
werelawsuits claiming that they are responsible for
illness, activists in schools trying to improve the diets
of schoolchildren and remove vending machines selling junk,
and widespread media coverage of these events.
One lawsuit claims that the victims high cholesterol,
obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are the result of eating
at McDonalds, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Kentucky Fried
Chicken, with no warning from the companies that there was
a risk in doing this. It seems that one of the defenses is
that everyone knows that these products are unhealthy, so
there is no need for a warning.
Indeed, it seems that everyone should know this, but it will
be fascinating to see if the companies mount the defense that
everyone should know that their products are unhealthy, and
therefore they are not liable.
Of course, they could take another stance, each of them claiming
that their products alone are OK, but if someone is eating
them, they should not be eating the rest of their meals at
their competitors establishments. Thus, there would
be no individual restaurant that is responsible for the illness
and premature deaths.
Lost in all this shuffle is the individual responsibility
for our own health that each of us has. And while I am heartened
to see the perpetrator companies squirm, I am
also aware that for people who smoke, overeat, choose the
wrong foods, do not exercise, and lead stressful lives with
no restorative breaks, and inadequate sleep, they are likely
to run into trouble with chronic, degenerative, and lethal
diseases, as well as everyday health problems.
However, it seems to me that the companies are not without
responsibility, especially when it comes to addicting children
to poor diet choices through extensive advertising, and toys,
games and animated characters that promote their products
directly to children. They are also responsible for the financial
incentives they give to schools, and the extensive lobbying
they do to prevent healthy programs from displacing them in
the school cafeterias and vending machines.
If children are addicted to sugary, fatty, salty, fried,
refined foods (and what could represent this more than a double
cheeseburger, fries, and a shake?), this is likely to be their
diet as adults. It is just as likely that pediatricians
offices will continue to see a dramatic rise in the chronic
diseases (diabetes, obesity, heart disease) formerly thought
to be related to aging, but now known to be related to lifestyle.
You can take action through your lifestyle choices to prevent,
manage, and treat the chronic diseases that are often associated
with aging, and increasingly even at younger ages. You can
also do more to enhance the years that you gain, to make them
more pleasurable, and even further extend your life.
A recent study on positive feelings and attitudes shows that
people who have an upbeat outlook about the aging process
itself can outlive those who view aging with fear and disdain.
In the study of 660 people over 50 years old, researchers
evaluated perceptions of aging, through survey questionnaires.
They then evaluated mortality data among the subjects up to
23 years later (you have to be very patient to do aging studies).
Those subjects who answered positively to statements such
as I have as much pep as I did last year were
the ones who lived longer, compared to those who agreed with
statements suchas As you get older, you are less useful,
or, Things keep getting worse as I get older.
The researchers evaluated other possible influences on aging,
such as gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness, and health,
but the influence of positive feelings were still highly significant,
and the results were not minor. The positive subjects lived
7.5 years longer than those with negative perceptions.
Positive attitudes affect more than the will to live. They
reduce the effects of stress on the heart. After positive
subliminal messages, systolic and diastolic blood pressures
and heart rate rise less in response to stress. Positive feelings
also improve speed and stride during walking.
In my experience with patients, helping them develop a positive
attitude is not just a matter of telling them how important
it is. It also requires giving them tools to work with and
ideas about improving their lives, as well as informing them
of all the positive changes they can make in their lifestyles
that will improve the aging process.
One inspiration that I find helpful is from The Summing
Up, the autobiographical work of the author, W. Somerset
Maugham. He said that he looks forward to old age without
dismay...For the complete life...includes old age as well
as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance
of noon are good, but it would be a very silly person who
drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut
out the tranquility of the evening. Old age has its pleasures,
which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of
youth...Paradoxical as it may sound, it has more time...[aesthetic]
taste improves...[old age] is liberated from the trammels
of human egoism; free at last, the soul delights in the passing
moment, but does not bid it stay.
Interestingly, Maugham wrote such positive words about aging
in 1938, when he was 64 years old. He lived another 27 years,
and died in 1965, when he was 91. Such is the power of positive
feelings and attitudes.
One other benefit of positive attitudes is that they lead
you to choose healthier habits. Once people become aware that
they can favorably influence their own aging process, those
with positive impressions of aging want to know how to do
In 1997, the journal Science published articles with a new
focus of gerontology on successful aging, rather
than just prevention and treatment of disease and disability.
They noted that at least two thirds of success was related
to lifestyle choices and environment, rather than genetics.
Among other things, you need to keep physically fit through
regular exercise. This helps to preserve bone density, muscle
strength, agility, brain function, and cardiovascular health,
as well as improving sleep, and maintaining normal weight
and healthy blood sugar levels.
Also, physical fitness gives you greater stamina so you can
be more active without exhaustion. Maintaining muscle strength
provides the physical ability to participate in a variety
of activities, whether they are aesthetic and cultural events,
the simple pleasures of walking and gardening, relationships,
or just being able to enjoy all of the other pleasures that
Recent studies show the importance for the brain of fruits
and vegetables, with their high levels of many antioxidants.
For example, blueberries and cranberries contain high levels
of anthocyanins, potent protectors of brain and nerve tissue.
These antioxidant compounds are unusual in that they are the
most effective at penetrating the nerve cell membranes, where
they can protect cognitive function and prevent Alzheimers
disease. In animal studies, blueberries and cranberries in
the diet helped maintain cognitive function
Anthocyanins are also available as dietary supplements, as
are other antioxidants that help the brain. I previously mentioned
the aging benefits of supplements of acetyl-L-carnitine and
alpha-lipoic acid, as well as N-acetyl cysteine, vitamin C,
vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, and numerous carotenoids, such as
lutein and lycopene.
Q. I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Can you tell me
what foods or supplements might help? ML, Nebraska, via Internet
A. Fibromyalgia is similar in symptoms to chronic fatigue
syndrome, but with specific muscle and connective tissue pain
(ligaments and tendons). Pain at trigger points is common,
such as the neck, shoulders, back, and legs. It is often accompanied
by fatigue, depression, and insomnia.
You asked about food sources of serotonin, but serotonin
is made in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan, with
an intermediate called 5-hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. Eating
foods with tryptophan does not help because other amino acids
in protein compete with it for absorption, and most of it
is used to make new proteins.
Supplements of 5-HTP can promote serotonin production, and
studies have shown that high doses of 5-HTP can help with
insomnia, depression, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Typical doses of 5-HTP would be 50 to 100 mg at bedtime for
depression and insomnia, but with fibromyalgia, doses can
range up to 600 mg daily.
Magnesium supplements (500 to 1000 mg) may help with chronic
fatigue, and SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine), can relieve depression
and may help with fibromyalgia, if the dose is high enough.
You may have to take over 600 to 800 mg daily to benefit from
I also recommend high-dose supplements of vitamin C, up to
10 to 20 grams a day, and I will often treat patients with
intravenous vitamin C, magnesium, and B-complex. You can find
a doctor in your area for intravenous treatment through the
American College for Advancement in Medicine (www.acam.org,
Diet can also help. Eat high amounts of vegetables, fruits,
whole grains, seeds, nuts, and beans as the staples of your
diet. Sometimes food allergies make fibromyalgia worse, and
common ones include wheat and milk, so eliminating them might
be of value.
Q. In your last column on cholesterol and hypertension, why
did you neglect the importance of homocysteine as a risk factor?
DE, via Internet
A. It was not because I do not recognize its importance,
but there is only so much room, and Ive mentioned it
before. Homocysteine is an intermediate metabolite, and a
high blood level is a known risk factor for heart disease.
You can lower it by supplementing the diet with folic acid,
vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. This is one of many risk factors,
and it helps to be aware of all of them. Past newsletters
cover some of the others.
Applying a topical preparation
of vitamin C to sun-damaged skin can reverse some of the damage
and protect skin from the deterioration seen with aging and
free-radical exposure (Fitzpatrick RE, Rostan EF, Double-blind,
half-face study comparing topical vitamin C and vehicle for
rejuvenation of photodamage. Dermatol Surg 2002 Mar;28(3):231-6).
Patients were evaluated for wrinkling, hydration, pigmentation,
and inflammation. Treated skin showed decreased photodamage,
and biopsies indicated new collagen formation, indicating
skin repair. Other topical treatments that reduce aging include
alpha-lipoic acid and MSM. The amino acid lysine is also essential
for collagen formation.
In addition to smoking,
blood pressure, and serum lipids, drinking coffee is a risk
factor for developing a stroke (Isaksen J, et al., Risk factors
for aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage: the Tromso study.
J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2002 Aug;73(2):185-7). These
researchers found that people who drank more than 5 cups of
coffee a day had a significantly increased risk of this unusual
form of stroke. It is possible that lower amounts might also
be a problem, but not sufficiently great to appear in statistics.
One doctor not involved with the study commented that this
is not enough data to make recommendations. I wonder if his
suggestion is to continuing drinking coffee until you become
proof of the association.
Diets with adequate
linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid; linolenic is the other)
can reduce the risk of stroke (Iso H, Linoleic acid, other
fatty acids, and the risk of stroke. Stroke 2002 Aug;338):2086-93).
Linoleic acid is found in corn, sunflower, and soybeans. The
authors studied over 7000 Japanese subjects. They speculated
that benefits may be due to reduced blood pressure and platelet
aggregation, or greater red cell flexibility.
I love potatoes for their taste, texture, fiber and vitamin
C content, and their variety and ease of preparation methods.
I also like to grow them in the garden. Start with organic
potatoes to avoid the numerous chemicals used on commercial
ones (including pesticides and anti-sprouting agents). Clean
and steam them in 1-2 inch cubes. When they cool, fold in
enough tofu mayonnaise to coat them (I use Nayonaise), and
add minced scallions, chunks of organic sweet peppers, fresh
or frozen organic peas, some chopped fresh spinach, a small
amount of minced parsley, and crushed peppercorns. I often
add a teaspoon of curry powder or some thyme for variety.
This is a great side dish with a lentil stew or soup, or a
summertime cold tomato gazpacho.
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NY Man Sues, Claiming Fast Food Ruined
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