Tag Archives: health

Big Sugar vs. Big Corn Syrup

With sales of high-fructose corn syrup flagging, the corn processing industry has been struggling to find new ways to pump the product into the public stomach. Apparently their latest ploy has caught the attention of their biggest competitor:

American sugar farmers and refiners have filed a suit to stop big corn processors from marketing high-fructose corn syrup as a “natural” product equivalent to real sugar. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C & H Sugar Company, Inc., charges that the “corn sugar” branding campaign financed by the corn refining industry’s giant companies constitutes false advertising under federal and state law. The processors’ campaign was launched as a way to thwart declining sales of high-fructose corn syrup, or “HFCS.”

How about if we all just eat less of both and call it a draw?

Great, We Get to Hear about Grampa’s Sciatica Again

From the HHS Press Office:

Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, M.D., issued the following statement today regarding the health value of family health history and the special opportunity to share family health history during Thanksgiving –

We still have a Surgeon General? Who knew?

Thanksgiving is a special time when many American families spend the holiday together. I encourage you to use this holiday to share health information with each other to develop or update your family health history.

And I encourage you to wait until after the meal to do it. Please. Oh, and maybe not as much detail as you gave last Thanksgiving, especially the bit about your bowels.

While family health histories may seem old-fashioned, the truth is, the family health history is key to understanding your family’s unique genetic make-up and your individual disease risks.

Knowing your family health history can help you actually prevent disease, or detect diseases, such as many forms of cancer, for early treatment. The information your family health history contains can help you and your doctor determine your personal risk. This means two things: you can tailor your lifestyle to reduce your health risks; and you can be more carefully screened for diseases where your risk is high.

Is “tailor your lifestyle” some kind of passive-aggressive reference to my finishing off the pie? I mean, you could have just spoken up and I would have split that last piece with you.

Well, at least you set up a nice web tool to help with the history-taking.

Another Great Reason to Get a Flu Shot

Getting an annual flu shot seriously reduces your risk of getting the flu, but now it turns out that it could also help prevent a heart attack:

We included 78,706 patients, of whom 16,012 were cases and 62,694 were matched controls. Influenza vaccination had been received in the previous year by 8,472 cases (52.9%) and 32,081 controls (51.2%) and was associated with a 19% reduction in the rate of acute myocardial infarction.

A little jab'll do ya. Image courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers.

A little jab'll do ya. Image courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers.

The researchers also found that getting the vaccine earlier in the season correlates with a lower rate of heart attacks than getting the vaccine after Thanksgiving. What are you waiting for?

Weak-Hearted Scuba Divers?

As an avid diver, I was somewhat surprised to see this item, which claims that high doses of antioxidants (Vitamins C and E) can prevent some of the heart damage associated with scuba diving.

A group of divers sitting on a boat after the dive.
A group of divers during a surface interval. They look fine, but how are their hearts?

Scuba diving causes heart damage? Well, after getting a copy of the full paper, I saw that there might be less to the story than that.

With a very small sample of divers (n=7) during only two dives, the researchers went hunting for post-dive cardiovascular changes, and found some. All of the effects are subclinical, and there’s no control group for this part of the study, e.g. a group of people who went fishing or snorkeling instead of diving. The antioxidants do seem to reduce some – but certainly not all – of these circulatory effects.

Conveniently, another paper published around the same time provides a useful perspective on “heart damage.” In this study, researchers took a truckload of laboratory rats on a road trip along the New York State Thruway, and found that the animals developed … you guessed it, decreased cardiac function after the trip. The most likely culprit is ultrafine particulate pollution along the highway. Automotive climate-control systems don’t remove this, so anyone who drives probably experiences the same effects.

The obvious conclusion is that if you look hard enough, you can find something. The more important, and completely unanswered question is whether the supposed heart damage from diving (or driving) has any actual impact on health. Until I see some data on that, I’ll keep doing both.

What about vitamins C and E? I eat a variety of foods and take a generic multivitamin every day. If my heart needs more, it can generate some symptoms to tell me.