Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

If You Drink This Holiday Season, Don’t Even Think About Driving

December 13th, 2021

Each year, more than 10,000 people, about 1,000 of them children, lose their lives on America’s roadways due to drunk driving. That’s about 1/3 of all traffic-related deaths. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drinking and driving kills nearly 30 people every day in the US or about one person every 50 minutes.

Car accidents involving intoxicated drivers happen even more often during the holidays, when social binge-drinking is more accepted and prevalent. Increased drinking at holiday parties and gatherings leads to an uptick in impaired drivers on the road and a higher risk for alcohol-related accidents. So, even if you drive sober, there’s a greater chance you’ll be sharing the road with other drivers who are not.

During the winter holiday season, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, 40 percent of highway deaths are alcohol related. During the same period, there’s an estimated 25,000 injuries from alcohol-related accidents. Curiously, a quarter of the profits for the $49 billion alcohol industry are made during this same time span.

While the risk for encountering a drunk driver is higher throughout the holiday season, New Year’s Day is the most dangerous holiday to be on the road, with 58 percent of car accidents being alcohol related. During the month of December, 28 percent of fatal car accidents involve intoxicated drivers. An average of 300 people are killed in drunk-driving accidents during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Alcohol impairs by affecting key skills needed for driving. It slows your reflexes, which can decrease your ability to quickly react to changing situations. It can alter your visual perception and even cause blurry vision. It can impact your ability to judge your car’s position on the road. Alcohol can affect your concentration, coordination and decision-making capability as well.

Blood alcohol concentration (BAC), also called blood alcohol content or blood alcohol limit, is the percentage of alcohol in your blood after you’ve been drinking. In 49 of 50 states and Washington DC, you are considered legally drunk if you have a BAC of 0.08 percent or above. But in Utah, the BAC limit is 0.05 percent. Any detectable blood alcohol concentration is a violation in people under 21.

Many factors contribute to how fast you reach a BAC of 0.08 percent. Your weight, body fat percentage, hydration, digestion and the way alcohol affects you, as well as the length of time you’ve been drinking, all affect how quickly you become impaired.

But generally speaking, a 180-pound man can reach a BAC of 0.08 percent after four drinks and a 120-pound woman can reach it after just two drinks. A standard “drink” is defined as one shot of liquor, a five-ounce glass of wine or one 12-ounce beer.

Even if you don’t kill anyone, driving while intoxicated will impact your life in many ways and cost you big time. If you’re arrested for a DUI or DWI, you could face the suspension of your driver’s license, jail time – up to a year for a first offense in some states – and thousands of dollars in fines and court costs. When all is said and done, alcohol-impaired drivers cost the US about $132 billion each year.

The fact of the matter is 100 percent of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries are preventable. The bottom line: there are no excuses. If you drink, don’t drive!

Try these common-sense tips for a safe holiday season:

  • If you plan to drink at a holiday gathering, line up a sober driver.
  • If you don’t have a designated driver, call a cab, ride-sharing service or friend to take you home at the end of the event.
  • Consider spending the night at a nearby hotel or motel that you can walk to if you have more than a few drinks.
  • Eat food and drink water while you’re consuming alcoholic beverages. Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  • Even if you only feel a little buzzed, you’re impaired. Get a ride with a sober driver or call a cab.

If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, follow these recommendations:

  • Serve a variety of food and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as coffee.
  • Avoid providing salty snacks. They make your guests drink more.
  • Don’t make alcohol the main attraction at the party.
  • Stop serving alcohol one to two hours before the event ends.
  • Keep an eye on your guests. If someone is visibly intoxicated, don’t serve them any more alcohol.
  • Don’t let drinking guests drive. Take their keys and be sure a sober driver, cab or ride-sharing service takes them home.

One Nation’s Gain

May 19th, 2020

America’s Obesity Crisis Intensifies.

The number of people in the United States who are overweight or obese has been climbing for years, and that excess weight has serious and costly health consequences. So, the projections from a highly respected team of scientists about obesity in America’s future are disconcerting at best.

After conducting national surveys and correcting for our tendency to underestimate our weight in surveys, the scientists discovered that in as many as 29 states, the prevalence of obesity will exceed 50 percent by 2030. In addition, they project that no state will have less than 35 percent of its residents who are obese.

The bottom line is that within the next ten years nearly one in two adults in the US will be obese. Further, the team projects that nearly one in four Americans will be severely obese by 2030.

The team’s report, Projected U.S. State-Level Prevalence of Adult Obesity and Severe Obesity, was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in December and suggests that the prevalence of severe obesity is expected to be higher than one in four in 25 states. Further, severe obesity is projected to be the most common weight category among the nation’s women, non-Hispanic, black and low-income adults.

Obesity will exceed 50 percent by 2030. – The New York Times

This study’s results mirror those of a study presented in the September 2012 “F as in Fat” report. That report, released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, also predicted that half of US adults will be obese by 2030.

Obesity is dangerous. It is linked to a substantial number of negative health effects, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, sleep apnea and breathing problems, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety and certain cancers, including endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder and liver cancer.

The “F as in Fat” report projected that there will be as many as 7.9 million new cases of diabetes a year by 2030, compared with 1.9 million new cases a year in 2012. They suggest there could also be 6.8 million new cases of chronic heart disease and stroke each year, compared with 1.3 million cases in 2012.

Obesity is also expensive. A study conducted in 2013 estimated that the medical cost of obesity totaled $342.2 billion per year. The study also determined that the indirect cost of obesity due to lost productivity came to another $8.65 billion per year. And that was in 2013. Those amounts are likely much higher in 2020.

Obesity is a leading cause of preventable illness, disability and life-years lost in the United States. It is responsible for about one in five deaths, nearly as many as smoking. That makes it an official public health crisis in this country. But what makes us obese?

In general, we’re considered overweight or obese when our weight is higher than a normal weight adjusted for height. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is the tool used for measuring this. BMI, which is related to the amount of fat in our bodies, is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. A BMI of 30 to 39 is considered obese. A BMI of 40 or higher is extremely obese. The higher our BMI, the greater our risk for developing the health problems associated with obesity.

There are several factors that contribute to obesity, but the bottom line is that we become obese when we consistently consume more calories than we burn through normal daily activity. What we eat also plays a role. Foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt cause weight gain. And most of us eat portions that are larger than necessary to satisfy our hunger.

Our genes also play a role. Genetics is a factor in how much body fat we store, where it’s distributed and how efficiently our bodies metabolize the food we eat into energy.

Medical disorders such as Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic condition, Cushing’s syndrome, a hormone disorder, and arthritis can lead to decreased activity and weight gain. In addition, certain medications including some antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, steroids and beta-blockers can cause an increase in weight.

Lifestyle and behavioral factors such as a lack of physical activity, smoking, lack of sleep and an unhealthy diet also contribute to the development of obesity. Social and economic factors include not having enough money to buy healthy foods or access to stores that sell healthier food options. Another socioeconomic factor is not having access to a safe place to exercise.

Obesity is a major public health crisis in America that impacts more than 100 million adults and children and is projected to increase dramatically by 2030. Fortunately, obesity and the health and financial consequences associated with it are largely preventable, and that should be our goal.

Steps we can take to help prevent obesity include limiting calorie intake from total fats, shifting away from saturated fats to unsaturated fats. In addition, we can increase our intake of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts and limit our intake of sugar. We also have to boost the number of calories we burn each day by increasing our physical activity. Health officials recommend at least 30 minutes of regular, moderate-intensity activity on most days.

But it will take more than willpower to change the future. There are already federal and state programs in place to educate about making healthy food and exercise choices and to counter fast food and soda marketing. Additional education and more firepower against the big-money fast-food conglomerates is still needed. Our country’s health, now and in the future, depends on it!

Defining Diet and Nutrition

March 4th, 2019

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word diet? Did you immediately think of a restrictive eating regimen that deprives you of your favorite foods? I think most people look at “diet” that way, and because they see it as depriving, they consider diet a bad thing.

For most people, a diet is a tool for losing weight. And according to a survey spearheaded by the International Food and Information Council, 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight. The sad truth, however, is most of them will fail to achieve sustaining weight loss if they approach their diets in the traditional way.

The better way to look at diet is in the context of overall nutrition. Nutrition is more than eating healthy food. It’s your total nourishment. And diet is more than an eating plan. It’s what you eat and drink every day, as well as the physical and emotional conditions associated with consuming them.

Having a nutritious diet is more than eating good food to fill you up. It’s also getting enough nutrients to keep you healthy and full of energy to perform your daily activities at a high level. A side benefit of good nutrition is you naturally get to and maintain a healthy body weight. (You get even better results when you add regular exercise.)

A critical feature of good nutrition and a healthy diet is variety. Eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure you get the important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients your body needs to function properly.

One recommendation is to keep your plate colorful with foods of a variety of hues. The elements that produce the color in these foods are actually nutritious substances. These substances can help lower your chances of getting certain chronic diseases, such as heart disease, as well as some cancers.

Fruits and vegetables are among the most colorful foods. They provide added protection by decreasing free radicals in the body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells, which can, as a result, lead to the development of many diseases.

A nutritious diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. It also includes whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, protein in the form of lean meats and seafood. A healthy diet doesn’t eliminate any group of foods, like some popular fad diets today, but instead concentrates on portion sizes.

For help with food choices and portion sizes, consult the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture. And don’t forget to balance your healthy eating with physical activity.

With a healthy, nutritious diet, you don’t have to deprive yourself of all the foods you love. But think about these foods before you eat them and decide which ones are really important to you.

Consider eating only the foods you absolutely love and avoiding the foods you find mediocre. That way you can eliminate the foods you can really live without and replace them with healthier options like fruits and vegetables.

By assessing your eating patterns, you can mindfully include foods you love that might be considered unhealthy. With careful planning, you can eat those foods but in a more controlled manner.

Now you know that diet is not a dirty word, and it’s possible to eat healthy and still have your favorite foods. Here are a few other tips for enjoying the eating experience, courtesy of the University of Minnesota:

  • Start small. Pick one thing to change and focus on that until you get comfortable with it, then move on.
  • Acknowledge and honor your hunger. Pay attention to what your body wants. Allow yourself to feel hunger. It’s very satisfying to eat after experiencing hunger.
  • Get rid of distractions. Turn off the televisions, computers and cells phones. Focus on your food.
  • Lose the “good” and “bad” labels. If you’re putting energy into taking better care of yourself, then you deserve treats, snacks and junk food from time to time without judgment.
  • Eat with others. Share the pleasure of the food itself with others. You get valuable emotional support from family members and friends when you eat together.
  • Stop before you feel full. It takes your brain about 20 minutes before it gets the message your belly is full. But there’s a point before that when your hunger is satiated. Keep in mind that a typical portion is more than you need.

Diets that restrict calories can do more harm than good. Often, people lose weight initially, but the weight loss is usually unsustainable. When they go off the diet, they generally gain all the weight back, and sometimes more.

Calorie-restrictive diets are not healthy for your body. You need to eat enough calories for your body to function properly. A nutritious, balanced diet gives you all the calories, vitamins and nutrients you need. It also helps you, along with exercise, to lose and/or maintain weight by keeping your metabolism operating optimally.

So, eat well and enjoy!

Do You Feel How You Eat?

June 27th, 2018

The broiled fish filet with steamed broccoli and rice you had for dinner last night and the salad you opted for over the hamburger at lunch yesterday may be doing more for you than just keeping your waistline in check.Do You Feel How You Eat

It may be giving your mental health a boost as well.

Medical researchers have long known that people who are depressed tend to eat greater quantities of fast food. New research suggests, however, that by simply changing their diet, depressed individuals may be able to improve their mood.

Through a study using 67 participants who had either been prescribed antidepressants or were attending regular psychotherapy sessions, the researchers at Deakin University’s Food and Mood Centre discovered what may be a new link between food and mood.

When the three-month study began, the diet of each of the subjects involved was virtually void of dietary fiber, fresh meats or vegetables and consisted almost exclusively of processed fast foods and sugary or salty snacks.

During the study, half of the subjects were allowed to continue eating as they were before the trial began while the other half were given diets made up exclusively of lean proteins such as grass-fed beef, fish, fresh vegetables, eggs and nuts.

All of the subjects’ depression levels were tested both before and after the trial began, and what the researchers found was that among those who ate healthier during the 12-week study, the scores improved by an average of 11 points.

In addition, nearly a third of the 33 individuals in the intervention group recorded scores so low they were deemed to be in remission. As for those who continued to eat normally, only 8 percent achieved remission while depression scores on average rose just 4 points.

While the study is hardly definitive, it suggests that any individual suffering from major depression could improve his or her mood simply by eating a healthier diet, which will likely result in better overall physical health as well.

All of this does, of course, fall under the category of easier said than done. After all, it is well known that when people are depressed, they often have a tendency to reach for comfort foods that they hope will lighten their moods.

It’s doubtful, though, that a bowl of ice cream or a box of chocolates will actually make anyone feel better. It’s quite possible, though, that by substituting a handful of grapes or some nuts and raisins for the ice cream or candy will make you feel better.

Some other eating tips that might help swing your mood in a more positive direction include eating a health breakfast; eating foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish and walnuts and consuming at least 600 international units of Vitamin D per day.

Wear Red on Feb. 2 to Support Women’s Heart Health

February 1st, 2018

Supporters of the Go Red for Women movement hope to see a sea of scarlet on Feb. 2 as part of the American Heart Association‘s national effort to end heart disease and stroke in women.

The annual observance was created in 2004 and adopted the red dress as its symbol. The campaign advocates for more research and awareness of the often-overlooked fact that heart disease isn’t just a health hazard for older men. It’s the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year.

While chest pain, shortness of breath and cold sweats are obvious symptoms, a heart attack can happen without the person even knowing it. Those suffering a so-called “silent” heart attack sometimes pass off their symptoms as indigestion, the flu, asthma, anxiety, a strained muscle or some other condition.

What’s more, they may feel discomfort in their jaw, upper back or arms instead of their chest. Fatigue that’s prolonged, excessive and can’t be explained also may be a symptom of a silent heart attack.

Scarring and damage to the heart from such an attack can put the patient at greater risk of other heart issues.

A silent heart attack happens when plaque builds up in the coronary arteries and blocks the flow of blood. Risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age.

Everyone knows what feels normal for them, so people should listen to their bodies and consult a doctor if something isn’t right. Those who suspect they’re having a heart attack should stay calm, call 911 immediately and be vocal when they get to the hospital about what’s going on. If they can’t speak up for themselves, they should bring along someone who will do it for them.

Another health challenge for both women and men is atherosclerosis, often called hardening of the arteries. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque – cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and fatty substances – in the inner lining of an artery. Atherosclerosis typically starts in childhood and often progresses as people age.

Family history, high cholesterol and blood pressure, smoking or exposure to tobacco smoke, excess weight, a sedentary lifestyle and diabetes can increase the risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Plaque is especially dangerous when it becomes fragile and ruptures, causing blood clots to form. Those can break off and travel elsewhere in the body. Clots can cause a heart attack or a stroke if they block blood vessels to the heart or brain.

Knowledge is power, and 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, the heart association says.

On Feb. 2, and throughout the year, women are encouraged to “go red” by following an exercise routine, eating more healthful foods, visiting a doctor for a regular checkup or tests when necessary and educating others about heart health.

For more information, go online to

Wine: Healthy or Hype?

July 3rd, 2017

Photo courtesy of #516799356I’ll be honest. I’m a big fan of red wine and enjoy a glass most evenings. So it was especially interesting to me to read some different views on the possible health benefits of drinking wine.

There have been many studies done on the effects of alcohol consumption during the past five decades. Most of them report on the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol, including wine, in moderation.

Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and up to two per day for men. A “drink” is 12 ounces of regular beer, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits and 5 ounces of wine (not the whole glass!). Men can consume more because they are generally bigger and metabolize alcohol faster than women.

A number of those studies have shown that, if consumed in moderation, alcohol, specifically wine, can improve health, especially heart health. One study, released in 2003, found men who were moderate drinkers were 30 percent to 35 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who didn’t drink at all.

Another study, from 2016, showed moderate drinking was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of heart disease in women. Additionally, alcohol consumption has been linked to a 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In this article, wine is credited with numerous other health benefits, from reducing the risk of dementia to protecting against sunburn and more.

Several studies found it’s the ethanol in wine that’s beneficial. It can increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol, improve insulin sensitivity and slow down the blood’s clotting ability. It can also decrease inflammation inside the arteries.

Red wine is the target of many studies on the benefits of drinking alcohol. It contains a chemical called resveratrol and other antioxidants. Red wine provides all of the mentioned benefits and more. Researchers found resveratrol also helps make arteries more flexible, lowering blood pressure. Some suggested it can help people live longer, which caused a surge in the resveratrol supplement business.

Don’t uncork a bottle yet. Some more recent studies have suggested wine isn’t the health miracle some people purport it to be. One study, released in March 2017, reanalyzed a number of long-term studies on alcohol and mortality. The researchers discovered the leaders of the studies they reviewed overestimated the benefits of drinking.

What they found was a bias in how the researchers defined abstainers, those who stayed away from drinking. The study’s coauthor noted this group included people whose poor health led them to cut down or stop drinking. In light of this, the health and life expectancy of the moderate drinkers appeared especially good. He suggested, in reality, the risks of drinking are the same for everyone and are more significant than previously estimated.

Another study, this one from April 2017 and reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, had bad news for proponents of red wine. The study authors noted that resveratrol did not help people live longer, nor did it help them avoid cancer or heart disease.5

This study followed nearly 800 people age 65 and older living in two small villages in Tuscany, Italy. It found that consumption of red wine had no effect on life expectancy, and if it had any benefit at all, it didn’t appear linked to resveratrol. So much for the supplement business!

Some other studies have shown alcohol consumption increases the risk for cancer. A 2015 study found drinkers had a 2 percent to 6 percent higher risk. In another, a couple drinks a day was linked to a 26 percent increase in liver, colon and esophageal cancers in men. Women had a 10 percent increased risk for breast cancer.

You might think the big reduction in risk of heart disease outweighs the negatives associated with drinking alcohol, and that’s fine. Every article I read on this subject, however, ended the same way: with a reminder if you do decide to drink, do it in moderation. And don’t forget to eat right and exercise to get the best health benefits for your heart – and the rest of your body.


Allergic to Eats

May 8th, 2017

Photo Courtesy of iStockphoto.comAre you one of the more than 50 million Americans with allergies? It seems like everyone I know is an allergy sufferer, including me. It’s bad enough to get a runny nose and watery eyes at certain times of the year, but imagine having symptoms every time you put food in your mouth. That doesn’t sound good at all.

But that’s the case for four to six percent of children and four percent of adults in this country, or 15 million Americans, who the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate are currently suffering from food allergies. The latest research also shows the number of children under age 5 diagnosed with peanut allergy has increased by 100 percent.

Substances that trigger an allergic reaction are called allergens. Pretty much any food can be an allergen, but there are a few that are the biggest offenders. These eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions: Eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.

There’s good news and not-so-good news when it comes to these allergens. Allergies to milk, eggs, wheat and soy may disappear over time, but allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish tend to hang on for life. Also, you can develop an allergy to a food you’ve never been allergic to before. That’s a bummer!

So, what causes food allergies? These allergies are an overreaction by the body’s immune system to proteins in certain foods that it detects as foreign and attacks. The immune system reacts by triggering its white blood cells to produce food-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to neutralize the allergens.

When the allergic person eats the offending food, the IgE antibodies detect it and signal the immune system’s mast cells to release a chemical called histamine. Histamine is responsible for the symptoms of food allergies, just like it leads to the runny nose and itchy, watery eyes of respiratory allergies.

Symptoms of a food allergy can be uncomfortable, but not serious. These include a rash on the skin, tingling or itching in the mouth, lightheadedness, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and coughing.

Other symptoms can be serious and even life threatening. These include panting and wheezing; swelling of the throat, making it difficult to breath; blue lips from lack of oxygen; a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, dizziness, fainting and unconsciousness. These are some of the symptoms of a whole-body allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which is potentially deadly if not treated right away.

It’s a no-brainer that the best way to dodge food allergy symptoms is to avoid the trigger foods altogether. But even if you’re careful, you may be exposed unknowingly. The best way to prepare for any potential reaction is to have an allergy action plan, created with help from your doctor.

Education is an important part of your plan. Due to the prevalence of food allergies in this country, manufactures are required to label their products indicating if they contain any amount of the most common allergens. So learn to read labels, and don’t forget the flavorings and additives. They might contain trace amounts of the offending allergens.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your server or the chef about the ingredients in your meals when you go out to eat. Remember, you can have a reaction even if the cooking surface or pans used to make the food have come into contact with an allergen. So, be aware and ask about how your food is being prepared.

When a person is diagnosed with a food allergy, the doctor generally prescribes an auto-injector of epinephrine to be used if symptoms of anaphylaxis occur. If they do, the person, or someone close to him or her, should inject the epinephrine into the outer thigh as soon as the symptoms appear. Then, the person needs to go immediately to an emergency room for follow-up care.

If your child has a food allergy, be sure his or her teachers and other close adults are aware and know what to do in case of a reaction. They should understand how to use the epinephrine auto-injector and to get the child to the ER right away.

We all eat. Unfortunately, it can be a risky experience for some people. You can help by being patient with people who have food allergies and learning what to do if someone close to you has a serious reaction such as anaphylaxis. Sharing what you learn is the best was to celebrate Food Allergy Action Month in May!


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