HIDDEN DANGERS TO HEALTH FROM TRUMP’S PROPOSED AGENDA

     Most people understand that the health care plans proposed by the Republicans would likely be disastrous to many people, especially to the 22-24 million likely to be shorn of their medical insurance coverage. Less appreciated, however, is the danger posed by the latest budget submitted by Trump that would cut the 2018 National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget by about 18.3%, or $5.8 billion.  This important governmental department currently has an overall budget of $32 billion, with nearly 80% being awarded through competitive grants supporting more than 300,000 researchers at 2,500 scientific institutions throughout the U.S.A. and around the world.

Unfortunately, the president’s proposal has far-reaching negative consequences for public health, technology and drug development. What’s even worse is that if cuts of this magnitude pass, we will likely lose a generation of scientists—especially future young stars, who depend upon grants to support their initial progress, as exemplified by Mary-Claire King, professor of genome sciences at the University of Washington, whose early funding from NIH led to the identification of the BRCA1 gene and its role in inherited breast cancer.  Another example is provided by Feng Zhang of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), whose ground-breaking work with colleagues was supported by a 5-year NIH grant that resulted in a technique for editing the genome, CRISPR-Cas9, deemed the 2015 breakthrough of the year by the American Association fro the Advancement of Science. Basic breakthroughs of this type often support the development of new therapies by the applied bio-technical and pharmaceutical industries. Up to 47% of important, trans-formative drugs approved by the FDA between 1988 and 2005 benefited at least in part from public-sector support. Commercial companies often avoid such basic research for fear that the risk involved will not provide sufficient profits. Economists uniformly believe that public-sector funding for scientific research produces high returns, fills an important gap, and disruptions in spending may ultimately undermine the United States’ worldwide advantage in science, technology, engineering, and math.  Experts have estimated that NIH-funded research of each $10 million has produced an average of 2-3 patents of important new products, a result that is unlikely to be matched by for profit commercial companies.

The NIH is at least partially responsible for an increase of life expectancy of the average American by 8 years (a 43% reduction in mortality) between 1970 and 2013 that includes deaths from cardiac disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer.

By forming partnerships between health research institutions in other countries, the NIH influence extends beyond our borders, These are critical for coordinated research and for developing effective responses to global epidemics of diseases such as HIV, Ebola, SARS, and others.

Most experts agree that cuts to the NIH of any magnitude will ultimately hamper long term scientific progress and adversely affect local, national, and global economies, while inhibiting discoveries that are essential for fighting disease worldwide.

The NIH has long enjoyed bipartisan congressional support, as evidenced by the 21st Century Cures Act at the end of 2016. This year marks the beginning of proposed 10 year funding aimed at the conquering of such diseases as cancer (remember Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot) and Alzheimer’s disease. These lofty goals are being threatened by funding restrictions proposed by the current administration. The NIH is our crown jewel, providing the foundation for U.S. competitiveness in worldwide discovery and better health for all. Undermining this system will rob us of the best and brightest minds and lead to a global impact with far-reaching consequences.

We should all urge the U.S. congress to continue providing bipartisan support to the NIH in the advancement of science, technology, and medicine in the 21st century.

 

 

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SOME WAYS TO EAT A BETTER BREAKFAST

As you sleep, your body is hard at work digesting yesterday’s dinner. By the time you wake up, your body and brain are demanding fresh fuel. “Breaking the fast” is a key way to power up in the morning. Do it right and the benefits can last all day. If you miss the day’s first meal, you may start off with an energy deficit and have to tap into your energy reserves. I have listed additional advantages provided by a regular breakfast in a previous post.

What’s a good breakfast? It’s one that delivers some healthful protein, some slowly digested carbohydrates, and some fruit or vegetables. A vegetable omelet with a slice of whole-grain toast qualifies, as does a bowl of high-fiber cereal topped with fresh fruit and reduced-fat or soy milk, along with a handful of almonds or walnuts.

Choose whole grains. High-fiber, whole-grain cereals and breads can help keep your blood sugar on an even keel and avoid a midmorning energy crash. With the hundreds of types of cereal on the market, bran cereal, bran flakes, and steel-cut oatmeal are typically the healthiest bets. To choose the healthiest breakfast cereal, read the label and look for:

  • 5 grams or more of fiber per serving
  • less than 300 milligrams of sodium per serving
  • less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
  • whole grain as the first item on the ingredient list

Include protein. Yogurt is a good choice; Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt. Eggs (up to one a day) are okay for healthy people. Although yolks are high in cholesterol, eggs have proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients and don’t appear to increase the risk for developing heart disease. You might also include foods that have healthful fats such as those in nuts, avacodo, or salmon. Limit processed meats to the occasional treat as these foods are associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Eat in, not out. You can enjoy a healthful breakfast out if you stick to oatmeal. But much of the traditional fare will start your day with loads of refined carbohydrates and saturated fat. Like most processed food, the breakfast offerings from fast-food chains tend to be high-sodium, low-fiber disasters.

Blend up a breakfast smoothie. Combine fruit, juice, yogurt, wheat germ, tofu, and other ingredients. Toss them in your blender with a bit of ice and you have a refreshing, high energy breakfast

These are but a few ideas to get you started. Obviously there are lots of variations that still allow one to stick to the basic principles. With a little creativity, everyone can reach the same goal, with better health on the line!

 

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POPCORN: GOOD, BAD OR INDIFFERENT?

     Most of us can’t walk by the popcorn vendor in the Movie Theater or elsewhere without being seduced into a purchase by the great aroma. The great popularity of popcorn is also reflected by a huge increase in demand for bagged popcorn, even sans fragrance. But is such consumption a wise choice? Maybe so, and maybe not, depending upon a few variables, noted below.

First, the possible advantages: To its credit, three cups of popcorn contains slightly fewer calories than one sourdough pretzel. For better or worse, manufacturers of bagged brands have piled on with such claims as “whole grain,” “gluten free,” and “50% less fat,” audaciously making it sound like health food, and in some ways, maybe it is!

So can popcorn be the perfect snack?  The answer is a qualified yes, as long as you’re careful to read the nutritional fine print and not be blinded by packaging claims, or note any added ingredients to the basic product.

Actually, popcorn is a whole grain, which research has shown is healthy. For instance, a 2016 review in the a British medical journal found that eating three servings of whole grains per day was linked to a 22 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and a 15 percent risk of cancer. But, if salt, sugar, and some oils are added, you may be nullifying any benefits. So the labels need to be checked. As a rule of thumb, the values listed in the nutrition facts label are for 1 ounce of popcorn, and that equals about 3 to 4 cups in volume.

In the example of pre-bagged popcorn, the labels are helpful, and as a rule of thumb, for a typical serving of 2 cups, one should try to limit the total calories to a maximum of 100, for added sodium, about 100 mg, and for added fat, about 4 gm. The fats added should be of the unsaturated vegetable variety such as sunflower or safflower oil. Even more healthful alternatives are provided at home by popping it on a stove or in a microwave oven, in which case the best popcorn choices contain little or no sodium, together with no added fats or oils. Under these circumstances, for suitable taste one can add minor amounts of salt and vegetable oil and still preserve sensible levels of everything. But choosing higher caloric alternatives such as added cheeses, sweetened Carmel-corn or Kettle-corn are done at one’s own risk. Also, unless you are sharing with several people, choosing the gargantuan-sized bag at the cinema is unwise.

So, provided that you stay within reasonable bounds, popcorn can indeed be a nearly ideal food and/or snack and virtually guilt free!

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RED MEAT MAY BE GOOD FOR SHARKS, BUT IT KILLS PEOPLE

Eating more red meat is associated with an increased risk of dying from eight common diseases including cancer, diabetes and heart disease, as well as “all other causes” of death, according to a U.S. study.

Researchers examined data on almost 537,000 adults aged 50 to 71 and found the people who consumed the most red meat had 26 percent higher odds than those who ate the least of dying from a variety of causes.

But people who ate the most white meat, including poultry and fish, were 25 percent less likely to die of all causes during the study period than people who consumed the least, researchers report recently in The BMJ (British Medical Journal).

“Our findings confirm previous reports on the associations between red meat and premature death, and it is also large enough to show similar associations across nine different causes of death,” said lead study author Arash Etemadi of the National Cancer Institute, adding further,”We also found that for the same total meat intake, people who reported a diet with a higher proportion of white meat had lower premature mortality rates”.

For the study, researchers followed the health and eating habits of people from six U.S. states and two metropolitan areas over about 16 years. They analyzed survey data on total meat intake as well as consumption of processed and unprocessed red meat and white meat. Red meat included beef, lamb and pork, while white meat included chicken, turkey and fish.

Then, researchers sorted people into five groups from lowest to highest intake of red and white meat to see how this influenced their odds of death during the study period.

They evaluated deaths from nine conditions, including cancer, heart diseases, stroke and cerebrovascular disease, respiratory diseases, diabetes, infections, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease and chronic liver disease, as well as all other causes. Overall, 128,524 people died, with cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease and stroke as the leading causes of death. Only Alzheimer’s disease risk was not linked to red meat consumption.

Certain ingredients in red meat, including nitrates and iron (from blood), may help to explain why it’s linked to higher mortality rates for the other causes of death, the authors argue.

The highest intake of iron was associated with 15 percent higher odds of premature death than the lowest intake, the study found.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove how the amount or type of certain meats might directly influence mortality.

Other limitations include the reliance on survey participants to accurately recall and report on their eating habits and the lack of data on any changes in people’s diets over time, the authors note.

Even so, the findings should reinforce the need for many adults to cut back on meat consumption, said Dr. John Potter of the Center for Public Health Research at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Potter stated further that “Processed meat can produce cancer–causing chemicals, while saturated fats in meats can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease”. He also added that “Choosing organic meat may not change the risk of premature death, and mortality is higher with higher meat intake for every major cause of death except Alzheimer’s.”

“The really key issue in all this is that the current level of meat consumption, in most of the developed world and increasingly in low– and middle–income countries, is unprecedented in human history,” Potter said. “We need to reduce meat consumption back to about one–tenth of our current level.”

As I have stated in a previous communications, one should try to limit this type of meat consumption to no more than twice weekly. Throw the rest to the sharks!

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