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For February 27, 2017

  • Values of the VersaClimber vs. a Stair Machine
    Values of the VersaClimber vs. a Stair Machine

    How Does a VersaClimber Compare to a Stair Machine?

    (MSNBC Health, September 14 1999) � Both a VersaClimber and a stair machine provide an excellent cardiovascular workout and will tone muscles and increase endurance. However, the VersaClimber � a machine with two pedal platforms and two handgrips that coordinate as you step up and down, like climbing a ladder � works the upper body in addition to the legs. It also requires more strength and coordination because it uses the upper body and legs at the same time.

    The VersaClimber is a challenging machine to use, even for the very fit. By comparison, a stair climber has no arm attachments and is easier to use. It won�t tire you out as easily.

    If you have the coordination and strength, the VersaClimber could burn more calories for you in the same amount of time that you spend on a stair machine � but you�ll need to use either one consistently to reap the benefits.

  • Some Kids See Smoking as Diet Aid
    Some Kids See Smoking as Diet Aid

    Children Unhappy With Their Appearance are Most Affected

    (MSNBC Health, October 4th 1999) � Some young people think cigarette smoking will help them to shed unwanted pounds, according to a study of more than 16,000 children published Monday.

    AMONG both boys and girls, youngsters who were contemplating taking up the habit were more likely to believe they were overweight, even when they were not, said the report from Brigham and Women�s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health. Also, such children were more likely to be unhappy with their appearance, the researchers said.

    Those who had actually experimented with cigarettes were likely to have dieted and exercised to keep their weight under control, the study added. �It is important for both pediatricians and comprehensive school health programs to address healthy methods of weight maintenance and to dispel the notion of tobacco use as a method of weight control,� the researchers wrote in �Pediatrics,� the monthly journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    The study looked at approximately 15,000 children aged 9 to 14. About 6 percent were thinking about smoking, and 9 percent had smoked. Girls who were unhappy with their appearance were twice as likely to think about using tobacco. Boys who exercised daily to lose weight were 90 percent more likely to have experimented with cigarettes than those who did not.

    The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

  • Preventive Nutrition - Cancer, Fruits and Vegetables
    Preventive Nutrition - Cancer, Fruits and Vegetables

    (Mayo Clinic, 7-26-99) Eating to stay healthy may not be as easy as it seems. Indeed, a study in the July 16, 1999, issue of Science says that even people living in the United States and other industrialized nations often fail to obtain recommended daily minimums of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), despite meals containing plenty of calories and a nearly endless variety of food.

    Even more alarming, the subsistence diets of many developing countries fail to provide the adequate macronutrients � carbohydrates, fats and proteins � as well as micronutrients needed to meet basic nutritional requirements, the study says. Besides macronutrients and the 13 vitamins and 17 minerals essential to human health, naturally occurring compounds (called phytochemicals) in plants are receiving increasing attention from researchers looking into the connection between diet and disease.

    Phytochemicals (from the Greek word phyto, meaning plant) are unlike vitamins and minerals in that they have no known nutritional value. Some phytochemicals, such as digitalis (extracted from the foxglove) and quinine, have been used for hundreds of years as medicines to treat diseases. Others function as antioxidants, which protect cells from the effects of oxidation and free radicals within the body. They have been recognized only recently as potentially powerful agents that may offer protection from diseases and conditions ranging from some cancers to aging.

    "We've known for a long time that the right food choices can improve health and decrease our risks for certain diseases," says Jennifer K. Nelson, a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and associate editor for nutrition at Oasis. "This is especially true for plant foods. What's exciting is that we're realizing these foods are abundant in health-enhancing compounds, and we're discovering how they're used at the cellular level. This brings new meaning to the statement: You are what you eat."

    Since the early 1970s, researchers worldwide have consistently found that people whose diets contained the most fruits and vegetables had the lowest rates of some cancers. Others have found some protective effect from other plant foods such as nuts, grains and seeds. But the strongest evidence suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of developing some types of cancer.

    For example, researchers have found that perillyl alcohol, found in cherries and lavender, shrinks pancreatic tumors in laboratory animals. And limonene, contained in the peels of citrus fruits, blocks the development of breast tumors and causes existing tumors to shrink in laboratory animals.

    Recent links between phytochemicals and lowered cancer risk include:

    • A Harvard study that found that a high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, may reduce bladder cancer risk in men.
    • Another Harvard study found that a diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily appears to lower the risk of breast cancer among premenopausal women who have a history of breast cancer or who are moderate drinkers.
    • A review published by the National Cancer Institute reported a reduced risk for a variety of cancers among those who often eat tomatoes and tomato-based products.
    • Research commissioned by the World Cancer Research Fund and published in the British Medical Journal found that diets high in fruits and vegetables and low in meat are protective against breast, prostate, bowel and other cancers.

    "Although we are identifying significant numbers of plant compounds and their roles in fighting disease, there is a growing consensus that a variety of whole foods � not supplements � should be our source for phytochemicals and other compounds important for health," says Nelson.

    Copyright 1995-1999, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.

  • Fat in America
    Fat in America

    �Breaking Bioethics� on our expanding waistline

    (By Glenn McGee, Ph.D. SPECIAL TO MSNBC) � Aug. 25 � It is always diet season in America, always time to squeeze into a dress or swimsuit. Americans are more overweight than any people of the world, and infinitely more obsessed about it. Ads for liposuction clinics keep local magazines afloat. And everyone knows someone who takes a diet drug, or who took fen-phen, or who abuses diet, herbs, exercise or laxatives in pursuit of a better body.

    MEN TOO are dieting in record numbers to meet an ever-more-fit male standard for health. And recent studies reveal that even young American children experience the throes of anorexia and bulimia, and more and more parents worry early about the fat baby. Discrimination against the obese has been documented so many times that litigation for it has become commonplace.

    We spend more than $10 billion annually on dieting, which fails to accomplish long-term results more than 99 percent of the time. Imagine a society that spends 300 times more on weight loss than on prenatal care, 1,000 times more on weight loss than on housing the homeless, and 6,000 times more on it than on physical education in our public schools.

    How we see our expanding waistline says a lot about us as a society. Being fat is expensive � food costs money, sedentary behavior is inefficient and reports continually document the long-term health risks of obesity. We could debate the fact that society as a whole supports the health cost of any of our risky behaviors � driving too fast, drinking alcohol, living on hurricane swept coastline. But who among us would pass a sin test for health insurance?


    It is almost the year 2000 in the nation that boldly goes west. We are a people that explore, a people that welcome struggle, a people that think on our feet. We are the society that mastered technology and converted it into products and powers. But, as David Shenk chronicles in his exceptional new book, �The End of Patience: More Notes of Caution on the Information Revolution,� the technologies that seem to liberate us can create their own prison. Our lives are lived through virtual-this and artificial-that. We don�t go west to surf anymore. We do it from the sofa in Jersey. Most Americans get their exercise riding a stationary bicycle � a bike ride that never goes anywhere.

    Philosopher William James said human beings need the �moral equivalent of war.� When we are at peace, we rot. James said we need a struggle against an enemy and an urgent goal to keep us alive. His words inspired F.D.R. to create the CCC, an agency that built much of the nation�s new infrastructure of dams and bridges by putting Americans to work. His words inspired John F. Kennedy, who mentioned them in creating the Peace Corps. It is time for the moral equivalent of war. We are a people whose disease is not our obesity, but our lack of inspiration.


    Ours is a generation of geek heroes, men and women who changed the world by inventing plastic boxes that think for us. The Web you are surfing is the world we have created in their image. We want to live in that world but with the body of Mr. Atlas, the guy who kicks sand on Bill Gates at the beach.

    Get real. Weight loss is a stupid goal for virtually all of the American population. Weight loss has to be a byproduct of a change in the way we see life and living. It is time to put some of our diet money into innovative new ways to flourish that use our bodies and our minds. Our nation needs a new volunteer effort, to clean up the streets and build houses and fight fires and teach little kids to play soccer. The answer is surprisingly simple: advertising. Here�s the ad: LOSE 10 POUNDS NOW WITH UNIQUE HAMMER AND NAIL METHOD. The weight we lose might just be the chip on our shoulder.

    Glenn McGee is an associate director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. His most recent book is �Pragmatic Bioethics.�

  • Eating for weight loss vs. eating for weight gain.
    Eating for weight loss vs. eating for weight gain.

    A successful weight management program requires a long-term approach, one designed to modify the behaviors that can influence our ability to lose or gain weight.

    The most important factors in eating for weight loss include maintaining energy and nutrient balance. Severe caloric restrictions will slow down the metabolism, making weight loss harder to achieve. For women this means a minimum of 1200 and for men, 1500 nutrient dense calories a day. Diets under 1200 calories tend to be deficient in protein, water soluble vitamins, vitamin B-12, and Folate.

    To maintain energy the nutrient balance should be 40-50 percent carbohydrate, 20-30% protein and 20-30% fat. Carbohydrates remain the best choice for fueling muscles and promoting a healthy heart. A 20-30% fat diet can assure you are not denied the foods that nurture you but limits fat intake to levels that support weight loss.

    It's also important to maintain frequency of meals. Three meals a day is standard in our society but no law says you can't eat more often. It's particularly wise to avoid the all-too-common pattern of no breakfast, little or no lunch, and a huge dinner. Several mini-meals of 300-400 calories keep the body's metabolism elevated.

    A varied diet is also important for long term weight loss. Avoid eating large amounts of one type off food--even if it is a nutrient dense food--to the exclusion of others.

    Some people have the opposite energy problem. They weigh less than they should and have difficulty putting on weight. Some of the aids to gaining weight are the reverse of techniques suggested for losing weight.

    First, start with a nutritionally adequate diet and eat larger meals, more often increasing the energy density of the food. Then, consider a progressive strength training program to add body weight in the form of lean tissue (muscles) while you strengthen the body. If implementing these suggestions does not help you to achieve goal weight, you may need to accept the fact that your body is genetically regulated at a lower level of fatness and maintaining a greater amount of body weight may require more time, effort, and expense than are worthwhile.

    Regardless of whether you need or want to lose or gain weight exercise remains the basis for any long term lifestyle goals. A balanced exercise program is the key component of any successful weight loss program. weight loss without exercise can have a negative effect on body composition, especially if weight is regained or lost.

    So, exercise, eat a balanced and varied diet, low in fat, low in sugar and high in fiber. If you maintain that regimen the body will find it's own genetic set point.

  • Fen-Phen Loses Major Case in Court
    Fen-Phen Loses Major Case in Court

    (MSNBC News, Aug. 6 1999) � A Texas woman who suffered heart-valve damage won a $23 million jury award Friday in the first verdict involving the diet-drug combination fen-phen.

    MEDICAL RESEARCHERS have warned for a long time that the diet drug fen-phen could cause heart problems but it was not until Friday that a jury put a price tag on the injuries a person has suffered from taking the drug. In Texas, a jury awarded more than $23 million to Deborah Lovett, 36, who claimed her heart valves were injured after she took the diet drug combination called fen-phen. The drug�s maker, American Home Products, said it would appeal, but the verdict is a damaging blow and there may be many more to come.

    �We have made a statement that they can�t do this to people like me and you,� said Lovett, following the announcement of the verdict. The verdict is a big legal defeat for American Home Products, whose drug division made one of the pills in the fen-phen pair. Texas jurors agreed with Deborah Lovett�s lawyers, who claimed the company failed to warn doctors that fen-phen could cause heart damage. �If the doctors would have had any idea, I wouldn�t have been on the medicine in the first place,� said Lovett.

    The company, vowing to appeal, said Lovett had heart trouble long before she ever started on fen-phen. �She had a pre-existing heart valve problem that had been going on for almost seven years before she first took any diet drug medication,� said Bob Schick, a company lawyer. But Lovett claimed taking fen-phen made her heart trouble much worse.


    The fen-phen drugs, taken by millions of dieting Americans, were pulled off the market two years ago after medical researchers discovered that the combination could weaken heart valves. Since then, nearly 3,000 fen-phen users have sued the American Home Products, whose drug division made the pills.

    Several of those cases have been settled. But legal experts say the company�s big loss Friday, against a woman who already had heart trouble, means future settlement will cost much more. �They will pay more money to settle the meritorious cases that have been filed. It increases the size of the plaintiff�s likely demands,� said Ellen Pryor, a professor at SMU Law School.

    The company still hopes it can settle most of the remaining cases � possibly by working out a deal with fen-phen users that could even include paying for regular medical checkups for those who took the diet drug and haven�t yet developed any heart trouble. But recent federal court decisions have made it harder to work out big nationwide settlements. And Friday�s verdict makes the company even more vulnerable to lawsuits.


    Fenfluramine, the �fen� part of fen-phen, had been sold since the 1970s but became widely used in the 1990s when doctors prescribed it in combination with phentermine. When taken alone, phentermine was never associated with health problems. It remains on the market. Lawyers for Madison, N.J.-based American Home Products argued that Lovett was seeking compensation for a health condition she had before taking the drug and said her obesity was a bigger threat than the drug.

    �Obesity is a serious health risk,� attorney Joe Piorkowski said in closing arguments. �This is not a dangerous product. The fact that it is not on the market (now) doesn�t mean it was a dangerous product at the time. The benefits outweighed the risk.� But Lovett�s lawyers told jurors that American Home Products was motivated by profit and hid evidence that its diet drugs caused valvular heart disease.

    Attorney Kip Petroff said the company knew of dozens of reports of heart damage in patients taking the drugs, but did not warn the FDA or doctors. �They did wrong and they hurt her,� he said.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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