Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sugar-free or full-of-sugar for kids?

I had a question come to me today about giving kids sugar free foods and wanted to share it and my response with you all.
Q: I never know whether to by sugar free items for my kids or get the real thing. For example, popsicles. Real ones with 6-10grams of sugar in it or sugar free with aspartame, and phenylketonurics w/ phenylalanine. Obviously, sugar free sounds better, but I feel those can have mystery ingredients!!! Please help!!!
A: Great question...unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of "evidence-based" research on the topic as artificial sugars are relatively new in the food industry and their effects are likely more long-term and related to the amount consumed. 

However, I do have some knowledge on the here goes! Aspartame should be avoided completely in kids with a genetic disorder called PKU (phenylketonuria) because they lack the enzyme that comletely breaks the chemical down and the toxins produced will kill them. This disorder is tested for at birth (or shortly after) as these kids will die if they are exposed to food containing phenalynine, which are plentiful in our modern food supply. By the sounds of it, you probably don't need to worry about PKU as you would know if they had it by now.

As for non-PKU kids, I would say you want to limit the amount of artificial sugars, preservatives, hormones, etc, in their foods as we aren't sure what the long term effects are. That's not to say that sugar is great for them either, but if given enough play time to run around every day (approx 1 hour at least), your kids should be able to burn off the calories they consume. Some people blame neurologic problems, cancer, migraines and food allergies on artificial food ingredients, although there is little to no concrete evidence to back up the claims. (This doesn't mean they aren't true, though. We just haven't proven it yet. We have, however, pretty much dispelled the myth that aspartame causes cancer when consumed at normal doses (as opposed to the enormous doses the lab rats recieved in the intial studies)).

That being said, my advice is to limit the bad stuff (ie, artificial sugars, hormones, preservatives, coloring, etc), stick to the basics (eat lots of fruits and veggies & limit soda and even juices, instead give milk and water) and keep up about an hour of exercise per day (for everyone!) and your kids should grow up to be healthy and strong. You can try more natural sweeteners like agave nectar and substitute carob for chocolate if you're concerned about sugars.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A baby aspirin a day helps keep the doctor away!

     This is well known when it comes to heart health. But did you know that this same medication can protect you from developing colon cancer? And it only takes a small dose (approx 75 mg) per day to do so! A moderately-sized study (approx 2200 patients in both the treatment and control groups) published in a recent volume of Gut found a significant difference in the incidence of colon cancer between people who take a baby aspirin every day and controls (who do not take the aspirin). And the effect was noted at 5 years...meaning that you don't have to take the medication for that long (5 yrs is a relatively short amount of time in the prevention world) to notice a difference in colon cancer rates.
      This type of "prevention" is known as chemo-prevention, in that a drug (chemical, hence chemo-) can be taken to prevent a specific illness (hence -prevention). A well-known example of chemo-prevention is tamoxifen, which is used to prevent breast cancer. I point this out as we will be seeing more and more of this type of prevention in the future.
     As for this study, more research needs to be done (a randomized, controlled trial) to evaluate if these findings are long-lasting and robust. My advice, though, is to take the baby aspirin (they are accessible, cheap, relatively low risk and  good for your heart!) unless you've had a GI bleed or hemorrhagic stroke - then stick to an apple a day and consult your doctor!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mediterrenean diet may decrease risk of developing melanoma

Thanks to for this info:

Not only do Mediterreneans and others who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet have lower rates of heart disease and cancer, but they also have extremely low rates of melanoma. Some attribute this risk to their flavorful, anti-inflammatory diet consisting of colorful fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, olive oil, yogurt and fresh fish. New research from Israel suggests that the Mediterranean diet actually does protect against this potentially deadly form of skin cancer.

"Investigators gave one group of study volunteers a daily drink that was high in antioxidants; a second group drank beverages such as sodas instead. After two weeks - and five to six hours per day in the sun - blood tests showed that the volunteers who drank the antioxidant mix had 50 percent fewer oxidation products in their blood than the soda drinkers. In addition, drinking the antioxidant cocktail also delayed a tell-tale skin change - one that indicates the beginning of the tissue and DNA damage that can lead to skin cancer."

Although the number of subjects in the study was small, it's a pretty interesting study. Just imagine what a typical Mediterrenean diet (or anti-inflammatory diet, which I recommend) can do for your internal organs given such findings in skin! For more information on Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet (based on the typical Mediterrenean diet), click here (redirects to Dr. Weil's webpage).

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Hey everyone,

Hope you are all well. I am enjoying the beautiful cooler weather (in the 70s and super sunny, no humidity...girl can get used to that!) and spending more time in DC this weekend. Things are definitely picking up at work...I've even stayed late a couple days this week to finish up assignments I couldn't finish during the day. Hence, I haven't had as much time for blogging, etc.

On Monday, I met with staff members of Texas Congressmen and women - Senator John Cornyn, Rep. John Culberson and Rep. Ron Paul (Galveston County) - to discuss increasing financial aid to preventive medicine residencies. That was interesting and I think our points were well taken. I don't think it will make too much of an impact, however, on what happens in the legislature, but you never know. On Wed, I joined a national conference call put on by the CDC on the Flu virus, which was interesting and yesterday, I went and heard a briefing on children's health insurance coverage put on by the Human and Health Services (HHS) Department. The head of the Department, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (more powerful than the Surgeon General), spoke along with the Secretary of Education, Arnold Duncan, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the President of the United Way. The room was filled with people involved in health care reform and children's health advocacy (as well as press and a plethora of photographers). It was very exciting to see what is being done all over the country to ensure that America's children get the health coverage they deserve!

This week, I also began working on a project with the former director of Preventive Medicine residencies at Emery, Dr. Erica Frank. She now works in Canada and I will be working with her to finish up internet-based Adolescent Medicine, Preventive Medicine and eventually, Cancer Prevention, curricula to be used by health care professionals all over the world to improve upon their credentials. After completion of the internet course, people qualify for a certificate in a particular area. This is a pretty big deal, especially for people in rural areas who have limited access to educational resources, and I look forward to working with Dr. Frank to increase the knowledge base of health care professionals everywhere.

In other news, I have officially applied for a 3-4 year cancer prevention fellowship at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) here in the DC area to start next August. NCI is the largest branch of the NIH, with millions of research dollars funneled through it it would be an excellent opportunity for me in that it will allow me to explore the research world for a while. Will let you know what happens with it as things progress :)

I've also added to my list of websites/blogs and hope you will use this website as an access point through which to follow me.

Have an incredible and restful Labor Day weekend and I hope to talk with you all soon! Don't forget to email me with questions or recommendations...I'm all ears!

Until next time,