New! – A Healthy Living Newsletter
patients frequently ask my opinion about new health books on the market.
And there's certainly no shortage of experts peddling their advice!
While many of these books are excellent, others are written by people
who don't have a clinical background in the subject. Simply put - they're
Every month more than 90% of the children in the U.S. eat at a McDonalds. The food tastes good and the promotions are fun for the kids. So what's the problem? Eric Schlosser, in Fast Food Nation, will tell you. Heavily referenced for accuracy, Fast Food Nation delves into the world of "fast foods", with graphic descriptions that take you behind the fast food restaurant counter, to the meat packing factories, and to the cattle and potato farmers and into the lives of these workers. You learn that most of the Salmonella, E.coli and Listeria poisonings are from animal feces in the meat. That's right - that juicy burger you just took a bite of may contain animal poop. From 1992 - 2000, half a million Americans, the majority of them children have been made ill by E.coli, thousands hospitalized and hundreds have died. Then you learn why.
Under the current law in (2000), the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) cannot demand a recall of suspect meat. It can only consult with the offending company and negotiate the withdrawal of the meat. And the meat suppliers are under no legal obligation to inform the public or even state officials that a recall is taking place. So, the overworked government meat inspectors may find a bad batch, but have their hands tied in terms of keeping it out off the public plate. Even worse, according to Schlosser, the cheapest ground beef is sold to the USDA and sent to our school cafeterias. OK, but then all you have to do is to heat it thoroughly and everything will be fine. E.coli is resistant to acid, salt and chlorine and can live on kitchen countertops for days. It withstands freezing, but succumbs to high heat as long as the spatula used to put it on the bun hasn't just touched a contaminated uncooked piece of meat or that unclean countertop.
To be fair, the meat packers have introduced irradiation, or as they prefer to call it, cold pasteurization of meat to halt the spread of pathogens. And while pathogens are more likely to be in meat, non meat foods can also be affected. But the meat packers seem less than eager to compromise on more sanitary working conditions, slower line speeds so the workers can be more accurate, better trained workers, and increased and effective government oversight.
Besides the possibility of hidden pathogens in the meat, the health aspect that Schlosser drives home the hardest is that there may be a correlation between fast food and obesity. We can't be sure in our country as the fast food restaurant growth has been gradual and spans many decades, but if we look at American fast food restaurants in other countries, his hypothesis seems reasonable. For instance, between 1984 and 1993, the number of fast food restaurants in Great Britain roughly doubled - and so did the number of obese adults. Obesity is now second only to smoking as a cause of mortality in the United States. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates about 280,000 Americans die every year as a direct result of being overweight. And our children have joined the ranks of the overweight and the obese.
Fast Food Nation
was a hard book to read. My family collectively sighed with relief,
when I reached the last chapter. They wouldn't have to listen to me
read any more passages at the dinner table. But that last chapter is
the heart and soul of the book. Taking on an evangelical tone, Schlosser
calls Americans to arms and consider the war on meat pathogens equal
to the war on drugs. Far more Americans are severely harmed each year
by food poisoning than by illegal drugs. He admonishes us to remember
that nobody in the United States is forced to busy fast food. And that
the fast food industry is driven by demand. If we demand free-range,
organic, grass-fed hamburgers and if we demand better working conditions
in the factories that process our meat, this industry will comply. And
for all those parents who go to fast food places because your kids have
to have the latest promotion shown on TV, if we demand that there be
a ban on fast food advertising directed at our children, it will happen.
And that's something to think about.
Tribole divides her book into the major problem areas: Vegetable hater, Milk Miser, Soy Coy, Bean Barren, Fiber Depriver, etc. For example, in chapter 1, she discusses why we hate vegetables, how they are antioxidants, detoxifiers (think protectors from pollution), and can help us decrease all sorts of cancer risks. And if you didn't get the importance of vegetables to your health, she goes on to tell us the vitamin and mineral content. After the benefits, she tells us how to get veggies in restaurants, and then, how to sneak them into our meals. That's the fun part: pureed cauliflower into mashed potatoes, black beans in fudge and tofu in a chocolate marble cheesecake. That's what I mean, it sounds so farfetched you just have to try it because you can't believe it. To be fair, the overwhelming number of her recipe recommendations are very straightforward such as add some bell peppers to fajitas for added vitamin C, throw some bulgar into fried rice for added fiber, and add molasses and whole wheat flour in your spiced gingerbread for some extra iron.
As an added bonus, she disperses nutritional excerpts from medical journals throughout her book. For example, sodium-rich diets deplete calcium or eating a high amount of soy decreases the risk on endometrial cancer. Most of it is great. But I think she misses the mark some of the time. With a quote from a single study, she disputes the fact that caffeine depletes the bones of calcium. That would be ok if there weren't many studies with the opposing view.
Overall, I think
this book is extremely worthwhile. Sure, she drives the message home.
There are 1000 nutritional tips. But she does it in a way that isn't
preachy. Don't interpret a child's initial rejection of a new food as
a permanent rejection. It may take 8-10 times of tasting (not just looking
at) a new food before it becomes accepted. Or the irony of people who
are reluctant to spend on good quality food for their health, but don't
think twice about spending the $3.00 for a cappucino. No punches pulled
there. So, before you give up on eating healthier, go to the library
or bookstore and get Health Stealth.
You are trying to decide what insurance policy to get. How do you decide? Orin suggests two basic methods. One way is the find a doctor you like, call up their office and find what insurance plans they have a contract with. Also find out which one they like working with. Then go with that company. What most people don't realize, is that each insurance company pays a different amount back to the doctor. These payments, according to the sample Orin gives, can vary from with a 15-minute return visit, from $40.00 to $54.00. Once that doctor is more established in practice, guess which insurance company he is going to drop. Cheaper is not always better.
The other method is to go systematically through a policy section by section - so that you can understand what is covered and what is not. She teaches you how to ask the right questions, so that you can make informed decisions about changing to a new policy or retaining your old one. Orin explains how the "covered" section is often amended by seemingly harmless statements hidden in other sections. Sections that hide denials might be entitled "Facts about this Plan", "The Definitions" or "The Limitations". Potential denials might also be hiding in an innocuous phrase like "usual and customary". Insurance companies, not the doctors, decide what is usual and customary. The trick is to know ahead what insurance companies can deny coverage for and then not to do it.
For example, if your child with allergic asthma has an attack that is not resolving in the middle of the night, and you rush to the hospital, some insurance policies can legally deny hospital coverage. Especially, if you forgot, due to your child turning blue, to call the PCP (primary care physician), get his/her ok, and then call the insurance company and get their ok! However, if you know this restriction is in your policy, you can have your phone's speed dial coded for both numbers, get the people you notified and the time you notified them, and be on your way.
Orin also prepares you for battle. She discusses the laws that help and hurt and even includes the helpful ones, the Mandatory Benefits Laws, in the back of the book. Then, she helps you with all the gray areas. Those are the "denials" that can be reversed if you can only figure out the correct words to use. Insurance companies are looking for specific words and if you don't send them - "denial". She also, teaches you how to save and organize every scrap of paper, including the envelopes from the insurance company as important documents. Further, she shows you how to successfully talk to insurance representatives. She encourages you to write down the date, time, full name of the person you spoke to, his/her title, department, telephone extension, geographic location and the full name of the supervisor. She also tells you how to request and listen for the representative entering the phone conversation into the computer. If it's not on the computer, then it never happened - no matter what you say.
Making Them Pay
is the book your health insurer doesn't want you to read. Even dealing
with insurance companies as much as I do in my practice, I still learned
a lot. Just don't wait until you need this book to start reading. Forewarned
Herb Tip: If you have ever gone to an Indian restaurant, you will see a small bowl of seeds on the counter next to the cash register. Those seeds are fennel seeds. Fennel is great for gas in adults and it's infant counterpart - colic. If chewed, fennel seeds have a pleasant licorice taste. It can also be brewed into a tea. Use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fennel per cup of hot water. It works quickly and is easy to find in supermarkets and heath food stores. Though fresher is always better with herbs, so the bulk section of the health food or Indian food store is the best source.
Copyright 2001 Dr.
Suzanne C. Lawton, LLC