Research roundup

Have you ever noticed all the little filler articles in newspapers and magazines with a quick summary of current studies and research findings? “Drink wine, it’s great for your health,” “Don’t drink wine, it gives you cancer,” “High protein, no fruit diets are the only way you can possibly lose weight,” “Want to live to see 40? Never eat meat again!”

These announcements sound like the gospel truth from smarty-pants scientists, but they are often conflicting. They either offer dire predictions of an early death, or give people license to justify not-so-healthy habits. Most of the time, it seems the media hand-picks the sensational headlines, without much insight into the validity of the study. Whew, I just read that over again and I sound super smart.

In the last couple of days a few articles regarding some different health and wellness issues have caught my interest. I thought it might be helpful to discuss these kinds of things on occasion. I may have an expert opinion and some good advice for you, or, I might just be stirring the pot. Either way, could be fun. Here’s a rundown of the articles, along with links to the originals.


Photo: U.S Food and Drug Administration

Ahhh! Scary. But that’s the point, I guess. This picture greeted me as I ate my breakfast this morning. The Denver Post reports that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services revealed graphic new labels for cigarette boxes. Starting this fall, you won’t be able to buy cigarettes without a picture like this staring back at you. According to Food and Drug Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, up to 213,000 established smokers in the U.S. could quit smoking during the first year of this campaign. How in the world did they estimate that? Maybe they did focus groups using current smokers: “If you saw this picture, would you quit smoking?” But saying you would quit, and actually doing it are two totally different things. I should say here, I am not a smoker, I never have been, and I think it is foul and disgusting. However, people I love are, or have been smokers, and I know how hard it is to quit. Even the death of a family member isn’t enough to break the addiction. While these new labels certainly add drama to the issue, I don’t know that scare tactics like this will be very effective. People never think it will happen to them.

What do you think? Will these labels stop new smokers? Will the smoking-cessation hotline included on the box be the nudge current smokers need to get help? Can you tell I am doubtful?


In more government news, I’m sure you’ve seen the FDA’s new My Plate icon by now. If not, here it is, in all its glory!


Pretty, isn’t it? Effective? That remains to be seen. It’s definitely much easier to understand than the past two versions of the pyramid. Plus, it’s got the backing of the First Lady, so there is that. My feelings about this are kind of conflicted. I do see the value in this image–it takes away measuring and weighing, which most people who need this kind of guidance are unlikely to do. But I still think there are going to be people who take a lot of creative license with what constitutes fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. A little pint of ice cream might fit perfectly in that dairy circle, and you could sprinkle some fruit snacks into that fruit section. They’re even the same red color. Score!  I do think it could be a nice teaching tool for younger kids. A visual way to introduce healthy eating and serving sizes. But again, are the people who are doing that with their kids really in need of this kind of aid?

I’ve said it before, here, I’m no food expert, so this is just idle chatter. What do you think? A great step toward a healthier America? Or a major waste of government time and resources?

Btw, there is a whole website dedicated to supporting the My Plate model. Check it out here.


Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon, Denver Post

Last, but not least, who the heck is this guy? He’s Dr. Loren Cordain (the alive one, not the dead one), professor of health and exercise science at Colorado State University, and staunch supporter of the Paleo Diet.

Here’s a much cooler picture of him


I’d support the Paleo Diet too. According to The Denver Post, Cordain “is using Facebook, blogs and other mediums to counter a U.S. News & World Report claim that the effects of the meat-heavy Paleo Diet are either unknown or unhealthy.” Recently the magazine ranked 20 popular diets, here. Can you guess what number the Paleo was? Did you guess number 20? Good on ya’. Cordain doesn’t like this because he wrote a book on the Paleo Diet, and poor press is bad for book sales. Plus, he is a professor of health and exercise science, so we can assume he has some good reasons to support such a diet (see picture above).

If you’re unfamiliar with the Paleo Diet, check out the official website, here. Supporters say that our ancestors had the right idea, hunting wild game and gathering berries and stuff. Of course they didn’t have a choice, and we have too many. So maybe it’s as simple as that.

Just to be safe, I’m going to tell you again that I am no expert in the field of nutrition–Cordain and the folks at U.S News & World Report have the edge there. I am an expert on what I think, though, so that’s what you get. MODERATION. I know it’s not easy (did you read this post?), but nothing worthwhile ever is. While there are obvious exceptions (diabetics, those with celiac disease, hard-core athletes), I think most people should just eat in moderation. Lean meat in moderation; whole grains in moderation; fruits and veggies with a little less moderation; and even some special treats in moderation. Hey, here’s an idea: there’s this great new tool called My Plate! Check it out!

Has anyone had great success with a special diet? Did you lose weight, gain energy and turn back the hands of time? And here is the kicker–did it last?


2 thoughts on “Research roundup

  1. Jessica Heflin says:

    Amen to that sister!!! As Americans we seem to have been conditioned to want it all and want it now. Where’s the self discipline, delayed gratification? I don’t know about you but I’m so tired of hearing, “I don’t like the way I look” followed directly by something along the lines of, “…but I like to eat…too tired to exercise…have no time.” Do you hear yourselves? Sure it’s not easy to lose weight, trust me I’ve had my ups and downs, but once you can get that momentum going it’s an amazing feeling.
    Enough of my ranting, I love your blog Trish! Have a great time in Beaver Creek. Good luck with the run!!!

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