Why We're Fat

Did you know that, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the average child sees 5,500 FOOD commercials a year (or 15 a day)? I can just imagine what that number is for adults. Why does this matter? I can't help but think that as long as food companies are some of the biggest companies out there (P&G, for example, has gross revenues of $83 billion) we will continue to be fat. Like little rats trapped in a maze of unhealthy signals, we are being experimented on by big money.

Food advertising or rather unhealthy, processed food advertising is part of our environment and research shows that our environments (more so than information) matter when it comes to our health.

Something to consider.

Note: Google AdSense is likely to run a food ad next to this article.  I use AdSense to cover hosting costs and if I could turn off food ads I would!

Health Tracking

Aetna is getting ready to release CarePass, an app for accessing your health device data, medical records and health information all in one place. Two interesting things to note from the article:

“We see some more aggressive employers like Safeway, where they are driving outcomes by swabbing the cheeks of employees to see whether they are smoking or not.” U.S. law says that smokers can be charged higher premiums."

Wow - swabbing! And Zeo, the sleep device, is mentioned in the article as a now defunct company.

This area is moving fast. My question - will folks feel comfortable with an insurance company having more their data?

Beyond the Brain

Beyond the Brain, Tanya Marie Luhrmann's look into the new understanding of schizophrenia, reinforces how much the medical must consider the social. From her article:

In his Second Discourse (1754), Jean Jacques Rousseau describes human beings as made up out of each other through their interactions, their shared language, their intense responsiveness. “The social man, always outside of himself, knows only how to live in the opinions of others; and it is, so to speak, from their judgment alone that he draws the sentiment of his own existence.” We are deeply social creatures. Our bodies constrain us, but our social interactions make us who we are. The new more socially complex approach to human suffering simply takes that fact seriously again.


[emphasis mine]



How to Recognize a Stroke

RECOGNIZING A STROKE: STR If something is amiss:

S = SMILE Ask the person to SMILE. T = TALK Ask the person to say a simple sentence, like "I like ice cream." R = RAISE BOTH ARMS Ask the person to raise both arms.

Trouble with any one of the above tasks is reason enough to call an ambulance and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

NOTE : Another 'sign' of a stroke is a crooked tongue. Ask the person to stick out their tongue and if it's crooked (meaning it goes to one side), it could mean the person is having a stroke.

The Empathy Gene

Healthy individuals can tell if a stranger is trustworthy or not in 20 seconds, according to new research out of UC Berkeley; suggesting empathy may have a genetic component. In fact, "the listeners who got the highest ratings for empathy, it turned out, possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype." You can test your instincts here.

Were you able to guess who had the GG gene?


ACE is a test you don't want to ace. ACE is an abbreviation Adverse Childhood Experience. The ACE study focuses on how childhood trauma affects adult health. A pioneer doctor who integrates the study into her clinical practice is Dr. Nadine Burke here in the Bay area. Here are the questions.

Growing up did you experience any of the following conditions in the household prior to age 18:

1. Recurrent physical abuse 2. Recurrent emotional abuse 3. Contact sexual abuse 4. An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household 5. An incarcerated household member 6. Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal 7. Mother is treated violently 8. One or no parents 9. Emotional or physical neglect

Exposure to one category equals one point (not a point per incident). See the study for what your score means.

Give Me Two Pronouns

Who? Me? Psychologist James Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin discovered that "if people were asked to write about emotional upheavals, their physical health improved and the ways people used pronouns in their essays predicted whose health would improve the most. Specifically, those people who benefited the most from writing changed in their pronoun use from one essay to another. Pronouns were reflecting people’s abilities to change perspective."

If you think this trivial consider research that found that poets who committed suicide used more I-words than non-suicidal poets.

So does it matter if you're a man or woman? Yes. Interestingly, women use more I-words and cognitive words like "because" and "think", than men. There is actually no difference between the sexes when it comes to emotion words like "happy" or "sad".

On the Go

Anmol Madan, cofounder of was able to predict with 90% accuracy when people were sick based on their cell phone use. The data he collected included texting and GPS data. Interestingly, when people are sick they don't talk on their phone as much or move around as much. Further, aggregated cell phone data can actually predict disease outbreaks.

Healthy Lead Generation

Speaking of the environment, I found Health Leads to be an interesting organization. The founder, Rebecca Onie, is putting college kids to work helping hospital clinic visitors find the assistance most medical facilities are ill-equipped to provide. Things like food assistance and housing help. A number of the people Health Leads help are made sick by their environments - such as low income housing with lead paint. As our economy becomes more divided between the haves and the have-nots, these social issues are only going to grow and as a result, greatly affect the cost of healthcare in the U.S.

Home as the Hub

Where health begins. Meaning, it should be the healthiest place you have. Because there are just too many messages and bad behavior influences lurking outside our homes. We can make it easier for ourselves if we make sure our environment supports our choices and therefore protects us from our own worst instincts. My plan? I don't want to eat junk food therefore no junk food in the house. It's bad enough I live so close to a cupcake shop!

Vitamin D

Without a doubt, one of the best things I've done for my health in recent years has been adding a Vitamin D supplement to my diet. On the advice of one of my doctors, I started taking it and noticed an immediate boost in my mood and well-being. Are you getting enough Vitamin D? Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, who wrote The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problem, recommends 2,000 IU per day for adults.