Amy Beausang | This week’s health news
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This week’s health news

This week: the one and only vice-presidential debate is behind us (only 31 days left, people, just hang on.) Those of us in southeastern U.S. are bracing for hurricane Matthew, and I’m hoping all will weather the storm safely. And here are a few items in the “health” news that I find interesting and hope you do, too.

What does “healthy” mean on food labels? I’m a fan of Marion Nestle because she is not afraid to take issue with regulators and industry. As you’ll see in this article, “healthy” on a food label is just a marketing term. And the FDA’s criteria for what makes a processed food “healthy” is terribly outdated, and focused on low fat. Not a single mention about sugar. And while they are apparently “considering” how to redefine “healthy”, they will likely continue to push “nutritionism” as Nestle calls it, meaning that they will single out particular nutrients and allow a “healthy” claim on the label if the product meets those criteria, regardless of what other junk might be in the product. >>

Holiday Weight Gain Is Real No Matter What You Celebrate So, apparently we are at our thinnest point of the year right now, America, in October. Take your skinny-jean-selfie’s now. This is according to study results appearing as a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine. It followed people in Japan, Germany, and the U.S. As expected in the US, we see a considerable bump in our weight started with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Years. Not shocking. However, what is a bit disturbing is how long it takes us to shed those holiday feasting pounds and return to our summer weight trend. Any study attempting to track weight likely has its drawbacks, but let’s use this info as a cautionary signal to stay mindful of what we eat during the 6 to 8 weeks of trick-or-treating / Thanksgiving / office parties / social gatherings / Christmas / Hanukkah / New Year’s / insert-holiday-here ____________ season. >>The Huffington Post

What’s the Value of Exercise? $2,500 That’s how much regular exercisers save per year, according to a recently published study in The Lancet medical journal. As this New York Times coverage of the study explains, people who meet national exercise guidelines–meaning that they work out moderately for 30 minutes, 5 days per week–ended up paying $2,500 less per year in health care expenses related to heart disease than people who didn’t meet the guidelines. And the great news? Walking counts. It doesn’t have to be hard, people. Get moving! NY Times

Adverse effects of medical treatments underreported  I can’t say that I’m surprised by this. There is a tendency for published clinical trial data (found in medical journals) to be much more positive than unpublished data. This prevents healthcare professionals and consumers from getting a true picture of the risks and benefits of drug therapy. This particular study found that adverse event information was included in just 46% of published sources compared to 95% of unpublished. Antidepressant medications are a prime example of “missing” or “hidden” data revealing a risk profile that may be much greater than any benefit for most people. >>Medscape

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