In the news

Vaccine benefits that most people are unaware of.

          The United States may soon lose its measles-free status as we are close to a record number of measles cases. Almost all the victims have not been immunized at all. Outbreaks are occurring because of the arrival of infected persons from other countries. Besides saving lives through the near-universal immunization of our population we ought to consider some unexpected benefits of vaccines.

As we age we are vulnerable to heart attack and stroke but persons who receive the influenza vaccine lower their risk of these killers in the months that follow vaccination. On the other hand, persons who develop influenza have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in the six months or so following infection. The flu season has begun. The current vaccine’s effectiveness is unproven but if it follows the pattern of the past, even though it is not completely protective it does lower the risk of hospitalization – and a hospital, with all those superbugs, is NOT the place to be for us seniors.

Rotavirus infection causes diarrhea in children and it is a major cause of death in developing countries. America’s kids are safer because of the quality of our medical care but those who receive the rotavirus vaccine get another benefit: a lower risk of type 1 diabetes. Formerly known as juvenile diabetes because most of its victims are below the age of 20 years, it is often triggered by an infection. Before the development of the mumps vaccine that infection was often the prelude to type 1 diabetes. It looks like rotavirus may also predispose to type 1 diabetes in persons with a familial tendency for that disease. Victims of type 1 diabetes require daily insulin for the rest of their lives. It’s great to know that some people can be spared that burden by preventing one of its causes .


Is the Keto Diet worth trying?

When you drastically reduce carbohydrates in your diet your body will begin to burn fat for energy, making you lose weight. That makes sense and most people will lose weight on the keto diet in the first few weeks. After that, not so much.

Pediatricians began putting kids on the ketogenic diet about a century ago to control epileptic seizures, as they were known back then. It often worked but it drove the parents crazy! Trying to keep a child on a diet that consisted largely of cream, bacon and similar foods while eliminating bread, cookies, fruit and sweets, etc., while the rest of the family enjoyed these things resulted in the kind of battle you could predict.

Dr. Robert Atkins’ low-carbohydrate diet was immensely popular a couple of decades ago but it was really hard to maintain for long, and controlled studies showed that after a year or so it was no better than other fad diets. The typical adherent lost an average of twelve pounds in twelve months. As my kids would say: “Big whoopee!”

The ketogenic diet is back, but this time in so many forms that confusion is rampant. There is no official definition and “low-carb” can range from 20 to 60 grams a day of carbohydrate. Hardly anyone can stay on that kind of diet for long and if they do they are likely to encounter the classic symptoms of ketosis: fatigue, bad breath, constipation or diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, headaches and difficulty falling asleep.

One slice of whole wheat bread and a glass of milk will put you over the limit of carbs for the day, so will a single banana. One apple plus a serving of Trader Joe’s low-fat Greek yogurt will too.

Now we’re learning that those who maintain a ketogenic diet – which includes some not-so-healthy stuff like red meat, processed meats, salty foods, cheese, processed oils, etc. and few healthy items like most fruits and vegetables — have a lower life expectancy. A recently associated risk is atrial fibrillation, which can lead to stroke.

My choice of diets is the true Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, a little pasta, fish, chicken and of course, a glass of red wine!



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