About stoneagedoc

Pediatric infectious diseases specialist, author and public speaker. After 35 years in clinical practice including 40 years in academic pediatrics I now share that experience in helping others to enjoy a long, healthy life without the burden of chronic disease.

Carvings November 1, 2022

In the news

I love raw oysters but…

            The first human who ate a raw oyster must have been really hungry! Although they are a modern delicacy those who enjoy them probably have had to watch someone else slurp and swallow that slimy, viscous mass, although a good hot sauce really does help. I am one of those who love raw oysters but unfortunately, my background in infectious diseases has put the brakes on that culinary delight.

            To be honest, acquiring a serious infection from raw oysters is pretty uncommon but when it does occur it can be a serious, life-threatening illness. This problem made the news in the aftermath of Ian, the recent hurricane in Florida. An organism called Vibrio vulnificus is common in brackish water and in sewage, especially in summer months, so it’s no surprise that a number of Vibrio infections occurred recently in Florida. Since the hurricane’s exit nearly 30 persons have been diagnosed with the infection and four have died. That is not an inconsequential mortality rate. Some of these persons were infected because they were wading in contaminated floodwaters and had open wounds that provided an easy entry for the Vibrio organism.

            Vibrio vulnificus is the most common cause of death from eating shellfish. Most persons who become infected by eating raw shellfish, especially oysters, suffer little more than gastroenteritis, a nasty inflammation of the stomach that usually causes vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. For persons with a compromised immune system and  those with liver disease the results can be dire. Such persons are at high risk from a bloodstream infection that has a mortality rate of about fifty percent.

            Persons in good health don’t have to worry about eating raw oysters but there is an enlarging population of persons who should probably have their oysters fried or prepared a la Rockefeller. Those who are undergoing cancer treatment or who are infected with HIV are most at risk, as are persons with type 2 diabetes, which now affects more than twelve percent of Americans of all ages and a whopping thirty percent of those over the age of 60.

            If you don’t fit into one of those categories, go ahead and enjoy them. I might even  join you.


            Is your BMI (Body Mass Index) worth measuring? Only if you’re a subject in a study of the demographics of obesity or related matters. The BMI was developed in the middle of the 19th century and it was never intended to apply to individuals, but to populations. Unfortunately, even physicians and nutritionists have fallen under its spell.

            The BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. Those units of measurement, instead of pounds and inches, are a clue to the fact that it was developed by a scientist in Europe – Belgium, to be precise. If you are muscular your BMI will be unrealistically high. If you are not highly muscled, the higher the BMI, the greater the risk of heart disease – but keep in mind that the BMI is not the only predictor of health risk.

            The best measure of fitness vs. fatness is your waist circumference. Anything over 35 inches for women and 40 for men is an indicator of heart disease risk. Those are NOT your targets! Normal for men is about 35 inches and for women 31 inches. That’s because fat around the middle is the best predictor of cardiovascular risk – and that includes both heart attack and stroke.

            Even body fat measurement is not the perfect answer because all fat is not the same. The fat around the hips and thighs – which really makes women unhappy – is not associated with heart disease risk

            I’ll bet that in spite of my disclaimer you probably want to know your BMI, so just Google BMI calculator.

Carvings October 15, 2022

In the news

Influenza – don’t become complacent

            The flu season of 2021-2022 was the mildest since reporting began in 1997 due to several factors emanating from the rise in COVID-19. Among other things, we traveled less, kept our distance, worked and shopped from home and avoided crowds. Wearing masks probably helped but that issue is a can of worms in which each worm is different from every other, i.e., some masks are effective but even the best begin to fail after a few hours, and cloth masks, in the opinion of one scientist, are no more than facial ornamentation. In the last influenza season there was a dramatic reduction in deaths due to influenza – estimated at less than 10,000 when 40,000-80,000 is the norm – as well as deaths from other common respiratory illnesses.

            This should not make us complacent. It’s likely that influenza will come back with a vengeance this season and next. Unlike the coronavirus epidemic, seasonal influenza is devastating for children.

            Influenza vaccines are far from perfect but those who have received the vaccine, if otherwise in good health, almost never die from the disease. There is no doubt that the influenza vaccine significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization or death but there is another advantage that most people are not aware of. If you are unvaccinated and develop influenza, even if you survive you are at greater risk of a heart attack or stroke in the following six months. Conversely, vaccine recipients are statistically less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke in subsequent months.

            Unlike the “dirty”influenza vaccines of half a century ago, modern vaccines are almost free of side effects and the injection itself is almost painless. In short, there is no reasonable argument for not getting the vaccine.

On the COVID-19 front

            The fat lady is still in the wings and she isn’t likely to sing for quite a while. Although cases and deaths continue to decline in the U.S. they are beginning to rise elsewhere in the world. The latest version of the Omicron strain has spawned many variants – estimated at more then 200 so far this year – and it’s quite possible that an invasive one is lurking among them.

            As I have noted repeatedly, this virus is remarkably unpredictable. We are fortunate in that the latest vaccine is protective against the latest variants and as more persons throughout the world are vaccinated, and thus are likely to excrete the virus for a shorter duration and in smaller concentrations, the emergence of vaccine-resistant strains will become less likely. But still….

            Little things mean a lot – so keep up your immune system and overall resistance by taking some simple steps:

            Keep your weight down. Every pound of excess fat raises your risk because fat stores generate cytokines that can overreact if you are infected, leading to cytokine storm – a killer. Fat tissue also is a “vitamin D sink”, making that valuable nutrient less available to the body. And more – being overweight raises the risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes, a condition that weakens the immune system.

            Get enough protein in your diet. That’s what you need to make antibodies and immune cells.

            Exercise more. For reasons that are not entirely clear, persons who exercise regularly – that means at least four days a week for at least one hour, and with enough intensity to make you sweat – have stronger immune systems than those who do not.

            Get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, from fish or from supplements. These nutrients reduce inflammation and boost the immune response.

Carvings September 15, 2022

In the news

Pregnant? It’s OK to eat  fish now.

            For more than 20 years pregnant women have been advised to limit their fish intake because of the possibility of mercury contamination. In the fetus and young infant, relatively low levels of mercury that would have no deleterious effect on the adult brain can injure the brain that is rapidly growing. The CDC specifically has mentioned the risk of larger fish such as tuna, shark and tilefish because mercury accumulates up the food chain.

            A new report suggests that such advice is unnecessary because previous data were flawed. In one study the high mercury levels attributed to fish were actually due to the ingestion of pilot whale meat. I can’t explain that kind of confusion among scientists but equally puzzling was the report concerning children in the Seychelles, whose fish intake was very high, whose mothers had abnormally high levels of mercury within their blood, but whose intellectual function was entirely normal. In fact, those children were re-evaluated at ages 5, 17 and 19 and continued to show no adverse effects from exposure to fish that might have high levels of mercury. That didn’t seem to matter to the CDC.

            Fish is a highly beneficial food with its abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and protein, all of which contribute to healthy brain development. Some scientists postulate that any adverse effects of mercury in fish consumed by a pregnant woman are offset by its anti-inflammatory nutrients, namely omega-3 fatty acids.

            The bottom line: everyone, including women who are pregnant, should enjoy two or three servings of fish every week. Wild-caught fish is better than farmed, but that is a topic for another blog. (And no, Virginia, fish sticks have no nutritional value.)


            Nag, nag, nag. But here’s another reason for you to do strength-training exercises with moderate intensity at least 3 or 4 times a week: you will add several HEALTHY years to your lifespan. Japanese researchers found that persons who engaged in muscle-strengthening exercises had a lower risk of dying during the study period, a 17% lower risk of heart disease, were 12% less likely to develop cancer and were 17% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Being stronger means not having to use a cane or walker and being much more resistant to falls. And something that really matters to most of us – exercise delays the onset of dementia, possibly by several years.

            Some good news – it doesn’t take a gym membership to get these benefits. A couple of dumbbells or elastic bands will do.

Carvings September 1, 2022

In the News

The new COVID vaccine: will it work?

                The FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization for the latest vaccine that will include the B.4 and the B.5 variants. Will it work? In all honesty, no one knows but my opinion is that it will make a significant difference. There are two reasons for my optimism.

            First, the booster that was in use until now (it has been suspended as of this week) has been very effective in reducing the mortality rate although, as is quite obvious, it does not lower the risk of becoming infected. I expect that we will see the same phenomenon with the latest vaccine.

            Second, the portion of the immune response, cellular immunity, which lasts longer than humoral immunity (i.e., antibodies measurable in the blood) may last a very long time, perhaps years. Every dose of the vaccine engages cellular immunity.

            Yesterday I received my flu shot. Note that the influenza season is officially under way, and that because so few people suffered from that disease in the past two years, and the fact that we are pretty much back to normal regarding socialization, it is likely that this flu season will  make up for lost time. Like the COVID vaccine, the flu vaccine is not very good at preventing disease but it is VERY good at preventing death.

            BTW – are you aware that persons who receive the flu vaccine are less likely to have a stroke or heart attack in the six months following vaccination, whereas those who get influenza are MORE likely to have a stroke or heart attack in the weeks following infection?

            The bottom line: trot over to your local pharmacy and get on the notification list for the new vaccine and while you’re there, get the flu shot.

Another lie: “Over 75% of COVID-19 deaths are in persons who received the vaccine.” Some unscrupulous media (please excuse the redundancy) have distorted a statement by the director of the CDC, Dr, Rochelle Walensky. What she actually said was that more than 75% of the deaths that occurred among fully vaccinated people were in those who had four or more comorbidities (such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease/hypertension or kidney disease). What was NOT included in the stories is that having even one comorbidity increases one’s risk of dying. Considering that 42% of Americans are obese, that more than one-half have abnormally high blood pressure, that 12% are diabetic and that of persons over the age of 65, more than half have at least one marker of heart disease, her comment understates the problem. N.B.: every one of these diseases is lifestyle-related and has nothing to do with aging.

Other news – the polio scare

            There was a report of a recent case of polio in the U.S. but some journalists and even some medical workers have not identified the problem accurately. It helps to understand the background.

            The vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s is very effective and as result the number of cases of polio quickly plummeted from tens of thousands per year to nearly zero. Dr. Albert Sabin came up with an oral form that was especially valuable in developing countries that could not readily afford needles and syringes. It quickly became the standard around the world. Unfortunately the Sabin vaccine is a live virus, unlike the Salk vaccine which consists of a killed virus. Among hundreds of millions of doses of the Sabin vaccine there are occasional mutants that regain the ability to cause paralysis. In countries such as the U.S. where wild polio virus has been eliminated and no longer causes any illnesses, there were more cases of vaccine-associated polio-like illness (note the italics) than that caused by the wild virus until in 1990 U.S. health authorities switched from the Sabin vaccine back to the inactivated Salk version.

            Most countries still use the oral, live vaccine, and in poor countries with substandard sewage treatment facilities the vaccine virus can spread just like its wild cousin. Although, like wild polio, only about one infected person in about 200 develops paralysis or dies, that still amounts to a couple of thousand cases of polio-like illness every year. Furthermore, vaccination rates in many of those countries are quite low so that the mutant vaccine virus can spread in the community.

            There has not been a case of paralysis due to the wild poliovirus in the U.S. since 1979. The young man in New York who became a victim had never been vaccinated and his disease was not caused by the wild virus. That is a distinction that has been lost in many media accounts. Health authorities in New York did not mince words; the mutant virus probably came from outside the United States. The enormous number of persons coming into this country illegally is likely to result in more cases of paralysis and perhaps even an outbreak. That’s not only because of unvaccinated immigrants, but because immunization rates dropped significantly during the current outbreak and because so many parents are refusing to have their children immunized.

            A warning: the wild polio virus has not been completely eradicated. It is still circulating in two countries, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The reason? Zealots in those countries claim that the vaccine will harm their children and have actually killed dozens of United Nations immunization team members. With increasing numbers of persons coming here from those two countries the wild virus may yet again begin to devastate our children.

Carvings August 15, 2022

In the news

Two strategies to avoid Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

            An aging population is plagued with dementia, one form of which is Alzheimer’s Disease but there’s more to it than just getting older. Among hunter-gatherers in Africa over the age of 70 the incidence of dementia is nearly zero. Recent studies may reveal why mental deterioration is nearly 20 times greater among “civilized” folks than among persons with a primitive lifestyle. And the answer is not because they don’t live as long as we do.

            The evidence is mounting quickly that ultra-processed foods (UPFs) are associated with vascular dementia, the damage caused by narrowing and distortion of blood vessels that supply the brain, reducing the availability of nutrients and hampering the removal of waste products.

            Are there UPFs in your pantry? These are foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt and low in fiber, antioxidants and protein as well as vitamins and essential minerals. Here’s the list. Read it and weep!:

            Soft drinks, chips, fries, ice cream, flavored cereals, cookies, milk chocolate, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, packaged soups, sausage, hot dogs, candy. There are more of course but I didn’t want to rub it in!

            Persons with the highest intake of ultraprocessed foods had more than twice the incidence of vascular dementia than those with the least. These UPFs also predispose to obesity and diabetes, both of which are linked to dementia.

            The good news is that by substituting healthy foods such as fresh fruit, vegetables and whole-grains for junk foods there is a measurable decrease in the risk of dementia

And there’s more good news. In two separate studies those who received the flu vaccine were 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively, less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease.

In another study, persons between the ages of 65 and 75 who received the pneumonia vaccine had a 30% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.

There are several possible reasons for these vaccine-associated benefits. By boosting the immune system to counter specific agents such as the influenza virus or the pneumonia bacterium, the vaccines also produce a generalized improvement in the functioning of the immune system, which helps to reduce the accumulation of abnormal proteins that interfere with brain cell connections. Conversely, influenza infection degrades the immune system, making it less able to “clean up” those harmful proteins.

Another reason is that infection produces inflammation, which drives both Alzheimer’s Disease and vascular dementia.

Then again, persons who receive these vaccines might ward off dementia simply because they take better care of themselves by eating healthier foods, keeping their weight down, exercising regularly and having a glass or two of red wine every day. 😉

Carvings            August 1, 2022

In the news

The fat lady is still in the wings

Famous recent quotes:

            “We are done with COVID but COVID isn’t done with us.” Michael Osterholm, M.D., perhaps the most knowledgeable, perceptive and honest infectious diseases specialist I know.

            “I’m not coming out until I’m good and ready!” The Fat Lady

            Our pandemic fatigue is obvious. Few people are wearing masks, sports and entertainment venues have been repopulated and airline travel is booming. Even though most Americans have either been infected or have been vaccinated – or both – 400-500 people a day are dying, mostly of the latest variant, BA5.

            Even if the mortality trend is stable for the rest of the year about 200,000 people will have died of COVID-19 in 2022. That’s about five times as many people that die of influenza and its complications in an average year. So where do we go from here?

            Here’s what we DO know:

The BA5 variant is more contagious but less likely to kill its victims than the first wave of the coronavirus, especially if they have been vaccinated.  

The current vaccines don’t prevent infection but they do lower the risk of serious or fatal disease.

We have no way of knowing how prevalent the virus is at the present time. That’s because so many people are testing at home and no one reports that to the local public health authorities.

Several billion doses of various COVID vaccines have been administered to date; verified deaths ( mostly due to blood clotting disorders) have been fewer than 10. Be aware that the Internet is filled with claims that the vaccine has killed more people than the wild virus. If that were true the MSM would be in an uproar.

            Here are my suggestions to keep you from becoming one of those 400 or so folks who will die today from COVID-19:

Get the vaccine – a third or fourth dose. Those who depend on “natural immunity” are 20-40 times as likely to die or to develop myocarditis than persons who are vaccinated. It’s possible that we may have a more up to date and therefore more effective vaccine by October, perhaps earlier. The University of Minnesota site listed below is worth checking every week or so.

Travel if you must. Be part of a crowd if you must. Meet with your family if you must. If any of these activities have a low priority, stay home.

If wearing a mask makes you feel safer, wear one. But know that the only ones that really work are N95, and only if they are fitted properly, are worn for no more than about six hours, and you don’t touch them!

A cloth mask is worthless. A surgical mask is only a little better.

If you test positive, even if you have no symptoms, isolate yourself for a minimum of five days, an optimum of nine.

You can get an excellent overview of what is happening as this pandemic makes its twists and turns at Dr. Osterholm’s University of Minnesota website, CIDRAP: http://www.cidrap.umn.edu.


            Here’s a thought that should help to motivate you to stick to your fat loss plan: obesity has been linked to at least 14 different types of cancer. Although tobacco is now the leading preventable cause of cancer, obesity is going to overtake it before long. There are several mechanisms, some of which may be synergistic.

            Fat deposits produce estrogen, which is a factor in the development of cancer of the breast and the lining of the uterus. Fatty tissue also produces inflammatory chemicals that play a role in several diseases, including cancer. In addition, vitamin D, which is fat-soluble, is stored in fat deposits making it unavailable to the body. Besides being important for bone growth, vitamin D is a factor in immunity, a process that is necessary to prevent the establishment and growth of cancer cells.

            Losing fat is a real challenge for many people but there a couple of really easy steps to take that will help you to reduce calories, the only way that works:

            Eliminate sugared soft drinks.

            Instead of potatoes or pasta on your dinner plate, have a vegetable like squash, zucchini, sweet potato, beets, etc. Yes, I know – they all contain carbohydrates but unlike potatoes or pasta they have fiber and antioxidants, and the rise in blood sugar that they, like all carbohydrate containing foods cause, is slow and low – just like  nature intended.

            Make any fried food an occasional treat – like about once every month.

            Avoid restaurant desserts. Think of the money you’ll save!

Carvings July 15, 2022

Do COVID vaccines work or don’t they?

            COVID-19 has become the proverbial skunk at a garden party. It has embarrassed medical experts, thrown politicians into turmoil and in general has confused everyone. It just isn’t behaving like most viruses. But there are some upsides to this messy situation.

            First, although in recent months there have been countless breakthrough infections even in those, like Dr. Fauci, who have been quadruple-vaxxed, the mortality rate among vaccinated persons is low. Dying from this virus is many times more likely among persons who have never been vaccinated than among vaccinees. Myocarditis, inflammation of the heart, is also more likely in natural infection than in persons who have received the vaccine and the latter have a very low risk of dying. Like the influenza vaccine, it may not keep you from getting infected but it will keep you from becoming sick enough to be hospitalized. That matters, because hospitals harbor some very dangerous, multiply antibiotic-resistant bacteria that kill more than 75,000 Americans each year. That is a fearsome number.

            Why are COVID vaccines inadequate? There are two reasons the I can think of, although I’m sure that there are more. One problem is that this virus mutates rapidly and some of those new mutants are able to evade immune mechanisms that were activated by the original strains of the virus. Another reason is the design of the vaccines, in that those in most common use are directed at only one part of the virus, the spike protein, and not the internal components of the virus particle. Without sounding like Pollyanna, I expect that by this time next year there will be a vaccine that will be directed toward elements of the virus that are less likely to mutate.

            Do COVID-19 vaccines kill people? There are some egregiously false stories that claim that they do. In studies from the United States and Taiwan that explored this issue, mortality following vaccination was actually lower than background rates in both populations. The pandemic virus has killed more than one million Americans. Opponents of the vaccine claim that the vaccine has killed more than the disease itself. Don’t you think that the nation’s media would have been all over this? In the words of a well-known politician: “C’mon man!”


You’ve probably heard that by using a smaller dinner plate it will appear that there is more food there and you will eat less. The reverse is also true. If a plate is bigger and you fill it yourself you’ll put more on it – and you’ll probably clean your plate!

            Some ingenious researchers with a sense of humor went a little further. They offered Philadelphia moviegoers fresh popcorn in either a medium-sized bowl or a large one. (There is no such thing as a “small” popcorn bowl in a movie theater.) The large-bowl folks ate 45.3 percent more popcorn than those who had a medium-sized bowl. But the sadistic researchers went a step further. They did the same thing with stale popcorn – and the people with large bowls ate 33.6 percent more than the medium-bowl subjects.

            Even persons who should know better can fall into the trap. When a group of 85 nutrition experts were invited to an ice cream social, they were given either a small bowl or a small scoop or a large bowl or a large scoop, and were told to serve themselves. If they had a large bowl they took (and ate) 31 percent more ice cream. Those who used a large scoop gave themselves 14.5 percent more, whether they had a small or large bowl.  

            Take a look at your mealtime habits and ask yourself if you can make a few changes to take advantage of this nutritional illusion!

Carvings July 2, 2022


            In the course of discussing immunizations at a couple of senior communities recently I learned that a sizeable percentage of persons had not yet received the shingles vaccine – Shingrix. Big mistake!

            It occurs because those of us who had chickenpox as kids still have the virus hidden away in the nerves that lead out from the spinal cord. After a few years or even several decades when our immune system is challenged by a coronavirus, as an example, some other illness, or certain medications, the virus emerges and creeps along the nerves, usually around the waist. (That’s why it’s called shingles, after the Latin word cingula, for belt.)

            Shingles is not a benign disease. When the rash involves the face it can lead to permanent loss of vision. Some persons experience post herpetic neuralgia, constant pain that can last the rest of your life. And there are still other complications.

            Shingrix was released in 2017 and it already has a much better track record than Zostrix, the old vaccine. After six years since trials began it is still 97 percent effective. Side effects are common but brief: headache, fever, muscle aches, a sore arm.

            Are you at risk? Absolutely! About 20 percent of persons over the age of 60 are going to get shingles. That number jumps to 50 percent at age 85 with a high risk of complications such as  blindness!

            And for those persons who experience some nasty side effects from the two-dose vaccine, you need to know that if you have had a reaction to this mild vaccine it probably means that you would have a severe illness from the real thing.

Carvings June 1, 2022

In the news

Monkeypox    (Yawn!)

            Monkeypox is getting more media attention than the war in Ukraine, another sign of the lunacy of the mainstream media. What is happening in Ukraine is likely to affect the well-being of millions of people, far beyond that country’s borders; monkeypox doesn’t come close.

            Monkeypox, like  cowpox of the 18th century, got its name from the animal with which it was first associated and it was identified decades ago. It has a very low mortality rate, barely one percent and that is probably less in healthy, well-nourished, immune-competent individuals. Most cases have occurred in Africa among folks who eat primates and rodents, in both of which the disease is endemic. What is emerging now around the globe is another quasi-sexually transmitted disease. If that description seems odd it’s because unlike the typical STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) – formerly called STD (sexually Transmitted Disease) – monkeypox is the result of close physical contact, not necessarily involving juxtaposition of certain body parts. Although it is closely related to smallpox, a scourge that wiped out tens of millions of lives from the time it emerged at the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution until its elimination in the 1970s, it is rarely fatal and there is already a vaccine that is likely to be effective.

            There have been more than 600 cases of monkeypox in at least 26 countries, an epidemiological anomaly considering that until a few months ago there were only a few cases reported each year and virtually all patients were infected in Africa. In the united Kingdom there were only seven reported cases in 2018 through 2021. Although some media outlets have avoided or downplayed the evidence that this is a disease that is occurring almost exclusively in gay men the explosion in the number of cases appears to be related to a large gathering of the gay community – estimated at 80,000 persons – in the Canary Islands. Clusters of infection have also been occurring at events and in localities frequented by gay men.

            As the term pox would imply, it is almost always marked by a pustular skin rash; fever is common and complications include damage to the cornea of the eye and inflammation of the brain. Patients often have a compromised immune system or are malnourished and secondary bacterial infections are therefore common.

Where things are headed

            Monkeypox, like the current pandemic coronavirus, is here to stay. It’s likely that we will see a continued rise in cases and clusters following gay pride events around the globe. Although the spread to animal populations, both wild and domestic, is possible, it is quite unlikely.

            The smallpox virus does not mutate with great frequency and it’s doubtful that this will occur with monkeypox. At the moment there are no safe and effective drugs for monkeypox but we can expect that as cases increase in developed countries there will be a push to develop effective antiviral treatment.

In summary

            Monkeypox will soon fade from the headlines but not from the world. It is a threat only in the gay community whose members often have multiple STIs and whose immune systems are compromised by infection or prescription drugs.


Dieting Guidelines

            What are “good” carbs? Answer: the kind that humans were intended to eat. They include green, leafy vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, root vegetables and legumes – each of these should be eaten almost every day and all in great variety. In other words, carbohydrate foods are not villains – unless they are the refined type such as white flour, sugar, rice, baked potatoes and french fries. Hold on! Am I saying that you need to banish these great-tasting foods from your life? Nope! But give some thought to cutting back on these things that are the single most common reason why we are fighting epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

            How does your diet plan measure up? Remember that your Stone Age ancestors were able to choose from more than 100 different plant species no matter where they lived – most of them, of course, living in the temperate regions of Africa until a couple of thousand generations ago. Your local supermarket doesn’t come close to that kind of variety but with summer just days away why not try a few new veggies?

            No one of those types of plant foods provides everything that we need. Green leafies (is that a word?) and nuts give us omega-3 fats, berries provide antioxidants, fruits and root vegetables yield fiber and legumes give us protein.

            Variety isn’t the spice of life; it’s the price of life.

Carvings May 15, 2022

In the news

Bird flu: should we worry?

Bird flu, otherwise known as avian influenza, has a lot of infectious diseases specialists on alert. When it arose in China several years ago it spread rapidly among domestic flocks and caused several human deaths.

You’ll probably be hearing a lot about this form of influenza for two reasons. Although the total number of persons, mostly poultry workers, who have died from the disease is fewer than five hundred, it does have a mortality rate of about 50 percent. The other reason is that it is now present in most states, although the particular strain prevalent here is different from Chinese strains that have caused deaths among humans. There has been only one case reported to date in a human in this country, a Colorado poultry worker whose single symptom was slight fatigue and who was identified only because he was working with an infected flock and received periodic testing. It should also be noted that the guy was a soon-to-be-released prison inmate learning a new trade whose personal protective equipment was inadequate. I doubt that he was as meticulous in his technique as the average infection control technician.

Although there is no threat at the moment, we know from the COVID pandemic that things can turn on a dime and that influenza viruses are notorious for their ability to mutate and to exchange genetic material between strains. Still, I consider the risk to be extremely small and that you should not succumb to the hype that such issues are prone to receive from incautious journalists and wackos on the Internet.

I have two reason for being optimistic. First, the poultry industry is on high alert, a stance that has prevented outbreaks in other parts of the world. In addition the CDC is in a supersensitive state because of its COVID missteps and I expect that they will stay on top of this virus.

A second reason for optimism is that the vaccine industry has made enormous advances as a result of the 2019 pandemic. What was touted as warp speed in the production of several coronavirus vaccines will seem like a snail’s pace if they have to ramp up for avian influenza.

Although rife with disappointments in the past there is furious work going on in hundreds of facilities around the world to find effective antiviral agents. That will eventually have profound positive consequences in the fight against viral diseases such as mosquito-borne encephalitis for which there is no treatment.


Your mother was right! Eating slowly is better for you but not for the reasons I heard when I was a kid: “Don’t eat so fast! You’ll choke on your food.” “It’ll make you sick.”  Well, that second part was right but the sickness would take years, even decades to develop. “Sick” means “obese”, not what Mom had in mind.

            When we eat fast we eat more. That’s because it takes about 15 or 20 minutes for our hard-wired appetite-control mechanism to let us know that we’ve eaten enough. It was once thought that this was a simple mechanism brought into play by a hormone called cholecystokinin that was released when the stomach was full. We should have known! Nothing is really that simple in matters of biology. Scientists now know that there are several mechanisms, some regulated by hormone-like chemicals that control appetite.

            Some of this came to light after lots of people had a portion of the stomach removed to lose weight. They didn’t get as hungry as they should have when portion sizes were limited to something about the size of a golf ball. The part of the stomach that had been removed contained cells that produced one of the hunger-causing hormones, so they just didn’t feel like eating more.

            The bottom line: follow Mom’s advice and eat slowly. You’ll end up eating less, especially if your meals consist largely of fiber-rich vegetables.