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The Buffet Phenomenon: Researchers Find More Food Choices Linked To Fatter Mice

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:39am

Alpha/flickr

This is why I hate buffets: too many food choices make my head spin. For weight control, I prefer the out-of-sight-out-of-mind approach — keep the oversized muffins and pepperoni pizzas out of the house altogether. Call me rigid, but it seems to work.

Apparently, mice have similar issues, according to a study published in the journal Endocrinology.

The study tried to tease out the relative importance of genetics vs. environment when it comes to obesity risk. So, baby mice born to mothers with a defined high-fat or low-fat diet were randomly assigned to one of three diet groups: either a high-fat diet, a low-fat diet or to an “eat what you want” diet in which they got to pick and choose among the various options.

Researchers from Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine report that:  “Offspring displayed negative outcomes of increased body weight, body fat, serum leptin, and blood glucose levels when given the choice diet compared with offspring on the [low-fat diet].”

This begs the question whether a child’s environment can indeed trump genetics when it comes to obesity.

The Virginia Tech news release quotes one of the study authors who wraps up the findings simply:

“We like variety,” said Deborah Good, an associate professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech. “But when there is a choice, we eat more than when there is not any variety.”

Though the study was done using mice, it can help inform researchers of how human’s natural environment can affect food choices and ultimately a person’s weight. In a country where one-third of adults and 17 percent of children are obese, understanding the root causes of the problem is imperative.

One apparent upside found among mice in the choice group, according to the report: they had “improved energy expenditure” compared to the low-or high-fat diet groups. “Essentially,” the news release says, “the mice burned more energy as they wandered around and evaluated which food they were going to eat.”

This recalls the food and environment research of Brian Wansink, a professor of consumer behavior at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.  A recent Psychology Today article on how we eat (and overeat) called, “Why Out of Sight is Really Out Of Mind,” discusses how we can slip into mindless eating in a world where food is everywhere. But there are ways to eat smarter, if you think about what you’re doing:

Wansink found that slim people approach an “all you can eat” buffet by “scouting out” what is available — “getting the lay of the land,” as it were — before they grab their plates and pile on food. They are also more likely to sit facing away from, and to choose a table farther away from a buffet; more likely to choose small plates; and, if eating Chinese food, eat with chopsticks.

Jean Fain, a Harvard Medical School-affiliated psychotherapist who runs “mindful eating” training sessions has offered some tips on how to curb excessive eating, particularly during the holidays, when tables are brimming with tempting sweets and heavy dishes loaded with nostalgia. In a December post, she wrote:

If you find yourself automatically reaching for another piece of pumpkin cheesecake, step back from the dessert table and ask yourself: “How do I feel? What do I need? Do I really want another piece of cheesecake?” If you do, by all means, enjoy. But if you feel full, better to interrupt the automatic urge for more. It’ll taste better when you’re hungry. What’s more, a short interruption can give you back control.

Categories: Health Care

Kansas District Court Ends Wyandotte County Jail’s “Postcard-Only” Mail Policy

ACLU -- Criminal Justice News - Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:19am

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: 212-549-2666, media@aclu.org

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - United States District Judge Eric F. Melgren signed an order today reversing the Wyandotte County Jail’s “postcard-only” mail policy and ordering the Jail to again allow inmates to exchange letters through the U.S. Mail – the result of a legal challenge to the policy brought by the ACLU of Kansas and the Social Justice Law Collective (SJLC).

Judge Melgren’s ruling approves an agreement between Jail inmates and the Wyandotte County Sheriff.  According to the Court’s order, inmates in the Wyandotte County Jail will now be able to send an unlimited number of regular letters to friends and family members outside the Jail.  The Sheriff, who retains the ability to restrict the length of letters in certain circumstances, must also now provide free writing materials to indigent inmates.  The Sheriff has also agreed to pay $25,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs to the ACLU and SJLC for their efforts in securing the judgment

“Today’s reversal of the Wyandotte County Jail’s ‘postcard-only’ mail policy is a clear sign that unnecessary restrictions on the free speech rights of incarcerated individuals are illegal,” said Joshua Glickman, Founding Member Attorney of the Social Justice Law Collective, “the Wyandotte County Jail now joins the vast majority of Kansas jails which operate safe and secure facilities without the need to drastically curtail the ability of inmates to correspond with family, friends, and loved ones.”

The ACLU of Kansas and SJLC filed the federal class action lawsuit in October 2013, alleging that the Wyandotte County Jail’s “postcard-only” mail policy violated the constitutional rights of inmates and their friends and families to communicate with one another.  Given the typical distance between inmates and their families, as well as the prohibitive cost of telephone calls and in-person visits, the ACLU and SJLC argued that the Jail’s restrictive correspondence policies not only prevented inmates from privately corresponding with loved ones, but also hindered inmates’ ability to successfully re-integrate into their communities upon release.

“It’s a significant victory for the ability of incarcerated individuals to exercise their right to speak without undue government interference – a right these individuals retain even in Jail,” said Doug Bonney, Legal Director for the ACLU of Kansas, “in approving the parties’ agreement, the Court has made it clear that jail and prison rules that stifle free speech will not be permitted.”

Categories: Prisoners Rights

Cartoon: A Snowballing Winter, In The Eyes Of A Medically Fragile Child

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 3:09pm

Boston Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Jack Maypole directs a program for parents of children who are “medically fragile.” Their conditions include prematurity, autism, seizure disorders and cerebral palsy. Many use wheelchairs.

This winter’s wild weather has proven a tiresome inconvenience for many of us, but for the population Dr. Maypole serves, it threatens far worse. He writes:

“In this cartoon diary, I attempt to capture whatever I can of the additional challenges and stressors experienced by parents (often single mothers) caring for a family member with complex illness or special needs. I submit this to you with hopes it will shed a little light — and perspective — on the daily struggles of these often heroic parents doing more with less than many of us.”

(Click here and zoom in to see the cartoon larger.)

(Courtesy of Boston Medical Center pediatrician Dr. Jack Maypole)

Categories: Health Care

Slashing The Pink Ribbon From Beyond The Grave

CommonHealth (WBUR) - Mon, 02/23/2015 - 10:57am
[Watch on YouTube]

We’ve written about “Pink Fatigue,” “depinkification,” “pinkwashing,” “Taking on the Pink Juggernaut.” It’s getting to the point that every pink-tinged October also brings a backlash arguing that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has perhaps jumped the shark.

But never have I read as powerful and furious an indictment of the current breast cancer scene as a piece by longtime Los Angeles Times reporter Laurie Becklund, As I Lay Dying. She died of metastatic breast cancer on Feb. 8, a postscript notes, but I suspect her writing will live virally on for a long time. An excerpt:

Promise me, I told my friends and family, that you’ll never say that I died after “fighting a courageous battle with breast cancer.” This tired, trite line dishonors the dead and the dying by suggesting that we, the victims, are responsible for our deaths or that the fight we were in was ever fair.

Promise me you’ll never wear a pink ribbon in my name or drop a dollar into a bucket that goes to breast cancer “awareness” for “early detection for a cure,” the mantra of fund-raising juggernaut Susan G. Komen, which has propagated a distorted message about breast cancer and how to “cure” it.

I’m proof that early detection doesn’t cure cancer. I had more than 20 mammograms, and none of them caught my disease. In fact, we now have significant studies showing that routine mammogram screening, which may result in misdiagnoses, unnecessary treatment and radiation overexposure, can harm more people than it helps.

Laurie Becklund tells her own story of unexpected cancer recurrence; she describes grappling with her new identity as someone who was surely dying, and her encounters with other women in the same situation; and she expresses her outrage at how the medical establishment and the breast cancer world have failed such patients. Part of her conclusion:

The most powerful organization in the breast cancer universe, Susan G. Komen , has raised $2.5 billion over the last 20 years, much more than many corporations will ever earn. Yet Komen channels only a fraction of those funds into research or systems to help those who are already seriously sick. Most of that money continues to go to a breast cancer “awareness” campaign that is now painfully out of date.

We need people — patients, doctors, scientists, politicians, investors, families — to make a fresh start. We must create a new system of data collection and an open, online, broad-range database about patient histories that will provide information invaluable to those who’ve been given a death sentence. Patients as well as doctors must contribute.

It will come too late for me.

One perhaps slightly heartening postscript: It will indeed come too late for Laurie Becklund, but as Rachel Zimmerman wrote last year, there are such databases in the works: Can we use the crowd to beat cancer? Seeking patient data to save lives.

Categories: Health Care

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