Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts

Food labeling cartoonAs chiropractors, we often get asked about diet and lifestyle in addition to the usual neck and back pain complaints.  In the current word-of-mouse era we live in, patients have access to an unprecedented amount of information only a click away.  Most have done their own research before they bring the subject up in our office.  Sometimes this is helpful.  Other times, it has only served to confuse them.  Some patients choose to follow each and every bit of nutritional news which only serves to drive them crazy.  Today, eggs are bad but coffee is good for you.   Yesterday it sounded like coffee was the Devil’s drink but eggs were the perfect nutritional powerhouse.

So what are they looking for from us?  Google “diabetes”  or “heart disease” and you will get well over ten million hits.  Most likely, after the cereal, shake and snack bar Googlemercials, the next few links will be to popular sources like WebMD.  These have their place but they are supported largely by pharmaceutical ad revenue.  Even if patients found their way to Medline (a source for medical journals) the average person is not used to reading technical and often seemingly contradictory research studies.

What patients are looking for is a way to look out at the endless sea of information and fish out from it the most relevant facts to their own situation.  This should be the role of their health care provider — to assist in this process.  Yet, in many cases, the information from the health care provider does not help in a positive way.

 The cycle goes something like this:

  • patient gets diagnosis (or is told to “lose a few”)
  • patient finds the latest “diet” and follows it
  • patient loses a couple pounds then hits a plateau
  • patient gets frustrated and goes back to old habits
  • this becomes another “diet” that they tried that didn’t work. 

Any diet can work, especially in the short term.  The problem is most are unhealthy and are being used as a temporary fix.  Even diets like the South Beach Diet, which is very effective at weight loss in the beginning, is not an effective long term plan for health when taking into account factors like cancer and heart disease due to too much reliance upon animal protein and complicated “what you can eat when” charts.

Nutritional science can be very technical and complex.  Even if you make it a full time endeavor, keeping up on all the latest research is nearly impossible.  What is a person to do?  First, forget about the current politics of food.  Using only common sense, imagine what a healthy, nutritional meal might look like.  Chances are you imagined a plateful of vegetables.  Maybe there was some meat or fish on the side but the bulk of the plate was filled with plant foods.  Well, let’s start there.  Make your meals (and snacks) look like that imagined ideal meal.  Dramatically reduce (or eliminate if you can) the size of the animal protein (meat, fish, dairy) you have on the plate.  Push it off to the side and fill the rest of the space with several different plant foods.  Add a heap of brown rice or a plain baked or sweet potato.  Then add sauteed spinach, roast carrots, steamed broccoli and/or peas.  See what you did there?  Without even going to night school to get your Masters in Clinical Nutrition, you just put together a perfectly healthy meal.  Just make sure the vast majority of stuff on your plate is unprocessed and plant based.  Still hungry?  Try some whole grain bread with your meal and some fruit for dessert.  Getting started really is that simple.

Dr. Michalene Elliott is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who has gotten started.

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Statins: The New Gateway Drug For Kids?


Looks like the big pharmaceutical companies have another group to push questionable cholesterol lowering drugs on.  Following a call for more aggressive screening and treatment of cholesterol in childhood, a new study published in the journal Circulation shows that about 200,000 U.S. teens and preteens need medication to lower their cholesterol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended last summer that doctors consider cholesterol-lowering drugs, called statins, for children aged 8 and older if a blood test shows they have high cholesterol, particularly if they have a family history of heart disease. In addition, drug treatment is recommended for lower LDL levels if certain cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes or obesity are present.

So, how many kids need statins?  The study included records from nearly 10,000 children aged 6 to 17 who had a total cholesterol value assessed.  The analysis showed that 0.8% qualified for statin treatment based upon the AAP guidelines. Given that there are about 25 million adolescents in the U.S, these data suggest that 200,000 individuals between ages 12 and 17 would qualify for statin treatment to keep their cholesterol levels in check.

The study’s lead author stated, “It is a matter of opinion whether one thinks 0.8% is a small or large percentage. What I think is most important here is that given the rise in childhood obesity and risk factors such as smoking and lack of exercise that adolescents are exposed to, we need to continually assess and monitor the lipid status of children and adolescents.”

Giving statins to kids might be another example of the pharmaceutical companies putting their balance sheet in front of the evidence.  Statins are widely prescribed but there is surprisingly little clinical evidence that demonstrates a true preventative benefit for otherwise healthy adults — and even less for children.  The American Heart Association recommends lifestyle changes such as increased exercise and healthier eating (did someone say “plant-based diet“?) as the first line of treatment for children who have high cholesterol.  Sounds like a better idea than seeing what the life long side effects of statins would be on kids.

Milk is Not a Freaking Vegetable

Vegetarian eggs

Vegetarian eggs

I don’t care what you eat.  I really don’t.  If you’re one of those people who is on the doughnut and bacon double cheeseburger plan to ensure an early path to heart disease, that’s fine with me.  It’s a choice you are allowed to make and I honor that.  Seriously.

I also couldn’t care less about your freaking shoes.  Leather?  Plastic? Paper?  Whatever.  Okay, so I did join a Facebook group called “I don’t care how comfortable they are, you look like a dumbass in Crocs” but it’s really not a big deal to me.  It’s not like I started the group — I just thought it was funny.  So, I’m certainly not going to get all uppity about killing a cow for footwear.  In fact, I got some pretty harsh looks from that pale chick who works in the health food grocery the other day.   I kind of went in to shop wearing my black leather jacket and leather shoes.  She scowled at me like the cow was still attached and I was dragging it along the aisles behind me.  Moooo.  Listen up: leather is a fine product and wears a whole lot better than clothing from Wal*Targ that feels like it’s made of cheese.

Oh, so speaking of cheese, have you noticed that milk is not a vegetable?  Yeah, I hate to be the one to burst your balloon, but it’s true.  I only bring this up since after reading The China Study, my wife and I have eaten only a vegan diet.  If you don’t know the difference between vegan and vegetarian, here it is: 

A vegan diet is one of only plant based foods with no animal products.

A vegetarian is the same thing except they think milk, eggs and sometimes fish are plants.

I don’t care if someone chooses to be a vegetarian or vegan or pescatarian or Episcopalian.  This is not a rant about hypocrisy.  It’s a rant about why the hell is there cheese and eggs in vegetarian products?  Why can’t I pull a prepared thing out of my friendly grocer’s freezer that is labeled “vegetarian” (like veggie sausage) only to find it is made with milk and eggs?  When did cow’s milk and chicken embryos become vegetables?  If my kids plant a fish upside down in the dirt am I going to get a minnow tree?

There should be a different labeling system for products that are non-meat but still contain animal products like dairy.  Vegetarian is a lousy term for that.  How about “Non-Meat”?  “Veggie but Cheesy”?  “Eggful Veg”?  Got a better term?  According to my son, the best description is “Made from Things That Poop”  and “Not Made From Things That Poop.”  Okay, I’m cool with that.

Brett L. Kinsler is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who keeps his vegan Star Wars lunchbox right next to his leather jacket.  Clinic website:

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