Archive for October, 2012

Taking the fright out of Halloween candy

by Dana Sullivan Kilroy

From today’s Los Angeles Times

These days Halloween candy crowds the aisles of store shelves within minutes of the final back-to-school sale. And while it might seem like a good idea to stock up during the early-bird sales, too often “the candy is gone by the time it’s actually Halloween, so you have to go for a second batch,” says Melinda Johnson, a dietitian and director of the didactic program in dietetics at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Not only do you end up spending more, there’s a good chance you end up sampling more. (By the same token, don’t stray into the after-holiday clearance sales.)

“This is an ideal time of year, leading into the major holidays, to add structure to family meals and make treats scheduled so they’re not available all day,” says Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Halloween alone won’t make kids fat or instill a lifetime of poor eating habits,” she adds, “but it can be a great time to implement some healthier habits.”

Here are some tips from Johnson and the academy to help your family avoid a Halloween candy hangover:

• Stock up at the last minute. As Johnson noted, the longer the candy is in your house, the more likely it is that everyone will sample it before the big day.

• Buy candy you don’t like. You’re trying to set a good example for your children, but no matter how much willpower you possess, it can be hard to resist the siren call of the mini Snickers or Butterfinger. You might easily be able to take a pass on PixieSticks, however. To avoid temptation, buy candies that you won’t want to sample. Chances are a few of your favorites will show up in your kids’ bags and you can treat yourself then.

• When they return from trick-or-treating, have your kids separate their candy into two piles: Like and Don’t Like. “Immediately pack up the candy in the ‘don’t like’ pile and give it away,” says Johnson. This will not only reduce the amount of sugar in the house, it will remind kids that when they indulge in sweet treats, they should be ones that they really like rather than ones that are just there for mindless snacking.

• Consider a candy buyback. “I know of lots of dentists who buy Halloween candy from their patients,” says Johnson. Some dentists offer cash or coupons, toothbrushes or other services, she says. The candy is sent to troops overseas. You can find information about the program, and share it with your family dentist, at http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com.

• Send sweets yourself to the troops. Individuals who would like to ship Halloween candy to military personnel overseas can find information about how to do so at http://www.operationgratitude.com.

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Patrick Dempsey: Doing Well and Doing Good

Note: An edited version of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times

5 Questions: Patrick Dempsey on acting, racing cars and raising money for his cancer charity

Patrick Dempsey, the actor also known as “McDreamy,” just committed to two more seasons on the hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” But it’s when the camera isn’t rolling that Dempsey, 46, is really busy. What’s he up to when he’s not at work? He’s riding bikes and parenting three children with his wife Jillian, raising money for a cancer charity that he helped found to honor his mother, and racing cars on various professional circuits.  (And in a case of art imitating life, Dempsey expects to start shooting the film adaptation of the best-selling book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” soon. He’ll play race-car driver Denny Swift.)

Still, Dempsey found a few minutes in his schedule to answer 5 questions for us:

1). How do you make time for exercise given the demands of your car-racing team, your family and, oh yeah, acting? Trying to dedicate enough time to each is a big challenge. I keep a spinning bike on the set of Grey’s but it’s still hard to be consistent. I never know what my schedule is going to be and the days can be a long haul. My goal is to ride my bike 20 miles four or five times a week. It’s a priority because exercise keeps me strong in front of the camera and in the car. The other challenge with my schedule is eating right. If I start to eat ‘bad’ food all the exercise in the world doesn’t matter. I try really hard to stay away from the donuts and sugar, which I think is at the root of so many health problems, including cancer. I eat a lot of almonds!

2). How did you get into car racing and do you have any races coming up? My wife is the one who got me into racing.  She gave me a three-day Skip Barber racing course as a gift about 8 years ago, and I was hooked immediately. I went to another school after that and it’s all just sort of grown from there. Now Dempsey Racing employs 61 people and we race 5 cars. This year we raced in the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am circuit.  There’s a race every other weekend and I try to go to as many as I can. I fly a lot of red-eyes. We’ve stepped it up and will go to the Le Mans Circuit [in Europe] in 2013. 2-1/2). Does Jillian ever regret that gift? [Laughs]. She looked at me just the other day and said, “How much longer are you going to be doing this?” I didn’t have an answer.

3. A lot of people are intimidated by cycling — what would you say to anyone who thinks, “I’d love to cycle for fitness but I don’t want to wear ‘those’ clothes?”  First of all, you don’t have to wear the spandex!  My wife complains that cycling shorts aren’t made to fit women, but I happen to find her very sexy in them. Second, make sure you get a bike that fits, and one that fits what you want to do. My favorite shop is Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica, because they are so knowledgeable. Before you go shopping for a bike, think about your goals. Are you going to ride for fitness? Do you want to cruise around your neighborhood or along the beach. Are you interested in doing a long charity ride like the Dempsey Challenge? I’m really happy that Jillian has gotten into cycling with me. Our rides are like dates. We’re alone, no distractions, no phones, and we have time to talk. Cycling has really helped our relationship. We ride on PCH, all over Malibu, and on Mulholland Drive. I also love to ride in Maine, of course.

4. Speaking of Maine, you helped found the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in your hometown of Lewiston. What inspired you?  My mom Amanda is a seven-time ovarian-cancer survivor. One of the times she was going through treatment I realized that I had my sister Mary, who is a nurse, available to explain to me what was going on with our mother. Lots of people don’t have someone like that. So I decided to try and raise some money to help fund a place where both patients and caregivers could go and get counseling and services like massage, acupuncture, yoga and reiki. I’ve learned how valuable human touch can be in terms of healing. Many of the people who provide the services are volunteers who have had cancer themselves. Each year we’ve had around 3000 people register to fundraise and come to Maine to walk or run or cycle in the Dempsey Challenge. I’m also lucky to have been able to partner with [pharmaceutical company] Amgen. Together we’ve raised more than a million dollars for each of the last three years which means the services at the Center are all free. Another thing I’m proud of is that we are starting to network with other cancer charities so that we can all learn what works and what doesn’t with fundraising. A few years in I realized that a lot of foundations and charities don’t want to share what they know because they’re afraid they will lose funding. I’m trying to change that. [Note: The fourth annual “Dempsey Challenge presented by Amgen” is in October, registration info is at http://www.dempseychallenge.com.]

5. Your hair. Does Jillian still cut it and what are your preferred styling products? Absolutely. Jill still cuts my hair. In our backyard, actually. I’m not a big products guy, but I sometimes use L’Oreal.


Probiotics: A gut-check on bacterial health

By Dana Sullivan Kilroy

From The Los Angeles Times on October 6, 2012

A fascinating, if disconcerting, fact: More than 100 trillion so-called good bacteria thrive in or on the human body. A sizable chunk of them maintain residence in the human digestive tract. Probiotics, live microorganisms that benefit their human host, are among these beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics are also found in foods and supplements, and when consumed they change how the immune system responds to “bad” bacteria.

“Probiotics seem to enhance the intestinal flora and promote a healthier gut environment,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a registered dietitian in Sacramento and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Scientists don’t know exactly how probiotics work, but they may also produce anti-microbial substances that destroy harmful microorganisms and stimulate an immune response.

Even though probiotics-infused foods may seem like a modern phenomenon, the idea that consuming living microorganisms could improve health was introduced more than 100 years ago. That’s when Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-winning scientist, proposed the idea in his book, “The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies.”

“Certain dairy products, especially yogurt, contain probiotics naturally,” Gazzaniga-Moloo adds, but more recently probiotics have been added to juice, cereal, cookies and more. There are also dozens of probiotic supplements — capsules, tablets and powders — on the market.

Why are food manufacturers adding bacteria to foods that don’t contain them? Some studies suggest that probiotics may help prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections, may prevent eczema in children and may reduce the severity and longevity of colds and flu. Other studies have shown definitively that people who are suffering from antibiotic-associated diarrhea benefit from consuming probiotics. Most recently, an analysis that appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. found that people who are suffering from diarrhea because they are taking antibiotic medications may reduce the risk of diarrhea by 42% if they consume probiotics. While some advocates claim that probiotics reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, the evidence doesn’t yet bear this out. Nor has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved any health claims for probiotics.

“I have clients who swear that once they start eating more foods with probiotics they have less bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort, fewer colds and flu,” says Gazzaniga-Maloo.

As we start to stare down cold and flu season, a 2009 study that was published in Pediatrics is worth revisiting. The study, which was funded by a company that makes products with probiotics, compared two groups of kids, 326 total, ages 3 to 5, who drank milk with either Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium animalis or plain milk twice a day. The kids who consumed the probiotics-infused milk ultimately got half as many fevers and fewer runny noses than the kids who drank plain milk. Their symptoms also didn’t last as long, they took fewer prescriptions and missed fewer days of school than the kids who drank the plain milk.